It has been more than a month since I sat down with Lawrence Traill. He and his wife Barbara were traveling by RV across Canada and through the States and stopped by to visit me and my family. For security reasons I cannot be specific about times and dates.
I want to tell everyone my impressions of what Larry conveyed to me concerning his life in the Traill household, and more directly to tell you my thoughts about some of the insights Larry shared concerning his older brother, Stewart Tanner Traill.
Larry was extremely gracious and kind. He even picked up the dinner tab when we had finished our first visit. There is an unmistakable resemblance between Larry and Stewart. But let me be clear (and for good reason) about the distinctions between Larry and Stewart as well. Meeting and visiting with Larry was a delight and helpful to my understanding Stewart better.
Stewart belonged to a human family, last name, Traill. These Traills, like all human families, have mannerisms and traits that any closed culture such as a family would exhibit. So when I say that Larry resembled/resembles Stewart, I mean as much as Larry must also resemble his other siblings.
Before meeting Larry I could not distinguish between The “Elijah/John the Baptist/Moses=Stewart” Stewart and the human Stewart which seemed not to exist because 1) Stewart rarely talked about his human origins (((“if we get 3000 to a Big Mtg. then I spill the beans”))) and 2) his claim that he had fallen into the earth and died; and all the other applicable scripture to support that the “…old man has passed away behold the new has come.”(Gal 5:17)
So what was Stewart like before becoming a cult leader. Meet Lawrence Traill and you can get a glimpse of what the Traills (humanly-speaking) were/are like. Of course, in COBU, we sneered at the human side of our existence, often confusing or blurring the flesh with the human.
Larry would not and does not consider himself a genius or a top flight intellectual, but I do. Half-way through our dinner I asked him if everyone in the Traill family was smart. He laughed, “Well, I didn’t finish High School.” Still, obvious to me, Larry was quite politically aware and well-read on many subjects. When I consider that Stewart bearly started college and excelled in physics in High School; and now learning that his brother Larry had not completed High School and yet spoke with the intensity and eloquence reminiscent of my college professors; Well, I must say, "Who are these Traills"!?!? Larry gave me a tape recording of his father, Donald Traill. It was a unique experience to hear such an intelligent, classical man speak. Larry said it was recorded close to the time before Donald Traill died in Montreal. I remember being in COBU at the time when Stewart lamented his family's treatment of him concerning his Dad's funeral. The truth is, Stewart's Dad disowned him. When Stewart started the FF (Forever Family) in the early 1970's, his father was appalled and voiced his strong disapproval. Larry told me that his father, in writing, expressed to him strong opposition to Stewart’s church.
The question you might have is why Stewart's Dad, Donald, was so upset. The answer,in part, is that Donald Traill was an ordained Presbyterian minister. He held a Masters degree in Theology from the University of Edinburgh and pastored a church in Montreal. Donald Traill also held a 2nd Masters degree and taught at 3 separate universities. When Donald Traill died, his second wife (Stewart and Larry's mother, Lorraine Tanner, died when they were 23 and 21 years old, respectively), Donald's second wife asked Stewart not to come to the funeral. And when Stewart did finally make it to Montreal, he was obnoxious, as we all can imagine,and was asked to leave.
Larry talked about what it was liked growing up with Stewart. I asked some questions pointed directly at the psychological patterns and moldings Stewart might have expressed or experienced. Larry was able to satisfy some of my calculations. I asked if Stewart was in childhood and in young adult life the way he appeared when Larry visited him at the Lamb house in 1980-81. Larry emphatically assured me that Stewart from the ground up was/is and has always been a manipulative mind-game-playing controller. I asked Larry about Stewart’s beginnings because I wanted to find out if Stewart was one way as a child and then converted later on, OR ,transformed later into the horrid character he is now. I asked Larry if he noticed any lapse or part of time when Stewart changed dramatically. Was the death of their mother a possible turning point for the Traills: Eleanor, Stewart, and Larry? Larry seemed very sure, since their mother was sick for a considerable time, that they all were somewhat prepared for her death.
