Chapter 4: How to Stay in a Cult

School’s Billerica Classroom with Christmas Decor

In August, Lisa informed me that a new class was beginning. So one Tuesday, I met her in Cambridge’s Fresh Pond area and followed her over to the Belmont Lion’s Club. We entered a space with hardwood floors and built-in benches lining the periphery. A number of reverent souls sat in silence, reading Plato, or the Bible, or whispering to each other in hushed tones.  Some were laying snacks out on a corner table. Drawn curtains sheltered this super secret activity from the outside world.

I yakked nervously at Lisa, who introduced me to a bald, tall man named Matt, saying, “Esther is going to join us.”

A “teacher” named Michael, appeared from a small room and announced, “Get ready for tai chi.”

Reverent, silent souls lined up and began the tai chi form. Michael took me aside with the two other “new students” and introduced himself. A fly on the wall may well have found this scene creepy.   Perhaps the part of me that was yakking incessantly at Lisa did, but I ignored it for the most part.  My hope got the better of me.

Michael asked if we had practiced tai chi before. I mentioned my tai chi school, and he smiled as though familiar with it, and then we began our lesson. I was not impressed. At some point afterwards, Robert asked me about the tai chi I had learned outside the hallowed halls, saying, “Michael is a good teacher” and my immediate thought was, “not really.” But in the spirit of the “five-week experiment” I went along with it, as I did so many other things.   Eventually, I would see Michael as “ a good teacher” as Robert suggested.

After tai chi, another “teacher” gently corralled the three new students into a small room, while the reverent rest filed back to seats in the big room. At this point my memory gets fuzzy, but I know Robert arrived, and introduced a number of ideas:

  • Humans are multiplicities; we are not “unified”. There is no one “I”, only several “I’s” who are, on one hand, all jockeying for the steering wheel, and at the same time, are wholly unaware of each other.
  • An “evolved” man or woman can become “unified”; but it is nearly impossible to do so and definitely impossible without significant “help”.
  • Three psychological elements make up men and woman: essence, personality and false personality.
  • Our essence(s) descended from “the starry world”, because each of us has a “chief weakness” and a lesson to learn. Each essence chose a set of parents and, once born, developed a personality, and on top of that, a false personality for protection.
  • Over time personality and false personality took over and we “fell asleep” to essence; we “forgot who we are”. Our false personalities started to “crystallize” or become fixed. In school, we “awaken”, we “relax”, we melt the false personality away; we “remember ourselves”.
  • People lie. Every time we begin a sentence with the word “I” we are lying because we are not unified. We have no single and unified “I”. The “I” who says we will wake up early the following morning is not the same “I” who hits the alarm and decides to sleep in.
  • We “don’t know ourselves” and therefore need “help” to do the work of “evolving and awakening”.
  • We would soon receive a “very strange phone call” from a “sustainer”.

We would begin our journey by stating a “5-week aim” — a clearly defined and measurable task that would be completed in the next five weeks.

For the most part, these ideas originated with Russian philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff, who established what he called “The Fourth Way.”  For most of this “school’s” existence, beginning in the 1970’s, Gurdjieff’s ideas and the work of various “thinkers” who were in line with these ideas were front and center as the foundation of the school.  The writings of all these “thinkers” were source material from which to hold discussions. “This is a Fourth Way School” students were once told.

By the time I arrived in 2006, school omitted Gurdjieff’s name from its teaching. It went as far as to copy and redact an entire published book so that it contained no names or clear references to geographical locations. The book became a collection of Xeroxed pages bound beneath a black cover. We referred to it as “The Black Book”.    We were told this is an “oral” teaching, passed down from teacher to student.  My “sustainer” once said, “You won’t find these ideas anywhere else. You are lucky.”

