1992, 11/15-20. A Slave in Stewart Traill’s Cult

These journal pages are part of the source material for my book, Captive Congregation: My Fourteen Years in the Church of Bible Understanding, which is available as a Kindle book or in paperback.

November 15

At the church’s “New Property” in Philadelphia for a weekend meeting.

I drove down with the sisters from Staten Island. Now outside at the meeting. It’s good to get fresh air. I need to be outside as much as possible.

Well, obviously I feel pretty wiped out. I feel compelled to “try to act normal” around other people. On the ride down, I kept looking back in the mirror at Laura, stealing glances. I think Jean might have been aware that I was doing something funny. Sisters like Jean, who live out might notice better, because they are not inured to it, that is, to the condition of the older brothers, whereas sisters that live in have learned to put up with it and overlook it as much as possible. I suppose because they really have to.

[The definition of the word inured is very appropriate here. According to one dictionary, it means “to habituate to something undesirable, especially by prolonged subjection.” We who lived in the church were so used to one another’s twisted up and frustrated condition which resulted in the denial of relationships and marriage that we either didn’t notice it about one another, or if we did, we attributed it to other causes, such as, “that brother is all twisted up because he is not committed to Jesus and because he is cheating and trying to have it both ways.” This strange phraseology was supplied to us by our leader Stewart Traill, who said all our woes were the result not following his plans for our lives, which of course, were God’s plan for our lives – therefore we were “rebels.” In another way of looking at it, we were not supposed to say that our twisted condition was the result of Stewart’s ban on marriage and sex, because we were not allowed to say that. If someone did try to talk about it this way, he would be quickly brought back to the party line and have to admit that “the problem really is my pride,” and not “circumstances” of any kind. A “married, live-out older sister,” like Jean might be more aware of someone being attracted to sister and sneaking glances at her, because Jean’s world was a little realer than ours. She did not live in and she was not constantly bombarded by cult teachings and prohibitions, but instead, she had the buffer zone that resulted from living out and only coming to meetings now and then. A live-in communal group like ours exerted powerful forces in its members to comform.]

All I want right now really is to be able to go and guard the 62nd Street warehouse and be away from here. I just want to read, write and draw.

I was thinking about brothers (or ex-brothers) like Scott. Ones like him have somebody. They stay with their woman and get married. It was not criminal, although we were always told it was.  [Brothers like Scott and his wife Betty left the fellowship and “got married in the dark,” that is, without Stewart Traill’s approval. This was considered to be deeply evil. In fact, it was not even considered to be real marriage at all. They were already living outside of the church at that time, so it was easy for them to do.] It’s always the single older brothers who have no meaningful contacts with women who you find down at the porno shops and magazine racks. Obviously, they don’t have a woman, so they are drawn to this extreme.

I am guarding outside now. It is beginning to snow. The Korean children across the street are yelling “It’s snowing!”

[I didn’t get a guard shift at the 62nd Street warehouse, but I did get a shift at the “New Property” and I was writing this during breaks after taking walks around the property.]

I was thinking about my father and his little domain he had, which basically was his car and his club membership. All he had to show for his life’s labors was just about that. I am like him in a lot of ways. He had his few good things he cherished, that I could see he was into by the way he took care of them. Namely his car, which he was always washing and adding little things to, such as leather grips for the steering wheel. I guess I’m like that, I always try (or tried) to have a few good things I paid extra for because I wanted the best, like a good camera, though I wouldn’t have a lot of other stuff generally. Now, I hardly do anything. I own some books, a short wave radio. I used to buy expensive running shoes. I have come to realize that I live as though I don’t work for a living. (I barely want to ask for clothes, not that such a request would be turned down, but I am hesitant to ask for anything over subsistence level. I won’t ask for arch supports. I spend at least half of my allowance on food, although usually with a clear conscience, I can say I worked hard enough to warrant a cheeseburger without having to delve into my meager stipend. Do that enough times and then materially speaking, I am just treading water, as far as money or things go, but then, we have a religion to back that up, with such verses as “sell all you have,” and “what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world, but loses his soul?”)

[If we worked past 5 p.m. and into the evening, which we usually did, we were allowed to have five dollars for dinner. We handed in the receipt to the office for a reimbursement. For clothing, brothers or sisters could hand in a clothing request ask for money for new clothes if they needed it. I hardly ever put in for a clothing request. Paul once told me, “I don’t like having to make a list, telling the sister in charge of the fund how many pairs of underwear I still have and how many more I need.” I felt the same way.]

What started me thinking about this is that I saw Mitch drive in to the Property, in a pick up truck with the cassette deck playing a Bible tape. I am supposed to say I am better off than he is, but then I really don’t know.

[Mitch was an older brother who “left wrongly” and “got married in the dark,” and who was living outside of the church with his wife. They came to meetings. I was supposed to think that I was better off then he was, because I did not leave the church and I didn’t have a “wrong marriage.”]

It may be much more harmful to live without responsibilities. I could be like a kid all my life. Supposedly it was really bad what Mitch did by going off and getting married like he did. But now he is accepted just like anybody else. I guess the right thing to say is that the time for that is past now.

