Written by Paul Luminari (Shift.IS), Wolfbear and Ranchsauce
Over the past several months, Evolvefest founder and producer, David Bryson, has steadily pushed his organization’s social media channels farther from the grounded center and deeper towards the damaging fringes of social thought. Hundreds of posts catalogue an individual deeply concerned about the state of the Universe, fearful of evil forces, real and imagined.
Mr. Bryson is convinced that there are forces at work seeking to undermine his vision of evolutionary thought. He has lumped together Zionists, Gays and Pedophiles into one giant boogie man, all the while, insisting that he is neither anti-Semitic nor homophobic. All this under the guise of a hybrid, born-again Christianized New Age thought. Mr. Bryson, an experienced festival producer, is nimble enough to be fluent in the sort of festival-positivity that many are drawn to. He certainly is skilled enough to have built a massive following attuned to coded language rife with entendre, insinuation and a dualistic “us vs. them” attitude.
We’re recommending getting a glimpse of what’s happening by reading the Evolvefest Facebook page, glimpsing at the goings-on at Boycott Evolvefest and some of the coverage at SensibleReason and EDMTunes. With over a quarter million Likes, Evolvefest’s Facebook page is one of the most successful pages in the scene. It is worth following Mr. Bryson’s administrative web around to the other pages he manages – Exposing the Archons, Who Is 888?, The Exegesis of Philip K. Dick; there are probably others yet to be made.
Three journalists, deeply involved in the Transformational Festival culture, have gathered together in conversation to discuss the shift towards conspiracy-centered paranoia, here and elsewhere in the scene. We are seeking, together, an opportunity to find a chance to illuminate, and to explore the tricky line between “counter-culture” and “off-the-deep-end.” We all agree that free speech is an important tenet of conscious culture, but we wonder what happens when a person in a position of power seems insistent on utilizing transformational language to espouse views that push people apart.
When the paranoia started to seep out from Evolvefest, almost a year ago it seems, it was mostly just confusing. Fear and anti-semitism and homophobia and persecution complex? In our scene? It made no sense. Let alone, from a veteran in the scene, someone who’s produced events for almost a decade that have succeeded in their mission to bring people together to experience one anothers’ sacredness and creativity.
It’s disconcerting, because David is an expert at utilizing the language and mythology of the Transformational Festival environment, but his views are much more rigid than what many think of when they imagine an event called Evolvefest. Many people, at least enough to start a response page, feel like they are trying to evolve away from many of the ancient, tired ideas of US and THEM.
For the first few months, it seemed like Mr. Bryson was having a personal crisis, and was lashing out against imagined enemies in an elevated sacred quest for truth and salvation. Most in the scene watched as fire and brimstone emerged from his consciousness. As time has passed, the initial shock has worn off, and I feel a deeper sadness.
I feel, in reading his very exposed inner space, as though he’s taken his consciousness through the wringer a few too many times. I won’t postulate as to the chemical mixtures of his past, but I hope that Mr. Bryson can find some solace and comfort in his declared war against civilization. He is a talented communicator in the meme-centric era, capable of garnishing tons of likes and shares from a no-longer-underground collection of new-age born-again conspiracists.
I think that all three of us feel that we don’t want to write a “Gotcha!” piece, but it’s tricky to not at least consider how far from the mainstream we see Transformational Festival culture should or should not be. One thing I’ve truly appreciated is that while TFs are accepting of many different kinds of people, we seek balance with the mainstream, lest we lose our opportunity to connect with those who are operating in a completely default world. Some people who experience a Transformational Festival for the first time find it very difficult to ever go back to their job or their family. They feel as though society has lied and enslaved them. This sense of victimhood causes a deep schism on Monday morning, as they are unwilling to leave the Utopian dream world.
