Org Envisions The Future With “Visioning Teams”

Popular art installation The Pier is now at Fly Ranch.
Image: Friends of the Black Rock Desert

Has Burning Man become rudderless without the leadership of founder Larry Harvey, who passed away earlier this year? Now that they have a $45 million budget, and a permanent year-round site gifted to them to the tune of about $7 million, are they finally able to…DO something?

Well…YMMV. Perhaps in this Brave New World of Millenials, the better part of a year spent Ideating qualifies as something profound and meaningful, an enormous and courageous action communally performed by all who participate.

The lead post up at the BJ calls for “ideas” from the community to be added to the ideas that they come up with themselves after months of elite visioning, perhaps at Esalen or Flysalen, using the powers of Holacracy and Timothy Leary

[Source]

A group specifically charged with coming up with a vision! How exciting.

Meanwhile in the comment section, Burners be like: close the airport. Stop selling out our culture. Charge camps for prime placement instead of allocating it through favoritism. Focus on ways to reduce the environmental footprint and waste generated. Stop making it hard for true Burners to participate while encouraging an influx of sparkle pony tourists. Don’t make us wait in line. Make it easier to get tickets.

Sadly, the same things I’ve been hearing – and saying – for many years. BMorg is BMorg, we’ll see what happens…#ComingSoon.

They expect to spend at least a year on this intensive “visioning” process. Partying it up in the solar-powered Russian steam baths at Fly Ranch is no doubt on the agenda.

Burners can donate cool stuff to the ranch like Russian steam baths and solar arrays. Image: burningman.org

Sign up for a workshop, get naked and tell us all your ideas! Even if you can’t make it to Flysalen, Burners anywhere are invited to spend their time contributing to the visioning.

Here’s how to participate:

Fill out this survey. It will take around 30 minutes to complete. We’ll ask you about city planning, camp size and culture, money and decommodification within camps, and more. If you’ve ever lived in Black Rock City, please fill out the survey. The survey deadline is Thursday November 8 at 11:59 pm PST.

Participate in a community conversation in your area. We’ve partnered with camps and regional communities all over the world to host deeper discussions around these topics and to share notes with the visioning group as qualitative data. These are all happening now until the end of November! Check out the listings by location and thank you to everyone hosting!

Host a community conversation. You can organize your own conversation, using a kit we’ve created that includes suggested discussion format, facilitator tips & tricks, questions to ask, and how to submit the input and feedback to the visioning group. Email us at brcculturaldirectionsetting@burningman.org to request the kit. Schedule a date, time, and location (in person or virtual) and, if you’d like, we’ll add it to the listing above so others can join you. You can also host a conversation with just your camp.

Join the Facebook group. Post the notes from your community conversation in this public Facebook group so others can see all the threads as they develop. Post your individual thoughts after taking the survey in the group or as a comment on this Burning Man Journal post.

Share the survey. Share this post and the survey link widely with your fellow Burners, campmates, and friends. We want to hear from folks who are already tuned in (like you reading this) and from folks who are less tuned in, or perhaps haven’t been to Black Rock City in a while.

Stay tuned. We have some ideas for future virtual engagement, and participation opportunities at events like the 2019 Theme Camp Symposium.

This is community-wide engagement. That means this vision won’t reflect any one individual’s feedback. The visioning group will analyze the input gathered, keep you informed, and provide feedback on how our community’s input influences the eventual vision of this project. This visioning group will meet regularly through spring 2019, and we’re excited to see how this effort evolves.

With the 10 Principles in mind and our best intentions as heart, we’re confident we can set a clear path for Black Rock City’s future.

[Source]

Of course there’s a survey. Detailed profiling of all participants is a big part of Burning Man’s raison d’etre. You may want to make sure your VPN is turned on before you check it out.

I have highlighted some of the comments in response to the original post. I put JV’s first because he’s a regular here, and as in most cases I agree with him. Read them all for yourself here

 

Here’s an idea for you, BMorg. Throw Full Moon parties at Fly Ranch. Invite specific camps to come to each one, encourage mixing between the camps on a smaller scale than Black Rock City. Everyone gets to know each other like in the good old days (or Juplaya). Ask each camp to leave a permanent art contribution to the ranch. Offer art car storage with mechanical/electronic/paint services. Get all the art cars there, art cars bring crews who can bring crowds – or not, depending on what is needed to advance the cause. After a couple of years, you will have a enough energy there for a year-round community to thrive. Sell tickets to everyone to fund it. I mean, not that nature walks aren’t swell, but you can still offer that. We’re Burners, we don’t go all the way out there just for nature walks. Party in the hot springs? Now you’re talking…

Here’s a bonus one: spend some of that massive cash surplus you’re sitting on to purchase some trash compactors. We need to have recycling and waste management on the site, it’s not fair to the local community or environment that they should pay the price for Burner waste.

