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Barbara and Betty Underwood discuss their book “Hostage to Heaven”

BROADCAST: Nov. 15, 1979 | DURATION: 00:54:09


Barbara and Betty Underwood, authors of the book “Hostage to Heaven,” discuss Betty’s involvement with Sun Myung Moon and the Unification Church.


Tap within the transcript to jump to that part of the audio.


Studs Terkel As you walk through the airport any time, any place, any city invariably there is a young person, often a young woman, a girl smiles and approaches you, and she's selling flowers or THE book. She might be Hari Krishna, might be Unification Church, might be one of 1800 or so religious cults in our country. Who are these kids? So full of delight, it seems, and joy. And yet you, I feel so repelled because I know I'm being had by someone who's being had. And in a sense, Hostage to Heaven, a quite remarkable book, it's a diary of mother and daughter Barbara and Betty Underwood. And Betty, the mother, her daughter, Barbara, very bright, highly intelligent and socially aware, joined the Moonies, the organization the Reverend Moon of whom we'll hear in a moment and how she left it. And this is a story. It's quite a remarkable one, but it's more than about this mother and this daughter. I think it's about so many of the young people in our country and they are longing for something, that something, I suppose being community and how so many enter these cults of, put it mildly, dubious implications. Potter, the publishers of the book and Hostage to Heaven, that's a good title, Hostage to Heaven. In a moment, Barbara and Betty Underwood and their experience. [Pause recording]

Studs Terkel So how does it begin? The Underwood family, West Portland, Oregon. Betty and your husband Ray and three kids, right?

Betty Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel What kind of family were you? Are you?

Betty Underwood My husband was a conscientious objector in the second world war. Quite Quaker family way, way back. We were idealistic people, we were-- we felt that we owed life something more just than to take from it. We didn't preach to our kids a lot but we were involved in things around us. And I suppose that says something to 'em, too.

Studs Terkel Lawyer, doing

Betty Underwood Lawyer, right, now lawyer. Has been for quite a long time in, in public law.

Studs Terkel And worked for Sena-- Governor Hatfield for a while.

Betty Underwood And then Senator

Studs Terkel And up middle-- upper middle class, or middle, middle class doing fairly well. Three kids?

Betty Underwood Three kids.

Studs Terkel And these are college people we're talking about.

Betty Underwood That's right.

Studs Terkel Barbara, you were the oldest? No.

Barbara Underwood The

Studs Terkel You were the youngest.

Barbara Underwood And the only daughter.

Studs Terkel The only-- oh, two sons. That's right, two sons and there's Doug--

Barbara Underwood And Jeff.

Studs Terkel And you, you're how old now?

Barbara Underwood I'm 27.

Studs Terkel Where does it begin? OK. So your family. What do you think of your mother and your father? Did you and do you? I mean did you then and do you now?

Barbara Underwood Well I always felt it was a incredibly warm family. I have really rich family memories. We did a lot of things as a family. I remember reading books around the dinner table and discussing them. And I remember going on family camping trips. I remember talking about goals and ideals. I don't remember, you know talking about religion or religion being so much the basis of our life. But I remember having a deep sense of conscience and a real respect for both my parents wanting to be activists in the community. And I think I grew up with the sense that I should be an activist also and that maybe my life could be important somehow to, to the society.

Studs Terkel So this was the basis thinking you were aware of issues of the day, of civil rights, civil liberties.

Betty Underwood I suppose in some ways our religious expression as Quakers had to do with our activity in, in the, in the community around us, too. It wasn't a self consciously defined sort of thing but I think it came through as kind of a religious conviction.

Studs Terkel But kind of a family getting along, a loving family getting along nicely. OK?

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel What happens? You're going to Santa-- you're going to college.

Barbara Underwood Right. Where?

Studs Terkel Where? Santa--

Barbara Underwood University of California, Santa Cruz.

Studs Terkel Santa Cruz.

Barbara Underwood Very experimental school.

Studs Terkel Experimental. Open. And you, you're're about 20? 21?

Barbara Underwood Right. I went in when I was 18.

Studs Terkel So we're talking about what year now, roughly?

Barbara Underwood I went in

Studs Terkel 70. The 60s are over.

Betty Underwood But

Studs Terkel Vietnam War still going on. Yeah. Ok. Oh, shoot.

Barbara Underwood Well I partly chose Santa Cruz because I'd always been really up for trying new experiments and wanting very much to find a place where I could rely on myself and not just have to follow external expectations and have to perform to others. When I got to Santa Cruz I started to get really interested in both the feminist movement so I could begin to define myself as a woman. And I also got really interested in the radical movement. I was reading a lot of Marx, Freud trying to synthesize all these different ideas and come up with some sort of way that people could work together, that people could enliven each other's lives and feel a sense of collectivity.

Studs Terkel Let's stick with this for a minute, just a minute, that's-- here's this time we live in, here's the youngest child Barbera, very, obviously very bright, yeah. But there's something you're looking for. And you said, you said sense of community so you're talking

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel What was bothering you? What about us, about our society, about us. What was bothering

Barbara Underwood Well, I think I-- in some ways I was very disillusioned by the fact that so many people had come to Santa Cruz with so many ideals about brotherhood and community, and yet being in that environment there was a real individualism that prevailed. There were no mechanisms to get people together. Everyone talked great ideals but there was no sense of commitment. Even when I moved off campus in a radical commune and we went in demonstrations together, we tried to write an, an underground newspaper together, there still wasn't that sense that the individual would be willing to sacrifice something of his own personal needs for the benefit of a whole group. And I felt, I felt really in a way betrayed by that inability in ourselves to overcome our, our selves. I think that when my roommate from my freshman year, who I had stayed in close contact with who was also very idealistic, went up to a community in Berkeley, California called International Reeducation Foundation or Creative Community and started writing back to me about having found this utopia, having found a group of people just like herself who are from colleges, many from Ann Arbor who had been in the SDS movement but who'd been disillusioned by the ineffectuality of politics. She said that I should come up and visit this community because they had huge goals and they were committing their everyday lives to acting out their ideals. They weren't just studying theories and sitting in academic classrooms. They were feeling and they were acting and that just compelled me to go up and explore this new utopia.

