Politics and cult-i-ness keep colliding these days. I’m obsessed with the shit-show playing out in D.C. As I watch Democratic lawmakers present the testimony of credible, law-abiding, career, public servants who have witnessed daddy Don’s White House crime spree and the Republicans who defend their lord and master, no matter what stupid shit he does or says, the comparison to “school” & Sharon is unavoidable.
In the meantime, though, here’s another political and cultic collision: Gun violence. Last week there was ANOTHER DEADLY SCHOOL SHOOTING – three dead, a 14-year old boy, a 16-year old girl and the 16-year old gun “man” who turned the gun on himself. Three wounded, all teenagers. We’ve become so inured to random shootings in schools, concerts, movie theaters, churches, and synagogues that this tragedy barely registered in the news coverage.
Perhaps you are a sane person who has been baffled by the callousness with which certain lawmakers, or talking heads on Fox, treat these heinous & avoidable public tragedies? This next bit might explain some of why gun nuts are cold, soul less, callous and heartless. Indoctrinated cult members often become callous to human suffering. I recently learned that The Moonies, aka The Unification Church, have been selling firearms for decades, bolstering the wealth of the Moon family.
“In 1969 Rev Moon directed his followers to sell guns …saying, ‘all Unificationists must take an interest in guns now that I’m doing business with guns … we definitely need a defensive fence to shield ourselves from a satanic world attack.’
Moon called the American gun market, ” … a golden market. It is virgin soil … there are unlimited resources.” Seems that he was right.
Moonies, version 999.0, includes something called Sanctuary Church. Headed up by 40-year-old Pastor Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, members are required members to own AR15s, or AK47s. Moon, JR, himself wears a crown of rifle shells. Here he is holding a gold-plated AR-15.
The Washington Post quotes him praising Trump’s asinine comments after the Parkland shooting: ” …’He said if the teachers were armed, they would have shot the hell out of that guy. This is the first time we’ve heard a president talk like that. This is God’s grace, folks.'”
These wanna-be-dictators are always kissing up to each other!
If you’re curious to learn more about the gun-touting Moonies, here’s a PBS Report: https://www.pbs.org/video/sanctuary-church-zlgxxt/. I haven’t watched it yet. But probably will, even though the hypocrisy makes my head explode.
But it’s just another day in America, at the intersection of politics and cult-i-ness.
Since it reached back into “school’s” roots – 60s-70s, San Francisco – I decided to repost the following missive about The Theater of All Possibilities, led by Alex Horn. Click articles to read accounts published back in the day about allegations of violence, sexual exploitation and child neglect. “Teachers” don’t share the illustrious beginnings. They often vaguely allude to luminaries from the past or periods of great creativity and intellect: the existentialists, the Renaissance, and such. Occasionally, Robert announced, “… it has been said that [Hans Christian Anderson/Henry David Theroux/Shakespeare/Jesus Christ/Bugs Bunny/ etc. etc. etc.] was in a ‘school’...” his claims, always preceded by the pretentious, “it has been said…”
In my post-school rule breaking –i.e. internet research about “school”– I bumbled into an author named Thomas Farber. The Fulbright scholar, and English professor published a book, Tales for the Son of My Unborn Child, copyright 1971. It chronicles characters and vignettes from his mid-to-late 60s adventures in Berkley, California.
On a whim, I ordered Farber’s book because Chapter 10, Getting Religion, recounted his Alex Horn encounter, including …
“… Alex was right in front of Joe, telling him to say something honest, just one clean word. Joe faltered, and Alex hit him hard with one quick punch to the heart, slapped him backhand across the face, and said: ‘Joe, straighten up or get out.’ ” p. 137
” … Alex stepped into the circle and grabbed her by the wrist. She pulled away. He held her tight and, with the greatest deliberation, hit her very hard, once, and then again. She screamed, she cried, and in a delirium of vitriol, pain, and outrage, she ranted … And then, with a great effort, she broke loose, ran to and crashed through the glass door, and stumbled to the street calling for help. Two men started to go after her, but as they rose Alex said, ‘Stop!’ They froze, we all froze, and, as we held the positions of the moment of that call, Alex ordered us to do our Work. We did, even as her sobs and cries reached he room from the street below.” p.144
Isn’t that inspiring. “School’s” illustrious beginnings. Robert’s first “teacher”. Sharon’s deceased husband.
If you’re “breaking rules” in search of the truth about “school”, you can order Farber’s book on Amazon. When you read the Getting Religion chapter, the pretentious language will sound very, very familiar: “We are a group that works together to build higher levels of being ..” “We aspire to something finer” “we must first confront the worst in ourselves, our mechanical-ity, our sleeping state …” “with the help of the work we may be able to remember ourselves” “Here we try to get past self-pity, we try not to live on our imaginations., we try to do our being-duty…” “The Work is to go beyond life, to build being. Chief weakness … begin with self-remembering … pass false personality to essence…” ” … we were stars, that from the stars we chose a life on earth.” “there was a wolf in us, too, which had to be fed …” “there was no time for unnecessary suffering …”
Blah, blah, blah.
Farber, for his part, eventually left this iteration of “school”. He did conclude that Alex was sincerely trying to do something, I guess, worthy, writing, “Who can judge him?”
To which I’m happy to respond: sounds like Horn was an asshole.
So, my dear readers, those are the roots of our illustrious “school”. Couple that with your own experiences and come to your own conclusions.
If school duped you –like it duped me– into sinking $350/month into this cuckoo group, and you wondered “… what happens to all that money?” Then you also knew better not to ask. The article above provides answers! I learned an awful lot today – so much legal wrangling and shifty real estate moves.
Additionally, Boston-branch members, it will give you a little window into NY, or what I like to call Corporate Headquarters. Maybe some of you had no idea that Boston is the poor cousin. The “real” school resides in the big Apple!
Anabel Sosa & Emily Bowden, I can’t imagine the number of hours spent digging through old tax records and court filings, as well as all of the interviews conducted, but thanks for all of your hard work! It’s sure to set some folks free from cult membership, and keep others from joining altogether. Cheers!
Addendum: I guess the word is spreading: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10328580/inside-the-secretive-nyc-theatre-cult/
I’m going to interrupt my angry & snarky political ranting to make a few recommendations. First off: I’ve been reading Malcom Gladwell’s newest publication, Talking to Strangers. If you are reading this blog because you want to understand how you got caught in the cult trap, read this book.
In talking to ex-members, I’ve noticed a common pattern – many (though not all) report distinct emotional stages following their exit from destructive groups:
Stage 1: they feel as though they “failed”. They “didn’t try hard enough”, or ” have what it takes”. They must be “weak” and inferior to the members that remained.
Stage 2: time passes, in recovering cognitive abilities, they gain cult-free perspective, the group influence falls away. They view weird memories from a growing distance, slowly recognizing that maybe, just maybe, there was something wrong with the group, not them.
Stage 3: What follows? Shame at having trusted the untrustworthy alternates with anger at those who perpetrated the betrayal. In retrospect, hindsight being 20/20, the hustle is obvious.
Stage 4: they ask themselves, “How did I fall for that?”
Gladwell cites Tim Levine, a psychologist & author of the upcoming book, Duped: Truth-Default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception. He says that, “How did I fall for that?” is the wrong question. “The right question is: were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of belief? If there weren’t, then by defaulting to truth you were only being human.” (p.79)
“We fall out of trust-default mode only when the case against our initial assumption becomes definitive … We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.” (p.74)
“Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them … ” (p.78)
We are pack animals – our survival depends on our collaboration. By nature, trust is our default mode – mistrust comes onlyafter one has gathered enough evidence. Yep, my experience corroborates – I decided to leave “school” only after a bout of insomnia & a solitary pre-dawn walk. I circled a soccer field, over, and over, and over, memories flooding me, reviewing evidence – things about “school” that didn’t sync up, claims that didn’t hang together – while worrying, would I ruin my life by “disconnecting from the source”??? Watching the sun –the source of all life– rising, suddenly made it clear: referring to “school” as “the source” was fucking ludicrous. That claim still makes me crack up.
Gladwell begins his book with stories about double agents who duped brilliant, intelligence, CIA officials. People who were trained extensively to recognize deception. Why? Because humans are wired to trust each other.
So stop beating yourself up and read this book. Let me know how it resonates, or doesn’t resonate, with your experience.
BTW, if you find Gladwell’s book helpful, Maria Konnikova’s book, The Confidence Game is another good one!
