Sample letter: how to approach a current student

The following letter, written by the same escapee, exposes the “school”-sponsored pressures applied when “students” contemplate leaving. It provides an approach that preempts “school’s” commonly used retention protocol. Understand, Dear Reader, that “leaving” can be terrifying. My fear was such that I started killing the messenger – my husband. He had shattered my faith in “school” as the path to enlightenment. But I couldn’t refute his observations and questions as they rang too true.

Suddenly after five years of asking for “help”, I had to make my own decision. I had to realize that my fear was making it easy for “school” to fill my time. I woke up. I was ready to cut myself off from “the source”. Readiness is the key; you, Dear Reader, can sow seeds of doubt and share your honest emotions. The rest is up to the “student”. Sadly, sometimes “students” aren’t ready and will give decades to this fallacy. There is no graduation date — the longer you attend, the more you “owe”. What “school”  initially presents as a “five–week experiment”  grows into constantly * evolving * debt.

But If the “student” is ready to contemplate his/her questions the doubts will grow from within, thus the decision will come from him or her. There is nothing more powerful than that moment of independent decision. It is in that spirit, that I post this letter. I hope it provides you the understanding needed approaching your loved one and the seeds that will empower them to realize that they “owe” “school” nothing and are free to reclaim their lives as a “school”-free birthright:

Dear current “school”/ OSG attendee:

I’ve been told that the first thing you are likely going to do upon receiving this is to immediately call someone in school for help.  And that they will tell you I’m trying “fuck” with what’s your private business.  And that our relationship together is just “life” and unimportant on the scale of the higher meaning that you get from your group.  That you are doing important work, saving humanity in fact, by preserving ideas that will die without you and the rest of the group’s efforts to preserve them.  And by refining your own being to emanate finer and finer vibrations out into the world.

With that in mind, how can our relationship, however painful it might be for you to sacrifice, compete with that?  Choosing your group over our relationship is the selfless right thing to do, and necessary for your own evolution.  You must trust your own fine experience at school over whatever anyone on the outside might try to tell you.  Don’t even listen to what outsiders have to say about school – it is all lies, and it will pollute your mind and make further work on yourself impossible and destroy everything you’ve worked so hard for.

If you have your own doubts about school, you must remember that there is a Judas inside you, eager to tear down everything finer in you.  Don’t trust those doubts – trust the fineness of the experience you’ve had.  Also, those who have left school and are leading fulfilling lives have “stolen” the work, using it to lead “comfortable” lives but are living without consciousness.  How could you betray those who have helped you so much in the same way?  Keep in mind that it is more likely — were you ever to leave — that your life would become meaningless and gray, and you’d forever regret throwing everything away.

In all likelihood, you will continue to listen to this message.  You have had fine experiences.  Your teachers and fellow students are genuine and sincere and wish to help you and others find their higher selves. You have made real advances.  Your life has improved.  Why would you ever jeopardize that?

I only ask that you consider the effect that this work has had on me.  I have felt shut out.  I have felt lied to.  In your heart of hearts, you know that you have lied to me.  You’ve been taught that this is not really “lying” but “clever insincerity.”  You’ve been taught this lying is necessary to protect school.  This may be true but that doesn’t change the effect it has on others.  I can feel the insincerity.  While I may not have known until recently the extent of the deception, I could always feel it.  It has been deeply painful for me.

And your reaction to my questions has been equally painful.  Try to put yourself in my shoes.  If you learned that I was involved with something that you believed was harmful to me, would you not try to find out more about it?  Would it not be a sign that you cared about me?  And if I reacted violently to your inquiry and shut you out completely, would you not be hurt, confused and sad?

