The Art of Artful Dodging

I often listen to a WGBH radio show simply called Boston Public Radio, with hosts Jim Braude and Margery Eagen. I’m driving quite a bit these days, traveling from client to client. The show keeps me informed and entertained.

A recent interview caught my attention and you might enjoy it. Harvard economist Michael Norton analyzed artful dodging strategies employed by politicians — the expert steering of direct questions away from the point and into something more suited to a particular agenda, or talking point, or campaign pledge.

Of course, I couldn’t help but be reminded of a certain secret esoteric “School”, now known as “The Study”. If get a chance take a listen and see what you think. I’d love to hear your take!

http://wgbhnews.org/post/bpr-anger-translators-and-artful-dodgers

 

 

Yom Kippur: about atonement & forgiveness

Gettysburg_SunsetDbleWowI grew up in a secular Jewish family. In fact, my mom was on a constant soul search which including carting her four kids to Buddhist temples, Quaker meetings, even Hari Krishna dinners (thank God that didn’t take). On Yom Kippur mom would take us hiking.

I guess I went on a soul search of my own, which traversed me in to and out of a cult and left me suspicious of religion. The misuse and abuse of religious/philosophical practices surround us constantly – from cults like “school”, i.e. “thestudy”, to right-wing religious nut cases trying to dictate and control personal choices, to the worst case scenario — ISIS justifying beheading, enslaving and spreading violence – I have decided to slug out this spiritual journey on my own.

Religion’s purpose, I would guess, is probably to create community, connection to others, based on a shared faith — a belief in something beyond our human existence, a greater intelligence, bigger love; or, Agape — a love of God and humankind. The structures and traditions established therein could shape our time on planet earth in a lovely way; if we humans were able to use it for reflection and connection, shared experience, rather than abuse it as a tool for social engineering and control, I’d be on board.

That said, I do believe in God and I continue a tradition passed on from mom – nature as my temple. At sunset last night, I went for a run to be with the dusk, say hello to my father, and reflect on this somber time of atonement and forgiveness.

Forgiveness I find to be an elusive concept – certainly, I don’t feel forgiveness for those who intentionally deceive others for selfish gain. I’d like my $20,000 back. However, in leaving the fold, I have probably gotten my money’s worth, plus.

I now know how to turn inward when seeking answers and am no longer vulnerable to spiritual con-artists.  Through this painful, embarrassing and often ridiculous lesson, I’ve developed an accurate antennae for bullshit. I’ve realized how to trust my perceptions and follow my inner moral compass. I’ve come to understand that perfect imperfection is the nature of our existence and thus, every human should have the chance to develop his/her potential to the best of his/her ability; external “sources” can’t ultimately dictate what choices are best for me, or anyone else.

So, this is what I believe:

I believe there’s an entity, call it God if you will, an intelligence far beyond what we can know and conceive.

I believe that this intelligence, God, wants each and every soul to grow into his/her best self.

I believe that God wants you to care for the gifts bestowed upon you: body — feed, move, rest; emotions — allow, accept, honor, express, care for, act on if needed; intellect — feed, practice, honor fascination, explore, express.

I believe that my life experiences to date have brought me to these conclusions — humanist in nature. I can thank my “school” experience for helping me walk into this philosophy when I walked away from the hallowed halls, never to return.

After all, some bridges should be burned.

So, for those of you who are observing this day, I wish you peace.

“The Study’s” latest “class” …

… was recently spooked out of Somerville! The cult formerly known as “School”, currently  called “The Study”, had a conveniently-located classroom in Union Square’s, The Green Room on Bow Street. But an “incident”, or “event” (pay attention to when Robert employs the nondescript word event), now has “The Study’s youngest class” on the go.

Thursday night’s class, for example, met at the Holiday Inn, in Brookline, 1200 Beacon St (the corner of Beacon and St Paul St.)

Over the years, “The Study” has often been forced to pull up roots and pull out its pat explanations about sudden venue changes. Like … “We’re going to experiment and meet at various locations. Secret esoteric schools of yore would often only reveal class-locations at the last minute. A student with ‘sufficient valuation’ would be on the ready, waiting for the phone call (this was, after all, pre-answering machines, let alone smartphones!) Those who missed this call, would lose out. In order to rate, one must do whatever it takes!’ to seek out the class location. This is part in parcel with tradition, not odd at all.”

Like so many stories from “the study” this is true in part. The unmentioned Gurdjieff had an also-not-mentioned student: PD Ouspensky. He describes mysterious last-minute phone calls and scrambles, in search of the latest classroom, in his unmentioned book (cough) In Search of the Miraculous.
I’m fairly certain “the study”, formerly known as “school”, omitted Ouspensky and his book last Thursday night when explaining the latest move. During my tenure, “School” handed us a black-bound copy of something it simply called “The Black Book” and referred to its secret author as “a great teacher, who once [FILL IN BLANK]”, usually some teacher would take on a lofty tone and precede such a  pronouncement with the phrase, “It has been said …”.  After departing I discovered that “The Black Book” was a redacted and Xeroxed copy of In Search of the Miraculous. Needless to say, I was furious.

I have a feeling “the study” also neglected to mention the number of sudden migrations it has been forced to make over the years. It will tell “students” the move is “… for your own safety.” As opposed to a “random psychotic person, akin to Charles Manson” who “hangs out in Union Square” freaking out “students,” these migrations are usually triggered by “evil and disgruntled ex-group members”,  trying to warn current attendees that the “5-week experiment” is – in truth – a greedy and predatory cult; flyers suddenly appearing on cars and such, or sudden announcements by a fellow essence friend like — “I’m leaving; you should consider leaving, too” spur the cult into its next venue.

Over the course of my 5-year tenure, “school” migrated from the Belmont Lion’s Club, to various ugly hotel conference rooms, to The Griffin Photography Museum in Winchester and finally out to Boston’s satellite HQ in Billerica’s Faulkner Mills Building. In the seventies, San Francisco ran “the study” — then known as “The Theater of all Possibilities” — out of town, forcing it to migrate East. Click here to read newspaper articles about the “theater”.

But for now, folks …

The current “youngest class” meets every Monday and Thursday, 6:30-9 p.m. Nine “students” gather — a few of whom rotate through, without sharing “self observations” or doing the “assignments” — possibly because “The Study” floats them in so “classes” appear larger than they are.

The following “teachers” take charge: Michael still says, “Time for Tai Chi” and Paul still leads the indoctrinating flailing about known as “Body Work”. Lisa has been promoted to “teacher” status. She rotates her instruction with Josh, Michael and Robert.

5-Week AIMS morphed into 5-Week “commitments”.

“Sustainers”
morphed into “the person I work with!”

The following “secret” (cough) ideas have been “taught”: multiplicity; mechanicality; the 7 centers, or “brains”; and themany Is” living on the abandoned, chaotic grand estate with an absent Master; identification vs. non-identification/ I believe this idea might also be known as “familiarity”; expanding/contracting events (cough); self-love (horrors) vs. emotional love; self-remembering, memory, false memories …

it sounds like “teachers” are starting down the path towards “valuation” via memory — “the study” connects your ability for memory directly to your capacity for love. Those whose memories are detailed and sharp, have a greater capacity for love than those who struggle to remember things, especially “secret esoteric ideas”, accordingly. By the way, this “lesson” is a very effective indoctrination and control tool; “school” can always attack your character via your “lack of memory”.

