Dederich instills Containment


by paul Morantz
(c) Aprl 2011

The resulted in more group closeness and identification with Synanon.

In a year the long games became known as Dissipations, designed to dissipate the ego and created for purposes of indoctrination. A conductor, usually a Regent, equipped with blackboard and chalk, led 14 people in a 30 hour session and a second of 8 to 12 hours after a short sleep break. He focused the group on particular person, group or topic which routinely involved Synanon philosophy. He controlled the pace and interaction. Tapes of other Dissipations were often played.

The long games encouraged players to relive childhood experiences as Dederich had when he dropped acid. Feeling exhausted, cleansed, euphoric, transcending and loving, sometimes fatigued to the point of hallucinating, gamers were encouraged to trust in Dederich as their father figure, see him as the Savior and Synanon as the Way. The conductor would instill Synanon philosophy into deflated and weary participants. Dederich said, “I think of these extended games as powerful tools, like royal jelly to a bee, capable of producing a new breed of human beings with greatly expanded potentialities, both intellectual and emotional.”


There were two types of General Meetings where the entire house was gathered. One was for announcements of important news such as real estate purchases, new notions, new directions and reports from the legal battlefront. The other was for discipline and purges. They were to reinforce solidarity, purify and remind that Synanon was one family and that any slippage by anyone affected all and would not be tolerated. Such viruses were to be discovered and exterminated.

Members feared the purges that often resulted in a few expulsions. Dope fiends came with years of built-up guilt over their past lives and these General Meeting served as reminders and a cyclic cleansing of a dirty house. House crimes included too many engaged in negative talk about Synanon, too many not breaking game contracts, too much thievery, misuse of property and a general failure to do the job. Culprits were brought on stage–Spotlight— and humiliated before a mob-consciousness, the constitutes hoping the purge would end with just a few sacrificial lambs. The usual theme was that individuals were fouling the house and it would not be permitted. Such conduct threatened all their lives and Synanon. Finger pointing could reach a Salem, Massachusetts frenzy.

Long Games were played after these purge General Meetings with an intense violence as if each gamer could only prove loyalty by attacking others and by coping out to major wrongdoings down to the slightest impropriety imaginable, such as not returning a borrowed item or not paying proper respect to an elder. Game heavyweights were placed in each game as representatives of Synanon and exemplars of the proper behavior. They would guide the players, like a guilt-ridden herd, to do what was good for them and Synanon.

If the House was considered particularly dirty after these games the General Meeting would reassemble for another attack on the infectious disease. One or more culprits were brought forth and the audience was asked to name the punishment. The repeat of Kimball’s old cry of Break his legs was not acted upon, but demands of throw the bum out with only the shirt on his back or shave his head sometimes were. If still not satisfied, the Director turned the attack back on the assembled, calling them all cowards and hypocrites, as guilty as the rest. What Synanon called Free floating guilt and fear traveled the House causing mass cop-outs, both personal and on others. As each confessed to some form of insubordination, to injuring Synanon, each took a place on the stage with the original culprits until all were crowded together or the house was deemed once again clean. Older residents of which more was expected were given the harshest punishments, baldheads, signs, humiliating work details (janitor and kitchen scrubbing), job demotions and lost privileges. Each was told he or she had to earn their way back into the family each had betrayed. There was relief when it was over, an emotional elation replacing the terror. Sometimes post House Parties were held to celebrate the return to commitment, family, solidarity, peace and purpose. Those who did not survive the purge, either voluntarily split or were tossed out. Neither were missed. People more committed would come in their place and Synanon would grow stronger.


Of course drugs and alcohol remained the biggest taboo. “We cannot believe in the use of any kind of drug outside the realm of proper medical practice,” Dederich said. “As far as alcohol goes — — that great big standard American social lubricant — — we do not permit our people to use it in any form.” Synanon felt alcohol might activate the addicts proneness for addictive escape. Plus they could not make good role models if they were drunk. “We are more square than our square friends,” Dederich said. “If a square shows up drunk we kick him out. Even a big donor.”


Dederich was not only the charismatic leader, but the absolute leader. He could speak non-stop on any subject, buying time when necessary with phrases like “so on and so on” and “blah, blah, blah” while his mind raced to formulate the next analogy. Such as “Prejudice is like listening to the sound of one hand clapping.” In Synanon “Love has no color…Courage has no color.” He bragged he could take any side of an argument and win.

