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Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 12:16 pm
by ConcernedMum
Sam, I'm just wondering what do you mean by pointing out it was 30 (or so) years ago that these events happened? Is it the case that the beliefs within the SES have changed or the behaviours, or both, since? If the beliefs and behaviours have changed, has there been any apology for the damage caused by those beliefs and/or behaviours? Has there been an engagement with the past to learn lessons for the future? Or is it the case that the beliefs or behaviours haven't changed at all? Also living in the present doesn't mean that the karma from past action can be avoided - i believe that the karma will be deepened if insight isn't applied to the past and how that past manifests in the present and how present day reality is affected by past action. Obviously i don't know where you are coming from with your comment but if people find it useful to discuss events in the past, why do you have a difficulty with that - as it appears you do? I'm curious why anyone wants to stifle debate based on facts of what has happened that others find useful?

Posted: Wed Apr 25, 2007 11:54 pm
by Goblinboy
Leontius wrote:Anyway, if you have any ideas about why they, our parents and teachers, allowed themselves to become so submissive to the organisation, or why or how they allowed the consequences of that weakness to impinge upon our well-being then speak up with courage and confidence.

Don't get nasty, because we both care too much about the people involved to batter them further by indulging personal vendettas that may arise from exchanges on this site. All the incidents must come out in due course; trust that our parents and teachers are big enough to stand up to it. I won't abuse what I know and nor should you. Any ideas?


Dan Goldschmied


Impressive post. Thanks. Be interesting to see if Sam will respond with anything substantive.

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 5:21 pm
by concerned-parent
In a sense this highlights what I personally find the most unpalatable aspect of this bulletin board. I doubt that I am alone in this.

Look at this exchange. Look at all the other exchanges involving current or (as it is now) just-left pupils of St James; I can provide the links, but most of them are amongst the most recent threads here. Please read them, because this is exactly where debate is being stifled. Someone is bringing his actual personal experience here, not his philosophical pontifications.

What on Earth do the adults on this board expect from Sam and the others? You expect them to be 'kind and compassionate'. Why? What the hell do they owe you? You expect them to have some insight into what caused/causes the flaws in the SES, into why the social experiment (was it?) that is the school came into being. Why? They were not there at the time. It was, as I understand it, 30 years ago. They are also not the ones running the SES now.

Tell me someone, why are you all in such a rush to deny the version of reality that these pupils are trying to put forward? Why does anything that they bring to this board result in accusations that they are brain washed, unfeeling, wrong, uninformed - whatever? Can anyone see a VERY worrying pattern in that? One that perhaps is so very similar to what was inflicted upon the ex-pupils when they were at school?

What is it that you want of Sam and the others? You want him to feel as you do, to agree with your position? What if he -simply- does not. What if what he has personally experienced is quite different to what you personally experienced? Does this make you more right than him? Can you not think a little bit bigger than that? Why do you expect him to have anything substantive to offer you? What are you offering him?

You know, I feel there are serious parallels with the truly awful things that were perpetrated on the ex-St James children, and this attitude here on this board towards the current pupils. It is, to me, worse than bullying, actually far worse. It has made me, a bystander if you like, disgusted with this board. I know who I would expect compassion and understanding from, and it isn't children or young adults who are just starting their responsible lives. It wasn't the fault of the ex-pupils that they were abused. It was NOT THEIR FAULT. It isn't the fault of the current pupils that the ex-pupils were abused. IT WAS NOT THEIR FAULT either, nor is it their responsibility.

