Butterfly Page School Stories



“School” Stories





“Well, in our country,” said Alice, still panting a little, “you’d generally get to somewhere else — if you run very fast for a long time, as we’ve been doing.”


“A slow sort of country!” said the Queen. “Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!”



From Chapter 10: Getting Religion in Tales for the Son of My Unborn Child – Berkeley, 1966-1969 by Thomas Farber




(pp. 122-23)


Though the laughter was deep and its cadences natural, though it seemed without malice, the change in mood was so sudden that the assembly was still quiet. Further, they could not yet fathom what was funny, from what concept of humor this laughter welled. The man who had given his name as Jack watched the speaker apprehensively, a nervous smile now on his lips, too willing to believe that some way out had been found.


All eyes were still on the speaker [Alex Horn], waiting for him to give order to this yet stranger turn of events, watching him enjoy what he apparently found so comic. For his part he seemed to sense the very moment at which every person in the room attended his resolution, that instant in which every person present yearned for an answer, for an end to the outrage, and, exercising an unbelievable control, suddenly funneled the laughter into a tight smile, reached the side of the room without seeming to move, and began to talk with the man who had been so unfortunate as to ask him a question, talking at the man, through him, his every word infused with just a trace of irony and deprecation, as though there were some obvious joke he did not expect the man to understand.


“You see, Jack, what the lady wondered was if you possibly thought that we were supposed to put on some show for you, if you entertained the idea that we would perform for you, or that you might listen to our answers and perhaps show us your understanding of life.”


The speaker began to laugh again, as if to himself, and then again abruptly channeled his laughter.


“Well you see, my friend, the question has little to do with us. It has, rather, everything to do with you, with what you really want. To tell you the truth, Jack, if you don’t know what you want from us then you have no business being here. Do you know what you want?”


The man was silent.


“Are you sure that you don’t know, Jack?” Still he was silent.


“Then why don’t you leave now, and come back, if you want, when you know what you want. Thank you.”


It was staggering. With a smile he was telling the man to go, and from the inflection in his voice, the precision and tightness in the last “Thank you,” there was no question that the man could stay. The visitor pulled on his coat, looked around the room, and walked out the door.


Overwhelmed by the sequence of surprises, the shifts in mood, the reversals, and obvious control of the speaker, the assembly sat quiet, trying to gain some perspective on what had just occurred. Even the assumption of familiarity in the use of the man’s first name, over and again, was disturbing, as if there were no distance between strangers. Just the disregard of social space was outrageous. And the whole encounter? It had been like witnessing a rape, so intimate was the questioning, so violent the insistence, so intrusive the pressure on what had proved to be so helpless a victim, one of us.



(pp. 126-28)


When the room had quieted down once more the speaker resumed his presentation, and strangely, was even more forceful than before, as if he had gained by having some of those present leave thinking he was a monster, as if he could now speak more directly to those of us who remained, presuming a closer bond between us.


    “We are a group doing the Work. Many of our teachings come from George Gurdjieff. We learn also, as he did, from any higher man. We have a ranch, and each weekend we work on the ranch. We have a fourth-way school, that is not the way of the yogi, the monk, or the fakir, but a school in life, a school to build being. It costs two hundred dollars a month for each person to work, payable in advance. If there is something you want from us you may come, but do so only if you intend to get your money’s worth. Otherwise you will only waste your time and ours.”


    He then said that he would answer any questions, and was immediately asked by a male in hip garb why he was so harsh on people, why he was not more loving. Listening intently to the phrasing of the question, looking steadily at the man until he had finished, the speaker allowed several long moments to pass before responding in a gentle voice that was full of warmth.


    “You know, I am sure, that we can all read the words of Christ and other inspired men. Many of us do. Yet after all is read, we do not act on these words. We aspire to something finer but do not approach it. Our premise here, then, is that we must first confront the worst in ourselves, our mechanicality, our sleeping state, and then, perhaps, hope to find our way to love. It is of course our being-obligation to care for others. Yet here, now, we cannot, even as we try – we do not know how to begin. With luck, with Work, we will be perhaps no more than part-time killers, liars, cheats and fools. With the help of others in this Work we may be able to remember ourselves, to work to our finest part, but we can do nothing before confronting, fighting, and accepting what we are now. We begin at the beginning.”


    His response to the question was in many ways a traditional answer to a traditional proposition. One could take any stand on so large an issue. What was striking about the speaker’s response was the overwhelming softness of his words in their simplicity and directness, a softness as extreme as his anger moments before. The longhair, hearing the tone and the message, perhaps himself unsure after preaching love as a way of life, whether or not it was practicable in the form he proposed, nodded and sat down.


    Fielding further questions, the speaker then explained where the ranch was located, who Gurdjieff was (“a man who taught the Work, a man of a higher level”), and procedures for meetings. One girl, raising her hand, said that she wanted to join the group, and, picking up on the terminology he had used, said that she wanted to do the Work.


    He smiled at her, his eyes engaging hers, and in strong even tones asked her where the money for the group would be found. Quick to reassure, she said that her father gave her money, that she had more than enough to use. Still smiling, the speaker replied that she could not use that money, that she could return only when she had earned the payment herself. Answering the question just forming on her lips, he said: “You probably think that your father owes you something, this money perhaps, or you might even think that he is glad to give it to you and that you should accept. Nonetheless, since the money is no more than a token of payment you cannot render in any other form at this time, you will be unable to invest if the price can be so easily met. From nothing comes nothing. At this time you have nothing to offer. Why don’t you go, and come back, if you want, when you have something with which to pay?”


    Again those in the assembly were stunned. One could assume, until then at least, if one sought some fault, that the speaker was doing all this for the money. Two hundred dollars a month, per person. The mention of payment had for the moment provided an out. But now, in this move, the speaker had made it appear that there were other concerns, that he had no shortage of applicants, that there were other terms to meet. Even as I realized that it was a good gambit, to turn one away and so attract then others, I was impressed. If the man were no more than a charlatan, he knew a lot of tricks, and played them consummately. Or he might be, as he said, crazy (though the word seemed for him a definition of mankind rather than a term for aberrants), but he played out his madness with great dexterity. In any case, he had presented more than a simple shell game.



From Supping With Alex by Dave Archer:


At a meeting a student once asked Alex why he chain-smoked Pall Malls.


“Smoking is beneficial for this Work! Tobacco contains hydrogens that are needed to grow a soul.”


Alex used to say we were not in the “Work,” meaning of course, the Gurdjieff Work. Most of us paid little attention. Repeatedly, he described our endeavor as “a small preparatory school” at best. Saying that if we worked exceedingly hard on growing being, one of us MIGHT join the Real Work … someday. I took this one of us to mean him. I think a lot of us did. And there came a time that I wanted to sacrifice for him, to push his evolution, because he was already the most evolved among us. Aren’t they all.


I know, too, that Alex’s personal methods of confrontation and violence led ordinary folks to morally, spiritually, emotionally, intellectually and physically abuse each other, gravely, while calling it something else, most often: Work shocks!



CEI Cult Education Institute


Re: Subud 


Posted by: stranger
Date: January 13, 2009 07:49AM


More than anything I’m just curious. I was a “student” of Anne Horn, Haas for a very long time, my children grew up in it, and I did not leave until I was in my mid-fifties. I have very strong emotions concerning my relationship with the woman called Anne Haas, but I chose to “study” with her and it is my karma and responsibility to figure it all out. I’m wondering who are these people who write here: what do you really know about the late 60’s and the 70’s? Why did people join “cults”? I deal daily with my grown children regarding “the group”, and how it effected their life, and mine…but it is part of my life and I have to deal with those decisions.


Anne Haas is not an evil woman, but I do believe that she suffers from mental issues, my guess is that she suffers from a form of Narcissism, but as I am not a therapist, I do not know. Unless you personally knew her, you would have no idea of her incredible charisma. I did believe she “saved” our lives, she rescued us from the 60’s and 70’s. I was wrong, very wrong! I personally do not want anything more to do with her, and yes, she did make “suggestions” that, as it turned out, were not in my best interest, nor my children’s, but I did allow her control of my life, and that was my decision.


There are people still “studying” with her now, but once again that is their choice. My choice is: keep her far away from me!


If you are truly interested in what life was like in this particular “cult”, ask me, but please do not rant about things you do not know of or understand.



From A Fourth Way Standup by Dave Archer:


G. Work is transformation through eccentric (esoteric) ideas you would have rejected one hour earlier. Anything that has the effect of “changing” an entire world view in one hour, beware. Study all maps. I didn’t. I fell into a G-hole. I survived with injuries. The telephone guy I landed on, however, died of a broken neck. Six weeks later his pregnant wife died of a broken heart. The only good news, the baby survived. The bad: the kid was raised by Gurdjieffian child neglectors. It’s true: my observation and that of dozens of others is this: not insignificant numbers of Gurdjieffians consider children fairly worthless until after they grow up, therefore ignore them using situational sliding scales from say, mildly creepy to out right evil. Shame on their sorry asses. Indeed, since releasing this four and a half years ago, I have received dozens of e-mails from grown kids raised in G. They tell me they did not see sex in public, but they were terribly neglected.


(In one group in Sonoma, run by Anne Haas, the children all ran away one night to the Santa Rosa Police to report they were being abused. The cops took them back, and Anne, as only a Gurdjieff Witch can do, “convinced” the cops, through SLYING, that everything was just fine, at which point they left. ANNE HAAS, you are a bedridden black hole, having your last faithful students serve you platters of psychiatric pills while you rave like the RED QUEEN. The children you hurt are making a documentary movie about your sorry butt. Do you have any idea how many kids you “raised” that now hate your guts? See Hacate, children grow up. Guess you never thought of that. Oh, that’s right, sociopaths don’t give a shit. Now it’s your turn, and there will be no fun at all. You knew exactly what you were doing. You wanted piles of money, that’s all. Hey, I’m only writing the way you have talked all your four-letter life. I was there Anne when you were married to Alex. I heard you screeching like a banshee. We all did.)



Vital Records and Newspaper Articles



Vital Records


Chicago Tribune – Feb. 9, 1935




First Play Program





First Play flyer



The Fantastic Arising of Padraic Clancy Muldoon



Play Review – S.F. Examiner – Jan. 9, 1973



Theater group, cult or stage?

S.F. ProgressDec. 22, 1978



Strange School

S.F. Chronicle – Dec. 23, 1978

*original article



‘Theater of All Possibilities’ deserves a second look

S.F. Progress – Jan. 10, 1979

*original article



Closer look at the theater

S.F. Progress – Jan. 12, 1979



Horn’s followers at the ‘Theater’

S.F. Progress – Jan. 14, 1979

*original article



What are the answers to cultism?

S.F. Progress – Feb. 25, 1979

*original article



Review/Theater; ‘Sharon Shashanovah,’ A Play Within a Play

The New York Times – Oct. 9, 1988





CEI Cult Education Institute


“The Work” a “Fourth Way School” Visitor Comments


“I stumbled onto your Web site regarding the Everyman Theater, etc. It certainly took me back memory lane! My first wife and I were members from 1973 until about March 1974. My brother-in-law stayed after we left, and he suffered a broken arm as part of the group’s ‘therapy’. My first wife and I both worked, attended college, and participated in the so-called theater, but Alex became more and more abusive. I guess even though I was only a youngster of 22, I must have had enough self-esteem to leave! Alex wanted every cent I made, at the same time he wouldn’t let us sleep, so we could go to work. Sleep deprivation was part of their method. I see Alex passed away, and I guess Sharon is still a money magnet.”


