Past “School” Morphing

When I was a starry-eyed believer, I silently accepted “school” rules and traditions as wisdom passed down from “secret esoteric schools” through the ages. Recently “disgruntled ex-students” from “school” past, debunked some of these “ancient esoteric teachings”, revealing them as past “school” morph-ing.

The next few posts depict and link these past revelations with the new millennium “school”.  Let’s begin with “school’s traditional Christmas Party” — brought to us by the eighties, the era of Madonna’s proud declaration, “I am a Material Girl”:

Morph 1: The Christmas Party

One December, during “school’s” annual usurpation of my holiday season, I sought “help” from King Robert for the  perennial marital tensions. A “school education”ensures that its students have zero time for personal holidays; “only life things” — i.e. family, friends, work, colleagues — must be secondary to the big party if one wants to “evolve”.

Among other things, Robert told me, ” … it’s during the holiday season that you benefit the most from ‘school’.”  His brow wrinkled, he wondered how could my husband have any complaints? Didn’t he sense my evolution? Didn’t he get how he benefits from my “work”?

… never mind that I was rarely home; when I was home, I was exhausted and distracted; that the top secret calling devoured my time and energy while intentionally excluding him, as well as bleeding into our time at home with top-secret-holiday-party-tasks (I recall unsuccessfully trying to secretly cut out invisible snowflakes in our living room, only to leave a trail of tiny white paper snippets in my path, which he — of course — called me out on); never mind that our family holiday had to wait until the shindig was over (of course, a more evolved woman would have bought presents and decorated the house after Christmas party prep, between the hours of 3-6 a.m, after which I would go to work).

I was puzzled, too… was I missing something? I mean … this wasn’t rocket science: my husband was lonely. I was neglecting him for the “higher calling”. How do I explain the top secret nature of my critical snowflake-making without leaking??? How do I tell him, “I really don’t want to neglect you during the holiday season; but these demands from the invisible world are critical to my evolution and only benefit you, too!” Even in my “school” coma, I realized that any sane person, left in the dark to wonder why those snowflakes were more important then him/her, would have been saying to his/her spouse, “WTF?”

Nonetheless, my evolved leader appeared stumped by my husband’s complaints, as though no other “un-schooled” spouse had complained before. Of course, I didn’t know then that all three of Robert’s marriages were “school” arranged. As was typical, I started thinking, “There must be something I don’t understand — something only Robert can understand. Maybe, if I tried harder, if my vibrations were finer, I could enlighten my husband into a state of bliss and turn his emotion dial to the happily accepting setting. He would then, of course, say, ‘I understand that your annual disappearing act is an ancient esoteric tradition necessary for your evolution and our betterment! Thank you for doing THE WORK! and benefiting me invisibly.’ ”

Recently “ex-students”, circa 1985, revealed the Christmas Party tradition as an outgrowth of the eighties. One of them told me,“We saw the inaugural Christmas extravaganza that has since caused so much horror to the participants.”

I would love to learn more about its inception, so please consider this post an invitation to share! Since “The Christmas Party” is not an ancient tradition, seeded in esoteric schools of yore, how it did come about?

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

 

Past Morph 2: Non-Fraternization

“Sealing The Invisible World”

When I enrolled in “school” in August, 2006, the leadership made clear that my classmates and I should not acknowledge each other should we have chance encounters outside the hallowed halls. These were not “school” sanctioned and they told us … “It’s very important to seal yourself off; don’t leak the invisible world!

I envisioned centuries of “students” silently floating out of mystery schools across the globe, spreading “fine vibrations”; infusing healing energy into “sleepwalking humanity”; awakening the world for all salvation. I imagined “students” encountering each other outside the “schoolyard”, exchanging surreptitious smiles and floating off to save lost souls.

I was lucky! I’d stumbled into an exclusive lineage, an elite few, who could “save civilization” through practicing “THE WORK” – i.e. allowing “evolved teachers” to micromanage personal decisions, control “un-schooled” relationships and usurp time and energy in service to the higher “aim” of mo’ recruits, mo’ money, while installing a monthly I.V. drip from my bank account into Sharon’s retirement fund.

Recently another “disgruntled ex-student” squashed this  “school” myth, telling me, ” I witnessed the creation of the ‘no fraternization’ rule (I remember why and where that happened)”. I have since learned that, back in the wild seventies and superficial eighties, “teachers” encouraged “students” to socialize, work together, live together, sleep together etc, etc, etc. But one rotten apple spoiled the barrel — ruining the fun for every one! A relationship went sour and the woman had two brothers in the New York City police department – I guess that didn’t bode well for corporate headquarters.