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 10:27 pm
by ConcernedMum
Wow - I really feel the need to respond. What "personal experience" was Sam speaking of when he very flippantly (in my view) reacted to real experiences being talked about pointing out they were 30 years ago? Speaking as an outsider having never been to St James, and having no grudge or personal need to believe one thing or another, my opinions are based on facts of very recent experience, i find the posts that are based on "attack" mode - be it attacks on people posting here, and the ones with the most "bullying" mode of address are ones who are the most clearly sympathetic to the SES way of doing things. It is quite striking actually. And yes I would expect an attempt at compassion from people who are supposed to be following a spiritual practice. The lack of it is very telling to me. As a newbie to the debate the posts from those from a more "SES" point of view confirm to me that the criticisms have truth in them - the inability to have feeling in the face of people really struggling to understand what has happened and how they were really badly treated is quite incredible. One thing I have really admired about the people who have been hurt by their experiences is their very real efforts on this board to be reasoned, compassionate and understanding - I wholeheartedly applaud their efforts and struggle - and also the very good humour many bring to bear. Shame the same attitude can't be shown by those who didn't have the same experience. Personally I think you are fooling yourself if you think its the other way around - and this is from a relatively neutral observer.

Posted: Thu Apr 26, 2007 11:46 pm
by concerned-parent
Concerned Mum, I will look out the threads for you when I have a moment - sorry it is late at night now, and it will take a while! But you would do well to have a read through some of the threads on this page. I know there are many of them, and some are very long, but it is worth it. I wish myself that there were not so many threads, because what gets lost - I mean swamped- is the testimony of the ex-pupils. It is harrowing reading, and in my opinion it stands by itself, and should stand for all time as (at the very very least) a reminder to the current SES organisation. There are also some AMAZING accounts of some of the pupils meeting with some of their erstwhile teachers, and this seems to have done an awful lot of good for the individuals concerned.

There are also some utterly disturbing threads such as the one where a current parent, having read this board became convinced - and encouraged - that their child had been brain-washed (on the evidence of posts here, you understand, not on any form of medical advice based on a healthcare professional meeting their child, nor in fact on any evidence from their child) and took their child to a 'deprogrammer'. Please understand, I am just a parent like you, I have no connection whatever with the SES, but this made me feel sick.

And then there are the posts made by some of the current pupils at the schools, both girls and boys, of which Sam Hyde is one. Please read the reactions to those children, it is abysmal and shameful. They are children (and they will hate me for saying this!) and they behaved like children. The adults however, behaved like... In my opinion. And apart from myself, the only person who expressed disquiet at their treatment was Mike Gormez who owns this board. I have read what you wrote very carefully, especially the bit about compassion and understanding, and I would be very interested to know what your reaction to the treatment of the current pupils is.

I am a counsellor as it happens. Mostly I work in big companies, sorting out problems in management, so I do not want to claim any expertise in this sort of field, because I have virtually none. I completely understand that many posters here have never had anywhere else that they could tell their stories, and that they have a need to have somewhere that they feel safe - or at any rate that is theirs. I can see that many are very angry, and I certainly don't blame them. But I can also see that some here just post general, non-specific stuff about cults, and I think this stops a useful debate about whether the SES is in fact a cult. It stops debate, albeit nice and politely. I don't personally care whether the SES is a cult, whether it brainwashes, or whether it is a self realisation/Vedanta organisation that lost it's way big time. I don't personally care two figs about the SES. However, I think it may take away something from those who are struggling to understand what and WHY this happened to them if there is no debate. I really care about that.

So, I am sorry to have appeared confrontational, especially to a newbie like you. It might be a shame that 'those that didn't have the same experience' have whatever attitude they have (and I think you are making assumptions here, but it makes no difference), but that is their affair. I think that most of the problems in this world come from expecting/telling others what attitude/behaviour they should/should not have. That is exactly what the ex-pupils suffered, exactly.

Posted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 10:35 am
by ConcernedMum
That’s fair enough concerned-parent. I too really don’t want to get in the way of anyone’s reconciliation process and I'm happy for people who found peace about it. However I think this board has a wider purpose and frankly given my experiences of John Scottus school here in Dublin in the last 8 months, I am very relieved to have had a place to come with my concerns and anxieties and realise that I was far from alone in having negative experiences of SES-run schools – speaking as a parent.

As for the other stuff you mention. I can only speak from my own experience and since I came across this board (since February/March), I do not remember having read what you are mentioning - certainly in recent posts. If you could point out some recent posts where this has happened that would be great. I think many of the more abusive and aggressive posts have been removed or edited. I did not read about any “deprogramming” so I cannot comment.

