Trotting out Cult Confessions, the CD, at Club Passim

Hey Folks – Cult Confessions,¬†the CD is almost complete! If you’re in town the night before Thanksgiving, come to Club Passim for a sneak peak and get a few fun things:
1) Experience the hilarity and brilliance of my dear friend and fellow songwriter, Mark Stepakoff. We’re splitting the night. He’s releasing a new CD, Any Port in a Storm — it just got a great review from The Noise!

2) Get your free, 2-song, pre-release, Cult Confessions, CD! Think of it as an appetizer before the entree … I admit the entree has been in the slow cooker for a while … but we’re almost done!

3) Meet the producer, Doug Kwartler! Mark and I both recorded with Doug at Hollow Body Studios and the Kwartler Magic works! When Mr. Kwartler’s in the house, suddenly my guitar becomes significantly easier to play ūüėČ I don’t know how it happens, it just does. Magic! Doug is a fine singer/songwriter/performer in his own right and is one half of the duo, The Lied To’s, whose first CD got lots of praise, and are heading towards releasing their second CD this winter!

4) Meet and hear the other Lied To, the brilliant and talented Ms. Susan Levine. Susan is a dear friend, a talented singer and songwriter and I’m recruiting her talents for this show … which might include a co-rant with a few choice words for our current narcissist-in-chief¬†… we are still deciding …

5) If you are wondering how my dear husband possibly stuck with me through five years of cultic fun, he will be in the house. I can’t promise that he’ll answer “school”-related questions — given a choice between talking cults and getting a root canal, he’d take the root canal. But he will be there and you can ask.

Come and find out. ūüôā ¬†Click here for details and tix!¬†

Hope you can join us!

Why speak out? Because of this shit …

Cults are all the same, with¬†slight variations on a theme: manipulating belief for control, with some employing more extreme practices than others. I was fortunate enough to happen upon cult lite. Here’s a New York Times article about one such not-so-lite parasitic group.

Nope, this is not the Post. Really: Inside a Secretive Group Where Women Are Branded

This here is why ex-members need to speak out.

Research Project Seeking Interviewees

If you are obsessed about researching cults, like I am, you probably know the phrase second-generation members. If not, second generation members are the children  Рthe people born into cults. People who became members by default, not by an unintentional bumbling in a vulnerable moment.

As you can imagine, the “Second-Generation Adults” have to do some reflection on childhood experiences. If your early years included any “school” influence, the world must be relatively confounding, depending on the extent of damage wrought.

Recently a 2nd-Genr, child of ex-“school” members, contacted me about a research project he’s conducting.¬†He’s seeking interviewees, so if you’re interested in learning more, I can put you in touch with him.

You can contact me through comments, or sending an email to

Interview with author of The Confidence Game

Interested in why some people con and many people fall for cons? In this excerpt from the radio show, Innovation Hub, ¬†Author¬†Maria Konnikova talks about why: we’re wired to trust, ¬†be optimistic, & want to believe in “good things” when they happen.

She says, “When ‘good things’ happen, we don’t ask questions.”

That leaves us vulnerable to nefarious players who know how to flatter and make us feel good. Next thing you know, your ¬†money becomes their money. She also says that the same thing that makes us vulnerable to cons — trusting, open and social — is what makes us human. So, the question is how to stay human when cons are so prevalent that we have a “president” who conned his way into the White House (with a little help from his Daddy, Vladdy Putin) …. listening to this is a good place to start:

“School” — The Sound Track!

If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you know that exposing cults has become my raison d’etre and I’ve a number of related projects brewing … a book is in process, a one-woman show, a CD project that’s nearing completion. I’m hoping to roll these separate but related projects out in the not-to-distant future.¬†In the meantime, though, here are some creative works¬†inspired¬†(so to speak) by “school” memberships! I do hope that you enjoy:

  1. Oh So Good, or the OSG Song: I wish I could take credit for this work of auditory brilliance. It was penned, produced and performed by a fellow “disgruntled”. It’s the type of song I wish I could write and perform, but know that I can’t. I’m glad that he can, though ūüôā For those of us who endured the hollow halls, the Oh So Good song is Oh So Cathartic to hear! Enjoy ūüôā


2) This little number came to me, I believe, as a download from the late, great Hank Williams. Maybe his spirit wants to support the cause:

3) This ditty is all about recruitment – Lisa, are you listening? This one’s for you:

That’s all for now – shared in celebration of my six “school”-free years!

