Are you curious about how “school”/”the study”/the Odyssey Study Group came to be? If so, visit my New York City counterpart’s blog: The Sharon Gans Cult News Blog. That particular “disgruntled ex-student” happens to have much more insider info than I, as he attended classes at corporate headquarters … I was just a cog from “school’s” poor cousin, the Boston branch at the Faulkner Mills Building in Billerica.
I think that you’ll enjoy this latest post: The Rom Con
The episode notes on Slate’s website — “Virginia Heffernan talks to Steven Hassan, author ofThe Cult of Trump, about why we fall for cults, Donald Trump’s brainwashing, and stories of his own deprogramming from a political cult in the 1970s. “
The content is more about how cultic dynamics relies on our social wiring, and how neuroscience now explains cultural influence through media and how it can be manipulated, then our current “president”. They give a nod to him, but mostly talk about the power and momentum behind him, which has been building for decades through various cults, some posing as “christians.” (Like the Moonies, but must notably, the group that initiated “national prayer breakfast “The Family, Mike Pence’s cult ).
I found it both insightful and (dare I say) hopeful, as Ms. Heffernan reminds her listeners that cultism is counter-adaptive. Those of us who got swept into hypnotic cult states leave when we recognize the point at which group requirements became destructive to us, as people. It is at that moment, that we realize, wow this group has been lying to me.
I had that wakeup moment and can attest to it! I hope America will start waking up – I mean do we want our Judicial system to became illegitimate? I don’t think so.
Anyway, I learned quite a bit in this hour & it was time very well spent!
I left “school” in 2011. To this very day, I still laugh when something in the real world contradicts the cult’s claim of being “invisible”. Apparently, it is quite visible to several people who work at the Faulkner Mills Building, in Billerica, Mass; according to this reddit post, people have been wondering about this super-secret group for years, including a building owner: https://www.reddit.com/r/cults/
“School” made it into reddit. Who knew. Someone should let the blog monitor know. Now you’re gonna have to read reddit, too.
I admit, this post is a tease. It’s meant to point you to my new website, where I’ve posted a graphic identifying Cultic Red Flags. But I also want to talk about an 8-episode podcast called Escaping Nxvim — you know Nxvim, the sex-trafficking, women-branding, cult. I’ve listened twice. Both times the uncanny similarities between cult lite, “school”, with the worst of the worst, Nxvim, struck me. While the former is far more extreme, the recruitment & indoctrination are the same.
Every cult that I’ve heard about, read about, or studied, to date uses the same basic recruitment & indoctrination strategies. The outer marketing varies, but the inner manipulation is the same. Once you know those hallmarks, you quickly recognize cons . You can reverse engineer the damage, by using the group’s ammo against it. That’s what Sarah Edmondson did when she left Nxvim. It is also what my buddy, Sir Tubman, did when he left “school” AND he took half of his “class” with him. You can read about that HERE.
Now Keith Raniere, Nxvim‘s lead narcisisst, is in jail. Here’s a report from The Guardian: “Raniere… was found guilty of all counts against him, including racketeering, forced labour, sex trafficking and child abuse images charges. The jury reached their decision in less than five hours of deliberations.”
Thanks to Ms. Edmondson, and the other brave ex-members who spoke out, Raniere is in prison where he belongs. Unfortunately, there are always more scumbags and con artists lurking, I don’t know why that is. But YOU don’t have to be vulnerable. Educate yourself, protect your privacy. They will bug off.
Greetings and welcome to the Holidays, 2019! Party time is upon us. Usually, I’m riddled with reminders of “school’s” annual holiday hijacking and thanking God that I’m no longer part of this all-consuming soiree. This year, I’m not thinking about it that much.
I’m thankful that “school’s” seasonal larceny is becoming a distant memory, a blip in the screen. But the Christmas Party did come to mind as I passed by a Christmas Tree stand and remembered a tree scamming story told to me by a fellow “disgruntled ex-student”. I found it entertaining & hope you do, as well. Here goes …
Every Christmas teachers sent out some poor cog to scam a free tree. They insisted on a donated tree. Yep. It’s a weird cult-loyalty test thing. Anyway, in 2011, the tree scammer baton got handed to my one and only recruit.
I’d already left at that point and had been obsessively contacting him, driven by guilt, and determined to get him out. I was encouraged that he always took my calls & he told me stuff – he was leaking to the enemy!
