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

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

  1. Odysseus says:

    Gentle Soul’s Revolution,

    Thank you so very much for this post. It is the best yet. A very clear exposition of the basic ideas taught by the cult, why they appeal and how they have been twisted from their original truths. There is so much to discuss here, but I will only pick up a few of the threads right now.

    1) Plato’s story of the Cave – for anyone who feels that what we ordinarily see of life is ‘not all there is’, this allegory feels very real and right. I suspect most of us latched on to the inherent truth in it. You did leave out the part about the person who is brought out of the cave and shown the true nature of things, then taken back to the cave where he tries to convey what he has seen, only to be regarded as insane. That now seems to me to be where those of us who have left the cult stand. We can see the true nature of the cult, but those who are still in, still sitting chained to the wall watching shadows of models of reality, think that we are the crackpots, the ones with insufficient being.

    2) I noticed a difference in the formula for self-observation as it was given to you than what my group practiced. You wrote “I observe the thought [FILL IN THOUGHT] as a function of the intellectual center, when [FILL IN EVENT].” As we practiced it, the tense was past, “I observed…”, and we might or might not record the event, depending circumstances. This seems significant to me because I think by recording observations in the format given to you, it becomes a self-reinforcing cycle, not “I observed this, when that happened…” but “I will always observe this, when that happens…”. In other words, what was originally an exercise designed to observe our mechanicality has been morphed into an exercise designed to PERPETUATE that mechanicality. This is exactly the opposite of what Gurdjieff intended.

    3) Your description of the way “help” so often backfires is right on. Part of the mindset that the ‘teachers’ have is that they know things “on principle” even though they may have no actual experience related to the matter at hand. This does lead to some very wrong advice and people do suffer the consequences. And it is then turned back on the student.

    4) You describe Sharon as being at the top of the food chain. Anyone who has looked at her with a critical eye has seen a VERY MECHANICAL WOMAN. I am certain that she understands very little about the teachings she is supposedly imparting. With Sharon as the supposed fountainhead, it is surprising anything of value reaches down to the lowest levels.

    5) Lastly, I want to emphasize your statement, “…the truth of the matter – that evolution is an inside job…”. I have come to understand how right this is. I, and I alone am responsible for my own spiritual development (I won’t call it evolution). I can turn to other people for guidance and help along the way, but no-one can take the responsibility away from me and anyone who tries thereby reveals himself as a scam artist.

    Keep up the wonderful work!


  2. Odysseus,

    Thank you for your thoughtful response.

    It’s funny, I don’t remember that part of Plato’s Cave. Recently a fellow ex student contacted me — someone who started in the same class as I did and then disappeared after about a year. I’ll have to ask him what he remembers. It’s interesting to note what I either forgot – or what may have been left out. Anyway, your point is well taken — we messengers are painted out to be the insane “disgruntled, ex-students”.

    Thank you, also, for providing that information about how the self-observation formula morphed over time. As I recall, we were instructed to include as many details as possible about the event or circumstances surrounding whatever “function” we were observing.

    However, I’d love to hear from others about how they understood and remembered these ideas.


    • Odysseus says:

      Hi GSR,

      I think that the recording of the specific events connected with the observation being recorded is actually the right way to do it. It’s no use seeing the action of the button if you don’t know which button was pushed and what outside event pushed it.

      Thinking back on things, I believe that the lack of details I remember in my group’s reported observations was due to a gradual decline in detail that was due to the effect of the exercise and how it drew attention to us over time. At the beginning, it seems like a great adventure, as in fact it is. You are actually applying the ideas of the work, you are starting to investigate your own psychology and actually seeing it in action. In these early stages it is a positive, exciting thing.

      But, as you stay in school longer and longer, you start to experience the negatives, the unasked for help on “being features” that quickly devolves into a pile-on communal mugging. The more of this you experience, whether you are the focus or someone else is, the more you just want to sit quietly in the back row and not call attention to yourself. So, your observations, or at least your reporting of them becomes less detailed as you edit out those things that you think might draw a reaction.

      It’s sad that such a useful exercise becomes the drag that it did. The single most positive thing that I take from my years in the cult is a direct result of the years of self-observation and applying the idea of non-identification and of non-expression of negative emotions. Even today, I sometimes observe myself in an interaction with another person and recognize that 25 years ago I would have had very different reactions than I do now. This is part of the ‘profit’ I made.

      I hope everyone has something similar that they can claim as profit.

      • Hi Odysseus,

        More on the “pile-on communcal mugging” to come in Chapter 6, Part 3: Second Line of Work. I was speaking with someone today – fellow-ex student – who pointed out that “school” would hang a label on someone – for example “in self-will” and then leave the label hanging without any real “help” on how to not be “in self will”.

