Good Men & Women, but Very Bad Wizards, or Sociopathic Con Artists?

Now that I was once duped into and eventually left a cult, I can truly appreciate the brilliance of The Wizard of Oz. It’s message stays current and probably always will. I have to say every ex-member I’ve spoken with — and at this point I’ve spoken with many — grappled with this question: is “school”, aka “the study”, i.e. Robert and Sharon, simply diabolical — brilliantly sociopathic, self-serving and unapologetic social engineers, without any regard for the damage left in their “wake” (cough) or are they “very bad Wizards” — well intended, yet mis-led and mis-informed. We can only speculate.

Maybe the blog monitors can clue us in — yes, I hear there are two (perhaps more). Hi Josh, care to share?

I’ve come to see this question as one of the stages many ex-cult members move through after leaving groups like “school”. It’s simply part of trying to understand a bizarre experience, in which people you admired and trusted, betrayed you in the most convoluted way. It’s part of the looking back, sorting out and reclaiming of your psyche, emotions, thoughts and — ultimately — life.

Like Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man and The Scarecrow, if you let yourself work through your cult days — talk to ex-members, repair “unschooled” relationships by revealing the “source” (cough) of odd, dismissive and often cold behavior, visit the sites on the resources page to learn what “school”, aka “the study” really is (hint, it’s not a secret esoteric school with ancient roots) you can find that what you sought from the group lived in you all along and still does; then you can claim it and the vulnerability that led you into “school”, aka “theStudy”, (I’m sure the name will go through another metamorphesis soon) falls away.

If you stay in “school”, aka “the study”, long enough, you start hearing “teachers” say that, unless you do “the work”, “school”-style, you’ll never “build a soul”. Of course, that claim, in and of itself, is fucked up enough to rate its own post. But for now, suffice to say, that, like everything in “school”, aka “the study”, and every other cult, the opposite is true. You go in with a soul — I believe every human is born with one — and “school” beats it out of you with its version of “the work”.

But if you leave the group, step back, and see it for what it truly is, a cult and a con job, forgive those vulnerable parts of yourself, and place the blame squarely on the shoulders of “school”/”the study” leadership, I believe you can unburden yourself and become very, very well acquainted with the very soul the group claims you don’t have. Once that happens, it will guide you and, as long as you’re guided by your soul — not by outside sources, especially nefarious outside sources, you’ll never be vulnerable to soul vampires again.

This halloween, I hope you recognize “school”, aka “the study” as a group of very bad Wizards, at best, and sociopathic con-artists, at worst, (it almost doesn’t matter where the group falls on that scale) and purge yourself of those soul vampires.


22 thoughts on “Good Men & Women, but Very Bad Wizards, or Sociopathic Con Artists?

  1. Aegis says:

    I didn’t get a notification for this new post. Did your blog subscription get wiped?

  2. Davud says:

    Hello GSR. Thank you for your writings. Very helpful for my decision to leave the “school”.

    • The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

      Hi Davud – I’m so glad! You’ve left just in time to escape “The Christmas Party”, the annual usurpation of the holiday season. Enjoy your “school/thestudy”-free Thanksgiving!

      Thanks for visiting the blog and commenting! It’s nice to know that it’s still reaching people.


      • David says:

        Hi GSR,

        I left a while back. I had one foot out of the door but worried about losing the “help” in dealing with my life and my own fears etc. Once I read your blogs I made a clear cut decision and at the same time found a great therapist.
        The cult finds its victims mostly in victims of abuse who actually need therapy. It gives them a substitute for therapy which makes them dependent on the cult. Like all psychopaths the cult isolates its vicims in order to control them.

        • David says:

          The funny thing is that Robert himself is a victim of Sharon’s psychopatic mind. He had a horrible relationship with his mother and Sharon used that to get him under her control. Psychopaths are geniuses at spotting what is missing in your life and finding ways to provide it; and then keep you hooked to use you for their own parasitical ends.