“It seems like another lifetime, but I spent a short period with Alex Horn’s group in San Francisco. Alex effectively forced me out of his ‘school’ by insisting that I admit to being a homosexual, and I only realized much later that his real interest was in simply getting rid of me. I complicated his life by being a former student of his former student, Robert Burton at the Fellowship of Friends. In retrospect it all seems a bit silly, but the accusation, in front of fifty people, completely floored me! I knew that I was heterosexual, not a complicated kind of self-knowledge, but the power of the group was extraordinary. I also experienced Sharon Gans in the process, and found myself wishing, even in those days of not allowing negative thoughts, that she would just remove herself from the picture. She offended me deeply with her arrogance. What is most outrageous about all of these characters is their willful abuse of what seems to have been an authentic historical teaching. Anyhow, I managed to separate myself from all of this. But afterwards longing for the kind of internationality that this work had come to offer. And this is certainly one of the central problems of this kind of orthodoxy. There’s a very strong logic operating here and for those who know how to use it, it’s money in the bank!”


“I tried to find the name of this group for a long time. Sharon Gans avoided serious detection through elusive names. In effect, something that doesn’t have a name doesn’t exist. How can it be critiqued if it can’t even be referred to? Very clever on her part. I knew of the Odyssey Study Group, because that’s how my former boyfriend’s checks were made out. After we moved in together I knew it was a destructive group. My partner had been in the group for 7 years by the time he met me. He would get phone calls at odd hours. I suspect that he did the same. It was monitoring of the victims, by the victims. I wasn’t allowed to know their names. Books were covered in paper and hidden in drawers. Early morning classes and late afternoon classes. A weekend a month away with no explanation. The group decided I was a danger, so they stepped up his involvement. It goes on and on. Our relationship ended.”


“Thank you so much for putting up information on Sharon Gans, Alex Horn and Robert Klein. I was involved in the ‘school’ in San Francisco back in 1978, for about a year before the Chronicle published its expose and they packed up and left town. I refused to go with them. While I understood intellectually I had had a ‘cult’ experience, it took me almost ten years until I started doing any actual healing work around it. My best friend unfortunately is still reeling emotionally after more than 20 years and hasn’t been able to address a lot of the abuse experienced.”


“Thank you so much for this web site. I needed it years ago when I was still in the group. Sharon verbally lacerated me and then I was asked to leave. All because I asked too many questions. This was painful for many years and I kept silent, because it seemed that I was lost. However, since then I have experienced genuine healing and recovered.”


“Much of my life was hell because of Sharon Gans, Alex Horn and Robert Klein. The ‘cult,’ as I like to call it, often kept ‘members’ up all night in ‘meetings.’ I spent much of my childhood sleeping on the floor in hallways within their 24th and Mission Street Theater in San Francisco. I remember not having enough food or clean clothes, because the theater expected so much from its members, which included my parents, through work and money.”


“My parents were both members of The Theater of All Possibilities. I spent much of my childhood in the hell known as ‘The School’. Sharon Gans, Alex Horn and Robert Klein influenced my parents, who beat me. I was beaten on a daily basis, locked in closets, emotionally abused and told I was ‘worthless.’ I had to help sell tickets for their plays. I had no childhood because of these people.”


“I have a close friend whose spouse has been involved with this group for many years. What has all this led to? After years at the school and its classes it led to divorce. Sharon Gans is manipulating people and has destroyed families. Some Gans ‘students’ have left their families and loved ones for their ‘teacher.’ I don’t understand how she can get away with all of this.”


“I’d like to say thank you for making this information available to the public. A close friend of mine was a member of this group for many years, without my knowledge. As the years passed I saw her become more and more damaged emotionally, financially, and spiritually. She was a shadow of her former self. Since leaving, she has told me all about her experience, and I was shocked and appalled at the treatment she received. This group victimized her in a most unconscionable way and I am so glad that at last they are being exposed. Their covert activities have kept them in the dark for too long.”


“I am so grateful that you have put this information out there for the world to read. I am a former student of the Gans group. Though the esoteric ideas rang true, the essence of the group always felt wrong and controlling. Sharon seemed creepy, manipulative, and dangerous. After 7 years I was able to extract myself. I am happy that I found the strength to believe in my instincts and leave. I wish I had encountered your web site years ago. Thank you for posting all of this information.”



From “OUR STORIES,” published on the Esoteric Freedom Web site “by and for current students and ex-students of Sharon Gans, Alex Horn and the teachers in Boston”:



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 mislead 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.






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



CEI Cult Education Institute


Re: Fourth Way, Sharon Gans, Robert Klein group in Boston


Posted by: pocahontas  

Date: May 25, 2010  3:44AM


Hi – I was there for far too many years – I left the Billerica class well over 3 years ago and have reclaimed my life. It took 6 months for my stomach to stop jumping and to be able to really relax – to stop rushing around to get stuff done, not feeling just generally guilty for everything I am NOT doing which THEY expect. There are certainly scars, from the multiple violations of your trust, some of which are deep. It takes time to realize the full extent of the repercussions. You have been living a lie in the middle of people who trust you — so leaving it all behind is not always smooth.


It was incredibly healing for many of us who left to meet each other regularly afterward and decompress, share stories and put it into perspective. One of the hardest aspects of leaving is coping with feeling naive and stupid for having been duped for so long. So it is really good to hear other people talk about their experiences. It is also necessary to learn fully about the depth of the scam that Sharon and Robert and company have perpetrated. It is a profoundly violent betrayal of the highest wishes of their “students.” And it is disconcerting to think about the fact they are doing it knowingly. FYI – they really know nothing which is truly esoteric – what they “teach” is material which anyone could pick up from books, from Oprah, from their own psychotherapists, or made up stuff.


Those of us out here have built friendships and done many things together, gabfests, parties, barbecues, art, travel, movies, concerts – you know – like real friends do!!!



Re: Fourth Way, Sharon Gans, Robert Klein group in Boston


Posted by: dar3463

Date: January 13, 2011  3:19AM


Part 1


My name is Don Raskopf. I post ALL of my personal information here & EF [Esoteric Freedom blog] because I have NOTHING to fear from vampires & leeches. I use full names of those I have known personally for over 2 decades because LIGHT is a disinfectant – an antidote to secrecy & mind-control. I was recruited into this cult – THIS IS A CULT, NOT A SCHOOL – by my then girlfriend Julie Hodson (co-founder of Taylor-Hodson). I was manipulated into paying thousands of dollars and thousands of hours of slave labor annually for years. I was seduced into building (with many friends) FOR FREE the following homes & businesses – many sold at huge profit to Gans (I have many photos I would love to post – RR let me know how):


Taylor-Hodson’s first office in Waterside Plaza


Fred Mindel’s house in Lake Hopatcong


Terry Christgau’s house near Mindel’s


Fred Mindel & Minerva Taylor’s illegally joined adjacent apartments in Waterside Plaza


Mindel’s “doctor’s” office Suite 505, 133 East 58th Street


Gans & Horn’s previous apartment 59 West 12th Street, Apt. 11A/G, New York, NY


Montana – Falls Creek Ranch, Kauffman Road, Condon, Montana


Ilsa (Gans’ daughter) Kaye’s brownstone – 6 East 10th Street, New York, New York


Pawling – see details under real estate link on Esoteric Freedom main page


dozens of other projects


Part 2


It is my opinion that the only way to kill a snake is to cut off its head. Rick Ross has years of experience trying to free cult members with very mixed results. No one will leave while hypnotized – we need to destroy the hypnotist.


This is spiritual rape and abuse – call it by its real name. Gans has stolen millions and destroyed hundreds of lives. I will join anyone who wishes to prevent further enslavement by ANY non-violent means – pickets, lawsuits, publicity, civil disobedience, etc.


“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” 


Elie Wiesel






To all “students”:


Please understand that you have been lied to and fooled. Your good will and real wish to evolve has been co-opted by a group of Psychotic people. This may seem unbelievable to you but you can read this and VERIFY FOR YOURSELF.





HIGH DEMAND by Paul Stark | May 10th, 2012


We met, studied, stayed up late, worked really hard, cared for and tried to help each other. I’m tempted to call it a folly of youth, but it was actually a chunk of my adult years. And perhaps not folly after all. Taking everything into account, my experience nets out positive by something between a hair and a high jump.


A high demand group, didn’t really have a name. Dozens of us, every year a Christmas party, we’d stay up for days with hot melt glue and cigarettes and extension cords. And coffee, always a lot of coffee. We were brought together, bound together, by a heart-breaking desire to make something more of ourselves, to find a better way to live a life on earth than those usually on display.


It cost money, but not all my money. It did take up more than all of my free time. It spoiled some friendships I treasured. There wasn’t a compound. I lived a regular life, had a job, an apartment; I didn’t hand out flowers in airports.


I’d been expecting for years to arrive at the place where we learned how to go about living a decent life. I thought it was going to be elementary school, but it turned out not to be. Then, that must be what “church” is for. It wasn’t. There might have been something once for us Americans & Europeans, but if there was, it was gone. I’d be a tourist in India, so, making the best of it was the only next choice.


Imagine how exciting to discover just such a place. How dedicated I was, observing myself, conquering some of my social anxiety, making essence friends. How devastated after years and experiences, to be unable to escape the conclusion that it was corrupt, and in the standard ways: lies, manipulation, abuse of power, and money, and sex, and money.


This part of my history won’t stand in the way of me becoming a serious writer or spoil my reputation. Those times are, I think, over anyway. In fact, I’m going to make it an asset. It might be evidence of naïve and twisty discrimination on my part, but it’s also evidence of my ability to believe passionately, to be serious, to put myself on the line.


I have no regrets but one. My devastating disappointment over leaving has for some time kept me from a young and sincere impulse toward worship, toward a spiritual practice. And I’m afraid the same is true for many of my loved ones who also became disillusioned and moved on. Trading on those innocent qualities and fervent desires for the sake of money, vanity, and power is merely unforgivable. But not all wounds are deep enough to be permanent.




December 14, 2012

I feel a camaraderie, a commonality with you not even knowing you. Our time at Brown overlapped. I was recruited into a different “school” (same lineage, same ideology) while there, and several years of unethical control and exploitation (even if leavened by companionship) ensued before the spell broke and I was ready to leave. The following twenty-five years included much inquiry and study to understand the dimensions of the ensnarement, both internal and external to me. Healing required understanding the wound as well as the scheme, and in learning to call sociopathy by its true name. Feel free to write.



December 19, 2012

Hi Jorek,

It’s amazing really how long it takes to get over the ill effects of time in a Group.


The thing that’s been seeming more important to me lately is how the abuse of our spiritual natures leads so often, definitely for me, to discounting or turning against our spiritual impulses. That still makes me angry and I fight against it. No one joins such a group and stays if they aren’t really pursuing something deep and personal, and harming that is a loss to us & the world.



