Last night, while stuck in an I-95 construction zone, I found myself mulling over sustainers. Recently a contributor confirmed something I have now heard from “disgruntled ex-students”, near and far, past and present. It deserves the spotlight, because it’s such an egregious lie, such a contrived “school”-perpetrated deception. It is also ridiculous, so I can’t wait to make fun of it in that future musical.
Here’s the comment, gleaned from a much longer story that you can read here: “I realized that school was a fake. I had seen sustainer reports by accident, so I knew how teachers knew supposedly secret information. Now I knew that none of them had any kind of advanced insight or knowledge or ‘secret powers’. I used this to temper my life in school the last three years so I could survive.”
Yes folks, it appears that your “private” relationship, those “confidential” conversations, were reported back to the “leadership”. I guess “school” kept a notebook — a dossier if you will — on each and every attendee. Our sustainers, fellow “disgruntled(s), were responsible for keeping us compliant, attending and contributing financially.
Part of retaining membership included reporting on our “progress”. Teachers would then, cleverly and insincerely, bring up private matters in class at key moments — as though psychic, as though they could see and know more because of their “efforts”; because they had been “doing the work longer”.
It brought back a scene in “class”: a “student” was asking for “help”. I can’t remember the context; I do remember that her inquiry was not related to relationships. After careful contemplation the “teacher” offering her guidance tipped his head to one side as though thinking, paused dramatically, then announced, “I sense that you are lonely.” His presentation was so tender, so empathic, that I was suitably impressed.
“Wow! How could M be so tuned in?” I recall thinking. “I consider myself an empathic person and I didn’t pick up on her loneliness!”
Obviously, this moment stayed with me. Perhaps my memory imprinted it because I had briefly experienced transcendence through this higher being. Or I sensed the deceit in his presentation. Maybe some cell in my psyche woke up briefly, allowing awareness of that gnawing feeling that all “school” attendees get — that sense of “something doesn’t feel right about this.” Most of us dismissed our perceptions, deferring to those “wiser, more evolved teachers.” For many of us had come to believe and repeat this phrase: “The more evolved ‘teacher’ must understand something that I don’t”
In the past, I have put out a call for any former sustainer to write a guest post about his/her experience. Perhaps it’s too hard to dreg this up, but if anyone whose been a sustainer could contribute some insight here, I would appreciate it. Perhaps a current “student” will find this blog and recognize the con job. Or perhaps your insight will provide peace to a former student who is still wondering if s/he has left “the source”. Either way, your truth would help to pull back the curtain, expose the wizard, and be of great service to those either seeking information and/or affirmation.
Dear Readers, Due to certain legal harassment, I had to edit a name in this comment. That is the only change I made and I try to leave most comments in tact as written:
I’ve been out of “school” for over 10 years, so my information is not up to date and my memory may be getting fuzzy on various details, but there are some things about being a “sustainer” — vicious word — that I’ll never forget.
The thing to know right out of the gate is that “school”‘s “sustaining” practices are highly regimented and choreographed, and they amount to a formalized process of surveillance and informing.
All (most?) of the “younger” “teachers” were sustainers. “Sustainers” were also selected from among the ranks of the sufficiently indoctrinated — “older” “students” who were sufficiently hooked to reliably carry out orders. As usual in that place where everything is the opposite of what it seems, the task of “sustaining” is presented to newly identified “sustainers” as a privilege, but really it’s a demand that you get the distinct feeling you’re not allowed to decline.
“Sustainers” were assigned a certain number of “sustainees” — 2 to 5 depending on experience and ability, as I recall. “Sustainees,” of course, are younger students who are not yet sufficiently indoctrinated. “Sustainers” were usually genuinely concerned about their “sustainees” and I think usually felt, at least at first, that they were truly being helpful with younger “students” in their “aim” to “evolve.” This is all of a piece with the demonic “genius” of the group, which is to play on and essentially co-opt people’s genuine feelings of friendship and responsibility in the service of a massive lie. For those of you keeping track on your Rodney [last name removed] scorecards, mark “sustaining” down under the Process of Crime.
