Sanity Savers in the Age of the Trump Cult …

  1. Randy Rainbow! If you can see him live, RUN! Don’t walk. I saw him last night. We gave him a standing O before he sang one note! If you can’t see him live, check out the tune he submitted to the Trump campaign for its “campaign song” contest, Suckers For You.

2. Help me and my two talented songwriter friends Susan Levine & Lindsay Dobb, raise funds for Planned Parenthood, MASS this coming Sunday, at The Burren, Davis SQ –> –> –> –>

Nuts and bolts info:
* The Burren Backroom, Davis Square, Somerville* Sunday, 8/4, 7:30 pm. 
*$12 in advance, $16 day of show. Use Coupon Code 24HOUR for a $2 discount on advance sale tickets. Purchase Tickets here:

3. This podcast: Truth Be Told – This episode of Truth Be Told explores a question: is it okay to be joyful when so many terrible things are happening? The conclusion: feeling joy is essential! Take a listen. See what you think.

The Sharon Show

… bad for business

The Sharon Show

Yesterday, I was discussing “school” with someone and I told her that I would post an excerpt, written for one of my many cult-related projects. It depicts the first of a handful of Sharon visits to “school’s” inferior Boston-branch satellite. She swooped in from corporate headquarters in New York City, I guess, to impress us … or to demonstrate that Robert was an underling. I was still new to the hallowed/hollow halls at the time. I had no idea that there was a corporate headquarters – in fact, I didn’t learn about NYC until after I left. So when the following bizarre scenario unfolded, rather than impressed, it left me freaked out. I almost left … wish I had. Oh, well.

Here it as, as promised. (You know who you are 😉

One night in class, some months into my tenure, we were following the format: tai chi, then the silent march to our seats, but something felt different. There was more nervous whispering in corners and rushing around than usual. Something was up. Suddenly Robert burst through the door, strolling arm in arm with a short, round lady wearing lots of makeup. Skirt and scarves flowed behind her, as she hung off of Robert’s arm. Mascara and eye shadow weighed down her lashes and lids. 

To me this lady looked as though she’d busted out of the locked unit of a psychiatric ward. Robert beamed at her with a childlike reverence. I had never seen Robert defer to anyone, so his adulation was weird. He escorted her purposefully to an overstuffed armchair that someone dragged to the front of the room. He assisted her into its cushions – turned to us, the minions, swept his arms like a ringmaster and announced: “Ask your questions.” 

No introduction? I was confused, “Who is this creature and why are we asking her questions?”  I didn’t ask that question, though. I watched and listened for clues. One by one, soldiers stood, and waited for her to call on them. She granted some permission to speak and ignored others. The chosen meekly asked for her “help”. Her “help” toggled between effusive compassion and abrupt rebukes of character. At some point, someone must have addressed her by name: Sharon.

Sharon’s “help” sounded like word salad to me, but to my nodding classmates her babble seemed to land as gospel. All the while, others scuttled to and from the kitchen, serving her food and drinks.  The hairs on the back of my neck stood on end. Where did she come from? Why was everyone acting like she was the Queen of England? Why did Robert spring her on us – no forewarning, no introduction? 

Sharon, waved her hand, granting a fellow student whom I will call Linda permission to speak. Linda started talking about Yoga. Sharon (who appeared barely able to walk without Robert propping her up) replied, “Yes, I practice yoga, too.” Linda then said something about hearing angels. Sharon’s tone hardened: “What do you mean you hear angels?” Linda stuttered, but Sharon interrupted. “I’ve been doing this work for 40 years,” she barked, “…and I have never heard angels. Why are you lying?” Linda stuttered again, but Sharon interrupted, launching into full frontal character assassination. We watched in shocked silence; it seemed to come out of nowhere. “Why are you lying?” accelerated into “Why don’t you leave.” 

It wasn’t a question. Linda stood up, gathered her belongings and walked silently out the door, head down. A fellow student named, whom I will call, Natalie, stood and said, “I’m leaving, too.” She gathered her belongings, walked to the door, turned around to say, “I love you all” before disappearing. 

I was squirming. Cognitive dissonance took a fever pitch as my mind fought with itself: rebels debated loudly with my starry-eyed believers. “What the fuck was that? Stand up! Say something!” the rebels demanded. “No … don’t draw attention to yourself! I don’t want that mean lady to point her dagger at me,” the intimidated believers insisted. They won. I lost my voice.  I sat there wishing that I was as brave as Natalie, but I wasn’t. I wanted to leave. I didn’t.

