I have been in partnership with Stephen for 1.5 years and we have lived together throughout that time. We met in 2015 and have been friends for 5.5 years previously to being partners. We have also been collaborators and colleagues during that time. We became partners 1 year after we stopped working together.
I was not at any of the gatherings mentioned in the allegations, because I was away and traveling for 2 years between 2016-2018. I was also not around Stephen in person during that time. I did attend 2 of the latest gatherings in 2018 + 2019 and during those gatherings, I experienced a lot of care, the creation of safe spaces, consent workshops, and sober helpers on shifts available to look after people when tripping (if needed). I never heard of anything serious or worrying happen at those two events. From what I know the gatherings evolved and changed as the people co-creating them did too. There was a lot of love.
I have grown to know Stephen deeply. I know his great qualities and I also know his flaws, shadows, patterns, and mistakes. I have watched him grow and deepen over the years, I have watched him learn the hard way. It has not always been easy. But I know above all Stephen is such a good person, with a kind and generous heart. Over the years I have experienced him becoming much more empathetic, tuned-in, a deeper listener, more able to face trauma and look within. There is always more work to be done but I have witnessed much growth on his journey of self-work.
The allegations are all from many years ago, none recent. The allegations paint a picture that imagines Stephen could be dangerous and causing harm or threat to young women now - I believe this is far from the truth. I can tell you my truth of who I experience Stephen to be NOW. Stephen is calm and committed. He works very hard and deeply cares about creating a more beautiful world and being in service. He is a committed teacher. He enjoys a reasonably simple, quiet life, working, being in nature, and seeing close friends. He is settling down, doesn’t go out partying much, when he does he often falls asleep on the sofa happily rather than staying up late or taking substances. He rarely drinks and I’ve never seen him drunk. Stephen is caring, kind, he has so much love to give. He treats me very well. Stephen is passionate about being in service to the community and in service to the feminine. Throughout the time I have known him, he has always been very empowering and supportive to his friends. He has the gift of seeing other people’s gifts and abilities, shining the light he sees back at them for them to shine too. He encourages others to follow their dreams and be in their power.
I deeply care and tenderly hold all the complex layers of these allegations and the people involved. I believe their pain is real. I take the past allegations made against Stephen very seriously and feel deep distress and pain for those that have been hurt, and the previous mistakes Stephen has made. I also strongly disagree with the way this has been approached and do not think it’s helpful.
The website Who Is Stephen Reid by the Seeds of Solidarity Collective (SSC) has gathered testimonies by 15 people on Stephen Reid’s conduct. I would like to issue a statement regarding the testimonies I am personally mentioned in as I was not contacted by the SSC for a comment. I would also like to share my reflections on the situation more generally. I feel like I am well-suited to contribute because I, like many of the people from the SSC, have at many points struggled with Stephen’s behaviour, and yet I find some aspects of the SSC’s approach concerning.
For the record: I chose to disengage romantically from Stephen after a few months as a result of what felt like repeatedly hurtful and disrespectful behaviour to me on his part; I spoke out against him facilitating any psychedelic retreats of the programme we co-founded as I felt he was unqualified to do so; I resigned from being a Co-Director of The Psychedelic Society after he significantly breached my trust; and I eventually left The Psychedelic Society & co-founded a new organisation to carry on the work of the retreats, one of the reasons being the desire to separate from Stephen. As I hope is clear from this list, I am certainly not blind to Stephen’s shadows. In fact, I think I know about their extent and sophistication more than most.
I understand the frustration with Stephen having a positive public profile, when there are so many problematic sides to him that the public is not aware of. It’s an endemic problem in a society lacking in nuance, honesty and integrity. I also understand (from personal experience) the frustration with Stephen seemingly not fully and genuinely understanding the nature of how his behaviour has been hurtful and problematic.
I honour the intention, courage and engagement of the SSC to speak out and take action to prevent further harm. I understand the exasperation that must have been experienced by the SSC at hurtful behaviour continuing to take place, and the desire to try a different approach, when previous attempts didn’t lead to the desired outcomes they had hoped for (although I do wonder to what extent this is an accurate representation of the current state of affairs given that all but one of the testimonies relate to the period up until 2018, with the only current testimony not even being directly about Stephen).
I want to remain humble in acknowledging that, having had my own difficulties with Stephen which ultimately led to my distancing myself from him, I have had my own questions as to what the most constructive and healing course of action is. So I merely venture to offer my reflections in the hope that it can inspire a joint inquiry into how we approach healing.
I believe that publishing a relatively one-sided portrayal of Stephen doesn’t just balance out the playing field but perpetuates another wrong. This is not to deny or downplay any of the hurt and harm caused by Stephen to those who testified. Many of the testimonials point to traits in Stephen that I have struggled with myself. Having witnessed several of the incidents mentioned in the testimonies, I can say that there is truth to them. And I can also say that I have a different perspective on a few of them, two of which I will elaborate on below as they mention me directly.
Everyone’s experience holds a valid and important kernel of truth, yet it is only one lens with which to view reality, and one that is coloured by our own wounding and conditioning. Reality is far more nuanced and complex than we often make it out to be and there is not one absolute truth but many sides to a story. This is not to absolve Stephen of responsibility. It is however also not to absolve the SSC of responsibility. For healing and growth to take place we need to develop an awareness of our own biases and projections, and to acknowledge and take responsibility for them.
I am also worried that the nature of this somewhat demonising approach of Stephen is counterproductive. Accountability is important, and the reflections from others are indispensable in shining a light and helping us see our own blind spots. Yet in my experience, when we feel attacked, without the foundation being understanding for the whole of our being – the light and the dark – and compassion for the wounding that lies underneath any wrongdoing, our defences go up and we struggle to let in the wisdom in the critique. Likewise, when we don't feel like the other side is willing to also own their projections, it's much easier for us to dismiss the mirror they are holding up for us entirely as "their own stuff" - much like Stephen did in the interventions mentioned by the SSC. Again, this is by no means a justification of Stephen's behaviour - rather it is a reflection on what can help us really hear and receive one another.
The most deeply and sincerely that I have witnessed Stephen change has not been as a result of the critiques, interventions and mediations that took place with various people during the time the SSC testimonials relate to, but rather in recent years, in the context of the Psychedelic Society team (now the Dandelion Collective) and especially his relationship with his partner, all of whom have repeatedly held Stephen accountable and pointed out his blind spots, while holding him in love and compassion.
I have been frustrated myself many times when Stephen hasn’t seemed to be able to fully face and own up to his hurtful, unconscious behaviour. And I also deeply believe that he is engaged, listens and has generally done the best he can. There is a reason we develop a psychological shadow: it’s for experiences that were too painful to feel. This does not just have to do with the enormity of the trauma, but also with the level of resources and support we had to be able to face it. The safer and more supported we feel, the more we are able to face these difficult parts of our psyche.
His healing work is far from done, and I am grateful that he has been making increasingly stronger and consistent efforts at addressing his deep-seated trauma. I sincerely hope that the events here will ultimately support that journey, rather than lead to more harm, trauma and corresponding defences.
I am convinced of Stephen’s genuine care and love for the world. I have rarely met someone as totally dedicated as he is. The extent of his positive impact on so many people’s lives (including my own) is testament to the goodness of his heart and the passion and generosity of his spirit. I have had many moments with Stephen when I experienced his shadows acting out, and I have had many moments with him when I felt his heart and integrity triumph.
I think it is unfair and harmful to post such charged content in a one-sided way. My request to the SSC is to post a link on their main website to the ThisIsStephenReid page (not just to his responses), so that anyone who stumbles on the SSC website has the chance to see many angles of this story and multi-faceted human being.
Written sincerely in the spirit of wanting to contribute to the greatest possible healing for all,
Elaborations on testimonies by the SSC
K’s testimony: “Whilst at the pilot Psychedelic Experience weekend in the Netherlands I heard that Steve, who was facilitating the weekend, had sex with one of the participants directly after she had tripped. Whilst I understood that the sex was consensual, it struck me that for a facilitator to sleep with a participant who had just gone through a very vulnerable experience, was crossing a line.”
My response: The pilot Psychedelic Experience weekend was in my experience nothing like a ‘held space’ as one would generally find in a formally facilitated psychedelic ceremony (and as the Experience Retreats went on to become). Rather it was like a weekend with friends taking psychedelics, just as we had done several times previously in the UK. The sole difference to me was that it happened to take place in the Netherlands (to test out the feasibility and logistics of both venue & travel, for what was to become the Experience Retreats) and that four friends offered to stay sober to “trip sit”. This staying sober was the only hint of facilitation – and not one that I personally took seriously.
I had ample experience with psychedelics and felt no sense of needing to be supported, not before, during or after the experience. I felt that Stephen wanted to try out what such a concept might look like, but none of the four sober sitters had any psychotherapeutic or shamanic experience and I didn’t view them as facilitators or in a position of authority. To me they were just my friends, who happened to be sober.
I understand that K had a different experience, and I do think the blurring of concepts and boundaries that happened at the gathering was problematic and unwise. Stephen had little awareness around the requirements of facilitation and space-holding, which certainly led to irresponsible behaviour on several occasions. Nonetheless, I strongly object to the characterisation of me as a “participant” (in the usual “facilitator-participant” connotation in such spaces) and as a victim of an abuse of power by Stephen regarding our sexual interaction. It is hugely significant that Stephen and I were friends before the event as it indicates a completely different dynamic, one which doesn’t allow for the same level of projections as with someone whom you only meet in a position of authority. Stephen’s and my relationship was horizontal, not hierarchical.
The portrayal in the testimony also does not credit me with the level of self-responsibility and agency I absolutely had. In a usual retreat setting, having sex with a vulnerable participant post-psychedelic journey would indeed be crossing a line. However, I was not a vulnerable participant. I find it upsetting that my personal experience is being used to allege such a significant charge, and that no effort was made by the SSC to request my testimony on the situation.
NB’s testimony: “In the Psychedelic Society, Steve replaced me with someone he had been sleeping with (who I will refer to as F.) … Steve started to freeze me out of the society's activities, including the Psychedelic Experience Weekends which he told me I wasn't the 'right energy' for. He started to organise these with F. and other members instead.)’
My response: I disagree with the implication in NB’s testimony that Stephen asked me to join The Psychedelic Society because I was sleeping with him. When he asked me to join The Psychedelic Society, Stephen knew that I had significant experience with psychedelics and several times he had witnessed first-hand that this relationship with psychedelics was a very natural, positive and deep one for me; he knew I had already attended several meditation retreats and psychotherapeutic group processes and that I was about to embark on a psychotherapeutic training, and I believe he had experienced me as someone who is warm, welcoming, grounded, empathic and easy to connect with, important basic qualities in a facilitator.
After co-founding the Experience Retreats programme with Stephen, I quickly went on to become Director of Experience and managed the retreats programme myself for several years. They became very successful, with consistently high ratings (97% gave the retreats a rating of 5/5). I believe this track record is testimony to the fact that I was very well suited for the role, and Stephen had an intuition about this. I have often witnessed him give people opportunities and empower them based on his intuition, many of whom he has not had sexual relations with.
— Stefana Bosse
I have known Stephen Reid since what seems to be recognised as the first ‘Find the Others’ (FTO) gathering, ‘Jurassica Spectacular’ in late 2015. I became increasingly involved with the gatherings and the extended community around them and was a co-lead organiser for one of them (‘the Rewylding’). I also lived with Steve briefly.
It was not an easy decision to sign the statement in support of Steve, highly qualified though it is. For a long time, Steve and the community and gatherings associated with him here - and my mostly enthusiastic participation in them - have been the source of tension and division in both my intimate personal life and wider friendship network. There are likely to be negative personal consequences for me for doing so.
I know many of the individuals in the Seeds of Solidarity collective who have written testimonials making accusations against Steve and consider them people of integrity, courage and conviction who I highly respect. They are some of the people who I was most delighted to get to know via the communities and circles discussed in the allegations, and in many ways identified with the most politically. I consider many of them friends and truly hope we can remain so, though I fear I will now be declared an ‘enabler’ by the collective. This episode will surely strain many relationships as it plays out. I do not wish to cast doubt on their moving and revealing testimonials - much of it I know to be true and that which I don’t know to be true, I believe. I also do not wish to call into question their motives at all, which I genuinely believe are to prevent further harm and hold Stephen accountable for his actions: I support this.
In the case of the allegations of sexual misconduct it is not appropriate for me to comment at all other than to say they should of course be taken extremely seriously.
I wish, however, to add some context and reflections, because fundamentally I believe the manner in which the testimonials have been gathered, combined and summarised, and the patterns and conclusions formed, lack balance and overall paint a misleading picture. I do not believe the answer to the question ‘Who is Stephen Reid?’ is answered by that website , nor is much of the content even attempting to answer it - much of it contains a much broader critique of the psychedelic and ‘burner’ community, one in which many people, myself included, are implicated. I believe combining the specific personal accusations against Steve and the broader critiques - while connected and understandable - muddies things. I will speak here to both separately.
In relation to Steve - I will not speak to the specific accusations, some of which were before I knew him, but some of the wider character criticisms. As the statement on this website says, it is abundantly clear Steve is ‘neurodivergent’ - he simply does not think and feel in a typical way. I say this as someone who is also diagnosed as and identifies as neurodivergent (in a very different way), and someone with a degree of familiarity with neurodiversity discourse having organised a festival exploring it.
Some of the accusations centre around Steve behaving ‘strangely’, sometimes on the influence of psychedelics (wandering around naked in the desert at a festival where that kind of behaviour is entirely socially sanctioned, approaching a couple ‘forcefully’, whatever that means), but mostly in the process of dealing his relationships: he acted ‘oddly’ and started ‘weeping in front of everyone’ in a men’s circle while speaking positively about the relationship of another man with an accuser; he went down on one knee and kissed the hand of a friend while she was emotionally detailing the hurt she felt in their relationship in a mediation; he made ‘strange faces’ at someone who had criticised his behaviour speaking at an event. Some of the accounts seem almost to be shaming this strangeness as a negative thing in itself as if he’s basically doing emotions wrong, which I find uncomfortable and surprising, especially given the clear familiarity with and respect for neurodiversity from the collective - one of whom introduced me to the term. Some of the other accounts - which I repeat I believe - make highly speculative, negative interpretations of his behaviour however, as ‘sociopathic’, ‘manipulative’ and / or ‘performative’ for his own benefit. Evidently if it was performative for his own benefit it evidently wasn’t particularly effective in these cases! While I cannot say whether or to what extent these speculations are true - probably there is at least some truth to them - there are other ways of interpreting his behaviour. In one sense I believe Steve does indeed ‘perform’ his emotions for instance. We all do this to some extent, but for many neurodivergent people - some autistic people for example, who neither naturally feel or express emotions the way neurotypical people do, ‘performing’ emotions is both a learned survival method and a genuine way of caring for others. An autistic man once told me while we were speaking ‘So right now I’m making eye contact with you and smiling - I had to consciously learn to do that’. Many neurodivergent people are constantly tasked with catering to other people’s comfort zone around the ‘appropriate’ way to demonstrate warmth, trustworthiness and emotional sensitivity to facilitate interaction, and they often fail or do so inappropriately. That doesn’t mean they don’t care. I for one believe for all of his mistakes, flaws, and insensitivities, Steve cares a lot, and it is not fair to simply assert that he feels no empathy or remorse when people experience pain in relation to his behaviour.
Is is also abundantly clear to me and to everyone who has known that whatever he was guilty of in the period in question, Steve over recent years that has grown, changed, matured hugely, and has gone to great lengths to respond to the criticisms both personally and professionally, as has been described in detail in his response and in other testimonies.
He’s still a total fucking weirdo, but that’s not and should not be a crime.
In relation to the wider FTO community and gatherings it is worth emphasising that neither Steve nor any of the original instigators created the basic format or culture for these gatherings. The initial ones were firmly rooted in ‘burner’ principles as expressed at festivals like Burning Man and Nowhere: anarchic ‘co created’ sex and drug positive events where ‘radical self-reliance’ is prized. These festivals themselves were inspired by west coast American libertarian psychedelic culture in which the (yes often white, male) individual boundary pushing ‘trip’ is valorised and participants are invited to take responsibility for themselves psychologically and physically. These spaces are wonderful in numerous ways - and have certainly been transformational, healing and liberatory for many. Yet they are also a perfect recipe for the ‘tyranny of structurelessness’ and various forms of oppressive power dynamics as described by the collective, as well as people pushing their own and each other’s boundaries too far. A culture of collective care and a more sophisticated analysis, grounded in feminism and other anti-oppression discourse, of the way that power and privilege operates in these conditions has also emerged within these communities and gatherings but in some ways perhaps it is not in their DNA - one of the major and most important critiques of the entire culture particularly from a left wing perspective. In this way they are a microcosm of the wider ‘default world’ they seek to subvert.
In some ways I think the main way the FTO gatherings mentioned in the testimonials differed from these festivals was their size - generally from 80 - 150 people. The so called ‘Dunbar number’ : tribe size… Never big enough that you couldn’t start and end with a circle where you could see and be seen by everyone. Ritual like this, as well as various other forms of spiritual exploration also emerged as a core part of the culture. I think both of these elements were a key ingredient in both the success of the gatherings and the pain they were to unleash, because after 3/4 days of collective and largely joyous experiments with powerful drugs, intimacy, creativity spirituality and consciousness, that sense of tribal belonging - which most of us are painfully lacking in was immensely powerful and more intoxicating and addictive than any drug. It felt like community. Though I reject the ‘cult’ description, this dynamic I believe is what is being referred to. It felt like a huge loss to me when I couldn’t attend for a few years due to early parenthood for example.
What happens when that community doesn’t truly sustain itself between gatherings? What are its boundaries? How are decisions made and who gets to decide who’s included? And how is inevitable conflict - as well as clear examples of abuse of power, which are not the same thing - dealt with when the community feels deep and real but only really emerges in fleeting and shifting form every few months? These are thorny problems which were spoken and clumsily addressed but never resolved, and much resentment and hurt was left in their wake. These are also common problems to every community, radical or otherwise - which is not to downplay them at all, particularly in the context of a community which hubristically thought of itself as utopian, progressive and on the cutting edge of culture change. In retrospect, we were absolutely playing with fire and it was mostly vulnerable people, as usual, who got burned. Steve always said he had no intention of creating a close knit community via the gatherings or the ‘Find the Others' Facebook group, which I both believe and think was naive at best, and at worst I agree denied the appropriate level of care and responsibility when these social dynamics inevitably emerged - but we all struggled to know how to navigate these dynamics.
I say all this mainly to emphasise what has been mentioned in some of the original testimonials, but seems not to really be clear enough in the critical framing of them. Steve was a core instigator of these particular gatherings sure, but he didn’t invent this type of gathering, and he was only one of at least twenty or thirty driving forces behind the gatherings mentioned - including some of the people making testimonials. While he clearly has personal accusations to answer for he should not be used as a scape-goat for the wider evident harm that has occurred - which by all accounts he did make many (flawed) efforts alongside others involved to respond to. An example of this in relation to steps Steve took is I distinctly remember him explicitly saying at an opening circle of I believe the second event (Purbeck) ‘If you have never taken a psychedelic before, this is not the place or time to do so’ - I certainly did not witness him handing out psychedelics indiscriminately. In terms of the wider response, buddy systems, welfare spaces and sober welfare volunteer systems were set up (I do not recall specifically but would not be surprised if much of this emotional labour was indeed disproportionately done by women). From their chaotic beginnings, the gatherings became progressively safer spaces in my view, though never entirely safe - could they ever be given their nature? Though clearly not the safest of ‘settings’ for psychedelic use however (in a small group of trusted friends, ideally with a sober trip sitter, in a simple and predictable environment), I would still say these were much better places to be experimenting with psychedelics and / or intimacy than the average festival or party where none of the above systems are usually in place. And after all, that is what many or most of the people came to these gatherings to do.
In relation to attempted collective learnings around patriarchy, race, colonialism, and other oppressive dynamics, in my experience of the culture around these events this was explicitly welcomed - though participants (including women and POC) may not have agreed with every element of anti-oppression discourse particularly on highly nuanced topics like cultural appropriation where there is reasonable disagreement . Though I am personally on the left and am sympathetic to these discourses I also valued the political diversity of the events - it felt like less of an echo chamber than other more politically homogenous communities I am part of, which meant much of the conflict and tension was highly generative. We were learning a lot from each other, to the extent we were able to remain in conversation.
I did however also notice that the creative intersection of activists and hippies / politics and spirituality which I encountered when I first attended the gatherings gradually gave way to a space where political discourse and politically inclined participants were less present, which I felt was a huge shame. To the extent that this was due to political insights, values and critiques feeling unwelcome or ‘too negative’ I absolutely agree this is indeed a reflection of ‘toxic positivity’ and ‘spiritual bypassing’ as the collective claim. I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that most of the testimonials come from people on the political left. I share much of their analysis of the problematic nature of this culture, yet I myself always saw many more positives than negatives in the community and regularly witnessed people growing, learning and evolving in response to feedback, as did I - though I also fully recognise I was much less subject to the dynamics discussed.
To all the accusers I repeat - I hear you, I believe you, I recognise the truth in much of what you say, share much of your analysis and support taking steps to prevent future harm. I just don’t believe crucifying one flawed individual like this in a suggestive and misleading way is the way to do it. Perhaps a useful conversation will be stimulated as a result - around collective care and consent in drug and sex positive spaces, around patriarchy and other forms of oppression that operate in this culture as they do in the culture surrounding it. Perhaps harm will be prevented as a result. But that conversation will not be the answer to the question ‘Who is Stephen Reid?’. And I do not believe the answer to that question is ‘a monster’ who deserved to be publicly shamed and humiliated in order to facilitate that conversation.
— Sam Weatherald
2016 - Present
I have known Stephen as both a friend and colleague over the last five years.
I want to begin this testimony by acknowledging the hurt that has been felt by the individuals in The Seeds of Solidarity Collective (SSC) as a result of both Stephen and the culture surrounding him. I include myself as someone who has been at the centre of this growing community, and the website published by Seeds of Solidarity has given myself and many others much to reflect on, particularly the ways in which this community needs to grow and have better systems in place to create greater safety and inclusion.
I wish to offer my experience of Stephen to give a greater depth of understanding and perspective. From my perspective the whoisstephenreid website paints a misleading characterisation of Stephen which is monumentally damaging, and the way in which it has been done is leading to greater division, pain and suffering for everyone involved.
From reading the website my understanding is that SSC are seeking healing and prevention of further harm. This is my desire also. I recognise that even the concept of this website (thisisstephenreid) is problematic and may cause further division, however it also feels important to offer greater perspective and balance to this incredibly sensitive conversation.
I was not present for any of the one to one interactions spoken about in the testimonies from the accusers. I have been present in Stephen’s life around some of their occurrences. It is to this that I shall speak.
I first met Stephen at what is considered the second of the Find The Others (FTO) gatherings at New Year 2016.
Though I was not close to Stephen during my first year of knowing him I was struck by his extreme generosity and warmth towards new people. As I got to know him I also observed a differentness to him, and in particular the way he related to others. I have for a long time now accepted that Stephen is different to most people, which accounts for much of his genius, and also sometimes an oddness in social interactions.
As many of the accounts describe I have witnessed Stephen become excited about something or someone, and then almost as quickly lose interest. I’ve noticed that Stephen’s capacity to understand the emotional experience of other people is unlike a typical person. On more than one occasion I have had to explicitly explain to him why someone was hurt or upset by his behaviour, and in particular, how his sudden lack of interest can be experienced as feeling ‘dropped’, which is really painful.
I empathise with the experience of many in the testimonies around feeling confused by his response in a moment of frustration or conflict, and I too have experienced feeling dissatisfied or somewhat bemused by his reaction to my hurt, which has oftentimes felt inappropriate or lacking in empathy. I believe this is due to the neurodivergent nature of Stephen’s mind, and frustrating as it can be, I don’t believe that he is a manipulative sociopath laid out in SSC’s website.
I would consider myself to be someone probably closer to Stephen than most at this current point in time, bar his partner. I think that in part, this has come from my consistent invitation for him to be more open and vulnerable with me. This is certainly not easy for Stephen, and I have seen him slowly open more to me over the years, though probably only seen him cry 2 or 3 times.
In both our friendship and our professional relationship I have experienced Stephen to be a genuine, loving, caring and supportive presence in my life, and the lives of many around me. It is through his encouragement and consistent belief in me that I have followed my calling to hold spaces for women’s empowerment, which is now my full time occupation.
Because of the closeness of our connection I have often found myself in the position of giving Stephen challenging feedback, surrounding personal issues with friends as well as colleagues. I have at times been the go-between, which I now see has not always been in service.
Though change has been slow, sometimes exasperatingly so, I have and continue to see lasting change in Stephen’s behaviour, particularly in relation to power and status, in both our friendship circles and a professional context.
I think that in the beginning of the FTO days Stephen was not fully aware of the celebrity-like status that he held, and I can see that a lot of damage has been done as a result of this lack of awareness.
The parties that we co-created together were definitely pushing at the boundaries of the way we chose to live, and were intentionally experimental. I know that many, including myself, had extraordinary experiences of unity and liberation, and our lives have been significantly changed for the better.
It is with deep regret that we didn’t fully understand at the time the potential for trauma and suffering that was likely given the unstructured nature of the events that involved psychedelic substances, and exploring intimacy. I find it challenging and upsetting that many of the testimonies are not about Stephen specifically but relate to a culture which was co-created by those attending the events. It does not feel fair for him to be targeted in a way that actually includes far more people. I think that many of the critiques made by SSC are fair and valid and as a community we have and continue to attempt to address these critiques. It’s also fair to say that we haven’t done the best job.
That said, there were many safeguards put in place that I have not experienced at the majority of festivals or places where people go to get their minds blown. These include things such as: a welfare space and sober ‘well fairies’ who are there to support people having challenging psychedelic experiences, workshops on consent, check ins, buddy systems and collecting feedback post-event.
The website speaks in detail about how Stephen has not been held accountable and has abused his position of power. While this may certainly have been true in the past, the SSC may not be aware of Stephen’s more recent journey, and the ways in which he has been held accountable. I will try to speak to this in relation to The Psychedelic Society.
It’s true to say that I myself have at times witnessed Stephen wielding his power within the organisation in a way that hasn’t felt good or fair to the rest of the team. I say this with the acknowledgement that I’ve also been guilty of this.
I have consistently called him out when I felt he stepped out of line. And I have experienced that he has taken this feedback on board and made concerted efforts to grow.
I also know that in the earlier days before we were a workers' coop and functioning as a teal organisation, others have not felt so confident to confront Stephen (which must be common within all workplaces of hierarchy). Since then many structures have been put in place, including workshops and mediation from external facilitators, as well as our own regular internal processes of feedback, designed to address power imbalances and conflict between team members.
We began as a group of friends, passionate about inner work, but relatively clueless about business, and over the course of the last 3 years, have put in structures that support a healthy work environment that I now feel very proud of.
We have many agreements and processes in place to make our work environment fair, and to prevent any one of us from abusing our position of power within the collective. If an agreement is broken we believe in a restorative approach to justice, seeking mediation and understanding rather than punishment.
Working in a non-hierarchical way is still an emerging field, and hierarchy is always present in some way, even if informal. Discussions around power and conflict aren’t easy. It’s something we’ve learnt together, and are able to do through a culture of trust, responsibility, accountability, courage and honesty, that has taken several years to establish.
I think it’s worth noting that Stephen has been the driving force in transforming The Psychedelic Society into a workers coop, through researching decentralised ways of organising (Teal Organisations), consistently encouraging team members to take more power and agency, bringing in a number of independent facilitators to assist us in transitioning to a decentralised organisation, and researching and registering as a formal coop.
The truth is, it takes time to unlearn how to be the boss and give over power to the collective. It doesn’t happen overnight. This work continues, and I see that he is dedicated to it.
There is still so much to learn, and my deepest hope is that some resolution may be found between everyone involved.
— Gaia Harvey Jackson
I started working at The Psychedelic Society in January 2020, and first met Stephen during an interview for the role I was applying for.
I write this statement as a Black British man (POC) who grew up in a non-privileged area of London. I think this is important to note as my upbringing, and way of life, is a world apart from the Oxbridge educated.
Although I’m well versed in Psychedelics themselves, I have not previously been a part of any spiritual or wellbeing communities (other than attending Burning Man once in the US) and only knew one other person involved in the UK Psychedelic scene before I entered this community.
Throughout my time at the Psychedelic Society I have always felt mutually supported and respected working with the collective, and by Stephen Reid specifically. I have never felt my participation in the collective was tokenistic (I was actually over qualified for the role), nor have I ever felt singled out or silenced because of the colour of my skin. I have never been asked to participate in any schemes relating to POC funding. I have never felt like an outsider. I have felt consistently supported, emboldened and welcomed into the organisation in a number of ways.
In relation to Stephen Reid, from the get-go we worked very closely together as I was one of the only other technically versed members of the team. In our work I have always felt like he is someone whom I could go to for support if needed, but would also leave me to my own devices and let me do my work in a decentralised and autonomous fashion.
Our relationship has evolved over the past year and I now consider him somewhat as a mentor whom I could go to for advice on personal development and non-work related discussions. There have been a number of positive exchanges that have unfolded between myself and Stephen. Which include but are not limited to:
- Stephen offered and accepted me on a place to one of his courses, and taught me about regenerative health practices.
- On multiple occasions Stephen has offered to teach me how to code.
- Stephen has consistently ensured that my financial remuneration within the collective is fairly rewarded and I am completely and wholeheartedly financially supported in my endeavours at The Psychedelic Society.
Ultimately I got involved with Psychedelics as tools for transformation and change. And hope that we as a community can allow space for individuals to become better than they were yesterday.
— Matt Reid
I have known Stephen as a work colleague since summer 2018, when I joined the Psychedelic Society. I am now one of the co-directors and one of the owners of the Workers Coop Dandelion Collective, the organisation behind the Psychedelic Society,
I have never been in his social circles and we have kept our relationship on a purely professional level. I cannot comment on anything about Find The Others, as my only involvement with the group is by being a non-active member of their facebook group. However, I would like to share my experience of Stephen to provide a greater depth of perspective to some of the allegations against him.
On the day when Stephen approached me to join the Psychedelic Society in June 2018, he told me of his plans for the Psychedelic Society to become a decentralised, workers-owned organisation. In the lead up to officially becoming a workers coop in 2020, Stephen has been very passionate and active in creating a working culture that is collaborative and non-hierarchical.
I have observed his progress as he was stepping down gradually from power in the Psychedelic Society and being the main force in transitioning and registering as a formal coop. It is not easy to let go of one's passion project, but even though there were bumps along the way, Stephen has and continues to put enormous effort into further decentralization and spreading of the power to all workers.
