Last month, The New Yorker ran a piece that considered some recent works that look at some of the 19th century utopian movements that took hold in the United States and the actual functioning communities that they inspired. This includes the Oneida Community who’s teachings were studied by sexual reformer/mystic Ida Craddock (posthumously inducted into O.T.O.’s Order of the Eagle). Early in the following century, Aleister Crowley would establish the Abbey Of Thelema which ran on some of the same principles as these earlier communities. One could make the case the more overtly occult societies of the late 19th century and early 20th century had roots in these earlier organizations. In part the article states:
“Oneida, in central New York, was one of the most prominent, and promising, of these communities. It was founded in 1848 by a mercurial Vermont-based preacher named John Humphrey Noyes, whose followers pooled their resources and bought a hundred and sixty acres of land on the Oneida Reserve, named for a local Indian tribe. They set about realizing Noyes’s vision of ‘Bible Communism,’ believing that Christ had already made his Second Coming (‘like a thief in the night,’ as the Bible puts it), and that humans were thus living free of sin, with the responsibility to create a perfect world.
“The pursuit of Perfectionism, as the doctrine was called, led to a number of unorthodox practices, notably ‘complex marriage’ and ‘sexual communism,’ which were essentially coinages for radical polyamory and free love. (Utopia is very good at rebranding existing human behaviors.) Underlying Oneida’s quirky sexual norms was, in fact, a set of deeply progressive beliefs in collective ownership and equality, notably for women.
“Oneida was sustained by a robust communal economy, built around the manufacture of animal traps and silverware. Just as Noyes and his followers opposed any form of private property in this economy, so they were against the ownership of people, particularly in the form of marriage (which they saw as a means of patriarchal control) and slavery. In an 1850 Oneidan pamphlet titled ‘Slavery and Marriage: A Dialogue,’ one character argues that each was an ‘arbitrary institution and contrary to natural liberty.’ Women in Oneida were free to choose lovers and jobs (e.g., as carpenters) in a manner that was elsewhere shut off to them. Noyes wasn’t exactly a feminist, but he helped create an environment that was among the most emancipatory for women.”
read the entire article here: