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Money Grows on the Tree of Knowledge: Part III

Alchemy is supposed to be the secret science of turning lead into gold. According to the old alchemical manuscripts, it is the element of mercury that acts as the true agent of this transformation. They say that mercury, added to sulphur and salt through a very specific, very arcane process, is the “universal solvent” that can extract silver and gold from lead. This combination of elements is symbolized in their work by the caduceus: a serpent upon a staff. As the alchemist Fulcanelli wrote in The Mystery of the Cathedrals:

“The snake indicates the incisive and solvent nature of the mercury, which avidly absorbs the metallic sulphur and holds it so powerfully that the cohesion cannot later be overcome. This is the ‘poisoned worm, which infects everything with its venom … This reptile is the aspect of mercury in its first state, and the golden wand is the corporeal sulphur, which is added to it.”

Frontispiece to Fulcanelli's Mystery of the Cathedrals

In truth, lead is one of the byproducts of gold and silver smelting. Although chemistry, metallurgy and alchemy were at one time basically the same study, it is believed that the alchemists were talking about something more than the mundane process of mining and refining precious metals from the ground.

It is often assumed that they were performing some atomic process where they switched the number of electrons in the atom around to transmute the metal. Indeed the modern concept of the atom was contributed to largely by alchemists, such as Robert Boyle. This type of alchemy is now possible with the use of modern particle accelerators, although the amount of energy needed to do it makes it cost-prohibitive. It certainly would not have been possible in the medieval times with any known contemporary technologies.

Robert Boyle

In fact, the alchemists tried to distinguish what they were doing from normal metallurgy and chemistry. The mercury they used was not the regular kind, but the “philosophic Mercury”, which produced the “Stone of the Wise”, or “Philosopher’s Stone.” This was the gold that was the end-matter of the work, which they took pains to distinguish from “common gold.” Again, from Fulcanelli, we read:

“The solution of the sulphur, or, in other words, its absorption by the mercury, has given rise to a great diversity of emblems; but the resulting body, which is homogeneous and perfectly prepared, retains Philosopher’s Mercury as its name, and the caduceus as its symbol. It is the first class matter or compound, the vitriolated egg, which requires only gradual cooking in order to be transformed first into the red sulphur, then into Elixir, and the third time into the universal Medicine. ‘In our work,’ the Philosopher’s affirm, ‘Mercury alone is sufficient.’”

Some modern snake oil salesmen have alleged that the Philosopher’s Stone is a form of gold that exists in a higher dimension, which they call “monotomic gold.” It has different atomic properties, they say, and they sell bottles of it to the gullible as a dietary supplement. They claim that it will cure all manner of ills and make them forever young, just as the original Philosopher’s Stone was said to do. Many of these charlatans have been unmasked, their magic elixir shown to be nothing but common table salt, and several people have died from liver failure after consuming large quantities of it over a long period of time.

The ironic thing is, these snake oil salesmen may have done more to understand and employ the true secrets of alchemy than the compilers of those strange medieval manuscripts ever did. Because the key to transforming that which is base or common into something of value is really an instance of mind over matter. As any successful salesman will tell you, the process of making money is really just a confidence trick.

Alchemy is considered the principle Hermetic science. Hermes was the Greek equivalent of Mercury. As we know, he is seen even today as the patron deity of commerce and communication. He was the messenger of the gods, the mediator between mankind on earth and the lords who sat atop Mount Olympus. Perhaps most importantly, Hermes was the primordial teacher and heavenly scribe, the bringer of divine wisdom. As such, he was the patron of alchemy.

He was thought to have been incarnated at one point in an Egyptian figure known as Hermes Trismegistus. This person is credited as the author of the so-called “Emerald Tablet of Hermes.” This was a mystical interpretation of the structure of the universe, how it came into being out of nothing, and how these principles of creation could be applied to transmogrify the phenomena within the universe according to the will. In short, it was a treatise on magic.

Hermes Trismegistus

Whether we are talking about stage magic, or the practice of ritual magic from which it is derived, the principle is the same: illusion. In stage magic, the magician pretends to pull a rabbit from a hat, or to saw a woman in half, and does it so convincingly that the eye is deceived into believing that it’s real. Everyone knows that it’s a trick, but the purpose is achieved, because the audience is impressed and happy to have bought their tickets.

Ritual magic is similar. Through quasi-religious rituals, superstitious acts, prayer, meditation, and the repetition of magic words, the magician tries to convince himself, and the others involved in the working, that he has done something to change reality, or that the gods have done it for him. He chooses to suspend disbelief, to not be critical, to not worry about whether or not the desired change will literally occur, or how it will manifest.

This, supposedly, is the key to the magic: pretend that something is real, and sooner or later, it becomes real. Various attempts have been made to explain how this supposedly comes about, resorting to theories of quantum mechanics or the collective unconscious. But to anyone who has ever knowingly, deliberately, and successfully utilized this principle in their own life, it doesn’t really matter how it happens. It only matters that it does.

What I am describing here is the true creative power of the human imagination, which can literally alter physical reality by tricking itself into believing that reality has already changed. This is the principle at the heart of the Hermetic arts. It must, then, be the principle at work in alchemy. Let me show you now how these alchemical principles can be applied to modern economics.

In the previous installment of this series, I told you about how the Knights Templar invented the banking and checking system in the late Middle Ages. Instead of trading around gold and silver coins, they mainly traded in coded chits: paper that represented a promise to pay, and the right for the recipient to collect their payment, in gold or silver coin, at the bank branch of their choice.

Later this developed into fractional reserve lending, a practice pioneered by medieval European goldsmiths, who, in addition to forging gold and silver coins in their shops, also frequently acted as community bankers. The concept is quite simply this: If 10 people deposit gold bars in a vault for safekeeping (the original purpose of a bank), odds are that only one of them will come to withdraw from their accounts or to inspect their gold and silver holdings at any given time.

15th century depiction of usury from Brant's Stultifera Navis

The goldsmiths then surmised that it would be OK for them to loan out the gold so that the bank could make money on interest. They issued lines of credit, written on paper, to new clients, drawing on the gold holdings they had gotten from the depositors. This is but a slight augmentation upon what the Templars had already been doing with their network of preceptory banks, and in fact it’s quite possible that they were already doing fractional reserve lending there as well.

On the surface, it would certainly seem that loaning out to other people money that has been given to you for safekeeping is a form of fraud, the classic ponzi scheme. But because people believed that the paper loans they were given represented real money in the vault that could be extracted at any time, the certificates were in effect “as good as gold.” This belief was reinforced when they went to withdraw from their accounts and were able to receive real gold or silver upon demand. As long as no more than 1 out of 10 depositors withdrew all their money at any given time, the scheme could continue.

The advantage of this is that the loans would be paid back in real money with interest, which increased the wealth holdings of the banker. And the certificates could be traded around just like real money, which increased the money supply of the community, thus boosting the economy. It’s a win-win situation for everybody — just so long as nobody audits the bank, and only a certain ratio of money is ever withdrawn at any given time. But if either of those things do happen, the entire house of cards comes crashing down all at once.

In 1705, Scottish philosopher John Law wrote in his book, Money and Trade Considered with a Proposal for Supplying the Nation with Money, that he had discovered the Philosopher’s Stone of the alchemists. The key to alchemy, he said, was the printing of paper money. In 1715 he was hired by the French government to put his theories into action.

Law was put in charge of France’s national Banque Royale, as well as the Mississippi Company, which gathered investments from French citizens to finance operations in French Louisiana, promising the investors profit payments. He set up a paper-passing scheme between the bank and the company, in which investors could borrow paper money printed by the bank to invest in the company. They were expected to pay the bank in gold, while the company paid their profits in the bank’s paper money, which was supposedly redeemable in gold.

Based on fractional reserve lending, the scheme worked for a while, and the bank profited immensely while the investors’ holdings seemed to exponentially increase in value with every passing day. But predictably, the whole scheme collapsed dramatically in what became known as “the Great Mississippi Bubble”, when depositors got wind that there wasn’t enough gold to redeem their notes. Law fled in disgrace, dying shortly thereafter. But his ideas went on to influence German writer and Freemason Wolfgang von Goethe.

Cartoon from 1720 depicting John Law's paper-passing scheme

Goethe’s classic play Faust is replete with alchemical allegories, and the main title character is indeed an alchemist, seeking, with the Devil’s help, the mysteries of creation. In one of the story’s subplots, Faust and his teacher, the demon Mephistopheles, gain the favor of the emperor by offering him the secret of alchemy: how to create wealth by printing paper money. He convinces the emperor to issue promissory notes based on gold to be mined in the future. Soon the emperor presides over a robust economy and a licentious, materialistic people. But the currency eventually collapses, just as all the Devil’s creations turn out, in this play, to be illusions.

This is the alchemy that underpins out modern economy. For now almost every country on Earth is run by a central banking system that practices fractional reserve lending. In the United States, this central bank is called the Federal Reserve, and it is actually separate from the Treasury Department, a quasi-governmental corporation with shares held by private banks. Each of these member banks is practicing fractional reserve lending as well.

Here’s how the scheme works in modern times: a bank can take the money from its depositors’ accounts, and lend it out to various persons or institutions on interest. It can loan out the vast majority of the money deposited (classically 90%), leaving only a fraction (10%) in the bank’s vaults. This fraction is called the “reserve”, and it is the only actual money sitting in the bank, backing all of the various loans-the only money that is really ready to be withdrawn, should the depositors choose to take money from their accounts.

When the loans are paid back, the bank earns a profit from the interest. Thus, the bank has caused its depositors’ money to multiply, and has kept the difference for itself, essentially creating money out of nothing. If the bank has loaned money to another bank or financial institution, that institution can then loan it out and create even more money out of nothing. Or they can loan it to a person or business who can use it earn more money by producing goods and services that are sold. This money is then spent into the economy again.

Thus the aggregate money supply multiplies exponentially, and the economy itself acts as a money multiplier–-in a way, a manna machine. Money can always be used to make more money. This corresponds to an alchemical principle: “To make gold you must take gold.” Like Christ with the loaves and fishes, alchemists believed they were able to take a small sample of gold, the “metallic seed”, as they called it, and use their magical chemical processes to cause that gold to increase exponentially.

A work called His Exposition of the Hieroglyphicall Figures which he caused to bee painted upon an Arch in St. Innocents Church-yard, in Paris, published in London in 1624, is alleged to have been written by Nicolas Flamel. It is supposedly his commentary upon the decorations he had commissioned for the entrance to the Cemetery of the Innocents near his home in Paris, where he is believed to have embedded some of his alchemical secrets in allegorical form. In it he seems to refer cryptically to this multiplication principle.

“Multiply the budding and encreasing natures: for look how often thou shalt dissolve and fix, so often will these natures multiply, in quantity, quality, and vertue, according to the multiplication of ten; coming from this number to an hundred, from an hundred to a thousand, from a thousand to ten thousand, from ten thousand to an hundred thousand, from an hundred thousand to a million, and from thence by the same operation to Infinity.”

Nicolas Flamel

Elsewhere in the same document, the author also states, as a general rule, that “the stone augments tenfold.”

The US monetary system operates on a similar principle. Since the Federal Reserve is the point of origin for this money, the load initially injected into the system is sometimes called “high-powered money”, because it effects the whole economy. It is the (comparatively) tiny seed which causes the rest of the money supply to grow. The interest rate which the Fed chooses to set for the money it lends determines how much money will be borrowed by other banks at that time, and also determines the rate that those banks will charge for loaning money.

This is the primary way in which the Federal Reserve controls the money supply, and thus, as much as possible, the American economy. Too much money being loaned out (and thus created) leads to inflation, and too little leads to recession. When the Fed first loans it out to the member banks, the money is “created”, and each time those banks lend it out, they are breeding more. As Martin Mayer writes in The Fed: The Inside Story of How the World’s Most Powerful Financial Institution Drives the Markets:

“… The Fed’s actions were always necessarily pretty small by comparison with the effects desired, and their effectiveness was explained by the operation of a ‘multiplier’ inherent in a system where banks had to keep ‘reserves’ against some fraction of their liabilities. The bank that received the Fed’s ‘high-powered money’ might lend 90 percent of it, and the bank that received the proceeds of that loan would lend 90 percent of that, producing deposits in another bank that would lend 90 percent of that, etc …”

But here’s the real magic: they’re not even lending out certificates redeemable in gold. It’s a pyramid scheme based solely on paper. The fractional “reserves” are just “Federal Reserve Notes” - pieces of paper printed by the Treasury Department on behalf of the central bank. This is what we now refer to as “cash.” It is called “fiat money,” fiat being a Latin word that means “by declaration.” A dollar bill is money only because the banks and the government declare it as such, and we agree to use it as such. Unlike gold or silver, it has no intrinsic value beyond what our minds put into it.

