Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Latin American High Weirdness: The Cults Part II


It all began in Indiana in the early 1950s.
"But by 1952 Jim Jones had finally found his true calling: as an assistant minister for the Somerset Methodist Church in Indianapolis. It was at Somerset that the phenomenon we know as Jim Jones was spawned.
"...Jones, however, preached a gospel of racial tolerance, which was not accepted by the white community but which did attract black worshippers. By all accounts he was a charismatic speaker, but he supplemented his preaching with a fair amount of legerdemain: healing the sick in the manner of fraudulent faith healers the world over who remove cancerous growths from their patients with mesmeric passes, the shouting of Biblical phrases, and the generous use of concealed chicken livers as 'tumors,' which are revealed at just the right moment to effect the 'cure.' Eventually, Jones was kicked out of Somerset, but by then the damage had been done. He was not formally ordained into the ministry until much later, but he had developed a following throughout southern Indiana and Ohio nonetheless, aided by his frantic schedule of prayer services and radio programs, a campaign that wooed black people into a church organization that would include only whites in leadership positions."
(Sinister Forces Book Two, Peter Levenda, pg. 174)

Jones soon abandoned any pretext of mainstream Christianity and openly preached a Marxist doctrine that he dubbed 'religioius communalism.' It was after a trip to Brazil in the early 1960s (which incidentally occurred at the same time Andrija Puharich [who more was written on in part one of this series] was there investigating Arigo, 'the 'psychic surgeon,' and Josef Mengele was chilling near Sao Paulo) that Jones really began to breakout.
"Upon Jones' return to the United States he quickly found himself formally ordained as a minister, and began setting up shop as the Peoples Temple, first in Indiana and then relocating to Ukiah, California. According to Jones, the relocation to Ukiah was of a piece with the Esquire magazine article that said the nine safest places in the world included Eureka, California. Now, Eureka and Ukiah are quite distant from each other and, to make matters worse, Ukiah is quite close to several military installations around San Francisco which would be targets in the event of a nuclear strike. No matter; somehow Jim rationalized his choice in his own mind.
"By 1968, things at the Peoples Temple had become quite spooky. The Bible was being replaced by Jones' political oratory. The good citizens of Ukiah were getting worried about the strange preacher in the aviator sunglasses who peppered his 'sermons' with obscenities and his theology with Marx. In addition, the white community of Ukiah was nervous at the growing number of blacks who were joining the Peoples Temple and causing cultural distortion in their little town. Jones began casting about for another home, and this would eventually become San Fransisco.
"In the meantime, he managed to attract some of his most important members (and defectors). He would also become heavily involved in the health-care industry, and in California politics..."
(ibid, pg. 189)
Jones found himself and his church firmly established by the early 1970s.
"As more and more congregants signed their life savings, their social security checks, and their tax refunds to the Peoples Temple, the church became, if not wealthy, at least well to do. Jones, fearing racial backlash in Ukiah, moved his congregation first to Orlando and then to San Fransisco in 1972, to an old synagogue on Geary Street in 1972. By that time, he was already something of a political power in the state. He was the foreman of the grand jury of Mendocino County, and one of his top aides -Timothy Stoen -was an assistant district attorney for Mendocino County. That meant that, essentially, the Peoples Temple represented the power of both the grand jury and the DA's office: a powerful combination, but it is not clear whether this power was put to actual use.
(ibid, pgs. 191-192)
Jones with Harvey Milk, a member of the San Fransisco Board of Supervisors

Jones would eventually be appointed to the San Fransisco Human Rights Commission in 1976. In 1977 he shared a table with First Lady Rosalynn Carter at the Democratic National Convention Dinner after previously having met with President-elect Jimmy Carter's transition team and Vice President-elect Walter Mondale. Just as Jones seemed to have it made, things began to unravel. The Temple became a lightening rod for controversy, in part due to allegations of former members of beatings, kidnappings, sexual abuse, and even mysterious deaths of former members.

