Morph 3: The “No Drug Use” Rule

One evening in “class”, a fellow “student” casually mentioned smoking pot. A “teacher” sternly told him, “You do know that smoking pot is against ‘THE RULES’.” Given her admonishment, I assumed that “school” considered drug use an avoidance of doing “the first line work, or work on the self”.

Needless to say, when a corroborator shared this next bit, I thought, I must share this on the blog (it’s also great source material for the musical that I’m going to write one day, “School” — My Five Years in a Cult):

“ … in 2000 Sharon asked, first her son, and then someone else (after he left) to procure hash for the teachers to smoke at the Christmas party. Some kind of cannabis product was present at teachers’ meetings thereafter.”

Recently, some fellow new-millennium disgruntled(s) confirmed that Boston-branch “teachers” keep the  tradition of “teaching” while toasted alive. Before “classes” our “teachers” hid in the “teacher’s lounge”. A few privileged and trusted servants delivered the aristocracy food and beverage Downton Abbey style. Once upon a time, I had imagined the royalty planning the evening’s secret esoteric teaching in that room, perhaps meditating and praying together. Instead, I guess, they were gossiping and consuming libations; perhaps some were rolling joints and blowing enlightened smoke rings before making a grand appearance in the “classroom”.

“Class” always unfolded via the same bi-weekly ritual: we waited in the “classroom” silently, reverently, for a “teacher”; eventually, either “teacher” Michael would appear and announce, “Time for TAI CHI.”, OR “teacher” Paul would appear and announce “Time for BODY WORK.” We few, we proletariat, would dutifully file into another room to either, follow Michael through the tai chi form, or “move every part of our body in circles” on Paul’s instruction. Once we plebs were sufficiently “relaxed” the “teacher” would send us silently padding into the “classroom”. There we would await (in silence, of course) the grand entrance of whomever was heading the evening’s lesson — don’t leak, no unnecessary talking, no fraternizing!

After several minutes of silence, a more highly evolved being would stroll in and take his/her seat at the front of the room. Usually, that “teacher” would announce, “Let’s read self observations.” We would kill a good first hour, or so, reading out of our “self-observation notebooks”, essentially confessing our sinful, broken, dysfunctional, coarse and heavy thoughts and/or “negative emotions.”

Academic cult researchers reveal this routine as typical cult techniques. The “body work” and/or tai chi are hypnotic devices that make the “student body” more susceptible; the reading of “self observations” convenient confessions so leadership could hone in and utilize our weaknesses towards the higher purpose of world domination… “Oh, my Grandma, what big teeth you have!” … ” The better to eat you with, my dear!” Humiliation, and fear of humiliation, proved a very effective social engineering tool within the hallowed halls. I guess you would have to be inebriated to justify this manipulation as necessary for “evolution” year after year.

In thinking about drug use in “school”, I remembered a scene from early in my tenure.  As a newbie, or “younger student” (“school” was still courting me at this phase) a fellow “classmate” escorted me to a “class outside of class” — another brand of “all-night-school-party”. The drug-free magic of the evening had me giddy with wonder, a true believer, but my euphoria was briefly interrupted. An “older student” and “teacher” stopped to chat with me; as they zealously expounded on the benefits of “school” and how happy they were for me , an unmistakeable pot smell permeated and circled us. When they walked away, the cloud did too. I felt confused and disappointed; but — as was typical — then I thought, “They must know something that I don’t know about smoking pot.”

It’s amazing to now see how quickly I dismissed my doubts and blinded myself to these inconsistencies; I really wanted to believe in “school”!

Morph 2: The Non Fraternization Policy
Morph 3: Drug Use
Morph 4: Recruitment, or “Making New Friends”

Y2K in “School”

Recently a “disgruntled ex-student”, circa 1999, contributed this story to the blog in her comments. It illustrates cult-ish “school” lunacy so beautifully, that I decided to give it blog-post prominence. Even The Christmas Party pales in comparison. I recall December 31st, 1999 — the build-up to Armageddon, culminating into my dullest New Years Eve ever. Read on to learn of “school’s” enlightened preparation for world’s end! I hope you laugh as hard as I did — after all, laughter is the best medicine:

Y2KAh yes, we remember it well:

For several years, anyone not in a coma had been conscious of stories on the possible chaos that awaited the world on January 1, 2000. Everyone except Queen Sharon.

