When it comes to morphing, recruitment invites a veritable potpourri of creative cult contortions. It’s risky! A “school” recruiter must be “awake!”. How else would it continue to save lost souls, keep the wheels spinning and increase profits without exposing the invisible world?
“School’s” recruitment machine sucked me in after about two years of tenure; at that point the leadership must have deemed me appropriately indoctrinated. (Learn the cult’s five-step recruitment process here: How to “Join” a Cult, re-post and here: Cult Education – A History and Analysis of Sharon Gans Group.)
Recruitment-rule morphing plays out in various ways…
THE WHERE TO RECRUIT: During my first pass at the “third line of work”, we were to go out and talk to Boston area grocery-store shoppers, coffee drinkers, parents at playgrounds, co-workers, friends, fellow commuters, etc. etc. etc., anywhere and everywhere. Make new “friends!” You never know where the next generation of seekers may be! Turn over every stone!
But at times, “school” declared various neighborhoods off limits: in Cambridge, Harvard Square, Central Square and Porter Square — easily the most frequented areas; in Somerville, the ever-popular Davis Square; Arlington Center, also off limits. Apparently evil “disgruntled ex-students” frequented these town centers and would interrupt recruitment-in-process. A corroborator told me that corporate headquarters also declared hot spots over the years …
“ … no recruiting in the Village in New York because S and I lived there; at another point all of New York City south of 14th street was off limits…”
THE WHO SHOULD RECRUIT: Because of the danger and sensitive nature of this “third line of work”, it’s best to send out the most experienced troops. Yet recruitment is critical to “THE WORK” and — at times — like say after a critical mass of “students” leave simultaneously — “school” must have all hands on deck.
Another “disgruntled ex-student”, circa 1990, told me this…
“When I joined, no new student recruited – this was a ‘very special third line of work’ and you had to be really advanced to be asked to do it — we thought. There was a small group of people on this, including a couple of newbies, who had great success and were in favor and advancement because of it (although we didn’t know that at the time).
When the recruitment success stopped, so did the favoritism and the punishment begin! The small group technique went on for years – about 14 people or so, led by a teacher, who had ‘permission’ to socialize in the name of the line of the work -‘Go do fun things together! Go to a play, go to concerts, talk to people! It’s normal …”
The Boston branch tries to rope all students into the “third line of work” or “work for ‘school”. Once you’ve attended long enough, “school” deems you “ready” — a privilege, “necessary for one’s evolution”! Without contributing to “school”, YOU WON’T EVOLVE. Congratulations! You are now ready to neglect your outside relationships even more to recruit “younger students”! (By the way, “school” NEVER used the word recruit).
I recall Saturday morning meetings: 7 a.m., at a Watertown park. We discussed tactics, our progress and/or lack thereof; our recruitment coaches allayed our objections about the deceptive practice, offering justification for the “clever insincerity”: “School’s” invisibility must be maintained! Remember what a poor slob you were before you encountered “school”! You might meet the poor soul who can reverse global warming and simply needs “help” to do so … blah, blah, blah.
I hated it, but I complied, thinking myself lazy; I needed to “work against my pictures of myself”, I believed. But the practice stirred a revealing cognitive dissonance inside me — my anger at my recruiter, Lisa, started bubbling up … I hadn’t signed up for this. I’d joined an informal group that “discussed ideas … laughed a lot … one in which people came and went, casually…” I hated myself for practicing the same deception on other unsuspecting souls; the pretense of “making new friends” made my skin crawl.
Simultaneously, though, my “school” stupor reminded me how I’d “benefited from school”. Pat “school” phrases played out in my mind– others are seeking enlightenment! It’s selfish to keep the answers from those seekers. I must be in the dreaded and evil states of “internal considering” and identification (“school”-speak for selfishness) — I am worrying about how my recruits will feel about me when they learn of my convenient omission of cult-ic details. Needless to say, I wasn’t very successful. I once recruited a friend, who I pried out after I left. He returned only once to spread the word to his colleagues, spurring a mass exodus (read about the Great Escape here).
After leaving the ranks, I learned that some “students” simply refused to recruit; some pretended to do it and lied about their efforts. When I think about how earnest I was in my attempts to do something that rubbed every cell in me the wrong way, it makes me laugh to know that I could have simply said, “No. Not doing that. Good luck to you.” In my mind, saying “no” to a “school” demand wasn’t an option.
THE WHO TO RECRUIT: Another “disgruntled”, circa 1990, told me this recently:
“… you couldn’t recruit anyone with relatives in the military, the police, any type of para military organization such as firemen; this list was built up — when I first started recruiting it was just military, reporters and cops, or anyone who had relatives in these organizations. And you had to find this shit out!
Also the income level kept rising – when I joined there was a low level because I only made $30,000 a year. By the time I left it was up to $45,000 and it is apparently higher now.
When I “joined” Robert told me that “school” wouldn’t deny its “education” to someone simply due to lack of finances. Perhaps this was because, at the time, I was temping at a whopping $15 an hour; for some reason, he decided to dismiss the income requirement — perhaps “school” was desperate for new blood. But when I began “making new friends” a recruitment coach urged me to find out more about a potential recruits finances. This “new friend” clearly had plenty of money. I briefly snapped out of my stupor long enough to disregard that “instruction” … thankfully, I was disturbed by it. After leaving, I heard that $60,000 is the current required income. Perhaps someone out there can comment on this.
THE HOW TO RECRUIT: another “disgruntled”, circa 1990, nodded to an oft-used common cult recruitment practice, that “school” has taken on: “lectures”, or “presentations”.
“… I was there when they started the lectures, and then they put everyone onto recruiting because they just weren’t getting new people. They had ridiculous aims like 100 new people in a month, then they would punish everyone, but what the hell. I left before they figured it out – seems they did because I learned later that they built up quite a large rotating class, which met entirely separately from everyone else and was never troubled with Sharon, or third line, or anything else, so they stayed. Eventually they might be integrated into the bigger older class.”
During my tenure the “lectures” morphed into “presentations”. Every time someone slipped and used the word “lecture” during a “class discussion” several devoted “school” doobies would correct the offender: “You mean presentation, don’t you???” Perhaps the “lectures” were getting a reputation out in “only life”. Who knows. I’m certain these “presentations” are alive and well, happening somewhere (generally, they were presented at some hotel conference room) under a new name.