About The Family: I just started watching this docudrama about the “christian” group (cough, cult) that initiated the National Prayer Breakfast & has been infiltrating D.C. for years and years. The show has its critics, however, it does provide context as to why Don Don, in the middle of spouting off about the merits of his trade war with China to the White House press, turned to the sky and prounounced, “I am the chosen one … “
According to the show, The Family believes that some are “chosen” and some aren’t. Those who are chosen could do whatever they want — rape little girls, shoot someone on 5th Avenue, it doesn’t matter, they are “chosen”. The Family embraces all kinds of nefarious actors and murderous dictators, as long as they don’t expose the group, and do follow the dictates of this specific group, or at least appear to …
If you’re still wondering how evangelical “christians” support Don Don no matter what – he brags about “grabbing pussy” they still support him. He rapes a 13-year old with disgraced and now dead pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, they still support him (come on, folks, raping a 13-year old falls right into Mr. “grab-em-by-the-pussy-cuz-when-you’re-a-star…” wheelhouse). This docudrama provides some context. Don Don is the “imperfect vessel”, or at least that’s how they justify the hypocrisy. (Side note: “imperfect vessels” are one thing – supporting a narcissistic, sociopathic, rapist, wanna-be-a-dictator-like-Putin, that’s an entirely different story)
The Washington Post calls it a Must See … yea, I agree with that. If you want to understand the politics of today, it’s definitely worth your time.
The Epoch Times is owned by Falon Gong, a cult from China. Its “newspaper” is now a Trump propaganda machine, trotting out the ultimate in cray cray from the far-right “conservatives”. They must be trying to compete with Faux News … Learn more in this report:
Randy Rainbow! If you can see him live, RUN! Don’t walk. I saw him last night. We gave him a standing O before he sang one note! If you can’t see him live, check out the tune he submitted to the Trump campaign for its “campaign song” contest, Suckers For You.
2. Help me and my two talented songwriter friends Susan Levine & Lindsay Dobb, raise funds for Planned Parenthood, MASS this coming Sunday, at The Burren, Davis SQ –> –> –>–>
3. This podcast: Truth Be Told – This episode of Truth Be Told explores a question: is it okay to be joyful when so many terrible things are happening? The conclusion: feeling joy is essential! Take a listen. See what you think.
Yesterday, I was discussing “school” with someone and I told her that I would post an excerpt, written for one of my many cult-related projects. It depicts the first of a handful of Sharon visits to “school’s” inferior Boston-branch satellite. She swooped in from corporate headquarters in New York City, I guess, to impress us … or to demonstrate that Robert was an underling. I was still new to the hallowed/hollow halls at the time. I had no idea that there was a corporate headquarters – in fact, I didn’t learn about NYC until after I left. So when the following bizarre scenario unfolded, rather than impressed, it left me freaked out. I almost left … wish I had. Oh, well.
Here it as, as promised. (You know who you are 😉
One night in class, some months into my tenure, we were following the format: tai chi, then the silent march to our seats, but something felt different. There was more nervous whispering in corners and rushing around than usual. Something was up. Suddenly Robert burst through the door, strolling arm in arm with a short, round lady wearing lots of makeup. Skirt and scarves flowed behind her, as she hung off of Robert’s arm. Mascara and eye shadow weighed down her lashes and lids.
To me this lady looked as though she’d busted out of the locked unit of a psychiatric ward. Robert beamed at her with a childlike reverence. I had never seen Robert defer to anyone, so his adulation was weird. He escorted her purposefully to an overstuffed armchair that someone dragged to the front of the room. He assisted her into its cushions – turned to us, the minions, swept his arms like a ringmaster and announced: “Ask your questions.”
No introduction? I was confused, “Who is this creature and why are we asking her questions?” I didn’t ask that question, though. I watched and listened for clues. One by one, soldiers stood, and waited for her to call on them. She granted some permission to speak and ignored others. The chosen meekly asked for her “help”. Her “help” toggled between effusive compassion and abrupt rebukes of character. At some point, someone must have addressed her by name: Sharon.
Sharon’s “help” sounded like word salad to me, but to my nodding classmates her babble seemed to land as gospel. All the while, others scuttled to and from the kitchen, serving her food and drinks. The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Where did she come from? Why was everyone acting like she was the Queen of England? Why did Robert spring her on us – no forewarning, no introduction?
Sharon, waved her hand, granting a fellow student whom I will call Linda permission to speak. Linda started talking about Yoga. Sharon (who appeared barely able to walk without Robert propping her up) replied, “Yes, I practice yoga, too.” Linda then said something about hearing angels. Sharon’s tone hardened: “What do you mean you hear angels?” Linda stuttered, but Sharon interrupted. “I’ve been doing this work for 40 years,” she barked, “…and I have never heard angels. Why are you lying?” Linda stuttered again, but Sharon interrupted, launching into full frontal character assassination. We watched in shocked silence; it seemed to come out of nowhere. “Why are you lying?” accelerated into “Why don’t you leave.”
