When you’re roaming about the countryside, be careful who you tell your story to, or you could end up as a member of the latest Manson Clan.
Yesterday while shopping at one of the last Farmer’s Markets of the season here in Vermont, we stopped to admire some homemade bread being sold by vendors who appeared to be typical Vermont farmers. We sampled the breads they had, and they were so good. They were “heavenly.” Even though bread looked as dense as bricks, each sample we tasted was light and tasty. So we were blown away when the farmer told us that the breads were wheat free, and made with spelt flour. Spelt?
Isn’t spelt some some earthy, nasty ingredient that hippies bake with to snake out their colons or something? Ick! Now we’d eaten it!
We couldn’t believe spelt could taste so good. So we asked the farmer more about the bread, and then the conversation turned to the organic farm operations. He explained that the farm follows sustainable, eco-friendly practices, and that he and the other farmers “live in community” on the property. By that, I assumed that they had a co-op farm with shared housing and land, like an eco-village. Cool, I thought.
So I explained to him that Jim and I were traveling around, looking for a new place to live. We’d try to check out their farm, I told him. The area sounds like a great place to live. As soon as I said that, the farmer’s eyes lit up.
“Oh reaaaaallly? Well you should come and visit us, and our cafe” he said to me.
It sounded nice. An organic foods cafe, a sustainable eco-groovy farm. Cool! But as I asked him more questions about it, hisa eyes took on this crazy, far away look. Then I glanced down and saw leaflets with badly drawn illustrations on the table, sort of resembling a Watchtower magazine. Hmmm.
Watchtower-style magazine + Living in community
+ Crazy look in eyes
“Our community is part of the Twelve Tribes, have you heard of us?”
“Well, there’s the Twelve Tribes of Israel in the Bible, and we follow the belief that . . . .”
Aaaaaaagggggh! I tuned him out, and tried to get out of that conversation fast. As soon as there was a break in his story about how he found the Tribe while hiking the Appalachian trail, left everything he owned and moved in, I grabbed Jim’s arm, and told the guy “uh, yeah, well, sounds great, really, your bread is wonderful . . . BYE!!!!
Later when we got home, morbid curiosity made me look at the leaflet. Yep, the Twelve Tribes are a cult. It said things like:
This new culture is pure, so nothing strange or defiling from the old culture is allowed to come in. Everyone must give up everything to become a part of it, otherwise our new culture would become contaminated. It is not just material things that we give up, but also our strong opinions, philosophies, prejudices, politics, fears, and fantasies.
This was scary stuff. The only other time a nutbag like that approached me was when the L. Ron Hubbard followers tried to coerce me into taking a “personality test” when I was hanging out in Hollywood. I’m not saying that the Twelve Tribes are the next Mansons out there, just that the recruiting and retention tactics they use are similar.
I Googled “Twelve Tribes” and experts have compiled a lot of scary information about them, including testimonials from ex members who escaped. Recruiting is often done at places where earthy types gather and are looking for a more harmonious way to live. This group can be found at alternative gatherings, raves, and concerts where Deadhead types gather. Because they have a huge Northeast following, they prey on hikers along the Appalachian Trail, assuming that all people who hike the trail are on some kind of personal quest for spiritual fulfillment. They also have cafes and farms in larger cities throughout the U.S.
According to experts, once someone joins Twelve Tribes, they are forced to leave their pasts, give up everything, and live on the commune in exchange for nothing but room and board. There have been many charges against this group, including labor violations and child abuse, with few sticking, as they are a federally recognized religious non profit group.
Jim thinks I’ve spent way too much energy thinking about this, but I just wanted to share it with you because it really freaks me out that I even carried on a conversation with this lulu. It was so easy, he was nice, articulate, mellow. And if it was easy for me to be drawn in even for a minute (the ultimate skeptic when it comes to religious organizations), just think how quickly someone with a pea brain could fall under their spell! Yikes!
So if you’re ever on some kind of extended journey, whether it’s hiking or going back to school or traveling around, just try to be a little on guard, because there are some scary people out there who prey on those seeking a deeper meaning in life.