He was also struggling — as we all did every season — because, as designed, the shindig wedges between members and non-members, wiggling back and forth, isolating them at the very time when families are planning their parties, or getting presents, or decorating houses, or attending church services together. I was treading lightly, inviting him to say the unsayable & trust his spidey sense. Yes, something is wrong with this picture … I wasn’t sure if he’d bolt as soon as I criticized school.
SO as he’s struggling with doubts, a teacher instructs him to scam the tree, “Tell them you’re throwing a party for underserved children … because, as students, we are like children.” You know, something altruistic, as opposed to the truth: the $350/month, esoteric mystery school (cough, cult) I’m in, wants me to scam a free Christmas tree with fine radiations from you, because as a cult, it feels entitled. Merry Christmas!
He called a merchant, who asked, “What’s the name of your organization?” He fumbled, explaining, “… emmm, we don’t have a name.” The immediate response was, “No.” He told me, “That’s when I realized that they’ve heard this crap before.” He said f*ck this, and bought a tree. He knew he couldn’t possibly confess to buying it without getting a load of crap. So he decided to experiment … would these highly evolved beings know if he employed some clever insincerity on them?
He told the class, “I brought my guitar to the tree place and offered to sing Christmas Carols in exchange for a free tree. It worked!” The he waited to be called out. Surely one of his teachers, or long-time member, those who’d been doing the work longer, would know that he was bullshitting, right? Wrong. All praised him for his innovation and cleverness, as though he’d hit the “school” pinnacle! Not one of those highly evolved beings sensed the complete fabrication. By the New Year, he was gone and he took a number of classmates with him in what we now call The Great Escape.
You know, it never occurred to me to lie at “school”. After I left, many disgruntled ex-students told me that they started making shit up about all kinds of things: tree scamming, making new friends (also known as the pretentious ‘third line of work’) certain instructions, assignments and more! I guess that “school”/”the study” (whatever it’s called now) is good at Clever-Insincerity training. How inspiring.
If you’re reading this, you’re either “breaking rules”, or already free. Cheers to either your rebellion, or your school-free holidays & school-free life!!! Of course, you might be the Blog-Monitor. Whatever the reason, may the season be good to you!
And Blog Monitor, (Geoff??? Josh??? Who is it today?) try to imagine a life without having to monitor this site. You must have better things to do. But while you’re here … I’m sure that there’s been several name changes since I left. Perhaps even since the New York Post ran that article earlier this month. Feel free to fill us in on what “school” calls itself today.
Politics and cult-i-ness keep colliding these days. I’m obsessed with the shit-show playing out in D.C. As I watch Democratic lawmakers present the testimony of credible, law-abiding, career, public servants who have witnessed daddy Don’s White House crime spree and the Republicans who defend their lord and master, no matter what stupid shit he does or says, the comparison to “school” & Sharon is unavoidable.
In the meantime, though, here’s another political and cultic collision: Gun violence. Last week there was ANOTHER DEADLY SCHOOL SHOOTING – three dead, a 14-year old boy, a 16-year old girl and the 16-year old gun “man” who turned the gun on himself. Three wounded, all teenagers. We’ve become so inured to random shootings in schools, concerts, movie theaters, churches, and synagogues that this tragedy barely registered in the news coverage.
Perhaps you are a sane person who has been baffled by the callousness with which certain lawmakers, or talking heads on Fox, treat these heinous & avoidable public tragedies? This next bit might explain some of why gun nuts are cold, soul less, callous and heartless. Indoctrinated cult members often become callous to human suffering. I recently learned that The Moonies, aka The Unification Church, have been selling firearms for decades, bolstering the wealth of the Moon family.
“In 1969 Rev Moon directed his followers to sell guns …saying, ‘all Unificationists must take an interest in guns now that I’m doing business with guns … we definitely need a defensive fence to shield ourselves from a satanic world attack.’
Moon called the American gun market, ” … a golden market. It is virgin soil … there are unlimited resources.” Seems that he was right.
Moonies, version 999.0, includes something called Sanctuary Church. Headed up by 40-year-old Pastor Hyung Jin “Sean” Moon, son of the late Rev. Sun Myung Moon, members are required members to own AR15s, or AK47s. Moon, JR, himself wears a crown of rifle shells. Here he is holding a gold-plated AR-15.
