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 esotericfreedom.com.

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

7 thoughts on “Waking the Rebels

  1. Cara says:

    “All that you have is your soul” How very true…

    One of the other problems with school that you have not yet mentioned is that we were told that we didn’t have souls!!! We were told that we have little teeny weeny seeds of souls and if we are good students, and follow all the rules and do everything we are told then we have the opportunity (and that opportunity exists ONLY in school) to actually grow a soul of our very own!

    I can’ think of any major religion that has an idea like that and I never really believed it. We all have souls. That is what is in peril when we join school and it shrinks to a teeny weeny nothing while we are in school but once we leave, it is ours again. No one has the right to mess with your soul. Especially Sharon and Robert…

  2. Cara, I’m so glad you said that. That little issue — the one of ‘not having a soul’ — probably deserves its own post. How f’d up is that: if you do as we do and what we say, you just might grow a soul. Grrrr.

  3. Thank God I Didn't Marry Him says:

    My first contact with the cult was at a bar where the very attentive and charming recruiter asked for my number. I thought he was interested in dating me, but it was a bait and switch tactic!

  4. DotDotDot says:

    Listen, I went through a similar situation. I agree there’s very little wiggle room for these situations to escape the cult moniker but you still have to ask yourself if you’re really a victim or if you really were just an ignorant tangle of habits that was destined to do *something* stupid until some such venue lured you out of the general noise and put you to good use — albeit, their use. But how can you say it should, or even could, have been any differently?

    For all you know, your only 2 choices might have been remaining to play amidst the dysfunction and neurosis of general humanity… and playing amidst the dysfunction and neurosis of quirky group of people who had issues of their own to work through but still managed to crank out some pretty creative stuff… as well as a few opportunities to observe yourself under, otherwise, unavailable circumstances.

    I find it all rather comical now… how damn serious many members take themselves, afraid to be wrong, look stupid, seem unenlightened… and yet all those concerns end up achieving those very results.

    Best wishes… going to cruise around the site a bit, perhaps comment elsewhere.

  5. Hello Dot, Dot, Dot – Thanks for your comments. So, a few thoughts:

    In re. to ” … you still have to ask yourself if you’re really a victim or if you really were just an ignorant tangle of habits that was destined to do *something* stupid until some such venue lured you out of the general noise and put you to good use — albeit, their use.”

    For me, the answer is clear — both are true. But as for being put to “good use” ,very little good comes out of “school” as far as I can see. It does come, but only within the first two years. A “school” doobie pretty much learns everything school has to offer within the first two years and grows as much as s/he is going to grow. After that, “school” just sucks the life out of you.

    In re. to “the cult moniker”, given that many people begin school as a five-week experiment, wind up giving away decades and even allow “school” to arrange their marriages, I have no problem calling “school” a cult.

    I am interested in your situation and how you escaped it. Care to share?

  6. WhiteGlove says:

    I, too, dreaded the day that I was going to be asked to recruit new students. I never felt like I could bring people into something that I knew was NOT right in some way and I felt like I would be simply proselytizing for a religion that I didn’t believe in.

    On the other hand, one always longed to be included in those meetings after class that one was not invited to. Part of the whole “scam” was promising (or alluding) to something that you would get or be a part of when you had evolved sufficiently and could graduate up to a “higher” level (not that I ever had any illusions that Lisa was on a higher level.)
    Of course once those 5 am pep-rally meetings started, I definitely wanted out of the job.

    At the beginning, the whole thing just made me nervous. I didn’t feel comfortable about talking to someone (either a new or old friend) about something like “school” fearing that they would think I was insane or wacky or merely a cult member trying to recruit another cult member. The whole 5 meeting process was bizarre to me. Often, when we were “allowed” to go recruiting with another student, I used it as a chance to go out for dinner or a drink or shopping with a friend and we never really tried to talk to anyone. I was also very surprised that when I started and went out with an “older” student, they never really insisted in talking to people and we would just sit and talk at a bar for hours.

    Later, when I knew for certain that “school” was a fraud (I knew this because I talked frequently with friends who had already left and were busy on the detective trail finding out what the truth was), I most often lied about my recruiting efforts. I realized too that many people were just plain lying about their efforts. How boring were those classes where would would spend hours going around the room having everyone speak about their recruiting efforts???

  7. Hi White Glove,
    Thank you for your comment. It really made me laugh, especially this part:
    “I used it as a chance to go out for dinner or a drink or shopping with a friend and we never really tried to talk to anyone. I was also very surprised that when I started and went out with an “older” student, they never really insisted in talking to people and we would just sit and talk at a bar for hours.”

    It brought back a memory of recruiting in Salem with an “older student” … I think her name’s Laura and that she’s married to tai chi Michael. Since she was the elder, I was following her lead and was confused to find that she did almost nothing. We wound up getting a burger at O’Neil’s (great Irish pub, btw) and talking about our respective job searches. We spoke to a couple of women at the bar, who were clearly weirded out and she suddenly announced, “Well, I’m done.” and took off. Again, I was so confused. But relieved to get permission for a more-highly evolved school mate to not do much when recruiting. When I left and connected her to Michael I remember thinking that as a “teacher’s” spouse, she really didn’t have to do much. I guess most people didn’t — which really makes me laugh.

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