CRISIS: Cinema and Money

By Gregory Pearse

"Anybody who tells you money is the root of all evil doesn't have any."               from The Boiler Room (2000)

It's not a big stretch to imagine why films about money (making it, faking it and losing it) have been audience favorites since the inception of cinema. Take, for instance, films like "The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre" (1948), "The Sting" (1974), "Trading Places" (1983), "Glengarry Glen Ross" (1992) and "American Psycho" (2000). These films represent a cross-spectrum of how popular entertainment can moralize about the ill effects of money and still make millions of dollars. Fine. But what's missing in them is that final measure of insight that only a few of the greatest artists can offer. Of course, Goethe's immortal "Faust" immediately comes to mind, which has had many cinematic incarnations, arguably most successfully as "The Devil and Daniel Webster" (1941). Released that same year was Orson Welles' great "Citizen Kane". Welles would later revisit themes of the corrupting effects of wealth and power throughout his career, most often in his Shakespeare adaptations and films like "Touch of Evil". Also out of the Hollywood machinery came Erich von Stroheim's 1924 great silent film "Greed". Butchered down to a quarter of its original length, the film's difficult history ironically mirrors the tragic lives of the three central characters, who become dehumanized by the influence of money. Of particular interest is that it is first the wife's fixation on money, which causes McTeague, the dentist, to lose everything. He kills her, becomes possessed by the same lust for gold and then takes flight into Death Valley only to find himself handcuffed to his dead pursuer in one of the greatest final scenes in cinematic history.

Even the top echelon of directors have dealt powerfully with this theme. What comes to mind are films like "Stalker", where the Stalker's teacher, "Porcupine", hung himself out of despair when the Zone granted him his deepest desire: to become rich. Or Bresson's "L'Argent", based on Tolstoy's short story, "The Forged Coupon", about the devastating effects of the simple act of passing a counterfeit note by two teenage boys. And then there's the opening of Luis Bunuel's "Milky Way", where a mysterious caped man approaches two travelers. He asks the first one if he has any money and when the reply is "no", tells him: "Then you shall have none." He turns to the other one and upon being told he has a little, gives him a sizable banknote. Tarkovsky, Bresson, Bunuel all realize that money itself is not the problem. The problem is the inner spiritual state of mankind, which determines how money is used in this world. And now we can see the final fruition that all this spiritual deadness has on our economy and the world. Of course, Godfrey Reggio already showed this thirty years ago in his masterpiece "Koyaanisqatsi".

Dealing with the current economic crisis (on a personal as well as on a global scale) is a daunting experience for all of us. It is therefore helpful to put it into its proper perspective, which enables us to recognize not only its material, but also its far-ranging spiritual implications as well. For this reason we present the following essay by Stephen Lampe for your consideration:


Redefining Profit in Line with the Purpose of Human Existence

By Stephen Lampe


In a previous essay, I remarked that economies and economic systems ought always to have a clear purpose. I suggested that the most appropriate purpose should be one that is closely connected with the purpose and meaning of human existence. However, many there are who wonder if human existence has any purpose. They ask if life has any meaning. Others, perhaps the majority, sense that their must be both meaning and purpose to existence, although in many cases the sensing has not reached the point of conviction. The reasons include, among others, inadequate effort to search in sufficient depth since the utmost importance of the purpose of existence is not widely recognized and is often dismissed as unknowable. For our purposes here, let us note that advanced thinkers of all ages and all cultures have recognized and been convinced that there is a purpose to human existence and that life does have meaning with which we should all individually and collectively be concerned. A little thought would suggest that the material well-being which every economy seeks to provide might be pointless if it does not lead in the direction of the fulfillment of the purpose of human existence and does not make life truly meaningful.

And what is the meaning of life? What is the purpose of human existence? The consensus of all wisdom teachings is that the purpose and meaning of life lie in spiritual maturing and advancement. They stress that the human being is, in its essence and core, a spirit incarnated on earth in a physical body; it is to mature in the worlds of matter and eventually to return to its true home in the spiritual realm. Sages of present and past ages also speak of natural/primordial laws or principles which one should observe in order to achieve life’s purpose and give meaning to one’s existence. And they point out that each individual has natural endowments which could be used appropriately to facilitate attainment of human purpose and to find meaning in life. These endowments go beyond the faculties in the physical body and include spiritual abilities, such as intuitive perception. The point is that the pursuit of economic objectives should not undermine the larger spiritual purpose of human existence. This implies that our individual and collective activities to secure our material well-being must not become obstacles to our spiritual advancement.

I have noted that there are primordial laws or principles the strict observance of which simultaneously promote and ensure the achievement of our material well-being and the spiritual goal of existence. These principles may also be called the Laws of Creation. With respect to the activities of the individual participant in the economy, one of these laws should be specially mentioned. It is the Law of Reciprocal Action, which may be stated, in popular parlance, as “whatever we sow, we are obliged to reap many times over.” The same principle is described by various other expressions including: the Law of Sowing and Reaping; the Law of Karma; and the Law of Retributive Justice.