          It’s sad that the law cannot do much to protect society from psychopaths who feed on the soul and on the sweat of others.

          • The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

            Yep, I see Robert as a victim, too. Sharon is the sociopath on the top of the food chain; he’s just another “school” cog, the top cog in the Boston branch, but I think NY trumps all things Boston. It’s really silly, when you get some perspective, but tragic, too.

            When I first left and started obsessively researching cults, I used to wonder what Robert would have/could have done if not for his illustrious “school” tenure. I wondered what his dreams were as a young man — he could’ve gone into academia, or attended Harvard Divinity, or become a genuine business leader, as opposed to a guy who sells mattresses by day, and hocus pocus by night. Coulda’, woulda’, shoulda’ … he’s been in this group 40+ years, at this point. Can you imagine????

            Everyday — Every. Single. Day. without “school”, I am grateful to be free of it. I hope you are soaking up your cult-free existence as well!

            And, yes, it is sad that legal protections aren’t available for cult victims. It’s a huge problem. I just attended the International Cultic Studies Association (ISCA) conference and met a bunch of parents whose kids have been sucked into various groups. It’s heartbreaking.

  3. The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

    It makes me so happy to hear this! Congrats for reclaiming your life!!!

    Yes, you get the idea. This cult does what all cults do — take advantage of some emotional vulnerability and exploit it for selfish gain. All of these groups are the same. The outer presentation might be a religious group, or philosophy group, a yoga class, a self-help seminar, but once you lift the hood, whether it’s Scientology, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, or “School”/”TheStudy”, they are all the same. Abuse is abuse.

    You may have done this already, but I found it extremely helpful to read literature from cultic studies experts: Singer, Cults In Our Midsts, Hassan, Freedom of Mind, Jemsek, Quiet Horizon (still my favorite). I remember being shocked to learn that my beloved “school” fit all the textbook descriptions and definitions of what constitutes a cult.

  4. David says:

    I wanted to ask you about the “teachers”. Looking back I realize that they were all narcissistic and the school channeled their narcissism to serve its goals.
    I often had “negative emotions” against most of them, showing off their amateurishness, their egos, and treating the “students” like farmer handling chickens.

    • The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

      Oh, yes, those pesky, “not real” “negative emotions” 😉 So inconvenient for “school”, aka “the study”.

      I think what happens is everyone starts to model the top dog. So, someone like Josh (you reading this, Josh?) who probably began his tenure with the best intentions, and genuine desire to help people, starts moving up the cult ladder and, the closer he gets to the top, the farther away he gets from himself and his genuine intention — to better himself and help others. He instead starts to take on the character of Robert, who has for years been following the lead of the Alex/Sharon model — sociopathic, self-serving, narcissists. The farther up the ladder you are, the more abusive you become, because, at the end of the day, everyone is simply trying to garner favor from those at the top. Such is human nature, and the charismatic cult leader seems to instinctively know how to manipulate this aspect of our psyche.

      For better, or worse, that’s how I see it, based on my experience and what I’ve read. But, please, others can chime in, too!

  5. David says:

    Hi GSR. I read everything you wrote. It resonated a lot with my story, including that I ended up in a job I hated. The shty thing is that some years before being lured into “the work” I have been in therapy and it was very helpful for me to get through college and on. About 5 years after I no longer saw a therapist I had depression and anxiety issues that coincided with unemployment. So just then I stumble in “the work” which actually helps me but in a way that it serves its interests, not mine. The plain truth is that the “work” somehow managed to make me forget the fact that I could get help in therapy. How the f that happened I don’t understand.
    Luckily when I was talking to a friend about repeated problems I had with relationships and with employment – which are simply rooted in parental abuse – he told me I should see a therapist. At the same time I started googling and found your blog. I decided to quit school but start therapy right away. It worked.