Stephen has put a great deal of trust in me and enabled me to launch a few major projects. I have witnessed him encouraging other team members to step into their power and run projects they are passionate about. He has been passionate about enabling and encouraging many women by bringing them info to our field of work and offering them a platform. He is putting a lot of effort into projects that serve important causes, and he constantly tries to make a change for the better in this world.
I am aware that Stephen is a controversial person, and that in the past he has displayed some reckless behaviour. Additionally, in my experience his communication skills often fail and he might sound/appear hurtful to people around him. I myself have been hurt a few times with his communication, or lack of.
All of the above has been a subject of a conflict between me and Stephen in the past. However, I’ve given him feedback about my concerns during work appraisal/feedback sessions and I have seen Steve taking my concerns seriously, admitting and apologising. In the following months I’ve observed major positive changes in his behaviour.
I can tell that Stephen has significantly grown as a person and a leader and he continues to put effort into growing more and becoming a better version of himself, and for that I have big respect for him. I recognize he is not perfect at all, but he has a big heart and a strong will to leave a positive impact in this world.
I am sorry for the hurt felt by all involved on both sides of the conflict. I sincerely hope that we can find a resolution that enables us all to heal and grow.
— Anya Oleksiuk - Co-director of the Psychedelic Society, Co-owner of the Dandelion Collective
I have been a close collaborator with Stephen Reid in the Find the Others community (SR and FTO herein respectively). I am a disabled, non-binary, neuro-divergent Muslim performer and sacred practitioner who is a 2nd generation Iranian migrant to Britain, living currently in Berlin.
In the interests of full transparency of motive, I will state that I am writing this testimony because:
- SR is a dear friend within a small group of dear friends who have been my close companions and allies in life, work, play and resistance since October 2015.
- I am loyal to these people because I love them and they love me, despite our interpersonal challenges and conflicts over the years.
- This text is written truthfully and loyally, while I try to regulate my feelings of anger and fear because my dear friend is being publicly attacked by people who seek to cause suffering.
I first met SR at an event in October 2015 to which I was invited by someone I had known during my postgraduate studies in Leeds. This event is often considered to be the first of the Find The Others gatherings, and I met some people there who are now my literal family. When we met on the first morning, SR said, “I’ve heard so much about you”, to which I replied, “I don’t know who you are, but that’s nice, thank you.” At some point later that day, I approached SR with a personal criticism about something I found exclusionary about the opening circle. He was defensive, and then suggested that if I thought I could do better I was welcome to try. So I did, and he welcomed and appreciated my contribution, and we started to become friends.
This first meeting indicates the general shape of my productive interactions with SR over the years - he’s charming, I don’t take the bait, I criticise him, he is defensive to varying degrees while also inviting me in to improve the situation, I accept his invitation, we’re both pleased with the outcome, life grows on. It’s not always easy, sometimes it’s frustrating and antagonistic for us both. I like that the interactions are always eventually generative.
From 2016, due to my professional experience and personal dedication as a performer, event organiser and sacred space holder, I began to contribute significantly to organising FTO community events, and continue to do so as much as I am able. I find it disrespectful when people continue to choose to believe that SR is the “leader” of FTO, despite shared lived experience, documents and data proving otherwise. My perspective is that this is a projected patriarchal framing, that people are determined to find a wizard behind the show, pulling the strings, even though there isn't one. I find this projection frustrating because it undermines the hard work towards gender equality that does take place by active co-creators of FTO. These projections erase the contributions of mine and other non-white non-male agents in the space.
Myself and many of my closest pre-FTO friends are neurodivergent, ranging between ADHD, ADD, ASD, childhood brain damage survivors, dyslexia, dyspraxia and people who live with various types of mental health challenges, including C/PTSD, Bipolar Disorder, BPD, OCD, Anxiety and Depression. After getting to know SR, I recognised some potentially neuro-atypical traits, though never thought to ask him if he was aware of this, as I felt it would be disrespectful to foist my amateur psycho-analytic diagnosis on a new friend. Instead, I chose to receive him just as he is, to work with what is there rather than holding his so-called "shortcomings" against him. When I wanted to engage him in conversations about emotions and emotionally-driven experiences, I would explicitly ask him questions that made it clear that this is the kind of topic that I was raising, using phrases such as, “please can we talk about our emotions?” Or, “please can we stop talking about work and talk about what’s going on with our feelings?” Or, “there’s a problem within the community because people feel hurt, please can I talk to you about what is going on?” Whenever I made my desire for empathetic emotion-themed communication explicit, SR was very willing to speak with me about these matters, with kindness, compassion and care, for me and for the community. My impression was that SR felt relieved and grateful to be invited into this kind of interpersonal interaction, and that he was sadly conditioned to expect that people were only interested in talking to him in order to network with him, or to get something out of him. My guess was that he had been dehumanised by past experiences, though I do not know what these were, and so I took care to interact with him as a human being first, and then as co-creator and colleague second. Our emotion-themed interactions deepened our friendship over time.
Our friendship was not always easy for me. Like many female-bodied and female-socialized people, I am highly sensitive to and angry about patriarchal power structures in society. As our friendship deepened, I observed that I was consciously and unconsciously seeking SR’s approval and support in my work, in projects that had no connection to him. I recognised this pattern of seeking male approval as being related to my childhood trauma, that I was projecting this pattern onto my relationship with SR, and then undertook some personal development work to break through this pattern. A few weeks after I had successfully stopped projecting onto SR in this way, I spoke with him about the personal journey I had been on. To my relief and gratitude, SR congratulated me with warmth and humour, celebrating with me that I had broken this pattern, and encouraging my continuing liberation from childhood trauma and into personal authority. From then on, implicitly from his actions and explicitly from what he said to me and others, I understood that SR’s ideal is that no one be dependent on his authority for anything, but for everyone to be mutually autonomous and co-liberated within their own capacities. This ideal is obviously problematic in the context of intersectional social inequalities, and is also nonetheless admirable to me.
My friendship with SR continued because we share a determined altruism, especially on the themes of a fair society and a healthy planet, and also a strong commitment to public, community and sacred service. Within and outside of FTO, we collaborated closely to create benefit for others, including but not limited to: contributing significantly to the establishment of wellbeing infrastructure for a major direct action political movement; organising and facilitating an awareness raising event that challenged racist and colonialist norms at a large Burner festival; protecting the FTO and Psychedelic Society (PS herein) communities from a known sexual assailant who was attempting to infiltrate the communities; developing and trouble-shooting inclusive structures and methodologies for co-organising co-created gatherings.
One very difficult experience with SR that I still feel has not been fully healed goes like this: I discovered in mid-2018 that I have epilepsy, that I have had it since I was child, and that it had gone undiagnosed. Once I realised that my significant suffering in life was mostly due to this neurological condition, I focussed a lot of my time and energy to understanding how I could adjust my life so that I could be less debilitated less regularly, and more well more often. At the time, I was providing a regular workshop for PS, and so considered the organisation to be an employer, and considered it my responsibility to inform them about my disability, and to ask for them to cooperate with me to develop reasonable workplace accommodations. I did not receive any response from SR, or the other member of the PS team that I included in my correspondence. After two weeks, feeling very hurt and full of condemnation for my friends, I wrote to them again and resigned from PS. I do have compassion for the reasons why SR and the other staff member did not respond, and also can see that since the incident they have both done a lot to include me in PS and make provision for my needs in other spaces that we share. Still, it hurt to have my needs ignored by my friends, at a time when I really needed my friends to care. The timing of this incident was especially unfortunate, and led to a general bifurcation of mine and SR’s paths, which I lament.
Even so, our co-creation in FTO and the wider world continued. At various times, with a to-be-expected mixture of grace and frustration and defensiveness and respect, SR took my criticisms about the whiteness, elitism, heteronormativity, ableism and spiritual bypassing culture of PS on board. He also arranged a place for me to stay within the PS community space when I was in London for a protest action, an act that helped contribute significantly towards my reconciliation with PS.
In general, I feel like SR doesn’t understand me easily. We enter the same arenas with very different backstories, and my interests and expertise sit outside of his conditioning. I am aware that I can seem too unpredictable for him, so he doesn’t always include me in all of his plans as much as some other of our friends - I also don’t believe that he owes me inclusion for the sake of inclusion. He is his own man. Nonetheless, we are friends, we share the songs we have written with one another, we have check in calls, we get excited about community news, we dance together at raves, we shelter each other through storms, we trust one another to look out for one another. Even though I have made life hard for him sometimes by being outspokenly critical about his actions, he continues to nurture our friendship and my goals with honesty and integrity, he values me and my perspectives, and he supports my unfolding with encouragement and interest.
— Beloved Sara Zaltash
As a person whose life has been directly impacted by rape and sexual abuse, i feel deeply disturbed, shocked and enraged that LB uses such terms so irresponsibly. What was described sounded grim, but it obviously wasn't rape, and to call it so is gratuitous and destructive in the extreme. I feel very sad for other survivors whose experiences are belittled by these inflated claims. I feel a lot of empathy for LB and their experience but this claim and the way it has been delivered has no credibility or weight.
Other sensible testimonies from both camps highlight how discussion, mediation, grieving and exploration of what has happened can help us all to evolve and grow up in to more honest and wholesome people. Demonising people and groups who are learning and growing is a mistake. Stephen is a great hearted human being in whom I trust and who is very much in service to the collective. He deserves much better than this.
Most of the allegations I have read date back to before I knew Stephen, and nothing I say is intended to discount what others have shared, or the concerns they raise, and my hope is that increased scrutiny will mean fewer people experience harm in the future, and I believe this process has begun.
Reading the allegations in isolation creates a very strong characterisation of Stephen, so I'm hoping it is useful to add context by sharing my experience of working with Stephen over the last two years.
I've had some strong disagreements with him, and initially found his working style disorienting and confusing.
In the last two years, I've observed a sincere attempt to take feedback on board, a commitment to personal growth, and engagement in mediated processes that have led to tangible change increasingly evident over time.
I also sense a genuine desire from Stephen to contribute to a wider community and to the world. I've witnessed many instances of kindness and generosity where there was no personal gain to Stephen that I could see.
I perceive that he increasingly recognises the power and privileges he holds and has undertaken a very real distribution of his resources to those willing to take these responsibilities on board, most evidently in transitioning The Psychedelic Society to a workers co-op, and then handing it over to those more passionate about its continuation.
I believe there were several unsafe spaces created by a wide community of people interested in pushing boundaries, exploring alternative ways of relating and using psychedelic substances, which in the right context can be healing and in the wrong context, very damaging.
I'm encouraged by a gradual shift towards increasingly recognising the need for greater safeguards, and accountability in many of the spaces Stephen has instigated or advocated, both by him and those who remain engaged in those spaces.
I met Stephen Reid in 2014 and have remained in mostly his life since then bar times of personal ill health.
It feels extremely important to me to offer my subjective view point in light of the allegations. I have been apart of the community at many of the times mentioned and am able to give my witness.
I have always known Stephen to be a considered man, he is also inspiring at times, at times he has been a mystery and felt difficult to reach. In 2015 He and I travelled in California together where we met and learnt about the Psychedelic Assisted Therapy research at the California Institute of Integral Studies. We also met and learned about the progressive and positive breakthroughs an organisation called MAPS were making in the field. And we saw how this community of people, wanting to explore all the corners and edges of being human were doing it.
During this trip found Steve to be humble and curious, and generous with the expansive connections he made. He showed me where I was being self-centred through his dedication to fairness and sharing. When I first met Steve and still to this day I find him to have a childlike quality, a gentleness and kindness.
There was a point that Stephen and I decided to explore a possible romantic thread between us at this point Stephen was proudly exploring non-monogamy. Our interactions had some jarring moments where I didn’t feel emotionally held by Stephen and wished there was a deeper feeling.
At that time I was painfully triggered by non-monogamy in many situations and also really wanted to find a stable partner. This is still something I am looking for and I am still finding myself having jarring moments as I navigate dating now with a greater maturity.
This is hard because I have been hurt and damaged by my past intimate relationships with men and I feel angry when I think of it. I did not feel damaged by my interactions with Stephen. But I recognise that it is possible to cause real harm in our relating to one another.
I have found that his role and his power in creating community and events is largely down to his competence and dedication to admin, he is able to do long and large amounts of research and implementation of data that others do not have the capacity or the will this leads him to success and positions of power. I often tried to praise him for the work that he had done I remember on serval accounts him saying to me ‘Look what we’ve all done’, I felt he wanted to acknowledge our collective power and responsibility.