Mercury and caducei at entrance to United Bank of Scotland

So the dollar that we now use is one backed entirely by faith alone –- the public’s faith in the US economy, and America itself. The economies of other nations are dependent upon this faith as well. For if no one believed in the power of the dollar –- if it was not universally accepted as a form of payment – then it would have no value. As Jack Weatherford writes in The History of Money:

“The government will not redeem a dollar bill for anything other than another dollar bill. The dollar is simply fiat currency. The dollar rests on the power of the government and the faith of the people who use it – faith that it will be able to buy some thing tomorrow, faith that the US government will continue to exist and to accept dollars in payment of taxes and pay them out in expenses, and faith that other people will continue to believe in it. Aside from that faith, nothing backs up the dollar.”

Lady Liberty with caduceus outside the Federal Reserve building in Washington, D.C.

Likewise, William Greider wrote in Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country that:

“Above all, money [is] a function of faith. It [requires] an implicit and universal social consent that [is] indeed mysterious. To create money and use it, each one must believe, and everyone must believe. Only then [do] the worthless pieces of paper take on value. When a society [loses] faith in money, it [is] implicitly losing faith in itself… The money process… [requires] a deep, unacknowledged act of faith, so mysterious that it could easily be confused with divine powers.”

The Federal Reserve was created in 1913, and over the next 17 years, managed to pump the country up into an inflationary stock market bubble that crashed in 1929, leading to a national bankruptcy, and the most protracted economy depression the country had ever seen. When the US federal government went bankrupt in 1933, the creditors, represented by the Federal Reserve, demanded payment in gold. So the government gave them pretty much all of the gold they had, including all of the gold belonging to its citizens, which it seized by force. People were given paper dollars in exchange, which were immediately devalued a few weeks later when the government announced that the dollar would be removed from the “gold standard.”

Paper dollars would no longer be redeemable in gold for the average citizen (although the US dollars held by the central banks of other countries were still redeemable, as I will explain in a future installment of this series.) The price of gold increased substantially at that point, and at any rate, people were forbidden to own gold or do business with gold. They were forced by law to believe in the magical power of the dollar, made “as good as gold” by government fiat.

This was the beginning of a radical new approach to government, one that was taking place on both sides of the Atlantic simultaneously, in the USA, and in Europe. The great influence on this was British economist John Maynard Keynes, an advisor both to Winston Churchill and, less directly, to Franklin Roosevelt. A student of alchemy, it was he who purchased Sir Isaac Newton’s secret alchemical manuscripts at a Southerby’s auction. (Newton, by the way, served for a time as England’s Chancellor of the Exchequor.)

John Maynard Keynes

Keynes was interested in finding a way in which the alchemy of paper money would be more than just mere trickery and illusion. He devised a way in which he believed that the government could produce as much money as it wanted to, through fiat currency creation and fractional reserve lending. This money would be merely “in potentia” until it was actually spent on goods and services. Only when it is actually used for something does it become real, and he believed that as long as these things were produced in equal quantity to the amount of money created, inflation would not be a problem.

Ironic gold tribute coin minted in 1997 in honor of FDR

Keynes believed that you could use this process to inject new capital into a nation’s economy. Furthermore, it almost didn’t matter what the money was spent on: wars, public work projects, etc. The government merely needed to create programs to absorb these newly-created fiat dollars as payment for labor and materials. The laborers and the contract companies would then use the money they received, and the alchemy would be perfected.

To this end, Roosevelt created an amazing collection of new bureaucracies to regulate every major aspect of American life. Most important for our present inquiry is the way in which labor laws were drafted . It became artificially codified that 40 hours of work per week was the proper amount for full-time employment. A minimum wage was instituted as the proper amount that someone should get paid for that work. This formula-of a minimum wage and a 40-hour work week-was then used as a factor in deciding nearly every other economic policy, including acceptable inflation rates, taxes, and cost-cutting adjustments for government benefits, such as Social Security, which was also created at that time.

Later, new welfare programs would be developed in the US that are likewise tied to the same formula. At present, for the most part, social assistance to the non-disabled and non-elderly is restricted to single mothers who work full time at minimum wage. It is presumed that if an individual isn’t working at least 40 hours a week, or isn’t getting paid the minimum wage for the work they do, then they must not be trying hard enough.

