Over Easter week 2019, sixty-nine people undertook a pan-European ‘pilgrimage’ which ended at Carl Jung’s Tower, Bollingen, Switzerland. I was one of the 69 and I also helped organise it. I want to understand what the experience meant to me personally and I’m hoping that putting it into words will help. I’d also like to know what it was we actually did; ‘pilgrimage’ is in inverted commas because it’s an approximation. As John Higgs said in his newsletter; there isn’t — yet — a name for what it was. So while you, me, John Higgs and everyone else figures that out — pilgrimage — will have to suffice.
One of the tasks we were given prior to it was to recommend a ‘life-changing’ book. There are a few on my shelves that fit the bill. But of those, the vast majority are arcane books about the nature of money and economy. I couldn’t really recommend The Accursed Share by Georges Bataille as essential Bus reading. I wanted to recommend a book I thought my fellow pilgrims would like. So in the end I went for Robert Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. There’s a famous Author’s Note at the beginning where Pirsig warns the reader that while his book ‘must be regarded in its essence as fact’, it’s not actually very factual about motorcycles. This essay could do with a similar note.
For facts about the pilgrimage — such as they exist — you might be better off reading this Daily Grail piece by my fellow pilgrim Ben Graham. Whatever it was that we did, this essay is my own personal and partial assimilation of it.
“Have a word with Daisy, will you Jon?” Michelle asked me.
Daisy had first announced her intentions during the tour of her one-woman show Pigspurt’s Daughter. Paying homage to her late father Ken Campbell, it had considered both the joys and dangers of living your life as if it were a story. Now, she was in the process of raising £28,000 from 69 people in order to undertake a non-denominational, pan-European pilgrimage based — in part and roughly speaking — on a mythologising of her own life.
Michelle added, “I’m worried this time she’s bitten off more than she can chew.”
Daisy had identified CERN in Geneva, Switzerland as the place where the 69 pilgrims would ‘immanentize the Eschaton’ — create Heaven on Earth. To usher in this new age, a magical action would be performed marking the completion of a chapter of Daisy’s life-story. This action would also work to reset time and shift the world onto a new temporal path, and — if that wasn’t enough — it would bring about the end of story as we know it.
When Daisy had performed her show in Liverpool, like audiences elsewhere, those attending were impressed by the scale of her magical ambition. Some of them also had to assimilate an extra-large dollop of synchronicity. It just so happened that the Liverpool Arts Lab (LAL) were planning a pilgrimage to Switzerland, too. Their destination was Carl Jung’s Bollingen Tower, Zurich. Their start date was Bicycle Day (the anniversary of Albert Hoffman’s first intentional exposure to LSD) which this year — 2019 — happened to fall on Good Friday, the proposed start date of Daisy’s pilgrimage.
The happenstance was revealed and two simultaneous Swiss pilgrimages became one.
I saw the very first show of Daisy’s tour. Back then I’d taken the idea of a pilgrimage with a pinch of salt. It wasn’t that I doubted Daisy. Or, that I didn’t like the idea. It’s just that — having been a Tour Manager (mainly in the music industry) — I know what it takes to transport a group of people across Europe on a tight budget. I’ve also done a pilgrimage of my own each year, for the past four years, so I know how tough these particular sorts of journeys can be. The Holy Days of a pilgrimage are not a holiday.
“The likely outcome of Daisy’s plan?” I’d asked myself back at that first show. “A dozen of us in a single minibus and a few strained friendships.”
But the project had gained real momentum from the LAL synchronicity onward and Michelle picked up on this. She was worried. Normally in Daisy’s projects the worst thing that can happen is an actor falling off the stage. For this, it’d be a bus full of people falling off a mountain.
Michelle was still reticent about speaking to me, though. She knew of my tour management work but she also was aware I’d hated the job and it had been a contributory factor in my marriage break-up. However, once it became clear that the pilgrimage would be oversubscribed she felt compelled to ask.
So I made the call to Daisy just to point her in the right direction and get the thing on a firm logistical footing.
I found myself working on it for the next six months.
I first met Michelle, Daisy and Kate — I’ll tell you more about Kate, shortly — on 23rd Oct 2013 at the Horse Hospital, Bloomsbury, London.
I’d gone there to ritually burn £20 in front of an audience.
[ If you’re new to this — I’m Jonathan Harris a.k.a. Money Burning Guy and burning money in ritual is my thing. I like to create nothing from something. ]
I tell the backstory to that evening and the uncanny coincidences that led me to be there in the 2016 piece Money Burning Man at Festival 23. What I don’t talk about in that piece is my personal circumstances at the time. The Horse Hospital was my first proper night out since Sally had left me six months earlier. We’d been together 30 years.
The pain of separation had been quite overwhelming in those early months. Every waking moment was filled with it. And there was no respite at night; Dream-Sally was a bitch.
Then something happened. The beginning began.
My Grandfather — Emlyn Sayce — died over a decade before I was born. He was a merchant seaman-cum-artist who lived in New Quay in a salt-white house dangling over water. He was ever-present through his paintings but rarely mentioned. As a child the only story told was that he got drunk with Dylan Thomas. When my mother discovered a forgotten painting of his, stowed away in her under-stairs cupboard, she gifted to me without ceremony. It was a view over the harbour. It is New Quay as Dylan would have seen it quite early one morning in 1944 when he walked from Majoda, past the sleeping Sayce family and down to the harbour. My mother would have been twelve, and bedded soft and gliding like the young girls in Under Milk Wood, as Dylan passed by listening for dreams.
Sally and I took our two children to New Quay most summers mimicking the holidays of my youth. Early on we’d stay with Nana Sayce at her home, and then later at Dylan’s favourite pub — The Black Lion — so we could visit Nana in the Nursing home. It was only in those final years as she slipped into dementia that she spoke about Emlyn at all. She still mourned his loss four decades later. We’d visit her on the rainy days, and sit in the lounge repeating our holiday stories.
“We just told you that, Nana!” the kids would say.
Our yearly visits then, became an expected family habit. But a welcome one. The excitement of the kids stepping foot on the beach or playing the penny falls and dolphins appearing in the bay each time Sally looked out to sea, always kept New Quay alive and magical.
Once Nana had gone, as the kids grew into teenagers then young adults, increasingly the odd fallow year crept in. By the time we separated, we’d not visited for several years.
A few months after our separation my mother asked me if I fancied a quick break in New Quay. She thought it’d do me good. I mulled it over.
Immersing myself once more in the place that held the best of memories would be a true measure of my sense of loss. But not going back, not doing so now while the pain was still so present, might mean always avoiding it and never returning.
I said I was in two minds.
“If I booked you a caravan would you go?” she asked half insisting. So I went.
I retraced my errant Grandfather’s footsteps to where his easel would have been on that day he painted the harbour. I walked the same paths as Dylan and had a pint in The Black Lion. I read for hours and hours; Lawrence Weschler’s short eponymous biography of money artist JSG Boggs and Norman O Brown’s psychoanalytical tour-de-force Life Against Death. I did what I wanted to do, without any negotiation. Everything made me miss Sally.
I’d been half of a whole for a long time. Experiencing aloneness as liberation rather than loneliness might take a while. Looking back now, I think that was the start of the process. My visit moved New Quay on. From being family history, to being part of our story, it was now becoming part of my mythology.
It was a month after I got back that I arrived at the Horse Hospital for my first evening out. In truth, I still felt like pieces of a man. I told the Doorman my name.
“You’re not on the list”, he said “and we’re full.”
I asked to take a look. “That’s me”, I said pointing to a scribbled name under the typed list, “Money Burning Guy.”
And that was the moment that Michelle, Daisy and Kate began to put me back together. It was Daisy’s hand that held dominion that evening. It was she who named me. Over the course of the next five years we’ve all become involved in one another’s artistic and magical projects. The Cosmic Trigger Play was initiated at the Horse Hospital, and much has followed since; The Money Burner’s Manual, The Book of Horkus, The Money Flame, Burning Issue, I Spend I Earn, Church of the Cosmic Burn, Welcome To The Dark Ages, The Dreamfishing Society, Cash is King and more besides.
So then, in late 2018, when Michelle asked me ‘to have a word with Daisy’, I was feeling just about whole again.
However, I really didn’t want to have that ‘wholeness’ tested by revisiting the job that broke me apart, by breaking my marriage apart. There was no single cause, of course. But Tour Managing — being away working, escaping to the bubble of being on tour and then staying in it mentally by working when I was home, rather than facing the problems — these were perhaps the final fatal blows.