I have no grudge or reason to only believe the negative about the SES. Simply what I have read here resonates and helps to explain what I have experienced in my contacts with John Scottus. When there are children involved, it is not academic or a matter for “philosophical pontifications” for me whether the SES is a cult or not. And were all the experiences 30 years ago, it might not be so important – to me, at least. However my son had 3 teachers in 6 months and 2 out of those 3 teachers lost control of themselves in that time. One in front of me completely over-reacted to me challenging her in a very very mild way (ring a bell with behaviour you have heard about?), and the other (the Principal of the school) slapped two five year olds. This is 3 months ago – not 30 years. The Dutch school principal was fined for his use of corporal punishment in 2000 (I’m fairly sure) and 3 other teachers there given warnings not long before that. That is in the last 10 years. John Scottus here in Dublin practised corporal punishment at a time when the Department of Education here in Ireland stated that physical chastisement was “conduct unbecoming of a teacher” and should be subject to disciplinary procedures. Its legality was also very questionable. Again, we are not talking 30 years ago. I will be raising my concerns with the School’s Board of Management and with the Irish Department of Education.

Any examples that have struck me on this board that I have seen of people posting “playing the player, rather than the ball” have been from those more sympathetic to the SES. Frankly I think the recent personalised post about Justice is disgraceful. Ironically as I was reading it, I could almost hear the words being spoken just like the words in the post about the 50 women in the 70’s. The language may be more polite, but to me it has the same arrogant tone and attempt to isolate and publicly humiliate. Who is to judge here someone else’s “credentials”? When I read someone who is making a personal attack rather than address the issues, rightly or wrongly, I feel I have to point it out. I’m not happy to be complicit in that sort of behaviour by being silent – isn’t that how many of these problems in the SES have arisen? And the lack of willingness to engage with issues and instead raise problems with the questioner – isn’t that yet another familiar theme about communication in the SES. I have personal experience of this approach to communication in John Scottus.

Of course everyone posting here is deserving of respect. I don’t believe things are ever black and white when it comes to people and their behaviour. Yes the negative criticisms match my experiences but I imagine there are some good things that come out of engagement with the SES also. Whether they outweigh the negative is a deeper question and I’m not able to answer that.

Posted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 5:24 pm
by Leontius
Dear Concerned parent,

I agree with much of what you say but I think you’ve created a bit of a straw-man on the whole.

Firstly, the generic “you all” to describe those who have a negative attitude to the SES and St James is wholly inappropriate to a discussion like this. Unfortunately, it is that imagined uniform voice which underpins your moral outrage at the way Sam et al. have been treated. For the record, I’m 24 and Sam is 21(?) so I suppose that makes me one of those “young adults who are just starting their responsible lives” and so I guess you don’t expect any compassion and understanding from me. The point is, you’ve set up a completely false dichotomy between adults and children on this site. Despite that, the “young adults who are just starting their responsible lives” are adults nevertheless. We can drink, get married, have sex, drive, even vote. That we are very young and just starting out doesn’t absolve any of us from the responsibility or consequences of interacting with other adults. But perhaps there is some other delineation point which you can articulate that separates adults from children in the context of this message board?

Secondly, I’ll tell you “what the hell they owe us.” As a consenting adult who chooses to get involved in a discussion with other adults, you must be responsible for what you say. If that discussion is on the origins of St James and the ethos of the SES in the mid-nineties – which this one is – then yes, I expect contributors to offer something substantive. If they can’t, why are they getting involved? In the previous breath you told us that Sam “is bringing his actual personal experiences here.” No he isn’t. We were discussing a particular event at which neither of us were present, the like of which neither of us have experienced, but which did invovle both of our mums. I don’t expect Sam to have any insights into these matters but I thought he might do given that he expressed an opinion. He found the site. He read the post. He replied.

