As Aside to the “School” Monitor/Commentor Challenge

In April, *someone* sent in a comment that I chose not to post; s/he challenged me to write about specific and private family issues. These details could only be known by either, a personal friend, or a particular *teacher*. And a friend would not have written this comment. Here is my response:

To the Commenter who challenged me to speak about my family:

Given the tone of your message, you must be the “teacher” tasked to monitor this blog. Given what you know about my family situation,  you sound like Carol. I could feel the venom spewing out from your “comment” — i.e. thinly disguised empty threat.

It may interest you to know that my post-“school” new “life” policy is this: no more secrets. Secrets suck your energy and time away from you, do they not. I have been and will continue to speak about “school” whenever and to whomever I wish. And I obviously am not trying to hide my identity.  At the same time, I decide what to share in this public forum. I no longer have to ask you for permission to breathe and wipe my ass. That’s what happens when you leave school — you stop abdicating responsibility to “teachers”.

You have a son and understand that some topics are off limits. But  I finally recognize your “comment” as a “school” tactic: ask an off-topic, rhetorical question that “aims” for your target’s vulnerabilities. It takes the focus off the truth, confuses the recipient and shuts them up. There was a time when that tactic really worked. As you can see, it no longer does. You have no power to stop me from publicizing my “school” (i.e. cult) experience. Because, as you are living, you have to keep everything secret, veiled.

Imagine if you were free to simply live a normal life. Imagine if you didn’t have to scramble around covering up a strange web of lies told and proliferated by “school’s evolved leadership”. Secrets are their own prisons, are they not. I imagine you’ve been imprisoned for decades. Imagine a life in which you decide things like when to take a vacation, to breathe, to sneeze, change a job, keep a journal, etc. A life in which no one is lording over you and holding you responsible to control that which – ultimately – cannot be controlled: a roomful of adults, some of whom will soon begin to ache for a return to their free will. And will return to it of their own accord.

I imagine the leadership raked you over the coals after the January exodus. In truth, the students who left, left because “school,” at its core, is a farce, a con job. They left before it claimed their lives further by dictating normal life choices: what to do for work, who to marry, when to have children, when to give up children, how much money to make and where to invest it … or give to Sharon, etc. They have lives, friends, family, passions, jobs, spouses, children. They chose to keep their lives and not allow “school” to dictate these things, as it dictates your choices.

“School” can never be the “esoteric” institution in pursuit of truth it claims to be. Maybe in the beginning, it had that potential. It certainly offers powerful ideas that are not widely known (although, very available as I discovered once out of “school”). Too bad school twists and mishandles these ideas. One former member did tell me that Alex Horn originally “aimed” to start a cult. But I have not been soured enough to believe that you, or all the other “teachers”, are simply sociopaths-in-training following his lead —  you must believe  in “school” an as institution of higher calling and that’s why you are willing to “do whatever it takes” to keep it going.

Alas, we have all been deceived. You know that at some level. But I imagine that after a number of decades, it would be painful and difficult for you to leave. It is not impossible to reclaim your life, though; others have left after several decades — even teachers. So you could leave as well.

At the end of your days, when the curtains are closing, do you really want to look back on your entire adult life and see that you gave it away, in service to a deceptive cult?

Think about it.

Conclusion: Caterpillar Days in Butterfly Lives

Caterpillar Days

Caterpillar consumption

Dear Readers,

Recently I had what I have come to call a run of “caterpillar days” — my to-do list was thwarted by the universe: a client refused a session; my computer’s hard drive died; my one day off was spent at the North Shore Mall’s Apple Store; family challenges rose to the surface and my inner responses followed (anger, blame, frustration, guilt, sadness — all unspoken and distracting).

My psyche defaulted to the “I cut myself off from the source” mode, followed by the “my life will now turn to crap” mode — punishment for “breaking school rules”. Fortunately, I caught myself and saw those days for what they were — caterpillar days in a striving towards butterfly-hood.

Truthfully, before my “school” tenure similar days would have triggered a similar response. But my sin would have been nebulous and the “greater/higher power” would have been un-definable. “School” provides me clarity for the crimes: leaving  “the source”; researching “school” on the evil internet; breaking the “code of silence”; reaching out to others AND (most egregious) writing and posting my super-secret esoteric “school” — i.e. cult – experience for all that care to read it.

