Our Stories

 

 

 

Fourth Way School/Cult Stories

 

 

From “Our Stories,” published on the Esoteric Freedom website “by and for current students and ex-students of Sharon Gans, Alex Horn and the teachers in Boston.”

 

 

[1.]

 

Think back with me about our years in the Work.

 

It was stated that esoteric schools down through the ages passed on their wisdom in an oral tradition – it was implied, but never stated, that our school had a direct connection with these Schools. Did Sharon EVER name her teacher? I never questioned this till I stumbled on information about Sharon and Alex on the Web. (Google “Sharon, Robert, Cult”)

 

For the first 5 years or so, we had classes with Robert and Fred, etc., and learned “the System” from them. We were taught that this was a school to Resurrect Buried Conscience, a school to develop Consciousness. Can you remember the last time the idea of resurrecting conscience was talked about – let alone a method proposed to help us do it? I propose to you that the exact opposite deliberately took place: our consciences were buried deeper as we were systematically asked to ignore the outside world and focus on school; as we went along with the rules and lied to families and friends about school activities; as we sat and watched in silence as painful methods were used on our friends to “help them grow.”

 

Regarding the other focus – that of Developing One’s Consciousness, we did work on ourselves. We all changed – for the better. There is value, real merit in work in a group, and this system is very useful in clearing out internal rubbish and seeing more clearly.

 

But at the same time, the methods used by the teachers deliberately lulled us into a convenient complacency about school – never questioning (at least not out loud – would you have dared?) ideas, conventions, exercises, projects, schedules, traditions. This is tantamount to a level of waking sleep. It is Both/And…

 

In the early years, we learned the accepted behaviors of students in school – when to stand up and speak, when not to, which questions were ok, which not, how to set and make aims, how to help each other, how to speak straight to our friends. And we made friends, had secret crushes on each other (probably the strongest reason I came many a night!), and worked on ourselves as best as we could. But Do NOT confuse the system with our school. That is a mistake. The system is NOT unique – it should not need to be paid for with your savings, most of your spare time, your talents, your energy and, in short, your life.

 

The law of 7 and law of 3 are NOT new with Gurdjieff. They are ancient ideas that have been brought to the west by the Theosophical Movement. (Read The Harmonious Circle by James Webb – it is an excellent, huge, historical work on Gurdjieff’s life, work and those of his key students.) But Theosophy, studied by G, Ouspensky, Orage, Nicoll and Collin – in fact by most of the intelligentsia of that time, worldwide, was discredited by Gurdjieff himself – because he had to validate and “Uniquify” his own system.

 

There is much amazing material in the books we studied, mostly written by Ouspensky (much of that before he met Gurdjieff), Nicoll and Collin. The diagrams were intriguing and the level of intellect and thought impressive. And the ideas make a real difference. Discussion in a group is vivifying.

 

And then, subtly, without being obvious, instead of being taught, the game changed – we became our own teachers. If you are honest, you will realize that in the small groups, WE brought in the new perceptions, WE brought in and made new connections, WE did the research for the lectures; in fact, what esoteric teachings were presented to us in the last 12-15 years???? Honestly????? Think about it…. Do you believe there is a secret body of knowledge that our teachers possess that will be passed along to you if you should qualify to deserve it? If so, what does it take to qualify? Why, if there is a hierarchy of esoteric knowledge to be made available, aren’t the steps up the hierarchy clearly outlined? Can you picture yourself coming every Tuesday and Thursday for the rest of your life? What will it be like when you’re 60? 70? Will you be admitted to the inner circle by then? Do you really want to be? 

 

But, compare and contrast the actual quantity of useful class discussion with the endless, tedious hours we spent in class listening to teachers rant about some detail in our work on lectures or parties, for example. In retrospect, these diatribes substituted for teaching real ideas – something which cannot be done – as they don’t have them to pass on. No wonder so many of us were sleepy in class and/or in dread of Tuesdays and Thursdays!!!

 

Think too about the quality of the interactions we had with our teachers at CR, it was “lifey” – talk about culture, funny stories, poker games  – with some very serious betting!! Did they ever sit down and try to get to know you, really know you? Find out your personal thoughts on ideas, life, anything? When I am one-on-one with another person, I do my best to draw them out, to learn about them as a human being, so I can be of the utmost help to them in any way I can. Did the teachers treat us like this without ulterior motives?

 

Think about all the things that we knew that were not spoken about – as though they didn’t exist – you knew darn well you’d never get straight or real answers. Things like, if you weren’t in it, what in tarnation is group 32C – other than a bra size? What were all the groups about that met after class in secrecy? Where did the older students go every summer around the fourth of July? Did I want to know? Did I want to go? Did I want yet another layer of school involvement added to my life? Do you know that sleep deprivation, unexplained hierarchies, and mysterious goings and comings are among the warning signs of cults?

 

When you hear the stories from your fellow students you will find many examples of how our personal fortunes were put to work for the enrichment of our teachers – NOT for the benefit of school, the Inner Circle of Humanity, or Humanity in any way. Did any of the theatre group’s original productions EVER make it to a public venue? Why not? Did it not strike you as exceedingly strange that we made white silk curtains for a palatial home for Sharon – one of the many mysterious projects we worked on? Did you have any difficulty reconciling the splendour of the furnishings we were working on with the idea of an esoteric teacher?? Think about Gandhi, Siddhartha, Mohammad, Christ. They were not sybarites!!! Why did we all buy into or give lip-service to Sharon-as-Queen? Because we were told to.

 

It is time to think for yourself. To listen to, trust and follow the promptings of your Own instinctive sensing of reality.

 


 

[2.]

 

Anderson’s “The Shadow” and its Allegorical Relationship to “School”

 

The Shadow, by Hans Christian Andersen, is a story that “The School” likes you to read. In the story, the learned man becomes seduced by the mystery of the woman across the street. He recognizes that this mysterious woman is Poetry herself, though others find her music tiresome. He finds himself incapable of gaining entry to the house to see for himself. One evening he bids his shadow to separate from him and enter the house to get a glimpse of Poetry and then return to tell him all about it.

 

Naturally, the shadow, once freed, decides to live its own life and never returns to obedience. The shadow revisits the learned man and claims it was in the house of Poetry for three weeks, but the effect was so great that it was “as if I had lived three thousand years and read everything that was ever composed or written.” In fact, the shadow did not see Poetry because he was afraid for his existence – afraid of the light. The shadow makes a deceptive argument to “prove” that he did, in fact, really see Poetry. The shadow becomes very wealthy while the learned man’s fortunes diminish. Over a long time, the shadow gradually enslaves the learned man and their relationship becomes inverted. The learned man doesn’t see it coming until it is too late. The shadow tells people that the learned man is his shadow. The shadow uses the kind soul of the learned man to convince a princess to marry him, saying that if his “shadow” has such a great soul, his must be even more so.

 

The school likes to interpret the story as an allegory for the separation of one’s “false personality” from one’s “essence personality.” The shadow represents the false personality that usurps the will of the true essence personality of the learned man.

 

After reading and discussing this tale, I felt that parallel was a weak one. I couldn’t put my finger on why it was weak at the time, and our discussion of the story was conveniently limited by circumstances. There was something about this tale that didn’t resonate as a comprehensive allegory along the lines suggested.

 

It’s like being handed the explanation of how someone is using you, but being given the story in another guise. The tactic is a complete misdirection worthy of a magician. The symbol of the magician has meaning for the school.

