This could have gone horribly bad, but from what I can make out, his rules kept people from killing each other.
It sounds like an embrace of contradiction and contingency rather than a crusade for purity, and that organic honesty probably kept this “commune” alive and, from what I can make out, mostly harmless except for the polyamory. (I also note the “synthetic” qualifier down there…)
I’ll wait until I hear from more former members before passing judgement, though.
Anyway, from an obit for Stephen Gaskin:
At its population peak in the late 1970s, some 1,500 people called The Farm home, living in tents, buses and ramshackle houses with as many as 60 people sharing close quarters. There were no rules. However, there were unwritten “agreements” that often began with a nod to their source: “Stephen says….”
No guns. No liquor. No synthetic psychedelics. Don’t work at something you hate but work at something. All for one, one for all, love thy neighbor, and meditate frequently. At Sunday gatherings, Gaskin sermonized about the well-lived life, presided over burials and performed marriages. Unions of two or three couples were not unheard of, and Gaskin was for a time involved in a marriage of six.
It was all part of life in what he called “liberated territory.”
Unlike so many of its hippie-era brethren, The Farm is still alive. With about 175 members, it’s smaller and more consumer-friendly; it hosts group retreats and sells souvenir tote bags at The Farm website. Most residents, who pay The Farm a monthly fee, have jobs elsewhere and, unlike their early counterparts, manage their own money. Businesses on The Farm include a publishing company and a firm that makes radiation detectors used by law enforcement agencies worldwide.
“Homeland Security’s been good to us,” Gaskin told the Times in 2004. “We’re high-tech hippies now.”
Among the dreams Gaskin never quite realized was a 100-acre retirement community aimed at aging hippies. He called it Rocinante.
“It’s the name of Don Quixote’s horse and John Steinbeck’s pickup truck,” he said, “so it’s a vehicle for an incurable idealist.”