Clever Insincerity

Clever Insincerity (n)/klĕv-r in-sin-sĕhri-tē/

1) Lies (n), lying (n)

2) “School’s” justification for misinformation told to protect and proliferate its own covert aim as follows: keep students desperate, dependent, and insecure; so they will continue to pay “tuition” or “help” and “knowledge” — mine was $350/month — and generate income for Queen Sharon, current leader, and widow of Alex Horn, former leader of a fake Fourth Way school in New York, Boston, and Copenhagen. (n)

“School” employs Clever Insincerity early and often when sincere seekers stumble upon the group.  “School’s” doctrine justifies it with the teaching that “all people lie almost constantly” both by what we say and by what we don’t say.  The difference, we were told, is in the aim behind it.  Sleeping people lie out of self-interest and self-will.  People who want to awaken are cleverly insincere in service to a higher aim.

When recruiting me, Lisa spun “school” as casual. “People come and go,” she said, “they take breaks and come back.” She didn’t say that teachers kick people out and then allow them re-entry if they express sufficient remorse. She omitted the required stellar attendance, $350/monthly “tuition”, lack of graduation date, the dress code, holiday season requirements, and the fact that expenses and demands expand over time.

I bought it and signed on, obviously; but moments of clarity would strike me in class at times: when demands started piling, when certain students revealed decades of attendance, when “teachers” turned a humiliating spot light on some poor slob’s “essence flaw” in front of the whole “class.”  Yes, at these times, my internal rebels started rumbling.  I realized that Lisa had blatantly lied.  Yet, just as quickly, I justified her lies. “After all,” I told myself, “where would I be without ‘school’ and all of its ‘help’?”  I would not have pursued this ‘teaching’ had she been forthright about the demands, the humiliations, the unspoken lifelong commitment. I would have thought it was … well … a cult.” If recruiters told potential students the truth, no one would sign on, many sleepwalking souls would lose their chance to awaken!, and Sharon would not be living at the Park Plaza.

The longer one is in “school”, the more Clever Insincerity comes into play. I could write an endless and endlessly boring book, citing examples. I’ll stick to a few:

  • “School” tells its newest recruits that “the work” is an “oral teaching” and omits the original source — Russian philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff. Thus, all of its “younger students” have no knowledge of the myriad of published books and online resources that explore his philosophies. Early in my school tenure, my “sustainer” told me, “You won’t find these ideas anywhere else. You are lucky!”  You can imagine how angry I was when I discovered Gurdjieff, the multiple Wikipedia entries, the Gurdjieff Society, and ordered Gurdjieff’s book Meetings With Remarkable Men from Amazon.com for less than $5.
  • The Boston branch nods towards an unnamed and exclusive lineage, insinuating connections to a remarkable cast: Shakespeare, Hans Christian Anderson, Michelangelo, Mozart, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Marie Curie, Martin Luther King, Jesus Christ and more. It neglects to mention its New York headquarters, Sharon Gans, and its true roots – a 1970s California cult poised as the Theater of All Possibilities; it neglects to name the theater’s charismatic and sociopathic founder, Alex Horn and the slew of damning investigative articles published detailing his Strange School.
  • “School’s” most clever use of Clever Insincerity may be its “non-fraternization policy”: we were not to acknowledge each other outside the gates. We were to become part of “the invisible world,” fanning out as men and women “working on themselves, evolving in a devolving world, spreading fine vibrations,” blah, blah, blah.  We separated “the work” from “life” by honoring it as sacred knowledge, handed down to us from evolved “teachers”.  We absorbed the message that Clever Insincerity” is thus justified; it protects “school” and its “sacred knowledge”from those who would destroy it.

Imagine our surprise when some of us left “school” and discovered that the sacred knowledge consists of Sharon’s matchmaking, relationship-destroying, and children-damaging machine. It is likely that our silence also protected tax evasion, money laundering, and who knows what else. Certainly Mr. Horn had a reputation for perpetrating physical and sexual abuse. Some say he encouraged this violence within the ranks; some say the abuse continues today. I have never witnessed such acts – I certainly did witness emotional and intellectual bullying. Had we school plebs “fraternized” outside the hallowed halls, we may well have compared notes, begun to question inconsistencies and called them on their shit.

As “school’s” super secret demands and activities increase, “students” will find a corresponding increase in lies told to friends and family. These lies devour time and energy, compounding the time and energy demands “school” already hoists on its devotees. Eventually, “students” who were driven to join “school” by an urge to seek truth, begin to dedicate their lives to a fabrication that they don’t even know exists; they assume they aren’t evolved sufficiently and trust that their “evolved teachers” know and see things that are beyond them. Inevitably, they become unbearably uncomfortable with the lies that isolate them from spouses, children, siblings, friends, etc.

Predictably, “students” bring this struggle up in class and ask for “help”. In response “teachers” offer “Clever Insincerity” as a sacred idea; these “efforts” are not exactly lies, they say, but necessary protection for private and privileged knowledge. After all, not everyone can be in a school, and many would be threatened by the super-secret-sacred Work. The exclusive presentation seduced us. We saw our participation in “The Work” as critical efforts to elevate and save a society careening towards destruction.  Like Lisa, and my sustainer, Karyn, eventually “school’s” truth-seekers find themselves committing acts of Clever Insincerity and justifying them as efforts toward “school’s” secret higher calling and our own personal evolution.  Over time, “students” become cogs in “school’s” propaganda-spouting machine. Their lives become devoured by super-secret, mission-critical activities: planning parties, creating presentations and recruiting tuition-paying students.

Initially, my lies were mainly those of omission. Friends would wonder vaguely why I was so busy and unavailable to them. For the first couple of years, I said that I was in a never-ending tai chi teacher-training program. I didn’t lie to my husband, though.  Even before we were married, he knew that every Tuesday and Thursday, I would be attending these exclusive and secret meetings and initially he supported me. We used to laugh about it and refer to “school” as “Tuesday/Thursday Thing”, or simply “Thing”. When “thing” threw me into full Christmas party planning and throwing, I told him about the big party; otherwise it would have looked like I was having an affair – what with the late nights and insistent critical and shadowy phone calls. And even though he knew what I was doing, we still fought almost every holiday season.

But when “school” tagged me for the “3rd line of work”, otherwise known as recruitment, I found myself telling full-fledged lies: I would say,  “I’m meeting Phyllis for coffee” instead of confessing, “I’m off to save lost souls”, or “I have a super-secret, mission-critical, “school”-recruitment-strategy meeting.” This set up an internal conflict: The “good student” in me justified these deceptions as a peace-keeping tool while making aims to make the world a better place, but the deceptions poked at my rebels, who whispered, “How can lying to your husband really be an act of higher calling?”

Given time, and the insidious brainwashing, many a sincere seeker becomes quite adept at “Clever Insincerity” even as each wrestles with the internal conflict. School justifies this conflict as a friction that is necessary for personal evolution; thus loyal devotees endure the ever growing “friction” that becomes their lives and “school” remains, surviving the investigative newspaper articles, a subsequent cross-country re-location, and a growing list of enraged “ex-students”. Amazingly, this “truth-seeking” institution still stands on an infrastructure of smoke and mirrors after more than 4 decades.

Perhaps you are in “school” right now, newly recruited and wondering, “What is this?  What do I make of this idea of Clever Insincerity?” Allow me to respond: “School” is a cult. Clever Insincerity is a euphemism for lying. And, if it is truth you are seeking, within “school’s” walls you will only find unspoken agendas fueled by deception.

109 thoughts on “Clever Insincerity

  1. moishe3rd says:

    After he recanted his positions in the face of the Inquisition, Galileo is reputed to have said “and yet it moves!”
    As I once more plunge into controversy, I am aware that my position is not popular.
    Yes – “school” has become some sort of messed up cult. Yes – Sharon and Bob et al are seriously flawed people who should be held accountable for their bizarre practices.
    However – from my limited perceptions; and my wife’s by the way – the Theater of All Possibilities was not a “cult” and the brief time it flourished in San Francisco was useful for both of us.
    I agree that it is truly insane that “school” did this weird number on the book “In Search…” and whatever else by Gurdjieff and Ouspensky but – they were not doing that when we were involved.
    We did indeed discuss all and everything. And, whereas, it still might have been crazy and even violent – it was all in the open, as it were.
    What we saw is what we got.
    (As I noted previously – married spouses were not allowed in “school” if the other spouse was not involved.)
    In my humble opinion, there was one brief shining moment – during the “Theater…” days right through the end of the Plays that went on tour (after which point, I did indeed leave “school”), where there was an earnest attempt at creating some kind of esoteric transmission regarding “waking up” and… smelling the coffee of Life.

    • Anonymous says:

      As our dear Moishe indirectly points out: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. A phrase I have heard quoted by the leaders of OSG on many occasions.

      And for Moishe:
      “If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and looks like a duck, we professionals say it’s a duck…. They want a smoking duck.” — Unnamed intelligence analyst quoted in Washington Post, 2003-03-16.

      “What’s the matter… Ain’t you ever seen a smokin’ duck before?” — Daffy Duck, after getting blasted by Elmer Fudd?

  2. Hello Anonymous & Moishe,

    Moishe, I truly do appreciate your participation in this blog. I find your perspective helpful. It’s been so enlightening for me to learn your story and fill in the blanks between east coast and west coast and years between the 70s and now — giving context to my bizarre experience over the last five years. And, since you often challenge the perceptions shared here, you illicit conversation, which is great.

    That being said, Anonymous literally took the words right out of my mouth … or keyboard as the case may be: “If it walks like a duck …”
    The more you share, the more cult-like the theater sounds and looks. I’ve no doubt that you experienced amazing things, otherwise you wouldn’t keep trying to defend its existence. And we all had amazing experiences. That’s what makes the deception such a betrayal.

    • moishe3rd says:

      Well, having been lambasted for painting too rosy a picture, I have tempered my “sharing” with acknowledging that, based on all reports, there was a degree of violence that I was not aware of prior to my coming in contact with Alex and Sharon et al.
      However, that is also my point. I and my wife spent 5 years in “school” from SF to Boston to NYC and beyond (the Plays on tour in Europe) and our experience WAS one of studying a body of knowledge where this knowledge was applied to Life as we lived it.
      “School” did teach the “Work” of others – Gurdjieff and Ouspensky and Nicoll and all of the other “influences” we studied.
      I never witnessed any malicious, damaging violence.
      I never felt “controlled.” We didn’t have “sustainers” or whatever hierarchy they developed to entrap you all.
      “School” did interact in amazing and exciting ways with the world – the Theater and then the Plays in NYC and abroad.
      There were constant “experiments” to apply the “Work” of “waking up” to our own lives. That was the emphasis.
      Although the “3rd line work” or recruitment was, indeed, cult like, it was never very popular and even Bob had problems revving us up to go out and do it.
      People did get kicked out of “school” all the time for not working on themselves – and the work was not if they couldn’t pay or couldn’t recruit students. The work was if they were actually trying to “wake up,” etc.
      Bob got kicked out at one point. Hell, as an “older student” I kicked several people out for what I thought was their own good. One guy who had been in “school” a couple years longer than I called me up two weeks later and begged to be let back in after I kicked him out. I told him that he needed to get a Life outside of “school.” I told him that I thought that “school” was killing him. (And, by the way – if anyone from the old days remembers Harold – I always wanted to know what happened to him. One of the few that I could never track down.)

      Bottom line – “school” wasn’t a “duck.”
      Today – based on everything you all have written – yes, it’s not just a duck, it’s the rotting corpse of a dead duck. And I find that creepy and sad.
      However, my disdain much of “school” nowadays not because it was a cult back then, but because its “teachers,” specifically Gurdjieff, were hardly “awakened” beings or even much more than pedantic adventurers who tied to grasp G-d without ever investigating what they were actually trying to accomplish.
      As a young man, I knew as little as they did and therefore could embrace the real and practical knowledge of the “Work” as new and exciting.
      As one who has studied a few things since then, I understand a bit more about human failings and the awful delusions that we are prone to…
      That is another reason I sometimes think you all miss the forest for the trees. Bob and Sharon et al, simply are guilty of the same bad habits and philosophies as were their “teachers” – Gurdjieff et al.
      And – to be harsh – that makes them all the worst kind of Fools.
      They all believe(d) that they are the Magicians who are so superior to all of the Sheep they are hypnotizing.
      It’s not true.
      They all crystallized into this delusional self aggrandizement that locked them into a grotesque fantasy of being a “Teacher.”
      I find that very sad.

      • Another aversion of the Story says:

        Perhaps it takes a while for a well meanIng group of folks like our old “friends” Alex, Sharon and Bob to become warped enough to warrant the label “cult” which seems like an offensive label to some of us. The ordinary rank and file members are kept far away from the details of the leaders past. Perhaps the devolution of OSG from the glory days some people describe stems from the fact that they were indeed a group of well meaning seekers trying to wake up in a sleeping world. They were rougue and had no true lineage. They were lead by a man, Alex who grew up fatherless and was ashamed of his own lack of lineage. He never resolved his own mixed up feelings toward his mother. Alex was misunderstood and rejected by those he attempted to study with from the Gurdjeiffe lineage..He spent his whole life never successfully confronting these Intense feelings, so, many misguided deeds stemed from this deep and unhealed core wound, sometimes expressing itself in violence. The founders of The Theater of All Possibilities were then pursecuted by a journalist in SanFransisco who was looking to make a name for himself, in an atmosphere of cultural hysteria after the Jim Jones mass suicide tragedy. Under investigation they packed up and left town avoiding something a kin to the Salem witch trials. Alex and Sharon were innocent and misunderstood by the journalist, the sherrif, and the department of social services investigating allegations of child neglect, former theater troupe members confirming allegations, and all the bible hugging throngs and uptight generation of people of the American 1970’s culture. They take cover in Montana and then relocate to NYC to begin anew as OSG and pursue in earnest their quest for waking up and helping others to do the same. But alas they never fully deal with the past and being run out of town and their underlying unrelated mommy-daddy issues as Alex called such matters. In their fear and shame they never open up OSG leadership to a wise council of reflective peers for guidance to bring the truth to light as is the practice in many true lineages. On the contrary their fear and shame grows. They isolate themselves. The more they bury this dirty little secret the more they become affected by it and like the tell tale heart it beats and beats making them behave in more and more bizarre ways… Till it became the cult we know it as today…

        Okay, so that is a version of the story…. I guess in that case the OSG leaders are just like all of us. Never mind, I’m okay now, I am over it. I guess I am done now. Thanks for listening.

