Leaving “THE SOURCE”

After 18 “school”-free months, I sometimes notice that the experience no longer outlines my days. I don’t obsessively check this blog. I don’t feel a driving need to write posts. I don’t wonder what is happening in the historic Faulkner Mills Building, in Billerica, on Tuesday and Thursday nights. In those moments, I am truly free. In other moments anger rears up. Nothing infuriates me more than recalling Robert’s claim of “school” as “THE SOURCE”.

When students disappeared he strongly inferred – but did not out right say – that those who disappeared from our ranks deeply regretted leaving “THE SOURCE”. We could imagine these infidels crawling back, begging his forgiveness and re-admittance; with their lives disintegrating into chaos, the traitors had realized (too late) the impossibility of “evolution” once “cut off from the source.” The warning: DON’T LET THIS HAPPEN TO YOU.

How arrogant. How false.

My experience proves exactly the opposite. Without “school’s” illustrious “help” I find myself in the strange position of a drama-free life: loving marriage, stable home, meaningful work, a sane schedule that includes time for reflection and creativity, regular sleep, and a newly minted self confidence. From this strong foundation, I believe  I can plant the seeds and grow the life I feel exists within me — and once believed that  “school” would help me manifest — because (of course) school was “THE SOURCE”.

Recently, two separate conversations with fellow “disgruntled former students” further disproved “school” as “source” of anything evolved. In all three of our lives, it WAS a source of was desperation, struggle, humiliation, despair, self-doubt, conflict, etc. Both conversations included musings over past “school”-sponsored miseries and toasts to the freedom from “school”-sponsored anything.

One of the “school”-sponsored downward spirals discussed included a divorce that (along with “school’s” monthly “tuition”) sapped this “student” of her finances. “The source” left her so little to support herself and her children, that towards the end of her tenure she was scraping up change for gas money and skipping meals so her kids could eat. I remembered her asking for “help” in class and wondering when “school” would provide her some real compassion and support. Instead, “teachers” eviscerated her  character, and offered trite and superficial trinkets like, “Try dressing up a little and wearing some make-up.” Or, “Maybe you should make a dating aim.”

At those moments, I would briefly awaken from my “school” stupor. My internal rebels would poke and prod at me. “What the fuck was that?” they would ask. I regret that I never allowed those rebels to ask that question out loud. But the dreamy-eyed believers in me wanted desperately to trust that “school” saw great inner strength in her; “school” was forcing her to grow into the “bigger woman”. Instead, she disappeared. Even in my hypnotized state, her absence poked at me and I wondered what happened to her. My rebels knew she was better off without the “help”.

After leaving “school”, I connected with her and we are now becoming good friends. I visited her recently in her home (like a normal person) when her ex-husband arrived with the kids. Struck by how unlikely they seemed as a couple, I asked her about it. She said that when they started dating, she was heeding to school ideas like, “we don’t know ourselves” and “any man will do”. She was working on letting go of judgement and preconceived notions. When they got pregnant, her attitude was with aim and the support of “School”, I can make this work, I can bring the magic of these ideas to his life, too. They married — and as she ultimately reported — it was the marriage she never wanted.  He was a type she never would have been with naturally had she followed her own instincts, and many of her deepest fears became an irreparable part of her life.  Almost as soon as the trouble began did the “support” of “school” fall away and its demands increased.  A recipe for disaster.

My “school”-sponsored job search paralleled her marriage experience – leading me to the job I never wanted: in an effort to trust that I “didn’t know myself” and heed the idea that “as long is one is working, any job will do”, I found myself squandering my time, energy and talent on promoting software products that often didn’t exist. I was turning into a proliferat-or of software falsehood, a vaporware peddler. As I watched my vocation devolve, my spirits also fell and marched me, day-by-day, into an underlying low-grade depression; my daily role in service to a paycheck, left me asking myself, and others, what happened to me? How did my life become this empty exercise in meaningless and exceedingly dull prose ? How indeed. Needless to say, my not-so-stellar job performance left me unemployed and desperate, as outlined in previous posts. And, like my colleague, my “school” experience and the “help” started veering more frequently towards an evisceration of my character – “school” started painting me as the spoiled and entitled, Jewish-American princess, hitting a tender spot, for sure.

The similarity of our separate experiences of “school”-sponsored “help” leading  to lives-never-wanted, led us to this question: could “school” be organized enough that it intentionally steers each follower into a personal worst nightmare life? For me, my dull and meaningless days were a stark contrast to the magical “school” experience making me cling more desperately to the “aim” and “purpose” it provided – even though “school” never shared the content of its “aim” with me. Is my experience simply one example of “school’s” real aim — make “students” miserable in life, so that “school” shines in comparison — ensuring devoted followers who will gladly pay the $350 a month tuition for life?

I posed this question in my second conversation. I’d never shared the “classroom” with this “former student”. With her tenure starting in New York a decade or two before mine, her classroom had been commanded by Lady Sharon and Lord Alex.  After sharing her version of “school”- sponsored misery, she proposed that this experience is – indeed – intentional, but not conscious. It is a result of (for lack of a better expression) cult culture. The “aim” of a cult is to make its participants dependent. Cults are like any other addiction — they cultivate a fear of life without “the source” and the addicts cling desperately to the detriment of everything else.

