We never gave ourselves the task of really attending to the material world. We never understood that conscious attention to the material world is precisely what frees us from it, separates us from it, gives us the space and time we long for.”
This is among one of the many theses Jacob Needleman argues for in his bestseller Money and the Meaning of Life. Throughout, he strives to marshal wisdom from a wide array of traditions and connect them to his personal experience. Much of the book is occupied by his recounting the experience of teaching a single course based on the book's title. Hence to read Needleman is to struggle along with him and his students as they attempt to understand the way in which money has evolved throughout history to occupy its current cultural role as mediator of almost all human interaction and human ego. Together, they conclude that a simple distancing oneself from the material, from money, never helps us truly improve either our spiritual or physical lives: only by cultivating an awareness of the way money links us to others, along with a consciousness of the inherent role of giving and receiving in human life, can we understand money and its connection or separation from meaning.
There is an audacity to Needleman, that some may find abrasive. This is in part representative of his context and history: he is clearly a San Francisco philosopher heavily influenced by the 1960s, captivated not only with the idea of a single truth connecting all religion but with his ability as a spiritual teacher to present that truth. His focus on the history of man, especially, and man's spiritual journey, will undoubtedly feel anachronistic to some Women's Perspective members. Nonetheless, his observations and questions remain useful and challenging in considering what place money does, and should, play in society today.