  3. SFStudent says:

    Like anything else, perception varies from individual to individual. As one who was there, from SF to Boston, and a part time leader, part time exile, there was obviously a side of the cult that Moishe simply did not see, for whatever reasons. Already in San Francisco there were highs, but also lows, marriages, forced adoptions, violence over “ticket selling,” lambastings in public (I mean public in our meetings), huge sucking out of energy, sleep and money, Alex’s sexual advances. I think it may not have been as bad as it seems to have gotten later. I am not arguing with Moishe, simply saying that his experiences were his, and others of us had different experiences. Participating in the plays was often wonderful, but one could also be humiliated at any time.

    • CalifoniaDeamin says:

      Moishe and SFstudent,
      I am very curious, were you around during any of the events described in the Newspaper articles related to an investigation of The Theater of all Possibilities in San Fransisco? What was your understanding of thoses events? Have you read the articles? What is your understanding now? Was there talk about why the group closed up shop and moved? Was the theater in SF closed in preparation for the tours of the plays and only superficially coincidental with the investigations? Did you know Bob’s first wife? Did you attend Bob’s marriage to Jeannine? How about any legal battles over custody of Bob’s eldest son from his first marriage? Moishe says it was all out in the open, does that include these events? If you would be so kind as to elaborate it would be greatly appreciated. Does anyone remember a man named Lou F. and his wife Wendy from California? What about Bill and Kit? Did anyone know them while in Califonia?

      Many thanks for sharing your stories!

      And GSR you Rock!

      Many thanks.

  4. Bullfrog says:

    I know I’m really interested what happened in between when the cult left San Francisco in 1978 and when I started in 1988. Maybe it’s the historian in me. Enquiring minds want to know. I’m definitely interested in the observations of Moishe, SFStudent, and CalifoniaDreamin on that score.

    In 1988 school was meeting in what Robert later called a “shithole,” near the top of Highland Ave in Somerville. He was called Robert at that point, though there were a decent number of people that called him Bob. Maybe some of them were from the SF group? I remember Eric H telling me that before the studio in Somerville, they would meet at all kinds of interesting places. He said that once they met on top of Mt Monadnock.

    In roughly 1990 one of the students, Bill S, had a nervous breakdown (I’m not a psychologist, I don’t know the right term for what happened). “School” went into a transitory period where we met at among other places: All Saints Church in Brookline and the Newton Marriott. I remember the class when Tim L was leading bodywork and he pointed out that we were doing triple-time above the Mass Turnpike. During this period we had a Christmas Party somewhere in Watertown, and Sharon stopped the presentations, pointed out that they were not a gift (I would have to agree with her in this case), and that things in school were moving on towards a higher level.

    I definitely observed a shift in “school” in that time. And,yes, that was the start of a period of substantial growth. So Sharon probably pulled the right strings in people at the time.

    We left Somerville in 1991 for the space in Woburn. By that time the Boston branch had grown in size to something like 60-70. I’m sure someone can come up with a more accurate number, but I would guess that by the time we moved to the space in Billerica in the mid 90’s the branch had something like 80-90 people.

    As “school” grew in size so did the sense of formality, the sense of distance from Robert, and the size of Sharon’s ego. I recall that at some point we were all required to stand up in class if we wanted to address the teachers. It may sound like a small thing, but it served to emphasize the difference in levels between students and teachers.

    I’m mentioning this to fill out some of the history in the earlier years in Boston, I’d be really interested in what school was like before I started. Or, after I left in 2001.

    • Haven't Decided Today says:

      I had meant to comment on this earlier. Bob had the audacity to call the Somerville space a shithole? A group of younger students had spent a couple of weeks taking what had been a dilapidated space and completely transformed it into something bright, clean, and lovely. It was amazing what they were able to do in such a short amount of time and a slap in the face of those who improved the place to be so dismissive. But then, who knows what might have happened? The group kept getting kicked out of one place and another it rented to do meetings with prospective students. Maybe the same thing happened in Somerville and they lost the lease? I wouldn’t be surprised at the rationalization that could happen.

      Did I mention when a couple of older students got arrested for doing third line work and pretended to be in charge of everything so that Bob, Sharon, and Alex wouldn’t be brought into it? It must have scared the crap out of them – shades of San Francisco.

      The people who called him Bob were not necessarily from SF. When I started, everyone called him Bob. Sometime after 1986 or 1987, I had left but happened to come across some younger students referring to him as “Mr. Klein.” I would bet money it was an attempt to instill formal respect. I think “Robert” was part of the same thing.

      • Odysseus says:

        Hi Haven’t Decided Today,

        You say that “a couple of older students got arrested for doing third line work and pretended to be in charge of everything so that Bob, Sharon, and Alex wouldn’t be brought into it?”

        Wow! This was before my time and I have never heard anything like this. Can you elaborate? What were they doing that was sufficiently out there as to get arrested? And how did that feed back onto Bob, Sharon and Alex? What was the reaction of the other students at seeing their “teachers” hiding from the consequences of their “teaching”? Was Law Enforcement actually aware of the nature of the group they had stumbled upon? What was the final outcome?

        I am surprised at the “Mr. Klein” thing. I agree that upgrading Bob to Robert was a matter of respect or “levels”, but in my experience no last names were ever given. I believe this was in order to keep people from finding out about San Francisco. I only learned all of their last names because I read the closing credits when “Artists and Orphans” was shown to the class, then went home and googled Sharon. (I know – Bad student! Bad student!)

      • Haven't Decided Today says:

        They were just recruiting new students, but there was some very strange vibes that some of the people were putting out. I won’t mention names. Some perspective students thought that asking for money was a literal scam and that there weren’t any classes as described, so they called in police. The way the students involved put it, they were taking responsibility and pretended that they were the top of the pyramid; it wasn’t Bob asking them to. Knowing them pretty well at the time, I tend to believe the explanation. They weren’t being ordered to do so. There were court appearances, but eventually they got out of the matter, because what they were doing wasn’t really fraud.

        And regarding last names, these students had been around for a while. Also, as Moise3rd has said, things were significantly different back then in a number of ways.

      • Bullfrog says:

        Oops, just seeing this comment today. This thread has become quite the beast. I think, like Sharon, it may be approaching level 5.

        First, the reason we left the space in Somerville was because of Bill S, who had a mental breakdown. I ran into him once or twice after that, and he was definitely unstable. And, he seemed to want to talk to people from school. So, we spent maybe 6 months at temporary spaces in Newton, Watertown, etc. I don’t remember the exact timing.

        Yes, Robert called the space a shithole. He said a lot of things that were kind of odd. And, certainly not respectful of work that people had done.

        Some examples:
        – When we did a report on Sufism, one of his remarks was that we had neglected to point out that Islam is an inferior religion. There was someone in the younger class who was Muslim, I can’t help but wonder how he would have taken that.
        – In a later report on the history of Islam I remarked that Genghis Khan had brought Islam from China to India, connecting the Mongol dynasty to the Mogul dynasty. He refused to believe it, just told me I was flat wrong, no discussion. Which I found fascinating, since he was perfectly willing to believe that the Martians had built copies of the Sphynx on Mars.
        – Of course, there was the time he called me a Mongoloid.In a later class he remarked how upset I was by that. I explained that my brother has Downs Syndrome, and that was a painful part of growing up. He apologized profusely, but I do have to wonder: in what scenarios is it appropriate to call someone a Mongoloid?

      • Haven't Decided Today says:

        And just saw this in return: “When we did a report on Sufism, one of his remarks was that we had neglected to point out that Islam is an inferior religion.”

        Odd, I remember either Bob or Fred referring to Islam as one of the “four great religions.” So, religion is like Animal Farm, where the major ones are great but some are greater than others?

  5. Wow. This is so great! Thanks, everyone for participating.

    So much to ask …

    1) Is there anyone out there who can tell me how the “sustainer” came about? I assumed that “sustainers” had always been part of the cult’s social structure.

    2) Who did the kicking out back in San Fran? There must have been some hierarchy?

    3)@ Another Version… – You clearly were a participant in the San Fran days and have a window of insight into Alex Horn, I’ve not heard before. How is it that you have this insight and what else can you tell us?

    And …

    Thank you for providing insight into how the “leadership’s” inability to face the forced relocation, west coast to east coast, is now biting them in the ass as it slowly comes to light. What else can you tell us? How is that you are privy to this info? (I promise that this blog respects anonymity)

    4) Why do you feel the investigative articles were persecution and unjustified?

    5)@Bullfrog – Thank you so much for providing some Boston branch history! Do you remember why “students” suddenly had to stand when addressing teachers? Again, I simply assumed this to be the case since the beginning of time. But, shortly, after I left, the typical class played out like a movie reel in my mind: arrive, practice ten minutes of silence, 30 minutes of “body work”, silently move into next room to participate in the highly controlled and orchestrated “conversation”, during which — if you wanted to speak — you had to stand and wait to be called on by a teacher. Needless to say, all I could think was … what the fuck was I in and why did I stay in it?

  6. @CaliforniaDreamin’ – Thank you 😉

  7. moishe3rd says:

    All right then. Go ahead – push my buttons and make me reminisce…
    🙂
    I was not aware of the newspaper articles when they first came out.
    I was a “younger or new student” at the time. They reached their climax during the time I had gone home for Christmas to be with my family.
    When I got back, it was a big deal.
    We all read the articles. In “class” we discussed whether or not we were a cult; what was a cult; would we “drink the Koolaid (a brand new and pertinent expression at the time). We had many classes on this and discussed it over and over.
    We did not discuss Alex’s violence or sexual problems in “class” but, either through innuendo or gossip, we knew that these things were basically true – but that was in the past.
    We also did not discuss Alex and Sharon freaking out over this whole thing; but again, we heard stories about how freaked Alex was in particular.
    “Another aversion of the Story” sums up what we thought at the time. The stories may have had truth to them, but that was not our school and the journalist was, indeed, not what we considered on the up and up.
    We “new students” were in informed that “school” was closing and being disbanded. We didn’t know that it had moved. It was just concluded that there was too much of a “Jim Jones” reaction to continue.
    Sometime while we were disbanding, Fred called up some of the “older new students” and asked us to take apart the Theater. Apparently, they couldn’t sub lease it and it was no longer viable so -we completely ripped out everything from chairs to lighting to stage sets to the dressing rooms and the restaurant and it was all loaded up over several nights and? sold? I don’t know. It was very clandestine and very fun. We were still “connected” to the “Secret school.”
    Later on (months? weeks?), Bob called several of us up and we joined a “preparatory school” run mainly by Bob and Fred who were purportedly still connected to Sharon and Alex…
    I never knew Bob’s first wife. He was married to Jeanine when we knew him and, when we made the big move to Boston to rejoin “school,” they became our (I and my wife’s – we got married about a month before we moved to Boston) upstairs neighbors along with their kids.
    I have a picture of him and their children which I came across when he was living there. We were also friends at that time. I keep on thinking I should send it to you all but, it’s got all the kids in it and that would probably not be kosher.
    I knew absolutely nothing about Bob’s first marriage or his son’s parentage or anything. The only family problems that we discussed were the idea that his kids were not Jewish because Jeanine wasn’t Jewish. We used to talk about things like that.
    I remember Lou and Wendy well. And, I remember that both my wife and I thought they were ill served by “school.” They were “new students”; ordinary, respectable “yuppies” who were newly married and, the last I knew, Lou dumped Wendy due to “school.” This was not good.
    I don’t remember what eventually happened to them.
    I don’t remember Bill and Kit but, then again, many names escape me from back then.

    – And, the “kicking out” was done by Sharon and Alex and “older students” who were “in charge.” At one point, I was an :”older student” running things. This was after Bob had gotten “kicked out.”
    I don’t know so much about how it happened in SF. It happened fairly frequently in Boston. People got “kicked out” all the time.
    It happened in NYC when I moved down there to do the Plays too.
    Ultimately, I got “kicked out” after we came back from touring with the Plays. It was an “unofficial kicking out” as it was another one of the older students who was pissed off at me for not working 24/7 dismantling the Plays. But, I didn’t go back, thinking that it was, indeed, a good time to leave.

  8. Moishe, As I read this, I can’t help but think that if a journalist wrote a series of investigative articles on “school” today, it’s unlikely “school” would have an open discussion … if any discussion occurred it would be highly controlled.

    California Dreamin’ – I have had some contact with Bob’s (or Robert as I know him) first wife and wrote her an email to see if she’d care to address any of your questions. I don’t want to identify her right now … we’ll see if she’s open to conversation.

  9. Cara says:

    There are as many different versions of the story as there are people in school. Everyone who came to school, came for their own personal and individual reasons and everyone who left, left for their own reasons. It was all totally individual. That was in part because we are all different and carry our own particular baggage and in part because Sharon, Alex and Robert/Bob were masters at sensing peoples weaknesses (whether because they were figured it out themselves or were told by sustainers) and those weaknesses were preyed upon. There was a saying in school that the only thing you could really count on with someone was their weakness. Also, there are certain things that we all have in common that could always be used against someone. Say, for example, the fear that we are unlovable or unworthy…

    Also, WE ALL SEE ONLY WHAT WE WANT TO SEE.

    I knew a woman who upon meeting Sharon’s daughter said “Wow, it’s amazing that she looks so much like Sharon.” It never actually occurred to her that it might actually BE Sharon’s daughter and not a mere coincidence. Some things were plainly there for all to see if one chose to see them. For example, why all the discussion in SF about the possibility of the group being a cult? I remember once in class, someone stood up and asked if the group was a cult and Sharon answered that of course it was a cult (and then laughed her wicked little laugh). She told us about a woman whose friends had asked her what would happen when she got older and couldn’t take care of herself and she told them “Oh, my cult will take care of me!” There was no further discussion. Everyone knew it was the truth somewhere inside them whether they chose to recognize it or not.

    This being the case, that we all see what we want to see, there were those who were more abused than others and that definitely colored how they saw the group. There were some people who sailed through many years in school with no personal damage to themselves. I don’t mean psychological damage because I think we all shared that but personal damage in the form of loss of money, divorce, marriage, adoption of children or loss of a child, careers in school related businesses, gay people being talked into being heterosexual,etc. I think that people who were not so abused, such as Moishe, might not have seen things that happened to other people. I don’t mean to single out Moishe here because I know a lot of people who just kind of “moved on” after awhile and were not really aware of anything sinister until years later (if then). There are plenty of people (they just don’t post about it) who loved being in school and still miss it. Many people who are grateful to Sharon for the opportunities that she gave to them.

    I do think that those of us whose spouses were told to divorce us, who gave large amounts of money to Sharon, whose children were adopted or who were asked to change their sexual preference, were far more sensitive to those things happening to others. Also, because we were not encouraged to talk amongst ourselves, any suspicions we had about what was happening, we kept to ourselves. Kind of like any totalitarian regime – you are afraid to talk to someone else about what you suspect might be the truth because you are afraid that they might denounce you to the authorities. Everyone could see the evidence of people who were denounced to the authorities so frequently I just kept my mouth shut.

    I don’t really think that there was any “devolution from the old glory days”. I think it was always the same thing. It just depended on your version of the truth. If anything, it was far more violent and outrageous in the days of Red Mountain and Alex Horn. Look at Dave Archer’s articles – those were the “glory days”???? Also, there was a big difference between Boston and New York. In New York, Sharon was in class once a week and there was a tremendous amount of energy that went into fulfilling her every whim and desire. In Boston, she showed up once or twice a year and Bob was far more cautious and strict about everything having learned from the mistakes made in New York.

    At the beginning, everyone spoke from their seats and one day Sharon was angry about something (or couldn’t hear someone) and said “Stand up when you speak!” and then after that we all had to stand up to speak. I am sure that what happened in New York was then transferred to Boston.

    My first Christmas class, everyone was encouraged to sing a song or do a presentation. There was no pressure it was only fun. The issue was not quality but your open heartedness in being able to get up in front of everyone and give something of yourself. It then devolved over many years into having to be “good enough” for Sharon and it became an overly rehearsed drudgery where everyone was frightened about how something would be received.

  10. Another Version says:

    Wow, thank you to all who have shared a piece of their story, their perspective and their questions too. My reflections as conveyed in “another version of the story” are just one point of view expressed. In fact I, myself could tell another version of the story perhaps this time, exploring all the times “something seemed off” and I second guessed myself or was unable to persist in my inquiring because of external pressure and manipulation and my own lack of will. Bob often said “who ever is strongest wins” and frequently exclaimed, “where there is smoke there is fire” . I think that the story exploring the shadowy edges of my awareness and dismissed hints that something was rotten in Denmark is a harder story to tell than one that wraps up the loose ends in a tidy bow granting superficial forgiveness, because it touches on strong feelings of personal doubt and being taken advantage of by someone I was encouraged to trust. It calls into question my story and my perspective that I guarded and that is hard to bare..I told myself for years that everything was getting better, that school was like a big dysfunctional family and that gradually things were getting better through increased consciousness…but the story is very complex and little by little the rays of light penetrate…and shed light on the different facets…and a big part of that light is hearing pieces of the story from others which allows me to reflect and reconsider my own experiences.

  11. Hi Cara & Another Version:

    Thank you for your thoughts! Its so illuminating for me to learn that certain practices – such as standing when talking – were not part of some illustrious legacy, but (in this case) an impulse from the queen when in a foul mood. I hope that someone out there can talk about how sustainers came to be.

    @Another Version – As I read your latest comment, I was thinking about my own insecurity in the face of moments when something in me knew that “something seemed off”. I think I can safely say that the struggle you convey between that which “seemed off” and that which appeared right is the struggle that faces every “student”. That is why leaving is so hard. That is why it’s so painful and difficult to realize that school’s legacy is rooted and grows from a violent sociopath and its future will probably consist of more recruitment of more sincere seekers who will be contributing to Sharon’s retirement fund, rather than building pyramids, or bringing peace to the Middle East, or reversing climate change… I think we all believed and hoped that we were part of something that truly did spread “fine vibrations” and had real aims to elevate the human condition, rather than extort money, break up marriages and families, damage innocent children, usurp energy, money and time from sincere “students” until they had nothing left to give, on and on and on and on. I’m so angry about it.

    But – on a personal note – I have never been so appreciative of my free Tuesday and Thursday nights. As I was driving home last night, I was thinking, “How great is it that I’m driving home to have dinner with my husband, rather than scurrying off to class with McDonald’s takeout, to be manipulated and controlled for 3 to 4 hours in service to some non-existent higher ‘aim’. ”

    @Cara-Thank you for making the point that we only see what we want to see. I think it is key to this struggle. We “students” wanted to believe we’d found an authentic venue that connected us to that which is beyond and finer than our day-to-day existence. I can remember, during those moments in class when my rebels began to rumble, looking at Robert and seeing a sincere man, really believing in his good intentions. There were so many missed moments where I wanted to stand up and question something he’d said, or his specific mistreatment of a student, and I didn’t out of some misguided faith that he actually knew something, saw something I did not. I have to forgive myself for that now — but it’s hard to live with.

    • Bullfrog says:

      Just wanted to say, GSR, that I’m also thankful for free Tuesdays & Thursday. But, what I’m really, really thankful for is not being at CR.

      To be fair I learned things about myself from CR. That should be the subject of a blog post of my own. Here, I want to sound a different, and more ominous note.

      I remember the time John S, in the process of trying to finish up an aim at CR, dropped a 10-foot ladder which hit me on the head. I was lucky in that it was the rounded part of the ladder that hit me, or I would have been killed. I had a mild concussion, and nothing more. I recall Heidi saying at the time, it’s good that if someone was hit on the head it was you, because your head is so hard. I thought that was pretty funny.

      The point is that the situations we were put in were not something a conscious person would have designed. They were situations that were frequently dangerous. Indeed, those time aims were often the source of hysteria. In this case it was nearly lethal.

      In all of the various comments I’ve seen about the Boston branch I haven’t seen anything about Veronica, so I wanted to make sure that’s on the table here. I don’t know all the facts, but I wanted to share what I do know.

      Two things happened in the winter of 1992. A group of about 8 of us started to attend acting class in NYC. This was in the old space on West Lafayette in the East Village. In my car from Boston to NYC was Rick T, Susan L, and Veronica. The first class was an intense experience, and meeting Jordan was an illuminating experience for me. That was the beginning of a transitional period in my life. I remember doing an improv with Veronica that really tickled Jordan and Chris M. Because of that I got assigned a scene from Prisoner of 2nd Avenue with Veronica. We made plans to rehearse, but that never materialized as you will understand from what followed.

      At about the same time we started to build the space in Woburn. If you haven’t been involved in that kind of aim, it involves an intense period of physical effort where you are expected to be at the space every day for 2 or 3 weeks. And, except for the occasional meeting, you were hard at work. I remember a point that I had been on top of scaffolding sanding plaster working with Stewart H. This was at 3 in the morning. I remember him saying to me, unshaven for a week, dust everywhere: “You look like an old Russian Jew.” One of those moments we both burst out laughing.

      I recall that one of those evenings I was supposed to pick up Veronica to go to the space in Woburn. I went by her place, rang the bell, but no one answered. I figured at the time that it was denying force. We all remember denying force, right? That was that voice that asked why were there at 3 in the morning sanding plaster. When we should have been pretty much anywhere else.

      The next day or the day after that, those of us who were in the acting class were pulled aside. Fred was there. He had some bad news. “Veronica has died,” he said. He went to say that we may have noticed that she was pale. No fucking kidding, I thought, you worked her to death. But, I didn’t say that out loud. What was I afraid of? Who was I afraid of?

      So, once again we have a group of teachers who held themselves up to know a great deal about the human condition, but they couldn’t recognize that Veronica shouldn’t be doing hard physical labor over an extended period of time?

      In class we were not allowed to acknowledge her death. We were only allowed to say: Veronica can not be here at this time.

      How weird is that?

      • Wow. Holy sh*t. Just when I thought “school” things couldn’t possibly get any weirder.

        Thanks for sharing this story, Bullfrog. Thank God I never experienced CR and thank god I left before being sucked into preparing a new space or another version of that type of “3rd line” of work. I’m sorry that your friend died and – even worse – that you were then instructed to lie about it.

        And the question you pose: What was I afraid of? Who was I afraid of? Isn’t that the question we all end up grappling with?

        So Veronica was ill, I take it … did anyone ever tell you what she died of or explain what happened? Or were you just expected to swallow that news and move on?

  12. Bullfrog says:

    Veronica was always very pale. In retrospect I can say she must have been ill. She was lively in class, and in acting class, but yes, she was probably ill.

    Also, In retrospect I have to believe that we couldn’t speak about her death because it would lead all of us to wonder if her death weren’t caused by the stress of working on the space.

    I do recall the moment that we were summoned into a temporary room in Woburn, Fred telling us that she had died, and that everyone else in the room started crying. I didn’t start crying, but was angry at Fred and Robert. I would have liked to hit him. I was angry at the experience I was going through working on the space, and my immediate thought was that the experience had actually killed someone.

    • Odysseus says:

      Wow! Veronica’s story is horrifying. It’s no wonder they didn’t want you to talk about it. There’s no way now to know to what extent the demands of “school” caused her death, but it seems clear that they were a contributory factor. Thank you Bullfrog, for sharing this story.

      When I was working on a Christmas party in Woburn, I had an experience that connects to this one.

      It was on Sunday afternoon of an intensive work weekend. When I took a break for something to eat, I felt fine, but by the time I finished, I was feeling very ill. I was weak and shaky, and all my senses seemed like there was a layer of greasy gauze over them. I had to go to work at my job at midnight and knew that there was no way I could do so in that condition. So I went to the “junior teacher” in charge at that time. (He left a long time ago, so I won’t name him.) He tried very hard to convince me to stay and “work through it” as the group was in the midst of a big push. He made the statement, “People work for years to get to the place you are in now.” I can remember thinking “If people work for years in order to feel like this, I don’t think I want any part of it.” I didn’t say it out loud. I did stick to my guns about going home and getting a few hours sleep before going to my job.

      Obviously my experience is nowhere near as serious as Veronica’s, but I think it points to a real and serious pattern of disregard for the health and well-being of the rank and file. This is in contrast to the extraordinary care that is taken for Sharon and Bob.

      Having had that very clear and real thought in a moment of conflict, the question is why I didn’t leave and instead stayed for many more years. In retrospect I think it points to how strong the seeker impulse in each of us is. We have all had those moments of a small clear voice telling us something is off. And so many of those moments get pushed aside until we just cannot take any more.

      • Bullfrog says:

        That’s right. Everyone in “school” had a strong seeker in them. I’ve never been able to find a group of people who so uniformly sought after something. I hoped to find that in the people who are in progressive political circles in DC, but they are some of the most lost people out there.

        I was a volunteer prisoner of “school” for 13 years. When I talked to a therapist after leaving, her principal question was: how could this be? How do you explain the pull that “school” has?

        I think some of the explanation was in the idea of the black sheep, one of my favorite from Gurdjieff, or at least I think it was Gurdjieff. As it’s commonly understood in life the black sheep is someone who is either odd or unpleasant or generally unsociable. In the ideas of the work the black sheep is someone who knows he is different, because he was marked that way at birth. In many ways he would like to be like the other sheep, but that’s not his fate. And, the other sheep sense that he is not entirely one with the rest of the heard. So that part of living out his destiny is to find other black sheep. That’s not to say that the other black sheep are always the easiest to get along with. But, that’s his tribe. That’s where he belongs.

      • Hi Odysseus –
        Thanks for sharing this story. Between your experience and Bullfrog’s story about Veronica, I have to wonder how many other people can tell stories about “school’s” utter disregard for the safety and well-being of its “students”. During my tenure, I didn’t experience anything quite so extreme. There were moments that pointed towards school’s potential for damage. And – of course – and “school’s” utter disregard for my husband, which pushed me past my tolerance for bullshit.

  13. Hi BF –

    “So, once again we have a group of teachers who held themselves up to know a great deal about the human condition, but they couldn’t recognize that Veronica shouldn’t be doing hard physical labor over an extended period of time?”

    I think this says it all. Your anger was justified and appropriate. Because – yes – she probably shouldn’t have been doing hard physical labor over an extended period. None of you should have been expected to do that. At the time, did you feel that your anger was justified? Or did you chalk it up to being a “negative emotion”?

    “Also, In retrospect I have to believe that we couldn’t speak about her death because it would lead all of us to wonder if her death weren’t caused by the stress of working on the space. ”

    That’s the impression I got from reading your post. So … what can I say … That’s f*cked.

    Thanks, GSR

  14. about veronica says:

    The first time I heard about Veronica was a year or two ago, from another former student. It was a totallty shocking strory to me, I was in “school” at the time of this event and had also worked on the Woburn space. I didn’t know Veronica though, she was in the younger class and I was in the older class. I couldn’t imagine an event as signficant as a death happening in the group and not know about it. This is a group that knows everybody else’s business, after all. But it’s also a group with many, many secrets. I can’t help but wonder, how many other secrets are hidden in the closets.

    For what its worth, I had heard that Veronica died of a heart attack. I believe the story goies that she was taken from the space to the hospital by another student. This is a very third person account, perhaps someone else can confirm it.

    Many of us know the pressures of these types of work projects: many nights of little or no sleep, time aims, public beratings for anyone who falters or tries to beg off from this line of work, There was such an over-emphasis on going beyond ourselves and pushing through our fatigue, objections and our “preciousness” about talking care of ourselves. I don’t think the “teachers” have amy understandining of the real and present risks and dangers of pushing people as they do. What happened here is morally reprehensible and criminal. It was a miracle that there weren’t more injuries and deaths from these work projects;

    Perhaps there were more, but they’re part of the stories still hidden in the closets.

    • Bullfrog says:

      I’m personally aware of only one more incident. It’s much less serious than what I described earlier, but still worth noting. Back when we did frequent classes outside of class, this would have sometime in the mid 1990’s, I don’t remember the year exactly, we had a class out at the campground west of Boston. I don’t remember the town, Westborough, maybe?

      The first time we were out there was when we did The Symposium. That’s when I learned how the personal politics of “school” worked. A story for another day. We were out there for 2 more classes outside of class over the years.

      I recall being totally beat that night. Besides the various lines of work that were going on at the time, I was flying back and forth from Boston to New Jersey for my job. Sometime after midnight I snuck off to my car and took a nap. In the language of “school” I was being “precious.”