Let it be stated that sowing in the sense of this Law is done through one’s actions, words, thoughts, and one’s general attitude to life (careful or carefree, purposeful or aimless, etc.) The Law implies that whatever we do to or for others, we in fact do to or for ourselves, since in due course we will reap it many times over. I say in due course because the interval between sowing and reaping always depends on the nature of what is sown. Some reciprocal effects occur in short order but some may not come until a later earth-life. In other words, the Law applies across incarnations of every human spirit. By this I imply that, a human spirit in the course of its continuous and unbroken existence, experiences more than one earth-life; it sheds off a physical body (in the process called death) more than once and is reborn on earth more than once. The idea of reincarnation is ancient spiritual knowledge and explains many of the mysteries of life, including differences in the circumstances of birth. The fruits of what each spirit has sown but not yet harvested trail it across incarnations and these in conjunction with other Laws of Creation, including the Law of Attraction of Homogeneous Species (Like Attracts Like), help determine the circumstances of a spirit’s next incarnation. Those who desire detailed explanations about reincarnation should read The Christian and Reincarnation by Stephen Lampe (an old edition is posted in full on the website

It should be noted that this Law is no respecter of religion. If a Christian sows rice, he/she will reap rice; so also will a Jew, a Moslem, a Buddhist, a pagan, or an atheist. This is true of all the primordial laws in Creation. The Creator in His perfect Justice does not discriminate on any basis in the operation of His Laws. This fact should lead us to the realization that religions are only a means to an end, and not ends in themselves. If a religion helps one to understand the Will of the Creator and shows one how to do this Will, the religion has played its part. It would be wrong, however, to imagine that membership of any particular religion or sect would guarantee ‘salvation’ (the achievement of the purpose of human existence).

A conviction about the spiritual purpose of human existence and an understanding of the Law of Reciprocal Action would necessarily lead one to engage in economic activities for objectives other than a purely material profit. And our definitions of “profit” and “self-interest” would also change; they would include what benefits us spiritually. Material profit at the expense of a “spiritual loss” would become unacceptable to us. Conviction about the Law of Reciprocal Action would give us the assured understanding that it is in our self-interest to give assistance to whomever, whenever, and wherever we have the opportunity. For whatever we do for others out of genuine good volition will always bring benefits to us in amounts which are multiples of the good we did. When enough people include spiritual benefit in their conception of profit and self-interest, and take into account the spiritual consequences of their economic and business decisions, many things would be different in the market economy.

Philanthropy, which has historically played an important role in some societies, would increase quite considerably. People would engage in philanthropy not as a way of reducing their tax obligations, but as a means of achieving values that they cherish. And philanthropists could play a particularly significant role in helping to equip people with the education and skills they need in order to enter the market economy. They could also provide the bulk of the assistance required by those who cannot get to the point of being able to help themselves - such as the severely handicapped, the bed-ridden, and the mentally ill. In short, the “grant economy” would become an increasingly important component of the total economy and help correct the current weaknesses in the market economy.

A much larger proportion of wealthy persons would make investments in projects that may not yield financial benefits but which give them non-material satisfaction when armed with the knowledge of the Laws of Creation and convinced of the spiritual goal of human existence. Patronage of the arts, support for environmental conservation projects, and various activities which promote spiritual and deeper values would increase. These would increasingly be sources of new employment opportunities. It should be noted that tax advantages would have nothing to do with such investments; they would be made purely as a matter of conviction and seen as the natural actions to take.

Business executives who know the Laws of Creation would understand that they have personal responsibility for what their organizations produce and market, over and above whatever earthly laws and regulations are in force. They would know that one is personally responsible for all the decisions one makes and the actions one takes in the course of one’s business and professional life. In this connection, it should be noted that even judges are personally answerable before the Laws of Creation for any injustices arising from the sentences they pass. Thus, business executives would realize that it is in their self-interest that their companies do not produce goods that could harm people or the environment. They would not agree to produce “profitable” goods like cigarettes, which have been proved to be harmful because they know that the reciprocal effects of such harm would hit them sooner or later. They would not be party to dumping toxic wastes in the backyards of unsuspecting people.

With spiritual recognition the attitude of consumers would also change. The consumer who stands in the knowledge of the Divine Laws would not like to aid and abet wrong-doing on the part of producers of goods and services. Spiritually knowledgeable people would also be concerned not to act against these Laws in their actions as consumers. They would understand, for example, that the owner of a car belching pollutant gases into the city atmosphere must suffer some consequence in the working of the Laws of Creation, regardless of earthly laws. People would know that it is in their self-interest to buy cars that are least likely to pollute, and to support public action to reduce pollution caused by vehicles. To continue with this example: the vehicle manufacturer would know that he would suffer from the reciprocal effects of any harm done by his vehicles. He would, therefore, see that it is in his own interest to make his vehicles as good and as safe as possible, regardless of whether or not there are government regulations.

From the foregoing, we may state that persons who have truly grasped the Laws of Creation do not need any earthly laws or government regulations to uphold the highest ethical standards in business and in other endeavors. Therefore, if and when most people become truly spiritual through knowledge of the Laws of Creation as well as conviction about the purpose of human existence and the meaning of life, the market economy would not need to be burdened with many agencies to make and enforce regulations. In the meantime, governments have to step in with appropriate regulations to make up for the pervasive spiritual poverty and the general ignorance of spiritual realities and spiritual consequences on the part of the majority of participants in the market economy. And this leads to an important conclusion: only spiritually mature humanity can develop a vibrant, just, and sustainable economy. Stated differently, the right reformation of national economies and the international economic system depend ultimately on “reforming” individual economic players. In this connection, I am convinced that many people would profit greatly from a study of the 1931 Edition of the work "In the Light of Truth: The Message from the Holy Grail" by Abdruschin.


Copyright (c) 2009 Gregory Pearse & Maria Wagner