At the 6th Annual Entheos Summer Solstice Festival in Vancouver, Bradley Ross was found murdered in his tent. The tragedy was discovered on the final day of a conscious gathering that marked the countdown towards the "2012 shift."
The Entheos Gathering is a music and dance festival celebrating the unification of technology, visionary art, and collaborative culture. According to their website, roughly 40% of the 1,000+ attendees were volunteers or contributors. Bradley's death notably sent the conscious community into shock.
The next morning, I received a text from a friend asking to send prayers to Vancouver. I remember the moment clearly, feeling utterly raw and exposed by a harsh reality. The dream was no longer a dream, and my spiritual relationship with death was being deconstructed right before my eyes.
Entheos, from Greek, translates to "the divine within." Considering our counterculture's spiritual ambitions, I became fascinated with the death's greater significance. Bradley's death occurred in the wake of the first of six Pluto/Uranus squares taking place from now until March 2015 which many astrologers associate with 2012, the global revolution, and societal breakthroughs.
Sobey Wing, Reality Sandwich contributor and one of the original organizers at Entheos, was kind enough to chat with me about the event.
Can you talk a bit about the history of Entheos?
Entheos Gathering arose out of the emerging transformational dance culture in the west coast of Canada, joined by networks in Alberta and elsewhere. Its aim was to forge a combination of community resilience building with world-class festival production values.
We also sought to model the new paradigm in the world, particularly with festivals, as well as a countdown to 2012. We combined both conference and celebration and were quickly drawing a global audience.
How did you find out Bradley's death?
It happened right before the peak of our collective experience. We were notified early Sunday morning that a young man had been killed and found in his tent. First responders — myself included — and Security weren't prepared for what they had to deal with. No one was, for that matter. It was like a cruel wake-up call that reminded us we weren't in an innocent utopian bubble.
Unfortunately, what happened is still a mystery, though many theories and guesses have been circulating. A homicide is the firmest guess, thus far.
What were the participants' overall reaction toward the murder?
Once the evacuation order was in place, Entheos participants were helping each other to exit the festival as peacefully as possible. Everyone, including the conference organizers, felt a strong unity pervade amongst everyone.
Within a few days, two community councils were held in Vancouver and Victoria through Skype for Bradley's friends and family. Both gatherings were part memorial and part community council. Each extracted lessons gained from the tragedy and gave support to those needing comfort, which included resources for post-traumatic stress. Additionally, a music compilation is being made with contributions from electronic dance music producers, with money being raised for an arts scholarship in Bradley Ross's name.
Overall, the response has been incredibly supportive. Authorities on the campground said the peaceful evacuation was "unlike anything they had ever seen."
Considering the attraction toward higher vibrations at conscious festivals, was any negative backlash or fear directed toward Entheos?
We were pretty surprised that the mainstream media didn't slam into Entheos with a lot of harsh critiques. As an organizer, I had to address the community and lead an emergency early closing ceremony. Basically, I was asked to speak at a moment's notice, and I told them that we needed to reflect our culture well as we leave this fresh wound. We have to treat the land and each other tenderly as we depart to reflect what we are as a culture, and show our best side in the face of tragedy.
To me, the west coast represents the nucleus of what I call the spiritual intentional dance culture. The people involved have been a part of that unfolding story, and we'd spun everything around the myth of this 2012 thing. When Bradley was murdered, it was at the apex of the festival's six-year cycle, and we all learned that we were there for each other. Any type of disagreement or friction from within the circle was put to a ceasefire. This is something we really need to build on as part of our human process. We had our debrief meeting today, and it was still emotional, because people were feeling that amidst this already tragic situation, our unresolved group dynamics were being held together by the fragility of the situation.
For the whole culture, being spiritual is finding the opportunity within the crisis — the ability to look at our global situation as a huge crisis and extract from that the most resilient and important aspects.
Do you think that the spiritual communities — being led by this surrounding aura of freedom from death and singular consciousness — are facing death differently first-hand?
Well, out of the direct experiences of spirituality, death is definitely the big one. It does teach us in many ways: if a death is natural, before its time, violent, unresolved, etc. The big unfulfilled promise of these spiritual or progressive cultures is that our parent culture just sucks at dealing with death.
This failure is evident in how our culture deals with elderly people, allowing them to die in a cold room surrounded by strangers. Seeing family every week or month or whatever is just a complete failure in terms of social culture analysis. And so, if we're going to repeat that pattern, we've also failed. These are our starting points.
And, you know, if we have to deal with a tragedy, or someone passing in our community, they're lucky. If they're a member of a community like this, they're going to have so many more people bringing in support at that time than somebody without it. That's going to be showing in the future, I think. People are going to notice when that's present. And we're still developing our ability to respond to those things.
On our last night of Entheos, I had the music down at "half-mast," as I described it. There was an agreement with the council of organizers that we were going to turn things off at 2 AM. We were still under evacuation order, and was trying to establish a good night's sleep for everyone.