About a year after I met Steve, I accidentally joined a Balinese cult with a guru called Ratu Bagus. This involved having images of the gurus face and shaking and singing whilst saying his name and kissing his feet also being included. The benefits were kundalini awakening and cosmic adventure into other dimensions. I lost my mind, my health, fours years of my life, my savings there have since been transgressions emerging of his behaviour. This caused me a lot of suffering, since then I have found my way to emotional autonomy through the help of therapy. At this time in my life I was really searching for a way to heal and ended up being further traumatised. Since coming back to health I have been so grateful for the welcoming back I have felt from Stephen and others in the community I feel loved and respected. I include this to say that I am aware of a distinct difference between the power imbalance I experienced in the guru situation and any experience I have had with any event that involved the Psychedelic Society or Steve.
I am now training as a psychotherapist and understand the harm that we all cause each other when living out past trauma is astounding.
I have also spent time unpicking my own relationship to white supremacy, the training I do is with a non-white teacher who checks me and calls me out on my blindspots. I have compassion for the suffering of those systematically oppressed, I feel the training I have done in restoring my nervous system would allow me to move forward without overwhelming fragility.
— Roisin Mccarthy Green
I have known Stephen for several years, firstly through Find the Others gatherings, then interacting with him many times over a period where he lived in a house-share with a partner of mine, and finally as a collaborator when he asked me to advise the psychedelic society on their 'psilocybin for mental health' campaign (me having previously founded a professional network for the UK's largest mental health anti stigma campaign)
Personally, I have always experienced Steve to be gentle, kind and hospitable, as well as thoughtful and encouraging of ethical and pro-social behaviours of those around him (I have a distinct memory of questioning my own level of personal ethics after spending some time experiencing the values he chose to live by)
Professionally I experience Stephen as having a deep commitment to social change, a fantastic collaborator and someone who goes out of their way to include less confident peoples voices in meetings. He can also be cavalier in his approach, sacrificing group team coherence for speed, and this has been a source of frustration before. However, all leaders have their growth areas and overall my experience of Steve as a collaborator was a deeply positive one.
I have also had the experience of turning to Steve for support during a music festival in 2019 where I was on psychedelics and having an overwhelming experience involving dissociation. As soon as I told him I wasn't okay, Steve stopped everything, sat down with me, pulled out a candle from his bag and lit it - he then quietly sang to me until I calmed down and stayed with me until I was laughing and joking again. I remain deeply grateful to Stephen for his gentleness in this moment of need.
I live near Stephen in Devon now, and experience him as a man with a love of the quiet life - spending time in nature and hosting small dinners with close friends, as well as offering me plenty of sound advice on how to grow my startup with horizontal ethics and inclusion at its core.
— Michael Matania
The work that Stephen has put in to build The Psychedelic Society, as a platform, has been pivotal in helping to support a larger network of facilitators whose work has changed lives. I, myself, have attended workshops that have lead me to reconnect with estranged families members as well as develop self awareness and self love. These workshops have helped me evolve into a kinder and more compassionate human being. Thank you Stephen for your work.
— Jade S
I have found this entire process deeply sad and shocking. I know Steve to be a kind, thoughtful, deeply caring and conscious person that is constantly striving to create a better world. I also know that he is a complex character with some deep traumas and can believe that much of what is written in the testimonials are things he did. However I don’t think he did them out of malice or an intent to cause harm. I don’t think trying to destroy his life is the right way to go about things. I truly hope that there can be a new and better way for this to be resolved where everyone involved feels at peace.
— Ashleigh Brown
I have known Stephen for 6 years, in a social context as a friend & part of a close community, as someone who has attended and been involved in co-creating various Find The Others gatherings, and also through the work I have done facilitating workshops at The Psychedelic Society for over five years. During the time we have known one another I have found Stephen to be an extremely supportive & trustworthy friend who has always shown me respect & kindness. Over the years, as we have talked and shared more about ourselves, he has consistently met my own passions and interests with encouragement and a quiet confident belief in me. At points of my own journey I have lacked self-confidence and have deeply appreciated his gentle encouragement & empowering nature.
I have offered regular workshops for The Psychedelic Society over the past 5 years and have always found the working environment & culture that Stephen has been a part of creating to be extremely inclusive, open minded, warm hearted, honest & encouraging. I haven’t previously found a working environment that I have felt so welcome in.
As a gay man, I have at times struggled with self-acceptance & shame. Both in the context of our interactions in the working environment at The Psychedelic Society but also as a friend, Stephen has consistently met me with total acceptance, respect & loving friendship. I know Stephen to be someone who cares about other people & will dedicate his time & energy to helping & supporting them wherever possible. I have always found him open to listening to other peoples perspectives and making changes to his approach to accommodate their needs.
He has certainly been in positions of power but unlike many I have found previously who wield that power, I have witnessed him doing his best to bring in systems that break down power structures in the work he does, whether that has been at The Psychedelic Society or through his efforts to empower others in the creation of various FTO gatherings. I have found Stephens actions to show a genuine care for other people, community, and those who are more in need than himself.
As someone who has felt deeply therapeutic medicinal benefits from the exploration of psychedelics when taken in a responsible considered manner, I have great respect for the work Stephen has done in breaking down stigma & forwarding the narrative surrounding these substances. It is in our willingness to explore the nature of consciousness and what it is to be human, that we come up against our edges, and this often incorporates challenge & deep learning. No doubt exploring & advocating for these substances is in itself a learning experience in which we make mistakes as we grow but I know Stephen to be someone who has deeply affected and positively contributed to many peoples journey towards gaining a better understanding & experience incorporating these medicines into their lives.
I am aware that like many of us Stephen carries his own trauma and this will undoubtedly have affected others within relationship dynamics & interactions. Who can say they are untouched by wounding from this life and that these wounds haven’t caused us to hurt other people along the way? Stephen will have at times behaved or communicated in ways that caused others suffering, just as we all will in different ways to different people. I am also aware of his commitment to his own development and engagement in therapeutic and self-reflective processes to move through past traumas so he may continue becoming a person who can better understand & engage in a loving & compassionate way with those people he encounters.
I can of course only speak for my own experience of Stephen and in that I know him to be a loving & caring individual, whose friendship and presence as we share the journey of this life I feel gratitude for.
— Jamie Richards