    The enigma to me is how the school manages to completely block out of your mind the idea of therapy. Even more odd is the fact that I was listening to the horror stories of parental abuse in class and I was thinking that this person needs professional help to be healed, and after years of class help the person is no better off than the day they came in. They have not “evolved” aka healed as they hoped, but kept hoping. The “help” in class was only good for a few days with no long term effects. But the kicker is that while I kept thinking all this it did not occur to me to go seek help for myself.

  6. The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

    Hi David –

    A few responses to …

    “The plain truth is that the “work” somehow managed to make me forget the fact that I could get help in therapy. How the f that happened I don’t understand.”

    I don’t know if this will make you feel better, or not, but I actually had a Master’s Degree in Expressive Arts Therapy & had classes on ethics and power imbalance in relationships BEFORE my recruitment. Somehow it all fell away during my tenure … how, why? I don’t know … do I regret it? In some ways, but in other ways, I’ve certainly circled back to Expressive Therapies with a deeper understanding of relational power imbalances now.

    I got drawn in because I was seeking guidance — text book, really. We all get drawn in by some emotional need , or spiritual search.

    I often recommend Greg Jemsek’s book, Quiet Horizon to folks. He’s someone who got recruited into a Buddhist meditation cult, that, in reality, was a terrorist training network. This was back in the 70s. But … it does make me think about ISIS. Anyway, I found his writing voice to be compassionate and he writes about why some of us get drawn in … I found it helpful. You might, too.

    ” … But the kicker is that while I kept thinking all this it did not occur to me to go seek help for myself.”

    Yea, I’ll bet anyone who has graced the hallowed halls has had some version of this experience … maybe it’s not exactly “This person needs therapy”, but the underlying, s/he needs to to x & y, and — ironically — not looking at the self … that’s standard faire for us ex-members. I know I did it. For several months, after I left, for several months, I kept saying to myself, “What the fuck was I doing?” The blog, writing, posting, engaging with others, really helped!

  7. Leviathan says:

    There are a couple of things I wanted to address regarding this post and the comments appertaining to it. First, David – your comment on psychotherapy resonates with me strongly. When I was in the cult, I fell into a major clinical depression. I was suicidal, could not leave my house, could barely leave my bed, cried constantly. Through my family I found a psychotherapist who would prescribe an antidepressant but also insisted on therapy sessions, as any good doctor would. The drugs are not really helpful without the talk therapy. I was so deeply into the brainwashing that I actually called a ‘teacher’ to tell them that I was about to go on antidepressants. At class the next evening S was present. I was going to leave at the end, but the teacher said to me privately, “don’t you want to talk to S?” I didn’t, but I said yes. S had me put my head on her lap (eugh) and told me I could take the medication for three months, no more, to “get a window on life without depression, but by no means see a therapist.” Since I couldn’t get the meds without therapy, I just went to sessions anyway. And what kind of crazy thing is that, to give me a so-called three month window on life without depression? You would think she would want people to be depression free! I began a double life of hiding the cult from my therapist and hiding my therapist and meds from the cult. It was rough and that went on for three years until I finally left. This is why they don’t want you in therapy – it will help you wake up to what they are and eventually the cognitive dissonance will force you to make a choice, probably not in their favor.

    Additionally, it is interesting, GSR, that you selected the Wizard of OZ as an emblem of life after Cult! It was often upheld as a “Work-influenced” piece, or “C influence”. Baum was supposedly “connected to school” (no he was not – he was a socialist). But they used the symbolism of Dorothy and her companions to say it represented the centers, which was an OK metaphor but of course ignored the other 13 OZ books Baum wrote which have nothing to do with anything like “The study” or “the work” or gurdijieff, old con artist that he was.

    Finally, there was a fascinating article in the NY Times Sunday edition this past sunday on con artists and how they operate on your psyche, and why we get taken in. It had a small section on cults. Good reading – worth a posting of the link here – helps you understand how you got suckered in! Peace.

