The Genius of Money, a book by John Bloom

Below are two reviews of John Bloom’s excellent book, “The Genius of Money.”

 "To understand money in the deepest sense is to journey inwardly to grapple with the `money self,' to become more conscious economic participants in financial transactions with the world, and last but not least, to work to meet the material needs of others so that our economic needs are met through others' work. This formulation describes a three-fold virtuous cycle, one that represents a radical transformation from our current world circumstance, which tends to revolve around and end with self-interest, unsupportable accumulation, and fear born of never-enough." --John Bloom

Coming to terms with money is one of the great transformational challenges of our time. This collection of essays and interviews is an invitation and inquiry addressing that challenge on a systemic and personal level. The book presents an engaging worldview that emerges from the intersection of money and spirit. Practical, spiritual, and unwavering, it investigates the financial world as it plays out in daily life through our transactions.

The first section, called "The Poetics of Money," is framed on historical and contemporary works of art that reveal some of the cultural history of money. From the Renaissance to Pop Art to the Conceptual, artists have recognized the iconic power of money. They have moralized through it, played on its replicability, and suggested some of its archetypal power. The author explores these modes to better understand how our own attitudes about money are formed--unconsciously and consciously--through our culture.

The second section, "The Topography of Transactions," explores the inner landscape of financial transactions. By looking at the various qualities of money and how we work with them inwardly and in our relationships, the connections between money, human development, and consciousness emerges. Faith, hope, and love--powerful forces in our lives--are central to our financial well-being.

The third section, "A Wealth of Transformation," consists of interviews with individuals who have transformed themselves as they transformed the world through social entrepreneurship, philanthropy, and philosophical inquiry into money, investing, and spiritual practice. These exemplars represent the many who have recognized that the financial world needs to change if we are to have peace in the world.

Here is what the author has to say about our situation today: "We are being forced by economic crisis to look at the deeper issues of money--its shadows, light, power and its evanescence. It is a great bellwether of the state of our consciousness. It is time to look at the hard issues, especially money, in a new way that incorporates spirit and social values. If anything has been made clear, it is that when money is disconnected from real economic activity and human productivity; it too easily becomes an end unto itself. Financial transactions then become impenetrable, opaque, and unaccountable in the true sense of the words. When money is an end rather than a means, transparency is an enemy, trust a victim. Money has become so abstract it can no longer be weighed, though it weighs on us, and each of us, with our credits and debits, lives within its meaning....

"Each of us now has the capacity to initiate ourselves, to develop our own consciousness. Along with this capacity, the wisdom to be a `treasurer' and economic citizen needs to develop. We can no longer afford to cede that capacity to those operating in the old consciousness of `priesthood.' This collection of essays and interviews is an exploration of the origins and expressions of this transformed consciousness through the window of money and financial transactions. The essays look at cultural artifacts, art, events and research as indicators of that consciousness. The interviews provide insights into the capacity for self-transformation in the economic and money realms, to demonstrate and practice the integration of values, intuition (deep inner practices) with outer action."




“The Genius of Money,” John Bloom, Steiner Books 2009

Among the spate of new books explaining money, including Tom Greco’s “The End of Money” and Jordan Macleod’s “New Currency,” John Bloom’s “The Genius of Money” explores money’s symbolic role in the human psyche as a projection of our inner states of consciousness. Published by Steiner Books, an offshoot of the Rudolf Steiner Foundation, this book is elegantly produced with relevant illustrations of works of art over history, marred only by its inexcusable lack of an index.

It is not surprising that John Bloom, a lawyer with the Rudolf Steiner Foundation and RSF Finance, who has spent much of his professional career with the outward manifestations of money and monetary institutions, foundations, venture investing, grant-making and how these uses of money shape our communities, turns inward in this book.  Bloom’s deeply philosophical and spiritual enquiry into the role of money is extended by many inspiring interviews, notably with Lynne Twist, author of “The Soul of Money,” Betsy Taylor, founder of the Center for the New American Dream, and Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai on her Green Movement in Africa (whom I had the good fortune to interview in Nairobi, Kenya in 1981).

Bloom opens up key topics such as the role of advertising and mass media in enslaving our desires for material goods, while economic texts divert our attention from such fundamental flaws in markets and their “externalizing” of social and environmental costs from company balance sheets to others and future generations.  These are concerns of my company, Ethical Markets Media, whose mission is to reform markets and grow the green economy globally.  Bloom might also appreciate the EthicMark® Award which I founded to honor Advertising which Uplifts the Human Spirit and Society, now administered by the World Business Academy.

As Bloom acknowledges that all these issues around money are crucial in understanding the crises engendered by the greed and short-termism of Wall Street, he offers no prescriptions.  While Ethical Markets Media has joined in the Americans for Financial Reform coalition of over 200 organizations, including the millions who belong to AARP, the AFL-CIO and many others, Bloom does not comment on our need to re-instate the Glass-Steagall separation of retail banking from insurance, brokerage and investment banks – a key to reform.  Nor does Bloom refer to the need to downsize the global financial casino that metastasized to prey on the real economies of many countries. Perhaps we can hope that John Bloom’s brilliant analysis can turn to these aspects of money-creation and the need to reform the Federal Reserve System.  I hope that Bloom also supports a financial transactions tax to slow up the pathologies of algorithmic “flash” trading and downsize financial sectors again to serve the real economy.

- Hazel Henderson, Ethical Markets Media