In late spring/early summer of 1999 it somehow penetrated her “mind”. I remember the night she deigned to tell her students that she had “become aware” of this “very dangerous thing called Y2K”. We all looked at each other. Not only was everyone in the room “aware”, but most people had recognized that government and business had been working for a couple of years to make sure there were NO large disruptions, if they even happened. Most experts believed that — at worst — computers would simply turn their dates to 1900 and continue to function.

Of course anyone could see that this could cause obvious problems with say, paychecks and shipping dates – so, everyone had been WORKING ON IT – HELLO? Even the cult classic (oops, unintentional pun … sorry!) Office Space, was about a guy, bored with his job – CORRECTING CODE FOR Y2K. And by Summer 2000, Office Space was already OLD.

But She Who Must Be Obeyed had spoken; Bright people who knew better said, “There is a lesson our teacher wants us to understand.” Minor league idiots bought it hook, line and sinker (and by ‘idiots’, I mean people who really, really, by their position and intelligence, should have known better).

For example: a fairly bright woman (so I thought) who made a lot of money in sales, had hysterics when I told her that I was skeptical and started berating me, telling me that global business would stop; society would break down; credit cards wouldn’t process. She finally stopped when I asked her if she didn’t think that credit card and shipping companies hadn’t thought of that and would really, really want to prevent it?

She either actually thought about it, or decided that I was “closed” to my teacher and later in 2000, when I left, and even later, when I was vilified, that must have been a “sign” of my “negativity to school”. I still think it was just common sense. But hey, what do I know? I actually LEFT SCHOOL!!! Can you believe it?

That night, we were ordered to go home immediately and pack an escape bag – it was to include many, many, many things: survivalist style, for each family member, a sleeping bag, down jacket, rain jacket, clothes you could layer, various pants, shoes, socks, flashlights, extra batteries, dried food, water, liquor to trade with devos*, a gun if you had it (again, devos), gold if you had it, jewelry (same), hat, compass – the list went on.

Those who actually packed a bag
a) spent a lot of money.
b) found them too big and too heavy to actually carry.

People who lived in the suburbs were charged with filling their houses with the above, and getting generators. We were “assigned” to different areas and houses. “You go to A’s and you go to J’s and you two go to this one and you five go here and we’ll all meet to fight the zombies.” If you could, you were supposed to get to the Country Retreat at Pawling, so we could “all be together”.

For months this became a school focus: people took archery classes so we could learn to shoot animals and protect ourselves. We had a well-stocked first aid box and a well-stocked liquor supply. Construction was stepped up on the property. We bought food that would keep as a trial – and as a result ate potatoes for months. (They don’t actually keep all that well).

We talked about the impending doom in class and our fears (some of us) for the World To Come. People bought generators. People spent money to do what the queen demanded. For New Year’s we all had to leave the city. We all had to call in and say where we were going to be. In a few cases a number of people ended up at the same home out of town and had little parties – that sounded like fun. I was with non-school friends and called my “school” friends at midnight. I felt very connected, having finally had a decent Christmas party experience.

Nothing happened. Y2K was never mentioned by anyone in “school” again. Eight months later, I was gone with ten percent of our school. So, I guess for corporate headquarters, it was a disaster of sorts, after all.


* Devos – This is a term known to people in little “l” life who read bad science fiction; it means people who have devolved instead of evolved. We hope that if anyone from “school” is taking notes on this, that they report this term to Robert and Sharon for their usage when describing the “disgruntled ex-students”, as in “they are now devolved – devos.” Please remember that you heard it here first and there are copyright usage fees.

About Sustainers …

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain …

Last night, while stuck in an I-95 construction zone, I found myself mulling over sustainers. Recently a contributor confirmed something I have now heard from “disgruntled ex-students”, near and far, past and present. It deserves the spotlight, because it’s such an egregious lie, such a contrived “school”-perpetrated deception. It is also ridiculous, so I can’t wait to make fun of it in that future musical.

Here’s the comment, gleaned from a much longer story that you can read here: “I realized that school was a fake. I had seen sustainer reports by accident, so I knew how teachers knew supposedly secret information. Now I knew that none of them had any kind of advanced insight or knowledge or ‘secret powers’. I used this to temper my life in school the last three years so I could survive.”

Yes folks, it appears that your “private” relationship, those “confidential” conversations, were reported back to the “leadership”. I guess “school” kept a notebook — a dossier if you will — on each and every attendee. Our sustainers, fellow “disgruntled(s), were responsible for keeping us compliant, attending and contributing financially.

Part of retaining membership included reporting on our “progress”. Teachers would then, cleverly and insincerely, bring up private matters in class at key moments — as though psychic, as though they could see and know more because of their “efforts”; because they had been “doing the work longer”.

