ZEGG is the abbreviation for "Centre for Experimental Cultural Design", a community of mostly Newage oriented persons in the town of Bad Belzig near Berlin founded in 1991. On its website, ZEGG goes by the name of "ZEGG - Centre for Research and Education GmbH". The number of persons living there is said to be about 100.
The settlement of ZEGG GmbH of today approx. 37,000 acres is an aggregation of buildings, tents, and camp grounds situated in a forest. The premises also houses several businesses and conference facilities. In the centre of the premises is a large, round space with a fountain which is also being used as a "place of power", for meditations, and as a "cosmic antenna". There is an Ashram group as well as a group doing tree meditation, sweatlodges and a bookshop offering Newage literature. ZEGG is also used as a conference centre for several commercial vendors of seminars on the psycho market.
During the reign of National Socialism, the premises were used as a holiday and sports camp. In German Democratic Republic, they were used by paramilitary "Society for Sports and Technics" (GST). In 1991, the premises were sold at a price of DM 2.1 million. The aim was to build an "international conference and research centre" which was to supply models for a socially and ecologically sustainable life. In the beginning, critics and concerned persons insinuated inhabitants were practicing "free love" in the way of promiscuous sexual relations in their community. The leadership of initiator Dieter Duhm was described as patriarchal.
Publications are to be found in the magazines "ZEGG" and "ZEGG newsletter".
Typical for ZEGG is the "Forum", a practice reminding of psychodrama based on the so-called self-expressions as practiced within Action Analytical Organisation (AAO). In its course, a participant portrays his emotions, wishes, and problems in the centre of an audience in order to present them to the collective.
- 1 Dieter Duhm
- 2 ZEGG GmbH
- 3 Origins and Development
- 4 Focus and Orientation
- 5 Cooperation with other Vendors on the Newage Market
- 6 Criticism
- 7 Versions of this article in other languages
- 8 Weblinks
- 9 References
ZEGG was founded by Dieter Duhm, a psychologist and author born in 1942, who was influenced by Otto Muehl's "Action Analytical Organisation" (AAO). One of the more popular proponents is actor Barbara Rütting. Meanwhile, Duhm lives in Portugal, in a "planetary healing biotope" by the name of Tamera also founded by him. Duhm has also initiated a "Peace School Mirja" and a "Political Ashram" in Tamera as training centres for future "peace workers". Duhm also invented a "political theory" in which he uses terms like holography, chaos research, system theory, and morphogenetic field theory (coined by Rupert Sheldrake) which is expected to cause peace worldwide.
ZEGG GmbH (Ltd.) is the owner of the premises and organiser of the profitable conference centre. All adult and permanent inhabitants of ZEGG are said to be compelled to buy a subparticipation, so that in 2003, ZEGG GmbH had seven main shareholders and 112 persons holding subparticipations. A subparticipation was sold at Euro 2,250 in 2003.
ZEGG GmbH is financed by contributions, monthly rent payments by inhabitants which in 2004 amounted to € 340 (more recent figures are not available); according to figures dating from 2003, monthly payments amounted to a total of Euro 450. This is specified with an amount of Euro 320 due for rent, a board fee of Euro 125, and a voluntary contribution for the children of the community between Euro 5 and Euro 50. According to the information provided, the actual cost for inhabitants varied between Euro 450 and Euro 500. There is also a promotional society by the name of ZEGG-Club to which all members of the community belong.
A further source of income for ZEGG GmbH are rents paid by resident enterprises. Both resident enterprises and inhabitant members of the community are said to be financially independent. External communication emphasises that ZEGG is financially independent and self-supporting.
ZEGG organises four festivals annually which see several hundred visitors. Nonpaid work input by inhabitants and visitors may be seen as another source of income.
Origins and Development
Giving a detailed account of the project is a challenging task, since independent sources are rare and some publications, e.g. Wikipedia, happen to be of a rather advertising character due to ZEGG inhabitants and proponents contributing. Likewise the renaming of projects, the re-use of names previously used for different projects, the number of projects founded etc. do not favour transparency. All in all, ZEGG's external communication is not oriented towards transparency:
- "ZEGG is anxious to address as broad an audience as possible. Its public presentation [...] remains rather short and superficial. Material and information suitable to grant insights into ZEGG structures, its ideology, or contents of Forum training are kept from the public."
ZEGG was founded in 1991 by Dieter Duhm, Sabine Lichtenfels, and other persons. Duhm in particular had been influenced by Otto Muehl's Action Analytical Organisation AAO whose principles he sought to apply within his own organisation by the name of Bauhütte [i.e. site office] beginning in 1978. Other ZEGG publications name Duhm and Lichtenfels as the founders of a Project Meiga from which ZEGG emerged. Meiga is described as a "network of individuals and projects"; its "members were participants of Bauhütte (1983-1986), a community experiment under the direction of Dieter Duhm and later of individuals from ZEGG and Tamera", or in a previous chapter, not quite in congruence: "Many of the community members belonging to the supportive group of ZEGG in 1991 had been members of »Bauhütte« (1983-1986), a »pioneer community« under the direction of Dieter Duhm".