    • The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

      Thanks, Leviathan, for recommending the article. Here are couple paragraphs and the link. It’s worth reading:

      ” ‘Nobody thinks they are joining a cult’, David Sullivan explains. ‘They join a group that’s going to promote peace and freedom throughout the world or that’s going to save animals, or they’re going to help orphans or something. But nobody joins a cult.’ We don’t knowingly embraces false beliefs. We embrace something we think is as true as it gets. We don’t set out to be conned. We set out to become, in some way, better than we were before.”

      “That is the true power of belief. It gives us hope. If we are skeptical, miserly with our trust, unwilling to accept the possibilities of the world, we despair. To live a good life we must, almost by definition, be open to belief. And that is why the confidence game is both the oldest there is and the last one that will still be standing when all other professions have faded away.

  8. leviathan says:

    Yes, very interesting article, I thought. Although it deals most specifically with ‘confidence men”, ie the ‘con game’, there is a lot in there which explains the psychology of the victim – how they appeal to our very human nature.

    • The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

      Yes! It’s on the to-be-posted list … that’s a long, never-ending, ever-growing list. When it comes to cults, there’s no shortage of material. Yay.

  9. David says:

    Hi Leviathan. Congrats on making the break.
    Amazing the you lived the double life hiding the cult fom the therapist and vice versa. I took me about a month to garner the courage to tell my therapist about the cult, and my intention to leave. I asked him what would he do. He said he would have nothing to do with such people. I remembered that helped me make the final cut. Did you think of telling your therapist about it?

    • Leviathan says:

      Hi David – Sorry it took me a while to send you a reply! When I was living this double life there were no “evil bloggers” or “Negative Magnetic Matrix” (both terms I’ve heard have been applied to people outside who choose to be in contact, and to fight back. At that time, leaving meant you were isolated. No one definitively thought of the group as a cult, at least not anyone we heard from, or who said it. I felt, in my brainwashed state, that I had made certain promises to the cult about silence, and that I would try to honor that. At the same time, I felt that my choice for therapy was dangerous but vital to my survival. I knew S disapproved, I had been ‘punished’ in the past, so I chose to keep my therapy my own business (providing myself with the cognitive break that would later help me leave). This went on for three years. It was unbelieveably tense and awful. I would, however, talk about people in the group who affected me emotionally, particularly an old relationship, to my doctor. I would tell her they were part of an acting group I worked with. She found it all very puzzling! A month after I left ( at this time a group left, over about six months, and many stayed in touch, for the first time, getting together, trying to talk, trying to figure out our growing conviction that this group was destructive and dangerous to its members, as well as dishonest and fraudulent! I told my doctor at that point what everything had been about. I found it frustrating that as a psychoanalyst she was not particularly interested in discussing the group after the initial few sessions, but wanted to look back past it. I felt I needed direct work on what was a traumatic experience. I went through PTSD for a few years. This doctor left NY soon after and I switched to someone who was a bit more open but still would rather put the group into a pattern of life choices and coping mechanisms. Still, we have made headway. I went to see a therapist in PA for a session – he supposedly specialized in helping people. We met for several hours, but he mostly told me things I had already read in Hassan and books about Gurdjieff. He also seemed much more interested in some of the people who were close to S who had left, even related, and wanted to talk about them! And I was paying him. So that wasn’t particularly helpful!

      • The Gentle Souls Revolution says:

        Hi Leviathan – For some reason I am just seeing this comment. It’s such a shame to me that there aren’t more therapist who are skilled at addressing cult inflicted damange. After all, if you look at any abusive relationship the dynamics are the same. I am planning on using my Expressive Therapy degree to help ex-members – part of some future plans that will hopefully be unfolding this year. In the meantime, though, I’m sorry your experiences weren’t better. I got very lucky and found a great therapist … she didn’t have specific training, but understood enough about attachment, ptsd, power imbalances and abuse to really get it.

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