Well, when you move to The Community of Jesus, you are giving all of your time to “God” in the form of the community, and in obedience to the leaders. So anything they announced, meetings, retreats, prayer vigils, garden work times, whatever, you simply obeyed. Your time was not your own. You did as you were told. And it happened a lot. You would be told that you were going on retreat that night. You had to drop everything, make babysitting arrangements, cover your work etc. and be there on time. In recent years the retreats have included more extreme conditions. A group of men had to live in a house together for several months, and they were not allowed to see or speak to their wives. The clergy had to do the same thing. They were made to stay there until there was a “break through” of attitudes.
In the early days, the leaders had teaching meetings every Mon night. For a while they were on Thur. nights also, but most of the time it was once a week. I worked in the A/V dept. and we recorded all of their teachings. I wish I could get my hands on those teachings now, because it would be obvious to everyone how “off” and extreme their teachings were, but also how it could be very subtle at times. One leader especially had a knack for long circuitous logic that made what she said seem very reasonable. We were told that we had to train our minds in the way of the Lord, and that to do this we should listen to their teachings all day long. We should have a cassette tape of the Mon. night teachings going while we did housework or cooked or were in the car. We all did this and were indoctrinated into their teachings. The “Mind of the Lord” turned out to the the mind of the leaders.
We could only read the books that they provided, and they were invariably about the cross life and denying self. One leader especially had a fixation on the cross and suffering. She loved to talk about the suffering of her childhood, and their present sufferings in having to carry the burden of our sins, and that we needed to suffer to bring our wills under God’s leading (through them of course).
The rituals in CJ were dressed in the garb of the Christian church. Prayer vigils, candle lighting, incense, meditation/personal prayer, Bible reading – these are all legitimate Christian practices and ways of drawing close to God. But, and this is a big but, at CJ they were used to stop you from thinking. They were not meant to build your own personal relationship as much as they were meant to make you submissive to the teachings of the Mothers. We went through different rituals at different times, according to the leaders’current fad. One time it was the rosary. They “discovered” the value of the rosary, and had all of us praying it morning, noon and night, as often as possible. Then they “discovered” the Jesus Prayer from the Orthodox tradition. According to that book, the holiest practice was to say this unceasingly all day every day, and we were told to make that our goal. If that isn’t a classic thought-stopping, hypnotizing practice, I don’t know what is. It worked, too. I was able to suppress a lot of thoughts for quite a while using that prayer. It didn’t take care of them, they came back when I let up the practice, but for a while it made me feel more holy.
An interesting fact about the Jesus Prayer period is that they gave us all the book that introduces this practice. They had put covers on every book so that no one could see what the book was about. They told us to keep the books in hidden places. No visitor or “live-in” was allowed to see these books. They were only for the vowed life members. They said it was because the teaching in this book was so deeply spiritual that it could actually harm anyone who was not as deeply committed to the life of Christ as we were. That made us all feel very special, but it also made me feel kind of creepy that we had to hide what we were doing and reading. It was a paranoid, “we are special” kind of thing.
Then there was the vision period. A mist rolls in from the bay and all of a sudden it is the Shikinah Glory from God, bestowing a special blessing on us. We started seeing Jesus and Mary on the walls of the church and in the vines on the fence. Everyone started looking for and seeing special spiritual visions. The leaders had a hey-day teaching us about these manifestations of God, and how special they made us.
The Gregorian chant is another ritual. I’m not saying in all times and places it is a negative thing. It can be very beautiful and rewarding. But there was no flexibility and attendance was required unless you were verify-ably sick. We chanted in Latin. We were taught that even if we did not understand the language with our minds, our spirits knew what we were saying, and that it would make us holy to chant it. It was even better that we did not understand the words, because then our spirits could commune directly with the Holy Spirit without our minds getting in the way. They stressed a lot that our minds got in the way of our spiritual life, and we spent a lot of time denying our thinking.
With all of these practices, it was not the practice itself, but the intensity and repetition of them that made them hypnotic and mind controlling. It was also the stated purpose that made them unhealthy instead of useful, the purpose being to bypass our minds and submit ourselves to obedience, expressed to God through being obedient to our leaders.