        One of my intentions in writing this blog is to sort the wheat from the chaff, so that I can still glean benefit from those things that are real, ideas and knowledge and such gained by my school days and including the strength and being I gained from a moment at sunrise, when I decided to leave precious “school”.

        All grist for the mill, I suppose.

        Please keep posting! Your comments are always welcome.

  3. Hi Gentle Souls’ Revolution,

    You’ve done superb “work” on this post! Thanks so much for summarizing the theory of psychology that “Fourth Way” “schools” propound, and for describing the self-observation exercise. Thanks also for providing your insights into how the “students” are disempowered and actually become less conscious. And I appreciate your thoughtful poem. I have friends (some of whom are survivors of cults or cultic environments) that ask me to describe the dogma and other aspects of “school”. Now I can simply send them the link to your eloquent post.


    I discovered a brilliant essay about the fragmentation of consciousness that occurs in cults. It was written by a former member of the New American Wing, a phony “Fourth Way” “school” in Kentucky with roots that go back to California and Alex Horn (the original “teacher” of the fake “Fourth Way” “school” that migrated east and set up shop in New York City and Boston by the early 1980’s).

    The essay “Escape from wholeness” (see link below) can help us better understand the psychological fragmentation that “Fourth Way” “students”, as well as members of all kinds of cults, experience.


    “Escape from wholeness” was written by a former “student” in the “New American Wing” (NAW) fake Gurdjieff-Ouspensky “Fourth Way” “school” in Kentucky in the mid 1990’s. NAW and its branches were (and maybe still are) in Kentucky, Michigan, Florida and Texas (under various names).

    It seems that the “lineage” of this “school” started in California in the mid 1960’s with Alex Horn, who eventually fled to New York City with his wife Sharon Gans and others, and then started “school” in Manhattan and Boston.

    “Lineage” of NAW:

    Alex Horn
    Robert Burton (“Fellowship of Friends”)
    James Randazzo (“The Spiral of Friends”)
    Jim and Carolyn Kuziak (“New American Wing”)

    ( Note that former “students” have accused all these “teachers” of horrific abuse. Unfortunately, it seems that only Randazzo has been incarcerated. )


    The author of the essay explains how, in his opinion, the Gurdjieff-Ouspensky concepts/exercises/terminologies were used to contract (rather than expand) the consciousnesses of the “students”. I think his insights may be useful to members/ex-members of all kinds of cults, because it may be the case that similar “consciousness contraction” takes place in many (if not all) cults (and cultic environments) even though they may employ different concepts/exercises/terminologies.


    With a sense of self almost annihilated, it becomes more clear why people experience a kind of identity crisis in these cults. This might explain many otherwise illogical behaviors: why students could make such radical changes in their personality in such a short time; why we were so willing to make drastic changes in our lives at the slightest request of the teachers. why imitation was is rampant, in everything from diet to appearance to musical taste; and why it was so easy to bury our conscience – because we believed that we didn’t even possess that!


    Escape from wholeness


    In case anyone is interested, there are more excellent essays where that one came from by the same author. Here’s a handy link to the starting page of the site:

    NAW Aware – School or Scam?

    Also, I have begun to organize a list of links to sites about the “Ganscult” and the spinoffs of the California version of the Alex Horn cult. One may find it at:


    To Odysseus: All 5 of your points are quite astute.

    • Wow. Thank you, CBP, for providing all of these resources! The essay is amazing. It is also important for all of us to know that these fake “fourth-way schools” exist under different names across the country. It is quite a wake-up call to see the language of “school” in an essay written by a total stranger, in another state, and attributed to this group called “New American Wing” after being told, and believing, “You’ll never find these ideas anywhere else.”

      Readers, this essay is definitely worth a read!

  4. I Will Thrive says:

    Excellent read – I especially appreciate the analogy of the fingernail. It’s led to a realization that I still carry damaging beliefs picked up in the GansKlein cult. Thank you, Chasing Bear Phoenix.