Despite my desperate clinging, I was always aware, that the longer I was in “school”, the more I lost touch with a fundamental source within me; a muse that since childhood has been sitting on my shoulder and whispering in my ear. I had been steadily losing the ability to even keep a journal – I felt, somehow, that spewing out my thoughts on to a page was wrong, self-indulgent, sinful even. Even more painful, I’d found it harder and harder to write songs, which is the artistic modality that feeds my soul and connects me to real source.

The good news is that my 18 “school”-free months have reconnected me to my songwriting muse – through this experience, I have confirmed the truth in the idiom Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder.  She has been showing up lately, whispering in my ear, outlining my dreams again, as she used to before “school”. In fact, when I began attending “classes” I was in the middle of a creative flurry, which quickly fell off, as the “school” infiltrated the space normally filled by her. I am delighted she’s back. I wasn’t sure she would ever return. Absence also makes the heart more fiercely protective; having experienced life without her, I am not willing to allow anything to silence her again.

I am also delighted to report that several of the “disgruntled ex-students” are now creating the lives that they  had hoped to find through “THE SOURCE”. Unburdened by its ridiculous and ever-growing demands and insistence on keeping everything top secret (or “private” which is “school’s” euphemism for lying), these students now find themselves with the time, energy and clarity to follow their own intentions.  The aforementioned friends are both doing quite well with interesting jobs, nice homes and unobstructed family relationships.

Leaving “THE SOURCE” lifts the curtain on real sources: last night’s crescent moon; a springtime flower’s bloom; trees reaching to the sky; the clouds drifting by; a laugh with my ragtag family; the music in my guitar and fiddle; any sincere and loving conversation; even in an organized closet for God’s sake. Source is everywhere. “School”, Robert, Sharon, this institution couldn’t be farther from a source of inspiration or connection to God. The lies destroy that chance. Even the ideas espoused and claimed there are readily available in bookstores, libraries, 12-Step groups – and, of course, nowadays all over the internet.  If one simply Googles Aim, or The Ray of Creation, or The Food Diagram, or The Work s/he will encounter myriads of WRITTEN source and discover that the work is not exclusively  an “oral teaching” – as “school” claims.

Having had bought into those lies and experiencing the contrast of life with out them, I often find myself truly awakening to source. While in “school”, I was too worried about not making my “aim”, or not confessing to keeping a journal, or not making self-observations, or quitting an $9/hour coffee shop job, when any job was supposed to do, to soak in the moment, to simply be and be awake to the beauty surrounding me.

Now unchained from those lies and the guilt and the self doubt that they elicited, I suddenly find moments in my day when I know — beyond a shadow of a doubt — that every breathe is a gift. I can eat slowly, taste my food and marvel at the planet that grows apples. I can hear my stepson laugh and see him smile and know that, in that moment, I have experienced God. And now that I hear the muse without “school” interference, my little life has the possibility to unfold into a lovely concert of dreams manifesting within and around. If you are “breaking school’s rules” to read this blog,  your life holds the same potential as long as you set yourself free from “THE SOURCE”.

What is a cult?

Today, I came across this definition of a cult on www.meadowhaven.org. Meadowhaven is treatment center for former cult members. Each of these 8 points describe my “school” experience to a t:

Robert J. Lifton, in his seminal work on thought-reform, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism, proposed the following eight characteristics of a high-control group.

  1. Milieu Control – Control of communication from without and within the group environment, resulting in a significant degree of isolation from the surrounding society. Includes other techniques to restrict members’ contact with outside world and to be able to make critical, rational judgments about information: overwork, busyness, multiple lengthy meetings, etc.
  2. Mystical Manipulation – The claim of divine authority or spiritual advancement that allows the leader to reinterpret events as he or she wishes, or make prophecies or pronouncements at will, all for the purpose of controlling group members.
  3. Demand for Purity – The world is viewed as black and white and group members are constantly exhorted to strive for perfection. Consequently, guilt and shame are common and powerful control devices.
  4. The Cult of Confession – Serious (and often not so serious) sins, as defined by the group, are to be confessed, either privately to a personal monitor or publicly to the group at large.
  5. The “Sacred Science” – The doctrine of the group is considered to be the ultimate TRUTH, beyond all questioning or disputing. The leader of the group is likewise above criticism as the spokesperson for God on earth.
  6. Loading the Language – The group develops a jargon in many ways unique to itself, often not understandable to outsiders. This jargon consists of numerous words and phrases which the members understand (or thinks they do), but which really act to dull one’s ability to engage in critical thinking.
  7. Doctrine over Person – The personal experiences of the group members are subordinated to the “Truth” held by the group – apparently contrary experiences must be denied or re-interpreted to fit the doctrine of the group. The doctrine is always more important than the individual.
  8. Dispensing of Existence – The group arrogates to itself the prerogative to decide who has the right to exist and who does not. Usually held non-literally, this means that those outside the group are unspiritual, worldly, satanic, “unconscious,” or whatever, and that they must be converted to the ideas of the group or they will be lost. If they refuse to join the group, then they must be rejected by the group members, even if they are family members. In rare cases this concept gives the group the right to terminate the outsider’s life.

For more info visit: http://www.meadowhaven.org/problem.html