      It was suggested that I go home when I was discovered napping, and I saluted and ran.

      Around 8 at that morning I got a call from K, who I was dating at the time. And, make no mistake, K and I had a real bond, and I have no doubt that she still thinks of me, just as I do of her. She had taken a ride back from the class outside of class with Laura (Michael’s wife) who had fallen asleep at the wheel, and got into a very bad crash.

      When I got to the hospital, both K and Laura were clearly hurt, K was black and blue, but in surprisingly good spirits, considering. She didn’t have health care at the time, so she had to sue Laura to get her hospital bills paid. I’m not sure if they ever got along after that. I don’t know.

      In this case, no one was killed, but again could have been. Given that the idea of predictability was one of the central ideas, wasn’t someone falling asleep at the wheel after an all-night class entirely predictable? I’m not aware of anything that Robert or Sharon did to help pay K’s medical bills. As I say, she needed to sue another member of “school,” and that caused a good deal of friction between the two of them.

  15. Hello Everyone,

    As I read these stories, I am first moved by your willingness to share them and secondly horrified by the utter disregard shown to “school’s” students.

    Certainly, I experienced and witnessed aspects of this disregard during Christmas Party throwing. Perhaps my horror is only coming to light now that I’m learning that this disregard only grows the longer one is in school and the extent to which it can grow – in Veronica’s case, possibly until death.

    I believe it critical that these skeletons be let out of the closet, so those who were in “school”, or are in “school” have a chance to know what its potential for damage is. I welcome anyone out there to tell these stories here.

  16. Haven't Decided Today says:

    moishe3rd, the situation you mentioned about one student dumping a spouse was a little more complicated than it being “due to school,” although that was a big factor. If you want, I can contact you privately, as I wouldn’t want to publicly discuss them.

    For any who might be interested, I remember when the no fraternization rule came about. Pretty much all of the students were hanging out with each other, getting involved romantically, and it was a big mess. Lots of people were hiding from their lives, so suddenly it was no fraternization. At the time, I thought the impetus was good and still think so. However, it wasn’t honestly carried out, because contact outside was apparently OK when it came to doing work for someone or if two people suddenly got married.

    Also, back when I was involved, there was no pretense that the material didn’t come from Ouspensky, Gurdjieff, and the like.

    But talk about self-delusion, I remember one day that Sharon declared that she was becoming clairvoyant. Interestingly, I also remember Alex denying that he was a conscious individual.

  17. When in school, I believed that the “non fraternization” policy was established several hundred years back in some secret esoteric school of yore. I believed that of so many of the strange, controlling and highly ritualized practices that shaped our “classes”.

  18. Odysseus says:

    I think it’s clear that they have been basically making it up as they go – refining the process of brainwashing their victims, trying things out and seeing what works and what doesn’t. From what Moishe and Haven’t Decided Today have said, things were much, much looser back in the San Francisco days. Doesn’t mean everything was hunky-dory, rather that they were sociopaths in training, instead of the accomplished sociopaths they are today.

    And I have to say that Sharon isn’t clairvoyant, but she is a very shrewd manipulator of other people. This can be made to seem like clairvoyance if the audience is prepared properly. Alex declaring that he was not a conscious individual is interesting. I think I recall someone saying that at a Montana retreat, Sharon declared that she WAS a conscious individual (it may have been stated as being a Level 6 or 7 being). Perhaps that makes Alex a more honest con man than Sharon.

    Regarding car crashes, I remember many instances of someone becoming over-tired while working on a Christmas party and being sent home, with another student following them in case they fell asleep on the way. It was never clear to me what someone in another car was supposed to do if the tired person did fall asleep behind the wheel. Honk the horn? It might work, then again it might not. Nudge the car from behind? Seems as likely to cause a crash as prevent one. If safety was actually the concern, the proper way to do it would have been to send three people in the same car. With two on the return trip, they could keep each other awake. So what was the real purpose? Covering their rears?

    • Haven't Decided Today says:

      Boston, for me, not SF. But in the 80s. And, in case I wasn’t clear, she Sharon didn’t *do* anything to seem clairvoyant. She just stated it and it sounded nutty.

      From what I’ve read, Alex used to claim to be conscious in SF, probably before Sharon. I saw him at times trying to wrestle with his own nature and actually trying to be helpful. I remember once him stating to me specifically, “No one can know you as well as you know yourself.” He was right.

      The problems with cons – or actors or salespeople or similar types – is that they depend on getting people to believe. In the process, they often make themselves believe. When done badly, it can spiral downward into greater delusion.

  19. Odysseus says:

    GSR,

    Regarding sustainers, I don’t know when it was started, but it was fully in place when I started in 1991. My group had sustainers for several years, then we were changed to “Aim Partners”, which was a kind of mutual sustainership, without the reporting to higher ups part. I guess this was done once it was felt we were sufficiently hooked. When this switch was made, I remembered an aside conversation between Sharon and Robert on one of her visits, which I hadn’t understood at the time. She had to ask Robert if we were still being sustained or not. For a supposedly conscious being, that’s not exactly keeping your thumb on the pulse!

  20. truth or dare says:

    Regarding car crashes due to sleep deprivation: I know of several over the years. Robert was in an bad one after class on Storrow Drive, he had a serious head injury, and missed a year or so of class. This was in the late 80’s. There may have alcohol involved, too. Since then, he has someone drive him home after class. I know Jane and another student were in a car accident after class in Somerville, with some injuries. Also Tim was in an accident with injuries in the 80s. I’m sure there are more car accidents that occurred than this, some that I’ve forgotten, and some that I never knew about.

    Regarding sustaining: When I started in the mid 80s, sustaining was more informal. One of the older students would call me, and inevitably we would talk about what was going on in my life and in class. I thought they were just being friends, but no doubt they were reporting on me to Robert. It was a looser arrangement; it wouldn’t always be the same person calling me every week. When Minerva was teaching in Boston a lot in the late 80s, she introduced the 5 step meeting process for recruiting, and also formalized the sustaining relationship, meaning the roles were more clearly defined, and the new recruits were told they’d be assigned a specific person who’d be their sustainer.

    Robert would boast in the sustaining meetings that he used to sustain all the men in school in the old days. The men played basketball together on the weekends, then they would go out for breakfast, and Robert was there, finding out about what was going on in the men’s lives, encouraging them, etc. His boasting about the old days would be in the context of berating the poor sustainers that they weren’t doing their jobs properly. There would be a big push to get new students, the new recruits would come for the one month experiment, and then many would leave when they were asked to pay tuition, or a month or two thereafter. The sustainer would be blamed for the new student not continuing.

    The women also played basketball together in this time frame, mid to late 80s, It was at some crazy time, like 7am on a Saturday, and it was hard to get everyone to attend, even though it was supposedly required. The women’s program died out before the men’s did. For the men, they switched at some point from Basketball to Boxing. They called it a line of work, I believe. There was something said about the men in class being too passive, and Boxing would supposedly help them to be more assertive. LOL, the real issue was that we were all systematically taught to stop thinking for ourselves, that’s where the real passivity comes in.

    Odysseus, I am fairly certain that some of the aim partners did report in on what their aim partners told them. Some things that I only told my aim partner somehow mysteriously were communicated to Robert. I would assume it was through “class notes”. I personally never saw these notes, but I assume that they included information gathered about what was going on in other students lives, reactions to the last class, etc. Over time, I became cynical and guarded, and would be careful talking with my aim partner and my spouse. I never knew what would be reported. It really was like a totalitarian regime.

    BTW, we didn’t always have life aims to work on. They were introduced sometime in the late 80s – early 90s. I thought they were introduced as a counterpoint to the complaint from students that they were neglecting their lives because “school” was taking up so much of their time and energy.

    Someone asked about Lou and Wendy F: They had two or three young daughters when I knew them in the mid 80s. Wendy left the group, and Lou stayed in. Sadly, a year or two later Wendy died of cancer and Lou was taking care of the girls. He and his kids moved to the NYC area to work for Bob at the NE Retail Express office in Danbury CT. I know he was there around 1990, attending classes in NYC, and dating Ilsa, Sharon’s daughter. I heard he was studying to become a chiropractor. I’ve heard through the grapevine recently that he’s out of “school” and living on the west coast. Perhaps others can fill in some of the details, like when he left the NY group.

    • Haven't Decided Today says:

      Bob was drinking when he had that accident – lost his license for a year, I think. He had quite the alcohol problem, as did so many. But, as I remembered, he stopped drinking cold. Couldn’t have been too easy.

      Wendy was told to leave. Lou stayed in. He started dating Ilsa years before 1990. He offered some other story at the time – no one mentioned her illness (and heartache couldn’t have helped). How sad and useless. Don’t forget so many at the time smoked because Alex had convinced them that it didn’t cause cancer.

      I might have been around in the mid-80s. Older students were told to befriend younger ones, but there was no systematic reporting on them that I can remember. Again, sounds like many things changed, generally for the worse.

    • Haven't Decided Today says:

      Just noticed this:

      “Robert would boast in the sustaining meetings that he used to sustain all the men in school in the old days. The men played basketball together on the weekends, then they would go out for breakfast, and Robert was there, finding out about what was going on in the men’s lives, encouraging them, etc.”

      Did he bother to tell you about the energy others put into it, or about his often not being around on weekends and leaving it to others to do the work? Or when it was football before basketball and he wasn’t involved at all? No? Sheesh. My, how pictures of the past change when you badly want them to be something else.

  21. anonymous says:

    sorry, I left out an important detail in my post above:

    Someone asked about Lou and Wendy F:

    “They had two or three young daughters when I knew them in the mid 80s. Wendy left the group, and Lou stayed in. Of course the inevitable divorce occurred, as it always happens when one spouse leaves the group. Sadly, a year or two later Wendy died of cancer and Lou was taking care of the girls.

  22. Another version of the Story says:

    Back to Veronica for a moment: does anyone remember who brought her to “school”? When I first heard about her death I tried to research it and find a death certificate with cause of death, next of kin etc. I was unable to find anything at the time but my search was not extensive.

    Regarding Lou F and Wendy: that is a very sad
    reminder. . Their daughters were lovely and vibrant. Unfortunately my memories of L&W are mixed and mostly not positive. Like many of us their behavior was often corrupted by the pressures and bullying style of the leadership and manipulation tactics. I was under the impression Lou was close to Alex and favored by him. I remember an “older student” making a very misguided comment about her cancer being connected with unresolved negative emotions. I now say a prayer for their release from suffering, your suffering and my own as well. I wonder what we all would have been like had we been in an atmosphere of compassion, cultivating understanding and kindness toward one another. Alas another tear for my miss-spent years in the cult. It pains my heart to think of it all but reviewing and reflecting on it cleanses the soul too.

  23. Bullfrog says:

    I started “school” in November 1988. By that point life aims were definitely in place, and I had to come up with a life aim right away. My sustainer was Nick. Nick left to go to NYC, and was replaced by Myra, and then Tim L. Tim was actually a very good sustainer. So, thanks to you Tim, for many things.

    At the time we had sustainers for one year. Then we switched to aim partners.

    In 1989 the men restarted the line of work of basketball. Every Sunday we would practice from 7:30am – 9am. We did an exhibition night for the rest of the younger class in 1992. That ended basketball. Coincidentally, that was the same night that Larry Bird retired and the Woody Allen / Soon Yi affair went public. No point there, that’s just how I remember when it happened.

    Regarding the fraternization rule. I found that was pretty ambiguous when the same groups of people spent time together in 3rd line, acting class, etc. Certainly when we were going down to NYC for acting class we took advantage of the opportunity to hang out, flirt, and talk about things that we would never have shared with Robert or Sharon.

    I was not entirely unaware that we were being manipulated. I think I may have taken advantage of that on more than one occasion.

  24. Hey Everyone,

    Thanks, again for your participation in the blog. It’s funny, I was just starting to think that perhaps “cult confessions” had run its course and maybe I should take a break – I’m still thinking that a hiatus might be a good idea – but I love when the online conversation just flows like this. Many thoughts and responses to various people:

    In response to Odysseus:
    “My group had sustainers for several years, then we were changed to “Aim Partners”, which was a kind of mutual sustainership, without the reporting to higher ups part. I guess this was done once it was felt we were sufficiently hooked. ”

    I had both. The aim partnership started being treated as a kind of graduation – I remember my sustainer congratulating me when I “evolved” from “being sustained” to becoming an “aim partner”. Now I realize that this evolution is determined when the powers that be decided a sincere seeker has been properly indoctrinated.

    To Odysseus and Bullfrog:
    “Having had that very clear and real thought in a moment of conflict, the question is why I didn’t leave and instead stayed for many more years. In retrospect I think it points to how strong the seeker impulse in each of us is. We have all had those moments of a small clear voice telling us something is off. And so many of those moments get pushed aside until we just cannot take any more.”

    “That’s right. Everyone in “school” had a strong seeker in them. I’ve never been able to find a group of people who so uniformly sought after something.”

    I often think that this wounding of those who seek, is what is most cynical and hateful about “school”. Obviously, we all longed for the company of others who question and wonder. And there is nothing wrong with the desire to seek truth – there is only something wrong with those who take advantage because they know how.

    Also, Bullfrog, you asked a question about how to explain the pull of school to those who’ve not experienced it. It’s a great question and I think it reflects a glaring hole in the helping profession. I’ve been quite lucky with my friends – they’ve been wonderful and also able to draw parallels to their own … shall we say addictions, or dysfunctional situations. But most people would not be able to empathize.

    To Haven’t Decided & Moishe: If you decide to connect outside the blog, I am happy to coordinate a more private information exchange. Just write to hummingbird2916@safe-mail.net. Also, let me know you’ve written, as I don’t always check that account.

    In response to About veronica: “BTW, we didn’t always have life aims to work on. They were introduced sometime in the late 80s – early 90s. I thought they were introduced as a counterpoint to the complaint from students that they were neglecting their lives because “school” was taking up so much of their time and energy.”

    Wow. Life aims were a HUGE part of my “school” experience and – again – I assumed they were part of the illustrious legacy dating back to Shakespeare and Jesus Christ. The more I learn, the more free I feel … is that weird? I’m just so happy to know that I escaped this illusion pretty well intact.

    I’m raising a glass to all of you out there who have left, despite the pull and ache to find other seekers and a community of souls/kindred spirits who are truly, sincerely trying to become more than we can understand.