  5. Warren Peace says:

    I would add to GSR’s quite accurate account of some of the basic so-called “ideas” of so-called “school” the idea (in the writings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky) that only someone who is awake — i.e. a conscious being — can wake up a sleeping man or woman, and that the waker-upper has to have specific knowledge and techniques to administer the so-called “shocks” in the correct way to achieve the desired result without causing psychological damage to the sleeping person. This is related to the idea that the only real “schools” are those connected by direct lineage to the so-called “conscious circle of humanity,” a mysterious enclave of supposedly evolved human beings that exist outside of time . . . well, the whole thing is really pretty muddled, and requires a certain degree of credulousness on the part of the student. However, what Gurdjieff and Ouspensky EXPLICITLY STATE is that the only way that the “ideas” of the “system” can be communicated properly is through a conscious teacher connected to the “conscious circle” in this way. Ideas communicated in this way are called “C” influences, and these influences are the only ones that can make unconscious beings conscious. Otherwise, the ideas get distorted (turned into “B” influences and mixed up with “A” influences on the level of “life”) and, through the supposed “deflections” in the “octave,” have a tendency to turn into their opposite — that is, into influences that put people further asleep.

    FACT: Neither Sharon nor Robert nor any of the teachers under them have ever had more than the most glancing contact with anybody who was ever connected with any real teachers of the so-called “Work.” THEREFORE, they CANNOT be communicating C influence, THEREFORE the ideas as they “teach” them are distorted, and THEREFORE they will inevitably turn into influences that will only create more sleep, more distortion, more so-called “mechanicality.”

    Obviously, this fact is very inconvenient for Sharon and Robert. I’ve been out of “school” for many years, so I’m not sure if they even “teach” the ideas about A, B, and C influences any more. I’ve heard that the “official school texts” are now abridged versions of the original Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Nicoll, and Collin books that it used to be mandatory to study, with the identifying names and dates and places removed. I wouldn’t be surprised if these abrideged versions leave out inconvenient ideas such as this one. Back in the day, they simply humiliated and verbally abused anybody with the gall to ask about the lineage of “school.” The response was usually so brutal that students quickly learned to keep their mouths shut about it. And so the bait and switch could take hold.

    The very ideas of the teaching denounce the teachers as frauds. No wonder they’re trying to hide the origins of the ideas.

    • Odysseus says:

      Warren Peace,

      Thank you for joining in here. You make a lot of great points. In particular:

      “FACT: Neither Sharon nor Robert nor any of the teachers under them have ever had more than the most glancing contact with anybody who was ever connected with any real teachers of the so-called “Work.” THEREFORE, they CANNOT be communicating C influence, THEREFORE the ideas as they “teach” them are distorted, and THEREFORE they will inevitably turn into influences that will only create more sleep, more distortion, more so-called “mechanicality.” “

      This is so important, and it cannot be said too many times or stressed too much. No-one currently in what we called “school” has anything remotely resembling a real connection with either Gurdjieff or Ouspensky. If we accept what we have been told about it being primarily an oral teaching, then there is no conclusion to be drawn other than that they have no freaking idea what they are talking about!

      Alex Horn stole ideas he didn’t fully understand from his ex-wife, who only had a brief stint studying under John Bennett, who was himself a syncretist, merging Gurdjieff’s teachings with others. Whatever Anne (Alex’s first wife) might have absorbed in the year or two she spent studying with Bennett could not have been anything more than a cursory understanding. And, Bennet warned Anne about Alex, apparently recognizing him for the budding charlatan that he was!

      So Alex stole a few ideas from his ex-wife, probably read some of the others and put together his “school” which was eventually run out of San Francisco by a newspaper shining the light on it. Along the way he passed on his mish-mash of ideas to Sharon, Robert and the gang.

      I think what we have here is actually a classic example of a few ideas from the books. Stealing ideas and teaching them as if you actually know what you are talking about is crime and corruption, one of the six cosmic processes described by Rodney Collin.

      Additionally we see the octave veering when it encounters denying force. If you are trying to teach an idea, there can be no greater denying force than the fact that you don’t actually understand that idea.

      And Gurdjieff himself warned us against false teachers. Too bad he didn’t know the names.

  6. Greetings Warren Peace and welcome! Your comment throws even more light on “school’s” shadowy deception.

    In terms of it’s “official text”, you have heard correctly. When I first started reading about these ideas, it was in a black, bound book with no title or author. We simply called it “the Black Book”. The “students” who followed may not have even gotten that.

    We did discuss A, B and C influence. I recall touching on this idea of an inner “conscious circle”, I think. And I don’t recall A,B and C influence getting as much air time as Aim, or the 3 centers, or multiplicity.

    I appreciate your comments. Please feel free to fill in the holes any time!

    • Queen Lear says:


      I may have been the first student in the Boston/Billerica school who received no text at all. Actually, when I think of it, after I paid my first tuition, I was given one handout that contained many redactions in its 20 or so pages. That was it. I know that the students who were in a few months longer than did get a couple of handouts during the weeks that I was there for free. But I never saw any handouts given after I received my one and only.