“HelP!” ‚Äď coddling &/or character assassination

Recently I was discussing¬†“HelP!”¬†with a fellow ‚Äúevil‚ÄĚ blogger. Sometimes we like to compare and contrast New York and Boston,¬†just¬†for giggles ‚Äď like cult members, or ex-cult members do.

“HelP!” is what I like to call¬†cult common¬†‚Äď all cults offer¬†answers¬†to life‚Äôs questions! Just ask Scientology. ‚ÄúSchool‚Äôs‚ÄĚ version of ‚Äúanswers to life‚Äôs questions‚ÄĚ is “HelP!” and there are 2 categories, coddling & character assassination (also cult common). A good cult must at least wink at coddling: aren‚Äôt you special, aren‚Äôt you great! Otherwise you would never have found your way to us!

“School’s” Boston branch seems to coddle for (roughly) 2 years. After that honeymoon, “school” swaps out coddling for full frontal character assassination ‚Äď Boston tends towards the shaming variety. At this point, minions learn certain lessons quickly: if you fail at anything (especially if it‚Äôs a ‚Äúschool‚ÄĚ thing) ” ‚Ķyou must not be trying hard enough!” If you question ‚Äúschool‚ÄĚ wisdom or demand, “…what is your¬†valuation¬†for school?” (Valuation for school is my favorite “school”-sponsored guilt trip). If you dare utter the words ‚Äú I didn‚Äôt have time to [FILL IN BLANK]‚ÄĚ, ¬†‚Äú ‚Ķ your relationship to time is skewed.‚ÄĚ Robert is quite skilled at manipulating ‚Äústudents‚ÄĚ into rhetorical corners with rhetorical questions and¬†claims of superiority. ¬†I, myself, never saw him bludgeon ‚Äústudents‚ÄĚ in the way that I‚Äôve heard that Sharon does ‚Äď for example, calling women whores, cunts, bitches ‚ÄĒ sort of like a gangster rapper without the back beat. But I‚Äôve heard reports that she taught him well. At certain choice moments he brings out the Sharon dagger.

Isn’t that heartwarming!

Trump Cult – sycophants and parasites …

If you need further confirmation that Trump is trying to become a cult leader, watch & listen as his cabinet kisses his ass. Apparently, the administration invited the press in to this revolting display of groveling and brown-nosing, somehow believing it was an impressive display of Donny’s leadership … it brought back echoes of “school”. Good times!

You see, if you’re in a cult, you lose touch with reality. You believe in a contrived version of the world and as well as a contrived “leadership.” If you’re impressed by Trump and this group of toadies, if you believe all the praise and “great success” Donny’s claiming, you’re either in a Trump coma, or as dumb as a fence post … or both.

The good news is this: you no longer have to worry about “…libtards ruining the country with political correctness”– for the record, I can no longer even try to be polite or kind to anyone supporting the pussy-grabber-in -Chief.

Recently I read a Facebook post from the one sane Republican left in this country. It said: “There are no longer Republicans, Democrats and Independents; there are Trump supporters and there are Americans. You can’t be both.”

From this point forward, I have only this to say to anti-American, Trump supporters: I know a very white country in Eastern Europe that would be happy to have you. Don’t let the Stars and Stripes whip your sorry ass on your way out.

“school”, “the study”, “class” – circa 2017

Yep, Folks – the cult is still¬†plugging away¬†… even with all the Internet exposure: this blog, ¬†Clever Sincerity, Esoteric Freedom, The Sharon Gans Cult News,¬†etc … for more, see the resources page.¬†

The¬†BAIT — It’s the same —¬†the most recent trotting out is a recycling of the¬†Eleanor of Aquitaine¬†&¬†Hildegard von Bingen “lecture” or “presentation”¬†— ironically, the one presentation that afforded me a recruit, who is thankfully “school” free now.

Recruiters¬†still orchestrate magical moments out in “only life”, sussing out those with “magnetic center”, striking up “spontaneous” conversations¬†–perhaps asking questions about a book he/she happens to be reading, or inquiring “which historical¬†leader do you admire?”, for a “project”. These¬†inquiries still lead¬†to¬†invitations to special presentations, produced by mysterious groups.

Surprise, surprise, the “lecture/presentation” still makes reference to¬†“secret organizations” and “hidden erotic knowledge”.

The cult still¬†follows up as it used to,¬†inviting¬†targets on coffee dates, introducing them¬†to other “friends” and eventually to Robert, who extends the exclusive invitation!

The Robert meeting still includes a minion who will go get his coffee for him, positioning him nicely as “leader”. He still pontificates¬†about¬†the state of “sleepwalking humanity”, a group with a purpose to¬†awaken intelligent, thoughtful individuals to a higher state of consciousness, and¬†allusions¬†to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The initial invitation is still pitched as an experiment! The only difference is that back in the day it was a five-week experiment!¬†Now it’s a one-month experiment!

The¬†“school” rules! remain the same:

  1. No fraternizing with other students outside class.
  2. No discussing the class with outsiders – it’s a secret society, if anyone asks, call it¬†a “Philosophy meetup”¬†…
  3. No Google searches on anything said during class,¬† “the internet is full of misinformation” … (as you can see! ūüėČ
  4. No hallucinogenic drugs, such as marijuana or LSD.

The HOOK¬†is essentially the same, somewhat¬†more¬†vague — with so many potential Google search terms that might pull up a “disgruntled ex-student’s evil blog”, a good cult must proceed with caution, it must really shape it’s loaded language.

The¬†“youngest classes” don’t meet in Billerica; the word¬†is that newbies —¬†roughly ten, give or take– have been¬†floating around to various¬†meeting rooms¬†in Boston-area¬†Marriott Hotels¬†on¬†Monday and Thursday, for two and a half hour “classes”.¬†¬†They are presently¬†floating away from the Marriott – perhaps threatened by recent departures.

Lisa, Robert, Josh and¬†Michael “teach” the “youngest students.

The classmates are still intelligent and thoughtful people, simply looking for kindred spirits,  good conversations and some authenticity in this crazy world.

Tai Chi Michael is still doing his thing, teaching the form, so to speak (cough).

Sustainers are referred to as¬†the-person-you’re-working-with¬†… apparently this title makes for some awkward moments in class “discussions”, and difficult web-search potential, although it’s such an odd¬†title, who knows, maybe it would pull up a blog that’s properly optimized.

“School” still omits mention of The Fourth Way — but includes its¬†ideas —¬†multiplicity, sleep-walking humanity, self sensing, the four centers – intellectual, emotional, moving and instinctive — conveniently not mentioning said source of those ideas, Gurdjieff.

“Self-observations” and “five-week aim“– now referred to as the “five-week commitment”— still prove effective indoctrination tools.

The cult still expects its minions to schedule vacations¬†around it’s illustrious classes and demands. It also warns inferior¬†minions away from outside Tai Chi classes, claiming, “An outside class will interfere with your work, here.”

Students are still bringing teachers their coffee (and whatever else they add to the coffee) like servants.

“Sustainers”¬†or “the person you are working with” still meet with charges¬†once a week.


The SINKER — “School/The Study/Class” still omits mention of the following:


  1. The Theater of All Possibilities founded in San Francisco in the 1970s by Sharon Gans and Alex Horn.
  2. Corporate¬†headquarters in¬†New York City, and it’s myriad of¬†names, ¬†“Odyssey Study Group”, “The Work”, and “The School”. Gans heads up corporate.
  3. Robert is her number two Рhe lords over the inferior Boston satellite branch. Hundreds of students have passed through the hollow halls, coast to coast, over decades.


  1. Sleep deprivation
  2. Arranged marriages
  3. Long “retreats” spent building houses for Sharon
  4. Chronic emotional abuse.
  5. Allegations of physical and sexual abuse in the past.

The Money: 

$350 a month tuition per student, plus large donations from wealthier members, puts¬†Gans’ annual take at $1,000,000.


Close encounters of the school kind …

Monday¬†night I had my first close-encounter-of-a-“school”-kind since leaving the hollow halls in 2011. My husband¬†and I went to an old haunt, The Cantab, in Cambridge’s Central Square. In 1991, The Cantab started¬†an open mic. Every Monday, you’ll find local talent, and songwriter legend, Geoff Bartley, hosting¬†a slew of guitar slinging song writers¬†trotting out their newest songs.

Geoff was featuring a friend¬†of mine, so we¬†met up with other friends to listen, including my one¬†“school” recruit (so to speak) ¬† I now refer to him as 007, a name¬†he earned when springing himself and a number of others free from “school” — but that’s another story.¬†OO7 immediately recognized an ex-essence friend in the crowd¬†¬†his sustainer. Ex-sustainer-man¬†appeared blissfully unaware that two evil disgruntled(s) were on the scene … that is until my featured friend asked me, from the stage, to join him on a song.

I saw the look – shock and sudden recognition!

The featured ended and¬†open mic-r’s continued the night. 007 told me¬†that his set was back to back with¬†ex-sustainer-man’s set and we laughed; I saw ex-sustainer-man starting to prepare, taking guitar out of case, tuning it up, etc. but¬†upon hearing 007’s name, ex-sustainer-man quickly packed his guitar back into the case and high-tailed it out of the bar.

At this point, I will direct this post to him: ex-sustainer man, there are plenty of legitimate things to run away from in life. As we all know, the world threatens with dangers a’ plenty and in some cases you are wise to run away. Just look at our current orange president.

I pose no real danger to you; 007 certainly does not — I’m more cranky than he is, truth be told. You stayed the entire night, only to scuttle out right before you were going to play. Why? You don’t have to live this way¬†—¬†ducking into the shadows every time you encounter an ex-“school” doobie. The irony is that this group you’re hued to “school”, “the study”, “class”, “the work”, inflicts far more damage¬†¬†on you, than a brief encounter with a “disgruntled ex-student”.

Ex-sustainer man, I didn’t interact with you a lot. But I do remember a few things about you: for example, your help when I was drawing, enlarging really, an illustration I’d found in a book of Hans Christian Anderson fairy tales. It was Christmas Party time. We were making decorations to match the theme —¬†The Snow Queen. You are¬†a gifted artist¬†and¬†under your guidance, I created the first piece of visual art I’d drawn for many years.

It was a magic. The drawing felt like it flowed through me with¬†you guiding the process when I got stuck. When it was finished, I got lots¬†of kudos from fellow essence friends and teachers, a like. I was proud of it. For a brief time, “school” affirmed and let me reconnect to my inner, neglected artist. That experience set deep¬†hooks in to me —¬†I kept waiting for a repeat performance¬†that never came.

I also remember seeing you lurking¬†outside the Belmont Lion’s Club space, back in 2007, when I was a fresh-faced “youngest student”. I noticed it; I wondered why,¬†but never asked. Now I know that you were the sentry, on the lookout for disgruntled ex-students who put flyers on¬†cars and warned businesses¬†and¬†potential targets away from the cult.

I hope that you don’t fritter away your time and talent, till death do you part, following arbitrary rules, and protecting this¬†con job. Really, it’s bullshit. And your talent is real. “School”¬†is sucking the life out of you. Try¬†two weeks away from¬†¬†“class”. Break the rules. Talk to some disgruntled(s). Tell some un-“schooled” souls about your secret world (if you know any). Watch some bad t.v.

Maybe you’ll start to recognize normal life again. Maybe you’ll be able to go to the Cantab open mic and stay the entire night to play your set, no matter who is in the room! Imagine that. Imagine a life in which “school” no longer holds court over your every thought, decision, emotion, artistic endeavor and interaction.

That, my “essence friend”, ¬†is true freedom.