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

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

  1. Cassandra says:

    I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog entries. You eloquently express what so many of us went through. I was part of “service” in New York for a year or so, before leaving. I cooked for the teachers. Hours every month spent shopping and cooking with all sorts of ridiculous rules about the cooking – how it was done, what could be in it, etc – all for Sharon, of course – no one else mattered. Had to do a meat, vegetable and starch. No rosemary, because Sharon hated it. Only certain vegetables. The astonishing thing is that I considered this a privilege. Spending my time and energy (and money until it was FINALLY reimbursed, months later… well, most of it…) cooking a bunch of food for these so-called teachers, then warming, plating and serving it, usually to have absolutely no acknowledgement of the effort. And if someone did say, “the such and such was very good” I lived on it for a week. How pathetic. All of the worry about getting everything exactly right, and the obligatory “help” i.e. criticism to keep you feeling humble and needy… Now I cook for those I love. I cook what I want to cook. I spend Christmas with my family, cooking for them. Much nicer affair! Any recent departures from New York classes?

  2. Hi Cassandra,

    Thank you for your comment! And thank you for sharing your “Food & Beverage Prep” experience. Often writing this blog can feel like sheer self indulgence; but when a post triggers other stories, such as yours, I feel that together we expose the lunacy for what it is and validate each other. Who among us has not lived for the moment of approving teacher nod or compliment? I think it speaks to fundamental emotional needs that most humans share – the need for approval, the need to belong, the need for acknowledgement, the need to feel purposeful. It’s awful to realize that those you once trusted with those vulnerabilities fucked with them so cavalierly.

    I’m so happy to hear that your time, energy and talents are now spent with family. Yay! As for recent NY departees, I’ve not heard as of late. But maybe some of the NY readers could comment.

    BTW, the blog will continue: a conclusion and then subsequent posts that are just posts and not “chapters”.

  3. There and Back Again says:

    Damn! This describes my initial recruitment encounter to a T:
    “Tell your potential student that you are writing a book about inspiring people from history; ask, “Whom do you admire?”

    That was indeed the question Lisa asked me. Nowadays, I don’t think about the class that much, but I do wonder about the very real possibility of encountering Lisa somewhere in Cambridge/Somerville/Belmont. That is going to be an interesting conversation. So, “How’s that history project going?” 😉

    Have you had such a “repeat” encounter with a recruiter after you abandoned the cult? How did it go? Do you have a suggested mode of action?

    More importantly, if you find someone being recruited, what is the best way to nip the recruitment process in the bud?

    • Hi – I have not had a repeat encounter, but often have wondered what I would do. I have heard tell of some “ex-students” who have interrupted “recruitment” mid-process, although, I myself, don’t know the best tactic.

      It’s a great question. Anyone out there care to comment?

      • Odysseus says:

        I think it depends on what level of confrontation you are comfortable with.

        You could interrupt the meeting by saying “Hi Lisa! Are you still in that cult? Is this a recruitment meeting?” Then introduce yourself to the potential recruit and offer to tell him/her what is really going on. I’m pretty sure that would be effective.

        Or, if you have the time, you could wait around until the meeting ends then approach the potential recruit and warn him/her about what’s going on. This is less confrontational, but probably less effective.

  4. alison says:

    I was in the group for over 20 years. I developed what felt like an instinctive aversion to making new friends of any sort. I was uncomfortable and slightly disconcerted by the very idea of new friends. I think this aversion stems from the recruiting process, something inside of me knew this “making friends” business was really deceptive and manipulative, and I didn’t want to participate in it. For us older students, there was always so much emphasis on having so many people on your list of possible recruits and having so many meetings a week. I hated the incessant pressure to produce. To make your numbers (the quotas that were demanded of you) you constantly had to meet new people every week, for week, after week, after week. Even if you wanted to develop a genuine friendship with someone, there was no time to do so. Even in my early years when I was still enchanted with the group, I knew these “friendships” were fraudulent. At the time, I didn’t question myself on this, I just avoided the whole “making friends” process as much as I possibly could. I was not a good student in this regard. I was a “bad student” and of course judged myself heavily at the time.

    Now that I’ve been out and have some perspective, I see that at some level I could see through the group and I had some degree of instinctively knowing the truth about what was going on. What I was judging myself so heavily for back then was in fact something I can admire about myself now. I am proud I didn’t totally buy into the whole recruiting gig. I’m proud I wasn’t thought of as a “good student” for most of tenure in school.

    And now that I’m out and free from the burden of all the lies and deception of school, I find I’m making new friends galore – It’s a whole new ball game. I will never have to invite them to a lecture, or put their names on some recruiting list. I can spend time with my new friends because I like them, it’s as simple as that.

    In the interest of honesty, at certain points I was asked to be a recruiting captain or to mentor a younger student on how to recruit. I always felt fraudulent in these roles. As a recruiter, I was weak and ineffective. I personally only brought two people over 20 years, and they both left within the first month. After 6 or 8 years in school, there was a point where I could teach and lead based on the methods I had learned from Minerva, not by my own example. At several points, I was one of those people who asked how many people were on your list. As time went on, I became increasingly more cynical and abhorrent of the recruiting process, and I did just the bare minimum I could in these roles.