Imagine my surprise when I later discovered the exact text in P.D. Ouspensky’s book In Search of the Miraculous, an account of the years he spent under Gurdjieff’s direct tutelage. From there I found Gurdjieff’s books on for less than $5 a pop.  Many ex-attendees believe that the reason for this blatant copyright infringement is that the Internet came on the scene.  “Students” could now do a Google search and potentially come across damning information about the “school” when the browser scooped up all references to Gurdjieff or Ouspensky or Fourth Way.

But as a naive seeker, in her first “class”, I was experiencing a magical miracle. Robert wrapped it up with an assigned reading, which was either Hans Christian Anderson’s, The Shadow, or Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The main characters in both stories hand their lives over to that which is malevolent and evil. Without explicitly saying so, school presents these as cautionary tales: without school this could happen to you. You probably are already selling your soul to the devil.

On the other hand, a more awake and savvy seeker might see school telling the new student exactly what it is up to: yep, we are molding and preparing you to hand over your time, energy, talents and money to school.

I was not so savvy. These ideas aligned perfectly with inexplicable things I had sensed as far back as I could remember. As a woman who has never felt that earth was home and had been aware of her internal shifting cast of characters and those around her for many years, I was the perfect candidate. How liberating that my inner sense of the world-at-large as crazy could be validated. I had come to calling my ex-boyfriend, Mr. Hyde, so reading Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde seemed serendipitous beyond the beyond.

But “Aim” was the most exciting idea.  One of the most, if not THE most repeated questions in class was, “What is your aim?”  The idea seemed a chance to lock onto a vision for ourselves and get constant support and guidance getting there. “School” would often infer that its lineage included souls such as Rembrandt, Mozart, Shakespeare and Hans Christian Anderson. “It was said that (fill in brilliant person’s name) was in a school”, some teacher would say.

Maybe, just maybe, my life would finally become more than an endless circular course, going nowhere. Maybe I will find the ever-elusive direction I desperately seek. Maybe I will actually become the writer, the songwriter, the guitarist, the fiddler, the performer I have always felt inside but never manifested outside. Maybe I will finally find the “help” I need to nail down a career and earn some money. Maybe my life will become a facet in a bigger purpose – one that lifts this world, our society, out of its present state and makes earth a kinder and more beautiful home.

 Tuesdays and Thursdays

From that point on, every Tuesday and Thursday night, between the hours of (roughly) 6:30-9:30ish my soul got to taste “something meaningful”.

A typical “ class” included:

  • Arrive at least on time, preferably ten minutes early.
  • Observe ten minutes of meditative silence – no “unnecessary talking”.
  • Practice thirty minutes of teacher-led “tai chi” or something called “body work” (a flailing free-for-all involving “moving all parts of the body in circles at once!”).
  • File in silence to the “classroom” — again, no “unnecessary talking”.
  • Discuss ideas until a teacher brought class to a close and gave an assignment.
  • Observe an “hour of silence” after class to “seal off any leaks” of this precious teaching.

“Teachers” lorded over the “classroom” presenting “ideas” and orchestrating the discussion. Students would obediently stand to indicate s/he had something to contribute and wait to be called on. Sometimes students waited a long time, only to be cut off mid-sentence. Sometimes teachers allowed students to rattle on. But most often these discussions were interesting, lively and inspiring expositions on fascinating ideas– though not always.

This classroom also included the opportunity for students to ask for “help” school style.  Say a particular student was fighting with his/her spouse. S/he would stand and say, “I need some help with my marriage.” A teacher would respond, “Go ahead.” S/he would supply the details and the teacher would provide “help” in the form of a response that was informed by “The Work”.  “Being work” was another version of “help” which involved a student sharing some insight on a personal weakness to which the teacher would often give an instruction to work against this “weakness”.

Needless to say, “teachers” doled out and control the portions of soul food, deciding what, and how much, its students should and shouldn’t ingest.  As “less evolved” beings, students defer to the judgment of the “more evolved” teachers.