The Gentle Souls Revolution

Five years in a little cult called “school”, oops, I mean “the study”



MARCH 14, 2012

The Confession: Introduction


This blog – the Gentle Souls’ Revolution – is providing me the opportunity to reveal a secret: Between August 2006 through August 2011, I fell prey to a cult that presents itself as a “secret esoteric school”.  It calls itself “school”. The posts that will follow serve a number of purposes:


  • To sort through and make meaning out of this experience and understand why I chose it and stayed in it for five years.
  • To experience the freedom that comes when one no longer keeps secrets. 
  • To experience the healing that comes with telling the truth.
  • To set my creative voice free after five years of allowing this secret institution to silence her.
  • To expose “school” as a group of con artists who take advantage of those sincerely seeking help and meaning in their lives.
  • To sort the wheat from the chaff and gain my own understanding of that which is real and that which school manufactured to feed certain financial coiffeurs.
  • To shed light for friends and family who likely sensed that something was off, but were unable to articulate why.
  • To invite my fellow “classmates” to tell their own stories.
  • To add to the ever-growing chorus of voices who sing out, online and in real time, in an effort to keep others from falling prey to this con game.
  • To counter the fear I have around telling the truth.
  • And finally, and perhaps most important, to sometimes have a hearty laugh about this ridiculous and strange turn of events.


Chapter 1: How to Leave a Cult



Warren Peace says: June 24, 2012 at 8:40 pm

I hate to be the broken record, but . . . . There are no “real ideas” in school. The ideas of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky themselves invalidate so-called “school,” reveal it to be a sham and a fake. There is no connection to a real lineage of teachers. There is no connection to an “esoteric circle.” Whatever good we got out of school was accidental. None of us was ever exposed to any of the actual ideas.


If there are any actual ideas. Was Gurdjieff connected to a lineage of real teachers? He claimed he was. Is there any evidence that he was? Is there any evidence that anything he did ever led to an increase of consciousness in anyone? Is there any evidence that the world is a better place because of his “influence”? Making unprovable claims — the world would have ended already if it weren’t for these ideas, the esoteric circle is holding everything together, only you’re at too low a level to see it — merely puts G and everything he ever said in the same category as any other religion or cult. Either you have faith, or you’re an infidel and will die like a dog in the street. How has that particular attitude played out throughout history? It’s not a pleasant story. And no, there’s not a shred of evidence that Gurdjieff or Ouspensky knew anything. And if they did, they certainly didn’t pass it along to Sharon Gans or Robert Klein.


Klein doesn’t know anything that you couldn’t learn at a corporate empowerment “boot camp” or motivational weekend. None of his knowledge, such as it is, is esoteric knowledge. He knows a little how to manipulate people, and he’s pretty good at breaking down the most surface sort of inhibitions that people have about asserting themselves. There’s nothing “special” about it. And his knowledge — and interest — begin and end with the indoctrination of new recruits. He has no idea how to deal with people’s real difficulties, and he has no real insight. Which is part of the reason why the “older classes” were so deadly after a while. He had nothing to offer, and he taught his “younger teachers” nothing much beyond the techniques of surveillance and manipulation required to keep students’ asses in their seats. What happens to them when their asses are in those seats, well . . . not his problem. Now that I think of it, Robert could probably make millions as a legitimate motivational speaker. He could run management boot camps for major corporations and charge an arm and a leg. Hey Robert, how about it? Do something above board for a change, and stop sucking the blood of innocent and unwilling victims.



NOVEMBER 23, 2012

Part 4, Country Retreat: The Resolution


This excerpt is the last of a 4-part series on the Country Retreat penned by blog-contributor Charlie Chaplin:


There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.


– Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance



One evening, walking from the room where I had just showered and dressed for dinner, I came upon one of the older students berating her daughter.  Apparently the girl was dawdling in getting ready for the Saturday dinner of her final retreat attendance (being too old to return in the future).  I could hear the fear in this mother’s voice that her daughter’s laxity would reflect poorly on her in Robert’s eyes.  She was jabbing her finger at her daughter, saying “you are NOT going to be late for dinner your last time here!”  I can only imagine how the girl perceived her mother’s intense loyalty towards these people who were otherwise absent from their lives.


This moment shocked me, especially as I had just become a father.  It was one event of many that changed my feelings about what it might be like to have my loved ones share the school experience with me.  Since attending more events with the older class, particularly the Christmas parties in New York City, I had gradually come to realize that a good number of students in that class were married to each other.  My initial reaction was mostly envy.  How lucky these folks were to be free of the need for deception that brought me such anxiety!  How fortunate to be able to experience each other at their best, working for their own evolution and that of their classmates!  I remember the impressions class following one Christmas party, when a student spoke of the pride she felt for her husband, seeing the work that he had put into his role in the choir and band.  She welled up with emotion, brought to tears.


Now, seeing the number of children belonging to these school couples, I realized that they did not escape the need for deception, or the deprivation of their time and energy from loved ones.  On an earlier occasion, talking about my impending fatherhood with the same woman I overheard berating her child, she said in a half-joking manner that the worst part of being in school with kids is the amount of money you end up spending on babysitters (her husband was also in OSG, in my own younger group).  I also had not previously considered that the divided loyalty that manifests indirectly as deception and inattention with regards to a spouse outside of school would not disappear if that spouse were in school, but rather become more overt and direct.  I never saw a man rise to speak in defense of his wife if she were being unfairly criticized by teachers, nor a woman defend her husband.


Still, however their divided loyalties affected their relationships with each other, these students had the benefit of being adults with a framework for understanding their situation, and the (admittedly not easy) choice to perpetuate or end it.  Not so for the children.


It was only after experiencing the retreat that I realized how awfully strange these kids must feel about all of this.  On one terribly awkward occasion, a line of children came through the living room just as we were starting a meeting.  Robert and the other teachers were clustered at one end of the room, and the rest of us were haphazardly packed together on the opposite side facing them, sitting on couches, chairs, the floor or standing up.  We sat in silence as the children marched single file, following their attendant adults through the room on a path between us students and the teachers.  Robert admonished the poor planning which had made that walk-through necessary and said it wasn’t good for the kids.  In my mind I agreed with him wholeheartedly.  The older kids especially must have found it odd, and I’m sure they were equally confused as to why their caretakers were being swapped out every fifteen minutes, as we took turns watching them in order to maximize everyone’s meeting time.


My increasing doubts about my own participation in school also began to affect my interpretations of some of the assigned reading material.  Of the commentaries we read, I most clearly remember one about the vastness of space and the relative insignificance of man in the universe.  My CR (Country Retreat) aim for that period included something about realizing the scale of the cosmos and my own infinitesimal place within it.  This is certainly worthy of contemplation and helpful in gaining perspective.  Yet it did raise an additional question: If I am so insignificant, to what end was I suffering all the financial cost, time spent, deception and anxiety of school?  It made sense when I felt a personal benefit and believed I was growing and evolving by learning and doing things I would not otherwise.  Then I was clearly purchasing something of value with my time, money and efforts.  However, once it had become a clear detriment to sustaining the things in life I most cared about (primarily my relationship with my wife and child), why carry on?


This is where the loftier notions of school can be used to set a different kind of hook.  In basic form, the ideas presented in school can be broken into two categories, psychological and cosmological.  On the one hand, you have a model of human psychology that can be pretty useful in stretching your mind and your ideas of what’s possible.  On the other hand, you have a mishmash of mystical and occult notions of how the universe works and man’s special place in it.  The way this cosmology is presented, God needs our help in “repairing the universe”, and our failures in school (the most monumental of which is the failure to remain in school) harm not only ourselves, our teachers and our fellow students, but also let down God.


Several times I heard our struggles with deceiving our loved ones compared to those faced by the French Resistance in World War Two, which felt almost offensively phony.  Members of the Resistance faced real threats of physical harm to themselves and their loved ones, including possible violent death.  To the degree that they concealed their activities from their families, it was for their own protection, and they were willing to take these risks and assume the burdens of deceit because the cause for which they fought was so clear, visceral and immediate.  For us, there was no real evidence that we were fighting for any particular cause or helping anybody in any tangible way.


Of course, invoking one’s duty to help God repair the universe (and the shame of selfishness in denying such a sacred duty) went hand in hand with appeals to fear, that failure in life was inevitable without school’s help.  Leaving school would cause you to lose everything you value due to your own unchecked weaknesses.  Without school, you would fall fast asleep, your behavior would become entirely mechanical, and you would exist under the “law of accident”.  You would no longer have that mystical protection, not only against outside forces or circumstances, but also (perhaps especially) against yourself.  More than once, the primary factor in my decision to remain in school was the fear that I would cut myself off from an essential source – that the removal of school influence would make me a lesser man, fast asleep in my withering consciousness, and this would lead to the inevitable erosion of my wife and child’s well being, and the decline of my relationship with them.


While exploring my memory of the CR events to gather material for this series of posts, the Emerson quote above (or a rough approximation thereof) kept bubbling up to the surface of my mind.  Emerson’s Self-Reliance was one of the texts we read together in class that made a lasting impression on me, and I pondered it whenever seriously considering leaving OSG (Odyssey Study Group).


On the one hand, reading and discussing this essay with others in class provided an example of what I most loved about being a student in this esoteric school.  I read it with careful attention, underlining passages I found particularly poignant and relevant to my own life.  It was clear that others made similar efforts to engage the material.  Our class discussions of this essay strengthened my picture of our group as a collection of earnest seekers, mutually supporting each others’ efforts towards expanded conscience and consciousness.


On the other hand, the essay was strongly focused on honoring one’s own unique, individual point of view, overcoming cowardice and doing what feels right; so much so that it compelled me to listen to my own doubts and follow my increasingly persistent inner voice, even as it urged me to walk out on the group that had fostered my careful contemplation of this text to begin with.


This quote in particular stuck somewhere deep in my mind, and it forcefully resurfaced when I started to feel most potently the conflict between my ever-expanding obligations to school and my responsibility for my growing family.  I started to feel that the things in my individual life, especially my wife and son, were my “plot of ground”, where I would find my “kernel of nourishing corn”, and that directing my attention and efforts towards abstract, lofty school aims was equivalent to turning to those parts of the “wide universe” in which my nourishment would not be found, but rather only “envy”, “imitation”, and most explicitly, the failure to take myself “for better, for worse”, as my “portion”.


When my son was about four months old, we were told there wouldn’t be another retreat for several months.  I felt enormous relief, and let go some of the concerns that had been eating at me.  One particular concern about CR was that it seemed common and expected that students with children would bring them along.  While this idea initially sounded intriguing, as a way to give my wife a break and give my son an experience of “higher vibrations”, in practice I found it unsettling.  I thought I could see in the eyes of the older children that they found this whole thing very strange, especially when they were paraded through the middle of our meeting.   Seeing that mother so freakishly concerned that her child’s behavior might reflect poorly on her among this group also gave me pause.  I didn’t want to be in a situation where I would find my love for my son in direct competition with my loyalty for school.