  7. Warren Peace says:

    Odysseus, thanks for filling in some of the details around the founding of “School” back in the 1970s. I didn’t run afoul of the organization until after their move to the east coast, and so didn’t know exactly how Alex and Sharon got their start. I’m sure that the recent creation of a “Black Book of Ideas” that erases Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Nicoll, and Collin makes it much easier for the teachers to claim, or at least insinuate, that the “teaching” is legitimate and comes from legitimate sources, since it removes the historical and biographical origins of the group, which are subject to fact-checking. Now Sharon and Robert can simply assert or hint that the ideas were acquired legitimately, either through the teachers’ own “efforts” or through some sort of divine inspiration. But the facts speak otherwise.

    The Bennett connection is interesting. I remember being encouraged to read, in addition to the Big 4 (Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Nicoll, and COllin), a whole bunch of secondary sources — everybody from A.R. Orage to C.S. Nott to E.J Gold, even Mary Travers and Katherine Mansfield. It was always implied — or maybe it was stated outright, it’s hard to remember now — that there was something “off” about Bennett, that he’d more or less gone off the rails and taught a distorted version of the “Work,” so it was best to avoid him. How ironic that the only actual connection to the Gurdjieff lineage was through Bennett — and not even through him to Horn, but through him to Horn’s ex-wife, and then only in the most tenuous and scanty way! Perhaps the taboo on Bennett, then, was less about protecting us “young essences” from a distorted teaching and more about the thief not wanting to hang out at the scene of his latest crime.

    What a pack of cunning, cynical frauds.

    • Hi Warren Peace,

      Those of us who want learn about the founding of “school” should read this:

      Supping With Alex
      – A former “student” in Alex Horn’s California group in the mid-1960’s describes disturbing goings-on

      And just in case anyone hasn’t already read these San Francisco newspaper articles from the late 1970’s, go to this blog and check out the right panel:

      A little Survivor’s Handbook
      – Blog about the “Ganscult” and about healing from traumatic abuse in general

      I found this article, S.F. Progress Feb. 25, 1979, in that list to be of particular interest to me. A psychiatrist who joined and led many of his patients into Alex Horn’s Everyman Theatre (later to become the Theatre of All Possibilities) describes the psychological make-up of the cult leader. (I would say however that the last section, “WHO JOINS CULTS?”, is overly simplistic.)

  8. To Warren Peace:

    You might be interested in the excerpt below from Chapter 4, How to Stay in a Cult:

    “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.”

    That being the case, the importance of direct connection to the lineage is still sinking in for me. What I am reading on your comments, and those of Odysseus, is that this direct connection to the “conscious circle” is, really, the seed of the work. Without the seed, the teaching is illegitimate. I guess than, in the case of school, it is rotting at its core.

  9. Grateful says:

    Thank you so much for this very honest account of how you got further entangled with the group. I thought your statement “my life is not my own” was incredible, and it reminded me of something that happened to me. I kept seeing an image of myself in the little room in Belmont, dressed in a martial arts suit, fighting a large fat opponent, also in a martial arts suit, but whose face was obscured (like they do on TV when you’re not supposed to learn someone’s identity). In fact, in the group I even said, “whatever I need to see is right in front of me yet I can’t see it.” I wonder what Robert thought when he heard those words.

    Some other things I remember: Robert telling us that dreams were basically the offal of our day’s thoughts. We should discount most of what was there. I believe he said this because it was likely people’s dreams were telling them the truth and were becoming more and more distressing.
    When we started, we read The Snow Queen, about the cold queen who steals the little boy from his surroundings, puts a piece of ice in his eye so that all that was once beautiful to him turns hideous. He too becomes cold, and its only when the warmth of his tears melts the ice that he is freed. Subsequent to my leaving the group, I have learned that what I’ll call dark groups, have an obligation to tell you exactly what they are doing. They put it right in front of you so you can’t say you weren’t warned.
    We too had that very formal structure for self observation but discussed endlessly the “right” way to record it, and I don’t remember it being clear before I left.

    The night of the first class, we discussed the difference between Essence and Personality. I thought Robert did a poor job of describing the difference (not nearly as clear as this essay– he left out the part of incarnating) and I figured it must’ve come from Plato, so the next day I simply googled “essance and personality” and bingo– found Gurg and Ouspensky. I promptly checked out The Fourth Way and started reading it as I was attending class, and I could see this is where the ideas were coming from. However, I knew they’d be furious if they found out so I never told anyone. Something about this group had hooked me and I was determined to find out about them, not realizing (yet) what bad news they were.