 

After learning the back-story and financial details of the school’s teachers, I think there is a very specific interpretation that better suits the details of the story. It is the story of how one becomes willingly enslaved to someone who wants to use you, through the mechanism of one’s desire for higher meaning, and further by one’s gullibility, vanity and fears.

 

The shadow personality that takes control is a very specific one – one that first implies a superior level of spiritual knowledge over others from its acquaintance with Poetry, and then seeks power over others in the same way that a blackmailer does. The shadow boasts of learning the secret weaknesses of people and using that knowledge to enslave them.

 

The story is both an allegory for the evolution of a charlatan, the way to influence of a sociopath, as well as the story of how one becomes enslaved to a sociopath. A sociopath is precisely someone who is unfettered by conscience in pursuit of power over others. A sociopath actively seeks a willing victim.

 

The shadow side is the side that is capable of lying, and of doing “whatever it takes” to achieve the desired end. If that end is “to grow one’s being,” isn’t it worth a little deception? Normally, one’s darker side obeys conscience. We all learn as children that lying is wrong. But what if one sees the possibility of understanding the true spirit of Poetry, yet sees no legitimate way to arrange the opportunity? One notices that his or her shadow, if separated, could see Poetry for us. Why not allow it? The outcome would be positive. Why not cheat? …just a little? Why not tolerate a little secrecy to learn more? Just as an experiment.

 

In the story, the desire to glimpse higher knowledge justifies tolerating something that seems “a little wrong,” but not clearly so. Once the door is opened by this poor choice, the situation gains a will of its own, circumvents conscience completely and opens the door to a life of lies. Once released by that impulse, the shadow self will never return to obedience. The shadow first gains power over the learned man precisely by lying about the degree of spiritual insight he gained. The learned man wants this knowledge, and so he gives the benefit of the doubt – his nickel’s worth of trust. The shadow, using the tantalizing fruit of revealing higher wisdom, goes on, not only to enslave the conscience of its former owner but also to dominate the lives of many others.

 

Because the teachers’ basic qualification is their willingness to do whatever it takes to protect the secret of no true lineage and the use of the students’ money for their self-enrichment, the school builds itself on a foundation of lies. Once you have been seduced and coerced into accepting all the rules of secrecy (lying), lured further by any legitimate successes in pursuit of The Work, it is hard to accept or even recognize where you went off-track. You become the learned man, thinking about the True and the Good, while the will of the school enriches itself and dominates you; becomes your shadow; uses your earnestness and knowledge as representative of its own so as to seduce others.

 

And what if you begin to entertain the idea of leaving? Wouldn’t telling your friends and family about how you lied to them be embarrassing? Would you be embarrassed to have it known you were duped? The Andersen story covers that too.

 

Why does the learned man first decide to keep the loss of his shadow secret? The story says that the learned man would be embarrassed to have to tell the story of losing his shadow and be seen as a mere plagiarist – as someone not so learned. Andersen wrote that everyone knew the story of a man losing his shadow was an older story by someone else. How humiliating to be seen as rather gullible! It was “sensible” not to tell anyone about losing his shadow and avoid embarrassment.

 

Andersen’s reference to that other story was to “Peter Schlemihl,” by Adelbert von Chamisso. The name “Schlemihl” is an alternate spelling of the Yiddish word “schlemiel,” which can be translated as “an unfortunate and gullible person whom is easy to take advantage of.”

 

If any of this analysis rings true, know that there are many others including dear friends of yours who have freed themselves from the above mentioned forces. These people are leading rich, happy lives incorporating the ideas of the Work into them. It is not easy to leave this school. Just know that if you have doubts and are ready, there is plenty of support in whatever way you need.

 


 

[3.]

 

The Allure of a Secret
society composed of highly intelligent people who are following a line of work, purportedly created many centuries before, is strong. The allure of feeling special, feeling superior to those around you, but then again remembering to be humble because “there but for being in the right place at the right time go I, moving along in sleep and ignorance, unaware of the riches available if one works just a little bit harder”…and a little harder…and then a bit more….

 

Then there is the voice inside, as early as the recruitment period and the first five weeks, which is quite hesitant, anxious. The gut tells me something is not right but discipline holds sway, and curiosity, and a new idea is heard, and “help” received that “Gosh, I would never have heard any other way,” and I am back in for another 3 months, until the next time. I do learn things about myself and others that are valuable: how to make an aim and keep it, knowing how hard I can actually work physically and mentally, learning about the struggles of others and that one is not alone in longings for a mate, or a fulfilling job, or a way to express oneself.

 

But the questions persist: Why the secrecy? Why the need to be duplicitous with mates and co-workers, family and friends? Why cut off those who choose to leave? Why no discussions with friends outside the work? Why edit work books for the younger class to delete the names of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky? Why the lethargy and deadness inside that sets in after a few years?

 

We have read the same materials, with moments of energy, granted, but many more moments of aching calves and sore bums, sitting in those god-awful chairs (the damage done to my spine is incalculable). Sleepy, bored, missing an important event in “life” (which, by the way, has no value), waiting for the minute hand to move a bit faster but then, of course, that is our fault for we are not working hard enough. If we were, we would be participating, sharing, working towards our goal of being “joyous, happy and free”.

 

To find out that this “school” is NOT connected, that all these efforts are made to build an empire for the select few on the top, who are now themselves convinced after all these years of manipulating others that indeed, they are special enough to deserve all this largesse. To learn that there is no greater cause or purpose is truly upsetting. For unfortunately, that is the case. There is no real connection to a legitimate Fourth Way School. There is only the one created by our “teachers”. It is New York, Boston and Copenhagen. Period.

 

And, yet, trying to hold on to the “bothness” of life…by that I mean the grays … trying not to put everything into a box and label it bad/good, black/white…. I want to take something away for myself from this, not be resentful of time and money spent but use this now, to do that which I thought I WAS doing…to give my best energy to find my purpose and help my friends.

 

I find that I am having many more creative ideas and asking more questions since I left school. I feel more energetic and alive than I have for many years. I am so grateful every Tuesday and Thursday (and many weekends and before Christmas) that I am no longer living a lie. I feel for you in “school” who instinctively want to escape, who know that somehow it is not right, and still feel beholden to people who have your interests at heart only so long as it serves their interests as well. How do I reach you? Do you hear voices like mine? Do you have questions like mine? I know how difficult it can be to ask these kinds of questions of the teachers. Also how difficult it can be to even contemplate the thought that all you have invested – time, energy, money – may not be supporting the “sacred cause” you have believed in all this time. We were told that we would lose everything if we left – our ability to awaken, to realize our possibilities or to evolve, to hold on to marriages or jobs – and of course (and this is the only part that IS true), we would lose the friends we had made as they would now have to shun us.

 

Many have made this lonely decision without anyone to turn to for help. I am so fortunate that I could know enough about the reality of the situation, and connect with friends I had thought lost. I was able to leave with NO guilt, and NO question in my mind that my course of action was the right one. I will take what I earned with my efforts and my money from all those years, and look FORWARD. I am so happy! I am busier and more productive than I have been in a very long time. My Life (with a big “L”!) has come alive and the many possibilities only now await. Come out into the sun! We’ll be there to help you….