The announcement of a new Country Retreat schedule came a few months later, at which time I was seriously considering leaving.  It was certainly one of the major factors that pushed me over the edge.  As with Christmas Party preparations, third line work, and the seemingly nonstop run of late-ending classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays, this was one more thing I met with 1% excitement and 99% dread and anxiety.  In the past, I had told myself to power through the interval and make a profit, but now I was feeling only diminishing returns.  I didn’t want to do it anymore.  I was done.



Abe says: April 7, 2013 at 2:24 pm  

For most people, I believe that energetic and emotional cords are formed between people who love each other, the strongest bonds being between parents and children, and husbands and wives.  These cords are like emotional glue that keep us bound together, through thick and thin, in sickness and in health.  In the words of the traditional wedding ceremony, these bonds are recognized in the phrase “what God has joined together let no man put asunder”.  The cords are in the realm of the invisible world, but are real and tangible just the same.


I have come to see that Sharon and Robert have complete and callous disregard for these emotional bonds, and this applies to individuals inside and outside of the group, including their own children.


One blatant example of this callousness was “help” I saw given in class in at least two instances, where husbands married to spouses outside of school were openly encouraged to find women to have affairs with.  In both of these circumstances, the “teachers” had been trying for several months to break up these marriages, usually because the wives were asking too many questions: about where money was going, or why the husband wasn’t home much, or about the secretive nature of their spouses coming and goings. To me it seems that having an affair was a deliberate attempt to drive a wedge into these psychic cords between a husband and wife.  While this type of “help” was given openly in class many years ago, I suspect nowadays it’s given, away from the questioning eyes of classmates, such as in private chats with Robert, for instance.


I see the loved ones outside of the group as innocent victims, especially children and spouses.  They didn’t choose to be in it, they don’t know it exists, but they are caught in the emotional wake of the group just the same.  At least the members of the cult have deliberately chosen to join and stick with it.  They put themselves under “school influence”, and they have some degree of culpability for their predicament, however brainwashed they may be.


I could rant and rave about all the other emotional abuses that have gone on over the years in this cult, all the divorces suggested and pushed for by “teachers”.  Young single mothers pressured to attend classes twice a week until the wee hours of the morning and also participate in extracurricular activities to the same extent as the single folk – party preparations, recruiting, lecture preparations.  The costs of babysitters added to already stretched budgets.  Children growing up with absentee parents.  Mothers pressured to put their babies up for adoption.  Wildly exaggerated character assassinations of former members.  Public shamings in class.  Suicides, attempted suicides, mental breakdowns.  Accidents and illnesses that can be attributed to continual lack of sleep.  The relentless pressures for more money, more new students.  The countless lies and deceptions, big and small, to friends, family, spouses.  Many of these abuses have been discussed already on this blog and others.  I believe most of these abuses have at their root a total disregard of the well-being of the individuals involved, and any psychic cords that connect them deeply to others, such as family, friends, parents, children, siblings.


For so many years I sat passively, witnessing these dramas play out in class, however big or small.  I rarely spoke out, even though the “help” given often didn’t feel right to me.  And I had my own share of drama over the years, and received my own share of dubious “help” in class.  Eventually I stopped asking for help, in what I recognize now as an instinctive act of self-preservation.


Over time I could see and recognize that there was a party line, that the dubious objective – “furthering the aims of school” – would always be served, regardless of the costs, emotionally, financially or psychically to anyone, be it costs for the students, or loved ones outside of the group.  In retrospect, I’ve witnessed some very emotionally brutal events and heard about many more.  After several years, I still find it shocking, and still struggle to make sense of it all.


The best sense I can make of it so far is that the whole experience was a profound, educational experience for my soul about the nature and face of evil. I also learned to trust, honor, and act on my own inner knowing. I am so grateful that I was awake enough to finally see and recognize this evil for what it is and escape.


I’m grateful that so many of you found your way out. I’m grateful for this blog and others that provide a forum for us to share our thoughts and experiences. I am reminded of my favorite blessing: “May the clear light within us guide our way home.”



Pearl says: March 21, 2014 at 11:40 pm

In the mid 1970s, on the West Coast: Sharon left to go out of town and told some of us women to expect a call from Alex. We could accept his offer to come to our homes for a sexual call. Which he did. He was like a cold fish. It’s abuse of power, which I don’t think I recognized at the time. Also, at one point, mothers were told to put their kids in a daycare run by one of the mothers, who had no clue about taking care of children. This was short term. It was replaced by a day care arrangement which was rather good, but run by a friend of Sharon’s and thus ultimately a form of control. The money pressure even then was fierce. Dues to pay. Huge pressure to sell tickets to the plays, which was the gateway to new recruits. Lack of sleep was a big part of life. Humiliation and ridicule were instruments of control as well, but we probably did not understand it as such. We did know about and read all the work books, many of which I enjoyed. We often talked about G and O and Collin and Nicoll and Orage. Sharon had poetry written by Collin’s wife – which I think I still have. There was pressure on unwed mothers to give their children in adoption to fellow students; many marriages were arranged and broken. This was all **before** the 80’s, **before** the older group migrated to East Coast. It only got worse on the East Coast. Many children of the older students of the 70’s and 80’s are still not recovered from the trauma of growing up in this atmosphere.



Warren Peace says: April 7, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Things I personally witnessed/experienced as a long-time member of the Boston group, 80s and 90s:


– Arranged marriages among school members, sometimes at the expense of existing marriages involving spouses not in school


– One member of a married couple in school being forced out of school in order to make it easier for the remaining member to be “reassigned” to another spouse


– Encouragement to cheat on non-schooled spouses with other school members


– Parents being forced to hide pregnancies, then being forced or at least intensely pressured to give babies up for adoption


– Encouragement to physically assault other students in class, and then public mockery and humiliation if the person refused


– Institutionalized and systematic lying and informing in the form of constant reporting on younger students by “sustainers”


– Institutionalized lying in the form of misrepresentations or smear campaigns about students who have left school


– Systematic psychological torment, including vicious denunciations in class, unprovoked tirades, and verbal threats


– Untreated and unacknowledged alcoholism, in at least one case leading to a car accident after class


– A systematic program of sleep deprivation


– A systematic program of increasing school duties/responsibilities without regard for health, personal situations, etc.


– Constant pressure to ignore work and family responsibilities, and to lie to bosses and spouses


– Physically detaining students trying to leave class


– Going after students who have left school in order to bring them back (a la Scientology and other cults)


It sounds like the abuse was more overt in the bad old San Francisco days, but it was no less pervasive in Boston. This was all allowed and most of the time perpetrated by “teachers” and “older students” who were supposedly on a “higher level” and “working on their being.” If it wasn’t so revolting, it would be laughable. If that’s “evolution,” then I choose to die like a dog in the street, thank you anyway. (Now that I think of it, that’s insulting to dogs, who are orders of magnitude more loyal, loving, and sensible than so-called “teachers”.)



GingerBerry says: June 18, 2014 at 8:47 am

On another note, I do want to comment as someone who had a marriage “destroyed” by school, as someone who subsequently had an “arranged marriage” and also as someone who “adopted”.


I think I will speak about my daughter here and leave the others for another time.


Unlike many others who adopted, I did not adopt a child from another woman/couple in school – although I do know a number of those circumstances quite well. During my first marriage, I had a miscarriage (this is another story as well) and longed for a child. After my divorce (and my ex-husband’s re-marriage to a woman who he brought to school after they married – yes, that definitely does happen) I wanted to try to have a child as a single parent.


I asked Sharon about this and she told me that I was incapable of being a good mother because I was not a loving woman and would not be able to take care of a child properly. No comment here on her child-rearing practices. She suggested that I get a plant instead to practice on. I said that I had a lot of plants and they were doing quite well, thank you. She then suggested I get a dog. Not an adult dog but a puppy that I would have to train. I was disappointed, heartbroken, angry, disillusioned, frustrated, confused (the list could go on).


Several weeks later, I was asked by a number of people if I had gotten a dog yet. I was told by a teacher (we will call him “FM” – who was also instrumental in my divorce) that I better get a dog and follow Sharon’s instructions or I might not be able to stay in school. I got a dog.


A year later, I asked Sharon the same question again, and she told me to get another dog. Same scenario. I got another dog.


Meanwhile, my biological clock was not only ticking but ticking really fast. Time was passing… I decided to try by myself (with or without Sharon’s approval). I proceeded on to a long period of trying artificial insemination, fertility drugs and finally several rounds of IVF. I was flying back and forth to Colorado to do the IVF – as my cousin is a fertility specialist, and he was helping me for free. I became pregnant again and then had another miscarriage. At that point, Sharon told me that I had to speak in every class for a month or I would not be permitted to return to school. Threats and menaces. You have to understand, I was frightened that I would be thrown out of school and then I would have “nothing”. I had lost my husband. I had no child. It was just me and those two damn dogs. I didn’t go back to Colorado.


Fast forward several years to my newly arranged marriage. I still wanted a child. My husband had four sons by a previously arranged marriage and wanted a daughter. I had applied at an adoption agency the week before we met. It looked like my dream might come true.


We decided to adopt from China or Korea. Sharon put the kabash (dictionary definition: “to put an end to something”) on that immediately. She insisted we adopt from Russia so that our child would look like us and we could say that she was our “natural” child so that my husband’s sons would accept her as their “sister”. I’m writing this and I lived it but it scarcely sounds believable.


So, we adopted from Russia. Fifteen years ago. No one told me anything about what the consequences might be of adopting a traumatized abandoned child subjected to the Russian orphanage system.


I live with a child (who I dearly love) but who has Reactive Attachment Disorder. Google it. My life has been, shall we say, extremely challenging. More on this later. I will just say that a year ago, she spent a year in a residential treatment facility for fire setting. She has been hospitalized three times this past year since she has been back home. Once for assault and battery on me. She steals on a daily basis, lies, destroys everything in her wake, and is abusive to us on a daily basis. My dream come true.



fact or fiction says: June 18, 2014 at 2:29 pm

As someone who was once a partner in an arranged school marriage and subsequent school divorce, I’ve given a lot of thought about what really happened to me, and to what happened to my friends around me. And my conclusion is that it all revolves around power and control.


A few sociopathic people set themselves up to be “teachers”, “authorities”, “conscious beings”. We walk into the room as fresh faced new students, and eventually we come to accept this charade as the truth. Various techniques are used to manipulate us: threats and menaces, shame and blame, shunning, ostracism, to name a few. Esoteric ideas are taught, and they ring true to us, but we don’t catch their subtle twists and distortions. We are now under the leaders’ spell and our critical thinking has been suspended.


Making decisions on our own was frowned upon, “self will” it was called. I remember RK in class, calling someone out on their “self will” – the forceful, disapproving and derogatory tone. It was a spectacle put on for the consumption of all of us in our tight circle of chairs. It was pure public humiliation, and as an observer, you wanted to avoid it at every cost (although we couldn’t see this psychological dynamic at the time).  So we became good students, and eventually we asked for help with all aspects of our life. We became willing and complacent, easy to manipulate. We handed over more and more power to these imposters. Over time, we willingly handed our power over to Sharon, and she seized it; she uses it to her own advantage.


