Wednesday, January 22, 2014
April 2, 1979, People Magazine, Steve Allen's Son Brian Saw God on An Acid Trip: It Turned Him into Logic Israel, by Cheryl McCall,
September 27, 2009, The Herald [Everett, WA] New book tells all sides of the Israel family's saga, by Julie Muhlstein, Herald Columnist,
In 1968, the year after the Summer of Love, Paul Erdmann and a girlfriend moved into a rented house on Seattle's Queen Anne Hill. They put up a sign: "All those who want to believe in Jesus Christ are welcome."
So began the Love Israel Family. In the 1980s, the counterculture religious group left the city. Members migrated to Arlington, where land they'd been using for retreats became their ranch home. Living in yurts and other dwellings, members shared work and family duties. They raised vegetables and children. In time, their numbers grew to more than 300.
They adopted the last name Israel, as Erdmann had, and took first names based on various virtues, among them Confidence, Compassion and Serious.
By the 1990s, the group was hosting thousands of visitors at its annual Garlic Festival, a party with homegrown food, music and the hippie vibe of a 1960s event. The Israel family ran the Bistro, an
Arlington restaurant. Children with the last name Israel grew up to play on Arlington schools' sports teams and attend senior proms.
Charles P. LeWarne was an observer and visitor, but never part of the family. While the group was getting its start on Queen Anne, he was a Meadowdale High School history teacher working on a doctoral degree
at the University of Washington. His dissertation became a book, "Utopias on Puget Sound, 1885-1915." LeWarne also is author of "Washington State," a history textbook.
"I was pretty conventional and still am," said LeWarne, now 79.
With an expertise in early American communes, the Edmonds author turned his full attention to the group close to home. LeWarne's new book, "The Love Israel Family: Urban Commune, Rural Commune," has
just been published by the University of Washington Press.
"I was trying to write an objective history," he said last week. "They have been sensationalized. I did not want to do that, and did not want it to be fawning how wonderful they were. A historian tries to show all sides."He is pleased the publisher agreed to include an afterword, "The Love Family in Perspective," by Serious Israel, for years one of the group's key leaders. "He is obviously a very intelligent, thoughtful man, and very eloquent in his writing," LeWarne said.
Serious Israel now lives in northeast Washington, in an area called China Bend, LeWarne said. It's along the Columbia River near Northport. Many former members live there, and the family maintains property in the area.
Love Israel, the group's charismatic leader, now lives in Bothell, where the group renovated two homes. LeWarne visited Bothell last October for a 40th anniversary celebration of the group's founding.
What he saw there was that despite bitter disputes and departures in the 1980s, and despite the loss of the Arlington ranch after the Love Israel Family filed for bankruptcy in 2003, the family, former members and their children are a close-knit bunch.
"They get together," LeWarne said. "The young adults and their children were at this party, and there were little kids running around. It's an extended family."
Active in the scholarly Communal Studies Association, LeWarne sees in the Israel family similarities to other groups, yet one aspect makes them unique.
"Folks talk about the Shakers, the Oneida Community and New Harmony in the East and Midwest," he said. The book "is a recognition that we in the Pacific Northwest have a rich history as well."
He is intrigued that the Israel family was able to make the transition, after 15 years in Seattle, from an urban commune to country life. History has few other examples of that, he said.
At a reading last week at Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, LeWarne ended his talk by sharing three tenets the group uses as words to live by. In his afterword, Serious Israel used the same ending: "We are one. Love is the answer. Now is the time."
It was never perfect. LeWarne wrote about the group's financial and fairness issues, sometimes meager food rations and disputes with neighbors.
Still, he is impressed by the social experiment's longevity, and the lack of lasting rancor after so many years and changes.
"Even people who left in the very bitter break in the mid-1980s, people I talked to said that nevertheless it was a formative, influential part of my life. It helped to shape who I am," the author said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460, firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 2, 1979, People Magazine, Steve Allen's Son Brian Saw God on An Acid Trip: It Turned Him into Logic Israel, by Cheryl McCall,
I was really lucky in many ways. I grew up getting a very unusual look at society. My father always planned great vacations for us. I visited China and Russia, met Khrushchev and traveled all over Europe. I went to Vietnam during the war. By the time I was in college, I didn't know anything I could sincerely strive for.
If Brian Allen were still Brian Allen, he would have celebrated his 32nd birthday this month. Perhaps, as the son of Steve Allen, he would have followed his famous father into show business. He might have joined the Navy, as he once planned in high school, or become an artist. Brian did none of these things. Today, as an elder of the Church of Jesus Christ at Armageddon in Seattle, he has been reborn under the name Logic Israel. He no longer reckons his age in years ("Our spirits have existed since the Creation"), and has become a humorless refugee from conventional values. Heeding the teachings of his mentor, Love Israel (né Paul Erdman), he does not smoke or eat meat, own any clocks, watches or mirrors, read magazines or books (except the Bible), practice birth control or indulge in unauthorized sexual relationships.
