The BAIT — It’s the same — the most recent trotting out is a recycling of the Eleanor of Aquitaine & Hildegard von Bingen “lecture” or “presentation” — ironically, the one presentation that afforded me a recruit, who is thankfully “school” free now.
Recruiters still orchestrate magical moments out in “only life”, sussing out those with “magnetic center”, striking up “spontaneous” conversations –perhaps asking questions about a book he/she happens to be reading, or inquiring “which historical leader do you admire?”, for a “project”. These inquiries still lead to invitations to special presentations, produced by mysterious groups.
Surprise, surprise, the “lecture/presentation” still makes reference to “secret organizations” and “hidden erotic knowledge”.
The cult still follows up as it used to, inviting targets on coffee dates, introducing them to other “friends” and eventually to Robert, who extends the exclusive invitation!
The Robert meeting still includes a minion who will go get his coffee for him, positioning him nicely as “leader”. He still pontificates about the state of “sleepwalking humanity”, a group with a purpose to awaken intelligent, thoughtful individuals to a higher state of consciousness, and allusions to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. The initial invitation is still pitched as an experiment! The only difference is that back in the day it was a five-week experiment! Now it’s a one-month experiment!
The “school” rules! remain the same:
- No fraternizing with other students outside class.
- No discussing the class with outsiders – it’s a secret society, if anyone asks, call it a “Philosophy meetup” …
- No Google searches on anything said during class, “the internet is full of misinformation” … (as you can see! 😉
- No hallucinogenic drugs, such as marijuana or LSD.
The HOOK is essentially the same, somewhat more vague — with so many potential Google search terms that might pull up a “disgruntled ex-student’s evil blog”, a good cult must proceed with caution, it must really shape it’s loaded language.
The “youngest classes” don’t meet in Billerica; the word is that newbies — roughly ten, give or take– have been floating around to various meeting rooms in Boston-area Marriott Hotels on Monday and Thursday, for two and a half hour “classes”. They are presently floating away from the Marriott – perhaps threatened by recent departures.
Lisa, Robert, Josh and Michael “teach” the “youngest students.
The classmates are still intelligent and thoughtful people, simply looking for kindred spirits, good conversations and some authenticity in this crazy world.
Tai Chi Michael is still doing his thing, teaching the form, so to speak (cough).
Sustainers are referred to as the-person-you’re-working-with … apparently this title makes for some awkward moments in class “discussions”, and difficult web-search potential, although it’s such an odd title, who knows, maybe it would pull up a blog that’s properly optimized.
“School” still omits mention of The Fourth Way — but includes its ideas — multiplicity, sleep-walking humanity, self sensing, the four centers – intellectual, emotional, moving and instinctive — conveniently not mentioning said source of those ideas, Gurdjieff.
“Self-observations” and “five-week aim“– now referred to as the “five-week commitment”— still prove effective indoctrination tools.
The cult still expects its minions to schedule vacations around it’s illustrious classes and demands. It also warns inferior minions away from outside Tai Chi classes, claiming, “An outside class will interfere with your work, here.”
Students are still bringing teachers their coffee (and whatever else they add to the coffee) like servants.
“Sustainers” or “the person you are working with” still meet with charges once a week.
The SINKER — “School/The Study/Class” still omits mention of the following:
- The Theater of All Possibilities founded in San Francisco in the 1970s by Sharon Gans and Alex Horn.
- Corporate headquarters in New York City, and it’s myriad of names, “Odyssey Study Group”, “The Work”, and “The School”. Gans heads up corporate.
- Robert is her number two – he lords over the inferior Boston satellite branch. Hundreds of students have passed through the hollow halls, coast to coast, over decades.
- Sleep deprivation
- Arranged marriages
- Long “retreats” spent building houses for Sharon
- Chronic emotional abuse.
- Allegations of physical and sexual abuse in the past.
$350 a month tuition per student, plus large donations from wealthier members, puts Gans’ annual take at $1,000,000.