Furthermore, if someone earns more than minimum wage, or work more than 40 hours a week, they make too much money to qualify for social assistance. In many subtle ways, the economy is tethered by the 40 hour work week and the minimum wage. Furthermore, as I shall demonstrate in future installments of this series, we are being socially engineered to make this wage and work week the universal lot of almost everybody.


“The Minimum Wage Machine is an artwork made by Blake Fall-Conroy. Anyone who interacts with the machine can ‘work’ for a minimum wage. Turning the crank by hand will yield one penny every five seconds, adding up to $7.15 an hour, which is New York State’s current minimum wage.”

To do this, the engineers work to reduce the wages of those who make more than this, and to take away any wealth they have accumulated. They also strive to weed out those who are, for whatever reason, not willing or able to work 40 hours a week or can’t get paid at the minimum wage for doing so. There is actually an international movement afoot amongst bureaucrats to move unify the economies of all countries so that we may institute a single wage and set of labor codes throughout the entire world.

The result of this is that, for all intents and purposes, the gold standard has been replaced with a time standard. The phrase “time is money” has been rendered literally true. But is this alchemy? Let’s have a look once again at the alchemical process, as explained in one of the quintessential works on the subject, The Book of Abraham the Jew, first copied and translated in Europe by Nicolas Flamel.

One of the central images found in this volume shows the figure of Chronos, or Saturn, having an encounter with Mercury. Saturn is shown in his guise as Father Time, represented by the hour glass. Chronos is the Lord of Chronology, of the passage of linear time, of cause and effect, and because of this was a personification of Death. In the allegory of alchemy, each planet represents a metal, and Chronos or Saturn is equated with lead.

Mercury, quite obviously, is associated with the metal of the same name, also known as quicksilver, because it is silver-colored and liquid at room temperature. These qualities were long considered analogous to those associated with the Roman deity of the same name, typically shown (as he is in the illustration from The Book of Abraham the Jew) with wings upon his cap and sandals. With few exceptions, the Romans usually showed Mercury as a sprightly young man, able to run swiftly and, with the help of his special gear, glide effortlessly through the air. Thus he was able to pass messages back and forth between Heaven and Earth.

In the picture presently under discussion, Mercury is brandishing his magical caduceus at Saturn, as if to dispel his power over life and death. Saturn, meanwhile, is holding his scythe, with which he is about to cut off Mercury’s feet.

This image is explained by alchemists as a stage in the transformation process. The philosophic mercury, when added to lead, helps to extract the essence of gold from the lead, but in so doing, becomes “fixed”, and loses its fluidity.

Alchemical metaphors can always be seen to function on a number of different levels. Given the relationship I’ve found between alchemy and the modern monetary system, it’s worth looking to see how this metaphor can be applied to our economy.

In our system, money appears to be created ex nihilo. That is Latin for “out of nothing.” But in reality, it is being created from something intangible: time; specifically, human labor measured over time. So what is happening is that our youth, represented by Mercury, is being sacrificed to Father Time (the Grim Reaper) in order to create gold, or the likeness of it. The sprightly young man with the winged helmet (representing perhaps the lofty idealism and freedom of youth) is being hobbled, made unable to fly, shackled to the fixed Earth, like a slave or a captive.

Because of this artificial relationship that has been forged between time and money, and because of the magic of fractional reserve lending, money can now be expanded or contracted with time. By that I mean that the total amount of money in circulation varies according to its velocity: how quickly it changes hands. The faster money is traded around, the more velocity it has, thus the more volume. But conversely, the more money is created by the banks, the more goods and services must be created to absorb it (to make it “real”), and the quicker these goods and services must be traded. Otherwise, there is more money in circulation than there is stuff to absorb it, and inflation results.

What this has created is an unhealthy artificial relationship between time and money that affects our lives in a multitude of ways that we don’t even fully perceive. When the economy tanks, it is described as “slowing down.” A recession isn’t merely a lack of money in existence, but a lack of velocity. And the approach that the US government has taken over the last few decades-to inflate the money supply while decreasing domestic production and employment-leads to a distortion of time perception by the public.

As the value of money goes down, the more of it you have to earn in order to get by. But because the minimum wage keep the amount you can earn mostly fixed relative to time, the more time you have to spend earning it. But of course you have a fixed amount of time available in a day. So as the economy gets worse, time seems to go faster, and your youth drains away from you quicker. And the action that is really regulating the velocity of the time-money continuum is this nebulous concept, so often blindly idealized: work.

