Chapter 6, Part 3: Second Line of Work – The Feeding Frenzy

So, now that we’ve discussed the first line of work, let’s touch on the second line of work: take the first line — work for the self — and the psychological ideas – i.e. observing yourself, recording your own mechanical-ness, multiplicity, etc. – and turn the focus outward to your “essence friends”. School adopted the term “essence friends” as a way to identify fellow students. It also indicates a more exclusive and precious relationships than your little “life” relationships; after all other “sleeping” people will not demand from you anti-mechanical efforts; your life relationships aren’t helping you to “evolve”.  Your “life” relationships keep you asleep.

Soon you see in others what you observe in yourself. Therefore when you reflect back to your “classmates” their “mechanical” qualities, you are doing the second line of work. You are “helping” your “essence friends” to awaken! You are demanding that they recognize and break free of their mechanical-ity/false personality/multiplicity for a moment, right? Or, the savvy seeker might say that you are adding your voice to the chorus — in deference to the voices of teachers – and contributing to the shaping of good “students” who will increasingly turn over their little, insignificant, cyclical lives to “school”. If we are all mechanical, then why not become machines that work for the greater good of “school”. At least then we have a chance at evolution.

In a typical scenario of “second line of work” one of your “essence friends” stands up in class and says something like, “I need some help with my boss.” Maybe his/her boss expects that person to stay late every night and keeps asking about the commitment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You offer feedback, or advice, mainly using the “school” ideas of observation, false personality, multiple Is, etc., occasionally throwing in some common sense from “life” having had “known” this person for a while (albeit mainly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and only in contrived and monitored “discussions” and environments orchestrated and controlled by “teachers”). In this case, of course, the “help” would begin with the “school” is “private”, “just for you” brand of “help” and then careen into the “maybe if you tried harder” brand – get to work early, be an exemplary employee, be in a state of “external considering” (which means, simply put, functioning through the lens of “what can I do for you?” as opposed to the “internal considering” lens of what can I get from this.)

Given some time school begins to marinate its students in an idea called radiations – my limited understanding of radiations is this: the energy we put out into the world reflects either fineness or coarseness. Fine radiations are those of thinking high and fine thoughts, feeling gratitude for your good fortune, etc. Coarse radiations might include stewing in complaints, feeling self-righteous, indignant, self-pity, etc. We were taught that the world reflects back to us the inner radiations we project out to the world. Thus another neurosis-induced prison begins to take root, as we begin to fear these “coarse” states of being and that we are projecting them out. If your boss is giving you a hard time, it is your fault for putting out the radiations that would elicit his unreasonable demands.

As you can imagine, second line of work can run the gamut from compassionate, loving and helpful, to annoying, infuriating and – at its worst – a feeding frenzy of humiliation; in my experience most times fellow students offered sincere and compassionate feedback to their “essence friends”, especially in the early days of school. But the feeding frenzy takes root when souls become increasingly desperate for approval and acceptance; like children aching to get a nod of approval from a parent figure.

I recall one scenario in which one “student’s” alcoholic mother was visiting; like a good “student” he had come to class, but he knew that she was back in his apartment drinking. He asked for help, understandably afraid that she might hurt herself or trash the apartment while he was in class. Never mind school’s do it or die insistence that all students attend class come hell or high water — alcoholic mother visiting, or not, you show up. Never mind that this good student, showed up understandably worried and asking for help. In return school reamed him out emotionally: how could you leave her alone in the apartment? That’s dangerous! Why didn’t you prepare for this before she showed up? Blah, blah, blah. Teachers, of course, initiated the verbal lashing, and, we, his “essence friends”, took the cue and picked up the ball chiming into a chorus of blame and disgrace.

I sat there mute, awake to the feeding frenzy and horrified by it. I imagined standing and saying, “This isn’t helpful. Don’t you think he knows that it’s dangerous to leave his drunk mother at home? Isn’t that why he stood and asked for the help? Why do you suppose he came to class?” I did not stand up against this chorus of soul-ripping freaks. In the moment, I recognized that the “help” was fucked and I was not completely hypnotized; but I have never stopped regretting that I lacked the courage to speak up. I also ignored the red light indicated by fear of speaking up. Instead, I watched as this student shrunk and apologize.

“I know, I know,” he would reply. “What should I do?”

“If you know then, why didn’t you (FILL IN WITH ACUSATION)” came the Greek chorus o’ shame, on and on and on and on.