 

With love,
Your Friend

 


 

[4]

 

I, a black sheep of the third degree –
only kidding! will tell you my story…

 

For as long as I can remember I was a black sheep, always looking at the rest of the world and wondering where I fit in, were there others like me? Like all of us, I found ways to adapt. I made friends, got a terrific first education, I found good jobs, had boyfriends, traveled around the world, and yes, I had a good relationship with my mother, despite the numerous suggestions from our teachers that this was not so – that I was missing something – I know this is true. And all the while, I had this burning inside – a wish to do something useful with my life – “to find my life’s work.”

 

This wish manifested in different ways – one was trying to find some kind of group to study with. I rejected a number of groups and organizations: The Theosophical Society – too New-Agey, EST – too controlling. I studied with a teacher of the Vedas, who turned out to have a drug habit – supported by our donations! Interestingly enough, I had just started a series of classes with the Philosophy Foundation when I was invited to school, and they have some very similar ideas – like 4 levels of consciousness – with the same names as our system uses.

 

One evening in 1987, I went out with a friend to listen to a band at the Regatta Bar, and one of the musicians caught my eye and came over to talk. You know the story from there. And there I was – in school with all the other black sheep – marvelous!! And new ideas, practical applications, things to experiment with. But back there in Somerville, I wondered about what went on in the little office. I wondered why some people took notes. I wondered how they knew so much about us. I wondered if there were hidden microphones – & that seemed ridiculous – as the teachers would have to listen to recordings of what was said when they weren’t in the room. And I saw that other students had a different relationship with the Teachers than I did. And of course I wondered about the money – why it had to be cash, and so much from so many!

 

And what I wonder about now, is that I NEVER questioned whether this was a real esoteric school – you see, I knew about their existence from childhood, and it seemed reasonable that such a school would be mysterious and secret. I was delighted to have found a modern version. I figured it was my karma, that I had attracted it from my wish. What I wish now is that I had seriously studied the literature of my own religion – if I had read Esoteric Buddhism, by A.P. Sinnett, for example, I would have realized that the Work as we were taught truly had no new ideas. Had I done my homework, I might have been less resistant to the hypnotism we were subjected to by our own set of magicians – over and over again.

 

Yes – I was a bright-eyed, bushy-tailed recruit. And soon enough I became a recruiter – and a good one. But although I found the method disturbing in its deceit, I followed it for the most part. I had a belief that if I could do this third line of work, I would grow my being – and I did. There are very few people I am afraid to talk to now, few questions I dare not ask, if I really want an answer. But now, I only talk to strangers when I feel like it – which is actually often – only there is no hidden agenda. I wondered why it was forbidden to work with someone from California – it did not seem reasonable that there would be no one from that part of the world with a real wish who was able to hear new ideas. Duh – read the web links – now it’s so obvious! I found it painful to make friends only to inevitably drop them due to lack of time when they either said no, couldn’t come or did come and then were swallowed up in school rules. I recently lost 3 good friends I met doing third line who reacted negatively to my being associated with this weird thing I did, and I am angry and sad about this.

 

I am clear now that the main reason the rules about keeping school secret exist is so that we will not have the clear light of Sanity shine on the bizarreness of it all – and then we’d quit before Sharon and Robert had their share of our fortunes. They had their share of mine. When I got engaged, I asked in class whether it was a good idea to have a prenuptial agreement. I was asked how much money I had to protect. And shortly thereafter, but before my marriage, Robert asked me if I would be willing to write a check out to the school and receive cash in return – as they had a need to convert $ to usable assets. It made me uncomfortable and I had to negotiate down the original request to a figure of $100,000.00 – he had the chutzpah to ask for half of my total assets!!!!!  I was also pleased to be able to help school, but realized that I was losing significant investment interest by sitting on cash instead of an honest asset. I have surmised that my money went to help purchase a house for Sharon’s daughter Ilsa – the timing was right. Which was recently sold for $7,500,000.00 and a hefty profit was made.

 

I think back on how many times things about myself or my life which I brought up in class were twisted, and I would stand there and agree with Robert, fearing that if I resisted, I would be embarrassed or kicked out. How I feared that. Yet he was wrong about many things – my mother, my father, my husband and yes, wrong about some of my features too. And he is perceptive and very intelligent. He gave many of us terrific, practical help for our “first and second storys”.

 

The long and short of it is, that I learned about the many ways Sharon manipulates people’s lives, marriages, divorces, children. I was shocked, repulsed, confused. I tried to connect the dots from these events to the positive side of school and failed. I called in my resignation and met with Robert for “damage control”. He had promised to meet with me to answer all my questions. But he didn’t. He side-stepped, he lied, he evaded and in the end said “I love you”. I cannot honestly tell you I understand how he can do it – is he hypnotized himself? Or is he a good actor? Both? Perhaps he is deluded and believes he is really helping us and we really owe him!

 

The weekend after I quit, I spent about 3 hours telling my husband everything I needed to talk about. He was fantastic. He listened, he didn’t judge, he asked questions. He was supportive of my wish, he was relieved to know what all the ‘Years of Secrecy’ were about. He was shocked that I had been so gullible – especially about the aspects of school relating to money. He understood immediately why we weren’t supposed to look up anything on the internet, or to talk to family, friends or spouses – no one would stay long if they did – our school, sometimes known as the Odyssey Study Group, does not stand up to scrutiny. We talked about ideas then and since. We have grown closer. I told my kids a lot about this part of my life. I wanted them to know that their mother wasn’t around for so much of their childhood because she has a real wish, a hunger for real knowledge and understanding. We’ve had some deep conversations. They too were amazed that I could have been fooled for so long. But you have to be in it to know how easy it is to follow, to be a black sheep, hypnotized by the magicians for your wool, your flesh, your life.

 

And life is real, now, when I am not “studying”. I think about real ideas – about possibilities. I read all kinds of books – yes – including some of those on the “verboten” list. I have freedom. I have happiness. I have difficulties. I have negative emotions which I still struggle to transform. I have time for my friends, new and old. I take art classes. I go to lectures, shows and concerts whatever night of the week they come up! I have more cash in hand for whatever! My stomach is no longer in a knot as I rush around trying to get everything done in too little time for school, for my job, for my family, for myself. I get enough sleep. It’s taken a while, but I no longer have imaginary conversations with my teachers, trying to explain myself. I am no longer living with a fear of being “found out”. I see my friends who have escaped from the prison of the sheep fold.

 

I miss my friends still “inside” and I hope and pray for them that they will heed their own doubts and listen to their consciences – use the consciousness that they have developed, hold it all together and leave school to find a new life and real freedom and joy.

 


 

[5.]

 

Why I left…

 

I am sorry that I never said goodbye to all of you…it was a confusing time and I could not have afforded to be lured back in.  I wanted it to be my own decision to take “time off” and then, ultimately to leave.  I know you all can understand how difficult that decision was to make in light of all of the internal pressures, friendships, time devoted to teaching and the ideas which I will always love…it weighed heavily on me.  But it was the right decision for me.  You have to do what is right for you.

 

Quite simply, I left because I was finally strong enough to leave.

 

After many years of asking no questions, I started to ask them…basic ones, ones that you have asked silently in your head for 20 years, but never dared to ask in class lest someone think less of you – or perhaps you might get one of those disdainful sideways glance responses that would shut you down for months.  I am sure none of you asked about me and where I was when I disappeared…a friend who you knew for 18 years.  You were taught not to question and I understand that.  That is also one of the reasons why I left.  I need to be around people who are not so afraid…I could not teach that “fear” anymore, could not be a part of the problem.  We were all cut off from basic conscience for so long.  I started to trust mine again.