Now that I know the insane context (history, lineage, or lack thereof) that “school” desperately scrambles to hide, I can recognize the insanity of these damning thoughts — punishment for the crimes of independent thinking and inquiry. In reality, my caterpillar days simply point to some life things that need tending  — things having nothing to do with “school’s” wrath and hell fire.  They beg the questions:  why so distracted and what do I need to address? They say to me, “Hey, you need a day at the beach.”

How many of us ex-students experience the sense that “school”, in it’s highly evolved capacity, can lurk above judging caterpillar days? How many of us hear “school” voices saying, “I told you this would happen”– damning us to meaningless lives of scrambling, crawling and consuming until death.

In my last conversation with Robert, he told me essentially that my husband would continue trying to “control” me in the future. “These things don’t happen in isolation,” he promised me. Of course, the obvious irony here is that this is a standard line, fed to students whose spouses have started to whittle away at the induced “school” stupor. It is an attempt to control via fear.

When that didn’t work, he changed his tactic. “I am trying to put myself in your husband’s shoes,” he said. I remember – at the time – having the thought, “Well how hard can it be to understand my husband’s legitimate worries about my emotional morass and our dwindling finances? ” But, again, I was to intimidated to voice this question.

I was furious when learning later that Robert’s three marriages were all arranged via “school”. This knowledge did throw light on his utter lack of empathy. He has never had to explain the unexplainable to his wives – the ever-growing time commitment and expenses. He has never had to lie to the person who has been lying next to him night after night.  I finally understood that his lack of compassion for my husband, extended to my marriage, which was inconvenient for “school”.

In reality, my departure only strengthened my marriage and vastly improved my life. My husband has not tried to control my time as promised. And I have come to honor and trust my own judgment and make my own decisions – ultimately reclaiming responsibility for my life. Since then, doors have opened for me without the frantic and exhausting scramble prescribed by “school” in “principle”. Most notably, my struggle with employment and money is over.

After almost two years of following “school’s help” in finding work, I decided to take the opposite tack. I relaxed, regrouped and focused on  work that felt meaningful and right; positions that call on my natural aptitude. Within two months after leaving school I found work that I love. I now earn a decent salary and was recently nominated and awarded a prize for my efforts. I can honestly say that my days feel joyful, meaningful and purposeful.

School often paints departing infidels as angry and disgruntled “ex-students”, who somehow “failed” the program. Again, my experience has proven exactly the opposite to be true. Angry, yes! I am wrathful at the deception and manipulation of this fake “school”. Disgruntled, no. I have never been clearer in my life about what I want and who I am.  I am filled with gratitude for having my life back — mostly to my husband for pushing me to see the truth of the mysterious Tuesday/Thursday thing. My decision to leave school is proving to be one of my most successful and important decisions. I am a stronger woman, now, and my well-honed bullshit detector quickly sounds sirens when encountering the “cleverly insincere”.

I have spoken with many former “students” and they do miss their friends. But if King Robert himself, called us each personally and invited any of us back, I feel certain that none would accept. In fact, fairly recently, eleven of the “angry and disgruntled” reunited at the Cheesecake factory. We shared stories, complained, gossiped, laughed our asses off, showed pictures of new babies, talked about babies to come, discussed books, movies, new esoteric and spiritual explorations, compared ludicrous stories from our “school” days, talked about new jobs and (God forbid!) exchanged emails and phone numbers in unadulterated, unmonitored and chaotic conversation.

We toasted to our real freedom. Without school, the “disgruntled” are living joyful and meaningful lives. We have more money, energy and time and we own our thoughts, emotions and actions. We decide when to change a job, see our spouses, take our children to the playground, etc. We are awake to the value innate in each moment; the smallest things hold priceless meaning, after having given this time away to “school”.

For those of you who are still in and wondering what is this thing called “school”, I can tell you that it is not the institution hued to a higher calling in pursuit of truth that it claims to be; its roots are deeply entrenched and clinging to deception and greed. I want to implore you to reclaim your life. You will not learn the truth of “school” if you are in “school” for its evolved leaders take great pains to keep the truth from you. The gift of freedom that  “school” whispers came to me when I left. I learned the truth and experienced a stark contrast between letting an esoteric prison dictate my choices and the freedom that followed when I decided that if I was going to fuck up my life, I’d rather do it on my own terms, thank you very much. My striving towards butterfly-hood continues, always will, but now I am free to explore, stumble and bumble in my own perfectly imperfect way.

Sometimes – these days more often than not — I hit the mark.

Essence Friends, thanks for reading, and here’s to your freedom. Please share your stories in having left “school”. Perhaps some current students will find this blog and decide to set themselves free.

With sincerity,


P.S. Cult confessions will continue but not in this book/chapter format. Much more to say … I hope you will stay tuned and chime in.

Chapter 7: Third Line of Work – For “School” in Four Parts

The Third Line of Work for the Fake Fourth Way School

The Third Line of Work for the Fake Fourth Way School

The Nuts and Bolts
In The Christmas Party and How to Join a Cult, I spoke of the “third line of work”. This series of posts explore how the “third line” devours “school’s” most stellar and devoted disciples.

Recently, blog-contributor, River of Joy, wrote:

“I have come to the conclusion that usefulness = being used … The students that are most ‘useful’ to “school” are the ones who are the most successful at recruiting and/or who give the most money to Sharon. They are the good students, the ones smiled upon and praised. In reality, they are the ones who are the most used by “school”. They give away all their spare time and energy to the recruiting effort, and/or all their cash goes to Sharon to buy red bathtubs and the like. The term ‘usefulness’ is more palatable and easier to swallow – who wouldn’t want to be ‘useful’? It sure beats its opposite, ‘useless’. We were all so cleverly manipulated, I’m sad to say.”

“Teachers” often bandied about the word “useful”, especially when “school” needed “students” for its super-secret missions. “School” equates those who contribute to its super-secret aims — and thus are “useful” — as those whose efforts feed that which “comes from above”; work towards that which is greater or higher. When teachers unveil third line of work”, the anointed learn that “work for school” is the link to evolution, to conscience.  Without it, evolution is not possible. To evolve, we need a vertical force, a higher purpose, to come down from above and intersect the horizontal trudge of the caterpillar. This “third line of work,” we are told, is the force that can transform us from caterpillars to butterflies and our lives from endless one-dimensional consumption into a colorful, three-dimensional existence of fully realized potential.   Efforts that are “useful” for school are paramount and will yield the supreme payback …of course, that’s if your efforts are “of the right kind.”

Lucky us! Most humans are not granted this grand opportunity. Sleeping humanity has twisted and convoluted religion to the point where it no longer qualifies as “higher and finer” in “school’s” view. But we have the bigger-than-we-are, super-secret, unspoken “higher aim” of keeping Sharon comfortably housed in Manhattan’s Park Plaza. We have access to true higher conscience and evolution through our efforts to keep her suitably drunk and medicated.   (Ironically, many newer “students” don’t know Sharon exists even though their efforts feed her financial coffers).

So, understand, Sincere Seeker, that everything else must step aside for this work, but do not be dismayed, because a “rightly ordered life” – with “third line” at the top – will inform and order other life things rightly  – like a trickle-down effect – onto work, family and friends.  Make the efforts, and you’ll see.

Allegedly, “school” grants the “third line of work” privilege after students have put in sufficient effort to awaken and evolve.   Of course, we don’t know who determines our “readiness” and why.  Call me skeptical, but I suspect it is driven by a sudden drop in student numbers or Sharon’s urgent need for a second red bathtub –rather than our spiritual growth. Many former students admit to handing over tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars after being treated to extra doses of attention and being singled out to participate in “something special” to help “school” survive and continue.

Privilege 1: Food & Beverage Prep and Service

Privilege 1: Food & Beverage Prep and Service

Not Living up to the Standard

“Third line” encompasses a veritable potpourri of service, but I will stick to the privileges I witnessed or participated in. “School” chooses some students to prepare snacks for the plebes and serve the royalty their special, homemade, pre-class soup and beverages of choice on class nights — all the more opportunity to “work on oneself” and struggle to create “fineness” in life.   The chosen must give special care to preparing Robert’s coffee.    It must be made in a French press using an exact measurement of Starbucks Decaf, which is kept aside for him alone.  Allow it to brew for four minutes with the press in place. Very important! Don’t leave the press resting to the side!

During “class”, selected “students” — mostly women — serve teachers their preferred snacks and drinks. I vaguely remember hearing Robert ream out one of these women for not meeting the standard.  He reminded her that her servitude was a privilege.  Some part of me woke up to the intentional and unnecessary public humiliation.   Another part of me wondered if this was somehow helpful to her in a way I couldn’t yet understand.  Then, of course, the fear of speaking up and calling Robert out on anything prevented me from questioning his method.  With highly effective behavior-controlling techniques in full swing, no one else questioned it either in a class of more than thirty “students”.  Even so, to this day, I still regret my silence.

Apparently Sharon’s public humiliations are far crueler and her demands exponentially more ridiculous.  Former students tell of a woman who—during “school retreats”– abandons particular students of whom she’s grown tired in a remote woods, leaving them for days to fend for food and shelter. They tell of a woman who orders her minions to count the calories in her meals and the numbers of ice cubes in her drinks.  These are more absurd examples. Stories of her painful and heartless treatment of “students” over the years would fill a dark and hefty book.

Privilege 2: “Making New Friends” i.e. Recruitment

Privilege 2: “Making New Friends” i.e. Recruitment

The Road To Total Freedom

After being in “school” a couple of years, a “teacher” swooped in and announced, “ I need to see these people.” She listed off names, including mine. We anointed filed into another room where the “teacher” said, “Robert needs our help. You are to embark on a very special ‘third line of work’ (congratulations!) And it only requires you to go out and make new friends.” Another version of this recruitment tactic is: “We’re going to do a presentation and we need you to ‘invite people’.”

The euphemisms “make new friends” and/or “invite people to a presentation” translate to “school” needs more money, therefore, more students.  “School”, as a super-secret institution, must somehow extend its invitations invisibly.  Savvy recruiters can’t reveal last names, occupations, hometowns, whether or not you have kids, own a dog, floss your teeth, or, of course, that this “presentation” is really a recruitment tactic for a super-secret-esoteric “school” that prides itself as having “life’s answers.”  And just for fun, when inviting your new friends to a “presentation,” the event often has no title, topic, date or location until the last minute.  How, pray tell, did we do this?  Where do you find innocent seekers, unaware they are about to be tapped for a chance to study hidden ideas and the mysteries of life and the universe?  Allow me to offer a little overview:

1) Grocery store encounters: People who are longing for something indescribable are everywhere: buying lattes at Starbucks; in bookstores; on trains; in line at Whole Foods; drinking at bars, etc. Our recruitment trainers told us, go out, live your lives, and be friendly. It’s easy! Do the things you love and, while doing them, target and talk to the discontented masses.

2) Initiate conversations: Don’t just say hello while in line at Starbucks. Tell your potential student that you are writing a book about inspiring people from history; ask, “Who do you admire?” That’s one tactic. Another — ask a provocative question, like, “Do you ever wonder what you are doing here?  Have you ever considered that perhaps our lives are an experiment for a greater purpose?”

That’s right! “School” suddenly encourages us to reveal its super-secret esoteric ideas. If your potential recruit engages in the conversation, appears interested, excited, open, well… then say, “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. I have to run, but we should get together! Would you like to exchange phone numbers?”  Lest we reveal anything about ourselves – even phone numbers — our recruiting bag of tricks includes a private voicemail line through which we’ll communicate with our targets.  This number is reserved for “school” business” only!  Soon we find the amount of “school business” growing exponentially, for ideally we are making many “new friends”. We will need to check our messages multiple times a day as we schedule meetings and report our progress back to “school” leadership…another tentacle from the cult wrapping itself around our daily lives. Soon we find we have even less time for family, friends and personal passions.