The next day my sustainer called, asking, breathlessly, “What did you think about ‘class’?” “I thought it was upsetting.” I replied. “Why?” she asked, “What happened?” I said, “Who was that weird lady?” And reported my experience. She encouraged me to “bring this up in class… ask ‘teachers’for ‘help’.” 

The next class was a special debriefing that teachers called the “impressions class.” We were to reflect back on our transcendent experience. Most people were commenting on how direct, how unafraid, how amazing she was. Robert turned to me, “I hear that you were upset.”  Obviously, my sustainer had broken our “confidentiality”. (Thanks, Karyn!)

I said, “Yea, what was that about? Why did Sharon kick Linda out?” A teacher named Jeanine, piped in, “You’re identifying with Linda.”  In a rare moment of courage, I replied, “Of course I’m identifying with Linda; who wouldn’t?” I can’t remember how she responded, but I got the message: someday, this will all make sense to you. You haven’t been doing the work long enough.It worked. I stayed.  

That’s how I learned about school’s top narcissist-in-chief. The Sharon Show trounced through to demonstrate that Robert wasn’t the head honcho. And still, during my tenure, no one explained who she was beyond “Robert’s teacher.” No one ever mentioned that the Boston “school” was a satellite branch to a corporate headquarters in New York City. Many Boston students never know about corporate, let alone that there are teachers offering “help” to unmentioned seekers in unmentioned classrooms across state lines. I’m guessing that the New York teachers omit mention of Boston to their minions, too. 

The Sharon Show only graced Boston a few times during my tenure. After a while, to my relief, she faded away. I have to wonder whether other newbies got freaked out by the dog and pony show. Maybe Boston leadership told New York leadership to keep her at bay. 

The Sharon Show was bad for business. 

Sex Traffickers and Cults use the same recruitment tactics

… just ask that scumbag, Jeffrey Epstein.

Good morning, readers – I hadn’t planned on posting today. But I just read this article: New Jeffrey Epstein accuser: He raped me when I was 15.

Her recruitment into Epstein’s lair …
At 14, “a young woman approached her outside her New York City high school. ‘I was kind of a lost kid and she sensed it,’ Araoz said.”

“The woman was friendly and curious, asking Araoz personal questions about her family, her upbringing, their finances. Soon she began talking to Araoz about a man she knew who was kind and wealthy and lived nearby.”

At the time, Araoz was grieving her father’s death. And she wanted to be an actress: Her grooming …

“… the woman showed up outside her school multiple times and even offered to buy her a soda or lunch nearby. “She was definitely trying to get to know me,” Araoz said.”

The woman eventually took Araoz to Epstein’s home:
“She recalls Epstein telling her that he had heard a lot about her and felt terrible about her father’s death. Epstein insinuated that Araoz was ‘very lucky to have met somebody like him’ and ‘that he could really help me,’ she said.”

She returned a handful of times with the other woman, “and left each visit with $300, Araoz said. Epstein talked about donating money to AIDS charities, which struck a chord for her given her father’s death, and wanting to help with her career.

He talked up his contacts in the acting business and mentioned that he owned a modeling agency. Araoz recalls him telling her that ‘I should be a model and all these things that young girls like to hear.’ “

The two women, one a young teen, visited Epstein together for a while and then …

” …the dynamic changed that first time she showed up alone, Araoz said. Instead of talking downstairs, Epstein escorted his 14-year-old visitor onto his elevator and brought her deeper into his seven-story home.”

You know what happens from there; but if you need to confirm your instinct, read the article.

Boy, did those tactics ring familiar to me. How about you?

Whether 14, like Araoz, or 41, like me when recruited into “school”, our emotional and social needs remain the same. And if you’re not aware of that, if you’re not cognizant of the red flags, if you don’t know how to meet those needs, you’re vulnerable to scumbags like Epstein. This article was heartbreaking to read. But I’m heartened that this brave young woman has now spoken out. The damage is done. Thanks to our rape culture, this predator has gotten away with damaging many, many, young women. But I hope that Araoz finds empowerment in calling him out and I hope that the others will join her.

3 Things: protest cruelty; the cult media outlet supporting Trump; an important quote …

Good Morning Readers – this is gonna be a quick one. I wasn’t planning on writing today, but I can’t stand abuses, gaslighting, and injustice. I might as well use this little platform to speak my mind:

  1. If you’re I’m furious about the people who are getting very rich off of our tax dollars to torture asylum seekers, including children, there are protests both in Boston and Lowell at noon today. I know that no one has time for this shit, but it’s the unfortunate reality now that Republicans are letting Don, Don do whatever the f he wants – I’ll be in Lowell. Maybe I’ll see you there:
    Boston – JFK Federal Building, 15 Sudbury Street. 
    Lowell – Jack Kerouac Park.