 

The answers to my questions from Robert were at best unconvincing – some were complete lies.  Blatant lies which I listened to without comment.  Lots of “I don’t knows”.  Now how is that possible?  Realize that Robert was my friend and this was hard.…I saw enough, had experienced enough to see patterns everywhere, and this refusal to answer anything directly was one of them.  I had a hard time looking at all of you, watching you become manipulated – because of your weaknesses.  We all know how to do it…any one who has done third line knows how to do it to others.

 

I left because I couldn’t do to you what Sharon had done to Robert and what he was doing to me…and ultimately what I would do to you.  That is the way things go.  I have watched Robert – after 40 years in the work, flattened by a sideways glance by his teacher.  It has that much power over him and he does not recover until the void is filled with some compliment and then we move on.  The ultimate control over another.  It truly is all about control.  I found it terrifying.  Tear down, build up, keep someone off balance.  It works, until you start to see the patterns and then you are not so taken in by the compliments – or torn apart by the negative and often reactive, violent “summations” of your character.  Sometimes extremely subtle, sometimes not – whatever is more effective.  Enough.  These “summations” especially by Sharon, can have extreme effects.  Even if Robert disagrees, he says nothing. Neither did the rest of us. 

 

I left because I wanted Robert’s tone eliminated from my voice.  I truly do not like it.  It has been imprinted on so many of my friend’s voices as well…just the mechanical habit of duplicating another’s voice.  This does not contribute to “waking up”.

 

I left because most of my oldest friends in school did not seem happy – or fulfilled, or strong, despite outward appearances.  Emotionally, physically, or intellectually.  I feel they were exhausted – in a constant state of catch-up.  No exercise at all for most.   And so many were sick – actually physically sick.  Drawn.  Most were treated with respectful “disdain”, instead of anyone trying to determine why so many were disabled in one way or another in the first place.  Entering the 50’s and 60’s, there seems little effort to respond to their bodies which are sending out loud – very loud messages.  I tried to talk about nutrition at CR, but frankly, given the sleep patterns – or lack of sleep patterns, it was useless.  Sleep is a big deal, necessary for healing and clear thoughts.  Read about it.  Sleep deprivation – even mild forms – for long periods of time does a number on your body and your psyche. But it is useful for those who wish to control you.  I brought this up so many times to Robert, as I found it physically painful.  He deferred to Sharon, who sets the rules.

 

Just be careful.  I have no “investment” in seeing anyone in or out of school.  Personally, I no longer trust the motives.  Make up your own mind.  Wake up.

 

A friend

 


 

[6.]

 

Finding Life in Leaving

 

I have been “out” for fourteen years and have found that while I appreciated some of the teachings and experiences I had, what I miss most is the people I grew to admire and love.  Ironically, many of them were fellow “students” of mine.  I have never felt myself longing for R’s heavy-handedness or the bad therapy and poor advice I received while there.  I now watch with interest as my friends continue to leave and find new life on the other side, and I find it surprising that I never really knew them while in “school”.

 

When I left there were few other ex-members whose names and numbers I knew.  Of course this was by design.  But I persisted and ended up helping a good friend leave and this created a two-person support group in our exit process.  I found the transformation in the man I thought I knew extraordinary.  While in the group, he was very often tired and worn out and was forced out of two long-term relationships as a result of “rules” he was forced to follow.  I remember vividly the night he left.  He radiated with happiness, exploded with anger, and laughed at the absurdity of having devoted himself to a man and a system that had nearly destroyed him.  It wasn’t until that evening that I realized how lucky I was to have escaped before having my life altered in a similarly destructive way.

 

Within three years of leaving, my friend had found a teaching job (a long-term “aim”), married a wonderful woman and is now the proud father of two young girls.  Talking to him on the phone recently, he said life was “wonderful and full.”

 

So what does this have to do with me?  It took me some time to figure out how to understand my experience in the Fourth Way (as it was then known).  I found it ironic that I only began to understand the system and the dynamics within it once I left.  The secrecy and “levels” made everything so compartmentalized that it was impossible to see the larger structure.  Very quickly I came to realize that I had been recruited as part of someone else’s aim.  My desire to pursue meaning and being was co-opted to provide others with money and power to dictate my spiritual course for me.  My “chief weakness” was suspicion, I was told early on, after I asked whether my cash “tuition” was tax-deductible (as it should be in the case of a non-profit organization).  A reasonable question was turned into a personal weakness to protect dirty secrets from being discovered.  I had wonderful experiences at my first “class outside of class” as it seemed every woman found me attractive and every older member wanted to get to know me.  It wasn’t until after I left that I found out that this was all by design.  How did all of these people really feel?  I still wonder that at times.  Sometimes lies can feel rewarding and this was one of many times I realize I was emotionally manipulated.

 

As I moved onward and upward I became a true believer.  I was proud that I completed every aim during my time in, and I felt fulfilled by the acting and singing I was doing in Jordan’s acting class and in Arbor Vitae (a group-related singing group).  But at the same time I was growing more distant from close friends and family, I missed some important family events, and I changed jobs so that I could devote more time to “school”.  Those who knew me well outside of the group said that I was becoming more arrogant, dogmatic, and controlling as I began to internalize the behavior of older members and teachers.  Of course I thought I was growing my being.  Sometimes lies can feel rewarding.

 

Then one day in March, I was called to my home at my sister’s request to confront my mother about a group she had been involved with for almost thirty years.  As a therapist began to list the aspects of dangerous forms of mind-control, I realized that I had been duped.  My first reaction was one of horror.  I was too smart and too self-realized to get caught in a cult.  It couldn’t be.  But I had to find out and I began reading.  Before the next meeting I had read three important books on mind-control and cult dynamics, and then I headed to Woburn to see for myself.

 

My final experience in school was horrific.  I saw body-work inducing trance states (even as I enjoyed the movement one last time), watched as R. shut down critical thought in the early class and then watched how the group disciplined anyone who fell out of line later on.  The teachings on the food diagram became painfully easy to understand for the first time.  All you really need to understand is that Carbon 14 can only be produced by being in a Fourth Way School.  Now that it’s OSG or whatever the latest subterfuge is, does that still count?  This flew in the face of my experience.  I had met many other extraordinary men: Father Bede Griffiths, Ram Dass, Henry Nouwen, Thich Nhat Hanh, Jean Vanier who had no connection to “the work” but were great men and spiritually developed nonetheless.  My experience told me what the truth was.  The big lie was revealed.

 

Of course there was a part of me, the true believer, that thought that perhaps I was making a horrible mistake.  I had devoted years of my life, made many close friends, and had learned some valuable things.  I had experienced other-worldly classes outside of class and pushed myself to the limit.  But I had seen the group had misled me, even as it had offered me some things of value, and I quickly realized that I had no option.

 

As I become further removed from the experience, I realize that it is possible to integrate some of the best aspects of “school” in my own life.  I still pursue my passions (“aims”), I have a wonderful group of friends and enjoy seeing my old Fourth Way friends at social occasions, and I am part of an active church community that provides many of the same things that I was able to get while in the group.  I may not get to experience a Christmas “class outside of class” again, but I also spend time with my family, get enough sleep, and have ownership over my life.  I am happy, fulfilled, and content.  I have found that escaping from a lie is more satisfying at a deeper level than is the temporary reward of living someone else’s lie.

