For months I've flicked through this publication, loving the pictures, and reading the odd bit. So I only just finished reading the whole thing. This is an idler's read, in the best sense - that reading it is to be taken slowly, for pleasure, both to appreciate the artwork and the humour and also to dive deep into the so-called 'think pieces'.
The mag opens with an advert for a very expensive bottle of whisky. From Jura, of course! And 23 years old! Then a summation of how much money has so far been burned, as far as the editors can tell: £7,254,885 at time of going to press.
Then there's the record of all known money burns - this includes the US retreat from Saigon burn of a million bucks, and a curious bit of Nigerian money sorcery that cost the client £1.5m in burned notes. That's before we get to the KLF - we have a historical arc here, and the KLF were doing something new. With an account of the 23-years-after public discussion of why the KLF did what they did in 1994, we are now firmly inside the Discordian tent. More on which later.
There are some reports of money-burns from here and there in the world - including Jerusalem and two Jura pilgrimages, and many tales of personal burns. There's also a report on a closely-related magical event: Reclaim the Sacred, with King Arthur, Caroline Wise, John Crow and Jonathan leading a merry series of rituals around the City of London in 2017, right in the belly of the beast.
A fair bit of space is devoted to a history of mass burns - starting in 2015 at the Cube Cinema in Bristol, 2016 Festival 23 in Sheffield, 2016 and 2017 in London. All in all, we see a wide range of reasons for burning money - from the political to the sacred, from revenge to forgiveness, and we get glimpses of the way it felt to do those various rituals, and therefore ideas about what might work as ritual for us.
Burning Issue features some really great artworks made by defacing banknotes. This is one of the best reasons for buying a copy - the production values are up to displaying these beautiful collages and constructions.
So you don't have to burn 'em, you can also make beautiful things from them, such as Melusine the mermaid, who has arisen from a mediaeval German money-chest to become a new deity from the dawn of money. Collage by Mark Wagner:
Or a chilling vision called 'Military-Industrial Complex' by C. K. Wilde:
Or you can both make a collage and then burn it. (If it's nasty enough):
There's another big section of interviews with various performers and musicians, displaying a range of personal views of art and magic in the context of resistance to the dominant idiocy. Then we get an added a bit of class with burlesque babe Talulah burning, and some ritual wear whose prices suggest customers with money to burn. Not only this, but an agony aunt column, a conspiracy corner, and a free £23 note commemorating the life and death of sex workers' rights campaigner Laura Lee.
Jonathan Harris gave out some copies of the mag at one of John Crow's Crossbones Graveyard occasions, adding another layer to this conspiracy of magic.
Because magic it is, make no mistake. This is magic as a basic layer of a new form of the counterculture. There are some explicit magical references - my piece about sacrifice and magic for instance - but the magic in Burning Issue is more implicit and pervasive than that.
And this has to be the core of any counterculture now; other political mechanisms seem to be consistently failing to change the world in any human direction. When democracy is a casualty of 'post-truth', what is a chap to do (I do of course include, to misquote an Army wit of yore, 'chaps of all genders') but do some wizardry to help the messed-up world?
Undo yourself with ecstatic states and stabilize those ecstasies with meditation, allowing insight into your divine-human nature to surface. Identify what runs you. Identifying and dismantling the false beliefs you've imprinted in trauma or just inherited from family and society gives you insight into how the world is made. You see behind the scenes of the world to how the stage-crews of your nervous system, your beliefs and the society you are embedded in make it all up. Having seen how it fits together, you have the insight to change it, to bring into this world, that is ever-dying and ever-being-born, better things. You can help to mend the world we are always breaking.
This is magic.
Its tools include not only its public face of art-forms - pictures, films, performances - but the much vaster hinterland of magic in the private meditations and gatherings by which we re-make the world in the inner vision.
Deeper insight than this may lead you into understanding that what you call your self is also a construct, a cobbled-together organ which you grew to get you through the everyday world. The self is not the most real part of you, and having that perspective enables you to know that the bad stuff in the world cannot pervert or destroy your essence.
This is wisdom.
Both magic and wisdom are filtering up from the private worlds of magic and art, and are the best tools we have for mending the broken world. The magical attitudes and styles in Burning Issue range from Jonathan's forgiveness of debt to the revenge politics of Cassie Thornton and Max Haiven, with many other flavours in between.
Jonathan Harris is an extraordinary person. He is not rich, in the sense of having millions to chuck about. Like most of us, he has to go out and earn a living. But he is dedicated - at considerable personal expense he made this unique thing. So he is in that sense an artist, of the magical persuasion I've just been discussing.
But there are other Jonathans too; he is the keeper of the Staff, which he insists we hail whenever it is mentioned - All Hail the Staff! He is consistent about this; this is actual real religion, I think - of a completely home-grown flavour for the Discordian age. Then again, through that guise we might also glimpse a prophet, walking the world bare of foot, dispensing forgiveness and setting things right.
So you can see that this is not an easy artefact to categorize. But it is very good indeed. Buy a copy, to help Jonathan move around his flat again. And then buy another, to give to someone whose mind it will blow.