It brought back a scene in “class”: a “student” was asking for “help”. I can’t remember the context; I do remember that her inquiry was not related to relationships. After careful contemplation the “teacher” offering her guidance tipped his head to one side as though thinking, paused dramatically, then announced, “I sense that you are lonely.” His presentation was so tender, so empathic, that I was suitably impressed.

“Wow! How could M be so tuned in?” I recall thinking. “I consider myself an empathic person and I didn’t pick up on her loneliness!”

Obviously, this moment stayed with me. Perhaps my memory imprinted it because I had briefly experienced transcendence through this higher being. Or I sensed the deceit in his presentation. Maybe some cell in my psyche woke up briefly, allowing awareness of that gnawing feeling that all “school” attendees get —  that sense of “something doesn’t feel right about this.” Most of us dismissed our perceptions, deferring to those “wiser, more evolved teachers.”  For many of us had come to believe and repeat this phrase: “The more evolved ‘teacher’ must understand something that I don’t”

In the past, I have put out a call for any former sustainer to write a guest post about his/her experience.  Perhaps it’s too hard to dreg this up, but if anyone whose been a sustainer could contribute some insight here, I would appreciate it. Perhaps a current “student” will find this blog and recognize the con job. Or perhaps your insight will provide peace to a former student who is still wondering if s/he has left “the source”. Either way, your truth would help to pull back the curtain, expose the wizard, and be of great service to those either seeking information and/or affirmation.




The No More Secrets Policy: Truth as Medicine

When I first left “school”, I believed that each “student” had made a personal choice about “joining” and “staying”. I left because I finally saw how my participation was damaging my marriage, but I was still unable to consider that the group, itself, was destructive. Even as I realized that Robert’s claim of “school” as “the source” was delusional, at best, I vowed to keep the silence out of respect for my colleagues; but when I started uncovering “school’s” seedy past and deceptive recruitment and retainment practices, I formulated my new life policy: No More Secrets.

I “broke the rule” of “no internet research”, mostly because my silence and the accompanying isolation were starting to make me insane. The strange, confusing and intense experience I had recently left was playing out in my mind like a movie. I saw myself giving my power away, surrendering my voice and my perceptions over to those who were “more highly evolved”. I saw myself allowing the institution to micromanage personal decisions to my detriment, usurping five precious years of my “only life”, hurting my marriage and other essential relationships through the practice of “clever insincerity”, steering me away from my passions, squashing my true nature and voice– ironically my essence —  and painting me into the prescribed cult identity of helpless, entitled and unemployable Jewish American Princess.

Even though I was no longer in “school”, its “don’t leak the experience” rule had locked me into a strange and invisible cage, still isolating me from the “un-schooled” — i.e. everyone else.  Contact with the “schooled” was also “against the rules”, unless it was via a “school”-sanctioned teacher conversation. Essentially, I had no outlet or resource to process and heal from this bizarre experience. I was strangely and invisibly alienated from everyone, locked into this secret.

My first month out of the cult, and several hundred miles of travel made me realize that I needed to speak out to save my mental health and it was the best decision I’ve ever made. The blog — i.e. breaking the rule of silence — freed me from the damaging psychological, cognitive and emotional prison. The end result is that I have emancipated myself in every way — I have never felt stronger, clearer and more self assured. Every day reminds me that I am free and I live in a state of gratitude, because I can refer back to my “school” days and contrast them to today. The stark difference between life “in school” and life without “the source” begs the question: source of what?

My No More Secrets policy is the key to my emancipation. I posted my story in cyberspace for this reason. With nothing to hide, I am free to tell it to whomever, whenever I feel it best and right. Secrets lock you into an invisible prison. “School” counts on secrecy on all levels. Secrets fuel the operation and keep it going. I have found healing in telling my story, letting go of that burden, and so can you.

You don’t have to take your story to your grave. You don’t have to blast it out to cyberspace either. But tell it to someone; even one trusted person will give you some relief. No more secrets. Secrets are cancerous. They will eat you up inside. Let them go.  Know that when you give voice to your experience, you reclaim your truth and your true identity. Know that the more people who are telling their stories, pulling the curtain on the Wizard, the more exposed this cult will be and less able to perpetrate its twisted version of “evolution”, also known as life long and dependent “students” who will pay $350 every month.

