Latest from The Sharon Gans News blog …

This is a quick one. If you have newly discovered Cult Confessions, because of an encounter with a strange Boston-based group of “friends” who discuss esoteric ideeeaasss … multiplicity, “the many I’s”, the law of three, the moving center, the emotional center, the intellectual center, awakening vs. sleepwalking humanity … blah, blah, blah.

If you’re searching online because you suspect that it could be a cult, you would be correct. This cult once called itself, “The Study” and before that “School” and before that … any number of other names, including the Theater of all Possibilities, back in the groovy 60s. Congrats!

What you probably don’t know is that the Boston group has a New York counterpart. And this blog also has a New York counter part: The Sharon Gans News Blog. Very informative! And funny! And incisive.

Check out the latest post: LMAO

Cult-not-so-lite: School’s intentional use of time-tested mind control techniques

I often refer to School as Cult lite. I’m half joking and half serious. While I take the psychological manipulation School wields quite seriously, I acknowledge that my experience was more ludicrous, than sinister, as in Cult dark, NXIVM.

That said, my obsessive cult research has led me to a class about coercive control. Today’s guest lecturer, Masoud Banisadr, author of Memoirs of an Iranian Rebel, presented on the time tested mind control tactics trotted out by the Iranian Mojahedin. Here’s a description of his book:

“… Growing up in the aftermath of the 1953 CIA coup in Iran exposed the young Masoud Banisadr to extremes of wealth and poverty, loyalty and betrayal. Years later in the United Kingdom, where Banisadr had gone to do postgraduate study, he decided to join the Iranian Mohajedin, an organization fighting to dislodge the regime that took power following the 1979 revolution.

Torn between two loves–his family and the cause–Masoud gave up normal life to pursue the revolution. But it wasn’t long before the dream turned sour. The Mojahedin’s revolutionary fervor demanded more than total sacrifice: he was pressured to divorce his beloved wife, alienate himself from his family and career, and remain separated for over a decade from his children. Years later, following his defection from the organization, Masoud decides to tell his story. ..this account of one man’s revolutionary journey is also a poignant warning against the dangers of extremism.”

I joke about School a lot, but the more I learn, the more I see how evil School really is. It trotted all the time-tested cult tools and tricks. Teachers knew exactly what they were doing.

For example, If you’re a disgruntled ex-student, you probably remember moments in which Robert *taught* (cough) that “Man/woman has a skewed relationship to time,” or proclaimed, “If you tell me you don’t have time to do this or that, I won’t believe you”

I want you to know that leveraging time is a time-tested, well-worn, mind control technique. The Iranian Mohajedin used it in the 70s. ISIS, or Daesh, uses it today.

Additionally, when teachers trotted out the law of 7 and propped up SHOCK as necessary, they were employing another well-worn and proven mind control technique. Every cult has a version of it – School’s version happens to be explicitly laid out as an “esoteric idea” that’s necessary for your “inner development”, so that when the leadership changes course, or springs a new demand on the membership out of the blue, they an call it “SHOCK” as a requirement if you really want to “Remember Yourself.”

The ISIS version of SHOCK comes in the form of filmed beheadings.

So, folks, I know that I am often sarcastic. I like to use humor to point out the irony, hypocrisy and stupidity. But at the end of the day, this shit is sinister, vile, evil. Maybe cult lite isn’t really so lite. After all, I always had a toe out the door. The leaders were never going to “elevate” me up the ladder into the inner sanctum.

God only knows what happens in the inner sanctum.
I probably dodged a bullet.

Yep, “School” is still “schooling”

Sometimes people ask me if School still exists. For a long time, I had no idea. As it turns out, yep. Recently I learned that the cult was recruiting heavily through 2017-2019. Some of those targets reported the following:

School’s bait & switch is the same as it was in 2006, when it hooked me: it seems that School sends out recruiters in pairs, who strike up “random” super friendly conversations with strangers, feign and pursue friendships over time, & bring “friends” to “presentations.”

Some said that School pursued them for up to two years. For some, the pursuit continued even after they said NO to the “free 5-week experiment.”

Some reported attending a “presentation” on the “divine feminine” in April of 2017 at the Meridien Hotel in Cambridge. Apparently, the presentation was scheduled for April 3rd, then, on a week’s notice, rescheduled to April 12th. Sounds about right.