“Sustainers” were required to call and/or meet with their people on a strict schedule, and were required to immediately report their conversations in detail to an older “student” in charge of collating and writing up all of the “sustaining” reports. “sustainers” were supposed to especially pay attention to any sort of “negativity” or any suggestion that the student might be having some sort of problem, either in their life or in their feelings, about “school.” They were also supposed to find out as much as they could about a “student”s work life, romantic relationships, quirks, troubles, embarrassments — all of the details of a person’s inner and outer life. “Sustainers” were instructed to assure “sustainees” that their conversations were held in the strictest confidence, encouraging “sustainees” to spill really sensitive and intimate information that the “sustainers” would then immediately report. Usually, the “sustainer” would get off the phone with a “sustainee” and then immediately call in a report, especially if there was some sort of problem.
Problems usually got passed right up the chain of command, to Robert or Sharon, and if the problem was considered important enough, they would issue specific instructions on how to talk to the “sustainee,” or they or a younger “teacher” would intervene. After a while sustaining, you came to realize that the only real problems, the only things that were really of concern, were retaining students, making sure they stayed and paid, and dealing with “leaks.” An awful lot of pressure got put on “students” with un-schooled spouses, as GSR likes to call them, through “sustainers,” “help” with relationships etc etc that never got brought up in class because “sustainers” had already dealt with it privately, under strict instructions and reporting every detail of supposedly confidential conversations. No one was ever supposed to leave! and better if they had no non-school friends or partners! all that problematic “life” stuff — problematic because it diverted a person’s attention, time, and money away from “school.”
Sustaining reports were printed and given to “teachers” before every class. If a younger “teacher” was in charge of class on a given night, sustaining reports often came with specific instructions (from Robert in Boston, from Sharon or one of her henchpeople in NYC) on what to bring up in class and what to avoid bringing up. THis is how “teachers” created the impression of clairvoyance and super-sensitivity, how they created the illusion that they could “see” more because they were on a “higher level.” It’s all fraudulent, all the result of a formal and enforced program of lying and betraying confidences.
For “sustainers,” “sustaining” was another “third line of work,” often as burdensome and time-consuming (and certainly as highly scrutinized) as recruitment. “Sustainers” themselves were kept under strict observation and control. Woe to you if you didn’t call in your reports on your “sustainees” before a class, or if you didn’t deal with a “sustainee’s” negativity or other problems in a way that Robert liked. There were “sustainer” meetings, outside of class times, where “sustainers” would compare notes and talk about techniques and “help” each other. In Boston, Robert would often hold court and instruct or berate as the circumstances warranted.
Don’t be fooled: recruitment and retention are the only things the people who run “school” really care about, along with secrecy. “School” doesn’t only have secrets it keeps from the outside world. It also has secrets it keeps from its “students.” “Sustaining” practices are among the most damaging of these secrets.
Warren Peace, Big thank you! This is the stuff that is soooo important to disclose!!! People need to know this, they need to know the level of manipulation and deceit. They need to know that as a “student” in “school” you are ultimately seen as income and slave labor. Your life is being hijacked. That’s what cults do.
Hi GSR — I know you moderate this so you can modify or delete if something that follows is problematic . . . but why on earth would you need to censor Rodney Collin’s name? Student of Ouspensky, died in 1956, one of the four main authors whose books “school” used to openly assign, alongside Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, and Maurice Nicoll. The discussion of the Six Processes is in his “Theory of Celestial Influence,” still readily availble
Ooops. Well that’s embarrassing. 🙂 Perhaps I should share some context for my … mistake, paranoia:
1) I’d heard of “school’s” litigiousness. I’d seen their legal efforts. Now I can confirm their misuse of the court system through personal experience.
2) Obviously, I didn’t know who Rodney Collins was (I heard from someone else today that he committed suicide). Now I do. Until now he was one in several names floating in the background since I left “school”. I’ve been researching and reading about cults. Honestly, I haven’t read Gurdjieff’s books, or the work of his proteges. (G just strikes me as another cult leader, so when I’ve tried to read his stuff, I just get annoyed) That being the case, when I read this, “For those of you keeping track on your Rodney Collins scorecards, mark ‘sustaining’ down under the Process of Crime”, I thought he was another teacher from corporate headquarters.
3) I intentionally limit the use of last names in general on this blog. This blog is about sharing experiences and making those experiences available for others who are seeking information, wondering about this mysterious and secretive group. Of course, now that I know he’s dead, and not a “school” clone, the sky is the limit …
Thanks again for your comment and the info. I hope you will continue to comment.
Sure, GSR, no worries — I was just wondering if Collin was suing you from beyond the grave!
