The Best Definition of a Cult: Evil Posing as Good

Once I heard International Cultic Studies Association’s Executive Director, Micheal Langone, call social parasites and scavengers like “school” evil posing as good. He was presenting at a conference on spiritual abuse. I was struck by his succinct elegance.

Today’s best example of evil posing as good has to be a fucked up group called Nxivm, headed up by a sociopath named Keith Raniere. He was recently arrested and charged with sex trafficking and racketeering. If you want to understand the worst of the worst you can read this New York Times article about the damage perpetrated by Nxivm: The ‘Sex Cult’ That Preached Empowerment.

A number of ex-“school”-mates and readers have brought both this group and this article to my attention, asking me to post about it. I am quite fortunate that my misadventure was silly in comparison. School inflicted its share of damage, for sure, but just enough for me to wake up and get the fuck out, so I could recover, vowing, never again: cult lite, as my dear friend, and ex-classmate, 007, like to call it. But I’m trotting out my little tale, in part, to expose the deception and the damage it inflicts and groups that do far worse.

One of the ex-Nxivm members interviewed in the article –who was led into a ritual by other members who neglected to tell her that she was about to get branded … yes, branded — said … ” … Nothing was what we thought it was.” That’s right. All cults trot out some bullshit because no one joins cults. They are always the antithesis of what they claim to be.

Here’s another tidbit from the article: “Breaking down identity was only the first part of Nxivm — replacing your identity with another, or ‘replacing data with data’, in Nxivm speak, was the second part. As Nxians erased their fears, they began doing what they truly wanted to do with their lives (or perhaps what Raniere or high-ranked members wanted them to do)…” My bets are on the latter.

Multipurpose: 1. “presentations/lectures” 2. CD release info 3. music sample …

Hi Readers – this a quick one for some nuts and bolts:

1-The “lectures/presentations”: “school”/the study/the-cult-with-no-name often recruits by recycling “lectures/presentations”. A generous reader provided some titles & topics carousel-ed through the merry-go-round. If a “friend” (old or new) randomly floats a vague invite to a thing addressing an esoteric topic … if they can’t provide basic details: where, when, who, what … if your friend tows you to a hotel conference room. If the presenters provide zero info on who they are, but aggressively insists that you fill out a contact card, beware & hold on to your wallet! The following topics may indicate cult recruitment:

  • WHO IS THE EARTH?
  • FOUND IN TRANSLATION, THE GOLDEN AGE of SPAIN
  • MOZART, I CAME TO MYSELF IN THE DARK WOODS
  • THE DEVINE FEMININE

Apparently “school” uses and claims other people’s research. Given that “school” claims its ideas — i.e. The Image result for the fourth way bookFourth Way — are an “…ancient, oral, teaching passed down from teacher to student …”, that ” … you won’t find anywhere else …” this is no big surprise.

2-Questions about the Cult Confessions, CD Release, on Saturday, June 9 — some are asking how long the show will be. So FYI, The Burren Backroom hosts LOTS of music. Me and The Lied To’s have the room from 7-9; at 9, we are ushered out, as another band starts its show. The last time I was there, the demographic shifted considerably between the 7 p.m. show and the 9 p.m. show 😉 Just sayin’. Long story short, we aim (cough) to be efficient!  On at 7, off before 9 to say hello, sell records, pack up and clear out. It’ll be fun and quick 🙂 Hope you can join us! Here’s a coupon code: 24HOUR for a discount. Buy your tickets HERE.

3- Here’s a song for your perusal: Some Bridges Should Burn (this one is cathartic!)

 

Hope to see you! Have a lovely day, ERF

 

 

 

Cult Confessions in the Somerville Patch

Now that I’ve put on the ex-cult-member-poster-child cape, and created this artistic anti-cult campaign, I have to promote it. Churning out the material was my recovery — it’s what I did, as catharsis, to understand my bizarre and surreal 5-year misadventure. I’m wired to process experiences this way: through writing, songwriting & presenting.

The next level is activism and advocacy. During the creating part, I didn’t think too much about p.r. Needless to say, it’s a double edged-sword. It’s hard enough to promote an artistic endeavor, but promoting yourself as the anti-cult, ex-cult-cog poses another layer of challenge. SO a dear friend penned and distributed a press release for me. The Somerville Patch tweaked and posted it. When I saw it published, on a site that wasn’t this blog, I thought, “Oh my gawd, it all sounds so dramatic!

Let’s start with the title: Cult Escapee Performing Somerville One-Woman Show. Sometimes my fellow “disgruntled ex-students” and I call ourselves “escapees” with a little bit of snark;  most of us, essentially, walked away from “school”. Concluding that a group is a con-jon and flipping it the middle finger is an escape of sorts. But there’s a serious bigger picture: beyond my ridiculous foray, I now know people who did, literally, escape cults — run away with nothing, no money, no destination, leaving behind family, friends & kids. It’s hard to believe that this happens, but I’m certain that as I write this, someone somewhere is struggling with such a decision and its implications: stay or go? There’s no short way to describe all the levels of pain involved in such a decision. I was lucky to have been in cult lite — I did not experience the worst in cult-i-ness.