It wasn’t a question. Linda stood up, gathered her belongings and walked silently out the door, head down. A fellow student named, whom I will call, Natalie, stood and said, “I’m leaving, too.” She gathered her belongings, walked to the door, turned around to say, “I love you all” before disappearing.
I was squirming. Cognitive dissonance took a fever pitch as my mind fought with itself: rebels debated loudly with my starry-eyed believers. “What the fuck was that? Stand up! Say something!” the rebels demanded. “No … don’t draw attention to yourself! I don’t want that mean lady to point her dagger at me,” the intimidated believers insisted. They won. I lost my voice. I sat there wishing that I was as brave as Natalie, but I wasn’t. I wanted to leave. I didn’t.
The next day my sustainer called, asking, breathlessly, “What did you think about ‘class’?” “I thought it was upsetting.” I replied. “Why?” she asked, “What happened?” I said, “Who was that weird lady?” And reported my experience. She encouraged me to “bring this up in class… ask ‘teachers’for ‘help’.”
The next class was a special debriefing that teachers called the “impressions class.” We were to reflect back on our transcendent experience. Most people were commenting on how direct, how unafraid, how amazing she was. Robert turned to me, “I hear that you were upset.” Obviously, my sustainer had broken our “confidentiality”. (Thanks, Karyn!)
I said, “Yea, what was that about? Why did Sharon kick Linda out?” A teacher named Jeanine, piped in, “You’re identifying with Linda.” In a rare moment of courage, I replied, “Of course I’m identifying with Linda; who wouldn’t?” I can’t remember how she responded, but I got the message: someday, this will all make sense to you. You haven’t been doing the work long enough.It worked. I stayed.
That’s how I learned about school’s top narcissist-in-chief. The Sharon Show trounced through to demonstrate that Robert wasn’t the head honcho. And still, during my tenure, no one explained who she was beyond “Robert’s teacher.” No one ever mentioned that the Boston “school” was a satellite branch to a corporate headquarters in New York City. Many Boston students never know about corporate, let alone that there are teachers offering “help” to unmentioned seekers in unmentioned classrooms across state lines. I’m guessing that the New York teachers omit mention of Boston to their minions, too.
The Sharon Show only graced Boston a few times during my tenure. After a while, to my relief, she faded away. I have to wonder whether other newbies got freaked out by the dog and pony show. Maybe Boston leadership told New York leadership to keep her at bay.
Her recruitment into Epstein’s lair … At 14, “a young woman approached her outside her New York City high school. ‘I was kind of a lost kid and she sensed it,’ Araoz said.”
“The woman was friendly and curious, asking Araoz personal questions about her family, her upbringing, their finances. Soon she began talking to Araoz about a man she knew who was kind and wealthy and lived nearby.”
At the time, Araoz was grieving her father’s death. And she wanted to be an actress: Her grooming …
“… the woman showed up outside her school multiple times and even offered to buy her a soda or lunch nearby. “She was definitely trying to get to know me,” Araoz said.”
The woman eventually took Araoz to Epstein’s home: “She recalls Epstein telling her that he had heard a lot about her and felt terrible about her father’s death. Epstein insinuated that Araoz was ‘very lucky to have met somebody like him’ and ‘that he could really help me,’ she said.”
She returned a handful of times with the other woman, “and left each visit with $300, Araoz said. Epstein talked about donating money to AIDS charities, which struck a chord for her given her father’s death, and wanting to help with her career.“
“He talked up his contacts in the acting business and mentioned that he owned a modeling agency. Araoz recalls him telling her that ‘I should be a model and all these things that young girls like to hear.’ “
The two women, one a young teen, visited Epstein together for a while and then …
” …the dynamic changed that first time she showed up alone, Araoz said. Instead of talking downstairs, Epstein escorted his 14-year-old visitor onto his elevator and brought her deeper into his seven-story home.”
You know what happens from there; but if you need to confirm your instinct, read the article.
Boy, did those tactics ring familiar to me. How about you?
Whether 14, like Araoz, or 41, like me when recruited into “school”, our emotional and social needs remain the same. And if you’re not aware of that, if you’re not cognizant of the red flags, if you don’t know how to meet those needs, you’re vulnerable to scumbags like Epstein. This article was heartbreaking to read. But I’m heartened that this brave young woman has now spoken out. The damage is done. Thanks to our rape culture, this predator has gotten away with damaging many, many, young women. But I hope that Araoz finds empowerment in calling him out and I hope that the others will join her.