    During those later times, I knew I didn’t want these roles, but I also felt like I could not turn them down, or else I would face the hot seat. (Hot seat = public smackdown in front of all my so called essence friends in class). I should also mention the phrase “threats and menaces” was sometimes used by Robert to describe how to get students to take the recruiting effort seriously. I see now that “threats and menaces” was an extremely effective form of psychological manipulation. The fear factor works, at least for awhile. But many of older students became increasingly cynical and jaded, especially when it came to recruiting. They vibrations in the recruiting meetings were often like sludge – heavy, heavy, heavy. Thank God I don’t have to sit through them anymore!

    • Yea, isn’t it great to look back and breathe a sigh of relief. Nothing makes me more appreciative of owning my time and energy more than looking back and realizing how I gave it away for a while.

      So, I never heard the phrase “threats and menaces” before. I guess my evolution didn’t rise to the “threats and menaces” level.

  5. Odysseus says:

    One of the things that I am grateful for about my time in school is that I never succeeded in bringing any new students. There was one close call, but no successes! In your case, your success actually resulted in getting a large number of people out of school. That’s quite amazing!

    From the very start, I had a negative reaction to the process being described as “making friends”. Nothing in the way we were instructed to work has any connection with actually making friends. The false names, the one-way only phone contact, the constant pumping for personal information while revealing nothing about yourself, the compiling of a dossier – all this is more in line with the activities of a spy than of a friend. In order to buy into the process, you would have to actually lie to yourself about what you were doing. In this aspect, it was absolutely typical of “school”.

    One of the things I am just beginning to see is that this task was a major part of the web which kept us all in school. On the other blog, someone posted about the idea of ‘psychic indebtedness’, showing how the number of daily and weekly exercises built up to constantly keep us in ‘school mode’, as well as make us feel inadequate when we failed to live up to all of the demands. I think recruiting is a major part of this. I am quite sure that no one ever completed all the demands made on them in this line of work. Frankly, I suspect that ‘padding’ one’s list was probably the norm rather than the exception. And so, we felt inadequate and lied about it, then felt guilty about lying; rather than recognizing that the whole thing was one big lie. And this in a group which was supposedly in pursuit of truth!

    Even those people who initially had successes in recruitment eventually got burned out by the constant, unrelenting grind of it.

    • Hi Odysseus,

      Thank you for sharing your experiences and thoughts about “making new friends”.

      “We felt inadequate and lied about it, then felt guilty about lying; rather than recognizing that the whole thing was one big lie. And this in a group which was supposedly in pursuit of truth!”

      I think this comment encapsulates the “school” experience. Given enough time in this school of thought pursuing “truth”, “students” will find a large percentage of their days (i.e. life) given over to lies and falsehoods which only serve “school” (i.e. Sharon, Robert and anyone else who gleans financial benefit).

      “In your case, your success actually resulted in getting a large number of people out of school. That’s quite amazing!”

      I must admit, I occasionally find myself gloating about this. 😉 But my friend, whom I’ve come to call 007, was the true driving force behind the mass exodus; he refused to simply disappear without making efforts to tell his essence friends that they were being duped. That speaks volumes about his level of being, I think.

      • Odysseus says:

        GSR,

        I agree, 007’s actions in getting his fellows out do indeed speak volumes about his level of being. Imagine what might have happened if everyone who has left over the years had made a stand like his. ‘School’ would most likely no longer be in existence.

        On the other hand, I think it is good to acknowledge that we all fight the battle as we are able. Just the individual act of leaving was a major act of courage for some of us. For some, posting on one of these blogs for the first time is a huge affirmation of hope for the future.

        And gloat all you want, or rather take justifiable pride in your part. I know that you had an influence on 007 (does that make you ‘M’?). Would he have gotten out so soon without your help? Would he have made the effort to get others to leave with him?

        It would be nice to take down ‘school’ in one master stroke, but it looks like more of a ‘death of a thousand cuts’, every one of which is important.

  6. G, says:

    Great site ! Thank You for doing it. Please lets all agree to put the quotes around “school”…or call it what it is –Fake school or The Scam .. I pray that a new website on this cult is produced everyday..It is really beginning to get to Gans and her freaks …Call old friends every month or so that are still involved …tell them you will keep the conversation confidential ..and ask them if they have seen the websites..see if you can start a discussion using the “school” language and ask them if they are allowed to verify everything or just some things? Ask them to ask Sharon who her teacher was,,
    and if you are an ex student put up your own website !!! Its free and its easy…

    • Hi G – Thanks for your comments and I really do hope that this blog can influence those still in. Perhaps they will recognize their experiences in mine. And I agree, the more exposure of this super-secret “school” the better. GSR

  7. Not Robert says:

    I commit to writing a letter to one person in the group (which includes finding their address…) within the next week. I know who I want to write to.

    Anyone else?