While in my “school” stupor, I took that “rule” to heart. Once day I encountered a fellow “student” at the Harvard Book Store; a “younger student” who said hello to me; horrors! I thought, “She must not understand ‘the rules!’ ” Concerned for her soul, and mine (of course), I quickly informed her that we weren’t supposed to be talking. Needless to say, the next recounting of “non-fraternization” as a “school” style ancient ritual is among my favorites. An ex-student of the nineties told me this:

“No talking – well, that one was blown apart for me when I was sent on babysitting duty for a student who was going through a crisis. She was very wealthy and an older teacher and I were to go with her to her country house and be with her so she wouldn’t drink. Sharon said she thought the student was pregnant, and the woman was supposed to go to Betty Ford. None of this happened and she wasn’t pregnant and she drank the entire time. And she called and visited with non-school friends all weekend, leaving me with the teacher who did nothing but gossip about everyone in school all weekend. She was deaf to my hints that we shouldn’t be discussing this, saying ‘Oh who cares!'”

So much for “not leaking”.

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

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”

Morph 4: Recruitment or “Making new friends!”

When it comes to morphing, recruitment invites a veritable potpourri of creative cult contortions. It’s risky! A “school” recruiter must be “awake!”. How else would it continue to save lost souls, keep the wheels spinning and increase profits without exposing the invisible world?

“School’s” recruitment machine sucked me in after about two years of tenure; at that point the leadership must have deemed me appropriately indoctrinated. (Learn the cult’s five-step recruitment process here: How to “Join” a Cult, re-post and  here: Cult Education – A History and Analysis of Sharon Gans Group.)

Recruitment-rule morphing plays out in various ways…

THE WHERE TO RECRUIT: During my first pass at the “third line of work”, we were to go out and talk to Boston area grocery-store shoppers, coffee drinkers, parents at playgrounds, co-workers, friends, fellow commuters, etc. etc. etc., anywhere and everywhere. Make new “friends!” You never know where the next generation of seekers may be! Turn over every stone!

But at times, “school” declared various neighborhoods off limits: in Cambridge, Harvard Square, Central Square and Porter Square — easily the most frequented areas; in Somerville, the ever-popular Davis Square; Arlington Center, also off limits. Apparently evil “disgruntled ex-students” frequented these town centers and would interrupt recruitment-in-process. A corroborator told me that  corporate headquarters also declared hot spots over the years …

“ … no recruiting in the Village in New York because S and I lived there; at another point all of New York City south of 14th street was off limits…”

THE WHO SHOULD RECRUIT: Because of the danger and sensitive nature of this “third line of work”, it’s best to send out the most experienced troops. Yet recruitment is critical to “THE WORK” and — at times — like say after a critical mass of “students” leave simultaneously — “school” must have all hands on deck.

Another “disgruntled ex-student”,  circa 1990, told me this…

When I joined, no new student recruited – this was a ‘very special third line of work’ and you had to be really advanced to be asked to do it — we thought. There was a small group of people on this, including a couple of newbies, who had great success and were in favor and advancement because of it (although we didn’t know that at the time).

When the recruitment success stopped, so did the favoritism and the punishment begin! The small group technique went on for years – about 14 people or so, led by a teacher, who had ‘permission’ to socialize in the name of the line of the work -‘Go do fun things together! Go to a play, go to concerts, talk to people! It’s normal …”

The Boston branch tries to rope all students into the “third line of work” or “work for ‘school”. Once you’ve attended long enough, “school” deems you “ready” — a privilege, “necessary for one’s evolution”! Without contributing to “school”, YOU WON’T EVOLVE. Congratulations! You are now ready to neglect your outside relationships even more to recruit “younger students”!  (By the way, “school” NEVER used the word recruit).

I recall Saturday morning meetings: 7 a.m., at a Watertown park. We discussed tactics, our progress and/or lack thereof; our recruitment coaches allayed our objections about the deceptive practice, offering justification for the “clever insincerity”: “School’s” invisibility must be maintained! Remember what a poor slob you were before you encountered “school”! You might meet the poor soul who can reverse global warming and simply needs “help” to do so … blah, blah, blah.

I hated it, but I complied, thinking myself lazy; I needed to “work against my pictures of myself”, I believed. But the practice stirred a revealing cognitive dissonance inside me — my anger at my recruiter, Lisa, started bubbling up … I hadn’t signed up for this. I’d joined an informal group that “discussed ideas … laughed a lot … one in which people came and went, casually…”  I hated myself for practicing the same deception on other unsuspecting souls; the pretense of “making new friends” made my skin crawl.

