Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Discussion of the SES' satellite schools in Australia and New Zealand.
Middle Way
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:46 am

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Middle Way » Fri Apr 06, 2012 12:08 pm

Point taken! Fortunately for us both my response was pretty much done anyway but you would appreciate I needed to polish it up because these words are going to be out there for some time.

In offering some of my personal thoughts back, I’m not pretending that I have all the answers. I can only speak of my experiences in one place over one period of time. My comments about SFSK over the period 2004-2012 cannot be generalised to other settings or times. What I write comes from my heart, and the observations are not meant to address others’ experiences, beliefs or attitudes. You have asked many questions and I want to do them justice so this is quite a long post.

Insecure people: I believe we are all “insecure” in various ways and to different degrees, and we all “manipulate” to some extent. A few people though have a greater need to compensate by controlling others. Last week someone was telling me about the noxious place they work in, marked by low level bullying and manipulation, and as the description continued I was more and more reminded of SFSK. So it seems to me that “cults” don’t just exist in religious/spiritual settings. Anywhere there is a gathering of humans inevitably there will be a few people whose need to control others means they are naturally motivated to seek positions of power and in some cases they really abuse others. The large majority of people in SFSK, as elsewhere, don’t have this need, and it certainly doesn’t mean that the majority of people in positions of power have a need to control others.

But I too was bullied and intimidated in an Australian government High School in the late 1960’s by a Latin teacher who purported to be a Roman Catholic. This man beat us 12 year old boys with a yardstick if we didn’t get 7 out of 10 on our Latin vocab tests, and he threw boys against walls in fits of fury. He left the girls alone. Did he know he was doing the wrong thing? I may be naïve but I think this poor abusive sod was simply in the grip of unconscious forces and didn’t really know what he was doing.

Christian theology: Love certainly is central to Christian theology. The New Testament (1 John 4) quite simply states “God is Love” and of course Jesus preached love constantly. And yes I did find God in my heart, after hearing the teachings at SFSK. I suppose I would have found God anyway, however I’ll never know! There are many fingers pointing at the moon, and SFSK happened to be the finger for me. My comment about the Christian churches was not to say that Christianity (ie the true teachings of Christ) failed me. Rather I agree with Tolstoy when he says in "The Gospel in Brief": “if the reader belongs to the great majority of educated people brought up in the Church belief but who have abandoned its incompatibilities with common sense and conscience….I ask him to remember that…Christ cannot be held responsible for that monstrous tradition that has been interwoven with his teaching and presented as Christianity.” Tolstoy colourfully warns against throwing your fur coat into the fire because you’re angry with the bugs. I made that mistake when I left the Presbyterian Church as a young teenager, fed up and angry about its focus on fear not love. I don’t want to make the same mistake after leaving SFSK. Tolstoy’s paraphrase of the Golden Rule is contained in his book "The Kingdom of God is Within You". My point is that the SFSK teachings consistently point out God (your True Self) within, which I believe is what Christ taught, whereas the teachings of the churches I attended as a child did not.

Practising holding attention in the present moment: I appreciate that this language is seen as SES jargon and most unfortunately can serve as a cue for distress. However, by now the mindfulness concept is well established in psychology and popular culture circles, eg in books such as The Power of Now. Jon Kabat-Zinn, a well known teacher of mindfulness meditation, defines it as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, and nonjudgmentally.” I believe it is a good thing that the ancient concepts of mindfulness are now entering Western psychology at an exponential rate. For example, a 2011 article in the "Clinical Psychology Review" concludes “mindfulness brings about various positive psychological effects, including increased subjective well-being, reduced psychological symptoms and emotional reactivity, and improved behavioural regulation.” It is the core underpinning skill in the newish Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, and it is also a core skill in the much older Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, used to treat severe mental illness. Mindfulness differs from hypnotism because the former involves actively being aware of thoughts and then consciously practising letting them go. Activities such as watching a fireworks display do not involve practising letting go of thoughts. The reason for trying to let go of thoughts is that so many of those thoughts are self-focused, negative and self-defeating. The idea is not to have a still mind, because that is just not possible. The idea is to be not quite so caught up by those thoughts.