Okay, and then there’s this: “She will perform her one-woman show Saturday, June 9 at 7 p.m. at the Burren, 247 Elm St. The show will coincide with her CD release, and she will perform alongside acoustic duo The Lied-to’s.”

Lemme correct one miscommunication: this June 9th gig is the CD release, not the entire one-woman musical; that is still in the writing/editing process. Some of you have slogged through several private 3-hour pilots with me. (yes, blog monitors, many folks do know about the invisible world. Truth is, it never was invisible) I promised myself that I would’t put any of us through that again! At this gig, I am singing the songs, with the help of my good friends, The Lied To’s, Susan Levine and Doug Kwartler, who will open the night as special guests — if you love great songs, smart lyrics and beautiful music, you will LOVE The Lied To’s! Allow me to provide one sample of this amazing duo.

I admit that I am biased, because Doug & Susan are dear friends. But if you listen to their music you can assess their talent level yourself 😉 Doug produced Cult Confessions, the CD, at Hollow Body Studios, which I’ve renamed Kwartler Magic, because when he’s in the room, I magically become a better musician. I’m thrilled to say that he and Susan are going to be my band, as I trot out the soundtrack to my cult lite tale. And I’m going to have a couple of other surprise musical guests 😉 More to come on that!

So, Dear Readers, please consider this my personal press release — yes, to be transparent — it’s marketing! And I hope that you can join me, and The Lied To’s, and my mom (yep, mom’s coming) at The Burren in Davis Square, Somerville, on June 9th. Buy your tix here and use the coupon code, 24HOUR, for $2 off the price. If you come, please introduce yourself to me!

 

 

 

Some choice words about Gurdjieff …

Recently someone posted this video in a comment. I thought it deserved more prominence. Sam Harris is an author, philosopher, neuroscientist, critic of religion, blogger, and podcast host of Waking Up. Until now, I’d heard his name but knew nothing else about him. He addresses a range of human experience: spirituality, morality, neuroscience, free will, and terrorism.

He is traveling the world giving talks to sold out theaters, and such. He also has some choice words for Georges Ivanoff Gurdjieff, whose ideas are the basis of the “teaching” “school” trots out. If you listen to the YouTube video — which I recommend, highly — you’ll hear the following:

” … the roll of guru seems to attract more than its fair share of narcissist and confidence men … this seems to be a natural consequence of the subject matter … one can fake being an enlightened adept … GI Gurdjieff set the standard, here … he was the classic example of the gifted charlatan; he managed to attract a wide following of smart, successful devotees.”

FYI, devotees include: Georgia O’Keefe,  J.B. Priestly, René Daumal, Katherine Mansfield, Aldous Huxley, TS Eliot, Frank Loyd Wright.

“Gurdjieff taught his followers that the moon was alive. That it controlled the thoughts and behaviors of unenlightened people. That it devoured their souls at the moment of death. He used to make visitors to his chateau in Foutainbleu spend long days digging ditches in the sun, only to have them immediately fill them in again and begin digging elsewhere… I’m confident that if I were to teach a similarly insane doctrine, all the while demanding painful and pointless sacrifices from my students, I wouldn’t have a friend left on earth by the end of the week.”

I remember the first time “school” started trotting out this crazy shit about the moon. In a rare, courageous moment, I told my class, “You have no idea how absurd this sounds to me.” My teachers smiled at me in that patronizing way … the one that says, ” … you’ll get it when you’ve been doing The Work long enough.”

Long enough = til death do you part, $350/month, plus all of your un-schooled family & friends. That is the nature of the beast. It’s how every cult works. So … as Nancy Reagon used to say about drugs, “Just say no … ” I’ll amend that slightly: say, “Fuck no.”

Tis the season for recruitment …

Hi Readers –

Recently someone asked me if “school” was still schooling. As it turns out, yes! You, too, can have “new friends”! I know that the invisible world is sending out invisible troops, because a recent recruit visited and commented on the blog.

It amazes, amuses and saddens me that this cult is still trotting out the same sad tactics. Maybe some of you stumbled into this blog because of a strange recent encounter with some “new friends”. You may be wondering, “Is a cult  recruiting me?” If it had these traits, it was cult — i.e. “school”/”the study” — recruitment:

  1. Friendly man/woman ( in this case, “Mike C”) strikes up conversation at a bar in Somerville, typically this chat begins with an unusual question regarding esoteric ideas, or something inspirational.
  2. Discusses life and philosophy.
  3. Another “friend” (in this case, Alan) shows up.
  4. Some coffee meetings follow the initial encounter.
  5. Another “friend” joins (in this case, Lisa).
  6. Last coffee meeting includes another “friend”, Robert, who extends an invitation into a group; btw what used to be simply “school”, then morphed into “the study” no longer has a name. The invitation may, or may not, include a “free experiment” and the warning: ” …it’s very important that you not tell anyone about this. It’s private, just for you!

If your “new friends” are like Mike, Alan, Lisa, and Robert, they are reluctant to share personal details. BIG RED FLAG! They are also lying about the nature of their relationships. What felt like a chance encounter is deliberate recruitment.