When you think of communism and socialism, what do you think of? The glorification of the worker, of course, often represented by a hammer and sickle. Sometimes it was in the form of a gear or a bolt. Similar symbols include an arm holding a hammer, or a wheel. The minimum wage was first set during the Roosevelt administration by the National Recovery Administration, whose symbol was a blue thunderbird holding one of those gears. Sometimes the wheel is shown with wings, as it appears, along with Mercury, on vintage American stock certificates. Again, this symbol has a correlation with alchemy, and it is explicitly associated with time. As Fulcanelli explained in The Mystery of the Cathedrals:

“… the wheel is the alchemical hieroglyph of the time necessary for the coction of the philosophical matter, and consequently of the coction itself. The sustained, constant, and equal fire, which the artist maintains night and day in the course of this operation, is for this reason called ‘the fire of the wheel.’ Moreover, in addition to the heat necessary for the liquifaction of the philosopher’s stone, a second agent is needed as well, called the secret or philosophic fire. It is this latter fire, sustained by ordinary heat, which makes the wheel turn and produces the various phenomena that the artist observes in his vessel.”

United Air Lines 1960

So the wheel is the machine that, over time and through work, generates the heat necessary to transform the base matter into gold. And the energy that keeps the wheel going is this secret philosophic fire. This perhaps links up with the famous magical incantation, popular in medieval times, that said:

SATOR
AREPO
TENET
OPERA
ROTAS

This translates roughly to “The farmer Arepo works the wheels.”

Elsewhere in his book, Fulcanelli mentions that “Alchemy was … called celestial agriculture, and its adepts were called Labourers.” He also mentions that alchemy was the science perfected by God himself when he created the Heavens and the Earth in 6 days, culminating in Adam, Eve, and the Garden of Eden. But as you may recall, the Bible says that God created Adam to “keep the garden” and “to till the land.”

Now why would God need Adam to work for him? Is there anything Adam can do that God can’t do for himself, effortlessly? Well, God “works” in mysterious ways, and apparently he needs to employ a surrogate to do the actual work for him. There is, indeed, a magical principle at work here (no pun intended).

This metaphysical concept of work goes beyond the mundane, purely utilitarian interpretation of the word. In ritual magic, Hermeticism, and alchemy, the practice of the art is referred to as “The Great Work.” Note also the term “witchcraft,” and that Freemasonry is called “The Craft.” The Masons use the imagery of the original trade guild of architects and builders that they came from, but freely admit that these are merely symbols of the greater, more metaphysical “work” that they are engaged in.

Alchemical depiction of the Great Work

The reason why each of these traditions so ambiguously defines the “work” that their system entails is because in many cases it is the concept of work in itself that is what is needed, and it doesn’t really matter what the type of work is. Ritual magick often involves the incantation of “barbarous names” of gibberish, as well as bizarre activities that seem to have no practical purpose. This is because their real purpose is as a sort of placebo.

The point is that, if you are willing to go through all that nonsense in order to achieve your end, you must really believe in the power of the magic, and if you didn’t believe at the beginning of the ritual, you certainly will at the end of it. The real purpose of work in this context is to create an ego release and a suspension of disbelief. You become one with the process of your endeavors, and cease to focus so much on the object of your work. In this way, work becomes a form of meditative yoga, and indeed, work is used in this manner in the tradition of karma yoga, or “the discipline of action.” As the Bhagavad Gita states:

“In the bonds of work I am free, because in them I am free from desires … In whatever work he does, such a man in truth has peace: he expects nothing, he relies on nothing, and ever has fullness of joy … He has attained liberation: he is free from all bonds, his mind has found peace in wisdom, and his work is a holy sacrifice. The work of such a man is pure.”

As many of you know, the concentration camp at Auschwitz was famously emblazoned with the words “Arbeit macht frei”: German for “Work sets you free.”

It is my belief that the modern economy has been set up so as to literally force the individuals involved to engage in some form of work, no matter how practically useless it may be, in order to complete the alchemical transformation of turning paper into gold. And the system is set up to try to force individuals to unwittingly allow themselves to be absorbed in the process, just as youth (Mercury) is absorbed in the alchemical transformation.