 

From time to time, I run into people I know who are still “in school.”  When I see that they panic at my presence and struggle to acknowledge my existence, I am reminded once again that “sleeping humanity” is a question of perspective.  I realize that I view them the exact way that they view me.  Who is right?  Black and white thinking is tempting and simplistic.  If you view the world that way, they may be right.  But there are hundreds of other groups just like it that think the same way.  So if you view the world in shades of gray, as I do, you will realize that such a dramatic difference between those in the “work” and those outside it is simply part of the bigger lie.  It can only make sense in a world where information is regulated, secrecy rules, and you are taught to think from someone else’s system.

 

Life is beautiful in its complexity.  I find that I appreciate the fact that I had an opportunity to be a part of the Fourth Way, but I never want to do it again.  I found some constructive meaning in a destructive system.  I love people I never really knew.  I have gone from respecting R. to having a profound sense of pity for him, trapped as he is.  The truth is liberating, but there is still much for us to do in making sense of what our experience “in the work” meant. That path is unique to every one of us.  We need to replace R., Sharon, et al. with our own voices of inner-authority and stand confident in the knowledge that real teachings and wisdom are not dependant on coercion, mis-representation and lies.  Learning not to lie will set you free.

 


 

[7.]

 

For Those Who Have Ears to Hear and Eyes to See

 

I was part of the school in Boston for many years and have many fond memories and rich experiences for which I am grateful. These memories and experiences were paid for by my money and my labors to the school, and more specifically to my ex-teachers, Sharon and Robert. These teachers and my so-called “friends” for many years (who I am still trying to forgive, for they are so strongly under Sharon and Robert’s influence) performed an extremely violent and emotional rape on my being and left me isolated in Montana. Sharon Gans, the leader of the school, and her cohorts tried to influence my wife who I love dearly to separate from me against her wishes. Thank God my wife, who had long wanted out of this school, saw the light and immediately left after she witnessed the heinous act performed on me.

 

It is indeed shameful that this deranged woman wields a power over people by misusing the sacred ideas of the work of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky to manipulate marriages and break up families for her own personal aggrandizement and monetary gain.

 

Another teacher in Sharon’s employ once answered a bold newer student when he asked where all the money went (millions of dollars in cash tuitions and contributions): “If you want a good steak, you don’t ask the butcher what he does with the money.” Well, in this case, for your information the butcher has purchased multi-million dollar homes for herself and her children. Other homes were purchased by students, worked on intensely using only volunteer student labor, skilled carpentry and architectural services, with all supplies paid for by the students. The butcher then promised that what they were creating from their financial investment and sweat from working on themselves – An Artist’s Retreat – which was to be there to use at any time with their families for the rest of their lives.

 

Shortly thereafter, the Artist’s Retreat was sold at a 400% profit. No one seems to know what happened to the promise, and student investors have not been able to find out what happened to any of the money from the sale. In this case, the good steak seems to have disappeared. The bold student above could now ask a different question: “If we paid in advance for a good steak and were promised delivery. And, lo and behold, the steak disappears, can we now ask the butcher what she did with our money?”

 

The financial deception is not my major concern. I gave money over the years for a theatre that never came to be – or at least that I never saw. I believe that S and R should be more up front about the school being a business that fully supports Sharon and her family in a manner that they are accustomed to, and leave it at that. Some students would still probably come.

 

However, I would wholeheartedly discourage any student from joining this school and any student from remaining under this influence where the so-called “teacher” of these sacred ideas – takes it upon herself to play God with people’s lives, instructing them to marry, divorce and procreate, even against their natural tendencies. I have seen over the years how this has wrecked many people’s lives – even those lives of many people in high places in the school organization.

 

My life has blossomed since leaving school, and all who have left that I know have their own pace for healing.  But there is plenty of support which I am grateful for.

 

I pray for the strength and guidance to be able to forgive those who have hurt me, from Sharon on down the line.

 

Be brave and open your eyes and ears.

 


 

[8.]

 

The Yellow House

 

    Sometimes when I am in –, I drive by her house. I slow down a little bit as I go by checking in my rear view mirror to see if there is anyone behind me so I know how many seconds I can linger. I wonder if she ever drives by my house.

 

    The road is still familiar to me even though it has been almost a year since I have come here as an invited guest. It was really only the first two or three times that I came here that I would have considered myself a guest. Since those first few visits, she had become my best friend and it was a friendship that lasted for the last six years. We were constantly in and out of each other’s homes. Our children and our husbands also came and went with complete ease. My babysitter always watched her daughter and her babysitter watched mine. She would walk into my house and without asking would pour herself a glass of vodka from the bottle I kept for her in the freezer. She always drank from one of the short cobalt blue cut crystal glasses that only she ever seemed to use. She had a key to my house and I wonder if she still has it, or has she thrown it away now.

 

    I see that she has taken down the green plastic fence and the little gate that always had Christmas tree lights on it from in front of her house. I assume that her daughter is now old enough not to need that kind of reminder to stay close to the house and away from the busy road. Everything else is the same – the swing set and the play house are still in the front yard where they had always been. I look closer and see that she has moved the swing on the screened porch so that it faces out into the garden instead of towards the street.

 

    I drive past her house and down the road about a quarter of a mile and then make a u-turn and come back past the house again, checking in my rear view mirror a second time as I slow down.

 

    It is such a pretty little yellow house, set back from the road with its two garages. I cannot see her garden from the road, and I wish that I knew what new projects she had worked on last summer. Had she made a new brick pathway or stone retaining wall and what new plants had she added? We have spent many happy hours planning and discussing our gardens together. There is a row of beautiful yellow crocuses just coming out in the front of the house.

 

    There are no cars in the driveway so I assume that no one is home but I can see a light on in the living room. Who would be home with no car in the driveway? However, I do not know how her life works anymore. I no longer know the daily intimacies of her life. It is all so familiar and yet I am no longer allowed to enter here. The pain of it is that I can see that she has continued to live her life without me as I have continued to live my life without her. What a shame that her light is no longer in my life; but my love for her and my other friends has not died. It still burns brightly in my heart. I do believe that someday we will find each other again and so will our girls.

 

    There was the first night that I met her – my husband took me for a long dark winding drive to their house for a drink. We stopped at a little roadside liquor store for a bottle of wine. I had met her husband before so I was not as ill at ease as I usually am when meeting new people. I liked her husband. I sat stiffly on her new green leather couch and drank the drink I was offered. It took awhile for us to warm up to each other. Even after we knew each other quite well, there were still some awkward silences, a hesitation about going too deeply into each other’s real lives. After that she invited me to go to Home Depot for lunch with her and her daughter – it was an odd awkward meeting and I felt very uncomfortable. Thankfully, it was brief. The next time I saw her was when she took me shopping for gifts for the orphanage right before we left for Russia.