We put these alleged “teachers” on a pedestal, gave them our power and our money, and allowed them to dictate our every move – where we live, where we work, who we marry, how we raise our children. We handed over our power on a silver platter, and said “Sharon, tell me what to do.”  These “next steps in evolution” conveniently happen to coincide with the over arching aim of the school survival.


The survival and growth of school is the paramount aim of school, in my opinion. Maintaining the power structure is second, and it’s closely tied to feeding Sharon’s vanity and enormously inflated sense of herself. Many have said she has a Narcissistic Personality disorder, but I am not in a position to make this diagnosis.


I believe that making money is a close third aim of school. I think establishing and maintaining power and control has to trump money as an aim, because without the control structure, the group could not exist. We wouldn’t stick around, I think. If it wasn’t for the gradual stripping away of our power, most of us would have said no to the time, money and recruiting demands early on in our tenure.


I believe that Sharon has started to believe the charade that she’s performed over all the years. I think she sincerely thinks that she knows best: which two students belong together, who is fit to be a mother and who is not, etc. Yes GSR, I think Sharon sincerely thinks she is a “conscious being”, that she knows what each student’s next step is in their evolution, be it a marriage, a divorce, a new job, or adoption. The students in her group make her their god. The power that so many of us so eagerly handed over has gone to her head. She is corrupted by this absolute power. No one is allowed to question Sharon and her dictates. The risk is always public humiliation or ostracism. And to be publicly expelled from the group in class is the worst punishment of all. Therefore Sharon can do whatever she wants. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.


The day I decided never to step through those doors again was the day I reclaimed my power. I’m approaching my seven year mark of being out, and I am still so completely and entirely happy I left. I lost my husband and house in the process; it was extremely painful, but it was totally worth it. As hard as it may seem to leave, there is so much joy and freedom to be gained.


For any current students who are courageous enough to be reading this, please read and reread these posts and consider them carefully. Please weigh them for yourself, ask could they be true?  Could it be that much of what goes on in class is merely psychological maneuverings to get your classmates to bring more students, or become more devoted followers? Do you think you could ever disagree with Sharon in class? Question, question, question for yourself, and come to your own conclusions.



Cassandra says: June 20, 2014 at 8:37 am

I believe that making money is THE paramount aim of school, seconded only by S’s insatiable need for attention. If she had succeeded in show business to the point of becoming a movie star, she would never have become a cult leader, but unfortunately she could never achieve or maintain the weight loss that is necessary in that industry for real success. Plus you are then at the mercy of studios and the press. How much nicer to have a sizeable group of people eager to do any service for you, who hang on your every word, and whose lives you control completely.


I believe S is a psychopath, not a narcissist. Why? Because things are arranged on the top levels of school with an awareness of manipulating people’s lives. A narcissist operates on a smaller scale. If you read The Psychopath Next Door you will see that she fits the criteria perfectly, and that the condition, which is inborn, is not so rare (frighteningly).


I think there is a certain enjoyment of the pain caused through the manipulations because then she can “heal” it – divorced? You should never have married him – now marry x – I will sanction it and you WILL be happy. Feeling empty? Have a child. Too many children? Give one up. Have money? Give me some. Don’t have money? Make some and give me some. I have heard all of these “instructions” and “suggestions” (code for “instructions”). Sick and rich? We’ll take care of you. Sick and broke? Better go and if you get better you can come back and….you can make money again and give it to me!


I have heard the teacher say flat out that she does not know the “work” ideas, I have heard her quote Oprah as work ideas, bring up things from the dictionary, “‘will’ is higher than ‘wish’”, call men c*nts and women vipers and sh*ts. I have seen her switch from trying to cajole someone who wanted to leave into staying, to fury and telling them they were crap and trying to break up their marriage, and then telling them they were banished, all in about three hours.


There is no esotericism in this and there has not been for many years, if there ever was.


I personally do not believe there ever was. I have heard too much history on these people to believe it was ever anything but a mutual stroking and sexual attraction between S and A. She left her family and went west, he elevated her to cult queen and theatre ‘icon’ during the [’70s]. She became extremely wealthy quickly. The group learned to hide, to collect more money, and how to hook people in as cults became a better known phenomenon. The internet brought new challenges, time brought new crops of victims. There are permanent denizens of the cave and there are some on the faster track – all provide income to She, and she lives very well indeed. She has never sacrificed an iota, not one jot or tittle. All the permanent contributions to the elevation of the planet that ‘school’ has accomplished have been for her resume and obituary alone – the Horn plays (ugh), the Chekhov Concert, etc. Any efforts by students to start something that would contribute something permanent – which we were told was school’s ‘mission’ were given a small amount of attention – enough to create a line of work project, raise some money, exhaust some people, maybe try some recruiting, and then went exactly nowhere. Theatre companies, Country retreats, studies, lectures as ‘esoteric knowledge’.


I feel for the people who went there for spiritual reasons and thought they found the source, but my own judgement is that any genuine spiritual connection was in the sincerity of the people who were scammed and never, ever with the leaders, who saw the whole thing only as a distorted reflection of themselves – holding a ‘mirror up to life’ and life being a thing to be twisted to serve them alone. Again, I say with a great deal of knowledge of history and herstory that most people don’t have. I also have some training in the appropriate psychiatric backgrounds, so my call on her condition is not entirely without expertise.


When I read people’s posts about their genuine experiences and loss of the connection to a source, I often cry. I wish I could be with them to hold them and let them know that whatever connection they made and whatever love they shared is and was theirs, and theirs alone. They still have it, and they can still summon it. “All that is gold does not glitter, and not all who wander are lost.”  YOU did it, YOU have it, YOU brought it to them, where they squandered and shat upon it. I had a friend there, still in, who said, “If it don’t feel right, it must be shite.” There were too many hours of violence and discomfort, too many times of people being put “on the spot” for it to feel ‘right’.  In a Monastery you might choose to “do battle” through questions with a master, but you will never be humiliated, told where to work, who to marry, told you’re shite, threatened with expulsion if you don’t wash rocks at three a.m., humiliated in front of 60 of your best friends for four hours and then expelled in the middle of nowhere, as your 60 now ex-best friends join in telling you how they always knew how awful you really were.


This is not esotericism or even a bastardization of it – this is bullying for gain, using techniques commonly known as “mind control”. We are all under the influence of these techniques in our society all of the time – they are used extensively in some of our most sacred institutions (the military could not exist without them, schools would not function, and the two party system and the media that supports it would blessedly become extinct). Joyce Collin Smith, who was Rodney Collin’s sister-in-law, a follower of Ouspensky and later of the Mahareshi Mahesh Yogi during the Beatles’ experiment (and greatly disillusioned by his abuse of his followers for money, fame and sex) eventually found her answer, which she wrote about in her book of the same title, Call No Man ‘Master’.  She found that essential esoteric teaching that, except in the beginning, to learn the basic precepts, your path is your own and your teacher is yourself and your relationship with your conscience and your soul.



Warren Peace says: June 29, 2014 at 7:53 am

I’ve been out of “school” for over 10 years, so my information is not up to date and my memory may be getting fuzzy on various details, but there are some things about being a “sustainer” — vicious word — that I’ll never forget.


The thing to know right out of the gate is that “school‘s” “sustaining” practices are highly regimented and choreographed, and they amount to a formalized process of surveillance and informing.


All (most?) of the “younger” “teachers” were sustainers. “Sustainers” were also selected from among the ranks of the sufficiently indoctrinated — “older” “students” who were sufficiently hooked to reliably carry out orders. As usual in that place where everything is the opposite of what it seems, the task of “sustaining” is presented to newly identified “sustainers” as a privilege, but really it’s a demand that you get the distinct feeling you’re not allowed to decline.


“Sustainers” were assigned a certain number of “sustainees” — 2 to 5 depending on experience and ability, as I recall. “Sustainees,” of course, are younger students who are not yet sufficiently indoctrinated. “Sustainers” were usually genuinely concerned about their “sustainees” and I think usually felt, at least at first, that they were truly being helpful with younger “students” in their “aim” to “evolve.” This is all of a piece with the demonic “genius” of the group, which is to play on and essentially co-opt people’s genuine feelings of friendship and responsibility in the service of a massive lie. For those of you keeping track on your Rodney Collin scorecards, mark “sustaining” down under the Process of Crime.


“Sustainers” were required to call and/or meet with their people on a strict schedule, and were required to immediately report their conversations in detail to an older “student” in charge of collating and writing up all of the “sustaining” reports. “Sustainers” were supposed to especially pay attention to any sort of “negativity” or any suggestion that the student might be having some sort of problem, either in their life or in their feelings, about “school.” They were also supposed to find out as much as they could about a “student’s” work life, romantic relationships, quirks, troubles, embarrassments — all of the details of a person’s inner and outer life. “Sustainers” were instructed to assure “sustainees” that their conversations were held in the strictest confidence, encouraging “sustainees” to spill really sensitive and intimate information that the “sustainers” would then immediately report. Usually, the “sustainer” would get off the phone with a “sustainee” and then immediately call in a report, especially if there was some sort of problem.


Problems usually got passed right up the chain of command, to Robert or Sharon, and if the problem was considered important enough, they would issue specific instructions on how to talk to the “sustainee,” or they or a younger “teacher” would intervene. After a while sustaining, you came to realize that the only real problems, the only things that were really of concern, were retaining students, making sure they stayed and paid, and dealing with “leaks.” An awful lot of pressure got put on “students” with un-schooled spouses, as GSR likes to call them, through “sustainers,” “help” with relationships, etc, etc – that never got brought up in class because “sustainers” had already dealt with it privately, under strict instructions and reporting every detail of supposedly confidential conversations. No one was ever supposed to leave! and better if they had no non-school friends or partners! all that problematic “life” stuff — problematic because it diverted a person’s attention, time, and money away from “school.”


Sustaining reports were printed and given to “teachers” before every class. If a younger “teacher” was in charge of class on a given night, sustaining reports often came with specific instructions (from Robert in Boston, from Sharon or one of her hench people in NYC) on what to bring up in class and what to avoid bringing up. This is how “teachers” created the impression of clairvoyance and super-sensitivity, how they created the illusion that they could “see” more because they were on a “higher level.” It’s all fraudulent, all the result of a formal and enforced program of lying and betraying confidences.


For “sustainers,” “sustaining” was another “third line of work,” often as burdensome and time-consuming (and certainly as highly scrutinized) as recruitment. “Sustainers” themselves were kept under strict observation and control. Woe to you if you didn’t call in your reports on your “sustainees” before a class, or if you didn’t deal with a “sustainee’s” negativity or other problems in a way that Robert liked. There were “sustainer” meetings, outside of class times, where “sustainers” would compare notes and talk about techniques and “help” each other. In Boston, Robert would often hold court and instruct or berate as the circumstances warranted.


Don’t be fooled: recruitment and retention are the only things the people who run “school” really care about, along with secrecy. “School” doesn’t only have secrets it keeps from the outside world. It also has secrets it keeps from its “students.” “Sustaining” practices are among the most damaging of these secrets.



