March, 2000 Volume XII #3
P.O. Box 460141 / San Francisco, CA 94146-0141 / telephone: (415) 821-2090 / FAX (415) 282-2369 / http://www.perefound.org / e-mail: email@example.com
KIT Staff U.S.: Ramón Sender, Charles Lamar, Christina Bernard, Vince Lagano, Dave Ostrom, Brother Witless (in an advisory capacity)
EuroKIT: Linda Lord Jackson, Joy Johnson MacDonald, Carol Beels Beck, Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, Ben Cavanna
The KIT Newsletter is an open forum for fact and opinion. It encourages the expression of all views, both from inside and from outside the Bruderhof. We reserve the right to edit submissions according to guidelines discussed at numerous KIT conferences. Obviously, it's seldom easy to know exactly how best to carry out KIT's mission of allowing many voices and various points of view to be heard. We do not, and cannot, vouch for the validity of any opinion or assertion appearing in the KIT Newsletter. The opinions expressed in the letters that we publish must remain those of the correspondents and do not necessarily reflect those of KIT editors or staff.
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
Yearly subscription rates (11 issues): $25 USA; $30 Canada; $35 International mailed f/ USA; £20 mailed f/ EuroKIT to UK & Europe
KEEP IN TOUCH
Faithful KITsters, the recent loss of loved ones serves to remind us of the preciousness of our all-too-brief human lives, and the mystery of the ever-renewing cycle of life and death, of love and loss and recovery. May those who have experienced in these weeks the passing-on of loved ones find solace and comfort, and meanwhile may we put aside our small differences and reach out to one another in the spirit of what it is that we all share together.
T h e W h o l e K i t A n d C a b o o d l e
Toll-Free Phone for former Bruderhofers in need of advice and referrals: 1 888 6 KINDER
------ Table of Contents ------
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Nadine Moonje Pleil
Rhoda and Francis Dorrell
Nadine Moonje Pleil
KIT News - Luke HollandŐs film debuts
Ramon Sender - The Other Side Of Joy review
Johanna (Patrick) Homann
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Paula (McWhirter) Buck
Elizabeth (Maas) Peters
Elizabeth (Maas) Peters
Margot (Wegner) Purcell
Edmund Cocksedge - book excerpt -
Robert Peck - Primavera Article
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald, 3/1/00: Dear Friends, It is with great sadness that I write to let you know that Leonard Pavitt has died. I am going down to be with Joanie tomorrow and will let you have more information as soon as possible.
Joan Taylor's address is: 61 Lyewater, Crewkerne, Somerset. TA18 8BB
Leonard was a very special person who helped a great many of us and brought KIT people together, especially in the early years.
Leonard Pavitt reading KIT, Lillan Marchant's grandson reading Belinda Manley's mouse book at Rookwood, 1994 - photo by Ben Cavanna
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 3/3/00: It is with much sadness that I announce Bob Peck's death. He died yesterday March 2 at 8:00 pm. His wife Hanna and the family's three daughters were with him. Hans Martin had flown in from California yesterday. Hans is Hanna's only brother.
Bob arrived in Primavera with Jere Bruner, some of the first Americans to visit. He came to the Bruderhof with great enthusiasm and also made the decision to stay and become a member. Bob married Hanna, one of my childhood friends. August and I were so glad to get in touch with them again after we had been kicked out of the commune. Bob went to school again after he and Hanna were kicked out or shall we say 'expelled' from the commune and became a professor at Penn State University.
August and I have enjoyed many visits from Bob and Hanna and have always been able to laugh and have a good time, even though we also talked a lot about the commune. We will miss Bob very much. So once again we have to say farewell to another dear friend.
Ramon Sender, 2/27/00: Belinda just rang up to say that Mavis Caine, 47, the youngest daughter of Chris Caine, 82, just died of liver cancer. Mavis lived 'outside' with her husband and two daughters, 18 and 25. Chris Caine came to see her at the hospice, but the trip almost proved too much for him and he won't attend the cremation ceremony this coming Thursday. Belinda is close to Lorna, Mavis's older sister, who phoned with the sad news.
Arthur Lord: To those who sent condolences, the family gives their deepest thanks. Mildred died on 5 January, 2000, after lapsing into a coma on 3rd January from which she did not awaken. The last few weeks had been increasingly hard for her. Deafness is a separator. When one suffers from loss of memory and also finds it impossible to carry out one's wishes, the frustration must be unbearable.
Mildred was just two months short of 90 years. Come September we would have been wed for 60 years. They have been wonderful years. Mildred never wavered in her belief in an all-powerful God and the fundamental message of the Christ. She was proud of our family and deeply thankful for their togetherness. They have been a great help to me, When she felt it necessary, she would speak out. This was an attribute which won her respect. We were lovers in the deepest sennse. I know I will miss her more as days go by, but life must go on.
Arthur, Esther and Mildred Lord
Rhoda & Francis Dorrell, 20 Boundary Road, Thornlands, Qld 4164 Australia (dorrell@bit. net. au) 2/26/00: Dear Friends at Kit, We are so happy to have found you on the Internet after recently joining the net. I have read part of the February KIT but it is getting late and I did want to give you our sad news, that my father Edmund Cocksedge passed away on the 13th January 2000 aged 84. Dad had been frail and tired for the past 6 months, with a bad heart and diabetes. He died from heart failure.
We had a lovely Celebration of his Life with over 100 family and friends in the Mt. Gravatt crematorium chapel on the 15th January. Dad was a member of the House of Freedom Community in Brisbane and had been active in the local peace movement, greens, anti-nuclear, concerned Christians, housing co-op and lots more and had a book published called A Vagabond For Peace. His ashes are being returned to England to be scattered in the same place as our mother Amy were, more than 20 years ago. A service will be held at Gloucester Friends Meeting House at 2 pm. on the 17th March for family and friends, with the scattering of ashes 4 pm. at Gloucester Crematorium's garden of remembrance.
Dad was such a loving and humble man, and he is greatly missed by us all! Greetings to every one, from Rhoda and Francis, their two children and five grandchildren, also Hugh & Joyce and Jenny & Al,
Barnabas Johnson, 3/2/00: I saw Leonard around Christmas, and it is hard to grasp that he is now gone. Joy, please convey to Joanie my loving regards as I can't send regular letters and I'm guessing she's not on e-mail.
I shall never forget the walk along Shoreham Beach with Leonard and Dad in 1969, where I was essentially a "fly on the wall" listening to two old friends chatting about the Bruderhof. There was much wisdom, but no bitterness. It was on this occasion that I first heard about the links between ancient feuds of the early '40s and the chill winds that swept among us in the late '50s, culminating in the Big Crisis.
How great it would be to discover that Leonard wrote a book in which, with his inimitable wit and wisdom, he documents those wonderful, terrible, and in some ways terribly funny times.
3/4/00: Bob Peck taught several years at Olney Friends School, a Quaker boarding school in Ohio, during the 1960s. Susan and I had attended this school in earlier years. Bob and Hannah were wonderful additions to the Olney family. Bob was a born teacher, and a great character. I shall always think of him with great respect and fondness.
Tim Johnson, 3/2/00: I was very sorry about our irreplaceable Leonard's death. Please pass my condolences to Joanie. I'll be processing memories of Leonard/Brother Witless for the next days, I guess. One will conclude this message, after other matters.
My memories drift back to Brother Witless in Forest River, and the near-fatal blizzard he and that other Englishman, neither of them fully attuned to the hazards of North Dakota winters, encountered on the road back from Grand Forks. When Dad and Leonard failed to return home, and the search party found their car abandoned in the roadside drifts, we had real fears that we'd not see them alive again. I'm pretty sure, given Dad's broken leg, that if it were not for Leonard's action in helping to pull Dad into the partial shelter of a snow bank, plus the good fortune of his then stumbling up against an occupied house, we and the Pavitt-Britts' kids would have been orphaned that night. Thanks in memory, Leonard, for that and so much more.
Nadine Moonje Pleil, 3/2/00: My friendship with Leonard goes back to my childhood. All through my adult life we remained friends and August also enjoyed Leonard's friendship after we were married. There are so many things I could tell you about Leonard. His sense of humour and his wit were priceless. 1994 when we, August and I went to England we stayed with Leonard and spent a very wonderful 3 weeks with Leonard and Joanie, Cathy and Jo. Little Ellie was not at that time a member of the family as she was not born.
Yes, Prof. Denkenlos and Schweigegebot really had a good time. I suppose at this point I will reveal that I am Prof. Schweigegebot. We, Leonard and I surely had great fun. When we became US citizens, Leonard wrote to us to congratulate us, but then had an extra message for me. "Nadine, you know that we always say, once a Brit always a Brit!"
Leonard took us to many wonderful places when we stayed with him, for me it was revisiting childhood haunts and for August some first time visits to the quaint little villages with the thatched roofs. It was an unforgettable time. We, loved you, we enjoyed your wit and most of all your understanding and love. Leonard, dear friend, farewell.
It was a great shock for me to read Joy's message about my friend Leonard. Joy please convey our deepest sympathy to Joanie and her daughters. I will write to them.
3/3/00: As I had been away for several days, I had a lot of messages to read and the news about our dear friend Leonard really had me in shock. Just after reading that message from Joy, I received the news about Bob. This year has not got off to a very good beginning. So many dear friends have departed. I still feel that I am in shock.
Leonard Pavitt with granddaughters Hoanne and Catherine, Christmas 1997 -
photo by Ben Cavanna
I have kept all the letters Leonard wrote to us over a period of 11 years. I have started to reread them. These letters are a wealth of humour, wit, love, joy and understanding. Actually they make very good reading. On reading some of them again I have just burst out laughing. Reading some of these letters again has helped me to get past some of the shock of realising that there will not be anymore of these wonderful letters. I am so glad that I kept all the letters he wrote to us. They actually are a real treasure.
2/4/00: As I have already mentioned, Leonard became my friend when I was still a child. He was one of the single brothers who was in and out of Victor and Hila's home. We all had some very good times, times of much laughter and wonderful humour. I loved Leonard's horse, I thought that horse was a real beauty!!!
When August and I got married August also became part of this friendship. Leonard and Joan married one year later than we did. My pre-school group and I acted out a little play about flowers and sang some flower songs. Leonard said that he very well remembered that little play. He said he was very touched by the simplicity of the play and how the children acted it out. Leonard loved flowers and nature. He had a beautiful garden.
For many years we lost touch, as Leonard and Joan were sent away from the commune for being too family-centered, and August and I remained in the commune for many more years. 1980 August and I were sent away from the commune and I was once again in touch with Leonard through Buddug Evans. In the meantime Joan had passed on. It was 1989 when we started to correspond with Leonard again and our friendship once again flourished. Then when my book was published we spent 3 wonderful weeks with our friend Leonard. He took us to all the little places he so much loved. We had some wonderful times together, unforgettable. We laughed a lot and talked a lot and even, believe it or not, had some quite serious talks.
Leonard helped me over a very difficult time in my life and did it with so much love and understanding, I thank him very much for that love and consideration.
We talked about the good side of the commune and the bad side and were able to laugh about so many things pertaining to the Bruderhof.
After Leonard read my book he said, "Nadine, you have managed to write a very balanced account and you have told about the good times, and we did have some good times, and you wrote about the bad times which I am sorry to have to say outweigh the good times. Congratulations, Nadine, to a job well done." As you can imagine, I was very, very touched by his summary of my book.
Leonard also sent me some poetry, poetry of a humourous nature. I so enjoyed his little pieces of poetry and his humour, his wit and everything else about him.
As you can all tell, Leonard meant a lot to August and I and we will never forget him. So I say farewell to a great and wonderful friend. Leonard, you will be missed by all of us,
Ramón Sender, 3/1/00: There was something about Leonard that was absolutely unique, perhaps the combination of those soft, gentle English tones with a mind that always saw the surrealistic side of human nature. Despite what must have been a very painful exodus from the Bruderhof, Leonard never expressed more than the mildest of remonstrances, always turning to his best friend Brother Witless for the more acerbic insights and of course to the academic correspondence between those favorite of professors, Denckenlos and Schweigegebot.
I will never forget his sitting beside me on the car ride to Cornwall, emitting occasional yips as I steered too close to parked cars whilst traversing various narrow village streets. How the British manage I will never understand.
I certainly envied him his years with his dear granddaughters Jo and Kathy, and lately with his great-grand-sweetie-pie Ellie. Leonard, I think, had a lion's share of joy from his dear ones, and that is all that anyone can ask for planetside. Blessings and godspeed, dear friend!
Judith Sender, 3/1/00: I've been thinking about Leonard and his tremendous wit, hospitality and warmth that we experienced in his presence. I'm terribly sad to hear of his death and find it hard to imagine we won't ever see him again. He was a wonderful guide to us to the conferences, and protective and very entertaining to the three of us (to Sol and Ramón and me) on our wrong-side-of-the- backroads drive to the conference in 1994. He could strike up the most remarkable conversations at our Bed and Breakfast with the owner, who was a very avid bowler. Leonard's sense of irony and his ability to go from the mundane to the philosophical won't be forgotten. Love To All,
KIT News Note, (From Ben) 2/12/00: Berlin Film Festival Special Festival Screening 17 February, 2000 I Was A Slave Labourer. Filmed and directed by Luke Holland, produced by Pascale Lamch Screen no. 5, PotsdamerStr 4, Berlin. The new BBC / La Sept-ARTE / WDR documentary film on the slave and forced labour compensation campaign (75 minutes).
Over ten million people, Jews and non-Jews from throughout occupied Europe were forced to work for the Third Reich. Many died of exhaustion and starvation or were murdered when they no longer served a useful purpose. This was the fate of over a million Jewish slave labourers. Filmed over four years, I Was A Slave Labourer tells the inside story of the long-running campaign for slave and forced labour compensation. Eight weeks ago, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder announced a 'settlement' of this unfinished Third Reich business. In this dramatic and controversial documentary, now shortlisted for Germany's leading TV award the Grimme Preis, Auschwitz survivor and former I. G. Farben slave labourer, Rudy Kennedy, confronts the Third Reich companies that employed slave labour.
I Was A Slave Labourer features dramatic encounters with past and present administrators of Third Reich corporations and their apologists. The Special Festival Screening on 17 February, will be followed by a discussion on issues raised by the film with Director Luke Holland, former slave labourer Rudy Kennedy and others.
I Was A Slave Labourer is a ZEF Productions / Zephir Film co-production for the BBC, La Sept/Arte and WDR, in association with TV Ontario. Supported by The Soros Documentary Film Fund and the MEDIA Programme of the European Union. Distribution Minotaur Films, London.
Ramón Sender, 2/27/00: A Review of The Other Side Of Joy: Religious Melancholy Among The Bruderhof, by Julius H. Rubin, Oxford University Press. This is a carefully crafted and impressive overview of the Bruderhof communities, a movement deeply enmeshed in what the author describes as 'The Purgatorial Complex,' "which involves a capacity for ceaseless self-examination and self-torment." In the process, Professor Rubin has managed to include a great deal of information about the Bruderhof in a manner both scholarly and accessible to the general reader. The early chapters describe the historical background of the Bruderhof and its charismatic founder, Eberhard Arnold. The description of the 1960s power takeover by the founder's son Heini will become, in my opinion, the definitive analysis of this haunted man.
On page 106 begins a discussion of the repression of sexuality within the Bruderhof. The author pulls no punches, but just lays out the straight facts regarding the past treatment of children and adults by the leadership.
The author includes strong quotes from many ex-Bruderhof sources, such as ex-leader Roger Allain, two of the founder's granddaughters as well as many others. As someone already familiar with these stories, reading these testimonies within a new context allowed me to experience them afresh as terrible abuses inflicted on both young and old by religious zealots eager to prove themselves faithful to their beloved word leader. The author also managed to digest many of the tragic stories of the members and children kicked out of the Bruderhof, both during the Sixties putsch and later. Many of the observations he derives hold true for other similar high- demand religious groups and/or cults.
One page 125 he begins the exposition of the main thesis, how religious melancholy manifests within the Bruderhof. He includes a description of the so-called 'exorcism' of Miriam Way, which the Bruderhof in its own published revisionist version of these years referred to as "the watershed event." Indeed it was a watershed event, and created an avalanche that buried six of the nine Bruderhof communities and threw 600 people into misery and poverty.
Those of us with Bruderhof connections owe Professor Rubin a deep debt of gratitude for the unstinting efforts he made to steer his book into publication past all obstacles. It certainly was not an easy birth, and for any reader of this review who requires further information I would point them to the following website: www.perefound.org. knsltrs. html, and especially to Prof. Rubin's own essay, "Contested Narratives." Truth may travel slow, but when it arrives it rings with an easily recognized authenticity that puts the hollow lie to shame.
Ben Cavanna, 2/1/00: Hi All, I have spent the last two days in the Conquest Hospital here in Hastings being ministered to by the National Health Services finest.
5:00 AM Monday, I found myself on the bathroom floor dazed and confused, feeling sick and with a pounding headache. It took me an hour or so to realise that I had collapsed while having a pee and hit my head on the toilet bowl and then on the wall and badly bruised my arm also. I thought that I had just stumbled and fallen over, but gradually realised that I had been unconscious for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
I was getting ready to go to work but felt strange, so I phoned Charlie who told me not to go anywhere, but to get Liz to take me to the doctor. The doctor found my pulse to be 50 and blood pressure 110 over 60 and had me admitted to hospital for ECG and blood tests.
It now seems that I did not have an epileptic fit, but had Micturating Syncope, which is fainting after urinating, and that I had knocked myself out through an overenthusiastic attempt at head butting the loo and wall.
My head is still very sore and my arm too, but I am home and can go to work tomorrow if I feel like it. The nurses, auxiliaries, doctors and technicians were all brilliant.
Thanks for your calm support when I needed it, Charlie. Love,
Melchior J. Fros, 2/15/00:
Die Gedanken Sind Brie*
Die Gedanken sind Brei,
Ich bin tief enttaeuschet!
Mein Herz ist in Zwei,
Die Seele verdruecket.
Von Charley durchschossen,
Sind Seel, Herz und Knochen,
Es bleibt halt dabei:
Die Gedanken sind nicht frei!
Und eifert man schwer
Mein Zueg zu Vernichten
Mit Hass, Fluch und Spott
Und falschen Geschichten
Ich mach tapfer weiter
Das Ziel macht mich heiter
Drum stimmt mit mir ein:
"Bitte sei nicht so gemein!"
Hoer, Charley, hoer an
Barmherzig musst Du sein!
Kommt endlich der Tag
Wenn Schwester und Brueder
Mit einem Herzschlag
In Einheit bestimmen:
Die Mauer soll nieder,
Gott wills, dass als Brueder
Wir freudensvoll sind
Im Namen des Kind:
My thoughts, they are mushed,
I'm deeply discouraged.
My heart is broken,
My soul depressed.
For Charley has destroyed
Soul, heart and bones
It remains unchanged:
Thoughts are not free.
And though one tries
To discredit my witness
With hate, swearing and mockery
And false testimony
I bravely press onward
The Goal encourages me
So join my call:
Please don't be so cruel!
You must be compassionate.
Come the day
When sisters and brothers
In true unity say:
We can't go on like this.
The Wall must come down
For God wills, that as brothers
We live peacefully
In the name of the Child.
Copyright 2000. Verlag Lausbub, Primavera, Paraguay. (poorly translated by M. Fros. )
* Based on a popular German song. With roots in the peasant revolt, it was used by Schiller and others. Ironically, it was banned during the Nazi years. Will this version be banned today?
Susanna Zumpe, 1/31/00: There is a world of difference between those who joined in Primavera and those who join now. The exposure now to the outside world is much greater from a much earlier age on, so the myth that everybody in the outside world is evil is quickly dispelled. I remember feeling really irritated that we had been lied to. With this exposure comes the realization that leaving the SOB is an option, and people like high school teachers and counselors make it possible. Love,
Elisabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 2/19/00: The brothers that left their wives "for the sake of the big cause" did so, out of their own free will, mostly because they were pacifists and the war was in process. If they had not gone to the Bruderhof, they might have been killed in the war. I am sure it was their faith and determination that made them do this, rather than servants forcing them to make this choice. I remember well as a six-year-old that the British Government paid the fares of so many members, in return for them taking the Cotswold Bruderhof. In the end, more and more people wanted to get out of England and the Home Office wanted to put a stop to this. No more "future members"were allowed to leave. I remember well how all the Barron family had left and Conny did not get permission until almost a day before we were leaving. That the brothers left their wives and children is horrible, but it was their choice. As regards to Stanley he told me his whole sad story on the way from Wheathill to Bulstrode in 1958 and there is so much more tragedy to it than one can say in a few words. All I want to say is that after some 50 years it is difficult for us to judge a person's ideals and deeds.
Melchior J. Fros, 2/19/00: Dear Bette, I appreciate what you wrote about the men who left wives and children for the "big cause." I was particularly interested in your closing sentence, "All I want to say is, that after some 50 years it is difficult for us to judge a person's ideals and deeds."
