Recently, Kenny Klein — author, teacher and musician — was arrested for possession and distribution of child pornography. There has been public outcry, leading to the blogsphere exploding with writers attempting to process the event. Many authors are examining how we treat victims of abuse and arm one’s self with discernment. But I think the real root of the problem lies in our collective indecision about whether or not we are autonomous individuals sharing the same space or if we are a cohesive unit that looks out for its own.
Part of the appeal of pagan spirituality is that there is no dogma or central governance. All the responsibility is placed on the individual. While “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law” places an inherent focus on personal freedom and autonomy, we still have hierarchal structures by way of coven leaders, a priest class, festival organizers and celebrities. Most people who come into leadership have either been initiated into it, have volunteered within a non-profit organization or have written a book and have a solid marketing campaign. This means the majority of our leaders have no advanced training or education (comparable to institutions like seminaries), come into leadership within a very short period of time and have something to sell.
When leadership becomes based on public favor and profitability, what we are left with are charismatic individuals who cultivate a following based on a carefully crafted image. This leaves the door wide open for predation, manipulation and deflection. Often when someone feels wronged, it is made clear that no leader within our ranks has been empowered to conduct investigations or enforce codes of conduct.
Bottom line: We give up some of our safety to be free of central authority, yet we continue to look up to those that have achieved a certain level of power, prestige or infamy. We all want freedom, but we have maintained the expectation that someone will step in when a situation gets ugly. This leads to a collective letdown when that person doesn’t exist and we are all left to our own devices.
In light of Kenny Klein’s fall from grace, many are questioning how they could have followed his work in the first place. I would like to point out that the law “An it harm none, do as ye will” was popularized by Aleister Crowley, a man whose unsavory reputation never interfered with the propagation of his teachings. It seems then that Crowley’s spell has come full circle with the “Hole” of the Law finally being revealed. That “hole” lies in the inherent selfishness of individualistic points of view that lead to schism rather than cooperation. It also makes it crystal clear that freedom and autonomy for the individual comes at the cost of empowered authority for the group.
In my mind, Klein’s scandal presents us with a choice. We can either continue on as we have with our selfish and conflicting expectations around individuality and leadership, or we can decide what the true role of authority is and create new social rules to protect the vulnerable among us. To do that, we have to put our differences aside and come up with some requirements we can all agree on.
We need to examine who gets to lead us and what makes them qualified to do so.
Crowley attempted to hand us all a simple rule to live by, but he was not able to live up to his own standards. Klein also attempted to teach us the right road, but his actions now speak louder than his words. It is pure ego to think that one can do everything on one’s own. This includes seeing clearly and acting with integrity at all times. We need other people around us to keep us honest and check our behavior. We gather in groups because as much as we want freedom, we also want governance.
If each person is only out for him or herself, then we will always be tripping down the rabbit whole of the law, bewildered at the level of conflict that lies in wait.