Triple Agent says: June 25, 2014 at 3:15 pm  

Funny coincidence (isn’t capital L Life full of them!) When I left, I kept talking to my dear friend who was still in, for about a year. I was finding out all of that “seamy underbelly” and conveying it to her. My constant shock impelled me to send it to her unedited, plus she and I had discussed doubts about school for a long time. She took it pretty well, but also could not leave due to entanglements with family and eventually the (not seeming) contradiction compelled her to tell me she knew I was speaking the truth, but she couldn’t keep talking to me. I was sad, but I understood. I knew that she would eventually leave. I ‘spoke’ to her, sending her love, for years.  Eventually she left and we have resumed our close and dearest of friendships.  Recently I told her that if I could make the choice of never “meeting” school but never knowing her, I would have gone into school anyway, because her friendship (and one other, also saved from the wreckage) are that important and meaningful to me.


We ‘broke’ the rules for years as much as we dared – recruitment became dinners out and shopping trips; during a time when she had to travel from one city to another for class, we made sure to ask the one teacher we knew wouldn’t give us a hard time over her staying at our house for permission (thanks DK!). We never got caught. The higher beings never suspected. She used to ask me, “Sometimes I think it’s a cult – what do you think?” and I would reply, “Oh that’s silly – how could so many bright and talented and educated people be in a cult?” That was before I knew I had given the very definition of a person who joins a cult – a functioning, bright individual who seeks something meaningful in life and hasn’t found it in traditional venues (or at least yet).


It wasn’t until we were both out that I told her I had been breaking more rules than she knew, for many years. It started with a loss of interest and ‘force’ in five-week aims. So formulaic and dumb – in our city, you only stated your aim to your partner, and it was always something like “I’m going to do ten things to improve my dating life/relationship/family life.” “I’m going to do five things to improve my apartment” – “take five bassoon lessons,” etc., etc. After about 7 or 8 years, I could see that none of these ‘small’ aims were doing much for me. Plus, with all of the demands of school they were becoming just another something I had to do. We switched partners and most partners called infrequently or called several times a day wanting help with every aspect of their lives; “I was thinking it would help my aim of being good to myself if I had an ice cream cone, but then I was thinking that conflicted with my aim of losing weight – I don’t know what to do!  What do you think? Silverware!”


Finally, after being screamed at for “showing off” when I brought in the results of two years of work, learning a new musical instrument and performing in public, which is nerve-wracking for me, I began “not making” my aims, but I certainly wasn’t going to admit to that and get blown up in class as I saw happening to others – hell to the “NO!”. I reported excellent progress with appropriate intervals to my partners. I reported making my aims on aim night. No one ever doubted a micron of what I said. The highly evolved detected not an iota of a lie. Huh. Wonder if they really don’t see more. I was assigned to a small group of recruiters (at that time only a small group of special assholes was assigned to recruitment). If you didn’t have people and get them along the meeting ladder, you got picked apart, criticized, yelled at – never mind that no new student had been brought for years. We were given a student leader who was a dead loss and all he did was have meetings until 4 am and whine at us and pose questions about “why weren’t we doing well?” No one ever knew what he wanted, so eventually he would tell us the answer (No strong aim), and when we all began stating strong aims, he told us we were no good because we hadn’t thought of it. To get away from this kind of specious hectoring, I began making people up. Names, meetings, what was said, where we went – funny, though – none of them ever got past the third meeting! But there were always new people added to my list. At least I wasn’t being screamed at.


I realized that school was a fake. I had seen sustainer reports by accident, so I knew how teachers knew supposedly secret information. Now I knew that none of them had any kind of advanced insight or knowledge or “secret powers”. I used this to temper my life in school the last three years so I could survive.


Those years were horrifying. I won’t go into the details, but events in school and events in my life combined to throw me into a clinical depression. I was gone, gone, gone. Female teachers called me and told me to “get over it”.  Finally, I called in and left a message saying I had been to 2 doctors and it was absolutely recommended I get onto anti-depressants (so frowned upon!). I told them I was going to do it (believe me, my life was at stake). I went to class. No one said anything to me until the end when I was leaving. A female teacher called my name and said, “don’t you want to talk to S?”  I said, “Sure” and walked over to her, where she sat on her platform in her barcalounger. There I met with the most sympathy and kindness I ever was to experience in my 12 years there. I knelt and she pulled my head onto her lap. I sobbed (I was sobbing all the time in those days). She said I could try anti-depressants for three months to “get a window on life without depression, but for god’s sake, don’t go to a psychiatrist.” I agreed, but found that the only way I could get the medicine was to have sessions. So began my meta-school – I saw a psychiatrist and took the pills for my last three years in school – until I left I never told her about school, I never told school about her – and now, I am telling all. If I hadn’t broken so many rules, I would be dead today, and I wouldn’t be talking so much!



Triple Agent July 1, 2014 at 9:54 am

If anyone ever needed a hint that things aren’t OK in ‘School”, it would be the fact that a five year student had never heard the names of the ‘teachers’ of the ‘work’ (please assume quotes, not so much in irony but to contextualize my very healthy skepticism)!


When I left, my first reaction was to read all and everything I could find about cults and about the fourth way’s people and history. Although Collin’s death as suicide and/or murder (by the young boy who was in the tower with him) was never investigated seriously, one thing that is striking is that all four major teachers of the fourth way – Ouspensky, Collin, Nicoll, and Gurdijieff, repudiated it. “There is no system.” Ouspensky, after hiding out in NJ during WWII (to much criticism in England, his adopted country), died a depressed alcoholic who took long rides with his four cats; Nicoll committed suicide, Orage was a depressive, Gurdjieff spent his later years trying to resurrect his glory days, writing incomprehensible nonsense (beelzebub’s tales) and possibly collaborating with the Germans during WWII to maintain his own comfort. He had a few small groups after Fontainebleau, but never anything substantial after he broke it up. A great, out of print history is The Harmonious Circle by James Webb. Also interesting is Madame Blavatsky’s Baboon, which is about the different spiritualism and esoteric movements of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


For me, reading about what I was supposed to have been involved with and the actual, factual history of these people who had been held up to me as saints, number 8’s, evolved, and then also to read about the cult experience and process was the best way for me to understand what I had been through. There was no website then, and people were just beginning to hesitantly be in touch with each other. There was very little support, and it was hard to find anything like a counselor or therapist who would or could give the validation that this was indeed a traumatic event and could help one recover from it. What to do but make my own understanding? One therapist I found took about $400 from me for a 2 hour session, told me nothing I hadn’t found out already, and asked me a lot of fascinated questions when he found out I knew the children of the cult’s leader. He expressed a real desire to work with Them, yeah boy! (I know, he probably should have paid me.)


On sustainers: I had two. My first was someone I really couldn’t stand, and I never changed that opinion in my dozen years in school: Her dreaminess and conviction that everything was ‘amazing’ – and breathless quality of asserting that she Knew, and oh no, why would you ARGUE about it, such NEGATIVITY. She made little sense and got peeved if you disagreed with her or objected to anything she said. As soon as I saw that pissed off look break through the dreamy hippie-dippy facade, I knew she was phony through and through (not alone in that opinion). After two months she was taken off my case and I was given another sustainer, much jollier and more approving. I’m sure my resistance to number one was noted and the switch was planned.


Funny – number one loved to order me around after that, and she inadvertently revealed the truth of sustainers. Years later she was on bed rest, and we all had to go help her out with anything she needed. After one such session cleaning her home, she gave me an envelope and told me to make a copy of the paper inside, without looking at it, and give it to another older student at class that night.


As soon as I unfolded the paper to place it on the machine, I saw the name of a young student and labels for “first story”, “second story”, etc, plus listings for the “centers”. Each area had a few sentences. My “essence friend” had a clear childish scrawl that leapt off the page, and I could not stop myself from seeing that this was a report on the person’s life. After that intro, I read the whole thing. At this time and in this place, sustainer reports were apparently weekly and on paper in this strict format. The student’s status with job, finance, relationships, emotional state, feelings about school – all were laid out in a “work” like cover.


By this time I had been without a sustainer for a number of years. But my second sustainer, when I admitted to smoking some pot with friends (breaking the “no drugs” rule – a rule more in place to prevent tangles with the law than to keep students ‘illicitly opening the doors of perception’), my sustainer took it very seriously and asked me a lot of questions. Considering the amount of booze people drank, I found it hard to find this breaking of the rules all that serious. I didn’t intend to break them again. But my sustainer claimed if I did it again, she would have to report me. Suddenly my heart began to pound. I didn’t want to be kicked out. I would leave if I wanted to – at this point I was still going it one month at a time – but I didn’t want to be ‘told’ on and get kicked out. I had already seen people humiliatingly dismissed in front of everyone. When I again broke the pot rule a few months later, I agonized in guilt. I didn’t tell my sustainer; no one pointed a finger at me. I didn’t smoke pot again for many years. But I realized after seeing that report that the reason I didn’t get in trouble was because NO ONE KNEW.


Towards the end of my first year in school was my 30th birthday. I rarely stood up in class to speak as my first two ventures at this had brought sarcasm from F and, in my first meeting with her, a slap down from S, “This is NOT true confessions!” (really? You coulda fooled me.)


This night had passed safely, and we were about to end when an older student stood up and said firmly to me, “So and so, WHAT is going on with YOU?” Not catching the tone, wanting to get away, I said, well, things were pretty good, actually, I felt good to be here (they weren’t too bad in some ways – I had a new job which was exciting, I felt life was opening up in some ways) but I must have been expressing my ambivalence about school to my sustainer. The teacher rained down on my head sarcastic, demeaning, belittling comments, even calling my smile “Nimby namby” – telling me to “get real, man” – telling me to dress differently (I had lost some weight for an aim and been wearing clothes that fit; all women were supposed to wear shapeless silk tents like S did). It went on for a while. I was crushed. No one knew it was my thirtieth birthday, or so I thought. My sustainer had a lot of things to say about it the next day – how timely it was, then, and what did I think of that, and the burn was good – I should burn it in. It was an appalling experience. My need to please was activated. I stayed in school.


Sustainers – years later, I found another woman, an older student I liked, putting together a sheaf of sustainer reports. This person would later be instrumental in the circumstances of my leaving; she told me she was going to have them copied, and she left. I noticed that the copying took her over an hour. Later she told me she had used this weekly chore as a way to avoid being in class. This I understood as I used a regular assignment for the same reason – out of the boredom, out of the line of fire.



Triple AgentJuly 1, 2014 at 9:57 am

Still later I learned from one of these people that S was given an envelope with the copies of the reports to read. One evening S was given one envelope with the reports and one with ten thousand in cash. In the cab, S left one of the envelopes – the one with the cash. The student wrongly assumed that S would be glad not to have lost the reports; the student was distressingly wrong. What happened, I asked?


A coterie of older students had been sent to all cab companies to search for the envelope. They had offered rewards. The anger was boundless. Did they ever find it? I asked her. “No”, she said. Apparently some of the older students had eventually cobbled together the money to make it up and given her another $10 grand. The older student told me, “Until that time I still thought she would have been more concerned about the reports.”



