Inside school’s retention protocol: tools for the un-schooled

If you are reading this “school” has most likely affected you. Chances are, many of you are trying to understand the behaviors of a current “student”. Your legitimate and sincere concerns are being met with pat, odd, dismissive and cold responses. These deflective tactics don’t ring true to the person you know and you might be baffled by his/her defensiveness.

Like any good cult, “school” employs an arsenal of manipulative tactics. Never is this more true then when the un-schooled dare question the institution; “school” amps up its retain-at-all-costs-machinery and sets to work. Recently a fellow escapee shared his experience with me and supplied  the following: a list of the “school”- sponsored clever insincerity employed on him; the reasons why these tactics failed; a sample letter as a template (in the next post) for those trying to reach current “students”.

I hope the next two posts shed light on “school” psychology and provide tools to help you reach the person for whom you are concerned:

 “School” coercion:

    • Sure school is causing problems with my marriage, but that’s because my wife is “jealous.”  If only I “worked on myself” more — I could be emanating finer vibrations to her and our relationship would be better.  I needed to heed school’s help to be firmer with her, and to simultaneously work on myself more, so that she would be so thrilled with me that she’d look past the downsides of school.  It was a “package deal” they told me to tell her.  I was great in so many ways that, even if she didn’t like the time I spent out of the house, the source of everything she liked about me was really owed to school.
    • Even if there are problems with my marriage, don’t I value higher ideals, a.k.a. “God”, more than my own petty problems?  Don’t I want to really do something meaningful with my life – serving a higher purpose (a.k.a. school)?  If I let every “small” personal problem get in the way of serving God, what does that make me?
    • Sometimes I’d wonder if there were other groups out there that could give me what I got at school without all the secrecy.  But we were told, repeatedly by other students and teachers that school is the only thing like this anywhere. We were told that school is “The Source”.
    • How could I leave and “steal” the ideas of the work?  Even if I were able to live a more fulfilling life than I had before school because of what I’d learned, I would be stealing the ideas of school without properly “paying back” the wonderful gift I’d received.  Paying back meant doing whatever they told me/strongly “suggested” I do – spending hours upon hours of my time in school activities. But I was serving a higher purpose even if it was sometimes painful.
  • Much more likely than being able to lead a fulfilling life after I left school, though, was the real chance that my life would fall apart.  I’d go back to being “asleep” and lose everything I’d gained there.  I’d be leaving “the source” and my life would be without meaning or purpose.
  • And more important than the quality of my own petty life was my obligation to the world, which I believed depended on school.  The fate of humanity literally rested on our shoulders.  These ideas were so powerful that they needed to be preserved or mankind would be in jeopardy.  If I let my relationship with my wife get in the way of that, what did that make me?


His conclusions:   

      • If this were really such a highly evolved group of teachers, why were they all married to other people in school or divorced?  Were they in my position, could they really emanate sufficiently fine vibrations and say just the right things so that their spouse would be totally accepting?

      • Why was I jeopardizing my marriage and family for all of this?  I was causing real pain to my wife, and was I really serving God?  Were all the rules that were hurting her really serving some esoteric purpose?

      • School does not have a monopoly on God or even the specific teaching we followed.

      • I realized the fear that I had about leaving or being kicked out and that I had bought into the line about being cut off from “the source”.  To learn that people were thriving outside of school was very powerful.  I also feared being cut off from a large part of what had become my support system. Once you leave, you can have no contact with anyone at school – a prospect that is incredibly isolating and scary given the intensity of the friendships you form there.  To know there was a support system out there of former students who I trusted and who cared about me was also helpful.

      • Ironically, they were the ones stealing these ideas. These ideas are freely available to anyone who seeks them. The only way to steal ideas is to lay exclusive claim to them – as school does.

      • Eventually I concluded that much of these rules — that were hurting me and my family — were completely unnecessary for my “evolution.”

21 thoughts on “Inside school’s retention protocol: tools for the un-schooled

  1. Queen Lear says:

    How I could possibly have accepted the idea that something finer would emerge from the anguish deliberately inflicted on others? At some level I knew better, but I kept grasping for a “truth’ that would resolve my doubts. I never found that truth, but I spent more than $8,000 in its pursuit over the course of two years. Others have spent much more. I should have walked out after learning the tuition was $350 a month.

    • Rachel says:

      Queen Lear,
      Could you elaborate on what you mean by anguish deliberately inflicted on others? I am trying to understand the group more as my father has been involved for about 35 years. Thank you for sharing!

      • Queen Lear says:

        The anguish I had in mind is what I imagined and what you describe below as happening to you. The ‘help’ given to two men with young families just struck me as so wrong-headed that their wives and children had to be suffering.

        One man was told not to be concerned about not being home right after the birth of his daughter. “After all, it’s just a baby. There’s nothing you can do for it.” He was under pressure to improve his attendance and answer his wife’s pleas for another adult presence in the house. One suggestion was to hire a high school student to help in the afternoons. In itself not such a bad idea, perhaps, but it was made with the intent of distancing himself from any responsibility for his child.

        Another man was encouraged to be out until all hours many nights a week, not just at school, but at musical events. When his wife complained, he was told she stifling him and keeping him from evolving into some higher being. It was also ‘none of her business’ where he was and when he expected to be home.

        Both men are now out of school, thank God! We had a reunion in May and he was there with his wife and young children.

        I wish your father had been able to free himself from this conceit of ‘evolving’ into a higher being. That’s not possible while you’re mistreating those who have a much higher claim on your presence than the greedy, grasping narcissists who run this alleged ‘school.’

        • Rachel says:

          Thank you so much for your response. All of this is explaining why my father was and is the way he is towards me. I am hating this group. Why does anyone get joy out of making people make their families suffer through being neglected and treated as if they dont matter? I never suspected all of this had to do with the fourth way. Growing up for me the fourth way was kind of a joke between my mom and i…we didn’t understand why my father was so angry and we wrote it off by making jokes. We would laugh to eachothet about him yelling at us that we were “asleep”. I could never make him happy. He never took an interest in my life and I just didn’t get it. Reading this site today has been mindblowing. This group has brainwashed my father for around 35 years…hes so far gone. Depressed, negative, angry. I work in healthcare and he honestly reminds me of my patients who have had brain damage that has caused their anger…it is that bad. Everything i say is refuted as negative. It never dawned on me that the fourth way was the cause because it was soooo seldom talked about. It was like a dirty secret. Anyway thank you for listening. I cannot thank you enough for sharing your story it has helped me a lot. I used to joke in high school to my friends about my dad being in a cult…maybe Freud was right all jokes have some reality? Well this one has a lot. Your sharing has helped me a TON. God bless. Thankfully we have a loving God and all of that fourth way negitivity is bs!!!!

  2. Hi Queen Lear,
    Good to hear from you!

    In response to “How I could possibly have accepted the idea that something finer would emerge from the anguish deliberately inflicted on others?”

    Yep, we all have to grapple with that question. And, at some level, we all knew better. But there’s something really powerful about that search for meaning and wanting to belong to and be hued to a higher purpose. The fact that neither of us walked out as we paid our tuition to *become* cogs in the school wheel illustrates just how powerful the need or the longing is.

    I think I spent roughly $20,000 to ultimately allow “school” to paint me into the Jewish American Princess. Once you’ve been out for a time, it’s hard to look back and comprehend the mindset we must have been in.

    But, we’re both out and our lives haven’t gone to shit, as indicated. Neither of us are begging quarters in Harvard Square. In fact, I’ve never felt better.

    Cheers to your freedom!

  3. Agalia says:

    Think about the people who have been there for 20 – 30 years. They have spent a LOT more than $20,000. Many of them are still paying…

    The idea of “paying for your arising” is a good one. I think that we pay with good deeds not with cash to Robert and Sharon. The idea of “paying back” is a good one as well. Why does it mean specifically to give them money (cash, please, in large bills)? I think of paying back in terms of community service, working for the disadvantaged among us (Sharon is NOT disadvantaged), helping to feed the hungry, caring for the sick, working to help the earth heal, working to change the political process, working to make sure we all have clean air and clean water – there are so many things that need to be done. All of these things are work that is really for God. You could also go join a monastery or nunnery if you wanted to totally devote your life to the “higher source” but of course those kind of places tend to do community outreach as well. This might be considered really doing something “meaningful with my life.”