Logic's family is both troubled and bewildered by his transformation. "What he has done is a rejection of all of us," says his brother, Steve Allen Jr., 34, now a doctor in Elmira, N.Y. "Maybe we weren't helping him enough." (Steve Jr. adds: "We both stood in our father's shadow, and it was a long one to climb away from because he was so good at so many things.") Brian, he says, gave little warning of his alienation. A cheerleader and a B-plus student in high school, he played off-key guitar and hung out with his brother. "My parents were separated when I was 6 and he was 3," Steve Jr. recalls, "so we grew up away from show business, in the San Fernando Valley. My mother remarried a couple of times, and we visited my dad during the summers. When Brian finished high school, he decided to join the service. But that was the start of the Vietnam war, so my father and I talked him into college."
Brian enrolled at little Yampa Valley College in Colorado but later transferred to California State at Hayward before dropping out of school and into Haight-Ashbury. There he encountered Erdman, a former real estate salesman. The two dropped acid together and then, to hear them tell it, saw God. "Our separation was over," says Logic, recalling the moment. "We had conquered fear of each other, conquered death. We felt joy and celebration."
He and Erdman rented a house and began to spread the word of their vision. Then, with the draft closing in, Brian decided to go back to school. "I made a real effort and I did good, but I didn't feel good about it," he says. He earned his degree and spent a year as a construction worker, but couldn't reconcile his way of life with his values. "I felt I had been touched by God, but I didn't know what to do," he explains. "I couldn't figure out how to live an unselfish life. I got down to eating just fruits and nuts, but then I thought, 'What right do I have to eat a plant?' And no matter what I did, I couldn't please anybody—my father, my brother, my boss or my friends. Finally I just had to take off."
Joining Erdman in Seattle, Brian quickly became one of the flock. "Then they came down to get his bank account and all his possessions," Steve Jr. remembers. "They didn't want his clothes—just what they could hock for cash." At first, says his brother, the Aliens were unable to contact Brian. Then in January 1972 police found two members dead in the church's sanctuary, their heads wrapped in plastic bags containing a chemical used in varnish remover. A church spokesman said the sniffing was part of a religious ceremony, and Brian's concerned father hurried north to Seattle. "My dad spent several days there and was convinced that people saw it as a mistake," says Steve Jr. "He felt that Brian was all right and reasonably sane." Logic says the sniffing has been abandoned and the only drug used is marijuana, in moderation.
Today he is one of about 300 members of the Church of Armageddon, each of whom has been named and baptized by Love Israel. As third in command of the sect (outranked only by Love and Serious Israel), Logic presides over one of the church's seven properties in Seattle, a tidy six-bedroom home that accommodates eight adults and five children. "There is a head of every house, but it's not imposed authority," says Logic. "We believe that everyone can live by love instead of by a bunch of laws."
The communards' freedom, however, is bounded on all sides by Love Israel. Even the most intimate personal decisions are made only with the leader's approval. "There is definitely no screwing around," says ex-member Carol Seckel. "You don't have sex with anybody unless it's sanctioned. Love decides when a man and woman are supposed to be together." In Logic's case, Love approved unions with both Simplicity Israel and a previous mate. Logic has fathered one child by each of them, and Simplicity is pregnant again. Marriage is out of the question, he says, "because we are all married to each other."
The church's reluctance to observe social conventions has led to numerous clashes with the law. The Israels do not have driver's licenses, and several have been arrested for driving without them. To complicate matters, they have refused to promise to appear in court on specified dates. ("God has told us to live in the present," explains Logic. "He doesn't want us scheduling our future.") Yet the group's reclusiveness is somewhat selective. They take advantage of a city ordinance that allows them 250,000 free gallons of water a month as a charitable organization, and have elected representatives to a neighborhood council. Logic has enrolled in a federally subsidized course in energy conservation.
Though they habitually rise before dawn, none of the Israels has a wage-paying job. "We live by faith mostly," says Logic, "from week to week." Fortunately, faith has provided abundantly. All who join the church must consign their property and possessions to Love, who serves as chief officer of the sect's holding company, Jesus Christ, Inc. In addition to its houses and a 240-acre ranch near Arlington, Wash., the church owns a 26-acre farm in eastern Washington, a ski retreat near the Canadian border, a converted minesweeper that serves as a fishing boat, a seven-passenger airplane and a mini-fleet of buses, vans and trucks. Logic, a skilled carpenter, oversees the church's construction crew, while other family members raise livestock or run the church's cannery, sawmill and lumbering operations. To defray the cost of making their own wine, they sell raw honey and organic grape juice.
The community's women, however, are relegated exclusively to housekeeping chores. "We're building sex stereotypes here, making sure that ladies are ladies and men are men," says Love. "We've eliminated the need for women's liberation by being righteous with each other." Church women bow whenever they enter a room occupied by a man, don't speak unless spoken to and serve the men first at all meals. Still, Logic's mate, Simplicity, seems as dedicated to the church as he is and answers no questions about her life before joining. "It's a point of honor that nobody here is going to dig into anyone's past," explains Logic. "We don't try to figure you out by what you used to be because that's not who you are anymore." Such a cutting of all bonds with the past, Steve Allen Jr. realizes, is more than a matter of ritual—it is his brother's way of saying goodbye. "I'm still upset," says Allen, "partly because I wonder what he's doing to himself, and partly because I'm one of the folks he left behind. He was a good friend—and it's always sad to lose a friend."
