THE SHAKERS / ONEIDA COMMUNITY by Randall Hillebrand (Part One) The Shakers and the Oneida

Master Index Current Directory Index Go to SkepticTank Go to Human Rights activist Keith Henson Go to Scientology cult

Skeptic Tank!

THE SHAKERS / ONEIDA COMMUNITY by Randall Hillebrand (Part One) The Shakers and the Oneida Community were contemporaries for approximately 31 years from 1848 to 1880. This was the approximate length of time that the Oneida Community lasted (1848-1881). The Shakers lasted the longest between the two groups, from approximately 1774 until the present, 1830 being their peak year for membership, declining thereafter. I have been told that there are about seven female Shakers still living today by a woman named Jeannie Stine who is a history buff of the Shakers from Seattle, Washington (Stine). Both the Shakers and the Oneida Community were striving for the same thing: the bringing in of the millennial kingdom. But, they both had different ways in which to do it. The Shakers felt that sexual intercourse was the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden and that by eliminating it, God would bring in the kingdom. The Oneida Community on the other hand thought that living as if one where in the millennial kingdom already, would bring it in. So, as a result of that, the Oneida Community lived a life where "complex marriage" (where all men and all woman were jointly married to each other), or as some would call it, free sex, was practiced. This was practiced since they believed that in the millennium this would be the norm. What is interesting about the Shakers and the Oneida Community is that even though they were at opposite ends of the pole from each other, the Shakers and the Oneida Community not only knew of each other, but on occasion the Shakers would come and visit the Oneida Community. They had a certain amount of respect for each other (Noyes 144). John Humphrey Noyes, the founder of the Oneida Community, "declared that his approach and that of the Shakers were the only two possible in the resurrected state." But he further stated that: "If I believed in a Shaker heaven I would be a Shaker now." (Foster 89). Both the Shakers and the Oneida Community profited from the revivals that were taking place during their time. " The revivals left many people distraught and torn by anxiety; and having tried without success to gain a sense of assurance in their own churches, they were in a receptive mood to listen to new prophets who offered definite guarantees of spiritual security." (Hudson 183). So the revivals played a key role in their success because of the ideas, attitudes, and hopes which they fostered (Hudson 183). Another fact about the two groups was that they both adopted "communism," or in other words, communal living. Both groups lived in a communal setting where large groups of people lived corporately in mansion-size living quarters. They shared the responsibilities as a group, where both men and women worked side by side with total equality as their goal. Also, both groups were persecuted for their faith. This is quite interesting when we remember the fact that one group believed in no sex and the other group believed in "free sex." The general population did not agree with either extreme. They were both extremist groups that did not fit in with the main stream of society at that time, even though both groups went as far as isolating their communities from the general population. The Shakers and the Oneida Community were in some ways very similar, but in other ways very diverse. THE SHAKERS FOUNDER: . The founder of the Shakers was a woman by the name of Ann Lee Standerin who is known as Ann Lee, or Mother Ann. She was born in Manchester, England on February 29, 1736. It is said that as a child she did not have much of a desire to play, but that she was a serious young girl that had a great interest in religious things. It is even said that during this time of her life that "she was favored with heavenly visions, and became strongly impressed with a sense of the deep depravity of mankind." (Holloway 55). Ann was known to have begged her mother "piteously" to be kept from having to get married (Ferguson 321). But on January 5, 1762, she was finally married to a blacksmith by the name of Abraham Standerin. Over the next four years Abraham and Ann had four children which all died in infancy. Ann looked at these deaths "as a series of judgements on her 'concupiscence' (sexual desire; lust)." (Andrews TPCS 7,8). So she began to stop sleeping with her husband so as not to stir up his affections. She was even afraid to sleep at night because she thought that she might awaken in hell. She even used to pace the floor at night in anguish about her struggle against the flesh. It is said that her anguish was so great that "bloody sweat passed through the pores of her skin, tears flowed down her cheeks until the skin cleaved off, and she wrung her