I imagine most of my readership lives in America, although, I have noted visits from various countries in Europe, Africa, the Middle East and even Asia, which is very cool. Regardless of your location, those of us who lived the “school” experience can practice our Freedom of Speech. In the land of the free and home of the brave we have civil rights and we can speak out against that which has proven odious and harmful.



Heads up NYC/Gans survivors: Fellow ex-“student” seeking comradarie …

Today I received a message from a woman who referred to herself as a “Sharon Gans alum.” She attended the NYC group from 1979-1982 and wishes to decompress with some old “classmates”. Are there NYC people out there who would be open to connecting with her?

If so, please send an email to I’ll get you in touch with each other.

Identifying “School”: The Nuts & Bolts

This post is intended to provide an overview of “school” for identification purposes. If you’ve had a strange encounter and are wondering whether it was a “school” encounter; if you have a spouse, or friend, or sibling who disappears on Tuesday and Thursday nights and has been reading books with makeshift, newsprint covers, read on — maybe some other things will ring familiar:

Two Main Recruitment Tactics
1) “Casual conversations” in Starbucks, grocery stores, bars, on trains, etc. Often recruiters initiate with questions about books, or claiming things like, “I’m working on a project about leadership. Which leaders do you admire?” If you’ve exchanged contact information after such an encounter and you notice a patient, yet persistent, string of phone calls from this person, yet when you call him or her back, you reach only voice mail, it is likely a “school” encounter.

If you’ve met with this person and the conversation feels oddly one-sided, as though he or she is drawing information out of you, but revealing as little as possible about him or herself, heed the red lights. If you have attended five meetings and at the last meeting he or she introduced you to a “friend” and if he or she has said something like, “Are you interested in meeting others who share your passions, interests, concerns, etc … oh and by the way … it’s very important you tell no one about this — it’s private, just for you” — it is officially a “school” encounter. And if he or she tells you that the first five or eight weeks is a “free experiment”, after which a monthly tuition will be determined, you’ve been “schooled”. For more details regarding this recruitment tactic, read How to Join a Cult.

2) “Presentations” formerly known as “lectures” — if someone invites you to a “presentation” with a vague topic, no title, and date and location to be determined, beware. If you go to this “presentation” and the presenters don’t share last names, or professional affiliations, or website to peruse; if there’s a post-presentation Q&A orchestrated by a guy named Robert with a beard and a John Boehner-like tan, you’ve hit the cult jackpot. If you filled out a “feedback form” and provided your phone number, never fear, one of “school’s” recruitment team will call.

By the way, cult expert Steven Hassan’s book Combating Cult Mind Control provides a list of clear and concrete questions to ask if you suspect you’ve been approached by a recruiter. I will provide those tips in a future post.

Recognizing The Cast & Crew
The cult known as “school” presents itself as though it is one in a long line of secret esoteric schools. Attendees are classified as “younger students” and “older students” and separated into the “younger” and the “older” classes. Robert leads the charge, while other “teachers” include Josh, Carol, Jeanine, Paul (who leads “body work”) and Michael (who “teaches Tai Chi”).

Last I knew “school’s” “classes” met at the The Faulkner Mills building in Billerica, Ma. “School” has been known to move around or create satellite “classrooms”. The Belmont Lion’s Club, in Belmont Center, housed my first two years of “school”.

Regular “Classes”
Last I knew, “classes” met every Tuesday and Thursday night. In New York City, under the auspices of Queen Sharon, apparently there was — or is — a Monday and Wednesday class. However the “classes” fall, they happen twice a week. The longer you are *in*, the more critical your stellar and unquestioning attendance becomes.

Ideas/ i.e. “Teachings”
The ideas that “school” pontificates come from the studies of G.I. Gurdjieff. However, “school” neglects to mention its source. “School” will tell you that “the work” is an “oral tradition”, insinuating that there are no published materials and that “you won’t find these ideas any where else”. It will neglect to mention publications by both Gurdjieff and some of his students, as well as the many Gurdjieff societies around the world, including one in Boston. In fact, if you want a wee handbook, order Jacob Needleman’s Introduction to The Gurdjieff Work, in which you will find outlines of the following ideas:

Aim, Self remembering; Self Observations; Three Centers — Intellectual, Moving, and Emotional; Man is Asleep; “The Work”, Multiplicity or Multiple “Is”;  Essence, Personality, False Personality; Man as Machine; The Morning Prayer; Identification; Internal and External Considering; The Law of Three; Aim and Five-Week Aim; The Ray of Creation; The “Work Octave”; Necessary and Unnecessary Suffering; The Food Diagram, etc.

“Sustainers” – “School” assigns “sustainers” to meet with its newest recruits — known as “youngest students”– outside the hallowed halls, allegedly to help them navigate this new adventure. In truth, the “sustainers” main objective or “aim” is to retain the newer students. After telling the sustainees that their conversations are private, sustainers pass on pertinent information to “teachers”.

Beginning Required Reading: Hans Christian Anderson’s The Shadow,  Robert Lewis Stevenson Dr Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde, Ralph Waldo Emerson essays, a series of mysterious photocopied “lectures” that I believe were delivered by a Gurdjieff student named P.D. Ouspensky, but “school” will neglect to mention him.

Those are the nuts and bolts that I recall. I invite readers to contribute to this list of identifying factors. I’m sure I haven’t covered them all. Thanks for reading!

Conclusion: Caterpillar Days in Butterfly Lives

Caterpillar Days

Caterpillar consumption

Dear Readers,

Recently I had what I have come to call a run of “caterpillar days” — my to-do list was thwarted by the universe: a client refused a session; my computer’s hard drive died; my one day off was spent at the North Shore Mall’s Apple Store; family challenges rose to the surface and my inner responses followed (anger, blame, frustration, guilt, sadness — all unspoken and distracting).

My psyche defaulted to the “I cut myself off from the source” mode, followed by the “my life will now turn to crap” mode — punishment for “breaking school rules”. Fortunately, I caught myself and saw those days for what they were — caterpillar days in a striving towards butterfly-hood.

Truthfully, before my “school” tenure similar days would have triggered a similar response. But my sin would have been nebulous and the “greater/higher power” would have been un-definable. “School” provides me clarity for the crimes: leaving  “the source”; researching “school” on the evil internet; breaking the “code of silence”; reaching out to others AND (most egregious) writing and posting my super-secret esoteric “school” — i.e. cult – experience for all that care to read it.

Now that I know the insane context (history, lineage, or lack thereof) that “school” desperately scrambles to hide, I can recognize the insanity of these damning thoughts — punishment for the crimes of independent thinking and inquiry. In reality, my caterpillar days simply point to some life things that need tending  — things having nothing to do with “school’s” wrath and hell fire.  They beg the questions:  why so distracted and what do I need to address? They say to me, “Hey, you need a day at the beach.”

How many of us ex-students experience the sense that “school”, in it’s highly evolved capacity, can lurk above judging caterpillar days? How many of us hear “school” voices saying, “I told you this would happen”– damning us to meaningless lives of scrambling, crawling and consuming until death.

In my last conversation with Robert, he told me essentially that my husband would continue trying to “control” me in the future. “These things don’t happen in isolation,” he promised me. Of course, the obvious irony here is that this is a standard line, fed to students whose spouses have started to whittle away at the induced “school” stupor. It is an attempt to control via fear.

When that didn’t work, he changed his tactic. “I am trying to put myself in your husband’s shoes,” he said. I remember – at the time – having the thought, “Well how hard can it be to understand my husband’s legitimate worries about my emotional morass and our dwindling finances? ” But, again, I was to intimidated to voice this question.

I was furious when learning later that Robert’s three marriages were all arranged via “school”. This knowledge did throw light on his utter lack of empathy. He has never had to explain the unexplainable to his wives – the ever-growing time commitment and expenses. He has never had to lie to the person who has been lying next to him night after night.  I finally understood that his lack of compassion for my husband, extended to my marriage, which was inconvenient for “school”.

In reality, my departure only strengthened my marriage and vastly improved my life. My husband has not tried to control my time as promised. And I have come to honor and trust my own judgment and make my own decisions – ultimately reclaiming responsibility for my life. Since then, doors have opened for me without the frantic and exhausting scramble prescribed by “school” in “principle”. Most notably, my struggle with employment and money is over.

After almost two years of following “school’s help” in finding work, I decided to take the opposite tack. I relaxed, regrouped and focused on  work that felt meaningful and right; positions that call on my natural aptitude. Within two months after leaving school I found work that I love. I now earn a decent salary and was recently nominated and awarded a prize for my efforts. I can honestly say that my days feel joyful, meaningful and purposeful.

School often paints departing infidels as angry and disgruntled “ex-students”, who somehow “failed” the program. Again, my experience has proven exactly the opposite to be true. Angry, yes! I am wrathful at the deception and manipulation of this fake “school”. Disgruntled, no. I have never been clearer in my life about what I want and who I am.  I am filled with gratitude for having my life back — mostly to my husband for pushing me to see the truth of the mysterious Tuesday/Thursday thing. My decision to leave school is proving to be one of my most successful and important decisions. I am a stronger woman, now, and my well-honed bullshit detector quickly sounds sirens when encountering the “cleverly insincere”.