Simultaneously, though, my “school” stupor reminded me how I’d “benefited from school”. Pat “school” phrases played out in my mind– others are seeking enlightenment! It’s selfish to keep the answers from those seekers. I must be in the dreaded and evil states of “internal considering” and identification (“school”-speak for selfishness) — I am worrying about how my recruits will feel about me when they learn of my convenient omission of cult-ic details. Needless to say, I wasn’t very successful. I once recruited a friend, who I pried out after I left. He returned only once to spread the word to his colleagues, spurring a mass exodus (read about the Great Escape here).

After leaving the ranks, I learned that some “students” simply refused to recruit; some pretended to do it and lied about their efforts. When I think about how earnest I was in my attempts to do something that rubbed every cell in me the wrong way, it makes me laugh to know that I could have simply said, “No. Not doing that. Good luck to you.” In my mind, saying “no” to a “school” demand wasn’t an option.

THE WHO TO RECRUIT: Another “disgruntled”, circa 1990, told me this recently:

“… you couldn’t recruit anyone with relatives in the military, the police, any type of para military organization such as firemen; this list was built up — when I first started recruiting it was just military, reporters and cops, or anyone who had relatives in these organizations. And you had to find this shit out!

Also the income level kept rising – when I joined there was a low level because I only made $30,000 a year. By the time I left it was up to $45,000 and it is apparently higher now.

When I “joined” Robert told me that “school” wouldn’t deny its “education” to someone simply due to lack of finances. Perhaps this was because, at the time, I was temping at a whopping $15 an hour; for some reason, he decided to dismiss the income requirement — perhaps “school” was desperate for new blood. But when I began “making new friends” a recruitment coach urged me to find out more about a potential recruits finances. This “new friend” clearly had plenty of money. I briefly snapped out of my stupor long enough to disregard that “instruction” … thankfully, I was disturbed by it. After leaving, I heard that $60,000 is the current required income. Perhaps someone out there can comment on this.

THE HOW TO RECRUIT: another “disgruntled”, circa 1990, nodded to an oft-used common cult recruitment practice, that “school” has taken on: “lectures”, or “presentations”.

“… I was there when they started the lectures, and then they put everyone onto recruiting because they just weren’t getting new people. They had ridiculous aims like 100 new people in a month, then they would punish everyone, but what the hell. I left before they figured it out – seems they did because I learned later that they built up quite a large rotating class, which met entirely separately from everyone else and was never troubled with Sharon, or third line, or anything else, so they stayed. Eventually they might be integrated into the bigger older class.”

During my tenure the “lectures” morphed into “presentations”. Every time someone slipped and used the word “lecture” during a “class discussion” several devoted “school” doobies would correct the offender: “You mean presentation, don’t you???” Perhaps the “lectures” were getting a reputation out in “only life”. Who knows. I’m certain these “presentations” are alive and well, happening somewhere (generally, they were presented at some hotel conference room) under a new name.

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

Chapter 2: How to “Join”a Cult — Repost

midvale-school for giftedThis spring, organizers of a literary event invited me to read a narrative version of Chapter 2, How to “Join” a Cult. I have heard now repeatedly that no one “joins a cult”. People join groups that speak to something in them. Once in these groups, people discover that the presentation doesn’t fit the package. Once in for a time, you might find yourself thinking, “I didn’t sign up for this … ”

Sources tell me that “school” has whittled down the five-meeting recruitment process to three meetings. The overall deception, and manipulation, however, remain the same.

On that note, here is the Chapter 2, How To “Join” a Cult rewrite:

Step-by-Step to Cult Membership for Lost Souls & Recruiters

You’ve always wanted to join a cult, but didn’t know how. You could visit Scientology’s local branch office, but you’d prefer something a little more “private” — the smaller, more secretive, harder to find, cottage-industry cult — like, say, a “secret esoteric mystery school”. This step-by-step guide will refine your vibrations to generate the “magnetic center” and attract the right recruiter to you.

You, on the other hand, are seeking lost souls for your secret cottage-industry cult. It’s challenging — and sometimes dangerous — but your imperative mission to awaken sleeping humanity calls! You must find and save lost souls; fellow soldiers who seek meaning and purpose; those who long to connect to something bigger then themselves; those who will join the effort to safeguard secret, society-saving, esoteric ideas; those who will surrender everything else to this higher purpose until the grave, or senility sets in … whatever happens first … at $350 a month. To learn how to instantly recognize your devotees, bait your line and hook them every time, read on!