    • Odysseus says:

      When my group “graduated” from being sustained, we were encouraged to get together one last time and buy our sustainers a drink to thank them for their efforts on our behalf. Of course I now understand that what we were thanking them for was helping to indoctrinate us and report on us to the “teachers’. We were thanking them for turning us into victims!

      Also, I agree that the “wounding of those who seek” is the most hateful thing about the group. Extorted money can be replaced. Internal peace can be achieved after separating from the group, but the time lost on a false path is not replaceable. And the wariness that any other path may likewise be false is very hard to get past.

      To River of Joy – no one ever asked me to report on my aim partners. Perhaps this only occurred in certain cases where the “teachers” wanted more information on particular students?

      The mention of basketball and boxing reminds me of the boxing disaster toward the end of my tenure, which was a surprising example of “school” rules and instructions clashing with reality and losing.

  25. Hi Odysseus:

    “Also, I agree that the ‘wounding of those who seek’ is the most hateful thing about the group. Extorted money can be replaced. Internal peace can be achieved after separating from the group, but the time lost on a false path is not replaceable. And the wariness that any other path may likewise be false is very hard to get past.”

    Well said. Thanks for this!

  26. charlie chaplin says:

    This recent run of comments has been excellent to read. Similar to Hummingbird, I appreciate filling in the back story and getting a clearer overall picture.

    I can add that I had a few aim partners over the years and was never asked to report on them, though we did have after class (or before class) meetings where all the aim partners talked about their partnership and sometimes switched up. One of my partners was John who missed a lot of classes, which I felt was understandable given that he had two kids, but others didn’t share my lenient attitude. Another of my partners was Josh who moved away and so only came to class once every month or sometimes every two months. I remember being told that I was selected as his partner because my work was strong and he needed extra help, being at a distance. I of course ate this up and allowed it to inflate my ego, but also took it on as sincere opportunity to help. I also remember buying my sustainer a drink at the end of our official relationship. There are certainly things he said that helped, some of which I remember to this day. Other things were just confusing.

    Odysseus, may i ask about the “boxing disaster”? I was in a boxing “line of work” fairly briefly. We met in a gym in Watertown. I remember we all gave fake last names to the instructor, whom I did not believe to be OSG-affiliated. When, after a few weeks, we were told the line of work would not continue, I wondered if there was some conflict with the instructor about having a bunch of students with fake names, given that we were signing waivers and whatnot.

    I always wondered about Robert being driven around, and just assumed it was part of his role. The clear hierarchical structure within the group and the theatrical displays of respect (special coffee, big comfy chair at the head of class) struck me from the beginning, and I thought of them as being necessary conditions in order to establish the levels for the flow of knowledge from teacher to student. I remember thinking that being singled out as special in this way must have been a burden that Robert took on in order to set up the proper relationship. Of course, that was when I thought everything about “school” was very intentional, designed from a higher level of understanding, and intended to put finer vibrations into the world.

    • Odysseus says:

      The boxing incident that I am referring to took place in approximately 2005 or 2006. My memory of the exact dates is hazy. We were told out of the blue that all the men in class, without exception, had to start taking boxing lessons. I remember having the impression, but not being sure of it, that the Belmont group were given the same instruction.

      In practice, a number of the men seemed to have been able to get permission to not participate.

      I don’t remember hearing it at the time, but I heard afterwards that the instruction was from Sharon due to the “passivity” of the men in “school”, and that it was intended to combat this.

      The organization of the program was by Michael C. He arranged for the owner of a boxing gym in Watertown to give us group lessons. The Billerica group were divided into two, which went on separate nights. The owner of the gym (I cannot for the life of me remember his name) had to close the gym to other business when we were there. The cover story was that we were a writers group who had collectively decided to begin boxing. Frankly, it was pretty absurd considering most of us were in our late 40’s to 60’s and rather out of shape. All communication, in either direction went through Michael C, as did payment, which of course had to be in cash. (Only as I am writing this is it occurring to me that there may have been a skim which went to Sharon!) The first night we all had to register and we were instructed to give false names, addresses and phone numbers. A couple of the people in my cohort were not very clever about this, giving phone numbers and Zip codes that didn’t match with the street addresses, and the Gym owner was sharp enough to catch this and question them. This probably aroused some suspicions.

      We wound up doing this for maybe 5 meetings before being abruptly told that we wouldn’t be boxing anymore. There was no explanation given.

      My guess is that the gym owner tried to contact people without going through Michael and found that everyone had given him false information. He may have been checking on the condition of one of the men in my cohort who came to the group lesson one night with a badly swollen leg which later turned out to be a serious medical problem (an edema?). This was not due to anything that happened in the boxing class, but I’m sure the gym owner was concerned. Having found out that he had no idea who he was dealing with (and given the strenuous nature of boxing as a sport, there are probably legal reasons why he NEEDED to know this), he likely either called the arrangement off on his own or started asking questions that Michael had no answer for. Either way, that was the end of that.

      • charlie chaplin says:

        I was in the Belmont group and this time frame sounds right. The class was also abruptly stopped for us without explanation. I always suspected it had something to do with the instructor figuring out that he was dealing with a bunch of fake names. Thanks for filling in the picture!

    • Haven't Decided Today says:

      I also remember when they started personal aims – not something that had always been done.

      I’m still a bit surprised about them copying books and putting them into binders without telling people what they were from. Apparently they eventually became secretive. Wonder if anyone has dropped a dime with the publisher – the works are under copyright, I suspect, which would mean it’s illegal to copy them they way they’re doing.

      • Bullfrog says:

        The thing with the book copying is really odd. Was there any justification given at the time? It comes across to me as a fairly transparent con. What’s next? Is Sharon going to tell us that Slaughterhouse 5 was really an esoteric work from the inner circle of humanity?

        Which reminds me. Or, as Sharon liked to put it: Oh, by the way. (As we discussed in class when someone says “Oh, by the way,” they’re finally going to say something interesting, and you can generally disregard everything they’ve said up to that point.)

        When K and I started dating, Robert and Sharon were opposed to the relationship. Or, as Robert put it: “Sharon gives her permission, but not her blessing.” I’m pretty sure Robert believed that would end things right there. When K and I told Robert that we were actually okay with not having Sharon’s blessing, he kind of lost it. And, he proceeded over the next several months to work to end things between the two of us. I called it: the line of work of screwing things up between two people. He frequently pulled K aside after class, and would try to persuade her that this was a bad relationship for her. He would say things like: “this is purely chemical. There is no real love between the two of you.” I know this because after a few months of this, K started to tell me about these discussions the two of them had after class. And, knowing this was going on, I would try to elicit conversation from K in terms of the most recent thing Robert had said to her. It occurred to me that he may have wanted K for himself.

        I started to look differently at Robert after that. I would see him in class and he looked like a con man. I said to myself something like: this is going to turn into cynicism, and eat you up. Indeed, it may have.

        Starting at about 5 years in I started to think Robert and Sharon may be con artists. That was not a static opinion, but something that I would wonder about and come back to.

      • Haven't Decided Today says:

        @Bullfrog, couldn’t tell you about the copying. I was long out before you got there and there had been no attempts to hide the source of the material.

        So, I don’t know who you or K would be, but Bob was trying to actively talk you out of being involved after you said you didn’t care about getting a blessing? Sadder and sadder. It’s not as if many of the older students or teachers, for that matter, have shown any concept of how to maintain a long-standing marriage. That is a trait I associate with grown-ups – not that marriages always work out, but when normally things are a flip of a coin (50-50 odds) and you keep losing, there is something more than chance at work.

      • I would love to hear the justification used for photo copying entire books … maybe there’s someone out there who could speak to this. I never heard the names Gurdjieff & Ospensky until out of “school”.

      • Another version of the Story says:

        As I understand it, the copying of books and hiding the source material authors’ names started with the dawn of the Internet postings on Rick Ross And Steve Hassan websites after the big Boston Blow out Xmas party shaming event ( of 2000?) There may have been a percipitating NYC event around that time such as the Rosie O’Donelll expose with the film. Anyway the thought they could avoid exposure on the Internet this way by not using terms or names that are Google-able. They actually thought that people would just accept the books as presented at face value without question. They probably enjoyed the fact that some students thought that the “teachers” may have written the texts themselves, in the same creepy way Bob enjoyed being clarvoyant based on sustainer notes. They even kept this approach to the texts secret from the older students ( on a need to know basis only) till one day in class it was announced that students were not to mention the various authors names or use the phrase “the Work” or the 4th Way” This was among the more obviously absurd and deluded atempts to avoid truth, indicating further decline into self agrandizing narcissism and disconnection from reality of the leadership. Later they did away with the texts altogether and the junior teachers were given the responsibility of passing the ideas on through theIr retelling of the material. I mean really! The nerve! it’s like studying Shakespeare through poor paraphrase without ever reading or seeing the plays. This was part of the failure to indoctrinate the more recent younger class and lead to the great exodus of January 2012 in Boston. I guess for many of us it was a blessing in disguise. And iit illuminates some of the former younger students blog postings that for better or worse seem to lack a fundamental grasp of “the Ideas”. At this point I’ve called into question the whole Gurdjeiff legacy so lacking exposure to “G.” may be yet another blessing upon those younger now escaped former “students.”. There are other teaching traditions that convey the ideas without the smoke and mirrors that lends itself to abuse. The postings on the Internet gave rise to the furthering of mythology relating to the disgruntled former students that “school” wax threatened by.blah blah blah that is for another post.

  27. Odysseus says:

    Aim Partnerships changed a number of times during my experience. At first, it seemed that it was set up so that there would be regular changes at set periods. Later they got less and less frequent and seemed to only happen when someone complained about their partners and as a result either the whole group would switch or one or two partnerships would change. Sometimes it was a couple of years between changes.

    In my experience, there was a range of experiences, both good and bad. Sometimes, my partner and I would work well together and sometimes communication became very rare. There were times when I didn’t know if my partner had made his aim until reporting night, and he likewise didn’t know about me. Frankly, for most of the time I wasn’t a very good aim partner. Particularly towards the end, I was usually not very excited about my aims, didn’t work very hard to make them and didn’t feel like talking about it.

    Other times, aim partnerships drifted into a form of 2nd line of work, which they were not supposed to. But if you felt connected to your aim partner, you would naturally want to help with any difficulties he might be having.

    One time, during a class when we were choosing new aim partners, I had the perception that most people were choosing their aim partners based on friendship, rather than any more thoughtful criterion. And that if one really wanted to work on oneself, choosing someone who rubbed you the wrong way was probably a more fruitful decision.

  28. charlie chaplin says:

    We in the younger group did not choose our own partners, but rather were assigned. I always thought there was careful consideration given to who might rub up against each other in the most useful way, as you suggest. My memories are similar to yours, sometimes felt like a good partnership, sometimes disconnected and useless. When I was the more active partner, I tended to feel like a bit of a nag.

  29. charlie chaplin says:

    Does anybody remember for sure what year the disaster Xmas party shaming event happened? I know it was after 2000, since I wasn’t even in OSG until after the 2000 party. I think it might have been 2003? Trying to get timelines relatively straight in my own head…

    About copying / republishing, they were specifically making money off of it, too. Hugely illegal.

  30. moishe3rd says:

    As with the rest of you, I find these stories interesting.
    One of you all indicated that you wanted to get in touch vis a vis Lou and Wendy. I’m not particularly guarded and I’ve got pretty good spam filters so – if you are so inclined, I am Moishe3rd@yahoo.com. And, although I am sure that those of you who know me, know my name, I am George M. I will concede the “M” for “secrecy” as my wife, whom I met in “school” 34 years ago, does not think I should be giving out our family name to all and sundry on the Internet.
    Anyhoo… I believe the reason that these comments are being generated here is that Esoteric Freedom was shut down and Gentle Souls is a nice blog in which to exchange experiences.
    I am traveling right now – the Siyum Hashas (look it up) is tonight and I will be attending, so I am only able to comment sporadically.
    My general comment, just to once more perhaps make people think, is that, to use an idea that I learned 30 odd years ago in this thing called “the Work,” – we are all responsible for our own lives.
    My life is not the fault of my wife or my parents or Congress or “school” or even Bob or Sharon et al.
    The only ones responsible for what I do and what I am are myself and G-d.
    And, it is truly a mark of how far “school” has dengenerated that this concept appears to be foreign to you all and to those sad cult masters who go through the motions of their esoteric pursuits.
    I find that baffling that this basic, fundamental concept was lost.
    I would love to write endlessly here, but I am using my wife’s little ASUS and I have not the time right now.
    You should all be well.

    • To Moishe:

      In response to …

      “My general comment, just to once more perhaps make people think, is that, to use an idea that I learned 30 odd years ago in this thing called “the Work,” – we are all responsible for our own lives.
      My life is not the fault of my wife or my parents or Congress or “school” or even Bob or Sharon et al.
      The only ones responsible for what I do and what I am are myself and G-d.
      And, it is truly a mark of how far “school” has dengenerated that this concept appears to be foreign to you all …”

      I believe that this group of writers understands this concept of responsibility; I’m not sure why you feel you need to point this out to “you all” in this pedantic and condescending way. Certainly, one of the things that slapped me in the face upon leaving school, was how I abdicated responsibility for my life to what I’d been told was “The Work”. I hardly think I’m alone in that experience.

    • Bullfrog says:

      Moishe, while I find your comments often very interesting, I’m not sure why you are often unsympathetic to what people went through years after your experience. I think it’s fair to say that as school grew so did Robert’s and Sharon’s infatuation with themselves. As they did, they became more abusive to the students.

      In my time in school I saw one person have a nervous breakdown, and another one die. And, this was a direct result of Robert’s and Sharon’s influence.

      If your understanding of the idea of taking responsibility for one’s life is that someone who is being abused should have known better, then you may want to consider another idea. We were in “school” because we sensed that something was missing in our lives. Partly it was the job, or the boyfriend or girlfriend, but it was also the sense that a higher power meant for us to be doing something else, and as we were, we couldn’t discover what it was. That’s a noble idea, and one that I have nothing but respect for everyone I knew in “school.”

      When someone senses that in another being, and uses that for their gain, it runs up against the commandment: Though shall not kill. Gurdjieff had an expression for someone like that: a hasnamuss individual. You can look it up.

