The Shadow Side of Gift

In response to “The Alchemy of Gift” by John Bloom, published in the winter-spring 2020 issue of being human (read here).

by Dorothy Hinkle-Uhlig, July 11, 2020

John Bloom wrote of the importance of the gift economy for the health of any society. With deep gratitude I thank him for continually emphasizing how important the flow of money is and most especially gift money.

Money is an amazing creation of the gods, the spiritual flow of love coursing through our social endeavors. As we all know that love can be penetrated by many negative emotions so too can money be separated from her spiritual origins and serve the forces of evil. I want to write about the gift as it has been compromised in our society, the shadow side of the gift.

Steiner clarified the spiritual flow of money into three types: the gift, the loan, and the transaction. Each has its place, each is important for the health of the society, and each reflects love differently.

The gift rises above sympathy and antipathy and reflects love in freehood. Here the I of the giver and the I of the receiver meet as free individuals and may but need not connect.

The loan binds in love and creates future karma. Here two or more work together in trust: Trust by the lender that the money will be used rightfully to further another individual’s becoming and/or to empower the other to create enterprises to meet social needs, Trust by the borrower that they are held and supported as they flow the money and/or create more money to support more work for others.

The transaction is an encounter where all parties recognize each other and give the daily support needed to continue to live on earth by simply buying in freehood the daily bread without needing to have some product to barter for it.

The flow of money quickens.

Back to the shadow side of the gift: Simply stated, the gift works healthily when it is recognized consciously, humbly, and consequentially as a gift. A gift brings illness to an economy when either party does not recognize the gift and it is neither freely given nor received.

This shadow side of gifting can work strongly within a transaction, within a loan and within a gift. In these cases the gifter usually is not freely and consciously gifting and the receiver is not freely and consciously receiving the gift.

Below are a few examples. There are many more. I have reduced complexity to simplicity to explain what I am concerned about. Each of my examples below can be transformed when the giver gives freely and the receiver receives gratefully and both are conscious of the movement.

Examples of gifting, generally unacknowledged, within the transaction:

A businessperson can sell their product for less than fair price. As an example we can look at a farmer, who sells his produce but after all his sales and in spite of good business practices does not have enough profit to sustain his livelihood. In our society food staples are supposed to be cheap. The farmer is in fact gifting with every sale to the buyer the difference between the actual price and the needed price to receive a living income from his farm.

A businessperson can sell their product for more than a fair price. Many technological devices can be sold with high margins. This is socially acceptable. Here the buyer is gifting the seller the difference between a fair price and the actual price.

There is the laborer, who receives money for his work. People who are not receiving a living wage are in fact gifting to the public the difference between their low wage and a living wage. I remember reading once that the greatest philanthropists in America are minimum wage workers.

Examples of gifting, generally unacknowledged, within the loan:

Loan money can bring so much life so quickly into our society. Money moves and initiatives can work. However when the interest rates are too high (borrower gifts to lender) or too low (lender gifts to borrower), then it is important to articulate a conscious and accurate accounting of the gift. Is the gift voluntary, understood and consciously given and received as such?

Bankruptcy and the general forgiveness of loans are other places which involve gifting. Again freehood, gratitude and consciousness between the parties are important.

Examples of gifting, generally unacknowledged, within the gift:

Here we have those who have received unarticulated and unacknowledged gifts such as the examples I have given above and with these gifts have amassed much capital. Those with the amassed capital in turn gift to what is termed charity consciously and receive acknowledgement for their gift and tax deductions, which is another form of gift to the giver. They then can choose to which charities they will give without acknowledging that they were gifted these moneys that they are now gifting away. These gifts, which those with amassed capital in the way articulated above received, were often involuntarily given and often caused hardship to those involuntary gifters. We as a society seldom acknowledge that many social problems that official charities are addressing come from the unacknowledged gifts that have been received through involuntary gifting (low wages, unfair prices, subsidies).

All taxes paid to the government are gifts by the taxpayers to the general community administered by the government.

All government programs, payments, tax deductions, subsidies, handouts, grants etc. are gifts from the taxpayers of the country to the recipients.

And so to close:

We need our gifting to be conscious, loving, and ready to rightfully support our fellow human being. Both gifter and receiver need to feel deeply gratitude for the other. Each side of the transaction has a task with each gift.

And for further thought: The loan and the transaction also have their shadow sides, which we need to become conscious of.

Dorothy Hinkle-Uhlig is a long-time member and supporter of the Anthroposophical Society in America. She lives in Auburn, Alabama.

1 Comment

  1. Daniel osmer on August 29, 2020 at 2:23 pm

    A very interesting and thoughtful comment on 3 kinds of money – A differentiated concept of money. What i hear in your analysis is the ‘True price’ formula from the Economics Course of Rudolf Steiner.

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