The Washington Post quotes him praising Trump’s asinine comments after the Parkland shooting: ” …’He said if the teachers were armed, they would have shot the hell out of that guy. This is the first time we’ve heard a president talk like that. This is God’s grace, folks.'”
These wanna-be-dictators are always kissing up to each other!
If you’re curious to learn more about the gun-touting Moonies, here’s a PBS Report: https://www.pbs.org/video/sanctuary-church-zlgxxt/. I haven’t watched it yet. But probably will, even though the hypocrisy makes my head explode.
But it’s just another day in America, at the intersection of politics and cult-i-ness.
Since it reached back into “school’s” roots – 60s-70s, San Francisco – I decided to repost the following missive about The Theater of All Possibilities, led by Alex Horn. Click articles to read accounts published back in the day about allegations of violence, sexual exploitation and child neglect. “Teachers” don’t share “school’s”/”the study’s'” illustrious beginnings. They often vaguely allude to luminaries from the past or periods of great creativity and intellect: the existentialists, the Renaissance, and such. Occasionally, Robert announced, “… it has been said that [Hans Christian Anderson/Henry David Theroux/Shakespeare/Jesus Christ/Bugs Bunny/ etc. etc. etc.] was in a ‘school’...” his claims, always preceded by the pretentious, “it has been said…”
In my post-school rule breaking –i.e. internet research about “school”– I bumbled into an author named Thomas Farber. The Fulbright scholar, and English professor published a book, Tales for the Son of My Unborn Child, copyright 1971. It chronicles characters and vignettes from his mid-to-late 60s adventures in Berkley, California.
On a whim, I ordered Farber’s book because Chapter 10, Getting Religion, recounted his Alex Horn encounter, including …
“… Alex was right in front of Joe, telling him to say something honest, just one clean word. Joe faltered, and Alex hit him hard with one quick punch to the heart, slapped him backhand across the face, and said: ‘Joe, straighten up or get out.’ ” p. 137
” … Alex stepped into the circle and grabbed her by the wrist. She pulled away. He held her tight and, with the greatest deliberation, hit her very hard, once, and then again. She screamed, she cried, and in a delirium of vitriol, pain, and outrage, she ranted … And then, with a great effort, she broke loose, ran to and crashed through the glass door, and stumbled to the street calling for help. Two men started to go after her, but as they rose Alex said, ‘Stop!’ They froze, we all froze, and, as we held the positions of the moment of that call, Alex ordered us to do our Work. We did, even as her sobs and cries reached the room from the street below.” p.144
Isn’t that inspiring. “School’s” illustrious beginnings. Robert’s first “teacher”. Sharon’s deceased husband.
If you’re “breaking rules” in search of the truth about “school”, you can order Farber’s book on Amazon. When you read the Getting Religion chapter, the pretentious language will sound very, very familiar: “We are a group that works together to build higher levels of being ..” “We aspire to something finer” “we must first confront the worst in ourselves, our mechanical-ity, our sleeping state …” “with the help of the work we may be able to remember ourselves” “Here we try to get past self-pity, we try not to live on our imaginations., we try to do our being-duty…” “The Work is to go beyond life, to build being. Chief weakness … begin with self-remembering … pass false personality to essence…” ” … we were stars, that from the stars we chose a life on earth.” “there was a wolf in us, too, which had to be fed …” “there was no time for unnecessary suffering …”
Blah, blah, blah.
Farber, eventually left this iteration of “school”. He concluded that Alex was sincerely trying to do something (I guess) worthy, writing: “Who can judge him?”
To which I’m happy to respond: Horn sounds like an asshole.
So, my dear readers, those are the roots of our illustrious “school”. Couple that with your own experiences and come to your own conclusions.
If school duped you –like it duped me– into sinking $350/month into this cuckoo group, and you wondered “… what happens to all that money?” Then you also knew better not to ask. The article above provides answers! I learned an awful lot today – so much legal wrangling and shifty real estate moves.
Additionally, Boston-branch members, it will give you a little window into NY, or what I like to call Corporate Headquarters. Maybe some of you had no idea that Boston is the poor cousin. The “real” school resides in the big Apple!
