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KIT Staff U.S.: Charles Lamar, Editor; Vincent Lagano, Assistant Editor; David E. Ostrom, research.
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K e e p I n T o u c h
Table of Contents
Joel Clement - mother Jane Clement
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald
Item - Rifton's Hangar Flies
Sam Arnold - Jane Clement remembered
Nadine Moonje Pleil - Bob Peck
Renatus Klüver - Leonard and others
The Hartford Courant - Other Side of Joy
Leonard Pavitt - two letters
Alfred C. Ames - Leonard Remembered
Arthur Lord - Bob Peck Remembered
Hannah (Goodwin) Johnson
Joseph Idiong to Joseph Keiderling
Inno Idiong to J. Christoph Arnold
Excerpts from The Hummer
Contributors: Lee Kleiss, Hilarion Braun, Linda (Lord) Jackson,
Charlie Lamar, Ruth (Baer) Lambach, David E. Ostrom,
Sam Arnold, Paula (McWhirter) Buck, Melchior J. Fros,
Johanna (Patrick) Homann, Ramón Sender, Susanna Zumpe,
Sam Arnold, Ben Cavanna, Allen E. Hinkey, Timothy Domer,
Greta (Vowles) Milam, Miriam Arnold Holmes
Melchior J. Fros - Der Fluss
August Pleil - Memories of Primavera
Joel Clement, 3/28/00: I want to share with the readers of KIT that my mother Jane Clement has died. She was 82 years old. She had not been well for the last year or so, having been afflicted by Alzheimers disease. In spite of the disease, my brother Tim reported that she seemed to respond to my dad right up until the end. She died on Tuesday, March 21st and the burial service was Wednesday, March 22nd. Tim called the next day to inform various relatives of mom's passing.
It was Dad's wish that the funeral be a private Bruderhof matter and I am at peace with his decision. Nevertheless it is difficult to think that the woman who gave me life has now passed on. Mom and Dad were married for 58 years; 45 of those years were at the Bruderhof.
Mom will be remembered most for her many years of teaching in Bruderhof schools and for the poems, plays and stories she wrote. On my last visit with her in 1991, she told me that she had been asked to write another play for Christmas. She said that at her age she dictated it on to an audio tape and someone else transcribed it. I asked her when she wrote her poetry. She said "Oh, that is happening all the time!" So, even though she's gone, she is never farther away than one of her poems.
Glen Greenwood, 4/2/00: We got a call Friday at 2:00 am from Brigham And Women's Hospital in Boston. They had found a kidney for my wife Karen!!! The operation went well. The kidney started working right away. Karen was up and walking Saturday, April 1st. Friends and neighbors are watching Eric and Mark. Karen will have to stay in the Boston area for approximately three weeks. We have been waiting thirteen years. We still can't believe it. Please let friends know. Thank you,
ITEM: Craig Wolf of The Poughkeepsie Journal reported in a 3/28/00 article that Rifton Aviation will hold a formal public open house on September 14 at 11 AM to celebrate the opening of the completed $7 million, 99,000-square-foot hangar. It will be able to hold and service the new Boeing Business Jet, a converted 737 airliner that Kim Boller, vice-president, said includes all the amenities of a typical hotel room.
Half the hangar will open in April, the other half in May. "We're looking at filling up the space rapidly," Boller was quoted as saying.
Joy (Johnson) MacDonald, 3/29/00: I was in Bob and Jane's family in Woodcrest for several months and grew to love them and their children deeply. Unfortunately my affection and attachment was noted and I was sent to another family and warned not to become "emotional with the children." When I met Bob and Jane at Darvell years later, they acknowledged they felt bad that this had happened as they realised how important that connection was for me, and they told me their daughter Faithie had missed me too. Jane knew I loved poetry and gave me lots of her poems and talked about what they had meant to her at the time and how their significance and even meaning could change over the years.
Here is one I was thinking about in connection with Leonard:
"For One Bereaved"
by Jane Clement
Stem and leaf and bud and flower,
growth perceptible each hour
to eyes slow enough to see.
Healing in the shattered bone
until each separate cell has grown
back to weight-bearing constancy.
The heart mends slowly, day by day,
not by man's wit, but in love's way,
rich-laden with the past, yet free.
My thoughts are with Joel and Karen and all the Clements.
Jane Clement holding Faith, Haddonfield, NJ - 1952
Sam Arnold, 3/30/00: The passing of Jane Clement has brought back some memories. Jane seemed different from most women on the Bruderhof. She seemed more herself, and exhibited clarity and self-assurance. Of course she was a talented writer, but I was surprised how this was tolerated. Her stories and poetry did not seem have the typical Bruderhof flavor and style, and that was most refreshing.
When my parents were in the U.S. in 1953, they looked after the Clement children for a while, who numbered 5 at the time, while Bob and Jane were visiting Primavera. Later in 1968, I was in their family in Woodcrest for about three months while I was finishing up high school. My parents had been shuffled off to Deer Spring, and I was not about to change schools again. Bob and Jane very kindly invited me to stay with their family.
Being part of the Clement household was a pleasant and interesting experience. Mark and I were the same age, so that was a natural fit. Topics of conversation were varied and worldly, and Jane was usually leading them. The radio was turned on quite a bit to keep up with the news, for music, and for baseball games. The Clements, and especially Mark, liked to listen to the Pirates games on KDKA Pittsburgh at night. After a while I too followed the games. I enjoyed my time in Joel's family. Jonathan had already left by then.
My condolences to Joel and his family, as well as to Jonathan and his family. Best wishes,
Nadine (Moonje) Pleil, 3/15/00: I thought that you might like my impressions of the memorial meeting that we went to for Bob Peck. Bill and Barbara Cushman (Barbara is Hanna's cousin) went to State College for a memorial meeting for Bob Peck. We went to the Friend's Meeting House where a lot of Bob's friends were gathered. What struck us was the simplicity of this service. No big and pious words. Many spoke about Bob and what his life and friendship had meant to them. They spoke about Bob the man, the father, teacher and most of all, a friend, which he was to many people. Bob has very obviously left a lasting impression with many of us and he will not be forgotten.
After the service we went to the Social Room where we were able to look at many pictures of Bob, his parents, Bob as a boy, Bob as a young adult and then pictures of Bob and Hanna and their four daughters. It was a celebration of Bob's life and of a dear friend. In the Social Room there was a notebook in which anybody could write about Bob for the family. I thought that was a very nice idea and August and I also wrote something for Hanna and her daughters. The youngest daughter Peggy died when she was about 10 years old. She had had a heart operation and died at home a few days after coming home. Greetings to all,
Hans Zimmermann, 3/16/00: It is with great sadness that I read about the passing away of so many of our old friends and acquaintances, people to whom we were so close during our time in Primavera, the bond so aptly described in Bob Peck's article about our life in Paraguay. My sincerest condolences to all their families. I will miss Leonard Pavitt as we had occasional exchanges of letters discussing our experiences from our time in Loma Hoby and Primavera.
I am rather troubled and disturbed by the willingness of some people to question and second-guess the motives of several young men who had joined the community and in the process left wives and kids behind to follow their convictions, especially since they are not here anymore to defend themselves. It is an unfortunate fact that many people and mind you, well-educated persons can fall for the utopia of religious groups, get so wrapped up that they do things which seem irrational and downright irresponsible. Having known people like Stanley, Harry Fossard and Eric Phillips (for whom I had great respect and considered him my role model), I feel a certain hurt when comments as we have read in the last two KIT letters degrade their commitment to the communal life. True, we may never know all the details and what compelled them to make their decisions, but let's not be so critical with the benefit of hindsight. Whatever made them stick it out, I think it must have been very difficult for them and the dear ones they left behind. Let's not vilify them.
What Bob Peck described in his article explains why we ex-Bruderhofers from that era are able to appreciate and respect each other in spite of our now so divergent views and life styles. I hope we can keep it that way. Belated happy and healthy New Year to all of you,
Renatus Klüver from a letter to Roy Dorrell, 4/3/00: Here it is rather cold at the moment There is a strong wind and it is raining. My wind-chimes, which I have hanging in my vine-arbour, are making nice bell-like sounds, which I enjoy hearing. The plum tree is in full bloom, minus the buds that two wood pigeons plucked off and ate, so I won't have that much fruit this year. But there is hope for a good crop, provided it won't freeze before the fruit sets. The daffodils are all open and the bright yellow lightens up the otherwise bleak garden. When I bend down and smell these exquisite flowers, I can't get enough of the scent they are willing to share with me, but my back usually orders a retreat. Last summer I planted white flowering clematis, now in full bloom. They are scented the same as orange blossoms and this is the reason for my buying this particular variety. Every time I go into the garden, I go to the clematis and smell them. It is a real joy and brings back memories of the citrus trees that we had in Primavera.
It is so warm (spring is three weeks early) that my tulips are already showing their buds, and if the weather stays so mild they might be in flower very soon. At this time of year I very much enjoy nature, for bringing forth new life. Even the apple trees in my garden are decking themselves with a soft green of first leaves, which are hiding, as yet, the blossoms that will deck the trees in a few weeks. The neighbours' forsythias are in full bloom, the yellow-petalled flowers lining the otherwise bare branches, yet devoid of leaves. This year, because of the mild winter, they are the best I can remember and are a joy to look at.
I went to Leonard's cremation two weeks ago, in Yeovil. It was a short service, non-religious, in the assembly hall of the crematorium. An old friend of Leonard's gave an address. Joanie and her two daughters spoke, and Jo, the younger one, quite beautifully sang a song about nature, modernistic, with sharps and halftones, un-rhythmically, but heartfelt. She, of course, had lived with Leonard for some time after her daughter was born. Leonard adored his little great-grandchild. Stephen Marchant spoke briefly about the friendship that developed between himself and Leonard. This came about via the contact which Leonard and Stephen's father maintained after their return to England. Leonard and Will had of course been in the USA for Werbung and lived in Isla Margarita for most of the time spent in Primavera, Paraguay.
From the crematorium in Yeovil, Somerset, we went to Crewkerne where we met up in a little pub and had a buffet -type lunch where people were free to chat informally and share memories of Leonard. It was very nice as we had this little family-run pub to ourselves, since we were there outside opening hours. Stephen Marchant, Lilian, and Pablo Marchant with his wife, were there. Jörg and Christine who had come down from the Cotswolds, had been brought by Gottfried (John) Holland. For the elderly Holland parents it was too far, nearly five hours round-trip, so they did not attend. Joy Johnson MacDonald and Susan Johnson Suleski were also present. Then, to the surprise of a number of others, Philip Britts junior and wife came. To Leonard's regret, there had been very little contact for some time. It was the first time that I saw him since he was eight years old in Woodcrest at the time of Forest River being given up. From the pub we then went to Leonard's house. Here we spent some time together and, for some the first time, had a look around.
I had been several times to see Leonard and visit with him over a weekend, when he would show me his beautiful Somerset. On one occasion we went down to the rugged coast, heath and heatherland that borders this wild countryside. I remember well, two years ago, going down to visit with him in April. The bluebells were at their best. We drove down a little winding road, when, all of a sudden, a vista opened and gave one a view on a whole meadow, looking like a blue wave of water cascading down its side. Breathtaking! I stopped the car and we both got out. To the right was this cascade of bluebells and opposite, the hill dropped sharply into a very deep valley, where a stream meandered lazily, making its way down to the sea only a few miles away near Lyme Regis, where we were heading.
We then drove through a centuries-old gully that had been formed by countless wagons driving over the crest of this hill. It is not wide enough to let two vehicles through at the same time, now asphalted, and grown over by trees and bushes forming a canopy. It looked like a tunnel and in the distance, when having driven to the apex of this hill, one could see the 'light of the day at the other end of this 'tunnel.' One little lay-by has been carved out of the side of the hill and oncoming traffic has to slip into this space to let the other vehicle pass. Most romantic.
Down in Lyme Regis we had a lovely afternoon, looking at the harbour, now used for pleasure yachts and smaller fishing boats. Went up a very steep hill, the 'main street' where one shop is joined to the next, selling cheap trinkets misnamed 'souvenirs.' In one shop we saw for sale locally found fossils in soft clay, which had been mounted on wood to keep them from disintegrating. Quite clearly one can see the total imprint of the shape of a fish with scales, fins and head, as well as other creatures. Some of them had the legend attached to them that they are two or three million years old. It proved to be the most interesting shop in the street. At the water's front, we found a pub that had some picnic tables outside on the patio and there had a beer and pub meal. The sun was shining warmly, even though a cool breeze was blowing from the waterfront and up the hill past us.
While having our meal, we discussed and remembered parts of our common past and the present political climate permeating the British and world stage. I managed to capture some pictures of the dramatic coastline with Leonard in the foreground, leaning against an iron fence. Leonard liked to philosophize, which made for stimulating and interesting conversations, which I always enjoyed very much. With his dry humour he would often hit the nail on the head, when describing an idea or other. I also very much appreciated his often biting but usually mellow irony when commenting on life's foibles and idiosyncrasies.
(Back to Leonard's funeral) People started to drift away, leaving only one or two outside the immediate family. By now it was already 6:00 PM and I still had to drive to Bournmouth, to spend the night at my brother Hartmuth and Jean's house. I arrived there at about 8:30, had something to eat and then joined Jean and Hartmuth in a game of Boggles. Next morning I tried to phone Nellie Dorrell, but found that she is ex-directory. This ex-directory number I have on my computer at home, but forgot to add it to my handwritten address book. So I drove down to Torquay, hoping that she would be at home.
I left Moordown, a suburb of Bournmouth, at ten in the morning. It was a beautiful day and the sun was shining. I made good headway on the dual carriageways, but when the A road turned into two-way single lane traffic, one had to adjust one's speed to the slowest vehicles, the massive trucks that also use these trunk roads. The countryside is quite hilly here and when riding along a ridge, one gets the most beautiful views. Now and again there was a lay-by, into which one could pull off the road to enjoy a view across a valley, taking in the richness in diversity of land-use. Homesteads and small villages dot the countryside, which made a picture that not even the most talented artist could have reproduced. The view was unobstructed, since trees and bushes were still bare of foliage, their branches reaching into the sky showing off their diversity of shape and form. I really enjoyed this part of the two-and-a-half-hour trip, making me realise how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful country, politically and economically stable and having the time and resources to go on a trip like this one.
The visit with Nellie was great. I had ten films of prints with me, all taken in Paraguay and southwestern Brazil. She looked at all of them, while I told her the background of each. I spent nearly four hours with her. Then the garage phoned that the vehicle would be ready and that they would collect me in half-an-hour. Nellie lives in a 'secure' accommodation, which has a resident warder to help in case of an emergency. In this residential home there are about forty senior citizens, each one lording it over a self-contained flat, but there is little contact between them. Nellie. Some others tried to organise a coffee morning and other activities, but this found virtually no response amongst the other residents, so they gave up and only a few of them now regularly meet. She has a self-contained flat where she can cook and entertain, if she so desires.
One of her daughters comes once a week to help her with the shopping. A Sainsbury's supermarket is just across the road, but she has trouble carrying her shopping and the road is now a main road into the centre of town, where before it merely was an access road to residents and for delivery trucks for Sainsbury. Since visiting with Nellie I had a little letter from her. In it she tells me that she has had a slight stroke and is in Torquay hospital at the moment, but that she has nearly fully recovered. She writes that "the powers that be won't let me go home until they are sure that I'll be able to look after myself. So I will probably be here for a little while." She also says that the left side is slightly affected by the stroke, as well as her speech, but that she is on the way to full recovery. This happened in the early hours of Monday of March the 13th her eighty-fifth birthday.
I left at about six-thirty and made my way back to Bournemouth, two-and-a-half hours drive away. There I stayed with my brother and sister-in-law until Monday morning and then returned to my own home. From Ian Cocksedge I had an invite to attend a memorial service for his father Edmund, whose ashes had been flown back to England from Australian (where he had lived for the last twenty years), to be scattered at the same place as those of his wife Amy, twenty years earlier. He would have been 85 this year.
The trip down to Gloucester took about two-and-a-half hours. Finding Ian's house was not very easy, but in the end I did. I had my Paraguay photos with me and we got all engrossed, not noticing the advancing time, which made us twenty minutes late for the memorial meeting but, seemingly, had not missed very much. The memorial service took place in Gloucester Friends Meeting House on Friday the 17th of March at 2 PM. It was organised by the youngest of the Cocksedge boys living in England, namely Timothy, a very nice remembrance meeting where anyone could feel free to share memories or just light a candle. There must have been about forty-five people present. After the meeting we had a buffet lunch together.
I managed to speak to all the Cocksedge children, most of whom I had not seen for twenty years. They keep their distance with all ex-members and keep very much to themselves. I get the impression that they are embarrassed about their past. But then everyone to his or her own device.
The immediate family, myself and Stephen Marchant had to get home. The rest left for the crematorium where Amy's ashes had been scattered and where a memorial plaque had been placed for her. Now they will have a new plaque made with the names of both their parents on it. An official of the crematorium had to perform the last ritual of spreading the ashes. It was the wish of the Cocksedges that he make a ring, a circle, with the ashes to symbolise the completion of Edmund's life and the unity and harmony for which he had always striven to give his life meaning and sense. There still was a space for a 'tree-rose' to be planted, so it was decided to get a white 'peace-rose' in memory of Edmund and Amy and request the permission of the authorities to plant it. Edmund has written a small book, an autobiography, called Vagabond For Peace, now out of print. It is very well-written, but leaves the Bruderhof nearly on the sidelines and doesn't go into detail of his experiences as a member. It was published in Australia [the family is looking into publishing another edition - ed].
Ian was at the meeting, and Phlegon now called John then Raymond and Jimmy, Tim and Priscilla with her twin daughters and grandchildren. Hugh, Rhoda and Jenny of course live in Australia. From Ian I heard that Hugh has cancer of the spine and frequently suffers a lot of pain. He has undergone several chemotherapies and has to swallow a lot of medication to keep the cancer under control. So it seems that in our age-group, individuals are blessing the earthly life. So many have died this year already not a very promising year 2000 beginning.
This last weekend I visited with Gerty and Leslie Holland and Jörg and Christine Mathis. On Friday I drove to Purton, about eighty miles from my house, and stayed the afternoon and night with the Hollands. Here I always find incredible warmth and homeliness, being taken in as part of the family. Some group of the village of Purton decided to publish a millennium book based on residents of Purton, which is quite near the old Cotswold Bruderhof where I was born. For each day of the year, one individual will write an essay on 'A day in my life' for that calendar date and day of the year. This will then be compiled into a book, so there will be 365 narratives.
For each of the contributors, Leslie agreed to draw a sketch of their face. He is taking too much time over this, Gerty thinks, because he is drawing a pencilled portrait instead of doing a line-drawing. The ones he showed me are very good, but he has so far, only managed to do twenty and he needs around thirty sketches for each month. He may have undertaken too great a task. After all, he will be celebrating his ninety-third birthday in a week or two. But projects like this keep him busy and both mentally and physically mobile. Recently he finished 'The Lord's Supper' painting for the village parish church, six feet by four, which now hangs over the altar. In his style, and well done.
Saturday, Gerty had a phone call from Irmi Keiderling asking if she and her husband could come for Sunday lunch to visit with them. Gerty needed a few things, so I made my way to South Cerny, about ten miles from the Hollands. Meanwhile Christine had called Gerty to say that she and the girls were not feeling well and wanted to know if I still wished to visit with them. I decided to go, if it were not too strenuous for them. Christine was still in bed, but Giovanna, 15 years old, and Marcella, 12 years old, were feeling better. I had bought some groceries before coming down and decided that I would cook a meal for them and myself. This I did. We had chicken sake with cooked rice, stir-fried carrots and cauliflower, with a lovely gravy made from fried diced onions and garlic, enriched by clear bouillon granules. Took me two hours to cook and get ready, but found hungry appreciative mouths, devouring all. Even Christine, who did not feel like eating, managed two pieces of chicken and a portion of rice with vegies. So, that effort went down well!
The afternoon was spent chatting together and I was roped in to play 'Wolf and Schafe' with Marcella and her twin brother Jonathan. Then I had to play chess with each of them until they tired. Various programmes on TV followed and when the children were tucked safely into bed Jörg, Christine and myself had time to chin-wag. At eleven also we made for our beds.