This is a mistake of lacking re-integration. There are many streams of thought coming together at a festival: indigos and psychics, healers and anarchists, atheists and beings of light. All of these unite under a common masthead of education, offering models of a different way to live your life. The process of re-integration starts the moment the gates open. Guardianship requires a constant process of grounding participants, workshops, musical guests and the like to consider how they can take these lessons and moments in their journey to create positive change in their lives. It’s not a rejection of all that they’ve known, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. No, we say, “You are perfect just the way you are. You’ve always been perfect.” Or, as John Styn (Halcyon) says in his TED Talk, “The world would rather hug you than hurt you.”
The three of us had a conversation with Scott Love, producer of the Three Days of Light (3DL) Gathering. He has offered to accept Evolvefest GA tickets bought before February 15th at his event (send proof of purchase to firstname.lastname@example.org). This shows the sense of community at stake, when Evolvefest goes spouting off against significant portions of our family. When a festival truly hits its YUM quotient, they can be interchangeable in the best of ways. But when a festival shows an underbelly of fear, of paranoia, there is a poisoning of the innocence we all seek when going to one of these events. In seeing all this, I call on Mr. Bryson to approach any criticism of his current methodology as being born of love and understanding. To seek re-integration and the support of family and long-time supporters. It may be easy to believe that, in still hearing support from a crowd, that it is the same crowd as it has always been, or that it is a crowd that is using his message for good.
This is certainly an ongoing story and conversation, and I’m excited to hear what my cohort has to say about the issue.
It’s important to discuss issues such as this out in the open with helpful and meaningful engagement as to heal the wounds made, as well as move forward into the future present, more unified and more compassionate. We cannot preach a message of unity and then exclude those very same people which are a part of the new paradigm we’re co-creating.
Let’s remember that having a persecution complex only emboldens those that feel persecuted (The Backfire Effect) and does not resolve issues at hand. We should strive to educate our brothers and sisters, not get angry at them for their dissenting opinions, no matter how crass we feel they are.
If we truly wish to see the full emergence of a consciously evolved and enlightened society and species, we should be mindful of our thoughts and emotions. Having the power of control over them, as to not allow them to become unhinged, is a quality of sophisticated consciousness. As the Buddha says in the Dhammapada, “He whose mind is not steady, whose tranquility is ruffled, the wisdom of such a man does not come to fullness”.
I’d like to take a moment to specifically address one particular individual that was the inspiration for writing this, whose fear-based beliefs have hurt some and shocked others with their comments about particular people and groups of people. Everyone makes mistakes, with some causing tremendous suffering to others. There are things which we have all believed in at one point or another but later have come to see in a different way and stopped believing in that particular thing. Belief is an ever-changing river that becomes modified, given new angles of perception and information concerning some matters, as they are discovered. Beliefs are extraneous to the primary objective reality. By existing outside of this reality, they become unfounded and are easily discarded when it is realized that they are indeed illusions.
There should not be a fear of letting go of such illusory beliefs, since fear is illusory itself. As a methodology exercised by the ego whenever a threat to its existence is present, fear emboldens erroneous beliefs that are unfounded within reality and thus, continues the cycle of false beliefs that thrive within human society today. The psychological consequence of disconfirmed beliefs is cognitive dissonance. To survive the internal conflict, an individual will have to call on all their internal resources and defense strategies in order to manage their anxieties. Some become even more fervent believers after a failure or disconfirmation, making it more difficult to transcend the manufactured illusions. This can lead to greater division between themselves and those who do not share their beliefs.
In these days, when we are so disconnected in the real-world that we don’t even know our neighbors’ names, the emerging transformational festival model is helping facilitate the return of interdependent and conscious community. United we are strong, divided we are weak. In order to see the positive social transformation that we envision for humanity, we must combine our efforts together in order to accelerate and expand our positive impact on the collective consciousness. Fragmentation will disperse efforts in different directions, leading to the status quo continuing unabated.
Considering a name such as Evolvefest indicates an evolution of the understanding of various aspects of Reality, we hope the organizer of this festival will evolve his beliefs in order to spread a coherent message of unity, compassion, and love rather than division, animosity, and cruelty.
