I spend a lot of time making fun of non-dual spiritual teachers. Too much time many think. Kind of obsessive. Hey, we all need our hobbies. Some people knit costumes for their pets. Others make sculptures out of used dental floss. I make fun of spiritual gurus.
One person that recently showed up on my radar screen is Fred Davis. Fred is not one of the biggies on the non-dual spiritual scene yet. I mean he doesn’t rank up there with Mooji or Adyashanti or Gangaji or Jeff Foster. He doesn’t have swarms of devoted followers calling him “Sri Fred” and making posters and altars for him. He doesn’t give weeklong silent retreats in Costa Rica. He hasn’t even appeared on Oprah.
But he’s especially ripe for satire and parody because he has some really quirky characteristics that he displays in his many youtube videos, such as a goofy laugh at the beginning of each video, a distinctive southern twang which reminds me a bit of Ross Perot, and some tic-like eye rolls that he does throughout the videos. He also refers to himself as “Fredness” and “the unit.”
What particularly caught my attention though is his website “Awakening Clarity Now” which he lists a variety of sessions and services in a menu-like manner. I did a parody video of this where I pretend that I’m ordering Enlightenment take-out. And these sessions and services aren’t cheap. Although the prices seem to change, he was advertising an “Awakening Package” at $750, which included a few Skype sessions and email follow-ups (you can visit his site for particular details, I’m not claiming that I’m giving a 100% representation of his services and fees.)
So on my Facebook page “Braying Jack Cass” I had done several satires and parodies of Fred pointing out the logical absurdity of “selling Enlightenment by the pound” as I like to call it. Unfortunately it seems as though one of my Facebook friends saw these not as critiques but rather as advertisements and decided to purchase the Awakening Package. You can lead a horse to shit, but you can’t stop them from eating.
I just love poking these gurus in the ribs and giving them eye jabs to show just how bad the marketing of Enlightenment has become.
But on November 13th, things turned serious. Another Facebook friend did some digging on Fred. He mentions in his biography that he’s had legal troubles and even spent some time in jail. But he hadn’t given any details other than that he was a “ne’er do well” as a youth. Personally, I didn’t really care what he had done and didn’t think it was very relevant to his current spiritual teaching. There are plenty of stories of people doing wrongs in the past and then overcoming these to go on and help others. For example, Scott Kiloby has been open about past drug abuse and legal problems and yet has seemed to leave these behind to help others. (I have my issues with Scott and his teachings but at least praise him for doing work with drug abusers and addictions.)
A Facebook friend though found, through a basic Google search of his name, granted that finding his middle name helped very much, that Fred Davis is a registered sex offender in the state of South Carolina. The websites which detail his status show that he is a tier III (considered the highest, or worst, level) sex offender, and that his victim was a 12 year old female. They posted a link to this information on a thread, and I shared the link on my Facebook page with the single comment “Not funny at all.”
I love using humor to point out the logical absurdities, inconsistencies, contradictions, and fallacies of spiritual teaching and seeking. I use my own past experience, of about 30 years of seeking, finding, losing, seeking again, finding again, and losing again, as a template. When I make fun of seekers, particularly, I’m really making fun of myself.
So I think that I do funny well, but I don’t do serious well at all. Being a convicted sex offender is not funny, and making fun of sexual offenses, especially involving minors, is also not funny. But does that mean just letting this pass and not sharing the information? More shocking to me than the revelation that Fred Davis is a registered sex offender was that no one else in the spiritual community seemed to know, and that he himself had not shared this in any of his writings or interviews. Hadn’t anyone done a basic Google search on his name to find out more information? I don’t mean a suspicious background check, I just mean trying to learn more about him and his writings and history. When I’m interested in a particular teacher I’ll Google them to learn as much about them as possible, to read their writings, and to find videos of them. Sometimes I’ll go 6 pages deep into a Google search looking for info. Ok, admittedly I have OCD, but if you’re going to pay someone $750 for an Awakening package don’t you want to do some due diligence first?
What Fred has done as far as the sexual offense was between him, his victims (which were family members) and the state of South Carolina. He had pled guilty and been punished. What I was interested in was disseminating the information of his status in relation to his spiritual claims and teachings. Isn’t someone who claims to have had a deep spiritual Awakening, an Awakening which (according to an interview which he had done only days before the revelation) meant seeing the truth and eliminating the lies, being disengenuous and cynical when they hide this from potential customers and clients?
Fred wrote an article confessing to his status as a registered sex offender on his website. But instead of accepting responsibility and showing remorse, his explanation showed himself as a victim. He mentions that South Carolina is the only state to not have a statute of limitations on sexual offenses, something which seemed to take him off guard. This makes it seems as though he only confessed because he thought he was in the clear and safe from prosecution. He also makes it seem as though he pled guilty because he wanted to spare his family from the trauma of a trial, and that they judge gave him a lenient sentence because of what a special guy he is. It seems more likely, to me, that the DA and family agreed on a plea deal so that they didn’t have to recall all of the details of what had happened 35 years prior. This is just speculation on my part since I haven’t seen any of the documents relating to his case.
In his article he also complains about having to be on probation, wearing an ankle bracelet, and being a registered sex offender for life. He doesn’t seem to have sympathy for his victims, who also received a lifetime sentence of trauma. Because of the offensiveness of these claims I started a parody Facebook page called “Free Fred Davis” with the purpose of having Fred removed from the sex offender registry because “his victims got to move on with their lives, why shouldn’t Fred also?” The purpose was to point out the absurdity of his article where he turned the situation around to portray himself as a victim.
I also posted a review on one of his Amazon.com books pointing out the hypocrisy of claiming to be an Awakened spiritual teacher while having hidden the fact that he was a registered sex offender for 10 years. Fred responded by claiming that this review, and others like it, were breaking state and federal laws. He claimed that it was stalking and harassment. Amazon.com did remove the reviews, and when I asked why they responded that the review violated its policies by not being relevant to the product being reviewed and by being spiteful. I actually agree with their response, I should have made the review more contextual to his book and his teachings instead of just pointing out that he was a hypocrite.
There are laws which protect people on the sex offender registry, and their families, from threats and harassment. These laws are intended to stop vigilantes from looking up sex offenders, tracking them down, going to their homes to confront them or do damage to their property, or harass them by repeatedly calling them or emailing and texting them threats. These are good laws and I agree with them. A person who has gone through the criminal justice process and been released has a right to live their lives and try to be a productive citizen. I have never advocated that anyone harass or threaten Fred or his family, and find it extremely unfortunate if anyone has
Fred Davis, though, seems to be interpreting these laws to mean that he can go on publishing and selling books, having a website where he sells his Awakening packages and Clarity sessions, and give interviews promoting all of these, and yet not face the negative repercussions of his crimes. As a public figure selling a product he is subject to criticisms, comments, and reviews of what he is selling. This means both positive and negative comments on Amazon.com, Facebook, and other social media. Being a registered sex offender doesn’t mean that you are now immune from public exposure of this fact. If a person decided to run for political office, for example, all of their public information, such as criminal convictions, is fair game. Keep in mind that Fred’s conviction is not sealed, and the information about it wasn’t obtained illegaly or by using deception. It’s public record, and as such is subject to public dissemination.
Fred made the decision to become a public figure by publishing books, selling services, and giving interviews. If his books and services were about making birdhouses then I could see the point that continually pointing out that he is a registered sex offender is irrelevant and the sole purpose is to harass him and damage his business. Instead, he makes claims of spiritual attainments, realizing the truth, having seen through the lies, and having the ability to Awaken others. He gives one-on-one Skype sessions. I haven’t participated in one of these sessions with him, but based upon my limited experience of attending satsangs and speaking with other spiritual teachers, these can include divulging very personal and emotional information. People seeking Awakening and Enlightenment are often very emotionally vulnerable and ripe for abuse, as can be seen throughout the history of guru-disciple relationships. Don’t these people have the right to know that the person they are relying on has such a past? Is it irresponsible and criminal to point out this publically available information?
Honestly, I’d rather be done with the whole Fred Davis saga. How do you parody and satire a convicted sex offender turned spiritual guru without the parodies and satires themselves becoming offensive? Everything seems mean spirited. It looks as though your desire isn’t to inform and entertain but to destroy. Luckily for me, there are so many other subjects ripe for parody and satire that I’ll have material for years to come.