THE BLOG
12/16/2014 04:34 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Growing Up in a Hippie Commune: Part Two

When I was born I was given the name Completion Israel. All who joined the Love Israel Family gave up their birth names and were appointed a new name, usually one that expressed a virtue of some kind. When babies were born they were also given a virtue name. The naming of new members and babies was directed through a collaborative spiritual process, an adult, or group of adults would have a dream or vision and this would be interpreted as guidance for the new name -- all new names required approval from the leader.

The week before my birth my mother traveled some 200 miles from the Yakima cannery to Seattle because that is where the midwife was. My father was on the top of Mt. Adams when I was born. When my parents joined the Love Israel Family climbing of Mt. Adams was a mandatory rite of passage for most men. My father tried to get out of the climb knowing that I would soon be born but was incapable of dodging this requirement. My father said that even though he was far away he knew the moment I was born -- he felt it intuitively. My parents went on to have my younger sister and brother. There are five of us; my older brother and sister, my younger brother and sister and me, right in the middle.

The adult men of the Love Israel Family wore long robes, grew out their hair and beards and took on a biblical appearance. In public they worked hard to maintain a very clean and organized presence; they were considered the elders of the community and were to be respected at all times. In my mind the elder men represented authority -- strong, stern, ready to punish and terrifying. The women wore no makeup, grew their hair long and flowing and most were very thin. In public the women wore richly colored dresses or skirts made from beautifully textured fluid fabrics; they never wore pants or shorts. To me, the women of the Love Israel Family embodied the essence of feminine grace; everything about them seemed to flow with elegance and beauty.

The Love Israel Family was founded on some beautifully simplistic and noble ideas such as love and peace and unity but the hierarchical order did not lend itself to these ideas in practice.

The hierarchical beliefs of the Love Israel Family put the men in positions of greater importance, based on the belief that men possessed superior favor from God. There was a patriarchal leader who, supported by the elder men, represented the top of the hierarchical chain. Men were encouraged to take as many women as they would like. My father recalls being shamed by the leader because, for the most part, he was devoted to my mother. Traditional marriage was not acknowledged by the Love Israel Family and was not practiced.

Women were generally considered more like property than equals and their worth lay in their relationship to the men. The children belonged to the community and not to individual couples as in a typical family structure. I knew who my parents were but was not allowed to call them mom and dad. The children of the Love Israel Family were permitted to be seen but not heard.

The Love Israel Family believed strongly in primarily Old Testament biblical scripture and the elder men chose to make some scriptures into law. Some of these laws were bases on scripture such as: "Christ is the head of every man and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ," These laws always promoted the significance of the men while diminishing the worth and needs of women and children.

It has been said that the Love Israel Family used brainwashing or mind control to acquire new members and keep followers obedient. It is true that shaming, passive aggressive behavior and outright bullying were tactics used as means of manipulating the behaviors of community members -- along with liberal drug use, sleep deprivation and hunger. Nonetheless, the idea of brainwashing minimizes each individual's autonomy; people made choices and joined and stayed for their own reasons. All individuals had free will even if they willingly chose to hand it over to the leader. As for my parents, they take full responsibility for their choices and actions and the consequences of their choices and actions.

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A group of Love Israel Family women. My mother far right.