 

    Then there was the last time I saw her. I am sure the actual last time I saw her was saying goodbye at the airport. It was the last time I saw any of them. The last time we spent together was the day before we flew home from Montana. We spent that whole day and night together in each other’s company. It was the last real thing that she said to me that stands out in my memory so it might as well have been the last time I saw her. We were at the chiropractor’s office. I had really wanted to go see this particular doctor, and I had really wanted him to see my daughter, because I thought he might have an intuition about her that might help her. One of the teachers who was traveling with us said that she felt uncomfortable in the car with my husband. I thought it was absurd. Absurd the way I felt when they said that he was poisoning the children. Was there really anyone there who thought he would harm his own daughter? He had paid to be there just like everyone else. I had paid to be there. We were traveling together as a family – husband and wife traveling with our child. They had no right to separate us and anyway, where was he supposed to go and how was he supposed to get there? I was angry and I looked to her to support me. My dear friend. I looked at both her and her husband then and said: “Does it bother you? Do you object to him traveling with us in the car?” Her answer stopped me cold. She said, “You cannot ask me that question.” I was raw and haggard from several days of sleeplessness and of being on a very emotional knife’s edge. I was about to scream: Yes, I can ask you that question, and in fact I did just ask you that question. I knew there was no point in saying anything further. She did not immediately stand up for me or take my side as I thought my loyal friend would do. If that was not her first impulse then no amount of arguing would change it. I was betrayed. I knew she was immovable. They were all immovable. I just had to hold my tongue the best I could and get the hell out of Montana.

 

    That was what she said: “You cannot ask me that question.” I think in some ways that sums it all up. That statement sums up the last eighteen years of my life and there is no real response to it. There were always the questions that we could not ask. That we could not, should not, would not ask. And yet we asked them all the time, at least, I asked them all the time even if I asked them silently in the privacy of my own heart. No one dared to ask the questions aloud. The few that did ask questions received scorn and humiliation but no answers.

 

    I have thought several times about calling her or writing to her and asking if the girls could get together. My daughter talks about her and her daughter all the time. They were her oldest friends. They picked us up at the airport when we brought our daughter home from the orphanage in Russia. She sat with me while my husband told the boys about their new sister and me. She listened to me endlessly talk about my concerns for my daughter – my hopes and fears – and I think she understood. My daughter says all the time things like: “Don’t you know her cell phone number? Can you call her? Can we ever see them again?” One day she said, “I have two friends. I used to have two other friends but they are gone.” When I think about calling or writing, I can see her standing there saying, “You cannot ask me that question” and I stop thinking about the possibilities of the girls getting together. I thought maybe I would send a gift at Christmas with a simple note: “If there is any possibility of getting the girls together, please call. I hope you are well.” But Christmas came and went. I bought a box to send my gift in – a handmade crocheted and hand felted bowl – but I never sent the gift. The next Christmas rolled around, and again I thought of sending a gift or a note but I did not want to put her into a difficult position. I knew I could never ask her to choose. She had already made her choice.

 

    On my daughter’s eighth birthday the two of us went out for a celebratory breakfast of chocolate chip pancakes at her favorite restaurant down the street from our house. While we were eating, my phone rang and it was my husband. He asked to speak with the birthday girl and as I passed her the phone, she asked who it was and then said: “Is it — calling to wish me a happy birthday?” The tears welled up in my eyes. “No, honey, it’s not but I wish it was.”

 

    She asked me again today, “Will we ever see them again?” and I said “Yes, I certainly hope so. Someday.”

 

    I remember seeing another friend weep quietly while pulling up weeds in the garden because she could not ask what had happened to a dear friend of hers. The people that did ask the real questions never got a straight answer that addressed the question. The answer we all got back instead was “you cannot ask me that question.” So we never asked or we stopped asking after awhile. I think that after eighteen years it was the first time anyone had ever said that to me in such a straight way. When I think about it further, it is an honest answer – usually no one put it in those words even though that was always the sub-text. Everything was unspoken. I am saddest for those who are still lost in that world where you cannot ask any questions and where there are no real answers.

 


 

[9.]

 

I Remember, I Remember…

 

Once a very long time ago
Fred told us
that things are not what they seem,
but that in actuality,
everything was really the opposite of
what it appeared to be.

 

What I thought he meant by those words so many
years ago, is not what I think now.

For the past 18 years, my life has been the
opposite of what it appeared to be.

My life has been an illusion.
It has been that way ever since I started school.

 

I have also come to believe that school is not what it appears to be. It may very well be the exact opposite.

 

Make up your own mind.
Listen to your heart.

 

    We were all very well trained. If you thought that what was being said to you by anyone was unjust or unfair, or that your teacher did not understand what you were trying to say, you were always wrong and your teacher was always right. It was because our teachers were “higher” beings and were in real communication with higher powers and could clearly see the invisible world and all the things we were not able to see. Sharon had a window into our soul that we did not have ourselves. She knew us better than we knew ourselves. She knew all our secrets. She knew our truth and we relied on her to tell it to us because we came to distrust our own intuitions and impulses.

 

    We were taught that if there was any objection in us, then our work was to remove that objection, stamp it out, squash it, destroy it. We were given the exercise to accept everything. Later on we would take that on ourselves as an aim: “My aim is to accept everything.”  Everything had to be phrased in the positive. You could never say: “My aim is to not object.” It became an automatic response of how to word things and what to say. The automatic responses are still there. The more you parroted the automatic responses, the better a student you were. The more you acted like and spoke like your teachers, the better a student you were. The more you did exactly what you were told, the better a student you were. It was all in the name of “thinking for ourselves” but it was in fact, the exact opposite.

 

    The more you confessed your wrong doings, or your doubts in public, the better a student you were.

 

    For many years, I prayed silently before I stood up to speak in class: “Please God, don’t let me put my foot in my mouth. Do not let me say anything that will make them yell at me. Help me to say what I really mean so that it does not get distorted.” The problem was that it was so totally unpredictable what would happen. There was no way to prepare myself for what might ensue. I tried for years to understand why one thing happened one time to one person and another thing happened another time to someone else. It was not a system I could learn because it was completely arbitrary. I think it depended on how the particular teacher was feeling on any particular day, or on how much they had to drink before or during class. Sometimes, they needed to set an example for the rest of us and they needed a scapegoat. Sometimes they were angry at us and needed to retaliate and punish us. Sometimes they used the information they had been told by our sustainers to manipulate us into doing what they wanted. Sometimes it was just a whim.

 

    The object, of course, was to be a good student. The object was to be a good student, not to live my life and that was the exact opposite of what we were being taught. It was so important to be seen as doing the right thing, speaking the right words, and to be approved of. If you did you were golden and praise was heaped on you and you were given more responsibility; and if you did not, you were yelled at, scorned, humiliated, annihilated. That is where everything being the opposite of what it seemed to be, came into play. You always wanted to appear in a certain light whether it was the truth or not. The catch-22 was that it was important to be sincere in all of this because everyone could tell if you were really doing something or just seeming to do something.

 

    Sometimes, I felt like I was invisible to my teachers. It was always important never to lie to one’s teacher. Lying kills essence. “Lying kills essence” is a mechanical thought at this point. Mechanical = Bad. There is no good and bad. Our work was to become less mechanical. Is that really what was happening? Was I not actually becoming more mechanical? My new mechanicality was approved of by my teachers. How well could I parrot the work at the right time? How did I know what the right time was? My job became to act my part whether I believed it or not. We were taught roles to play. We must all wear our bright shiny faces and smile and accept everything that was given to us, and then we had to pay with gratitude for what we got. And never stop paying.

 

    The sad part is that we all had parts of ourselves that were annihilated. We all had many parts of ourselves that were destroyed or that went into hiding. What really belonged to us was removed and replaced with what “our teacher” thought was appropriate. We believed that it was really our own true nature. If it was not replaced it was squashed down as far as it could go. Pushed into the deepest darkest corner inside of us.