My conscious mind now perceives the events of 2013 in the following way; Sally left, I went to New Quay, then Michelle, Daisy and Kate appeared. The space between those events, previously measured by the pain of loss, has contracted — been repressed — to nothing. But my unconscious remembers. I’d meet Sally and we’d be as close, respectful and loving to one another as you could imagine two ex-partners could ever be. But then away from waking life, in my dreams, the trauma returned. My fear was that by getting involved with Daisy’s pilgrimage as a Tour Manager a door would open between my dreams and my waking life, that it wouldn’t be easy to shut.
But at the same time I knew I had no choice.
I had the sense that there was some meta-level psychomagic at work, here.
Daisy told her audience for Pigspurt’s Daughter; “Plans are coming along for the pilgrimage to CERN. So if you’d like to join me and a few other Cathars, Money Burners and Discordians for Psychomagical Bollocks with the God of Gnothing — well, you’d be very welcome.”
It’s often said that scientists at CERN are searching for ‘the fundamental building blocks of the universe’. But one might equally say that actually, what the scientists are seeking, is not something, not ever-tinier packets of energy, but nothing. The finding of nothing would represent the end of their search.
Or, as Daisy’s put it, “at CERN, the interest is no longer in the wazzing of particles — BUT THE NOTHING IN THE TUBE”.
During every show, at an especially poignant moment of reminiscence about her father’s death, Daisy would take a £20 note from her pocket and set it alight. She and her audience would watch the money burn until it was gone. This was done without warning or explanation except for one short sentence which came later in the show.
Sometime after the burning, Daisy begins to tell the audience about the Cathars. “The word Cathar”, she says “comes from the same route as Catharsis — the Cathars were the cleansed and purified ones.” They were a medieval Gnostic-revivalist sect based mostly in Southern France and Northern Italy who were denounced and persecuted by the Catholic Church. Gnosticism itself, is a set of religious ideas dating back to the 1st century and beyond based on the unknowable nature of God which claims that our material world is created by the Demiurge, an evil lesser god. The true God creates nothing. Our spiritual task is to develop our awareness of this divine emptiness.
Daisy then offers her one short sentence of explanation for her burning of £20.
“There’s been a recent outbreak of Catharism. It’s taken the form of money burning.”
The links between the different elements of the pilgrimage are woven together as Pigspurt’s Daughter proceeds until, near to its end, Daisy tells us;
To immanantise the eschaton is the great Cathar goal –
It’s to recognise that the world’s end is already here –
It’s inherent and omnipresent! –
We exist on the edge of existence itself! –
This desperate need we all have to know how will the Story end? –
It’s a reaction to Gnostic Immanence –
An aversion to the void –
All Story is a conspiracy against Gnostic Immanence –
As a species we’re obsessed with protuberential narrative –
Stories that mirror the male orgasm –
Friction, friction, friction, climax, release –
It’s very dangerous –
Intolerance for nothing leads to the fantasy of an ending to end all endings –
But we’re in the Nothing times now –
The Gap as you like to say –
We’re in the midst of collapsing narrative –
Look around –
Don’t you see it? –
There’s a gap at the centre of every institution –
A lot of sound and fury around the periphery –
But nothing at the centre –
A gap where all the leaders should be –
Where all the experts should be –
A gap in the White House –
A gap at Number 10 –
…and there’s a gap where a Self should be too…
…Our own divine nothing.
Daisy Campbell Pigspurt’s Daughter (2018) p.54
There was one key part of the pilgrimage which was only briefly alluded to in Pigspurt’s Daughter. Daisy mentions going with her father ‘to Italy to see a temple twice the size of St Paul’s built under the ground’. She says that even her ‘jaded 16-year-old self was quite impressed by this trip’. On the pilgrimage we would spend two days at Damanhur, home to that underground temple.
Damanhur describes itself as ‘a Federation of spiritual communities, with its own constitution, culture, art, music, currency, schools and uses of science and technology’. Some have called it a cult. They are based in the Alpine foothills of Northern Italy — the same area where the Cathars flourished 800 years earlier. And like the Cathars, Damanhurians adhere to their own brand of Gnosticism.
To visit Damanhur as part of a ‘grand tour’, whilst also taking in CERN and Bollingen, would make good logistical sense. They’re only half-a-day’s drive from one another. But of course, ‘good logistical sense’ was not the reason Damanhur ended up on the itinerary, at all. Moreover — the fact that Daisy’s last performance of Pigspurt’s Daughter was hosted by fellow pilgrim Jeff Merrifield, the author of three books on Damanhur, was merely incidental. Or perhaps at best, confirmatory. Damanhur became part of the pilgrimage because of a dream.
And we’re still not entirely sure whose dream it was. To explain, let’s start at the beginning. Or rather, begin at the start.
Daisy needed to know start point of the pilgrimage. She had been given a clear indication by the writer John Higgs. John had experienced a vision of himself waving us off on our pilgrimage but it was from a place that seemed to make little sense magically and no-sense whatsoever practically.
John had been at the Horse Hospital back in 2013, too. In fact, it was John who invited me. He is always deeply connected in some way to our magical and ritual actions. The pilgrimage was no exception. He wasn’t able to come himself because of promotional commitments for his new book. But even the title of that — The Future Starts Here — is an uncannily prescient description of the intent of the CERN action.
To commit to John’s vision as the start point, Daisy needed confirmation. This is where Kate comes in.
Kate has a passion for dreams and dreaming. She draws on a range of techniques to experiment with and enhance her own dream-life. Occasionally she has precognitive dreams. [ Or, if your reality tunnel doesn’t allow for precognition; occasionally she has dreams that seem to coincide with future events with an uncanny level of precision. ]
Kate’s ability to dream the future was very handy for Daisy who had decided to regard the pilgrimage as having already happened. She could use Kate’s dreams to tune into the present echoes of those future events. Whether you’d call that precognitive or an act of remembering, I’m not sure. The important thing is that Daisy commissioned Kate to ‘dream-confirm’ John Higgs’ starting point. Kate was given no clues about his vision. This would be a blind test of her ability.
With the mission fixed in her mind, and using a variety of techniques and rituals, Kate immersed herself in the dreamscape three times.
The first time she met a man with a ‘ridiculously hard cock’ (her words) and she showed him an old coin with Britannia on it. The coin stayed with her as she journeyed onward.
The second time she was in Damanhur speaking to plants through a sacred dance language. Kate had never been to Damanhur. She had no idea that they do indeed have a sacred dance language and have also developed their own plant communications technologies. The confusion, about whose dream made Damanhur part of the pilgrimage, arose because whilst Kate had the dream in here in the UK, we later found out that Damanhur’s own Dream Group had been active in trying to seed such dreams — through their dream projection practices.
Kate’s third and final dream found her at the foot of a giant chalk figure carved into the side of a hill.
So, Damanhur became a destination on the pilgrimage alongside Bollingen and CERN. And a huge chalk figure carved into a hillside and sporting a ‘ridiculously hard cock’ — The Cerne Abbas Giant, in Dorset, England — was confirmed as the starting point. It was the precise spot of John Higgs’ vision.
“Of course,” thought Daisy, “Cerne2CERN!” Sonic symmetries matter in magic.
The relevance of the old coin with the Britannia motif remained a mystery. For the moment, at least.
Starting the pilgrimage at Cerne Abbas made no sense from a logistical point of view.
I spent a week of my life failing to figure out how it could be done. I persisted because I knew that the ‘tour’ had to be subjugated to the sovereignty of the ‘pilgrimage’.
This distinction between the two terms tour and pilgrimage became a useful shorthand for myself and Daisy in the planning period. The tour was something to be hewn from the material world to mimic, rather than define, the pilgrimage. Daisy’s ‘belief’ that it had already happened gave the immaterial the solidity it needed to avoid it being wholly formed by the logic of capital and its associated subroutines of budgets, logistics, and administration.
In earlier drafts of this piece, I found myself recounting details of the challenges I faced when putting together an itinerary.
As a Tour Manager my task was to get 69 people to Cerne Abbas then go from the UK, across Europe, and come back again, all within the budget set by Daisy. She’d pitched it at a level she thought would-be pilgrims could afford, but without the flesh of details it was little more than an honest guess. Planning took place during a period of huge uncertainty over Brexit. We didn’t know what the sterling cost of our euro spending would be or how difficult European travel might be for a Bus-load of (mostly) British pilgrims.
Making it all work on paper was very tricky.
But something I learned from being a Tour Manager — and something I expect you may now be grateful for — is that once a tour is done (and providing nothing disastrous has occurred and people aren’t suing one another), no-one cares about the preparations. In fact if the tour has been a really good one, it will have been experienced it as a series of fortuitous, free-flowing events, rather than the rigorously-scheduled, contingency-laden, quasi-military operation it actually was. This was one of the reasons I’d hated the job. Do it well and clients wonder why they’re paying you. (And occasionally, they don’t). So I’ll spare you my recounting of the details and instead just provide a link to the actual tour itinerary that was the end result of months and months of hard work.