I also ask that you consider a phrase you might have heard at school: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Is it possible that your school is based on real and true ideas, with genuine and sincere students and teachers, but that it has veered off course from its original path? Would not its foundation in true ideas explain your fine experiences and the gains you have made?  Would it not explain how genuine and true everyone’s intentions are?  And would not its wrong turn explain the difficulty students have staying married to non-students? Would it not explain why many students disappear? Have you ever found a leader’s actions questionable but written it off to you not understanding?  Have you ever had the courage to directly question a leader’s actions?

The “fourth way” is the teaching by George Gurdjieff that your school is based on.  Gurdjieff taught about A B and C influence – and asserted that real knowledge, a.k.a. C influence, must be passed from person to person.  So if your school were a true school, and not a “degenerate” one (a term used by Gurdjieff) there would be some direct connection to Gurdjieff or someone else who had achieved consciousness.

Is it not possible that Sharon stole the ideas of Gurdjieff and used them to create a school that served her own vanity?  That all of her students are running around learning the ideas of this study and listening to her every word and following her every instruction genuinely trying to achieve consciousness?  But that she herself has no connection to Gurdjieff, and has insisted on complete secrecy and deception to make sure none of her students find out?  Would this not explain both the good and the bad that you have experienced at school?

And wouldn’t that also explain why so many students had such positive experiences initially, but then had fewer and fewer such experiences the longer they stayed?  Perhaps the school, not having any connection to a conscious being, is able to introduce people to the basic ideas, but unable to grapple with deeper ideas or take its students very far down a spiritual path? And would that not provide a plausible way out?

There are in fact true schools that have a direct line to Gurdjieff scattered around the world, including in the Boston area.  These schools, unlike yours, do not have the same level of secrecy.  Would it not be worth talking to that school to learn more about your group and whether it has or has not veered off course? I know you have been instructed away from the internet: but if your school was legitimate, would it not stand up to the scrutiny? Don’t you deserve to know what those criticisms are in order to truly make your own decision as to whether they strike true or false to you?

If for nothing else, could you not do this for me, as someone who has been deeply hurt by what I believe to be a well-intentioned but ultimately misguided group?

I understand that this decision is painful, and there is no one on the planet that can tell you what is true and right for you. I hope you feel that my inquiry is coming from sincere love and concern for you. In that spirit, I will step back and give you the time and space you need.


12 thoughts on “Sample letter: how to approach a current student

  1. Mariah says:

    Wow, good job on the letter. You hit so many important key points.

    I “just” wanted to say that I left “school” about five years ago. I was married at the time and my marriage is still strong and viable. Actually, better than ever. We have been married over 15 years. We have more time together that is relaxed and easy. No secrets = no anxiety.
    I have a job that I really love. It is paying much less than “school” would approve of but I truly feel that I am helping people and being useful and working with my “art” at the same time. And there is a tremendous sense of pride that I have that I did this by myself – i decided what I wanted to do (I wasn’t told what to do) and went out and did it. No “work and money” group wanting me to get any job I could find in order for me to keep up with my tuition payments. I have more time to paint, go to museums, theater and most importantly more time to be with my children. No more late nights and babysitters. There was damage done to my children by leaving them with babysitters so much when they were very young.

    Yes, I was a bit in a state of shock when I left but there was a tremendous feeling of RELIEF. I can’t lie and tell you that everything was great from the beginning. It took awhile to readjust and get my bearings but even going through that difficult stage, I still thanked God EVERY DAY that I was finally free of school. True freedom is outside school not inside. I am still grateful to God every day.

    I was afraid that I wouldn’t have any friends anymore and I didn’t have many friends in “life” at that point but now I have many friends – some who I have told about “school” and some I have not. In addition, I was able to reconnect with many dear friends who had left “school” before me and some who left after me. This has been a great source of comfort and support for me. These people are kind, loving and willing to help in any way to make the transition back into “life” easier. I am free to be friends with who I want – nothing is imposed on me. I hated the “aim partner” situation because my partner was not always someone I even liked or felt I could talk to.