  2. Yesterday, for some reason, YouTube tagged me in a pro-Trump demographic. I started seeing ads from Epoch Times, a news outlet run by the cult Falun Gong. Boy, are they trotting out the Trump propaganda – somebody made a graphic depicting how the Obama administration “spied on the Trump campaign” and “created a false narrative about Trump shining Putin’s shoes…” (I’m trying to not be crude, but you get the idea) Funny thing, those ads sounded exactly like Don Don, not so much like a legitimate news media outlet. The fact that a cult paper is propping up our Putin-appointed “president” would be hilarious, if it weren’t so horrifying. Heads-up folks, some will, in fact, believe that Epoch Times is “Clear, fact-based journalism without spin or hidden agendas.” (I.e Gaslighter Times)

  3. I couldn’t sleep last night, so I re-read the article My Life in A Cult and want to share one more quote:
    I know all this sounds nuts. Today, looking back, it’s hard to believe that I didn’t see it for what it was. But what I have come to understand is that these kinds of groups don’t function under the same, sober logic of the rest of the world; they are ruled by the irrational, mercurial dynamics of abusive relationships. Like junkies, we were powerless to the drug which we needed just to feel normal. We were so thoroughly gaslighted by Sharon that we believed leaving would be worse than staying. ” 

    This is important. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wondered, “What the fuck was I thinking.” But cult membership has naught to do with thought; our social wiring, plus emotional needs, makes us vulnerable – all of us… well, unless, of course, you’re Sharon, or Don Don, the narcissists and thieves; parasites who can only thrive by sucking the life out of others, and get off on seeing those others suffer, or as they say in Germany, schadenfreude.

    Okay, I’m done venting … for now. I hope that you’ll join me in sharing your outrage about our current political shit show. Now that the political party formerly known as “Republican” (how quaint) is the Trump Cult, there really is no bottom.

Freedom, Truth, & “School”, NYC, a Memoir …

The whistleblowers shall set you free

Good Morning & Happy July, fellow “Disgruntled Ex-Students” and Rule Breakers!

Independence Day holds special significance for me. One silver lining of my 5 years in cult lite: I really get freedom. For as Tom Waits sings in San Diego Serenade, “Never saw the morning, till I stayed up all night.

Fireworks over DC Mall, 2014

I never understood that free speech equals free minds, until I gave my voice away. Never understood the old saying, The Truth Will Set you Free, until I found the truth in a website called Esoteric Freedom. It exposed “school” lies. That freed my mind.

Here’s a source of truth for you: My Life in a Cult. The author spent 23 years in corporate HQ (i.e. School, NYC). This article is an excerpt from his forthcoming memoir. Perhaps his story will mirror yours. Perhaps you will see that a new “friend” is vetting you, or did vet you.

My recovery required understanding what happened. I wound through and unravelled “school’s” convoluted “clever insincerity”. It was 2011 and Esoteric Freedom exposed the cult’s seedy history, additional classrooms, “businesses”, arranged marriages, bizarre baby-swapping practices and the like. The lies became so stark that my cult coma snapped. Key moments that had always haunted me suddenly, made sense – for example when Lisa, my recruiter, told me, ” … I met my husband in an acting class. It’s hard to explain.” I thought, “Oh my God, ‘school’ arranged her marriage! No wonder she changed the subject.”

Esoteric Freedom handed me the key: truth. I released my story into this blog, stumbling and bumbling into recovery — reclamation of self though authentic voice. I will forever be grateful to Esoteric Freedom and the site’s creator, who took risks to expose the cult as a public service.

Unfortunately, “school’s” scumbag legal maneuvers took the site down — that’s what cults do, after all. Cults don’t like being called cults. L. Ron Hubbard built the litigation template for cults and “school” implemented the Scientology strategy. Those with wealth can intimidate and silence whistleblowers through the courts. Free speech anyone?

But truth does come out eventually and it will help you. So, I strongly recommend, this thoughtful, raw and honest account of how and why “school” ensnared an intelligent, articulate, educated young man for 2-plus decades. Truth is the medicine that your soul needs. There are reasons too vast for me to explain here why these con games work. (I’m writing my own book about that). For me, these two graphs boiled down the intentions of ALL cults. They all use the same playbook, altering details slightly, to isolate and foster dependency. I thank both of these whistleblowers and I look forward to the reading the entire book.