(for more on these “secret ideas” and this “oral teaching”, visit this link: http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=gurdjieff+books )

In case you’re confused about whether this group is the one you’re dealing with, see if you recognize recruitment tactics: recruiters typically strike up a conversation, often claiming to be working on a project, like writing a book, and wanting to talk to YOU! They’ll end a seemingly random encounter with “It’s been great talking to you. We should get together sometime.” You exchange numbers; they “pursue a new friendship” — if you get together with them, you’ll notice the original project won’t resurface. They will, instead, invite you to join some kind of special group — “Would you’d like to join a book club?”.

Please see cult recruitment for more details.

The Privacy (cough) Secrecy “Rules” remain the same:

  • No Internet-research about the group, class or assignments  “… there’s a lot of bad information out there, we don’t want it to poison what you learn.”
    (Congratulations for breaking this rule)
  • No discussion about the group or its teachings to people outside of the group, even your closest friends, even your spouse  “… for your safety, because other people won’t understand and might have problems with it.”
  • Non-Fraternization 1: don’t form personal relationships or divulge personal information with other “students”, at least for the first 5 weeks “… it’s very important to keep separate, for your safety! This is private, just for you!
  • Non-Fraternization 2: don’t acknowledge fellow “students” outside the classroom, float past, as though strangers “… again, for your own safety. Private, just for you!
  • Observe an hour of silence immediately after class “… it’s important to seal yourself off and process your new knowledge!”
  • Self Sensing … a morning ritual of “self-remembering” to be practiced upon waking, before you get up: scan your body from head to toe; sense the bed beneath, the room, the house, the street, neighborhood, town, state, country, continent, world, planet … etc. etc. etc.
  • Commit to attending all 9 classes and be. on. time.

Please know that these rules only protect you from accessing certain information, ” … before you are ready”, a.k.a. sufficiently indoctrinated. That’s why the study waits 5-8 weeks before hitting you up for the $350/month (at least) “tuition”. It will never tell you that your “5-week experiment” is meant to be a lifetime tenure.

“Break “The Rules”!

Seeing Into The Heart of Things: The Christmas Class from Hell

Somewhere, on some post, in this blog, there’s a conversation regarding what is affectionately known as The Christmas Class from Hell (perhaps it’s in the comment section of, The Christmas Party. I haven’t found the exchange yet.) However, as we head into fall, “School”, a.k.a “The Study”, gets closer and closer to it’s annual holiday usurpation — although it is possible that current morphing (such as changing the group’s name from “School” to “The Study) has the group skulking away from it’s annual tradition (cough).

However, at a some point the illustrious institution established an annual holiday bash. “School/The Study” pitched its party to us as “a gift to your teachers and sustainers”. The “youngest class” would be guided into greatness by members of the “older class” (those who “had been doing THE WORK longer”). The “older class” would do a boat load of prep — food prep for example — and cart it all off to NY to present to Queen Sharon (I think — those of you who experienced the older class Christmas party, please correct me if I’m wrong).

As far as I know, the Christmas Party was mostly a love-fest of self congratulation, however, one year this was not the case. Recently, the blog Seeing Into the Heart of Things, provided an inside look into the disaster known as The Christmas Class from Hell. Here is an excerpt:

The night of the party came and it was all a blur to me. It was the usual. Usually Sharon was outrageously late and a dinner that had been planned for 10 pm might not happen until 2 am. Everything was always at the whim of Sharon: when she arrived, what she did, what she ate and drank, who she brought with her from New York, what time she left, what she said (she frequently addressed the whole group)…

I remember that during the presentations, one of the younger students came over to me and said that she thought she had seen Sharon across the room complaining or unhappy about something. I told her that everything was going great and not to worry.

So, the class came and went and then we had the “impressions class” several days later…

About “Radical Honesty” …

First of all, I LOVE The Moth. Secondly, this story is hilarious and there are aspects of it that are reminiscent of a certain “secret esoteric school”, cough, “study”, i.e. “the study” … perhaps an eyelash more ridiculous … a little cult humor never hurts when one is breaking rules and researching “the invisible world” on the internet.

I hope you enjoy! Thanks, Patterson!