OK... I'm angry. I'll admit that. And disgusted. I'll admit that too. At whom, you might ask? Pretty much at most of the vocal members of what some have called "the online Feri-initiate's community".
I'm sure most of you know what I am talking about. Silence... Denial... Sexual abuse... Coercion... just to name a few of the juicy issues facing us right now.
Since the discussion has died down on the other lists, I have continued to receive communications from former and current students of one of the most prominent priests in our tradition. The stories have all been strikingly similar. He came onto them as a part of their training, in some cases encouraging them to leave their partners stating that monogamy is not a part of the tradition. This sort of behavior has gone on behind the scenes for more than 20 years now. Whenever individuals have come forward with their stories or accusations, it has been quietly (or not so quietly) swept under the rug. Reasons for this vary. Fear of being attacked. Denial that it is really happening. Perhaps even complacency. One thing is certain: most who have not had this priest do this to THEM are not interested in doing anything about it and in many cases have urged me to keep quiet. In one case I was told specifically that I needed to "keep this in the family". Sounds like cult behavior to me...
I have been contacted by initiates who left the community long ago... and by those who are still around. I have been contacted by students, both his and others, who are concerned. Not only that he is still doing this, but that the community that has known for so long about it has largely done nothing to stop it. The latest argument is that Feri isn't really a community and so I can't really blame them for not doing anything.
Here's what American Heritage Dictionary has to say:
Community:"A group of people having common interests." Such as the scientific community. Or perhaps a religious community?
So clearly Feri qualifies as a community. It's just not a healthy one. Community doesn't mean that we all get along and try to agree and have picnics together... what it does mean is that we are bound together by something... in this case by our Oaths, by our Gods, our history, and by the practices that we share. After that... all bets are off.
Meanwhile... I'm being told that I shouldn't expect that the community will ever do anything about it. I'm told that the best way to deal with it is to whisper behind his back and not confront him. All the while he is still there causing pain and fear.
I am told that in a community not everyone gets along, and that I need to accept that. THAT's the big advice that this religious community has to offer? That's the best they've got? Is that supposed to be enough? People are being sexually abused, manipulated, fucked-with... and *I'm* supposed to just sit back and accept that?
This is not about not liking someone. This is not about theological differences. This is not even about politics. Don't get me wrong... all of those things are part of the mix, but the fact that he is coercing some of his students into sex trumps all of that. I have been told that my work... my art, my writing, my website... has attracted people to the Feri tradition. Now I am starting to feel that maybe that isn't such a good thing. Don't get me wrong... the *tradition* is a wonderful thing. I love these Gods and these practices... they are sound and they are powerful. So just how did the community get so fucked-up???
Some members of the community are mad that I have chosen to "slap" the community, saying that *they* are not part of the problem, and that they resent being implicated by my remarks. Um... actually they *are* part of the problem. A big part. EVERY SINGLE PERSON who has known that he has been doing this but has chosen to remain silent (and yet also participate in the larger community in our shared spaces) is fulfilling the role of enabler. Good hearts and intentions aside, this is a reality of the situation. This is the karma that is generated. They, by their continued silence, are allowing the abuse to continue. That too must stop. While the community continues to debate and make empty suggestions about praying for peace or for healing, more and more people are being subjected to his abuse. Some of those who have been hurt have come forward. How many more will it take for them to listen?
Immediately there are those who will feel that I am blaming them for my problem. Except that it is not just my problem. In fact this predates my attendance in the Feri tradition by about 10 years. It's bothersome to me that this wasn't solved before I ever even found a Feri teacher. But beyond my involvement in this recent incarnation of this ongoing scandal, this is everyone's problem. As long as we have members of our community who are preying on others, it is our duty to stand against it. We are all responsible for this. All of us.
Let us look inside and face our own fears. I have had to do a lot of that recently. My biggest fear, it seems, was that if I came forward with this that no one would like me anymore. Now it seems kind of silly, but there ya go. I know that there are several people out there who have stopped just short of taking a stand because they too are afraid. Well, I understand that. Fear can paralyze us into taking the very inaction that will eventually destroy us. It is a cruel master.
But it is also a red flag, drawing our attention to that which is dangerous. "Where there is fear there is power", the saying goes. And Feri is both. Powerful, and dangerous. The perfect combination for something that is important.
So I ask that everyone look inside and find their fear and their power, for we will need both to guide us. Our fear will tell us when we are getting close to our power. If we are able then to act despite our fear (the true meaning of courage) then we will have found our true strength. Then our power can enable us to act in the face of our fear. When we wait for our fears to dissolve before we act, then chances are that we will not.
It occurs to me that, in part, this is also a gay issue. The vast majority of the recipients of this abuse (though not all) have been young gay men. I was told by one (straight female) initiate that my own experience with him amounted to a 'gay sex weekend gone wrong'. Aside from being completely inaccurate, it seems to hint at something deeper: that because we are all gay men, that somehow that means that we were automatically cruising for sex when we agreed to meet and study with him. Some women seem to think that because this type of thing happens to women all the time that we shouldn't be whining about it. There is a double standard here. Most often when a man perpetuates this type of behavior on a woman then we all react with concern for her and a conviction that 'no means no'. In this case I was met with 'you should have known better', and 'it was your own fault'. I'm surprised no one asked me what I was wearing at the time. ("Tight jeans? You were asking for it.")
I hold no ill will towards any of his students. I know that has been a concern for some. I have been contacted by some who have pleaded with me to not allow their association with him color my opinion of them. Let me be very clear: I do not feel that it is appropriate to blame the students for the actions of the teacher. But neither can I condone doing anything to support this man. That includes giving him money, attending his workshops, even allowing him into larger spaces where Feries gather. EVERYONE who supports him is allowing the problem to continue. That's simply a fact. I hold no ill will towards those who are his students because I see that they have little alternative. The initiates, however, do not have the same slack. No one can claim ignorance anymore. Now there is only denial that clouds the issue.
There are initiates who participate in the larger community who have spoken up about this, and I applaud them. There have been many in private, and even a few in public. Most notably Anaar, who was named Grandmaster by Cora Anderson this past summer. She has issued a public statement on this issue. You can read it on FeriTradition.org.
Because of all of this I have removed myself from those Feri spaces where he is allowed attendance. I encourage everyone to boycott his classes and to not tolerate the blatant double standard that the much of the online Feri community perpetuates when it comes to him. In a warrior tradition I expected better. It's a shame... with such beautiful tools and powers one would think that more would have been able to confront their own fears and make a stand. Just know: this is not over. This issue will not be swept under the carpet. Not any more.