Thirdly, I have little interest in coercing anyone into agreeing with me. I have said before that the search for a universally accredited version of “the truth” of St James is futile. That others may have been attempting this doesn’t make your attempt to present the recent ex-pupils as child freedom-fighters for self-expression in the face of the tyranny of ranting adults any less preposterous. I have to concede that suggesting “[our parents] allowed the consequences of that weakness to impinge upon our well-being” does imply that Sam’s well-being was impinged upon. That was a rather ham-handed gambit that I expected to be contested because I would love to hear a different version of the way in which our parents and teachers behaved in the SES during the 80’s and 90’s. You see, Concerned-Parent, Sam and I have parents who were in the SES at the same time, and in the same groups.

Here’s a philosophical pontification for you: I’m trying to enter into a discussion with someone who shared the experience of St. James in the 80’s, 90’s and early 2000’s, who shared the experience of having parents and teachers in the same groups of the SES at the same time, and who feels strongly enough about it to actually speak up. It is true that too many people make non-specific generalised posts that get in the way of debate and understanding but I’m sure that if you care strongly enough you can find a way to get round it.


Posted: Fri Apr 27, 2007 7:14 pm
by Free Thinker
I think the majority of posts here have gotten very specific, so I'm unsure of what you are alluding to there.

Are you only interested in those who actually attended St. James during those years? I didn't, I couldn't, since I grew up in the US and the "Philosophy Day School" didn't exist then. But I attended the Ark and then every activity available to children whose parents were part of the SoPP and did join the SoPP as a teenager so I think that my experiences are just as valid, given how strongly the US schools are directed by the UK SES.

Posted: Sat Apr 28, 2007 8:08 am
by ConcernedMum
I shall be very careful to try and stick to the point! As someone who is on the periphary and not so centrally involved as you guys, I do sometimes feel I've to be a bit more careful not to go off on meanderings and to be careful about what I say and I do apologise when I'm a little off the mark.

Also it struck me that while there will be inevitable disagreement which will cause conflict, and sometimes, disharmony, I have to say that one thing I really really enjoy and respect about this board is the efforts most go to when posting not to be needlessly inflammatory - certainly recently. Other boards i've been on haven't done that so well and its can be really disturbing.

So really, with maybe notable exceptions, there isn't much of that here at all - that has really struck me too. And thats quite unusual really.

Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 11:46 am
by Leontius

I probably shouldn't be posting because I'm deeply hungover but I'm going to anyway.

Free Thinker. Hi. How're you doing? I think I got a bit stuck in the quagmire of Concerned Parent's two postings, responding to the flak of his/her blunderbus scatter-gun approach to making a point. Late Friday afternoon syndrome. Sorry.

I am really interested in the US SES affiliates not least because of the connection with the UK SES brain. I haven't had a chance yet to go through your posts and so am not fully up to date with your experiences and feelings about all things SES, so forgive me for any repetition.

I remember the SES top brass heading off on these grand five star world tours from time to time. They flew concord a few times, stayed in glitzy hotels, ate at starred restaurants and behaved in ways that would make a premiership footballer blush - I have details if you want them. From my end, it seems like they a were a bunch of strangely dressed, holier-than-thou's, harbouring grotesque delusions of grandeur as they hopped from continent to continent like a kind of surreal baroque court coming amongst its people. The touring elite were mainly chosen from members of the MMTS group as McLaren once called it. That's the "More Money Than Sense" group by the way - full member list to follow. Apparently a talent for practical philosphy is linked to having piles of cash. It makes perfect sense for him to have polished and inflated the egos of those young Chequebook Charlie's. Flashing a bit of cash buys you a pass to gain entry to sceptic minds.

Do you recollect any of these visits? What was it really like? What was their attitude? I have some absolute pearls of quotes from McClaren himself about what he thought of his provinces, his peoples, and the shortcomings of the great mass of unenlightened peoples around the world. They're probably wildly inaccurate and not indicative of how it really was, so I was wondering how the touring parties came across to you guys on these visits?