Red flags include:
*many said that their “new friends” were exhausted — one “new friend” even nodded off during the presentation.

*One said, “The ‘presentation’ is probably the most dishonest thing. What a ridiculous setup and time commitment to make that happen on their part. …” Yep. Imagine the hours poured into an orchestrated deception. And those involved neglect their families to create, plan and rehearse after “class,” and in between jobs.

*Another noted: NO digital footprint. Not on social media. Hard to Google. This is probably because their “new friends” provided fake last names. So, that’s something to keep in mind. If you can’t find any online evidence of a human being, it poses some questions about how honest that person is being.
* Another: “the time commitment of twice per week was outrageous to me, even for a month-long trial.”
*Another: “Something always seemed off.” 
*Another found it weird that her recruiter insisted on using email to communicate, claiming her phone couldn’t text.  
*One said her recruitment team suggested that they read and discuss, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave.

This is funny because Robert used Plato’s Cave to tell us exactly what he was up to: while listening to him preach that our lives were “caves” he lulled us into believing that our classroom would set us free. Really, the classroom was the cave. If you want to fall down the rabbit hole, I reference that experience in Chapter 1, How to Leave a Cult.

*One described his introduction to Robert– they met at a restaurant & sat in the back of the dining room. Robert floated the invitation — a “free” month in School. No food was ordered. Robert tipped the server, anyway (they were renting the table for a recruitment meeting, I guess?)

Apparently, Robert still vets all potential new Boston cogs, granting the green light, or not. If you were recently targeted and are reading this post, I want you to know that School has been perfecting its strategy for decades.

You can learn more about School’s glorious history HERE should you care to fall into the rabbit hole.

One target, declined the “free experiment,” but told me that although she’s grateful to know that she dodged a bullet, “… I feel violated by their disingenuous behavior.” If you are reading this and, also feel violated, that’s because this orchestrated bait and switch violates your trust — it’s an intentional betrayal.

At times, we are vulnerable to these dog & pony shows. I have been learning that there are neurological, emotional & social reasons for that. If you want to understand why this b.s. is so effective, I recommend reading Malcom Gladwell’s Talking to Strangers, or Maria Konnikova’s The Confidence Game.

Thankfully you can start by trusting your gut instincts and your emotional discomfort. Those signals are your best shields! If you feel that icky, hard to describe, something-isn’t-right feeling, trust it!

School has developed its strategy to deceive smart people and lure them into the cave over decades – literally since the groovy 60s. One recent target told me, “I always felt strange around them but I’m impressed they got me to see them so many times… If it can happen to me, a huge skeptic, it can happen to anyone. I don’t think I ever would have gone to a session, but they definitely had the wool over my eyes in some way.”

This person said,”… why I didn’t trust my instincts because my mind literally did consider that they were in a cult when I met them?

Probably because most people aren’t running around trying to recruit folks into cults. Most people are good and just living their lives. And most of us are wired to extend the benefit of the doubt, before assuming the worst.

Sometimes Joy Happens …

From Philly, the City of Brotherly Love!

Hey, I know this is an anti-cult blog and not really supposed to be political. It just so happens that cults and politics have intersected. RIP, GOP. You’ve become the tRUmp cult & lost legitimacy.

Want to get rid of cults? Dance to the polls, vote for Biden & evict the cult leader out of OUR White House.

Sometimes, Justice Happens

Keith Raniere, Leader of Nxivm Sex Cult, Is Sentenced to 120 Years in Prison
Of course, like a typical, entitled, cult-leader, narcissist …

“When the authorities finally arrested Mr. Raniere in 2018, he was at a luxury villa near Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, hiding in a closet. He was living with several women from Nxivm.”

He has complained that the judge overseeing the case is “crazy.” In a prison phone call in April, Mr. Raniere told one of his supporters that the judge “needs to know he’s being watched,” according to prosecutors.”

“Still, Mr. Raniere carries no remorse and will not be seeking forgiveness, his lawyers said. He has accused the judge of corruption and demanded a new trial.

“In recent months, Mr. Raniere has spearheaded a campaign to overturn his conviction, directing his supporters to create a podcast about his case and set up a contest to find errors in his prosecution in exchange for a $25,000 cash prize.”

