There are also places in the Apocalypse referring to the role of money as an expression of our interest in the materialistic aspects of existence. First of all, we can find them in the letters to the seven communities. But the consequences of the money related choices we make in our Post-Atlantean cultural periods become visible in the later periods of the Seal epoch.
Lessons from Pergamon
First references to money and wealth are found in the letter to the community of Pergamon. Pergamon was a rich city because it housed the crown treasure of Alexander the Great after 322 BC. Pergamon represents the Babylonian-Egyptian cultural period in which people developed science by studying the forces of nature and by measuring and weighing their effects. In this time, man is given the promise of the ability in the next cultural period to judge good and evil, right and wrong. This is expressed in the promise of getting the ‘I’, the self, represented here by the white touchstone. This stone represents the power of the personality with which we can make the choice between our own or the collective interest. When it comes to money matters, that choice emerges very sharply. Are we able to make wise choices when we are freed of the obligations of the laws?
The extent to which we have learned this lesson will become visible later when the third seal is opened. After all, in the future Seal epoch inner choices we make now will become outwardly visible. The opened third seal shows us the black horse and the rider with the pair of balances. The rider on the black horse shows us how we have developed the quality of honesty in trading in the third cultural period. And in Revelation 6:5-6, for the first time, money is explicitly displayed: ‘…a measure of wheat for a penny and three measures of barley for a penny.’ The black horse depicts how all color is in danger of disappearing from our experience as everything is reduced to the monetary value of things and increasing monetary gain.
Douce Apocalypse, 1265-1270, Third seal opened: third rider with the pair of balances on the black horse
In the letter to the angel in Thyatira little is found about the role of money. In the Greco-Roman cultural period, the already announced birth of the personality and the beginning of individual rights are central. Thinking by the individual begins its triumphal march and will later detach itself from religious life. The Roman is cynical about spiritual matters. Yet it will take until the end of the Middle Ages before the Church begins to lose its normative social role in regulating the selfishness of the individual in society. After that, it will become the democratic state that will determine legal life, and the value of the individual’s labor will become a political issue. At the same time, counterforces are beginning to manifest themselves. Economic life will conquer its own independent place in society, basing itself on nature, processing it through labor and using the help of capital. With the opening of the fourth seal it becomes visible that in the Greco-Roman cultural period the demonic forces of the underworld were getting more and more free play in the human soul.
Douce Apocalypse, 1265-1270, Fourth seal opened: fourth rider on the pale horse followed by the demons of Hades.
Lessons from Sardis
The letter to the fifth community of Sardis indirectly discusses the role of money. Sardis is an important trading town. Under King Croesos (595 – 546 BC) of Sardis the metallurgists learned how to separate silver and gold and thus to greatly improve the purity of silver and gold coins. This was a revolution in those days. Before, coins were made of ‘electrum’ that contained an unknown ratio of both metals, which caused uncertainty in trade. The value of the pure gold and silver coins of Croesos was trusted by the whole known world at that time. This made Sardis a rich city and the place where today’s money was invented. And the name Croesos became synonymous with prosperity.