It’s astonishing to me that you were in “school” for 5 years and never read Gurdy or the books of his followers. It’s an earmark of just how secretive and evasive the whole deal seems to have become . . . “Dirty things love the darkness.” Mm hm, yep, and the corollary has to be “Things that love the darkness are dirty.” “School” seems to have “progressed” to the point of stealing other people’s work and ideas and passing them off as its own. Is that an example of “evolution”?
The story of Collin’s death is dramatic and often sensationalized. He fell to his death from a bell tower in Peru, “likely suffering from high altitude sickness,” as Wikipedia describes it. I don’t think there has ever been much suspicion that the fall was a suicide. But whatever. This is all by the way.
Hi Warren Peace,
“I was just wondering if Collin was suing you from beyond the grave!”
Perhaps his spirit has inspired this “action” … maybe he’s a demon possessing the body of the petitioner. Stranger things have happened, yes?
“It’s astonishing to me that you were in “school” for 5 years and never read Gurdy or the books of his followers. It’s an earmark of just how secretive and evasive the whole deal seems to have become . . . ‘School’ seems to have ‘progressed’ to the point of stealing other people’s work and ideas and passing them off as its own. Is that an example of ‘evolution’?”
Seems an appropriate comment for this particular post, because it reminds me of the time my sustainer said to me, “You won’t find these ideas anywhere else.” I never even heard of Gurdjieff or Ouspensky until I left the ranks. One of my colleagues once came across The Fourth Way, In Search of the Miraculous and The Psychology of Man’s Possible Evolution and brought them in to share with the class and the teachers wigged out.
You can read more about that scene here: http://cultconfessions.com/2012/08/27/the-january-2012-mass-exodus/
I assume the deleting of the attributions came about as the internet became more and more ubiquitous. It’s too easy to find “school” when you use Rodney Collin, Gurdjieff and Ouspensky as search terms. I still have all my books – not for nostalgic purposes, but because the box they were packed into when I moved 20 years ago was only recently unpacked.
We were assigned to purchase and read Ouspensky’s “In Search of the Miraculous” as new students. The instruction was to read it quickly, not stopping to try to understand specifics. “Whatever sticks,” was the experiment.
Man is a sleep. Self-remembering, many “I’s,” actually I don’t remember too much at this point.
It would be good to have exact quotes of the terms in current use, so that they can be added as tags – thus allowing discovery by curious current students. What texts, if any, are used? Collodi’s Pinnocchio was always a favorite. Grimm’s? Shakespeare?
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Hans Christian Anderson (another favorite), Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, The Bible, Alexandre Dumas’, The Count of Monte Cristo (often read for 5-week aims) … Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina … I’m sure there’s more I’m not recalling at the moment. There’s an “approved reading list” that I never saw.
I’ve been wanting to create a school glossary, but it’s time consuming and haven’t done it yet. But including a compiled list of the terms and texts on this blog would probably be a good idea.
I’ve been thinking about a glossary of work terms, too. I’ll start writing a few down and email you with them. Some could be pulled from earlier posts on this site, too, such as the three storied house, third line of work, and sustainers.
Hi, I would greatly appreciate that! Anyone else who wants to contribute, I’d be happy to assemble the glossary of terms and create a static page. Also, I’ll be able to add all of the terms into tags for search purposes. Perhaps this glossary of terms could become a coordinated and organized effort …
Aegis, you definitely sound like someone who has a better grasp on IT than I do. I also don’t have a lot of patience with, or time for, research on Search Engine Optimization. I appreciate any guidance you could offer to make this site more … umm… findable (is that a word?) … can we chat via email sometime?
Thanks to you both!
The Odyssey, of course, is also a favorite …
If anyone ever needed a hint that things aren’t OK in ‘School”, it would be the fact that a five year student had never heard the names of the ‘teachers’ of the ‘work’ (please assume quotes, not so much in irony but to contextualize my very healthy skepticism)!