Another way of description claims Project Meiga was founded "as an alternative to Friedrichshof" [i.e. to Muehl's AAO9] and "from its beginnings had contrarian thoughts: individual autonomy, mental pluralism, and mental orientation by experience". On the other hand, there are quotes by Duhm, particularly from the early years, like the following one dated 1991:
- "These charismatic communities - even Poona and Friedrichshof - in a fatal sense of the word were also the 'democratic' ones, since demos, the people, wanted the Führer; it wanted to be directed, as it was only able to function and be able to have a community this way. This structure is emotionally valid until today, even if slogans claim differently. All well-meant sentences of grassroots democracy and individual autonomy fail at the psychic realities of the participants."'
ZEGG at least keeps employing the argument of alleged grassroots structures and the character of an experiment of living and working together as well as an orientation towards ecology and sustainability for attempts to gain access to a broad undogmatic left environment, to alternative ecological and to Newage circles, but also to the peace movement.
Excursus: Control of External Perception by ZEGG
Through according processing and presentation of information, ZEGG tried and still tries to counter the criticism emerging since the mid-1980ies and either deny valid points of criticism or whitewash it with some verbosity. Apparently part of the respective tactics include divergences in information to a lesser or greater extent in different media; in some cases, this even comes close to fact resistance, so e.g. when the project founder Dieter Duhm gets characterised as "one of the leading intellectuals of the 68 movement".
Another aspect of diverging information in different media is e.g. providing differing data regarding founding dates, so that, as one example, the German Wikipedia at one point in time claimed ZEGG predecessor "Bauhütte" was founded in 1978 and English Wikipedia still carries this information, while a ZEGG declaration states Bauhütte was founded in 1983. The German article lost some information on the so-called ZEGG Forum in 2012 while the paragraph describing decision structures was trimmed and rendered more vague in the process. Critical literature listed sometimes got deleted, as well as the term "esoteric". In April 2013, another article critical of ZEGG was deleted and replaced by a favourable one written for a local newspaper by to inhabitants of ZEGG.
In 2011 already, paragraphs providing information on the occupations of inhabitants and ZEGG finances were deleted:
- "A substantial part of the community works in the fields of accomodation and catering for guests, organising of seminars, agriculture and taking care of the premises. The fields of activity are self-governed, decisions will be taken by the workers. All inhabitants also do volunteer work."
- "One requirement when purchasing the premises was that an amount equalling the sum spent [DM 2.1 million] had to be invested into the premises. This was realised by financial contributions to ZEGG GmbH [Ltd.] from supporters and bank loans."
From November 2010 resp. March 2011, two persons connected to ZEGG contribute to both the German and English Wikipedia articles who also effected the changes mentioned above; the conflict of interest seems to go unnoticed. The changes and deletions effected by these persons contribute to casting a light as positive as possible unto ZEGG while problems addressed will be either deleted discretely or played down, and merits get highlighted.
Further Associations and Organisations
A multitude of further associations and organisations have been founded out of ZEGG resp. Project Meiga, with some of them continuing until today while others have ceased to exist.
Among those groups inactive today is e.g. Sexpeace which may have been readjusted during its existence, since it is sometimes described as a group of artists while other reports speak of a "project to save free love". Similarly, the drama group "The Unredeemed" and the youth projects "Undersky" and "Jetzt e.V. - Youth developing the Future" have become inactive.
This is also true of an organisation ZEGG describes as a humanitarian aid project by the name of "Aktion Perestroika e.V." which, however, is still existant in a list of associations; although the address supplies a different street number which may be due to a simple typing error, the phone number listed is an extension of the ZEGG telephone number. The association Aktion Perestroika e.V. was founded in 1990 with the claim of providing humanitarian aid and donating respective goods to Russia; one founding member was Sten Linnander who according to information provided by himself previously had been a member of "Bauhütte" from 1983 on; he became the president of Aktion Perestroika. Prior to joining Bauhütte, Linnander is said to have been a member of Muehl's AAO at Friedrichshof. Between 1994 and 2002, Linnander lived in Arizona where he says to have studied indigenous shamanism. Phoenix/Arizona is the home of the headquarters of Deer Tribe, with whom ZEGG cooperates in Bad Belzig; several vendors from Deer Tribe offer seminars at their premises.
Another inactive project is "Haven Arctica" which was also directed by Sten Linnander; it used the motto "Melt your Hearts and not the Arctic" and meant to combine "ecological, political, and spiritual research matters for healing and protecting the Arctic with ideas for human healing", for which one intended to call and whistle for polar lights in the north of Sweden.
Nature and Wilderness School Achillea still seems to be active. One of its co-founders also runs Ökotec GmbH which is said to belong to the environment of ZEGG. According to information given by ZEGG, Ökotec GmbH is financially and organisationally independent; it uses rooms in the ZEGG premises at Bad Belzig.
The so-called "Erotic Academy Casa Las Piteras", later on renamed "Erotic Academy La Massilia", was founded by Gina Wiesmann and Frieda Radford in 1992 and closed down in 1998 already:
- "It was meant to be a place for love. And during the five years of existence this was realised... La Massilia was a source of strength for many like-minded persons who, over the years, came to this beautiful spot on Lanzarote. There were parties which tingled with eroticism. People philosophised, danced, laughed, flirted, and everyboy knew that everything was possible any time. There were various love rooms to which one could retreat, and other erotic arrangements which were lavishly used. The team running La Massilia always knew how to seduce their guests.
- ... A truthful contact between men and women was highly cultivated there, from the first contact up to and including the bed. When one took into consideration not to belittle one's counterpart nor to put them on a piedestal, but simply expressed one's perceptions, then indeed (almost) everything was possible, from a quick sexual adventure to a romantic love story..."
According to other information, the project was envisioned as a "thinktank for relations between the sexes".
Another project was the so-called research ship "Kairos" with its home port at Lanzarote, under the direction of Martina Gisler. The vessel was meant to research the sea as the "uterus of life" and the communication with whales and dolphins in cooperation with the so-called ZEGG University. Additionally, "erotic turns" were arranged with the vessel. Gisler directed the project for five years and today runs a Rolfing office in the towns of Potsdam and Berlin. According to information provided by Gisler, she is also a "teacher on the traditional shamanic path of the Twisted Hairs", thus employing one of the code names used by Deer Tribe of which she thus also is a member.
Among the groups active today is "jung im zegg" [Young in ZEGG] which has its own website and particularly addresses young persons up to an age of 35, propagating various ways of non-paid work as a way to get to know ZEGG:
- "During the summer months, there is much work to do on the premises of the community: building, grooming, harvesting, refurbishing, renewing, extending... What would we do without our industrious supporters? For energetic young persons in particular, working as a summer guest is a beautiful and cost-efficient possibility to get to know the community. Following short morning preliminaries, the motley work teams swarm the premises to spend the next approx. five hours working in the compound, in the garden, or in the kitchen. In the afternoon, there are group meetings, on Saturdays perhaps a dancing party and apart from that much time to explore ZEGG."
For this unpaid work, interested persons pay "€ 56 per week including accomodation and food".
ZEGG also offers the possibility to do internships, also in the companies situated at their premises, as well as a so-called FÖJ, i.e. a gap year doing volunteer work in ecological projects. FÖJ volunteers at ZEGG will work in the following fields:
- "You will above all work in our ecological permaculture garden, in the canteen kitchen which prepares biological, regional, and vegetarian meals, in grooming the compound or in the children's house. Besides this you will support the cooking groups and the cleaners together with the persons living at ZEGG. Participation in community events will be counted as working time.
- ZEGG offers two FÖJ places, so you will work together often and you will live together, probably sharing accomodation with persons doing internships. You will be integrated into already existing groups of seasoners or winter guests with whom you will organise in common living quarters and form a common Forum group."
Persons doing internships and FÖJ apparently are compelled to participate in the Forum and will thus be introduced to the prevailing ZEGG ideology. This is quite remarkable, as FÖJ is financed and realised by the federal states.
A further project is the so-called ZEGG Love Academy with its own web presence which addresses an audience of various age-groups:
- "Whether you just begun to discover your lovelife, are in the midst of an Eros lived and are inspired by your inquiring spirit of research, or are looking for new stimuli after a long-term relationship - you are welcome to our Love Academy, to take your time for a look at your very personal and intimate issues, cravings, fears, and desires."
In their statement "Why a Love Academy", the site provides a presentation which employs arguments and a vocabulary reminding of the ideas of Duhm and Lichtenfels, although ZEGG distance themselves from them:
- "Both love and sexuality belong to the strongest forces of our life. They are more powerful than the mind, eliminate pain, hunger, and weariness, impel us to reproduction and therefore are the basis of our existence. Love and sexuality thus are the most profound driving forces and needs in our life.
- In their unredeemed form, love and sexuality become a trigger of deep trauma resulting in a sick heart and body, lonely compensation, and violence.
- Since the majority of persons is not in a position to appease their basic need for fulfilled love and sexuality for a variety of reasons, there is an enormous indigence and an only too often unhappy social state in the world."
Due to the separation of ZEGG from Tamera, the superordinate Project Meiga has become obsolete; the Meiga Publishing House, however, still exists and offers publications by Dieter Duhm and Sabine Lichtenfels.
Around the end of the 1990ies, a growing out of each other happened between ZEGG and its initiator Dieter Duhm as well as other persons previously influential. At this time, Duhm as well as ZEGG had come under criticism due to the inclusion of theoretical and practical aspects which were first developed within AAO. Duhm had never distanced himself from Muehl, resp. only half-heartedly done so, e.g. in 1993, when he said he did not know whether the prosecution against Muehl was based on facts or not, resp.: "I cannot judge him by his personal shortcomings, he has accomplished too much for that." In a further statement dated 1997 Duhm relativised and basically declared wrong the court sentence against Muehl: ""... since I knew from my own experience how difficult it is to fully work at the issue of sexuality and community without committing human and historic errors. (This of course does not include the abuse of children. I don't know what happened in Muehl's case.)" After all, Duhm made these comments six years after Muehl's conviction; his objection he did not know what really happened does not only question the court sentence, but denies the crimes.
In another statement of 2005, Duhm phrases even more explicitely:
- "And due to my knowledge of his person and his character I deem it impossible he sexually abused children. It is dreadful, it is a dreadful mess what he is being accused of, and what simply gets believed! Rape of young women from the age of 13, sexual abuse of young children from the age of four - and over years! I still cannot believe it when I have to read such defamation."
So eight years after the first comment, Duhm declares the prosecution a mere defamation. By saying "and what simply gets believed", he once more questions the proper implementation of the lawsuit against Muehl. Duhm's use of the phrase of "young women from the age of 13" furthermore trivialises the criminal acts Muehl was held accountable for.
ZEGG distanced themselves only in 2007 and claimed: "Dieter Duhm, on whose ideas the foundation of ZEGG was based, initially was enthused by the concepts of the previous AAO commune, but already in 1979 definitely distanced himself from Otto Muehl and AAO and parted with them." At the same time, ZEGG attempted to downplay the connection to Duhm emphasising that Duhm never lived at the ZEGG premises. However, a place of residence is not essential to establish an influence on persons; after all Karl Marx had no place of residence in Petersburg in October 1917. To which extent the separation of the projects ZEGG and Tamera was an attempt at damage control and at brushing up the image, resp. whether this damage control resulted in or from infighting, cannot be verified from the literature available, but on the other hand also cannot be excluded.
Focus and Orientation
Since its beginning, the issue of "free love and sexuality" has always been present and addressed in press releases and promotional texts, and seminars and so-called "academies" covering it have been arranged. It seems that, for promotional purpose, one is quite prepared to employ the image which emerged externally, although on the other hand one tries to evoke the impression that ZEGG is more of a bore than a club of stamp collectors. Apparently, ZEGG detached from occurences in earlier years from which there are reports on female members selling "erotic massages" resp. doing sex work, and when sexual promiscuity e.g. got promoted as a cure against AIDS.
Meanwhile, even critical publications state: ""Unlike what happened during the mid-90ies, social problems today no longer get portrayed blindly and undifferentiatedly as being caused by oppressed sexuality." However, ZEGG still today introduce themselves in this way: "During the course of the year, numerous seminars and four large festivals take place at ZEGG. A particular focus is placed on the realm of human relationships, so e.g. in communication trainings or seminars on love and sexuality." The above quoted comments from the website of ZEGG's Love Academy, too, raise doubts that such a change happened as comprehensively as claimed.
What caused shifts and to which extent it is a real change or just cosmetic processings of an external view cannot be established due to the prevailing lack of transparency. Another unfavourable aspect contributing negatively to the external view was the fact that ZEGG distanced themselves from Muehl and his pedophile crimes only in 2007. It remains problematic, however, that ZEGG does not seem to be prepared to elaborate on its views regarding sexual contacts between elder adults and adolescents.
On the other hand, ZEGG continues to cooperate with Deer Tribe who e.g. employ sexual practices to psychically break, and therefore control, seminar participants, and who sell seminars on alleged indigenous spiritual sexual practices they name Quodoushka. Its head Harley Reagan, of Irish descent and with no known indigenous ancestry, was propagated as an authentic Indian representative by ZEGG during the early 1990ies.
In other environments - like e.g. promoting seminars on the so-called ZEGG Forum in the USA -, ZEGG members present the ZEGG focus with a different assessment:
- "Project Meiga began as a research project committed to the spirit of experimentation, but both in content and method lying well outside the purview of institutionalised science. The project was conceived as interdisciplinary life research in biology, physics, medicine and psychology designed to re-integrate the fragmentation in all parts of life that permeates modern society. It was very soon realised that this kind of radical research could only be done rigorously and systematically in the laboratory of communal living and working.
- Professor Dieter Duhm was the initiator of this social experiment in holistic life research which from the very beginning focused on the basic issues that invariably arise out of humans living together. Thus the nature of love, forms of relationship, the origin of jealousy, conflicts about authority, and concepts of raising children came under the social microscope. Identifying basic human longings and needs, investigating the roots of latent fear and violence, examining what constitutes disease and healing, finding ways to optimise nutrition and raise energy, all became grist for the experimental mill. The project enquired as well into the source of life energy (God), meaning and goals for life, examined creation theories, and attempted to evaluate possible long-term directions for evolution in the history of mankind."
It has to be pointed out that there is no information available regarding Duhm holding a professorship; according to the English Wikipedia, Duhm refused a professorship and already left academia in 1975. The claim of an "interdisciplinary life research on biology, physics, medicine and psychology" would be far too ambitious even if Duhm (he studied psychology and received a doctorate in sociology) had not refused a professorship. Furthermore, the above presentation is a rather unsystematic mixture of the fields of work chosen with "the nature of love, forms of relationship, the origin of jealousy, conflicts about authority, and concepts of raising children" and "roots of latent fear and violence, examining what constitutes disease and healing, finding ways to optimise nutrition and raise energy".
Decision making Structures
In image presentations, ZEGG describe themselves as "grassroots" and ideologically pluralistic. Employing the claim of grassroots democracy, ZEGG seeks to gain acceptance in an undogmatic left environment. Sometimes, decision making is said to happen by consensus. In reality, decisions seem to be taken by a so-called "council of 13" on whose structure and appointment no further information was or is available; apparently this is also not transparent for all inhabitants of ZEGG. Whether the "Visionsrat" mentioned elsewhere is identical with the council of 13, cannot be established. The mere existence of such a council runs contrary to a decision making by consensus as well as to a grassroots democracy.
Some self-portrayals present divergent descriptions:
- "Financial decisions of a larger volume are made according to a sociocratic model in a management circle.", resp.:
- "An important basis of the ZEGG community is the common work. A large part of the community works in our seminar sector, in the garden, or in the compound. This is where community members meet in every-day life, this is where decisions are being taken which affect the fields of work. The community is organised according to a sociocratic model which functions like a flexible and adjustable operations system for an organisation. It consists of three elements: an organisational structure, a decision-making structure, and a dynamic supervision. The model is based on self-dependent circles which participate in an superordinate circle for the entire organisation with two delegates each."
This model is not compatible with claims of a grassroots structure or decisions by consensus. The presentation also evokes the impression that the economic aspects of living together are not simply integrated, but rather that living together takes a subordinate role to economic aspects and organisational principles. The self-dependency claimed may further be canceled by the mentioned "dynamic supervision" which may superimpose both organisational and decision-making structures.
The statement of a leading ZEGG member regarding consensus decisions probably must be seen as programmatic: "What bothers you most regarding ZEGG? - Consensus decisions in which one Veto can stop all change and sabotage all preliminary work."
Another statement contends: "Decisions are revisable at any time if they don't prove themselves in practice" (resp. more vaguely in its English version: "All decisions can be revised if they turn out to be unworkable in practice"). Apart from the fact this does not provide any information on who gets to decide whether something passes the elk test, this is a remarkable platitude which should go without saying and does not emphasise a particular progressiveness.
The so-called Forum is said to be central to ZEGG. It is a community ritual: "The group gathers and individual members express emotional incidents which then get 'mirrored' by the others." According to reports available, participation in the Forum is compulsory for the inhabitants.
- "Discussing individual conflicts in public is also a matter of politicising the private, a pet issue of many 68ers. After all, the microcosm here is meant to prove that a society is possible in which conflicts are not solved by violence, but by 'non-violent communication'."
The Forum further is a ritual which was already applied within Muehl's Action Analytic Organisation, first with the label of "Action Analysis", and later on renamed to "Self-Expression".
Sources publically available resp. publications about the Forum cannot be established, despite its central significance for ZEGG. Peer reviews and supervision do not occur. It is, however, not to be dismissed that such group processes may put individual persons under considerable pressure and that it is possible to purposefully exploit the group ritual in order to isolate and silence individuals, for instance critics.
A press article quotes an inhabitant of ZEGG on the issue of Forum in this way:
- "Barbara Stützel, a blonde woman with a cheerful face, is a trained psychotherapist, but since she has been living at ZEGG, she only works as a singer and actress. "My need for psychology is completely satisfied by the Forum."
The ZEGG-Forum has its own web presence which explains: "Forum has got three important roles: the actor, the facilitator, and the 'mirrors'. The group gathers in a circle. The actor goes into its middle and communicates their feelings and what moves them."
The process is described as follows: "The Forum facilitators assume a central role and need an in-depth training. They must become authentic themselves and learn to stay with the feelings which emerge within themselves or within the circle. Forum facilitators are like midwives supporting the authentic process of the actor. Ideally, there are two facilitators, a woman and a man. Only facilitators interact with the actor in the middle." There are no further details given regarding the training of facilitators.
The aforementioned website introduces Achim Ecker and Ina Meyer-Stoll as the directors of the Forum seminars. According to the information provided, both were already members of the ZEGG predecessor "Bauhütte" and participated in the development of the Forum. Ecker is said to have participated in a training for teachers of non-violent Direct Action during the 1980ies, and as having been involved with non-violent movements in Germany. However, the "Grassroots Revolution" Ecker mentions as one of those does not happen to be such a movement, but is a magazine in the libertarian movement. It may be assumed that Ecker introduced a vocabulary like "grass roots democracy" into ZEGG.
Another description of the Forum in English language was provided by Dolores Richter, a long-term member of ZEGG, propagating the Forum as a technology for existing communities:
- "Each Forum, the length of which is agreed in advance, usually about 90 minutes, is guided by a facilitator whose task is to direct the presentation to bring out the general character of the personal issue. Thus each and every Forum becomes a learning process for all present. The facilitator alone may intervene in the presenter’s process, sometimes to confuse the presenter, sometimes to interrupt or to divert him if he or she gets stuck in repetitive thought trains. It doesn't make sense to allow somebody to speak forever if the personal drama becomes too drawn out and boring. Transparency is served when the person in the middle finds out about this boredom arising in his listeners. The facilitator has sensed that people were passively listening and silently thinking how boring is the story. Can the presenter be thankful for the intervention that brought to light the effect his words were having on his audience?
- "The more knowledge one has about one's own habitual patterns of thinking and behaving the faster one can perceive them in others and intervene in a supportive way. The facilitator who doesn’t feel love and acceptance for the actor probably should resist intervening. Thus we see that the qualities of a facilitator include a high awareness of ones own emotional character, motives, thought forms and feelings. The skilful facilitator possesses a broad human knowledge, a high social consciousness and a deep sense of responsibility. At the same time the facilitator remains merely the member of the group who has taken on the temporary role of directing the Forum process. You could accurately characterise the facilitator as a channel focalising the energies, issues and processes. To some extent that does mean directing and shaping the process. Nevertheless, the facilitator has no answers, proffers no solutions, but rather remains in the role of a "focaliser", asking questions to bring out and broaden the issue, mirroring the actor in a way that opens up the issue, reveals connections, and connects with the vitality.
- "Before beginning of Forum it is important that everyone in the circle delegate to the facilitator total trust to direct the process. So the circle, which contains the potential actors for the session, gives the facilitator the power to invite the presenter to sing a song, to stand on one’s head, to be a chicken...be whatever the facilitator intuits would be helpful for breaking a habitual pattern. And the facilitator can only fulfil this role faithfully when the full trust of the entire circle is given. And that trust must extend to the actor who sets aside questions about the direction of the facilitating. For all this conferred power, the facilitator is not above the group; he or she remains a member of the community and can be questioned and or criticised after the Forum. Only when the focaliser enjoys the full trust of the group can the high energy emerge which makes it possible to break through old habits in a co-operative, creative and playful flow."
The description reveals the so-called "facilitator" is given a central role as well as a considerable power which includes giving directions. The facilitator is expected to possess "a high awareness of ones own emotional character, motives, thought forms and feelings"; the text does, however, not mention how to establish these qualities or how to gain them. In case a facilitator does not feel "love and acceptance" for the actor, the text says, he "probably should resist intervening", so apparently the facilitator is not compelled to abstain from intervening in such cases. At the same time the facilitator is a simple member of the group "who has taken on the temporary role of directing the Forum process" and of the community, on the other hand he is to focalise "energies, issues and processes". This dual role may even promote the abuse of possibilities to the disadvantage of an actor and does not neutralise power distinctions, but may be exploited to conceal them.
Additionally, participants in the Forum are compelled to an advance confidence in the facilitator; they apparently are not in a position to reject a facilitator who, for his part, may abstain from intervention and instructions but is not compelled to. The reason given for this, the facilitator had to be trusted so that he may fulfil his role properly, leaves substantial space for assignments of guilt to the participants. The further note that facilitators may be questioned and criticised following the Forum as a member of the community is not valid, since for one the demanded confidence in a facilitator may prevent this, and likewise may the facilitator's privileged position prevent criticism.
Comparing the difference in German and English presentations, the German web presence does not address the facilitator's position of power, his authority to give instructions, and his dual role. This dichotomy of presentations does not facilitate transparency, but confirms the impression that ZEGG is only prepared to disclose what is inevitable and prefers to obscure facts.
The Range of Seminars
ZEGG's web presence divides seminars organised by ZEGG and those organised by external vendors.
For the second half of 2014, 52 events are listed as organised by ZEGG. Eleven of these fall upon the category of support work which is comprised of three sub-categories: ZEGG support, ZEGG community, and ZEGG work campaigns. Apart from doing general 'support work as a summer guest', there is the category of work campaigns which call for assistance painting windows, with harvesting, with taking down the large tent, and with an 'Autumn Action'. Between April 25 and August 31, 2014, it is possible to do "seasonal work". There are two further events in the category of "ZEGG Congress Festival" and "ZEGG Info"; a further ZEGG Experience Week has not been allotted to any category.
Six events are listed in the category of ZEGG Forum. The Love Academy offers four seminars, with seven more ZEGG seminars in the fields of sexuality/love, so that this offers as many events as the category of doing supportive work. Another three musical events are added, among them a "Come Together Song-Festival" organised regularly, directed by long-term ZEGG member Hagara Feinbier. Five of the seminars announced are of a more general Newage character (e.g. systemic constellations).
A further regular event done by ZEGG is the so-called Whitsun Festival which in 2014 had the title "Experiment Philosombria":
- "With the title "Experiment Philosombria" (philosombria: love of shadows), 300 persons turn to those parts of our personalities we usually push aside, conceal, don't want to accept, which have withdrawn into the "shadow". During the Festival, we intend to elicit them, pay attention to them, dance, laugh with them and meet them in a compassionate way ... and set free the life energies hiding within this. This will all happen in an always mindful, but also determined, concentrated way. The shadow shows us the way since it keeps the secret of change and our most valuable treasures.
- The sentence "We can only change what we accept" (C.G. Jung) is one of the most central orientations.
- Central aspects of the Festival will be creative lectures with drama and music as well as in-process research groups and rooms of experience. The days will be completed with manyfold highlights like innovative parties, rituals, performances, concerts, and spontaneous actions.
- The fee for the Festival amounts to € 290, € 360, or € 430 according to financial options. This includes accomodation in tents or dorms and organic-vegetarian food. Smaller rooms available at surcharge. Rebates for work input possible."
Seminars of External Vendors
During the second half of 2014, 27 seminars are organised by external vendors. These are largely 'Tantra Matrix' and 'Secret of Tantra' with twelve seminars, and vendors from the Deer Tribe (Skwanesie Lodge and 'Lust und Wissen' [Desire and Knowledge]; the operators of Skwanesie Lodge live at the ZEGG premises) organise six more seminars. These vendors add a further 17 seminars in the realm of sexuality/love to the range of seminars offered by ZEGG so that this field is made up of 28 seminars altogether.
Cooperation in Movements and Organisations
By cooperating with various confederations and organisations, ZEGG aims at gaining social acceptance. Among these activities is a membership in the Global Ecovillages Network GEN which organises so-called ecologial villages. From approximately 2003 on, the Bureau of GEN-Europe had its office in the ZEGG premises. Apart from ZEGG, other members are Tamera, Damanhur, Findhorn, the Tribe of Likatians. The present (2014) Council of GEN-Europe has eight members, among them one each from the projects Damanhur, ZEGG, La Base/Spain (they do sweatlodges), Tamera, and the Hungarian Krisna-völgy [Krishna Valley] which also is a member of ISKCON.
Over the years, ZEGG further attempted to gain a foothold in a more undogmatic left environment, as well as a non-violent scene and the peace movement, and recently also in the anti-globalisation movement. Attac lists ZEGG as a member, besides many organisations from Trade Unions, churches, political parties, ecological groups and organisations.
Cooperation with other Vendors on the Newage Market
ZEGG has been cooperating with other vendors on the Newage market for years. Some of them also organise seminars at the ZEGG premises in Belzig, like e.g. the Deer Tribe. As Deer Tribe has strictly hierarchical structures, intends to create an elite, prepares for a 'race war' against migrants from Meso- and South America, and called for a civil war in case of Al Gore winning the presidential elections, for which case DT planned to join forces with extremist right US militias, there should be a sharp contrast to the grassroots democracy and to consensus decisions claimed by ZEGG; however, there is a common ground regarding the mutual approach to the realm of sexuality. It may perhaps be seen as an indicator of an emphasis of issues when such a cooperation lasts for years, with Deer Tribe apparently also in a position to organise their courses in self-defence and seminars within the framework of their hierarchical Gateway Process at the ZEGG premises.
Several vendors of Deer Tribe e.g. offered seminars in Bad Belzig in 2013 and 2014. These are e.g. Swiss residents Sabina Tschudi and Johannes Schröder who organised a seminar on "Body De-Armoring" in August 2013, the course taking a fortnight at a fee of € 1,950 plus cost for accomodation and food payable to ZEGG. Tschudi and Schröder operate a "Stardreamer Lodge" of Deer Tribe in Switzerland. Two further seminars titled "Skwanesie Lodge Annual Cycle" were organised by two members of Deer Tribe living at the ZEGG premises in Belzig. A seminar titled "Raising children from a shamanic point of view" was organised by Rose Fink, an Austrian citizen who spent long years at the Deer Tribe headquarters in Arizona. Information provided on the seminar points out that Fink is a member of the cult since 1983. Fink and "Batty" Gold also did seminars on "Quodoushka 1" and "Quodoushka 3" which is said to enable a "shamanic approach to sexuality". Gold, an Austrian citizen, too, is a long-term member of the cult and also lived in its headquarters for years.
ZEGG further cooperates with plastic shaman Francis Talbot who poses as a Wampanoag Indian and medicine person and goes by the name of "Manitonquat" (Medicine Story). Zegg as well as Tamera have been cooperating with Talbot since 1992. In the section "Voices on ZEGG" at the ZEGG website, they publish a comment from Talbot whom they describe as a "spiritual teacher": "Thank you for having the courage to love, to live your dream and reach for rainbows.“ ZEGG, and Tamera, came to aid in 2006 when Talbot, according to his claims, had run into problems with payments on the mortgage for his premises in the USA, and were apparently able to collect the amount necessary within short notice.
From various walks of life, ZEGG has been criticised for sexism against women, the promotion of a sexist perception of women, biologism, homophobia resp. heteronormativity, a monocausal understanding of crises, a totalising theory construction, dangerous models of self-healing in case of disease, youthism, and creating a feeling of doom. ZEGG has also been viewed as a sequel of Otto Muehl's sexist psycho-cult "Action Analytic Organisation" (AAO). Further criticism was raised on an intransparent financial conduct of ZEGG GmbH. According to information provided by the Protestant Church of Germany, adolescents from ZEGG are "introduced" to sexuality by knowing adults in Portugal, in order to prevent them from entering a commitment to personal love attachments too fast.
ZEGG's reaction was a "de-Duhmification campaign". Membership with "attac" presumably also aimed at increasing acceptance. Criticisms of an intransparent financial conduct were met with a public counterstatement.
Further criticism is raised regarding pseudo-scientific events like "ZEGG university" or "ZEGG summer university".
Versions of this article in other languages
- Deutsch: ZEGG
- Luther Brünzels - 16 Jahre ZEGG-sismus, 11/2007 (pdf)
- ZEGG - Forschungs- und Bildungszentrum GmbH, Rosa-Luxemburg-Straße 89, 14806 Bad Belzig
- Dierschke, Thomas: Intentionale Gemeinschaften. Münster 2003. p. 119 http://repositorium.uni-muenster.de/document/miami/0eaa294f-b47f-470c-b54d-1649fbb11149/dierschke_mag-arb.pdf auccessed
- Dierschke, Thomas: Intentionale Gemeinschaften. Münster 2003. p. 125 http://repositorium.uni-muenster.de/document/miami/0eaa294f-b47f-470c-b54d-1649fbb11149/dierschke_mag-arb.pdf
- Dierschke, Thomas: Intentionale Gemeinschaften. Münster 2003. Appendix 2, Interview 2. http://repositorium.uni-muenster.de/document/miami/0eaa294f-b47f-470c-b54d-1649fbb11149/dierschke_mag-arb.pdf
- Dierschke, Thomas: Intentionale Gemeinschaften. Münster 2003. Appendix 2, Interview 4. http://repositorium.uni-muenster.de/document/miami/0eaa294f-b47f-470c-b54d-1649fbb11149/dierschke_mag-arb.pdf
- http://www.psiram.com/doc/Br%C3%BCnzels%2C_Luther_-_16%C2%A0Jahre%C2%A0ZEGG%C2%ADsismus%2C_200711_%28199650%29.005267.pdf Luther Brünzels - 16 Jahre ZEGG-sismus, 11/2007 (pdf)
- Schmid, Georg: Kirchen, Sekten, Religionen: religiöse Gemeinschaften, weltanschauliche Gruppierungen und Psycho-Organisationen im deutschen Sprachraum. Ein Handbuch. Zurüch 2003. p. 481
- see e.g. http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/ZEGG#Geschichte_und_Kritik_am_ZEGG
- http://www.psiram.com/doc/Br%C3%BCnzels%2C_Luther_-_16%C2%A0Jahre%C2%A0ZEGG%C2%ADsismus%2C_200711_%28199650%29.005267.pdf Luther Brünzels - 16 Jahre ZEGG-sismus, 11/2007 (pdf), p. 20
- http://www.psiram.com/doc/Br%C3%BCnzels%2C_Luther_-_16%C2%A0Jahre%C2%A0ZEGG%C2%ADsismus%2C_200711_%28199650%29.005267.pdf Luther Brünzels - 16 Jahre ZEGG-sismus, 11/2007 (pdf), p. 8
- http://www.psiram.com/doc/Br%C3%BCnzels%2C_Luther_-_16%C2%A0Jahre%C2%A0ZEGG%C2%ADsismus%2C_200711_%28199650%29.005267.pdf Luther Brünzels - 16 Jahre ZEGG-sismus, 11/2007 (pdf) p. 9
- Dierschke, Thomas: Intentionale Gemeinschaften. Münster 2003, p. 128 http://repositorium.uni-muenster.de/document/miami/0eaa294f-b47f-470c-b54d-1649fbb11149/dierschke_mag-arb.pdf
- see e.g. http://sites.ecovillage.org/de/node/3858
- http://www.zegg.de/de/seminarzentrum/seminare-externer-anbieter.html accessed 18.07.2013
- http://www.communiversitymagazine.org/web%20pages/Circle%20Way%20Village.html accessed 18.07.2013
- http://www.zegg.de/de/zegg-gemeinschaft/stimmen-zum-zegg.html accessed 18.07.2013
- http://groups.yahoo.com/group/DisabledGreensNews/message/6261 accessed 18.07.2013