  8. moishe3rd says:

    Food – I shall never forget one night in Montana where my dear wife was in charge of the cooking and decided on a really well seasoned gourmet fried tofu meal…
    Alex was not pleased to say the least…
    When I remember that scene, I always flash on the character Haweye, from the original MASH movie, angrily saying: “You put me right off my fresh fried lobster, do you realize that?”
    Don’t know exactly why.
    My first impression of “School” as a new student in San Francisco, where we met in the basement restaurant of The Theater of All Possibilities, was of the two empty stuffed chairs where Bob and Fred would carefully lay out food and cigarettes before or during “class.”
    As Alex and Sharon did not show up for the first several classes, and having some familiarity with gurus and Eastern religions, I thought the chairs and food were “for” Gurdjieff and Ouspensky…

    The only new student I managed to recruit that apparently stayed around was Geoff Chasin. I believe he is still Bob’s business partner although, he doesn’t appear to be actively involved with “School,” based on the various blogs such as esoteric freedom, etc..
    Which is, by the way, another reason that I find it difficult to view my old friend and mentor Bob as a villainous mastermind of evil.
    Geoff was a nice, fairly laid back nice guy but, also a sober individual. If he remained Bob’s business partner through all these years and yet chose not to continue with “School,” then there is more to Bob than just being a “Neo” (Matrix) wannabe.
    Jus’ sayin’ you know?

    • Odysseus says:

      Moishe,

      Interesting that they put out food for people who were never going to be there! Apparently waste was OK in order to serve a (supposed) higher level.

      Geoff is still very much involved with school. He is now what I would call a “junior teacher” in Boston and married to a fellow “student”. I don’t know why he has not yet been featured in a dossier, but perhaps one is coming.

      I’m not clear on what you mean in terms of Geoff’s continued involvement (or not) reflecting on “Bob”. I like that informality, by the way – kinda lets some of the hot air out of the balloon! Can you elaborate?

      • moishe3rd says:

        As I have commented elsewhere, Bob was a friend; mentor; teacher; drinking buddy; employer; and neighbor – about 30 years ago. IMHO (and G-d knows, there are people who will disagree…), “School” back then was not as described today, or even as was described by the late ’80’s.
        It has taken quite a turn for the worse. As I have noted elsewhere, the “Robert” of today sounds like a Neo wannabe. It’s sad.
        Geoff and I both worked/ with Bob at Retail Express.
        Geoff was always a low key guy; good businessman; and, when I knew him, a fairly straight shooter. Even though he was “my” successful recruit, it appeared to me that he always seemed more interested in life than in “School.”
        So, as “School” seems such a cult nowadays with Bob as one of the Grand Master’s of the Cult, it seemed to me that as Geoff was Bob’s long time business partner, that if he was not involved with “School,” then it would have showed a certain remnant of flexibility on Bob’s part.
        That’s all…

  9. about good and decent people says:

    FYI for Moishe and everyone else:
    Geoff was kicked out of school along with many other older and intermediate students in Boston, sometime around 1986 or 1987. Alex and Sharon came up to Boston to teach one weekend, and many of the older students didn’t speak up or ask questions. This seemed to offend Alex and Sharon and a good number of students were told to leave. The remaining students were told in no uncertain terms that we were expected to be prepared with at least one question and we must speak in each and every class. If we weren’t prepared, we, we, too would be kicked out. Perhaps Moishe, you were in this class, and maybe you were asked to leave yourself. Perhaps you have more to contribute on this class.

    Geoff was one of the departing students, and I believe he also left NY Retail Express a short time later. Geoff returned to Retail Express in 1990 as its President, and Bob was the CEO. Geoff came with money to invest and handled the day to day business. He was and probably still is Bob’s right hand man. This freed up Bob to travel back and forth between NY and Boston for classes. Typically Bob taught Monday in NY, Tuesday in Boston, Wednesday in NY, Thursday in Boston, and was gone on frequent weekend retreats and several weeks in Montana in the summer. Geoff came back to “school” in the late 90’s, so he had a long break away.

    I agree with you, Moishe, Geoff is in many ways a good and decent guy. That’s what’s so disturbing about this group – so many good and decent people get entangled in it, and they end up being used and exploited to further the “aims of school”, giving large sums of money to Sharon, and unintentionally neglecting their children.

    Geoff was certainly an active member of the group when I was in it; he co-led the work and money group with Carol, he was active in the recruiting effort and on the lecture series. His children from his first marriage are grown, and he has a young child with his second wife. I hope the two of them have the good sense to take care and nurture their young child, and put the childs needs before the “demands of school”. I wish Geoff and his wife S. well and hope they will find their way out of the clutches of this manipulative group.

    • moishe3rd says:

      Thank you so much. As I have noted before, I am always interested in “what happened to…” whomever.
      I was kicked out in the Fall of 1983, I think. It was a couple of months after we got back from touring the Plays in Europe and Israel. I had a disagreement with another “older student” and he told me to “never come back.” This was not an “official Kicking Out” but, I decided it was time to leave so – I did.

  10. charlie chaplin says:

    The cartoon on this is so amazing, a perfect encapsulation of what it’s like when you get further and further in.

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