    When I was in school, I kept thinking: if they aren’t doing anything wrong then why are they so afraid of people finding out? The Dalai Lama doesn’t hide behind a rock. Christ, Mohammed even Gurdjieff and Ouspensky did not hide what they were doing – they were open to any and all joining them so they could spread the word. Open. Free.

    Listen closely to your heart and see what is being said. Your heart knows.

  2. Hi Mariah,
    In re. to your comment …

    “I still thanked God EVERY DAY that I was finally free of school. True freedom is outside school not inside. I am still grateful to God every day.”

    I, too, find myself marking each day with gratitude that I am no longer shackled to “school” — that these days are mine, for better or for worse. I am grateful to muddle through them in my perfectly, imperfect way, making my own decisions and my own mistakes, in my own time.

    True freedom came to me at 5:30 a.m., in a park down the street, when I couldn’t sleep for the decision of *should I stay or should I go*. It came when I looked up at the sky and realized “the source” was up there, all around me and inside me. When I said out loud, “Fuck Robert” I was truly free. I have never wanted to go back. And things in my life are pretty darn good now. So if making my own decisions, owning my own time, honoring my life and family, loving my job are indicators of a woman sleep-walking through her life, I’ll suffer through it rather than return to the “school” version of “awakening”.

    BTW, I had to laugh when I read your bit about the Work & Money group. I spent many hours with that group and whatever they suggested, whatever I tried, my work life kept sucking more and more. Whereas once I left school, I had two new jobs within two months and within five months I was offered the job I have now. Go figure.

  3. Agalia says:

    My moment with the “Work and Money Group” was when we were supposed to make an aim for the following week and I asked for help and the leader of the group said (in a fairly nasty tone of voice) “Well how am I supposed to know what you should do?”

    The light bulb went on.

    Anybody else have any of those light bulb moments?

  4. I had several light bulb moments both in the “classroom” and in the “Work and Money Group”. Most of them I’d dismiss, but I guess they started to pile up over time putting a brighter and brighter spotlight on the bullshit. But the real kicker was when I was grappling over leaving and Robert’s “instruction” of “Tell your husband to mind his own business” came through via Carol.

    My decision to stay in school was so clearly my husband’s business — essentially, I was spending the money he was earning on “school”. My babysitting and elder-care rates weren’t gonna cover “tuition” on top of the other things we had to spend $ on. And the money only makes it his business at the most crass level. I knew I couldn’t say, “Mind your own business” to him, b/c I wasn’t indoctrinated enough to buy into that line of thinking. And then other questions came up – did Robert and Carol truly believe that my spending my husband’s money on “school” was “none of his business”? how could they believe that? and if they were so evolved, why were they so cold to his legitimate worries and concerns? etc. etc. etc.

    The line that really cinched the leaving deal came when on the phone with Robert. I’d already decided I was leaving “school” and I had insisted on talking to him, specifically (Carol wasn’t too pleased about that). And in the middle of telling him that there was no way my marriage would survive if I stayed in “school” Robert says, “I’m trying to put myself in your husband’s shoes.” At that moment, I remember thinking, if this guy is so evolved, why is it so difficult for him to comprehend this. It’s not rocket science.

    At this point, it is almost impossible to remember what it was that kept me in “school”, why I was so enamored. The longer I’m out, which is 2 full years as of August, the more the smoke and mirrors clear out. And the more I learn. It seems the “clever insincerity” is never -ending.

  5. Pocahontas says:

    Lightbulb moments (LM’s)
    LM1 “What do they do with all that money? It sure isn’t going to help the mankind or the planet!”

    LM2 When Robert stopped coming to the older group until the last hours (early hours of the morning!) and we met in small study groups, I realized we were learning more from our own work in a few weeks than we had gleaned from the “teachers” in many years. Plotinus (my first small study group) taught that all knowledge, overflowing from the One, consists of living beings in the Noetic realm, and while we can never enter the realm of the one, we can mingle in the realm of Nous and perceive the One. I have had many experiences in (but not only in!) our classes, again from my own work, where an idea felt very alive, and, in resonating I took something real from that encounter. Socrates taught that that we all can remember the truth, perhaps the deepest meaning of “Remember Yourself”, since we are all on some level connected to the Noetic.

    LM3 When Sharon berated Connie for “deserting” Neil’s poor son, and Connie had that deer-in-the-headlights look. At the time all I knew was that something really cruel was happening to her, and NO ONE stood up for her – out of our own personal fear of being next. Later I learned that Sharon had directed Connie to leave her marriage with Neil! I remember thinking that a real teacher would work with love, not vitriol and fear.

    LM4 Robert came in expansively telling us to ask about anything at all — and Neil asked about “types”. Robert replied “I don’t know anything about them.” !!!! So after the many years had he been in the work, if he as a teacher couldn’t answer this one, wasn’t using his knowledge of types to guide each of us individually and properly, as I had assumed, what did he know?

    LM5 Realizing that Kathleen had lied about being married to Robert. At one point she lead a meeting for women married to men not at school and spoke as if she were also in that situation.

    there were many other “firefly” moments that accumulated into one big flash of light – but what was most influential in my escape was the conversation I had with a former student at a chance(?) encounter in TJ Maxx. I had known her before coming to the cult and never felt obligated ( aha – the rebel in me was always alive!) to follow school rules about talking outside of school when we ran into each other before she left school, and I fortunately continued that behavior afterwards. She filled me in on a lot of what was really going on with Sharon, Alex, arranged marriages, divorces, baby-swapping, money laundering, palatial homes for Sharon, etc. Did I say that I had, only the week before “innocently” Googled Sharon Gans to see what other acting work she had done, since “Slaughterhouse 5” and not only came up with nothing ( some career!) but found the Rick Ross site and came out reeling. I went back one more class and was amazed how strong the emotional pull was to continue, despite what I knew. That was the last class though.

    I urge all of you to speak your truth if you run into an old friend still in their clutches, be gentle, probe to see what doubts, fears and guilt they are willing to give up before you use the big ammunition. If they talk to you at all – this is a big clue.

  6. Hi Pocahontas! Thanks so much for sharing your light bulb moments and encouraging words! I really like what you said about learning more in your study groups, than from “teachers”. I was never in the “older class”, so for the most part we were relegated into the group “discussion”. Even in that context, though, I still sometimes got that sense — that my co-horts had more to offer than the “teachers” at times … especially when it came to offering compassion for a life situation.

    Again, I really appreciate your comments!

  7. notIandnotSharoneither says:

    Great letter. I was wondering if anyone has written to anyone still in? I am feeling strongly about writing to someone specific. I have been out for a loooooooong time. Someone I knew is still in, and from what I’ve heard from one or two people who left, seems unhappy.

  8. Hi notIandnotSharoneither,

    Thanks for writing. I haven’t heard any feedback as to whether this letter worked specifically. Of course, it is offered only as a guide; suggested approaches. Its author is a fairly recent escapee and he wrote it in an effort to suggest a method of approach that doesn’t attack “school”, as an evil institution, but instead throws light on it as a misled institution with good intentions, but skewed methods.

    Having been “in”, you have experienced how the “school” machine manipulates, have the inside scoop, so to speak. And you probably have a sense of the person you are trying to reach, although “students do only get to know each other through the thin “school”-manufactured prism.

    Maybe you can team up with a few other escapees who know this person and make it a joint effort. I recently read Steve Hassan’s book, Freedom of Mind, and found it really helpful in terms of speaking to current cult members. His approach is all about maintaining respect and listening, to open up channels of communication and lower defenses.

    I’d love to hear from those who’ve tried to use the suggested approach: How did it work, or not work?
    What kind of responses did you get?

    Share anything else you’d like to share.

