By Ky Plaskon
A bearded man in ancient black and white clothes stood stoically at an invite-only Potentialist Workshop event in May. His piercing wide eyes steadily hold your gaze and his soft voice inspire trust, even as he reaches for his hip, draws a gleaming knife, and points it at the heavens.
He hands out business cards promoting Reno’s newest church, WYSPER. “I Give You Abundance,” it declares. He has spent an abundant amount of money, in the thousands, on this effort already. So who is he and what is in store for Reno from this local enigma that seemed to appear out of nowhere?
Where are you from? I asked. “Well, my family is from the ghost town of Deewt near Pyramid Lake,” he answers. After a long period of confusion, Deewt sets aside the persona and becomes artist Eric Brooks. He explains that the imaginary town and its imaginary people from which this imaginary character arrived is the subject of a very real performance installation at the Northeastern Nevada Museum in Elko, The Forgotten Works a Peek into the Piety, Personality, Possession & Pleasure of Rev. Jacob Ernest Deewt.
In Reno, Brooks is bringing a very real church-like series of monthly events over the next year starting on Sunday, June 6. It is all built around this character, Rev. Deewt, the great, great, great, great-grandson of Isaac Deewt and the town of Deewt he built and the ill-fated Deewtans (town’s people).
The arrival of the character Rev. Deewt in Reno is to break the current toxic, cyclical trap Renoites have of destroying property, building new properties, erasing history, and with it destroying interpersonal relationships and happiness. Brooks hopes to break this cycle with an infusion of happiness at a new “church.” Anyone who shows up at the church service becomes part of this performance, weaving together community and fun into a new perspective of ourselves, the west and the relationship between woman, man, and everyone in between.
Brooks has concocted a series of mysterious events to grip Reno including margaritas and ice cream to be served at a round-about on Virginia Street and a river baptism. The monthly services will be at The Virgil.
“The Virgil is absolutely gorgeous,” he said of the former church-turned event venue. “So it will be a great place to share positive messaging. The church that the Deewts started in the early 1800s near Pyramid Lake is called WYSPER, which stands for Wild Yoga Sex as People Endure Repentance. So there are going to be lots of contradictions along the way as any true religion should have. That will be part of the fun. At the end of the day, this should be a fair amount of irreverence toward organized religion.”
“In a bigger picture, it is a place for the community for people who don’t have a place. A church is really a community center and has been since the beginning. So for people now who don’t have that experience, bars are really the place to go. So this will be an experience where people can come in the morning and hang out with their friends, have a drink (mead), and talk about positive things. The sermons will be about deserving love, deserving happiness, how we can achieve those things, and also tackle some social issues at the same time. There will be guest speakers. We have a house music director.”
Brooks says the crescendo of the year-long performances will be a “big, big, big show and that will be an installation: 150 pieces of work, both sculpture and painting and four interior installations that will deal with male toxicity and how our society has both accepted it and how to deal with it in a more positive way.”
Brooks’ plan has been in the works for five years, but recently it evolved after the demolition of an iconic area in Reno, the Second Street corridor. Brooks realized that similar to the ghost town of Deewt, what was once on Second Street is also a kind of a forgotten ghost town now.
Initially, “it wasn’t just going to be (a performance about) a church/cult,” he said. The destruction of the Reno neighborhood shifted his focus and helped solidify it into more of a statement about our cyclical traps of destroying and rebuilding in our male-dominated society.
“It’s a non-traditional take on western migration, Manifest Destiny, and how religious fervor can really become a control point for an entire community. It is a reimagining of an entire history. This is fiction and it is telling a narrative of the past and what we are living today, seeing Reno with its great ‘growth,’ the destruction and loss over the last 150 years of Nevada’s history. The growth and loss and the ghost towns and the people who have built it up and how those people have gone away and Reno is becoming a ghost town of sorts with our own history right now.”
“This is not just a crazy guy starting a church that turns into a cult. It’s a much bigger picture of life and death and how that works with expansion that is still taking place in the United States. We are telling that story through the Deewts eyes.”
Brooks and I spoke for about an hour, delving briefly into some of the sermon topics and how they will be explored through the melding of character, story past and present relevance.
How are you exploring male toxicity?
“So right from the beginning, Thomas Deewt is the leader of a town and he convinces his wife to move west even though she doesn’t want to. So right away with that dynamic he is in control and burdening her with a child and now not only is she dependent on him, now the child is dependent on her, who is now dependent on him,” Brooks said.
“We are also going to delve into how women never have a true identity. They are born into their father’s name and then they take on the husband’s name and never have their own true identity.”