When I left my first reaction was to read all and everything I could find about cults and about the fourth way’s people and history. Although Collin’s death as suicide and/or murder (by the young boy who was in the tower with him) was never investigated seriously, one thing that is striking is that all four major teachers of the fourth way – Ouspensky, Collin, Nicholl, and Gurdijieff, repudiated it. “There is no system” . Ouspensky, after hiding out in NJ during WWII (to much criticism in England, his adopted country), died a depressed alcoholic who took long rides with his four cats; Nicholl committed suicide, Orage was a depressive, Gurdjieff spent his later years trying to resurrect his glory days, writing incomprehensible nonsense (beelzebub’s tales) and possibly collaborating with the Germans during WWII to maintain his own comfort. He had a few small groups after Fountainbleu, but never anything substantial after he broke it up. A great, out of print history is “The Harmonious Circle” by James Webb. Also interesting is “Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon”, which is about the different spiritualism and esoteric movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
For me, reading about what I was supposed to have been involved with and the actual, factual history of these people who had been held up to me as saints, number 8’s, evolved, and then also to read about the cult experience and process was the best way for me to understand what I had been through. There was no website then, and people were just beginning to hesitantly be in touch with each other. There was very little support, and it was hard to find anything like a counselor or therapist who would or could give the validation that this was indeed a traumatic event and could help one recover from it. What to do but make my own understanding? One therapist I found took about $400 from me for a 2 hour session, told me nothing I hadn’t found out already, and asked me a lot of fascinated questions when he found out I knew the children of the cult’s leader. He expressed a real desire to work with Them, yeah boy! (I know, he probably should have paid me).
On sustainers: I had two. My first was someone I really couldn’t stand, and I never changed that opinion in my dozen years in school. Her dreaminess and conviction that everything was ‘amazing’ and breathless quality of asserting that she Knew, and oh no, why would you ARGUE about it, such NEGATIVITY. She made little sense and got peeved if you disagreed with her or objected to anything she said. As soon as I saw that pissed off look break through the dreamy hippie-dippy facade, I knew she was phony through and through (not alone in that opinion). After two months she was taken off my case and I was given another sustained, much jollier and more approving. I’m sure my resistance to number one was noted and the switch was planned.
Funny – number one loved to order me around after that, and she inadvertently revealed the truth of sustainers. Years later she was on bed rest and we all had to go help her out with anything she needed. After one such session cleaning her home, she gave me an envelope and told me to make a copy of the paper inside without looking at it and give to another older student at class that night.
As soon as I unfolded the paper to place it on the machine I saw the name of a young student and labels for “first story”, “second story”, etc, plus listings for the “centers”. Each area had a few sentences. My “essence friend” had a clear a childish scrawl that leapt off the page and I could not stop myself from seeing that this was a repot on the person’s life. After that intro, I read the whole thing. At this time and in this place, sustainer reports were apparently weekly and on paper in this strict format. The student’s status with job, finance, relationships, emotional state, feelings about school – all were laid out in a “work” like cover.
By this time I had been without a sustainer for a number of years. But my second sustainer, when I admitted to smoking some pot with friends (breaking the “no drugs” rule – a rule more in place to prevent tangles with the law than to keep students ‘illicitly opening the doors of perception’), my sustainer took it very seriously and asked me a lot of questions. Considering the amount of booze people drank, I found it hard to find this breaking of the rules all that serious. I didn’t intend to break them again. But my sustainer claimed if I did it again, she would have to report me. Suddenly my heart began to pound. I didn’t want to be kicked out. I would leave if I wanted to – at this point I was still going it one month at a time – but I didn’t want to be ‘told’ on and get kicked out. I had already seen people humiliatingly dismissed in front of everyone. When I again broke the pot rule a few months later, I agonized in guilt. I didn’t tell my sustainer. no one pointed a finger at me. I didn’t smoke pot again for many years. But I realized after seeing that report that the reason I didn’t get in trouble was because NO ONE KNEW.
Towards the ends of my first year in school was my 30th birthday. I rarely stood up in class to speak as my first two ventures at this had brought sarcasm from F and in my first meeting with her, a slapdown from S “This is NOT true confessions!” (really? You coulda fooled me.)
This night had passed safely and we were about to end when an older student stood up and said firmly to me, “So and so, WHAT is going on with YOU?” Not catching the tone, wanting to get away, I said, well, things were pretty good, actually, I felt good to be here (they weren’t too bad in some ways – I had a new job which was exciting, I felt life was opening up in some ways,) but I must have been expressing my ambivalence about school to my sustainer. The teacher rained down on my head sarcastic, demeaning, belittling comments, even calling my smile “Nimby namby”, telling me to “get real, man”, telling me to dress differently (I had lost some weight for an aim and was wearing clothes that fit; all women were supposed to wear shapeless silk tents like S did ). It went on for a while. I was crushed. No one knew it was my thirtieth birthday, or so I thought. My sustainer had a lot of things to say about it the next day – how timely it was, then, and what did I think of that, and the burn was good – I should burn it in. It was an appalling experience. My need to please was activated. I stayed in school.
