What Is a Sex Cult?

by helenzuman in General

If you google the term “sex cult,” you’ll find plenty of supposed examples—including, most notably, NXIVM, the Rajneeshees (profiled in Wild, Wild Country), and the Children of God. What you won’t find is a definition. No one—not even Wikipedia, or the Urban Dictionary*, or dictionary.com—seems to know what it means. Is it a cult whose […]

Can I Trust You with My Teeth?

by helenzuman in General

About seven and a half weeks ago—the day I discovered that Vice UK’s ten-minute video about my Zendik story was on its way to going viral—I started feeling intense pain in my teeth. Checking my trusty Prescription for Nutritional Healing for an entry on toothache, I found only an entry on tooth decay: according to author […]

A Word That Signals Warning

by helenzuman in Cults, General

This year, the Communal Studies Association awarded Mating in Captivity the 2020 Timothy Miller Outstanding Book Award—and sent me a beautiful wooden plaque, handcrafted in Amana, Iowa, which now hangs to the left of my desk on my (wooden) studio wall. In addition, they asked me to record an acceptance speech, to be aired at their […]

Top Ten Cult Books

by helenzuman in Top Ten Cult Books

During my twelve-year quest to complete and publish Mating in Captivity—my memoir of five years, post-Harvard, in a cult with a radical take on sex and relationships—I read many, many cult memoirs. Plus a number of cult-related self-help and narrative non-fiction works and a few cult novels. Nowadays, I still read cult books—just not as […]

How the Medicine Wheel Kitchen Restored My Faith in Community

by helenzuman in General

More than four years ago, when I first stepped into the Medicine Wheel kitchen, at Earthaven Ecovillage (in Black Mountain, North Carolina, USA), I was not feeling bullish about community. I’d tried that, right? At Zendik. (Yes, Zendik was a cult—but I’d found it in The Communities Directory!) And it hadn’t gone so well. No, I […]

A Message for the Harvard Class of 2020

by helenzuman in General

More than twenty years ago, as I was nearing graduation, I instigated a protest against Harvard’s commencement speaker, then Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. Not because I vehemently opposed his politics, or anything specific he’d done, but because he was a banker. Who I expected would bore the hell out of me with some sold-out […]

On Villaging: World Made by Hand

by helenzuman in General

In James Howard Kunstler’s 2008 novel, World Made by Hand, the people of the Hudson Valley are struggling: vast numbers have died of influenza; others have succumbed to encephalitis; still others have left Union Grove (a fictitious town in Kunstler’s own Washington County) in search of something better, and—in the absence of telephone, postal, or […]

If COVID Could Talk…

by helenzuman in General

Hey, humans—how’s it going? Oh, right. Badly. And you blame it on me. It’s true, I am a nasty little fucker (I had to be, to fight my way out of the bat world and into yours). And, yeah, I would love to destroy your way of life. But I’m not actually out to get you. […]

Quantum Divining with Brandon Dey

by helenzuman in General

Undercurrents Episode #3 (5 February 2020): Quantum Divining with Brandon Dey If you’ve ever dabbled in metaphysics, you’ve probably heard someone say, “You already know everything you need to know; the answers lie within.” And you may have replied, if only silently, “Great. Thanks. Now how do I get them out?” In this episode of […]

On Villaging: “Develop”? Try “Monetize”!

by helenzuman in General

[This is my January column for Livelihood magazine, which recently appeared in print. Enjoy!] As soon as I heard about Jenny Odell’s new book, How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy (Melville House 2019), I put it on hold at the library—only to find that I would have to wait in an unusually long line. Apparently, […]