About Cult Confessions: “School”, aka, “The Study”

In 2006, a woman at a Whole Foods Market in Cambridge, MA. asked me a question. We chatted.  She introduced herself as Lisa. As we paid for groceries, she said, “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you! We should get together sometime.”

We did get together for coffee, for walks, to look at art, etc. Eventually, Lisa invited me to “meet other like-minded people” — “a casual group of friends who get together to discuss ideas,” but added, “It’s very important that you don’t tell anyone about this — it’s private! Just for you.” BTW, the current cult recruitment tactic is: would you like to join a book club?

I started attending “classes” two evenings/week. Five years later, $20,000 poorer –at $350/month– battling a pervasive and debilitating depression. I left and subsequently learned that “School”, now known as “The Study”, is a secret and predatory cult.

“School/The Study” actively recruits in both Boston and New York City. Recruitment is known as “making new friends”  and “3rd line of work”. Tactics include fabricating research studies, or book projects as excuses to talk to strangers, inviting “new friends” to “presentations”, or “classes”, or “book clubs”, or discussion groups.

Read Chapter 2, How to “Join” a Cult for more details.

If your new “friend” invites you into an exclusive group, ” … it is very important that you don’t tell anyone about this; it’s private, just for you!“School”, aka “The Study, is recruiting you.

If “School’s”, aka “The Study” is courting you. Ask questions: how much will this “School”/”The Study, cost? Where does the money go? Is this “school”aka “The Study, registered as a non-profit? A corporation? What are the origins of this “school”/”The Study”? Who was Alex Horn? Who is Sharon Gans? What was “The Theater of All Possibility”? Ask why San Francisco authorities ran it out of town in 1978.

If your new “friend”, or “friends” dismiss or evade your questions, by responding in generalities — often not really answering, persist. “School”aka “The Study, will probably skulk away from a persistent and inquiring mind.

“School”aka “The Study, claims to be an “esoteric mystery school”. The lead “teacher”, Robert (or Bob, as some call him) and his underlings, Jeanine, Michael, Paul and Josh, nod to an illustrious philosophical and religious lineage — Plato, Socrates, Jesus Christ, Greek Mythology, Shakespeare, Hans Christian Anderson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Martin Luther King, etc.

The cult omits the name Georges Ivanovitch Gurdjieff, the source of most of the ideas bandied about the hallowed halls: sleepwalking humanity; self-remembering; we don’t know ourselves; man as multiplicities, not unified beings; man as machine; self observations of the 3 centers — intellectual, emotional and moving; the many Is; essence, personality and false personality; the starry world; aims and five-week aims; the work octave, etc. Gurdjieff Associations all over the world, including Boston, discuss these ideas for voluntary donations.

My “class” met at various locations: The Belmont Lion’s Club:

Various hotels in Cambridge and finally in Billerica’s Faulkner Mills Building:

For more information about “school’s — “aka “The Study — history visit esoteric freedom. Check out the Resources page.

If you’re meeting with a “sustainer”, or “person who is helping you” (mentor or minder, you decide), s/he reports your conversations back to the leadership: former “sustainers” have confided this. If a “teacher” magically senses something about you that you’ve never shared with the group, s/he is not psychic. Your “older” colleague is breaking your confidence.

The purpose of this blog is to:

  • Break my silence: NO MORE SECRETS. This secret rotted into a psychological cancer, eating away at me from the inside out.
  • Spin silk from a sow’s ear and garner the wisdom that comes with recognizing and admitting that my need for guidance and desire to be part of something bigger than me made  me vulnerable to a group of con artists.
  • Expand the growing chorus exposing “school” as a fraud and a cult that will take your money, steal your time, damage your family and will attempt to fashion you into another one-dimensional cog in the “school” machine of recruitment and wealth generation.
  • Provide resources for those who might be seeking information on a strange group that refers to itself as the invisible world. It’s really not invisible: http://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/follow-the-leader

8 thoughts on “About Cult Confessions: “School”, aka, “The Study”

  1. Linda Jo says:

    On 4/14/2013 1:20 AM, Linda Jo Sapere wrote:

    Subject: baby talk/soul talk

    Dear Friends,

    While searching for something in The World of the Sufi tonight, I came across this page which, of course, reminded me of baby Felix and his human destiny.

