Tuesday, October 21, 2008

An idiot's Guide to Money - 3. Burning Money

When was the last time you made a sacrifice? When was the last time you chose to destroy something that had value to you? When was the last time you did something sacred?

The last time I did all of those things on the same day was on 23rd October 2007. At the time I was a bankrupt. For a week before, I kept a tenner in my back pocket. On the 23rd I burnt that £10 with my wife and son as witness. As I write this I've slipped £20 into my back pocket. In three days time on the 23rd, I'll burn that £20.

And I'll be doing a good thing.

On the 23rd August 1994 the K-Foundation burnt £1 million, cash. This single act has become the greatest artistic statement of the C20th. Pure genius.

Of course it sparked a lot of controversy. Many people were upset that they burnt the cash rather than gave it away and claim it was a waste of the money. But it wasn't wasted. The power in the money, released from the paper symbols made to inform us of its existence, has been nurtured and nourished by the telling, writing, and showing of its story. It is now a myth with power and value that far exceeds the K-Foundations original sacrifice.

When we burn money, its power is not destroyed. Its not money we sacrifice. We sacrifice our custodianship of money's power.

The promise made by the Bank of England to pay a debt due to the note's bearer still exists in the books of the Bank of England. The person who burns the notes says that the Bank of England will never be called upon to meet that debt.

By burning notes we increase the value of money without reducing the quantity.

Its true that the quantity of cash in circulation has been reduced, but the reported quantity of money (recorded in the Bank of England's books) has not been altered. The £10 debt remains on their books as real as all their other debts. It may seem counter-intuitive to say that the value of money increases with burning. But think about it. Imagine if tomorrow half of all cash disappeared. Prices in the shops would fall to chase harder for the available cash. Deflation increases the value of money. Its human nature to find greater value in diminishing resources.

Far from being wasteful, burning cash to release ourselves momentarily from the power of money is a very good thing to do for money and for ourselves. Environmental concerns excepted, burning money is good for all.

Once in a while you should show money that you are the boss. You can't show it you're the boss by buying something - that only proves how much you need money. You can't show it you're the boss by giving it away - that just makes your money the boss of someone else. The best way to show money you're the boss is to deny it; to refuse its power and to exert your own. Burn it.

Money will love you for it. Burnt cash is free money.

Respect money, it is an immense power. Remember, people who work with it every day have to wear suits. But don't worship it. You know what they say - 'the love of money is the root of all evil'. They are wrong about many things, but they maybe right about this.

Hedge your bets. Burn some of your money just to make sure. You'll feel good, after.

That's my take on it.

Here's what someone else thinks about the K-Foundation burning £1million:

I thought it was awesome in some ways, very funny in others; quite liberating. It burned well - very clean flames. I'd like to know if it was Newton on the fifties, but he's represented anyway - he organised the Royal Mint, and that's interesting because Newton was kind of the bridge between Magic and The Age of Reason. On the one hand he was an alchemist and yet, on the other, he was the father of all contemporary science. He had the last remaining stone maypole in London made into the base of his telescope.

William Blake called the Age of Reason 'Newton's sleep', the falling asleep to anything beyond rationality and reason ... spiritual values. This film was Newton's bed clothes on fire. It's what money represents which is the important thing magically. Anyone's probable immediate reaction is 'Why didn't you give it to charity?' they mean 'Why didn't you give it to me?'

Alan Moore, Writer & Occultist


  1. I loved the KLF, but not for the money burning thing.

    Burning money to release its magical power? Bollocks. I can't for a second see what's better about that than giving it out as liberally as you like in a council estate. I haven't been close enough to poverty to say much that's meaningful but I've been through days without enough money to buy lunch and I know how lack of money saps people's energy and their ability to thrive.

    Maybe, just maybe, that million pounds could have turned somebody's life around, somebody who would never have been given a second glance by a mainstream bank or maybe someone who didn't even have a pound for a lottery ticket.

    Ask someone poor if they'd prefer you to have an abstract discussion about the value of imaginary money or spend that £20 on a tasty lunch in nice surroundings with them and I think you'd get more pleasure from the latter than from a puff of smoke.

    Just a thought :)

  2. Thanks very much for taking the time to comment, Clare. I really appreciate it.

    I've just put up the video. I feel really good having done it.

    Right now I want to do it next year and can't work out if it'll be £50 or £40. I want to keep doubling and see where it leads.

  3. Well, if it makes you happy, I suppose doing it once a year is no worse than many ways people waste their money.
    But really, I think you should treat your wife to a nice take-away, and next year a really nice dinner out :)