      • Odysseus says:

        I certainly understand my responsibility for my own life. I took responsibility for it when I left the cult, as did everyone else who has left on their own accord. This acceptance requires me to make understanding of the ways in which we were all abused and exploited, as well as what it is in myself which allowed and enabled that abuse and exploitation.

        I believe that this is what most of us here are engaged in. We are not here because it is “a nice blog in which to exchange experiences.” We are here to support each other in the necessary process of Healing and Regeneration.

        However, I have to say that recognizing my own role in what has happened does not in any way lessen the guilt of Robert, Sharon, Alex and all the others who have acted together to exploit us.

        I remember Robert being quite attached to a particular quotation from Confucius.

        “If something has to be put first, it is, perhaps, the rectification of names.… When names are not correct, what is said will not sound reasonable; when what is said does not sound reasonable, affairs will not culminate in success; when affairs do not culminate in success, rites and music will not flourish; when rites and music do not flourish, punishments will not fit the crimes; when punishments do not fit the crimes, the common people will not know where to put hand and foot.”

        Part of what we are doing here is endeavoring to name things correctly. What Sharon et al have been doing for the past 30 plus years is odious and hateful. Calling it thus does not in any way diminish my responsibility for my actions. But it does allow for the beginning of understanding and separation. It allows me to begin to understand “where to put hand and foot.”

        Moishe, you seem to have a particular difficulty with naming things correctly. May I respectfully suggest that you think on that? I truly do not mean this in a confrontational manner, so please do not take it that way. My heart goes out to you as it does to everyone else who reads this blog. My sincerest wish is that all of us find understanding, peace and happiness.

  31. Odysseus says:

    Hi Charlie,

    Yeah, time-lines can be tough to figure out after the fact. Memory is not perfect, and there are good psychological reasons for NOT remembering some of this stuff.

    The disaster Christmas party was 2003. I am certain because afterwards, I attended three Christmas parties in NYC and then left prior to the Christmas party in 2007, so the NYC parties were ‘04, ‘05 and ‘06. That’s pretty much how I have to figure out time-lines myself, by counting from something I am sure of.

    By the way, looking back at the old posts, I realize that I never offered any kind of apology to you for my (and my companions’) role in that party. We did let you younger folks down. We were being manipulated for ends we had no idea about, just as you were, but that is really no excuse. I am sorry for the horrible experience that you had and the role I played in that.

    By making money off it, I presume you mean that you had to pay for the altered texts? I am curious what the charge was. I am also curious which texts were used and if you were given the whole things or just selected chunks.

    At one point, they co-opted a number of us in Billerica to go through the books a chapter at a time and highlight the offending names. (I did one chapter of “In Search…”) The implication was that someone was going to edit the texts, but of course I didn’t question it at the time. It’s funny, given what was being done, the sensible thing would have been to scan the material, import it into a word processor and do a simple find and replace. Then print out nice clean copies with whatever new name you want to give it. But of course given the nature of “school”, you can’t do it the sensible way if that would involve the dreaded computers!

    The copyright issue is real, but frankly is probably a dead end. It would be pretty small potatoes to a major publishing house, and how would you go about proving it? How would they prosecute it? And, I would have to check the laws, but I think some or all of the material may be out of copyright protection anyway. I doubt they’d put much effort into following up a tip like that.

    • Charlie Chaplin says:

      No apology necessary, of course! Actually I remember mostly feeling that the “older” students were trying to be genuinely helpful and supportive, while at the same time no doubt somewhat emulating the role of pitiless taskmaster they had learned to be an essential component of getting preparation aims done. I clearly remember Paul’s delight and enthusiasm at certain aspects of the decoration, the galaxy lights and the star shaped tablecloths (which he laughed and described as being like drunken starfish). I remember him also encouraging aspects of the dance performance that ended up being so lambasted. It really seemed to me like nobody saw the impressions class excoriation coming. I do wonder about Paul sometimes. He seemed so earnest and generally without guile, yet he’s clearly very high in the hierarchy. Is he deluded, sociopathic, or just extremely good at compartmentalizing whatever questions and doubts he may have?

      I know the copyright issue is not worth actually pursuing. I just found it strange that we all so readily accepted it. I remember one class, shortly after a defection that had everybody on edge, where a student who was on the fence was encouraged to question Robert directly with any concerns he had. He asked about the direct origin of the school. Robert said it was started in the earlier part of the 20th century by people interested in the ideas (which I suppose is nominally true). He asked if school was involved in any illegal activity. Robert said unequivocally, and I must say, convincingly, that it was not. But now that I think of it, that was after several of these books had been copied, altered and sold to newer students, and I’m sure fraudulently signing those release forms for the boxing instruction was also not strictly legal, so it was at least technically false. By the way, that exchange occurred in a small gallery space in Winchester that we used for a few weeks after being booted out of Belmont.

      • I have a very vivid memory of that exchange (that student also disappeared a year or so after we moved to Billerica). It just seems the more layers you peel back, the more lies rise up to the surface and the more potential for – if not illegal – odious and disturbing practices there is … The Veronica story is the perfect disturbing illustration of this… I keep thinking who was she and what happened to her and why was the topic made taboo by the “leadership”?

  32. Odysseus says:

    Hi Bullfrog,

    Somehow I don’t think Sharon is anxious to call attention to Slaughterhouse 5. That would shatter the bubble of mystique around her and and show her for what she really is – a crappy actress who made one mediocre movie. And Vonnegut’s brilliant novel could have become a brilliant movie!

  33. about veronica says:

    And I wonder why the teachers didn’t question the work conditions when remodeling Woburn. Isn’t it an extremely serious matter when someone dies directly or indirectly under your watch? I don’t remember any change in practices during the remodeling in Woburn, or a few years later when we remodeled the Billerica space? It was always about time aims, deadlines, late nights, pushing through, tapping the main accumulator, triple time, and super efforts. Not so much about safety, health, common sense, or any other commitments outside of “school”. Making aims was paramount.

    Most people in a position of responsibility would question how something like this could happen? Should we have handled this project differently? Could Veronica’s death been prevented? I certainly would think that Robert and the younger teachers must have had at least some of these questions. They are not totally cold hearted human beings.

    And yet I remember working on the Billerica space and seeing my friends high up on scaffolding, painting away at 4 in the morning. This was after several nights in a row with little or no sleep. Why?

    GSR, you ask about why the death wasn’t talked about. I think there are several reasons. They didn’t want news of the death to get out to the general public. Remember, they had been run out of CA fifteen years earlier. They didn’t want the rank and file to question their leadership or competency, and they were afraid of a mass exodus. Perhaps the teachers didn’t want to own up to whatever role, however minor, they may have played in Veronica’s death. (And we don’t fully know the circumstances of her death, in all fairness, their roles may have been quite minor) Perhaps they wanted to get the Woburn space ready ASAP because they didn’t want to spend any more money on renting temporary locations. (You have to know that they were incredibly cheap about spending money of any kind) I know we were running out of temporary locations to rent during this time. Somehow the succession of churches we’d meet at would always wise up to the fact that were not the playwriting group we said were. More lies and deception!

    I do find it interesting that the bulk of the work on the new space in NYC was done by contractors instead of free student labor. They are finally changing their ways. But I think it’s from all the scrutiny they get on the web, not because of any over arching sense of responsibility for the safety and well being of the students who trust them, and pay them hefty sums in terms of time, money, and energy.

  34. Odysseus says:

    I wonder if the decision to use contractors has something to do with the aging of the student body, and the fact that most of them have already been through that a few times. I know for myself that having done it once (Billerica) plus my experiences at CR, I would have been less than excited about building a new space. This would be doubly so if the reason for the new space was running for the shadows. Had this occurred during my last couple of years in the cult, it might well have been the last straw and caused me to leave.

    It might be that there is a growing realization that there is only so much they can get their victims to do without pushing many out the door. I don’t think they can afford to lose too many more.

  35. Not Sharon says:

    Wow. I haven’t checked in for a bit–look at all these great posts. Thank you all so much (even for the posts that are upsetting). Can someone please say what Veronica looked like? I think I remember her, and want to make sure I am thinking of the right person.

    Also, GSR, and folks, there should be a few people copying this in case the cult tries to get this removed as they did with the Esoteric Freedom blog…

  36. Bullfrog says:

    Indeed, this is the mother of all Boston OSG threads. You could write a book based on this content alone. Indeed, I look forward to the musical. Maybe we can get Sharon to produce it 🙂

    Veronica was I would guess around 5’4″, thin, shoulder length brown hair, glasses. I would guess she was around 40, but because she was so pale, I may be completely off.

  37. L'il Judas (aka Not...) says:

    Hi Bullfrog (emailing you). 🙂

    Veronica. That’s who I thought it was. I remember her speaking very animatedly one night in “class,” and mentioning how much energy she had because of a new medication she had started taking–I’m pretty sure it was for thyroid. I am sad that she died–I didn’t know her well–that was near the beginning of my tenure. And I am sad that you had that experience.

    Re: Musical. Perhaps we can get Jordan to direct. I’m happy to write it with you. Maybe Her Highness can just play an old washed up cult leader. IDEA! Maybe we can write her character with a really bad rash she is always scratching and the elite students have to pretend to enjoy putting ointment on it, fighting each other for a turn. Call it 5th line.

  38. It’s so funny that you are talking about a musical. I’ve often entertained the idea of a musical about a fictional cult, in the fictional town of Hillrica Mass, led by the fictional guru, Bobert, etc. I even have some songs in mind. Perhaps we should get together and begin the collaboration.

  39. Odysseus says:

    A musical is a great idea! We can invite all the current students to opening night!

    I remember having an idea for a Christmas party presentation skit – the 4th Way General Store – all the goods would be made of cardboard. It would also sell used refrigerator boxes, half used cans of paint, random bolts of cloth, LOTS and LOTS of glue sticks. All the books would be photocopies covered with plain brown wrappers. Sales would be cash only, no receipts. No sign out front, customers would have to be specially invited after a series of meetings.

    I hereby offer this as a scene idea for the musical.

    Sharon can be seated at the cash register dispensing bad advice while she scratches her itch and calculates how many glue sticks she needs to sell to get her next red bathtub.

  40. Bullfrog says:

    This is what I always appreciated about “school.” In the end, after all the discussions about self remembering, recurrence, and the awakening of conscience, people understood the value of putting on a really good show. Herself being no small glutton when it came to the consumption of performance art.

    In this case I do believe I have the right show biz credentials. In 13 years of school I was in 10 Christmas party shows. In a couple of them, if I may say so, I rocked.

    So, here’s my thought. A serious show could be a dramatic retelling of Dante’s inferno. The various stages of hell are scenes from class. I would get Peter Y to do the music, maybe something in the style of the Symposium presentation. Whatever happened to him, anyway?

    For a light-comedy I would do something in the vein of Prairie Home Companion, the Robert Altman version. They are trying to shut down the cult, and Josh and Lisa try to save it, by putting on a show. The show is Garrison Keilleresque, with a monologue that starts out: “It’s been a quiet week in 3rd line, my assigned task.” Folks meet up in the Wobegon Country Retreat, where the aims are above average, and the kids pretty good looking. Then, Garrison turns it over to the Eternal Retribution Orchestra who does a little ditty about the importance of being on time to class, and how that just might make the difference in Robert approving your dating request.

    In the end the cult shuts down, just as folks are getting that this is probably for the best.

  41. L'il Judas says:

    I think the store should also sell oven-ready chickens and turkeys, like in the grocery store. Instead of Purdue, they could be Gans brand chickens and Klein brand turkeys.

  42. Ooooo … this is getting better and better. I vote for the Keilleresque variety show version! After all, “school” has great comic potential – just look at what has already been offered up!

    I imagine the typical class routine turned into a song and dance number to depict the following: the kitchen staff scrambling around in silence trying to please the royalty; the entrance of various sincere and earnest seekers drifting in, taking seats and silently reading The Bible, Shakespeare, Plato; the announcement, “Time for Tai Chi/Body Work”, the obligatory silent march from one room to the next and then … the Body Work and/or Tai Chi dance. After which the plebs march in silence back to the “classroom” to take their seats; finally the orchestrated and controlled “class discussion”.

    I love the general store idea. I think, in the midst of doling out bad advice, Sharon should randomly, bark out orders and scream at her servants, who will be scrambling around with her refreshments, etc. … like she has turrets syndrome …

    Btw, my husband has musical theater background and offered to play the role of Robert, or the fictional Bobert.

  43. Another Version says:

    Smiling, and LOL. I am really getting a kick out of the the name Bobert! Oh to have called him that to his face :-). Bobert indeed!
    I remember reading something and perhaps some discussion about how laughing about something can truely dispel paralyzing fear that can hold people in a tight grip. Wasn’t it the director Frank Ford Coppra? that did the remake on the Nazi films to mock and dispell their mystique of power quit successfully.

    • Hello Another Version,

      “I remember reading something and perhaps some discussion about how laughing about something can truely dispel paralyzing fear that can hold people in a tight grip.”

      Yet another reason to go the Keilleresque route.

      “Wasn’t it the director Frank Ford Coppra? that did the remake on the Nazi films to mock and dispell their mystique of power quit successfully.”

      I don’t know about this but would love to learn more about it.

  44. Odysseus says:

    Bullfrog – I agree that you would be a good person to take point on the musical. Some of your performances did indeed rock!

    Lil’ Judas – It takes a nasty woman to make a tough, stringy chicken!

    I’ll chime in for the variety show idea as well. Oddly, I independently had the idea of a “show within the show”. Perhaps it’s all those years studying the idea of multiple levels of meanings behind esoteric ideas.

    I think Another Version is on the the right track about the healing power of humor. It has two edges though, it can both wound and heal, and that’s what we need here.

    There are enough of us out here to make this fly if we want to. And there’s no reason it has to be just us escapees. GSR’s husband would certainly be a great asset, and anyone else we know who has useful skills and wants to be involved.

  45. Hi Odysseus –

    In response to:

    “There are enough of us out here to make this fly if we want to. And there’s no reason it has to be just us escapees. GSR’s husband would certainly be a great asset, and anyone else we know who has useful skills and wants to be involved.”

    I’ve been entertaining this idea for roughly a year – since I left last August — never really believing it could manifest. It would be friggen’ awesome if it did, though. I was laughing out loud when reading about the 4th-Way General Store. And I’ve always wanted to see my husband act. He got a full scholarship to Carnegie Melon’s theater program, back in the day. It would be a hoot to see his rendition of Bobert, the fictional cult leader.