Posted: Sun Apr 29, 2007 7:32 pm
by Free Thinker
Leontius - Thanks for clarifying - I have to admit that I didn't reread this thread so I may be talking out o' my ass! Anyhoo, I will come back later and reply to you about the "world tours" from the US perspective - I'm a few years older than you but in the same generation, both of age, and of those who were current in leadership. I'm off to the big city for some grocery shopping and Japanese food and I'll be back tonight.

Posted: Tue May 01, 2007 3:55 am
by Free Thinker
Hi Dan,

I went back and reread all of your posts here on the board since I don't remember replying to any of them. I've taken a few quotes from you here and then I've responded. First I'll respond to your last post, and then some others.

"Do you recollect any of these visits? What was it really like? What was their attitude? I have some absolute pearls of quotes from McClaren himself about what he thought of his provinces, his peoples, and the shortcomings of the great mass of unenlightened peoples around the world. They're probably wildly inaccurate and not indicative of how it really was, so I was wondering how the touring parties came across to you guys on these visits? "

I joined the school as an "adult" at age 15 and stayed until I was 19, so I attended quite a few weekend and weekly residentials, which were visited by those touring parties. I had the extreme privelege of serving Mr. MacLaren on one of his last US tours before dying. I also got to experience my parents talking about their residentials with said parties.

I did not experience the money as you did, in that when these people visited, they would stay at the houses of rich US students, who would give up their houses for whatever duration the party was visiting for. A group of students on residential would stay at or near that house and serve the visitors. Sounds fine enough on the surface. I shudder to think of what they thought of us Yanks. Just a few thoughts for now:

-before he became the current head, Mr. Boddy was the "ladies expert". I'm not sure that he has any more qualifications for that than he does to run St. James although he did serve as Prime Minister Thatcher's press secretary. I guess if lying for an evil hag who barely counts as a human being is experience with women, than he is qualified. Anyhow, I remember certain females gushing about how wonderful he was and how much he understood women, and thinking what a sad thing that was.

-the US school treated the UK leaders and senior members as gods. As did the Trinidadian school. Nothing was more important than Mr. MacLaren having everything perfect. And I've posted a nice anecdote here about going to the Emergency Room and calling my mother who was in a meeting with Mr. M and how the man wouldn't get her to talk to me.
Whether the leaders felt they should be treated that way or not, the atmosphere at the school lead to it happening. But of course only special people were allowed to meet with the leaders for "real" conversations. Even though I scrubbed Mr. M's toilet, I never even met him.

-money money money indeed is quite flowing at the top levels of the organization. I don't think it's anything like $cientology in that it really is all volunteer-based, and that those with little money, like myself, could attend just as much as those with a million dollar building or two to donate.

-nothing like a bunch of way overdressed upperclass, rich white people sitting at the front of a group of people telling them how to get in touch with God. As if. Holier than thou is rampant, and woe be it to anyone from out of the school to have to talk to people in the school. It's exhausting and humiliating.

"Anyway, if you have any ideas about why they, our parents and teachers, allowed themselves to become so submissive to the organisation, or why or how they allowed the consequences of that weakness to impinge upon our well-being then speak up with courage and confidence."

In my experience, many of the people who became submissive to the organization were have mental issues already and needed some therapy. Instead, they sought refuge in a religious organization that claimed to help people find enlightenment - boy, doesn't that sound better than therapy! And the emotional atmosphere at the school, and the way the teaching causes people to deal with their emotions, allowed those people to bury their emotional problems instead of dealing with them. Remember, neti, neti? Not this, not this? That sure comes in handy when you don't want to face your demons.

"Right now I'm looking into the universally acknowledged culture of bullying that exists in the SES, with a particular focus on the misogynist bullying. My mum was a victim of one of those public humiliation exercises that you recall. She was left to hang by her friends (the whole of the XYZ-Ladies), including Laura Hyde (senior tutor) and Donald Lambie (leader-in-waiting) while McClaren tore into her. They all sat and watched his filibustering character assassination of my mum while she wept in the face of such naked aggression. Utterly spineless. If that man were alive today!