Triple AgentJuly 2, 2014 at 12:38 pm

I am sure that Aegis is onto something in that particular people have probably hired “reputation managers” to protect their businesses. (Yes, Aegis, here am I, perservating.) But unlike other cults, such as The Forum, or those crazy kids out in LA (Scientology), who have a public persona as a legitimate business or religion, this one is and always has been in the shadows. The cover businesses have always been covers for the REAL operations. Attempts to discuss what goes on bring about bug outs, lawsuits, new rules and meetings in hotel rooms, new 501c-3 and 4 corporations, etc. The Forum is open to everyone – you buy in or you don’t. So is Scientology (up to a certain level, when it gets very VERY secret). But this group is secretive all the way. Also to be considered is the fundamental ignorance of the top tier about technology and its effect on the world in the past twenty years (Hello?  Who remembers the school response to Y2K?). IT and its component parts and series of tubes are so little understood by the Dear Leaders that they still told students in 2000, “don’t use email”, and then “don’t use the internet” and “don’t search the internet”. It’s like saying, “don’t think about green monkeys”. Now, what image popped right into your brain?


As the internet became more sophisticated and more of a daily tool for people, the blogs got cheekier. Names were published. Business practices came to routinely include searching people who you did business with. Now you get googled when you apply for a job. Imagine if you are a professional in the fields of law or medicine or finance, and a new client googles you and finds a dossier or blog posting such as exists (or did) in ‘the good stuff’? The threat is now personally existential. The group’s fundamental members are being identified, prevented from an income stream – S’s worst nightmare, too close to home. More definitive measures are taken, a financial ‘war chest’ is compiled, the Devil’s favorite minions of the Bar are hired, and reputation managers are discovered – to protect the holy few and the great general behemoth. As long as the money stream is basically good, the leaders are good. As long as the leaders are basically in the shadows, with the money stream flowing, all is well.



JULY 16, 2014

Y2K in “School”



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



Y2KAh yes, we remember it well:


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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




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



DOTJ Drinking On The Job


Season 1 – Episode 93: David Kulko


February 21, 2021


David Kulko was being groomed to take over a cult but instead of drinking the Kool Aid he drank mezcal and found his true light.




with Pam Atherton



Author and Former Cult Member Spencer Schneider

How a Cult Member of 23 Years Finally Got Out
Spencer Schneider Shares an Insider View into Cults


Have you ever wondered about cults? How do you get into one? How do you get out? Why don’t you leave when things get abusive? Why do people stay? Spencer Schneider is a former member of a Manhattan cult, who finally got away after 23 years in the cult.


His new book Manhattan Cult Story covers the journey from how he got in, to how he got out, and all the sordid details in between. In our chat we learn how people were targeted, some of their internal vocabulary they use, and how he came to doubt himself. We talk about gaslighting, mind games, and how relationships were regulated. Plus, how Spencer finally was able to leave.


It’s a rare insider view to the world of cults and how they work, with a strong dose of hope at the end.



From MANHATTAN CULT STORY: My Unbelievable True Story of Sex, Crimes, Chaos, and Survival by Spencer Schneider



Sharon Nights, Part IV:


The Sharon Show


(pp. 167-172)



She was the actress who couldn’t land a gig. Too difficult to work with. Too eccentric. Too untalented. So she started her own show: “The Sharon Show” a.k.a. The Work. She was now, in the waning days, coming twice weekly to “star” in Manhattan and sometimes in Boston. With general admission ranging from $300 to $500 per month, she was still pulling in quite a haul from her students. And she wasn’t letting them out of her sights. Her audience winnowed to the loyal, desperate, and the hooked; they were imprisoned in her interactive, immersive show.



Imagine: Sharon likes to keep her audience waiting as they sit silently. The seventy-ish-year-old star and her minions, the four “junior teachers” can be heard laughing and rousing it up for forty-five or so minutes backstage in Sharon’s suite. They are dining on caviar, grilled lamb, and drinking Absolut on the rocks. Finally, the audience can hear the suite’s door open and the star and her entourage laughing, gabbing, and walking the long hallway that leads to the stage of the classroom. The house lights are dimmed, and the sound system blares the solo trumpet from Copland’s “Fanfare for the Common Man.”


     We jump to our feet. We are arranged on four rows of seats on risers facing the front of the room. Our eyes betray anxiety, dread, and mild panic; but we pretend to be delighted to see the star. As she enters from the back of the room, the spotlight is on her as she walks up the center aisle which separates the risers. “Hello Sharon,” we cheer. There she is! Live, in person. The foot-high pile of bright orange hair. The deeply set cerulean eyes. The pale skin. The gaudy gold earrings and diamond rings. Sometimes she wears her Bulgari sunglasses at night. She wears her trademark long dress, fit for a medieval queen. She shuffles down the aisle waving to her fans, occasionally making small talk and greeting some individually, like the president. Then, two of her minions hurry her along and lift her by her arms to the wooden platform where sits her leather La-Z-Boy and a side table with finger foods, a water glass, her Absolut on the rocks in a stem glass, and a small vase with a single rose of Sharon. She shoos away her helpers as if to show her own resilience and then plops herself down for her performance. Seemingly summoning all her strength, she reaches her right hand down to yank back the La-Z-Boy lever. In the second between that yank and the extension of the La-Z-Boy, we take our seats and experience growling stomachs, racing hearts, jumbled minds, sweaty palms, twitchy eyes, the jitters. That’s because when that La-Z-Boy extends and Sharon is laid back and comfy, the show begins and one of us will be chosen at random to participate in the show—one where someone volunteers for a magic trick that always goes awry and terribly maims the volunteer. Sharon has been doing this show since the 1970s; she could do it backward, in her sleep, and you never know how she will open it until she selects the first person. Tonight, it’s going to be one of her favorite scenes: Public Humiliation of Select Audience Members. The silent prayers, “Please God not that one, please God not me, not me.”


     The La-Z-Boy extends. She begins. She is a master. She looks straight out scanning the room for her first victim to bully and humiliate. She has learned, however, to read her crowd well, and tonight she reads unease. So, to warm them up, she does a head fake and opens up with another scene: These Are a Few of My Favorite Toadies. And her toady of the moment (she tends to recycle her bootlickers) is Phil, in the front row. Phil is by most estimations gay and agreed to Sharon’s version of conversion therapy—she makes arranged marriages of gay men to straight women. Phil was set up with Karen, a recently widowed woman (whom Sharon had viciously blamed for the accidental death of her first husband).


     Sharon is cranky tonight, you can tell. We are scared and uneasy. But her expression of contempt and disgust for the audience changes to a slight smile when she gives Phil the nod, which is her cue for him to speak. Phil beams and starts, “Thank you Sharon, it is so wonderful to see you. I feel so privileged to have the great good fortune of being your student. I have an affirmation to share with you and the class.” With pride he boasts, “Last weekend we visited Karen’s father—an evil being—and I stood up for myself as a man for my wife.” Sharon’s slight smile turns to a full smile, her eyes widen, and she loudly sings in her falsetto, “Oh Phil, how wonderful.” She claps and the audience gives a standing ovation. We are all very relieved by her brightened mood. But we are simultaneously repulsed by Phil and the favored treatment he receives from our teacher, whom we all rely upon for our own self-worth and validation. Basing one’s happiness on a wildly volatile, arbitrary, and deranged leader is a dangerous business—most of us are miserable. But we are hooked on confirmation from Sharon.


     So, back to poor Phil living a completely manufactured existence. What was his affirmation all about? What he did, at Sharon’s request, was to demand that Karen’s evil father (a rather wealthy fellow) give money to Karen and Phil for their new family. Having wealthy family members give money to her followers is a favorite pastime of Sharon; it gets her really hot and really horny. So she was really turned on by this good news. That is because a lot of the money ends up in her pockets—a tithing. What a relief for the audience. But soon she had her eyes out for someone else.


     Hazel thinks the coast is clear. Poor silly Hazel. She’s betting that Sharon is now in a good mood anticipating that windfall from Karen’s father and will give her some positive reinforcement. So, she seizes the opportunity. She leaps to her feet so violently that the riser shakes and almost buckles. She is almost out of breath with excitement as she shares her epiphany. “Thank you, Sharon. It is wonderful to be here—I am so fortunate. I want to share with you that I am really now finally beginning to really see what a liar I am.”


     The entire audience quickly looks to gauge Sharon’s reaction. Uh, oh. No good. Cringe time. We’ve seen this scene play out the same way every fucking time. All breathing in the room stops. We are about to witness Hazel receive a new orifice. Our seats creak with our shifting weights. The room is still. This is the exact moment Sharon most relishes—when she can brutalize her most loyal minion—even her Uriah Heep—just because she feels like it. Like a predator, Sharon pounces. She shakes her head in disgust, looks downward at her long fingernails, and snorts in contempt, “Hazel, you don’t have the slightest idea of what a hateful, repugnant, and pathological liar you really are. Why the hell are you standing? Why? Sit down. Yes, sit down.” Hazel sits down, chastened, and sheepishly nods to Sharon. We hear not a peep from Hazel for the rest of the evening. (Later, after class, I approach Hazel to gauge how she’s doing and she assures me that Sharon gave her “gold.”) Indeed, Sharon has been calling Hazel a liar for many decades, projecting onto her. Hazel makes this kind of false confession every six months or so. It never works to assuage Sharon or to get her approval. It only escalates the public humiliations, making matters worse. Over the years we have seen Hazel demeaned to the point of hyperventilating and wetting herself.


     Why does Hazel keep coming back for more? Because she craves Sharon’s attention like she craves the air to breathe. It’s an existential need. Abuse is the only attention Hazel gets from Sharon, so she takes it. Like a child clinging to a violent parent. The audience painfully recognizes and understands this but not a single person challenges Sharon or comes to Hazel’s aid. Because—teachers, older students, younger students, everyone—we’re all in the same boat as Hazel. We cannot do enough for Sharon.


     Back to the show: After eviscerating Hazel, the blood drips from Sharon’s mouth. And she wants more. But nobody wants to get up to speak. Usually, one toady or another can be counted upon to speak. But they aren’t foolish enough to jump in tonight. Only Danny is. He stands and states, “Sharon, I need to bring back some work.” Danny is a loose cannon. Brace yourselves. This is going to be a bumpy night.


     Danny is perpetually oblivious to this topsy-turvy-make-believe-Gans-world—and loves to speak in class at any opportunity. He is unliked by most students because he has learned to emulate the leaders and is abusive to others. Like Phil, Danny is also a gay man who was married off by Sharon to a woman in class. His wife was a single mother named Paula. Understandably, they have an unhappy marriage. We all wince. What will it be this time from Danny: a graphic sexual grievance about his wife and how he’d like to cheat on her (while she is sitting right next to him), something about his childhood where he was mistreated by his parents (something which Sharon belittles), or even problems in his job (common for him)?