I have spoken with many former “students” and they do miss their friends. But if King Robert himself, called us each personally and invited any of us back, I feel certain that none would accept. In fact, fairly recently, eleven of the “angry and disgruntled” reunited at the Cheesecake factory. We shared stories, complained, gossiped, laughed our asses off, showed pictures of new babies, talked about babies to come, discussed books, movies, new esoteric and spiritual explorations, compared ludicrous stories from our “school” days, talked about new jobs and (God forbid!) exchanged emails and phone numbers in unadulterated, unmonitored and chaotic conversation.

We toasted to our real freedom. Without school, the “disgruntled” are living joyful and meaningful lives. We have more money, energy and time and we own our thoughts, emotions and actions. We decide when to change a job, see our spouses, take our children to the playground, etc. We are awake to the value innate in each moment; the smallest things hold priceless meaning, after having given this time away to “school”.

For those of you who are still in and wondering what is this thing called “school”, I can tell you that it is not the institution hued to a higher calling in pursuit of truth that it claims to be; its roots are deeply entrenched and clinging to deception and greed. I want to implore you to reclaim your life. You will not learn the truth of “school” if you are in “school” for its evolved leaders take great pains to keep the truth from you. The gift of freedom that  “school” whispers came to me when I left. I learned the truth and experienced a stark contrast between letting an esoteric prison dictate my choices and the freedom that followed when I decided that if I was going to fuck up my life, I’d rather do it on my own terms, thank you very much. My striving towards butterfly-hood continues, always will, but now I am free to explore, stumble and bumble in my own perfectly imperfect way.

Sometimes – these days more often than not — I hit the mark.

Essence Friends, thanks for reading, and here’s to your freedom. Please share your stories in having left “school”. Perhaps some current students will find this blog and decide to set themselves free.

With sincerity,


P.S. Cult confessions will continue but not in this book/chapter format. Much more to say … I hope you will stay tuned and chime in.

Chapter 7: Third Line of Work – For “School” in Four Parts

The Third Line of Work for the Fake Fourth Way School

The Third Line of Work for the Fake Fourth Way School

The Nuts and Bolts
In The Christmas Party and How to Join a Cult, I spoke of the “third line of work”. This series of posts explore how the “third line” devours “school’s” most stellar and devoted disciples.

Recently, blog-contributor, River of Joy, wrote:

“I have come to the conclusion that usefulness = being used … The students that are most ‘useful’ to “school” are the ones who are the most successful at recruiting and/or who give the most money to Sharon. They are the good students, the ones smiled upon and praised. In reality, they are the ones who are the most used by “school”. They give away all their spare time and energy to the recruiting effort, and/or all their cash goes to Sharon to buy red bathtubs and the like. The term ‘usefulness’ is more palatable and easier to swallow – who wouldn’t want to be ‘useful’? It sure beats its opposite, ‘useless’. We were all so cleverly manipulated, I’m sad to say.”

“Teachers” often bandied about the word “useful”, especially when “school” needed “students” for its super-secret missions. “School” equates those who contribute to its super-secret aims — and thus are “useful” — as those whose efforts feed that which “comes from above”; work towards that which is greater or higher. When teachers unveil third line of work”, the anointed learn that “work for school” is the link to evolution, to conscience.  Without it, evolution is not possible. To evolve, we need a vertical force, a higher purpose, to come down from above and intersect the horizontal trudge of the caterpillar. This “third line of work,” we are told, is the force that can transform us from caterpillars to butterflies and our lives from endless one-dimensional consumption into a colorful, three-dimensional existence of fully realized potential.   Efforts that are “useful” for school are paramount and will yield the supreme payback …of course, that’s if your efforts are “of the right kind.”

Lucky us! Most humans are not granted this grand opportunity. Sleeping humanity has twisted and convoluted religion to the point where it no longer qualifies as “higher and finer” in “school’s” view. But we have the bigger-than-we-are, super-secret, unspoken “higher aim” of keeping Sharon comfortably housed in Manhattan’s Park Plaza. We have access to true higher conscience and evolution through our efforts to keep her suitably drunk and medicated.   (Ironically, many newer “students” don’t know Sharon exists even though their efforts feed her financial coffers).

