“On a hill located in the city of Boston resides, infrequently, a man who once said he was God. The people who live on that hill, along with others who have come and gone, believe him.”
I’ve been getting interested in weird cults and dictators. Maybe it was being in Los Angeles for a decade, but I have a natural distrust of people; especially those who claim so much and have little results to show for it, or anyone who has a “following” and appear very charming while making promises etc. I firmly believe most people are full of shit unless they can prove me wrong. Someone at my work tried to recruit me into Quixar (aka Amway) not too long ago.
So, I’ve been reading a lot about Mel Lyman, also known as Woody Guthrie on LSD .
His story is too much to tell here, but he was a well educated folk musician and bad ass harmonica player who pretended to be an Appalachian to add to the authenticity of his persona. He wound up hanging around the folk scene in Cambridge MA. After recently seeing the Gram Parsons documentary, I’m pretty certain he may have been one of many people hanging out at the time when he studied at Harvard. Mel Lyman got in with the Leary and LSD crowd and it changed his whole world. This is where he went off his rocker, proclaiming himself the most perfect man on earth and sometimes a God. He wrote an autobiography even titled: “Autobiography of a World Savior”.
Eventually he gained a cult like following, and his teachings were about hard work, American values, pain as a path to enlightenment, and of course taking TONS of acid.
He is also known for his performance at the Newport Folk Fest, going on after Bob Dylan — later denouncing him as a traitor to the folk movement — and for gaining control of the magazine Avatar with his commune (cult to some) the Lyman Family. This all eventually led to many TV appearances, guest recordings and radio shows. While his Lyman Family commune lived together in a house in Boston, they were not hippies — in fact, they hated hippies. The main focus was the American values of hard work and the mythology or ethics surrounding that idea; most of his followers besies being musicians were skilled tradesmen, carpenters, engineers and so forth. At times he would have them spend months planning some new venture, creating projects for their media takeover, constructing structures and various additions to the communal house—only to have him order it be torn down or the project abandoned: a lesson that loss is part of life, and that life can be complete shit.
It is said that he died in 1978, but many still think he is alive and in hiding somewhere still. In all these years, unlike most communes and various cults, no one who has ever been part of his life or the Lyman Family have ever really abandoned him, stopped believing, or denounced him. He is one of the few cult leaders I’ve come across that has never had a suit filed against him, sexual assault investigation, or in general anyone speak bad about him even years later after his supposed death.