This brand of help becomes increasingly typical the longer one is in school. I recall times when Robert would challenge us to be more confrontational with each other. His insistence would sometimes ring an almost combative tone to it. Now that I know more about school’s true history, it rings with distant echoes of the San Francisco branch, i.e. Alex Horn school of yore; the one in which its enlightened leadership encouraged the men to fight each other — for starters. If you can stomach the insanity of it, you can visit David Archer’s Supping with Alex to get a first-hand account of the Alex Horn days. Thanks to Archer’s snarky humor, it is a horrifyingly, ludicrous and hysterical read chronicling what I imagine to be California cult culture in the 1970s.

Fortunately, my class never devolved to the point of fist-i-cuffs, but I can remember moments in which I added some of my own “wisdom” into the mix when a fellow student was asking for help and getting that nod of approval from Robert. Nothing felt better than the moment where I got the approving teacher nod and especially from Robert. I felt as though I really must be getting somewhere. I can see things about this person that s/he cannot and Robert recognizes that. I remember noting, at a certain point, that most of the time when I stood to comment, the teachers would call on me, whereas others might stand a long time, increasingly agitated and anxious to say something. Sometimes the topic of discussion would be waved away before those others got to speak. I felt very special that the teachers often welcomed my comments, as though they saw in me some real potential, some wisdom, some leadership qualities – given some perspective, time and more knowledge I now wonder if this was really something to be proud of.

School paints its students a certain way, hanging labels like ” in self will” , “precious”, “vain”, etc. We responded. Then we felt pleased with ourselves for it.

Chapter 7, Third Line of Work — For “School” in Four Parts

Chapter 6:The Art and Science of Cult Baking – “Three Lines of Work”

Hurray for cults

Hurray for cults

Have you always wanted to lead your own cult, but didn’t know where to start? Never fear, “help” is here. Cultivate the following ingredients, and the aspiring cult-leader should be good to go: intelligence; charm; a convincing and articulate personality; and leadership skills.  Combine with large amounts of powerful spiritual ideas that attempt to explain the unexplainable and connect the personal to the universal.  Then add a handful of spiritual seekers.  Add more of those continually throughout the process to keep the momentum since you do lose some along the way.

Spiritual seekers are those for whom our typical day-to-day existence rings up the question, “Is this as good as it gets?” Seekers ache to understand the meaning and purpose of their lives and connect that to the meaning and purpose of humanity as a whole. Seekers wish to evolve into men and woman who can understand and spread healing, joy, beauty, truth, knowledge and wisdom. They want their lives to mean something. Seekers want to believe in a higher power, or God, if you will, a greater good; seekers are idealists who have not caved into skepticism and are clinging to hopes that greater good still exists, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Aspiring cult leaders have to understand this psychology of longing (perhaps having once experienced it); they need to get off on the ability to manipulate it in others and justify taking advantage of the hopeful and idealistic. They must vindicate that odious practice for self-serving ends while convincing seekers that all that is preached to them and all that is demanded of them serves their evolution, which in turn, serves humanity’s evolution.

“School’s” brand of sculpting the malleable lies in its “three lines of work”:

1)    Work on the self is aimed at verifying that we do not know ourselves; using “school ideas” (which are really ideas gathered by George I. Gurdjieff) we set out to learn who we truly are – or who “school” paints us out to be.

2)    Work for others entails, among other things, helping fellow students to verify that they don’t know themselves and reflecting back who they truly are according to “school”.

3)    Work for “school”, the true test, can be any task that benefits “school” from cooking to creating presentations to building rooms and painting walls. Typically, for the younger student, the “third line of work” begins with the Christmas Party and then extends into recruitment. As time goes on, it will encompass construction, repair, decoration, and maintenance of homes owned by “teachers.”  It is work for “school” that – according to “school”– ensures one’s evolution.

Chapter 6, Part 2:  Work on the Self: Psychological ideas

Chapter 6, Part 2 – Work on the Self: Psychological ideas

First Line: Work on the Self

First Line: Work on the Self

Think of your daily activities as a linear series of events: make three phone calls, wash the dishes, take Johnny to school, pay bills, commute to work, etc. You might begin to see yourself as a kind of human caterpillar, chomping and crawling through the tasks that make up your days, like a caterpillar chomps through leaves and grass, consuming the necessary fuel to keep consuming, often times to its death.  I have heard that many caterpillars never evolve into butterflies. Those of us who found ourselves in “school” are those who ache to become brightly colored beings flying above gardens, feasting on nectar and spreading seeds of beauty. We hope that our lives can spiral and evolve upwards, so that we do not simply traverse the same circle until we die, consuming and repeating the same activities, day after day; maintaining.

According to “school,” if one makes “sufficient efforts,” s/he will cultivate the ability to rise above and see her/his life as though an impartial observer watching a play.