It was finished while Notre Dame was still smoldering.
Truth is, I never really wanted to be a Tour Manager in the first place.
To me it was just a way of putting food on the table after the failure of my grand life-project. Naturalsex was an internet sex site that I ran with Sally from 2000 until around 2005. It was an amazing, defining and (for the most part) joyous adventure. The high-point was winning an Erotic Award from the Sexual Freedom Coalition in 2002. We had a lot of media interest in what we were doing but never really managed to turn it into cash. We lasted longer than most, but in the end the site failed. My seven-year stint as a tour manager arose because there are few opportunities for failed internet-sex entrepreneurs. I started as a glorified taxi driver for musicians and went from there.
Relationships suffer under the strain of financial insecurity. I’ve always pushed, prodded and tested money more than is wise. I’ve spurned the opportunities I’ve had to live a stable financial life. And while the burdens Sally and I shared were self-inflicted, and the risks were taken knowingly and mutually, the salesman for a brighter future was always me. I was the one telling Sally, “This time next year we’ll be millionaires!” It is testimony to her stoicism and loyalty — as well as to our passion and love for one another — that we stayed together for so long.
I don’t believe empathy is a limited resource. But if it were, the lion’s share of yours would be best placed with Sally for enduring the regular bailiff visits, the bankruptcy and the house repossession, rather than with me for the loss of her love. If that fails to persuade you, bear in mind that after all the financial indignities we suffered, my new grand life-project after Naturalsex would be literally burning money.
We started Naturalsex in 2000, just after I finished my formal studies. At that time transmitting video and sound over the internet was regarded as an extraordinary cutting-edge technological feat. When Sally would do her webcasts, just off camera were shelves filled with books on money, economics and psychoanalysis. Back then I believed that something intellectually useful might eventually be said about sex, and particularly about the relationship between sex and money.
But by the end of Naturalsex — after having our sex life in the public eye for several years and being interviewed about it many times — both Sally and I agreed that there was only one universal truth in respect of sex; ‘You can’t talk about it without being sexual’. In other words, discourse about sex is inherently and inescapably subjective, meaning our knowledge of the sexual is necessarily particular and never truly universal.
This is bad news for those of us still seeking to unlock the secrets of the relationship between sex and money. The sex side of the equation seems inherently immune to objective analysis. So, since Naturalsex, my intellectual focus has been squarely back on the money side.
In respect of our knowledge about money I’d propose not one, but two ‘universal truths’.
The first is that underlying our perception of money is an assumption about the relationship between thought and matter. Most people would refer to this as ‘the mind-body problem’. I prefer the ‘thought/matter problem’.
The assumption is often made so deeply in our minds that it might even be considered ‘unconscious’. Certainly, if you read learned texts on money and economics you’ll only very rarely find the ‘thought/matter problem’ given any air. This is despite the fact that what we assume will profoundly affect our conceptualization of money. Believing that thought arose from matter lends value to the idea that we should understand money by means of science. Believing the opposite — that matter arose from thought — opens money up to different modes of thinking like theology, psychoanalysis and magic.
There is, of course, no resolution to the ‘thought/matter problem’. A quote from Marc Shell — perhaps, the greatest living thinker on money — captures this precisely;
‘Those discourses are ideological that argue or presume that matter is ontologically prior to thought.’
Marc Shell, The Economy of Literature (1978) p.1
The important thing Shell recognises here is that the foggy swirl of discourses around the problem are only ever ideologies. They are stories. And they are based upon what is ultimately a metaphysical commitment not an irrefutable truth.
The second ‘universal truth’ is that we experience money in direct relation to ritual.
Intellectually, this is not too unconventional an idea. If you think of economic transactions and currency as developing from ritual and sacrifice, the relationship of money to ritual is clear. It’s a story (in the best sense of the word) that Anthropology has — quite rightly — been very keen to tell us.
However, as with sex there is once again a fundamental problem that restricts the intellectual value and effectiveness of our knowledge about the relationship between money and ritual. Meaning comes from doing in mysterious ways. Whatever you say objectively about ritual will only ever partially capture the experience of it. Ritual cannot be reduced to a set of functions. That would be like using a description of the physical act of sex to define it’s totality.
It has always confounded me that — for economists — money is wholly defined by its functions. This is a fatal and obvious error.
My Brother was over from Canada in the week leading up to the pilgrimage. He’s a psychiatrist with a background in genetics. Twenty or so years ago, when he was doing his training, we’d have dinner-table arguments about Freud, much to my mother’s annoyance. Straddling my brother’s world of science and medicine and mine of philosophy and socio-economics, Freud made a good battlefield for sibling rivalry.
I learned my Freud from Professor Chris Badcock at the London School of Economics (LSE). Tucked away in his tiny hard-to-find top floor office, Prof Badcock kept a candle burning for Freud for 35 years. By the late 1990’s psychoanalysis had really fallen out of fashion in the social sciences. Evolutionary Psychology was the new thing. Badcock was the last person to be analyzed by Anna Freud at Freud’s London home, now the Freud Museum, before her death in 1982, and although he kept a dream diary for most of his adult life, he was — like Freud himself — a committed materialist.
In fact, he became the last bastion of Freudianism at the LSE by virtue of his desire to give psychoanalysis a neurological and material base in genetics and evolutionary science. I was — and I still am, of course — ambivalent about the thought/matter problem, so I didn’t get hooked on Prof Badcock’s particular project. But, I did get hooked on Freud. Prof Badcock was an inspirational teacher. And useful. Being taught by him really helped me in those arguments with my brother. I learned how to defend Freud against his critics, especially the scientific ones, without pushing the philosophy button and launching the nuclear, discourse-annihilation option of the thought/matter problem.
It’s odd how things can work out, though. Prof Badcock’s grand life project eventually ran aground and shortly before retiring in 2011 he’d renounced his Freudianism. I was a bit shocked and a little saddened to read this at the time. I guess his commitment to science and materialism — to brain over mind — left him no choice in the end.
Now, you might think Prof Badcock’s failure to deliver a material basis to Freud’s ideas would have handed a decisive victory to my brother in our ongoing Freud battles. Actually, something else has happened. My brother has taken the opposite journey to Prof Badcock.
Back at those dinner table arguments years ago he was implacably opposed to Freud’s project and — rightly, as it turns out — rejected my defense of Freud’s methodology. But in recent years I’ve noticed his position softening. He seems more open to the idea that psychoanalysis has therapeutic value, even if it’s only because it enables people to talk about their problems. In a world of cutting-edge treatments and targeted, chemical interventions, talking is still essential.
During this most recent visit my Brother explained how he’d always emphasize to his trainees the importance of tailoring a psychiatric approach to the patient.
“If I’m treating a mechanic, I’ll try to talk in terms of engines and metaphors that make sense to them. You gotta have a multiple model approach”, he told me.
This was music to my ears. Although, of course, it isn’t really a disavowal of materialism. I still have my work cut out to persuade him that our mind might not necessarily be created by our brain. That’d be an uphill struggle with any psychiatrist.
I made more headway talking about money. Theories of money with a base in materialism have really lost their currency, so to speak, in the decade since the financial crash. I told my brother how I was still trying to pare back Freud (and psychoanalysis) as a means to better understand money and currency. I’ll recount that conversation shortly.
I also told him all about the forthcoming pilgrimage, including our visit to Jung’s Bollingen Tower and the ritual I had planned for it. On the day before the pilgrimage, the same day my brother was flying back to Canada (Thursday, 18th April 2019), I was due to visit the Freud Museum to pick a flower from Freud’s garden which I’d then take with me to Jung’s garden.
Then came a surprise ‘confession’ from my brother.
“You know, Jon, I actually defended Freud at work”, he said.
There’d been a proposal to remove Freud and psychoanalysis from the teaching curriculum. My brother tasked himself with making the case for Freud and successfully defended the psychotherapeutic approach.
As the younger, much less successful brother, wins are rare. So even the slightest hint of one should really be seized upon to proclaim a glorious victory. But I resisted. The temptation was outweighed by the gift of reassurance that his timely confession bestowed.
We’d already had permission from Jung’s descendants to visit his garden and make ritual there. I’m not averse to the odd bit of guerrilla magic but the idea of sneaking into Freud’s garden and secretly picking a flower seemed very wrong. So I’d emailed the director of the Freud Museum to tell her about the pilgrimage and ask permission to take a flower. To my great delight, she agreed. In the absence of Freud and Jung themselves, getting permission from those charged with looking after their respective homes and gardens, seemed the best way to ensure the flower was freely given and willingly received.
But of course, one couldn’t be certain. A bit of me was still a little nervous that this flower ritual idea was an act of unbelievable hubris on my part. So my brother’s timely confession seemed like a good sign. A synchronicity.