hands until the blood gushed from under her nails (Andrews TPCS 7,8). In the summer of 1758, she joined the society of Shaking Quakers, a sect in England under the control of Jane and James Wardley. (The Shaking Quakers are an offshoot of the Camisards which are otherwise known as the French Prophets.) (Ferguson 322). In the summer of 1770, Ann had been imprisoned for taking part in a noisy religious service in Manchester England. While in jail, at the age of thirty-four, Ann had a vision that radically transformed her life. She had a vision of "Adam and Eve in carnal intercourse". (Foster 21,22). She at last knew without a shadow of a doubt that the very transgression which had resulted in the fall of man in the Garden of Eden was sexual intercourse. After this traumatic discovery, Ann had another vision where the Lord Jesus appeared to her in all of His glory. Jesus then supposedly comforted her and told her that her new mission was to spread her newfound knowledge to the world (Foster 21,22). HISTORY OF MOVEMENT: "As lust conceived by the fall Hath more or less infected all; So we believe 'tis only this That keepeth souls from perfect bliss." (Hudson 185) As seen from this Shaker hymn, the Shakers held to the visions of Mother Ann, and made it their purpose to spread their newfound message to the ends of the earth. Mother Ann herself prophesied that "This gospel will go to the end of the world, and it will not be propagated so much by preaching, as by the good works of the people." (Morse xxii). After Ann's release from jail, she shared her visions with the group of Shaking Quakers to which she belonged. Because of these visions, John Wardley, the leader of this group, saw Ann as the fulfillment to his prophecy. His prophecy was that "Christ's spirit would come again and that the second time it would be embodied in a woman." (Ferguson 323). The group then "hailed her as Mother in Christ and Bride of the Lamb; and she was known thereafter as Mother Ann or Ann the Word." (Holloway 57). As Ann developed her sense of overpowering conviction that lust was the basis of all human corruption, her religious mission increased until she finally took over leadership from Jane Wardley. Then Mother Ann, during this time, added a distinctive element to the group which was celibacy. This distinction was what made the Shakers different from other revivalist groups of this time. At this time there were approximately thirty believers in her following (Foster 25,26). For a time the group tried to live out their faith in England, but ran into much social pressure (Gonzalez 244). Then, when Mother Ann was examined by four scholars of the Established Church in England on the charge of blasphemy, "whom she confounded by speaking in seventy-two distinct and separate tongues, it was plain to her that the Millennium had begun." (Ferguson 57). Following this, a vision came to either Ann (Ferguson 57) or her associate James Wittaker (Foster 26) of a tree that according to Ann talked to her, telling her that they were to come to America to set up their church (the Church of Christ's Second Appearing). In Wittaker's vision, the tree did not talk to him, but he saw a tree with ever-burning leaves in America which represented the Shakers' church. Because of this vision, the Shakers felt it their divine call to go to America. So in the spring of 1774, with all temporal affairs settled, arrangements were made to go to the new world (Andrews TPCS 18). In May of 1774, Ann Lee and eight followers sailed from Liverpool for America (Andrews/Andrews 13). The band of nine sailed on the Mariah, a ship headed for New York. Included in the group besides Mother Ann herself were several of her family (Neal 2): "her husband, her brother William, ..., James Wittaker, ... John Hocknell ..., his son Richard, James Shepard, Mary Partington, and Nancy Lee, a cousin." (Andrews/Andrews 14). The early Shakers believed that the gospel of celibacy "could never take hold in the old world, where the stolid, conservative minds of the common people did not open readily to the new, strange doctrine." They believed that in the new world, God was going to flourish it (Sasson 4). The story is told that while they were not yet very long out to sea, the captain became very outraged by the Shakers' manner of worship. He disliked it so much that he told them that if they repeated the performance again, they would all be thrown overboard. On the following Sunday they did repeat it. As the story goes, when the captain attempted to put his threat into action, almost at once, a storm of tremendous violence arose and knocked a plank lose whereby the ship started to take on water. All hands tried to pump out the water with no avail. When the captain announced that nothing could save the ship and that the ship would sink by morning, to the contrary, Mother Ann told the captain that she had seen two angels on the ship that told her that it would not