     But Sharon is one step ahead. She ignores Danny’s question and zeroes in on Paula. Her voice filled with contempt, she sneers at Paula, “What is your problem?” Paula jumps to her feet asking, “Me?” “Yes, you,” returns Sharon, who continues, “Why won’t you be a good wife and screw your husband and take care of him?” Paula is under the klieg lights and responds, “My husband isn’t attracted to me.” Sharon lets out a bloodcurdling scream. “That’s because you’re a bad wife. He’s a good man. I mean, he was good enough to marry you.” Paula is silent, staring straight ahead. We are so glad we aren’t her. But no one stands to her defense; not even her husband. Sharon harangues Paula for a good fifteen minutes. Sharon even goes so low as to blame Paula for the accidental death of her younger brother, an event that traumatized Paula.


     Sharon’s approach to trauma is like Nancy Reagan’s direction to kids to “Just say no” to drugs. Sharon tells those with traumas to “Just get over it.” For example, Lori needs to just get over the time when she was a nine-year-old girl and found her mother hanging in the kitchen: “You cannot get on with your life if you don’t just get over it. Just get over it.” Rhonda needs to just get over that time she was raped and almost murdered in her home by an intruder: “You need to go to this man and apologize to him because your negative vibrations actually caused him to attack you. Just get over it.” Alan needs to just get over walking in on his wife sleeping with his best friend—“If you had been a good husband, she wouldn’t have been fucking him.” Just get over it.


     After class, I drive Sharon Gans home.



April 21, 2012


Subject: This is how it works…


Linda and Sam,


I recently read ‘Trauma & Recovery’ by Judith Herman — a powerful book. Here’s a passage that speaks to many of our common experiences:


“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity, one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies, or it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.”


Except, of course, that Gans & Co. never apologize, ever.



Exposing The Sharon Gans Cult


Monday, April 19, 2021


On the Silent Treatment, by Guest Author


A fellow survivor who came to “School” the same exact night in June 1989 penned a poignant essay called “Silent Treatment,” which you can find here. I welcome anyone to submit essays/posts/musings/memos/tirades/rants for posting. The more people who are willing to speak out, the more likely we can help people get out. Just send me an email — stopgans@icloud.com. You can remain anonymous if you wish.






Monday, February 27, 2023


Gentle Souls


Esther Friedman’s wonderful book about her dreadful experience in Sharon’s cult is out now. I highly recommend.





Robert Earl Burton and The Fellowship of Friends


An Unauthorized Blogography of “The Teacher” and His Cult



Robert Earl Burton founded The Fellowship of Friends in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1970. Burton modeled his own group after that of Alex Horn, loosely borrowing from the Fourth Way teachings of Gurdjieff and Ouspensky. In recent years, the Fellowship has cast its net more broadly, embracing any spiritual tradition that includes (or can be interpreted to include) the notion of “presence.”


The Fellowship of Friends exhibits the hallmarks of a “doomsday religious cult,” wherein Burton exercises absolute authority, and demands loyalty and obedience. He warns that his is the only path to consciousness and eternal life. Invoking his gift of prophecy, he has over the years prepared his flock for great calamities (e.g. a depression in 1984, the fall of California in 1998, nuclear holocaust in 2006, and most recently the October 2018 “Fall of California Redux.”)

According to Burton, Armageddon still looms in our future and when it finally arrives, non-believers shall perish while, through the direct intervention and guidance from 44 angels (recently expanded to 81 angels, including himself and his divine father, Leonardo da Vinci), Burton and his followers shall be spared, founding a new and more perfect civilization. Read more about the blog.




     SATURDAY, JULY 9, 2022


    Sharon Gans and The Odyssey Study Group


[ed. – With husband Alex Horn, Sharon Gans Horn operated the “Theatre of All Possibilities” in San Francisco until they were “forced” to flee, ending up in New York City. Sharon Gans died on January 22, 2021.]



InsiderJune 24, 2023Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog


The following quotation from Gurdjieff appeared in a recent communication from Asaf Braverman to his followers:


“In distant times there existed a real knowledge, but owing to all kinds of life circumstances, political and economic, it was lost and only fragments of it remain.”


And there are still many people, probably tens of thousands, who believe that there was/is a complete system, often known today as “The Fourth Way.”


How in the world can “only fragments” of “real knowledge” be construed to be a complete system and method for spiritual growth and the attainment of “objective reason”?


Robert Burton, Asaf Braverman, Dorian Matei, and the thousands of other so-called “Fourth Way” groups, are basically cons and frauds, unless they clearly disclose up front, and continually thereafter, that they are only sharing bits and pieces of “ancient knowledge,” with no guaranty of any particular result.



The Gentle Souls Revolution



NOVEMBER 12, 2023


Podcast: A comprehensive history of “school”, odyssey study group, “the study”, etc. etc. etc.



LET’S TALK ABOUT SECTS: The Theatre of All Possibilities / Odyssey Study Group.


This podcast covers OSG history from original narcissistic cult leader, Alex Horn’s, childhood to today’s new milenium “school.” I am learning A LOT about my little cult.





NYC’s Odyssey Study Group ‘cult’ that

held ‘fight clubs’ sues over tell-all book



By Jacob Geanous | July 15, 2023


A Manhattan cult is suing a former member who wrote an explosive tell-all book and compared the group’s founder to murderous svengali Jim Jones.


Odyssey Study Group’s former leader [Sharon] Gans Horn swindled inheritances, systematically terrorized members and was “every bit as demented” as Jones, former OSG member Spencer Schneider claimed in a July 2022 memoir. Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple cult, killed more than 900 followers at Jonestown in a 1978 mass murder-suicide.


Schneider, 63, has “bedeviled” the Odyssey Study Group ever since he left in 2012, including falsely branding it a “sinister cult” that manipulated, abused and took advantage of its members, according to a July 5 Manhattan Supreme Court lawsuit the group filed against him.


But the book was the last straw, the group claimed.


During the promotion of Manhattan Cult Story: My Unbelievable True Story of Sex, Crimes, Chaos, and Survival, Schneider claimed the group is a cult that engages in human trafficking and forced labor, according to the lawsuit, which accuses him of defamation.


“OSG and its members turned the other cheek for a decade in the face of Schneider’s defamation and harassment,” the Odyssey Study Group said in the filing. “But last year, Schneider dramatically and inexcusably upped the ante.”


They were “left with no choice” but to file the lawsuit to “put an end to Schneider’s relentless chicanery,” the group said in court papers.


Schneider spent more than two decades as an OSG member which he claimed recruited hundreds of successful professionals seeking personal development.


Schneider also claimed the group held fight clubs and arraigned marriages, including his own to his ex-wife, identified in court filings as “Beth,” who he divorced in 2010 before leaving the alleged cult.


[Sharon Gans] Horn, who started the group in San Francisco in the 1970s with her husband Alex Horn, died in January 2021 at age 86 and had a decades-long history of allegations that she drained cash from loyal followers.


Schneider, who currently has a federal human trafficking lawsuit against the group pending in Brooklyn Federal Court, told The Post OSG’s lawsuit will not deter him from continuing to speak out against them.


“I take this as just another attempt to intimidate me and others from exposing them and it’s not going to work,” Schneider said.


The Odyssey Study Group’s attorney declined to provide a comment.



Seeing Into the Heart of Things


Thirty-one years ago, I joined a group that I later recognized as a cult. I left the group in 2005 and the story is not over yet…



ICSA Today, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2017, 2-5 [excerpt]



Free Speech and Cultic Litigation: Interview With Attorney Peter Skolnik


Esther Friedman


In 2011, I left a philosophy group. I started researching cults. Everything I read echoed my experiences to the letter, and I recognized that I had been recruited and indoctrinated. I decided to expose this deception in a blog (cultconfessions.com) and, of course, the cult tried to sue me. It didn’t work, but I was lucky. Typically when a cult sues a whistle-blower, years of stress and accumulating expense follow.


Today cults can leverage litigation to intimidate and muzzle whistle-blowers. Cults have money and can afford lawyers. Many cults have a template for frivolous legal filings. In contrast, there are no established protections, structures, or supports in place for defendants. Resources are few and far between. Most former members can’t afford counsel, and pro bono legal help is nearly impossible to find.


In 2014, ICSA conducted a free-speech survey of its membership (see the report in this issue). The purpose was to begin understanding the extent and impact of cultic litigation and start documenting it. Respondents provided snapshots of how cults suppressed their free speech through the court system, and the toll such litigation takes on those threatened and/or sued.


I interviewed nine of the respondents. They reported legal strategies that ranged from manipulation of divorce and custody battles to restraining orders, defamation accusations, accusations of violating religious freedom, multiple lawsuits filed against one defendant, and—in the most extreme cases—criminal charges and jail time. All reported multiple obstacles to finding legal counsel. Even those who could afford representation found most lawyers unwilling to take on cult cases. Those lawyers who did take on the cases were unprepared for the cultic legal strategies: intimidation tactics, intentional convolution of the facts, unnecessary complications, relentless discovery filings.


Attorney Peter Skolnik is the exception. I interviewed the New York-based lawyer, who started litigating against cults in 2000. He represented the Cult Education Institute when Landmark Education sued its founder, Rick Ross, for defamation. He has continued litigating against cults ever since. In an interview, he discussed his experiences, the legal strategies commonly employed in the majority of his cases, and effective responses.



Golden VeilJuly 19, 2023Fellowship of Friends Discussion blog

In this enlightening new interview, sociologist and world renowned cult expert Dr. Janja Lalich explains the problems with going up against a cult legally. See 1:05 into the video. Another issue, the prevalence of influential academics and professionals who are cult apologists and go to court and defend suits under the guise of “freedom of religion.”


But I highly recommend watching the entire video. It’s an AP course in cults. Dr. Lalich succinctly defines what makes an organization a cult, who is attracted and why – and her viewpoints are refreshing, at times a departure from commonly held beliefs about cults. She’s also a former cult member herself, and describes her own personal ten year journey within a cult and leaving it. Dr. Lalich is interviewed by narcissism expert, Dr. Ramani Durvasula.


The interview was March 23, 2023. It is interesting how her viewpoints and definitions have evolved over the years; it makes sense to me.




Dominance and Submission: The Psychosexual Exploitation of Women in Cults


By Janja Lalich


This article is an electronic version of an article originally published in Cultic Studies Journal, 1997, Volume 14, Number 1, pages 4-21.



Gurdjieff and the Fourth Way:

A Critical Appraisal





Almost from the beginning of Gurdjieff’s teaching mission in the West, he was surrounded by controversy, rumour and speculation.


Critics, outside observers and even some of his own students questioned his intentions, credentials as a spiritual teacher, methods, traditional attitudes and beliefs, use of alcohol, sexual behavior and validity of the ideas he presented.


Was he a genuine spiritual teacher or a charlatan, an ‘Emissary from Above’ or a ‘black magician’?




Sexual Beliefs and Practices




[Read more about Gurdjieff here.]



Talk Beliefs

Nov. 26, 2016


Terror, Love & Brainwashing – Interview with Alexandra Stein, Ph.D. (Cult Expert)


Alexandra Stein is a writer and educator specializing in the social psychology of ideological extremism and other dangerous social relationships.


TalkBeliefs interviews Alexandra on her latest book on cults: Terror, Love and Brainwashing: Attachment in Cults and Totalitarian Systems, which focuses on how charismatic cult leaders target social attachments (such as family) to seduce and control potential followers.