The municipality of Sardis stands for our current Germanic-Anglo-Saxon cultural period. So, it should come as no surprise that the role of money and financial institutions is important here. Money has a number of characteristics that can give it a magical effect, as the example of King Croesos makes clear. Croesos probably acquired his wealth by levying a toll on the goods that passed through his city on their way to Anatolia or Ionia. When the toll was levied in the form of olive oil or wine or barley, it could be kept in storerooms for some time, but these goods were perishable. By taking the toll in gold and silver coins, the value could be preserved forever. Temporary value was thus converted into ‘eternal’ value, and that thought has become anchored in human consciousness. Possession could be lifted above the temporary by converting it into precious metal coins. In combination with the individualization that started in the previous cultural period, the step followed to convert what is collective property into individual property. And with those two steps we ended up in the economy of today. Numerous refinements are possible with money that retains its value. Money is actually an admission of guilt, a commitment to perform certain services in the future. This aspect of money goes all the way back to the clay tablets on which 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, today’s Iraq, promissory notes on goods to be delivered were recorded. The clay tablets, too, were given a value that moved independently of time, because the admission of guilt could be traded on its own, independently of the delivery of the goods that were the subject of the agreement. In this we see that the economic character of money, whereby the means of exchange is separated from specific goods or services, makes it an independent universal means of exchange and so it becomes a being in itself. In the course of time, money has acquired its own existence in an increasingly extreme form, also separate from the real economy. At first the gold or silver was the underlying value in which the money was expressed, later the gold standard was abandoned and the national state printed paper money -or typed a number with zeros on a computer screen- that should reflect as closely as possible the value of economic transactions in a country. If more money is printed than corresponds to that value, inflation occurs and the money has an ever-decreasing purchasing power. In times of war, a state easily tends to create more money than the state of the economy justifies to pay the soldiers and the weaponry or in case of an economic crisis to boost the economy. The right to create money is invested in banks, which are also tempted to grant more credit than they can justify with real value. That this does not get out of hand is monitored by a country’s central bank. However, the strictness of this supervision is assessed differently by each economist and each country. In the course of time, the brakes on economic growth in the creation of money and in the setting of interest rates have been gradually removed from the system (see Dirk Bezemer, 2019, Money and its uses: development or wealth, Zeist: Triodos Bank; Richard Douthwaite, 1992, The Growth Illusion, Tulsa Okl.: Council Oak Books; John Kenneth Galbraith, 1978, The century of uncertainties, Amsterdam: Elsevier; Bob Goudzwaard, 1982, Capitalism and progress, Assen: Van Gorcum; Hans Opschoor, 1989, After Us No Flood, Kampen: Kok Angora; Kees Zoeteman, 1995, Pioneers gevraagd, Alphen aan de Rijn: Samson HD Tjeenk Willink, chapter 2).
This short sketch shows how the financial system in our cultural period has become a being on its own that no longer serves the welfare of all individual people. Rudolf Steiner (1907-1909, Aus der Bilderschrift der Bilderschrift der Apokalypse des Johannes, GA 104a, Dornach, p.112-113 ) paints how in our fifth cultural period there is a focus between on the one hand a movement of people with an increasingly shining self and an altruistic soul, which are depicted at the opening of the fifth seal in the holy martyrs in white robes. And on the other hand, he sees an opposing movement of people in which the self is drawn deeper and deeper into materialism, where materialism finally gains the victory over the free personality. In the latter case, practical life separates itself from the human personality. This is especially visible in the banking system and the trading of shares and derivatives thereof.
Douce Apocalypse, 1265-1270, fifth seal opened: the martyrs in white robes under the altar
On 24 June 1908, Steiner, among other things, illustrates how the personality in the banking sector is becoming increasingly fragmented. The first Rothschilds, in the mid-nineteenth century, still had a personal involvement in their banking activities and customers. Their personalities devoted themselves to making money subservient. But later the banking business became impersonal. The capital is traded on the stock exchange by abstract shareholders. The capital has become self-representing and stripped of any personal involvement. The personality has become powerless and has delivered its will to the capital market. In money matters, man himself has to regain control in order not to fall into the abyss of materialism.
The characteristics of Philadelphia
The letter to Philadelfia does not mention money as such. The contents of this sixth letter extend to even larger themes in which the role of money is only a part. The central theme here is brotherly love, which also determines the way in which people, who are developing spiritually, deal with money. Rudolf Steiner elaborated on this in his National Economic Course towards the end of his life (1922, Aufgaben einer neuen Wirtschaftswissenschaft, GA 340) in which he proposes a threefold division of society into spiritual life (education, science, art and religion), legal life (legislative, enforcement and judiciary matters) and economic life (labor and capital for production, distribution and consumption of goods and services derived from nature). According to Steiner, the guiding principles are freedom for spiritual life, equality for legal life, and fraternity for economic life. There is no place for capitalism in the community of people that focuses again on the spiritual world. For those who do focus on materialism and possessions in this decisive sixth phase, the opening of the sixth seal shows that their connection with the light of the spiritual world, in the form of Sun, Moon and stars, is obscured.