Studs Terkel Where it happened. Were you-- by the way, all this time with Barbara and you, Betty, her mother, and your husband, Ray, her father, you were, of course, you were

Betty Underwood Oh yes.

Studs Terkel You were aware of her feelings about this?

Betty Underwood Yes I think so. As far as I was concerned, as a woman I, I, I had always kind of valued Barb's adventuresomeness and her curiosity, her grit, her-- she, she was a different growing up sort of person than I'd been. I, I really think that I was quite fascinated by that. She'd done-- had done and had had a, a number of adventures that I thought are very very interesting and I responded to. So we were very aware of her life.

Studs Terkel What happens? You come to this utopian you heard about. So what happens?

Barbara Underwood Well the first weekend I felt just pulled in two different directions. It was the most intense contradictory state that I felt I was in at the end of that weekend workshop with these 40 family or community members up in a little farm in northern California. On the one hand I was just in awe of their unity, their power to suspend their own interests and own desires for the whole.

Studs Terkel The they. The they is who

Barbara Underwood The they is what came to be known to me as the Unification Church. It was never presented to me with that name.

Studs Terkel With the divine Reverend Moon.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel But now what is, what happ-- what is it about them that got you? What are they, what did they do? The question, what do you do? What did they do during the day? What is it they did, specifically?

Barbara Underwood Well, my first exposure was just a weekend workshop where what they did was teach these principles, offered a kind of sacred science about life that told you how you could act good and what it meant to act evil, and where God was in your life and how-- what moral law there was between people that helped guide our actions in a good direction. All these kind of lectures were a part of a 36 hour period. Also we are interacting in small groups where we came to feel very close to one another. We would share about our past lives. We would learn from the people who'd been in who told us about a total transformation that had happened in their lives since they had committed themselves to the principles of the group.

Studs Terkel See, this, this is interesting. It was abstract stuff they would teach you right?

Barbara Underwood It was totally abstract.

Studs Terkel By the way, reading. What did they suggest? There was a, there was a book called The Divine Principle?

Barbara Underwood There was a book called Divine Principle, but I didn't know about that book until I'd been in the group at least four months.

Studs Terkel Now, here's the part that interests me and by-- feel free, make this an open discussion, by the way. You've gone, you're very bright, you've read so many books, you know, and-- nonfiction, fiction, poetry, philosophy, the writings. Now all that -- you were told about a divine spirit, isn't that it? About good and evil, about Satan and about God-like spirits, and about a certain man who was perhaps a messiah. Now what happens to all your learning? Cause you do--

Betty Underwood Good question.

Barbara Underwood Well, I think what happened is in college and when I was in high school I was living in a world dominated by my intellect. A very abstract world. My philosophical search was powerful in my mind, and what the group promised through these abstract ideas was to be able to incorporate those ideas into one's everyday actions so that one would begin to feel what those ideas offered. And I made the decision to join a group not on the basis of my intellect or my reasoning but because emotionally it promised so much. Emotionally it promised me secure answers. Emotionally it told me that the things in my life before that had led to confusion in my own identity, there was a reason for them. It was because I hadn't understood God. I hadn't understood the true way of life between people, and only Sun Myung Moon could teach me these true principles, and I came to feel just an undermining of my past, which had not led me to ultimate happiness. This group promised that I could find ultimate happiness if I stayed.

Betty Underwood But in terms of actually reading, there's no time for that. Actually the Divine Principle Barb didn't read till she was coming out of the group. The, the whole format are very fast paced lectures of rather bland kind of banal sorts of moral philosophy done so fast that when questions are asked nobody has time for that, we'll get to that next time. And it just kind of builds up in that way where the front end you, you, you hear all this, you want to belong to that loving group, but you're not really getting what the basic philosophy is till later on.

Studs Terkel See but, see that's interesting theory, but feel, you see-- you were, you met individualists, good kids but all individualists. That's me, I want to make it, whatever. Even though you're socially conscious-- we're talking pre, your pre-Moon experiences and intellectual stuff, but you felt something you call emotion or feeling. Feeling.

Barbara Underwood I felt a lack of that.

Studs Terkel Yeah, I meant was missing. Yeah.

Barbara Underwood Right. Right.

Studs Terkel And so you find it-- did you get it here at, at the Unification Church?

Barbara Underwood Well, the way that I was really almost lured in or seduced into the environment was through intense encircling affection by all the people, and they paid attention to me. They told me that I would be indispensable for really bringing about an achievement of this goal that they outlined. And that was a perfect society through perfection of the individual. I really bought into that believing so much that I wanted to make the world a, a more loving place, a less oppressive place, a more fair place.

Betty Underwood And in terms of a family competing with that kind of intense loving sort of

Studs Terkel This family. Your

Betty Underwood This, our family. Or almost any

Studs Terkel Because that other family was called the true family.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Betty Underwood Right.

Betty Underwood But of a natural family, that's a rugged thing to, to be up against because normal families love normally, but this, the intensity level, the, the security thing, that's very difficult for even very fine, loving, normal families to provide. You can't really com--compete in that league.

Studs Terkel But how can you compete against an absolute?

Barbara Underwood An absolute

Studs Terkel When your-- when our lives are ambiguous?

Betty Underwood You bet.

Barbara Underwood Exactly.

Studs Terkel That was absolute?

Barbara Underwood It was absolute and that, that is darn comforting in a scary world when you're a young person. To feel somebody will tell you right and wrong. And somebody will explain all of human history and why this very moment is the ultimate end product of human history. And why a messiah has to come now and why we've been specially chosen to respond now. I found that irresistible. Even though intellectually I had studied other utopian groups that claim to be in the vanguard, I had only read about them, I'd intellectualized about them. Suddenly, I felt it happening around me and it just caught me off guard. I hadn't anticipated the power of this group, this millieu when I first thought I'd objectively look at it.

Betty Underwood Actually, she got permission from college to go up and write her senior thesis about them. So she went ostensibly on an intellectual basis and, of course, within a week or so she was caught in her own experiment.

Studs Terkel Yeah. You know, we're talking-- we, we gotta stay with this because this is the key to so much, I think of your colleagues. Now who, who were your, your comrades there? Your colleagues. Who are they?

Barbara Underwood They were young, bright, partly college educated people who were individual achievers and had a lot of social ambitions for the world, not just for themselves. People who very much wanted to feel more integrated into life and not just live on an intellectual plane.

Studs Terkel See, we're talking about a time, we're talking about a time now-- we're talking now, now it's 71, 70.

Barbara Underwood Right. 72 is when I

Studs Terkel In 72

Betty Underwood A rugged time in family life.

Studs Terkel Family life.

Betty Underwood You bet.

Studs Terkel The war and even the ending of it later on, everything is up for grabs. Right?

Betty Underwood Upset.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel And you're looking for-- even though you're highly intelligent and literate and socially open, something's gone cockeyed with the head, with reasononing. So, therefore, if that rational thing ain't doing it something beyond that.

Barbara Underwood Right. I think I found that I hadn't discovered happiness through reason and intellect, and that in fact reason and intellect was sometimes a defense mechanism for me to steer away from the emotions because the emotions were scary. And what the group promised was that very emotional experience that was not simply an isolated individual's experience. But the group defined my problems. They said this is why you're having problems. I felt yes, this is why. This is why my parents are, are not perfect. This is why I'm feeling a contradictory nature. This is why I don't have sexual understanding. The group said, those are your problems. This is how you can solve your

Studs Terkel See, what's interesting, I suppose, and why the judge at the hearing who, who granted in the favor of you and your husband and other families. So there's something here, and, and Barbara too, you came [my?] a relatively happy family. I mean, I say relatively all, we're talking happiness. But, and many came broken homes possibly, but a great number came from relatively stable families.

Barbara Underwood That's right.

Studs Terkel We're talking middle class, aren't we?

Barbara Underwood Yes.

Studs Terkel Were any working class kids in this group?

Barbara Underwood No.

Studs Terkel None. That's interesting.

Betty Underwood Very few minorities.

Studs Terkel Very few. Oh, by the way, isn't there a comment-- wasn't the comment made-- I'll ask you about some of the, some of your center people, teachers-- wasn't the comment that we don't want elderly people, we don't need elderly

Betty Underwood We don't want blacks. Not this, not at this point

Studs Terkel in No

Betty Underwood Yeah. Yeah.

Betty Underwood So it was kind of an elite core, wasn't it?

Barbara Underwood Ah very definitely. I think it's because the group needed youth and energy, both youth for the continuity of the group and also because youthfulness, I think, has less long term insight on life and is more ready and impatiently ready to, to grab at answers.

Studs Terkel And has the energy to raise money, too.

Barbara Underwood Exactly. Yeah.

Studs Terkel We'll come to the money in a minute. But, we'll come to Moon, the money of the church, and the people and the approach and what you learned. What was happening back home, back home

Betty Underwood Sure. Back home at the ranch. When Barb first went in the group we had not heard of Moon. We did not know about cults in their, in their contemporary sense. But we did have a strong intuition something was wrong. If nothing else we didn't want her to leave school again. Within weeks we were really in a state of consternation. Then Barb came home-- I think the, the crowning point was she came home that summer and then we saw very visibly such marked personality change in her that this really said to us something is, is really bad. Something terrible is going on here. And I can just briefly say that she had been a responsive, enthusiastic young person, and when we, when we saw her on that first long-time visit she had become very controlled. You looked at her, she looked straight back at you but her eyes were lifeless. And in addition she couldn't reason, she couldn't seem to think clearly. You'd say, well what do you-- what are they doing with the money? Well, they're getting out of some pamphlets to help the, the overseas Japanese people who are coming here from the cult. Things like that. She could not ask the penetrating questions that that show me kind of person she'd been before that was.

Studs Terkel I'm thinking about this is, I'm going to ask Barbara what her -- if she can recall her thoughts and feelings at that time. So you saw this very lively, full of humor here, sort of become, become what?

Betty Underwood Very

Studs Terkel How did she behave differently?

Betty Underwood Just like she was being controlled and like she could not think clearly.

Studs Terkel Do you have a memory of

Barbara Underwood I sure do. I was, I was trying to only act in a positive way about everything in my life. I was in the process of learning how to become a perfect person, as the group--

Studs Terkel A perfect

Barbara Underwood person. A

Studs Terkel They were telling you you could become the perfect

Barbara Underwood Right. I could become perfect as I would follow their formulas for perfection. And that was not feeling sexual feelings and not feeling anger and not feeling negative about the, the commands of the leaders. I had to learn--

Studs Terkel Not to question the commands of the leaders.

Barbara Underwood Exactly. In other words I felt to grow spiritually to become perfect I had to become an obedience, obedient person to God and whoever was the representative of God in that God

Studs Terkel moment. God was Reverend Moon.

Barbara Underwood Reverend Moon was the embodiment of God.

Studs Terkel And there are others around. There's someone named Onni.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel And Durst and Teresa. They are

Barbara Underwood She was considered nearly a perfect person. She had followed Moon for 18 years and embodied the principles Moon taught.

Studs Terkel So if you follow all this you'll become the perfect machine.

Barbara Underwood The perfect obedient follower.

Studs Terkel If there's no anger, there's no sex, if there's no questioning then the answer is you become a zombie.