[There were quite a few brothers and sisters who left to get married a while back, and now they came to meetings with their little children. These marriages had happened during a period of anarchy in the church. Now Stewart had become active in our lives again and it seemed hard to leave to get married. First of all, I would have to find a sister who wanted to. I also had no money, no job outside and no support system outside of the church, all of which I would need in order to set up a household. And under the present system of control, it was hard to find time to be with a sister and it hard to do anything without being watched and reported on. One time when I had been talking to a sister a few times, Andrew told me that he noticed I had been talking to her.]

Or yes, but think of all the ones who did that, who don’t come around. But then again think of all the ones who have left from here without marrying too. [In other words, there were people who left without getting married who also didn’t come around, so marriage was not the problem.] Also, Mitch doesn’t go around indulging himself or get driven to go to weird places or to keep the lid clamped down tightly on his sexual desires until he explodes. He just shares conjugal rights with his wife like most normal people do, and this is what I should have been doing a long time ago.

I am too rule oriented, chasing religious rainbows. Afraid of ostracism, but I am not accepted anyway. Afraid of getting a bad name. Quite possibly also back then when ones were going off and getting married, my desires weren’t all that strong. I didn’t start thinking “this is crazy, I’ve gotta get married.” I didn’t get plagued like I do now. That possibly is why they got married and I didn’t. Of course, I knew why I would want to get married, to have sex. I wanted it, but it was never like, “Wow! I need to do this! I really feel this!” It was just a hypothetical issue. Maybe that was why I was so easily deflected by these rules and bylaws, and the balance of them easily outweighed my desires. So, I waited, frustrated, but waited, hoping that someday I could get married. Now I am in a position where it seems I need to, but I don’t see a way.

Back then there was also a more of a mass exodus of those leaving the church and there were a lot of live-out independents who came around, so they were freer to operate. (I can see, for instance, how Reggie and Angela got married. He knew he wanted to and wasn’t about to be hindered by rules. Not living in the church probably helped. He saw what he wanted and needed, and went ahead. He didn’t deliberate exceedingly. He didn’t have a firing squad to face or give account of himself to the cult. I think I have changed a lot since then. If I was the way I am now back then, I would have just gone right ahead.

Now, my guardshift is over. I stayed outside a long time. Right now, as I write this, some sisters from the council have come over to ask us how the fellowship of the older brothers is. All heads are hanging low. Brothers answer the question like bad dogs. It is good to sit back and let others take the pressure and say stupid things. Either this is the real thing, or an it’s an act where nobody says what they really think or will be what they really are.

One of the sisters asked if we think this is real. Of course I don’t think so, yet somehow, it’s part of the game. [In other words, we were expected to act this way and we were all dutifully playing the pitiful roles expected of us.]  I would rather be anywhere else than here, to do anything else than this. I am too far gone now, as someone said. Actually, Stewart said it: “How do you know it is not too late for you?” But I need some other kind of life that doesn’t add up to this every time. I start over, be good now, only to come back to the same sins all over again.

I don’t know what I am going to do. The only thing I can think of is to go away as much as possible, to think, to pray if I can and possibly make tapes, sounding out my thoughts. What do I really think and intend to do? “Know thyself.” Possibly I am off-base for not knowing my own depravity. Possibly also, I will stop reading about utopias and Calvin as a way of looking elsewhere and trying to say this is a cult. Maybe that will help.

We are making threefold cords. I am in one with Paul and Joe. I just wonder how much of myself and my thoughts I should reveal to Joe. The problem is that Paul will probably tell on me anyway, but then again, I don’t have to volunteer anything. I would like to be able to level with him, as long as there were no repercussions or reprisals for talking about our infallible leader. Also, I would like to be able to confess my deepest, darkest sins, but I have fears about that too. Well, is it fear? Or really is it just pride and maybe shame? But one thing for sure, I do fear what would happen to me if I did tell of it. I would like to be completely honest, if I knew it was safe. I am also afraid of word getting to Stewart about me. But, I guess whatever happens, I can write it all down here in my little diary.

[Threefold chords were small groups in which brothers could “fellowship” about their struggles, their sins and talk about their faith in Jesus in order to help and strengthen one another. It was a good idea in principle, but in practice, information could be gathered on you and find its way to Stewart. Therefore I would not want to confess any sins or talk about any of the things I was thinking about our way of life. Shortly after Stewart’s so-called repentance, I was in a threefold chord with Ron and Jeff. I was talking about these things with them and they guided me back into the appropriate confession with comments like, “You know Jim, Stewart is not the real problem. Your problem is your struggle with sin.” (Or whatever the current teaching was, because all things were spoken of in terms of the current teaching and this is what anyone was guided back to.)

The bible verse used to support the idea of threefold chords was Ecclesiastes 4:12 which says, “And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him. A threefold cord is not quickly broken.” The idea was that we could not stand alone against temptation and the world, but we were strong if we stood together. This is a lot like how some churches have “accountability partners” and “accountability groups” to help their members in their struggles with sin or addictions. Here it served mostly for the purpose of keeping people in line, though the stated principle for it was a good one.]

What is the point of all this? What is the point of what I do all day long? (These are just things I am thinking as others are talking.) I will just sign up as Stewart’s slave. I am really anyway. You will never ever hear me say anything contrary to whatever he says, not even hinting it to others. I am going to be a good doormat.

I hear Ellen speaking on the walkie-talkie with Stewart. Her voice seems perfectly sedated, mezmerized and hypnotized. I guess, deep down inside, she is in fear and hoping not to get reprimanded.


Now, we are all together in the meeting, going through everybody, one by one. A speech from each.

My thoughts on the matter…

What is the point of all this? This is like a religious sideshow. Why do we have to go through each one, one by one? What does this do for anybody? Another speech, another commitment. Does this help people turn and repent? Each speech, other than the ones who are weeping, is more flowery than the other. Anybody can make these speeches.

This thing ain’t over yet. I just wonder who is going to get the boot first. Stewart is now alluding to putting us out, saying, “What would happen to a new brother who went around saying, ‘I refuse Christ.’?” Obviously, he would be put out. Stewart is saying we are uniting and forcing a double standard on the whole church. He is saying we are murdering. This is going to get big before the session is over. I will try to lay low as much as possible.

[No older brothers ever said, “I refuse Christ,” because that was never their attitude toward Christ. Stewart induced us to say it. If anyone said they were not refusing Christ, Stewart then proceeded to “prove” it to that person, with questions like, “What do your life and your actions say?” Since few people could say they were living any kind of victorious life or had many accomplishments, this seemed to be proof that the person was refusing Christ, otherwise he would have been able to put forth the fruits of a victorious and faithful life as proof of his faithfulness. Brother often replied (when Stewart pointed out their broken down condition and lack of progress in life) by saying that, “My actions say I am refusing Christ, but I do not claim I am refusing Christ.” Or sometimes brothers said, “I confess that I have been refusing Christ, but I don’t intend to leave it that way.” Stewart then brought in others on the person, saying, “Ask what the others think.” This was step two in the tactic and those who responded almost always agreed with Stewart’s accusation against that brother. If not, Stewart would go on to say he was suspicious of this person and accuse him of taking part in a conspiracy against the truth. Most would just agree with Stewart ahead of time, having learned that Stewart would go on as long as necessary to get the confessions he wanted out of people. 

This could go on for hours as we went through each person. This is why I began to realize that the purpose of meetings was to break us down and to make us weak by getting us to focus on our shortcomings and weaknesses. Brothers were often tired from long hours of work, owned no property or possessions because all proceeds of their work went to the church. And brothers were not married, because through Stewart’s clever manipulation, we all came to believe that we were unfit for marriage, due to our alleged unfaithfulness to Christ. Therefore we had not grown to become Christian men who could “rightly marry.” Stewart said we were not men, but “some weird third sex,” or that we were like women and that “women can’t marry women.” There was a lot more to this sophistry, I’m only scratching the surface here. This manipulation went very deep and was part of the fabric of cult life and was built up and installed in us in many layers over the years. Nothing was very simple there and nothing is easy to explain to those who were not been there.]

Chuck is cheerfully agreeing that this is what we always do… and then he goes away as quickly as possible. But for sure, none of us will really talk with Brother Stewart. Of course, who would want to be honest about this stuff, because it is so self-incriminating. (I have thought that we get away with a lot that a new brother would be thrown out for, even including me.) But, somehow, there is no healing here. I wouldn’t be honest about anything.

Oh well, this notebook is a moment by moment record of my life, and also something to occupy myself with during these hot times. A way to concentrate my thoughts, to have some measure of poise and self-control.

Andrew is making another speech now. Yes, I would rather make a speech than lay my cards on the table, just saying what is safe and going no further. One false move and you may get hung, if not put out. I guess I am just arrogant. During these heat sessions, I figure I can, or I will, get myself through. I am not going to grovel in the dust and make a cringing speech. I hold out in the back as long as possible, never speak up and only make a speech if and when I have to, and that as briefly as possible with as good a voice as possible and then get out of the way quick. Whether this is right or wrong to do – I guess I am worried it is wrong – all I know is that there is no point in bending myself out of shape and grovelling and crying. It sure doesn’t produce repentance. That’s for sure.

I must be a good slave. Stewart is my master and I am his slave.

Monday November 16 

I am soliciting with raggedy ol’ Greg B. today. For sure, it is better to go with someone than to be alone. Maybe that should be a rule for me, to seek out ones like Greg B. to go soliciting with.

[Greg was an older brother who wore the most worn out clothes possible. He patched his coat with gray duct tape, rather than asking for a new one. He was, however, a good closer and often brought in big jobs and large donations. He once confessed and said he was repenting of “being into looking good around the sisters,”, after buying a new pair of jeans.]

Marriage: isn’t it strange that, as far as sexual intercourse goes, that between two married people it is a tender expression of love and it would even be strange for a man to refuse his wife. Yet for the unmarried, it’s fornication and deviousness. That person has evil desires and it is a sin he is expressing and is into! Yet neither the married or the unmarried are granted a reduction in their desires. One has an outlet and the other has to endure abstinence.

I am given no reduction in my desires, yet, any giving into this desire is wickedness! I think it is grossly wrong to refuse marriage to such a person, seeing that he can only sin then. I promise not to plunge headlong into it willingly, but it is inevitable that I will sin again – even if I have total fear. That means sitting up for agonizing excruciating nights after night. With no mercy or reduction granted in my desires, all I can do is try to hold on till I fall off again. Then confess my sins and hope it is not all over for me. But, I know I am not taking any practical measures concerning it either. Isn’t that sin also, or even pride? Allowing myself to be in a situation where I know I will sin again, or even if I really, really mean it, I am still leaving myself open. What about those who sin by not taking the practical remedy of marriage that God provides as a way out?

Of course, you could say that God is not providing me a wife, but, in general, he does provide, because he has already decreed and set up marriage. That is, the institution of marriage is already provided. The point is, I can’t get married here! I would have to go around Stewart to get it, or go somewhere else. Stewart may be concerned with my spiritual needs, but with my physical needs, no way. He is possibly like a heart specialist, but I can’t go to him for intestinal problems.

Question: how am I refusing marriage and the opportunity that God gives? If I know I am going to sin by exposing myself to immorality, how can I obtain a remedy? Seeing how I am going to sin, by virtue of just sitting here in this situation. Stewart’s view is just that I have problem with sin, so I must stop sinning. I think a more broad, comprehensive and compassionate view would be that I need to be married, even though it is still true that I have a problem with sin. Stewart’s idea is that I must bottle it up anyway, because it isn’t the main problem, or a real problem and that I am making a side issue out of it.

Of course, there is always sophistry to answer anything, any real human desire we may have, no matter what it is. (This hearkens back even to the Rescue Mission days, when I was completely overcome by it and obedient to it. [I was completely gullible and believing in Stewart’s sophistry.]) One of Stewart’s answers about wanting marriage, among many, was: “You are making provisions for your flesh.” I guess so that we can have a regular “sin” partner, we can have sex(ual indulgence) any time we want and tell ourselves it’s okay.

I don’t know about all that though. Maybe such a thought is from God, but we are supposed to go to the Bible and not our own thoughts. That always was a problem for me, going by our special brand of sophistry and current tradition and not what the “Bible clearly tells us.” I remember the frustration over that, how I’d see the Bible say it’s allowable, that it is not a sin to get married, but then think about how we are not able to marry because “various rules and restrictions apply.” And that we were given many stipulations, preconditions and hurdles to jump over first, more religious rainbows to chase and religious sandcastles to build in the sky first. And I was completely obedient to this way of life, no matter how frustrated I was over it. I just thought, this is the way and that is what I must do. Now, look at the trouble I am in, what I get for fearing and not going by my own convictions, but by living according to the dictates of man’s society.

Right now, all I see is that it would take leaving the church to get married. To take everybody speaking horribly about me. Probably, I will not leave, but if I get thrown out, then I will look for a wife, being then set free from this society and its restricitons. I am a total slave to a society, no matter how great and above it I think I am.


Went to the library with Greg B. I went to the history section. I was reading about utopian societies and found amazing parallels about how married couples often break up when moving into a commune because the reasons why they were together are no longer necessary. I think I understand that. That is one of the reasons why Kevin split up with Jamie when they moved back in. One of the reasons why nobody gets married here in the first place. It’s exactly like what I had thought before. It was amazing to see it in print and confirmed.

[The book said that in utopias, that is, idealistic communal societies, couples who join often break up after some of the reasons they were together (aside from direct attraction for one another) are no longer necessary. They don’t need to rely on one another for economic reasons, because money and property are handled collectively in the commune. They don’t need to primarily look to one another for companionship, because they have a huge close-knit family now. In COBU, being already in this position, this was one of the reasons relationships might not have started, in addition to Stewart’s outright forbidding of them. But also, the underpinnings, terms and conditions of COBU’s communal society were like a petri dish in which this way of life could happen, a support system, designed to carry out Stewart’s teachings and plans for church members, which included us giving up everything and serving his plans.]

I was also reading about how institutions think for you and decide what you remember and forget. They make all your decisions. (That is, most people think they make decisions and the organizations carry out the details, but the opposite is really true. Organizations make decisions and the people in them are reduced to making the tactical decisions. [People in organizations do not decide what to do, but only decide how to carry out the orders their leaders give them.])

I came to the office after. The sisters are here. I really need a woman.

I talked with Joe. He says the sisters are keeping some of us on a back burner, in case we all get thrown out. [See the note above about relationships falling apart in communal societies. In this case, Joe was talking about the opposite happening. He said that many sisters had a brother in mind to start a relationship with immediately, if we all got thrown out of the COBU commune, as Stewart often threatened to do with us.]

I had told Joe about M. flirting with me through official channels, how she plays with me, but when I play back, she freezes up. This process will continue as long as our rigid society remains as it is. Any desire the sisters have for a man is overwhelmed by this system and it far outweighs it. So, it’s true – when and if the society breaks up, they will need a man. Not that they don’t want one now, but he would have to be an extreme Mr. Right, probably faithful for a long time in order to cut through or counterbalance the effects of this society. (As it is now, all the sisters’ needs are taken care of through the fellowship, their financial and security needs. And through the sisters’ fellowship in particular, their needs for companionship, understanding, etc. are taken care of. All sewn up, taken care of by the institution. Why take a chance on an uncertain marriage? But the tables would be turned if we lived in the world, or if we didn’t live communally. Necessity would take over. The sisters would be less demanding and more objective in their search for a man. And really, is that wrong?  Isn’t that the way it should be?)

I can’t compete with this society and with what it offers the sisters in the way of security and providence. It dissolves and neutralizes the normal course of things and their desire and ability to couple up with a man. Man-woman relationships are totally and effectively neutralized. A guy like me can’t win in a situation like this. Is that because I am so bad? But it’s not like there are a lot of organizations like this in the world. Has anybody ever been able to compete with it? People much stronger than me have not been able to. If the question is faithful or unfaithful, I think it’s a different issue totally. Faithful or unfaithful, they marry outside of here. It’s only here that we have “marriage neutralization.”

(The forbidden thing to say is that really, it is one man, who provides plenty of catnip, but maybe this is going too far. [Stewart was the reason there was no marriage, and he provided plenty of distraction and motivation to the women, to keep them in an artificial high.] I wonder what a neutral observer would say about this whole place. It takes people out of their normal courses of life and re-pigeonholes them according to inhuman mechanized categories. Each to their own pigeonhole. Women here, men there; never the twain shall meet. Its force is above and beyond us. A force that I don’t quite grasp, only half consciously can feel. It frustrates me, but I can’t really get a handle on it or on how it works. The man at the top is completely protected, and that is done, somehow, by using our weaknesses and unfaithfulness to the hilt.)

November 17

Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he will not be disappointed. This could be one of the basic tenets of our faith, if not the summa theologica of Traillism. Blessed are the jackasses, for they will get plenty of hay. Jackass Traill says to “kill everything,” but seems to be very rich toward himself. I see through that hypocrite’s lies; I have never really believed that jackass.

Is this going too far? Actually, it is only a culmination or continuation of what I have believed and been thinking all along. To say that Stewart is a thief is putting it lightly. What? We are just a people without any backbone. Someone who is able to keep us backed that far into a corner is either really right or is the Antichrist himself. But even if the guy is really right, how come he can’t submit to any questions and is above and beyond the law? (In fact, Stewart makes all the laws himself and decides for us what is reality and what is not. Decides what we think, say, believe. He is above question. Everybody has always been in a blind primeval fear of him. He is like the ancient witch doctor who fools the blind and superstitious natives. He teaches all things, defines all things, but submits to no examination himself. Why would we go for such a thing?Waiting anxiously for each breath from his mouth, “Tell us what the truth is going to be. Once and for all.”  The wisdom of the ages finally clarified. The scale in which all other teachers, wise men and views of Christianity are balanced and weighed.)

I don’t know, possibly the only way to repentance is to admit that all that Stewart says is the truth and to stop making excuses and stop reading books about utopias and communes and trying alternate reasons for what is wrong with me. But sometimes I also think that it is just too hard here, trying to follow a religion based on hell and the fear of God. There is nothing in it that is motivating or hopeful or able to lift me out of this morass. (Except in terms of fear, and being too scared. But so far that has not helped, but only driven me to despair, or at least so I say.)

Or there seems to be nothing that acts as a springboard to launch me out of here, especially not in a hopeful way that I would look forward to, like, desire and be glad about. There is no good thing that is filling me up, only a “fiery prospect of judgment,”  real or imaginary. Listening to Wayne Monbleau on the radio gives some ray of hope, but then I figure I can’t trust what he says because it is the “happy gospel.” So everything gravitates back to Stewart and it doesn’t look too hopeful to me. It’s like I am adding sin to sin and incurring further judgment and can find no way out.

I am now up at Freedom Place. Taking some time to be alone and think. I need to get away alone sometimes. Sometimes I think what I really need is a change of pace, to get out of my rut that always leads me to this same place, time after time.

Nice clouds today. I remember the tape I was listening to here once of some of my guitar music I recorded, and how I wish I didn’t sell my guitars. Renouncing pleasures really hasn’t done it for me either. Neither has heavy religious reading.

[I sold my guitars because I wanted to have at least some money in case I got booted out of the church. I might have to leave suddenly, and I wouldn’t be able to take much with me. It seemed wise to sell those instruments. And, whether I was ready to admit it or not, I was preparing to leave. But, moreso, it was in terms of, if I get tossed out. This was the main message from Stewart at the time. He was raging against the older brothers, threatening to get rid of us, while at the same time relying on us for most of his income. But I had spoken up a few times, mentioning just a few of the things I thought about him and about the church. And now I realized I was a marked man. That went two ways. If I was coming to believe and to own these thoughts, realizing the truth of them, then I was on a trajectory to leave COBU. And, also, if I said these things, no one ever forgot it. Absolute compliance, lip service, obedience and belief in the COBU way was expected and required of members, and members enforced this on one another as well. It was the terms and conditions of being there. So, in one way or another, I knew I had to prepare to leave.]

I think I’ll take a little time here to think. It’s good to get alone for a while. This life is such a rut.

Repent – what for? Only to live in Stewart’s cult? The same bleak future? Even if I do, I figure it’s just so I can enjoy my wood floor closet in peace, go off to myself and read my favorite books and research (studying languages and societies). The future seems bleak, about all I can do is go back to my little cave and endure it. This is about all I can expect.

Wednesday  November 18

Working at Schwartzman’s apartment with Pete. Finally got the sanding machine going. It’s nice working in old apartments like that. I wish I had a place like that myself.

I seem to have a little more of my right mind today. Thinking more clearly, I hope.

Last night there was a brothers’ meeting, which Paul and I judiciously avoided. Good thing we did, because it went to 3:30 in the morning. I found a paragraph about a worker in an American communist community who avoided meetings, because he knew he had to work.

[Late meetings were part of the sleep deprivation in COBU. The treadmill of working in the church businesses was the constant activity, which in addition to the sleep deprivation, made it hard to think clearly about anything. I often was in a groggy state of mind.]

My thoughts about marriage are now: I have as much right as anybody to get married.  Marriage is a physical issue. I am tempting God by not marrying. Living in the fear of God would be to get married.

Thursday November 19

Working at Schwartzman with Peter.

More thinking of what it is like to live here. Now the latest thing is that we have to have star charts. How childish. Hopefully, as with all other things of this kind, or with things we have to run around and say, it will go away in about a month or so, if not sooner. But presently, everybody will be really into their star charts, talking about it, making it the center of their lives and the measure of everything. It’s the “new thing.” Doesn’t everybody see how these things come and go and that there is no use in getting into them? How much like a cult. The leader makes all the little bunnies run around, filling in their charts and judging each other on the basis of their charts and figuring that they have not done well on their charts as well.

Me, of course, I fear this sort of thing and also resent it. But I tell myself this will also pass away, like all other things of this nature. But I feel compelled to fear and worry about it. It is true, live-in cults exert more control over their members. Just push the buttons and all the little bunny rabbits will be running all over the place and reacting to it.

Brothers’s meetings exist solely to make sure things stay the way they are.

[Meetings were not to help us overcome anything or to improve anything, but only to keep us broken down and weak. This was a landmark realization for me.]

I am putting coats of finish down on the wood floor, listening to Wayne Monbleau on the radio. Well, I still like some of the things he says about God’s grace. Sure, there are things that are a little too far, but why should that make me not want to listen? Don’t I find much more that I think is a little too far in the teachings of our great leader? Sure, Wayne Monbleau was speaking today about a cruise to Alaska, which is diametrically opposed to Stewart’s teaching about why Christians don’t take vacations. But I remember when I heard Stewart say that Christian don’t take vacations, it was like another shackle on my wrists, and I better not disagree. It’s just another law going on the books. Stewart asking us a question about it was merely a technique to put it over on everybody. I really just stay in our church out of fear of death. (Like I said a few days ago, I really don’t believe in Traillism, I just fear it.) I really don’t want to be here, I have not for a long time, I guess starting back when I lived in Woodruff and wished I could leave back then, but I thought that the only result would be death.

Well really, it is just about the same right now. I would gladly leave, if it weren’t for that fear. So, I live here out of fear of death. Not because I agree with the principles. (Though there are many advantages we can derive from a collective society, but the prison life outweighs the good by far. I can’t have a woman. I can’t have anything of the basic supports of life or normal things which most people have by natural right, and I must feel bad for wanting it and must tell myself that these are inordinate, sinful and selfish desires. I must live as though I don’t want these things.)

Yeah, really, that’s it. It’s only fear of death that keeps me here. I would have been gone long ago if not for that. But I can’t really admit that to myself, so I must find reasons why I want to be here and tell myself it won’t be that bad and that I really don’t want all that much anyway. (Like Ivan Denisovich.)  I must content myself with the fact that I work in wood floors instead of carpet cleaning and that I have a bunk to sleep on in a closet, rather than sleeping in the common living area like a refugee.

Job over for the day.

I feel so bad, just for going to a book store (Gryphon) for a few minutes, for having made any deviation from the routine. I bought two books on Nazism (one on the Nuremburg Trials, one on Nazi culture). Also bought a book on The Oneida Community[A communal society in the 1800s that was much like COBU.] There are similarities with utopias. But now anyway, it seems I have found a much more closer description of life here, centering around the idea of institutions, which seems to hit the nail on the head much more.

[I found that life in utopian societies and life in COBU were similar, but even more so, reading about life in institutions provided me with a closer description and a better explanation of the terms and conditions of COBU life.]

It gets kind of scary. It all seems so true. A study on inmates in a mental hospital gave an accurate description of myself and how I live here. Be careful not to do anything to bring punishment, keep busy so as not to be seen in leisure, and other things. It also said that people who enter institutions such as these break off all natural relations with women. So much of this is so very, very true. I must study more in this subject. But then, maybe it’s a little premature to ask the question: what do I do about all this? You know I am thinking about leaving. But, how and why? I stay here out of fear of death also. If obeying the rules is not out of fear of death, I fear that if I disobey them, besides attracting attention to myself, I will get thrown out. That is scary, because I fear death.

I got out of a brothers’ meeting tonight because I “had to” come back to Red Hook with Skylar to get screens. (Really, he could have done that himself and I could have been dropped off at the meeting, but I used the opportunity. I really don’t see any help at these meetings, even if I were to be totally honest about myself – though possibly it would just be a confession. But I also fear that I would get in big trouble for it.)

Chuck wanted me to work late tonight also, to finish a job. I politely turned it down, being as indirect as possible.

November 20

I took a good long walk this morning to the 4th Street subway. It’s good sometimes to leave the wheels of the institution behind.  [This is the phrase I used, but perhaps I meant, “the walls of the institution.”]

I met a guy this morning carting scrap metal. I think I will try to gather copper. Whenever I think of improving myself, even in a little way (or a similar business idea), there is a message in my head which says I am not supposed to get my life together.

I showed Jim O. pictures in a book. (It was pictures of Times Square now and in 1868 showing a farm cottage in the same location.) “Which one would you prefer to live in?” I said, just trying to show the contrast, so I could tell him both are the same location. He replied hesitatingly, “The cottage.” He said it in such a way that I took it he was ashamed or afraid to say he preferred a nice place in “this life.”

Well, now I am sitting outside Schwartzman’s door. Can’t get in. I got here at 11 am. I can’t get up in the morning. Ostensibly, this is my fault, but really, I can’t get to bed at a decent hour. If it wasn’t for the brothers’ meeting, which I would have had to attend, then it’s something else. Last night I figured I had a good escape from that useless activity. But still, I got to sleep at about 1:15 (which for us is good) which isn’t all that good either. When I hear that alarm at 7 a.m., it’s just part of my dream. Then I awoke fully at 8:30.

But, behind all this, really this life is impractical. The Business was still demanding my time late into the evening hours. (I am not supposed to have something like “my” time and “not my” time.) What with Chuck asking me to help him complete his job at 10 p.m., and then having to deliver supplies to Jim O.’s job, although that did provide me with a good excuse to go to Red Hook and sign out for the evening (or really, for the night) and miss the brothers’ meeting.

It’s like, either way, I am trapped. There is always something demanding to keep me up late, which I have to do. Since it is not officially okay to skip out on a brothers’ meeting. (I only felt guilty momentarily about not going to the meeting. Then my better judgment took over, realizing that such a move, attending the meeting when I have work to do, is quite ridiculous.) And also, there is always work going on at night. This can become a swirling vortex, sucking you in. Because, you can never really say no; you can’t really say you have something better to do and there is no clear cut division between a day crew and a night crew. Since you and your work time are public domain, you really can’t belong to yourself – you belong to everybody else. It really only leaves that the only reason to refuse work is “I don’t want to,” which can get you into a lot of trouble.  Even if it is, “I don’t want to because I have already worked a lot today.” But also, how much do I do this, or get myself into this kind of trouble, by policing myself more than I am policed by others?

It was pretty good what I said to Chuck last night. I felt that obligatory pull. I backed out without outright refusing. But it may also have been due to other events beyond my control, such as Chuck couldn’t get ahold of Paul. So Chuck couldn’t say either way whether the work had to be completed tonight or not. In other words, if the word had come from on high saying that the work had to get done, I would have had to swallow my mild resentment and do the work, since compliance nets me less difficulty later on than a refusal would. And, it’s not like I don’t want to work in the Business or do what is efficient either. But I must register my discomfort at the idea of having to work so much or in this way sometimes.

But, the fruit of all this is that I am now sitting outside of today’s job, unable to get in and get started, which is a real waste. And I guess I could say, I am now getting my time to rest and to write and read that I could have gotten last night if I had some autonomy.

Really, I shouldn’t worry so much about it, since this is all beyond me and I should even take this time as a gift. It’s just too bad that this time has to get wasted because of the inefficiency from last night.

I guess the right thing to say was that I should have gone to the brothers’ meeting last night after all the errands were taken care of, just so I could have slept in the city. That way I could have been on time, since it is only a quick ride here on the subway, and that this is now happening because of my life of hiding – because I didn’t want to attend the meeting. If I had stayed in the city, for sure I could have gotten to sleep at about 2 am, and even if I got up at 8, I could have made it here by 9. Of course, I also figured, or made excuses that, since I was at Red Hook and it was 1 a.m. that there was no reason to go into the city with Skylar, because I might get there only to find that the meeting was broken up, so what was the use?

But, in retrospect, it probably would have been better to sleep in the city and I am just not on the ball about getting to work on time – though I can’t just throw out all these other facts. I think my senses are dulled. There are no real clear borders to anything. I should have stayed in the city. (But then I think of the shower, which I have not been in for a week, but didn’t take one last night anyway. And also, I could sleep in my bed instead of on the floor. Not to mention the brother’s meeting, which I really didn’t want to attend.) I do want some relief from this crazy life – even if it is sleeping in my own bed for the night.

For sure, I need the sexual relationship. It’s hard for me to just say I am a dirty rotten sinner or a pervert. I can’t let any institution stop me, though it certainly has been effective in doing so. Obviously nobody is going to give me the go ahead. Obviously a basic human need is what needs to be dealt with here. It does not help to cross my fingers and wait for some future date where marriages will be allowed – because that will never happen.

[And in COBU, that date when marriages will be allowed has never happened. No one, 20 years after I wrote this, has gotten married there.]

I’m running into some trouble with brothers in the wood floor business. The issue is that I feel like a taxi service. I am expected to work late into the night, driving to Red Hook and back. It’s like the Business just won’t let me go. Then I was supposed to drop the van off and take the subway back by myself, or go sweeping or whatever. (Though it would have probably been 11 p.m. by then. Of course, I could have just stayed in the city (but I need a shower). But this is just ridiculous. My attitude is not too good and I am barely able to restrain myself from swearing or just getting out of the van and start walking. But, what restrains me, from this and just about anything else of the sort, is the fear of punishment. I would certainly attract attention to myself and it is certainly criminally wrong to get angry for any reason. It doesn’t matter what the issue is – you got angry. I am expected to be subordinate. “My life belongs to Christian Brothers.” Paul sees my attitude, which granted is not very good, and starts harping on me and complaining about me to the other brothers. I see that I better sue for peace – fast!

[The COBU saying was actually “My life belongs to my brothers and sisters.” I was saying that really my life seemed to belong to the income producing arm of the church, the Christian Brothers business, which had a hold on my life, day and night.]

The job is over now. Paul picked us up. Now waiting in the van while he and Jay are in the restaurant.

I have a feeling of emptiness, or of just marking time. I need to come up with something to do in these times. Not necessarily even some accomplishment, but even some entertainment or craft, such as having a portable artwork kit, in which I use a pen like the one I am writing with.

I get exercise by walking now, but I would like to do some other things besides just reading. I ought also to learn how to do things. My education should include such things. I am in an extreme rut as far as know-how and experience.

(What can I do? I can sand floors, clean carpets, solicit for new work. Really that’s about it as far as marketable skills are concerned. Everything else I ever did in my life is on the level of stock clerk, retail sales, or unskilled restaurant work and also delivery jobs. Yes, I can always get a delivery job when I am in a pinch. I also have some skills in linguistics, as I am reminded of by writing in this pseudo alphabet and also it is where a great deal of my intellectual interest lies. I think that interest should be developed to the max, but also not relied upon. And I also must develop more practical experience and talent and also grow in practical knowledge, such as at least the basics in law, economics, and who knows what else – and look for leads to pursue from there.)

At Red Hook, 1:30. I am reading about Oneida. I was interrupted by a phone call from Andrew. Obviously he is from the council. He was calling around at the last minute to get the report on all the brothers for tomorrow night. Partly, I am sure, to escape punishment himself as much as it is necessary to come up with a report, because he is a committee member.

Andrew asked me three questions. What do you care about? What are you doing about it? Does it show?

I have great terror in being asked these kinds of questions. I do have a lot to fear in regard to God’s wrath and his retribution. If I get thrown out this week, or severely reprimanded or even singled out for treatment like Joe got recently, I could say I only deserve it from God who sees all my actions and secret conduct.

But then again, I don’t want to do something or say something that will bring anything down on my head either.

I asked Andrew for a clarification on the questions (although I had correctly guessed that they were open-ended questions) in order to find safe parameters in which to answer the questions. But he only drove the questions harder, unbendingly. Of course, you could say Andrew wasn’t going to play games. But he also has a limited repetoir, which is that of being a spokesman or merely a message giver (top down, gathering information to send back). He spoke in the authority of Stewart, his raised voice indicating that this wasn’t something to be played around with.

I answered, treading cautiously, playing really dumb; knowing that one false move could be my death. I said, “Christ and repentance. Praying and reading the Bible and making Jesus known. And yes, I do care.” (I had wrangled something out of Andrew with which to answer the last question.) He asked if I had any witnesses. He also asked brothers and sisters in the office [where he was calling from] if they saw any evidence of my claim. (I always feel betrayed when they all say “no,” even though I know that is what they really think of me all the time. The brothers don’t say that to me all week, but play that I am okay. We are all in this game, but will confess if the right buttons are pushed.)

Since there was no evidence and no witnesses, Andrew asked, “So what does that show then?” Here, I seized the opportunity in terms of having something to ram through and sort of do a filibuster. “Well, I am not going to say I don’t care.” There is some, but not much, support for such an answer by virtue of the fact that I am here and work and stay out of trouble. So, I made an issue out of this, partly as a diversion, partly as some kind of ground I can stand on – which is the idea that I am not much different than any other older brother. Maybe I wore Andrew out, maybe he already had the necessary information, because he was done with me at that point.

(This all has to be done in a calm spirit, because you can’t look like you are fighting for anything or are angry. Basically, snowing and stalling and trying to not answer any questions too directly, unless you are absolutely required to do so, is about your only line of defense these days. Everybody pretty much knows what you are up to anyway. And I figured that nobody has really spilled the beans on themselves in a long time anyway and they’re not about to do so now. [So, why should I?] What I was really fighting to avoid was saying anything incriminating, like, “Yes, it shows that I do not care,” where I just snap and confess. I don’t know exactly what that is, but I do know it is dangerous. It is something like brainwashing or snapping under a kind of psychological torture, and I feel compelled to do it sometimes.

Really, nobody would be honest here about anything, because of the trouble you can bring on yourself. No older brother has been honest – at least not publicly – for a long time. This goes back to those times when Stewart would ask us what we thought or what our complaints were and we learned not to voice them because it didn’t matter anyway. Plus after the last two years of suppression, everybody keeps themselves extremely deeply hidden.

[Two years of extreme manipulation and abuse by Stewart, more than I had ever experienced before, had been going on at this time. We lived extreme lives, our backs to the wall, denouncing and reporting on one another, going to meetings where Stewart beat us up about our spiritual condition – in addition to the long work hours and sleep deprivation.]

It is not too good to be too honest. Really, all they want is a few perfunctory answers, because nobody really cares anyway.

I am on ground that is too weak for me, trying to live a life that is too hard for me. Also Stewart is a utopian cult leader, and the Oneida Community was an exact representation of our fellowship 100 years ago (with the exception of their open marriage, where they shared partners but could show no “particular love” for any one person, but it still represents tampering with the marriage relationship, as is done here) and also we are another example of a total institution. Possibly this is just a more sophisticated version of my hitting out and saying I don’t like this, and now I am just marshaling intellectual arguments.

You can read the next section of the journal here: I Am Suppressed So Our Church May Grow. But Our Church Does Not Grow, Because I Am Suppressed.


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