This post is intended to provide an overview of “school” for identification purposes. If you’ve had a strange encounter and are wondering whether it was a “school” encounter; if you have a spouse, or friend, or sibling who disappears on Tuesday and Thursday nights and has been reading books with makeshift, newsprint covers, read on — maybe some other things will ring familiar:
Two Main Recruitment Tactics
1) “Casual conversations” in Starbucks, grocery stores, bars, on trains, etc. Often recruiters initiate with questions about books, or claiming things like, “I’m working on a project about leadership. Which leaders do you admire?” If you’ve exchanged contact information after such an encounter and you notice a patient, yet persistent, string of phone calls from this person, yet when you call him or her back, you reach only voice mail, it is likely a “school” encounter.
If you’ve met with this person and the conversation feels oddly one-sided, as though he or she is drawing information out of you, but revealing as little as possible about him or herself, heed the red lights. If you have attended five meetings and at the last meeting he or she introduced you to a “friend” and if he or she has said something like, “Are you interested in meeting others who share your passions, interests, concerns, etc … oh and by the way … it’s very important you tell no one about this — it’s private, just for you” — it is officially a “school” encounter. And if he or she tells you that the first five or eight weeks is a “free experiment”, after which a monthly tuition will be determined, you’ve been “schooled”. For more details regarding this recruitment tactic, read How to Join a Cult.
2) “Presentations” formerly known as “lectures” — if someone invites you to a “presentation” with a vague topic, no title, and date and location to be determined, beware. If you go to this “presentation” and the presenters don’t share last names, or professional affiliations, or website to peruse; if there’s a post-presentation Q&A orchestrated by a guy named Robert with a beard and a John Boehner-like tan, you’ve hit the cult jackpot. If you filled out a “feedback form” and provided your phone number, never fear, one of “school’s” recruitment team will call.
By the way, cult expert Steven Hassan’s book Combating Cult Mind Control provides a list of clear and concrete questions to ask if you suspect you’ve been approached by a recruiter. I will provide those tips in a future post.
Recognizing The Cast & Crew
The cult known as “school” presents itself as though it is one in a long line of secret esoteric schools. Attendees are classified as “younger students” and “older students” and separated into the “younger” and the “older” classes. Robert leads the charge, while other “teachers” include Josh, Carol, Jeanine, Paul (who leads “body work”) and Michael (who “teaches Tai Chi”).
Last I knew “school’s” “classes” met at the The Faulkner Mills building in Billerica, Ma. “School” has been known to move around or create satellite “classrooms”. The Belmont Lion’s Club, in Belmont Center, housed my first two years of “school”.
Last I knew, “classes” met every Tuesday and Thursday night. In New York City, under the auspices of Queen Sharon, apparently there was — or is — a Monday and Wednesday class. However the “classes” fall, they happen twice a week. The longer you are *in*, the more critical your stellar and unquestioning attendance becomes.
Ideas/ i.e. “Teachings”
The ideas that “school” pontificates come from the studies of G.I. Gurdjieff. However, “school” neglects to mention its source. “School” will tell you that “the work” is an “oral tradition”, insinuating that there are no published materials and that “you won’t find these ideas any where else”. It will neglect to mention publications by both Gurdjieff and some of his students, as well as the many Gurdjieff societies around the world, including one in Boston. In fact, if you want a wee handbook, order Jacob Needleman’s Introduction to The Gurdjieff Work, in which you will find outlines of the following ideas:
Aim, Self remembering; Self Observations; Three Centers — Intellectual, Moving, and Emotional; Man is Asleep; “The Work”, Multiplicity or Multiple “Is”; Essence, Personality, False Personality; Man as Machine; The Morning Prayer; Identification; Internal and External Considering; The Law of Three; Aim and Five-Week Aim; The Ray of Creation; The “Work Octave”; Necessary and Unnecessary Suffering; The Food Diagram, etc.
“Sustainers” – “School” assigns “sustainers” to meet with its newest recruits — known as “youngest students”– outside the hallowed halls, allegedly to help them navigate this new adventure. In truth, the “sustainers” main objective or “aim” is to retain the newer students. After telling the sustainees that their conversations are private, sustainers pass on pertinent information to “teachers”.
Beginning Required Reading: Hans Christian Anderson’s The Shadow, Robert Lewis Stevenson Dr Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, Ralph Waldo Emerson essays, a series of mysterious photocopied “lectures” that I believe were delivered by a Gurdjieff student named P.D. Ouspensky, but “school” will neglect to mention him.
Those are the nuts and bolts that I recall. I invite readers to contribute to this list of identifying factors. I’m sure I haven’t covered them all. Thanks for reading!