Lafayette Charitable Group Life Thrives

Mackenzie Lee

During the 1960s communal living was a popular but short-lived fad. With communal living comes decisions that need to made by the group as a whole. This made keeping communes happy and together difficult. But in the late 1960s Vic Baranco was asked to create a communal living lifestyle that would last.

“Vic was this really dynamic businessman who built this lifestyle in response to a request,” said Sugar*, Morehouse resident and Vic’s daughter.

The lifestyle evolved over the past 40 years, and the leadership changed as well. Vic died in 2002, leaving Morehouse to his wife Cindy Baranco.

“It’s sweeter, softer, nicer to be led by a woman,” said Sugar.

The Morehouse philosophies were created by Vic in stages of self discovery. The “Flash of Perfection”, a founding principle of the Morehouse beliefs, is an idea that everything is perfect. Vic set out to find the root of every good and bad thing that happened in his life.

“He made his life, every good and bad thing,” said Jill, Morehouse resident of five years. “Every bad thing that happened to him could be traced back to a decision he made in his life.”

The “Flash of Perfection” also said that perfection includes the potential for change. When becoming a member of the Morehouse one must take a class called Presentation. This class is around three hours long and is designed for the students to challenge professors that things in the world or themselves are not perfect and the professors tell the students how the things they are arguing are in fact perfect. The Morehouse symbol to the right stands for the group’s idea of perfection. Several of the Morehouse residents wear necklaces with the symbol.

The Lafayette Morehouse was also at one time a recognized university, the More University. In 1977, classes about communication and sensuality were being taught at the Morehouse.

“We had the qualifications and we went for it,” said Sugar.

More University had a boxing team, a cheerleading team and a purple turkey mascot.

However, in 1997 the qualifications to be a university changed and the More University was no longer recognized as a university. Nevertheless, many of the courses offered at the time are still offered today.

The Morehouse has its own internal government system. The One-No-Vote is aimed at giving everyone in the community an equal say in decisions that affect them. The system works by having the group vote on a proposal. People can debate the proposal all they want, but it only takes one “no” vote to kill the issue. The proposal may never be brought to the table again, not even after the person who said “no” passes away or leaves the Morehouse.

Where to put the washer and dryer was a decision that took a couple of years because the Morehouse residents wanted everyone to be in agreement.

“You don’t want a disgruntled minority,” said Michael, Morehouse resident.

Mark Groups are an important and enjoyed part of the Morehouse. They are two- or three-hour long events at someone’s house where three structured games about communication are played. The games are about giving and receiving attention.

“You learn a lot about people without prying,” said Michael. “It’s a dynamic evening that is a lot of fun. I met my wife at a Mark Group.”

While living at the Morehouse there is an ongoing course, the More Socratic Dialogue. It is the everyday learning about pleasurable living. The idea behind the More Socratic Dialogue is, “Fun is the goal, love is the way.”

Many rumors about the Lafayette Morehouse are spread, mainly throughout high school students. The group is often visited by unwelcome and mean high school students who try to sneak onto the property and sometimes harass the residents.

“When I went there one time I expected to see purple buildings, purple cars and naked people,” said an anonymous Miramonte student who admits to sneaking onto the Morehouse property numerous times. “I thought there would be bonfires and tribal sex music. But there was a bodyguard guy and we ran away because it was scary.”

“We don’t advertise or look for people to join,” said Sugar.

Although the Morehouse is said to be a cult, there are numerous courses and an evaluation course that is mandatory to be accepted into the group, so joining the group isn’t as simple as just walking in the door. Morehouse residents can be kicked out or leave when they please.

“I would leave if I could find a place that is more fun,” said Michael.

The Morehouse continues to deny any cult actions within their group.

“We don’t make anyone drink the ‘kool aid,’” said Sugar.

The Morehouse also gives back to the outside community through their charity, Turn on America. They go to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s and take the food that is taken off the shelves and give it away to people in need.

The Morehouse is also looking to make some changes to their property.

“We have not taken as great care of our houses as we could have,” said Jill. “It is our biggest communal goal to fix it up.”

*Last names withheld upon request