Coumunity, the online magazine of Thee One True TOPI Tribe, is up. I wrote an article for it about my experience co-orgnizing EsoZone and the way the lust for more attendees can ruin a beautifully small event:
In a community, the quality of connections between members always trumps the number of members. Unlike a network, which thrives on weak ties between ever larger numbers of people, a community thrives on strong bonds.
But it’s easy for community builders to lose sight of this, especially when you’ve gotten a taste of quantity. I know because I’ve been there. Community building is more important than ever, so I’m sharing my story so that hopefully a few others can avoid falling into the same trap I did.
I was the lead organizer of an occultural festival called EsoZone from 2006 -2011 (though I did take a couple sabbaticals along the way). The second annual EsoZone festival started on October 10, 2008. We had talks by Dennis McKenna, Antero Alli, Paul Laffoley and many more, along with performers like Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule and Hecate.
It was a huge success. Around 300 people turned up, and there were write-ups in the local press as well as High Times magazine. People told me it changed their lives.
But it was also incredibly stressful.The digital projector died constantly. The schedule was constantly shuffled, partially due to the projector, partially due to other logistical nightmares. Some speakers and performers felt snubbed by the changes and problems. One group didn’t get to perform at all.
Klint Finley: How’s the new TOPI going? What’s the status?
Genesis Breyer P-Orridge: Actually, it’s rather gratifying. You’ve probably been to the Ning. And there’s that world map at the front which shows where there are active people and it’s almost obliterated the world map at this point. So whilst the activities are still somewhat limited, and directionless to an extent, what it does demonstrate to us is that there is still a serious appetite, curiosity, need for some of the ideas that we put into hibernation for a while from the TOPY with a Y. There was always the plan to have T-O-P-I, the One True Topi Tribe. That was always part of the strategy from the very beginning. But the first decade of T-O-P-Y, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, was… not the kindergarten exactly…. but that was sort of a filtering process to reconvene the idea of magic in a contemporary, demystified way in public culture. And that was almost too successful and we actually ended up in exile as a result of the threat that was perceived by the British establishment.
Ironically, they attacked us when we had already said that we were going to disband that version and become nomadic. The last thing we sent out to people was printed on what you send wedding invitations on, it was gold embossed card and it just said “Changed Priorities Ahead, TOPY Nomads.” Which was actually a sign, a street sign. We were driving along the road coming back from looking for a big house, a community headquarters in the north of England and there were road works going on and there was this big sign that just said “Changed Priorities Ahead.” And it was one of those moments where we went “That’s exactly what we were hoping to do.”
So the intended idea there was that we were closed down, Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth, in the hope that those who had really started to comprehend on their own, in their own way, what we were trying to say – which was to bring people around to using an intuitive personalized version of magic – to get those individuals to understand that we were a non-hierarchal, non-Masonic, post-“museum of magic” network.
In other words, a lot of people did their 23 sigils and then they would sometimes write and then say “What happens now?” and we would just say “That’s it. You don’t get a prize. You don’t get a new instruction. You don’t suddenly have a special title. If you’ve not figured out how to really discover and express your true desires by now then you’re never going to get it. Most people did understand that but there were some that expected a prize and were disappointed.
So we had reached the point of dismembering it and deconstructing the ten year project and the next step was to find a location to then go into the One True Topi Tribe. We looked at an old hotel in the north of England, we looked at the farm in a place called Arbor Low in Yorkshire, which actually had a stone circle on the grounds of the farm, which is where we used to have the TOPY Global Annual Meetings over a long weekend and we would camp out and we would do rituals outside in the stone circle. It is a beautiful place. So we were seriously looking at different locations. And then we, meaning myself and my family, decided to go to Nepal to do some research and to work with Tibetan Buddhist monks that we had come to know. And then come back and built the One True Topi Tribe but as you know that got interrupted by the British government.
So we went into hibernation and then Thee Psychick Bible got published. And during the next few months after that was published, we started to get lots and lots of e-mails and letters and meet people at concerts and events. They were saying, “We really want to know more about this. Why is isn’t it still going on?”