So, understand, Sincere Seeker, that everything else must step aside for this work, but do not be dismayed, because a “rightly ordered life” – with “third line” at the top – will inform and order other life things rightly  – like a trickle-down effect – onto work, family and friends.  Make the efforts, and you’ll see.

Allegedly, “school” grants the “third line of work” privilege after students have put in sufficient effort to awaken and evolve.   Of course, we don’t know who determines our “readiness” and why.  Call me skeptical, but I suspect it is driven by a sudden drop in student numbers or Sharon’s urgent need for a second red bathtub –rather than our spiritual growth. Many former students admit to handing over tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars after being treated to extra doses of attention and being singled out to participate in “something special” to help “school” survive and continue.

Privilege 1: Food & Beverage Prep and Service

Chapter 6, Part 3: Second Line of Work – The Feeding Frenzy

So, now that we’ve discussed the first line of work, let’s touch on the second line of work: take the first line — work for the self — and the psychological ideas – i.e. observing yourself, recording your own mechanical-ness, multiplicity, etc. – and turn the focus outward to your “essence friends”. School adopted the term “essence friends” as a way to identify fellow students. It also indicates a more exclusive and precious relationships than your little “life” relationships; after all other “sleeping” people will not demand from you anti-mechanical efforts; your life relationships aren’t helping you to “evolve”.  Your “life” relationships keep you asleep.

Soon you see in others what you observe in yourself. Therefore when you reflect back to your “classmates” their “mechanical” qualities, you are doing the second line of work. You are “helping” your “essence friends” to awaken! You are demanding that they recognize and break free of their mechanical-ity/false personality/multiplicity for a moment, right? Or, the savvy seeker might say that you are adding your voice to the chorus — in deference to the voices of teachers – and contributing to the shaping of good “students” who will increasingly turn over their little, insignificant, cyclical lives to “school”. If we are all mechanical, then why not become machines that work for the greater good of “school”. At least then we have a chance at evolution.

In a typical scenario of “second line of work” one of your “essence friends” stands up in class and says something like, “I need some help with my boss.” Maybe his/her boss expects that person to stay late every night and keeps asking about the commitment on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You offer feedback, or advice, mainly using the “school” ideas of observation, false personality, multiple Is, etc., occasionally throwing in some common sense from “life” having had “known” this person for a while (albeit mainly on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and only in contrived and monitored “discussions” and environments orchestrated and controlled by “teachers”). In this case, of course, the “help” would begin with the “school” is “private”, “just for you” brand of “help” and then careen into the “maybe if you tried harder” brand – get to work early, be an exemplary employee, be in a state of “external considering” (which means, simply put, functioning through the lens of “what can I do for you?” as opposed to the “internal considering” lens of what can I get from this.)

Given some time school begins to marinate its students in an idea called radiations – my limited understanding of radiations is this: the energy we put out into the world reflects either fineness or coarseness. Fine radiations are those of thinking high and fine thoughts, feeling gratitude for your good fortune, etc. Coarse radiations might include stewing in complaints, feeling self-righteous, indignant, self-pity, etc. We were taught that the world reflects back to us the inner radiations we project out to the world. Thus another neurosis-induced prison begins to take root, as we begin to fear these “coarse” states of being and that we are projecting them out. If your boss is giving you a hard time, it is your fault for putting out the radiations that would elicit his unreasonable demands.

As you can imagine, second line of work can run the gamut from compassionate, loving and helpful, to annoying, infuriating and – at its worst – a feeding frenzy of humiliation; in my experience most times fellow students offered sincere and compassionate feedback to their “essence friends”, especially in the early days of school. But the feeding frenzy takes root when souls become increasingly desperate for approval and acceptance; like children aching to get a nod of approval from a parent figure.

I recall one scenario in which one “student’s” alcoholic mother was visiting; like a good “student” he had come to class, but he knew that she was back in his apartment drinking. He asked for help, understandably afraid that she might hurt herself or trash the apartment while he was in class. Never mind school’s do it or die insistence that all students attend class come hell or high water — alcoholic mother visiting, or not, you show up. Never mind that this good student, showed up understandably worried and asking for help. In return school reamed him out emotionally: how could you leave her alone in the apartment? That’s dangerous! Why didn’t you prepare for this before she showed up? Blah, blah, blah. Teachers, of course, initiated the verbal lashing, and, we, his “essence friends”, took the cue and picked up the ball chiming into a chorus of blame and disgrace.