In its initial classes, school introduces the following psychological ideas. Initially, the ideas and the accompanying “help” can feel like keys to evolution and eventual freedom:

Essence, personality and false personality:

Once upon a time, every human began as an essence floating in the starry world. Every essence, though, has a fatal flaw that can only be addressed by descending to earth and manifesting as human. This essence chooses the perfect set of parents to address its “flaw” and journeys to earth to be born as a boy or girl. There’s one major problem with this process: over time this young essence develops a shield called the personality. It is meant to protect this vulnerable essence, but as years pass, essence forgets that personality is merely a shield. It falls asleep to its journey and purpose, its true nature.  Personality grows out of control, takes over, and begins to crystallize into “false personality,” that part of ourselves we create for others to see.  Essence recedes further into the background. “School” tells its “students” we come here to reclaim that buried essence. We come here to “remember ourselves”.

Multiplicity as opposed to unity:

In the process of developing false personality, we become psychologically splintered –we develop an internal cast of characters who have their own reactive thoughts, emotional responses and physical responses. “School” calls this having “multiple I’s”. The “I’s” who compose the internal cast of characters compete for the wheel.  Moreover, these characters compete without any awareness of each other. Each one calls itself “I”, believing itself to be one unified “I”.  One “I” says it will wake up early; another “I” presses the snooze button in the morning.  One “I” begins a diet; another reaches for dessert.  With this constant cycle of changing captains, we have no hope of consistently steering the ship toward our destination unless we get “help.” We are a multiplicity.

Liars as opposed to sincere seekers:
Most people believe themselves to be unified, unaware of their internal and constantly changing cast of characters. We are unaware that, in any given moment, any one of these characters could be making decisions that will only be contradicted by another. Therefore, when we speak as though unified – i.e. any time we begin a sentence with the word “I” (like, “I want a relationship.”) – “school” teaches that we are lying: do we really want a relationship? If so, why do some of the I’s in us push relationships away? See? Without the “help” we don’t even know we are lying.  “School” tells us only “truth can unbury and grow essence” and only “school” can tell us what the truth is.

Asleep as opposed to awake:
Since we are unaware of our multiplicity, we do not have the knowledge necessary to understand that we are bumbling bundles of skin and bone and emotional, intellectual and physical reaction and contradiction (or as Joni Mitchell once said in an interview, “ I was all salt and skin.”) We are asleep to our multiplicity and our reactivity; therefore sleep-walking through our days.

“School” claims the ability to AWAKEN us! This based on the belief that we are rarely, if ever, truly awake.  The ideas as translated say that humans exist in four states of consciousness:

  • Literal sleep (in bed, head on pillow, eyes closed)
  • Waking sleep (moving through one’s day without any awareness of our true nature, essence, personality, false personality, multiplicity, etc)
  • Consciousness (living and working with awareness of truth and one’s multiplicity)
  • Objective consciousness (separate and able to observe our programmed responses, as though floating above, able to choose thoughts, emotions and actions that exist in a higher plane)

“School” taught its devotees that, at best, when out of bed and chomping through the day’s events, most live in the state of “waking sleep”.

Mechanical humans as opposed to autonomous individuals:
As humans embodying waking sleep, “school” teaches that we are merely empty machines, programmed to react to events by those messages and experiences we consumed from birth onwards. Put another way,  “Man cannot do,” because man has no real free will to choose action, thought or feeling in any given moment. Man simply reacts. But with “school” man may have access to certain tools/ideas that empower his/her ability to do. “School” promises to reveal lost knowledge that will provide true direction, especially through one idea that will constitutes it own chapter in the near future: AIM.

Imprisoned as opposed to free and autonomous:
In one of my initial classes, Robert recounted the story of Plato’s Cave: prisoners who are chained to the wall of a cave, unable to turn their heads. Behind them, a fire on a raised platform throws shadows on the wall. All they know of life are these shadows; they believe these shadows to be reality. We are, according to “school”, like these prisoners only seeing shadows and believing the shadows real. “School” claims it can show us the difference.

Self-Observations and Three “Centers” or Three Brains:
“School” tells its seekers to approach this work with a “healthy skepticism” and to question these ideas until we have developed our own understanding. Those of us who entered the cave in Billerica heard our “teachers” say, “Verify these ideas for yourself.”   One of the ways to verify this idea of our own mechanical-ity is through a tool called self-observations.

“School” teaches that humans have at least three brains or “centers”: intellectual, emotional and moving/instinctive. Each center has its own intelligence and set of reactions to external events. In attempts to verify the ideas above, each student gets a little notebook and begins to record his/her observations throughout the day, in the very specific format below:

“I observe the thought [FILL IN THOUGHT] as a function of the intellectual center, when [FILL IN EVENT].”

