The missed connection with the Lafayette Morehouse (1986-1988)

Note: this article is part of my memoir, Broke, Single, Crazy and Old.

Relating to “bad sex,” another interesting fact. Unbeknownst to me at the time, a mere 20-minute drive from where I lived in Berkeley, through the Caldecott tunnel into a town called Lafayette, was one of the most advanced man/woman education and sexual research centers that the world has ever seen. It was called the Lafayette Morehouse and was founded by a man called Victor Baranco, who in the mid-80’s (the time I was in California) was in his prime; and the Lafayette Morehouse at the time was a wild, wild place.

Baranco’s story is unusual. He was a street-thug who had gone straight, the son of well-known musicians who lived in Oakland, a black father and a Jewish mother. After going straight, he became a successful appliance salesman, and then courted a popular and wealthy socialite, his first wife Susie. He had participated in CIA-sponsored LSD experiments and had discovered in himself a kind of gift for therapy and for human transformation, based on his idea of “perfection,” which I will describe later. He had also discovered a sexual gift of sorts, as Susie was frigid. They had gone to see various doctors and psychiatrists about Susie’s condition, and been told that there was nothing to do about it. But Baranco had refused to quit, and in the end Susie became so orgasmic that she was able to do the three-hour orgasm demos for which Baranco ultimately became famous. From these gifts and these teachings, Baranco had bought a house and started a commune in Oakland, the Oakland Morehouse; and later had been donated a fairly large tract of land in Lafayette California, about 17 acres of what would later become prime real-estate. The Oakland and then Lafayette Morehouse have been running continuously since 1969, even though Baranco died in 2002. Over the years, the Lafayette Morehouse population has varied between 60 and 150. Baranco was not especially interested in getting rich or becoming a guru; he was just looking for “a good gig”. When he started his second commune, the Lafayette Morehouse, which ended up having about a dozen houses, Baranco was quite prepared, in his own words, to “coast” for the rest of his life. He wasn’t exactly ambitious.

But then Baranco had a self-reported “thunderbolt” experience with a young woman in the swimming pool of the Lafayette Morehouse, which transformed him irrevocably. Her name was Cindy and she became his second wife, the object of his adoration and the center of his life for all of his remaining years. Baranco’s first wife Susie continued hanging around, took other lovers, and is a respected figure in Morehouse to this day. I had a slow-dance with Susie, once, in Lafayette about 2006, and she was still sexy then, 30 years later.

For more information about Baranco, google my article “Lafayette Morehouse History,” and then follow the links in the article in which Baranco tells of his “thunderbolt” experience with Cindy, what it did for him, and how he came to start Morehouse.

There are more Morehouse stories in Steve Bodansky’s fascinating memoir of those years, Extended Massive Life: A Love Story (the only biography that covers Morehouse, as far as I know, as Baranco wrote almost nothing). Baranco was a man/woman and sexual education pioneer, and he has had an enormous influence in sexual education in this country. His students are now much more famous than him. They include Bob & Leah Schwartz in The One Hour Orgasm; Steve and Vera Bodansky in Extended Massive Orgasm and other books; Patricia Taylor in Expanded Orgasm; Nicole Daedone in Slow Sex: The Art and Craft of the Female Orgasm, and many others. Even Tim Ferriss (of 4-Hour Workweek fame, who now produces one of the most popular podcasts on the internet), has visited the Lafayette Morehouse and speaks of it in his 4-Hour Body book. Baranco had little interest in self-promotion or even in making money, he mostly wanted to make women happy. He is one of the foundational teachers in my own system and as such has a prominent place in my book, As Lovers Do. He was the first man that I am aware of to say publicly that the best and most powerful role for the masculine is to serve the feminine (“do what the woman wants”). That surrender is as much a masculine virtue as a feminine one; indeed, that surrender is essential for love.

Morehouse teachings and Morehouse lifestyle are especially relevant to me because my experiences of therapy during my time in California were, essentially, a failure. Those experiences just increased my despair, because I was giving it my best, spending all my money, but not having any meaningful success. I was not looking exactly to “find myself,” clear childhood traumas, discover the great existential truths of the human condition, or leave my mark on the world. I was looking for a fun, all-immersive environment where I could hang-out with interesting people, men and women, and learn about love and sex. The Lafayette Morehouse was the answer to my condition at the time, but I did not engage with them until many years later, through Rebekah who was then living in the Yonkers Morehouse in New York (I moved in after 3 dates with her and we became lovers). Morehouse made a man out of me later, and so I wonder what would have happened, had I engaged with them way back then.

I do half-remember a so-called “Mark Group” which I attended when I was in California. Mark Groups are an early form of Authentic Relating, a group conversation practice or type of  intimacy game; but that Mark Group felt too chaotic, too sexual and too “hard”. They don’t always treat you gently in Mark Groups, which is unfortunate because the underlying philosophy is pure gold. It’s about love and connection and fun, and about making women happy, based on the underlying notion of “perfection”.