Part 2 of Chapter 4: “Help” and “Sustainers”

26 thoughts on “Chapter 4: How to Stay in a Cult

  1. […] Chapter 4: How to Stay in a Cult Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. Bookmark the permalink. 38 Comments […]

  2. Odysseus says:

    Your exposition on how the ideas presented “felt right” takes me back to my first days in the cult. It seems clear that they have over the years found a schtick that appeals to the seeker in us. They use the ideas taken from a variety of sources but use them for the purpose of hooking us.

    I have sometimes thought that the use of Anderson’s The Shadow and Stevenson’s Jekyll and Hyde was, in effect, Sharon’s way of thumbing her nose at us. “Even when I show them what I am doing, they can’t see it!”

    Well, the joke is on her now, as we are out and seeing the truth clearly. Quite possibly even more clearly than Sharon, who I believe has very little self-awareness.

  3. The longer I am out, the more I see moments in which Robert would tell us exactly what was going on, under the guise of some “idea” (3-story house) or tale (The Shadow). It is a really stunning and brilliantly conceived manipulation, is it not? This chapter has thus far, proven difficult to write, because it’s so hard to articulate that level of control, contrivance and manipulation, not to mention reliving some of my less auspicious choices and the feelings that followed. Blech. But, I’m slugging my way through.

    • Rhylance says:

      Once again well done. And I believe your struggle to articulate the level of control is indeed the very crux of the matter. It is very difficult to describe to people who have never experienced that strange world just how things worked. Here are some crucial elements that come off the top of my head, in no particular order of importance:
      1. Sincere seekers. I daresay all of us were actually and truly looking for something real. This deep desire made us pre-sold, so to speak, to the ideas presented. The other seekers, in their sincerity created a powerful culture (interesting word on this context) of ongoing peer pressure. We can quibble about the level of sincerity, especially as students were older and more jaded but grant me the general point that it is very powerful to a.) feel like you found the answers to deep yearnings you’ve always had and b.) sit in a room surrounded by others of the same mindset.
      2. Real experiences. This point has been repeated often by many former students but is worth repeating: real stuff happened there. This does not excuse the sliminess of the place any more than, say, earning a GED excuses the horror of prison sentence, but it remains that many of us experienced real and powerful things in that place. Friendship. Philosophical inquiry. Pushing ourselves. Learning new things. Etc… And on the basis of these things you naturally project that the whole enterprise is good and can only be good.
      3. Theatrics. In retrospect everything that was done was done as spectacle. Ritualized spectacle. In other words, theatre. It felt like a special amazing place with infinitely wise teachers because that was the play they were putting on. We were a part of that play and didn’t know it. And I ain’t talking esoterically putting on a play like what was taught about Christ etc. I’m talking about a false facade of smoke and mirrors. Every time Sharon walked into the room and we all stood up as she walked to her special raised platform and chair…ritual. Theres a million more examples but I’m writing on an iPhone so will stop there.

      Keep blogging. Keep living.

      Best regards.

  4. Thanks, Rhylance, for filling in those holes. All three are important aspects of what make this cult so seductive: finding and sharing something real; followed by real experiences and the theatrics surrounding these experiences. Established rituals play a major role. At some point I’ll be blogging about the theater around Sharon’s Boston appearances.

  5. There And Back Again says:

    There is an insidious aspect to the openness of a sincere seeker. Many of us were (and still are) striving to be better at living our lives, and are curious about the world in general. I think that, paradoxically, this openness enabled us to de-emphasize our discomfort with certain activities that we didn’t agree with (e.g., the secrecy, the dispensation of arbitrary and often harmful advice, the fees) and to focus on the things that fed our yearning for insights into ourselves.

    The teachers, through experience and information acquired through sustainers, are able to customize positive experiences (or the illusion of positive experiences) to each student so that s/he can latch onto them and disregard any troublesome qualities of school. The teachers, Robert in particular, has honed this skill to a nicety.