I sat there mute, awake to the feeding frenzy and horrified by it. I imagined standing and saying, “This isn’t helpful. Don’t you think he knows that it’s dangerous to leave his drunk mother at home? Isn’t that why he stood and asked for the help? Why do you suppose he came to class?” I did not stand up against this chorus of soul-ripping freaks. In the moment, I recognized that the “help” was fucked and I was not completely hypnotized; but I have never stopped regretting that I lacked the courage to speak up. I also ignored the red light indicated by fear of speaking up. Instead, I watched as this student shrunk and apologize.

“I know, I know,” he would reply. “What should I do?”

“If you know then, why didn’t you (FILL IN WITH ACUSATION)” came the Greek chorus o’ shame, on and on and on and on.

This brand of help becomes increasingly typical the longer one is in school. I recall times when Robert would challenge us to be more confrontational with each other. His insistence would sometimes ring an almost combative tone to it. Now that I know more about school’s true history, it rings with distant echoes of the San Francisco branch, i.e. Alex Horn school of yore; the one in which its enlightened leadership encouraged the men to fight each other — for starters. If you can stomach the insanity of it, you can visit David Archer’s Supping with Alex to get a first-hand account of the Alex Horn days. Thanks to Archer’s snarky humor, it is a horrifyingly, ludicrous and hysterical read chronicling what I imagine to be California cult culture in the 1970s.

Fortunately, my class never devolved to the point of fist-i-cuffs, but I can remember moments in which I added some of my own “wisdom” into the mix when a fellow student was asking for help and getting that nod of approval from Robert. Nothing felt better than the moment where I got the approving teacher nod and especially from Robert. I felt as though I really must be getting somewhere. I can see things about this person that s/he cannot and Robert recognizes that. I remember noting, at a certain point, that most of the time when I stood to comment, the teachers would call on me, whereas others might stand a long time, increasingly agitated and anxious to say something. Sometimes the topic of discussion would be waved away before those others got to speak. I felt very special that the teachers often welcomed my comments, as though they saw in me some real potential, some wisdom, some leadership qualities – given some perspective, time and more knowledge I now wonder if this was really something to be proud of.

School paints its students a certain way, hanging labels like ” in self will” , “precious”, “vain”, etc. We responded. Then we felt pleased with ourselves for it.

Chapter 7, Third Line of Work — For “School” in Four Parts

Chapter 6:The Art and Science of Cult Baking – “Three Lines of Work”

Hurray for cults

Hurray for cults

Have you always wanted to lead your own cult, but didn’t know where to start? Never fear, “help” is here. Cultivate the following ingredients, and the aspiring cult-leader should be good to go: intelligence; charm; a convincing and articulate personality; and leadership skills.  Combine with large amounts of powerful spiritual ideas that attempt to explain the unexplainable and connect the personal to the universal.  Then add a handful of spiritual seekers.  Add more of those continually throughout the process to keep the momentum since you do lose some along the way.

Spiritual seekers are those for whom our typical day-to-day existence rings up the question, “Is this as good as it gets?” Seekers ache to understand the meaning and purpose of their lives and connect that to the meaning and purpose of humanity as a whole. Seekers wish to evolve into men and woman who can understand and spread healing, joy, beauty, truth, knowledge and wisdom. They want their lives to mean something. Seekers want to believe in a higher power, or God, if you will, a greater good; seekers are idealists who have not caved into skepticism and are clinging to hopes that greater good still exists, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.

Aspiring cult leaders have to understand this psychology of longing (perhaps having once experienced it); they need to get off on the ability to manipulate it in others and justify taking advantage of the hopeful and idealistic. They must vindicate that odious practice for self-serving ends while convincing seekers that all that is preached to them and all that is demanded of them serves their evolution, which in turn, serves humanity’s evolution.

“School’s” brand of sculpting the malleable lies in its “three lines of work”:

1)    Work on the self is aimed at verifying that we do not know ourselves; using “school ideas” (which are really ideas gathered by George I. Gurdjieff) we set out to learn who we truly are – or who “school” paints us out to be.

2)    Work for others entails, among other things, helping fellow students to verify that they don’t know themselves and reflecting back who they truly are according to “school”.

3)    Work for “school”, the true test, can be any task that benefits “school” from cooking to creating presentations to building rooms and painting walls. Typically, for the younger student, the “third line of work” begins with the Christmas Party and then extends into recruitment. As time goes on, it will encompass construction, repair, decoration, and maintenance of homes owned by “teachers.”  It is work for “school” that – according to “school”– ensures one’s evolution.

Chapter 6, Part 2:  Work on the Self: Psychological ideas