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.