On Sundays, like a priest some long ago thought he should be, Dederich read Emerson to his followers. “I’m not a healer. I’m a teacher. An eccentric loud mouth doing his thing.” He relished his position. “I am considered a megalomaniac nut; of course, this is true,” he said of himself, “but I’m not so crazy.” He openly acknowledged that he put people on the board of directors he knew he could control and their position lasted only as long as he willed it. He enjoyed exercising his power telling tell people “no” just to condition them to his authority and he taught this technique to House Managers, Department Heads and Department assistants, all made up of long-time trained seals. Each was to promote, hire and fire. And to say no to a lot of requests. Dederich acknowledged sometimes he was arbitrary and unfair but said, “So what? Often things in life are unjust, unfair. You have to accept them. To take the punches and grow strong from the experience.”

Dederich was Synanon’s ultimate role model. In his office on the wall was a reminder he had gone to jail for them, a framed quotation from Thoreau’s Essay on Civil Disobedience: “Action from principle, the performance of right, changes things and relations; it is essentially revolutionary, and does not consist wholly with anything which was.”

Many were calling Dederich a god and some bowed in his presence. Betty didn’t like it when she saw a follower kneel and ask for forgiveness. She had married a man and wanted it kept that way. It didn’t bother Dederich. “Man creates his own gods,” he said. “And I just happened to have the right physical characteristics for that position. I’ve got a deep voice, the big chest, the authoritative manner.”

When told of a $30,000 price of a proposed future burial lot for him on beautiful land overlooking the seas, he snickered, “But I’ll only want it for three days.”


Family life and relationships were controlled. Dederich began making moves he said would improve lives and the Foundation. Bill Christian ran the kitchen which provided close to 8000 meals a day. He had to comb through donated half-rotten vegetables and be open at all hours as people came off their jobs at different time shifts. As many as 700 visitors could pop in every week, many unannounced. Christian seemed to be having problems affecting his job and his non-addict wife was being bossy. Dederich considered having them divorced but instead he took their kids away and sent them to Tomales Bay so they could recapture their affection for each other. He felt the kids would be better off with cows and horses than their parents

While in the beginning sex was used like a carrot to lure people in and buy time, it was now subject to restrictions. Newcomers were now banned from relationships for six months. It was feared hurt feelings from a breakup would cause a newcomer to leave. If a male attempted to wire up a female he would be placed in women games to be torn apart. Similarly, females who flirted were placed in women games to be humiliated. A promiscuous woman was a crotch with ears. Men were not used in these games because it was felt in this arena they lacked the necessary viciousness to correct such behavior.

To date a member of the opposite sex one had to demonstrate Synanon ability and maturity and be in at least the Second Stage. A relationship had to be approved and if permission was given a couple was allowed to court while being chaperoned. A stated rationale was that dope fiends were used to meeting and hopping right away into bed. Now they were learning another way to live, love and respect. It also gave Synanon power over a relationship and thereby enhanced its holding power.

Synanon must deem each prospective mate suitable for the other. Effort was made to prevent relationships that might not work and thus result in a split. Those with little Synanon time were deemed inappropriate for those who had been in a few years. When approved, the man and woman played games together and were directed to speak honestly breaking all contracts between them. Kissing and hand holding was allowed but not more. Only with approval could they consummate the relationship in a Guest Room. They could have two-hour appointments per week, more as the relationship progressed. Eventually fours hours were permitted and ultimately an overnight could be booked. The Synanon Medical Office provided the contraceptives.

After four or five weeks the couple could ask permission to be in a Trap. Special Trap Games were played consisting only of Trap couples. If the couple desired marriage, a series of conferences were held to decide if they were responsible enough. They also usually had to be in the Third Stage. Getting a divorce likewise needed permission and a similar process had to be followed. Dederich said proudly that the “marriage contract” in Synanon generally did far better than those on the outside. He credited the openness of the game and the support of the community.

If there was an extra marital affair the guilty would be attacked in a game and would lose their jobs and status. From sex all over the place Synanon had retreated to Victorian virtue.


A school was started in Santa Monica by square Al Bauman, a renaissance man with a history of teaching, carpentry, business and concert piano. His reasons for joining were typical of the square: “I used to spend at lest 50% of my time and energy in my life out there’ defending. I used to be against things, including myself. Here at Synanon I finally found a place where I can be affirmative and say >Yes.’“

When Bauman moved in he was put in construction and had to work his way up to headmaster. He was later moved north as Director of Education to set up a school in Tomales Bay that extended through high school. More than learning facts, students were guided, taught how to learn and played the game. The Synanon school became accredited in 1966. Bauman poured over tapes of their experimental teaching and vowed to share their discoveries with the “rest of the world.”