    They enticed us in the name of the best within us, and then conspired to use those very qualities against us. This makes me sad and angry, but it also fills me with admiration for those who mustered the clarity required to see through the scam, and the willpower needed to leave, even after spending many years in school.

  6. Queen Lear says:

    The teachers indeed “lorded’ over us. That may seem an overused phrase to those who haven’t been there, but it is the mot juste.

    As a student in the ‘younger’ Boston class, I never was treated to the sight of Sharon parading to her raised chair. I was, however, treated to the angst of teachers here over Robert’s chair. This piece of furniture, which is in the Jacobean style, has a throne-like quality that I wondered at. And each teacher seems to have a favorite chair, one that provides them with some comfort while the students sit in plastic or metal contraptions that Torquemada would have given his sadistic approval.

    Many nights, after body work or tai chi, we were left to our own devices for 15 minutes or more, waiting for a teacher or two to make a grand entrance to start the evening’s proceedings.

    GSR, I hope you’ll consider a chapter on the Christmas class. That seems worthy of its own discussion. And Robert’s chair received a lot of fuss in the hours leading up to that event.

    • Rhylance says:

      Lol, Queen Lear, down here in NY us yahoos would literally sit in silence for anywhere from 45mins to up to 2 hours waiting for Sharon’s grand entrance. And Lordy how we, too, would fuss over her goddammed chair and everything else during Christmas Class. I didn’t know Robert that well but it’s a funny insight…the overall fetishization of chairs. On the esotericfreedomblog there’s a good post about teachers fetishization of alcohol as well…

  7. Queen Lear says:

    Robert was always the last to enter, but he was busy sharing himself with the older class and the real newbies. He would arrive and often contradict ‘help’ given by one of his minions. They always looked anxious when he started to speak–but maybe it’s simply that once he starts he has very hard time stopping.

  8. Queen Lear, Funny you should mention the Christmas class. I tried to make it part of this excerpt and then decided (with some real help 😉 to make it it’s own chapter/section. I hope, though, you will continue to fill us in on the “chair fuss”. I think you may have more direct experience with that, than I.

    There And Back, thank you for the clarity you provided on this insidious manipulation. I found this chapter so hard to write –where does one start when trying to describe the indescribable?

  9. Queen Lear says:

    What I most remember about the chair fuss for the Christmas class involved Jeannine. Both years that I was involved, on the last weekend before the party, she started worrying about “Robert’s chair.” It had to have arms, it had to be the right height, it had to be exactly placed at the head table. Apparently, it had to be different from the usual throne that he uses. I don’t know why because that has arms..but maybe he wouldn’t be as visible in that chair as he would in whatever one they managed to find.

    It seemed to be a new worry each year. Making me wonder, if Robert’s Christmas chair is so important why was it such a Herculean effort to find it.

    Of course, I had no idea she had ever been married to him when she started fussing about his chair. I thought the fixation on it odd and annoying. But looking back now with the knowledge of their marriage, I have to believe that he would be a bastard to be married to.

  10. ravenna says:

    Most likely, at some point during her many years in school, Jeannine was severely reprimanded about Robert’s chair at a past Christmas party. A minor infraction that was surely blown way out of proportion. She probably vowed never ever, ever, ever make that mistake again. The older students would often refer to the “wrath of Robert” which was something we wanted to avoid at any costs. Looking back now, there was often a sado-masaochistic undertone to some of the interactions. Jeannine sometimes took the brunt of the tirade.