List of spiritual readings/practices: When you are just starting out you need some guidance. Most courses have recommended reading lists. I have no problems whatsoever with the material SFSK introduced me to, and encouraged me to read, and the same goes for most of the various practices. I agree that the encouragement was attractive and emotionally rewarding in itself.

Sincere people: Again, when you are starting out on something I suspect you are wide-eyed and impressionable. I think it is wise to approach anything new with an open mind. That doesn’t mean I’m going to just accept everything. I learned a lot about scriptural teachings which I consider to be very valuable. I also ignored the really silly things which were brought up from time to time, such as having to get out of bed whenever you first wake up, or not meditating in the same room as a dog, or fathers not changing nappies. As for low self esteem etc, as I noted above I believe we are all insecure to greater or lesser degrees, and I believe that deep down almost everybody has a wish to be loved and accepted and a wish to be better in some way. Pity the “love” part drops away in SFSK. The words on love in the Part 1 introductory course are sublime, and then are pretty much left alone thereafter. Unless I was away that week.

The restless ego: People came to SFSK for many reasons. I can only speak for myself: I had utterly no idea that the ego could be controlled through meditation and other spiritual practices. I would say there was no active encouragement of what people wanted. We all took what we liked from the teachings. And I liked the idea of trying to control the mind and I still do. As for what a restless ego is, I defer to a very wise man. (From Hua Hu Ching: the unknown teachings of Lao Tzu c. 600):
“The ego is a monkey catapulting through the jungle. Totally fascinated by the realm of the senses, it swings from one desire to the next, one conflict to the next, one self-centred idea to the next.”

I found that regular practice of meditation reveals this to be the truth. It also helps, not in the sense that one becomes a “better” person, but that things which were upsetting before are not quite so upsetting now. You still fall into holes but you don’t fall quite as deeply and you get out somewhat quicker. None of this happens instantly. It has to be practised with some measure of discipline. And yes, you do get an ego boost from the impression that one has established some discipline over the restless ego! And yes that certainly can be exhilarating, empowering and emotionally stimulating, but the key is to remember to be aware of that too. Not to suppress it, but just to be aware of it. This is the teaching given by SFSK and I believe it is the truth.

Walking the talk: I don’t think the attractiveness at the start was either a deception or an illusion. Like most others, I came wanting to learn about spirituality, and that’s what I got. I still find so much of the teachings attractive. No ”promise” was ever made that we would transcend our egos. We were told that the only way to start to transcend the ego was to diligently apply the spiritual practices. Based on my experience, I think this may well be true. Not because someone told me and I gullibly believed. But of course, neither SFSK nor SES nor anywhere else has the mortgage over this teaching.

Negative emotions/fear: I think you may be right in everything you say! I think the message was that you have no excuse whatsoever for having negative feelings because that just means you are unaware and captured by your ego. As I noted, this is certainly not helpful and can be extremely damaging.

I used the phrase “subtle” fear in the dictionary sense of being difficult to perceive, requiring discernment. You asked “Is it not the case that there is a very deliberate regime of thought control from beginning to end, that uses psychological manipulation techniques, deceptively presented as spirituality, to establish control over a group for the emotional - egotistical - gain for those of higher social rank?”. Maybe there is, maybe I did come under such a spell. But quite honestly I think I was introduced to excellent spiritual practices and teachings that were not presented just for a few power-mad bullies to get their jollies. Maybe I’m naïve but if that was happening I believe it was largely unconscious behaviour on their part. But the fact is, while I have many weaknesses, having a need to control or bully others is not one. So I may be wrong. I just don’t get it and maybe I never will. Asking me why such people start up or join spiritual groups or anywhere else because of a need to bully others is asking the wrong person. The answer might only be found by listening to one such person and encouraging them to be honest. Good luck with that.

The ‘School’ terminology: I agree “school” denotes learning then graduating. This is not what happens at SFSK so “spiritual group” is a better term.

Many do not want to leave SFSK, for any number of reasons. Please don’t ask me to delve into what the reasons might be: I’m feeling a little tired right now! As for amateur drama groups, sailing clubs etc, no I don’t believe you can have spiritual discussions in such places. Well you can if you can find someone who wants to talk about their spiritual beliefs, and listen to yours. That can happen anywhere. When it does, it's often magic. There is definitely a place for spiritual discussion groups. I’d just like them to be a place of love without fear and guilt. =sigh=

Can I imagine what it’s like for teenagers who cannot walk away if they want to and adults in psychological turmoil?: You might have guessed I work as a psychologist. Many of the people I work with are very traumatised, so I have some inkling what it’s like for those traumatised by SES or other satellite schools. My clients tell me about diminished interest in activities, feelings of detachment and estrangement from others, feeling as if their future will be cut short, sleeping difficulties, fog in their heads, sudden irritability or angry outbursts, difficulty concentrating, poor short term memory, exaggerated startle response, always being on edge, panic attacks, feeling utterly helpless and hopeless, thinking about suicide as the only way to end the pain. The families and loved-ones of these people often report similar symptoms themselves, as though mirroring them.

But for victims of SES abuse, I’d have to listen to them describe all the pain, the suffering, the feelings, the experiences, to really start to understand. And that’s exactly what these people need. Find someone, anyone, who is prepared to just listen and accept that’s how you feel, to help you clarify for yourself often confusing or ambivalent feelings, to help you with healing the pain, the hurt, the anger, the betrayal and the grief. Someone who is prepared to provide a relatively safe place to listen as you describe the pain that is brought back by trigger words/phrases/memories/flashbacks, and thus address some of the deep intense pain associated with those memories. My heart goes out to everyone in pain and suffering at the hands of people who are misguided, or worse.

From the Yoga Vasistha, Vol 2, 1st April:
“If one confides his unhappiness to a friend, it is greatly ameliorated, even as the dark and heavy cloud becomes light by shedding rain. The mind also becomes clear and peaceful when a friend listens to one’s fate, even as water becomes clear when a piece of alum is dropped into it.”

=Phew= What about you actuallythere? What has been your experience? I’d like to hear more about what you think about the many questions you have posed to me, and for which I thank you. They are very important ones.
Last edited by Middle Way on Sat Sep 22, 2012 5:00 am, edited 1 time in total.

actuallythere
Posts: 180
Joined: Mon Aug 17, 2009 3:05 pm

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby actuallythere » Sat Apr 07, 2012 5:13 pm

@Middle Way

Thank you once again, this time for your wonderfully honest, kind and thought-through response.

You wrote:

"And yes, you do get an ego boost from the impression that one has established some discipline over the restless ego! And yes that certainly can be exhilarating, empowering and emotionally stimulating, but the key is to remember to be aware of that too. Not to suppress it, but just to be aware of it. This is the teaching given by SFSK and I believe it is the truth."

With respect, I do not believe this is the truth, but the lie. To be aware of the ego boost does not stop it being an ego boost. To teach otherwise is deceptive, to believe otherwise is self-deceptive. This "key to remember to be aware" is in fact legitimising the worst excesses of the ego within SES. This lie, shrouded in an Orwellian linguistic game, is the fundamental poison at the core of SES: it is the root of all SES failure, from 'not walking the talk' all the way through to child abuse.

SES is precisely all about boosting the ego. It is an ego factory and that's why people are there. Once they felt inferior, lonely, lost and powerless, then they felt superior, together, found and powerful. They were born again. This causes abuse, including child abuse. Some realised what a charade they had taken themselves through, and have been brave enough to face the truth.

In answer to your question, my experience has been across decades, primarily as an observer of about 12 SES members and their spouses and children, some of whom are in very close proximity to me; plus about 3 SOP members. It has been a very long feed of information about the practices, and the results. I have been to several parts of the the SES real estate empire, and seen what goes on there. I have met very 'senior' and notorious SES members and have noticed how they behave. I've even been inside their invariably materialistic homes (yes, these people who preach about attachment), which makes me wonder about British tax schemes run through registered charities; whereby a City fund donates X to a charity such as SES, and gets corporate tax relief many times X, from which they pay a generous kickback to a fixer in the charity.