I wonder if you could elaborate on the groupthink that allowed events like this one to occur. You mentioned that you drew on the notion of a practical dichotomy between the ahankara and the true self in order to pretend that it was acceptable for you to tolerate such behaviour. Were you alone in that? Did you and others talk about this type of bullying and explain it in this way? Was this justification widespread? What do you think would have happened if you had challenged this type of behaviour? What do you now think caused such weakness?"

In my opinion, the entire organization is misogynist. As I've mentioned earlier, I think it's possible that MacLaren was a closeted homosexual in a society and class which did not accept gays. I think his obvious hatred of women and the school's take on homosexuality might be a reaction to his situation. Either way, he was a bitter, angry man, who hated women and anyone spending a weekend on residential can see that clearly. All of the rules that apply to women but not men; the responsibility that women are "given" regarding male sexuality; the way that men and women's "nature" is taught and how different it is presented; the dress code; the attitude towards sex and marriage, etc. Then you have an organization in which a hierarchy is set up that supports those with power as being more "enlightened" and having much more control than those below. And their whims and ego is catered to, with the supposition that those below are letting go of theirs. And the teaching that you must totally let go of your personal self in order to be one with god. Add this stuff together, and who would be surprised that women are bullied! And people accept it because it was obviously a way to help the bullied let go of their egos.

"I have stressed the continuity of the processes because the object of my investigation is the continuum of my own experience. In other words, I'm not interested in the agenda-led trench warfare for the no-man's-land of a universally accredited version of "the truth" of St. James. I was inculcated with that method of critical analysis at school and, so far, my experience of its application has been consistently negative. It seems to occlude rather than illuminate but with the insidious twist of appearing to do the opposite.

I hope I haven't offended anyone with these remarks. I only wish to say that as I become increasingly aware just how bizarre my experience of St. James and the SES was, the more I realise that I have to genuinely understand it for myself. As welcome as they are, official apologies or the findings of the finest legal minds of our time will never provide an adequate explanation or description of how it was for me. It is likely that my investigation will not yield direct answers to the questions in the second paragraph but they seem to me to be good to think with at this stage. But I lack experience and fully expect manifold re-workings of investigative direction in pursuit of my goal.

At long last the point: How am I going to go about it? How might I analyse the recollections of the people involved in the specific events and systems which governed my experience?

Most importantly, what are people's thoughts on different types of dialectical approach I might adopt when I speak to people? Spanish-Inquisition-soft-cushions-and-comfy-chairs style probably won't work but then neither will the rapier filibustering of the Paxman. Maybe a “Richard and Judy” deep and meaningful but strictly brain-lite approach?"

It has also been my experience that the school's version of "critical" analysis leads to occlusion. Neither accept nor reject. Boy, that will get you far in life! It really does wonders for one's sex life. Especially for a young woman who had absolutely no experience in asserting her opinion or getting her wants met, and who had also had a really skewed teaching about love and sex. Nothing like being in the position of not wanting to have sex because you aren't supposed to if you don't love the person, or just because you don't want to, but also not being able to say no. Sigh!

It took me several years after that before I really began to investigate how bizarre my experience was as well, and how much it had affected so many areas of my personality and emotional development (or stiflement, as it were.) I'm not sure what the best way to go about talking to people about it. One thing is to really explore yourself first - figure out what is you and what was the school talking through you, what problems you would have had anyway, and what you wouldn't have had, and also what problems you would have had anyway but that were multiplied by your experience in the school. Figure out what people you might talk to who are still enmeshed might say - it's kind of like preparing to debate a right-wing conservative here in the US. You can figure out their talking points and responses ahead of time so that you are ready with a great reply. And always remember that your experience was in no way unique. So many of our generation went through the exact same situations and feelings. And remember that those in the school are really good at avoiding questions, like a presidential secretary. So keep on asking the same question in different words until you get an anwer and don't let them go off on some tangent about pottery!

Re: The 'Tale Of The 50 women' stories from the 70's

Posted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 7:15 pm
by trubleshtr
I am writing simply to say that whilst the activity on this site has reduced over the years the presence of the Forum is valuable - and I found this topic very helpful.