One of the archetypical human struggles seems to be a tension between the desire to serve something greater than ourselves - be it a cause, a group, an individual - and the recognition of the fundamental importance of meeting our own needs, through having a disposable income. In the attempt to balance and address these two intents, we seem to have a predisposition, perhaps as an inherent self-preservation mechanism, to focus on addressing our own needs first, as a pre-requisite to then being of service once we feel those are being met.

But in that primary focus on ourselves there is a possible bind - that we never feel that our economic security is assured, and thus we can become consumed by the desire to always earn a little bit more. This is a core theme in Leo Tolstoy's novella, The Death of Ivan Ilyich, in which the protagonist, facing his impending death, realises that his life has been, and become, devoid of meaning as a result of his dedication of it solely to the attainment of ever greater economic means. Driven only to accumulate wealth, his soul has never known fulfilment.

How, then, does one avoid such a trap of perpetually feeling economically vulnerable, so as to live a life of meaning and in which we are able to give ourselves in service to something beyond our own person? Perhaps the two most fundamental necessities are to realise what money is and to have a clear idea of how much of it we need. As to the first, money is a systemic form of power, which we can exchange for whatever it may be that we desire. As to the second, in order to know how much of it we need, we must have a clear idea of what it is we desire it for - otherwise we may come to hold money as our vision, rather than as a resource with which to enable the fulfilment of our dreams.

To see money as the means to an end, rather than as an end in and of itself, thus can help us to orientate our life towards the greater possibility of fulfilment of our fourth instinct, transcendence. As Arianna Huffington, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post, postulates:

Most psychologists and biologists look at human behavior in terms of three instincts: survival, sex, and power. I believe, however, that you cannot understand human behavior without recognizing a fourth one - the instinct for transcendence, the instinct to connect to the part of us that goes beyond our materiality and survives our death, that connects with our soul. That's what explains our search for meaning, whether it drives us to art or to religion or to altruistic behavior that cannot be explained purely in terms of self-interest.

However, liberation to pursue our dreams is not only a matter of not focussing solely on the attainment of wealth. It is also a question of where we source money from - are we obliged to undertake work that potentially demeans or poisons our soul so that we may one day be free? Again, there are possible traps. While we might intend to work temporarily in jobs that we do not enjoy solely for the financial gain, we may find that seductive promises of future compensation and rewards actually keep us enslaved far longer than we ever possibly imagined, or even cause us to lose sight of why we took the job in the first place.

Does this suggest, though, that we should focus solely on fulfilment, and ignore the necessity of personal economic security? No, because in the system we currently live in globally, money has become the primary means for attainment of the essentials of life, the foundations from which we may subsequently rise to seek fulfilment. Instead, therefore, the question is ultimately one of how can we each find a win-win, find both systemic power and fulfilment?

The solution seems to lie in the decision to undertake work that both makes our heart sing and from which we receive a satisfactory financial return. Yet, how many of us genuinely believe in our heart of hearts that we can be well-paid for doing what we love? That if we choose to serve a purpose greater than ourselves then we will receive a return on what we invest? That if we are totally selfless then life will reciprocate? That reciprocity is at the heart of the Universe is a point that the world's religious and spiritual traditions speak to: for example, 'As you give so shall you receive', Matthew 7:12, or the idea of 'karma' that originated in ancient India. Even among lay people this concept exists, known simply as cause and effect. But knowing this and believing it are two different things.

So what causes us to disbelieve in what may actually be the core operating principle of the universe in which we live, and by proxy to prevent ourselves from experiencing true fulfilment? Such incredulity seems, fundamentally, to be informed by a person's cosmology. That is, if an individual holds memories, ancestral and personal, in both their subconscious and conscious awareness in which they see themselves as a victim of circumstance, then the culminant effect of this seems to be the belief that they live in a hostile universe. Ipso facto, how can an individual who does not believe that the universe is benign or supportive ever totally break free of working only to meet their own needs?

One way through and beyond this victim consciousness and into greater service to self and others is through the inner investigation of whether one has sole responsibility for one's own life. Because if it is true that we alone are responsible for our life, then the universe to honour that must organise according to cause and effect, karma, resonance - call it what you will.

Such a philosophy may require a leap of faith to even begin to be accepted, let alone embraced - the only question is, for the sake of your sanity and your soul is it one you are willing to take?

Author's Bio: 

James Powell works as a Shamanic Practitioner in the UK, and at a distance with clients all over the world. More information about him and his work can be found at