The Halcyon Principle

Burning Man has gathered 100 of the leading thinkers in the Burner community at Occult Base Esalen, to try to come up with some ideas about increasing revenue Sustainable Creative Communities.

[Download their 70-page discussion paper here, thanks Dispatch]

Think you’re cool for buying Leonard Da Vinci tickets for triple the price? Are you on the Burner100 list? No? Well, you might have to up your Gifting game if you want to swing with the Big Playa Players. If you kiss the right asses they might even name a Principle after you.

Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ

Halcyon with his dad, Bob Weir. Image: BJ

Pink Jesus, aka John Halcyon Styn, raised the radical idea that what used to make the art at Burning Man so magical was that people created it for free to share with each other. So paying artists could be Commodification.

He was roundly shot down by the group, but after breakaway sessions they came back with the idea that not paying artists was excellent, and they could blame it on him: aka “The Halcyon Principle”.

Gifting is the answer the everything. Or my answer, at least. Over and over at the conference, I brought the conversation back to Gifting. While there is so much magic happening in the Burning Man movement, I think the core of it is in Gifting.
A) It teaches us to receive joy from giving joy.

B) It helps us to start seeing ourselves as having talents and art of our own to share.

Shifting people’s from self-identity from “consumer” to “creator” is world-changing.
I spoke up on the first day and questioned a line of thought by reminding people that, while I want to get artists paid, I am more passionate about making sure the art remains a gift. I said I was transformed by that first awareness that all this amazing stuff on the playa was created — not for financial reasons — but purely to blow my mind. It created an energetic surplus in me that made me want to give back to this place and community for the rest of my life. There was a quick rebuttal to what I said and I instantly regretted speaking up. Maybe I am too naive for this conversation I thought. I shouldn’t be here.

But the next day, someone approached me and thanked me for saying something. Then another. Then a breakout group told me that they had a long conversation about what they were calling “The Halcyon Principle” based on what I had said.

A surreal highlight of the week (that was already a highlight of my life) was having Maid Marian, CEO of Burning Man, write “Halcyon Principle” on the whiteboard during the final Symposium wrap-up.

It’s not about paying artists! We can just give them hugs! Remember the Halycon Principle!

Read the full article here.

I’m not knocking Halcyon, he makes some good points and he has been kind enough to write guest posts here. Forgive me for being cynical about groupthink and congruency between words and actions, but I’ve been writing about BMorg for almost 5 years now. The ratio keeps growing, in the wrong direction. More people at the off-site symposia and invite-only conferences, more TED talks and panel discussions, lots of people being flown all around the world for words; less visible actions promoting art or making the world a better place. Who cares about which gender Burners identify with, buy some kids a skate park or a library.


This collective experiment in temporary community has owned Fly Ranch for half a year, and Burners are mobile and self-reliant even in harsh conditions. Especially the Top 100 of them. Yet somehow the future of Flysalen needed to be plotted in the acid-laced hot tubs of Esalen, rather than the oil drilling byproduct hot springs of Fly Ranch.

Image: Pinterest

Image: Pinterest

Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300

Being on the boards of both Esalen and the Burning Man Project, Chip Conley swings both ways. Image: Fest300

For $6.5 million They could have bought a lot, and done a lot. At Esalen it’s $900 for no accommodation or a sleeping bag and $1300 for a dormitory bunk bed; if a couple wants their own room it’s more than five grand. At these rates they might as well just have their symposium at Caravancicle or White Ocean. Was this a pay-to-plug-n-play deal, or did Halcyon and 99 others get comped? Where does your ticket money go?

The 2014 Afterburn report claims a total of 896 paid employees. Obviously at least 90% of them didn’t get invited to the Esalen symposium. There are about 100 year-round staff on the Burning Man web site, wonder what percentage of them got to attend?  The last payroll figure we have for the Burning Man Project is for 2014, $7,485,059 (plus another $3,441,179 in contractors). So one week of the Burning Man Project’s time is around $150k of salaries. For $150k I will give them a vision, I’m sure it will be better and easier to implement than whatever the Burner100 came up with.




100 people had a bunch of ideas and told each other how great they were…for a whole frikking week. Were there hugsies involved? Some form of Orange cordial, perhaps?

I got in the tubs twice. Most people were in there as much as possible. I spent much more time standing on the cliffs looking out at the jagged coast

Sounds productive. Vision 3.0. Coming soon.


A camel is a horse designed by a committee


12 comments on “The Halcyon Principle

  1. A bunch of pretentious money grubbers masquerading as enlightened world saving crusaders. God what a fucking joke these people are and BM have become. But there are fools born every minute that’ll buy into the bullshit these con artists are selling. They’re really little different than TV evangelists fleecing their flock.

    I can barely stand to watch their court jester Halcyon. He’s a good representative of so much of what is wrong with this event-pompous, pretentious, and full of himself.

    • Some of the Borg, and their followers, may believe that they are doing something special – though there is no tangible evidence of this other than their own dialog. If you are going to change the world you actually have to change the world, not just talk to each other about it.

      But there are clearly those in the Borg that feel entitled and empowered as they maliciously court and count followers who only join from their own weakness (Why People Join Groups (Nova) ), or just by manipulation (Compelling People to Join Group (60 Minutes) ).

      Once they enlist these followers to their tightly-managed group, the Borg then manipluates them by group psychology. They get them to dehumanize arbitrarily competitve groups ( ), as well as make sacrafices for the group ( ) that they would otherwise not make.

  2. Esalen reminds me of the joke about how “cocaine is god’s way of telling you you have too much money”. Just replace the cocaine with Esalen… Anyone who looks at the lodging prices and STILL thinks Esalen is somehow “down with the people” has fucking rocks in their head… love the sleeping bag price charts! LOL…

  3. Do you have any questions for my friend who goes to Esalen? She likes to quote them as validation for lifestyle choices, though I don’t think she was part of this latest spiritual stunt.

        • Not part of the usual offerings.

          “I never heard any discussions relating to the Pentagon etc. Certainly not any weekend or week-long course that Esalen would list in its catalog at least now… Esalen has been in existence a long time and discussions of the Pentagon etc have certainly taken place, but I would guess more privately than publicly”

  4. Ugh, I agree with you 100% here. Pretty much everything I hate about what the BMORG is doing. Also, I beg of you, please take down the image of Chip Fucking Conley covered in mud. It shall haunt my dreams.

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