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”.
Beautifully stated, and may I say, inspiring. The most appealing part of “school” for me was being with others striving to create their lives. It’s what I miss most. Not the “teachers,” not the “ideas,” – but my fellow students. The one thing “school” could do well – was bring together interesting people. It’s definitely harder to maintain a structured group for a long period of time – perhaps a book club, where the books read are philosophical in nature might work for a time. The trouble with cults is they work – until they don’t.
Sorry – I’m rambling a bit. I’ll have to have a think and report back more coherently.
NYC, I think what you say is very important. When I was deciding to leave, being cut off from “the source” was certainly a factor in my hesitation, but a factor of equal weight was the loss of relationship with the other people in the group, many of whom are clearly intelligent, creative and well-meaning individuals. The thought of losing their friendship – and worse, disappointing or even betraying them – gave me as much regret as losing connection with “the source” that I believed school represented. I find the ideas themselves fall a bit flat when not employed as a common language spoken between myself and others with whom I am working. The upside of that, of course, is the wealth and multitude of ideas available in the world of which OSG either expressly prohibits or strongly discourages discovery and discussion. I really think they are not prepared for the modern world of diversity of thought and free-flowing communication. It’s difficult to see how they can long survive. One thing that really drove home for me the fallacy of believing in the possibility of sustaining the “invisibility” of the group was seeing that snarky Time Out info-graphic on New York cults that included OSG among two or three others. It’s quite a reality check if you haven’t seen it: http://www.timeout.com/newyork/things-to-do/follow-the-leader
Say “Amen” somebody!
Hello All, thanks for chiming in!
NYC, it’s true it is difficult to bring a group together consistently. I think that makes it harder to leave, too! It doesn’t happen often.
Charlie Chaplin, I LOVE that you posted a link to that graphic. The Kool-Aid rating system had me laughing for hours after I saw it the first time. Do you think OSG really only rates one delicious glass?
On a more serious note, as odious as it is that “school” uses relationships between classmates to guilt people into staying, it works against “school” when its “students” decide to leave and they discover that there’s a network of the “disgruntled” out here, who are more than happy to lend support and tell the truth about its illustrious “aim” — provide Sharon Gans with a comfortable retirement on your dime.
Cher_Tea – Hello and good to hear from you!
Hi GSR. I sent an email. Hope you got it. Nice writing. I am so glad you have been steadfast in your journey!
I would rate more glasses of Kool-Aide than one. Maybe not to start – but after a couple of years – the effect becomes more potent – until, basically, they have you on a 24-hour IV drip.
Hilarious, BTW – wonder what the discussion was among the elect when that came out. Anyone privy to the discussion?
It is hilarious, isn’t it … we’ll need a new icon to represent the Kool-Aid infused I.V. drip. Tee hee. I would love to have been a fly on the wall in the throne room when Time Out ran that story.
Excellent post. I’ve been out of the Tue/Thurs NYC section for…hmmm…coming on 4 years now. It’s actually refreshing to have lost track of the time :). I very much relate to the shift you discussed: from obsessively checking blogs and wanting to hash and rehash the experience with anyone who had been through it, to finding myself more and more removed from that time. It’s always there, of course, especially when I see someone I know on the streets. They usually give that knowing grin, perhaps not sure if I’m in or simply moved to a different section of the organization (they were always quite good at shrouding disappearances in mystery). If I’m lazy or distracted or hell, just living my life, I don’t bother to do more than smile back.
As for post-school friendships, I personally have only kept in touch with a few. I have nothing but affection for my ex-cultmates, but for me it’s too…who knows what. I wish all the best but it’s just not where my head and life are at this moment.
Finally, your note of the creative life has struck a chord in me. The biggest single regret I have of my time there was how I allowed my creative yearnings to be sublimated for so long (nearly 8 years!). I, too, am being (re)visited by the muses again–more often clawing for them while trying balance work and family etc!–but there are many moments when I have to confront how I turned away from my real self and how I objectively lost years that simply won’t come back.
One final question: after the demise of the esoteric freedom blog, does anyone know of any active sites that have recent updates about the ganscult in general and NY branch particularly?
Anyway, thanks for this post and blog and best wishes to all out there.
Welcome back, Rhylance! Thanks for your comment.
Congrats for moving on and reclaiming your life. May your muse visit you often! I wonder if there’s a correlation between the number of years “school” steals a student’s creativity and the number of years it takes for the muse to return. She has to feel safe, after all.
And as far as staying in touch with colleagues, I think that we “school”mates will always be walking a delicate balance. One of the above-mentioned conversations took place when a fellow traveler got together with me for dinner. It felt soooo good to speak with another soul who’d experienced this strange institution and therefore understood my experience. We had some good healthy laughs! It can be very revealing to connect with another of the “disgruntled” ex-students – as it was in the first above-mentioned conversation. We always have to honor the need to shine some light on the shadowy world of “school”, while not allowing it to steal any more time. It’s tricky.
Last point, as far as I know the website esoteric freedom is not being updated. It’s simply out there as a resource for those seeking information … true information.
Carry on and best wishes to you!
Interesting and excellent writing.
And – it rather drives the final nail into the coffin for me that the group of folk that you are describing are not the folk that I was learning with 30 odd years ago.
A case in point – we were encouraged to keep journals – self observation journals; self remembering journals; even personal diaries of a sort.
And, we were always studying and reading a wide variety of texts, some from “the Work” such as Ouspensky; Gurdjieff; Nicoll; and Collins, and some from other “influences” such as the Grimm’s Fairy Tales; the Bible; Seraphita by Balzac; Swedenborg; Socrates; Plato; Les Miserables; Aristotle; Chekov; etc. At one point I was studying Thucydides’ “History of the Peloponnesian War” and “Black Elk Speaks.” Both were one assignment out of many for Alex to give over reports on various “conspiracies” throughout history in preparation for his play “I.” Was he using us? Yes. Was it an extremely worthwhile exercise for me? Yes.
Even those who vehemently disagree with my “rosy” picture of “School” way back when, cannot deny that it was never said or even implied that the “School” of Alex; Sharon; Bob; et al, was “The Source.” It was not.
All of the original materials were “the Sources” and “School” only claimed to be a transmitter of such material.
Obviously, at some point, someone decided that they had achieved… (Whatever the heck they were calling it – “Consciousness?” “Being Awake?” “Man Number 7?” Number 9… number 9… number 9…..) their penultimate “Aim” and they decided that “School” was indeed “the Source.”
And, that sucks.
Sounds like hell to me.
So, congratulations to you all for your escaping.
I believe that I was there in that one brief shining moment… before Mordred took over.
I remember when Alex specifically denied being conscious. Then again, I also remember when A & S talked of having seen real auras and when S claimed awakening clairvoyance. But, certainly, no pretense that these people were the source of the ideas.
I think everyone might be interested in a recently published book entitled “Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life” by Adam Phillips.
I read a review of it in the New Yorker and it sounds very interesting.
He seems to be suggesting that we all spend so much time thinking about what was or what might have been or what might be in the future that we are actually missing out on our lives as we are living them now.
“Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless trauma about, the lives we were unable to live.”
It’s kind of that “just get over it” philosophy that I used to hate so much when it was said to me in school. However, I think there might be a point worth exploring here.
This is the link to the New Yorker article:
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/books/2013/02/25/130225crbo_books_acocella#ixzz2NCQjZTRn