    School has also conveniently provided a great deal of the orchestration and choreography – we need just follow the school format and have some fun exaggerating the details (we wouldn’t even have to exaggerate that much).

    BullFrog, you up to it?

  46. Odysseus says:

    I can’t speak of Bullfrog, but I would love to be a part of this! I can offer my guitar (and a couple of other musical instruments), my mediocre acting skills, my frustrated authorial ambitions and my near encyclopedic knowledge of unimportant stuff. Also my rather questionable sense of humor.

  47. Bullfrog says:

    You know, I can see this working. And, I probably could call on some favors to get the word out.

    I think the story of “school” is compelling enough that I think the Boston Globe would pick it up. I received a decent amount of coverage from the Globe in my Lizard Lounge years. I’m reasonably sure I could get the Washington Post to pick it up as well.

    I also have connections in DC from progressive politics. Some of them might be into this project as well.

    And, due to the glorious internet, we don’t all have to be on the 2nd floor of MIT to rehearse.

    You do know this would raise a total shitstorm, right?

  48. Another version of the Story says:

    FYI: I think the name I’m looking for is Frank Capra he is the film director that did the comical remake of the Nazi propaganda films to demystify their power.

    One of the things I’ve learned in the years since leaving “school” is just how prevalent cults are and how common theirs tactics are. I am
    thinking that a production that expands from dramatizing the specific actions and effects of the cult we were involved in to addressing the universal problem of cults could be wildly successful as a broadway musical or touring college campuses and high schools as an education tool using humor. Is anyone aware of the wildly successful utube version of “a very potter musical” or “starship” that came out of Michigan state university? Anyway a small group of actors did some low budget musicals and posted them on tube they went viral. Aim for the stars hit the rooftop!

    Also does anyone else get a gripping anxious feeling from time to time that talking about the cult such as we are here is bad and betray the good that seemed to come from the work we did do together? I think this is a left over ill effect.

  49. Hi Odysseus, Bullfrog & Another Version,

    Wow, so much to respond to:

    In response to: “… I would love to be a part of this! I can offer my guitar (and a couple of other musical instruments), my mediocre acting skills, my frustrated authorial ambitions and my near encyclopedic knowledge of unimportant stuff. Also my rather questionable sense of humor.”

    Humor, writing skills, musical skills and a memory for details … works for me. I can offer a brain that constantly generates ideas that it’s not sure how to implement … writing skills, songs, music skills and a latent desire to try my hand at acting.

    In response to: “You know, I can see this working. And, I probably could call on some favors to get the word out.

    I think the story of “school” is compelling enough that I think the Boston Globe would pick it up. I received a decent amount of coverage from the Globe in my Lizard Lounge years. I’m reasonably sure I could get the Washington Post to pick it up as well.”

    In my musings, my question to myself (well, among the other questions like how does one write, choreograph, design, assemble a musical …) has been how would one make this funny and interesting to the wider public. The fourth-way general store is hilarious to me, having had experienced that vast quantities of cardboard and glue sticks required for “school” party throwing, as well as enough close encounters with the Sharon phenomenon to be horrified and baffled by the reverence and pomp & circumstance that follows her around.

    Hmmm. Bullfrog, maybe we should tawlk … what do you say?

    In response to: “One of the things I’ve learned in the years since leaving “school” is just how prevalent cults are and how common theirs tactics are. I am thinking that a production that expands from dramatizing the specific actions and effects of the cult we were involved in to addressing the universal problem of cults could be wildly successful as a broadway musical or touring college campuses and high schools as an education tool using humor.”

    Now, there’s the answer … I like the direction this conversation is going in, although I must admit, it also scares the sh*t out of me to take on this project … it’s also very exciting! And it would be so cathartic!

    In response to: “Also does anyone else get a gripping anxious feeling from time to time that talking about the cult such as we are here is bad and betray the good that seemed to come from the work we did do together? I think this is a left over ill effect.”

    I agree that this is left-over ill effect. This type of anxiety usually grips me if I’m simply having a bad day, rather than discussing the cult … when I started writing this blog, I’d decided that my life would no longer be devoured by secrets, so releasing secrets simply feels good and right. However, I still entertain the magical thinking that if – for example – I forget my lunch at home, or a client cancels on me, or I get caught in the rain without an umbrella, or get in a fight with my husband, blah, blah, blah, it is because I ruined my life by leaving “the source”. Fortunately, I started to recognize this crazy thinking and I can remind myself that life has its ups and downs that have nothing to do with “school”. I did try to address this in the post, Caterpillar Days in a Butterfly Life (http://cultconfessions.com/2012/05/18/conclusion-caterpillar-days-in-butterfly-lives/).

    I believe it important to recognize cult indoctrination for what it is – it keeps on ticking, even though I’m not getting my bii-weekly doses.

  50. Oh, and I forgot to respond to the most important observation:

    “You do know this would raise a total shitstorm, right?”

    Well, yea … that a little scary … but it could be so much fun if we go the parody route! I remember when Al Franken wrote the book, Lies and the Lying Liars that Tell Them and all the free publicity he got from Bill O’Reilly’s lawsuit, which was (of course) ridiculous. Maybe we could consult with Mr. Franken and prepare ourselves to use a potential “sh*t storm” to our advantage …

    So, I guess the real question is this: are we really considering this, or just having fun musing about it?

  51. Odysseus says:

    “So, I guess the real question is this: are we really considering this, or just having fun musing about it?”

    That’s the $64,000 question. Might I suggest we take this discussion out of the public eye?

    “You do know this would raise a total shitstorm, right?”

    I kinda thought that was the idea! Obviously we want to make sure we are careful how we do things, but there is nothing illegal about putting on a play. Otherwise, all of Broadway would be outlaws.

  52. Bullfrog says:

    I think we should talk offline.

    I understand the mechanics of writing and producing shows pretty well. I’m a few years rusty at it, but like riding a bicycle, it comes naturally.

    People ask me sometimes if I’d like to put something together. This was the first project that sounded fun. And, part of my own healing.

  53. Hi Bullfrog, Odysseus & Another Version –

    If you’re really interested in the musical, email me at hummingbird2916@safe-mail.net and we’ll hammer out some communication nuts and bolts there. Sound like a plan?

  54. Oh … and send a quick message here to let me know you’ve written. I don’t always check that mailbox.

  55. Brad Usrur says:

    Moishe wrote:
    “My general comment, just to once more perhaps make people think, is that, to use an idea that I learned 30 odd years ago in this thing called “the Work,” – we are all responsible for our own lives.
My life is not the fault of my wife or my parents or Congress or “school” or even Bob or Sharon et al.
The only ones responsible for what I do and what I am are myself and G-d.
And, it is truly a mark of how far “school” has dengenerated that this concept appears to be foreign to you all and to those sad cult masters who go through the motions of their esoteric pursuits.
I find that baffling that this basic, fundamental concept was lost.”

    Really, Moishe? Really, really, really? After years of reading the Esoteric Freedom Blog, and this blog, this is what you come away with? How sad and depressing. Spouting the principle of “responsibility” like a mechanical cuckoo clock, impervious to people’s experience and their struggle to come to terms with this pathologically self-serving and cruelly cynical authoritarian group– and dozens more like it. How willfully ignorant and spiritually bereft you truly are. Had you lived outside the gates of Auschwitz, you would have denied to your dying day the smell of burning flesh, and pled ignorance. If it didn’t happen to you, it didn’t happen.
    Perhaps you think my anger stems from your unwillingness to state or concede how “awful awful” this group was. Well I was there in SF with you– and it wasn’t always awful awful– and I witnessed a lot of manipulative, awful, ugly and violent events. I have no need to vilify this group, or hold it responsible for my life according to some simplistic and evasive scenario you cling to. I DO have a need to honestly try and understand it, and its implications.
    It makes so much sense that you have no idea what you were a part of, and stagnantly coast along on your “experiences” without exploring the context of closed, high demand groups and the psychological mechanisms purposely utilized to foster crippling dependence, shame, mass hysteria, and shut down any kind of real critical thought.
    It makes so much sense that you should choose to spend your Post-Cult life in a Haredi Ultra-Orthodox sect– I guess one good cult deserves another. You are so profoundly shallow, and deeply false, that only by going to the extremes of so-called “spiritual” experience can you convince yourself that you are in pursuit of some kind of higher calling or teaching. How terribly dispiriting to see the Pirkei Avot used to solidify your self-delusion.
    I apologize to you, GSR, Bullfrog, and Odysseus if all this seems unduly harsh and hyperbolic– I truly envy and am grateful for your wisdom and compassion. Maybe by using Moishe as a kind of mirror I can come to terms with my own blindness and self-delusions, and attain some of your attributes. Right now all I feel is a kind of stupefied pity– and it leaves a disgusting taste in my mouth.

  56. moishe3rd says:

    I get it. You’re a tad unhappy with me…
    And, I have bewildered others who are not quite so vituperative with my uncaring comments.
    I suppose I have.
    So, I shall attempt to rectify my mistake by congratulating y’all on what would be a brilliant idea if you ever carried it through – some sort of production; play; book; whatever, satirizing Bobert and the whole “School” experience.
    Were I a wiser man, I would have suggested that the way to free yourself from a bad situation is not to vilify the poor fools who you believe put you there, but to ridicule them for their foolishness.
    If I hate the circumstances of my life and blame it on – whomever or whatever – I will never be free of whomever or whatever. Everything that is wrong is their fault.
    However, if I want to reduce some malevolent force’s power over me, I have to render harmless that malevolent force. And, one of the best ways to do that is to laugh; to make fun; to realize how silly it is all is…
    And, in y’all’s Wisdom, that appears to be exactly what you all are planning, or at least are excited about doing.
    So yes – I am psychoanalytically challenged and you all are not.
    “Life Is Beautiful” is a movie about the Holocaust. I thought it was quite good. I would suggest that Brad Usur (do we know each other?) see it.

  57. Cassandra says:

    Catching up on all of these comments after a few years away from the blogs is fascinating. One thing that is clear is that the group has done and continues to commit great damage to many people and their families. It’s clear that the healing is difficult and often long, even if your time in school was relatively short. It’s clear that the blogs are invaluable for people as a place of communication and sharing, so thank you to all of the contributors and blog meisters and Breakers of Rules who have put this expanding wedge into Sharon and Bob’s Cone of Silence.

    I have learned one valuable thing about our reliable foil, Moishe, which is his admission that he kciked out a number of people himself, for what he thought was their own good. And got kicked out. And came back. And is now involved with another group that some might (and have) called a cult. So I do not judge, but I do think. And my thoughts lead me to the conclusion that much of your defense and painting of bright rainbow colors (notwithstanding that most people felt benefits from involvement in some form or another or we would not have stayed), is a shield from facing complicity with that violence. You were a part of the problem at some point, buddy. You thought you were doing good. someone probably thanked you. I’m sure the justifications and facts are legion. But looking at the whole, you were complicit. You joined in the violence. Many of us, particularly if we got beyond the outer circles, did at some point, possibly by “speaking straight” or “reporting a sustainee for their own good” or some other such. (I am guilty of the latter). And I admit it, and what drives people nuts, moishe, is that you cannot seem to fully see that side of things without making excuses. “We were very happy, we were very merry!! Really !! Really! The pigs need the milk and the apples! ” But that is up to you. As someone who deals with young people, I know the trap of being pulled into it with a kid who really wants the attention of argument. He doesn’t want to actually think and be open to new ways of thinking and new information. He wants the agenda to be about him. So, as the wisest one of all said, “People assume that time is a strict progression of cause to effect, but actually—from a non-linear, non-subjective viewpoint—it’s more like a big ball of wibbly wobbly…timey-wimey…stuff.”

  58. Greetings Casandra, Thanks for your comment. I’m a wee bit too wiped out to respond properly right now; but wanted to encourage you to keep on writing! I’d love to hear more from you! Will get back to your comment more specifically when able to function. Thanks, again!

  59. why says:

    I was recruited by a school, and I spent most of my time laughing at the recruiter as she stumbled through her lies like a first-time car salesman. Then that idiot Robert comes to meet me dressed like a bear and pulls the cup-half-empty bullshit on me. What fucktards. I toyed with them for a few weeks and hit the road when they inevitably asked me for cash. Morons.

    • why says:

      I almost forgot, when I started looking around for people who had left the school in my area so I could laugh about it with them, I ended up in a honey trap – they actually took the trouble to set up a group of people whose job it is to suck in former members and try to coerce them into not talking to people about this stuff. They were just as clumsy and foolish as Robert. This is in the Boston area, and they meet in Belmont I think, some kind of big assembly hall. Then there was some regional meeting they had in Boston but I can’t remember the building it was in.

      • Hi Why,

        Welcome to Cult Confessions & thanks for commenting. I would love to hear more about this honey trap! In fact, I would love to hear more about your recent experience, like how recent was it that “school” tried to recruit you and where did you meet? How long were you in? Stuff like that. Care to share? Who was your sustainer? Who was “teaching” your “class”? What is this “regional meeting”? I must say, the term “regional” makes your experience sounds more like Scientology … I’m interested in knowing more.

      • why says:

        Hi Gentle Souls,

        Sure, happy to share. First I should say that my dismissive attitudes toward these simpletons does not extend to the members of school. To all of you folks I wish a hearty “get well soon” and much sympathy. Going through what you went through does bad things to people and getting through it will require much support and I hope you all have that support.

        Second, I never went through school, as I said – I was interested enough in it to check it out, I describe it in detail, with names, to everyone I meet who seems interested, in order to warn them away from it, but I always knew it was a scam. I was hoping it might be legit, but like I said the recruiter was like a 19 year old car salesman.

        Like, come on, I’ve been recruited by the army – I’ve seen the pros do it, these dopes could work a little harder at it.

        I can’t remember exactly the year but I’m guessing it was late 90’s. The meetings were in Belmont, in a large building with at least 2 large meeting spaces, like an elks lodge, very high ceilings and a few small side rooms.

        The “Regional” meeting was this big production of some kind, I honestly don’t remember much of it because I was just scanning and taking mental note of what I thought about these crazy bastards. It seemed like there were a lot more people than I was used to seeing, and like I said it was in a big building in Boston, every once in a while I think I see it but I went there at night only so I can’t really be sure.