 Step 1: Be Broken Heart-ed, Discontented and Constantly Questing:

Rain saturated Boston in spring, 2006. Every day I stepped off the train into the latest deluge. Jeff and I started dating in March. For years we practiced tai chi with the same teacher. One night we joined with classmates to hear music, after which we peeled off from the group and went to the nearest pub. His blarney entertained me and — as was typical of me — I found the storyteller attractive; the dysfunction played out in the typical way with a new twist.

At the time, I was completing final projects and preparing to graduate from a writing program. I was launching a new career — I hoped. The new relationship raised additional hopes — after a unimpressive roster of failed romances, maybe I had found the one. My life was beginning to turn around, I hoped.

But Jeff’s gifted gab starting digressing into random and disconnected thoughts. “Context, Jeff?” I would tease him. “If you want me to know what you’re talking about, context would help.”

One day, he abruptly disappeared and avoided my calls. We were through, I figured. But just as abruptly, he apologized. We were circling Walden Pond — our break up locale — he took my hand and revealed that interactions between us were playing out in his head. The storyteller had been spinning imaginary conversations — he was angry at me for things I had never said, in response to the things he had never told me.

This screaming siren should have sent me scrambling away at warp speed. Nope. With hope and a savior complex as my motivator, I gave our romance a second chance. Predictably, disappearing-act round two began, with the heartwarming addition of Jeff complaints flooding my email inbox. I wrote back: don’t email me. If you’ve something to say, call. The stream accelerated into a relentless river of pressured, cruel and accusatory messages. I blocked him, put pen to paper and wrote four sentences:

Jeff,

I need to end this. Don’t contact me.
Sam has your stuff. If you want it back, call him.

Best,

Esther

I sent the letter; the rain clouds burst. I was drenched inside and out.

Step Two: Magical Grocery-Store Encounter

Remember lost souls are everywhere. Stay awake during your day-to-day comings and goings! Let your “aim” guide your every moment. Your “Aim is your God”! While shopping at Whole Foods, ask yourself who in here is longing for “freedom”. Arm yourself with prepared questions, such as “who do you admire in history?” Strike up a conversation, develop rapport, be positive, but don’t linger! Keep it fast, friendly and upbeat; don’t give your new “friend” time to question – less is more. Say, “I have to run, but I’ve really enjoyed talking to you! We should get together sometime. Can I get your phone number?”

Uncomfortable with the hidden agenda? Remember, you are doing this poor soul-less, sleepwalking slob a favor by introducing him or her to “The Work”. Only you are “awake” enough to sense his/her “magnetic center”. Remember how “The Work improved your life!” Once upon a time, someone was awake enough and bold enough to do this favor for you.

Don’t mention the expectation of lifelong tenure at $350 month; the eternally, exponentially expanding group demands; the alienation from friends and family outside the group. In fact, don’t mention the group. You are simply making a “new friend”. Finally, for your safety, give your target recruit a pre-established answer phone — i.e. a voice mail.

Shortly before Jeff’s email onslaught, I attempted one last conversation.
“If we are going to break up, let’s at least be adult about it; let’s have a summit,” I said. “I’ll pick up some food. Come over and we’ll talk.” He agreed.

On summit night, I shopped at Whole Foods Market. Waiting in the cashier’s line, I ruminated over my failures – 40-years old, temping for $15/hour, “career” aimless and amorphous, another failed relationship, blah, blah, blah. Enveloped in self-pity, I was vaguely aware of the family behind me. A pretty, dark-haired woman, pointed to a magazine cover and said to her daughter, “What to you think of that?” Her daughter looked at the photo — a Zen garden — and rolled her eyes. Then the woman asked me, “What do you think?”

Inside me something said, “What does she want?” I dismissed that thought. “It looks awesome,” I replied, wistfully. The question felt strange, but the garden looked green and peaceful; beautiful and serene – a perfect contrast to my despair, unrest and discontent. I wanted to crawl inside the magazine cover and sit in that garden. Bing! Cult recruitment was off and running.

Lisa, a painter, and her husband, Josh, a writer like me, engaged me in conversation. We shared consternation(s) about squeezing our passions between life’s obligations. I complained about my boring and meaningless temp job. The cashier frantically rang up items over our blather, as the line extended behind us. They briefly pulled me out of my morass, so when Lisa said, “We should get together.” I said, “Great.” We exchanged information and parted ways. I drove home to be blown off by my soon-to-be ex-boyfriend.