Anabel Sosa & Emily Bowden, I can’t imagine the number of hours spent digging through old tax records and court filings, as well as all of the interviews conducted, but thanks for all of your hard work! It’s sure to set some folks free from cult membership, and keep others from joining altogether. Cheers!
Addendum: I guess the word is spreading: https://www.thesun.co.uk/news/10328580/inside-the-secretive-nyc-theatre-cult/
I’m going to interrupt my angry & snarky political ranting to make a few recommendations. First off: I’ve been reading Malcom Gladwell’s newest publication, Talking to Strangers. If you are reading this blog because you want to understand how you got caught in the cult trap, read this book.
In talking to ex-members, I’ve noticed a common pattern – many (though not all) report distinct emotional stages following their exit from destructive groups:
Stage 1: they feel as though they “failed”. They “didn’t try hard enough”, or ” have what it takes”. They must be “weak” and inferior to the members that remained.
Stage 2: time passes, in recovering cognitive abilities, they gain cult-free perspective, the group influence falls away. They view weird memories from a growing distance, slowly recognizing that maybe, just maybe, there was something wrong with the group, not them.
Stage 3: What follows? Shame at having trusted the untrustworthy alternates with anger at those who perpetrated the betrayal. In retrospect, hindsight being 20/20, the hustle is obvious.
Stage 4: they ask themselves, “How did I fall for that?”
Gladwell cites Tim Levine, a psychologist & author of the upcoming book, Duped: Truth-Default Theory and the Social Science of Lying and Deception. He says that, “How did I fall for that?” is the wrong question. “The right question is: were there enough red flags to push you over the threshold of belief? If there weren’t, then by defaulting to truth you were only being human.” (p.79)
“We fall out of trust-default mode only when the case against our initial assumption becomes definitive … We start by believing. And we stop believing only when our doubts and misgivings rise to the point where we can no longer explain them away.” (p.74)
“Belief is not the absence of doubt. You believe someone because you don’t have enough doubts about them … ” (p.78)
We are pack animals – our survival depends on our collaboration. By nature, trust is our default mode – mistrust comes onlyafter one has gathered enough evidence. Yep, my experience corroborates – I decided to leave “school” only after a bout of insomnia & a solitary pre-dawn walk. I circled a soccer field, over, and over, and over, memories flooding me, reviewing evidence – things about “school” that didn’t sync up, claims that didn’t hang together – while worrying, would I ruin my life by “disconnecting from the source”??? Watching the sun –the source of all life– rising, suddenly made it clear: referring to “school” as “the source” was fucking ludicrous. That claim still makes me crack up.
Gladwell begins his book with stories about double agents who duped brilliant, intelligence, CIA officials. People who were trained extensively to recognize deception. Why? Because humans are wired to trust each other.
So stop beating yourself up and read this book. Let me know how it resonates, or doesn’t resonate, with your experience.
BTW, if you find Gladwell’s book helpful, Maria Konnikova’s book, The Confidence Game is another good one!
About The Family: I just started watching this docudrama about the “christian” group (cough, cult) that initiated the National Prayer Breakfast & has been infiltrating D.C. for years and years. The show has its critics, however, it does provide context as to why Don Don, in the middle of spouting off about the merits of his trade war with China to the White House press, turned to the sky and prounounced, “I am the chosen one … “
According to the show, The Family believes that some are “chosen” and some aren’t. Those who are chosen could do whatever they want — rape little girls, shoot someone on 5th Avenue, it doesn’t matter, they are “chosen”. The Family embraces all kinds of nefarious actors and murderous dictators, as long as they don’t expose the group, and do follow the dictates of this specific group, or at least appear to …
If you’re still wondering how evangelical “christians” support Don Don no matter what – he brags about “grabbing pussy” they still support him. He rapes a 13-year old with disgraced and now dead pedophile, Jeffrey Epstein, they still support him (come on, folks, raping a 13-year old falls right into Mr. “grab-em-by-the-pussy-cuz-when-you’re-a-star…” wheelhouse). This docudrama provides some context. Don Don is the “imperfect vessel”, or at least that’s how they justify the hypocrisy. (Side note: “imperfect vessels” are one thing – supporting a narcissistic, sociopathic, rapist, wanna-be-a-dictator-like-Putin, that’s an entirely different story)
The Washington Post calls it a Must See … yea, I agree with that. If you want to understand the politics of today, it’s definitely worth your time.