I’d made it clear to the Freud Museum that I wasn’t seeking to impose any particular narrative on the action. Even so, symbolically it did look like a ritual of reconciliation between Freud and Jung. One of my fellow pilgrims actually asked me if I thought either of the two men would want this? I said ‘I hoped they did’. They’ve both been dead awhile. It’d be sad to think they were still somehow hanging on to the bitterness that developed in their once close relationship; a deterioration that can be traced in the letters they exchanged between 1906 and 1913. But above and beyond this hope for healing, I was clear that I viewed the ritual itself, as sovereign. It didn’t need a narrative of reconciliation, or any other story, to justify its value.
I’m never entirely sure whether my brother is genuinely interested in my ideas about money, or whether he’s just keen to see if I can explain them coherently. Maybe it’s both.
Before I recount our conversation, I need to say a word about the idea of ‘repression’.
Obviously, my brother knows what Freud meant by it. In the public mind though, repression is often misunderstood. People tend to equate it with the idea of ‘burying stuff’ that we’d rather not think about. The problem with this analogy is it stops you thinking about the mind as a dynamic system; it implies that the ‘stuff’ will stay put. It doesn’t. As Freud said, the repressed always returns. Repression, for Freud, is a universal process upon which both individual life and civilization itself is built.
“So no-one believes that money came out of barter, anymore?”, my brother asked.
“Not really”, I said. “Since the crash the idea of money from debt has kind of taken over.”
“Which do you think it is?”
“Ha!” I replied, smiling. “I don’t really see money as an ‘emergent’ quality at all. In my conception, money is ‘an aspect of being’ so I don’t really get tangled up in the whole debt/barter thing.”
“That’s cool. I mean, I guess you can assume what you want about it. But in talking about ‘emergence’ and ‘being’ aren’t you avoiding the issue? Surely the important thing is how money plays out in the real world?” he said.
“Ah, well that’s where it gets tricky. I’ve got as far as defining currency as a psycho-sexual event. So there’s money up there...”, I waved my hands over my head to signify a sort of ethereal, heavenly space, “…and then there’s currency down here.” I flatten my hands out and moved them side to side at waist level to indicate an ‘earthly’ realm.
“Although really,” I added, “that’s kind of a false dualism. Currency is always a subset of money. I don’t mean to imply they’re separate. That heavenly bit also exists down here on earth, too. We just don’t see it. A bit like the idea that God is in all things. Theology is really interesting on money as it goes…”
“Er, yeah…”, my brother reigned me in once more, “…you said currency was a psycho-sexual event? That’s where it ties into Freud for you, yeah? ”
“Well yeah. It gives me a starting point… …the psychosexual event is the crossover where money enters time and space. I’m not convinced by the traditional psychoanalytic view of money, though. You know, ‘money is neurosis’, ‘money is shit’ — they see money as a symptom, really. However, I think Freud’s basic ideas are really useful; ‘the unconscious’, ‘ambivalence’ and the way they then allow for ‘repression’ to become a fundamental psychical process.”
“Uh-huh”, he managed to sound like he agreed without fully committing. Psychiatrists have these skills. It was enough to encourage me to press on, though.
“I’m trying to marry-up two theories about money with those basic ideas”, I continued. “One is a fairly common-sense idea about what money does. The other is really bizarre. You’re not going to like that one.”
“Well, let’s start with the first one, then.”
“So it’s the idea that money both creates and overcomes distance. Spatial, temporal and psychological distance.”
“I’m not sure I understand. What you do mean by ‘creating and overcoming distance’?” he asked. This was not a good start. If he wasn’t liking this first idea, I had no hope with the second.
“It’s an idea from George Simmel. Well they both are, actually.”
Simmel wrote The Philosophy of Money in 1900. It’s generally regarded as the greatest work on money ever written. It’s a 600-page headache-of-a-read. I’m sure it’s an example, like Darwin and Wallace, of ‘multiple discovery’ — the phenomenon where discoveries are made independently and more or less simultaneously by multiple minds — because it reads like Freud and Simmel shared the same mindspace. Simmel actually claimed he sought to build ‘a storey’ beneath historical materialism, which bears comparison to Freud’s metaphysical commitment to the unconscious. Infact, Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams which throughout his life he regarded as his masterwork, was published in the same year as The Philosophy of Money. Unlike Darwin and Wallace though, Simmel and Freud don’t seem to have had any contact with one another. On my visits to the Freud Museum I always stare intently at Freud’s library hoping to spot a copy of Philosophie des Geldes. If it’s there, it’s hiding from me.
I continued. “There’s a roughly similar idea in Anthropology that’s a bit better known. You know that money is corrosive of social bonds, that it creates distance between people? But then of course there are others who argue against this. They say that money creates social bonds, that it overcomes distance, you know through trade, rituals of exchange etc.”
“Ah now,” said my Brother, “the creation and destruction of connections. That I can understand.”
“Well, putting it your way, gets at the notion of ambivalence but there is a problem with it. That’s why I think ‘creating and overcoming distance’ works better.
“How so? What’s the difference?”, my brother asked.
I knew we were in danger of disappearing down a rabbit hole.
The creation and destruction of connections expresses a more materialist outlook. It presupposes an extant, atomised universe of distinct things. In this view, money becomes a medium of communication capable of establishing or disestablishing relations (creating or destroying connections) between those distinct things. Simmel’s terminology of creating and overcoming distance allows us to conceptualize the universe differently; in a more ‘mind-like’ way. This means that ‘thingyness’ is then created as a quality rather than an expression of a material fact. A thing isn’t thing because it exists in and of itself, but because of the ‘distance’ between its representation (in your mind) and your ‘self’ — your sovereign centre. When some object has great personal meaning and value to us we say we feel ‘attached’ to it. When something has little or no personal meaning and value we say we’re ‘unattached’ to it.
There is an entire world-history of philosophy just beneath the surface of my ‘singular mind-like universe’ and my brother’s ‘atomised universe of distinct things’. As it happens, some scholars have suggested that the philosophy of ‘The One and the Many’ — which captures the idea of those two different universes and was formulated by Parmenides 2500 years ago — was an unconscious response to the earliest use of coinage.
Mother was already putting the cutlery on the table.
“Let’s not worry about it for now. To tell you, I’d have to convince you that the mind can exist independently of the brain, and that would be tricky given your profession.”
“Hang on”, my brother said, pretending to look around. “Lemme just find a blunt instrument. I’m gonna prove it to you. No brain, no mind.”
“That would prove a connection, not a cause/effect relationship. Anyway, you’re a Freud fanboy like me, now!” I teased.
As well as his ‘confession’ about defending Freud, he’d told me he’d witnessed a real-time MRI scan of a psychotherapy session showing neuro-chemical inhibitors and excitors acting in a way that looked — at least — a lot like Freud’s idea of how the mind works.
“So”, I continued, “we got the basics of a psychodynamic model in money. Currency practically embodies the idea of ambivalence. There are always two sides to a coin. There’s a ton of unconscious elements in plain sight on every banknote; centuries of state violence and subjugation inhere in the symbolism. I think this aspect we’re talking about now — the creation and overcoming of distance — corresponds to repression and the return of the repressed.”
“If you think about repression in terms of time and money, it’s easy to see. Some trauma is ‘banked’ and then ‘cashed out’ later. Currency projects past values into the present moment. And it projects future values into the present, too.”
“Okay. I can see that. Money does that. Sure. What was the second idea? The crazy one?”
Before I could answer, Mother walked through from the dining room and interrupted.
“You two are yack, yack, yack! Now be quiet and come and sit at the table. Dinner is ready.”
All of a sudden, it was 1972.
Thursday 18th April 2019 was a glorious spring day in Hampstead. I met Carol Seigel, director of the Freud Museum in Freud’s garden and we decided on taking a cutting from a beautiful in-bloom pink camellia bush. I wrapped the stem in damp tissue and placed it in a plastic container.
On Good Friday, from all around the United Kingdom, the Pilgrims piled into seventeen different vehicles to convene on a campsite near the Cerne Abbas Giant. Then early morning on Easter Saturday we gathered below the Giant’s giant testicles. After sermons, song and ritual, and with each of us dressed as an individual sperm, an ejaculation was enacted. We sowed our salt-seed across the sea, from Portsmouth to Caen, France. There we boarded our magical-mystery double-decker tour bus and went directly all the way to Damanhur in the foothills of the Italian Alps.
We learned a sacred dance and communed with plants, just as Kate had dreamed. Then, after a ‘slung-on-show’ — the Pilgrim’s Opera — in front of a packed house, the sixth Ritual Mass Burn and an almighty party, we wriggled our way up through the mountains to finally fertilize a field on the Franco-Swiss border. Rogue CERN scientists had helped us identify this field as being directly above the very centre of the Large Hadron Collider. Daisy, as the Goddess Eris, wearing the dress her mother had worn to play Eris in the 1976 stage production of Illuminatus! and accompanied by every one of the pilgrims, each with a ritual task to perform, enacted an orgasmic death at the closest point on the surface of Earth, to the centre of humankind’s scientific quest for true Nothingness.