 


 

[10.]

 

Like a reflection on the water….
Which is the reality and which is the illusion?
Where does one end and the other begin?

 

    I left school the weekend of July 4, 2005. I count the official leaving as the day that I actually made the phone call to Robert’s service stating that I would not be back.

 

    I missed my friends and I felt a bit disoriented, a little sad and lonely but basically I was quite all right for a long time afterwards. On the whole, I felt as if a great weight had been lifted off my shoulders. It was a relief to leave. I breathed easier than I had in a long time.

 

    At the beginning of December, I received a phone call and it was after that phone call that I began to feel as if I was losing my mind, and I plunged very deeply into the darkness of depression.

 

    As a child, I had grown up in one of those huge cavernous pre-war 4 bedroom, 3 bath apartments in Park Slope. We lived on the ninth floor overlooking Grand Army Plaza, Prospect Park and the Brooklyn Public Library. An old wood manually operated elevator brought you up to a small vestibule and the entrance to two apartments. When you entered the door to our apartment, you found yourself in a grand foyer that was larger than my first studio apartment on West 10th Street. There were doors off the foyer that went to the kitchen to the left, the living room and a long hallway off to the right which went to our bedrooms with our parents’ room at the far end. As you entered the foyer there was a long thin black lacquer table where the mail was put every morning. Above that table was a large gold framed mirror that now hangs above the fireplace in my own living room.

 

    When my parents were out for the evening, which they frequently were, I always had the feeling that they could still see what happened in the apartment. It was the mirror that was a magical lens that recorded everything that went on in front of it, and everything the mirror could see my parents could see. It hung in the foyer silently watching and judging, watching and judging everything that I did.

 

    My main sin as a child was overeating. The foyer and its mirror hung between the kitchen and my bedroom so every time that I went to the kitchen to get something to eat, the mirror was there watching and judging, watching and judging. I was therefore forced to hide and lie about my actions to the mirror as well as to everyone else. If I had food in my hand, and I was taking it back to my room to eat, I had to crouch down so the mirror would not see me passing by with the food in my hands.

 

    Was that the beginning? The first time I started to lie and hide? I am not sure. What I am sure of was that I was a child who ate compulsively because I had a feeling of always being empty and that I did not want anyone to know. What I am sure of is that I felt that I was always being watched and judged for everything I did. Watching, judging, hiding and lying. When I hung the mirror in my house in New York, I put it in the public hallway where it could see everyone that came and went from the building. When I hung the mirror in my present home, I put it high above the fireplace so that it was placed where it could see nothing at all. Until now, I have often wondered why I hung a mirror where you could not see anything in it. It has not caught my reflection in years but I still keep it.

 

    It was the feeling of being watched and judged that I transferred to Sharon and to school. With the watching and judging came huge monumental feelings of guilt. While I was in school it was that guilt that woke me up crying at 4 AM, unable to go back to sleep, for so many years. The silent guilt that kept me in school for so many years. It was a burden that I could never seem to get out from under. I would never be good enough to be able to manage my life on my own – to make my own decisions, to really live my life the way they kept telling me to. Of course, that was the catch – in school I was supposed to live my life the way I was told to, not the way I wished to. I was being told that the way Sharon said to do things was the “right” way, and that way was what I really wanted, but it was not true. It was what Sharon told me I wanted, not what I actually wanted. It was who Sharon told me I should be, not who I am. They may in fact be the opposite.

 

    When I came to school, the habit of hiding and lying was already there. I had done it all my life, and I continued under the watching and judging eyes of Sharon where I had left off with my mother and the mirror.

 

    Talking with friends who are now also outside the influence of school has been one of the most helpful things since I left. The other night I listened to a woman explain how she had sat in class and felt like an apostate because she could not understand what Sharon was saying. She kept thinking: “What the hell is she talking about?” How often have I sat there in class and listened to Sharon or someone else speak and think: “What the hell are they talking about?” I sat for many years and thought that many times, but I hid my thoughts and I lied about them, I never stood up and asked the question, and I never asked the question in private to my friends. We all had to maintain the illusion that not only did we always understand what was going on, but that we were there and awake and truly sincerely striving to become like those people who frequently never made any sense to me. It was all hiding and lying because I never stood up and questioned anything, and because I internalized it all and only sought their approval and love. I learned how to stuff myself way down deep where no one could find me, least of all myself.

 

    Often there were unspoken (as well as spoken) threats and menaces underlying the feelings of being watched and judged. I never spoke my true feelings to any of my “friends” for fear that they would report me. I am not sure that I knew my true feelings after awhile but there was always something vaguely disturbing about what went on in school, and I was racked with guilt for not conforming to the picture of the “perfect student” that I wanted to be in order to gain their love and approval. Yes, there is something in a man or woman that never lies. It just becomes harder to hear it after awhile. That guilt woke me up at 4 AM every morning crying for years. There was a small still voice crying in the wilderness, but I turned a deaf ear to it.

 

    It was also fear that I would be found out, that I would be forced to confess all my secrets in public before the judging eyes of my friends and my teachers. No matter how much they said that they did not judge, I always felt judged. I always felt that there was a right way and a wrong way to do things, right and wrong things to say, right and wrong things to do. There was a certain way that things were done in school and that was the “right” way; the way you might have done things in life before you met school were the wrong way. No matter how much they told me that right and wrong was a false duality and I was not being judged, I still felt I was being judged for right or wrong efforts. It was at my throat and it made me miserable, and no amount of Sharon’s coaxing could get it to go away. It was a second education, and I was made over in an image of someone who was not me.

 

    It was always those people who did and said the “right” things and made the “right” efforts who seemed to get ahead in school and become part of the “inner circle” of students clustered closely about the teachers. Half of the time, I never understood what was “right” about those “right” things and what was “wrong” about the “wrong” things. It seemed arbitrary to me very frequently. When I became part of that inner circle, I never understood what I had done to get there, and I never believed it made me any better than anyone else. When Sharon said to me, that first night in Montana, that being there was a result of all of my hard work for so many years I did not believe her. I was there for many other reasons but not that.

 

    As I write this, my 8 year old daughter gets up and goes downstairs. I follow her and find her on her way back upstairs with red sauce all over her mouth and a guilty look on her face. I ask her to come sit on my lap, and I explain that it is OK to go downstairs and eat cold meatballs from the refrigerator but that it is not OK to lie and hide about it. Does she understand me? It is alright to eat the meatball, it just is not alright to not tell me the truth about it and hide it.  A little while later she goes back downstairs. She comes back up with a bowl in her hands (after many reminders that we do not eat upstairs) and hides behind the doorway. I ask her what she has and she shows me an ice cream bar, so I say (even though it is 8:30 AM) “How come you didn’t bring me one too? Will you share that one with me? Can I at least have a bite?”

 


 

[11.]

 

Like a reflection on the water….
The reflection can be distorted.

 

    When I received the call on that December morning, my first impulse was to think that since it was so close to Christmas, she was calling to ask me to come back to school and would tell me how much fun it would be to have me first reappear at the Christmas Class. Or perhaps they just needed more help. Even now, Christmas is still a very difficult time of year for me.