I truly do not believe this is a matter of judging the men. Nor is it a matter of accusing Servants of "forcing them to make this choice." From my dialog with the Chesleys (who knew Harry Fossard intimately) and with Paul Fox, there emerge disturbing questions which, perhaps, the B'hof needs to answer.
1. What about these men's wives and children? Why does the B'hof literally celebrate the men's "faithfulness" to "the life?" (I know what I am speaking of when I use the word "celebrate") If these men
were true pacifists and needed to leave England during the war, why did the B'hof not see to it they were returned to their wives and children after the war?
2. Why did Harry Fossard express (to the Chesleys) a deep sense of remorse for what he had done to wife and children?
3. Eric Phillips joined after the war.
My concern is that the obligations fathers had to wives and children are ignored in favor of the "big cause." No one speaks for the suffering and neglect of the wives and the children. In my time, Stanley was held up as a shining example of one who sacrificed human love in favor of the "pearl of great price." We "Shalomers" were told we had to be as ready as he was to forgo marriage (only recently did I learn he was married...I had always been under the impression he left an engaged woman to join the Bhof). Today, we see the Bhof actively involved in separating children, mothers and fathers in the name of Christ.
Ben Cavanna, 2/20/00: Conscientious Objection was a well established option before the Second World War in The UK.
No one needed to join the Bruderhof to avoid being killed. My father obtained CO status at the start of the war prior to joining the Bruderhof.
Hilarion Braun, 2/21/00: Hi Everyone! Does anyone know of any Brotherhood meetings in which financial aid to ex-members or their children was discussed? I know that some of the folks who pioneered in Paraguay after the fall of Primavera were helped substantially, while others were not. Does anyone know what the logic was? I know that Simeon and Laurenz never received financial aid from the SOB, while others in similar situations were helped to get a good start. Could it have been related to internal lobbying? Those who did receive financial aid, in general did not want others to know. The injustice of it all had a very big impact on a life that was already difficult for many.
Did anyone stay in touch with Ruth Baragato after she was out of the SOB? Shortly before one of her exhibitions in New York she called me, and was very dejected. She ended up saying that first Jesus had abandoned her, and now I was abandoning her also. I was unable to go to New York to meet her there, since I had to work seven days a week. I would love to know more about those years in which she struggled to make it as an artist. Stefano is some sort of monk or priest in New York (married). He wants nothing to do with the SOB or KIT, and he's totally into this Eastern stuff. I still have a few things of Ruth. She was very artistic, and after her breakdown in Isla, she became totally dependent on my mom.
Lee, according to my mom, the treachery in New York was planned by Woodcrest without her knowledge. That apparently was not the case with you, right? Or did I get that story wrong? Ruth and Stef had been told that they were being sent to Woodcrest. In New York they were met by Woodcrest thugs, and sent on to California instead. Ruth committed suicide in Mexico. Love,
2/16/00:The February issue of KIT was great. Andy Harris' stories about Heini and Wheathill are reminiscent of Bette's description of a very arrogant, weird despot. What is missing in most of our stories is our own complicity in the SOB saga. Many of us were enablers, conscious or not. I remember my own complicity very well. When I got to Evergreen in 1960, one could smell Heini everywhere as though, like a dog, he had marked out his territory. When his silly portrait was framed and given as Christmas presents, I protested by calling it idolatry. After several hours of Aussprache I caved in, and "saw my pride." When the lunch menu was changed 15 minutes before lunch because Heini, who was visiting that day, hated cottage cheese, I protested, and was given a few days to come to my senses. I again caved in, and saw my "lack of love," and was given a week of dishwashing as punishment.
I knew each time, or should have known, and there were many other times, that I had caved in
because I valued being part of the group more than decency. I watched Heini bid farewell to the thugs that destroyed Primavera, with that broad, stupid grin of his. I was terrified that Primavera would cave in as I had, and it did because it had too many cowards like me. I was disappointed that Inno would write his story without more introspection. I doubt that a story depicting saintly Nigerian angels fighting Woodcrest devils will make good press. I hope that there will be a chapter on Inno's own complicity in that very materialistic mess in Nigeria. It seems that when so-called "leaders" lose their positions of power, they have a particularly hard time assessing their own contribution to corruption. The process of corruption and subjugation in a free society is a bilateral one in which the subjects encourage despotism implicitly, while explicitly branding the few who resist "troublemakers" or the like. The despicable stance by Bush and McCain on the confederate flag issue is a perfect example of how racism is reinforced by public silence in a democratic society. The confederate flag has even been described as a symbol of Christianity and family values!!!
1/31/00: Hila here. My cowardice in the SOB went like this: Every time I stuck my neck out, as for example when the lunch menu was changed for Heini, and I protested, or when Primavera was ridiculed, and I complained about it, or when Heini's picture was given to everyone in Evergreen as a Christmas gift, and I called it idolatry, I always caved in It was my cowardice that made me accept this crap, and my conscience did bother me.
I don't even know ultimately why I always caved in. Maybe it was because I thought I was the only one protesting, and therefore had to be wrong. This weird dynamic operates everywhere, not just on the SOB. It's the lone voice that comes from some "weirdo," and all the nice folk who agree are right. That's where terms like the moral majority come from. Love,
2/17/00 Lately I've been interested in group dynamics and the Internet, and here's what I think. The unhealthy aspects of group dynamics work in even the most loosely structured groups. A majority emerges, and the minority becomes a nuisance, and reflexive exclusionary tactics spring into play. In Internet chat groups, data regarding this are very quickly evident. Voices that do not fit into the nice comfort zone of the majority (or the perceived majority), are pointedly ignored, while the desired contributions, no matter how superficial or silly, are acknowledged and praised.
I used to take part in a Kombucha chat group, and it would grow in membership until a minority would be "iced out." The so called flamers were often very factual and sensible, but their message did not please those who had chosen to be leaders. On the interment all of this happens rapidly, while in real life situations the process is the same, but happens more slowly, and hence is more transparent. What was impossible to establish was a sense of reading the message, rather than obsessing about the messenger.
We tried, but it didn't work, and most in the group admitted that their interpersonal feelings would not let them separate the writer from his words. It was also claimed that this was so with all of the chat groups everyone had belonged to. I'm guilty of it myself but try to resist it, because I think that it is part of the dark side of us. The most extreme example of this dynamic that comes to mind is the attempt by Nazi physicists to prove Einstein's thoughts on relativity to be false. Love,
Johanna Patrick Homann, 2/18/00: Hi Hila, I liked what you wrote because I could relate with your piece in my job situation. I feel that I am in the minority. I don't fit in when it comes to typical American behavior. (For example, I am not interested in American football, but love the real football soccer, so when they have a football pool at work, where they bet on which team will win, I don't take part. I know that there are other situations where I don't fit in, as I sense reactions to what I say and do. I feel that a girl, Caitlin, who started after I did, but rose to a higher position has used me as a "venting" person.
When she first started she talked to me often using my expertise to get familiar with the job and confided in me. She was on Prosac and was very insecure, but had also learned to work the system
and put on a false front. Well, as she worked her way to the top (she had worked there before), she became more assertive and eventually superior. She went off Prosac when she met her future husband, but she still had all her old insecurities.
I could see how she still vented her frustrations against people at work who she felt were 'inferior' to her. Well, these people left work and now she had to find a new target. I, because I am a minority, (foreign, older, and maybe with more life experience) fit into that category and I now feel her wrath. It's hard to explain, but I feel her intense dislike for me. She has become curt, superior, and impatient with me and her attitude seems to be rubbing off on others. It really feels that since she has begun to 'vent' at me that others have joined in.
I have always felt that Iowans are very narrow-minded about diversity and if you don't fit into the "norm" they are uncomfortable with you and will shun you, so this doesn't surprise me. It makes work very uncomfortable and makes me want to move to a more culturally aware area. So, I am looking for other jobs once Katie leaves home.
I believe that it would be easier to drop or shun people on the Internet whom you don't agree with than those that you meet face-to-face. We were raised to be polite to people when we talk to them. I can cut off phone sales people much easier than 'door-to-door' sales people.
So, work has been less enjoyable lately and I'm trying to work on myself so I won't be so affected by her manipulations. I think that it has something to do with the resentment I feel when people who I feel are not superior to me try to control me. This dates back to B'hof days. I recognize the control of official superiors, but have trouble with accepting controls from those I don't feel should control me. I have voiced this subject before and wonder why the Hummers don't respond to this subject???
I have talked to other Hummers privately and have heard that others also have the same issues with unauthorized control, but for some reason people don't want to admit to and deal with this issue. I would welcome any responses. I know I am making myself vulnerable here, but I am hoping that this is still a safe medium for others to do the same??
So Hila, I am relating my work experience to your piece on majorities vs. minorities and this seems to be universal experience of human nature. I dealt with this same issue at work last fall, bringing Caitlin's behavior towards me to the attention of my superiors. They were aware of it, but excused it by saying that she was under a lot of stress because of new work responsibilities. I said that I could relate to that, but why was it that I was the only one to whom she was expressing this frustration? I told them that I felt that if one of our values was "Diversity is a strength," then why was it not practiced. They told me that they understood and that I should talk to her, but I didn't have to (they did). All of a sudden she was nice to me again and things went well for the rest of the semester. Now, since we started back after Xmas, she is back to her old tricks again. Maybe I need to get tougher, but I really feel like the minority again. Love,
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald, 2/18/00: Hi Hila, Why do the "reflexive exclusionary tactics" happen more quickly with Internet groups than in groups who meet face-to-face? I would have thought seeing and meeting someone would give rise to a greater opportunity for prejudice towards them because differences such as gender, color, accent, appearance etc., are immediately obvious and might make it more difficult to be objective about the message. Is it because people find it more difficult (transparent) to "ice out" people they think "do not fit" in a real life situation than in the relative anonymity of the Internet? Have a good weekend.
Ben Cavanna, 2/21/00: I too found that Internet chat groups are pretty robust places where politeness is not always uppermost on the agenda. And it is a pity that the minority opinions get drowned out and excluded.
I noticed in the groups where that happened that most posters were interested in scoring points and
defending their generally entrenched positions and not in listening to what other posters had to say. I very rarely saw people change their positions through rational debate, but more often stoop to personal attacks when it appeared that their position was becoming untenable.
One newsgroup where that generally did not take place was the alt.fan.heinlein group. Maybe that is because those of us who are Heinlein fans adopted Heinlein's general policy of rational debate and rules of procedure. Many of the characters in his books debate endlessly and are capable of changing attitudes after rational argument and debate.
I have just observed at first hand a weekend of great debate. Strong opinions, passionately held views, violently opposed positions, but debated in a generally cooperative atmosphere and held under fairly strict rules of procedure (those of the UN). These simulated UN sessions are quite an eye opener and something that many chat forums could well learn from.
I hope Tamara will write something about the MUN weekend when she has had some rest.
Sam Arnold, 2/24/00 Hilarion wrote [a propos of this general thread]: "Anyone who has raised a child knows how inquisitive children are, and how readily they learn. I wonder what fraction of the world population would be religious if religious indoctrination were not practiced. It is assumed by many that values such as honesty, love, respect, and devotion can be taught only in the context of religion. There is no factual or logical basis for this. The concepts of the ten commandments came from Babylonian law."
I agree with Hila. Life values can be taught in numerous and in better ways than religion. Here are a two that come to mind:
1) The most wonderful teacher of life values is nature itself. By observing nature in all its splendor and learning how interdependent all species are of one another, people can learn their own place and role in nature and in society. But how scary it is that man is still insisting on controlling nature, yet is so reluctant to control himself.
2) Another great teacher is music. (Unfortunately this excludes the deaf.) The beauty and the power of music is that it teaches subliminally. I do not mean the lyrics or words, but rather it is the music itself that impacts on both our emotions and intellect without us being consciously aware of it. Of course the message that the music brings to the listener can be either positive or negative, or both, but I prefer positive music with a dash of spice.
Those who have studied music theory know that there are rules of harmony that must be thoroughly learned in order to use them in accepted norms. There is inherent form and structure in music, and the rules for their use were very strict during the earlier Renaissance, Baroque and Classic periods in music. The performer and the listener are therefore subjected to the same rules of music that the composer was when he wrote the music, without even having to understand the rules. While the composer may not be thinking about educating the listener about important life values through his music, he is doing so anyway through the combination of perceived emotions (beauty) and intellect (structure) in his music. Conditioning to music, and how often a person listens to highly structured music (like Bach), also plays a role in the listener's learning.
All composers through the ages had to learn and practice the rules of harmony before they could develop their own unique approach to music, which in the case of geniuses always meant stretching and bending those rules beyond the accepted norms of the time. The three-note chord or triad was the basic harmonic unit during the Renaissance and represented resolution, while dissonance was used sparingly. But harmony was gradually overshadowed by the increasing use of dissonance or tension (chords that have 4 or more notes in them). Modern composers such as Schoenberg and Webern (and maybe also R. Sender) used mostly dissonant chords, and only the occasional triad. This is how music changed and evolved. Composers have always been about 50 years ahead of their audiences in the acceptance of their music. This explains why most good composers had to endure the poverty during
Popular music didn't start with rules, so it more or less borrowed the rules from the classical genre, and then developed an unstructured approach to music creation. Simplicity used to be the norm in pop music, but now music groups try to out-do each other with rhythmic, harmonic, and visual sophistication.
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald, 2/26/00: Hila, I don't know whether humans are naturally religious, but it would seem that Religion is the most important ideological force in human culture throughout the world. Most of the worlds' population adheres to one form of transcendent belief or other. Ironically it may be that Einstein's difficulty with the principal of uncertainty is an illustration of this need for humans to find a logical (scientific) explanation, but that when physical laws cannot be made to apply, religious explanations are resorted to. And yet despite an increase in our understanding of the physical world, recognition of some higher power distinct from the universe, and the general mental and moral attitude resulting from this belief, is still as prevalent as it probably ever was.
As Einstein said, "Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. " But my personal definition of religion may not be the same as other people.
Paula (McWhirter) Buck, 2/26/00: For me, "religion" is the term used as the heading for the list of words used to describe the group one chooses to lump their personal beliefs into... as "Baptist," "Quaker," "Methodist..." etc. "Spirituality" is more one's personal relationship with their own soul. I don't consider myself at all "religious..." though I consider myself extremely "spiritual." However I do feel that the general public chooses to make it a lot more complicated.
2/24/00: I once spent an 8-hour shift working with a woman I had known for about five years, who was a "bible-thumpin' Baptist" (I'm in the mountains of North Carolina, where they breed... ~ smiling ~).
The subject of religion came up and she said she noticed that I never mentioned, in the time we'd known each other, what religion I was. This is not a subject I discuss with the general public, as a rule, but I decided to make an exception in this case. So I told her I was raised Quaker, but after careful searching, lean toward wicca. She said she knew little of it, so I carefully hit the high spots, being aware of the general misconceptions most folks have of it. She was most upset, and told me that she would pray for me, that I might be shown "the way to Jesus." I told her I had been shown the way, and traveled it for a few years (having been in a group of Pentecostal Christians in my mid-teens, where I was baptized in water and "the holy spirit," spoke in tongues, etc. ), and discovered it wasn't the road I chose to travel.
I also asked her to remember how long we had known each other, and asked if she felt fondly toward me for that time, to which she said "yes." I asked her if she had respected me as a human being for that time... she again said "yes." I told her then that I leaned toward wicca when we met, and would lean toward it when the conversation was through, that I wasn't trying to "convert" her any more then I chose to be converted by her. I told her I had a great deal of respect for her choice of spirituality, and I expected the same consideration.
I continued working with her for five more years, with the same level of friendliness we had before that particular shift. No... she didn't turn me into a baptist... though she invited me to church with her, and said she'd still pray for me (I thanked her)... and no... I didn't turn her into a "witch" (and I didn't' invite her to dance naked in a full moon) but yes... I probably changed her mind about "witches." Just sharing.
Tim Domer, 2/26/00: [Quoting: Mel, who quotes Hila]: "You say that humans are naturally religious. What basis is there for that?"
"I wish I could cite a number of case studies, but unfortunately I cannot. My statement is based on conclusions I have drawn from many sources... over many years. "
[Quoting Hila again]: "By religious I don't mean spiritual."
"OK, that narrows it down a bit more. I guess my comments were more in the direction of "spiritual." Only more recently has hummer discourse alerted me to the distinction. I still don't fully understand it. Would some of you care to explain the difference? Mel"
The way I see the difference is that "religion" is the trappings surrounding what may or may not be faith. Religion is the form. It is not actual faith or spirituality. Some religions, such as Catholicism, have made the form highly ritualistic and formal. Other religions may be more or less organized or formalized. The religion of "Bruderhof" or Arnoldianity has become more and more formalized as the years go by. It started as a group of seven individuals, with a strong leader who set down some of the tenants of the religion, and has evolved to what it is today. It has a very distinct form, distinct dress, distinct ways of meeting, praying, interacting. Whether or not there is any faith or spirituality is a separate issue. That can only be seen on an individual basis.
Jesus summed it up when he said you can only judge a tree by the fruit it bears. The tree represents religion. The fruit represents the nature of the faith or spirituality of the individual.
I like baseball, so I will use a baseball analogy. The uniform represents the religion of "baseball." For any specific team the uniform is the same. The fans wear the uniform. The ballpark ushers may wear the uniform. The players wear the uniform. Wearing the uniform indicates that you are associated in some way with the team (religion). Wearing the uniform, however, does not mean that you are a genuine ball player. That can only be determined in other ways. In fact spring training is held in part to determine who is the real thing and who is just dressed like the real thing. The actions (fruits) of the players on the field determine who will be chosen to go north with the team.
The fans in the stands may look like the real thing but they are only part of the religion of baseball. Put them out on the field and you will quickly see who can play and who cannot.
The Pharisees were extremely religious. Whether or not they had faith or true spirituality was a different matter all together. Jesus spoke about that at length.
Some one once said to me "I don't believe in God or Jesus but I go to church just in case."
Melchior J. Fros, 2/26/00: On Friday, 25 February, 2000 Bencavanna@aol.com wrote:
Ben: Your memory must be about as good (bad) as mine though, because we came over from El Arado by ship, The Royal Mail Line Steamship Amazon. We arrived in England at Tilbury docks on a cold grey drizzly first of January 1961.
Lausbub: OK, in that case you and we lived together for only a half-year. We left for Germany in September, 1961. I was 11 years old in July of that year. I do recall my sister, Susi Lucia, was a good friend and classmate of Patsy... or maybe Patsy and Pedro. (my sis Susi is three years older than I). Patsy, Susi and Pedro went to a public school... or so I seem to remember, because they wore a dark-blue-and-white uniform. That may sound a little strange, for I also recall an older group of kids, Ernst Arnold, Heidi Kleiner, my sister Tanneken... took GCE exams on the Hof. I don't recall if they went to school "outside" or "inside..." probably "outside," but took the test "inside" with Don and Eve (Oh, Schreck, what a crush he had on her..!)
Ben: Tell me more about living with us in Bullstrode.
Lausbub: It was a lovely time! There were distinct rivalries among the Primavera and English kids. It started with bicycle "ownership" and extended to the English kid's use of a secretive language, "Yagou, saygy, agy..." usw. Sam and I could not understand it! It infuriated us! I got into a few fights with Peter Jeffries and the Wardell girls. What bothered me was that the Paraguayan girls, Marian Rhimes, Katherine Magee... quickly caught on, while Sam and I contented ourselves with simpler, more wholesome activities: racing a homemade, three-wheeled cart down the halls... rigging up a "tele
phone line" between our rooms with the help of Clive Louis... making crossbows... teasing "Teddy Boys..." smoking smokes provided by Johannes Arnold...
I could tell a lot about games played in the belly of the building... the labyrinth that was the "basement." There was also a secretive "tunnel" leading to an escape hatch hundreds of yards down in the brambles, beyond the terrace. This tunnel was scary to traverse as one sank knee-deep into muck and all sorts of critters lived there... plus, it was dark!
What struck me was the beauty of lingering summer nights, when twilight at 10 pm or later was a welcome excuse to extend play. The Park, through which we biked endlessly, was immensely beautiful, and inspired many a Hof artist... Ivy _____ and Robert Headland among them. The Park likewise inspired wonderful play... Prisoner's Base and other games. Johannes Arnold made them seem more fun, because he allowed us considerable freedom and was himself a nonconformist. There was a cottage near the lake, where a family lived; father and sons, uncertain about joining... name escapes me at the moment.
We worked in "Bromdon Products" in the afternoons, priming iron farm gates and cattle grids (??) with hand held brushes. The conditions were primitive and one cleaned up by soaking hands in kerosene. No gloves or fume protection back then!! Welding and priming were done in the same room!!! Fire safety? Who ever heard of it?!
Sam and I had to attend once-a-week dancing lessons under the direction of Olwen Rhimes. "The Ash Grove" and other pretty tunes come to mind. I guess there was a lot more to be learned than simple dance steps. I think it was the Hof's attempt to provide wholesome boy-girl interaction and instill a sense of gentleness in rowdy Paraguayan boys. I fell in love first with Marian Rhimes... then it was Martha Greenyer. I envied the apparent ease with which the girls learned the steps... the repetitions. Here was one situation where the "women" definitely led the "men."
Ben: We lived in the blue room at the corner by the end of the dining room and I feel sure I would have remembered you.
Lausbub: But remember, the "dining room" was at first the large entry hall... or maybe it was more correct that the hall was set up as a temporary dining room upon our arrival from Primavera. Recall, it was a large group making the trip on a Varig Boeing 707 (maiden) flight. Later, the dining room was located in the "library." The library wall façade was an imitation of books, and there were a few secret, stowaway areas with hidden trap doors in the walls of the room. Here, in the converted "library," it was customary to sing birthday songs at meal times. Somehow, Phil H.'s birthday was overlooked, and he got up in mock-mournful fashion and said, "It's my birthday... won't you sing for me?" Mucho laughter and a song followed.
The dining room led to a terrace and here Don and Eve did their "seeing each other," ostensibly as teachers, conferring about "school matters." Everyone knew they were in love. It was the most open (and tolerated) show of affection I ever witnessed. Of course, as Susi can tell you, things changed; but back then, even a hint of public affection was verboten.
Ah, I could tell about the mixamatotis plight... the goverment-run program to rid the Isle of an overpopulation of wild rabbits. But that is a rather bleak subject.
Andy Harries, 119 Gallaghers Mead, Andover Hants, England SP10 3BS 2/22/00: Dear KIT, I really enjoyed reading the letter from Halldis Sayvetz in the February KIT. It just goes to show that one never knows who or how many people can be touched or helped by KIT in some way. What she says about Tom I think is quite marvellous. It shows how KIT can help all sorts of people. Dealing with anger or bitterness or resentfullness about past experiences can be the hardest thing in the world but also one of the most rewarding.
Wouldn't it be marvellous if the Bruderhof was to read out such a letter in full for all to hear at a meeting, but of course they won't. And this is a letter from somebody who is not even an ex-Bruderhofer.
I can well remember the arrival of Leon and Mary Ann Sayvetz at Wheathill. Somehow they made quite an impression on us youngsters. I especially remember Leon because he was somehow different from the usual visitors; probably because he was quite open about not wanting that type of life. I don't know really what he said or what the conditions were for him to visit, but he was certainly much more friendly and at ease with us young boys than most were.
As I said Leon was easy-going, and occasionally he would take some of us out in his great big car which he had brought with him from America. To us, such an American car was something quite unique and exciting. We were just used to travelling around in a clapped-out van or lorry or truck or a mini-car. Well one day he took a few of us out for a bit longer spin. Unfortunately I had forgotten that I am a bad traveller and was soon beginning to feel sick. I didn't say anything because I thought that I would be alright, but all of a sudden it was coming up and I just had time to open the window and be sick outside and of course it splattered all along the side of this wonderful limousine. I can't remember any more but I don't suppose Leon was too impressed.
My memory of Leon is also that he was quite an accomplished violin player. Many of us on the Bruderhof learnt to play an instrument. We usually started by playing the recorder. Christine Rimes and Janet Mason were going to start learning to play the violin in Ludlow, our nearest town and they wanted a third person, so I ended up going as well, mainly because I could also read music. What they had not thought of was that I was a bad traveller. We were usually taken the 7 miles to the violin teacher in Ludlow in the back of an old green van which had no windows or proper seats and I would be sick every time as soon as we got there. I don't know what the violin teacher thought, but she soon found out what to expect and would send me to the bathroom straight away as soon as we arrived. Greetings,
Elizabeth (Maas) Peters, 2/29/00: Hello one and all! Returned to Texas on Valentine's Day and have been valiantly trying to read all the back issues of the Hummer before I write anything, but I must give up that endeavor as I can't seem to get caught up. We had a wonderful trip out West (my favorite direction), traveling through New Mexico, then Arizona stopping to see Hila and Susi and on into California. We have lots of friends and relatives in the Bay Area, and Dave and Diane Ostrom had graciously invited us to stay with them in Newark.
The main reason we made this trip at this time was that my father, Henry Maas, lost his wife, my step-mother, just over a year ago and he is very depressed and somewhat confused and I felt that I needed to see in person what the situation was really like. It was quite heart-breaking for me to see such an intelligent, conservative man lose his memory, especially short-term and be aware of it too. He does, however, maintain his sense of humor. My step-sister, Susanne, flew out from Denver for a few days so we could look into how to best take care of him making sure he is safe and yet having a degree of control over his life.
This is always a difficult task (not that I've done it before). We did not, and have not found the optimum solution, but feel like we have a better grip on things
Regarding some parental history here, I was always told that the reason my father did not live with us was because "he did not want to live in community."
He left Woodcrest when I was eight and I saw him again when he visited Primavera in late 1959. I have since learned that that trip he made was a last-ditch effort to regain his family, but to no avail. So she stayed and he didn't.
Some years later when I left or shall we say was given the boot from NMR and may I add here that I also am very grateful to have been booted as the prospect of being a spinster did not appeal to me, I went to California and looked up my Dad and have since had a good relationship with him. So, although I did not have the privilege of knowing him as a youngster during my formative years, I did have the presence of mind to catch up with him later and I am glad I did.
I will try to write more soon, but for now send this with all our good wishes. Liz
Bill Peters, 2/29/00: Hey! y'all! Just a note to say "Hi!" and thanks for all the wonderful hospitality to Hilarion & Susie, Ramon, Judy and Charlie and especially Dave and Diane. Just visiting these wonderful folks made the long drive worth the trip. We also saw some old friends in Salinas and a few relatives. San Francisco seems like one big theme park to me.
My favorite part was the food. I gained five pounds! We were a little nervous leaving the kids alone for so long. It was, we hope, the prototype of many future childless vacations. Things worked out, only one major crisis. Rose has developed gallstones and will probably need to have her gallbladder removed soon. The girls handled the whole affair with only our advice over the phone, so... Sure did like the rain in California. Looks like someone forgot to do the rain dance in Texas. Ah, well, it'll change, meanwhile there is beer.
Elizabeth (Maas) Peters, 3/4/00: I want to tell a little about the place I live in in Texas. In a recent Hummer post, Hanna talks about her wish to live in a log cabin, heat her house with a wood stove and grow her own food.
I feel so lucky as this also expresses our desires for basic life needs and now this spot here in Burleson County is something we can work on toward this goal. It is over 8-1/2 acres of trees and meadows and ponds, some slopes, some level with a 10 year old solid rustic house on it, and lots of outhouses and a barn. We have four dogs, five cats, three rabbits, seven game hens, one rooster and three pigmy goats. We are constantly adding to this collection.
This weekend we are tilling up soil in our garden area and putting up fence to keep the animals out. The goats have already discovered the fresh growth of the grapevines. In our living room there is a wood stove that heats the entire house. During the fall we cut and hauled a lot of dead, fallen trees to the front porch for fire-wood. Helps clear the grounds and keeps us toasty during those relatively few cold nights in January and February. Now it's March and the Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes will be blooming everywhere.
Texan's live for these springtime roadside beauties, for good barbecues, good fishing, and other things of course. Hila, I really like your idea of putting together a special issue of KIT or on a regular basis writing all those many happy fun-filled childhood memories that are almost romantic. I have this incredibly good feeling that comes over me every time I think of the months and years in which Peti and Sanna were engaged and then married
We kids had some great times. And yes, while in San Francisco, we did investigate one "Cannabis Clinic" but were turned away as one must be a resident of California to join. The place appeared much more formal than what is shown in news clips. Muschi your success at making schlempe makes me very happy. That was one of the foods in Primavera that was definitely gooood. I'd like to be able to make some myself someday.
And lastly, I was sorry to hear about Leonard Pavitt and Bob Peck passing away. Our sympathy goes out to Joanie and family. I remember Bob and Hanna's wedding and then the birth of their first daughter, whom they named Beata. We kids just thought that name was the coolest, cutest, funniest name anyone could give someone. We loved to say it. Beata Peck! My thoughts are with you, Hanna and family. Love,
Margot Wegner Purcell, 2/1/00: Here in the Maryland suburbs it is a lovely day. Spring is springing and the birds are singing. Happy first of March to all.
Some time ago, Ben asked if the highschoolers on the Hof are being taught at home. I recently asked a young recent leaver about this and he told me that, yes, they were starting to do that. This year the ninth graders remained home and they will slowly work up to all highschoolers being taught on the Hof. He said that he had heard this from his sister who was very happy to have one more year on the hof schools. I guess they need to get enough accredited teachers to cover the courses needed. Much love to all.
Name Withheld, 3/1/00: I recently asked a young recent leaver about this and he told me that, yes, they were starting to do that. This year the ninth graders remained home and they will slowly work up to all highschoolers being taught on the hof. He said that he had heard this from his sister who was very happy to have one more year on the Hof schools. I guess they need to get enough accredited teachers to cover the courses needed.
Blair Purcell, 2/1/00: I'd hate to be working in the shop the day the fractions don't add up on the design of a simple wooden toy. Which of them will they allow to use the computers? Calculators? Who will fly the planes? Just the trustees?
"Taking a revolutionary step out of our high- tech, electronic culture, the Bruderhof decided in September 1999 that our schools would be computer and calculator free! Instead of sitting in front of a screen, browsing the Internet and communicating via e-mail, our children will learn through books, real life experiences, and talk with their friends face to face. "
In my opinion, this is a further indication of Bruderhof isolation. They dare not let their children learn the truth. Which books? Which real life experiences? Which friends? I have understood that the children are being removed from local high school systems as well. You have to wonder if this step allows Bruderhof children any opportunity to live on the outside so ill-equipped will they be. I believe it is evil to deny your children the tools required to function in the world. Wow!
(See http://www.blumagazine. net/RevCtrFrame. htm )
Hilarion Braun, 2/1/00: I shall miss Leonard Pavitt very much, and was lucky enough to have had a good correspondence and telephone communication with him up to a few weeks ago. We had planned to discuss his leaving the SOB in more detail in the future. I hope he wrote it down. He told me that he finally had his family at home.
NPR had a discussion on home schooling a few days ago. The main proponents were conservative Christians, and their theme was that public schools taught a kind of liberal secularism that went against their beliefs. They did not want their kids to become confused. This is what I meant about indoctrination, and the religiosity of mankind. I believe that if kids were not indoctrinated religiously, they would not be as religious as they are now. If my argument were false, these religious home schoolers would have nothing to fear. I am all for home schooling and public education. Note that I differentiate between schooling and education. Cassandra was way ahead in reading and arithmetic when she entered first grade. My teaching her at home went on through high school, but never without public education.
Hi Liz and Bill. Good to hear from you again. Did you get a chance to see the botanical aspects of San Francisco?? ;-) Love,
Blair Purcell, 2/1/00: Had an interesting call this evening from an acquaintance in Australia. Seems there's a report that the Bruderhof did not renew the contract of its farm manager, an Australian national. Simultaneously, the Bruderhof has sold off its sheep thought to be in the range of one or two thousand head. Good timing as the sheep market is up a bit right now.
The person I spoke to mentioned Alex McCleay, a Bruderhof neighbor who has previously sought information in regards to whether the Bruderhof will prove to be a good neighbor. As I have understood it, Alex and a growing number of other locals in Inverall, NSW, are becoming more and more convinced the Bruderhof will choose, as they have done in the past, to act in their own best interest and continue to seek to establish a manufacturing operation on prime farm land. Perhaps the sheep sale is an indication of moves in that direction.
Also mentioned in our conversation is a local report that an estate agent (real estate agent) has approached McCleay with an offer to buy his family farm. When queried as to whom he represents, the estate agent has responded that he has been instructed to keep the potential buyers' identity secret. My reporter indicated it would be a cold day before such an offer would be accepted by McCleay. Perhaps the buyer will now up the ante?
We already know, from Russ Eanes and other recent expellees, that the Bruderhof wants to get away from its critics by moving to Australia. They've already left (or been expelled from) Primavera, Forest River, Deer Spring, Bulstrode, Wheathill, Sinntal, Michelshof and Palm Grove. A significant percentage of those departures have been based on inability to convince locals of their benign nature. One has to wonder why they choose to, again, move to a location where such a percentage of local opposition exists? And, how long they might remain?
An Excerpt From Vagabond For Peace by Edmund Cocksedge
From Chapter 12, 'The Struggle To Rebuild Community'
There were many adventures in this new land and much to learn to cope with for our living. Although the group had lived for a long time together in Germany and in England, this new set of circumstances meant a new start. Not only discovering and reestablishing practical life, we had also to reestablish our inner life of prayer and worship. Our community meetings had to find new guidelines to suit the kind of life we had to live in this tropical country. There were many struggles within the Brotherhood. Although Amy and I were only novice members, we were aware of this struggle for the common life. The struggles against sickness and death were also a heavy burden. Some of us did not have the burden of home sickness, but many did, which shook their faith and hope. I remember a cry going out at one point that we had to "win this place from darkness to light." This seemed to be the reality of the situation.
Food supplies were difficult because as yet we had no plantations or gardens. We had to import many foodstuffs from the Mennonite villages, and there was a constant stream of their wagons travelling in and out. The local Paraguayan people were glad to sell us their surplus maize, sorghum and mandioca. We soon learnt to enjoy mandioca and used it as a replacement for potatoes. I liked it best with meat and vegetables or with syrup over it, or fried like potatoes. It is a starchy vegetable which was ground to shreds and dried. It could be used for making jelly, which we flavored with fruit juice.
Our early breakfasts were made up of flour soup, with which one could have salt and a slice of bread. Main meals were beef in various forms, mainly from our own herds which we had purchased from the original owner of the property. In the meantime, we were rapidly preparing land for cultivation so that we could start feeding ourselves. The land of Isla Margarita was already cleared, so we did not have to immediately start felling trees or removing stumps, but could plough straightaway.
One of the community's leaders became very ill, and I can remember how at all times members of the community were around his room and that in the evenings we would gather and sing and pray. Eventually he recovered. Another brother was called from this life and was buried in our new burial ground which had been set up in a secluded place, already occupied by one or two small children who had died of the strange diseases of this tropical "paradise."
All the needs of individuals were a great burden on us in our struggle to rebuild the community life in these new conditions. We sought courage and spiritual strength in the worship and prayers of the church's meetings and a great deal of courage and endurance was revealed, especially among our sisters and the mothers whose children were in danger from illness.
There was a time when we had most of the children suffering from eye infections. So a large long thatched roof building was turned into an isolation centre for those with the infection. Wide-brimmed hats had to be worn by all the children with mosquito net covers over their faces. Because the building had been erected in a great hurry, it was called 'the Gallop Hut.'
During the events of January 1943 when the eye problems afflicted the children, Amy and I had the unexpected gift of our second son, Hugh Raphael. He was unexpected because he arrived two months before he was due and therefore was a very special baby. He was born before we could get Amy to the maternity house. Great love and care was given to Hugh, and for many weeks Amy and the baby had to live in a place of special care. The Gallop Hut became their home where I visited them. Hugh was very small and had to be fed in the beginning by means of a dropper. We gave thanks that with God's help and the nursing sisters he grew slowly and overcame the many problems that beset a premature child.
At this point I would like to comment on the life of the community's children. The family had a very direct concert in the school life and took part in all that the teachers prepared for the children. And because of the close contact of common life, and agreement on methods, the children did not have conflicts over the relationships of family, educators and other helping people. During the periods apart from the academic side of their education, our children had many lovely things to experiences.
Being an agricultural community with domestic animals, the children had many opportunities to relate and understand the life and also the work on the animals on behalf of the community. They made visits to the cow stalls to see the cows being milked, the calves being fed. The community also had horses. The children saw the work of these horses as they served the community either on the land or for transports, and they would know the horses by name. Eventually the older children were given the responsibility to care for young horses and had horses set aside for them to ride.
For the purpose of providing water reserves, with the advent of tractors the community was able to build a large dam on the edge of the cattle grazing area. This became a frequent centre of children's expeditions for bathing and water sports. Although our main tragedies with our children occurred in the early years through tropical diseases, we also had some caused through accidents. One of these was at the dam. A group of children was diving from a raft while a teacher was present, when it was noticed that one boy was missing. All the children were taken out of the water while a diving search was made by adults.
The boy was not found for many hours. For some reason he had dived and not been able to surface. This made the dam less popular for some time. Another unhappy event occurred when a family had an open campfire and were cooking or roasting. A child was left alone for a moment and her clothes caught fire. She was so badly burned that she died in the hospital. These events warned us very much for the need of close vigilance while caring for children.
Amy and Edmund Cocksedge in Primavera, Paraguay - 1958
An Ex-Member's Eye View Of The Bruderhof Communities From 1948 To 1961
Robert N. Peck, The DuBois Campus The Pennsylvania State University
Imagine, please, a group of about ten people, most of them in their twenties, in a three-room cabin on the bank of a small river. Ten yards back of the cabin is a semi-tropical jungle. A cleared, gently-sloping bank leads from the cabin to the river, which is only ten yards wide and sluggish. Candles provide the light. The leader of the group, a large, heavily-bearded man in his forties, formerly an electrical engineer, is expounding to the group in a heavily Swiss-accented German the vision of a universe ruled by God, who has sent His Son to save the fallen planet Earth, and the mission of a small group of elected people, who are the forerunners of the Kingdom of God on earth. A heady vision, if you desire to be one of the elect! A difficult vision, if you are a young Harvard man, steeped in the traditions of the critical intellect.
"How can one lead the life of the community of the elect?" asks the bearded Swiss. Only by faith in God and his Son and in the Holy Spirit, who comes where true believers are gathered to lead them in unity to the truth. And how does one know that one has the faith and is led by the Spirit? Because one can lead the life of the elect, for only in the power of the Spirit can the life be led.
The young Harvard man, his own little auburn beard well sprouted, sighs in mental relief. His question to the difficult but heady and most desirable vision is answered. How do I know I believe in the Faith and am moved by the Spirit? I'm leading the life. Why I'm having a grand old time, ploughing with four oxen, training a sumptuous young horse team to wagon work, nursing a nineteenth-century steam engine to peak power, joining in fellowship with dozens of fascinating persons, reservedly ogling a small bevy of attractive girls. one of whom joins with me eight years later for twenty-eight years of happiness, still going strong. Above all, more deeply energizing than the delights of work and fellowship, stands the conviction that I'm leading a life that puts into practice my ideals.
Thus the beginning. Just one tiny vignette, completely personal and yet, I believe, reasonably typical of the Bruderhof community of the late forties. Now move the calendar ahead about twelve years. The scene is Bad Bruckenau in West Germany, a large house divided into numerous small apartments. About breakfast time, the wife of the young man steps out of their two-room apartment and in the hall meets an American woman, recently arrived from the United States with her husband to help give direction in the upset affairs of the Bruderhof in Germany. "Have you been thinking about your love of Jesus this morning?" asks the American woman. My wife says little, such expressions ordinarily not being the way she expresses her thinking.
Shortly thereafter, the American woman accuses my wife of being superficial. A few weeks later, the Pecks were no longer members. Thus the ending of our life in community. Just one tiny vignette, completely personal and yet, I believe, reasonably typical of the Bruderhof communities of the early sixties.
My thesis in this paper is that during its healthy period the Bruderhof united many people of different persuasions into one warmhearted, broad-minded community of a broad Christian faith, and that because of narrow-minded overzealousness and a power struggle the emphasis turned to a particular expression of a particular kind of religious experience and faith, resulting in a closed-minded, fear-dominated community. My conclusions are that despite the tragic story of most intentional communities, a gathering of persons to put into practice a common ideal remains an important and worthwhile human endeavor, that the Utopian practices of such a group will be the central attraction to people, and that the ideals will be broad and flexible ones. I envision a blend of science, religion, humanism, and psychology. More accurately, sciences, religions, humanisms, and psychologies.
First, a disclaimer. This paper is not a typical academic paper, based on reading and peppered with endnotes. Rather it is an anecdotal account, possibly to be footnoted somewhere by someone. Also a reservation about method and purpose. Those of us living in the Bruderhof communities felt scorn for those who studied communities or religions but did not live in the community or believe a faith.
No one likes to be a specimen in a cage, behavior duly noted by an alien species. A communitarian may say to himself, if I were an orangutan, I couldn't avoid your camera lens or break the bars of your cage; but I'm not an orangutan, I'm a person with dignity and worth rather than a specimen for study. In fact, I'm working harder than you are to improve the world and sacrificing more of the comforts of life to do it. What's more, your whole way of life I reject as wrong and evil. Such thoughts, I'm sure, are shared by many communitarians; such thoughts contain enough truth to give this ex-communitarian pause. I hope I can study Utopias and utopians with genuine respect, and in order to further the betterment of humankind's puzzling lot.
Imagine once more, please. A grass-thatched building with walls of split palm trunks covered with a couple of inches of white-washed clay, large enough to hold twelve tables, each table seating eight to twelve persons. Next to the building and connected by a sort of butler's pantry is a large kitchen, equipped for cooking for over two hundred people. Scattered at distances of fifty to five hundred feet are various low buildings, most of them about sixty feet long, most of them thatched, most of them the dwelling rooms of families. Outside the dining room is a bell just a plowshare struck with a piece of scrap steel.
Dawn. Five thirty a. m. A barefooted young man emerges from the kitchen and vigorously rings the bell. Time to get up. A short quarter mile away another barefooted young man hears the bell and cranks the throttle handle on the steam engine counter-clockwise to open it. The steam engine puffs into action, the generator turns, the lights go on, and another day starts. Five forty-five a. m. Another bell, rung by the same young man from the kitchen. Called the breakfast man, he is doing his weekly turn building fires, cutting bread, frying mandioca, and perhaps if people are lucky boiling wire-baskets full of eggs.
Each of the long dwelling houses will have from two to five apartments. From each apartment now emerges the husband with a tray or a basket. He trudges to the kitchen to fetch bread and make a drink called yerba maté. Some, of course, are punctual, some late. The family then has breakfast together at home. At 6:30 the warning bell rings, and at 6:45 the work bell rings. The men go to their work assignments around the village and farm. The married women have half an hour at home to straighten up before they leave for work, plus some additional time for each child in the family. So half-an-hour after work starts for the men, school starts, kindergarten starts, toddler house and baby house open, as do the sewing room and laundry.
The bee-hive hums through the morning, each brother or sister at his or her work, each child older than six weeks in his or her children's department. A mid-morning break for mandioca and yerba maté called second breakfast, after the German custom. At 11:30 the steam whistle blows. A few men stop work and head for the dining room to set up tables and serve the food. At 11:40 first bell for dinner; 11:55 second bell for dinner. People are filling the dining room. At twelve someone starts a song; the group sings a cappella a nature or thanksgiving song. A moment's silence and the simple food is passed around, most often some sort of stew and boiled mandioca in enamel-covered serving bowls. A soup plate of enamel or aluminum and a middle-sized spoon suffice for tableware. In later, more prosperous years, we acquired and used knives and forks. The children had trouble at first understanding that one could eat with something other than a spoon. People eat in relative quiet; conversation is limited because someone is reading a story, telling of a trip he made to buy cattle, giving a news report, or whatever one of the leaders judges is of communal interest. Persons with a birthday often told their life story up to the point where they joined the community. After that, everybody knows the story, of course. Or rather, doesn't talk about it. A person came and joined. The struggle to become one with the community is assumed, but not a subject for public speaking.
After dinner, the mid-day meal, a few take their turn at dishes, and the brothers retire to a circle of wooden benches where they peel mandioca for the next day while holding Brothers' Meeting, usually a discussion of practical affairs pertaining to the men's work: plans for clearing woodland, erect-
ing fences, planting pastures, building houses, buying machinery, filling work positions, and the like. By one o'clock, the mandioca and the meeting are finished, and almost everybody goes home for a siesta. The siesta or mid-day nap is surely the greatest contribution of cultures based in hotter climates to human welfare. I would define Utopia as a culture that observes the siesta religiously but let's get on with the activities of the day. At 2:15 the bell rings again, calling people to wake up, have a cup of yerba maté and a slice of bread, the bread most commonly spread with lard and molasses. Back to work by three.
The beehive hums till six. From five o'clock onl, children are returning home from their various departments to be washed, read to, played with, and otherwise cared for at home. Communal supper at seven, in essentials a repeat of dinner. At eight a meeting, either religious or business, at the discretion of the leaders. The meeting usually runs until 9:30, and at ten the evening steam-engine man tiredly crank the throttle handle clockwise to 'closed.'
Night. Dark. Quiet. Beauty. Cool. Sleep. Rest. All night long a brother, taking his turn at night watch, patrols the village. At 4:30 he wakes the breakfast man, the morning steam engine man, and others who need to rise early. At 5:30 another barefoot young man rings the breakfast bell, and say, this is where we came in, isn't it?
You know already, and these few paragraphs of description have once again shown you that one cannot survey the life of a culture in a few minutes. You will know that you have to fill in for each man, woman, and child a day of work and play, drudgery and excitement.
What unknown instinct held the beehive together? What clever bee dance informed the breakfast man to ring his bell and the family fathers to fetch their breakfast bread? What held the community together and directed its members was not beelike, neither instinct nor dance, although the generally smooth-running activity and purposefulness of community life tempts one to beehive metaphors. We were people, and as people our motivation and direction were incredibly complex and individual. Let's follow an individual through the joining process to attain at least an elementary insight into the complex organic life of a community. Let's give our hypothetical person the name Hans-Joe to express the international character of the community. He or she might have come from any of about twenty countries, but the majority of us were either German or English speaking.
We will assume that Hans-Joe arrives at the Paraguayan community in the late 1940's. He has a difficult journey behind him: some combination of ships, wood-burning trains, trucks, river steamers, and horse-drawn wagons have tried his endurance close to the utmost. Either some strange food or some strange bacteria is disturbing his intestinal processes with a violence that tries his endurance even further. But the overwhelming welcome changes his feelings within minutes. Handshakes, smiles, concern, sympathy, a shower, warm little talks with people, a meal with the community, a siesta, tea with a family, and by the next day Hans-Joe is helping some brother construct a house or hoe mandioca. Immediately to work! Join the effort to build community! Hans-Joe is welcomed with open arms and expected to participate. The participation, starting with the daily work and mealtimes, grows in depth and responsibility as the person learns about and responds to the community life. Hans-Joe is called a guest at first. He talks a lot with members as he works. He asks many questions and receives answers, all patient, all explaining with amazing consistency the what's, how's, and why's of the community. He absorbs a wealth of detail about the strange culture: eating customs, dish-washing customs, work customs, ad infinitum. During one communal dinner he tells the community the story of his trip, the story of his life at another. He has tea with different families, thus becoming acquainted with family life and the children lots of children. Right! No birth control. Children are a gift of God and are an expression of life. We mustn't suppress life.
Of course Hans-Joe attends the communal dinners and suppers regularly unless he is taking his turn at dish-washing. Within a few days he is invited by a brother to attend household meeting, either the after-supper meeting or the Sunday morning meeting. All the community, perhaps even older school
children, gather in the dining room. A couple of songs are sung always a cappella perhaps religious, perhaps of nature or social change, always inspirational. Then a brother called a Servant of the Word reads a selection by the founder of the community or one of the several persons who have been important to the community life. The selection will be religious, relating the faith expressed to the brotherly character of the life as it is lived in the community. Another song or two. A period of questions, discussion, comments. Another song or two. Most of the talking for the community is done by the servant. The reading was given in both German and English; the remarks of the following period probably were translated into the second language, German into English or vice versa.
Through the daily living and the meetings, Hans-Joe learns a great deal about the life. Every meeting is used to challenge the guests to become part of the life and to exhort the members to follow the way. Weddings, burials, returns of members from long fund-raising and mission journeys, departures for such journeys all suitable occasions are used for the appropriate instruction and exhortation. Now remember that Hans-Joe could have come from any of many different backgrounds: socialist, religious pacificist, non-religious pacifist, homesteader, traditional peace church, mainstream Protestant, intentional community. The various guests had in common only the wish for a better life. In the community, Hans-Joe finds a fulfillment of his dream. Whether his dream is equality, love, or faith, Hans-Joe has to decide whether he can accommodate his dream to the community; then he has to decide whether he wants to commit his whole life and energy to the community. If he decides no, he returns to wider society to continue his former pursuits. If he decides yes, he discusses the question of joining the community with several brothers, probably servants or witness brothers, then asks in household meeting if he may become a novice, grounding his request in his own terms. Since the request has already been discussed with responsible brothers, it probably will be accepted.
Hans-Joe will be taken into the novitiate during a ceremony in a household meeting in which he will be asked if he wishes to devote his whole life, energy, and property to the community, and if he will practice brotherly admonition. After becoming a novice, Hans-Joe will be admitted to the Gemeindestunde, which is essentially a vocal prayer spoken by the Servant on behalf of all after the first part of the meeting, the household meeting. No one should take part in the communal prayer if he or she is not in unity with the community, or more particularly, if he or she has an unsettled dispute, angry words, or any disturbance of inner or outer peace with any person in the community. The custom is biblically based, of course. Strict observance of the rule of being at peace with all before taking part in the communal prayer was one of the keys to community success. In addition to the Gemeinestunde I shall call it religious meeting, one of several possible translations Hans-Joe will take part in the brothers' meeting and will be given more responsible work assignments, and chore duties. For instance, after his turn working with others of the dish-washing team, he will stay alone in the kitchen during the siesta to prepare for the after-siesta tea by cutting bread, fixing the fires, and the like. Or he will be breakfast man, steam engine man, evening watch (a patrol around the village during meeting) or other more responsible duties.
The novitiate is the time in which a person changes his or her belief. The guest comes with his or her dreams and visions which, if they are fulfilled by the communal life, enable the guest to make his or her first commitment, after which the dreams and visions must be changed to those of the community. The guest can be attracted to the community life while an atheistic socialist; he can only become a member if he becomes a Hutterian Christian. The conversion process is complicated, varied, and personal. It occurs in the depths of the individual's mind and heart as a result of individual thought, experience, and motivation. Because the individuals involved were so different, it is difficult to generalize about the conversion process. Precisely and emphatically at this point did the Bruderhof communities have practices that separate them sharply from the Jonesville and Moony sort of communities.
Persons remained in the novitiate until both they and the members' meeting (brotherhood) clearly felt that they were called to the life by God rather than following the call of their own convictions. Expressed more in our terms, during the novitiate a person came to substantial religious agreement with the community. The period of the novitiate could be from a few months to over a year. When the novice felt the time was right, after consultation with Servants he would make his request in a meeting and afterwards be accepted into the firm novitiate. Firm novices were almost members and given appropriately increased responsibilities. During the firm novitiate, persons deepened their knowledge of the life, being introduced to more esoteric teachings of the group. At some point the firm novices, usually eight to ten in number, met with a Servant in an intensive retreat of some days. At the conclusion of the retreat, called meetings for baptism, the firm novices met with an assembly of the brotherhoods of all three villages and one by one requested baptism, each speaking of his or her convictions and reasons. Those whose request was granted granting was not automatic would be baptized after a day or two in a large religious meeting of all three villages. Baptism was an irrevocable, lifelong commitment to the life of the Bruderhof communities. Like the entry into the novitiate and firm novitiate, baptism was a symbolic confirmation of a fact that had already occurred, not a supernatural happening of any sort.
Soon before baptism, Hans-Joe had thoroughly confessed his past sins with a servant and professed that he felt that his sins had been forgiven him by God. Baptism is the final confirmation of forgiveness of sins and the start of a new life. Each brotherhood member pledges at baptism to die rather than knowingly sin. The brotherhood, the members' meeting, those who have been baptized, is therefore a group without sin. A brother or sister who sins thus rends asunder the communal life, which at its deepest is the presence of the Holy Spirit among the members. "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I among them. " Thus the united brotherhood speaks with divine authority, not just as a group of people. Non-believers or sinners in the brotherhood create a non-united brotherhood to which the Holy Spirit cannot be expected to descend. Hence the novice's pledge to practice brotherly admonition, which means that if I see you doing something wrong, I am duty bound, no, bound by brotherly love, to point out your wrongdoing to you so that you can change your ways.
Members who realized that they were sinning asked to be excluded. Exclusion means that a member is put outside the brotherhood until he or she has properly repented and been forgiven. The exclusion varies according to need. A brother or sister can talk a minor matter over with a servant, and after staying away from a religious meeting or two quietly slip back into the group. At the other extreme, a person may come before the brotherhood meeting and be sent right off the property to live in wider society on his or her own for months or longer. If the exclusion was of the more severe kind such that the matter came before the brotherhood when the person had repented and been forgiven, he or she was received back into the brotherhood in a ceremony even more solemn than baptism; and the exclusion was never mentioned again. To speak about a past exclusion was the greatest social error of all; in thirteen years I never once heard it happen.
A few points more about the religion and exclusion: guests and novices are told about such points as exclusion only when they are deemed ready to understand them. The culminating firm novitiate and baptismal meetings concentrate on the religious area, especially sin, forgiveness, and exclusion. So although people get into the brotherhood with wide-open eyes, their eyes have been opened little by little. Further, almost everybody has been in at least some trouble. The truest democracy on the Bruderhof may well be the fact that all members recognize that they are weak and may fall. As a brother once lovingly said to me when I was in some kind of hot water: "Heute dir, morgen mir. Today it's you, tomorrow it's me."
Although the idea of exclusion shocks many, let me emphasize that for one serious problem, the day-by-day spirit of love will have nipped hundreds of problems in the bud. If a person has had hot words with another, he goes to the other and apologizes. The other accepts the apology and usually feels some guilt in the matter also. A brotherly handshake (taken as a serious symbol of unity among brotherhood members) and the trouble is finished and forgotten. Misunderstandings, anger, flashes of egotism are spoken about and relegated to the past every day.
I believe adults can understand how other intelligent people can believe in and take part in such a system. The agreement is simply that a person accepts responsibility when he or she makes a mistake and asks for an opportunity to withdraw to consider the reasons for his or her mistake, which he or she then tries to put right. I think it requires no explanation to see that lying, adultery, and thievery upset the life of any community, intentional or in wider society. Thus there were no problems with the system so long as the sins were straightforward, like adultery.
But when sin was interpreted as a different attitude, or a minor difference of faith, or the wrong kind of prayer life, opportunities for abuse arose that cut the community in pieces. Possibilities for abuse surely exist in any system of governance. The tightly-knit system of the Bruderhof was in fact largely administered in a spirit of love so that abuses were few. Unfortunately, however, something occurred in 1959 and the years following that changed the Bruderhof communities. The spirit of love disappeared, confusion reigned, and fear triumphed.
An account of the transition that occurred in the years following 1959 could fill several volumes. It would contain contradictions, for different parties to the dispute give utterly different versions; and it would contain lies, for I have heard different parties accuse each other of lying, so we know somebody was stretching the truth. It would be embarrassingly personal and intimate; much of the account would be better unspoken and certainly better not published. With regard to my version, let it be clearly understood that compared with the 1948-1961 period I have spoken about, I have had little contact with the community since 1961. Therefore I shall paint just a few broad background strokes and conclude with a brief impression.
The Bruderhof suffered through the war years and the following three years in isolation and poverty in Paraguay. The late forties and the fifties were years of expansion: three new settlements in the United States, one in England, one in Germany, one in Uruguay. Particularly in the United States was there a flood of new people to the Bruderhof, which, so to speak, consumed several existing American communities as well as a number of individuals.
Plans to reduce the three Paraguayan villages by one were actually carried out, and its people transferred to Germany and the United States. The American communities were prospering by manufacturing kindergarten equipment, and suggested to the Paraguayan communities that they, the Paraguayan communities, should eliminate their diversity and concentrate on one field of economic endeavor. (As background one needs to realize that the Paraguayan communities had to be diverse because they had to produce most of their daily needs themselves. To build a house, they had to fell one of their own trees, saw it up in their own sawmill, and so forth. )
The Paraguayan brothers responded to the suggestion of specialization with a defense of their reasons for diversity. The Americans asked, why are you being so oversensitive in your defense
'touchy,' as we called it. So the
Paraguayan Bruderhof started to search its soul for reasons
for the touchiness. The soul-searching spread to
all settlements. During the course of the
soul-searching, a few people, including Servants, confessed
to serious sins they had been hiding for years.
Some asserted that all these years we had not been a
true brotherhood. Everybody was repeatedly asked
to search themselves for wrong attitudes and sins. The community indulged in a
several-year-long orgy of navel-gazing.
During the confusion, one of the founder's
sons was raised to virtual sainthood status in the
resuscitation of a decades-old leadership struggle.
He was backed by a number of recent American converts, who with the overzealousness of the
newly converted, represented a narrow-minded
evangelical strain sometimes found in American
Protestantism. In a specifically Christian group it was
peculiarly difficult to resist the accusations of one
who laid claim to religious experience and wielded
his sword in the name of Jesus. It was equally
difficult to resist the claim that the community
had fallen from its true origins and must go back
to them. Most of us had joined not origins, but a
specific group of people living in a certain way in
a particular place. I had been instructed in just
such terms during my novitiate.
The whirlwind that swept through the
community reduced its number of settlements by
about two-thirds and its members by about as much.
My contact with the group for years was only by a
few letters and rare visits by members to our
family. The community had no interest in hearing
our point of view unless it was a cry of
repentance, remorse, and return. My wife and I found the
repentance difficult since we felt we had
committed no grievous sin except perhaps becoming
more broadminded and we hope warm-hearted. A few visits in recent years, after the community
permitted us to visit in view of my
father-in-law's bone cancer, revealed a community we felt
was vastly changed. In our opinion, the faces were strained by fear, the conversations fleeting
and evasive, the singing lifeless, the wonderfully
joyous songs replaced by monotonous, pious songs even at weddings. In my wife's family, with
whom we had the most contact, we found a
fear-ridden narrowness. I understand the community
has changed some important practices and beliefs,
but I know little about the details.
As Beethoven said: "Nicht diese Tone
enough, my friends, let's join in a happier song. "
I still believe in some form of tribe,
fellowship, or community. I think we need friends,
family, love and support from the cradle to the grave.
I think we need to bubble over with ideals and
need to sacrifice our hedonism to put the ideals
into practice. What I am here calling needs seems
to me the better and essentially human part of
human nature. My fondest hope is that such
movements as the new age, aquarian conspiracy,
humanistic psychology, and the new physics represent a
personalized, idealistic culture being born in the
interstices of the old competitive culture.
KIT: We owe an apology for an item printed
in the last KIT issue about Rob Pugh, who worked for the New South Wales Department of State
and Regional Development.
It seems that Rob was greatly loved by
many people, who respected him as a man of
principle and integrity. Rob contracted cancer and for
the last six months of his life had, we have heard,
almost nothing to do with the Bruderhof development plans. Our previous article gave the
impression that Mr. Pugh supported the Bruderhof
because he sought healing from their Elder. We
have been informed that this was not the case. We apologize for any misinformation we published.
'touchy,' as we called it. So the Paraguayan Bruderhof started to search its soul for reasons for the touchiness. The soul-searching spread to all settlements. During the course of the soul-searching, a few people, including Servants, confessed to serious sins they had been hiding for years. Some asserted that all these years we had not been a true brotherhood. Everybody was repeatedly asked to search themselves for wrong attitudes and sins. The community indulged in a several-year-long orgy of navel-gazing.
During the confusion, one of the founder's sons was raised to virtual sainthood status in the resuscitation of a decades-old leadership struggle. He was backed by a number of recent American converts, who with the overzealousness of the newly converted, represented a narrow-minded evangelical strain sometimes found in American Protestantism. In a specifically Christian group it was peculiarly difficult to resist the accusations of one who laid claim to religious experience and wielded his sword in the name of Jesus. It was equally difficult to resist the claim that the community had fallen from its true origins and must go back to them. Most of us had joined not origins, but a specific group of people living in a certain way in a particular place. I had been instructed in just such terms during my novitiate.
The whirlwind that swept through the community reduced its number of settlements by about two-thirds and its members by about as much. My contact with the group for years was only by a few letters and rare visits by members to our family. The community had no interest in hearing our point of view unless it was a cry of repentance, remorse, and return. My wife and I found the repentance difficult since we felt we had committed no grievous sin except perhaps becoming more broadminded and we hope warm-hearted. A few visits in recent years, after the community
permitted us to visit in view of my father-in-law's bone cancer, revealed a community we felt was vastly changed. In our opinion, the faces were strained by fear, the conversations fleeting and evasive, the singing lifeless, the wonderfully joyous songs replaced by monotonous, pious songs even at weddings. In my wife's family, with whom we had the most contact, we found a fear-ridden narrowness. I understand the community has changed some important practices and beliefs, but I know little about the details.
As Beethoven said: "Nicht diese Tone enough, my friends, let's join in a happier song. "
I still believe in some form of tribe, fellowship, or community. I think we need friends, family, love and support from the cradle to the grave. I think we need to bubble over with ideals and need to sacrifice our hedonism to put the ideals into practice. What I am here calling needs seems to me the better and essentially human part of human nature. My fondest hope is that such movements as the new age, aquarian conspiracy, humanistic psychology, and the new physics represent a personalized, idealistic culture being born in the interstices of the old competitive culture.
KIT: We owe an apology for an item printed in the last KIT issue about Rob Pugh, who worked for the New South Wales Department of State and Regional Development.
It seems that Rob was greatly loved by many people, who respected him as a man of principle and integrity. Rob contracted cancer and for the last six months of his life had, we have heard, almost nothing to do with the Bruderhof development plans. Our previous article gave the impression that Mr. Pugh supported the Bruderhof because he sought healing from their Elder. We have been informed that this was not the case. We apologize for any misinformation we published.