Sustainers – years later, I found another woman, an older student who I liked, putting together a sheaf of sustainer reports. This person would later be instrumental in the circumstances of my leaving. she told me she was going to have them copied and she left. I noticed that the copying took her over an hour. Later she told me she had used this weekly chore as a way to avoid being in class. This I understood as I used a regular assignment for the same reason – out of the boredom, out of the line of fire.
Still later I learned from one of these people that S was given an envelope with the copies of the reports to read. One evening S was given one envelope with the reports and one with ten thousand in cash.. In the cab, S left one of the envelopes- the one with the cash. Thee student wrongly assumed that S would be glad not to have lost thee reports. the student was distressingly wrong. What happened, I asked?
A coterie of older students had been sent to all cab companies to search for the envelope. They had offered rewards. The anger was boundless. Did they ever find it? I asked her. “No” She said. Apparently some of the older students had eventually cobbled together the money to make it up and given her another $10 grand. The older student told me “Until that time I still thought she would have been more concerned about the reports”
Hi Triple Agent –
Thanks again for providing great info:
“… all four major teachers of the fourth way – Ouspensky, Collin, Nicholl, and Gurdijieff, repudiated it. ‘There is no system’. Ouspensky … died a depressed alcoholic who took long rides with his four cats; Nicholl committed suicide, Orage was a depressive, Gurdjieff spent his later years trying to resurrect his glory days, writing incomprehensible nonsense (beelzebub’s tales) and possibly collaborating with the Germans during WWII to maintain his own comfort…”
Aside from being search terms, little wonder “school” neglects to mention these “evolved” teachers in today’s “classroom”.
“ … she gave me an envelope and told me to make a copy of the paper inside without looking at it and give to another older student at class that night. As soon as I unfolded the paper to place it on the machine I saw the name of a young student and labels for ‘first story’, ‘second story’, etc, plus listings for the ‘centers’. Each area had a few sentences … this was a report on the person’s life. After that intro, I read the whole thing… The student’s status with job, finance, relationships, emotional state, feelings about school – all were laid out in a ‘work’ like cover.”
This is exactly the kind of thing I want this blog to reveal. Ugh. To think that these assholes have kept some kind of a file on my private life, provided by my trusted sustainer. It makes me furious. I can see why “school” glommed on to work/money as my area of weakness because for one thing, it was my area of weakness, but I didn’t share much about my relationships. In fact, my sustainer was shocked to learn that I was engaged. I remember her saying, “I didn’t know you two were so close.” I also remember making a conscience decision not to tell “school” about my relationship to my fiancee … some defiant “I” in me said if “school” is to be kept “private” from him, then my relationship to him is to be kept “private” from “school”. God knows where that voice of sanity came from, but I’m glad someone was standing guard, although “school” managed to do a fair amount of damage despite it. Luckily, I left before the damage became irreparable.
“… I didn’t want to be kicked out. I would leave if I wanted to – at this point I was still going it one month at a time – but I didn’t want to be ‘told’ on and get kicked out. I had already seen people humiliatingly dismissed in front of everyone. When I again broke the pot rule a few months later, I agonized in guilt. I didn’t tell my sustainer no one pointed a finger at me. I didn’t smoke pot again for many years. But I realized after seeing that report that the reason I didn’t get in trouble was because NO ONE KNEW.”
I see this as important, because the feelings are so familiar to me. I certainly kept “secrets” from “school”, although when I look back now, I see my “secrets” as personal decisions made by an adult. I felt guilt about these decisions — funny thing that guilt about making personal and truly private decisions for myself (as opposed to “school’s” privacy — i.e. secrets to be kept for it’s “aim” of income growth and student retention) I also recall feeling fear around being “kicked out”, while simultaneously wishing for it, or wishing for the courage to flip “school” the bird and walk out. How is it that we become so quick to dismiss our own feelings and perceptions? I need to explore this in a future post … and, like you, Triple Agent, despite my guilt, not one highly-evolved being cued into my omissions. Funny that.
“One evening S was given one envelope with the reports and one with ten thousand in cash … A coterie of older students had been sent to all cab companies to search for the envelope. They had offered rewards. The anger was boundless. Did they ever find it? I asked her. “No” She said. Apparently some of the older students had eventually cobbled together the money to make it up and given her another $10 grand.”
Money. That’s what “school” is about. Money for S. I expect R, too. That’s what all cults are about: mo’ money and an addiction to power over others.