Betty Underwood You're 1984.

Studs Terkel 1984.

Barbara Underwood You end up being half a person

Studs Terkel But you're a smiling, a smiling zombie. Because your, because there is, what? There is, there are smiles that make you happy, smiles that make you free.

Barbara Underwood And you also become so reinforced by your expressions of happiness and good naturedness. Also, there's reason to be happy in a way because you're offered so much hope for following this way of life, you're guaranteed that you will become perfect, you will know God perfectly, he will love you perfectly, you'll marry the perfect mate. Society will become a true kingdom. So you're happy on your own hope of some future promise.

Studs Terkel And so that smile. That's-- I call that certain smile that I see at the airport. Is that smile, I suppose the word bliss is used in many cases. Bliss is used here, but bliss is--

Betty Underwood I think Barb would say that that may be the effort of the, of the cult person, to always project a positive and not a negative and behind that smile, at least in the first stages, can be sometimes very severe conflict.

Barbara Underwood Well, it's because negativity is considered not real. You know, the, the negative human emotions are considered not human emotions, they're considered something that Satan puts in people and as you're separating yourself from Satan you have to deny a whole element of your humanity.

Studs Terkel I want to ask you now about attitudes of the group, the Moon group toward people who are not members and about thoughts about Satan, Satanists. But one little point, it's a digression yet it's not. There is a highly successful multimillionaire insurance man living in Chicago, interviewed him for Hard Times, and he believes in bliss. He says once-- do you have-- when I asked, when I was working on a book about the depression, and I was like-- I says, what about those moments of sadness? He says, I don't believe in sadness. And in

Betty Underwood What do you do with that?

Studs Terkel He'd have been, he'd have been, huh?

Betty Underwood What do you do with that?

Barbara Underwood The perfect Moonie.

Studs Terkel He's the perfect Moonie. Let's, let's resume in a moment. I'm talking to Barbara and Betty Underwood. Barbara, the daughter. Betty, the mother. Barbara, for four years member of the Unification Church. That's the Barbara you're hearing right now which is I think quite fantastic. And together is a diary, you might say. Together, from two points of view of those four years in the church by an ex-Moonie and a mother who fought to free her and eventually did. And the publishers of Potter and it's Hostage to Heaven but it's more than just about this mother and daughter, quite obviously it's about the world today and young people who are-- want to see something happen, something good and the detours around and about. We'll resume in a moment after this message. [Pause recording]

Studs Terkel So resuming the conversation with Betty and Barbara Underwood, and here's this group you're with and there's bliss seemingly. My-- you said she was different as though her mind was controlled. You know, you mentioned Robert Lifton's book. Robert Lifton, the sociologist, spoke of what happens, brainwashing, and he spoke of the Vietnam War and of Korea.

Betty Underwood Yeah. My husband spoke of hypnotism at that point, but I somehow couldn't accept that. I thought it was just a part of the very kind of intense, kind of manic atmosphere that she inhabited 20 hours a day, 7 days a week. He spoke even then of some-- it seemed to him that something had to account for this rapid change. But in our lives, not til 3 years later did we join a parents group in Portland. And there are parents groups in many communities now in the country and were introduced to some very solid psychological and political, if you will, research into what goes on and what has happened and to the

Studs Terkel To the parents of children who became members of the Unification Church.

Betty Underwood Or of any, of

Studs Terkel Or any, too. Could be Harry Krishna, could

Betty Underwood That's right, of, of cult, the cult experience. But that introduced us to Chapter 22 and Lifton, to the concept of coercive persuasion or mind control, and we came to believe it because when we read, for instance, Chapter 22 and, and Lifton, which does really apply to a different area of the world and different people but Barb kept jumping out of the pages at us as a person and we kept saying, that's what she was like, that's what she said, that's how she behaved. That's the first time that we began to accept the fact that indeed something had been done which was making it impossible to extricate-- for her to extricate herself.

Barbara Underwood I think that as I reflect back on my experience what really happened was a, a sort of conversion but one from the outside in rather than the inside out. So that as I really subjected myself to the rules in the society around me, in unification, as I started acting that way and got incredible reinforcement and approval from the people around me that that was in fact what I should be doing, I slowly began to feel good inside because of that reassurance. And then by following these external commands, internalizing them, I came to feel converted in a way whereas a normal conversion, I think, there's an, a sort of inward awareness and then you act out the inner

Studs Terkel But I'm thinking you were becoming the perfect person. And what was the attitude of these perfect people? That is, your center people, those above you, Ani and Durst and Teresa, who are close to Reverend Moon toward people who are not-- outside? They have an attitude toward the people outside?

Barbara Underwood The attitude is one of total moral superiority. There's a sense that this inner cadre is living a pure and self-denying life for God, for Reverend Moon, and everyone in the outside world is following their own hedonistic individualism, they're following Satan. And there's a total polarization in the mind of a cultist between the inner sanctum, which is good and justified and loved by God, and the outer world, which is totally corrupt.

Studs Terkel So if that outer world --also I think phrase used "They're not worth living".

Barbara Underwood Exactly.

Studs Terkel That

Barbara Underwood They're really subhuman. They're

Studs Terkel They're subhuman. So elderly people and blacks, of course, but also--

Betty Underwood Nonbelievers.

Studs Terkel Nonbelievers would be, would be subhuman.

Betty Underwood Until they become believers.

Barbara Underwood As well as being a threat to the group, so the insiders actually develop a feeling of judgment over the world but also a great paranoia.

Studs Terkel Yeah we're going to come to the insiders, not only to the Divine, Divine Reverend Moon himself in a moment, but I thought perhaps you now. Money. Okay, how'd this come about? You became a, quite a sales person.

Barbara Underwood I guess I did.

Studs Terkel Describe-- and how much you're selling. I'm thinking about those flower sellers at the airport and everywhere. What's your experience? You became, I, I take it one of the best.