 

What Ever Happened To Flysalen?

Last year, BMorg announced with their usual great fanfare that they had raised $6.5 million from wealthy private donors, some of them anonymous, to purchase Fly Ranch.

A Permanent Autonomous Zone. Or, rather, a Semi-Permanent Autonomous Zone: SPAZ.

What were they going to do with the SPAZ? They didn’t know, but they were going to consult Burners.

Our process will require a balance of playfulness and seriousness, planning and spontaneity, group work and individual contributions. As you may notice, every time we learn something, it usually leads to several more questions. While we discuss our values as part of a long-term vision and project, our current planning is focused on the short term. Many of our goals are things we hope to achieve in the next 12 months. We need to focus on gathering and sharing valuable information and developing the tools to support a long term planning dialogue. Once we have reached that point, and are equipped with the tools we need, then we can begin a conversation about what Fly Ranch will become.

A quick summary of what we’re hoping to accomplish within this 12-month timeline, roughly in this order:

  • Spend time on the land and in Gerlach and Empire, surveying the environment.
  • Establish security plan and protocols for the property to dissuade trespassing.
  • Begin small nature walks in partnership with Friends of Black Rock High Rock.
  • Develop ‘Town Hall Kit’ for community leader hosted conversations and feedback sessions.
  • Engage with the community online, on calls, in person, and in Black Rock City.
  • Write a series of posts detailing our planning and ask for feedback.
  • Develop project management software, community engagement tools, and interactive maps.
  • Establish a Fly Ranch mission statement and concrete operational goals for 2018-2019.

[Source]

Well, it’s been 14 months now of playfulness and spontaneity. How much of this has materialized?

Series of posts:

We Bought Fly Ranch June 10 2016

What’s In A Gift – The Making of Fly Ranch July 21 2016

Making Sense of Fly Ranch Aug 9, 2017 – Part 1 of 5-part series

Town Hall Kit: nothing comes up in a Google search for this

Mission statement: not on web site (but a Donation button sure is!)

Concrete operational goals: unknown

There have also been a couple of private posts from BMorg Board members Ping Fu and Chip Conley.

Yep, that’s it. A few blog posts. Even I have done more than that to advance the philosophical values of Burning Man in the world over the past year, and nobody donated $6.5 million here.

400 acres of the 3800 were 3-d mapped by a volunteer with a drone:

No offense to the video maker, but this doesn’t exactly seem like an enormous contribution to the future of Burning Man culture all around the world. Whatever happened to Burning Man Earth?

All in all, this is not very much to write home about. I thought Burners were creative and self-reliant, that this was an experiment in new ways of living together as a community – A Permanent Utopia made up of the best and brightest of tech, the arts, advertising, and finance industries? Sadly, the most recent post (last week) still says absolutely nothing about Burning Man’s plans for the site. There’s fences, there’s deer and rabbits and coyotes, there’s hot water from past drilling explorations, there are signs of people using the hot springs. OK, cool – glad we could work that out in 14 months. How are we making the world a better place?

3000 people have signed up wanting to get involved. Most of them are interested in the Arts and Events; the smallest participation category is Philanthropy.

In the coming months and years (because honestly, projects of this magnitude take time), there will be many opportunities to participate in visioning the future of Fly Ranch. We will need your time, energy, expertise, and ideas. Of course this project will also need financial support to realize and explore new ideas, if you feel inspired to contribute to Fly Ranch, you can always donate to the project.

This project will unfold over a long timeline, but to give you a sense of what we re working on these days, we’re currently:

  • Mapping out what limits our Ag Zoning sets on our activities and the process for changing that
  • Researching the impacts of federally protected horses, two dams, and limitations with our water rights
  • Hosting small trips for our office staff who have never been, and doing three community events on the playa
  • Researching tools for decision-making and collaboration and making a more precise roadmap for 2018 and beyond
  • Researching and building mobile composting toilets
  • Discovering and cataloging all man made (and left) objects on the property
  • Doing important outreach and relationship building in Gerlach and the surrounding area

As of June 2017, we’ve had almost 3,000 people sign up to get involved with the project through our Participation page. You can see a breakdown of their areas of interest here:

Surely SOME of these thousands of Burners might have had ideas about what we could do with the SPAZ. If they did, I guess none of them were worth talking about. Maybe that will be “coming soon” in the next 4 out of 5 posts in the series.