As my relationship unraveled, Lisa left messages persistently and patiently — undeterred by my slow response. I was busy falling apart, after all. I was busy letting Jeff shred my heart. I was busy feeling old and lost and crappy. I was busy weeping with the sky.

One day I was home. The phone rang, I answered. We scheduled a “meeting”.

Step Three: Five meetings

Pursue patiently, until you set up a meeting. In the first two meetings  gathe information — is your potential recruit employed? What is his/her job? How much money does he or she make? Married or single? Does he or she have children? Does he or she long for purpose, question reality — have a “magnetic center”? For “your safety and privacy” refrain from talking about yourself as much as possible.

In meetings three and four, insert “secret” esoteric ideas into conversations; do they spark interest? If yes, tell the new recruit, you want to introduce him/her to a “friend”. Your more experienced colleague will establish whether this recruit is appropriate.  We don’t want just any old lost soul; our recruits must have “magnetic center”. They must be transitioning, or unsatisfied, vulnerable in some way. Oh and, by the way, if said recruit works for law enforcement, military, or the media, your more experienced colleague will reject them.

Lisa and I took walks, drank coffee, wandered museums and met for lunch. The magical new friendship felt like a divine intervention — orchestrated from above, right when I needed some hope. She asked me a lot of questions and listened attentively. I revealed more and more about my discontent with myself, and my life. She told me almost nothing about herself. Generally, I tend to be a listener and ask questions, so the dynamic felt uncomfortable and yet I looked forward to our visits.

One day I said, “I don’t know what it is about you, Lisa. I talk so much about myself.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?” she asked. “It’s different.”

“What about you?” I asked. “How did you meet your husband?”

She shifted in her chair, and looked down. “We met in an acting class. It’s hard to explain.” She changed the subject. It struck me as odd, but I followed her lead. Five years later I would leave “school” and learn that many “schooled” couples “meet in an acting class”.

At the time, though, my need for validation overrode suspicions. Lisa had a gentle presence and a great sense of humor. We laughed a lot and discussed fascinating topics and global mysteries. I wondered about the meaninglessness of my day-to-day existence: another failed relationship; empty temp job; a persistent and unending longing to pursue my songwriting and connect that art form to a passion – grabbing for the brass ring and always missing. She appeared to understand without judgment and won my trust through her patience, kindness and ability to empathize.

“Is this all there is?” I would (stereotypically) wonder our loud. “There has to be more to life.”

At meeting 4, she popped the big question:
“How would you like to meet other, like-minded people? I get together with a group of friends on Tuesday and Thursday nights. We discuss life’s big questions and ponder ideas.”

According to Lisa, people came and went. They laughed a lot. These ideas, she said, provide guidelines on how to live, tools if  you will. Suspicion, curiosity and hope poked at me; but hope took the lead – maybe, just maybe, I’ve finally found something that can help me break out of a cycle of constant failings. My self judgment steamrolled over lovely friendships, dysfunctional but loving family, musical and artistic passions and academic degrees from the Harvard Extension School, Lesley University and Hiram College.

This pervasive self doubt, and persistent longing for things that felt unattainable, namely musical and artistic pursuits, made me the perfect target for “school” – a win for the ambitious cult recruiter.

“Sure, why not.” I replied.

She wanted to introduce me to a “friend” and then informed me of the first required deception, a.k.a. “clever insincerity”: “It is very important that you not tell anyone about this. It’s private, just for you.

The secretiveness should have been a red light. It was a red light. I disregarded it. The seductiveness of “privacy, just for me” outweighed my suspicions; besides that, I trusted her.

Step Four: Meeting Robert — “Just for Me”

At the fifth meeting, introduce the new recruit to Robert. He will make the final call.

Torrents fell in sheets and buckets, again, when I met Lisa and a slightly round, very tan, bearded man named Robert at Pete’s Coffee. I commented on the steady deluge hitting Boston that spring.

Robert replied, “It has been said that raindrops are angel’s tears, and that the angels are crying.”

Wow! I’d been raining all spring — the thought of crying with angels cinched the deal — let the magic begin! As we sipped lattes, Robert expounded on how each human — in purest form — is an “essence” visiting earth from the “starry world” – earth is not home. We journey here, he said, to learn something about an essential weakness. I heard those angel voices rise and saw sunbeams part the dark clouds of my  dirge. Finally! I’ve met others who could explain and understand my lifelong befuddlement and sense of not belonging to this world!