Of course, everything continued past 2 AM, and a nearby stage started its system up and people were just letting the noise out, and it was totally reflective of the incident. These were staff people, and it was really jarring because some of us were like, yeah, let's really respect what has happened. Others were like, we need to release this in a place where we can be loud, you know?
In the moment, I was really judging those people who weren't, in my mind, showing respect. But, maybe I wasn't reading them right. Maybe they were releasing in some way. So, as a culture, we're still figuring out how we all fit together, and how we're different in different ways.
There needs to be a narrative that shows the linkage, as one person put it, between the trolls, orcs, and pirates — these hearty characters who build the foundations and infrastructure — and the fairies and elves. You need people who know how to wield a nail gun and that kind of thing. It made me laugh, but it was telling. When you look at the cleanup of the festival, you need that same hard-working grunt kind of character. They may often be a little rough around the edges, but they're attracted to the same thing. Our picture of a spiritual community is not what we think all the time. That was a big wake-up call for me.
We share a common desire to have grief, but some people are going to show it in their own constructive way. They're not going to contain it, or anything. We could break it down in all kinds of ways. We could say it's because of the alcohol in our culture — that creates a lot of karma. But mostly, we're aware of where we're at, and we need to focus on that and be honest with ourselves.
We're still rough around the edges, and no one's perfect. We need to learn to judge and criticize less, and in that process have a dialogue about sincere fellowship. And, that's more important than being right, in a way.
The other big elephant in the room — which I'm sure the Evolver community is familiar with — is how we're really not in a safe period to be regarded as a psychedelic culture. We've been working hard to develop the image of substances in a positive way. We know there's been abuse, and for that to be linked with this homicide is a touchy subject. We still don't know the full story. We want to talk about it, but because of the media it's a bit stifling.
I work around the research of use of recreational substances for the coastal health department in Vancouver, so I also see it on that level. We need transitional rites to initiate ourselves in some way. With a lack of that, people get drunk and do crazy shit, creating their own rituals, basically. There needs to be a place where people can explore themselves.
When you see that you're in a place that focuses on and encourages transformation, and you understand the ethic and guiding philosophy of peer support and harm-reduction space and things like that, then you get more benefit.
One more question. Merging the prophecy and mythic imagery and indigenous warnings over the years, what do you feel this incident has contributed to the symbolism of 2012, the global revolution, and what are we moving towards?
Unity. It's the unity. That's what I think. And, it's not about that everything will fall into place automatically on December 21st. It's unity, and the specters of the apocalyptic things that could happen — the question I would ask is, how would you want to be prepared for the most heinous moment that could happen on the planet?
For the biggest crises, you'd want to know that the people you're sharing the planet with aren't going to turn into zombies and destroy each other in the aftermath. You'd want to know that we're willing to rebuild this culture even better than before.
"During the civil wars in feudal Japan, an invading army would quickly sweep into a town and take control. In one particular village, everyone fled just before the army arrived — everyone except the Zen master. Curious about this old fellow, the general went to the temple to see for himself what kind of man this master was. When he wasn't treated with the deference and submissiveness to which he was accustomed, the general burst into anger. 'You fool,' he shouted as he reached for his sword, 'don't you realize you are standing before a man who could run you through without blinking an eye?' 'And do you realize," the master replied calmly, 'that you are standing before a man who can be run through without blinking an eye?'"
The parable above is a testament to the truly faithful; the spiritual warriors who see beyond death as an illusion. The monk shows fearlessness and a strong heart. The story also conveniently ends with the holy man's last words, leading his constitution to prevail within our minds. If one was to continue the parable, it would likely state, "And then, the general ran the monk through with his sword, and killed him."
What is left of the spiritual man at his core, as our newer-aged belief systems are humbled by chaotic reality in the face of societal breakdown? Spiritual chic has displaced the connection with the modern personae, and egos sour into the Aquarian Age as if they live one hundred years into the future. Evolvers en masse have something to say, but are we ready to face the depth of mature awakening we're striving to achieve?
Perhaps the most spiritual people will not reveal themselves to be whom we expect. They will rise, and come together, regardless of their Sanskrit chanting abilities, dedication to one faith, or mad yoga skills. Their spirituality will be independent of how often they go to church, or give money away, or eat green. The spiritual factor proves itself within the human "will," simple love and compassion, strength unfaltering, no matter the consequence.
The Entheos tragedy, and the misbelief of death, may be veering cosmic initiates even more directly on course with ourselves, encouraging us to stop looking elsewhere for answers.
Humans are animals, a fact that no doubt leads to violence. But, it also begets cooperation, love, and unity. If we want to change, we must accept this, get off the pedestals that separate our culture, and allow "the divine within" to embrace us exactly as we are.
Image by The Alieness, courtesy of Creative Commons license.