The Eschaton was finally immanentized. Time was reset. Story as we know it was dead.
We got back on the Bus. Eventually.
Only in reflecting on these events now, do I understand that everything was destined to work out just fine. On the Bus, at the time, the situation was bad. We had no water. We had a poorly pilgrim. We would arrive at our accommodation an hour after its doors were closed to guests. Nothing to eat and nowhere to sleep. The prospect of 69 tired and angry pilgrims, and two even more tired and angrier German Bus drivers, loomed large.
But we were heading to Lake Lucerne. And we didn’t notice the sonic symmetry. #Cerne2CERN2LuCERNE. Everything would be fine. Michelle stepped forward as the multi-lingual hero of our most desperate hour and in her most persuasive Swiss-German tones spoke the magic words to smooth our path. A still-frosty Swiss reception was thawed by smiles and fluttering eyelashes. Quickly we became the honoured guests of gracious hosts. We ate a feast and slept well by the shores of the lake.
The next morning we took the Lake Lucerne ferry and sang with all our hearts ‘Ferry Cross The Mersey’. It made perfect sense. Then, after driving north through mountains and across Lake Geneva, we left the Bus and walked the final few miles to Carl Jung’s Tower at Bollingen.
During the months of planning, Daisy and I loved the idea that we should do a long walk on the final day of the Pilgrimage. It wasn’t easy to keep it in the itinerary. The final day was the trickiest of all days to organise. A 90 minute walk is easily traded-off against some other activity. The walk got put in, shortened, taken out, and then put back in again several times.
Eventually, just a couple of days prior to the start of the pilgrimage, as our plans were about to cross the threshold into reality, we realised that the walk was actually a hugely significant part — not just of the day — but of the whole pilgrimage.
“What’s the path like?”, Daisy asked.
“It looks really good. It’s like a stone chip path running right alongside the lake”, I replied. The path would take us from Rapperswil-Jona to Bollingen, a distance of about 5km.
“Stone chip?” said Daisy.
“Well, it’s just that if we were real Pilgrims we’d do it barefoot, wouldn’t we? Walking 5k on stone chip might be pushing it a bit, though.”
“Barefoot! Yes. We must go barefoot.” I carried on before Daisy had a chance to interrupt. “Fuck, yeah. The Crown of Thorns was carried barefoot. It’s the most valuable thing that’s ever existed and the King had to humble himself to carry it. It just nearly got burned up in the fire at Notre Dame. We gotta go barefoot.”
“Wait. You mean, as in what Jesus had on his head? How do I not know about this?” asked Daisy. She didn’t wait for my response either, “Yes. We must be barefoot. At least for some of it. Maybe, the last bit. Absolutely.”
The supreme importance of the clustering of causally unrelated but symbolically associated events around some time, place or idea, is the unspoken principle underscoring all discourse with Daisy. And, to be fair, it is with me too these days. Especially if it concerns the money-magic supernova, the Crown of Thorns.
I took the opportunity to tell the story.
How King Louis IX of France came to possess The Crown of Thorns is complicated. Holy Relics were not only venerated religious objects, the inspiration to and end point of countless pilgrimages, they were also the major financial asset class of medieval Europe. Ownership of them was wrapped up in the complex politics and power struggles of the time.
The pious King Louis had great wealth and power but an even greater desire for Paris to become the ‘New Jerusalem’ — the Heavenly City on Earth (he too, wanted to immanentize the Eschaton!). When his opportunity arose Louis found a way through the complexities and gave over half his entire annual budget to secure The Crown for France. At the time, France was pre-eminent. The amount of money the King paid makes The Crown the most valuable single object to have ever existed.
In August 1239 Louis traveled with mother and brothers to Villeneuve-Archéveque near Sens in France to receive The Crown and carry it into Sens. To do so, Louis IX, King of France in all his splendor and magnificence — at a time when being barefoot was only for the poorest of peasants — stripped to the waist, removed his shoes and walked into the city carrying The Crown. This was the ultimate act of self-subjugation. From King to peasant was the greatest social distance imaginable. Walking barefoot was for Louis an act of the greatest humility and the highest possible veneration of The Crown.
The Crown was then taken by river to Paris and placed in Notre-Dame.
Daisy and I agreed that the pilgrims would be asked to do the very final stretch of the walk barefoot. Or rather, sticking to Daisy’s methodology, that the final part of the pilgrimage had been done barefoot. The power of being barefoot and this future-to-past causality are evidenced by the decision of LAL’s Josh Ray who — completely unaware of our conversation — nevertheless also decided, but for entirely different reasons, that everyone must be barefoot in Bollingen.
We arrived at the entrance to Bollingen Tower tired from the 5km walk that had taken much longer than it should.
I checked the time. We were running well behind schedule. We would drive directly from Bollingen back to our Ferry at Caen. It would take about 13 hours. Months before I’d quietly slipped an extra 90 minutes of secret contingency into the itinerary, hidden in plain sight within the precisely laid-out logistics. I’d not even told Daisy about it. When people know about contingency, whether they do so consciously or unconsciously, they factor it into their actions. Secret contingency then, is the good stuff. It’s the lender-of-last-resort, gilt-edged, reserve time-currency of logistics.
But now, even that was being spent. To be late would be a disaster.
The real fear wasn’t that we’d miss our Ferry — although that’d be bad enough — but that the Drivers’ tachographs would run out of working time. This was a hard cut-off. They’d find the closest safe parking spot, stop and then we’d have to endure a statutory one-day rest period. We’d be stuck on the bus at the side of the road somewhere in France. The knock on effects of that would put us massively over-budget. I’d have to ask 69 disappointed, need-to-be-home Pilgrims for more money.
The situation was a material manifestation of the unsettling dreams I used to have back when I was Tour Managing. Restless nights always consisted of this scenario of running late, it’s potentially disastrous consequences, and me not being able to do anything about it.
I knew we had 90 minutes to do the Bollingen Rituals and no more. Really, no more.
But I also knew that Rituals take as long as they take. And some take even longer.
For one of us this moment at Bollingen marked the culmination of a 40-year journey. Assisted by friends and collaborators from LAL, Larry would plant a Magnolia tree brought from Liverpool into Jung’s garden. Jung had a dream that he detailed on page 223 of Memories, Dreams and Reflections. The dream was about Liverpool as ‘The Pool of Life’ with a Magnolia tree at its heart which was both the source of, and reflected within, its own light. The counter-cultural events this dream inspired were woven through Larry’s life. He had been part of them since he was a teenager. And now those events, and Jung’s dream, were part of him.
Without blinking an eye and with no remorse I would shout at Pilgrims ‘Get on the fucking Bus!’ I’d warn them sternly of the consequences of disobedience. The word of the Itinerary — the order of space and time as it is written — is the whole of the Law. I would corral and harangue them and discipline wrongdoers. I would do all these things and more in service of the Pilgrimage. But I would never ask Larry to rush his Ritual.
We all walked through the gate and stopped just inside the entrance.
The Pilgrimage had been blessed with glorious weather. The ground was dry. I lay The Staff down on the long grass [All Hail, The Staff!]. I undid my fanny-pack which was heavy with all that was needed to fulfill my duties as a Tour Manager. I placed that on the ground, too. I sat down stiffly. Legs in front, bent at the knee, heels dug in, feet up. I was worried about getting cramp. I dared not stretch. I pulled one leg up to my body just enough so I could reach the lace of my boot. I undid it. Then I repeated the action with my other leg. I dug both my heels back in and rocked my feet in my boots so the laces became loose enough for me to slip out of them. It felt good.
I had readied my boots for the journey a week prior to the pilgrimage. Among the mania of the final preparations I had wanted to do one thing completely for myself. I’d washed the laces, nourished the leather and given them a good shine. I’d bought them when Margret Thatcher was Prime Minister. They are more of a fashion boot than a hardcore hiking boot so I’d had my doubts about them. But they’d taken care of me. They’ve been with me for each step on every pilgrimage. And so I had taken care of them, too. We were old friends who’d been through a lot together.
Overnight travel, intermittent sleep on a barely-there camping mat, and the onslaught of the extraordinary, plunged me deeply into any quiet restful moment. Jung’s garden wanted me to lie down and dream. But I resisted. I pulled my right leg up with my right hand and hooked my sock off with my left thumb. I felt my calf muscles tighten and twitch, so I carefully extended my leg. Again, I had to resist the urge to stretch. I concentrated on keeping my feet at right angles to my legs as if my boots were still on. I then repeated the action, removing the sock on my left foot with my right thumb. I wiggled my toes.