Barbara Underwood Right, I did. Actually I did a lot of selling here in Chicago sneaking into the Playboy Club and into the millionaires club and getting kicked out and

Studs Terkel And coming back again.

Barbara Underwood And coming back in and getting kicked

Studs Terkel And all the sales courses, you know, you could be teaching sales courses, they're taught persistence, you know.

Barbara Underwood Power of absolute

Studs Terkel Now what is it you sold? What is it

Barbara Underwood I sold roses and carnations, sometimes candy. But I would basically approach people on a familiar level, just talk to them personally, gain their trust--

Studs Terkel What would you say? I am a guy. I'm walking along the airport, I'm sitting at a, a bar you, you are anywhere, I'm sitting in restaurant. Ok, I'm sitting there.

Barbara Underwood OK I'd come up really close to you and I'd say in the gentle voice, how are you doing?

Studs Terkel OK.

Barbara Underwood And I'd, I'd ask you if your day was going okay, and, you know, if things

Studs Terkel Yeah, I'm, I'm, right now I'm, I'm having, I'm getting my food right now. Mind?

Barbara Underwood Well I just, you look like such a really nice person. I just thought I'd

Studs Terkel Thank you, you you're nice too. But, you know, thank you very much, but I, I, I'm, you know, I've really got to get, eat now. I've got to scram pretty soon.

Barbara Underwood Have you seen, do you see what I have? They're really beautiful flowers.

Studs Terkel Ah, beautiful, yes. Yes they are.

Barbara Underwood Have you ever seen roses like these?

Studs Terkel They're very beautiful. I have to, you know. Thank you, you're very charming,

Barbara Underwood Well, have you given your wife roses lately? I bet she'd really love it.

Studs Terkel Well that's great. Let, let me handle that, okay.

Barbara Underwood This is going for a youth guidance program. It's for really good cause.

Studs Terkel What's the cause?

Barbara Underwood We do youth counseling with young people and help them get off drugs. And, and we help crippled

Studs Terkel Who's we? Who, who are you?

Barbara Underwood We're just a family, a community of people and we're trying to help build the consciousness of young people and make them more responsible.

Studs Terkel Who, who, who, who's your boss?

Barbara Underwood Who's our-- well, nobody's our boss. I mean we're all trying to become better people.

Studs Terkel I see.

Barbara Underwood But it's, it's called New Education Development. It's a youth counseling

Studs Terkel Look let me

Barbara Underwood Maybe you

Studs Terkel OK here's a, here's a buck, OK do you mind? I really, I don't want those.

Barbara Underwood Thanks. That's really good of you.

Studs Terkel Oh, OK thank you very much.

Barbara Underwood Thank you so much.

Studs Terkel Now I'm a tough customer. I was a tough

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel Now most are not that tough, right?

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel Because if you point out that, that Barbara is attractive and she smiled. So what happens in most cases?

Barbara Underwood Actually in my experience most people would at least give a dollar.

Studs Terkel Yeah.

Barbara Underwood I mean at least.

Studs Terkel At least. Sometimes 5 and--

Barbara Underwood Very often they would buy three dozen roses right on

Studs Terkel So how much would you collect a week?

Barbara Underwood I-- well a week. I made about 500 dollars a day.

Studs Terkel You did? 500 bucks a day.

Barbara Underwood So, 3500 dollars a week.

Studs Terkel You would do that? During the four years you worked with, for the church, Unifica -- how much did you collect for them, roughly?

Barbara Underwood I think I estimated I made about a quarter of a million dollars. And I realized it was, it was more than my dad ever made as

Studs Terkel I mean, as you say it, of course, naturally and it's a conversation stopper. You've got a quarter of a million bucks. I mean, I'm thinking about you and your colleagues, through every day, every year selling anywhere. Is that it? Is there-- now I've gotta ask you. Is there a technique they teach you in selling? What do they tell you?

Barbara Underwood Well, for one thing they tell you that if you can succeed in getting the person to buy that will enrich their own spiritual life so that we're not only trying to get money for Reverend Moon but we're also trying to save lives, spiritually. And the belief is that it's more important to get a person to give because that will elevate them in the spirit world in a future life than it is for that person to know where the money's going. So

Studs Terkel So you have that drive. Betty, you can enter this. I'm just thinking of something. Millions then were raised. How many Moonies are there in the country?

Barbara Underwood I would say anywhere from 7 to 10 thousand active members and many associate members. I don't know how many.

Betty Underwood They estimate around 60 million dollars a year. I, I don't know.

Barbara Underwood That's, that's a very low

Studs Terkel You mean, the Moonies bring that in themselves?

Barbara Underwood There're recent estimates in McCall's magazine they said about 200 million.

Studs Terkel That come from the Moonies selling?

Barbara Underwood Right.

Betty Underwood Either that or with-- would it not be so that it might be as a product of the industries that they're beginning to buy I'm

Studs Terkel -- I'm going to ask, of course,

Barbara Underwood Street solicitations and all the

Studs Terkel I'll ask about the industries and other possible contributions and other political connections, too. But I want to come back to this theme. Will you take-- now, what happens-- are, are you-- your life materially. You get sick. They take care of you when you're sick?

Barbara Underwood Well, no.

Studs Terkel They don't?

Barbara Underwood For instance, I had a concussion. I was involved in about nine major accidents 'cause the drivers of our van would fall asleep because we only average three hours of sleep a night.

Studs Terkel What do you mean, what do you mean you only aver-- how come you only average three hours sleep?

Barbara Underwood Because we felt we had such an important mission to raise money to save the world from Satan and we couldn't justify spending more time sleeping when we knew, as Reverend Moon told us, that God never slept. So we are being self-indulgent even sleeping three hours.

Studs Terkel How many hours a day did you work selling?

Betty Underwood Twenty.

