The town hall officially canceled on Wednesday the reservation of the municipal hall Garcin rented by the “Night of Philosophy” festival after the alert of the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses on the participation of New Acropolis.
The case has taken on a scale that Adeline, coordinator of the organization of the Night of Philosophy in Lyon, did not imagine. “I do not understand the reason for the media storm to which this festival is subject” she assures. At the origin of the said “storm”, a press release and a tweet published by the Interministerial Mission for Vigilance and the Fight against Sectarian Abuses (Miviludes) on its website on November 10, alerting to the holding in several cities of France (and in particular in Lyon) of “Nights of philosophies” from November 15 to 19. In the viewfinder of the state body, the role played in the New Acropolis event, an association subject to vigilance by Miviludes for sectarian aberrations – and in which Adeline, an active member, provides training.
Following this warning from Miviludes, the city of Lyon assured our colleagues from the Progress that the reservation of the municipal hall rented by the Nuit de la philosophie for the closing evening of the event, Friday, November 19, was in the process of being cancelled. Information that had not been communicated to the organization. “We learned about it on Saturday through the press”, assures the president of New Acropolis Lyon Daniela Molina, “then we failed to reach the town hall”. Until this Wednesday at the end of the morning, when a registered letter was sent to them “to cancel the rental of the Garcin room”, says Adeline. As a reminder, the decision comes a few days after the publication of articles on the links between the NEF, an ethical bank used by the city of Lyon, and the anthroposophical movement.
In the meantime, the organizers of the Night of Philosophy have provided a fallback solution, by transferring the evening in question to the premises of New Acropolis, namely Espace Vallon, in the 2nd arrondissement.
New acropolis at the initiative of the festival
Born in 2016 in Switzerland, the first French edition of the Night of Philosophy was held in 2021 in Lyon. The role of main organizer played by New Acropolis (at least in Lyon) is not disputed by the association, without being clearly displayed on the communication of the festival – the association presenting itself there in the same way as d other partner organizations. Daniela Molina admits that her association is the main instigator of the event, while ensuring that “each of the partners is completely independent in the organization of its activities, and free to federate other partners”. And to insist on the fact that the association would have played only a unifying role of different proposals, to which any organization was free to join, without control on the part of New Acropolis.
Among the other partners associated with the festival, the association Stoa Gallica, Philométis, the Cafés-Philos or the theater company of the Art-penteurs. More surprisingly, the 2021 edition also involved Symbolescence, which presents itself on the Internet as a shop selling esoteric products in Lyon. Asked about its place in a philosophy festival, Adeline sweeps, assuring that this partner is absent from the program this year and that it is as a cultural place that it was present there in 2021. On the Facebook page of Symbolescence, are organized for example a “karmic release session” or a seminar called “reincarnation, karma and resurrection” with an “Essene therapist” – the Essenes being a spiritual movement also pointed out by Miviludes. But for Daniela Molina, “just as we cannot accuse the partners of anything because they are in the same festival as New Acropolis, we do not take responsibility for their presence”.
Concretely, the 2022 edition of the festival offers twelve events in Lyon: conferences on the allegory of the cave, the philosopher Simone Weil or even Hector or the heroism of Homer, a “biodanza” workshop, – “a system of human development that integrates the philosophical dimension of our existence” – “practical philosophy workshops”, a philosophical contest and a reading-show on Rousseau.
The nature of the movement in question
Apart from the festival in which it takes an active part, New Acropolis is an association founded in Argentina in 1957 and established in France since 1973, which defines itself as “a global network that offers self-training and projects to facilitate the transition to a new and better world”. Each of its branches provides “practical philosophy workshops”: in Lyon, it has about fifty active members and about fifteen people who follow the initial training cycle of 5 months. At the end of which “participants decide whether or not to become an active member”, explains Daniela Molina.
If Miviludes is concerned, for its part, it is that New Acropolis has been the subject of 27 referrals since 2020. Without specifying the content, the Mission mentions that these relate to “an extremely pyramidal organization, disproportionate economic and human requirements, and several situations of influence maintained on fragile people”. A description in which Daniela Molina claims not to recognize herself, evoking a hierarchy within the network “based on mutual aid”, “absolutely not authoritarian”.
“I understand that the nature of our movement is not clear to everyone because it is very original. Philosophy is our backbone, but it is approached in a practical way. The aim is to draw inspiration from all philosophies, of all cultures and all eras to better live together, better live our lives, and this through activities related to the philosophy taught”. Many cultural activities and volunteering “humanitarian and ecological” are offered, and training weekends are organized, in which members first participate as volunteers, then receive training. “But none of these activities are compulsory” assures Ms. Molina.
Quoted in the “trends of sectarian aberrations”
The president also says “very surprised at the way Miviludes proceeds, to send a tweet talking about referrals”. “I don’t think it’s an acceptable medium for a government agency. […] But we remain open to any form of constructive criticism. […] I would like to have the content of the referrals to know what we are accused of and to be able to improve.” And to ensure that the Mission has never contacted New Acropolis about this. For its part, Miviludes refuses to say more and to communicate regional data which would make it possible to know if the Lyon branch is concerned by the referrals.
Contacted by Lyon Capitale, the Interministerial Committee for the Prevention of Delinquency and Radicalization (to which Miviludes is attached) adds in a written response to the Miviludes press release that “pseveral testimonies report […] manipulation techniques, the process of breaking up with relatives who do not share the group’s ideology, professional disengagement and aggressive proselytism. Fragile personalities have been targeted and made dependent with the aim of taking advantage of their resources (services, money, availability, etc.). The latest Miviludes report, published in early November, however, does not mention the organization – “The list is not exhaustive”responds the CIPDR.
New Acropolis has on the other hand was cited at the beginning of 2021 “by the Minister delegate at the time Marlène Schiappa on the occasion of the reinforcement of the means of Miviludes, based on the inventory of fixtures of a report on the new tendencies of sectarian aberrations”.
Of the “slanderous and unfounded rumors”
For Adeline, New Acropolis is targeted by “slanderous and unfounded rumors” and ensures that the latter promotes ideas “contrary to the ideas of the extreme right and totalitarianism” and “invites open-mindedness”. A response to the criticism of Miviludes which argues that “practices inspired by fascism and esoteric beliefs would also be before” within the movement. “The history of mankind would, for example, be divided into five key stages, the ultimate being the advent of the “white race”. These notions of race and spiritual levels of the New Acropolis would be hidden behind the rhetoric humanist and secular movement.”
Firmly denying that such ideas have any place in the movement, Daniela Molina explains the mistrust by the fact that New Acropolis “addresses Eastern philosophies”. “There is a misunderstanding in the West of these less rational philosophies, more based on intuition and practice”.
“Today, everyone is criticized in every way go, Adeline decides. You have to wonder about the reasons, it’s very strange…” she adds without developing. When asked whether New Acropolis intends to appeal to justice to respond to what she describes as slanderous, the young woman assures us that the lawyers of the association “are working on the subject”.
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“Night of philosophy” in Lyon: deprived of a room, the organization evokes “slanderous rumors” – Lyon Capitale
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