sink. It is said that scarcely had she spoken it when a great wave arose, the last of its size, that knocked against the ship so precisely that the loose plank was forced back into place. After this, the captain allowed the Shakers to worship any way they pleased (Holloway 58). On August 6, 1774, Mother Ann and her followers of eight arrived in New York (Andrews/Andrews 14). The group split up into smaller groups in order to earn money (Sasson 6). Ann took in work doing washing and ironing while her husband was working as a journeyman in the blacksmith trade (Neal 3,4). But soon after arriving, Abraham became very sick. Ann had to support the two of them as she nursed him back to health. After this, Shaker history reports that Abraham got involved in wickedness and refused to do anything for Ann unless she would decide to "live in the flesh with him, and bear children." (Sasson 6). She totally refused his proposition which is what caused their final separation. Then in September of 1776, the group reassembled in Niskeyuna, New York, on some land purchased by John Hocknell (Sasson 6). Over the next four years, very little progress was made in spreading Ann's gospel. But finally, in 1780, because of a New Light Baptist revival in New Lebanon, New York, the Shakers received a number of new converts who felt that the Shakers had a definite way to salvation which they themselves were seeking. "There they found a fellowship literally following the example of the primitive apostolic church: men and women living together in celibate purity, holding all goods in common, working industriously with their hands, speaking and singing in unknown tongues, worshiping joyfully, preaching that Christ had actually come to lead believers to a perfect, sinless, everlasting life - the life of the spirit."(Andrews TGTBS 4). It was even believed by the early Shaker converts that the Revolutionary War was the beginning of a new age. And then on May 19, 1780 came the day that Mother Ann knew that the time had come to proclaim the gospel to the New World, because on that day, New England turned black. This was due to a solar eclipse which Mother Ann knew was a sign from God to proclaim her gospel (Sasson 7,8). Shortly after, Ann and her elders were imprisoned on the charge of pacifism and treason. After their release, they left on a two-year mission through many parts of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York, trying to convert people to their faith (Andrews TGTBS 4). They returned to Niskeyuna in August of 1783. The following July, Mother Ann's closest companion died, her brother William. Not long after that, Mother Ann's health started to decline, and on September 8, 1784, at the age of forty-eight, Mother Ann died. At the time of her death there were approximately 1000 converts to Shakerism who were scattered throughout New England (Sasson 8). It is said that "at the time of her death, one of the elders who was greatly 'gifted in vision' testified that when the breath left her body he saw in vision 'a golden chariot drawn by four white horses which received and wafted her soul out of sight.'"(Neal 5). After Ann's death, James Wittaker "saved Ann's faith from passing with her." (Sprigg 7). For the next three years Wittaker propagated the faith until his death in 1787. Then leadership was assumed by the first American, Joseph Meacham from Enfield, Connecticut. He then picked Lucy Wright from a town in Massachusetts called Pittsfield as the leader over the women (Sprigg 7). This step of putting Lucy Wright in leadership was something that was just not done at this time period in history. Even many Shakers did not like this move (Foster 37). At this time in the Shakers' history, Joseph Meacham brought together and organized the scattered and disorganized members into an ordered union (Andrews/Andrews 23). "He drafted the constitution of the United Society, and elaborated and systematized Shaker doctrine." (Hudson 185,186). Meacham regulated everything, even the Shakers' violence of the physical manifestations was subdued to dance and song (Hudson 185,186). He made the move from a primarily charismatic organization to a more stable and routine fellowship. During this year, Joseph Meacham and Lucy Wright (who were known as the parents of the church) decided that it was now time for the true Shakers to separate themselves from the world (Andrews TPCS 56). This separation was due to two things: the first was that of "persecution and religious conviction," and the second reason was that only with separation from a sinful world could one "realize the hope of salvation and perfection, complete freedom to obey the laws of God." (Andrews/Andrews 24). So Meacham decided "to make New Lebanon the first 'gathered' Shaker community, the model upon which all subsequent communities would be patterned." It was also made the first headquarters of the English Shakers (Foster 36). Under Meacham's leadership, the