Maybe you feel uncomfortable with this, as though you are participating in a vast deception that spans coast to coast and over four decades.  Maybe you will recognize how these tactics were used on you. Maybe you will remember wondering why, at that time, you could never reach your “new friend” in person; if you wanted to talk with that person, it had to be on his or her timeline. Luckily you’ll be reminded that you could be the person who changes a poor soul’s life! You recognized somebody’s yearning and brought that soul to kindred spirits.   Remember that someone once (in my case, Lisa) did this for you!

3) Five Meetings: Call your intended recruit. Pursue patiently, as illustrated by Lisa’s stellar recruitment work detailed in Chapter 2 – How to Join a Cult. Schedule and meet with potential recruit, who believes you to be a new friend. See what you can learn about this person: Occupation? (i.e. income level?) Married or single? Kids or no kids? Longings? Aches? Desires? Hopes? Keep the focus on him/her to “protect your privacy”, and be in the “external considering–what can I do for you” mindset.  By the way, the “how do I bring you to “school” mindset is also acceptable.

Meet with said recruit five times. And report information gleaned back to the leadership.  Keep notes, you don’t want to forget or confuse the many conversations! Eventually schedule an introduction of this possible recruit to an older more experienced recruiter or “teacher”. “School” has its requirements: the recruit must have an income, or the possibility for an income. Some have been told to rule out those who don’t earn at least $60,000 a year. (That obviously wasn’t the case for me.) Oh, by the way, leadership will reject recruits working for law enforcement, military, or the media.

At the fifth meeting, introduce the new recruit to Robert. He will determine whether this person qualifies for “membership.”  If he views them favorably, he will invite the lucky soul to try a “free five-week” or “eight-week experiment”.

Remember The “Don’ts”: Do not tell your recruit “I am part of a “school” of thought.” Do not ask, “Are you interested in this “school?” When you have developed a trust and connection, you might ask if they are interested in meeting others who are studying ideas, having interesting discussions, are seeking meaning. Make it sound informal. Do not mention the $350 monthly tuition, the extra expenses that pop up over time, and that your personal life is being devoured by the process of “making new friends”.

Do not tell them that you are constantly on the go, squeezing your family relationships, friendships, professional obligations, and personal passions in between these pursuits of higher calling. Don’t tell your “new friend” that you are sleep deprived and vulnerable to manipulation.

Inevitably, “school’s” newest recruiters will butt up against the, “I don’t want to do this” resistance. “School” will calm your fears by pairing you up with an “older student,” an experienced coach. You will then report progress or lack thereof back to your coach. In turn, the coach will then report back to the team leaders.  During my time, the team leaders were Lisa, the woman who recruited me, and Michael, the teacher who led us through a questionable form of tai chi. Thus the never-ending and exponentially growing phone tree kicks into high gear.

Waking the Rebels

Waking the Rebels

Go Rebels!

Go Rebels!

This recruitment line of work triggered a court battle within me. During my five-year tenure, I would sometimes awake to moments of clarity and sometimes moments of great anger.  Some part of me would pop up above the “school” bubble and see the contradictions, see some things for what they were — as opposed to what we were being told.   Roughly a year into my tenure, I realized that Lisa was never really a friend — she’d been doing her job.  Although at the time I was still steeped in gratitude for my good fortune in finding this secret “school” of wisdom, I also saw I’d been manipulated like a puppet.

It didn’t take long, though, for me to justify this manipulation and fall asleep to my anger. After all, if Lisa had told me about the following: tuition, the increasing time and money expense, the increasing demands, the exposure of our most personal vulnerabilities for examination, and –most of all — the fact that many “students” stay on for decades, with no graduation date in sight, and eventually wind up married to each other…I’d have probably given her a polite but firm, “Thanks, but no thanks.”

Then where would I be?  I’d probably still be lost and aimless with little good in my life, because the ever present message to “students” is that anything good in your life is because of “school” and anything “not so” is because of our flaws and lack of effort. I had come to believe myself incapable of manifesting anything good without “help”. THAT steady drumbeat drowned out my internal ache, the persistent pounding in my chest that whispered, “Something’s wrong. Something’s wrong.  Something’s wrong. Wake up!”