But Robert had moved on — he pontificated on other ideas and I kept asking him, “What do you mean?” He finally said — with a wee bit of exasperation leaking out — “Well, I’m trying to tell you.” On looking back, I see that his entire rap was an introduction and exposition on the “ideas” to come. I was unable to absorb all the new “knowledge”. He was outlining the “school” experience, should I choose to accept the mission.

At one point in this final meeting, Lisa and I shared my post-Hurricane Katrina, disaster relief adventure with Robert. In 2005, I joined with Scientologists and handed out bottled water and gallons of bleach in Mississippi. I’d shared several crazy scenarios with Lisa previously, so we were laughing about something Scientology related. Robert’s face darkened — his voice tightened as he said, “They don’t get it.” Then he stopped himself. He dismissed the conversation abruptly, as though swatting away a fly. We followed his lead.

He asked me – as had Lisa – whether I’d like to meet “like-minded people” and try out a free “five-week experiment” called “school”.

“Does it have another name?” I asked.
“No just ‘school’.” He replied with a smile.
“Where do we meet?” I asked.
“When we start a new class, we’ll let you know.” He replied.
“Is there a cost?” I asked.
“Look, if you decide to continue after the five-week experiment there’s a tuition fee. It really depends on each student,” he said.
“O.k.,” I told him. “I’ll try it. All I can say is it feels right.”
“Great. Just remember that it is critical to not to tell anyone about this. It’s private. Just for you.”

Like Jeff’s quirky and odd behavior, I brushed past the flashing red lights  — the secrecy, or “privacy” as “school” likes to call it, was screaming step away from the cult recruiters, ma’am; it was also seductive and special … “just for me.”

I didn’t tell anyone and I waited for the new class to begin – after all, what could a five-week experiment hurt?

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.

Footnote:

* 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.

Happy Independence Day

IMG_1006There’s nothing like spending Independence Day in our nation’s capital and watching the fireworks from the national mall. I have never felt more free in my life.  Here’s to your emancipation, Dear Readers! My you practice your civil right to free speech often.

While in D.C., I attended the International Cultic Studies Association’s conference. Ironically, after all the “help” “school” provided for my work/money/job woes — the “help” that led me down the illustrious path of baby sitting and cleaning houses for $10-$15 an hour — leaving the group solidified my purpose to help ex-cult members, and anyone healing from an abusive relationship, find resources, speak out and heal through the creative arts.

The conference provided so much to share, I barely know where to begin. But my primary takeaway was this:

These destructive mind-control groups are essentially all the same. Like Apple’s marketing tag line, “There’s an app for that”, the cult marketplace offers a veritable potpourri of manipulative groups. Whatever your insecurity, “there’s a cult for that” — whether a pseudo-science-religion, like Scientology, a purely religious-based Christian cult, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, a yoga cult, or an intellectual and philosophical cult built around the teachings of GI Gurjieff  — while (oops) conveniently omitting his name from all class discussions — all of these groups use deception and manipulation to recruit and retain members for the purpose of increasing profits.

They present themselves as one thing — for example, a casual group that gets together twice a week to “discuss ideas” — and omit the cultic details that would send recruits scampering away at warp speed. For example my recruiter conveniently did not mention the unspoken expectation of lifelong membership at $350 a month. The details presented on the surface may differ, lift the hood and the inner workings are exactly the same.

They all speak to some basic emotional need within us — the need to belong, the need for more meaning in life, the need to feel as though we are contributing to the betterment of society, the need for spiritual connection, the need for guidance, the need for direction, etc — and use it as a hook for concealed purposes. The best in you — the most vulnerable parts of you — manipulated to serve some “higher covert aim” of feeding the leadership’s egos and financial coffers.

Here’s the good news: several hundred people from around the world attended this conference; all of them intending to heal and speak out against the odd and disturbing sociological phenomenon — cultic groups who institutionalize and justify a range of abuse. I intend to add my voice to this chorus often and as much as possible. I hope that these resources give you hope and encouragement. Perhaps you will be singing out with us as well.

As I regroup, I will share what I learned from I.C.S.A. here on this blog. Please stay tuned. In the meantime, revel in your “school”-free “only life”! Congratulations for reclaiming your time, your energy, your thoughts, your emotions, your relationships and more! If you’re reading this because you found yourself in “school”, are wondering what the group is, and are breaking “the rules”, congrats for that and please know that the institute is not what it presents itself to be. There are many of us out here that will share our experiences, so feel free to reach out. Break “the rules.” Set yourself free!