The museum installation in Elko has a similar theme with the lack of female identity. There are nine women, antique photos, random women that have been adopted in the Deewt Clan. They are only known now as “the women of Deewt.”
“They are nine of the 141 population,” Brooks said. “The installation doesn’t make it clear whether they are Deewt’s concubine or how they fit into the community. They are just known as ‘the women of Deewt.’ So again, it is another way that these women are trapped under male control in a town that is named after a male and their being is associated with his name, not what they are doing on their own.”
The story is not yet complete. Brooks is building it in his mind. “The end goal is to, next summer, reveal what happened to the Deewt family and how we can avoid a catastrophe of an entire town dying.”
An Interview with Deewt
For a window into how Brooks will approach these topics through the Reverend Deewt, I met the Reverend at, you guessed it, an old bar — Forty Mile Saloon.
“Cheers. It’s good to be back in Reno. You may have seen photos of me. They are all very stoic and I do have a stoic soul. But I do have gratefulness for being back in the community and sharing the philosophy of what my ancestors have brought to the Nevada area. I will bring a lightness that you won’t see transmitted through those photos,” Deewt said.
Deewt’s life involves daily meditation and often fasting.
“It is incredibly simple. I am a vegetarian. WYSPER will promote vegetarianism. We will be conducting some ritualistic sacrifices that involve vegetables and how those sacrifices can empower us. There won’t be any judgment for those who eat meat or need to eat meat.”
Why is he here?
“There is a great influx of power that is coming into me and into you and into everyone in this town. There is a magnetic force that has pulled me back into this area. I think that anyone who has lived here or not been here very long would have a similar statement that they were pulled here.
“There is an energy that needs to be explained and needs to be unburdened from the Earth in a way that can benefit us. And that is going to be part of this coming explosive climactic year of discovery and exploration both with myself and the WYSPER philosophy and everyone who interacts with it. They are going to feel a certain pull and need to be around it. And not just take from it but become part of it.
“There are already a dozen who have become very attached to the project, to me and the land and we encourage anyone to come and see how they can benefit themselves.”
What does Deewt think of Reno?
“I think Reno is a beautiful land of opportunity that has been exploited. I think there is a great sadness coming from the water and the trees and from the land. In walking the streets and seeing the people walking the streets and being swept away by society. I think there are some great gaps in care right now. I am not going to be the solution to those, but as the community continues to come together, that is a long process. We are not here as saviors. We are sticks to build a bridge to cross a busy river.”
Should we be guided by religion?
“There are so many things that we don’t know and when it comes to a religious base, people will say, ‘this is what is going to happen,’ or ‘if you don’t do this, then this is going to happen.’ None of those people know what is going to happen. None of those people know what is going to happen until they shut their eyes forever. Then they will know.
“Until then, that next step is a huge mystery, how involved in it, how we will get to it, what our journey is, the paths that we will meander until we get there. We need to trust that mystery. And when we are there, we will be ready for it. It is not something that we need to burden ourselves with both physically and mentally or spiritually. A mystery is a mystery and there is nothing we can do about it but trust it. And once we trust that mystery, so much energy and openness and space in our brain will be available to start enjoying the things around us.”
How is WYSPER financed?
So far, he has spent over $7,000 on this effort.
“Financially it has been a very organic experience. When something needs to be done, the money shows up for it. We are encouraging everyone to buy as much as they can at the events to enjoy and to continue the mission. Get the merchandise into people’s hands and do events and spread the word for bigger events.
“People can start becoming a part of this experience for just $5 a month. That $5 a month will have a moment of meditation with me. It will be telepathic, where I am thinking about your goals and strengths and how you can continue to improve those two things and reach your goals and become stronger. Also, you will get a monthly newsletter and an introductory bag of goodies which includes stickers.”
What is the topic of the first sermon?
“Sunday is going to be a sermon called, ‘You deserve happiness.’ Sermons will never be more than an hour because no one deserves to sit for more than an hour, even if you have a drink in your hand. It will be a town-hall-style. It is the first time we have all gotten together. There will be some followers, believers, disciples. They are the backbone of what I am trying to bring back. It will be a meet and greet. It will be formal. There will be a question-answer section and I will go through five points of happiness and how we can achieve that.”
- That you have power, where it comes from, and why and how you can exploit it to your benefit.
- Make room for happiness and how we can accomplish that.
- Start looking for what we are grateful for.
- Meditate on what we are grateful for.
- Usually, the hardest thing for people to do is to accept happiness and that they deserve abundance.
He says there will be a group confession. The feeling of guilt will be forgiven. “The label of sin is insecure men trying to control other people,” Deewt says.
“I want anyone who is happy to come. I want anyone who is unhappy to come. Because those two dynamics will help each other out. Learning a few new ways to make sure that happiness is secure is always a good thing. So there is no hard doctrine. The strength of communication and how we can help one another by helping ourselves first.”
Where did the idea of WYSPER come from?
“WYSPER was something I discovered when I was on the property. This is something that dates back to the great, great, great, great grandfather’s town. The church of Deewt was also considered the church of WYSPER. The white owl has a great symbolic reference in Native American ideology, the Pacific Islander ideology. It brings strength. It brings foresight into the future. It is a very powerful and positive entity in every possible way.
“Two years ago, I was near Wadsworth, which is on the way to where the Deewt property was, and in a three-walled abandoned house there was a white owl and it followed me around the house. It was a very powerful, personal moment that I had.”
“The main thing that WYSPER is here to do is to bring happiness to people and expand the mindset that we all deserve happiness and it is not upon others to make us happy and it is not upon us to make others happy. This is a very individual thing. Down the line, we will talk about how we can expand happiness through acts of service. But right now the whole focus is that this world is a ‘spiderweb’ wrapping us in negativity and we need to fight against that as individuals and we have that power to do that and overcome that and find happiness.”
What is so negative?
He says examples of the ‘spiderweb’ of negativity is evident in Reno over the past year with fear of COVID and spiking rents, the struggle to find food and child care, the huge pressure on families, the pressure to look and act a certain way, to buy certain products and the exposure of media to children, fear of healthcare problems, depression, caring for the elderly, being trapped in relationships, and the burden of problems around the world.
A spiderweb is a very apt analogy. “If you have ever touched a spiderweb,” Deewt says “it is designed to capture and to kill and once you get caught up in that it is harder and harder to move away and get away from its capture.”
He wants to teach a lesson so that it is not repeated.
“I am the last in the lineage of the Deewts. I am carrying a great burden that I need to share with everyone. I have been cobbling through records that have been passed down to me. The town of Deewt has been destroyed for many generations, so going back to the land and finding little things hidden away. I have been able to start to put together the meaning of what WYSPER is. We are still struggling with some of the same basic rights, issues for women, minorities, the Chinese American experience, the Native American experience. The struggles have not changed. A corporate/cynical overhauling-look from organized religion to government and business. It’s all a distraction from solving real issues.”
What about the town of Deewt?
“It was completely peaceful, integrated with language and stature. People were white, Native American, and Chinese. Everyone worked hard and everyone helped one another. It was a very unique operating system. People died, people were executed. There are consequences and there are things that morally that we should not do. A person worshiping an invisible God should not be the person telling you what you should and should not do. The big thing is intended to harm. That is something that no one should put up with.”
What will does the Rev. Deewt intend to do?
“This is definitely not a cult. This is very much a religion formed from visions, strength, and wisdom from a very hard-working spiritual man. And although I didn’t derive these instructions through a godly visit as many people who have formed religions. This is primarily through My energetic interactions with nature, through my communication with my wife and other female friends. It is through the communal experience that I am the head of, the leader of. I have come back to be the leader of this organization that is imparting positivity through the energies of the universe that we all have access to.”
What does the future hold for WYSPER?
“I am a person of the land. I have traveled extensively throughout the country. I have been in Reno for just a few months. There is a buzz developing. There are a few members who have arrived with me through a vision. Our first fundraising activity will be to buy back the Deewt land.
“It is very much grassroots, word-of-mouth. Whether something gets built there is unlikely. There is definitely no infrastructure out there. Once the land is purchased, which I am sure it will be, there will definitely be events out there. People will be welcome to go out there and camp and be a part of that natural ecosystem which we are no longer privy to living in a city.
“As my life is coming to a close as I get older, knowing that I am the last one with this family blood. There needs to be a way to share what I have learned so it can help people in the future and how that Deewt name and legacy can be shared.
“I have wandered for lack of a better term across the US, staying in people’s homes, their barns, finding work, much as people did hundreds of years ago.”
The Reverend Jacob Ernest Deewt is also available for private confessions, laying-on of hands, baptism in utero and is certified for weddings. Though he is not a licensed doula, he offers that service too. If these services are of interest to you, send him a quick note at: WysperDeewt@gmail.com
And, the final question that you have been waiting for:
The church name, Wild Yoga Sex as People Endure Repentance, begs the question, “Will wild yoga sex be a part of church services?”
“No,” Brooks says. “That is a homework project that you kind of do on your own. That has not been a subject that has been given much consideration. Enlightenment will be given as the universe deems it necessary.”
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