Barbara Underwood Anywhere from 18 to 20. Running, we would have something called run, chant, and pray. And every minute we would be running between customers, chanting and praying.

Betty Underwood We, we, we thought in the family that apart from all the other considerations of psychological exploitation that if this kept up too long she'd be a physical wreck. She had a hairline fracture of her, of a leg and, and this was x-rayed, she was told this was the case, told to stay off it and she went ahead anyway.

Studs Terkel Who paid for that?

Barbara Underwood I don't know. Who did?

Studs Terkel Did the Moonies pay for that?

Barbara Underwood No, I had to get on Medi-Cal.

Studs Terkel You did? You raised all, a quarter of a million. I mean, they didn't-- they knew you were hurt or sick?

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel What

Barbara Underwood Well, we either sent the medical bills home to our natural parents. Or, or we would get on Medi-Cal as indigent people.

Studs Terkel So you mean, but, but the Moonie wouldn't take care of your medical expenses?

Barbara Underwood No.

Betty Underwood Let me

Studs Terkel J.P. Stevens is better than that.

Betty Underwood Yeah,

Barbara Underwood Well, we didn't want to use any money for our own purposes. They were called Cain expenses and Abel expenses. And Abel expenses were for the Messiah and Cain expenses were for the individual, and we couldn't justify spending money on ourselves.

Betty Underwood In our case, at first we tried not to respond to, I need glasses or I need my teeth looked at or something, figuring that that'd be a good way for Barb to understand what she was involved in. But eventually you just won't see your own flesh and blood in that kind of need.

Studs Terkel At this time, Barbara, you're, you're caught in it now, you are a true believer now.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel And you're trying to convert other people, too?

Barbara Underwood Oh, that, that was the second mission. Other than raising money, the second mission was bringing recruits.

Studs Terkel Became a proselytizer as well as a

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel Well we got to talk about the people who run it now. Who, who is Reverend Moon?

Barbara Underwood That's a paradox. I, I have spent a couple of years trying to sort that out. In my own mind, when I was in the group he was, in fact, the Messiah. That's what we were taught. When I came out of the group and reflected more objectively I realized he was the man who required power and did everything to get a cadre of people around him that would, that would follow him completely so that he could feel secure in that

Studs Terkel I mean who was the guy himself?

Betty Underwood The Fraser Report, recently done a couple of years ago, says

Studs Terkel This is the Congressional report.

Betty Underwood Right.

Betty Underwood Don Fraser of Minnesota.

Betty Underwood Right. You bet. He, he says that this man is, indeed-- well, I don't know if they can say that specifically, but he does believe what he, he says. But it also says he is a financial tycoon and is very involved in financial decisions as made by the cult worldwide. He's not some separated kind of God figure while other people are managing the practical affairs of the cult. He's very much involved in that.

Studs Terkel He's also involved with South Korean politics.

Betty Underwood Yes. Fraser does point out various ties there, too.

Barbara Underwood Well I remember even reading Master Speaks, which were Moon's speeches when I was a Moonie and he would say things like eventually he will subjugate the world and that wherever he goes there will be ambassadors of those countries to give him the red carpet treatment. And he has made a pledge that all his followers will fight a war against North Korea, against communists, if necessary, by the use of weapons.

Studs Terkel So there is a political thing?

Barbara Underwood There very

Studs Terkel And he was very much, I believe he was for Nixon was he not?

Betty Underwood Yes.

Studs Terkel At the time of the Watergate.

Betty Underwood He thought that Nixon saved, saved South Korea in terms of a trip to, to China.

Studs Terkel Was there a case, CIA involvement here, too? There's talk of that, isn't there?

Barbara Underwood There's definitely some research and speculation about Colonel Bo Hi Pak, Moon's translator being connected to the case

Studs Terkel How could he come with all this? I'm just thinking, you salespeople raised millions. But there had to be other dough here, too, wasn't there?

Barbara Underwood There was. The, the Unification Church operates a titanium factory, munitions factories, a ginseng tea factory.

Studs Terkel Oh, it sells arms? Makes arms and sells arms?

Barbara Underwood Yes.

Studs Terkel So God is a militant god. Talk about the Church Militant. Military god.

Barbara Underwood That's, that's true. God must defend himself against Satan.

Studs Terkel So it's making arms to different countries.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Betty Underwood And I might add, one of the interesting aspects in terms of what, what goes on industrial area, and this applies to the fishing industry in this country, the people who work are, are paid very minimally, or not paid at all. So in terms of competition with other forms of business, it's pretty rugged.

Studs Terkel Let me get this. The people who work at the Moon enterprises get sub but minimum wage, is

Barbara Underwood Or no wage at all.

Studs Terkel Oh really?

Barbara Underwood I mean, I, I worked and I never was paid. And the people in the fishing industries that he's establishing don't get paid either. So it's free labor.

Studs Terkel Who are they? The people working, fishing. Are they Mooneies, too, or just--

Barbara Underwood They're also

Studs Terkel And they work for-- so-- this is, this is better than sweatshop for him.

Betty Underwood It's better than J.P. Stevens,

Studs Terkel Yeah. Oh, this is incredible. So you never got anything? And you sold about a quarter of a million bucks worth of

Barbara Underwood If I had needed to take a bus trip I would have had to ask for a quarter from a leader.

Studs Terkel Well, now we come to OK so--

Barbara Underwood But we, see, we theologized all of that. It was, we had a rationale for that and that was that we were building a kingdom of heaven on earth and we had to establish power over the world politically and financially. The belief was that Christ failed because he didn't become King of Rome and he didn't have a, a physical family and create perfect sinless children. Moon, now, comes and, and he stands in the position of the Christ figure who will redeem the world in this day and age and must take over that kingship, become the absolute theocrat for the world.

