My Childhood in a Cult

Posted by Ed 13 mths ago
On our isolated commune, we kids were taught that the world was about to end. But my world ended when I was told to leave.

"Where are you from?” For most people, this is a casual social question. For me, it’s an exceptionally loaded one, and demands either a lie or my glossing over facts, because the real answer goes something like this: “I grew up on compounds in Kansas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Martha’s Vineyard, often travelling in five-vehicle caravans across the country from one location to the next.

My reality included LSD, government cheese, and a repurposed school bus with the words ‘Venus or Bust’ painted on both sides.” And that, while completely factual, is hard to believe, and sounds like a cry for attention. So I usually just say, “Upstate New York.”

Let me elaborate. I was born into a family of a hundred adults and sixty children in 1968, and spent the first eleven years of my life among them. The Lyman Family, as it was called, referred to itself in the plural as “the communities.” It was an insular existence. I had no contact with anybody outside the Family; my whole world was inhabited by people I had always known.

I was homeschooled and never saw a doctor. (Only the direst circumstances called for medical professionals: fingers cut off while we kids were chopping wood, or a young body scalded by boiling water during the sorghum harvest.)

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