In one lucid moment, long before hearing my name included on the “make new friends” list, I saw the day coming when “school” would require me to recruit. I told myself I would leave “school” when it happened: it felt like proselytizing. A line of rebels inside of me said, “I won’t do that. I don’t believe in it. And why should I go out and recruit people. I pay my tuition and it’s not my job, nor my problem.” Yet when the moment came the perceived elitism seduced and silenced those rebels. I had been chosen to be a member of the “invisible world”, coming down from above, intersecting life and spanning out into Boston and Boston proper, surreptitiously spreading the Gospel, cleverly seducing seekers into “school”.

Oh, and I was afraid my life would go to shit if I refused.

Thus, the court case kicked off: un-seduced rebels suited up against starry-eyed believers. These two opposing sets of my “Is” argued the case; the defense stated, I’ve not seen anything malevolent in “school”; it has only helped me become a stronger woman, make more money, deal with two deaths in my family and it celebrated my wedding. In moments, I have seen the best in myself blossom and the worst in myself abated.  I’m told, too, that “school” is self-selected – I can only introduce a potential new student to the possibility, after that they decide. Who am I to deny this possibility to a soul who seeks awakening!

The prosecution argued against the deception of striking up a friendship fueled by hidden agenda. It highlighted my smoldering and thinly veiled anger towards Lisa. The rebels asked me whether I wanted to perpetrate such a deception on another unsuspecting soul – new friend, or old friend.  As it turned out, I couldn’t jump over the hidden agenda hurdle. Only once was I “successful” at recruitment. I brought a friend to a presentation; he joined, but left after two years taking a number of friends with him. (Click here to read about the 2012 mass exodus). Fortunately, he has since forgiven me.

Initially, though, I was excited my friend was privy to this invisible world. I could see that he was also excited by the ideas and the promise of possibility. Maybe I hoped my one recruitment success would boost my waning self-confidence; for throughout my last two years in “school”, an emptiness and depression had started gnawing at me. I felt more lost than I had before “school”.  But the initial thrill at recruitment success wore off quickly. In 2010, I got laid off and found my self worse off financially than I’d been when I initially encountered “school”. A mad scramble to find a job, any job, kicked off (for one of “school’s requirements” is to work at least 40 hours a week). It had me coming up short in every arena, unable to land employment, even at Trader Joe’s; with finances shrinking, along with any nugget of self-esteem I had left, I scrambled around babysitting, cleaning and doing eldercare, for pathetic hourly rates and trying to scrape up freelance writing work.  The “help” “school” was offering started veering into the assassination-of-character variety that “school” employs liberally to certain vulnerable students at choice moments (although I suspect those with money, less so).

The downward spiral accelerated, as I berated myself for the choices I’d made, and my ignorance around work, money and my creative dreams. “School” echoed that berating back at me. As you can imagine, the spiral both financial and emotional, was wearing on my marriage. But my husband remained a constant pillar of support, both financial and emotional. In truth he was financing my “school” participation, because you can’t really consider my babysitting earnings an income. As he saw my plummeting emotional state (as well as weight loss), he decided to investigate this Tuesday/Thursday thing online thus finding

So, readers, we come around, full circle, to Chapter 1, How to Leave a Cult: back to my husband confronting me on his findings; back to “school’s” response, i.e. “instruction” to “Tell your husband to mind his own business”; back to one woman, circling around a path at 5:30 a.m., in a park, where her rebels finally had the floor; back to a moment in the pre-dawn silence, when I could finally hear them say, “This is his business.” As the morning sun rose, I could finally see the inevitable split in my marriage coming were I to swat away my husband’s concerns, as “school” was instructing me to do, were I to continue to marry myself to this institution of “higher calling”.  All that I had sought from “school”, the internal connection to truth, spoke from within in that moment. It said, “Get the fuck out of there.”

The ultimate irony –my moment of awakening came when I knew that no one else could tell me what to do; my answer to the question, should I stay or should I go, had to come from within. For as songstress Tracy Chapmen so eloquently reminds us, all that you have is your soul.

Conclusion: Caterpillar Days in Butterfly Lives