History of Victor Baranco and the Lafayette Morehouse
The Lafayette Morehouse is an intentional community founded in 1968 by Victor “Vic” Baranco (1934-2002) and his first wife, Susie. When Baranco died in 2002, leadership of the community passed on to his second wife, Cindy Baranco.
The Morehouse concept became very popular in the 1970s, where reportedly over 70 Morehouses sprung up and Vic was called the “the Colonel Sanders of communes”. Currently the main campus is in Lafayette California, where about 60 people live, with houses in Oahu Hawaii (where Cindy resides), Oakland, and Atlanta.
Vic developed a curriculum around group living, communication, sensuality, and man-woman relationships, and created concepts and practices that are (to my mind) as powerful and relevant today as they were 40 years ago. Much of this curriculum is still taught at the Lafayette Morehouse and occasionally in New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia. These concepts have to do with the inherent perfection of human beings, the importance of pleasure goals in living a full life, the nature of effective communication, the nature of man-woman relationships (which includes many practical aspects on learning how to please your partner and win with the opposite sex), effective governance structures for communal living (the “One No Vote”), and expansion of orgasmic potential for both men and women. Vic had many students who later became well-known using his materials (and/or derivations). Former students include Bob and Leah Schwartz (authors of “The One Hour Orgasm”), Regena Thomashauer (founder of “Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts”), Patricia Taylor (author of “Expanded Orgasm”), The Welcomed Consensus (an intentional community in San Francisco), Nicole Daedone (founder of the OneTaste communities in San Francisco and New York), and Steve and Vera Bodansky (authors of many books including Extended massive orgasm). Vic was a contemporary of and knew Werner Erhard and many other figures in the consciousness development movements of the sixties and seventies. He participated in CIA-sponsored LSD experiments (some of which were chronicled by Tom Wolfe in The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test). Vic coined many words that came into common usage including the “do-date” (a sexual practice where both partners focus all their attention on one partners’ pleasure) and “win-win.” The “do-date” technique is mentioned in Timothy Ferris’ Four Hour Body, and is also the basis of Nicole Daedone’s “Orgasmic Meditation” (OM) practice. Nicole and OneTaste are quite popular with branches in many American cities and a few abroad.
Controversy around Victor Baranco
Vic was and remains an extremely controversial figure, which seems to have been partly due to suspicions over his sexual research at a time where it was not allowed to say “vagina” in the public media, partly due to the unusual nature of the lifestyle experiment him and his group were conducting, and partly out of his own litigiousness (he was involved in many lawsuits, mostly libel suits he originated, all of which he lost). He was at times a bit heavy-handed with his students, as was customary for group leaders at that time. There was also a lot of controversy surrounding More University, which was for over 15 years a California accredited institution granting doctoral degrees in sensuality and other topics. Lastly, Baranco got into trouble with the neighbors and the municipality over his decision to run a food pantry and homeless shelter at one of the Morehouse locations in Oakland, California. It is probable that he did not handle the neighbors reactions very well, as the shelter eventually shut-down. Food gleaning and re-distribution (i.e. surplus food recovery) continues to be at the center of Morehouse lifestyle, to this day.
Despite all allegations, Baranco was a person with a rare insight into human character, who had an ability to call people on their “shit” very accurately in a way that one immediately got the truth of; and he had a tremendous zest for life and ability to enjoy himself under all circumstances, despite increasing physical pains and disabilities as he got older. The personal impact he has had on many people’s lives is huge (Oceana’s story below being particularly inspiring), and the lifestyle that he created is still very much alive 10 years after his death.
There is a thread in Rick Ross’s anti-cult forum about Baranco, and some of his students including Nicole Daedone. Google it if you want, I cannot stomach to share the link. The thread is a mixture of paranoia, utter disregard for both objective reporting and ordinary courtesy, and unconscious / unhealed hurt. Rick Ross a thrice-convicted felon (twice for robbery and once for kidnapping), fanatic anti-cult activist, whom most anti-cult experts have officially dissociated from due to his methods and lack of intellectual integrity (see Wikipedia article and other related links here and here). His “forum” (of which a great deal is written by himself under various pseudonyms) paints Alcoholics Anonymous, the Catholic church, and Werner Erhard in the same brush as it paints Baranco and his students. As such, Ross’s site misses the boat in terms of its original, and laudable purpose, which is informing the public about authentic cult leaders (and they most certainly do exist). Werner Erhard, for example, has been cleared of all wrong-doing after it was proven that L. Ron Hubbard, who was a true cult leader, gave Erhard’s daughter a million dollar book advance to frame her father (she subsequently recanted).
I do however want to respond to one thing on the Rick Ross site, the alleged link between Baranco and Charles Manson, which is narrated in David Dalton’s book “Mindfuckers”. The book is very poor journalism. Charles Manson was a psychotic criminal who impersonated as a guru. Victor Baranco was a working-class, mixed-race thug (son of musicians, his first career was a drug-money collector), who went straight, had an enlightenment (recounted here) and then played at being a guru, mostly successfully, and according to the nature of the era. These days, such behavior would not fly, but it still would not qualify as “cult” behaviour. There is a set of characteristics that identify cults that would include ex-communication for leaving, financial coercion, cutting members off from family, etc, none of which has ever been practiced at Morehouse. Baranco has impacted thousands of people for the better, and his ideas on man/woman have created very many happy couples. He has also inspired a generation of sexual educators, whose long list is posted above. That list includes myself, and proud to be.
For more information see:
- Lafayette Morehouse website
- Wikipedia article on Morehouse
- A magnificent obsession , by Victor Baranco
- Extended Massive Life: A True Love story and more: Autobiography of Steve and Vera Bodansky, long-time students of Vic’s and authors of 4 popular sex books (mentioned above). This is the most complete history of Morehouse, since Vic wrote very little, and in fact did not seek public exposure or marketing (except through Mark groups and word-of-mouth). Vera was involved from the very beginning (1969) while Steve was there from about 1980 until they left in early 90′s. A very good read.
- A Tale of Two Men by Oceana, a student of Vic’s