The Synanon school was located one block from the club directly in back of Muscle Beach at 1703 Appian Way and 1711 1/2-12 Ocean Front. The former home of silent screen actress Mary Pickford it consisted of two decaying beach houses with wood floors and wide windows. The bottom of one was used for children’s games for 40 7-13 years who met at 9 a.m. It had a grazing table fixed with punch, fruit sandwiches and soup. There was a kitchen and a Schoolmaster’s office. Upstairs was a library and workshops for the demonstrators (teachers). The lower unit at the other house was for games for 5-6 year olds. In the games kids used the same cuss vocabulary as adults, calling each other assholes each morning. The idea was to get out all the shit building up in the child and breakdown hostility before the learning begins. After the game each child went to a workroom to share with a demonstrator. Teaching emphasis was on taste. The teachers, themselves, were the subjects taught thus they were called demonstrators. The kids themselves decide how much time each would spend with the demonstrator, from an hour to all-day.

Education in Synanon was not limited to the school but was ongoing. Dan Garrett called Synanon the “Communiversity.” What distinguished education in Synanon was that it was a two-way street: the Demonstrators (teachers) were also students and the students are also teachers. Learned people are dead; learning people are alive. The emphasis was more on teaching the ability to study and learn then on teaching facts, to develop people who comprehend rather than apprehend. .. Thinking is the greatest find in the world. The formula was: Teaching X learning’ Communication (Action). Synanon’s disciplinary actions were seen as part of the educational process. Stupidity was to be punished and stupidity included any behavior contrary to Synanon goals.

In 1965 Wizards went through a special week Wizard training with Dederich. For eight hours a day they listened to Dederich By Pass tape series (by pass learning obstacles) made on various ideas and philosophers including Abraham Maslow’s self-actualization theory and had access to books by Maslow, Emerson, Thoreau and others. After the training Wizards sat in special rooms in Wizard chairs ready to answer questions and consult on any topic of interests. People could bring in any subject or question and the Wizard would guide and provoke discussion, summing up the results. With a chalk board the Wizards explained the various spiral, centrifugal and centripetal forces experienced by newcomers as they journey through Synanon.

A Cerebration, also born in 1965, involved a topic of importance to Synanon and took place in a colorless room to avoid distractions. Eight to twelve people sat at a round dining- room-style table. A series of words were placed on the blackboard as starting points for a line of no line discussion on the selected subject. The idea was to stimulate thinking tools. Relevant Synanon tape recordings were played. These sessions could run for four to five days.

Betty headed the Women’s Division which came into existence to protect women’s rights and combat a male chauvinism that was emerging in Synanon ( a nagging women that drags a man down was called an albatross). Women with more time were to be sisters to female newcomers, feed them Synanon information and concepts and protect them. Women entering were often under weight, sensitive, prone to hysterics and found it more difficult than the men to accept the contract of not communicating with past husbands, lovers or even pimps until Synanon decided they were ready. Often they wanted to see their children but were reminded they were not taking care of their kids when they were loaded and they had to trust in Synanon if they wanted to care for them again someday. Their first jobs were usually kitchen work or cleaning. As they progressed they moved to day-care for newcomers, children and older people.

Synanon convened for Morning Meetings Monday through Friday. The philosophy was read, recent news announced and game and job assignments were given out. Sometimes there was a comedy skit, speech, sing-a-long or other entertainment. Then they went to their jobs and classes in English, typing, music, semantics and law. A special emphasis was put on teaching public speaking. At noon there were philosophy, psychology and science seminars in front of the blackboard, all promising to aid building a better world. Discussions surrounded Emerson, Thoreau, Plato, Aristotle, Aquinas, Schopenhauer, Gibran and Maslow. Dederich often gave lectures in Freudian psychoanalytic terms, explaining the ego, id and super-ego. Nietzsche and Marx were often bad rapped.

Also studied was little known Balthazar Gracian, a 17th century monk who wrote Gracian’s Manual teaching how to establish power by manipulations that make subordinates happy while they do the leader’s bidding. Many expressed shock at the Machiavellian overtones and the book soon disappeared.

But Dederich learned the book’s lessons.