I felt the breeze on my newly-naked feet. I thought of nothing for just a moment.
Then a fraction of a second later I had a memory trace of that moment. It manifested as an ‘inner grace’, an apprehension that the nothing-space had contained everything. The Notre Dame fire, The Crown of Thorns, Louis IX, Freud, Jung, CERN, Damanhur, 69 people enacting a Giant’s ejaculation, the whole crazy adventure and every story woven through it. All of it was present. Not as individual thoughts of particular things but everything resolved into one universal whole.
Or, perhaps my mind had just reversed the causality? Maybe the feeling of ‘inner grace’ was just a response to being barefoot? Had I set myself up for it through all those conversations with Daisy about Louis IX and the Crown of Thorns and the symbolism of the action?
Whatever the explanation, becoming barefoot in Bollingen had been an unconscious, unexpected but powerful ritual. It will be my abiding memory.
I stood. I felt light against the weight of time. The tiredness in my body was just warmth in my muscles.
I bent down and picked up the Tour fanny-pack full of Swiss Francs, Euros and British Pounds. I hung it back around my waist and locked it in place. Click. The material world cut back in.
A few years ago I was introduced by a mutual friend to an Astrologer called Bapu. Bapu knew nothing of me and I knew nothing of him. Within a few minutes of meeting he’d asked me for my birth details. He consulted his charts then said to me, ‘You have a Staff. It’s your backbone.’ I don’t believe in Astrology but what he told me was true. I can’t think of a rational explanation for how he was able to ascertain it, that doesn’t involve some conspiratorial deception orchestrated by my friend. But my friend is an honest man. I have to leave Bapu’s insight as unexplained.
The Staff had accompanied me on that trip to New Quay back in 2013 before I met Daisy, Michelle and Kate. I wrote about it briefly. The following year the materiality of The Staff had been ‘birthed’ at Dinas Emrys before Snowden subjugated itself and an entire mountain was moved beneath the Divine Object of The Burn. Since then both Scafell Pike and the mighty Ben Nevis have likewise placed themselves underneath the corporeal manifestation of The Divine Nothingness of the Burn and — of course — all Ritual Mass Burns have taken place within orbit of The Staff. Jura appeared underneath The Staff precisely 23 years after the burning of a million quid. [All Hail, The Staff! x5].
I bent down and picked up The Staff [All Hail, The Staff!].
I put the tip of The Staff [All Hail, The Staff!] at the midway point between my feet and placed my hands one over the other on the handle. I tried to focus. I couldn’t eliminate the rising wave of tension. But I had the backbone to bear it. Then I walked with my fellow pilgrims the few hundred yards to the shore of Lake Geneva and gathered round a stone that Jung himself had laid and carved over half a century ago. And we made ritual.
My own Ritual was simple.
I first walked out five yards or so along the concrete culvert poking out into Lake Geneva. I picked off the petals of Freud’s pink camellia and let them drift in the breeze and onto the water. Then, once back on the shore, I picked a quiet spot and planted the cutting into Jung’s garden. I bedded it with soil brought from Damanhur and fed it some water from Lake Zurich.
And that was the Ritual completed.
I said no words and thought no thoughts as I performed it.
I know that the chance of returning to this spot in a decade or two to find a camellia bush in full bloom, are very slim. But a distance had been overcome and the symbolic possibility of a healing was created.
Not that it really matters. Daisy’s right. Stories — these cause and effect mythologies, these ‘reasons’— need to end at some point. And for me, Ritual is where narrative dissolves. Meaning comes from ‘doing’. We get confused between the subjective value that inhers to the action itself, and the objective measure of the action we perceive through its ‘result’.
And anyway, I’m convinced that ‘results’ are as likely to come before a Ritual as they are after it. In The Money Burner’s Manual I talk in terms of the clustering of events around Ritual. This is certainly how it happens for me. Ritual seems to be a fixed spot around which synchronicities orbit.
To impose the order of language, narrative, or custom on a Ritual seems an anathema. Their ‘work’ is done in the universe of the unconscious — in the dreamspace — where time and space are easily overcome.
Letting go of the notion that a Ritual is ‘designed’ and ‘performed’ to ‘invoke’ some effect is hard. Those who already practice magic and perform ritual — especially if they are initiated to a tradition with its own rules, rites and customs — are unlikely to give up on the idea that particular Rituals produce particular outcomes. And others — those who may be wholly skeptical about the ‘real’ value of Ritual — simply wonder what the point is of performing a Ritual, if it’s not at least meant to invoke some effect? Either in the material world or within the minds of those involved.
In the piece I contributed to The Pilgrim’s Guidebook I put my view like this;
“For me living magically is not about performing some ritual to invoke some effect or change, it’s about the joy it brings. That joy often comes in the form of synchronicities which seem to suggest that the universe understands meaning that is deeply personal and unique to you.”
Of course, burning money helps to confront issues of value, meaning and effect head on. ‘What’s the point?’ is something I’ve been asked very often. In my own Rituals I’ve found that the more I can let go of the idea that a Ritual has a function — that it is for something — the more powerful it is. What I mean by ‘powerful’ is that it sits more solidly on its own fixed point and so exerts a greater pull on the vortex of synchronicities that surround it. It pulls them into being.
On a more mundane level, letting go of effect — trying not to think in terms of ‘if I do this, then that will happen’ — has a visceral potency for those involved in Ritual. By any normal measure, by any rational cost-effect based judgement, hiring a Bus for 69 people to travel across Europe in order to learn a short dance to perform it in a field, makes no sense at all. It is by all accounts a ‘waste’. And yet, if you are one of those 69, if you put in the huge amount of effort, commitment and resources such a project requires, and you complete what you set out to do, it feels utterly magnificent. Transformative.
One of the key motifs Daisy used to prepare pilgrims for what was to come, was the wisdom imparted to her by Bill Drummond. In Pigspurt’s Daughter she tells it like this:
Bill told me they were building a pyramid –
They would announce this during a three-day event marking the 23 year anniversary of the burning of the million pounds for 400 attendees, all of whom will be paying volunteers –
In Liverpool –
Would I direct? –
Fuck, Yes –
I made the mistake during that conversation of asking Bill why they were doing a particular thing –
He looked at me sternly and said:
‘As to why, if we knew why, we wouldn’t be doing it’
Not knowing why is a methodology that safeguards the sovereignty of a ritualized or artistic action. It’s a way of helping you operate outside of a world dominated by the functional logic of capital. It’s not necessarily that useful for Tour Managers or Theatrical Directors, but it’s excellent for Ritual.
Although, to counterpoint this we should at the same time be wary of subjugating Ritual to any methodology, no matter how useful. I find the following aphorism a helpful reminder of the need for pragmatism; “At the centre of all creation is not purity, but purification.”
So nothing is ever perfect. And if you wanted to, I guess you could argue that Daisy’s Ritual at CERN did have a purpose; the resetting of time, shifting the world onto a new temporal path, and bringing about the end of story. In a sense, we did know why. But the quality of our knowing was different. The connection between the action and the outcome relied upon a set of extraordinary metaphysical assumptions. This wasn’t a real world, belt and braces sort of knowing but something more dream-like.
On Earth, we are eternally trapped in becoming. Reasons, stories, cause and effect anchor us to it. The sense of being which we may glimpse in Ritual and which we assume to be our own, is in fact, a distant reflection of the unknowable and The Divine. As the self dissolves into the dream this distance is overcome.
Shortly after finishing the Rituals at Bollingen we were all back on the Bus. We’d used every last second of secret contingency and then some. A little before dawn on Thursday 25th April our heroic German Bus drivers delivered us to the port just in time for us to board the Ferry. By Thursday evening all pilgrims were back at their respective starting points (or wherever it was they needed to be) and the pilgrimage was complete.
This leaves just a couple of loose ends to my story; Kate’s old coin with Britannia on it and the second idea — the crazy one — about money, that I never got to tell my brother because my mother sent us back to 1972. And it turns out that those two loose ends — the coin and the crazy idea — are linked. Well, they are in my mind, at least.
Kate’s dream coin had bothered me. She had been specific about the details. It was old and had Britannia on it. While the other parts of her dreams had manifested, the coin had steadfastly refused to cross over into the material world.
I still have my childhood coin collection. It forms part of the decoration of my Altar when I conduct Ritual Mass Burns. After a couple of days of post-pilgrimage recovery at home, it struck me that Kate’s dream coin (or at least what I thought might be her dream coin) was in my collection.
I dug through looking for the coin I had in mind. I couldn’t remember if it had Britannia on it. I did know that it was my oldest coin. So it seemed to be the correct one in that detail, at least. It was from 1806. I’d looked at the date often enough as a young boy. The fact of it being my oldest coin made it a very special treasure, but precisely because of its age it was harder for me — as a seven-year-old — to relate to it. I could easily imagine my Grandparents earning and spending coins minted at the beginning of C20th. Some of my teachers were World War II veterans, most were of the War Generation. Coins from the 1930’s or 1940’s spoke to me readily. And anything post-1950 was still alive in my young mind as money. Despite the changes wrought by decimalization in 1972 those big old pennies that filled up the entire palm of my hand, still felt like current coin.
Most of my coins could tell me a story. I was never interested in the shiny new collector’s sets. It was always the well-used currency that I loved. My favourite coin — then and now (it’s within arm’s reach as I type this) — is a 1921 penny, pot-marked with buckshot. Of course, to me it was (well, is) the lucky penny that saved a man’s life. But the 1806 half-penny with a very romanesque-looking George III on one side and, as I’d hoped, with Brittania on the other, was different. There was just too much distance between its life — its journey through pockets and purses in the early C19th — and my suburban-town childhood of the 1970s. I couldn’t really connect to it. Holding a coin in my hand and tuning-in so it could reveal its secrets was a nascent ritual that didn’t survive puberty. Consequently, in the 45 years it’s been part of my coin collection, the 1806 half-penny has always remained in need of a story.
So I sent it to Kate with a note explaining all this and asking if she’d accept it as a gift — as a material manifestation of her dream coin. She did.
If you learn about money from Economists they’ll tell you that it has three functions; unit of account, medium of exchange, and store of value. They squabble about it but the smarter ones recognise that the most important of these three functions is ‘unit of account’. In other words, the most important thing about money is that it can measure value. A further argument then arises about how the unit of account function established itself. And for most the answer is that it is ‘imposed’ by an authority — most often the state.
Now there’s probably enough in that short paragraph to keep any group of academics arguing for a lifetime. In fact, in The Money Burner’s Manual I examine a decade-long debate that took place across various academic journals very much along these lines. Toward its conclusion the two most senior protagonists argue about one specific point — how did George Simmel think the ‘unit of account’ function was established? The answer which brought the dispute to a conclusion was as follows. Simmel regarded money as a conceptual rather than a working fiction — in other words, money’s existence doesn’t rely primarily on financial networks, banks, the state etc (as most economists and monetary theorists tend to believe) but on something that goes on in our heads. And — here comes the crazy bit — what’s going on is this: the most important function of money — its capacity as a ‘unit of account’ to measure value — arises from an unconscious equivalence between the total amount of money and the total amount of goods and services.
Perhaps that’s a little too dry and reasonable sounding for you to appreciate just how crazy an idea it is. Let me put it more plainly. He’s saying that the conceit from which the entirety of our financial life emerges, the very basis of capitalism itself, and the secret heart of money, is that somewhere deep in our psyches we believe that ‘all the money in the world, will buy everything in the world’.
When I first read this in Simmel twenty-years ago I thought he was over-reaching himself, looking for a causal explanation to support his ideas. I was unconvinced and so I dismissed it. But nowadays, I’m thinking he was probably right. I mean, I don’t think it’s possible to really *know* something when you are dealing with the unconscious — not in any sort of scientific way (sorry, Freud). But equally, of all the possible explanations for how the ‘unit of account’ function arose, Simmel’s now seems to me to make the most sense.
I’m not expecting to convince you. I’m not sure calls to academic authorities or reasoned arguments will be particularly useful (although if you are interested a full list of papers from the academic dispute can be found here). To be really honest with you, if there is one thing that convinces me more than any other that Simmel was right, it’s not what I’ve read in some arcane money book or journal or heard from an academic, it’s just something my kids used to ask me when they were little.
“What could I buy if I had all the money in the world?”
I have a clear memory of my son asking me this when he was 4 or 5 years old. I thought for a moment and replied ‘Everything’. I then tried to qualify it, explaining that the value of money also relied on it being held by a lot of different people. But, of course, he wasn’t interested in my explanation and just hit me with a series of could-I-buy questions.
“Could I buy all the sweets? And all the toys? Could I buy the moon?”
I think there is an echo of this question that resonates into adult life. It’s more wrapped in reason, but I think essentially ‘What would you do if you won the lottery?’ is a different form of the same question. It has the same unconscious roots.
Our conception of ‘a millionaire’ is also an offshoot (although, nowadays ‘millionaire’ tends to be ‘billionaire’ in order to pack the same, symbolic punch). A millionaire isn’t so much about a precise figure though, rather it’s a word to describe someone for whom price is no object — who has in effect ‘all the money in the world’.
Before the word ‘millionaire’ was coined, the symbolism of ‘the ultimate wealth imaginable’ was attached not to a number but to a particular person. The first appearance in English of the phrase ‘richer than Croesus’ comes in a text from 1390 and refers to the ancient Greek King famed for his huge wealth. Croesus was in fact a fifth generation descendant of Gyges who — in my numismatic history, at least — invented and pioneered the use of precious metal coins. Like Croesus, Gyges was famed for his wealth. He was also — Discordians will like this fact — the 23rd King since the beginning of the world, according to Herodotus — the father of history.
Kate’s coin being minted in 1806 is the happenstance that connects it to Simmel’s crazy idea (of the unconscious equivalence). Or at least, that’s my magical interpretation. Here is the story as I see it.
The year of minting marks a magical foreshadowing of Daisy’s CERN action. 1806 was literally the year in which time was reset. In 1793, a decree had been issued to set French clocks to ‘Revolutionary Time’. This was a 10-hour day, with 100 minutes per hour, and 100 seconds per minute. 1806 was the year when the Gregorian calendar was officially restored and ‘French Revolutionary Time’ abolished.
1806 was a fateful year for the Crown of Thorns, too. It had been removed at the beginning of the French Revolution from its purpose-built reliquary Sainte Chappelle — which stands a few hundred yards east of Notre Dame on the Île de la Cité, the island in the River Seine at the heart of Paris. After a few decades in safe keeping at La Bibliothèque Nationale, the decision was made not to return it to Sainte Chappelle its home of 600 years, but rather to Notre Dame which is where The Crown was first housed on its arrival in Paris. Napoleon perhaps, thought Sainte Chappelle — constructed on the orders of Louis IX — too much associated with the Ancien Régime.
Because of this action in 1806, the Crown was in Notre Dame awaiting its Easter veneration by the faithful, when a few days before our pilgrimage began, fire ripped through the Cathedral. Divine or magical intervention — or, the brave efforts of French firefighters — or a mix of both, helped the Crown survive the disaster intact.
Lord Nelson — one of Britain’s greatest national heroes — was buried at St Paul’s in January 1806 and as Kate’s coin was first carried in British pockets and purses, the turbulence of the Napoleonic Wars would have been in the minds of the first people to spend and earn it. But the spatio-psychic centre of events in the late C18th and early C19th was Paris, not London. And it is my contention that within Paris the absolute centre, the eye of the psychical storm, was the Île de la Cité.
The Île de la Cité can be thought of as a sacred spot for money burners. If the Crown of Thorns had gone up in flames it wouldn’t have been the first time something of the highest monetary value imaginable had been burned on the island. In 1314 the entire banking system — and coincidentally (or not) the debt of the French King Philip IV — was destroyed by fire. This took the material form of Jacques de Molay, Grand Master of the Knights Templar (the de facto medieval banking system) who was burned at the stake on the orders of the King. It is likely that de Molay’s death is the largest financial immolation in history.
The French passion for money burning — perhaps indicative of an ‘echo’ emanating from the sacrifice of de Molay across time in localised space — was evident during the Revolution, too. Assignats were a form of paper money created to help fund it. They were backed by the land confiscated from the Church and were officially declared as currency. To maintain the Assignats’ value in the eyes of the public — to assure the public that Assignats which had been redeemed to the Caisse de l’Extraordinaire were not being re-circulated — part of the weekly routine of revolution were the mass burnings of currency. Their serial numbers were recorded and they were burnt to nothing (I follow a similar process with my Record of Burn).
And — in a neat representation of the idea of the spatial ‘clustering’ of synchronicities around magical nodes — the very word ‘millionaire’ was used for the first time just a stone’s throw from the Île de la Cité. It was invented in the autumn of 1719 in Rue Quincampoix near what’s now the Centre Beaubourg in Paris. Today there is a Starbucks on the corner of the street.
In fact, the Île de la Cité itself is the measure for all France. It is the point from which all road distances are calculated. The 0 km point is located in the Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame, the square facing Notre-Dame’s pair of western towers. The Île de la Cité then is Simmel’s unconscious equivalence manifest. It is literally the unit of account and the measure of all France.
I think a future pilgrimage to the Île de la Cité is vital. If Kate allows it, I think her coin should accompany the pilgrims. I’m not certain it would return. If it’s true that the best pilgrimages and rituals make narrative sense only in the most extraordinarily unreasoned way, whilst also possessing an alluring sonic symmetry — then an insane, in Seine sacrifice seems appropriate. Who knows, all this may have already happened in the future?
And now Dearest Reader, I’m afraid that, unlike the pilgrims in my charge, you are destined to be left at the side of the road your journey unfinished. This essay has not made it to the port in a timely manner.
I said at the start that I wanted to work out what the pilgrimage meant to me personally and what it was we actually did. I’ve come to realise that the writing of this essay is a way of keeping myself on the pilgrimage.
I’d first imagined I might publish on the 23rd of June 2019. That became the 23rd of July, and then I felt sure 23rd of August — the anniversary of the KLF’s burning on Jura — would be the date. As it turns out the essay had made its own decision that it was going to be born on the 80th anniversary of Freud’s death day — 23rd September 2019. This date happens too, to be the second anniversary of the death day of Irving Rappaport. He would have been a Pilgrim and he was our friend. The essay then, has made a wise and symbolically appropriate choice which I feel bound to honour, wherever I maybe with the writing of it.
I’ve also realised that I need to write another book. This is way too long for an internet piece and it could have been much longer. I’ve missed out so much.
I wanted to dig much more deeply into Simmel’s unconscious equivalence for you. I’ve spent the last week writing about how I see it as pointing back to the problems The Gnostics were grappling with millennia ago, and how echoes of it can be found in the Myth of the Holy Grail. And much more. Even now I fool myself that maybe I could bring the essay home and give you what Daisy would call ‘the pay off’.
I’ve nearly mentioned Melusine many times. $he is the Goddess who money burning has invoked. In the end I satisfied myself by just noting cryptically, that there is a Starbucks on the corner of Rue Quincampoix. I knew that bringing her into the essay properly would exponentially increase its wordcount and take me too deep into the maze of meaning. It was so hard to resist her. A small example of her seductive synchronicities: Goethe, author of perhaps the greatest literary treatise on money in his adaptation of ‘Faust’ thought Melusine could tell us something deeply profound about love, marriage and possession. He said the narrative value of Melusine ‘supersedes that of all others’. Jung believed he was the illegitimate great-grandson of Goethe and some have suggested that this was the prima materia of his relationship with Freud; Goethe’s blood destined Jung for greatness beyond that of his mentor.
I’ve left so much hanging in this essay too. I introduced you to Dylan Thomas with the idea that later on I would write about how he manages to evoke the simmering sexuality of Under Milk Wood, not directly through the meaning of words, but through their sounds and rhythms. And that this reveals something of our relationship with the sexual. I introduced you to Professor Badcock and my brother without then talking about the differences between science and medicine. I failed to redeem to you the crucial issue of sublimation which is where I had intended to take those stories of Freud, Jung and repression. I then wanted to map that onto my theory of money. I wanted to go on, from taking my boots off in Bollingen, to discuss the differences and similarities between habit and ritual. And, I’ve deleted a whole section where I try to explain How Money Burning Works in the Unconscious.
All of this and more will have to remain unsaid for now. Daisy warned you about the gaps.
So, by writing these words I’m finally bringing an end to my own personal experience of the pilgrimage. It’s the idea of an ‘ending’ that is has been the abiding feeling. It’s hard to put into words. But it’s not an ending in a negative sense. I’d say it’s a transition to some new state but the problem with that would be the automatic focus on what comes next. And it’s not about the ‘to’ or the ‘from’. It’s not about the click or the bang.
This relates, of course, to the ideas of Ritual I discussed earlier — the notion that the most powerful rituals have no function. In the book mentioned in the preface — the one I thought might not be suitable Bus reading, Georges Bataille’s The Accursed Share — Bataille says;
“It is always servile to employ the present time for the sake of the future, it is always sovereign to enjoy the present time without having anything else in view but present time”.
The pilgrimage was born, in part, from Daisy coming to terms with the death of her father. There is a connection between death — the ultimate ending for each of us — and, not only loss, pain and grief, but also what is sublime and sovereign, and joyful and healing. And I think the pilgrimage was a sideways glance at this.
It’s had a deep impact on me.
I couldn’t give you a more personal insight than to tell you that Dream-Sally is no longer a bitch. She inhabits my unconscious in a form immaterially indistinguishable from Waking-Sally. My conscious mind very much approves of this.
The pilgrimage hasn’t made me immune to emotional ups and downs. Joys and woes, ebb and flow, as ever. But it has secured in my psyche a belief that the prospect of healing exists eternally.
I’m also, of course, filled with a profound sense of gratitude. To have collaborated with Daisy on the organisation of the pilgrimage was an honour and a joy. It gave value and reason to those years of Tour Managing, making sense of a time when I felt very much adrift. If hubris has made me exaggerate my role, I want to say plainly — at least this once — that it is Daisy who deserves the credit for birthing an idea of such wild and dangerous genius. Her courage is an inspiration.
And — I hate it when people say this but there is no more appropriate way to put it — I feel blessed. Truly blessed. To have walked into the Horse Hospital in 2013 and have this magical vista open up before me when I was so low, is magic of the highest order. I owe Michelle, Daisy and Kate an unpayable debt of thanks.
I am thankful too, to all my fellow pilgrims for making this such a wondrous adventure. I feel I’ve made 68 friends for life — well, so long as they can forgive me for shouting at them. And special thanks to the amazing photographers for the sublime images I’ve used here.
As to what it was we did, I tried hard to think of a phrase to describe it.
Some pilgrims talked about the idea of having created a super (or supra) individual — multiple individuals acting as one organism whilst simultaneously maintaining their own unique identity. It’s easy to get carried away when you’re on tour. Even easier when you’re on a magical rampage across Europe. But however we justify it in retrospect, that feeling — of an uncommonly deep intimacy and connectedness — was real. I felt it, myself.
So, instead of putting it down to ‘a sense of togetherness arising from a wonderful shared experience’ perhaps we could think more optimistically? More magically? We could take a leaf out of Daisy’s book and imagine for a moment that ‘the sense of togetherness’ was in fact the visceral memory of a future time.
It was an unconscious forward-remembering of a society where our measures of value have changed and money is newly-experienced. Where each of us has a unique space in which to become our individual selves, but also where everyone shares the same space because we’re eternally aware that the absolute value of all human beings is the same.
Maybe money burning really did reset the unconscious equivalence? And perhaps we really did go to the Île de la Cité? I’ll try to remember.
I could have written this essay in a few different ways and told you about other amazing and brilliant people. Claudia Boulton for example was present at the Horse Hospital and was a pilgrim Birthday Girl — celebrating her 70th at Lake Lucerne. She has been an inspiration to me, reminding me of the need for spontaneity in all things. Josh Ray was a huge part of putting together the pilgrimage — as were Ben Graham, Myra Stuart, Dolly Turing, Jah Jussa, Simon Scanlan and Mandie Buchanan . Tim Holmes’ support on the road saved the day, everyday. I could go on to name many others, including those pilgrims who have been invaluable to my own projects.
But for reasons of rhetoric I felt I needed not to introduce too many people. It’s already dizzying enough for any reader who is not intimately involved with events. So I hope those who have been left out will be able to forgive me. Please know that if you were on the Bus, you were in my thoughts. And even if you weren’t on the Bus — if you were one of those who missed out because we were oversubscribed — you were in my mind as I wrote. If there is ever a ‘next one’, hopefully you can join us.
So thank you Daisy, Michelle, Kate, Jeff, Larry, Claudia, Josh, Adam M, LouLou, Horton, Emma, Leslie, Dolly, Robin, Wil H, Will H, John H, Lisa, Tommy, Tim H, Su, Ru, Graham, Jah, Tim D, Simon Sc, Jethro, Tom, Beccy, Ben, Mandie, Will G, Cass, Adam, Bang, Rob, Fay, Dennis, Tristran, Dave W, Luke, Kermit, Peter, Eric, Gaynor, Dan, Carrie, Johnny G, Simon St, Adam C, Jen, Maddie, James, Mari, Bella, Jacs, Anwen, Richard, Nic, Myra, Lee, Mango, Rebecca, Helen, Johnny N, Drew, Idris, Leslie, and Geoff. (This was just the order you all appear in a random group email by the way.) Also to Peter and Heiko the Bus drivers. And Dom backing us up from Blighty.
If you like what you’ve read please follow me or Daisy on twitter @jonone100 @DaisyEris to stay in the loop. There are no serious plans for another pilgrimage. Going to the Île de la Cité is just a fantasy of mine. But who knows? Stranger things have happened.
The very best thing you can do right now is buy a copy of Burning Issue — the World’s First Magazine for Money Burners and Other Destroyers of Currency.
The next planned Ritual Mass Burn will be at The Cockpit, London on 8th December 2019. More details will be made public in October.