JOHN HUMPHREY NOYES was a man of great vision–a deluded and selfish vision–yet one which inspired others to forsake their ordinary lives to join him in Christian communism.
Sharing looks good on paper.
Noyes was a magnetic man who believed in “healing energy.” He believed, like most 19th century perfectionist utopians, that the kingdom of heaven would be ushered in, not by trumpets and angels, but by good Christian men and women.
Noyes, in a dark night of the soul, convinced himself that he was to lead humanity (or at least a bunch of Americans) to this new heaven on earth. As their leader he would share his revelation (after marrying a dowdy but financially secure woman) that the first system of marriage illustrated throughout Genesis was now obsolete. Hadn’t Jesus told the SADDUCEES there were no marriages in heaven?
As above, so below was Noyes’ mantra. There were healings and possibly some good times. Mediocrity was seen as a special characteristic–one that kept people humble–even as Noyes’ enjoyed more and more power. By decreeing himself highly trained in love-making and instituting a “training program” by which young men were taught self control and the right way to sexually please women without getting them pregnant, Noyes’ embraced selective breeding and women’s rights.
What could possibly go wrong?
A friend of mine who grew up in a free love commune said it was a terribly unstable and lonely place for children. He noted the feel was more like a harem than anything heavenly. Dowdy women often footed the bills. Good-looking men were fought over.
I lived with a couple who believed in no special god. They believed only they created the universe. They believed in wind turbines and open, communistic marriages. These beliefs reflected in their real lives looked something like this: hatred for those who weren’t as highly educated and environmentally aware and an underlying aggression toward each other over sexual slights and unmet needs.
Noyes had magnetism. Women wanted to have sex with his magnetism. His wife had to be convinced his revelations were from God.
The community did make nice silverware.
Does free love work for anyone? I have only anecdotal evidence that it does not.