Sunday morning we all had a lie-in, much relished by the children, since during the week they get up at seven when going to school. I was upright at about nine, had a shower and some breakfast. In due course, all the others appeared except for Giovanna, who found bed too good to leave and did not come down before eleven. Then the table had to be cleared for her to do a homework project. This was for DT (Design Technology), my main teaching subject. So I was able to glance through what she had done and make some suggestions and show her some sketching techniques. She is designing, and has to make a model of a rabbit hutch, giving detail of materials, shape and form, cost, size and availability of materials, time needed to make the artifact and an analysis with specification and then an evaluation. She is doing very good work and I encouraged her to go into more detail, giving her some ideas. Greetings to you, Your friend,
The Hartford Courant, 3/11/00:
Depression Is His Topic, But Sociology Professor Julius Rubin Has Reason To Smile... His Book About The Bruderhof, The Other Side Of Joy, Is Finally In Print
The Dark Side Of A Pious Brotherhood
by Gerald Renner, Courant Religion Writer
Julius Rubin is joyful these days, a welcome change for a sociologist whose research into religious melancholia led to some depressing consequences. He had to endure a federal lawsuit, threatened litigation against his English publisher and harassing phone calls from people known and unknown. For some mysterious reason, maybe related to his research and maybe not, someone even broke into his tiny, cluttered office on the campus of St. Joseph College in West Hartford. Only the day before he had shipped off his completed manuscript to his publisher.
"It really has been an adventure," said the 51-year-old professor, who hopes it is all over now that his new book is off the press after six years of work. The book published this month by Oxford University Press, is titled The Other Side Of Joy: Religious Melancholy Among The Bruderhof (New York and Oxford. 284 pp., $45).
...Rubin had thought that because the Norfolk group was so close, it would make an ideal place to investigate how some fervent religious believers lapse into despondency, characterized by a sense of abandonment by God. He wrote about that in an earlier book, Religious Melancholy And Protestant Experience In America," published by Oxford in 1993. It was based on l9th-century medical diaries that Rubin found in the archives of the Institute of Living, the Hartford psychiatric center.
He was aware that other sects rooted in a German movement known as Pietism, such as the Hutterites, the Amish and the Mennonites, had cooperated with social scientists who wrote about their way of life. The Deer Spring Bruderhof seemed to Rubin like a ready place to do live research into the phenomenon that the 16th-century Spanish mystic St. John of the Cross called the "dark night of the soul."
Bruderhof leaders had other ideas. They objected from the start of Rubin's plan. J. Christoph Arnold, the group's leader, whose headquarters are at the central Bruderhof in the rural northeastern New York community of Rifton, made it clear that social scientists, with their probing secular values, were unwelcome.
"Take a flower in the field. Break it or take it apart, and you can explain all the parts of the flower. But what happens to the flower? The flower's dead." Arnold once explained in an interview with The Courant about why he turned Rubin away.
Bruderhof leaders in Rifton declined a Courant request for comment on the publication of Rubin's new book.
The movement has garnered a growing chorus of critics in recent years, including a group of former Bruderhof members who call themselves Children of the Bruderhof The former members complain they are not allowed to visit their relatives and that anyone who does not conform to the wishes of the leadership is forced out. Rubin and several other academics say the movement has gone in an authoritarian direction, contrary to its founding principles.
"I wanted to study religious melancholia, and instead I got trapped in a world between apostates and true believers," Rubin said. Through interviews with about 100 people and published writings of the Bruderhof itself, Rubin did a historical and psychological analysis of a religious movement seeking to establish a utopia. He drew case studies of people who were so overwhelmed by their sense of guilt, sin and worthlessness that they lapsed into varying degrees of depression. The authoritarian way the Bruderhof was run, brooking no dissent, aggravated the situation, Rubin said.
"Instead of building a heaven on earth, they built a purgatory for many of the believers," he said.
Bruderhof leaders are sensitive to such criticisms. When Rubin spoke critically about the Bruderhof in a 1996 Philadelphia radio broadcast, the Bruderhof sued him. The lawsuit was dismissed.
Similarly, the Bruderhof sued CBS TV when it broadcast a "48 Hours" program that aired critics' complaints. That lawsuit was also dismissed.
In the wake of his Philadelphia broadcast, Rubin said he got some anonymous telephone calls denouncing him for his views on the Bruderhof.
"I got caller ID after that, and they stopped," he said.
He also heard directly from a Bruderhof leader that he could expect to be sued if he went ahead with his book. After that, Rubin worked with more than an editor. A team of lawyers on both sides of the Atlantic vetted his drafts. The situation was complicated because libel standards in the United States differ from those in England. His book was originally supposed to be published In the fall of 1997, but working with Oxford's attorneys delayed it
"I finally finished with the English lawyers in November," Rubin said.
The scholar admits that because he did not have Bruderhof cooperation, he could not do a scientific sampling of how wide the incidence of depression might be among the Bruderhof members. Even so, he is satisfied that he did a scholarly service in a study of a religious commune in transition and of people who foundered in the faith and fell into a funk.
He has already begun working on his next research project.
His subject is the 18th-century Mohegan Indian and Christian preacher Samson Occom, who wrote about his periodic episodes of religious melancholy. Occom raised the money to establish Dartmouth College. Later, disillusioned that the college would not be solely for Indians, Occom tried to establish a utopian Christian community of Native Americans called Brothertown in New York. "I am writing about dead people now because they can't sue," Rubin said with a wry laugh.
Ramón Sender, 4/6/00: Over the past ten years, Judy and I received many marvelous letters from Leonard. Without digging into the boxes in the garage (or attic) for the moment, I came up with two recent ones that I thought deserve a wider readership. I feel privileged to have spent time with this dear man, both during our travels to the U.K. and in our correspondence, and I know that he continues as a vital and loving presence in many of our lives. Since he was such an incomparable writer, perhaps I might suggest compiling his letters into some sort of book? Any takers?
Leonard Pavett, (to Ramón and Judy,) 10/23/99: I hope your new occupation is going well, Ramón, and that your health, Judy, has improved and that you are feeling really well. From this side of the globe I am glad to be able to tell you some good news of us. Firstly, Joanie was able to get her furniture delivered to a cottage that actually had all its upstairs floorboards back in position. Due to the installing of central heating a lot of them had been lifted to put in the pipes and I spent quite a while working upstairs at various jobs hoping to goodness I wouldn't step in the wrong place and put my foot through the ceiling below.
A good friend gave her a carpet that went nicely over the bigger bedroom floor. The little bedroom had still got one and the carpet I had in my 'guest bedroom' has given her about a two-third coverage of the lounge and she plans to paint the part of the concrete floor, that is still visible, a warm colour and that should do until she can afford a larger carpet.
She actually spent her first night there last Sunday after we moved one of my guest beds there (we will move the other one when she has sorted things out and made room) and so she has officially 'moved in' surrounded by lots of boxes that still have to be sorted and having to wash up dishes, etc., in the upstairs handbasin until the kitchen is completely finished. There was great jubilation when she found that her fridge/freezer was still working after spending so many months in storage apparently they don't always travel so well. She is delighted to be there at last.
Another bit of very good news is that she has got a job as one of a team of receptionists at a large modern clinic in Yeovil, so this will be her last week humping food about and filling the shelves at the Lesco store. Her coworkers were very nice people and good to work with, but the work left her pretty tired sometimes. The new job is part time and so will give her the chance to perhaps to do other things, I hope she will get back to glass-engraving again, although you might expect me to say so because I am her dad. She is a very good engraver, was accepted into the Glass Engravers at her first attempt (people have to submit one piece of engraved glass which is judged by a panel). Not only that, but the article in the following Engraver's Journal about the whole London exhibition made special mention of some exhibits and Joanie's was one of them.
Another very happy occasion was when we celebrated Ellie's 2nd birthday last Thursday. We have had some rather remarkable weather over the last week or so. It has been gloriously sunny and dry and if one kept out of the cool wind it was very pleasant. So we went out and had a picnic, not the sort of thing we are used to doing in the middle of October. We went down to a place called Stone Barrow a piece of National Trust land right alongside the sea on a high gorse covered piece of land with big patches of grass kept nicely short by the local rabbits, and glorious views along the coast. We sat in the lea of the car and gloried in the warmth of the sun under a cloudless blue sky and ate our picnic which had been prepared by Jo. Ellie enjoyed it very much and went for a walk afterwards with Jo and Joanie whilst I lazed in a comfy chair and gazed around, taking it all in.
It hasn't all been so wonderful, life never is, and one thing was that when the builder was demolishing the hamstone shed and ancient toilet a few yards in front of Joanie's cottage to give her a place to park the car, we discovered that the water pipe leading into the house was leaking, was part lead and part rusty iron at least 60 or 70 years old and only 6" below ground level! Apart from that it was OK. This pipe also supplied the next door neighbour who, when she heard it was only 6" below ground, said, "No wonder we used to have the darn thing freeze up on us some winters." So Joanie had to have plastic pipe put in at the present required depth of two feet six inches. She also had a separate pipe put in for the neighbour, as Joanie wishes to have a water meter put in later. This all meant that the concrete wasn't dry enough for the furniture to be delivered and she had to put it off a couple of weeks. Anyhow that is all past history now. It is now 'Forward into the Future!'
A couple of Sundays ago, Joanie invited some friends to spend the day at the house and they helped with painting, wallpapering and in the garden digging over long neglected pieces. In the evening we had a meal together, some fortunates sitting on garden chairs and others on the floor. We put the lights out and enjoyed the glow of a lot of candles standing in the three-foot-square gap where the gas fire was and before that the old coal fire. Joanie is hoping that she will eventually be able to put an open fire there again, although she now has central heating, and some sort of surround in keeping with the cottage. She does so enjoy having the glow of a fire in the winter.
I was intrigued by the name 'Lyewater' and, after a bit of searching, found that the word 'Lye' derives from the Old English word 'hleow' meaning a shelter. In Somerset there is a Lye Cross meaning 'the shelter at the cross roads' and a Lye Hill 'the shelter on the hill.' There is a tiny stream running along the valley at the foot of Joanie's garden and on the other side are traces of a dirt road, now grassed over, which on an old map I saw was called 'Watery Lane, so maybe in the old days there was a shelter somewhere along there.
As to the rest of us, Cathy seems to be getting on well in her last year. Jo and Ellie are doing well. Ellie is a very bright little button, learning more and more
words, and pointing out anything that she knows the name of. As for me, well if being busy is good for you I am doing very well, thank-you. Now that my guest bedroom is being turned back into a 'do all sorts of things in it' room,' I shall be able to do a lot of things that I was unable to do downstairs. For instance I have a mass of photos that I want to get into some sort of order and make easily accessible to look at. With that sort of job, which can't be completed in one go, you need to be able to get up and leave everything just as it is and then have a go at it when the mood takes you.
If I had attempted that downstairs, I am sure that dear little Ellie would have been only too pleased to have 'helped' me by unsorting them again. Also I shall be able to do various jobs like rehabilitating small pieces of furniture etc. I already have two interesting-looking chairs that Joanie found in the shed that stood in front of her house, but now demolished. We will be moving the second bed down this week as Cathy will be visiting next weekend and is looking forward to helping Joanie with the multitude of jobs still to be done. So as you see, it is onwards and upwards.
Leonard Pavitt, (To Ramón and Judy) 1/3/00: Many thanks for your Christmas greeting. We are glad to know that you are both busy and happy. It seems to me to be quite a coincidence that you card came whilst I was working through my word-processor discs in order to see what I wanted to print out and keep. They contain all sorts of things, such as excerpts from letters and other writings that told of family matters, so that I would have some sort of family diary. I sometimes think of something and pop it on disc and then lose track of it and, whilst searching through them, I came across the following piece. I wrote it some years ago after reading something from you in KIT about the whole miserable business of how you had been treated by the Bruderhof in regard to your trying to keep contact with your daughter.
Anyhow, this was my reaction at the time:
"I was thinking over the whole sad story of Ramón and his daughter, and how he was prevented from keeping in touch with her and not told of her illness, then only hearing of her death a month or so after she died. I couldn't help thinking, 'What if that had happened to me and Joanie?" The thought made me feel extremely angry.
I feel angry about all the people on this planet who are so damned sure that they are right and everyone else is wrong. I wouldn't mind so much if they just messed up one another's lives, but so many other lives are damaged. I should like to see all the religious know-alls put on two islands, in shark-infested waters, without any possibility of being able to make boats, men on one end and women on the other so that they wouldn't have children and mess them up as well. I would have another large island reserved for most of the psychologists, psychiatrists and psychoanalists, so many of whom appear to be merely religious fundamentalists in secular clothing.
I blithely lump them all together, faintly aware of indignant yells coming from each of the 'disciplines.' Perhaps one should call them 'indisciplines'. Both the religious and secular groups are convinced that they know what is best for everyone else They both have their own particular 'dogmas,' 'doctrines,' 'beliefs,' 'schools of thought,' call it what you will. The religious claim Direct Divine Inspiration or, if they haven't been fortunate enough to get it Direct, they claim they are following someone else's Direct Divine Inspiration. The psychologists, etc., do more or less the same, proclaiming their own Divine Direct Inspiration or that they are following the Direct Divine Inspiration of Freud or Jung or someone even more trendy.
Some Non-Divine Inspirations
Regarding my own position vis-a-vis the Society of Brothers and the Hutterians, unlike some ex-members, I do not think it possible, for me anyhow, to come to any sort of reconciliation with them, for the simple reason that I am opposed to any way of living that does not allow freedom of conscience. In the Society, as in the Hutterian communities, the individual conscience is subservient to the 'communal conscience.' Likewise I do not think, as some appear to do, that it can be 'improved,' because it is deeply and basically flawed, mainly in the way already mentioned, the lack of freedom of conscience. But they have also taken a number of 'virtues,' such as 'complete unity,' 'rejection of private property' and driven them to such extremes that the first 'virtue' becomes religious totalitarianism and adherence to the second virtue makes it extremely difficult to get free from the first.
Well, dear friends, there it is anyhow. Joanie and I send you our love and hope very much to hear from you both, from time to time, how you are getting on in the new Millennium.
Alfred C. Ames, 3/17/00: Though I am not a veteran of Bruderhof membership, I continue to be one of the newsletter's fascinated readers. And if I may, I would like to contribute some appreciative memories of Leonard Pavitt. I first met Leonard when, in the early '50s, he and Alan Stevenson, on a recruiting mission for the Bruderhof, sojourned for a time in Evanston Friends Meeting. They were winsome advocates, and my wife and I and no doubt other Evanston Friends responded positively to them. But, fortunately, none of us joined up.
Time passed. Leonard and Joan Britts married, in Paraguay. They participated in the mass migration from Paraguay to the United States and, in due course, became ex-members of the Bruderhof. When Nell and I met them again, they were living precariously in southern Wisconsin where Joan's oldest, Simon, was beginning to sink roots of his own. He still lives there.
From this second meeting, a sustained and intimate association grew. Leonard and I might disagree about whether or not our friendship illustrates the line from a popular hymn, "Blest be the tie that binds our hearts in Christian love." After the Bruderhof experience, Leonard and Joan avoided "organized religion." Leonard told me that even when he first joined the Bruderhof he was secular-minded. But only recently, when I quoted to him the line, "There is more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds," he responded vigorously, saying he had put that on his short list of treasured sayings. For my part, I agree with William Penn that "it is a conformity of mind and practice to the will of God, in all holiness of conversation according to the dictates of this holy Spirit of light and life in the soul, which denotes a person truly a child of God." I believe that Leonard's mind and practice conformed well. Cordially Yours,
Arthur Lord, 3/22/00: Our son, Norman Anthony, telephoned me from Germany, and his first question was whether I had read Bob Peck's writing in the recent issue of KIT. I hadn't. "Then you must," he said. "It is just what you and Mum have always represented."
I then told Anthony that I had written more than had been included in the March issue, but it is up to the editors how much of any contribution is printed. We went to Wheathill in 1945, the day that the European part of the Second World War came to an end. Mildred had sent for information, having seen a Short note in 'Peace News' and thinking they would be 'a group of monks.'
In due course we got a lot of literature, and a short letter from Jack Ellison. I took half the info with me because I was off night duty at the Fire Force headquarters, a few miles from where we lived, and to where I had had the good fortune to be transferred. I was a registered conscientious objector, with the proviso that I must serve in some service other than the armed forces.
When I got home the next night, we could hardly wait to start discussing what we had read, and could not sleep until we had become clear that we 'must find out if it was all true. The short of it is that we did visit, independently (we had two small children) and, to the horror of our parents, sold up our home and went (as guests). The appropriate authorities were in agreement for me to leave the National Fire Service to work on the land, but cutting the red tape was not easy.
However, we got there. We never expected things to be perfect. A good deal of what Bob Peck has written applied to Wheathill as a matter of fact, when he described the washing-up duty I thought back to doing it together with Manfred Kaiser and Reg Chatterton in the Wheathill wash-up kitchen, at Lower Bromdon.
We came through the 1948 'crisis,' and I think we learned something from it. Certainly, the sisters became more vociferous in brotherhood meetings. Mildred and I have always looked back to those days with the deepest joy. That does not mean there were no struggles. As Bob indicates, such things demonstrate the truest democracy, which was developing.
I first met Bob shortly after we went to Primavera. I had been assigned night-watch duty. There was a strange noise in the forest, and I called the nearest single brother, who happened to be Bob. Another night I cracked a rib by falling up the steps from the steam engine; but I always enjoyed that duty. I spent some days in hospital next to Bob, as we had both contracted jaundice and had to be isolated. Betty Robinson was cook there, and she asked me if there was anything special I would like. I said I would like some tripe. Her husband, Johnny, was in charge of the slaughterhouse, so she got some, and cooked it for my dinner. There were still bits of grass in it! She got me some more later.
I think Bob sums up things very well. The confusion of 1961 came from overzealous North American converts, who were not restrained by Heini. Many years later, seven 'brothers,' including North American ones, visited us in Lancashire and asked forgiveness for the way we had been treated. How many more were visited?
Oh well, I suppose we were getting on our feet a bit by then. It had not been easy, but we can never guarantee that life will be. I was three months without paid work. We got help from the State, and Anthony, and later Linda contributed. From the community nothing. They ever suggested we write to our parents for the fare to go to them; we didn't. Mildred had had the experience of five years in our own home, much of which was without me. So she knew what was needed and had collected all kinds of practical things whilst we were still in Ibaté waiting for transport to England. Mildred refused to fly as she had got too much baggage tablecloths for us as sheets, blankets, knives and forks, aluminium plates; she was simply wonderful, and when we got to Longridge, she had the difficult task of getting our three youngest fixed up educationally. Work was not easy to find. I started going from business to business outwards from Preston town centre. My cousin was a draughtsman in engineering, had been seven years without work in the 1930s. I was luckier. And through it all, Mildred kept her faith in God and His leading. It is only now that I am realising just how firm that faith was, now she has gone.
3/27/00: I had a phone call from Belinda Manley yesterday. She had been in touch with the hospital in Torquay, who told her that Nellie Dorrell was doing well after her stroke, and should be home in a couple of weeks. I mentioned that the community near Canterbury were to be on TV. I did not see them, as I was out and had forgotten to put forward the clock in the car. That is enough for the present. If any of you are in this area, you would be welcome better to let me know, though, to make sure I will be in! Greetings to all,
Hannah (Goodwin) Johnson, 2/2/00: Today in western Pennsylvania is a blue-sky, sunny day. I looked through my 24-hour weather channel window, grabbed my coat and went out the door, checking my pocket for keys to get back in. I wished I had grabbed gloves too too cold! I felt a little incompetent and blamed the bright sun for deceiving me.
"It's getting better," said the man at the store.
That is hope, The impatient in me is deceived. The deceptive inclination blames the very fount of hope. Here the day is Groundhog Day, in English tradition 'Candlemas.' If Candlemas Day be sunny and bright, Winter will have another flight. But if Candlemas Day be clouds and rain, Winter is gone and will not come again. Fly on, swift white carrion-eater: You are spectacular in the blue...
Margot (Wegner) Purcell, 3/15/00: This morning I took my regular walk around the little lake in Columbia. Many red-wing blackbirds were trilling on branches near the water. Cardinals were everywhere as were robins, and starlings. I saw the first bloodroot of this spring blooming and the skunk cabbage is just starting to emerge. Buds on many of the trees are blooming. The kingfisher flew by they had just returned to this lake.
As I was walking along, I heard a loud splash and there was the beaver. He swam along the edge of the lake almost as fast as I was walking. Occasionally he would dive under and swim on, but most of the time he was visible. (I think it was the male as it was a very large beaver). He was quite a distance from his lodge. I walked along and he swam. He disturbed some ducks that were lazily bouncing on the water, then passed under a branch where a great blue heron was preening itself. I walked along, met several other walkers, who seemed oblivious to their surroundings. When we got to the bridge at the end of the lake, I waited and saw the beaver dive under and pass under the bridge. Here the water is only one foot deep at the flow area, so it was easy to see him swim along towards his food stash. Here he stopped and seemed to check it out, then went on into his lodge. A few turtles that had just emerged were chased back into the water by the beaver and me. I so enjoyed this, as I have been watching the lodge be built, observed the dam over the last few years and seen the trees they cut down, but never saw the beaver till now.
On my way back, I heard a duck and looked around to see a mallard pair up in a tree. This is not usual behavior for mallards. The male soon flew down awkwardly, but the female seemed stuck. She continued to walk up the slanting trunk of the tree and was quite high up. I thought that she might be a wood duck female who had met a male mallard and was teaching him how to live in trees. (For those who are not familiar with wood ducks, they do nest in trees. The day after the young are hatched they drop down to the ground, never to return to the nest.) It was some time before the female mallard had the courage to fly down. I do not know what made them climb the tree could have been a dog.
I then walked on to where the red-shoulder hawk pair has a nest. I saw them both. One was bringing "soft stuff" to the nest. They have a huge nest in a beech tree and are easily visible if you know where to look. Some local birders have told me that the hawks have been known to be very protective and have swooped down on people. I think they may be incubating their eggs now and when the young are hatched they become more protective. Today they both just watched me.
So now I am back in our store and getting ready for the day's work. I wonder how many things I will be missing out there. Enjoy your day,
Name Withheld, 1/9/00: The Small Quiet Voice, inspired and obliged by The Holy Spirit, Universal Intelligence, Wisdom (or whatever you may all it) sends via this means of communication the following most urgent message to: Johann Christoph Arnold and the entire Arnold Clan, the entire Meier Clan, the entire Barth Clan, the Zumpe, Potts, Winter, Keiderling, Domer, Gneiting and all Bruderhof members in leadership positions of 'good standing,' the 'Bruderhof Youth' and everybody living on Bruderhofs in the USA, U.K., Africa, Japan, Australia, Russia or wherever: What in reality is the mover deep down inside you, at this time and age, at the turn of this millennium?
You claim to follow the teachings of Christ and the Early Christians. You claim to be 'a living copy' (or something in that direction) of the Early Christians. Some 2000 years ago, the Early Christians, according to the New Testament, had very nigh the same and similar problems as you people do, as so clearly and outspokenly written in the letters by the Apostle James and reprinted in the New Testament which is as timely now, after 2000 years, as it was then! So I plead with you to diligently read the follow, not only with your intellect but with your hearts, because Time Is Running Out For All Of Us... James 3:1: "My brethren, be not many masters, knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation." James 4: 3: "Ye ask and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts...
8: Cleanse your hands, ye sinners, and purify your hearts, ye double-minded.
12: There is one lawgiver who is able to save and to destroy; who are thou that judges another?
16: But now ye rejoice in your boastings: all such rejoicing is evil.
17: Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.
James 5: 1: Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you.
2: Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.
3: Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you and shall eat your flesh as if it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days.
4. Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which you kept back by fraud, crieth; and the cries of them which have reaped have entered into the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
5. Ye have lived in pleasure on the earth, and been wanton; ye have nourished your hearts, as in a day of slaughter.
6. Ye have condemned and killed the just; and he doth not resist you.
- - - - - - - - - - - - -
Recall minutely and in all detail that which has happened during the past 40 years in your group, now as in the past known by the name 'Bruderhof,' and take heed to follow the explicit advice above, an advice that was transmitted by The Holy Spirit 2000 years ago to the Apostle James, which The Small Quiet Voice, compelled by The Holy Spirit, is obliged to render!
Joseph Idiong, 3/1/00: Dear Joe Keiderling, Greeting of the season to you and all the good people over there at Woodcrest Bruderhof.
I could have replied to your letter dated December 27, 1999 immediately but I wanted to be sure of what to reply and I could only do that by going back into history, that is, going through my communication with Anthea since you threw me out of the New Meadow Run bruderhof on the 1st of March, 1995. Today is exactly 5 years since that eventful day ho! how days turn into weeks, weeks into months, and months into years. One thing is certain, I am still here and I have not yet come back to beg on my knee as you predicted.
Joe, in your letter you stated that you cannot go against Anthea's will and that she is terrified of me and the people, I'm associated with [KIT]. I want to tell you that Anthea have never told me this verbally or otherwise as can be seen from my records. From that letter you wrote to me, I conclude that she has not been seeing my letters and if I may ask, why are you doing this? Is this not a crime? Joe, to further prove you wrong, Christoph your leader in his millennium greetings to KIT members on the 12-16-99 stated that and I quote "and that we in the Bruderhof are not afraid of you, that we love you and pray for you and wish you the best." My question therefore is, is Anthea not part of the "we in the Bruderhof? Is it not KIT members that I'm associated with? Who is telling the truth here? You or Christoph? To me this only goes to show your double standard on issues and this is very very unchristian.
Joe, I want you to know that you people are playing with my rights and that of my daughter and that people are watching, for how long they will continue to watch is what I do not know. In case you do not believe that I know, take a look at the following: As adopted in 1957, the convention on the Rights of the child, Article 9 states that
1- A child shall not be separated from his/her parent against their will.
2- In any proceeding pursuant to (one) interested parties shall be given an opportunity to participate in the proceeding and make their views.
3 - The child who is separated from one or both parents has the right to maintain personal relations and direct contact on a regular basis, etc...
Article 15 - Parties should recognize the right of the child to freedom of association, and freedom to a peaceful assembly.
Article 16 - No child should be subject to abitrary or unlawful interference with his/her privacy, family home or correspondence nor to unlawful attacks etc...
Article 18 - States that both parents should have common responsibilities for the up bringing and development of the child, etc...
Article 12 No one shall be subject to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor attacks upon his honor and reputation, everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks.
Article 6 - (1) Men and women of full age without limitations due to race nationality or religion, have the right to marry and found a family, they are entitled to equal rights as to marriage during and after its dissolution.
Article 18 - Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom either alone or in a community with others and in the public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching practice, worship and observance.
Article 20 - Section (2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association adopted and proclaimed in 1948.
Joe, I am not asking for any part of your riches, All I am asking for is to be able to see my daughter, let her know that she has a father who loves her, like every other child in the Bruderhof.
Please do not let the world judge us on this, because we profess to be Christians. Please do not take my right because of my realization that Jerusalem is not the only place to worship God.
Inno Idiong, 2/18/00: Dear Christoph, greetings of the New Millennium! I am being compelled by the prevailing circumstances of the moment to break my much-cherished silence over the current wave of persecution, blackmailing and rumours now in full circulation. I do not intend to take things this far for granted, in spite of the insignificance of these rumours, knowing pretty well that such gossips if left unattended could be harmful and dangerous, simply because it's all about Palmgrove people and Nigerians. It is so because you had once successfully demonized Palmgrove people as well as reducing us to the bottom line. Today, we're becoming targets for hate, gossip and despising. What else do you want from defenseless, voiceless people?
Palmgrove fathers living in America, and boys in England, could easily be roped, framed-up and persecuted for what they may not be guilty of. Please, kindly tell Christian Domer and Joe Keiderling to relax their bear-grip on the boys. These boys pose no threat to the existence of the Bruderhof. You do know, perhaps, much more better than I do, that they won't get away with an attack on the Bruderhof.
Before Christmas, 1999, I got a phone call from Ebong Ebong telling me that Christian Domer made a distressed call to him in Chicago demanding to know whether I am in the States to encourage the denied Bruderhof-Nigerian fathers to rise-up against your Bruderhof. To me, that would not only be cowardice, but uncivilized and contradictory on my part, as well as on the part of those believing that these fathers and I could do that. When Ebong Ebong spoke with me, he told me that Christian said that the report came from the "Western Brothers" (Hutterites) about a plot that never was. Listen, whatever happens to Ebong Ebong is absolutely your inability to reason with reality.
I want to seize this opportunity to share with you a true but unfortunate story concerning Aniekan Bassey, Susan Mason's husband. Aniekan is right now suffering from a "Mental Wreck." Aniekan you know, suffers hearing disabilities and could not survive alone anymore in a highly sophisticated and individualistic American society without his wife whom he relied so much upon and his son whom he loves so much. They were his hope and future, yet your Christianity denied Aniekan this hope and has taken away his future.
Aniekan lost his mother and father while serving the Bruderhof. He was not allowed to see them before death or to visit after their death. Today Aniekan is on the lunatic fringe and is daily rotting away in great pains and unsoundness of mind. If I may ask you, Christoph Vetter, how do you feel about this'? To me a sinner, it's tearful and heart-rending.
Finally, what shall the aggrieved Bruderhof fathers and I advantage or gain if we continue to love the Bruderhof or if we continue to show bitterness against the Bruderhof after we've managed to free ourselves of any of the above and put it all in the past? Although the boys on one hand had sadly been separated from their wives and children by the Bruderhof, on the other hand they remain totally free now from bitterness.
Christoph Vetter, I know what you need most, as well as I do, is Jesus. I am praying for you to see your mistakes in turning your back and walked away from the hundreds of souls you helped gather in Palmgrove. Christ would not have been Lord and Saviour of this world today if he had walked away from the world and put it blame on Satan, who did truly stand in His way.
Christ is our love and confidant, with a love that neither your Bruderhof nor the world can give us, even at the greater price of laying down our lives on the stalk.
Happy New Year from all in Palmgrove and the boys,
Elizabeth Bohlken-Zumpe, 3/5/00: Julius! I was delighted when I found your book in my mailbox! It really looks good and I have started reading it, but am a slow reader. It is easy to read and you have studied Eberhard Arnold. Well! I am looking forward to reading the rest and will let you have my response. I am amazed at the "negative book reviews" on Amazon.com. Can only be the Bruderhof, but how could they respond that fast? They always say that you are not competent to write a book because you never lived there. I guess they know nothing about an academic study. I want to thank you for your perseverance in getting the book published and am sure it will have a big impact on the Bruderhof today!
I was sorry to hear Edmund Cocksedge died. I remember him and his wife Amy well. We came over to Paraguay on the same boat and the group was very close. I also remember, that Amy had her second child in der Halle. We did not have a motherhouse then and she had the baby, right next to my bed, with screens around her. I woke in what seemed the middle of the night (I was six years old) and heard whispering voices and repressed sighs, and wondered if someone was in pain. Next morning a little baby was born and I wondered, why I did not see or at least hear an angel flying in and out!
I think all of us should have a lot of respect, for how our parents managed in the pioneering years!! Bob Peck: His wife Hanna phoned Migg in Switzerland on the 3rd and Migg phoned me about Bob's death. My thoughts are with Hanna, an old Loma-friend of mine. The Zumpe and the Martin Family always were close. It is so hard to accept the going of a loved one, and I am so happy for her that Hans(li) is with her and that the girls are such a help for her. I remember
Hilarion Braun, 3/8/00: I just wondered whether anyone remembers the hookworm cures we used to take. A tablespoon of sugar saturated with carbon tetrachloride, followed by a magnesium sulfate solution. Those worms left long before the carbon tetrachloride had hit them. I used to dread the cure so much that I would resist until I was too weak to fight my mother. Poor Artur Mettler tried whisky to gain courage, and it almost cost him his life. I hear the Mennonites used gasoline instead of carbon tetrachloride. One can't even buy carbon tetrachloride anymore, except for chemistry labs. The stuff is mean, but then we needed something meaner than the hookworms. With a bad infestation one could lose as much as ten cubic centimeters of blood a day. I hope this wasn't too gross! ;-Linda Lord Jackson, 3/9/00: I remember the dreaded hooky 'Kur' only too well, I had great difficulty getting those 'bullets' down, I did not know what they contained, but they tasted vile, and the taste lingered all day, in spite of all the water we had to drink eight litres was it, or was it more it seemed like a whole takamar. The stomach felt bloated and painful all day. I never felt like eating for several days after. We tried to 'book' (in Loma) to have the communal wind up record player that day, so we could listen to music and take our minds of the pain and discomfort a little bit.
Other ghastly memories come to mind, of hiding 'wabble' and cod liver oil it was always old, and tasted of stale fish then I could never face the shlemmpe, served in the same dish as the goulash, a goulash rim remaining round the edge of the plate.
Charlie Lamar, 3/10/00: Dear Linda and everyone else as well, Quite apart from the facts of poverty, I think there is something about hard-boiled (Christian or other) religiousity which idealizes the eating of food as an unpleasant duty rather than a natural pleasure. I was brought up that way before I ever came to the Bruderhof.
Ruth (Baer) Lambach, 3/12/00: What a fascinating story, Lee. Please do expound on the doll. There may be a relationship between primitive inhibitions about making idols. I know there is in me.
When I recently visited a Hutterite Colony and saw a picture of Jesus, in his usual insipid flower child, long hair, inexperienced innocent face, I was disgusted. Dolls created then have the possibility of being stuck with pins, of being invaded, of having a hex put on them. One must protect ones life. I have the same feeling when I see images of famous people on the covers of magazines. Can you imagine how many people project various things onto those images? Is that not energy that eventually gets back to the person whose image is being so publicly displayed?
Charlie: Es ist nicht alles Gold was glanzt. Or that which on the surface tastes good, like candy, cake, cookies and other things made from sugar, flour and lard no matter how they're dressed up, are not good for you. I think there is something about people who take their life seriously, that begin to think about every aspect of their lives and want to live as healthy an existence as possible, make choices that to the ordinary eye appear to be grossly fanatical and stupid. My first job was with an orthodontist who wouldn't permit his children to eat sugar. This was considered weird back in 1959. Today I see many adults in their 30s with brown teeth from all the coke they've consumed. Do I sound like a religious fanatic? A lot of what we see, hear, taste and do in the modern world is designed to make money. It is not necessarily designed for the ultimate good of the person consuming it. I honor those people who choose to make conscious choices about what they permit their children to consume. I took cod liver oil. We put horse piss on ringworm. We ate raw onion sandwiches to avoid colds in the winter. That's all good stuff.
Charlie Lamar, 3/12/00: ARRRRRRRGH!!!
David E. Ostrom, 3/14/00: I have been following some of the comments and observations made by people on the hummer regarding their memories and experiences as young people on the various hofs. There has been a question rumbling around in the back of my vacuous mind about what people thought about as young people teenagers specifically male female relationships.
I remember a rambling walk I had with Guy Johnson at Forest River at which time he, in a very delicate and indirect way, asked if I ever thought about girls/women and marriage. In my oafish California innocence I replied, "Sure, many times!" As you all are aware, "WRONG ANSWER." That is another story but, getting back to my question.
I do not mean thoughts of a sexual or intimate nature, rather, what would it be like to spend a life time with someone? What would it be like to experience life with someone, to share hopes and dreams? To sense the joy with one's mate, the success of their hopes and dreams. To experience hardships and provide comfort and support and in turn, receive comfort and support when pressures are great and one cannot see one's way.
What would it be like to form a new 'subgroup,' to realize the full abilities that each have and to see dreams become reality?
Or, as I sort of suspect, were these were no-no thoughts and too prideful for the group? Sincerely,
Hilarion Braun, 3/14/00: Hi Dave! For me, the Bruderhof supplied all of the comfort and support I could imagine anyone receiving, provided one could stay within its grace, something that I never managed. To me, my parent's marriage was so subjugated to the Bruderhof that it didn't seem to be a marriage in the usual sense of the word. In the end, when my mother decided to stay faithful to my father, instead of bowing to Heini, they started to have a real marriage. That's a long story. In a sense, since the Bruderhof provides camaraderie, comfort, care taking etc. the only thing left in marriage is "legitimate" sex, and producing children. I never thought of getting married on the Bruderhof, even though I was crazy about one of the girls in school, because I was always convinced that I could not fit in to the Bruderhof's scheme. Love,
Sam Arnold, 3/16/00: I want to know what others think about spiritual freedom, and the right of each person to practice their own spirituality.
Already at an early age I questioned religious training because I did not believe the Bible, or man's interpretation of it, as being fact. Later, I witnessed the failure of servants (and many church ministers) to live up to the job of ministering "God's word" because: a) they had no more idea than any of us did about God, and b) they were using their position of authority to coerce and even abuse the people that they were supposed to be helping. They couldn't do the job expected of them and so were doing a lousy job of spiritual training. For me religious training has not meant spiritual training.
In the sustenance and development of the mind, body and spirit, it is the spirit that is the most difficult to understand because of its intangible and mystical nature. It is believed to be the only part of us that can survive death, and maybe also return as the spirit in another person or life form.
It therefore seems so very important that the spirit in humans be treated with respect and dignity, and not be forced to fit a mold that does not suit it, or that benefits someone else. Each person must be free to discover and develop this part of their being either independently, or in concert with others. The right to do so autonomously at any time needs to be safeguarded by law. This will benefit each person and help keep dishonest and dangerous leaders in check. My objective here is not just to upset the religious establishment, but to speak for the individual's right to self-determination, and to limit and control spiritual abuse and other abuses. I believe that this must happen also on the Bruderhof, or in any other high demand authoritarian communities.
David E. Ostrom, 3/16/00: Who is defined as individual? I do not intend to sound impertinent, I raise the question as most sociology and philosophy assume two classes, Mankind those of the top 10% to 1% who control the masses or the common man who is the second class.
Nietzsche appears to take the position God is dead and that man is all there is. He never does define who Man is other than apparently those in position to influence or control large blocks of humanity.
Sir James Jeans appears to present an alternative or opposing position. In his "Man and the Universe", Jeans makes the observation that any serious scientist acknowledges there is a supreme force larger than man, call it The Light, God, The Unknown, Nature or what ever, it is! Jeans continues that all mankind is effected by this power. He goes on, maybe as you are saying, that each person has to make their own decision as to how they will relate to this power.
You mentioned a concern about forcing young people to a doctrine or belief at an early age by people who have no qualifications for the position. This might be a starting point, defining the what is taught, the need for what is taught and who receives the teachings.
There are a couple of issues here. One, there is a need to educate the children of a society in some form of frame work for social interaction or there would be anarchy. Two, as I understand it, since the time mankind began communicating, there has been a question/need for answers to why, who, what and why? I am not well read enough to cite sources of the statement that claim since the beginning, mankind has paid homage to or acknowledged powers other than the "real" or material world, some sort of God or supreme being/power.
I think that many of the Bruderhof sabra react negatively to the concept of spiritual teaching because of the teaching experience in the Bruderhof. I may have taken the long way around to ask, "Is the reaction to religious training based on past personal experience or is it a reaction to formal education, that is to strive for conformity of thought according to society's idea of right and wrong? Bear with me :-)
Ruth (Baer) Lambach, 3/17/00: I've joined a church for the first time in my life. They have no dogma nor belief system. I don't have to believe in Jesus. The minister is the chairman of the Parliament of World Religions and he's a mystic. Last Sunday we heard a Catholic monk, Wayne Teasdale give a lecture on his book: The Mystic Heart. In a nutshell the book puts forth that every human being is essentially a mystic and that at the core of all religions is mysticism. It's a beautiful book. I highly recommend it. I think you'd resonate with it, Sam.
Hilarion Braun, 3/17/00: Dave asks, "Is the reaction to religious training based on past personal experience or is it a reaction to formal education, that is to strive for conformity of thought according to society's idea of right and wrong?
In my case the answer is unambiguously No! I rather enjoy the fact that I know the Bible well, and know with certainty that I don't believe it. I agree with
you that one has to believe that somehow all of this came about in a way that we can't explain. Hence one might say there must be a power or whatever through which this happened. That doesn't mean one picks up ancient documents and indoctrinates one's children with out critique of any sort, according to these documents. As far as educating children to be loving and caring, that doesn't have to be done through religious propaganda. In fact the present SOB is a good example of how that doesn't work, unless you think that Christian Domer should get the next Nobel peace prize! ;-) Love,
David E. Ostrom, 3/17/00: There are many factors that contribute to why things are done. The point I was trying to make in my first posting was there is the personal belief system and then there is the social or cultural belief system which may or may not be imposed on the individual. If I read Sam correctly, his interest was the question of individual spiritual freedom.
My own belief is in Christianity and that was arrived at by my own free will. I do not go with the mainstream Christian position that says, "Now that I am a believer, I must convert you and everyone else I know to my belief", that is why I quoted Jeans. Each individual has to arrive at their own conclusion/decision. In the larger context of the need for instruction, it would be interesting to hear from Tim Domer and his experienced with the Native Americans in his area on how they used to/presently teach their youth. You point out that it is possible to educate children to be loving and caring. If one looks only at the parent/educator's idea of compassionate to whom and love what group or section, this is valid. The problem is to have an agreed upon concept of what love and compassion is and how these traits are displayed. I use two examples.
A few years ago I was part owner of a psychedelic light show here in the bay area. At that time I had a military style crew cut hair style and wore Levis and flannel shirts (typical western red-neck garb) although I was in complete agreement with the new age people. We happened to attend a meeting of entertainers at the Family Dog at San Francisco. One of the speakers was a well known hippie (as they say in Walnut Creek, frippy heak translated as hippy freak). At this meeting this individual was orating about the Age of Aquarius, love, peace and brotherhood. Right? Then he looked over at me, pointing, and yelled, "But we'll kick the live'n $% &$&% out of these up-tight, red-necked ( ^&%(^ ^. Now, we all now that the hippies of San Francisco circa 1966 were good, peace loving people right? The second example was sitting in Gemindestunde, listening to Heini rant on about the cutting edge of love.
As much as I would like to disagree with Heini, on this point he was in some ways correct. As a parent, when my children (young adults do things that are inappropriate, I have to make clear to them as much as I love them, I cannot and will not condone/tolerate bad actions. The punishment bothers me but without some discipline (not corporal/physical) the child will not learn. So, in a sense Heini is correct. There appears to be some contradictions in these examples, inter and intra. That is where society or culture steps in and makes certain definitions and sets standards or norms. To me, it is not so much a question why it is, but that it is.
My question is how do I pursue my belief while allowing other to pursue theirs. I get caught up in a circle of society is a mob and a mob is society. I think the evolution of the Bruderhof confirms the fact good people get caught up in an idea and develop a mob mentality to force social conformity to their ideals. Said too much, too long. Gotta go get a cold beer and cool off! :-)
Paula (McWhirter) Buck, 3/17/00: I go with the belief that no one else is any more right, or wrong then I. I'm not offended when someone chooses to share their spiritual belief system with me... only when they find It necessary to force It on me. If anyone sees the bible as the do all and end all... that's fine. It doesn't work for me, but, that's not to say that it doesn't work for anyone. This came from learning, though. Having done the Pentecostal thing, and finding It very embarrassing to tell others that they were going to hell for disagreeing with me, when, In fact, I don't have a clue what happens, for sure... or if what does happen, happens to everybody. maybe it all happens... maybe none of It does. I think there's far too much emphasis on what might happen, and not near enough emphasis on what's happening now. I do feel that it's Important for parents to expose children to many different spiritualities, allowing them to find a path that is comfortable for them to travel alone. and it's a shame when folks are led to believe there's only one way to be ...spiritually, emotionally, physically ...whatever. My 2 cents,
Melchior J. Fros, 3/18/00: Dear Sam: I'm going to start with thoughts you expressed at the end of your post: limiting and controlling spiritual and other abuses. I'm going to write from the perspective of one who tries to follow Christ's teachings. I fear Christians are most often singled out for criticism concerning spiritual abuse because their faith makes a controversial claim attributed to Jesus: peace with God comes through faith in Christ. Not faith in Mohammed or Joseph Smith or even Eberhard Arnold. In a certain sense, therefore, Christ-followers don't have the luxury of pursuing and promoting spiritual freedom the way it is commonly understood. Christ it is said, is the one, final and complete link to God. I imagine this is distasteful for you and others to read.
I am going to assume that your questions are based on your reading of "Churches that Abuse" ...in short, your concern/criticism is aimed at the Christian faith and abuses that arise from indoctrination and practice. I am guessing (based on many conversations I have had over the years) that your rejection of the Christian faith has more to do with the way it was presented perhaps even forced on you rather than with the message itself. I may be wrong; perhaps you have given the message, "Emmanuel - God with us," serious thought and decided you can not believe it/internalize it in the way it is presented in it's written form.
With these two assumptions in place, let me try to answer your concern about spiritual abuse. Spiritual (or any other kind of abuse you may name) often is the result of a lack of accountability. When Eberhard set sail for the Promised Land in his own little Ark, he perhaps unknowingly cut himself adrift from accountability to others of his Christian peers. Eberhard claimed he was doing nothing other than seeking to live the NT example of a shared life. This, he felt, had to be a Spirit-led life in order to succeed. It could not be based on the dead letter of Scripture or Spirit-stifling human tradition. Eberhard's message was a life led by the Spirit.
There have been many prophets since Jesus' time claiming to have a new or a more complete message from God than the one attributed to Jesus. Mohammed in the 6th Century, and Joseph Smith (founder of the Mormon faith) in the 19th Century are two examples. Eberhard Arnold is looked upon as a Prophet of the 20th Century by my mother and others (1.) Eberhard (unwittingly?) became the embodiment of what he understood to be a faith led by the Spirit rather than by Scripture and tradition. Certainly his charisma was able to diffuse the harsh criticism today aimed at the Arnoldleut's practice of a dictatorship of the Holy Spirit (2). In a certain sense Eberhard did not wish to dictate, but in another sense, there was no one but he to interpret the leading of the Spirit among his flock.
And this as near as I can tell- is often true for "prophets" coming after Christ, claiming to have a more complete message than the one given by the carpenter of Nazareth. Sam, you were born into a church whose "accountability structure" (read, the lack of it as we normally understand it) was defined by your grandfather and further interpreted by his successors, Heini and Johann Christoph. The brotherhood EA envisioned was perhaps meant to provide a degree of accountability. But the many dismissed from "the life" for daring to speak up about the Arnoldleut's departure from traditional Christian faith and practice, demonstrates the level to which the "united brotherhood" has fallen. I think this is in great part what you (rightfully) are reacting to. The book "Churches That Abuse" surely underscores the need for accountability. Oh, boy, now I am in hot water! ;)
Notes: (1) "May They All be One" by R. Domer page 261 (2) Heini Arnold writing to the Wagoners, "Torches Rekindled" p.8-10
Johanna (Patrick) Homann, 3/18/00: I believe that discovering your own spirituality is a life long journey, and that this journey is often stopped or stifled by those who try to convert or control other's individual development with their own agendas. I respect that everyone has the right to their own belief system, but they lose my respect when they try to force these beliefs on me.
Our spiritual journey is very personal and private journey and as I grow I am observing and listening to others and may draw a little wisdom here and there which I may choose to incorporate into my spiritual journey. I really respect Native American wisdom and practices and am trying to learn more about and from their belief system. So far I sense that their traditional beliefs are based on respect for others/nature and that they don't try to convert/control, but just live what they believe. I find that I am so much more impressed by someone who actually lives what they believe rather than someone who preachers to others about how to live, but doesn't really live this way themselves. Actions speak louder that words. Love,
Melchior J. Fros, 3/19/00: I think the right to develop and practice a religion and/or spirituality is protected by law. Our Constitution wisely places a certain tension between individual rights and the need for governmental control. If I understand you correctly, your concern lies with minors, with those unable to legally exercise their rights. Perhaps you are hinting the B'hof. Should simply allow it's children to grow up within it's structure, free to choose to attend or not to attend Household meeting, Gemeindestunde and other forms of spiritual expression. You, like I, may have felt "forced" to attend meetings that did not interest us at the time.
I share your concern. I have connections to young people severely impacted by their parents' Constitutional right to practice their religion... supposedly the religion of Christianity. Your comments strike a personal note as well: I have a teen daughter reaching the age where she (understandably) questions spiritual things. As her father, I tread a fine line between "helping" and "hindering" her spirituality. It is clear to me I can not "pass on" or in any other way "convince" my children to take up faith in Christ. And yet I have a Biblical "obligation" to "model" my faith and "teach" it. That's where the tension lies. As many persons wisely note, LIVING one's faith will do more good than speaking about it. Janet agrees. We will therefore NEVER force our convictions upon our children. We will love them no matter where their spirituality leads them. Dave, saddle your camel... :)
David E. Ostrom, 3/19/00: My take on the problem is that many, if not most people claiming to be Christian, are or claim to be so for many different and wrong reasons. The Bible is very specific that one establishes the relationship with God and not man! Many people are looking to "download' their problems on someone/thing else and so are taken with the latest Oral Roberts / Jimmy Swaggert / Eberhard Arnold / Heini Arnold or any quick fix scam artist.
Another misleading lure is that of emotionalism. Many churches use music as an appeal to draw people. The sermons and the method of delivery of those
sermons make an emotional appeal to many. This is false! As Storr points out in his "Feet of Clay", people basically look for something to explain the unknown, the unseen, the spiritual. These people may have hang-ups, personal problems or other disfunctions that they are unclear about and so seek solace or relief from these problems by joining other people or groups who have a "quick fix" answer to all the problems.
My understanding of Christianity is that the individual comes to an understanding, finds a relationship if you will, with God. As a result of this relationship, the person then finds relationships with others. In many respects I think Mel has a cleared presentation of this. I can well empathize with Paula McWhirter about evangelism and a lot of what goes on in many churches. I am not attempting to push my brand on anyone, just trying to indicate where I think Christian religions today have and are erring in their faith.
Mel why do I need a saddle?
Ramón Sender, 3/19/00: I've been following Sam's 'Spiritual Freedom' topic with interest, but hesitating to put my own oar in the discussion until now. Anyway, with my own dromedary saddled and ready to ride, here goes.
Mel wrote: "Christ it is said, is the one, final and complete link to God.... ...."Christ-followers don't have the luxury of pursuing and promoting spiritual freedom the way it is commonly understood."
This teaching in the New Testament the 'Only through me" has caused a serious bump in the Christian path, hasn't it? Beyond it is yet another: the biblical precept that only when the whole world has heard of Jesus will He return in 'clouds of glory.' This latter creates quite a push to missionize the planet, as well as those dear souls in dark suits who knock on our and our neighbors' doors on weekends. This missionary zeal, however well intentioned, I personally view as unfortunate on many levels beyond giving me a personal opportunity to explain at my front door that I do not await Christ's return because he does for me every morning at sunrise.
As I think I mentioned once before here on the Hummer, I do believe that religions, like peaches, do not travel well. They should be 'homegrown' within the watershed from whence they spring. Any urge to convince the folks one valley over to abandon the worship of their river god and replace it with your fire-bringer on pain of decapitation should be strenuously stifled by some sort of spiritual Good Neighbor policy.
Great spiritual precepts, on the other hand, are universal the Golden Rule being the most basic, and should be honored as such. From the Golden Rule flow all the democratic freedoms, in my opinion, even the U. N. Declaration of Human Rights.
Other than attempting the impossible task of filtering out of the New Testament the centuries of accretions overlaying the original story, there are ways for me to understand the statements attributed to Jesus, such as "I am the way... Only through me..." that make more sense than the necessity of running around the planet forcing the bible and a pair of pants onto every tribal native.
I believe that some of the alternate ways of understanding these statements are quite ancient, but were banned as heresies at Nicea and elsewhere (Gnosticism, Montanism, Arianism, Adoptionism). How unfortunate that Christianity's basic precepts were not allowed to blossom into ever and even more unique and local variations of the original!
After a brief peek in the Britannica Encyclopedia just now, I think that I personally tend towards the Adoptionist heresy, that the Logos 'possessed' Jesus at his baptism and remained with him until that strange final moment on the cross. This I think also is the same as the Theosophical interpretation that Jesus was 'overshadowed' by The Christ Consciousness.
Christ Consciousness I believe has overshadowed others throughout history such as the Hindu avatars, the Buddha, as well as some of the lesser-known teachers (Ramana Maharshi for one) even perhaps totally unknown beings who were not given the task of imparting their teaching to others. This belief, of course, types me as one of those abhorrent 'New Agers' to many!
Venturing yet further out of my particular closet, I personally understand the descent of the Christ / Logos as allowing planetary incarnations of and identifications with Yahweh, that solar being who in the material realm brings light, life, love, awareness 'enlightenment' to the planet. As someone who gave up a dualistic view of reality in 1966 for a 'vibrational scale' unified view (matter understood as slowed-down light, which itself is slowed-down spirit /being), I worship our parent star as our local god-node, the 'heavenly portal' through which, in the words of the ancient Vedic rishis, all men must ultimately pass a 'golden wormhole' for soul travel after we die... Well, actually they wrote "through which all kings and sages pass," but I think we all end up there one way or another.
So the planetary 'game' then becomes, in the words of a spiritual sister of mine from my commune days, to try to raise one's ability to carry higher and higher vibrational frequencies without 'dropping the body' or harming either oneself or others. "How much bliss can you tolerate?" she would ask.
Sri Aurobindo, the philosopher/saint of Pondicherry, understood the 'game' as 'the Divine's plunge into inconscient matter.' He personally experienced the descent of a higher spiritual state in the 1940s, which he then transmitted to various disciples including Mother Mira (who continued his work after his death). He foresaw the ultimate perfection of the human incarnation with the evolution of a being capable of permanently manifesting the highest spiritual states in an incorruptible body. Of course there have been stories of great saints and masters living for centuries on light and air in the Himalayas, but I think Aurobindo was pointing to some merging of science and spirit, West and East, in some great spiritual advancement of consciousness.
Unfortunately, the man suffered from literary verboseness his tomes run to many hundreds of pages. But from his epic poem "Savitri" about a princess who saves her beloved's life after a long dialogue with Death I quote his vision of future humanity:
I saw the Omnipotent's flaming pioneers
Over the heavenly verge which turns towards life
Come crowding down the amber stairs of birth;
Forerunners of a divine multitude
Out of the paths of the morning star they came
Into the little room of mortal life.
I saw them cross the twilight of an age,
The sun-eyed children of a marvelous dawn,
The great creators with wide brows of calm
The massive barrier-breakers of the world
And wrestler with destiny in her lists of will,
The laborers in the quarries of the gods,
The messengers of the Incommunicable,
The architects of immortality.
Into the fallen human sphere they came,
Faces that wore the Immortal's glory still
Voices that communed still with the thoughts of God,
Carrying the magic word, the mystic fire,
Carrying the Dionysian cup of joy,
Approaching eyes of a diviner man,
Lips chanting an anthem to the soul,
Feet echoing in the corridors of Time,...
High priests of wisdom, sweetness, might and bliss,
Discoverers of beauty's sunlit ways
And swimmers within rapture's laughing, fiery floods
And dancers within rapture's golden doors,
Their tread one day shall change the suffering earth
And justify the light on Nature's face.
Charlie Lamar, 3/19/00: Dear Sam, There never can be any effective legal remedies for human stupidity and foolishness, nor should there be. To be free, people must be free to fail at making a living, at fathoming the truth of commercial advertizing, in the stock market, in their spiritual life, whatever.
You write: "We know that on the Bruderhof the members are not free to worship (or not worship) as they see fit."
But they are free. They are free to leave. There are high human costs when they do so, but the "Life" is supposed to be the "pearl of great price," worth all a man has, and indeed it is for Bruderhofers as well as everyone else.
...How could anyone draft a law against emotional abuse? Financial abuse, perhaps. But can you imagine drafting a law to say people can't put all their money in one pot to live in communally? Actually I can imagine that, but nevertheless I wouldn't want to do it as long as there are so many people around who still think that some form of socialism would be cool.
One of the key safeguards of political freedom is private property because free thought is inextricably intertwined with economic freedom. But even so, let us leave people free to abandon their freedom if they choose. As long as society at large does not do so, their experiments will be instructive for us all in the long run.
Susanna Zumpe, 3/19/00: Charlie wrote: "But they are free. They are free to leave."
Hi Charlie! When you say "they are free" you have to mean the adults who chose "the life". What about the children and minors? You say that they are free to leave. Are they? Who is free, the adults? What about the young people? Now that they are no longer going to allow them access to public schools their options are going to be very limited. How will they get out? When we discuss these issues, especially regarding personal freedom, we have to look at the whole picture, including those who are in positions of complete helplessness, not of their own doing. Love,
David E. Ostrom, 3/19/00: Sam Arnold wrote: "We know that on the Bruderhof the members are not free to worship (or not worship) as they see fit. Christoph as the elder insists on being the liaison between the members and God. He also directly controls the rest of their lives. If people are afraid to leave the Bruderhof when they have religious/spiritual or other disagreements with the elder it suggests that he has too much power and control over the lives of the members."
This is not Biblical. I may be guilty of pushing the Baptist line here but I am fairly confident that most "mainline" Christian churches agree that the individual relates directly with God and as a result of this an association is formed with other like called individuals. The minister/pastor/preacher (the last may not fit the category) assists the individual in their quest of spiritual growth. It always has been and continues to be a struggle in churches, to acquire and maintain a balance between the Board of Elders and the pastor. I am not clear or knowledgeable about Catholicism so I am not aware of where they get the authority of intercession or whatever it is called. That is, the priest or saints having the "direct line" to God for the common people.
Melchior J Fros, 3/20/00: I want to add one more thought to this discussion: Most of us who grew up on the Bruderhof have had ample opportunity to weigh the good against the bad. As it concerns spirituality, most of us have no difficulty pointing out Bruderhof and D.a.W (Servant of the Word) shortcomings. But I wonder if we ever stop to appreciate how much we have learned as a result of the (in part, spiritual) abuses visited on many of us. And likewise, do we appreciate the earnest "seeking" that originally drew many devout and good people to "the life"? I don't wish suffering on anyone, and yet it is through injustices visited upon us that we learn much about what not to do to others.
With great sadness I see in the Arnoldleut continuing in old patterns of thought and behavior. The evidence (fruit) of their current conduct (including books) strongly suggests they are unwilling and/or unable to take a critical look at their past history and make appropriate adjustments. Those who don't learn from their failures are bound to repeat them. Thanks, Sam, for bringing up the matter.
Sam Arnold, 3/20/00: I like what Ramon said, among other things: "Great spiritual precepts, on the other hand, are universal the Golden Rule being the most basic, and should be honored as such. From the Golden Rule flow all the democratic freedoms, in my opinion, and even the U. N. Declaration of Human Rights."
Charlie wrote to Sam: (about Christoph) "Of course he has too much power and control; however they gave him that power."
It is arguable that 'they' gave him that power. Who is 'they'? My understanding of the workings of the brotherhood is that unanimity on any given issue does not come through open debate. Rather, the decisions are made before the brotherhood gets to consider them, and so it is already too late to question them, or to add conditions. I do not see the brotherhood as having any powers at all, but to adopt the decisions already made. The members must say 'yes!' to everything that Christoph and his cronies want.
...Why must new members turn over all their assets to the church when they join without a proviso that they can withdraw them again if the church in some way fails to live up to the understood agreement of membership? Wayne and Betty should have been able to go to Christoph and say, "We disagree with your request to make harassing phone calls to the 800 number, and your choice to take legal action, as these are not in adherence with Anabaptist tenets, or the teachings of Jesus and the Bible. We therefore want to withdraw our membership and assets and leave the church with our family." And Christoph should have been required to comply. As for lifelong members, should they decide that they must leave the Bruderhof because the church has in some way contravened the agreement, should then be allowed to leave with a severance package that reflects the time and contribution that they made to the Bruderhof, both the church and the businesses.
Charlie wrote: "But even so, let us leave people free to abandon their freedom if they choose. As long as society at large does not do so, their experiments will be instructive for us all in the long run."
I disagree. Over the past few millenniums humans have been bred to be led. The familiar words "do as I say" are meant to instruct followership, and not to inspire thinking and problem-solving. Schools teach children to be followers first, and thinkers last. Most of the time the instructions could well be in the follower's best interests, but when the conscience or instincts indicate that they are not, a dilemma emerges: either you disregard your conscience/instincts and continue down the well-trodden path of compliance, or speak up and suffer the consequences. With safeguards, an authoritarian leader can be kept under control. Without safeguards the authoritarian leader can deliberately mislead because he is on a power trip. Followers who are alarmed by demands that seem unreasonable, or are not understood to be part of the norm, will take their cues from others who are caught in the same bind and will find reasons to justify the changes, which of course the leader provides as well. When the point is reached that they absolutely cannot say "yes" again, they have to make the solitary decision to say "no", at which time their whole world is turned upside down.
As far as I know, under Christoph's rulership the only one's to have said "no" to him were the new members. I am certain that many others would have liked to have said no at one time or another, but could not bring themselves to do so because of the overwhelming power that he and his church has over their lives and the vows that they made to the church. I cannot shrug my shoulders and say "they made their choice" because they really don't have one.
'Committing your life to Jesus' is an abstract concept; 'committing your life to the church' is less abstract, but invites spiritual and other abuses. When a person decides to follow Jesus within a group such as the Bruderhof, they must give up their freedom and go with the crowd, even when the crowd turns into a mob. This is not acceptable to my mind. I wonder what the steps were that led to the mass suicide of all those Christian people in Uganda. Once again, we can be sure, a leader gone bad is to blame for this latest tragedy.
Ben Cavanna, 3/20/00: Sam writes: "the crowd turns into a mob. This is not acceptable to my mind. I wonder what the steps were that led to the mass suicide of all those Christian people in Uganda. Once again, we can be sure, a leader gone bad is to blame for this latest tragedy."
Sam, I disagree that the leader gone bad is solely to blame for the tragedy. Surely the abdication of responsibility by the members is what is to blame, just as Christoph's excesses are a result of, and the responsibility of the members abdication of their consciences. Christoph too will have to answer one day for his actions, but the other members cannot escape having to answer too.
For any of us to move forward in any meaningful way, we surely must face our own failures. Blaming others is a continuation of the victim position and how can we make progress from that position?
Taking personal responsibility is the first step to self liberation.
Charlie Lamar, 3/20/00: If we don't leave people free to abandon or lose their freedom, then their so called "freedom" would be a logical self-contradiction. Susie is right when she says that the situation for children and those born into the Bruderhof system is different than that of adult joiners, but that is true for all ethnic subgroups everywhere in society. It's true that most people are more likely to follow than to lead. The only thing such sheep-like Bruderhofers have going for them is the very extremity of their repression. Human nature can only be pushed so far.
I think one instructive way of looking at your line of reasoning, Sam, regarding the desirability of curtailing people's freedoms for their own good is to consider whether you are subconsciously in the habit of thinking of the Bruderhof as something that could somehow be fixed.
Let's look at the problems:
1.) They put some human person between man and God.
2.) They theorize that there is only one valid intellectual path.
3.) They theoretically subordinate the individual to the group and then go on to subordinate the group to its leader.
4.) They hypocritically theorize that they are all socially equal and then conspire to establish a tribal hierarchy amongst themselves according to the degree of biologic relation to their chief by means of arranged marriages.
5.) Having deprived the individual of all spiritual and intellectual rights, then they go on to deprive him of all economic rights as well.
6.) They tolerate an entirely different set of rights and priorities for the leader than they supposedly do for the group. (See problem number 1.)
Now Sam, do you really mean to propose that the US Congress or Canadian Parliament should draft some kind of law to insulate people from the consequences of being that stupid? Should they draft a law to prevent people from putting a man between themselves and God, for example? What happens if Zeus or Wotan descends to walk the earth? What happens when we actually do get a real religious leader? What about the people who really are so primitive that they need to look up to some sort of Pope?
Look what happened to Jesus. At that time, it seems to me, they had the kind of laws you are suggesting.
Sam Arnold, 3/21/00: I see little wrong with people accepting an intermediary to guide them on their spiritual path (certainly not me), but there need to be limits to the power of the intermediary, for once on a "straight and narrow path" the follower can quite easily be paralyzed by the oppressor. We know that brainwashing occurs in most authoritarian churches, and once they are brainwashed by church rhetoric, the follower has virtually no resistance to the oppressor.
Charlie Lamar, 3/21/00: Dear Sam, You write that, "In a so-called civilized society it should not be permissible for a person to abandon or lose their freedom entirely. "
This would put the locus of personal responsibility beyond the decision making powers of the individual in question, rendering his "freedom" non-existent. A state that undertook to license and control religion in this manner would be a maternalistic state populated by infantile citizens. Religion, as a department of such a state, would be unreal religion. Such a program would be analogous to making suicide illegal, which of course we do, but quite foolishly in my opinion. None of this would matter if there were no life beyond the grave; all human choice would be ultimately meaningless anyway. If you think there is no life beyond the grave nothing matters except anaesthetic comfort, does it?
When Jesus was alive the Jews had state certified religion. They rationalized his judicial murder on the issue of his claiming to be a divine intermediary. Likewise any other state that undertook to certify religious practices for the supposed good of the population would ultimately control religion, just as the Jewish state did, thus rendering it meaningless unreal.
By the way, I don't believe in the Bible as a received text. It's just a problematic historical document.
Sam Arnold, 3/21/00: Laws don't necessarily reduce freedom, they can also empower personal freedom. That is what I am suggesting. Your comparison to suicide is off the mark as well, because a person contemplates and inflicts suicide on themselves, whereas authoritarian leaders contemplate and inflict abuses on their followers. Followers usually are not masochists. On the other hand, I agree with you that making suicide illegal is foolish.
We have lots of laws that are designed to safeguard society from anarchy. Why not religious abuse? I fail to see where placing power limits on religious rulers will spawn progressively more and more stupid citizens, as Charlie says. Far from advocating "state certified religion" I am suggesting a cap on religious excesses. There really is no clearly defined line between state and church anyway, for their paths cross every day.
3/21/00: Mel, I think I already said that each member is responsible for the decisions made, but to repeat myself in another way, I feel that the individual's responsibility is greatly reduced and impaired if their ability to understand and reason has been compromised or distorted by his/her superiors through brainwashing, withholding information, lies, deception, files on past sins and failings, etc. The individual and the whole flock are in no position to question or doubt the leader from such a disadvantage. Moreover, since the leader supposedly has direct access to God, how can anyone dare to question him? I wonder if this is the source of religious melancholia that Julius has been researching.
Consider the following scenario: I feel quite certain that if five or more members rose during a brotherhood meeting and told Christoph that they did not agree with something it would create a crisis, but one which Christoph would surely win. After going into a tirade he would offer to step down and would then stomp out of the meeting. Others would quickly rush to his defense and gang up on the dissidents. Then Christian or Joe would remind the Brotherhood that they had put their trust in God through Christoph, and that the brotherhood would be breaking its covenant with God if they chose to replace him with another leader. Only God can replace Christoph, they are reminded. And so it would end, with the dissidents being punished. Christoph would return in glory, with even more power than before. He probably would also reward himself with a vacation in the Bahamas.
To my mind in this scenario the Brotherhood and the individuals within, can not be held responsible by the outcome, because the Bruderhof structure does not allow for such a thing to occur. Christoph, on the other hand, has abused his power because he is protecting himself, rather than the interests of the brotherhood. No opportunity was given for others in the meeting to speak freely and offer alternative suggestions that might sway opinion in a democratic fashion. Christoph's power is absolute.
I didn't see Charlie's points as an indication that he is against legislating limits to spiritual tyranny, as I would prefer to call it, but that he doesn't see it working, and also the infringement on freedom. Obviously this is not an easy thing to contemplate, much less do. Such legislation would also be crossing the line that separates church and state another problem. But I am also of the belief that all problems have solutions, which create new problems, and more solutions... We just need to continue to work on the problem.
Allen E. Hinkey, 3/21/00: The first amendment puts no limits on freedom of speech. It puts limits on Congress: they can't pass any laws restricting freedom of speech or of the press.
The result is that our speech is restricted by what happens if we say certain things. It is not a crime. We can't be arrested. But we have to put up with the consequences of what we say. I can lose my job. I can lose my friends. I can be kicked out of my church. I can be sued for slander and lose millions of dollars.
There is a recent case in Philadelphia that illustrates the issue. A student at Friends Central School (a private Quaker school; one might think a bastion of liberalism) said in a private e-mail on his home computer, to another student: "Stupid people should be killed." Later in the conversation he said: "I don't really mean killed. It would just be better if there were no stupid people."
He was expelled from school.
He didn't commit a crime. Not laws restricted his freedom of speech. But he sure was punished for what he said.
Hilarion Braun, 3/21/99: Is it possible to have a Bruderhof that isn't quite as crazy and isolated as the one we witness now. I've never thought that it could be dramatically changed, but just maybe bit by bit to the point where people can visit.
As far as Sam's arguments are concerned, I agree with him, but don't know what legislation he's thinking about. For example, I can imagine that he is thinking of some legislation concerning contracts. For example, since contracts are a secular matter, maybe one could have a specific separation of the religious aspect and the secular when it comes to a specific contract involving property and compensation concepts. ...Also, I would expect that one could compel organizations to keep their constitution open to public scrutiny. I can't see how that would violate anyone's rights. Another aspect that could be reviewed is that of social security/pension responsibility in a so called community property or communistic cult. Why should they get away without providing for social security when even a household hiring a maid has to pay in? I imagine that Sam is thinking of closing loopholes rather than legislate against stupidity.
Julius, your book is great. It confirms my worst fears, namely that the foundation invited the corruption that we now see. We bought two copies, and they're both in use already!! Love,
Tim Domer, 3/21/00: I disagree with Sam's hypothesis that focusing criticism on the leadership will have any positive effect at all. The membership fully supports the leadership, for what ever individual or collective reason. The individual members have forfeited free thought in return for being a part of what they claim is the "lower church".
I was struck once more, last night, reading Julius' book that Eberhard was not kidding when he wrote about people becoming completely empty so that they could be filled with the Holy Spirit. The 4th paragraph on page 26 sums up the central dogma of the Bruderhof. The problem comes from the fact that it is the elder and the Servants who determine who is empty enough and has been "stripped of all comfort and pride" enough to be filled with the Holy Spirit. As long as there are human "go-betweens," things will be corrupt and rotten. The dynamic becomes not one's relationship to The Almighty or Jesus, but rather one's relationship to those humans who control, monitor and grade your earthly "spirituality". I agree with Charlie, there is nothing to be fixed. There is nothing fixable. The fundamental belief system and power structure is wrong and fatally flawed.
Melchior J Fros, 3/22/00: Sam, you say: "I think that we have so far failed to find a way through the wall that the Bruderhof has surrounded itself with."
Don't you think holding up a mirror for them has had a positive effect? I surely think it has. What you see, the circling in of wagons, the loss of visitation, the build-up of anger at KIT... at Julius... at Blair's Kinder site... yes, even the proposed move to Aussieland, are "positive" indications of Arnoldleut discomfort.
I think you place an undue burden on the brotherhood member's need to be accurately informed in order to raise a protest. I hold there have been enough crude incidences within the brotherhood. meetings for members to mount a protest. A few examples: One can't sit through a brotherhood meeting shout-down of Wayne Chesley without even a primal sense of guilt. Neither can a reasonable person assent to the idiotic charges that led to the dismissal of the Winters. You don't need a great deal of information to realize something is amiss kicking out Nigerian fathers (separating them from their children). When a letter written by George Burleson is "used" to further the immoral idea of separation between father and daughter, you don't need additional information to get up and say to Christoph, "Please stop it, you blockhead!"
In short, Sam, the "information" is there! I do appreciate your effort to delve deeply into "the problem."
Ramón Sender, 3/22/00: Perhaps we could draft legislation that would require leaders of any religious group to be certificated and licensed in much the same way as family counselors are in California. They would be required to complete an accredited course of training, as well as 50 to 100 hours of supervised interactions with clients. Hopefully this would separate out some of the more abusive and mentally deranged types, who if they continued in the role of a minister or religious leader could then be prosecuted for 'practicing religion without a license.'
An approach would be to accredit the churches and religious communities themselves on a voluntary sign-up basis.
Greta (Vowles) Milam, 3/22/00: I come from the position that an adult should choose their own path in life, with guidance having been obtained from a variety of sources. Ultimately the choice is individual.
I recall as a child being made to study the Bible by my parents. Oh how I dreaded my father 'having a talk' with us, and getting so serious about everything bad in the world. I know I couldn't didn't want to handle it as a child. I now as a parent myself, I try to guide my son, but 'force' nothing on him.
I now feel that I'm more than open to communication from others. The JW's visit my house regularly, and yes I'll stop and chat, and I'll take their literature to read, but I don't want to join them, and I don't think "their way" is the only way. Knowing my husband's past in the military, I know I could never be in any organisation that doesn't allow me to question or have the freedom to do what I want when I want to. OK, I hear you, I hear myself none of us really has the freedom to do that completely money, life hassles, etc. confine our actions. But I oppose the overbearing right of someone having that much control over my life. Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely. I have to live with myself, and truly believe one's life is what you make of it good, bad or otherwise. I also feel I'm 100% responsible for me and what I do. My spirituality is totally within myself. I won't do something that doesn't feel right to me.
Hilarion Braun, 3/22/00: Since the power of the SOB is based on a fraudulent community property myth, maybe a law like the following would help.
Any agreement, written or oral between an individual and a group, corporation, organization, or other social, religious or business entity to forfeit all tangible and intangible assets in perpetuity shall have no standing in law, for such an agreement would constitute a contract for slavery.
I know that contract law does not recognize contracts as legal if they contract for illegal activities. Communal property fraud as practiced by the SOB may not look like slavery, and maybe this needs to be spelled out as such in law. Barney, any help from you? Love,
Johanna (Patrick) Homann, 3/22/00: Tim, I have a different take on this. I think that (growing up in the Bruderhof) your sense of identity depended on the importance of your family name in the hierarchy of servants. Obviously, if your parents had a position of power, then some of that importance rubbed off on the children (as Susi confirmed). That gave her more confidence and the ability to believe that she could make her own decisions. Tim, I would therefore suggest that because you also born into an important family that you also had more self esteem and a sense of identity and importance.
Many of us did not grow up in privileged circumstances and didn't realize that we had the choice of challenging the leaders. Of course, I was expelled at thirteen and so maybe I would think differently if I had been older when I left, but I wonder if people have ever really thought about the actual circumstances which made them decide to leave? Was it really a conscious choice or were the circumstances such that they really didn't have too many choices? Did they have some relative on the outside who would take them in? Did they have an education or some way of supporting themselves? Were they an adult or a minor, single or married, male or female? Did they have a spouse or children who didn't what to leave?
I believe that the position of your family in the Bruderhof hierarchy made a difference. So, from my point of view it would be easier to brainwash a peon, who didn't have all the facts, into going along with the party line than it would be for a person who had knowledge and some say in the decision making process. This in my mind would make it easier to manipulate the peons and convince them to become "completely empty, so that they can be filled with the Holy Spirit". They are 'empty' already (brain-wise) and want so much to fit in and belong that they will do what they are asked to do. They are brainwashed by the leadership to believe that this emptying is the only way to heaven and that if they leave the Bruderhof they will surely go to hell . They live in fear and don't have normal reality checks of the real world, so this is their reality. I did a paper on cults and mind control and when you are sucked in you don't have your normal reasoning powers.
These people are not in full possession of their faculties the way we are outside, therefore they are not making a decision that you and I would make in our frame of mind. Do these individuals realize that they are 'forfeiting free thought in return for being part of what they claim is the "lower church" ' ? I don't think so. They don't even know what free thought is. They are not thinking clearly because they now live in fear of consequences and are not strong enough to overcome that fear.
People are born with different personalities and when they are raised under different conditions, (ie a child of a servant as compared to a child of someone who is not important or someone who has fallen out of grace with the Bruderhof) the decisions they make vary according to those circumstances. In the real world we all still react differently when under pressure because of our different personalities. We may think that because we have a common background we would all think and behave in the same way, but if we look at the different reactions we have on the same subjects here on the Hummer, we can see that we were influenced by the different circumstances in our growing years.
How can we say that everyone there has made a conscious and knowledgeable decision to stay? The Bruderhof withholds information and only feeds the general membership the information that they want them to know. I know that my mother was lied to about my dad and promised things by the Bruderhof that they didn't honor if she stayed. We should not judge others until we have walked a mile in their shoes and that is impossible. Just thinking out loud.
David E. Ostrom, 3/22/00: Hanna wrote: ... but I wonder if people have ever really thought about the actual circumstances which made them decide to leave? Was it really a conscious choice or were the circumstances such that they really didn't have too many choices?"
In my case, it was a double shock. My parents had been effectively disowned as they had turned their backs on "family". To further compound the problem, my parents had the unmitigated gall to join a Communist!!!! society in the 1950's. When the brotherhood at Oak Lake told me to go and not return, I was stunned! I don't remember the meeting, other than going through the double doors into the dinning room, then a blank, the Servant asking me what I wanted to do, and telling him (and the B'hood) I assumed I would return upon graduation and was looking forward to going to Primavera to help with the communications there. Another blank, and then those terminal words, "go and never return!"
I went back to my room in a daze, laid on the bed all night, not sleeping. I don't remember the trip back to school, but at class the next day, a classmate, a Korean vet who had been a sergeant took me aside and said he had the answer. Two weeks later, or thereabouts, I was enlisted in the U.S. Air Farce where I learned what the only difference between the Bruderhof and the USAF was. In the Farce, it was "For God and Country" and the Bruderhof it was God and Heini!
"Did they have some relative on the outside who would take them in?"
No way Jose!!!!
"Did they have an education or some way of supporting themselves?"
A very poor certificate of competency thanks to DD and D. Moody! (I was to dumb to think of attending a college, (or heaven forbid, a university!) according to the two knowledgeable experts in child psychiatry.
"Were they an adult or a minor, single or married, male or female?"
Just turned 18, male, facing the draft, single.
"Did they have a spouse or children who didn't want to leave?"
At that time all family was in.
"...I believe that the position of your family in the Bruderhof hierarchy made a difference."
No truer words have been spoken!! I would agree with Tim Domer to a certain extent, knowing his father, I could not imagine that life would be all that pleasant. Where I do disagree is he has an M.D. and I admire him for it. However, Dick and Doug did a good job of convincing me I would not amount to much more than a third rate ditch-digger with the mentality of a three year old!
As I told Joy Johnson when in U.K. a few years ago, the Bruderhof and all in it have contributed to the problems now existing. Specifically, those in a position of safety/power through parental position that used that position to make life miserable for the less fortunate, or just sat by and watched it happen, now have to live with the monsters created by those circumstances. Over the years I have heard a lot moaning and groaning about a lot of us "failures" out here. Wake up and smell the coffee! People didn't take action then and people don't take action now. As long as people knuckle under to the bully boys at Crest o'the Woods there be trouble in fantasy land! These are not pleasant words but we are not dealing with a pleasant situation.
Timothy Domer, 3/22/00: J P Homann wrote: "Tim, I would therefore suggest that because you also born into an important family that you also had more self esteem and a sense of identity and importance."
Hanna, Several assumptions are being made here. You clearly do not know what it was like to grow up in the Domer family. You do not know my father as I do. I will simply say that when I left, I had very little self esteem or sense of identity.
Susie may have "confirmed" something that she experienced. I do not believe I had any special privileges. I was the troublemaker and often out of the group every year that I can remember. Susie' father and my father are two very different personalities.
My parents, brothers and sisters, still living in the Bruderhof, are just as "brainwashed", or just as resigned to their lot, as anyone else. They have made a conscious decision to stay and support JCA, for whatever reason. My parents have also made a conscious decision to disown me, two brothers and twelve grandchildren, just as Margot's parents have done, and countless others. I agree that they no longer act on free will or free thought. They all very consciously gave that up as well. My father once even made a statement to that effect.
No one really understands why some people become "brainwashed". They may become brainwashed but they did not start out that way. When individuals let other people start thinking for them and when they let "group conscience" substitute for their own, they will likely become "brainwashed" whatever that is. This has happened to whole countries. Look at Hitler's Germany.
I never cease to be amazed at what the human mind is capable of believing in spite of the facts presented to it. Denial is a powerful force sometimes it is protective. Mostly it is destructive.
Human beings were given free thought, free will and a conscience. If we forfeit these for any cause, the results are disastrous. The basis of the "communal experience" of the Bruderhof is that individuals, children and adults, are told over and over that they must "become empty" of them selves. Once they are satisfactorily empty they are filled not with the clear, free, truth-based love that Jesus lived, but rather dogmatic, unloving, judgmental Arnoldism. We have seen wonderful people join the Bruderhof, walking upright, with clear eyes, a smile, warm and loving. On subsequent visits over the years these same people now
walked bent forward, eyes down, hesitant to talk, no longer outgoing and afraid to show spontaneous love or affection.
Arnoldism uses "church discipline" to grind people down. It abuses and humiliates people publicly, as an example to others. When members see things that they feel or know are unloving and wrong, they must protest, even if it means expulsion. If they do not, slowly over the years the spark of truth flickers and dies.
Christoph is just as "brainwashed" and spiritually dead as any perhaps more so. He was raised by Heini. Yet, the membership does not protest. Instead they hold him up higher. For that they are all responsible.
Hanna wrote: "We should not judge others until we have walked a mile in their shoes and that is impossible."
Hanna, we have all walked many miles in those shoes. Judging and using judgment are not the same thing. I hope and pray that clarity, truth and good judgment somehow break into the minds and the hearts of the members before greater tragedy strikes.
Sam Arnold, 3/23/00: Dave Ostrom wrote: "According to Storr, and he substantiated rather well, followers are masochists in abusive cults. That is why there are abusive cults. What is needed to counter this phenomena of abusive cultures/religions is to address the anomalies of character in the followers of these cults/religions. This is not something that can be corrected through legislation or social ostracism. It takes people to people interaction, people helping people. This will not happen in today'sme now, not in my own backyard and get out of town, losers!! mentality."
You say that "The anomalies of character in the followers of these cults / religions" are what is responsible for masochistic tendencies. I say it is the obscene degree of servitude that the followers are compelled to carry out in order to placate their ruler who says that he is their only connection to Jesus and God! I could consider your argument in a cult where the members have joined as adults, but in the case of the Bruderhof almost all of the members were born there, so how could they all be born with such a flaw?
The word "servant" has been twisted as well on the Bruderhof. In reality the followers serve the Servant, rather than the other way round. But I suppose they call them elders now.
Have you ever noticed that glazed look on the faces of Bruderhof people and other cult members? (Oops, that includes the stoned on grass as well.:) They seem shallow, and not in contact with themselves. When they talk, particularly to answer questions, they operate in a slow and measured manner, and their utterances are usually limited to the cliches that have been memorized, right down to the accent of the teacher. Many of the American members have learned to speak with a German accent, more so when spewing Bruderhof jargon. I wonder if there is some kind of religious zombification that holds a spell over the mind's ability to operate cognitively.
Please don't consider what I said here as a put-down of Bruderhof people. I respect every person's right to live their lives as they wish or feel they must, but I cannot help but feel concern for people who to have completely given up their autonomy. Once it is given away, it is very difficult to get it back.
I also think that the complete emptying of the spiritual vessel that Tim Domer mentioned is sick, sick, sick.
3/23/00: [Regarding] Ben Zablocki's Bill of Rights for Religious Communities and Their Members. I had forgotten about this document. It is well reasoned, in my opinion. Upon my initial reading of it I see one omission under Article I. Right To Leave.
"I. Right To Leave
"Any adult person may leave the community at any time without the need to give a reason and without the need for a waiting period. Where the community is geographically isolated, transportation to the nearest town of 50,000+ population must be provided at the community's expense. Where the community is in a foreign country, transportation to the nearest American consulate or embassy or trade office must be provided instead if that is the wish of the person leaving. No exception is made to this rule for people in novitiate, retreat, intensive meditation, or any other special status within the community."
I would like to add to something to this effect:
When a member chooses to leave he or she must be provided with sufficient provisions to establish themselves in their new environment outside the community. They are entitled take with them important and historical items that are of a personal nature, and their Social Security benefits. They are further entitled and a severance package that reflects both the years spent working for the community, as well as the contributions made to the life of the community. A member who had contributed assets and life savings to the community when he or she joined will have them returned.
I also think that this document could be connected to the Declaration of Rights under the UN Charter.
Timothy Domer, 3/23/00: Dave, I'm not sure why you and Hanna bring my families "station" and the fact that I am a physician into a discussion of free will. It does not matter what level of importance an individual has in the Bruderhof. Each individual is responsible for him or her self. I understand the issues of involuntary servitude, but all members joined voluntarily. If people are saying that the members have no choice, that they are just poor victims, ignorant and without a personal conscience, than I would have to disagree. No one promised anyone a rose garden in life. Each of us is faced with choices. How we respond to those choices and the decisions we make reflect the kind of person we are.
It seems to me there is a certain amount of hand wringing here.
By the way, Dave, perhaps you are under the impression that I found the MD degree in a box of breakfast cereal at Woodcrest. I left at age 19 without a single college credit. I had gone to trade school after high school. I joined my family who were living in Saugerties at the time. I worked at a tire dealership, changing tires for nine months. I then worked as an orderly at Kingston Hospital for eleven months. During that time I took an EMT course. I worked as an EMT and paramedic for two years, met my wife in an ER in Poughkeepsie. I went to Duchess CC and got an AS degree. I went to PA school and got a BS. I worked as a PA for three years and applied to medical school. When I told my father I wanted to go to medical school he laughed at me. I never received one dime from the Bruderhof for my higher education, nor would I have accepted it.
You clearly have progressed beyond what my father and Doug predicted of you. I guess I have too. However, I did nothing that anyone else willing to work their tail off for eleven years would have been able to do.
I really think the comments about higher and lower "stations" or "privileges" is off the mark in regard to individual members responsibility for what the Bruderhof has become.
David E. Ostrom, 3/23/00: There is a high degree of correlation between the individual ex'er's present function in life and the family position in the hierarchy of the Bruderhof. I do not want to instigate a personality clash or personal attacks on people. As I have said, I admire your, and others success in academic endeavors. There is, however, an undeniable fact that being in certain positions / situations as a child provides that child with a broader selection of choices.
1. .Mushi has written about some facets of her youth where, in the home, she was exposed to and had access to music and literature that was denied me while I was at the Bruderhof.
2. I know for a fact JCA and others of that level in the hierarchy were provided with study time and other academic benefits denied to Jim Dunlop and myself.
3. There were times when Dad was working on the cars for the Bruderhof and Mom was in the laundry, I was detailed to a job that did not allow for study or conceptual exercise.
4. My comments about Dick and Doug were not that detailed. Specifically, Doug told me I would not attend a school of higher learning, therefor it was a waste of the community's time and money to allow me to get through high school. I assume that you at least received your high school diploma I did not. That was denied me and others! Dick also made several references and comments during the five years I was at the B'hof that as I was stupid, I would not need an education.
5. Hector Black and I had a discussion on this very subject. He was chastising me for my vehemence about the way the Bruderhof, in my opinion, raped and pillaged my family. His comment was, "Look at me, I gave my all and left with nothing also!" Wrong! When he left, he made a few phone calls and renewed a few contacts, received a very generous loan at convenient terms based on his connections. It also helped that there were "special arrangements" that protected some of his assets. Dad, left, tried to re-start and was considered an economic risk fifty years plus old, no tangible assets and a five year gap in work history. Sorry Charlie, no loan!
The issue of the position in the hierarchy has been discussed by many who are out and not on e-mail. There is no difference between the advantages of children of living in "upper ten percent" homes and the advantages of the children raised in the Servant's / Steward's / Witness Brother's families. I agree with you, it is a fact of life. Just don't try and tell me it has no impact. The options one has limits the choices available. The range of options is dictated by the economic and social position of one's family. I don't wring hands about it, I just get tired of hearing that it is not so, and that everybody has the equal opportunities. One does not become and MD by slouching around. That is why I stressed my admiration for you and others.
This was what got me in trouble at the Bruderhof. There was / is a insurmountable difference between what was/is said and what actually happens. I would question the inconsistencies and was rebuked for having pride ego bad karma. If one was of the "common people" one just did what one was told or got out. That choice has been widely and heatedly discussed before. The children who grew up in the families of the "commoners" were taught from day one what their position was/is and provided with no alternatives. The choice is, as Bob Greenwood told me once, "You always have a choice, even when you are being executed against your will, you can chose to die mad or to die happy".
I am beginning to wonder if there are two issues here. The one, in general, of free will and the other free will to effect change? Everyone has freedom, the choice is, does one want to accept the consequences? People say, "You cannot commit murder". That is wrong, anyone so desiring can commit murder. The question is can one get away with it or what are the consequences. Now, as we have seen, a wealthy and connected individual can (by general consensus) commit murder and walk away from it. On the other hand, a poor indigent gets ten years for stealing a loaf of bread. Extreme but illustrates the difference between
the haves and the have nots. A more direct comparison. The Chesleys, the Fox's, the Eanes all left and are being assimilated back into society. Note, they all have college degrees in fields that have high demand. Now, take Joe Schmuckenraker who has diligently been to the shop at 8:00am and bowed to all the right powers and got married and did his procreative duty having the twelve kids required by JCA. Oh, and yes, because he is considered "common" material does not have a high school education. Now, is he going to bail out? Unless there is some safety net, there is no way! One major consideration being Schmuckenraker has not been exposed to ideas and concepts that allow him to make an informed decision.
My ex-partner at San Salvador made a very strong statement in one of our many discussions on life and happiness. He observed that people in position of authority/wealth have a social obligation to assist the less fortunate. If society, and in the case of the Bruderhof, does not heed this there will be a coup. The question is will the ruling class finally make an overt take over and ouster or will the brotherhood say, "Enough," and throw the leadership out? It will take another leader to organize the brotherhood for an overthrow of the present leadership. It's an oxymoron, free will and personal effect in an organization.
George Maendel, 3/24/00: Thank-you Dave!, for having the guts to actually say and define what we mean when we call something a "devastating" experience.
I've always said that for me the "Children's Clearing House" was devastating. But that's not saying anything, what the hell is devastating, what do I mean when I use that word. Well, what you've written begins to say it. I was reduced to nothing. I considered myself less than shit.... that was the result of the children's clearing house for me. It shredded any sense of myself that I had as a young Hutterite person. I came away feeling horribly guilty, filled with overwhelming guilt. I was no longer a person, I was a walking cesspool of guilt, EXACTLY as my interrogator and the long isolation in the clearing house basement had defined me, over and over and over, trying to get me to admit it. I couldn't admit it, but I came away from the experience being it. The goal of the Children's Clearing House, as I understand it today, is that as a result of the interrogations and the accusations, I was supposed to admit that I was evil and had done wrong, then that would lead to the famous catharsis and eventually I could be re-accepted into the circle of divine love. But none of the so-called redemptive part of that cycle took place in my case, because I was too young, too foreign to the situation to understand what was happening. Instead I was savaged by the experience and not until I saw a KIT newsletter did the beast that savaged me get a name: The Children's Clearing House at Forest River.
I can see from reading of your experience that "the basement" can be a metaphor for where they kept you and your family in the Bruderhof scheme of things.
Nadine (Moonje) Pleil, 3/24/00: August and I were told that our two sons, the eldest son and the youngest sons, were no good and would never amount to anything. And if you want to know who said it, it was Milton, Andreas and Jakob Gneiting. In fact they indicated that none of our kids would take it very far.
Well in the meantime and with no help from the commune all of our eight kids have made it, and especially the two sons who were definitely not to amount to any good. Our youngest son has a very responsible eight hour job at PA transformer, and after that he goes to his own business to restore cars and works there another five or six hours. So you can see, the commune did not want the Pleils to succeed.
They told us before they kicked us out that our boys would surely all go down the drain. That they would do drugs, that they would get girls into trouble and a whole lot of other dire predictions. Well, our kids all proved them wrong and then we are supposed to grateful for what we have learned from the commune's teachings? No way Jose. We are grateful to our children that they respected us enough to live decently and to get through college and work hard. Without their cooperation we would never have managed to get them all through high school and college.
I am very thankful that our youngest son went to highschool here in Washington and not while still in the commune. I do not think that he would have been allowed to have finished highschool if we had been in the commune. The servants did not like the fact that August had intelligent children. He, August was the stupid colonist who did not have enough schooling to even claim kids with brains.
Dave you are right in what you say about the status quo of the Plain brothers and sisters and their children. Also I think that Heini did not want some of the Plain kids to be too intelligent as he was afraid to be replaced by them when they were older. His son the crown prince could lose out.
Ramón Sender, 3/24/00: Yes, the 'basement' as a metaphor... My 'basement' (a-basement?) Bruderhof experience? I don't know which one I'd pick, but one piercing moment was Sibyl turning around from the front seat next to Heini and saying to me, "You know, Ramon, the trouble with you is that you love our marriage more than Jesus."
(This was after living as single people at Woodcrest for about 14 months and not being allowed to even hold her hand)...
Allen E. Hinkey, 3/24/00: Dave: You say there is a direct correlation between the success of ex-Bhofers on the outside and their "status" on the inside.
I feel somewhat uncomfortable getting into this discussion; in fact it is unfortunate that it came up at all.
Since it has come up, it seems to me that you owe us some additional information. How do you define success or one's position in society? Is it happiness? Money? Family? Friends?
You blame your lack of success on the Bruderhof. How do you define your lack of success? To those of us here in the east you seem to be living the idyllic life in California. You own a couple of homes, you have a pick-up truck and a camel. You live near San Francisco Bay; you can go windsurfing approx. 300 days a year. You have been to Europe on vacation. What's the problem? You say you lost a multi-million dollar business. Do you credit the Bruderhof for your acquiring of that business? Do you blame the Bruderhof for losing the business?
You seem to have a double standard when it comes to taking responsibility for one's actions. You want people in the Bruderhof to stand up and be responsible for their actions. But you want to blame the Bruderhof for your own life, rather than taking your own responsibility for it. I believe that we all were affected by the Bruderhof, both negatively and positively. If you have figured out how to credit or blame the Bruderhof for what has happened to you, then you have solved what generations of scholars have tried to figure out: how much are individuals shaped by their surroundings and how much by genetics?
I guess you'll say I was one of the privileged ones. Maybe I was. I went through high school and college while still at the Bruderhof. I still didn't escape the brainwashing. I certainly didn't call any relatives when I left. In fact I didn't contact my own family for years. My then girlfriend (now wife) finally convinced me that I was completely nuts for not contacting my family. Of course she was right.
I guess I consider myself only moderately successful. We have a decent house and can pay our bills. We are both working, but only making moderate money. I hate my job: maintenance supervisor in a nursing home. It's the pits. I get blamed for all the problems and have no money to make the necessary corrections. We have virtually no retirement money put away. I foresee myself working for many more years before being able to retire. I don't blame the Bruderhof for my current situation. I think I have made my own decisions, some good, some bad, but my responsibility.
I don't see how you can define another person's success or failure without asking them what their goals were. Maybe the appearance of someone's success or failure is quite different from how that person feels about their own situation.
Sorry to disagree with your premise.
Melchior J Fros, 3/25/00: I am touched by the nature of the discussions concerning a sense of self. George, Dave, Ramon... I think publishing these anecdotes in KIT under some connecting header is a good idea. George, I Hutterite trying to come to terms with a distinctly non-Hutterite mode of "church cleansing".
I'm reminded that Arnoldleut children are in many ways treated as church "property". They do not "belong" to their parents in the sense commonly understood. When you consider the Anabaptist belief that each one must make a conscious (adult) choice to follow Christ, the manner in which children are treated becomes an issue of concern.
The Arnoldleut have, on occasion, admitted a need to treat their children with due respect. Eberhard Arnold wrote that each child is a thought from God and it is the educator's task to identify and nurture that "thought". Educators, I am sure, find it difficult to consider the possibility that God has in mind something outside the confines of the Hof. For that reason alone stripping 'Hof class rooms of calculators and computers is detrimental to the children's development as persons who must some day make adult decisions.
Sam Arnold, 3/25/00: Lee wrote: "It was very evident to me in Primavera that some youth were singled out for education and others not. Nothing to do with ability."
Ernst reminded me that in the Primavera days each family was allowed one child to get higher training. In our family it was Rosemarie who went to Heidelberg, Germany to the Froebel Institute for early childhood training. Erdmuthe felt particularly put out that she was not allowed to further her studies.
Later during the '60's, most of the high school graduates were able to go to a technical school for up to two years training. I was sent against my will to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, NY to become an auto mechanic. I hated it and switched to liberal arts after one semester. This really annoyed them, but the tuition had already been paid for the year. The following year I switched to music and another school, and was then completely cut off from the Bruderhof and my parents.
Dave, it is clear that you were singled out to be denied your high school diploma, and therefore also further training. While this was not illegal on the part of the Bruderhof, if was unethical and very cruel. Do you remember if there were any other students around your age who were not allowed to finish high school? What year was that?
Johanna (Patrick) Homann, 3/25/00: Hi Dave, Well said! I too think that we may be talking about two different issues here. As you said, "I'm beginning to wonder if the are two issues here. The one, in general, of free will and the other free will to affect change."
Hi Tim, in another response you said, "It doesn't matter what level of importance an individual has in the bruderhof. Each individual is responsible for him
or her self." How can you make a statement like this when you haven't walked a mile in our shoes? In theory, yes we all have a brain and can make our own decisions, but when you have been raised in a different station in life, ie: peons vs. elite, then the way you perceive the choices before you are different. Tim, your father was 'the elite', and even though I may not know how he treated you, you did have different options, impressions, choices than I did. You will never know what it was like for me or Dave, or others, so you can't possibly walk a mile in my shoes, or anyone else's for that matter. That's just a fact of life!
I also believe that children raised on the Bruderhof were affected much more significantly by these stations than those who joined as adults and were then assigned a lower station in the Bruderhof. We children spent all of our formative years in the Bruderhof and were molded by the significance of these stations. Adults who had been raised on the outside had their own personality developed already and so had more knowledge of their strengths and weaknesses, who they were, etc., and then consciously decided to join the Bruderhof.
I always felt that I had to conform to the expected norm of group behaviour and clearly remember that a strength (that I now recognize I have) was a weakness on the Bruderhof. I am a very organized person and like to organize things around me so that things run smoothly. Well, this strength was called "bossy" on the Bruderhof and I had to constantly admit to this and confess this as a weakness when there was a clearing, as I couldn't really think of any other transgressions to confess to. I was taught to always check with others to see if what I did, thought, or knew was OK, correct, or approved of and this is still one of my biggest problems at work. I am constantly doubting my knowledge, the importance of my position at work, so don't tell me that my station in the Bruderhof hasn't affected the way I still process information, make my decisions, etc. I am trying to work on this and change it, but just want to point out that those childhood manipulations did affect the development of my personality and how I deal with life situations. I was not validated and did not develop a sense of self.
You may not have been treated well by you dad, but you could associate yourself with his important station in life and that, like it or not, helped form you and probably gave you more assurance and a sense of self.
Again, growing up in a lower station of life on the Bruderhof, as compared to consciously joining the Bruderhof as a mature adult and then being placed in a lower station makes all the difference in the world. This is NOT hand wringing, this is just a fact of life and we have to deal with it, but you can't say that you know where we are coming from, because you didn't have the same treatment or experiences.
Hilarion Braun, 3/25/00: I think Dave's statement about a direct correlation is incorrect, and, as Al pointed out, without definition of success.
The problem here is that a metaphysical explanation misses the point of psychology and temperament. Some of us were more sensitive than others, and let the SOB propaganda go much deeper than it should have. I consider you and Dave very successful in that you are intelligent, decent men. How much more can one ask? As I told you once Al, I envied you in Woodcrest, and could never imagine myself being so happy, so popular, and good looking. You were, I thought, the ideal, and I the cockroach in the corner. It is how we saw and felt the influences, and how they twisted us, no matter what station we had. I admire you for having described your situation in life so bluntly. I too now have a job I hate, and have to learn not to let that make me bitter or angry more than it should. I also think of the families that were thrown out who had to feed 12 to 14 people, and managed. They are examples of incredible success, not because of the SOB, but in spite of it. For example, I was never told that I was dumb, but always that I was in the wrong spirit. Neither choice is acceptable, but can be equally damaging. Love,
Miriam (Arnold) Holmes, 3/25/00: Al, thanks for bringing a different perspective to the discussion about the effects of ones' parents position on the Bruderhof. I agree with you.
Hanna, it is true that I have not walked a mile in you shoes, but neither have you walked in mine or in Tim Domers. I believe all of us went through hell in one way or another. I certainly felt more persecuted than privileged. The self-esteem I developed as a young child because my father let me know I was loved and cherished, was nearly destroyed by the traumas of interrogations and exclusions I experienced later.
Dave, the literature and the music I had access to came from the community library which was open to all. If I remember correctly , all families had radios, so we had equal access to music of all kinds. Just want to set the record straight.
I find it outrageous that you were not allowed to graduate from highschool. Everyone else I knew did, except for Simon Britts who absconded with a few loaves of bread in the middle of the night in one of the few Oak Lake cars at age sixteen.
I feel I am successful in spite of all the "basement" experiences on the Bruderhof, because I raised two loving sons who think for themselves, I have work which I enjoy even though it does not pay much, and I have reconnected with so many of you that I shared a rich heritage with. Yes, in spite of all the pain, we also had much enjoyment (especially in Paraguay). Love,
David E. Ostrom, 3/25/00: Miriam Holmes wrote: "Dave, the literature and the music I had access to came from the community library which was open to all."
This emphasizes my contention that very few people on any 'hof really knew what was happening or what the "rules" were. At Woodcrest, when I was in supposed "home study", I was banned from the library and told to study in my room. To further clarify, Dick Domer and another brother who I cannot remember specifically told me I was not to use the library, or to enter it at any time! Some did have access to the library, others did not!.
"...If I remember correctly, all families had radios, so we had equal access to music of all kinds."
My parent's radio was taken from them as were the record player and all the records. Heini broke all the Paul Robeson records my parents brought! I had a shortwave radio and had access to BBC, Voice of America and a few other stations that I listened to.
(End of the items culled from the March Hummer.)
(The River Tapiracuay)
by Melchior Fros Winter 2000
The "Fluss" is both magical and sweet to remember. And that is at it should be, for sadly the river of my boyhood, the Tapiracuay, has lost it's beauty and lush habitat to the wiles of man. The first ten years of my life were shaped in part by the river, so what I tell is not a chronology of events but a collection of fond memories.
My memories of the Fluss go back to 1953, when as a three year old, I washed the large tree that had fallen into the Tauf Stelle near the swim area. For this purpose, mother gave me washcloth and soap. Small fish playfully nibbled at my legs. In my eager play, I sometimes went into the water a little too deeply, and my shorts got wet. Instinctively, I went up to the river hut and asked mother for a fresh pair of shorts. Whenever one pair of shorts got wet, another pair was sufficiently dry and her little kindergartner played on happily for many hours. Sometimes the Dum-dum-diedel-diedel-dum bird ran by as I played. It was a small bird belonging to the thrush family and was christened "Dum-dum" because it's walk-run gait perfectly matched the tune of the German song, Wenn unsere Floeten und Geigen erklingen. Remember? J
Getting the Fros Family to the river was quite a chore. Mother usually packed far more than we needed. I was always a bit embarrassed to drive through the Hof on horse- drawn wagon with such a hefty load of equipment and family members. If my older brother Hän did not accompany us, another young man drove the wagon, since my father was not an able horseman. This was always a source of embarrassment for me. I longed to convince someone that I could manage horses and wagon even at my tender age. Most often we took the high road from Loma to the river, bypassing the Ibaté community. Our house lay in the middle of the Hof, near the hospital. It was a stone's throw from the point where the road to Isla merged with the ones coming from the Loma cow and horse stalls on one hand, and the Segewerk and slaughterhouse on the other. The Beels, Davies, Zimmermann, Leslie Baron and Bernard families were our immediate neighbors. Adolpho Weiss' potato field lay adjacent to our home.
We usually took the road towards Isla, passing by the Appeh-puh' grove on the right, and the mango grove on the left. Songs flowed effortlessly :" Narajas Verde, Naranjas de Oro""Wir woll'n im gruenen Wald ein freies Leben fueren". The sandy road continued under the blazing sun, passing sugarcane fields until, about a three quarter mile from Loma, it took another sharp turn. Ahead, to the left lay a wooded area on a steep slope. Brothers had planted cedar and other trees here. Here, parrots of all kinds from noisy Lorrittos to stately Aras gathered in large numbers and swapped the latest jungle gossip. On the footpath to Isla, I had found my first Ara tail feather, which I have to this day! Directly across from the hilly, wooded area, was a piquette on whose woodland boarder grew spiny-leaved plants known as Caraguata'. These leaves we sometimes ate because they quenched thirst. Incidentally, on this piquete my brother and I discovered a nest with Matinetta (grouse) eggs, which we put under one of our brooding hens. More singing: "Der Faulenz und der Luederlie". "Es singt eine Nachtigal bei einem Fasserfall". Silly songs, love songs, songs of nature.
The sandy road continued uphill, taking another curve to the left, until it came to a Y-intersection. To the right was a tall, straight Flaschenbaum and ahead lay a peanut field. On the left lay unattended fields and beyond that the woodlands in which wild dogs with various diseases roamed. It was pitiful to observe these Ura-infested, sick creatures.
"Zum gali-gali Zum gali gali". We took the right turn in the Y-branch of the road (Monte Riveros Cue), through dense jungle. Delicate Pummelchen flowers, trumpet red with yellow stamen, grew along the edge of the woodlands. Here, the lumber road was bumpy and twisted a great deal. Visibility was limited. Howler monkeys were often seen in the upper canopy of the forest and sister Meddi was master at imitating their calls and attracting their attention. She did this by placing hand over mouth and making sucking movements with her lips, producing a sound comparable to that of the monkeys. Sometimes we threw oranges
at them. Eventually, the river came into view.
I was no more than 4 years old, when my family took an all-day hike to the river. We had few supplies and what we brought in the way of food and water, Dad carried in a malleta, slung over his shoulder. We took our slow, bony family horse, Karopé (Kah-roh-peh') along. I rode bareback. The horse did not need to be led; it simply followed or went slightly ahead. If Dad called, it stopped. Our hike took us past the Tieger Waeldchen, and the Tacamar, a sizable animal watering and swimming hole. After a swim one came out of the water with a "moustache". To my left, lay a grassy piquette and a small wood named I-Waeldchen (after my oldest sister). We crossed wet grasslands. Occasional Nandus (ostriches) or cattle came into view. A Kirikiri flew by. From the forest the haunting cry of the wood hen sent a chill up my spine. We passed by a hilly region where a clear spring flowed. It was simply named die Quelle. Here grassland and forest merged. Irene led us in song. Sometimes she gave German songs a little twist; we called it verhunzen. "Wir wollen zu Land ausfahren, ueber die Fluten weit. Aufwaerts zu den Klaren, gibts keine Einsamkeit". We sang a song in Spanish about a woodland god.
"Yasyjatere', Yasyjatere' enanito rubio entre los maizales ya se te ve'."
Another, "Una Noche tivia" asks, "at what hour, sweat heart, will you come back and sing to me?" My oldest sister "I" (pronounced "Ee") even made up her own song about a long-standing friendship with Rosemarie Arnold.
"Rosemarie, Rosemarie, sieben Jahre mein Herz nach dir schrie:
Oftmals im Wald, oftmals im Wald, hab ich im Stillen die Faeuster geballt:
Nun bin ich tot, nun bin ich tot, brauch nicht zu Kaufen mein taegliches Brot:
Nun bin ich lebendig, nun bin ich lebendig, kenn ja die Welt schon wieder auswendig:
(The gist of the song is that Irene cries out for her (departed) friend seven long years! Often, in secret, she clenches her fists. She dies and no longer needs to buy bread. But upon rising, she finds the world unchanged).
We hiked on, Papa, Mama, oldest sister Irene, Mechthild, Tanneken, Susi-Lucia and Mellie-mouse. Brother Hän did not come along. I think the hike to the river took three or four hours. Ahead, on Campo Guana, lay a dead tree and Karope headed towards it. The family was not far behind. Suddenly, a vicious group of wasps attacked my beloved horse. I screamed in fear. Karope turned around and cantered back to Papa, put his head down, and allowed me to slide off over his neck. The poor horse had sustained several stings but I was untouched!
Where wet grassland and woodland merged meandered a canal that joined the river at a place known as the dam. A tree had fallen over the canal and Irene suggested she and Meddi hang from the trunk and make their way out over the water. What my sisters failed to see was a boa constrictor sunning itself on the tree's trunk. We followed the canal until it merged with the river, near Liverpool. The river dam, a mixture of tree trunks, branches and among Kamelotten plants lay close by (I have learned since that it was man-made; it's purpose being to divert water to the canal and the rice fields of Seòor Sanchez).
While Mama and Papa prepared a site for our stay, we children went swimming. The dam drew our interest. The Kamelotten that grew there had such large, leafy structures and roots that went so deep into the water, that it was possible for a small child such as I to stand on the plants and "walk on the water". Irene kept a watchful eye on her little "Mops".
After a while I tired of this activity and chose to play by water's edge. I looked for pottery shards. Jungle vegetation gave way abruptly to the river. As I played, I slipped, and fell into the water. I could not swim. Within moments, I had swallowed water and was drifting down stream. Irene, always the "responsible big sister", saw my white T-shirt and suspenders bobbing above water. She quickly grabbed me by the suspenders. Ashore, I coughed and cried 'till the water was expelled from my system. I owe my life to her alertness. The rest of the day passed without further incident.
The river lay on the edge of the jungle. Bush and swamp made its far side inhospitable. My brother told a fearful tale of an anaconda snake slowly squeezing the life out of a calf. Indeed, occasional strange noises from beyond the known were enough to convince me to never tread beyond familiar territory. Though the river at times had a strong current, one never heard it until it came into view. Coming out of the jungle, the Loma road turned steeply downhill into a clearing. A simple house with straw thatch roof came into view. The entire center portion of the house was like one large, open room. A cooking area was on one end. Two rooms with bunk beds flanked either side of the open room. There were no doors. The windows had no shutters. Further down the hill was a small, sandy beach formed by sandy deposits from an S-bend in the river (die Tauf Stelle). Here, there was one particular tree that had many basket-like nests in it. The weaver birds (Weber Voegel) that nested there were comparable to the American Baltimore Oriole in size and in general appearance. A short walk through the jungle led to a small shelter at a place known as die Wagen Stelle (the wagon place). Tall tales of fearful happenings there add to define the river's myth.
During my early school years, I often went to the river with several other grades. Perhaps it was the 1st-3rd grade, or the 4th-6th grade that had its annual three-day stay there. One time Arthur and Mildred Lord took us on a trip and taught us a song Mildred had written and composed:
"Skies are blue and sunny
Bees fill their hives with honey.
Joys never bought with money,
Down where the Paraguay flows."
My parents told me of a time they and Robert and Dorothy Headland took a group of children to the river. (I stayed with the Karl and Irmgard Keiderling family and watched Karl make brooms). It was customary to light a fire down by the riverbank and throw glowing sticks into the trees over the river. The sparks that fell into the water were pretty to watch. Occasionally, a lucky boy with flashlight shone a beam of light over the water, and many alligator eyes were reflected in the weak beam.
The Fros children - USA, 1954
While this was going on, Robert excused himself on grounds that he was very tired. My parents, Dorothy and the children continued their activities on the riverbank and then sang some songs. A noise from up hill near the house brought the singing to an end. Two eyes glowed in the dark, but it was not possible to make out the shape of the animal. Instinctively, Mother pulled the children around her and anxiously whispered, "Jan, die Kinder, die Kinder!" There was a moment of tense silence, and then the "animal" came running towards the group! It was Robert, with blanket thrown over his body and glowing embers for "eyes"
A word about fishing. While my brother Hän was an expert at it, my father was totally uncomfortable putting so much as a worm on a hook. He had forbidden me to fish until I was 5 years old. I think this was largely because he disliked hurting animals. At that time, he made me a small "hook" from a paper clip and encouraged me to put cheese on it. I fished, and I fished. There were nibbles of course, but I never caught anything! This discouraged me. I recall fishing the Tapiracuay from a rowboat. My sisters giggled and laughed while I went about my fishing with serious determination. In desperation I said, " Bitte seid still! Man kann keine Fische fangen wenn ihr andauernt plaudert." (Please be quiet. One cannot catch fish amidst the chatter.) Soon I was old enough to accompany my Big Brother. To him I was a pest, but what could he do?! In one of his kinder moments, he showed me how to cut a slice of skin from my heel and use it for bait until the first fish was caught. This fish became our Koeder (bait). Since the jungle was all around us, we threw our fishing lines into the water lasso-style. The hook was weighted down and a cork bobber was placed some three feet above the hook. There were branches and snags to contend with, so becoming a good fisherman required practice. If Hän fished with two lines, he tied one around his big toe and watched the other. Hän taught me to distinguish the nibbling by small fish, from the cautious, tentative, cork-bobbing investigations by Zahnies. He taught me to wait patiently, until a fish pulled the bobber deep underwater, then making a quick yanking motion that embedded the hook in the mouth of the fish.
The best fishing by far was at the Wagen Stelle (wagon place). Here Zahnies of considerable size roamed the swift-flowing river. Unlike the quiet waters of the swimming area further downstream, there were no piranhas here. One year, around Easter time, I found myself fishing here with my brother and his friend, Offie (Sumner). Hän called over to me "excitedly" and said, "Kurah" (in Guarani it means "chubby one". I called him Peru', a misnomer for one who is not slender). " Look at this Easter egg I found." He held up what appeared to be a small chocolate egg and placed it close to his mouth. He appeared to drop it in and made a swallowing motion. Offie concealed his laughter. Intrigued, I came over and picked up one of the "eggs". It was then I discovered it was a Capincho dropping. (This is the world's largest rodent and looks like a gigantic guinea pig.)
Another time, Hän and I took the rowboat down river to Liverpool. Here, in a bay-like area, the lily- covered water was calm and the fishing quite good. We caught a few large piranhas. Ahead of us, in the shallows, lay an alligator, a Cracaju' (Our Russian brothers' corrupted the word Yacares). Hän threw a fish in its direction but the beast did not stir. "Melp, you row in the boat, and I will whack him over the head with my oar", my brother suggested. I did as he said, and when Hän lifted up his oar, the alligator slithered into the water. "Get us out of here!" Hän shouted. We both paddled our tiny boat furiously when suddenly it was rocked by a slap of the alligator's tail. A tall tale of near tragedy unfolded over our supper meal of Phannekuchen (pancakes) and syrup (brown sugar and water). Though my brother could be rough with me, he was always gentle and patient with his sisters. When Meddi caught a fish and could not get if off the hook, Hän calmly told her to sit down on it until he came to help. It was a funny sight seeing a poor fish flip-flop under a young woman's skirt!
Perhaps it was 1959 or even early 1960 when we took a "family day" to go the river, leaving old Rolf at home. (Mama could not tolerate Hän's old dog Rolf, and refused to enter our bedroom when he was there. Rolf had a severe flatulence problem. Every time he gassed, his tail thump-thumped the bedroom's clay floor in a show of regret. Hän, in his kind way, simply smiled, called out, "Rolllllllf", pulled the poncho over his nose, and fell asleep again.) From Isla, we headed towards the Bruderhof Ibaté, skirted around the community and headed into the open grasslands and the jungle that lay ahead. It must have been the rainy season, for the grasslands were waterlogged and the jungle road muddy. We were singing, when the horses suddenly stopped. Nothing ahead indicated there was any danger. Hän commanded the horses onward, through what appeared to be a routine, large mud puddle. Before we knew it, the horses had sunk to their bellies in mud and the wagon was precariously tilted. Mama simply slid off the wagon bench onto the ground. We were stunned! What to do next?
Hän quickly calmed the horses, then sized up the situation and undid the harness. The horses got out of the mud rather easily. Next, we dug a pathway for the wheels using material from the wagon benches. Hän rigged the harness in such a way that the horses could pull the empty wagon out of the mud, while the rest of us pushed from the sides. He was visibly nervous but managed to calm down and lead us onward. We were muddy and dirty. When we arrived at the Wagen Stelle there was not much time left to enjoy the river. Papa suggested we simply jump into the water and float down stream. This was a wonderful suggestion a bit dangerous perhaps because of the swift current. Also, I recall being warned this was alligator mating season. The girls and Mama drifted along in their long skirts and sombreros. When their hats became wet, they drooped, making it more difficult for them to see where they were headed. It was a hilarious sight! Getting out of the water proved to be a challenge because the current was so swift at the Fluss Haus bend in the river. A rope had been attached from the weaverbird tree all the way across to the far, inhospitable side. We grabbed this rope and worked our way safely to the shallows. The late afternoon sun dried us out. We completed the trip home by starlight.
Alza Prima with oxen - 1958
It seems right to end my story on a romantic note. After all, how many of today's graybeards go to know pretty Bruderhof women on Jugend (youth) trips to the river? I have a story to tell. It must have been early 1960, when my family was at the river for three days. With us were Klaus Meier and my sister Irene, recently engaged and returned from El Arado. The Hans Meier family joined us from Ibaté. One morning lovely Irene Fros sat in the row boat, singing a love song:
"Feins Liebchen, Du sollst nicht barfuss geh'n"
(Sweet heart, you should not barefoot go).
Her fiancé, Klaus, sneaked up on her, pushed the boat into the river and jumped on board. She and he were carefree as two cheepah buns! Then they discovered the oars were missing.
A day later, we took the biggest boat and most of us went for a ride down the river. The water line was unusually close to the top of the boat. Klaus knew the boat had a leak, so he instructed me to bail while he and others rowed. We went down river, past the Dam and into territory I had never entered before. We lost an oar and it appeared to sink. Klaus cheerfully dove down into the water and retrieved it. Everyone was tired on the way up river. Getting the boat upstream, through a narrow opening in the dam was difficult. The rowing was hard. It became obvious the boat was taking in too much water. Klaus explained the situation and told me where to swim in the event we sank.
Suddenly, the bantering and singing stopped. Irene cheerfully asked, "Are you ready?"there was a moment of silence, and then the boat went down. Klaus helped me to a fallen tree trunk. The others swam to the bank and walked back. Later Papa came by boat and fetched me. I am not sure if we ever retrieved the boat.
That is the last I saw of the Fluss. It limps on today, changed forever by the ravages of "progress": a river symbolic of a once beautiful and shared way of life that is no more.
KIT: August wanted to let everyone know that the following report was written from the point of view of how he saw and experienced things when he first joined the commune. He says that at some point he will write another report more from the point of view of his later experiences.
August Pleil's Memories of Primavera, Paraguay
I would like to tell you about how God protected a group of people on the Rhoen Bruderhof and the Alm Bruderhof and on the Cotswold Bruderhof. Shortly after WWI Eberhard and Emmy Arnold, seeking to live a Christian life, started a community in Sannerz, Germany. They began as a family and as other people came, took them in also. As more people came and the group got bigger they had to buy a larger place. They bought the Rhoen Bruderhof and continued to grow here.
That first year of seeking to follow Jesus teachings on the Rhoen they experienced spiritual awakening and God's blessing. Some years later they experienced the passing away of Eberhard, it was a very sad time for all of them. After Eberhard passed away things did not go right. Then, as Germany prepared for war, they had to leave Germany because of their pacifist stand. They were protected by God, everyone came out of Germany unharmed. They moved from Germany to the Alm bruderhof in Switzerland and then to England. It was indeed a great miracle that all this was possible.
Moving to England, they settled on the Cotswold Bruderhof where they were when WWII broke out. It was not an easy time for them in England especially when the war broke out. Bombing of different areas took place quite near to the Bruderhof. Very soon they realized that they would not be able to stay in England much longer as there were so many German members in the community. They were told by the British authorities that they would have to either leave the country or the German members would be interned. The Bruderhof inquired of different countries as to whether they could immigrate, many countries turned them down.
At last they found one little country willing to take them, this little country was Paraguay. It was a miracle that at least one country was willing to accept the community. So it came about that they had to leave England. I must say here that the people of the Bruderhof had a lot of faith, they believed so strongly in Jesus and in God. They had such faith that they traveled by ship across the ocean not knowing what would happen to them. It was a very dangerous time to cross the ocean and then to be completely new in a country in South America. This journey was really protected by God and made possible by Him alone.
It was wartime and there were a lot of submarines operating in the Atlantic. One submarine even followed the ship. It was a great miracle that everybody arrived safely in Paraguay and that nothing happened to all those people on the ship. There were several trips and each trip was protected by God. The second and largest group to leave England traveled on the Avila Star and a baby was born to August and Winifred Dyroff and she was named Avila after the ship. That was a great joy to everyone on the ship that a child was born. We cannot be thankful enough for this time, how God protected each one.
The brothers and sisters arrived in Asunción and then went to Puerto Rosaio. From there they went to Friesland, to the Mennonites and to Primavera. Actually only some of the brothers went straight to Primavera to build some shelters so that the others could follow. Primavera was an estancia (ranch) it consisted of farm land and a lot of forest too. Primavera was a very large estancia of about 10,000 hectars. It was more or less as big as the little country of Liechenstein. They could not move right on to the property because they had to build first. So most of the people, mainly women and children, stayed with the Mennonites in Friesland. Friesland was about one mile away from Primavera. The Mennonites had about ten to twelve villages there. Each village had a school so the Mennonites freed the school houses to accommodate the people from the Bruderhof. We were allowed to stay with the Mennonites in Friesland until there was sufficient housing in Primavera for everyone to move into.
María Eckroyd, Theodora & Vence Jaime, Primavera, 1958
There was one house and barn at Loma Hoby. Loma Hoby was where the previous owner, Rutenberg, had his home. Loma Hoby means "The Green Hill." The brothers picked out another place on the estancia which they called Isla Margarita. They had to go through the forest in order to get there. The place they selected to build, Isla Margarita, became their first home. It was also on a hill. On this hill there was just very high grass and nothing else. A little further there were some bushes, palm trees and one or two wood islets. There was also one large Lapacho tree.
The men who went to build, went there with great enthusiasm to build a new Bruderhof. They walked around the land and had a Sunheart flag with them. They made plans and then started to build. They worked as fast as possible. The idea was to first build a large shelter so that everyone could move to Primavera as soon as possible. The first shelter was built very fast, it was called the Gallop Huette. Next they erected a large shelter. It had large wooden posts and a thatched roof. All materials had to be transported by oxen and wagons and alza primas. Alza primas have two big wheels about three yards diameter and an axle that the logs are fastened to. W.ith these carts they brought all the wood to the building sites. The alza primas were sometimes drawn by 12 oxen. It was a very hard time, there was no tractors or bulldozers. One cannot imagine how primitive it was, everything had to be done by hand. It was very, very hard work. Ditches had to be dug, all by hand and they had to dig a well in order to have drinking water. All this work had to be done by hand and it took days and days and weeks of hard toil.
Fritz Kleiner and Fred Goodwin worked very hard with the ax chopping wood for the buildings. It was very, very hot, it was summertime and the people were not used to such tropical heat. January and February are the hottest months in Paraguay and that was the time that they had to do all this hard work. They had to thatch the roofs. In order to do this they had to cut he camp grass and later on many of the sisters and children helped to cut the grass for the thatching. A lot of materials were needed to make the large shelters. I must say that this great effort to build up was only possible because of the great faith everyone had. Everyone stood together in those very hard days. Everyone gave themselves, gave their best and did not think of themselves.
At that time they built four houses and also a building that would be used as carpentry shop and sawmill. They also started to look around for a steam engine so that they could run the machines and generate electricity. With the machines working, they managed to cut their own boards and things were a little easier. So the brothers went on toiling away to build up a Bruderhof . It was a very hard time, but also a very interesting time, very romantic too.
A little house was erected for the bakery and another little house was put up which was used for the housemother, where the housemother stored all the things that were later given out whenever needed. Then they built a dining room and a kitchen. The dining room was made of round posts and the walls were of boards. The dining room had big windows and big doors. The roof was made out of corrugated iron. The dining room was very hot in summer. Later they put boards over the corrugated iron so it was not so hot. The dinning room floor was of red clay just stamped down, later they put a wooden floor in. The kitchen also had the corrugated iron roof and round posts it also had a wooden floor but not all of it was wood. There was a big stove too, there were two big kettles for heating water for making tea and soup and for bathing the children. The laundry was built. The laundry also had wooden walls and a large laundry machine was installed. It took a lot of time and hard work to get all these buildings done.
The garden was prepared and they also planted a vineyard, bananas, corn and vegetables. A lot of orange trees and other citrus trees were planted. Phillip Britts worked for S.T.I.C.A.and often got seeds and other plants from there. A lot of grapefruit trees were planted and everything grew well.
I came to visit the Bruderhof in 1946. I came with my father and brother Herman. We were looking for a Christian life. We had heard about the Bruderhof and were interested to see what it was all about. We heard that they lived together like the early Christians, so we thought we should go and see if that was really true. We were interested in a pacifist life. We had had enough of war and fighting in the world so we were very interested to see what it was all about. We wanted to start a new life. So we came to Primavera to see.
We came to the office at the gatehouse. There we were introduced to August Dyroff. August D. asked us what we were looking for. We told him that we had written a letter and asked if we could come for a visit and had received a letter inviting us to come and visit.
August D. showed us around. They August D. and another brother took us first to the dinning room and kitchen. As we were standing outside the kitchen, we saw Ruth Martin and Kathrin Ebner and Sophie and some others whom we got to know later preparing meals. We were given a drink, then Willie Kluever came and took us to the sawmill and to the turnery. We felt it was a real miracle how everything had been built up in such a short time, only seven years. We saw the turnery where Fritz Kleiner was working at a lathe. He had made all kinds of different things, bowls, lamps, all very beautiful things he had created there in that shop. Eric Hasenberg was there too helping with the turnery.
Fritz Kleiner said to us, "You have come to visit us and to see how we live here? I can tell you we live together, and we share together, we work together, we believe altogether. We want to love and be for Jesus and for God and that is our life. Like the Bible said. That is our foundation, that is what holds us together."
This made a great impression on me and my brother and father. We felt the warmth, we felt welcome. We wondered how it was possible, to meet people who were complete strangers and to feel so close. We were quite amazed that such a life was possible. I must say we felt such a warmness from several people, an eagerness to meet us, I will never forget that. We told them that we had in mind to look for a different life than we were living at the time. A life that was for God and for Jesus. Then we went on and Willi took us to the school, a nice brick building. We were astonished what a very nice place it was. Willi took us inside, the children had recess and were playing outside. We met some of the teachers. It was a whole new experience for us. It was quite a lot to take in to see all the children and we felt a peaceful atmosphere. We kept on wondering how this was possible, that people could live like this in harmony. I must say when I think back it was a grace that they could live like that in this world.
I stayed and worked together with the brothers in the garden and learned quite a lot of things about the way of life. We had to get up at 5 am and go to breakfast .We were invited to a different family every day, so we got to know some of the families. We got around and got to know quite a few people. Fritz and Secunda Kleiner invited us and we felt very warmly welcomed in their family. We were invited to others too and each time we were warmly welcomed. We felt very much that this life was for Jesus. We decided that all of our family should come to see and experience this way of life. After a few months it was possible for the whole family to come and live with the community. We were very thankful that we were allowed to live in the community with the brothers and sisters. We then got to know many of the brothers and sisters very well which we appreciated very much.
We got to know Marie Eckardt. She said to us, everything that we have here belongs to God and everything is for God. She knew the Bible from the beginning to the end. She also said if someone just seeks for himself and wants power he has to come down from his high horse. It did not matter who it was, Marie always had the courage to speak her mind. She had a very strong faith in the Bible and in Jesus. She often spoke to me telling me how to live. I am very thankful for those times because Marie was always right. She always gave good advice. I can only say it was very special to see how God worked in each one's heart.
Living in the tropics was not easy, especially for those who had recently come from Europe. They struggled against tropical sores and sun stroke. The heat was especially trying. Also there were some inner struggles going on which I really did not know the details of so all in all it was not an easy time for the community. We, my brother and I, did not have to put up with the painful tropical sores since we were well acclimated.
I was very happy about the singing, we sang a lot of German, English and Spanish folk-songs. I did not understand English at that time. I only spoke German, Spanish and Guarani. Later on I managed to pick up English. I really enjoyed everything and was able to learn a lot.
I worked in the garden troop. We had to dig up the arrow root and then in the evening after supper the household would get together to prepare the arrow root to make flour. The flour was used to make puddings and for baking. While we prepared the arrow root we sang a lot of songs and really had a good time together. We generally spent about two hours cleaning the arrow root and everyone joined in. Other evenings we would prepare rosella. Rosella was used for making puddings and jam. I enjoyed the communal evenings, I will never forget those times when we were able to work together like that. This was all new to me and I enjoyed it very much.
We worked in the garden and all the ploughing had to be done with a hand plow and horses. We had to plant a lot of mandioca. Someone said to me, we have a lot of cattle and we have to plant a lot of mandioca and somehow we are able to make our living. We had over 2000 head of cattle to care for. By this time we already had some milk cows and a cow stall. Also we were a little better off and the food was much better, in fact, greatly improved to the very early years. One thing that was wonderful was that we had plenty of oranges and grapefruit and tangerines.
When I came to Primavera they already had started to build up Loma Hoby, so it was already a Bruderhof. They had two places, Isla Margarita and Loma Hoby. Loma Hoby was not as big as Isla Margarita. Some people said Isla Margarita is the city and Loma Hoby is the village.
One day they planned to have a communal garden day and they decided to send some people from Isla Margarita to Loma Hoby. We were going to plant mandioca in the new garden at Loma Hoby. So my father and my brother Herman and I went to Loma Hoby to help plant mandioca. That was the first time I met Kasper Keller he was very happy and very joyful to see us and of course we got into a conversation right away. We also met Walter and Trudy Huessy for the first time. I will not forget that first encounter with Walter and Kasper. We worked and shared together it was a very wonderful time. We worked until lunch time and then went to the Loma Hoby dinning room to eat lunch. After lunch we met Adolf Braun. We went to sit under a big shade tree. Adolf told us a lot about the life in the community. It was very moving and very interesting. It was very nice to talk to Adolf Braun and again I will never forget that first meeting with Adolf Braun. After that we were taken around to see the sawmill in Loma Hoby we were also able to meet some other people who were of my age group. It seems hard to believe that this is now some forty years ago. How time passes so quickly. All this was forty years ago.
For the next several days we worked in the garden at Isla Margarita. Then one day we were invited to go and see the other place called Ibaté. Ibaté means the place on the hill. This place was just being started. We saw the first house. This new Bruderhof was to be a village for orphan children from Germany. They had in mind to build quite a few houses more to make it like a little village for the orphan children. They built this new place up with a lot of enthusiasm. George Barth had already been sent to Germany to see about getting some orphans to come and live with us in Primavera. We had hoped to get about 60 children to come and live in this new place.
In Ibaté we met Adolpho Weiss. He worked very hard. He had already started the garden in Ibaté. He had also cultivated a large piece of land and had planted mandioca and other things so that there would be food there for when the children arrived.
After two weeks my father decided to go back and help my mother pack up so that the whole family could come and live at the community. My brother Herman went back home with my father and I started to work in the brick works making bricks for the building. I remember how Christoph Boller and Hans-Uli Boller and others used to do the firing in the big kiln. We made thousands of bricks and it was a lot of hard work to get them all into the kiln to fire them. Hans-Uli was very busy with the bricks and often we worked over the weekends with other brothers too in order to keep the fires going. The fires had to be kept up for three weeks . I remember very clearly Hans Uli working there and Fritz Kleiner also often came to visit us there to see how we were getting on. He would also sometimes have a snack with us there. We were all very enthusiastic at that time. We had to work very hard and also over the weekends. The bricks were urgently needed for the building. These bricks were for the Children's Village. Everybody was very eager to help build up. We all looked forward to the children from Germany. Then, a few months later George came back from Germany and told us there were only ten children and that they could only be moved to England. The German authorities would not allow the children to go to South America. We had the houses built already so we made this place into a third Bruderhof.
Adolf Braun and his wife Martha along with Heini and Annemarie moved to Ibaté. Arno and Ruth Martin also moved to Ibaté. Many moved from Loma Hoby and Isla Margarita to Ibaté. It was a very interesting time. Later I moved from Isla Margarita to Loma Hoby to help there in the garden.
It was the first time away from my family so things were a little strange for me. I soon found my place there. I met Guenther Homann. I had a lot of contact with Guenther, he was a very loving brother .He told me a lot about the Rhoen and the Alm Bruderhofs. He told me how it was on the Rhoen when Eberhard was still living. I must say that I was very impressed. Guenther told me about a little hut on the Rhoen and someone suggested to take that little hut down so that the place would look nicer. Eberhard said no, that the hut was built by people who worked hard and put a lot of time and strength into building it and that the hut should stay there. He said that what someone has built up should not be pulled down. I was very impressed by what Eberhard had said about the hard work put in by other people. I really enjoyed it that Eberhard would be so direct about that. He respected the work of other people so much that he would not let that little hut be destroyed.
Guenther told me many things, he loved nature very much. He always marveled at how God made the world, the plants and he enjoyed the streams and rivers, hills, mountains just everything. He was very eager to go with me or with other young people for a walk. He told me how a lot of songs about nature came into being. Guenther loved God's creation. Guenther loved God and Jesus very much. He had a strong faith in God. I was very, very sad when a few years later Guenther rather suddenly passed away. I could not grasp how quickly it all happened, that Guenther was no longer with us. Moni also liked Guenther very much and she told me that she too was very sad about his passing. Many other brothers and sisters were very sad about Guenther's passing. Guenther was a loving brother. He worked very hard in the kitchen and also washed the dishes. He was responsible for the big library of over 10,000 books he kept it all in good order. He knew so much about books. Guenther was a brother whom I will never forget.
I got to know Trautel Dreher, she was often sick with asthma. I think the tropical climate was not easy for some people, especially those who had asthma. Trautel suffered very severe asthma attacks. I can remember one time when she was much better and we were invited to Trautel and Leo Dreher. We had a very nice time there with their family. Trautel told us how they had first looked for a place in the Chaco before they found Primavera. She told how the first group to leave England had to go to the Chaco and it was much hotter there than in Primavera. They were looking for a place other than in the Chaco. While they were in the Chaco the Indians came to see them they brought their children with them and were very friendly, they shared the fruit they had brought with them. They had a very good time visiting with the Indians. The children were also very joyful and enjoyed the time together. They could not understand the language but still got on very well together. Trautel was quite impressed by these simple people. As she said they could not find a place to settle there and eventually they found Primavera and settled there. It was a very nice time, we often saw the Dreher family and all their children.
Trautel was often ill with asthma and one day she was so ill that she had to go to the hospital. Then very suddenly we got the news that Trautel had passed away. That was a great shock for all of us. We were used to the fact Trautel was often not well, but nobody had imagined that she would so suddenly not be with us any more. I can remember that time very well. It is very hard to understand why some people were taken from us so suddenly. And now there was a large family without a mother. We experienced a very challenging time. We never knew when we could be called away. It was a very moving time for all of us.
Several years before Trautel was called away Fritz Kleiner had a fatal accident in the turnery. A bowl he was working on flew off the lathe and hit Fritz on the forehead and wounded him very badly. It was a hard blow when that happened to Fritz. He was taken to the hospital and we had hope that he could be treated there and that he would get well again. Only a few days later he was unconscious and he passed away. That too was a very, very moving time. I will never forget that time. There was Martha Secunda with her children alone without her husband. I could not understand why this had to happen.
We also got to know Ridley. He was a very, very loving brother. He invited Herman and me to go to the river, fishing or to just enjoy nature with him. Ridley loved nature and all God's creation. Ridley had great faith in God. We enjoyed these times with Ridley very much. Ridley was also very eager to help the teen age boys. I am very glad and grateful to have known Ridley. He was always full of enthusiasm. He was always working on something or another or would organize a camping trip for the boys. The boys appreciated Ridley very much. I know that all those who were boys at that time will never forget what Ridley did for them. Ridley worked very hard in the chacra or garden. One day he was found unconscious on the floor in his room, he was very sick. It was shocking to find a brother so sick. No one could help not even the doctors. We human beings stood helplessly by. Ridley was unconscious for several days. After five days he passed away. It was a very moving experience for all of us. It shook us, that such a young brother passed away. We can never forget that time. There are many things that we can remember so clearly.
We decided that Adolf Braun and his wife Martha should go to Wheathill to help there. We had a farewell celebration for them. We all came together from all three hofs at Isla Margarita to have a communal love meal. We also invited some friends from the neighborhood. We were all very joyful that we could send Wheathill some help. Adolf and Martha left for Asunción to get all their documents in order so that they would be able to travel as soon as possible to England. Then very suddenly Adolf got sick in Asunción, so sick that he could not travel to England. Adolf and Martha had to come back to Primavera and Adolf had to go straight to the hospital. Adolf was seriously sick, he looked terribly weak. We all went to the hospital to sing some songs for Adolf. After a short while Adolf passed into eternity. That again was a very moving time. We gathered all together at Isla Margarita for a meeting, the last service for our brother Adolf. After the meeting we all went to the burial ground. We stood there in great sadness. We knew Adolf so well, he was one of the brothers who had helped to build up the Rhoen Bruderhof. He also helped many brothers and sisters out when they were going through difficult times. Adolf and August Dyroff came to visit our family in Rosario Loma after we had written to ask if we could join the Bruderhof. We were very thankful to Adolf and August for coming to visit us. We had a love meal to remember Adolf in Isla Margarita, many remembering the years with Adolf on the Rhoen Bruderhof and on the Cotswold in England and then later in Paraguay.
One time we had a big projector and all the household got together and we saw many many pictures of the Rhoen Bruderhof. We saw pictures of Eberhard and Emmy and others who were at the Rhoen Bruderhof at the time. It was interesting to see those pictures. We also saw pictures of the different groups leaving England for South America . That was quite an experience in it's self, to see all those pictures. Many people felt homesick after seeing those pictures. After seeing the pictures it was easy to see that everyone was still wearing the same dress as in Germany and in England. Only that the women changed to a white head covering with black dots instead of the black head covering with the white dots. That was done because of the severe heat in Paraguay. The men also made some changes in their clothing because of the heat.
We had a visit from the Hutterian brothers in Canada. They were form the Schmiedeleut sect of the Hutterites. John Wipf vetter and Samuel Kleinsasser were the two who came to visit. We will never forget the time we had with these two brothers from the Schmiedeluet. John vetter enjoyed taking a ride on the big alza primas which were pulled by oxen. I can still see the joy on John Wipf's face when he took a ride on the big oxen wagons.
These two brothers were very loving to us. They could not stay too long in Primavera. They had to go back to Canada. The Hutterians sent us a lot of help in the way of clothing and also financial help. We were extremely grateful for all those gifts from the Hutterian brothers. We were still struggling and were actually quite poor. They showed us all a great deal of love and we should never forget that.
The two Hutterian brothers were very humble and everyone could talk with them so freely. We also had meetings and Gemindestunde with them. John Wipf and Samuel Kleinsasser really enjoyed their visit to Primavera. We had a Society meeting, it was called "Beschlussfassende Bruderschaft" at that time. We spoke about the question of electing a new Servant of the Word. And each brother or sister wrote their suggestion of who they thought should be Servant of the Word on a piece of paper and the one with the most names would be the Servant. That is how the brothers did it so they asked us to do it that way.
I remember how we sang songs for the two brothers and they sang for us. We had a very happy time with the two brothers. We all dressed like the Hutterians which we were able to do because they had brought us a lot of clothing from their colonies. The jackets and pants were black and of coarse it was rather hot because the temperatures are very high in Paraguay. So later on we used more the lighter colors in the summertime, even the sisters wore white head coverings with black spots instead of the black head coverings. The Hutterian brothers understood that very well. After about two months the two brothers left Primavera again and went back home to Canada. Sorry to say after that visit we split up with the Hutterites due to the fact we didn't see eye to eye on their rules and regulations.
A few years later we decided to send some brothers to the United States to get more contact with people there. During 1956 we sent quite a few people to Forest River, a Hutterian colony, to live with them in Forest River. We were at the time in Primavera about 1070 people.
I want to mention here that we had a nice river in Primavera. Quite a lot of people told me about the big group of brothers and sisters who were baptized there in the river. Heini and Hardy held the baptism at the river. A lot of people remember that baptism at the river and also how much was experienced at the time. It was a time to dedicate one's life anew to God and Jesus and the Church. Whenever we went to the river, that time was remembered.
So many people grew up in Primavera and experienced so many things there. We had youth meetings and a lot of outings and took part in a lot of other projects too. We also experienced a lot in the Gemindestunde and household meetings. A lot of the young people were taken into the novitiate and were baptized. Each one believed in God and Jesus. Many young people were seeking Jesus in their hearts.
There were many engagements and marriages. A lot was given there for which we all have to be very grateful for. I personally am very grateful that I could participate in the life at the time. To live for Jesus and for God. And so I am also extremely grateful that I was able to become engaged and get married in Primavera. It was also a great gift that we were given three children who were born in Primavera. It was a great miracle that we could experience this that God gave us three children there.
We should never be ungrateful about the time there. We really should see that each one living there had to really work hard, it was not an easy life. We did not know what the future would bring, everything was very primitive, it was not like in other civilized countries. All the brothers and sisters who left England had to leave behind all the things that they needed. It was indeed a very large undertaking to move to the backwoods of Paraguay