  11. 007 says:

    Looking back I never cease to be amazed at the vastness of the collections of lies and deceit that were involved in inducing us and keeping us in “school”. Even the word “school” is a lie, it was a re-education or indoctrination.
    There was the lie that was the presentation.
    Most of the audience was the school charading as attendees with controlled and scripted questions to lend credibility to the event.
    There was the lie that was our sustainers who told us that whatever we told them was just between us, but they really reported every conversation to the teachers.
    There was the lie that was the first month “experiment” designed to elighten us to the valuation to attend a “school” like this before they told us privately and individually what our tuition would be if we continue. Robert even said it one class that if he told us what it would cost us in money and effort up front no one would ever do this.
    There was the lie that I was told that a “school” like this had to be kept secret not only for the mysterious esoteric Hermetic principle so that these ideas could properly percolate in us but also because there are sleeping people in the world who were a threat to people striving to become concious; evil people.
    I know that in the middle ages and before such institutions could be considered seditious but we live in Boston where Hare Krishnas parade down the street and many people are truly free to speak there mind, and do publicly. That gave me my first hint at a paranoia that bordered on xenophobia.
    At any rate, I conclude with this;
    If this “school” tells us that we must be “cleverly insincere” with people outside of ” school” ( a euphemism for lying ) then it is instructing us from the beginning to be liars, and as I have demonstrated, they were always lying to us and the premise of all this work is to ” feed our essence the truth so that it may grow” then I posit that they are in imagination that they are making any real progress in the ” work” because their methodology is self defeating.
    They are, therefore to my thinking not qualified to teach these ideas with any real authority or reverence because, as Robert would put it, they could not have accumulated enough “real” experience that would rise to the level of their knowledge and create a true “understanding”.

  12. Queen Lear says:

    I have some real concern about the “lie” that what we told our sustainers would be kept confidential. In one of the postings on this site, someone made a reference to notes being kept. That scares the hell out of me.

    I remember the tuition “lie” as presented to me by Robert. He said something about it costing about the same as a seminar at Harvard. And, true, the annual cost of ‘school’ might be about the same as a Harvard seminar, but I didn’t really “get” that this might be a really long-term commitment. Luckily, I got out after two years (or two Harvard seminars) but I bet there are students in the older class who could have gone to law or medical school instead.

    I don’t know why I didn’t ask about how long I’d be paying this tuition.

  13. Circe says:

    Queen Lear,

    Yes, there were notes that were kept. There was a form that you had to fill out on all potential recruits: name, address, phone, where they worked, how much money they made, what their parents did, information about siblings and spouses, etc. Frequently, when there was a lot of pressure to bring people before a lecture or whatever, potential recruits would be discussed in the older class (the discussions would go on for hour after boring hour). They would go around the room and everyone had to state how many people they were working with, how many meetings each of them had, what the potential problems were, etc. People were mentioned by name and other identifying characteristics and occasionally someone would say that they knew the person in life or had tried to bring them to school at another point. Yes, there are written records kept somewhere… Also, after the sustainers talked with their sustainees, they had to leave a voice message of Jeannine’s phone telling her in detail exactly what was said in the discussion.

    I love the picture you paint about Jeannine getting hysterical about Robert’s chair at the Christmas Class. Jesus, they were married for five years, 30 years ago and he still has her running and fetching like a dog. It really is so sad. Sharon has never given Jeannine a chance to have a life. Every time Jeannine is interested in a man, Sharon quashes it. They all step on Jeannine like she was a bug or a doormat. It is so sad…

  14. moishe3rd says:

    Again, it’s been a very long time but, I remember some “Work” idea that alluded to the way “School” is run according to this post and your responses as being the epitome of “Mechanical Man.”
    In other words, the idea was that all “true” esoteric schools start out very much alive and with their founders being “awake” but, that over time, everything becomes mechanical “repetition of words and phrases…”

    And – that exactly describes what you all seem to have been involved with – down to the record keeping described above.
    “Back in the Day” – Tai Chi was tried – for the women only – but considered “too dangerous” by Sharon because it could open up the Chakras or something like that.
    Having actually studied Tai Chi Chuan for 20 or 30 years and being familiar with the concept of “chi,” I thought that Sharon’s reservations were interesting at the time but, I disagreed that Tai Chi could have a deleterious effect. But, it didn’t matter – the men were supposed to be studying in the boxing gym or other manly activities. Tai Chi was for unmanly women…
    Apparently, she changed her mind…
    And, Bob’s “body work” was a concept that was introduced from one of the theater books we studied. It was designed to be warm up exercises that loosened up the body in order to be able to remove the tension that blocked emotions…
    This is an actual concept in the theater world which I studied as a younger man when I was doing theater. It works.