Rosalynn Carter with Jones

One of the most common forms of abuse Jones used to discipline his members were so-called 'boxing matches.'
"Boxing matches were soon inaugurated for the children -almost as entertainment. Laughter and lightheartedness predominated as an errant child was pitted against a stronger opponent who was supposed to win. Some were as young as five. If the wrong child won, tougher opponents would be called into the arena until the child was taught a lesson.
"The next step was introducing adults to the matches. The brutality became severe as full-grown people donned gloves and began throwing punches seriously. Sometimes they knocked each other silly to bloodied each other. A person stupid enough to fight to hard would go toe to toe with bigger and better opponents until vanquished. But if he did not fight at all, he was ridiculed and hit anyway. Every punch carried the message: one cannot fight the 'collective will.' The will of Father.
"The battling conditioned people to believe that they would win if they fought for the church and would lose if they fought against it. Jones justified his psychodrama by saying that society was full of rough conditions, that people needed to be rugged and capable of self-defense. Yet it really was an extension of the catharsis sessions, with physical pain added to the psychological. Through corporal punishment, Jones could simultaneously strengthen internal order, mete out justice and indoctrinate."
(Raven, Tim Reiterman, pgs. 259-260)
All in all, the boxing matches were relatively mild compared to the sexual abuse Jones heaped upon his key members. Jones himself was bisexual, so both men and women alike were fair game. More often than not, the planning committee (the mostly white inner circle of the Peoples Temple) was the target of Jones sexual policies, but he attempted to regulate those of the entire congregation.
"He would control the sex lives of the members of the Peoples Temple, and arranged marriages between couples who were then not allowed to have sex. He would demand that wives complain publicly about the lack of sexual performance or prowess of their husbands, while demanding as well that they praise Jim Jones in that department."
(Sinister Forces Book Two, Peter Levenda, pg. 203)
"Jones's relations with women were characterized by his own insatiable ego, garnished with elements of therapy, the reward system, the 'groupie' phenomenon and the old minister-troubled parishioner gambit. Despite his selfless posturing, Jones reveled in his exploits, demanding that his partners publicly praise his prowess and telling his congregation, 'I've been reported to be a good lover...' Some women sought Jones for sex because he was, by his own definition, the only sex symbol available, the 'only heterosexual' male, the ultimate lover, selfless and sensitive and all-powerful. Other women naturally turned to him for their sexual needs just as they turned to him for other types of sustenance and guidance. And they surrendered to him if he approached them."
(Raven, Tim Reiterman, pg. 177)