 

    She first told me that she had wanted to make sure that I had not left school because I felt forced into doing so. I told her that no, actually, I had been wanting to leave for a long time and the situation turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

 

    Five months had passed since I had left school. I was shocked to receive her call but something inside of me had been expecting it. I was surprised someone had not called sooner to lure me back. She asked me why I had not called her in all this time. Didn’t I need any help? She had been so worried about me. I replied that I had left school and that was the rule – when you left school you were a pariah and were not to be in contact with people who were still there. She was saying I should have been in touch? Was she saying that she didn’t expect me to be able to survive without their help? Well, how come my dear friend had not called me in five months? If she was so concerned about me, why didn’t she call? I was the one who left who was the outcast without any friends or family or support. Was she calling now (after five silent months) because she was so concerned about me, or because she had been told to call me by Sharon or Robert? I knew the answer. She would not have called me on her own initiative. She was told to call me. And as usual, I kept silent. I did not ask her the real questions that were on my mind. I did not tell her the real answers to her questions. I told her what she wanted to hear. I told her what she expected me to say as a good student.

 

    She asked me how I had been and what was happening with me. I went into great detail about how well everything had been going, how happy I was, how rich and fulfilling my life had become. I was telling her things that were true but I could feel myself embellishing the truth in order to have her think the best of me. I was stretching the truth in order to gain her approval for what I was now doing. Five months, and I was still groveling at their feet. I told her about my painting class and my job.

 

    She even asked me not to tell my husband that she had called, and I did not tell him. I was still marching to their orders, doing exactly what they told me, even though I was long gone from school and grateful to have left. The promise not to talk about school after you leave is designed to keep you in a place where you are still following their rules and still under their control. It is not a promise you made from yourself of your own free will but something you were told to promise.

 

    Bringing your experience out into the light is one of the most helpful things you can do. Certain things cannot live in the light.

 

    What was truly shocking to me was that even though I had left and had no intention of returning, I was still under their power. Their thoughts were still in my head. I was still saying what they wanted me to say and ignoring the real voice inside me.

 

    I felt clearly manipulated. She told me that she stayed in school because the world is a difficult place. She said that in school: “At least I have my friends and the ideas.” Friends? This is not what friendship is about. Our friends were those people who stood by and watched while my husband was violently thrown out of school and said nothing and did nothing to help, but instead fanned the flames of the fire. This is not friendship. Robert was his friend for over 20 years, and he stood by silently and did not say one word to help him. He watched as he was brutally victimized. He stood by and did not say a word as my husband was abused and had curses thrown at him by Sharon and his other “friends”. The worst part for me was that I said nothing as well – partly from shock and partly because I too was so well trained. My world was being torn apart and I was losing my balance. I am so sorry that I did not stand up for him then. I have apologized to him and I can only hope that he forgives me.

 

    I asked her if she had known that my daughter was adopted, and she said that she had known. It was supposed to have been a secret. No one was supposed to know the truth. She had probably known all along. Why didn’t she tell me that she knew so I could stop lying to her? I had longed for so many years for people I could talk to who I didn’t have to lie to. Is that real friendship?

 

    I had spent the last six years of my life lying to my family and everyone I know about my daughter. Most importantly, I had lied to my daughter about who she was and where she came from. I had lied to her school and her teachers. I had lied to her pediatrician and all of the other doctors who were trying to help her. I had lied to my step-children. I had lied to all my friends both in school and out. I was so enmeshed in lies, I had no idea what I was doing anymore. This was not creative insincerity, it was lying. I was being eaten alive. The lying took up a tremendous amount of energy. It cost me my relationships with my friends and family because they knew I was lying and did not understand why. I kept up the pretense at every expense.

 

    My husband and I had wanted to adopt a baby girl from China but Sharon thought we should adopt from an Eastern European country so that the baby would look like us in order to more easily pass her off as our own flesh and blood. When I went to see my doctor for the physical that was required by the adoption process, he told me that he had many negative experiences with children adopted from Eastern Europe and urged me not to adopt from there and to consider another country. He told me horror stories of all kinds of medical problems and families overburdened by the special needs of their child. What could I say to him? I felt that I had no choice in the matter. I never spoke to him again. I put it out of my mind that our daughter would be any less than physically perfect, highly intelligent and multi-talented.

 

    The first child that we were offered was blond. My husband and I both have dark brown hair. We had to reject that child because of her hair color. It still breaks my heart to think of what might have happened to that baby.

 

    My daughter is very dark skinned and tans easily. We made up a story that my husband’s grandmother was from Mexico to explain her dark complexion. Her school asked for a birth certificate. I made up excuse after excuse and never actually gave them one. How could we go on a trip out of the country? Her passport would state her real place of birth and she could read – what could we do? Robert suggested that I try to get her a “black market” passport – a fake passport. I was shocked that he suggested that I break the law to support the lie, but I had no idea what else to do. I had no idea how one goes about getting fake documents. I do not know any forgers. I looked on the internet. Fake passports are not so easy to do after 9/11 and I did not want to start adding more lies. There is a large Mexican population in our city, and I actually made my husband go and ask people if they knew where he could get a passport. There was no solution. I begged Sharon to let me tell my daughter the truth. Finally, she said I could tell her when she was 18 years old. That was not a helpful solution. I was in despair.

 

    I wouldn’t trade my daughter for the world. I love her. I know that we were meant for each other. I never really believed when we adopted her that anything could possibly be really wrong with her that a lot of love and good food and tenderness would not make up for. I had no idea that I was to become the mother of a child with special needs. I had no idea what that even meant. I don’t think that any parent with a special needs child expects it or understands it. However, if I had not been so busy pretending she was my natural child, I might have read some books on adoption and what to expect. I might have joined a mothers group where all the children were adopted, and had some support for myself and my daughter. I might have joined an organization of mothers with adopted children instead of the insipid suburban mothers group I ended up joining – where all the mothers were in their 20’s or 30’s and had the perfect brand new homes and the perfect husband and the perfect children.

 

    It was obvious to me fairly early on that my daughter was different. My sister-in-law kept saying that she was an active child like her son had been, and I believed her. There are no manuals for special needs children. We have gone from doctor to doctor, from evaluation to evaluation, from medication to medication, from therapist to therapist, from school to school, and I still don’t really have much of a clue how to help her. All I want is to be able to give her the best help that I can get for her, and I do not think we are there yet. Everyone has a word for her, a diagnosis, but they are just words and I don’t know anymore what any of them mean. Special needs, developmental delay, attention deficit, hyperactivity, sensory integration disorder, visual and perceptive processing delays, cognitive processing problems, language processing delay, difficulty focusing and paying attention, impulsiveness, poor visual discrimination, executive functioning disorder, difficulty recognizing social cues – the list goes on and on. I am not prenting or lying about her anymore. I am actively trying to get her the best help I can get for her. It is a full time job.

 

I am now forced to go back and question everything. I love my husband, but did I marry him because I love him or was I swayed by what my teachers wanted and expected me to do? I have always staunchly maintained that I never would have married someone unless I loved them. That was where I drew the line. All these years I have thought that it was my choice to marry him but was it? He asked me to marry him but, as we used to say, which group of “I’s” was that? I must now ask all these questions and find out the truth for myself. The real truth of my life.

 

 

It is time to begin again. The world is made new again.
I can begin to wonder and hope again.
My life can become my own creation – not what other people thought it should be.
I have finally begun to come home to myself and be truly free to re-member myself. Put the pieces back together…
I can begin to look at the truth and not the illusion of my life.
The door has finally opened.