    From chapter 6 (p. 210): THE PRACTICE OF THE SUFI – Learning and Teaching, by Peter Brent

         Ibn El-Arabi wrote, ‘The Teacher is he who hears you, then unveils you to yourself’. And Rumi tells us, ‘Soul receives from soul that knowledge. An inner capacity has to be developed; it is, in other words, not like learning a language, but like learning to talk. The baby is surrounded by people who have long known this skill, and it lies within him, too, in undeveloped form. For month after month, aided by the encouragement of parents, by their love and patient little tricks, he struggles to reach the part of himself where that skill lies. His lips move, he blows bubbles, he gesticulates, he gurgles: one day he says a word. He has made his breakthrough. He, too, is on his way to joining the elite who have learned to communicate with each other.
         Yet no intellectual element entered into the teaching, rather he was coaxed and prompted, he was influenced and rewarded, until on his own account he discovered the ability that took him one more step toward becoming fully human. He had seen, by observing those more advanced than himself, what was possible. In his struggle to be like them, they had helped. But above all, there had been in him and in them an overwhelming desire that he should be as they were, able to speak, a conviction that this was part of his human destiny. Everything that was done, by him to achieve the goal and by them to aid him, was because of this overriding imperative. It was the medium in which their instruction and his learning came together. They were taking part in a drama that had to end well, in the child’s victory, because it was part of the wider drama of the human race. Defeat would have been a set-back for humanity as a whole. This element of the relationship was never articulated and probably never became conscious. But because of this element, conscious or not, there was an urgency in the adults’ efforts and the baby’s struggle that would not have been there otherwise. An essence, the essence of the race, of what it means to be a human being, was being directly transmitted, and the child’s learning to speak was a function of that transmission. It is at this level, above all, that the teaching of a Master and the learning of a novice take place. ‘Soul receives from soul…’ — the transmission is direct.
         For good or ill, we are not when adults as intellectually uncluttered as babies. Our heads are filled with ‘knowledge’, a knowledge that in some areas pre-empts our seeing anything at all; or being truly aware of any part of the world that surrounds us. Everything arrives in our understanding already packaged and labeled. How are we to take the wrappings off and test the truth of the labels? The fact is that we are in no condition to do so: we are helplessly hidden from ourselves, even when we attempt to discover what we really are, since the imperfections that we are trying to seek out exist in the very perceptions with which we search for them. It is as though we looked for the color red through spectacles fitted with a red filter. Until the filter is removed we cannot see what is certainly there, but hidden from us. It is the task of the Teacher, not to remove the filter, but to make us so aware of its presence that we remove it ourselves.

  2. Linda Jo says:

    Secrets and Lies
         Secrets are systemic. They are kept by nations, by families, and by individuals.
         We keep secret the things we are ashamed of and the things we think we cannot face. We also keep secrets when we are intimidated into silence. Within the family, secrets define who is in and who is out, drawing some members into hidden alliances and leaving others out in the cold. When secret-keeping becomes a way of life, secrets and betrayals ricochet like pinballs from one family member to the next, triangulating each in turn.
         Secrets can grow like weeds through the generations, sending unexpected tendrils into every corner of a family's life. Secrets require at least avoidance, at worst outright lies that can become a habit, branching into seemingly innocuous areas until whole dimensions of life are off limits to spontaneous talk. Secrets shape not only relationships, but inner lives. "If you knew, you would not accept me," think the secret keepers, while those kept in the dark grow worried and confused. "Something's wrong. I'm not supposed to notice, and it must be my fault."
         When a family with a secret walks into a therapy session, the heaviness is palpable. The secret haunts the room like a ghost, looking over everyone's shoulder, a tense and hovering presence. Everyone waits for the other shoe to drop. When secrets are skillfully uncovered, the truth can make people free. And yet for years the subject of secrets was almost a secret within family therapy itself.

    From "Ghosts in the Therapy Room: Cries and Whispers – The Haunting Legacy of Family Secrets" by Evan Imber-Black in The Family Therapy Networker – May-June 1993

    Can We Talk?
         Healing requires words. There is no way around a tragedy or trauma. The only way over is through, and the way you get through is by talking. Shakespeare understood this in Macbeth when he wrote:

                  Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
                  Whispers the o'er-fraught heart and bids it break.

         I would not have gone down like a kamikaze pilot in my own life if I had started talking years before. Friends help, but therapists are essential for anyone who has been profoundly traumatized. I could not have survived without the professionals at Johns Hopkins. My past was a minefield. Without them to guide me through it, I would have exploded.
         The sad thing is that no one could have convinced me to start talking. I had no idea — and could not have been persuaded — that something from so long ago suddenly could take over my life. I want others to know what I learned — if you have been traumatized by abuse, you must find a way to understand and resolve it. Even if your life seems fine at the moment, unresolved trauma neither goes away nor diminishes over time. It can erupt at any time.
         Even if the trauma never recurs, its initial impact can have long-term effects. Depression, alcoholism and other addictions, rage, insomnia, nightmares, and low self-esteem are some of the common shoals for people who carry too much emotional cargo. They should lighten the load by finding a supportive therapeutic environment and safe place to feel terrible.

    From Come Here, by Richard Berendzen and Laura Palmer

  3. Rebecca W says:

    Just came across this site. Very helpful!