The bulk of the planning committee, in addition to being mostly white, was dominated by women. Jones seduced a good portion of these 'lucky' ladies with some becoming long time mistresses. It was with men, however, that the sexual abuse and psychological humiliation was at its most brutal.
"Jones's sexual contact with men generated tremendous conflicts within some of them [the planning committee -Recluse]. He made lessons in buggery all the more humiliating by always assuming the dominant position. As he conquered his partners, he told them again and again that it was for their own good. He derived no pleasure at all from the act, he told them, but made sure they did, arousing them with practiced physical manipulation, stimulating their prostate glands so as to bring them to climax. He left his victims both guilt-ridden and humiliated.
"Jones went out of his way to find male partners who showed not the slightest homosexual inclinations. Backstage at a Los Angeles service, he looked at a newcomer named Tim Carter in a fatherly fashion and patted him on the back of the head. 'Son, if you want me to fuck you in the ass, I will,' he offered. When the shocked Vietnam veteran replied in the negative, Jones left the door open, saying 'Just so you know I'm here if you want me.'
"He particularly liked awakening macho types, respected church members or 'studs' to their 'homosexulity,' though he rarely took on black males. As he said later on tape, he delighted to hear brawny men squealing with pleasure as he mastered them..."
(ibid, pg. 176)
Jones frequently made his male conquests give detailed accounts of their time with Jim before the planning committee in which they thanked Jones personally for sodomizing them to further reinforce the humiliation. If this was not enough to set off red flags around the Peoples Temple, there were the bizarre charges brought against Jones himself for lewd conduct.
"...on December 13, 1973. That afternoon the Westlake Theater, a movie house across from MacArthur Park and about a mile and a half from the Los Angeles Temple, was playing the Clint Eastwood movie Dirty Harry. MacArthur Park was reputed to be a meeting place for homosexuals, and patrons of the Westlake had been complaining about homosexual solicitations there. In response, Ramparts Station had assigned two vice squad officers, Arthur Kagele, and Lloyd Frost, to work the place in plainclothes.
"In the nearly empty balcony, a dark-haired man in a green coat motioned Kagele to join him in the rear seating section. Kagele had seen the same man in the restroom earlier. But he ignored the overture and went back to the restroom to check for activity.
"Within a minute, he heard the restroom door open, and the black-haired man strode back to the same toilet stall. The man's right arm began moving, and he turned to Kagele. He was holding his penis erect in his hand. Masturbating provocatively, the man approached the officer. By the time he reached the middle of the room, he had crossed the boundary of lewd conduct. Stepping outside the restroom, Kegele signaled his partner, and they made the arrest...
"James Warren Jones, forty-two, was booked for investigation of lewd conduct and held on $500 bail. On his arrest sheet, he listed his employer as Disciples of Christ, his occupation as pastor. Significantly, the only physical malady he reported was 'possible hemorrhoids.' Jones was bailed out promptly, and his followers went immediately to work."
(ibid, pg. 231)
An interesting choice of movie for a gay encounter

With each new scandal and defection Jones' paranoia grew worse and worse. Finally he decided to flee the United States all together for Jonestown, an agricultural commune the Temple had set up in the mid-1970s in Guyana, South America. A handful of members had already been living there for a few years, but in 1977 Jones set about moving the bulk of his congregation overseas to this alleged tropical paradise. Eventually some 1200 members made the journey. What they found in Jonestown was far from paradise.
"The Temple members lived on rice and beans, and a little water (depending on rainfall). It was, essentially, concentration-camp living, with ever-present security forces alert to any deviation from the fixed routine, any complaint, no matter how reasonable or how minor. For infractions, one could be imprisoned in 'the box' for extended periods of time, fed on a liquid diet -with vital signs monitored daily to ensure that the inmate was still alive -and subjected to interrogation by the security team until they were satisfied that the inmate was giving correct answers. Children were subject to even worse treatment, taken to a well at the bottom of which two adults would be hiding in the water, waiting to grab the unfortunate child's legs and drag him or her under the surface of the brackish water. After a long session of that, the child would be allowed to return to the surface, and then would have to walk all the way back to the compound through the jungle, repeating over and over, 'I'm sorry, Father."
(Sinister Forces Book Two, Peter Levenda, pg. 212)

Father was what Jones was eventually referred to in the Peoples Temple, BTW. There were even more extreme abuses than these at Jonestown. With most of his congregation now living in close quarters to one and other Jones now attempted to establish total control over their sex lives.
"...many people chafed under the restrictive rules and practices. Sex guidelines were a major irritant. As in the States, Jones gave contradictory sexual instructions. There was no sexual freedom. The true homosexuals were not allowed to practice it, without fear of being ridiculed or confronted on the floor. Unmarried or unsanctioned couples slept together at their own peril, and married couples never could be intimate with any degree of privacy in their crowded cottages...
"A Relationship Committee was established to set ground rules for sex and marriage. If a couple wanted a union, they needed committee approval. During a three-month trial period no physical contact -not even kissing -was permitted. Next, they were allowed a physical relationship for a six-month trial period. If the relationship survived, they were considered married. Pregnancy automatically meant a permanent relationship. People came to the committee for contraceptives, dispensed according to established rules..."
(Raven, Tim Reiterman, pg. 393)
If armed guards, constant surveillance, sensory-deprivation, and complete domination of sexual practices were not enough, soon drugging was added to the arsenal of behavioral modifications at Jonestown.
"In a sort of 'brownie point' system, two 'praises' canceled out one warning. Three warnings a month resulted in PSU punishment -which Jones found inadequate for some cases. By late summer, he had established an ECU or 'Extended Care Unit,' for unmanageable people such as captured escapees. Their keepers sedated them and drugged them under twenty-four-hour observation...
"...Overseers at the eight-bed ECU had access to enough behavior-controlling drugs to equip the city of Georgetown. Among the drugs later recovered from Jonestown were: 10,000 injectable doses and 1,000 tablets of Thorazine, an antipsychotic; 20,000 doses of the pain-killer Demerol; 3,000 liquid doses and 2,000 tablets of Valium; 200 vials of injectable morphine sulfate; and thousands of doses of other powerful drugs, such as Quaaludes, Vistaril (for management of anxiety and tension), Noludar (habit-forming sleeping aid) and Innovar Injection, a tranquilizer normally used for surgery and diagnosis.
"These behavior-altering drugs can cause hallucinations, blurred vision, confusion and speech disturbances, involuntary movements, suicidal tendencies or other emotional upheavals. They were sometimes administered in dangerously high doses to ECU patients, though there is no indication they were given to the general Jonestown population through food or other means."
(ibid, pgs. 449-450)

Jones himself was reportedly a heavy user of some of these drugs, especially during his time at Jonestown.
"The drugs -injectable Valium, Quaaludes, uppers, barbiturates, whatever he wanted -had taken hold of him. His voice, once so riveting, now sounded pathetic, raspy, as if he were very drunk or his tongue coated with peanut butter. Words collided with each other in slow motion. He would read from typed notes, but often not finish sentences. Sometimes, as he sat in West House, barely gripping the army field phone that connected him to the radio room, he could barely read at all."
(ibid, pg. 446)
Let us now wrap up with the saga of the Peoples Temple so we can get on to the real curiosities. A group of former members and relatives continued to bring pressure on the US government to investigate allegations of abuse at Jonestown in addition to child abductions until finally Congressman Leo Ryan led a group of reporters, ex-members, and relatives to Guyana in late 1978 to investigate the conditions at Jonestown.

Congressman Ryan

As conventional histories go, Jones then lost it over fear of mass defections and such. After allowing Ryan into Jonestown, which spurred several members to defect with the Ryan party, a group of Jonestown's armed security force ambushed Ryan's party at an airport in Port Kaituma just as they were leaving. In the melee Ryan was murdered as were several American reporters. Back at Jonestown Jones, sensing the end was near, ordered a mass suicide of his followers. They had been practicing for this for months in rituals Jones dubbed 'White Nights'. A Kool-Aid like drink laced with cyanide was handed to the Peoples Temple members, children first, and they preceded to drink. When it was all said and done, over 900 people were dead in the largest mass suicide in modern history.


That's the official story anyway.

I'm sure the reader has picked up on the striking similarities between Jonestown and Colonia Dignidad, another 'agricultural experiment' addressed in part one of this series. Peter Levenda brilliantly sums them up in the second book of his epic Sinister Forces trilogy.
"Colonia Dignidad was another 'religious' community with a political agenda (it had been used as a torture and interrogation center by the Chilean secret police during the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in 1973), was completely populated by German citizens (as Jonestown was by American citizens), was run by a minister of religion who was also a sexual sadist, etc. In both cases, orphaned children and foster children were exported to the colonies, and financial subsidies derived from their respective governements. In both cases, the colonies used shortwave radio communications with their officers in the country's capitols. Those offices were used by members to influence government officials, and, in the case of Jonestown, one Temple member was ordered to become the paramour of a Guyanese government official. And on and on. The parallels are almost too numerous to mention."
(pg. 210)
Colonia Dignidad

Indeed. There is an especially sinister parallel that we shall examine in the next installment.

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