        The recruiter was a woman with red hair, probably in her 40s and when she first met me it was on lexington town common. She had an “assistant” at our second meeting, which is the one where they find out how much money you make and then pitch you on coming to school for the first time. The assistant was a very pretty brunette woman, closer to early thirties, she did some kind of art. I never saw her after that meeting, she was there to bait me. The redhead liked to meet at a mexican restaurant, it’s still around today but I can’t think of the name right now.

        By the way, if THIS is a honey trap (thought it doesn’t seem like one), I hope I won’t be giving out enough information to figure out who I am.

        So, I had a sustainer, we exchanged numbers, we had periodic phone calls, it was suggested that we refrain from talking before and after class, we read pinocchio, we had life aims. I remember Robert and the little dude that worked with him, they liked to say “asshole” a lot during body work. Freaks. I don’t think I ever met Sharon, but I can’t say for sure. I think someone who worked for PBS or NPR was in my class. My class was big, like 30 or more people.

        When they asked me for money I said no, Robert pulled me into a side room and I remember specifically that he said “what you think is going to happen will not happen” thinking that was passive aggressive and manipulative enough to make me stay…it wasn’t.

        The honey trap was apparently (according to info here) when the coven moved up to Billerica. I found them on the web, I think, and then called them. I immediately recognized the controlling, passive aggressive tone in the woman’s voice and didn’t try to make contact again. In my case, no harm no foul.

        I actually like the idea of school, and always wondered if anyone has done it legitimately.

        Oh, and to answer one of your questions, it was Robert (or bobbity, as I refer to him when I tell EVERYONE about these psychopaths) who was teaching the class.

        One interesting thing I’ve noticed is that the techniques they use can also be found in every corporation ever created anywhere in the world. This is just executive management 101 stuff, really. Explains why corporations are managed by psychos, doesn’t it?

        Why

  60. Hi Why,

    Thanks for sharing this info. Apparently you didn’t have a recent experience, since your tenure was in the 90s. So, fear not, whatever you share here, this group moves on fairly quickly, and there’s a high turnover, especially with those who only stay a short time. We were always warned against getting “sentimental” if we asked about someone who vanished. After so many years and so many “students” departing the ranks because they realized the “school” is a cult — it probably won’t be able to identify you, because the institution won’t remember you. I’m certain the only reason it remembers me is because this blog is a thorn in its highly evolved side – and my tenure was five years.

    In the unlikely event that it could identify you, what concerns do you have?

    I’m curious about this, as well:
    “I found them on the web, I think, and then called them. I immediately recognized the controlling, passive aggressive tone in the woman’s voice and didn’t try to make contact again. In my case, no harm no foul.”

    Where on the web? Did you find a specific website? If so, it appears that this website has/had contact info, yes?

    I’m glad that the experience didn’t harm you — as you can see by reading through the comments, people who stick around the hallowed halls for enough time, almost all come out with psychological scars from “school’s” invisible “help”. It is the nature of the beast and — as you comment above — the techniques used are commonly used in many organizations, corporations, groups, in more or less damaging ways.

    I appreciate your contribution to the blog.

    Best, GSR

    • why says:

      I don’t remember exactly where, it was several years ago. I’m glad to hear they don’t keep records too long, I figured as much but want to be sure. I’d actually be interested to know if anyone knows about the “regional” – (I say that without knowing anything about it) meeting in Boston around that time, though I’m sure there is so much going on with them all the time that no one would remember.

      Also, does anyone know of a group continuing a non-cult version of this idea?

      Thanks,

      Why

      • I must admit, the idea of this group having a “regional meeting” is strange to me, given the amount of secrecy I experienced from the group. A regional meeting suggests to me an interconnected network of groups within a certain region — say the “School’s Northeastern branch” or something like that. The “school” I experienced was very siloed — there was absolutely no transparency or interconnection or communication. My class didn’t even know there was a NY branch — also known as Corporate Headquarters on this blog.

        Perhaps it was a “lecture”, or “presentation” — which is simply a recruitment tool. If it was held in a Hotel conference room and included a “teacher” presenting a specific topic on a stage, I would guess that was the case.

        Maybe someone out there knows something about these “regional meetings” that I don’t know.

        In regards to non-cults, you could try this: http://www.gurdjieffsocietymass.org/

        If you’re still in Mass. If not there are other societies in other regions. And I hear that it’s legitimately voluntary involvement and it runs on donations.

  61. Chaplin says:

    Definitely sounds like a lecture to me if it was in Boston. By the way, I was in that Belmont space when we moved to Billerica. I’m pretty sure we were kicked out of the Belmont space because it smelled of cigarettes after an appearance by Sharon. Nobody would tell her she couldn’t smoke there. For a while we shuffled around – random hotel conference room, after hours at a museum in Winchester, etc. Eventually they made changes to the Billerica space, where the “older” class was already meeting, to divide it up for multiple classes. I think they just couldn’t find another suitable space after getting kicked out of the Lion’s hall in Belmont.

  62. Hi Charlie Chaplin – Yes, we shared that experience … we were nomads for a while, the wandering cult, until we landed in Billerica. I have heard that we got kicked out of that space because some renegades distributed flyers to neighboring businesses … perhaps someone out there can confirm or deny. Good to hear from you! GSR

  63. Jo Jo Jones says:

    I can confirm that some renegade posted flyers all over the neighborhood warning people about the cult. That must have been me!
    I don’t know what the relationship was between that event and the move to the Griffin Museum of Photography and then eventually to Billerica. They took the flyers down pretty fast so students wouldn’t see them and I don’t know how many did see them but I had fun (tee hee) putting them up, After that episode, Sharon had her attorneys send certified letters to a number of people who were out of school warning them. They guessed totally wrong about who was involved but it had some people pretty scared. I told them to tear up the letters and throw them out or send them back.

  64. Doug says:

    Hello. Very interesting to read all this stuff u people have to continue dwelling on. Evidently you have forgotten everything that you received by your involvement with fairly extraordinary experiences! That’s ok, and understandable because of the depth of your sleep. I studied with Alex and Sharon in the early 80’s and again with Sharon in the 90’s till 2005. I am forever indebted to them. They clearly are not perfect beings, however, their energy created circumstances that none of us experienced before or after. So ask yourself, why are you complaining? Because you were too weak to stand up for yourself!? Isn’t that a moment you could have learned from but didn’t? Have you seen it since? Or do you wish to keep justifying your lame existence? If you were so weak you couldn’t speak, this is your lesson. Those who are blaming these fallible people who were trying to help you are straight out fools. It’s sad to see how foolish you are. You need to regroup your judgemental ways, forgive mistakes, realize the opportunities you had, some you got and maybe many you missed, that could have made you finer beings that at this point it is obvious you are not. I don’t need to hide behind an email name. I’m doug rodger. Since it seems many on this blog are Boston people, some will know me, most will not. I’ve had many crossovers over the years, at CR and out west. I left school for my own reasons when I understood it was right for me to do otherwise. Some who were at my last night will remember the heat between me and Sharon. And I still am a staunch supporter of her sincerity. Her help and Alex’s help has made me the man I am today. If some you suffered shit you find abhorrent, you need to consider your culpability. WAKE UP! You are continuing your sleep with these complaints! Grow up and pursue your evolution! Good luck and Godspeed

  65. Hey, Doug Rodger?…. Nope. I got nothin’
    But, I was in Boston when we moved there from SF; until I went down to NYC to be in the plays and go on tour.
    Anyway – it’s good to read your comment here. It helps me understand why most of the former cult members consider me a self righteous prig.
    Indeed.
    All I have to go on is that, back when I was in “School,” we had to build cabins in Montana with our bare hands… No, wait, that’s a different speech… Back when I was in “School,” Robert was Bob; Sharon and Alex had rather odd problems with their marriage; we studied a book called “In Search of the Miraculous,” and the works of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky, et al; and there was no chain of command or systematized Scientology-like hierarchy of “informers.”
    Sometime after I left “School,” Bob became “Robert.” Alex and Sharon messily finally split; Sharon got old and besotted; the anonymous Black Book replaced all and everything else; and whole shebang became some sort of Cult Bureaucracy.
    Now, admittedly, my fellow “students” back in the day who are still scarred or obsessed with the old “School” will disagree with me as to its efficacy or usefulness way back when. However, by any comparison whatsoever, today’s Cult of ??? I don’t even know. Is it called a “Fourth Way School” still? – is nisht gut.
    And, by the way, as a student of history; a student of religion; and one who tries to be a Torah observant (read: Orthodox) Jew – I can indeed testify that Gurdjieff was singularly unenlightened.
    We had a great voluminous body of knowledge that we read in the old days. All of Gurdjieff; Ouspensky; Collins; and Nicoll, plus all of the massive other stuff from Balzac to Plato to Shakespeare to Swedenborg to “Jan.” Really. A lot, lot of stuff….
    And, no Torah. No Rashi. No Rambam. No “Sun source” of all esoteric and ethical monotheism that comes from Jewish Law and Torah…
    Why is that?
    Could it be that Gurdjieff hadn’t a clue?

    Indeed Doug, don’t shoot the messengers but, do evaluate their level of understanding about, well, just about All and Everything.
    Be well

  66. Cassandra says:

    Hi Doug,
    I knew you, a little in NY. The reason some of us don’t put our names up here is because we are protecting ourselves and our lives. Also we feel (and think and know, from much study, observation, and diagnosis) that we were traumatized and we want to deal with the experience privately. It’s a choice, which is a principle I’m sure you can understand.

    I was struck, upon reading your post, with how much judgement you evince towards those who have left school and who dare to express the opinion that indeed, “things are the opposite of what they appear to be.” To me school appeared to be an honest effort by good people to improve their inner beings and to improve human civilization and heal the planet. What if they were telling you the truth and it was, indeed, the opposite of that – a self-serving pyramid scheme which used mind-control principles to twist good people into giving up much of their lives and goods? And along the way those good people who were students did indeed have exchanges and experiences, which they themselves brought, but to the leaders of the group these are fortuitous and incidental to the aim – which is the profit and comfort of themselves. And it’s paid off for them.

    I am glad that you feel you gained by your time in school. I also know many facts about your teachers, from many many ex-students, family members, research, people who had contact with them not through the group but in the world of entertainment and business, which gives plenty of evidence to those whose eyes have been opened to the possibility that good experiences aside, their aim is elsewhere. And as Moishe says, perhaps it wasn’t their center in the beginning but it certainly has become a model of a classic scam.

    I wish you well; I hope you can re-read your words and see how much anger, judgement, and defensiveness you have thrown out against people who you do not know, whose lives you presume to belittle and judge, and who did not seek you out but have obviously struck your last nerve – and take a second look at what you said, for your own sake. It can get uncomfortable, livin’ on de’ nile. I know it’s hard to face that something you believed so deeply in was flawed – many people have difficulty facing this – but the truth is out there, and it will set you free.

    Peace

  67. Zsa Zsa says:

    I remember you, Dr. Construction. I was in your class in NY. It was sometime after you had served your time in prison.

    Maybe everyone was not as lucky as you to have only “extraordinary experiences” while they were in school. Not all of us saw the world of school through the same rose colored glasses that you seem to have had but that is understandable because of the depth of your sleep. It can go both ways. Sleep. We see what we want to see. Exactly who was the magician and who were the sheep? I feel sorry that you are unable to see the forest for the trees because there is a lot to learn from seeing the reality that school was and is.

    I have no doubt that you do not understand the depth of the trauma that many of us suffered under Sharon’s influence. Although I know that you met your wife in school, you never had to go through a divorce or a marriage “suggested” by school or have your children or your livelihood threatened by school. You were never raped by Alex, you never were asked to give Sharon all of your money and you were never forced to give up a child for adoption by another member of the group. There are many other similar school experiences that you seem to have missed (probably while you were running around cheating on your wife) that many of us experienced.

    I don’t think that what anyone is doing here is complaining. I think that it takes great courage to see the reality of the situation. You speak very harshly about your former “friends”: you seem to see us all as “weak” people living lame existences. I believe that living well is the best revenge and my life has never been better than it has since I left school. It makes me sad to think that after all that time in school, you are still living in the fantasy land that Sharon set up for you.

    Your obvious contempt for the rest of us is clear and undeserved. I think that underlying your comments is a great deal of anger, animosity and castigation. Have you asked yourself why you are so angry about all of this? It’s not necessarily a bad thing to have been duped. It’s not pleasant but we all came to school with the best of intentions and lots of hope. Many of us were able to see past the instruction to “pay no attention to that man behind the curtain”.

    I hope that you will look into some the literature about cults, narcissistic personality types and psychopathy. There is so much to learn and so much to put the correct name to and so much healing to be done. I wish you the best of luck.

    Ten warning signs of a potentially unsafe group/leader:

    1. Absolute authoritarianism without meaningful accountability.
    2. No tolerance for questions or critical inquiry.
    3. No meaningful financial disclosure regarding budget, expenses such as an independently audited financial statement.
    4. Unreasonable fear about the outside world, such as impending catastrophe, evil conspiracies and persecutions.
    5. There is no legitimate reason to leave, former followers are always wrong in leaving, negative or even evil.
    6. Former members often relate the same stories of abuse and reflect a similar pattern of grievances.
    7. There are records, books, news articles, or television programs that document the abuses of the group/leader.
    8. Followers feel they can never be “good enough”.
    9. The group/leader is always right.
    10. The group/leader is the exclusive means of knowing “truth” or receiving validation, no other process of discovery is really acceptable or credible.

  68. Hi Doug, Thanks for your heartfelt (cough) advice and warning, but I’ll take my “school”-less “sleep” over your “school”-sponsored deception. If you want to go to your grave believing in a fallacy for some odd reason, you’re free to do so — or as Robert used to say whenever someone questioned the group’s more sinister demands, “You’re a free man.”

    Cassandra, Thank you for extending some understanding, compassion and kindness to Doug. It’s much better than what I just wrote, but I don’t have any tolerance that level of arrogance.

    • Cassandra says:

      I’ve met his family, which makes a difference in how you see someone. He never did anything to me personally, and although I know he had a troubled life, I was dismayed to see his anger expressed through name-calling and vituperative trolling, although at least not anonymous. I hope he can finally get some real help to heal his anger – that is something we all have in common as victims, no matter what we ‘think’. I confess to a short measure of compassion in this area, but as my distance from school lengthens, so does my ability to objectify these kinds of attacks from fellow victims like Doug.

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