    I always wondered why “school” never put all their resources behind doing some good in the world – open a soup kitchen, a community garden, a shelter for victims of domestic violence, a school for disadvantaged children. God knows they have the money to do all that and more but where does that money go? Into someone’s pocket. It’s always the same. In this case, people are putting money into Sharon and Robert’s pockets.

    The idea that leaving “school” is leaving the “source” is preposterous. The “source” (God or whatever you want to call it) is INSIDE of each and every one of us. It is all around us. It is in the wind, the water, the earth herself, and all the living creatures (plants and animals alike). You can’t leave the “source” or cut yourself off from it. You can fall asleep or in other words, deny or forget your connection but you can NEVER loose it.

  4. Hi Agalia –
    Thanks for writing! I LOVE your questions. They make it so clear that — when you think in terms of truly giving to “pay for your arising” — it makes the entire “tuition” thing seem ridiculous. A spiritual ponzi scheme … benefiting only those at the very top of the dump heap.

    Also, I feel so strongly about that claim about those who leave “school” leave “the source”. Just like “school” lays claim to the spiritual ideas Gurdjieff taught, it lays claim to … the universe. Ugh. Thank God we’re free!

  5. Agalia says:

    “Stealing” the ideas? The ideas are all out there – written and oral and are available to EVERYONE. Steal them? Well, haven’t you paid for them? Paid with your tuition, paid with your hard work recruiting students, paid with missing out on being with family and friends, paid by doing other “3rd lines of work”, “christmas class” and other “classes outside of class”? You have paid additionally for “acting class” and for “maintenance”…. When do you stop paying? When do you graduate?

    We have all done the numbers. They have a little gold mine there and we are “stealing the ideas” if we leave school? What we are doing when we leave school is depriving them of our money and that gets them angry.

    If only I “worked on myself” more… Ok, the truth now: how many people ever did EVERYTHING they were told to do in terms of exercises? Did you record an observation EVERY DAY exactly at 10, 2 and 6 without fail? Did you ALWAYS do the exercise upon awakening and going to sleep? Did you always do EVERYTHING you were supposed to do for your 5 week aim? Did you always call your partner when you were supposed to or return their calls promptly? It took me years and years in school to realize that people were lying about a lot of the stuff they said they were doing. If Sharon and Robert are so smart, how come they didn’t know that? Can you EVER possibly work on yourself enough? No vacation, no days off…

    “The fate of humanity rests upon our shoulders”? How presumptuous, how self centered, how self important and grandiose can you get?

  6. MerryMonthofMay says:

    “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God.

    Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

    ~ Marianne Williamson

  7. Esmerelda says:

    “That’s why it’s really important to recognize who and what you CHOOSE to plug into. How are you creating that connection with your teacher? Do you see her as a human being who has information to offer? Are you treating your teacher like she has access to all the answers? If you are, you’re giving too much of your own power away, and you’re putting too much strain on the load. If that’s how you do things, you will ALWAYS be looking for someone else to plug into, and you’ll NEVER feel okay on your own.”

    This is a quote from a blog that I am fascinated by. This particular piece is on energy and I thought that it spoke to some of the issues with “school.”

    The blog is called Channeling Erik (conversations with my son in the afterlife) which is written by a physician in Texas whose son committed suicide. This is from the blog: “On October 6, 2009, my 20-year-old son Erik, took his own life. Since that sad and tragic day, an overwhelming sense of grief and despair propelled me into a search for answers. Answers that would provide me and others with comfort and hope. Some of those answers came from the many books I bought, but many came from an unexpected source…Erik, himself. read the story ”

    It also goes to show how many really interesting things there are out there to explore. No, “school” does not have a monopoly on “esoteric” knowledge or experience. I went to an energy healing workshop today that was totally fascinating. I’m not saying they have all of the answers but there is so much stuff out there that is interesting, some of it has got to be real. I have also come to the conclusion that in one way, it’s all real knowledge. Everyone just has a different slant to it and the difference are really not important. What is important is the INTENTION. Intention is a very powerful force…

  8. Agalia says:

    I came across this article the other day on the internet (not sure how I found it) and thought that it was good. It’s simple and very clear.

