In the old ways, before modernization, shamans and spiritual leaders were cared for within the communities they served. This was true in many different faiths, traditions, and community structures. Historically, those who chose such a spiritual path were cared for through a system of reciprocal exchange, tithing, offerings, and family/community support. If there was money given for their services the amount of the offering was determined by the person for whom the work had been done.
However, as the world has evolved, this too has had to change. Spiritual teachers and guides of all kinds face this same evolution. The challenges that this presents directly impact both the ways that we do our work in the modern (and modernizing) world and how we honor the sacred as it melds with the material exchange of money.
In addition, I find it rather common that we hold a belief that scarcity and poverty are vows required to serve in the vocation of spiritual work. This has been true for myself. It is a perspective that we have learned through various traditions and religions. This is one path, but certainly not the only path.
Today, there are many of us who are called to join the spiritual and the material worlds we live in. We are doing this outside of the confines of mainstream religions, institutions or other secular groups that are commonly accepted in the western culture. In order to do this we have to live, participate, and be a part of both. So, it is here that the spiritual and the material have to join, and this includes money.
Value must be assigned to spiritual work just as it is to any vocation in the modern world. The value of spiritual teachers, guides, practitioners, priests, healers, and Shaman’s now join with other professions and are as deserving of respect and compensations as a doctor, accountant, teacher, or real estate broker.
A friend once shared a story with me that sums this up in a great way:
There was a monk that had dedicated his life to enlightenment. He worked many years, lived an esoteric life, and finally made it to the top of the mountain of enlightenment where his Zen master awaited him. “I have made it. I am here. I am at the top of the mountain of enlightenment!” said the monk to his teacher. To which the Zen master replied, “Good. Now go back down to the Market Place of the world and use what you have learned there. It is needed.”
On a final note: Part of the sacred contract of doing spiritual work is to be of service. This is at the heart of the sacred agreements, sharing, and being of community. Being of service and choosing this journey means that we (at least for myself and others with whom I share this journey) commit to caring for others when it is needed. We do a lot of work that is not paid. This is by choice and by faith. There is a great deal of ongoing study, rituals, tithing to others, and sharing what we are gifted. So, while the monetary is necessary in the spiritual, there is also a good deal that goes unseen in which the old ways of service, gifting, and reciprocity are alive and well.