  9. Che says:

    Do write or call any of your friends who are still in.
    Remember they are there for some reason or other (just like you were) and are committed in some way so don’t try to scare them. Be gentle and loving. Don’t dwell on all the negatives about school – they have been warned against people like us. Don’t tell them horror stories about school. Let them know that you love them and wish the best for them. Let them know that others who have left love them as well. Let them know that your life is going GREAT and your life has actually IMPROVED since you left school. Things have not “turned to shit” as you were told they would if and when you left school. Let them know there is a loving and supportive community out here that will help in any way we can and that there is no other “school” or organized group of people who are plotting malevolently to destroy school.
    Ask gentle questions. Everyone has the seed of doubt sown in them at some time or other. You just have to open up that window a little bit so some fresh air can flow through. Let them know there are resources if they want to find out the truth but let them look on the internet themselves and find out for themselves. Tell them you are available anytime to talk. Be light, open and loving…
    Good luck.

  10. Hi Che –
    Thanks for your comments! I think that this is so important:
    “Let them know there is a loving and supportive community out here that will help in any way we can and that there is no other “school” or organized group of people who are plotting malevolently to destroy school.”

    I remember after I left realizing I couldn’t tolerate the isolation. Honestly, I was still trying to follow “school” rules and be a good little “school” doobie. One day I just said fuck it and started poking around online. I realized that this mysterious thing had devoured so much of me — my time, my emotions, my thoughts — suddenly I was spinning around in those memories alone, trying to come to terms with the “school” experience. I’m so glad I let go of the “good student who doesn’t break ‘school rules'” and am now in touch with several “disgruntled ex-students”.

    And I have to say the thought of dissenting ranks becoming an organized group plotting to destroy “school” seems ridiculous to me now, if for no other reason other than that people who leave school are busy living; they are repairing damaged relationships, and finances, putting families back together, getting jobs they couldn’t get while in “school” and savoring their time and lives in a way that wasn’t possible as long as the “school” machine psychically lorded over them.

    I must admit, I’ve had my fantasies about shining the blaring light o’ shame on the shroud-o-fantasy/coercion in Billerica. But let’s face it, when you’re trying to make up for time lost to the deluded fabrication of superiority, there isn’t a lot of time left to organize the masses, or strategize its demise. Hopefully either the AG’s office will catch up with it for tax evasion and money laundering, or it will do itself in.

  11. Angelswings says:

    It’s very true,what you say, GSR, about no one leaving until they are ready, and as Che says, to allow them to acknowledge that seed of doubt.

    All the ex-students who left and stayed in touch with each other ever wanted was to provide support for each other and for anyone else who left school and needed support themselves. Love and empathy have been the motivating forces of everyone I have ever met who has wished for a friend’s freedom. However, there has never ever been any group in existence outside of school. 14 years ago a teacher who left proposed a group, saying we would do it “the right way”, meaning I believe that it would purely be discussion of ideas. this teacher was instrumental in helping me leave, and I trusted her, but the thought made me recoil in horror, as it did with most other people to whom it was proposed. It died quickly after a life span of approximately three days.

    There were women who got together in that first year or so, in both cities – of course women historically get together. These meetings were few, mostly in bars. People’s lives got busier. We contacted people who had left before or been kicked out, we spread the word, we shared information, we shocked ourselves at the picture we put together. Some said “No more. I liked the ideas, I got a lot.” and hied off. Others said, “Well, that may be so, but it’s over and I’m moving on and want nothing to do with it.” and went their own way” A few became extremely angry and searched for a way to save friends left behind, to stop what they now saw as crime. The same thing happened with the men we knew. We made our friends, and found out which of those “essence friends” were absolutely unessential to us.

    One night we women were together at an apartment and our get together began to take on familiar and unwanted tones – someone who had beena leader student scolder someone else for leaving for the bathroom, when a someone was speaking, someone suggested a format. We all protested and stopped ourselves, but we didn’t meet again. We went our ways.

    We didn’t know what to do with what we knew. We thought if only we could tell our friends what we knew, the notes we’d independently compared, the documents we had, the articles we found, if we could publish something, sue someone – get the word out. In our naivety we believed that at least some of our friends would believe us. We didn’t imagine that school would use our expose so thoroughly to demonize us and vilify everything we had put forth as devil’s lies. After everything we had been through we still believed (and believe) in the power of Truth.

    But without an angle the press didn’t care. A much less developed internet meant you couldn’t simply throw up a website. Expert legal advice with experience of cults warned us that Scientology had set precendence against suing a group for victimizing you through “persuasion”. Mind control is a real, accepted science but not in the law. Joining a cult, and anything you may give them therefrom, is voluntary. Coercion has to be physical. Even Patty Hearst didn’t get off.

    There was a mighty fine press hook during the infamous Oscars of 2002. It was too late to affect any voting on the film, of course. But the movie’s narrator, Rosie O’donnell, loudly and quite publicly disassociated herself from the movie, using the ‘C’ (cult)word quite a bit. Most angry was she at the revelation that this group did not accept homosexuals ( I wonder if any black people have ever been recruited yet? Personally I have always felt that most African Americans have too good of a bullshit detector.)At the time she was a major talk show star with her own magazine and the kerfuffle was loud enough to give us a sense that something might be heard. Newspaper articles were generated that could be posted online. People wrote things to accompany those articles, explaining the underground operations and lies that breaking the “no talking” rule had revealed to us. “School Students of the World Unite! You have nothing to lose but your tuition payments! (and your CR payments, and Montana payments, maintenance payments, christmas class, Sharon’s gift, Sharon’s retirement fund, storage unit, acting class tuition, writing class tuition, recruiting expenses, childcare expenses,etc.)”.

    And we waited. No one left. Or if they did, they didn’t contact us. Later we found out that we had accomplished the opposite of our intention. Our anger towards the perpetrators and benefactors of this fraud was used to strengthen the mental cage. Later we learned of our mistake. And yet our anger stemmed only from the love we felt for our friends, and for the loss of something we’d dreamed of creating with them that we knew would never ever be. School would never ever make a contribution to the planet – it was too busy feeding its head off.

    • There is so much to respond to here, I’m not sure where to start. Leaving “school” is difficult for many reasons, one of which is that out on “only life” there really is nothing like it … and in leaving, I believe, you have to let go of a child-like fantasy, the dream of some kind of a utopia that exists to better the world … probably, on some level, we all hope to recreate this fantasy — I haven’t seen it to be possible. The relationships created with in the hallowed halls are forged in such a contrived and controlled environment that many don’t hold up once you’ve left that control behind … some do have enough substance, most don’t.

      And it’s so heart breaking to know that the people who chose to stay may squander their years, losing family, friends, time, passions, for a fallacy. Why do we humans do this? Why do we relinquish our sovereignty? I just started reading a book called Quiet Horizons (authored by another cult survivor, Gregg … ummm forgetting his last name) who addresses this question of why … and I also play to explore it and write about it. Then there is the why do some stay hued to a lie … giving up everything for it.

      Leaving is lonely. You leave behind friends — or the illusion of friends since your “essence friends” only know you through the contrived “school” veil; but they have also shared an intense experience with you. You leave behind a fantasy of a certain utopia, the illusion it markets of “evolving” into a perfect human specimen … one who can be or create anything. You walk back into the messiness of our perfectly, imperfect existence and world with it’s injustices and your “weaknesses” … “negative emotions” … “dense thoughts and feelings” …

      There’s no forcing others to face that they’ve been duped, that there is no utopia, that these “teachers” can’t lead them to perfection … to becoming man/woman #7 … that they’ve been hijacked … their money, their time, their energy, their damaged and lost relationships all expendable for the “higher calling”. It’s painful. It’s infuriating. And many would rather not know … would rather hue to the lie and keep “trying harder” to refine vibrations and “evolve”.

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