The word is that this “youngest class” meets Mondays and Thursdays at the Courtyard Marriott, both in Cambridge and Brookline. Apparently the latest marketing ploy is to nod to a lineage of great men of history, while trotting out Gurdjieff ideas –like the mechanical nature of man, the four “centers”,  self-observation, identification, and the wrong work of centers — but neglecting to mention Gurdjieff, and Sharon Gans and Alex Horn, etc, etc. And, yes, the 5-week aims, are now called the 5-week commitments and the free 5-week “experiment” is still a thing.

 

Contradicting Cult Indoctrination: Four Concepts from Living the Deeper YES …

In July of 2012, I went to my first International Cultic Studies Association conference in Washington, DC. After spending the weekend talking to ex-cult members from all over the world, I remember saying, “All of these groups are the same.”

Okay, so cults aren’t all exactly the same, but they ALL use the same underlying tactics to recruit and indoctrinate. I’m endlessly fascinated by Cult Common hallmarks because, for one, they say something about human nature but when you become cognizant of manipulation, those hallmarks point you to recovery – contradict the indoctrination. Break cult rules.

Living the Deeper YES reframes ideas that were abused by “school”. Tull offers them as inner guide posts – these tools turn the very vulnerabilities that can be exploited into empowerment. I found these four especially helpful:

  • All cults claim to be the exclusive source of exclusive aspirational, or deep, knowledge or The Truth! that will change your life ….

Living the Deeper YES says that such truth, or aspirational knowing, or deeper knowledge is available to EVERYONE, all the time!

  • Cults keep their minions busy and frazzled. It’s common practice to claim a frantic pace, in service to the group, is “doing what’s necessary” to achieve (maybe) some elusive higher state (if you do it right, or are successful).

Living the Deeper YES says that we access the essence level when we stop, listen in stillness & quiet the mind, so we can hear our truths. Truth comes through when we allow it time, attention and space. It speaks to us from the inside and is not dictated by external sources.

  • Cults claim access to higher states of existence, or exclusive knowledge, or some allusive “truth” to foster dependence in members. Such groups encourage a feeding frenzy culture that attacks independent thought — members start to question personal perceptions, their beliefs, their emotions and opinions.

Living the Deeper YES encourages dialogue with the self.  It is the New Millennium version of Glenda the Good Witch, telling readers, “Trust yourself! You had the answers all along.” The deeper yes, comes from the internal yes – you feel the rightness in your bones.

  • Cults leverage hierarchy and judgment, taking advantage of our social needs for community and acceptance. Group members stew in indoctrination, an ideology of black and white thinking.

In stark contrast,Tull offers her vulnerabilities and darker years up for examination, essentially offering tools that she had to dredge up for herself in times of uncertainty and pain.  She’s a human offering readers tools for humanity that come –not from some contrived superiority – but embracing vulnerability, allowing herself to be a fallible human and seeing moments of faltering as opportunities to grow, learn and heal.

This year, I’m gonna be at ICSA’s conference in Philly, which happens to fall on the week of July 4th. My first conference in DC also fell on July 4thand there was something very sweet about embracing my esoteric freedom on the DC Mall.  SO this year, I’ll embrace it in Philly! If you’re there, come say hello.

New word: an·ti·no·mi·an

This is an interesting word that I just learned. Here’s the definition:
adjective — 1.relating to the view that Christians are released by grace from the obligation of observing the moral law.
noun — 1. a person holding antinomian beliefs.

Isn’t that inspiring!?

Calling yourself “Christian” “releases you by grace” from acting like a Christian! Then you can do whatever you want, no matter how selfish, greedy, or reprehensible. No matter who you hurt. Perfect for cults and evangelical Trump supporters

This explains how Mike Pence can stand by the liar-in-chief, no matter what he does. (at least Trump doesn’t pretend to have morals and ethics). And how cult leaders think of themselves —   “hey, I’m trotting out this “teaching”, “philosophy”, “religion” etc. etc. etc. blah, blah, blah. I get to do whatever I want.”

Now I know why pointing out hypocrisy to cult leaders, or evangelical Trump supporters, has no impact. I’ll stop beating my head against the wall and hope that there are more sane people, and authentic Christians, in the world than Antinomian.

TED talk on leaving an evangelical cult

This woman is Dawn Smith. She is funny, and smart. Her parents and grandparents started The Assembly, a cult that preached its version of the Gospel on street corners. Forbidden in her childhood: science, ambitious females (horrors!), loud clapping, psychiatry, puppies, dancing … On the other hand, climate change denial, creepy men and pyramid schemes were encouraged.

She says,  “Cults don’t want to be defined as a cult because it empowers its members to take a critical look at it. Language in cults is controlled because language is powerful. This happens in the real world, too. Despite what 98% of what the world’s scientists say, let’s not call it climate change.

She also said, “Staunch loyalty is wrong if it means supporting an abusive pathological liar. That pathology trickles down … ”

Admitting that it was hard to leave, she lost her grandparents … and her parents … well her relationship with them “is complicated.” But she concludes with this:
” … even the hardest day of freedom was better than the best day in a cult.”

It’s a worthwhile 15 minutes: