it doesn’t seem to make sense to suggest that there might be such a thing as good materialism. After all isn’t materialism just plain bad always? It can seem as if we’re faced with a stark choice. Either you can be materialistic and that means obsessed with money and possessions shallow and selfish, or you can reject materialism be good and focus on more important matters of the Spirit. But in truth most of us are in our hearts stuck somewhere between these two choices, which is pretty uncomfortable. We’re still in meshed in the desire to possess but we’re encouraged to feel rather bad about it. Yet crucially it’s not actually materialism the pure fact of buying things and getting excited by possessions that ever really the problem. With failing to make a clear distinction between good and bad versions of materialism. Let’s try to understand good materialism through a slightly unusual route, religion. Because we see them as focused exclusively on spiritual things it can be surprising to note how much use religions have made of material things. They’ve spent a lot of time making and thinking about Scrolls to hang in your house – shrines, temples, monasteries, artworks, clothes, ceremonies; however, they’ve cared about these things for one reason only, because they’ve wanted material things to serve the highest and noblest purpose, the development of our souls. It’s just that they’ve recognized that we are incarnate sensory bodily beings and that the way to get through to our souls has to be at least in part through our bodies rather than merely through the intellect. The importance of material things was for centuries at the core of Christianity, which proposed that Jesus was both the highest spiritual being and a flashing blood person. He was the spirit incarnate, holiness embodied in the Catholic Mass great significance is accorded to the bread and wine which are believed to be transubstantiation of Christ. That is material objects which simultaneously have a spiritual identity just as Jesus himself combined the spiritual and the bodily while on Earth. This can all sound like a very weird and arcane point entirely removed from the local shopping mall. But exactly the same concept actually applies outside of religions many good material possessions can be said to involve a kind of transubstantiation whereby they are both practical and physical and also embody or allude to a positive personality or spirit. Take this watch by the designer dieter Rams to the outer I it’s an ordinary timepiece. But at a psychological level it’s also a kind of transubstantiation. It tells the time but it also hints at a more psychological even spiritual side with ideals of purity simplicity and harmony floating around it. It tells us how long there is to lunch but it’s also trying to nudge us towards being a certain sort of person. Or take this chair it too transubstantiate a set of important values straightforwardness, strength, honesty and elegance by getting closer to the chair we stand to become a little more like it which is an important piece of inner evolution. Material objects can therefore be said to play a positive psychological or spiritual role in our lives when higher more positive ideals are materialized in them and so when buying and using them daily gives us a chance to get closer to our better selves. When they’re contained in physical things valuable psychological qualities that are otherwise often intermittent in our thoughts and conduct can become more stable and resilient. This isn’t to say that all consumerism just conveniently turns out to be great it depends on what a given material object stands for. An object can transubstantiated sides of human nature greed callousness the desire to triumph as much as it can the best sides. So we must be careful not to decry or celebrate all material consumption just like that. We have to ensure that the objects we invest in and tire ourselves and the planet by making are those that lend most encouragement to our higher better natures.