Speaking of Cults, learn about this QAnon Escapee …

Hi Everyone,
I hope that you’re managing to stay sane, healthy and safe. I feel lucky that I can say two of those three items are true for me … my sanity, I’m not so sure about.

I just read this CNN article and thought it worth pointing out: He went down the QAnon rabbit hole for two years. Here’s how he got out.

I boiled down what I feel all ex-members can relate to:

* Jadeja said he was in the midst of a 15 year struggle to finish his degree. He’d pulled away from friends and become socially isolated. “I just felt completely overwhelmed… I was probably in a deep depression I think when I found Q,” he says.

*Jadeja perused websites that aggregated posts supposedly from Q, … then he’d read the interpretations of from other believers. These interpretations are popular among the QAnon community because posts from “Q” are often so vague that they can be read in any number of ways. The tactic tends to lure in supporters the way fraudulent psychics can — there’s little solid information given, so almost anything can be taken as confirmation of a pronouncement by “Q.”

*QAnon was all he wanted to talk about. That made life offline increasingly difficult for him, and he pulled away from friends.

*”I think superficially it did seem like [QAnon] gave me comfort,” Jadeja said. “I didn’t realize the nefarious kind of impact it was having on me because it was very insidious how it slowly disconnected me from reality.”

*Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher, said QAnon preys on vulnerable people.”I think it’s a mistake to say that QAnon is a conspiracy theory, because this kind of makes it sound like Area 51 or Big Foot,” he said. “It’s a community of people that radicalizes them into a world view, that just essentially detaches them from reality.”

*After two years in the world of QAnon, Jadeja said, cracks began to form in his conviction. He said, he was noticing more logical inconsistencies in QAnon’s theories.

*As his doubts mounted, he decided to research and saw that that information he’d once seen as irrefutable, was simply coincidence. That was a turning point for him.“It was the worst feeling I had in my life,” Jadeja said. 

*Looking back, Jadeja said, he doesn’t think there is a single relationship in his life that wasn’t affected by his time believing in QAnon. “It’s destroyed some of them to this day. It’s strained a lot of them to this day.” But there’s one thing in particular that he regrets the most: sharing QAnon with his father. CNN reached out to Jadeja’s father multiple times for a comment but he did not respond.

The takeaway – if you’re reading this post, you probably know how this happens. So don’t let friends fall down the batshit crazy QAnon rabbit hole.

The Vow – the HBO DocuSeries about Nxivm

At times, I have referred to “School” as Cult Lite. This docu-series depicts Cult Heavy, i.e. NXIVM, a group that pulled out all the stops when it comes to the worst abuses. But what makes this show worth watching is that the filmmakers wanted to get beyond the salacious details.

You see, Cult Heavy and Cult Lite used exactly the same emotional and social manipulation. And the most important thing to understand about cults is how these parasitic groups leverage our natural social and emotional wiring for selfish gain.

Cult Heavy generated a lot of attention when the New York Times broke the NXIVM story — a cult leader that touted women’s empowerment while simultaneously trafficking some of the members and, in the most sensational cases, branding some of them. Last June a court convicted Keith Raniere of multiple crimes and his sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 27th.

Yet The Vow’s producers recognized that, while salacious details garner attention, they obscure the most important message: how impressionable and vulnerable we are.

Humans are hardwired to seek acceptance and community. Con-artist over the centuries, those with well-honed radars for vulnerabilities, have used this wiring for selfish gain. We need to both understand those vulnerabilities and recognize when to say no, or run away, or tell a manipulator to fuck off.

So, for what it’s worth, if you want to understand how cults work, if you want to protect yourself and those that you love from selfish and abusive people, I recommend watching The Vow.

More Cohen on the tRump cult

Cults dress up in various bells and whistles, customized to attract a target audience. But when boiled down to fundamental social dynamics, they are all the same: group manifestations of the top malignant narcissist’s delusions, irony, hypocrisy, & gaslighting.

The difference between “sChool” & the tRump cult is:
* sChool pretended to offer benevolence, promoting better-ness through ideas.
*In contrast, although when his lips are flapping donny is lying, what you see is what you get: a sociopathic, 2-bit conman & scumbag, as the world witnessed at this week’s “debate”.

If you admire him for conning his way to the top, and are living for the moment’s that daddy is “sticking it to the ‘libtards’ “, remember that Mr. Cohen wound up in prison, taking one for the team & the team didn’t care. With daddy denying Covid19, you could end up dead & daddy wouldn’t care. So, as a cautionary tale, I present more Cohen quotes about the tRump cult:

P.153-4: ” … think about it like being under the spell of a cult leader … How did Jim Jones get his followers in Guyana to drink the poisoned Kool-Aid … Jones took control of the minds of those drawn to him, not all at once but gradually, over time, by luring them into his mind. ‘Stop drinking the Kool Aid,’ we would say to each other at the tRump Organization all the time.”

” …tRump would say so many things that were illogical or just plain bullshit, as we consciously would know, but we would stay on his message, even though we knew it was nonsense. We would repeat what he said, as if it were true, and then we’d repeat the message to one another so often that we would actually begin to believe the distortion ourselves.”

“This mind meld is what I see every day as I sit in prison watching the nightly news from the White House. … Think of all the responsible and conservative and moral, even devoutly religious tRump supporters not just rationalizing or explaining away his transparent dishonesty, but actually turning it upside down and saying it’s perfectly normal.

“There was also a fever-pitched desire to please that made me sycophantic.

“…tRump is a master at getting otherwise seemingly sensible people to enter into his fantasy land because of the fear that failure to do so means banishment. This explains the behavior of so many members of Congress and the Cabinet… Once the small lies and delusions pass, then it became easier and easier to swallow bigger and bigger lies.

Yep. That’s how it works. Looks and quacks like a cult.

Michael Cohen on the Trump Cult

Hi Folks,
Obviously, I haven’t been blogging lately, but I started listening to Disloyal on Audibles and feel compelled to share quotes from it. Cohen’s description of his intoxication with the tRump cult sounds familiar.

He describes “obsession” and “worship,” saying the pull was “…physical, emotional, not quite spiritual but a deep longing that only tRump filled for me … around tRump I felt excited, alive, like he possessed the only urgent truth, the chance for my salvation and success in life.”

… tRump’s antic, he wrote, “seemed mystical,” calling himself, “… a junkie who needed a fix.” 

At one point he described when daddy donny trotted him through a throng of adoring Apprentice fans, saying, “…the entire spectacle had been staged for my benefit… it was part of a performance meant to draw me into Trump’s centrifuge … precisely the way a con man draws a mule… into his world….”

Cohen says tRump “tRump seems to inhabit a different reality…” and was offering that reality to him, “…all I had to do was do what I was told with out question. I lept at it. “

He characterizes himself as an “acolyte … a willing participant in a fantasy that heightened my senses and my sense of self.” 

Eventually … describes himself, “falling under Trump’s spell…” to the point that ” … I had not only bullied a perfect stranger … but I did it with gusto and utter lack of conscience. Filled with pride, I didn’t wonder what lay ahead or what other moral and ethical and ultimately other criminal boundaries I would cross. Nor did I consider that Trump was testing my fealty and submissiveness the way a gang leader assesses a new recruit, giving the wannabe small crimes to commit to see if he will act without question or concern for his own well being. Trump was like a mafia don. … I wanted to be his solider in the worst way and I was ready to pass any test in my path.”

When it came to birth-erism, tRump’s obsessive & racists attacks on Barack Obama, Cohen says, ” … I didn’t just passively NOT protest tRump’s transparently false accusations against Obama, I actively, rabidly, incessantly, insistently repeated the lies and innuendo, knowing in my heart that it was wrong, but unable to stop myself … THAT IS WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO LOSE CONTROL OF YOUR MIND. YOU ACTUALLY GIVE UP YOUR COMMON SENSE, SENSE of DECENCY, SENSITIVITY, even your GRIP ON REALITY. It was like HAVING a MENTAL ILLNESS …the fact that I DEPARTED REALITY in my desire to PLEASE the BOSS meant that I really and truly had TAKEN LEAVE OF MY SENSES…. I had convinced myself that I was in on the joke with the boss, in truth, the real joke was on me.”

Ouch. He also says that his wife and children begged him to stop working for tRump. “But I wouldn’t listen. I gradually gave up control of my life to tRump.” 

We see that every sycophant in the tRump orbit acting the same way. If it looks like a cult and quacks like a cult, it’s a cult.