According to the official Flysalen web site, as “early” as Fall 2017 (ie. next month), interested Burners will be able to go on nature walks with the Friends of Black Rock in groups of up to 20 at a time. There is nothing about this on the FOBR web site, so like everything else in the BJ, we just have to take BMorg’s word for it.

Their newsletter editions are confusingly detached from their publication dates – is this by accident, or design? 6 months ago they said:

We’re also getting ready to expand on the Community Engagement Conversations that we held at Red Lightning camp last year in Black Rock City, and will be engaging in the next phase of community dialogue at both the European Leadership Summit in Stockholm and the Burning Man Global Leadership Conference in Oakland.

We’re planning to take what we learn from these facilitated public conversations and develop a toolkit for Regional Contacts and passionate community members to begin holding their own conversations to explore what people find most exciting about the endless opportunities of a year-round venue for Burning Man. 

A Toolkit to have conversations about what people find exciting! Wow. Of course, they’re still working on it. Either they didn’t have the facilitated public conversations, or they didn’t learn anything from them, or they weren’t able to encapsulate that learning in a toolkit. Whatever the reason, we’re not yet ready for passionate community members to begin holding conversations on their own about the SPAZ.

How long does it take for a Silicon Valley organization to research collaboration tools? Installing Slack takes a couple of minutes. You need help, bra? Isn’t Burner Billionaire Dustin Mosckowets part of your brains trust? HOW CAN WE COLLABORATE WITHOUT SOFTWARE FFS!!!!!

Image: Sabo

In the past, videos from the Global and European Leadership conferences were shared online. No more. I guess Radical Community Engagement works best when the dialogue is hidden from the community, without any opportunity to comment. Or maybe they’re still getting ready to have the conversations, 14 months just wasn’t enough preparation time for the Org to talk to Burners.

Ahhh, yes. Transparency. Wouldn’t that be nice!

Fortunately, last year’s sessions at Red Lightning camp that left everybody engaged and inspired were filmed, so they could be shared.

Screenshot 2017-08-15 09.27.57

[Source]

That was last October.  We were in luck! Did the luck run out? Maybe nobody applied, or maybe nobody on the 100+ year-round Burning Man staff is able to edit videos and upload them to the Burning Man YouTube channel. You’d think with $40 million of Burner ticket money every year, and 80,000+ devoted Ten Principles followers looking to participate, they could find a way.

Screenshot 2017-08-15 09.24.18

[Source]

Governmental agencies. They’re focused on listening. Got it.

Last year, they took a small number of hand-picked groups of ultra-VIPs on private tours during the Burn:

All together about 250 guests visited Fly Ranch before, during, and after this year’s event, and were careful to tread lightly on the land. Groups remained small (fewer than 20 at a time), utilized only pre-designated walking paths, and upheld our community ethic of Leave No Trace every step of the way.

One of them was Burn.Life’s Dr Yes, who reported that the project is being heavily influenced by Esalen and Stewart Brand’s Long Now Foundation. They also took Burn After Reading mag’s Jesse “Sprocket” Janusee, who was moved to tears by the experience. Halcyon was so shocked by the journey that it turned his famous “Pink Jesus” hair white:

If you’re not one of the lucky VIPs to get a naked hot springs dip as a reward for your enthusiastic servitude to the Org, perhaps you might like to attend these sessions on-Playa this year and report back to the group. Or just donate: $6.5 million goes pretty quick in the remote desert. We need more to fuel this amazing vision, we are making the world a better place nobody has ever seen anything like this TRANSFORMATION Project. 3 blog posts, wow. Send money now!

 

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.

free-book-tank-library-weapon-of-mass-instruction-raul-lemesoff-1

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.

Image: Esalen.org

[Source: Esalen.org]


Conclusion

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.

camel-horse-committee

A camel is a horse designed by a committee

 

It Started in SF as a Jazz Group and Now it’s a Religion

An epic performance from Sammy Davis, Jr from the 1969 movie Sweet Charity looks very much like a precursor to Burning Man. He is a preacher, singing about his new church which is sweeping the nation. It contains so many elements that make it look familiar to Burners – art cars, furry sleeveless vests, indulgent principles, a satire on Judeo/Christian religion, acid culture, weed, Pied Piper…is that the Merry Prankster’s FURTHR bus lurking in the shadows? Hit the floor and crawl to Daddy!

At the time he made this, Sammy Davis Jr was in his prime. He was a member of the “Rat Pack” with Shirley Maclaine, Marilyn Monroe, Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra. They were also known as the “Clan” (presumably with a C not a K) or “The Summit”.

In addition, Sammy Davis, Jr just happened to be a celebrity superstar promoter of the Church of Satan – doing for Anton LaVey what Tom Cruise and John Travolta do today for the Church of Scientology. Blonde bombshell actress Jayne Mansfield, the Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian of her day, was another star Satanist.

Jayne Mansfield takes the "sacrament" from Anton LaVey

Jayne Mansfield takes the “sacrament” from Anton LaVey

Michael Aquino, Sammy Davis Jr, Anton Lavey. Image: VICE

Michael Aquino, Sammy Davis Jr, Anton Lavey. Image: VICE

Sammy starred in this 1973 TV series. Image: VICE

Sammy made a pilot in SF for this 1973 TV series. It was the plot of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in reverse. Image: VICE

 


As we explored in Shadow History Part 3 – Satan’s Birthday Party, there is almost no philosophical separation between scientism, satanism,  and the values of Burning Man. In Part 4 – Occult Rituals of the Cult we show how Burning Man’s own origins are from San Francisco’s occult scene, a nude beach about a block from the Church of Satan HQ, next to the Presidio Psyop Base (Part 2). Right after Burning Man moved to the desert, the Psyop HQ moved down to Moffett Field, home of Google, Yahoo, Lockheed Martin, NASA Ames, the Singularity University, and many other spooky proponents of transhumanism. The World Wide Web then sprang up around it and became the core of Silicon Valley, as we explored in Part 1 – The Shadow History of Silicon Valley.

Larry Harvey called Burning Man “a compelling physical analog for cyberspace”, in a 1997 Macworld “Digital Be-in” talk.

 


Dancing and Metamorphosis

Another video surfaced this week, which I posted on our Facebook Page. Apparently Walt Disney and Salvador Dali teamed up in 1945 to create a trippy surrealist desert adventure called “Destino”, based on a Mexican folk song.

Once again, we see similarities to Burning Man. Desert, mountains in the distance, cracked playa, bicycles, art cars…we have a lot of themes converging here. Humans merging with gods to create hybrid species; dancing through the wheel of time; dancing and metamorphosis, leading to love. It is dripping with occult symbolism, pyramids, all seeing eyes and so on.

Although Disney and Dalí did collaborate, most of this video was created much later. Still, it looks like Disney and Dalí imagined Burning Man in World War 2…yet another link into the vast occult empire which is Disney Corporation.

Once upon a time the Micky Mouse creator, Walt Disney, worked with the world’s most famous surrealist, Salvador Dali.
Dali was approached by Disney himself in 1945 to propose a collaborative film. Entitled “Destino”, the picture would be based upon a Mexican folk song of the same name, with the music played to accompany a sequence of Dali-designed animation. Destino is a fabled romance between Chronos, the personification of time, and a young mortal woman. The scenes blend a series of surreal paintings of Dali with dancing and metamorphosis
Walt Disney’s Destino was produced by Dali and John Hench (the Disney artist who did the storyboards) for 8 months between 1945 and 1946. Hench was described as a “ghostly figure” who knew better than Dali the secrets of the Disney film. For some time, the project remained a secret. 
But the film was eventually shelved due to WWII-era financial problems at Disney’s company. Dalí described the film as “a magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time” and Disney said it was “a simple story about a young girl in search of true love.”
However, some 54 years later, the development of Fantasia’s long-awaited sequel, Fantasia 2000, inspired Disney’s nephew, Roy, to finally revive the project. A team of French animators were brought on board to produce the six-minute film on the basis of Dali’s notes and storyboards. In 2003, his musical vision was released at long last

[Source]

World War 2 ended when Germany surrendered in May 1945 and the Japanese surrendered in August 1945. They were making the “notes and storyboards” for 8 months into 1946, which shows that the war had ended before this project even began.

What were the “secrets of the film” which Hench knew, but Dalí didn’t? Surely Dalí was the big name in this collaboration?

The work of painter Salvador Dali was to prepare a six-minute sequence combining animation with live dancers and special effects for a movie in the same format of “Fantasia.” The characters are fighting against time, the giant sundial that emerges from the great stone face of Jupiter and that determines the fate of all human novels. Dalí and Hench were creating a new animation technique, the cinematic equivalent of Dali’s “paranoid critique”…inspired by the work of Freud on the subconscious and the inclusion of hidden and double images.
The plot of the film was described by Dalí as “A magical display of the problem of life in the labyrinth of time.”
Walt Disney said it was “A simple story about a young girl in search of true love.”

[Source]

Seems like all the usual stuff, mass media mind control, as above/so below, hidden images, black magick, the subconscious and the soul…

Dalí’s technique is more formally known as the Paranoid Critical Transformation Method, and is one of his biggest claims to fame.

Of all the Surrealists and their achievements, there is one that stands out above all the others. The Paranoiac Critical method was a sensibility, or way of perceiving reality that was developed by Salvador Dalí. It was defined by Dalí himself as “irrational knowledge” based on a “delirium of interpretation”. More simply put, it was a process by which the artist found new and unique ways to view the world around him. It is the ability of the artist or the viewer to perceive multiple images within the same configuration. The concept can be compared to Max Ernst’s frottage or Leonardo da Vinci’s scribbling and drawings. As a matter of fact, all of us have practiced the Paranoid Critical Method when gazing at stucco on a wall, or clouds in the sky, and seeing different shapes and visages therein. Dalí elevated this uniquely human characteristic into his own art form. 

Dalí, though not a true paranoid, was able to simulate a paranoid state, without the use of drugs, and upon his return to ‘normal perspective’ he would paint what he saw and envisioned therein.

Dalí was able to create what he called “hand painted dream photographs” which were physical, painted representations of the hallucinations and images he would see while in his paranoid state. Although he certainly had his own load of mental problems to bear, it can be said that Dalí’s delusions and paranoid hallucinations did not totally dominate his mind, as he was able to convey them to canvas. 
Image: Wikipedia

Image: Wikipedia

Being a painter of miraculous skill, he was capable of reproducing his myriad fantasies and hallucinations as visual illusions on canvas.

 
It is in this context that one of Dalí’s most famous statements takes on a whole new meaning and understanding.
 
“The only difference between myself and a madman, is that I am not mad!”
 
In Dalí’s own words, taken from his Conquest of the Irrational:
 
“My whole ambition in the pictorial domain is to materialize the images of my concrete irrationality with the most imperialist fury of precision…”
 
He then goes on to say:
 
“Paranoiac-critical activity organizes and objectivizes in an exclusivist manner the limitless and unknown possibilities of the systematic association of subjective and objective ‘significance’ in the irrational…”
 
“..it makes the world of delirium pass onto the plane of reality” 
 

.

Dalí was hallucinating, but without drugs. This is certainly possible – the psychiatric justification for the development of LSD and other suggestogens was to “mimic psychosis”. The name “psycheto-mimetics” was discarded as not marketable by Humprhey Osmond and Marshall McLuhan – the Madison Avenue PR guru who also came up with Timothy Leary’s famous “Tune In. Turn On. Drop Out” tagline (though Leary also claimed he came up with it in the shower after meeting McLuhan)

It’s also quite possible that Dalí was tripping on something and just didn’t promote it in media interviews.

Here’s the video set to Pink Floyd’s classic “Time” from Dark Side of the Moon:

 


Transformation and the Projects

The word “Transformation” sure seems to come up a lot in looking at this Presidio/Esalen/Disney/Stanford/Burning Man cluster. This week I discovered that Dr Michael Aquino’s MindWar concept was heavily influenced by Esalen’s Transformation Project think tank.

Burning Man director Chip Conley, whose ambition is to leverage massive amounts of exclusive Burning Man content to make Fest300 the Expedia of festivals, is a trustee of the Esalen Institute. Burning Man holds their corporate retreats there, and it appears to be the model for their Fly Ranch philosophy center plans. Esalen is the occult research base of DARPA. Aquino says they had better stuff than even the CIA or DIA:

 

Whose project was this in 1996, before Helco?

Whose project was this in 1996, before Helco?

 


Of course, there are other occult pop-culture influences on Burning Man, which we have covered over the years.

The Wicker Man (1973)

The Twilight Zone – The Burning Man

The Legend of Billy Jean starring Peter Coyote (Pat Benatar’s Invincible was the theme song)

Pink Floyd: Wish You Were Here

“The Burning Man”, by Storm Thorgeson (1976)

"Burning Man", by Storm Thorgeson

 

 

BMOrg Plots World Domination at Hippie HQ

The latest VOBM features a revealing piece about Burning Man’s relationship with the Esalen Institute, “the high church of the religion of no religion”.

The links between Esalen and Burning Man run deep. PR gal Megan Miller has been attending the cult luxury yoga hotel since the age of 3. For the last ten years, BMOrg have taken most of their team there to an exotic luxury locale to debrief, after Black Rock City is wrapped up. And during the year many BMOrg employees, allies and associates regularly attend events at the facility – which even has an “Aldous Huxley Room”.

Image: esalen.org

Image: esalen.org

From SFist:

The stunning 120-acre retreat is an intentional community devoted to meditation, yoga, organic food, and spirituality and was established by Michael Murphy and Dick Price. The two were introduced in San Francisco by a Stanford religion professor with whom they had both studied. Murphy, who had traveled to an ashram in India, held family property at Big Sur, previously a health spa with natrual hot springs that employed Hunter Thompson and was frequented by Henry Miller. Price had continued his studies in psychology at Harvard before joining the air force. Living in San Francisco, he experienced a psychotic episode and spent time at a mental hospital before returning to the City. Their combined experiences soon took off, as their experiment gained traction with the counter-cultural movement.

Esalen still exists as a California 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, and weekend workshops there start at $1,750, covering subjects from mindfulness to permaculture and ecological sustainability.

[Source: SFist]

So what do they get up to at the base? Do any of them drop LSD?

The two entities have much in common — the adversity, the freedom, the challenge to the status quo, the suspicion of strangers, even the absence of a guiding monotheism.

[Source: VOBM]

Adversity? In Big Sur – really? Have you seen photos of this place? Does he mean that cellphone reception is patchy and Internet can be slow? Or does he mean getting up at sunrise to do yoga after a big night?

Image: Esalen Institute via SFist

Image: Esalen Institute via SFist

They both provide stages for transformation, without dictating the outcome of that transformation, Esalen on a personal level, Burning Man on a more overtly societal scale.

If Burning Man is overtly transforming society, I’d like to see some evidence of that. Do they mean the art car in Zappo’s lobby?

“So what can we expect from this meeting of the minds,” Goodell asked from the audience as the two men spun their yarns. “Can we discuss our plans for world domination?”

Harvey said that, like Archimedes, they both might be looking for a lever long enough to move the world. Murphy was coy, maybe a bit embarrassed, and blurted: “We’re flirting!”

The people at the summit tackled many big topics: What is Burning Man culture? What is Burning Man art? What does Decommodification really mean? How can the organization foster new affiliations? How can they deal more effectively with political affairs, government relations and law enforcement? How can they facilitate fundraising? Why isn’t Burning Man more diverse? How will the 2016 theme (“DaVinci’s Workshop”) spark conversations about money?

For the record, many of the discussions were passionate and strong. The 2016 theme, especially, provoked divergent views. “The thing is,” Harvey said at one point, “is that we’re taking on the money thing directly. That’s good. That’s what we should be doing.”

The summiteers also could pursue more personal development. They could be guided on a Hero’s Journey. They could seek their North Star. They could take part in any number of movement and meditation exercises in the very early mornings. They could “co-learn” with Esalen staff about sustainability, or go on hikes to hidden hot springs.

Through it all, the participants seemed to get the intention of the outing: They were being asked to work on integrating the interior with the exterior, to be mindful, and as the organization continued to expand, there was a need, and an expectation, to look within, maybe now more than ever.

“This is my worlds colliding,” CameraGirl was saying as she made her way back to the lodge from a session on Personal Transformation. “It’s been a dream forever … (and) it’s never seemed more critical.”

Harvey and Murphy were getting at it during their face-to-face in the tent, too: Murphy went off on a tangent about the art of Norman Rockwell, about how beautiful it was and how deeply it was appreciated, but also how it only captured “things that people know.” On the other hand, he said, “We like to open our hearts and minds to the unknown, (to) find the courage to acknowledge that you are not in control.”