There but for the grace of God go I, part 2 …

About Nxivm and Allison Mack …

Sometimes I joke with my fellow “school” mate about “cult lite”, i.e. “school.” Seriously, though, my “school” days could have been much, much worse. True enough, this cult did rip apart my psychology, but thanks to my husband, I left before its darkest and most destructive practices infiltrated my life. The damage inflicted only made me stronger. And I’m aware that one more month, week, or day may have been just enough time to f*ck me up for my remaining years.

Michael Cohen’s public testimony before Congress inspired a post titled, “There but for the grace of God…part 1”. After the Trump White House, with its loyal monkeys and sycophants (i.e. the political party formerly known as Republican) Nxivm is next in line for the most vile cult on the planet. So … here’s part 2 of “There but for the grace of God…”

Smallville star, actress Allison Mack, is now facing up to 20 years in prison and has pleaded guilty to racketeering and racketeering conspiracy because of her involvement. The New York Times recently published this piece …

From ‘Smallville’ to a Sex Cult: The Fall of the Actress Allison Mack

It’s worth reading. I was tempted to pull out a number of bullet points. However, I’m just going to share the two that hit me hardest:

  1. According to the article, Mack and Christine Lakin (of the TV show “Step by Step”) are close friends and that Ms. Lakin described Mack as having a “touch of naïveté”, saying, “The person that I knew way back when was very curious about the world and relationships. I think she was just constantly searching for something that was missing in her life.”

    Yea, I get that.

  2. Here are the last three graphs of the article:
    “When Ms. Mack appeared in court in April to plead guilty, she wore a camel-colored mock turtleneck and tired eyes.

    Her small voice wobbled as she spoke. She apologized. She wept.

    ‘I believed that Keith Raniere’s intentions were to help people, and that my adherence to his system of beliefs would help empower others and help them,’ she said. ‘I was wrong.’ “

    I get that, too.

    Who knows, really, why Ms. Mack’s vulnerabilities pulled her more deeply into Nxivm, than mine pulled me into “school”. I could just have easily stumbled into a parallel fate, losing everything, instead of freely practicing my free speech via this blog.

    I get that, too.

    Cults are evil and vile. And I thank God that I escaped mostly unscathed, though exponentially more cynical, but equally more hopeful.

    Remember, Gentle Souls, there are people in the world who simply don’t deserve your focus, attention, energy. Your power lies in the power of saying no to parasites like “school”, like Nxivm, like the Trump brigade.

    That’s what I learned and thank God for that!

Need something to read? New Yorker Article – My Childhood in a Cult

Good afternoon Readers –

Several people emailed me links to this article: My Childhood in a Cult.

I just finished reading and recommend it for several reasons! What I appreciated the most – no glorification, no salaciousness. In fact the author, Guinevere Turner, says of her childhood in “The Lyman Family” –a group that fancied itself destined for Venus– is this: “Cults are fascinating — but one thing the Manson Family and the Lyman Family have in common is the banality of daily life inside these worlds … there are always dishes to wash and heaps of laundry to hang up to dry. The travel plans for Venus took place against a backdrop of these everyday chores.” Or … “It wasn’t all acid and orgies.”

She also points out “irrefutable truths” of cult-i-ness, such as …
“a cult never calls itself a cult” & the presence of a “… charismatic, complicated leader” (i.e. Mel Lyman) & one who constantly issues “new rules for living”. By the way, Lyman apparently memorialized himself in the book, Autobiography of a World Savior. Additionally, cults always have to include mystical components – the Lyman’s preferred the Ouija board and a spirit they called Faedra.

Other familiar characteristics: the family were the only people with souls. In “school” you could “grow a soul” but only if you followed the “instruction” to the letter. After leaving, Turner’s mom would tell school administrators seeking records, “Oh the school burned down.” Turner’s reaction: “It was the first of many lies we had to tell to seem normal.” In “school” we called such lies, “clever insincerity”.

In my opinion, the most important and poignant line was the subtitle: Growing up in an apocalyptic cult wasn’t nearly as hard as leaving it. To be clear, the group told Turner to leave. She was still a kid when the group stuck her on a plane to Boston to pick up her 4-year old sister, who lived in the Boston-branch compound.

Years later, she returned to visit the “family” before heading to college. She was tempted to stay, to blow off college. “These people really knew me … I felt a surge of love and belonging.” But it turned out to be too late, for her. As a World Person, she could see it — the gender disparity. Women served. Men dominated. That’s the way it worked inside the “family”. “… the custom put me in a kind of panic.”

Interesting that the more dramatic, salacious cultic aspects came as an afterthought in her article … a kind of, I should tell you the “hard things” way … “…kids like me were punished by being locked in a closet for a whole day, or being deprived of food, or being beaten while everyone else was brought out to watch…” Etc.

I think that there are two interrelated human characteristics that make people especially vulnerable and able to normalize abuse: social wiring, the need to belong, and identity, the need to know and be the person you’re meant to be, your authentic self. Often times the social wiring, the need to belong, over takes the need for authenticity. That’s how deeply it runs. Turner writes, “It’s been four decades since I begged to stay, and I still care what they think.”

Alternately, though, these two characteristics are also the components that set us free from predatory groups — the need for authenticity is, itself, deeply wired in us, as well. For as Emerson once wrote: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. Turner says “I had to accept that I had become a World Person” … in other words, a woman who didn’t want her life reduced to serving men. She then returned to The Others, the World People.

Now she writes screenplays and teaches at UCLA.

So … if you feel the need to read about cults this weekend, if you’re still grappling with a personal misadventure, if you’re feeling alone, her article is definitely worth your time.

Some Resources via Podcasts

Hello, Readers – this is a quick post to share some helpful resources. It turns out there are tons of podcasts about cult-i-ness. If you’re trying to understand a cultic misadventure, or feeling isolated and alone in your struggle check out the following – they might be helpful.

Generation Cult – produced by a journalist named, Dhyana Levey. I don’t know the details (I can’t seem to find a bio) but it sounds like her parents got involved in some group and brought her with them. The pod is quite good and I especially recommend it for those born in or raised in cults.

Indoctrination – Marriage & family therapist, Rachel Bernstein, hosts this pod and it’s quite extensive. She interviews ex-members and experts, saying, “I wanted to start a show that gives survivors a chance to tell their stories and for experts to teach us what they know. My goal … is to empower our listeners to protect themselves and those they love from predators, toxic personalities, and destructive organizations.”

Heaven’s Gate– Hosted by Glynn Washington, of WNYC’s Snap Judgement, this heartbreaking account comes from interviews with ex-members who escaped before the before the mass suicide and family members of some who did not escape. It’s been a while since I listened to it, but I remember being impressed and touched by Mr. Washington’s sensitivity and compassion for his interviewees.

Uncover: Escaping NXIVM – By now, if you’ve got a beating heart, you’ve heard something about this heinous group, branding members, forcing sexual relationships with its creepy leader, Keith Rainiere, now on trial in New York for a myriad of crimes that include human trafficking. Producers Josh Bloch and Kathleen Goldhar tell the story of Sarah Edmondson’s twelve-year involvement and how she eventually left.

Memes from “School” or “The Study”, or …

…whatever “school” calls itself these days.

Recently a small group of my friends helped me think through one of my cult-related projects. It got me thinking about the platitudes that school trotted during my tenure. All cults do this – it’s protocol. Loading language is cult 101

“School” platitudes are mainly drawn from Gurdjieff’s Fourth Way teaching, but not all of them. It might be helpful to share “school”-specific memes — perhaps some “rule” breakers seeking information about a weird group will recognize them. And I’d love it if some “disgruntled(s)” felt inspired to add more to the list!

These are the pat “school” memes that were popular between 2006-2011 …  

  •  private, just-for-you
  • “No unnecessary talking” 
  • ask for help
  • what is your aim?
  • magnetic center
  •  seal yourself off: Do. Not. Leak.
  • protect the invisible world! 
  • No Internet research: it will poison your experience!
  • “… those are only life things.
  • Essence Friends 
  • essence flaw
  • it-doesn’t-matter-what-you-do-as-long-as-you-are-working.
  • internal considering vs. external considering
  • You must not be trying hard enough.
  • clever insincerity – people lie; we can’t help it. So lie cleverly, with intention.
  • do what’s necessary.
  • …. you’ll get it if you Do The Work Long Enough … 
  • intentional suffering
  • you’re identified with [FILL IN BLANK with whatever]
  • “Work begets work…”
  • You need to “build will”
  • Do you have “sufficient valuation”?
  •  Everyone needs “HELP!”
  • work against pictures of yourself
  • “You have all had your own experience of school …”
  • “…maintain a healthy skepticism, while extending a nickel’s worth of trust.” 
  • “… life as experiment.”
  • “worlds within worlds” 
  • “You’re identifying with [FILL in BLANK w/whatever].” 
  • ” …you’ll understand, when you’ve done the work long enough, you will understand.”
  • Five-Week Aim: ‘your aim is your God.’ ‘what is your aim’?
  • ” … if you’re working on yourself, it doesn’t matter who you marry.
  • ” … the non-expression of ‘negative emotions’. “