Shakers experienced a surge in membership with the onset of the Second Great Awakening (Hudson 186). Within seven years, eleven communities with over 2000 members had been formed. These communities were in Watervliet (Niskeyuna), New York (1787); Mount Lebanon, New York (1787); Hancock, Massachusetts (1790); Harvard, Massachusetts (1791); Enfield, Connecticut (1790); Tyringham, Massachusetts (1792); Alfred, Maine (1793); Canterbury, New Hampshire (1792); Enfield, New Hampshire (1793); Shirley, Massachusetts (1793); and Sabbathday Lake, Maine (1794) (Morse xvii). A second period of growth started in 1805 when Shaker missionaries were sent out to the West to reap converts from the Kentucky revivals. Throughout the Shaker history, twenty-four communities were established. Of the twenty-four communities, twenty-one of them were established by 1826 (Morse xvii), which was the peak of Shaker membership totaling around 5000 people (Sasson 10). The last Shaker community to go out of existence was the third one, (Hancock, Massachusetts) which went out of existence in 1960. Mount Lebanon, New York (1947) and Watervliet, New York (1938) were the first two colonies established, and two of the last three to close (Morse xvii). WORSHIP: The Shakers can be classified as charismatic in nature. The earlier Shakers, up until the leadership was taken over by Joseph Meacham, were a wild, unorderly, unorganized free-for-all. An average worship service was described as such: "When they meet together for their worship, they fall a groaning and trembling, and everyone acts alone for himself; one will fall prostrate on the floor, another on his knees and his head in his hands; another will be muttering inarticulate sounds, which neither they or any body else can understand. Some will be singing, each one his own tune; some without words, in an Indian tune, some sing jig tunes, some tunes of their own making, in an unknown mutter which they call new tongues; some will be dancing, and others stand laughing, heartily and loudly; others will be drumming on the floor with their feet, as though a pair of drum sticks were beating the ruff on a drum- head; others will be agonizing, as though they were in great pain; others jumping up and down; others fluttering over somebody, and talking to them; others will be shooing and hissing evil spirits out of the house, till the different tunes, groaning, jumping, dancing, drumming, laughing, talking and fluttering, shooing and hissing, makes a perfect bedlam; this they call the worship of God." (Andrews TPCS 28). In such worship it is said that the participants were not in control of themselves, but were under spirit control. The Shakers felt that as they shook, sin would be shaken right out of their bodies. After Meacham's takeover of leadership, he changed the worship from what is mentioned above to an orderly, organized type of dance with song. The dances were symbolic; upturned palms represented the receiving of divine blessings through the hands, where the shaking of downturned hands represented the shaking out of sin and evil through the finger tips (Ferguson 335,336). DOCTRINE: (1) CELIBACY - Celibacy was to be followed since sexual intercourse was the root of all evil. As Ann saw in her vision in prison, the forbidden fruit in the garden was carnal sexual intercourse between Adam and Eve. This is what corrupted all of mankind, and until it is stopped, there can be no triumph over sin. They used Luke 20:34-36 to justify this (Foster 16). (2) CONFESSION - The first step toward spiritual progress was the confession of sins which was done to either an Elder or Eldress. This was an oral confession, the very first one of which was done before the leadership. This was a very serious matter and confessions could take days or even weeks to finish (Sasson 11), and in some cases years (Holloway 69). (3) REGENERATION - Regeneration was obtained by works (Andrews TPCS 20). (4) SEPARATION - Only through separation could one "realize the hope of salvation and perfection, complete freedom to obey the laws of God." (Andrews/Andrews 24). (5) REVELATION - Believed in continuous revelation to members (Andrews TPCS 97). (6) DUAL DEITY - That there is a Father-Mother God, or male and female sides of God of equal deity (Andrews TPCS 158). (7) DUAL MESSIAHSHIP - That "Christ became the second Adam and Ann became the second Eve, thus restoring the race, both male and female, to perfect purity." (Ferguson 324). She was Christ in female form. "She was the one in whom dwelt the Divine Mother." (Ferguson 324). Mother Ann called herself "Ann the Word" and said that she was married to the Lord Jesus Christ (Andrews TPCS 12). (8) EQUALITY OF THE SEXES - A logical attribute of male and female messiahship. (9) MILLENNIAL KINGDOM - They believed that the millennium was imminent and that their good works could further the kingdom (Sasson 10). (10) MEMBERSHIP - New members had to follow the Millennial Laws. People seeking entrance were put into one of two groups, either the Novitiate Order for those who had been married and the Junior Order for those who had not been married. A one year waiting period or trial period was required to sever all matrimonial ties by common consent, and to settle all debts. Families were then separated from each other and parents of the children could only see them privately once a year for a brief time in the presence of an elder (Holloway 69). (NOTE: The foregoing doctrines are the more important ones of many. These doctrines were called by the Shakers "Millennial Laws" by which they were to live since they were in the millennial kingdom. These Millennial Laws covered things from how to treat animals up to their gospel of celibacy.) THE SHAKERS / ONEIDA COMMUNITY by Randall Hillebrand (Part Two) THE ONEIDA COMMUNITY FOUNDER: The founder of the Oneida Community was John Humphrey Noyes. He was born in Brattleboro, Vermont, in 1811 (Cornish 300). John Humphrey came from a well established home where his father, also named John, was a congressman and Dartmouth graduate. His mother Polly was sixteen years younger than his father and was a very strong- willed and deeply religious woman. She always taught her children "to fear the Lord." (Thomas 3-4). She even prayed before John Humphrey's birth that someday he might become a devoted minister of the gospel (Thomas 3-4). Up until John Humphery's conversion, he was known as a rebel who had little interest in theology or in his studies (Holloway 180). He entered Dartmouth in 1826, the year that revival had hit its peak under Charles Finney. But to no avail, John was not affected by it and looked at religion with great cynicism. Five years later though, at the request of his mother, John attended a four-day revival meeting in Putney, Vermont, again under the ministry of Charles Finney. At first he was not moved by what he heard, "but after the meeting he suffered a feverish cold which led him to think of death, and to humble himself before God."(Whitworth 89). He vigorously embraced the faith and the expectation of the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom (Whitworth 89). Later he studied at Andover and Yale Divinity School with a vision of going into the ministry. While at Yale, Noyes came to a new understanding of the way of salvation which he labeled as Perfectionism. This view did not hold to total depravity as did the Calvinists' view, but it saw man as reaching a state of perfection or sinlessness at conversion (Muncy 161). When Noyes asserted this doctrine of complete release from sin at conversion while studying at Yale Divinity School, he was denied ordination (Hudson 187). It is said that one of the reasons that Noyes adopted this doctrine was the fact that he could not believe that he was a sinner, since he could not summon up from within any feeling of deep guilt and despair (Holloway 180-181). For whatever reason he adopted this doctrine, it was the underlying foundation of his future endeavors. HISTORY OF MOVEMENT: In 1834, Humphrey Noyes started developing the theories that would later become the foundation of truth in the Oneida Community. Over the next three years, John canvassed New York state and New England trying to make new converts with no avail. Finally, after a tough three-week period in New York City, he reached the verge of a complete mental and emotional breakdown. To top things off, his first and most faithful follower, Abigail Merwin, left him to marry another man (Foster 72-73). Shortly after these events, Noyes started writing articles which were published in a new periodical called the "Battle- Axe". His first article was on the denunciation of the institution of marriage. Also, in September of this year (1837), part of a letter written by Noyes to a friend was anonymously published by the editor in the Battle-Axe. This letter stated that Noyes felt from his interpretation of a biblical prophecy, that he was clearly convinced he was God's agent on earth. This article did not bring as much outrage by the people as did a later article that outlined his beliefs on sexual relationships in the spiritual world and that would prevail in the millennial kingdom (Whitworth 95). Through the writing of these articles, a woman by the name of Harriet Holton, the granddaughter of the Lieutenant-Governor of the state, became interested in Noyes and his work. She started to financially support him, and later, after Noyes realized that he would never get Abigail Merwin back, slowly came to the point where he realized that Harriet was filling the void that Abigail had left (Holloway 182). In June of 1838, Noyes wrote Harriet a letter in which he proposed in a very careful way. He explained to her that their marriage would be a spiritual one, even though for that time period it would be a carnal or earthly marriage. But, he felt that the marriage would benefit both of them and that they, according to his teachings, would not selfishly possess one another (Thomas 92-93). One of his main reasons for getting married was that he felt the marriage would advance the work of God in which he was engaged. Also, it showed others who were criticizing him of his celibate state that he was not for celibacy, as were the Shakers. Noyes also said that, "By this marriage, besides herself, and a good social position, which she held as belonging to the first families of Vermont, I obtained money enough to buy a house and printing-office, and to buy a press and type." (Foster 84). The press was then used to propagate Noyes' teachings through a publication called "The Witness," which he had to discontinue due to a lack of funds. So this marriage seems to have been based mainly on convenience (Foster 84). After his marriage, Noyes then helped to arrange the marriages of his sisters to two of his closest followers, John L. Skinner and John R. Miller, who were students from his Bible institute which he had started in 1836 in Putney. He also gained the loyalty of his younger brother George and later, due to much pressure, his own mother who had been previously very upset by the way in which he had been using up the family estate to finance his religious endeavors. So at this point, John and George Noyes, Skinner, Miller, and a later addition of George Cragin became the center of an informal governing group of the movement (Foster 84). Finally, in 1840, "the Putney Association came into being - as a purely religious body." (Robertson 3). Then, in 1844, the group formally adopted communism by which to live. This communism "included all property of family living and associations" (Robertson 3). At this time there were approximately thirty-seven members that were involved. They lived in three houses, maintained a store, and worshiped together in a small chapel (Muncy 163). They also ran two farms at this time, and because of the death of Noyes' father who left $20,000 each to four members who were in the community, they were able to support themselves (Thomas 97). Two years later, in 1846, the community adopted Noyes' teachings of "Mutual Criticism," "Complex Marriage" and "Male Continence" (Muncy 167). At this time in the groups history, these practices were only practiced on a small scale among leadership, and not until 1848 in Oneida, New York, would these be practiced by the whole community (Foster 88). Because of these practices, the community came under much persecution, even to the point where Noyes was indicted for adultery. Noyes, not wanting to become a useless martyr, and who by this time was viewed by the group as the Moses of the new dispensation who was going to lead them to the promised land, quickly purchased twenty-three acres of land that contained some buildings in Oneida, New York. Their "Promised Land" was near the Canadian border which would be very convenient in case of future persecution. Then in 1847, the Putney group agreed "that the Kingdom of God had come." (Holloway 181,183). The community could believe this because of two of Noyes' teachings: one being that Christ's second coming took place in A.D. 70, and the other being that they could bring in the millennial kingdom themselves (Holloway 181,183). Forty-five of his followers from Putney followed Noyes to Oneida and by the end of 1848, their membership grew to eighty-seven (Muncy 167). The economic base of the Oneida Community was agricultural and industrial. They had approximately forty acres of partially cleared land on which to farm and an Indian sawmill in which to produce lumber. Over the next year, the community purchased and cultivated additional land, established a variety of minor craft industries, built a communal dwelling house, appointed administrative committees and set up a pattern of daily living which the community followed for the next thirty years (Whitworth 120). As stated earlier, Noyes' teachings were practiced here by the community. The main teaching which received the most criticism was that of "Complex Marriage." In Complex Marriage, every man was married to every woman and vice versa. This practice was to stay only within the community and had to stay within two main guidelines. The first was that before the man and woman could cohabit, they had to obtain each other's consent through a third person or persons. Secondly, no two people could have exclusive attachment with each other because it would be selfish and idolatrous. Any two people found in any such situation would be separated and not allowed to see each other for a certain length of time (Holloway 185-186). Another teaching practiced at the Oneida Community was that of "Male Continence," which was a type of birth control. In the practice of Male Continence, "a couple would engage in sexual congress without the man ever ejaculating, either during intercourse or after withdrawal." (Foster 93-94). Noyes justified this practice because his wife Harriet in the first six years of their marriage had five difficult childbirths, four of which were premature and resulted in the deaths of the children. Noyes came to the conclusion that where an unwanted pregnancy occurred, there was a waste of the mans seed and that it was no different in practice to masturbation (Foster 93-94). With the implementation of Male Continence, which lasted from 1848 to 1868, some forty children were born in the community of about two hundred and fifty people (Whitworth 126). Another teaching practiced along these same lines was that of "Ascending Fellowship." Ascending Fellowship was set up to properly introduce the virgins into Complex Marriage. This practice also worked to prevent the young members from falling in love with each other and from limiting their range of affection to just the younger members. The main people picked to care for the virgins were people who were considered to be closer to God. These people were of course older and had a special title which was that of Central Member. These Central Members were allowed their pick of a partner over which they would have the responsibility of spiritual guidance. It usually worked that the male Central Member would pick any female virgin of his choice. Due to her lower order, she was compelled to accept. In the case of the female Central Member, they were usually past the age of menopause, and when they chose their male virgin, they were obligated to honor the request. The reason women past menopause were chosen was so that as they taught the younger men Male Continence, they would not have to worry about unwanted pregnancies (Muncy 176- 177). The forth major teaching practiced was that of "Mutual Criticism." Mutual Criticism was established to assure the integrity of the community by conformity to Noyes' morality. The way in which Mutual Criticism worked was that a member, under communal control, was subjected to criticisms of either a committee or the whole community. The criticisms were usually directed toward the "member's bad traits (those thoughts or acts that detracted from family unity), and an individual could be put through a shameful, humiliating experience." (Thomas 163). Only Noyes himself would not go through this unless he decided to, because he felt that a group should not criticize their leader (Thomas 163). In the area of government of the Oneida Community there were "twenty-one standing committees and forty-eight administrative departments. This organization covered every conceivable activity and interest from hair-cutting and dentistry to education and silk- manufacture." (Holloway 190-191). The Oneida Community had no definite rules restricting a member's time of rising in the morning for work, but they had very few problems with people taking advantage of it. Also at Oneida, the women had equality with the men and served on these committees and shared in all activities (Holloway 190-191). In 1849, a small branch community started at Brooklyn, and others followed "at Wallingford, Newark, Putney, Cambridge, and Manlius'. But in 1855, some of these communities were abandoned so that a concentration of members would take place at Oneida and Wallingford." (Holloway 187-188). By this time, "relative tranquility had been achieved and almost all the theories and practices that would make Oneida one of the most distinctive of all American ventures in religious and social reorganization had been at least provisionally established." (Foster 74). The Oneida Community never did become very large. In January of 1849 the community had 87 members; 172 members by February of 1850, and by February of 1851 the number rose to approximately 205 members (Foster 103). The records show that in 1875 there were 298 members, and by 1878, the beginning year of the breakup, there were 306 members (Holloway 187). From the original 87 members at Oneida in 1849, the totals from that year on were group totals from all of the communities combined (Foster 103). Over the years from 1849 to 1879, "the community remained true to its original ideals" (Hudson 188). Problems started to occur in 1876 when Noyes tried to hand over leadership to his son, Dr. Theodore Noyes, who was an agnostic. Not only was the fact that he was an agnostic bad enough, but he ran the community with a tight fist which was resented by the people. It got so bad that John Humphrey Noyes himself had to come back from Wallingford where he was living to put things back in order. By then it was too late, factions within the community had already formed, some even with the opposition on the outside (Holloway 194). And then in 1879, due to the opposition and hostility from the surrounding communities, Noyes, who had already withdrawn from active leadership, felt compelled to abandon the system of Complex Marriage (Askew/Spellman 111). Even though Noyes wanted to keep the community together after this, some living married and others celibate (not preferred), problems occurred. Many of the members quickly got married, but since Complex Marriage was such an integrated part of their lives, the community could not settle down to their normal style of living. In 1880, a committee was appointed "to consider the advisability of re-organizing upon a joint-stock basis." In January of 1881 the joint-stock company, called the "Oneida Community, Limited," was set up (Holloway 194-195) and the Oneida Community was abandoned. WORSHIP: Noyes did not see the necessity of observing the Sabbath (Whitworth 104). They did have a Sunday chapel meeting in which outsiders were allowed in. After work in the evening they would sing and pray and be taught such languages as Hebrew, Greek and Latin (Holloway 183). Not much else is written on the topic. DOCTRINES: (1) COMPLEX MARRIAGE - This is where every man and every woman is married to each other. They could engage in sexual intercourse, but could not be attached to each other as stated earlier. (2) MALE CONTINENCE - This was a form of birth control where during and after sexual intercourse the man could not ejaculate. (3) ASCENDING FELLOWSHIP - This is where the young virgins in the community were brought into the practice of Complex Marriage. The older godly members who were in a special group and were called Central Members would pick a virgin to be spiritually responsible for. This took place when the young people were about fourteen years old. (4) MUTUAL CRITICISM - In Mutual Criticism, each member of the community that was being reprimanded was taken in front of either a committee or sometimes the whole community to be criticized for their action. (5) CONFESSION - The members of the community, according to Noyes, were sinless after conversion, so no confession would be needed. (6) REGENERATION - That Christ's death was not for the sins of man, but was the first blow to Satan. But that by believing in the death of Christ, one was released from sin, because Christ destroyed the central cause of sin. By believing then, one is regenerated (Whitworth 101-102). (7) SEPARATION - The members did separate into a community, but their main separation was to be a sexual one. (8) REVELATION - Noyes never said that he received special revelation, though he did have some twisted interpretations. Noyes once wrote an article in "The Berean" and emphasized the credibility of scripture and denounced those who denied the validity and relevance of scripture (Whitworth 98). (8) EQUALITY OF THE SEXES - The Oneida Community believed in equality of the sexes as stated earlier. (9) MILLENNIAL KINGDOM - That the Millennial Kingdom had been introduced in A.D. 70 at which time Noyes thought Christ had made His Second Coming (Hudson 186). (NOTE: Doctrines listed above without references are common knowledge) BIBLIOGRAPHY Andrews, Edward Deming. The Gift to be Simple. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1940. Andrews, Edward Deming. The People Called Shakers. New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1963. Andrews, Edward Deming and Faith Andrews. Work and Worship. Greenwich: New York Graphic Society, Ltd., 1974. Askew, Thomas A. and Peter W. Spellman. The Churches and the American Experience. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1984. Ferguson, Charles W. The New Books of Revelations. Garden City: Doubleday, Doran and Co., Inc., 1928. Foster, Lawrence. Religion and Sexuality. New York: Oxford University Press, 1981. Gonzalez, Justo L. The Story of Christianity. Vol. 2 San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1984. Holloway, Mark. Heavens on Earth. New York: Liberty Publishers, 1951. Hudson, Winthrop S. Religion in America 3rd Ed. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1981. Morse, Flo. The Shakers and the World's People. New York: Dodd, Mead & Company, 1980. Muncy, Raymond Lee. Sex and Marriage in Utopian Communities: 19th Century America. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1973. Neal, Julia. By Their Fruits. Philadelphia: Porcupine Press, 1975. Noyes, Pierrepont. My Father's House: An Oneida Boyhood. Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1966. Robertson, Constance Noyes. Oneida Community: The Breakup, 1876-1881. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1972. Sasson, Diane. The Shaker Spiritual Narrative. Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1983. Sprigg, June. By Shaker Hands. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 1975. Stine, Jeanne. Telephone Interview. September 25, 1985. Thomas, Robert David. The Man Who Would Be Perfect. University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc., 1977. Whitworth, John McKelvie. God's Blueprints. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1975. Wisbey, Herbert A., Jr. "Noyes, John Humphrey." Encyclopedia International. 1967 ed.


E-Mail Fredric L. Rice / The Skeptic Tank