November 18 1998, The Falcon, Volume 83, Issue 53, [Seattle Pacific University] Isreal commune lives in 'oneness', Students explain history of group centered on family,
Last New Year's Day, when most people were making resolutions about going to the gym or quitting bad habits, Lovely Christina Israel made a bold decision about her name.
"My New Year's resolution was to have people start calling me by my real name, Lovely, instead of my middle name. It's my name. Christina is just my middle name, and it's what I was meant to be and should be called," SPU sophomore Lovely Israel said.
Sophomore Refinement Israel understands Lovely's conviction.
"I like my name, it's who I am, but explaining it to people over and over becomes very redundant. Most of the time I tell people I had hippie parents," Refinement said.
But Refinement's parents were not just part of a well-known hippie movement in the late '60s. They are a part of the Love Israel community; an Arlington, Wash. based commune of people with the same last name joined by their religious beliefs and dedication to family.
Member's first names, which are often biblical figures or virtues, come as part of the member's religious revelations.
"Together we make up God's personality, and we wanted to have names that reflected that," said Serious Israel, another member who lives at the commune in Arlington.
When a child is born into the community, many members have dreams or visions about the name that child should be given.
These visions or dreams are submitted secretly to Love Israel, founder of the commune and Lovely's father, who waits for the same name to be submitted more than once and that name is then chosen.
"When I was named, my mom wanted me to have the option of going by Lovely or by my middle name, Christina," Lovely said.
The Israel family owns many businesses, including a cafe and two restaurants in Arlington, Ken's Market on West McGraw Street, a construction company and an organic food stand at Pike Place Market downtown.
"We decided we did not want to give up control to any other employer. So we developed partnerships within our own community," Serious said.
Love Israel once drew as many as 500 followers during the '60s.
According to a Seattle Times article written in 1997, Love and his followers once conducted many of the liveliest parties on Queen Anne Hill. They often were seen wearing colorful robes, if anything at all, and refrained from cutting their hair.
In 1983, the family experienced a break up.
"Everybody grew up," Lovely said.
But in 1984, Lovely's father sought to rebuild the community.
Serious Israel became interested in the movement in 1970 after he "basically dropped out of the world."
"I began searching for a function. I wasn't deeply rooted in my Presbyterian family traditions and felt lost in life because of the lack of continuity it seemed to present," Serious said.
Serious remembered a sign that Love Israel had posted on his door reading, "Anyone who wants to believe in Jesus Christ is welcome." Love began opening up his home for people to meet and to live.
"Love was setting out to build a life around oneness. I became excited about the sense of acceptance that he and those around him gave to each other in a universal sense. He accepted me at my fundamental level and there was a fresh vitality in that sort of spiritual awakening," Serious said.
Love and those with him began to realize that their religious revelation of oneness required a lifestyle that permitted them to be together at all times.
"We decided we were going to stick together, no matter what," Serious said.
So the commune decided to move to a place where they could do just that.
The community moved to a 300-acre land plot in Arlington, Wash., 50 miles northeast of Seattle.
Because of zoning and land use codes, developing this plot of land into the place the Israels would like it to be, complete with more housing, has been an uphill battle.
"There have been a lot of legal issues we have had to deal with these past few years. We've learned that we must be wise about it or we'll learn things the hard way," Serious said.
The Israel community believes that Jesus Christ died for their sins. Along with their Christian traditions, they also celebrate Jewish rituals, such as Passover.
"We believe in the Bible. We also believe that everyone is connected and that everyone is family that is why we choose to live communally. I have so many friends that know me completely because of the way I was raised," Lovely said.
"We found the Bible to be true to our experiences. It became a witness for the reality," Serious said.
Though Lovely's father leads the worship service, anyone is allowed to speak during the service, when the community gathers in a large circle to sing their own traditional songs and pray every day except Sunday.
"Sunday is to literally be a day of rest," Serious said.
Today there are about 75 people who live at the Arlington commune, not all blood kin.
Many of the children, like Lovely and Refinement, attend local schools although home schooling is also a popular option within the commune. Both Lovely and Refinement attended public school in Arlington before coming to SPU. Bernadette, Luke and Perfection Israel are also students at SPU.
Lovely is studying to become a nurse practitioner, while Refinement is majoring in sociology.
Both believe in the things their family stands for and will most likely remain a part of the Israel community.
"A lot of SPU people have been judgmental of our background or lifestyle. Not one of our SPU friends has been out to Arlington with us. We want people to know that it's not a place they need to be afraid of," Lovely said.
"You have to experience things before you judge," Refinement said.
Anyone can become a part of the Israel religious commune and members are not restricted to living in Arlington.
Many people visit the Arlington site to become acquainted and informed about the religion, as well as the way of life.
"We are not in a growth mode right now," Serious said. "We are not into recruiting people, we just want to be available to people as Love was available to me more than 30 years ago. People will find us."