I’ve watched the show concerning MISA and Gregorian Bivolaru made for Yle TV by Riikka Kaihovaara – “The Call of a Tantric Guru”. I speak Finnish like I speak Swahili – not even a tiny wee bit. So I mostly watched the pretty pictures, listened to the music, kept my ears up in the hope of hearing words that sound like words I know and listened to the parts in English.
There were several parts in English, of course, because not all interviewees were Finish. There was Mihai Rapcea, lawyer, former MISA student. Then there was myself, with my name, Roxana Chirilă, pronounced in a fun way: with a hard ‘R’ for ‘Roxana’ and ‘Tsh’ for ‘Chirilă’ (it’s actually Kiril-um). (I collect these things; they’re fascinating, because they’re markers of the phonology of the speaker’s native or familiar languag— I’ll drop that subject now, gotcha).
Pleasantly Professional – and Then Add Some Nice
Working with Riikka Kaihovaara, who was also behind the documentary “The Dark Side of a Tantric Cult” a few years ago, was a pleasure. I sat with her in Cișmigiu Park, in Bucharest, for an interview that lasted longer than the show would eventually be. I think I must’ve shared everything from my vision of MISA to small details all over the place.
I have to say that, just like the stereotype would dictate, I am not entirely happy with the way I sound and with the way I look, and I am not happy with how little of everything could make it in. But. Since the world doesn’t, in fact, revolve around me, I have to say that I love what she did. She picked the parts that I would have picked, had I been in her shoes – not the things that would make me, Roxana, happy, but the things that worked best in the documentary. I can’t understand the whole story, but I understand enough to say, “yes, that works, that works, the other one works.”
And since cameramen get mentioned so little in general, I have to say that Taisto Lapila, the big man carrying everything necessary for shooting from camera to tripod, was an encouraging, pleasant presence just out of line of sight.
Now, I’ve written about this a bit yesterday, but it was in Romanian. Here goes.
Why should YOU care about MISA?
There are a number of people who will be interested in MISA because they are attending their courses, because they attended their courses or because their dear ones attended/attend their courses. What if you’re not one of them?
Well, here’s what I think: I think MISA is a very particular example of something that’s spread all over the world. It’s a spiritual movement, yes, soaked in orientalism, with a tinge of extra sex and an air of something special. But in the end, it’s about people who hope for a lot and let their hopes and desires be used as a tool against them. I was saying yesterday that there’s surprisingly few prerequisites to joining it: you need to want to better yourself and to have faith that it’s possible to do so. You need to be inclined even the least bit towards oriental practices. And you need to have some faith in teachers. The rest can be done by your MISA instructors.
[Side note: somebody was commenting on my blog, regarding the orientalism thing, that not all people who joined were particularly interested in oriental practices, nor are all MISA practices oriental. He has a point in saying that things aren’t as clear-cut as all that, but I firmly believe that if you are repelled or dismissive of yoga or meditations, you will not join.]
But the same principle holds true for other groups as well. Maybe you’re oriented towards Christianity and hope to do good in life – you might fall prey to a Christian sect. Or maybe you end up in a gang, in a nationalist group, in ‘freedom fighter’ groups, in some other sort of group that will seem to respond to your needs.
MISA is striking because of its beliefs and practices – so striking indeed that many people fail to understand why one would join. Well. You might be safe from joining. Everybody you know might be safe from joining. But it’s not alone. There’s always something just there, some religious group that might be harmless or harmful, that might be Christianity-based or inclined towards oriental practices, or towards the New Age medley of anything and everything. MISA shows how things can go wrong in one direction – trust me when I say it’s fascinating to see even as a case study. But it also shows THAT things can go very wrong with the best of intentions.
So Why Did I Shut Up for so Long?
Now, I stopped believing in MISA somewhere around 2008, stuck around for awhile because I had friends and acquaintances there, then eventually left in about 2010 or so. It’s 2013. What the hell have I been doing, right?
Well, here’s the deal: you don’t just leave. You take some time off. You heal a little. You retreat into a corner and lick your wounds and try to see where your life is going. Riikka’s documentary, at the end, has me saying that I was very, very angry when I left MISA. And I was very, very aware of that I was angry and that I needed to chill.
I finished my undergraduate studies. I finished my graduate studies as well. I thought long and hard about MISA. I healed. I started talking a bit when I felt that I could do so without hurting myself. I talked more when I could talk more. I held a conference about the topic when I could do it with a clear head.
Now I have a life. Sure, MISA is still a conversation topic. But it’s somewhere in the past, distant. I can understand it, but I am not as affected by it. At one point it mattered to me that my old ‘friends’ would call me demoniac and evil and fallen. Now I can laugh. I can talk about all sorts of stuff I did or saw. After I’m done talking, I can go back to my books and my studies and to nicely random discussions with friends, to coding stuff and playing games. MISA and Bivolaru are things that I understand, but they aren’t part of my everyday life, of the existential questions I’m faced with. Does that make sense?…
But Why Do I Talk About It?
Because I find talking easy, I enjoy debates and people might profit from it. Some time ago MISA based its counter-arguments to accusations on things such as “Nobody talks against us except Cecilia Tiz”. It’s time that stopped. Just because most of those who suffer are silent doesn’t mean they’re not there.