The idea of “perfection” is that we always attract what we unconsciously want and need for our own growth and development, especially in sexual relationships, because “human beings want to experience the full range of human emotions” [Baranco]. Meaning that we are attracted to both the light and the dark. As such, Morehouse philosophy is an early form of Esther Hicks’ “Law of Attraction” (or LOA), and yet, arguably, much deeper. LOA can be criticized for focusing mostly on the good and our ability to attract the good. LOA is probably correct; but an over-focus on attracting the good, versus just accepting and making peace with “what is so,” can become a neurosis. The root contexts of Morehouse philosophy and LOA are the same, however: it’s about taking 100% responsibility for the results that you generate. I personally can’t (or won’t) believe that these ideas are “true” in a universal way (shit happens, cancer cells find a home, racism and genocide exist, etc); but in the inter-personal realm, I think it is true. I believe that all my relationships happened for a reason, and maybe were even engineered by Spirit. If this is superstition, so be it. I don’t mind holding superstitions that make me happier, more effective, and more loving.

Morehouse is also about creating exceptional sex, with many very practical and effective tools for getting there, such as the “do-date,” which is a (mostly) man-on-woman clitoral massage. They teach a range of courses on sexuality, including the awkwardly named “Mutual Pleasurable Stimulation of the Human Nervous System Intensive,” better known as “the 69 course”. Rebekah and I took this course in Hawaii, and it was wonderful. Morehouse courses haven’t changed in 40 years, so I am not sure I would still recommend them, exactly; but I love the community still. There are only four remaining Morehouse communes: in Lafayette California (where Cindy Baranco currently resides); in Oakland; in Atlanta; and in Hawaii. The New York and then Yonkers Morehouse, where Rebekah and I lived for 3 years, shutdown in approximately 2013. Baranco is virtually unknown; but these teachings are as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.

Anyway: I left that Mark Group in California and never went back. It’s not a cult as some people claim, Baranco had no interest in running a cult, he just wanted to make women happy. There was never any kind of financial coercion, for instance; although people did pay big money for the so-called “Expansion of Sexual Potential Course” (or “ESP”), which became one of their big money-makers. Having done the ESP was something of a badge of honor in Morehouse, a status symbol. All such groups have cult-like traits, even if they don’t meet the official requirement for being a “cult”. Rebekah and I could not afford the ESP, but we did give them quite a bit of money during the years we were living in the Yonkers Morehouse. Later in Philadelphia we produced a course for them.

The Oakland Morehouse is about a mile from where I ended up living in Oakland, in my third and final year in California. But I never knew this, and I didn’t know anyone in the community. A personal introduction would have made a big difference. In those years of hopelessness and despair I was just batting wildly at anyone and anything that looked like it had the potential to end my pain. I wasn’t always able – I lacked the time and money and emotional resources – to go deep. Also, those were still the “wild west” days of therapy and personal development. The therapists themselves did not know what they were doing, and there were some pretty bad therapists. The worst, however, were the medically-trained psychiatrists. They were simply awful, all of them. They would take long case histories and then show zero empathy and judge you. It wasn’t until many years later that I found a psychiatrist whom I could respect. The mental-health profession has been, since then, utterly transformed. Really bad therapists and psychiatrists are now rare. There is no longer any excuse to not seek mental-health treatment, other than the cost.

I would not connect with the Lafayette Morehouse group again until 2004, the year that I met Rebekah and moved into the Morehouse in Yonkers, New York. Rebekah and I then studied with them intensively for three years, spending time and taking courses both in Lafayette and in their place in Hawaii. By then Baranco was dead. We then modeled their ideas and even extended them in different ways through the intentional community that we founded in Philadelphia and ran quite successfully for three years, from 2007 to 2009.

Baranco and Morehouse are not political, despite the enormous power of Baranco’s ideas for social change, for the transformation of human society. The logical extension of Baranco’s ideas is the end of patriarchy, which will also, presumably, lead to the end of all wars, since few women will agree to send their sons and daughters off to war, especially the mostly stupid and unnecessary wars of the last half of the 20th century. But ending patriarchy was not on the agenda of Victor Baranco or the Lafayette Morehouse, at least not directly. They were hedonists and sought mostly to have a good time in their little world. Their principal interest was in having better sex. This is not a criticism, exactly (that they were socially and politically unaware): figuring out how men and women can get along, how we can have more love and more fun in our lives, and better sex, is a lifetime of work. What they accomplished is a triumph. They didn’t even care much for making money; they only taught and recruited to the extent necessary to fund the party, which they hoped to return to as soon as possible – and indeed all their courses are designed as some kind of party. Vic’s most famous saying is “enlightenment is when you realize that what was planned was a party”.

It’s very difficult to know exactly what God had in mind when He made us, but I think He would agree that a party is a good thing. As such, I completely agree with Baranco. Of course, God throws many obstacles in our way, but this is for our pleasure and growth, so that we can figure out for ourselves the quickest way back to the party. Life would be boring otherwise.

But in any case, since Baranco and Lafayette Morehouse appear to be either unaware or uninterested in the social implications of their ideas, the job of promoting these ideas to a larger audience has fallen on to my shoulders; as well as the job of integrating these powerful ideas into a more modern context. This is my life’s work.

I pick-up this topic again later on, in my lecture on sexual polarity.