[Source: VOBM]

Seeking the North Star is a military concept, that has become part of New Age management culture mumbo-jumbo. And while I see a lot of value in Campbell’s studies of common cultural archetypes, I observe that one result of contemplating “The Hero’s Journey” is to make you think that YOU are a hero yourself, just for thinking about it. We’re all heroes, we’re all on this mythological journey, and along the way we face the challenges and learn the skills necessary for a happy ending. Although this might generate warm fuzzy feelings, it does nothing to build the intestinal fortitude required to instinctively act with real heroism when the proverbial excrement hits the air conditioning.

So 50 BMOrg insiders get together to discuss our future. Then what happens? Burning Man is a do-ocracy, right? Not just a gabfest? So what gets DONE?

Well, luckily for all of us, BMOrg have announced a new team to preserve the volunteer spirit of our culture. Naturally, the team will be all made of volunteers. What will they DO? Well, Harley will attend the first four meetings. Problem solved! Burning Man saved. Of course, if volunteer culture falls apart at Burning Man, we’ll now know who to blame…(well, if they name the hand-picked members of the new team, we will). They’re also still looking for someone to raise money for the non-profit from donors, a position that seems to have been open for a while now.

This, then, is the last hope for our floundering culture. Not that our voices will be heard, or that anyone will require the Org to live by its own Principles. Not that the vast amounts of money flowing in to the sold-out and mainstream-marketed event will be redistributed in some small way to the Regional network and the artists. Not even that BMOrg will just deliver some of the things they already promised us (like transparency, or a fair contract for the artists).

Just this: that by this NPD-fuelled insider navel-gazing, deep questions and discussions about the soul and future of the event going down in hot tubs and during nature hikes, that these groups will make all the correct decisions to keep Burning Man for the Burners for the next century – and out of the hands of spectators who care nothing for our culture.

Hey, it’s working great so far, right? As BMOrg like to say “we’ve been doing it for 30 years and people have always said we’re doing it wrong. We’re still here, therefore we can’t be doing it wrong”…or something to that effect. Any problems in the culture are due to “social media trolls” or a lack of funding (please donate now).


 

In keeping with this year’s theme of “re-writing history in favor of the Banksters”, John Curley (who confesses to never having received a professional massage before) attempts a white-wash of the darker side of the secret base at the edge of Hearst’s kingdom (and, like so many other location settings in counter-culture history, next to a major military base).

A lot of people didn’t like, or were threatened by, what was happening, or what they thought was happening, at Esalen. Dick Nixon targeted the place for dirty tricks, like the time his henchmen tried to convince the press that Charles Manson had hatched his murderous plans for Sharon Tate while on retreat there. (For the record, Manson never stayed at Esalen.)

[Source: VOBM]

Shadow history has Manson going to Esalen to receive a briefing just 3 days before the Tate/La Blanca “Helter Skelter” murders in the Terry Melcher/Doris Day house. The “Summer of Love” and the hippie age ended abruptly, just as the Church of Satan was building momentum at the edge of the Presidio (staffed by military intelligence). The “Manson Murders” in LA happened around the same time as the infamous “Altamont” concert in SF, where Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death by the Hell’s Angels in the crowd while the Rolling Stones played Sympathy for the Devil on Their Satanic Majesties Present tour. Esalen janitor Hunter S Thompson got his big break writing about the Hell’s Angels and then infiltrating them for 2 years. George Lucas happened to be at Altamont next to the incident with a ready-to-roll movie camera, after which he got his big break to make THX 1138 – a Brave New World for the 21st century which, like it progenitor, has turned out to be presciently true; and the Star Wars series – which was heavily based on both Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” Esalen courseware, and actual military intelligence occult research into psy-power going on at Esalen, SRI, and the Presidio including PROJECT JEDI.

Manson even played a concert there on his last visit – he was a frequent attendee. “Oh but he never STAYED” – weasel words. Interesting that they still feel a need to distance themselves from the consequences of their mass brainwashing, and even more interesting that they partner up with Burning Man and its Propaganda Department as a channel to do that.

Esalen was started in the Sixties by Aldous Huxley and two Stanford guys with military and elite ties. Huxley died there, when his wife Laura injected him with a lethal fatal dose of LSD on November 22, 1963 – the day of the Kennedy Assassination, and also the day Narnia author C.S. Lewis died.

It has been the center of the “Human Potential Movement”, which from very early on was infiltrated by Army Intelligence (specifically Lt Col James Channon and Task Force Delta, under General Albert Stubblebine who was head of INSCOM – see The Men Who Stare At Goats for more of this story).

The “Aquarian Conspiracy” (they actually called it that!) written by Margaret Ferguson described 15 million agents of the New Age, taking positions throughout business and government as the Baby Boomers grew up, and helping to usher in a Progressive New World Order. She worked for Willis Harman. For those interested in delving down this rabbit hole further, check out The Tavistock Roots of the Aqurian Conspiracy, The Beatles and the Aquarian Conspiracy and this and this.

As we outlined in an earlier post on Constance Cumbey’s The Hidden Dangers of the Rainbow, there are some incredible parallels between the ideologies espoused by the New Age movement, and those of the Nazis. This is unsurprising if you understand the history of eugenics and propaganda, which were massively funded by tax-free foundations like Rockefeller and Carnegie at Stanford and later in Germany. They wanted to control large numbers of people mentally, electronically, chemically, and genetically.

This book is out of print, but luckily the PDF is readily available. An earlier version with 100 extra pages is much rarer.

This book is out of print, but luckily the PDF is readily available. An earlier version with 100 extra pages is much rarer.

The Human Potential Movement and the Aquarian Conspiracy were designed at SRI (Stanford Research Institute), a major Defense contractor, by its director Willis Harman (who also founded IONS, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, based in Petaluma and featuring in Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code series). They conducted a multi-year, multi-disciplinary study called “The Changing Images of Man”, funded by the Charles Kettering Foundation (Kettering developed the first missile). The research combined anthropology, computer simulations, business strategy – and maybe even channelling of interdimensional entities – to envisage a number of future scenarios. They then worked back to determine what the ideal “Man” would be to adapt to the coming new worlds. Once their desired outcome was defined, they engaged the tools at their disposal to reshape the world in their image. Burning Man is one of those tools.

Esalen and the Aquarian Conspiracy were employed to transform the self-image of Man from “Frontier Man” or “Pioneer Man” (the original American dream), to “War Hero Man” (the Democratic personality archetype engineered during World War II), to “Self Help Man” (the Nietzchean uber-mensch product of the Human Potential Movement that went from fringe thinking to mainstream over the 70s and 80s), then to “cyber punk hackers” in the 90s (used to launch the Web, the same way that hippies were used to launch the PC)…and then again to today’s “Burner/hipster” synthetic psychological archetype that is being used to bring in the Sharing Economy. A new prototype is no doubt being shaped now for the imminent Virtual Reality/Robots/Gene hacker world.

MKULTRA’s “Johnny Appleseed” of LSD Al “Captain Trips” Hubbard was a special agent advising Willis Harman at SRI.

willis harmon al hubbard letter

Shadow history researcher Jim Keith fell off a stage at Burning Man, injured his leg, then mysteriously died of a blood clot while being treated at the hospital in Reno. His book Mind Control, World Control discusses the spread of LSD and the role of OSS/CIA agent Al Hubbard:

One associate of Hubbard’s was New World Order theorist Willis Harman at the Stanford Research Institute. SRI had earlier recieved grants from the US Army to research chemical incapacitants. When visited by a representative of the underground press [Michael Rossman of the Berkeley Free Speech Movement] at SRI, Harman told the man, “There’s a war going on between your side and mine. And my side is not going to lose.”

Willis Harman hired Al Hubbard in 1968 as a “Special Investigative Agent.” From Todd Brendan Fahey’s The Original Captain Trips:

Hubbard was specifically assigned to the Alternative Futures Project, which performed future-oriented strategic planning for corporations and government agencies. Harman and Hubbard shared a goal “to provide the [LSD] experience to political and intellectual leaders around the world.” Harman acknowledges that “Al’s job was to run the special sessions for us.”

 

You can learn more about the links between SRI, Esalen, and the counter-culture at Red Ice: Scientists on Acid, and also in Jan Irvin’s article about Darwin, Huxley, Esalen and the Psychedelic Revolution.

How could Burning Man be used as a tool of Esalen and SRI to reshape personalities as Silicon Valley’s counter-culture designers require? We’ll let Navy robot guy Danger Ranger explain this:

It’s all about building consensus reality – while at the same time, detaching people from their previous psychological patterns, breaking their personality apart and getting them into a state of hyper-suggestibility, then surrounding them with the desired ideology. Groupthink is heavily used in this environment to reinforce the new patterning.

The epicenter of Groupthink on the West Coast is the Esalen Institute, and their greatest tool to spread it is Burning Man.

We’re saving the world! From the hot tub!

I’ll let another military intelligence guy and Esalen aficianado have the last word: