At the heart of symbolism

The sacred and the profane

Cretan Coin depicting a swastika-labyrinth

Currencies, symbol carriers

The substitution of money to barter has largely contributed to the development of exchanges within and between traditional societies. However, these exchanges went much beyond the manifestation of a common interest alone. Indeed, in these societies, all social activities had a sacred character. The money mint, in particular, was under the control of a spiritual authority as asserted by symbols and mottos covering ancient coins. Any object could be employed as support to meditation besides its common use. Far from reducing money to a simple exchange in a purely quantitative market system, the traditional society allowed the individual to connect with a superior reality order, both spiritual and qualitative.

When the money mint and circulation fell into the exclusive hands of the temporal power, the money was reduced to a simple instrument of exchange, precaution and reserve, i.e. a pure quantity subject to accumulation. This passage opened the way to the reign of numerical value marking out coins and banknotes today. A value which quickly became purely formal. This transformation has allowed the reduction of beings and things to simple digital data all over the world. This restriction has opened the digital field to the detriment of the symbolic domain.

Nevertheless, coins and banknotes always remained carriers of representations beyond their monetary value and evocative of thousand-year-old symbols such as the vajra in India, the twelve signs of the zodiac in India or China, the swastika in number of countries, the Celtic triskele or six petal flower, the Cretan labyrinth, the Greek or Roman horn of plenty… to say nothing of astronomical, vegetal, animal, human or divine representations.

Nowadays, currencies as dollar and euro are still carrying the imprint of old times, especially the dollar.