“I observe the feeling [FILL IN EMOTION] as a function of the emotional center when [FILL IN EVENT]”

“I observe the sensation [FILL IN SENSATION] as a function of the moving/instinctive center when [FILL IN EVENT”]

In my initial experiences with self-observations I saw my “multiple Is”, my mechanical-ity, and my automated responses to events. I even began to name and categorize my characters. For example, if any of my classmates was presenting as a perfect student, the cast of the film, Clueless, would appear on my internal stage and think things like, “Well, it must be nice to be so perfect.” (insert snotty-teenage girl voice). I began to see that I could separate myself from those petty and jealous girls. If I was having a shitty day and feeling sorry for myself, I could see the self-pity as a “function of the emotional center”. I could say to myself, “This self-pity is not ‘I’.” Self-observations stripped judgment away from any number of things, depersonalizing emotions, thoughts, reactions, allowing one to watch oneself and learn how this “human machine” operates.  On occasion, I could separate enough to choose different and new responses.  Imagine the wonderful possibilities with this idea!

The Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch

Bait and Switch

At the same time, some part of me could see the set-up in accepting that which “school” preached in its hallowed halls: “I do not know myself; I am mechanical; I cannot do; I am not I, just a bumbling cast of characters reacting to external events; I am asleep, blah, blah, blah.” Self observations, i.e. my constant verification of “This woman as mechanical being”, started becoming its own neurosis-induced prison that reinforced the question, “How do I live?” It fed and grew my lifelong self-doubts and lack of confidence and fears. Instead of “remembering myself”, I felt myself slipping farther and farther away. I clearly recall the repetitive thought, “My life is no longer mine” that would plague me every morning during my commute to the job I hated. But instead of listening to my truth and seeing this thought as a siren screaming, “Step away from the cult, ma’am.” I believed that I wasn’t trying hard enough.  “If I try a little harder,” I thought, “I will “remember myself.” That’s what they told me.

Thus began the reliance on “teachers” for guidance on how to live.  “Thank God,” I thought, “I have access to ‘teachers’ who are more evolved, have been working on themselves, have more wisdom, a higher perspective, more understanding of human psychology than I do.   They see me more clearly than I do. They understand and hold the keys to my freedom, my connection to that which is beyond my understanding, perhaps the path to the life for which I’d always longed.” I grew to trust those who had been “working on themselves” longer; I assigned them all of those attributes, as they dangled those keys to freedom before me, but beyond my reach. And this is where the trouble really begins. Over time, I abdicated responsibility to them, not trusting my own instinctive responses to life events and therefore turning more and more to teachers for “help” on how to respond.

After leaving, I recognized how “school” co-opts powerful and real ideas and – instead of empowering its “students” to learn how to trust the truth that lies beneath their mechanical-ity – it programs “students” to constantly turn to the “more enlightened” for “help”. After a while the “help” becomes pat and mechanical responses that “teachers” have been programmed to provide. (Or as Robert is so fond of saying “out of the empty into the void.”) Soon, the “help” falls flat, or worse, backfires, often causing terrible trouble in the “student’s” personal or professional life. At that point, the “maybe you’re not trying hard enough” brand of “help” comes into play. We feel more vulnerable, more lost, more dependent on outside guidance from empty and mechanical beings, who are turning to other empty mechanical beings for guidance – with Sharon at the top of the food chain instructing her minions who to marry, when to divorce and when to have children, or worse, when to give up their children.

With everyone involved turning to empty vessels for “help”, the truth of the matter – that evolution is an inside job – is washed away. If one cannot learn to reach into and trust and live from the truth in oneself, and is always seeking enlightenment from external sources (i.e. “teachers”), one will eventually need to constantly seek approval from others. This leads to emptiness and fear. After leaving “school”, one of my co-horts called “school’s” recruitment process a “vast bait and switch operation.” “School” plants the bait-and-switch seed and nurtures it patiently throughout the indoctrination – it bakes that seed into each student and it grows and expands into all aspects of their lives.  So insidious and destructive, yet so simple.

A Poem for My “Teachers”

Out of the empty into the void
you ingested
Irony upon irony
Deception upon deception

Out of the empty into the void
you served
Irony upon irony
Deception upon deception

When the curtain falls
Ashes to ashes
Dust to dust
Potential disappears on the wind
Forever gone
Your legacy: irony, deception, lives stolen
Long remembered

Chapter 6, Part 3: Work for Others – Second Line Feeding Frenzy