Studs Terkel You know, Barbara, I want to talk about Ani and about Teresa and about Dirst, the others and the incredible encounters with ex-Moonies when you became an ex one, too. But the key has to be you. It has to come back to Barbara who is socially aware, compassion-- I'm using all of these adjectives that we not use, aware of making a better life for people. And you became part of this because you-- earlier you spoke about the individualistic, ev --every person for himself even these groups, the ego and all, and you're looking for some community, comes back to the individual and the need for a community spirit, in a way, led you to this didn't

Barbara Underwood I, I believe that's right. I think that as I perceived the world I felt that so many of our problems stemmed from selfishness. Americans being selfish in the context of a global world with scarce resources. I felt that among radicals there was an individual kind of stubborn selfishness that didn't enable us to act together. And I think that I went overboard. What happened is that this group that I encountered, the Unification Church told me that if I could, if I could completely clear myself of selfishness God could occupy me and I could be a totally loving, giving person. So I worked to extinguish not just selfishness but it turned out to be selfhood. And I think it's easy to mistake self, selfishness with selfhood at that age. You come to feel you have to deny the self completely rather than just get rid of your selfish habits. So it came to be a denial, self-denying process.

Betty Underwood My, my understanding is that in addition to the, to the what, what Barb has just described, there is also a very genuine spiritual search that goes on and, and was part of the cause of this, too.

Studs Terkel Oh, I think, see, I mean the easy dismissal of those dumb kids makes no sense.

Betty Underwood Absolutely.

Studs Terkel Why are millions of otherwise intelligent and sensitive young people, why? So there's something cockeyed. Something that would lead to this!

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel Let alone the Vietnam war or civil rights difficulties, something else and that's the question of that person being number one. And I'll make it for me and screw you, you know in, in a sense so there's something else they're looking for. And so there're obvious setups for whatever comes along.

Betty Underwood I think the true believer feels very good. And I think that the fact that the cultist feels very good represents even more of a threat and a danger than as if the whole thing were described as a horror. That's, that's not true. They feel very

Studs Terkel So now something's happening, now four years-- you, were you begining to have doubts then before you meeting your parents again, the deprogramming things? What was happening?

Barbara Underwood No. I mean obviously certain doubts come up but you represses those doubts. You don't doubt the group, you doubt your own worthiness. There's a lot of self-blaming that goes on but there's never group blaming that goes on, you never blame your leaders. And I, I was committed for life to this group. I felt that I would be married within the group, Moon would choose my husband.

Studs Terkel The Moon chooses your husband?

Barbara Underwood Oh, absolutely. He, he sets out thousands of couples and he assigns mates, and most often the couples have never met each other.

Studs Terkel That's a pretty good feeling of power, wow.

Barbara Underwood That's a great power.

Studs Terkel These are fantasies, well isn't it? Wow.

Barbara Underwood It's a feeling of omniscience.

Studs Terkel So what, what happened? Now something's poppin.

Barbara Underwood Well, really, in me I, I was developing faith, which meant obedience in the group to such an extent that I was willing to give up the most essential things in my life. My parents, my family, my own private place in myself. I gave that up through confessions that I made to leaders so that they knew everything about me. Every sexual thing I'd ever done in my life. Everything I had done that was deviant from the prescribed group commands. I gave up a, a desire for a career or to develop creative skills on my own. I gave up my desire to be a writer because I really had very little time to pursue that in the group.

Studs Terkel That question, little time. That's interesting, keeping busy doing things, that's so no thinking about the reading

Barbara Underwood Plus

Studs Terkel But what, now what was happening, Barbara, you and husband Ray and the other parents? Now you heard about people getting away, deprogrammed.

Barbara Underwood I, I felt incredible tragedy for the people who I believed had been kidnapped by their parents, forcefully had God, you know, beaten out of them in an evil deprogramming situation. And I could only explain it as Satan possessing both the parents and the ex members.

Studs Terkel That was happening outside.

Betty Underwood We'd, we'd been involved in this parents group, learned a lot, and it's, at, at it's, at a given point we decided to take some action and it was then this 11 day court hearing, which we went into. The judge said he would entertain the idea of a conservatorship for us and the other four families.

Studs Terkel Conservatorship means?

Betty Underwood A guardianship, a temporary guardianship to allow the person to step back. Used in most--

Studs Terkel To live with you?

Betty Underwood To be with us or where we were around. Used in most states that have them for people who are disabled or senile or so forth. California allowed them for brief periods if people were subject to artful and designing influence and that was, that was, that was a point that we got under. But the judge said, I will, I will hear this thing if you will, as parents, come into the court and the cult come into the court and we can fight it out. That appealed to the civil liberties, free speech, rights of religion aspect in us, but it also was a tremendous risk because we knew that if we took that action and our opposition was so declared and then we lost the conservatorship we knew what the cults did, which is to shelve the kids away so in any foreseeable future we just wouldn't see her at all. Despite that we decided to go for broke and go ahead, and we did. And we had this 11 day court hearing. We were with Barb quite a lot of that time. We had extremely interesting and very varied experiences and sometimes it was good, sometimes it was bad, we didn't know what the outcome

Studs Terkel Now came this twilight zone for you, didn't it? Now, you met Jeff who had been Yacov, a member of the Moonies, gotten away. And, and Evi.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel Now what was happening to you now? You were seeing things now?

Barbara Underwood During the, the court trial I saw former leaders that I had learned to be absolutely obedient to who had left and had been making accusations about a group that they once held sacred. This created the greatest confusion in my own mind and I couldn't follow what the, the instructions of Onni and Dr. Durst and my leaders told me. They said I have to cut off from those people who left the group, that I had to destroy any pictures I had of them. I can no longer think about them and basically that we were told to do the same thing with our parents. We were told to cut off emotionally and it was because they were considered evil influences. But I couldn't do that. I

Studs Terkel Isn't that something else, you know? So I follow your book, you know, it's two different modes of behavior. They told you this arbitrarily. Do it, and you saw them statue-like say, where's the friends who had quit? And you found them kind of open and funny and improv-- and improvisational.

Barbara Underwood Very spontaneous.

Studs Terkel And so you found two different modes of beha-- you're seeing now two different modes of behavior.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Betty Underwood That had a lot to do in the question of honesty, too, because she was-- she knew what she should say in terms of church answers. But coming out of the repressed person in her was also her sense of what do you say in an American court of law.

Barbara Underwood I was completely confused between following the truth with a capital T and honesty.

Studs Terkel Then where, where, where was it-- then when, there wasn't-- and there wasn't any road to Damascus moment or epiphanal moment. Maybe there was. What was the combination that did it?

Barbara Underwood Well, the first time I really discovered that I felt something of a captive in the Unification Church was the moment when the judge granted custody to my parents. It's because I realize a huge relief that I would, that the law was taking responsibility for me to make me hear some other viewpoints that I was really curious to hear and that I knew that if that conservatorship hadn't been granted I would be forced to go back

Studs Terkel Now you immediately experienced relief.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel Well that even if it's-- that would be a spontaneous feeling. That was the hunch, then. You were Huck Finn on the raft.

Betty Underwood But on the surface she would, couldn't express that. She was still not able to express that.

Barbara Underwood Relief was very much an inward feeling. Externally I had to display outrage at being incarcerated and having to march towards this evil deprogramming process.

Studs Terkel But then you saw the behavior of the others, there's "You're evil" or "They're evil", and the other people who were you with now never said "They're evil" or "Your evil".

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel So we come back to absolute-- there's been ambiguity again, don't we?

Betty Underwood That's

Barbara Underwood Exactly.

Studs Terkel Or a zombie in human.

Barbara Underwood But the ambiguity came to be a relief to me in the deprogramming. Not to feel that the world was divided into black and white. But to realize there was some area of personal negotiation with life, and also I discovered in the people who were counseling with me in the deprogramming that they still were idealistic, they still loved God, and that I couldn't just say they were satanic. That's what my leaders had told me to see them

Studs Terkel So what about now, today? You're back. What are you doing now?

Barbara Underwood I do some freelance counseling with people in cults. I've been doing some writing. I, I took a publishing course at Stanford. I finished up at the University of California, Berkeley in sociology, and I just got married two months ago to one of the men who was instrumental in my deprogramming.

Studs Terkel He was a deprogram-- what, when you say deprogramming, meaning what when we say deprogramming?

Betty Underwood A better word really, a better phrase is exit counseling or, or somebody's proposed re-personalization as you watch this all happen. That seems to be what's happening to

Studs Terkel What about the Unification Church? Do you ever hear from them? What do you hear about them now?

Barbara Underwood Well they're growing.

Studs Terkel Growing?

Barbara Underwood Right. They gained at least 300 members over three months of the summer. I heard that as, as a specific statistic. As the media, you know, really bores in on them, their misrepresentation, the deception, the Fraser subcommittee reports, they have become more clandestined, particularly on the west coast where most of their recruits are gathered. What I hear from them is, as it relates personally to me, that I am a Judas, I'm a betrayer, I am a fallen person. I am somebody to either be pitied or to really be hated. And I've been accused of many things on a personal level because I left the movement.

Studs Terkel But you say growing, and when you, we speak of the Unification Church as a, we know a powerful cult movement, that it's one of many, and basically the pattern was pretty much the same isn't it? With all of them. Basically, isn't it?

Barbara Underwood I think essentially there is authoritarian leadership, a hierarchy, an element of, of deception in bringing people in.

Studs Terkel Now do you think all of these cult movements are growing now? Or, or has it reached a certain-- you think that, the more and more-- what have you been told by friends of yours? Former members or--

Barbara Underwood By people doing research there seems to be an indication of incline in the membership.

Betty Underwood And that's really hard to, to figure out, now that there's so much more known about,

Studs Terkel So where does this leave us now? Thoughts. Reflections.

Betty Underwood It leaves us with millions of people all over the world who, in one form or another, have traded freedom of their own individuality for other forms of security. And in, in, in a manner of speaking that's where it leaves us, doesn't it? And it's penetration into our country of something very inimical to our belief in a democratic free world.

Studs Terkel Also, there's a phrase that appears out the book. Your own thinking, thinking on your own.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Studs Terkel For yourself. We're talking primiarily of a middle class, young people's movement. Movements concerning them, aren't we? Of relatively affluent families and in many cases the percentage is huge of college kids.

Barbara Underwood Right.

Betty Underwood The best. I mean in terms

Barbara Underwood Except they're reaching out more and more towards professional people, professional-- they're --the Unification is reaching out more and more towards established professional people.

Studs Terkel Meaning what? Academics,

Barbara Underwood Academics, lawyers.

Studs Terkel Really?

Barbara Underwood Scientists.

Studs Terkel Are they reaching into universities?

Barbara Underwood That's one of their main centers of growth right now, both with the professors as well as the students.

Studs Terkel Now what are, what are your reflections now? Thoughts?

Barbara Underwood My reflections, one of, one of them is certainly that it's hard to accept just being a human being and being limited, and yet that's so much what I've learned is, through this process, accepting that I sometimes make mistakes, that I go through some failures, and that I still want to befriend myself and forgive myself. Because what the cults promise is, is God-likeness to human beings when really that's a misappropriation of our real position.

Studs Terkel That's Barbara Underwood you're hearing talking. Ex-Moonie and her mother Betty Underwood and together the book Hostage to Heaven: Four Years in the Unification Church by an Ex-Moonie and the mother who fought to free her. And Potter the publishers. And it's very moving and I'd say it's quite a book, quite a diary. And we haven't talked about the dragon lady but that's in the book and mostly of course Barbara's last comments are what it's all about I suppose. Thank you very much indeed.

Barbara Underwood Thank you so much.

Betty Underwood Thank you.