Douce Apocalypse, 1265-1270, sixth seal opened: Sun, Moon and stars darkened
Money plays a central role in the letter to the seventh community: Laodicea. This is a wealthy municipality, a health resort for wealthy Greeks and Romans, and it knows a highly developed banking system. But the money, the gold, is colored by the possessiveness of the materialistic man who complacently wallows in his wealth. ‘Buy from me gold that has been purified in fire’, is the admonishing word to man in this last cultural period. For fire, brotherhood love, is a higher principle than the collection of material gold, as already became clear in the previous cultural period. In Laodicea it is not yet visible what the separation between the two movements in mankind will lead to, but the decision has in fact already been made in Philadelphia. In the later Trumpet epoch this separation will become irreversible. The angels preparing for trumpeting cast the shadows of this future division.
Douce Apocalypse, 1265-1270, the sealing of the chosen ones in white robes and the opening of the seventh seal, after which seven angels prepare to blow the trumpet.
Ways of dealing with money
Money is a currency whose value is controlled by agreements people make about it. It can be used in different ways. The agreements tend, as we have seen, to bow to the interests of bodies such as governments and banks and wealthy individuals, that have the power to create the money and make it available under conditions. In his already mentioned National Economic Course (1922, GA 340), Steiner gave an original analysis of the economic process in society. This process involves nature from which man extracts raw materials, labor with which man processes nature and gives the extracted nature economic value, and capital or spiritual power with which the production process is organized and innovated. On this basis, he distinguishes in principle three types of money (p.90):
– purchasing money with which natural products change hands at a given price, where the criterion for the price is the integral amount of labor required to make the product available,
– loan money to purchase means of production to save labor during production,
– gift money, which generates the future strength of the economy, for example in the form of education, art and science.
In order to prevent improper accumulation of money, Steiner proposes to strip money of its eternity characteristics, and while doing so distinguish between the three types of money mentioned. Purchasing money is actually nothing more than a means of exchanging goods. Thus, according to Steiner (p.174), purchasing money is economically unhealthy because, unlike the exchanged goods, it does not normally decrease in value. Just like the goods purchased with it, purchasing money should also have a declining purchasing power. Although this has already been anticipated to some extent by the onset of inflation, Steiner refers to a more fundamental element: the value of money itself must be given a limited duration.
In the case of loan money, the situation is different. With loan money, the value is strongly dependent on the entrepreneur who borrows the money and the spiritual power with which he or she makes it to work. When this money comes into circulation, there should actually be the name of the entrepreneur on the banknote.
And the gift money loses its value completely, except for the one who receives it.
When the three types of money are compared with each other, and supposing a closed area, it will become clear that over time the loan money changes into gift money because the money gradually loses its value. Purchasing money has a certain value but this is affected by the gift money, the gift money degrades the value of the purchasing money. Loan money has an intermediate position, the value of which gradually changes into that of gift money. In practice, we can find forms of money that contain certain elements of Steiner’s ideas, such as mortgage money that is provided at a lower interest rate if the house is built sustainably, but overall, practice is still a long way from Steiner’s ideal world.
Steiner also roughly touched on how the principle of aging money would turn out in society. Young money would be valued as good bargaining money. The use of young money would be more attractive than old money for a loan for a sustainable business. For a short project, old money would be borrowed because it is cheaper. In this way ‘the wildness of the money would be tamed’ and the money would get a realistic value. In the case of gift money, too, there would be a change. The current practice is that for the spiritual activities, such as education, art and science, money is (forced) to be given via tax payments, after which it would be given as a subsidy via government negotiations. In the new system it would be given as a personal gift. If it were real gift money, old money would be used for this purpose, which would encourage the recipient to use it as soon as possible, before the money loses its purchasing power. This illustrates that the three types of money should be treated differently within a closed area. This would create three spheres, that of the purchasing money area, the loan money area and the gift money area (p.183).