  4. Eyes Open says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes a lot of courage and inner strength to take back your power in this way, and you are doing a real service to others and honoring yourself and your experiences in a powerful way. I am so happy for you, and I hope many other people who are in inspired to find their own power and take their lives back.

  5. Hi Eyes Open – Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m so happy you find it helpful and — like you — I hope & pray it inspires others to take back their lives.

  6. Jo says:

    Thanks for keeping this site up for as long as you have. This group tried to recruit me almost 3 years ago. I left after the “five-week experiment,” so I wasn’t given access to all of the vile stuff you describe going on under the surface.

    I tried it out because my curiosity got the better of me, honestly. I’ve always been a curious skeptic when it comes to anything vaguely spiritual. I remember thinking, “This is probably a cult, but the ideas are kind of interesting, and they aren’t charging me any money yet. No harm done.” But my partner was very concerned from the get-go, and after reading your blog, I’m SO relieved I took his suspicions to heart.

    I don’t think about that time in my life very much. When I do, I think, “Well, maybe it’s an interesting story to tell to my friends some day—That Time a Cult Tried to Recruit Me.” And yet why haven’t I already described it to my friends? I realized in reading your blog that I was still worried about betraying the group’s trust. But that’s ridiculous, right? I have no obligation to them, and your account confirms that. I think there’s a lot of shame, too; I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person, and I’m not ready to admit to my friends or family that I was so easily taken in by such drivel.

    In the past three days I’ve mulled over this experience more than I ever had in the past three years, because I started listening to Glynn Washington’s podcast about Heaven’s Gate. The ex-members’ accounts, the recordings of the members and leaders…it all felt a little familiar, and it lead me to do all the internet investigating on the “school” that I’d never done in the past. It’s skin-crawling to consider how close I came. There but for the grace of God, as they say.

    • The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

      Hi Jo – Thanks for your comment. I appreciate your honesty and I’m so happy that you left after the 5-week experiment! Glad you left before the group came between you and your partner! I have a couple of responses …

      ” I remember thinking,’ This is probably a cult, but the ideas are kind of interesting, and they aren’t charging me any money yet. No harm done.’ ”

      Yes, I think that this is indicative of most who try the “free 5-week experiment”. It certainly was true for me. I specifically thought to myself: “what could a free 50-week experiment hurt. I can leave any time.” Five years later … (cough). Most “students” are intelligent people who — for some reason — are seeking something … that “something” varies. But they find “school” and it appears reasonable. In fact, part of the fallacy and the seduction is looking around your class and seeing reasonable, kind and intelligent people — many of whom graduated from Ivy League colleges. The ideas are interesting. It’s not in-your-face crazy, like Scientology. SO the damage is much more insidious.

      In my opinion, society at large does not understand this cultic phenomenon, or how damaging it becomes.

      “And yet why haven’t I already described it to my friends? I realized in reading your blog that I was still worried about betraying the group’s trust. But that’s ridiculous, right? I have no obligation to them, and your account confirms that. I think there’s a lot of shame, too; I consider myself to be a reasonably intelligent person, and I’m not ready to admit to my friends or family that I was so easily taken in by such drivel.”

      I have heard this from so many ex-members (both from school and other cults). Part of the shame stems from societal victim-blame, so sewed into our culture. I always encourage those who stumble into any cult — but esp “school b/c it’s so secretive — to tell someone. Choose your most trusted confidant, someone who won’t judge, someone is empathic and kind and tell that person your story.

      Isn’t it strange that you were only in for 5 (or 8) weeks and still feel that loyalty to the secrecy, or, as “school” likes to call it “privacy”. Two things:1) to me that says the damage is far more insidious and damaging than we know. 2) I think the secrecy is the most damaging part of “school”. It’s a cancer that spawns shame. It keeps you from talking about it, thus processing and coming to a real understanding of the experiences, the dynamics in the group, the underhanded way it abuses trust in friendships to recruit newbies.

      It has been my experience that the more people I tell, the more I recover. However, you don’t have to scream it from the rooftops. I’m prepared to he the ex-member poster child so other people don’t have to. Just tell someone, or a few someone(s) — choose wisely and try it. I really believe the shame and the weird “loyalty” will start to dissipate. Remember that loyalty only helps the group remain under the radar. Everyone else gets hurt.

      I’m happy that you found the blog and that it shed some light on your experience. AND pat yourself on the back for leaving before giving those sleaze bags any money!!! Many intelligent people have gotten sucked in for years and spent thousands — that money all goes into Sharon’s investment pot. I could really use the $20,000 I pissed away in the Hollow Halls. HA!

      Congrats on your “school”-free life 🙂 I also recommend just general research on cults. The education is healing, trust me.

      Best wishes! GSR

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