I had my own concerns at the beginning of festival season last year. Word and hype had officially travelled to the Atlantic that Transformational Festivals were gaining traction across the American West. Thousands of people were jumping Holy Ship!, skipping Biscuits tour and travelling near and far to experience a new psychedelic, counter-cultural phenomena. It was only a matter of time until festivals and gatherings on the East Coast would be labelled as Transformational.
In some ways, I began LostinSound.org in Boston in hopes of facilitating the integration of the art, music and ideas that make up this culture. However, as I came to understand the shortcomings and lack of open structure present within major East Coast creative hubs, I knew that some of these first attempts to create a space labelled Transformational would come up short. Folks on the East Coast are hungry for this culture, but we must be sure we aren’t serving up fast food.
Built on the inclusive and co-creative tenants of Post-Burning Man culture, all are encouraged to be a part of these events to spur growth, on both a micro and macro scale. More celebration than rager, more block party than VIP lounge, more retreat than summer camp. They are art galleries, classrooms, dancefloors, hospitals and yoga studios, all in one. I am a true believer in the positive power of a Transformational event, as I have seen the looks on attendees’ faces as their thinking has evolved. Somehow this culture is being birthed from necessity.
Like any popular movement, Transformational Festival culture is susceptible to individuals with the desire to capitalize, either for money or control. However, in this case, there is something inherently different. Those who make up the true base of Transformational culture insist on transparency and a collective spirit. The intention of event organizers must not only be known, but shouted from the mountaintop while being exhibited in their decisions and actions. Posers or puritanical fakers capitalizing on buzz words and “conscious” images will show their cards quickly. They may dress the part, but they will not embody the soul and true intent required of members of this community.
It seems very possible that David’s intention behind organizing Evolvefest was based in some ego-driven desire to spread his own controversial beliefs. He has used his admin privileges on the festival’s growing social media outlets to berate and accuse wildly atop his metatron-shaped soap box. Not only does it feel to me like David is missing the point of our community, but additionally he does not realize the responsibility that comes with having such a wide audience.
People today, particularly those interested in the culture of Transformational events, are amazingly receptive and open. Unfortunately, not everyone exercises the critical thinking needed to avoid being misled. When someone attends a transformational festival, they could expect a revelation or could embrace an idea. It is an opportunity to find truth, but it is a truth that no one should force upon you. A “leader” should not claim to KNOW anything, they should not offer definitive answers and ask us to follow them. Instead, a leader must strive to do all we can to ensure that the kind of transformation that is felt is one of positivity and understanding.
The Transformational culture is founded on principles that include inclusion, accountability, and collective responsibility. The transformative power of empathy can release us from bigoted social conditioning and allow us to live in a world free from antagonistic discrimination. All cruelty is the result of a lack of empathy. By striving towards sensing what others are thinking or feeling, we develop an understanding of what they are experiencing and respond compassionately. With open and honest communication, we can resolve issues before they flare up into fires so large that they threaten to engulf us and our community. Encouraging each other to have the courage to speak up to talk openly and directly about an area of concern will strengthen us and help us become closer to each other. Being open-minded and open-hearted go hand in hand.
We are all One but we are not all the same. Sometimes our differences make others feel fear and are threatened for one reason or another. While some allow this feeling to take root and become bigoted, a person that strives to consciously evolve and be an intentional evolutionary will do their best to respect our fellow brothers and sisters regardless of age, ability, beliefs, gender identity, ethnicity, social class or any other perceived difference.
If we are not mindful, the ego steps in to create the illusions in which we participate. What gives illusions power is belief – your belief. When you believe something is real, it appears real and acts real. Practicing mindfulness continuously throughout our daily lives can help us quell the ego from imprinting a mentality that would divide us rather than unite us.
The new paradigm requires an unprecedented level of cooperation and collaboration. Global transformation is a participatory act, which requires that we all pitch in and do our part. Part of that includes identifying things that are still attached to the old divisive paradigm and bringing them to light in order to shift into harmony with our other intentions. While it appears that Evolvefest is doubling down on its inflammatory rhetoric, we hope that our readers will take to heart what we wrote and consider what effect Evolvefest’s recent focus is having on ourselves, our community, and the world as a whole.