    The other thing that hooked me, was what I read in The Fourth Way: that if you didn’t have a school, you’d be doomed to repeat the same life over and over again. At that time, I actually loved my life– I must’ve been one of the few who came into the group just after a high point– but nonetheless this became a concern. I thought I could somehow keep learning the stuff and have people discuss it with, and just not let on what I knew. And I knew that what they called “C Influence” was real. But I thought the terms were weird, and there was something so cold and detached in how Ouspensky presented the information.

    After I left (having discovered Esoteric Freedom, grateful all over again), I read one of the books mentioned in the comments, where someone visited Ouspensky’s group and said “there is no love here”– I think it was Lachman’s book? And here is the killer: Ouspensky, at the end of his life, left his group, told everyone to leave and search for themselves. He realized he’d been had, that it was never necessary to be in a school, that spiritual development is available to all who make the effort. He had what must’ve been a devastating epiphany. But thank God he had it. He was actually well on his way before he met Gurdjieff, and I think G actually became a parasite to him.

    I realize people revere Gurdjieff, but something seems off about him to me (and I say this having studied and loved his music in college). I think he took a wrong turn. He had a car accident, and this was a sign to others that something was the matter. The things that Ouspensky said, the fear he instilled in people, these are the things you do when you’re running a cult. And he merely repeated what G did. People should stay out of love, not out of fear. When fear is being used, you know something is the matter.

    There is a wonderful book by Doug Boyd, a seeker and a finder. He made an amazing statement, to this effect: If I had a school, and in that school I taught a number of classes– how to levitate, how to perform miracles, how to love. Everyone would sign up for the signs and wonders classes, but they nobody would sign up for the How to Love class. But that’s where the real power is, right there. It doesn’t seem as exciting as the miracle-type classes, so people skip it.

    If you walk out your door each morning with the intention to be loving to yourself and others, and you pay attention to your words, thoughts and deeds, and are honest with yourself about what happened at the end of the day, life will be classroom enough.

    • Hi Grateful,

      When I read that last part of your comment (“If you walk out your door each morning …”) I remembered that just ten days ago, I told one of my best friends that our only dogma should be that we need to be truly and deeply honest with ourselves, and to be respectful, compassionate and loving with ourselves and others. And then we need to make sure that the specific practices, techniques, principles and actions we utilize to achieve those things, do not cause us to be self-deluded, disrespectful, uncompassionate or unloving.

      Perhaps for many of us it was necessary to experience and digest many wrong turns, dead ends, losses and sadnesses in order to (pardon my terminology) grow the being needed to unite with this knowledge so that we may finally achieve understanding.

  10. Hello Grateful,

    Welcome and thank you for this lovely comment. You have done a lot more research on Gurdjieff and Ouspensky than I have – to tell you the truth, I really couldn’t stomach reading the actual books once I discovered them, but with the blog, I find myself dipping in more. But I love the way that the Blog-readers/commenters are helping to fill in the blanks.

    BTW, I love your martial arts image with the blurred face. It somehow seems perfect the blurred-face foe dodging shots and all. 😉

    It is possible that we crossed paths in Belmont, or even shared that little closet of a “classroom”. I was in “school” between 2006 through August 2011 and was part of a group who read “The Snow Queen”.

    Anyway, here’s to your freedom and the classroom you discover when you walk out your front door in the morning!

  11. Grateful says:

    Oh, Gentle Soul, yes, I bet we did cross paths! I joined in the summer of 2007 but was only there for six weeks or so. The night I left, I had letters to give people outside the building, to warn them, but no one would take them. So so important to question authority, in every situation. I wonder if the people who left before I did also figured things out on their own. I really liked the people in my group– I very much hope they made it out. I’m so glad your marriage is still intact, and I think your new blog is wonderful.

  12. Hello Grateful,

    If you are who I think you are, I recall you taking Robert to task on your last night at school. We were in the little room; you told me I looked tired; you’d just returned from a trip … I think.

    It’s so strange now that I’m out to realize that people refused your letters. It’s almost hard to recall what it felt like to be that snowed, when now, I am only grateful — like you — to be free.

    Thanks for the kudos on the blog and, yes, my marriage and almost everything else in my life is now school-free and thriving. I hope that you are thriving as well!

  13. echofilm says:

    “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.”

    it is interesting, thinking back. I’ve always felt intuitively that meditation was/is so important and in a sense your morning drive was a meditative experience. I made it an aim to meditate every day and Robert shot the aim down. I couldn’t understand why something so universally helpful and productive would be shot down but likely he feared that it would help to clear the school induced haze….

  14. That’s really insightful. It was like a morning meditation in the worst sense.

    And your experience of Robert shooting down making a meditation is interesting. I can see him deciding that you were not “ready” for such an Aim, in the eyes of “school”, meaning not indoctrinated enough.

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