Recruiting Methods



The Cult Education Institute



From A history and analysis of the Sharon Gans group, also known as “The Work”


March 2002
By former members of the Gans schools
Edited by Rick Ross


History of the group


Teachers at the Gans schools never discuss the history of the group, and students who ask are often intimidated into never asking again. What is known is that Alex Horn established a group in northern California with his wife [Anne Horn, in the mid ’60s]. Interestingly, one of Alex Horn’s early students was supposedly Robert Burton who later created the “Fellowship of Friends,” a group which has often been called a “cult” and has a sordid history of sex scandals, bad press and lawsuits.


Recruitment Techniques


Since the operations of the group are essentially a secret, the recruitment of new members is accomplished through the special efforts of the group’s members.  Maintaining secrecy seems to be of paramount importance, so the recruitment process of new members involves the creation of elaborate ruses designed to earn the trust of potential recruits.  Recruitment is a five-step process, as “transmitted” or laid out by Sharon Gans.  All recruiters typically follow this process and are supervised by their “teachers.”  The process involves “making friends” with strangers through a series of five meetings of ever-increasing intimacy that culminate in a special invitation to join the group.  If the potential recruit is interested, he or she must undergo one and/or sometime two interviews with one or more “teachers,” before finally being given entrance.


Immediately disqualified, as candidates are blacks, gays, journalists and/or anyone with a close connection to law enforcement, the military or intelligence services.  Sharon Gans and her trusted teachers offer elaborate esoteric explanations for these restrictions, which group members sheepishly accept and hypocritically defend.


Recruiters most often keep an active list of at least 10 potential recruits at all times.  They may do this by going to public events, bars, diners, concerts, museums, bookstores, lectures, the theater and yoga classes.  Anywhere where they can strike up conversations with potential targets.  The goal of such conversation is to create a “connection” and get a phone number.


The person that is met then can go on the recruiter’s list. At weekly recruiting meetings, recruiters report about their work.  Promising recruits are discussed, and suggestions are made as to how to implement the next step in the recruitment process.  Additionally, recruiters work in teams and/or with partners, and spend many hours each week on the phone in what are called “flash meetings” to “create energy” and organize their lives so that they can “make their aim” for the week.


This “line of work” as it is called, may become the defining activity of the recruiter’s existence as they are pressured to find new “students.”  This may easily occupy 20 hours a week; over and above other time devoted to various group activities.  Recruitment also requires the expenditure of personal money to cover transportation, babysitting fees, and the cost of participating in events around the city that recruiters would not otherwise attend.


The rest of the five-step meeting process, which takes place, usually at meals, is as follows:


  • Second meeting

Recruiters gear the conversation toward the potential recruit and find out the facts of that person’s life.  Age, marital status, how much money they make, composition of their family, where they grew up, profession, etc.  This is done while revealing nothing in return.  Recruiters all have a service number they provide to potential recruits that is typically answered only by a recording, which does not divulge their last name, place of residence or employment.


  • Third meeting

Recruiters take the conversation into more personal territory.  They work to discover a potential recruit’s personal “ache” or disappointments in life.  During this third meeting, another recruiter may “pass through” seemingly spontaneously and/or as if by accident.


  • Fourth meeting

Recruiters propound one of the basic tenets of the school and see how the potential recruit receives it.  This tenet states that all that is good and true in human history has been guided by the invisible work of esoteric “schools,” which have been sustained by the “conscious” work of “conscious” people.  Recruiters then give examples of such invisible “school” work; and may cite Pythagoras, Plato, Shakespeare, Moses, Buddha, or even Jesus.  They are then claimed as conscious beings that are the products of the most successful “schools” in history.


The most skillful recruiters are able to give plausibility to the work of “schools” in history and then effectively bridge such conversation to the crucial question, which is the “aim” of the fourth meeting; “If there is such a school in existence today, would you be interested in studying there?”  An answer in the affirmative leads to the fifth meeting.


  • Fifth meeting

Now the recruiter will tell the potential recruit about the existence of an “esoteric school” or a “school of inner development” that is open by invitation only.  Recruits are told there is a “tuition” that is arranged on an individual basis with the “teachers,” and are then told about three rules, which they must agree to, which are silence, no drugs and no exchanging phone numbers or dating people in the group, for awhile anyway.  If the potential recruit is still interested in the school, an interview with a teacher is then arranged.


By this time, the potential recruit is convinced that he or she has stumbled upon an exclusive and miraculous answer to their prayers, and led to believe that the teacher(s) they will be meeting have special, spiritual accomplishments.  If the potential recruit is at a minimum sufficiently deferential at their interview, willing to suspend disbelief, abide by the rules, commit to going to eight consecutive classes and work with someone who will be assigned to them called a “sustainer,” he or she is then admitted to “conduct an experiment.”  That is, eight consecutive classes over a four week period.


There was a period of many years in which this process yielded not a single new “student.”  But nevertheless this intensive work was maintained relentlessly, 12 months a year, with the possible exceptions of Thanksgiving and Christmas.  This enormous expenditure of energy on something that appeared so unprofitable and unrewarding is hard to explain.  Unless it is understood what the recruiters forced themselves to believe.  That is, that they were being given the opportunity to engage in a “line of work” for the good of “school” that was the most difficult and spiritually valuable form of “work on oneself” available.


In recent years, in order to help the recruiting effort, the group has been mounting a periodic lecture series at the New York Film Academy.  This series is entitled “Yearning for Meaning in Our Lives,” through this series members of the group give lectures with a spiritual bent on esoteric topics.  This might include discussions about pyramids, the Kabbalah, Celtic mythology etc.


Potential recruits are invited to the lecture series, which is the focus of yet another “line of work.”  Not only are the lectures themselves the center for refining recruits, but lecturers are prepared to handle tough and hostile questions.  And they also will attempt to solicit further interest from unsuspecting audience members.


Everyone in the group is often told to put up flyers all over New York City to help fill the lecture hall for the series.  Because the group wants to maintain anonymity, it does not openly advertise.

It is a rather simple matter to be dropped as a potential recruit.  For example, if a potential recruit insists upon getting a direct phone number and/or verifying a recruiter’s last name, they will be dropped.  Typically this is avoided by recruiters, who instead offer to meet someone at their workplace, apartment etc.  Recruiters often will have scripted answers ready for troubling questions, as they are well trained. But their insistence upon anonymity often puts off potential recruits and/or raises suspicion.



The Gentle Souls Revolution blog


July 20, 2014

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


This 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 than 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 Hearted, 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 an 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 started 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’s 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:




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





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 do 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  gather 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 out 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 steam-rolled 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 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 all so 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?