Hello folks. I thought I'd share a little about my strange life growing up in the 1970s and 80s as the son of a minor-league cult leader.
For a long time I didn't want to talk about this or write about it for a lot of reasons. I didn't want to call what my dad was doing a cult, first
off..but it was. I finally came to terms with that. My feelings are complex, and I didn't want to hurt some of the people close to me by disclosing
certain details. But I think this story might be of enough interest to ATS and the Internet that its worth going into. And it's cathartic for me too.
So, my New Years resolution for 2012 is to tell my story here, at last.
A few things: I really want to protect my privacy and that of my family and friends, which was the reason I held off on writing this for so long. But
I finally decided that most of this happened so long ago and was so bush-league that I could take the risk. Even so, I have changed a few minor
details in what what follows. And I'll be happy to answer questions and talk about this, but there are certain things I won't answer or reveal so
forgive me if I decide to ignore your question. I'm not trying to be rude, I'm just being careful. Another thing: if somebody out there who recognizes
me or my dad in this and has something to say to me, please send me an email or a private message first rather than spilling your grievances all over
this public forum. Of course I can't stop you - I can only request.
Well where to begin. I was born in 1972. By that time my dad had already gotten a pretty good group together, must have been 20 or 30 people. A lot of
them former hippies, seekers, drifters -- typical prey for such groups. Some of you may recall that was the time of all sorts of experimental
religious groups, from the hippie "Jesus People" and Eastern religions to the darker groups like The Process, and everything in between. People were
looking for new answers, running up against the limits of the realms that psychedelic culture opened for them. A lot of groups just sort of coalesced
around charismatic individuals, and my dad was no different. He didn't start out with an theology or a specific theory in mind, I think -- He simply
impressed people with his energy, his presence. He was a quiet, thoughtful man who liked reading and being by himself, but he was also totally
physically fearless and gave off a confidence and a sensuality that I guess is what people call "alpha." In the Age of Aquarius, sometimes that was
all it took. It seems incredibly naive today, but more people then were willing to believe that "gurus" and "teachers" walked among us in great
profusion -- and that they could be trusted.
So, my dad started out with a band of hippies in Western Massachusetts, near the five college area where there were a lot of hippies and intellectuals
and college-town freaks in the long-ago fabled days of the late 60s. Somewhere in there he and a whole group of people had what became known as "The
Experience." More on that later. Suffice it to say that it bonded them together and they purchased some land in Northern New England and started a
commune. This was 1969 I believe. A great year for communes, so they tell me.
Well, the upshot of it is that my dad and his friend Ben (name changed) began to develop this theology of sorts, and the rest of the group began to
treat them as spiritual leaders in a sense. Now its hard to describe this theology, because it morphed over time, but I guess you could call it
mystical and "new age" in a sense, although it eventually became highly analytic...and then dogmatic. It wasn't Christian per se, but it revered
Christ. It wasn't Buddhist, but it took something from there too. Again, not all that unusual. Typical hippie stuff...only my Dad and Ben took it a
little farther than most.
Here in my bedroom I have a chest with eight manuscript boxes full of closely-typed sheets of paper. Some of them have been typed on both sides, some
have illustrations, a few are written in my dad's crabbed, close, yet obsessively neat hand. This opus is titled The Works
, which my dad and
Ben started before moving to the commune, when they were still in Western MA. It remained unfinished when my dad died in 2006. I actually respect the
intellectual wattage behind a lot of The Works
, because it is no mere stream-of-consciousness river...no, its systematic and it attempts an
My dad and Ben had this idea they took from Spinoza and also Wittgenstein. It wasn't so much the content
of these men's ideas they took, but
rather the form.
What these philosophers tried to do was set out a comprehensive picture of reality starting from the most basic building
blocks and making everything numbered and cross-referenced, so the logic of each statement was firmly rooted in earlier axioms. Almost like Euclidean
geometry. This is exactly what they did. Each paragraph in The Works
is numbered, starting with 1.00001 and going through 3623.00027 .They were
attempting to construct a framework with which to grasp reality.
The first, most fundamental starting point of The Works
is something they called "The Experience." This was something that happened to my Dad,
Ben, my mom, and four other people when they were on a kind of camping trip in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. It was explained in many
different ways (and warped as my dad's craving for power grew) but in the first stages it was explained with references to things like: Moses on the
mountain confronting the Burning Bush, or Sudden (Rinzai) Zen Satori, or Saul/Paul's lightning conversion on the road to Damascus, that sort of thing.
A kind of powerful mystical "bolt out of the blue," an ineffable experience of the transcendent. Something happened to these people, and I believe
they experienced it as real and were sincere, at least at first. Something "hit them" and fused them into a tight group. What my dad and Ben were
doing with The Works
was starting from this experience ("1.00001") and trying to extrapolate outward from there to a picture that matched the
entire universe and all of reality. The logic was the "The Experience" was the only thing they knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to be real. On that
they agreed fervently - fanatically, actually. To them, whatever happened there was the real reality, and our reality is merely a pale illusion. "A
warped reflection spun down a hall of twisted mirrors" is how my dad put it (The Works
24.00004) So this became the foundation, and they tried
to "tune the logic to fit both the ultimate reality of the Experience and the shadow reality of our conventional world, and thus to gain full clarity
at every wavelength" (The Works
This effort, and their sincerity, attracted them a lot of attention in that college area. They got a reputation as "heavies." A lot of girls were
already interested in both Ben and my dad. Suddenly there were a lot more. One of them was my mom. A lot of male seekers, too. Eventually they drifted
north and were joined by many more.
I'm getting tired of typing this, ATS, and I'll continue it below later. I want to take you through the 70s and 80s, when the group swelled and my
dad's power-tripping maxed out, and then through the gloomy years of decline up to my dad's death as a more or less embittered and depressed, paranoid
fool. I'll be back later.
edit on 2-1-2012 by Never Despise because: (no reason given)