The fact is that money can be, and is, created out of nothing. But in order for us to have faith that it actually exists, we need to go through some sort of travail in order to achieve it. Human beings instinctively don’t believe that something can be created out of nothing. They need to go through the process of work in order to satisfy the logical part of mind, to make themselves believe that creation has indeed taken place.

And so the system is set up to make that happen. The bank may create money from thin air, but you’re going to have to either pay it back with interest, if you borrow it, or earn it through work, from someone who has borrowed it from the bank and is obligated to pay it back with interest. In this system, individuals don’t get anything for free, and the human perception of the law of conservation, as they believe it applies to money, is preserved.

The reality is that, because of technological advances, every year a smaller and smaller percentage of the world’s population is actually needed in order to produce the goods consumed by the rest. Karl Marx addressed this when he talked about the problem of surplus labor. With each passing generation, more and more humans become obsolete. Since fewer workers are needed relative to the population, more workers go jobless. Those who remain are under constant pressure to accept smaller wages, and to be more productive. Marx believed that this would create a dissatisfaction among the working class, and thus lead to the revolution of the proletariat that he thought was inevitable.

John Maynard Keynes’ approach to this problem was to artificially create work in whatever way possible, so that banks could create money and circulate it in the economy to stimulate it. It mattered not to him what sort of work was done. We can see the evidence of this approach in the types of projects that our governments choose to fund. We can also see it in the never-ending propaganda we are subjected to from birth onward glorifying work as an end in and of itself.

Ninety percent of our time in public school is spent doing what can only be described as mindless busywork, meant to make the kids, and their parents, feel like they’re doing something. In addition, parents are encouraged to keep their kids busy with after school programs, sports, clubs, band practice, volunteer work, etc., under the belief that “idle hands are the devil’s plaything.” Unless they are made to be busy with some form of work (or structured play) at all times, it is believed that kids will get involved with drugs and gang activity out of boredom.

As we move into adulthood, many of us find ourselves working for people and institutions who approach business this same way. Bosses want you to be busy at all times, because they’re paying you by the hour. So you’d better find something to do when the phone isn’t ringing, or the customers aren’t coming. “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean,” the boss says.

This has led to many a scene of a convenience store clerk nervously stirring dirt around in a circle on the floor with a mop for twenty seconds at a time in-between customers. This is why the aisles of the store are always blocked with boxes of stock that hasn’t been unpacked, and the clerk is never at the front when you’re ready to check out. Because it’s the clerk’s job to somehow do all of the stocking and cleaning during his “down time” while minding the store, no matter how busy the store is.

Some people find themselves in a job position with way more work required than they can possibly do in the time allotted, but are also discouraged from putting in extra hours. They are encouraged to lower the quality of their work in order to meet the quotas. If you can’t cram an ever-increasing amount of work into the time you’ve sold him, then the boss feels like he isn’t getting his money’s worth. Because what he’s purchased from you isn’t merely your labor, but a time period of servitude, in which he is allowed to do with you whatever he will, even if his demands are literally impossible.

In other situations, people who work quickly and efficiently are told to “pace themselves,” to work at the same rate as the other workers. Because what’s important isn’t just the work, but the time spent doing it. People don’t say “Work is money.” They say “Time is money.” We all instinctively understand this, but we also know deep down that there is something wrong with it.

This value system has led people to have totally neurotic attitudes about money and work. They judge themselves wrongly, and they judge others wrongly, because of it. People with a moderate income are considered better than people with less, because it is believed that they worked harder for it. People who can’t pay their bills are automatically labeled as irresponsible and lazy, because it is perceived that they should have worked harder to earn the money to pay them. But by the same token, people who are thought to have “too much” money are judged negatively because it is thought that they couldn’t possibly have earned it through “hard work.”

Good credit comes not just from having money, but specifically from having a regular income that continues over time. People with substantial sums of money in the bank but no regular income to replenish it continually will still have trouble renting or borrowing. And people who own property outright find that they still have to pay “rent” to their local government in the form of property taxes.

This forces them to sacrifice their time continually to earn more income, to pay the never-ending tax on property they’ve already purchased. But tax is the way governments have devised for draining what they deem to be excess wealth from the system, not only to curtail inflation, but also to maintain the median income and average standard of living that they want, for whatever possible social and economic engineering strategy they happen to be pursuing at that time. To be an acceptable member of society, you must be a “hard-working, tax-paying citizen,” because that is the role that has been developed for you within the machine.

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