Larry did not detect any dramatic change in Stewart’s personality or character.I asked Larry if he ever saw any specific evidence in action or word that Stewart had become a Christian and had indeed changed from the normal “Stewart” behavior he was familiar with to a Christ-like life, at least in appearance. Larry said with a light joking manner, “ I’m like the people from Missouri, the Show-me State. I am willing. Show the proof. From the beginning he has been a manipulator.” This helped me and probably will help ex-members and current members realize that Stewart was/is being Stewart. He is not a John the Baptist or an Elijah or Moses or any kind of Saul, the first King of Israel, or any Great Oz. He is being Stewart. He is the man behind the curtain.
Larry then talked about his encounters with Stewart. There was, of course, their childhood together. They left the Traill home in Allentown at different times in the mid-1950’s. Larry helped Stewart with his vacuum cleaner business on one occasion. They both visited and befriended a chess champion whom Larry told me is in the chess annals as a Master. There was one other person that Larry could confidently determine as an actual friend of Stewart’s. Larry talked about the fact that Stewart never worked for anyone in his entire life. He never had a boss. Never answered to anyone. And Larry recalled Stewart and his new wife and children living in a school bus for a time.
So I came away from the dinner with Larry and Barbara truly relieved and satisfied that Stewart Traill was/is behaving quite predictably the way his earthly/human family would have projected. I got to hear on a tape, a recording of Larry’s older sister, Eleanor, singing opera. Eleanor was the oldest in the Traill family. She is quite beautiful and an excellent vocalist. Listening to her sing and seeing her picture gave me a new dimension to this family. And hearing Larry’s Dad, Donald speaking about himself and his perceptions of his life and soon death also profoundly affected me. I am convinced that Traills: The parents, Donald and Lorraine, and their children were all blessed with tremendous talents, intellectual and artistic.
Larry visited the Lamb House in 1980-81. He remembers Stewart treating him like he was an uncontrollable kid in a candy shop. Stewart ordered him to stop touching things and to sit down. Ann remembers this visit as she was in the room at the time. Ann recalled that Larry (and Larry exhibited the same confidence when we met) would not be pushed around by Stewart. As much as Stewart tried to bully him and control him, Larry, metaphorically speaking, was able to get out from under the webs and nets Stewart kept dropping on him. Ann thought to herself that Larry seemed to make more sense than Stewart and wondered if it would have been better for Larry to take Stewart’s place. NOTE: This was my impression of the description Larry gave and Ann’s words, these were not his or her exact words.
Larry also described a phone call he made to Stewart when their sister Eleanor died about 1 ½ years ago. Larry called his niece Shirley, (Stewart’s oldest daughter) and told her that Eleanor, (Stewart’s Sister not his daughter,Eleanor) had died. The message got through and Stewart asked, through surrogates, for Larry to call a phone number so that they could talk. So Larry called. What Larry described was really an eye-opener. Stewart expressed no emotion or sorrow over Eleanor’s death. The phone call, like the visit at the Lamb House, was a series of nets Larry had to avoid. Larry said that he sent a picture of their Dad to Stewart. Stewart said he never got it. Larry, for the rest of the phone call, had to avoid the same old junk Stewart dished out when they were younger and, at the same time, try to talk to him about their sister’s death. This, in my opinion, helps the theory that Stewart might be a socio-path. Not only this, but all the other evidence we have seen while living in COBU.
What was striking about meeting Larry and his wife, Barbara, was his confidence and precise read of his older brother. He absolutely was not surprised at some of the accounts I related to him about life in COBU. Larry, at times, was enraged by some of the behavior we experienced at the hands of his brother.
I did want to know if Stewart expressed at any time family loyalty, any
commitment or acknowledgement of bond to his family. The answer was none.
I can guess that his relationship with Stewart was/is not amicable. Stewart’s
contact with his family and with his own children is so scant that I can
only conclude that he is as Larry clearly portrayed him to me.
Stewart did name his children after family members. His daughter Shirley,
after his first wife. His first-born son Stewart Jr., after himself. Lorraine
after his mother. Eleanor after his sister. And Donald after his father.
I asked Larry if this was an indication of some acknowledgement of family?
Some sense of family? Larry laughed and said, “Well, you notice he
didn’t name anyone after me.” I keep looking for any evidence
of relationship because of my fear that Stewart might be consumed and unable
to return or come to the Way, The Truth, and the Life.