Renewed focus on giving
The admonition to Laodicea: ‘Buy me gold purified in fire’, can be seen as an appeal, in line with Rudolf Steiner’s argument, not to pile the money up into an ever-growing mountain of capital, but to donate it to social causes that are dear to the donor’s heart. There are various developments in which donations are taken seriously by private individuals (B. Zoeteman and T. van den Bergh, 2015, https://www.mejudice.nl/artikelen/detail/overheid-mag-eigen-problemen-niet-afschuiven-op-filantropen). The name associated with this phenomenon of donation also leads us to the Apocalypse: philanthropy. Philanthropy refers to the ideal of the municipality of Philadelphia, the municipality of brotherhood love. Donating has recently been highlighted by the 2010 initiative of Warren Buffet and Bill Gates of The Giving Pledge, a global club of more than 200 billionaires who donate more than half of their wealth to charities (https://givingpledge.org/About.aspx; B. Zoeteman, and J. Slabbekoorn, 2014, Over corrupting and rediscovering philanthropy, Telos, Tilburg University, May 20). Interestingly, Warren Buffet is willing to donate, but he does not want to give his attention to it as he has outsourced this to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Philanthropy also plays a fairly large role in the Netherlands with an annual contribution of more than 5 billion EURO (WRR, 2018, Philanthropy on the border between government and market, Verkenning nr 40, https://www.wrr.nl/onderwerpen/filantropie).
However, philanthropists cannot be seen as a homogeneous group. Their motivation ranges from window dressing to a deep commitment to the needs of their fellow human beings in all their actions. As such, donating money is not in itself a license to escape the inspirations of the counterforces, as described in the Apocalypse.
Those who practice with heartfelt giving know that this often is the result of having gone through a turning point in their soul. Giving brings a person closer to the feeling of being a conscious human being, of being a person which gives and creates, instead of a creature that is concerned with his or her security of existence and therefore never has enough. Giving brings us closer to the Philadelphia human being, which represents our vocation.
One last message from the Apocalypse
Finally, the Apocalypse has a mysterious message about the future referring to what seems to have to do with payment transactions. For this we have to look at Revelation 13:1-18 (fragment 35), which describes the beast that rises from the earth. At this point, the seventh trumpet has already sounded, and here we arrive at the third vision of the spiritual beings who are active in the evolution of mankind and are now visible to our inner eyes. We get to know the beast that rises from the earth as the great adversary that actually wants to prevent the evolution of mankind and uses the other adversaries, Ahriman and Lucifer, as his accomplices. This opponent is described as follows: ‘And it causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to mark themselves on their hand, their right, or on their forehead, that no man might buy or sell, save he that had this mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.’ Here, the Apocalypse describes a situation that will occur in the future and makes it clear how subtly this creature rising from the earth works. One of its instruments is a new form of money. Money sees the Apocalypse as a means in the hands of the greatest counterforce of the spiritual evolution of mankind. It is something not to close our eyes for.
We see in this text money in two manifestations. The first one takes the place of the seal on the forehead applied by Michael to the people who took the path back to the spiritual world (Fragment 19; Rev. 7: 1-8). The new money will be used for this purpose. No one is allowed to dispose of purchasing money, and thus participate in the process of division of labor, then he who has made himself subordinate to this mark of the beast that rises from the earth. The second manifestation of the new money is a mark applied to the right hand, the hand that acts. What a strange passage! Is this a situation that we are already seeing developing? Is the mark in our right hand similar to a bank card with a PIN code which has replaced the cheque and the cash we have been using before? The card has already changed into a contactless variant. And how long will it take until a young adult gets a chip injected under the skin of the right hand that replaces bank card and mobile phone, with which all payments can be made and registered, and with which the situation gets closer and closer to the mark of the beast?
Then comes the stage where our entire financial and social affairs are registered and monitored by the money system. It is then only a small step to provide us with instructions on what we can and cannot do if we want to continue to have our payment facility at our disposal. Asia shows how quickly such a development can take place at the expense of privacy. Money is a powerful weapon in the hands of the opposing powers under the guise of serving our private interests. Who will be able to withstand the temptation of the power of these developments? Who will have the spiritual power to take a different path, against the ‘blessings of the new techniques’? A path that strengthens the personality to make its own choices, focused on freedom, solidarity and fraternity.