    Clear Signs that Your Spiritual Teacher and/or Healer is Abusive or Unethical:

    1. When a teacher tells you that his techniques are better than everyone else’s, and that he has access to wisdom or teachings that no-one else possesses.
    2. When a healer invalidates you and challenges your subjective perceptions.
    3. When a teacher gives you an ultimatum or uses extreme words such as ‘never’ or ‘always’ in what she says.
    4. When a teacher allows clients or students to put them on a pedestal.


  9. Rachel says:

    I am in shock after reading this. My father has been involved in a fourth way group my entire life. As a child I remember him going away for weekends to “the group.” He VERY rarely shared anything about the group with me. I thought it was strange and had a bad feeling about it even when I was as young as seven. After all, if this group was so helpful than why has my dad always been depressed miserable angry and negative? Why did they not want my mom and I to come? Also, I knew he was spending hundreds of dollars at these retreats which he would briefly speak of and they surely didn’t sound like retreats. He would mention having to share a room with a lot of other people do a lot of cooking and cleaning. But that was it. It was so secretive always. He would barely speak of it but at times my mom found him doing strange dances and stuff. Strange dancing and the group were not the problem though. The problem I see now is the brainwashing and isolation this group teaches. It finally makes sense to me that he thought by being cold and having a distant relationship with me he was thinking the whole time that he was being enlightened by that. I am honestly freaking out as after decades of trying to understand why my father is so cold and emotionless has seemed to be linked to this group he has been involved in. I am reading what others say about these schools and the characteristics of these people (distancing themselves from their families, and if I had a dollar for every time my father told me to “WAKE UP!! YOU ARE ASLEEP” I would be a millionaire). I am finally understanding all of this. Wow, what a breakthrough day. I really thank all of you for sharing your stories and experiences. It is really helping me realize that my estranged relationship with my father has a lot to do with him being brainwashed by this cult. It made me so angry that he always acted intellectually and spiritually superior to me and my mom and I always thought if he really was then why is he so miserable all of the time? Please, if anyone has any more information or any insights to share please do.

  10. Hi Rachel –

    Wow. Thanks for writing. I’ve never been contacted by a child of a “school” attendee and I’m very sorry to hear that your father’s involvement was so painful and bewildering to you. This group really f*cks up families.

    Check out for more info. And if you want to contact me anonymously offline, you can write to Just let me know if you do write, b/c I don’t check that address very often. There are plenty of us out here to speak to, if it would help.

    I’m happy you found the blog helpful and available if you want to connect.


    • Rachel says:

      Thank you for the web address and response!! I will definitely check it out. I have written you an email and I really appreciate your time and compassion.. Learning that the fourth way has been the source of so much family pain has been mindblowing. It was always in the background because it was treated like a dirty secret in my family. On a whim i researched this. Its so crazy. Reading about the being asleep stuff, the distancing yourself from your family acting like they are more enlignted than the rest of the world. Its like the definition of my father. I got chills reading this website. Thank you again for your compassion and God bless!

  11. Hi Rachel –

    I often think of “school” as though it were an addiction. Kind of like having a drunk uncle around whom the family tiptoes, never mentioning the word “alcoholic” to him or anyone else. It’s just as insane and it is complicated by the fact that — at least in my experience — those who aren’t in “school” can barely find the language to explain what they are seeing and experiencing because the institution keeps itself shadowy and cloistered, instructing it’s attendees that it is of utmost importance to not tell “anyone anything about the group”, that it’s “private” … blah, blah, blah.