    To hear that all of this stuff, including meditation, silence, and even Christmas Parties for Christ’s sake (well no, not really, obviously….) has all been codified into disciplined rituals is rather mind blowing…

    Needless to say, “back in the day,” things were quite a bit looser; more adventurous; and a hell of lot more explosive… It was all new and nothing was set. There were no “Christmas parties.”
    (There was once a massive Halloween party which everyone put a lot of effort into their costumes and such – I dyed my hair; shaved my beard; applied makeup; decorated my body; and came in a leather loincloth dressed as an “Indian.” Being in theater previously, I could do that. I got high praise for “going whole hog and paying the postage.” However, then at some class afterwards, we were all supposed to analyze what we came as said about our “false personality,” etc… That kind of flopped. As far as I remember, even Bob couldn’t figure out enough “false personality” angles to encompass what different people were representing… )

    Anyway, what you all are describing is, indeed, a cult.

    (Parentheses for emphasis that this will enrage some – but – there was nothing particularly “cult like” back then. It may have been crazy. Alex and Sharon may have, indeed, been “psycho” but, there was sure as hell very little rote activity going on as far as “classes” and whatnot.)

    • Rhylance says:

      Moishe, I don’t mean to open a can of worms, having read the vitriolic exchanges concerning your experiences on esotericfreedomblog, but I am curious: how do you account for the fact that there was no direct connection between Sharon/Alex/et al. and the Gurdjieff lineage? Did they ever “explain” how they got their knowledge? Did they pretend back then to be connected to a long history of esoteric schools? I ask because this is to me perhaps the biggest lie that is perpetuated by them and I wonder how it manifested in it’s nascent days.

      • moishe3rd says:

        No can of worms for me – can’t vouch for anyone else however…
        I do have my faults. And, one of them is I like to wax rhetoric and answer questions…
        So – I never thought about Sharon and Alex’s connection with Gurdjieff. As I recall, Alex was supposed to have studied with someone or other and Sharon also supposed to have had some kind of teacher. I honestly don’t remember if the claim was that it was a direct line from Gurdjieff or whom they were supposed to have studied with…
        It was certainly a big point to those critical of Alex and Sharon and I did hear, whether it was from the SF articles or somewhere else that – GASP! They Had No Direct Connection! Oy vey izmir!
        I didn’t care; or rather, it wasn’t important to me. We really were studying or learning or, for those who insist – “being brainwashed” into all sorts of interesting ideas. We went through “In Search of the Miraculous” and discussed the ideas. We went through Nicoll’s Commentaries. We learned the various ideas in Collin’s “Theory of Celestial Influence;” “Theory of Eternal Life;” “Theory of Conscious Harmony;” and “Mirror of Life.” We read most of Gurdjieff’s and Ouspensky’s books. And a lot of other “C Influence” books.
        When something came up in classes, someone would be assigned to read and discuss a chapter or commentary or book or idea from all of these sources.
        We researched Alex’s play, “I,” a couple of years before we wrote it by researching and writing “term papers” on connecting the most diverse subjects and whether or not they were “conspiracies.”
        Things were often rough and often overwhelming. Many incomprehensible things were demanded for the satisfaction of Alex’s or Sharon’s egos. That was often really annoying.
        And – the idea of whether this was a “genuine transmission” of knowledge from Gurdjieff never, ever bothered me.
        I early had decided that Gurdjieff was a BS artist and that Ouspensky was, indeed, his Watson. I found their experiences fascinating and their ideas (self – remembering, – observation; false personality; different Centers; accumulators; etc.) useful and exciting but, they were just people and, based on his own writing, Gurdjieff had a little too much love of manipulating and using people to be any kind of person to be “looked up to.”
        I loved Nicoll (yes people – I know he was a Nazi sympathizer – I had his biography) and Collin and, was it Orage? – who did the Math thing? But, even with my being enamored with these luminaries, I wondered why they were so damn Christian. Surely this vast panoply of esoteric knowledge had other deep roots…
        So, no – bottom line is that I was not looking nor interested in some unbroken line from some imaginary teachers.
        These people were, indeed, my “Teachers.” And, as I got to know them over time, the shine came off the apple and, these “Teachers” became friends; acquaintances; people who could teach me things or, sometimes not.
        I valued Alex’s help tremendously and I thought he was a pompous jerk who couldn’t figure out how to use the “Work.”
        I tried to have Sharon as my mentor and, by the time I left “School,” she had told me enough about her personal problems with Alex and her kids and their marriage and her failed aspirations that I had mixed feelings – she was a person that I could literally tell anything to about anything in my life and, other than “accepting” me for who I was, she wasn’t all that useful – she had her own problems.
        I loved Bob. And, the last conversation I had with him, a couple of years after I had left “School” and he was trying to do business with me – he was enraged at me for failing him and “trying to fuck him over.” (As I recall, those were, indeed, his exact words.)
        There was an incident in SF where I attempted to “consciously” be angry and cussed out my employer (after he had fired me for refusing to do something blatantly unsafe) loudly and vociferously to the appreciation and awe of the rest of the employees and, talking about that incident later in class, Fred decided that I had “left that job” in a bad way and that I should go back and apologize… I did and the disappointment and sadness from my fellow employees for reneging on my justified behavior was palpable. Then, I left after that, never to go back. The point – I realized in that class that Fred was totally clueless and really had no idea that that was one of my most “conscious Work” moments that I had the whole time I was in SF. I apologized to the boss in the spirit of “self-observation” and, did indeed observe that I felt humiliated and felt that I let my fellow employees down in a very bad way by apologizing. I took away some of their hope at ever confronting this truly Jerk of a Boss. It was too bad.
        Gurdjieff; Ouspensky; Sharon; Alex; Bob; Fred; et al – are all just people. They think or thought they got “something” that made them a bit superior to everyone else. Big whoop. So did I and my friends while we were in “School.”
        Nowadays, as a Torah observant Jew, I know I got “something” that makes me understand Life, the Universe, and Everything better than many people. Some of this “understanding” I owe to “School.” Most of it, I owe to G-d and… my wife and children and grandchildren and my community…
        Because, Life is Beautiful All the Time and, I can prove it.
        Be well.

    • I Will Thrive says:

      I’m so pleased to be hearing a deeper consideration of your time with Ganscult as well as your perspective on what it has become. Very, very valuable to many of us.

  15. Portia says:

    Part of the methodology of their brand of mind control is in establishing fear and need in their students, often around such event-horizon ‘trigger points’ as the one described with poor Janine and the Chair. Ritualized sessions lead to ritualized behavior and lack of inclination to question, or questions can be dismissed by answering in generalized terms “you’re building force” “to prevent leaking”.And the discomfort of going against the peer group (so well articulated by Rhylance) means you stop asking those stare and silence producing questions and say to yourself “well, twenty minutes of this annoying Michael Chekov circling bodywork and then I can sit; I’ll just do it, get through it.” “Why the silence and the goofy smiles and superiority? If I just do it, maybe I’ll understand one day”. So we begin to let the process of our victimization in, while being sincere and honest and faithful. Again, I’ll reference Rhylance’s excellent previous post, School’s betrayal of this ethic is its primal evil, to take the wish of a person to become better in an altruistic way and pervert it to serve the ends of a plutocracy of crass, indeed infinitely slimy parasites. School also sets up a state of tension, exhaustion, and difficulty as being “necessary” for “growth of being”. Most people who have been in school for more than three or four years find themselves increasingly exhausted and stretched. Part of the self-hypnotism is to convince ones’ self that this is the necessary “tension” and “force” to propel one’s evolution;An immediate relief on leaving is finally experiencing a normal schedule, including rest. The disappearance of irritation, tension, pain physical and stress-related, will be almost immediate, and such a surprising relief. I forgot what it was like to feel normally rested, relaxed, and capable of confronting my life’s difficulties and coping with them, practically and emotionally.

    • Rhylance says:

      Great note, Portia, regarding the conditions which lead to tension and exhaustion. This led, in my experience, to two aspects which added immensely to the “need” to stay in the cult. First, as you indicated, it’s just flat out f*cking difficult to deal with many things in life when you are so sleep deprived. So you encounter multiple “failures” of your “being”–irritation with your kids, spouse…depression, overwhelmedness et al–which in turn leads to a sick “confirmation” of the school teaching that you need to grow your being and you need more and more “help.” It’s a vicious cycle. The other aspect is you are flat out exhausted all the time and again–surprise!–you are taught that if you work harder you will create more energy.

  16. SF Student says:

    If we are looking for history, here are a few things that I can recall from San Francisco 1974 to 1978, in no particular order.

    Sharon met with the women and passed on some poetry from Ana Logan, the wife of Rodney Collins. We were given the distinct impression that Sharon had known or studied with them, I think in Mexico. (It could be possible that this manuscript was given to us later, in Boston).

    There was much talk about “C” influence and the notion that if you worked on yourself, you would pull up those “below you” and push up those “above you.” I retain the impression that the person (s) above Sharon and Alex that they were pushing were Gurdjieff and Collins, but I can’t be sure. I can’t remember if they ever said they had studied with them, but they gave the impression that they were passing on the work of Gurdjieff and Collins in particular. They certainly spoke about “transmitting” ideas, not just teaching them.

    In this period there were 3 arranged adoptions and several arranged marriages that I can recall, as well as one kidnapping of an infant. Child care was also arranged, and run by persons appointed by Sharon.

    Any persons who were potential students, if they were gay, had to “become straight” (or pretend to be so) in order to join. This affected two people that I know of personally, but there were probably more.

    Working on third line of work, including recruiting new people and selling tickets to the plays took place ad infinitum to the exhaustion of us all. We were bled for money. We were told “religion tells you what to do and the Work tells you how,” but there was never any time for anything but the “work.”

    Participating in the plays was often fun, perhaps the best and most attractive part of being in the group for me. I have retained a love of theater.

    At one point in time, Sharon was going out of town and told a bunch of the women that Alex would be calling them for sex and they could say yes or no, but were not to tell Sharon afterwards. Alex did call.

    Jeannine became a student prior to 1974 and was possibly under 21 at the time. Afterwards I believe they made a rule not to accept anyone that young. So Jeannine has been in school since a very young age, and for close to 40 years. She was a lovely, fun-loving person then.

    So much has been said (and so well!) about the mental states brought on by participating in the ganscult that there is nothing more I can add in that regard. I’m just trying to fill in some pieces. I hope this is helpful.

    • moishe3rd says:

      That’s right – Collin. She, or Alex, was supposed to have had some kind of connection with Collin. Or, so I was told, maybe by you! (That is to say – who are you? We must have overlapped by a few months anyway…)

      • Rhylance says:

        Thank you Moishe and SF student! Very interesting information regarding the early days. I spent 7+years from 2001-2008 ( NY) and find this blog and everyone’s input very helpful in processing the whole crazy experience.

        Best Regards.

  17. I want to echo Rhylance and keep encouraging everyone to chime in. Let’s weave this crazy tapestry together.

    Rhylance, I’m so glad the info is helpful! It is definitely helping me to learn about “school’s” history and know the big picture.

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