    The more I hear from the “unschooled” whom are impacted by the attendance and involvement of a loved one, the more twisted and sick this once exulted (in my mind) organization looks, smells and sounds to me. You see, the longer I attended school the more it dismissed my little life, and the lives of all other students as “just life” – unimportant in the larger scale of things, thereby dismissing spouses of, children of, siblings of, parents of, friends of … etc. It didn’t matter; nothing super-ceded “school” and it’s illustrious “AIM”. And completely innocent people, like you, get hurt by its dismissal of anyone or anything that’s not “school”-related policies. It’s really sick and I’m sorry your dad didn’t wake up in time to see that he was sacrificing his family for a con game.

    And he would yell at you to “wake up”? How ironic.

    I’m glad that the blog has shed light on his behavior and helped you to understand what was going on. I’ll check my email and get back to you.

  12. Queen Lear says:


    I hope these postings help you to heal. More than likely, your father was in a difficult transition in life and vulnerable to the idea of “waking up” so that he might become a more fulfilled individual.

    That’s usually how it starts. They look for people in transitions–who have the means to pay the monthly tuition and other fees as their involvement increases. I was unemployed when one of the recruiters found me at a networking group for job seekers. He started up a conversation about a seminar a friend was leading on Eleanor of Aquitaine and Hildegard von Bingen.

    I was immediately interested because those two women are among my favorite characters in history. He was lucky in using that approach with me. The other seminar that they’ve offered lately is about caterpillars dreaming of butterfly lives. That might not have drawn me in.

    I had several meetings with the woman who led the seminar. When she learned I had landed a job, that’s when they moved in to sign me up.

    I thought I was joining a study group and relished the idea of getting back in touch with my love for history. I didn’t know the other expectations. Shame on me for not asking the right questions.

    I don’t know what your father’s transition might have been. I’m sure he started out trying to work on some issues that were holding him back. And without knowing when or how it happened, he became utterly dependent on the ‘teachers’ for solutions to life’s problems. Soon leaving school would have seemed impossible and terrifying.

    Some of us ‘woke up,’ smelled the stench of rotting lives, and left school before much real damage was done. Others, like your father, have been there for decades letting school make even such intimate decisions as who to marry, when or if to have children, and when to divorce. Some of these long time members have even given up children for adoption when school demanded. The children might have been better off, except often they were given to other school participants.

    Reach out to those of us who really ‘woke up’ whenever you need. Post something here and I’ll get back to you. The e-mail address below is not one that I ever look at.


    Queen Lear

  13. Queen Lear says:

    Interesting reading on the Huffington Post which includes a reference to a TEDtalk on cults as an addiction:

  14. Thanks, Queen Lear, for posting – Definitely worth reading the article and watching the video. I have been reading Steve Hassan’s book Freedom of Mind ( and the points made in the article and the video are echoed and elaborated on in his book, which I am finding both fascinating and disturbing, as I recognize the cult tactics he describes as “school” tactics. In fact, he addresses “school” specifically in some sections of the book, not extensively, but enough so that we who have been there will recognize it.

  15. seeker of truth says:

    I am new to this site but a former ‘student’ from long ago. Like so many, came in, smelled the rot, but had become so emotionally entwined with my fellow students. The fear of the cold turkey isolation was so crippling, that I stayed longer than I knew I should.
    I began on my own, and secretly, to study ideas elsewhere. By creating a new lifeline, was the only way I could escape. Prisoners can’t free themselves. I did seek help after I left, to get other people the hell outta there. No luck.
    It still shocks me so many years later, how the grip they had on us, allowed us to sit back and destroy parts of own selves, and those of our ‘friends’.

  16. Welcome Seeker of Truth, and thank you for your comments. I think you make a very important point — the fear of isolation is what keeps many in and entangled in this web of lies. Now that I’ve been out and free and able to look back with some perspective, it’s hard to imagine being trapped in that mind set – the psychological that allowed other people to dictate and micromanage my life, internally and externally. I’m sorry you weren’t able to spring free your “class mates”. Perhaps this site will help you reconnect to them now. I’ve come to believe that it’s important to break the isolation, even if it’s years later.

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