Very many years ago I was persuaded to go along for a few SES sessions myself but quickly refused to attend any more. I am not a psychologist by education but there is a strong element of psychology in my professional life, and I'm reasonably acquainted with the subject area.

A big issue, one you've identified yourself, is the wedge SES attempts to drive between its members and their families. The point is that SES does this especially (though not exclusively) to families that are not in SES, in a attempt to break members away. SES have destroyed thousands of families in this way: don't take my word for it, ask Audrey Chaytor at the Family Survival Trust.

Of the people I know who joined SES of their own volition and were at some stage an advocate the group, or found a deep meaning from it, they unanimously appear to have a really serious personal or social problem. A common denominator appears to be a noticeable blind spot about themselves or the world around them. I would describe it as a 'self-deceptive' aspect of their character that seems more pronounced than average. This varies from the delusional (inventing and then believing what can only be described as pure fairy tales to explain away certain complexities in their life) to the psychotic (meting out extreme cruelty with zero empathy with what their victim might be going through). Of the people in this group who I know well enough to have been given exceptionally personal information, all (unanimously) have had severely traumatic childhood experiences including physical and sexual abuse.

All, I believe, needed psychotherapy instead of joining SES. It has done nothing but distance them from themselves, caused the wounds to fester, and to cause them to pass on their pain to others. One even was "fully aware" that passing on their childhood abuse to a child is precisely what they were doing, and yet that justified it for them; I would not be surprised if they did this passing on of abuse with their "full attention".

I have also met seemingly less zealous, well meaning and intelligent members of SES, who use SES as a complement rather than a foundations to their lives, these are baffled by the strong anger or even the mild complaints and suspicion in the public domain about SES. My view is that these too all have some kind blind spot: they are not aware of (or knowingly accept) the deception and doublespeak at the heart of SES that starts gentle and gets heavy. Of this less zealous, apparently reasonable type I only know one very well; and yet again there are concealed agendas at work. It tuns out that this person was given very special status inside SES because of their successful career in a field that SES finds especially dazzling, they were encouraged to show off about it at SES and relate it to the "teachings"; they were let off doing the more demeaning, tiring and time-consuming duties that others have to perform, and the person even smirked about it and explained it was because of the superior profile (so the ego reward of status was most certainly what SES gave that person). That person also had an unusually bad relationship with their parents and and sought a new, comparable relationship inside the group; they also had a confusion about their sexuality, a confusion which they sought to be 'shrunk' by SES, I am quite certain. Ironically, they really yearned for kudos but had never reached the pinnacle of their profession, yet inside the SES bubble they felt they had. This individual was not in fact such a big achiever in their field - for their professional work, they were given much more praise from SES than anywhere outside it: and they loved being worshipped by beautiful and impressionable young people at SES. Narcissism and hypocrisy again, even among the less zealous.

Of the people I know who were born into SES families and went to St. James, these include one who ran away from home to live on the street, where they were raped and hospitalized; they include three others who heavily indulged in hard drug use to the point where their lives were in danger. All four had what can only be described as psychological breakdowns, in which suicide was on the agenda. All four see SES as the root cause.

I care and think about these people, which is why I care and think about this subject. This is all I am going to write at present. In further answer to the questions I put to you, which you've invited me to answer, I'll either post more here another time or correspond with you by private message.

Thanks again,

AT

ManOnTheStreet
Posts: 137
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:32 am

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby ManOnTheStreet » Tue Jul 10, 2012 1:30 pm

Hi everyone,

As someone who has also recently left the School for Self Knowledge, I would like to lend my support to the comments made by AT.

Just a few things regarding MiddleWay's post:

1. Practising holding attention in the present moment:
While I agree that this 'practice' is obviously not harmful in itself, proficiency in that practice is held in SFSK to be one of the measures of your 'spiritual development'. However, no one really has any idea about what this means. How do you judge someone's 'spiritual progress' in the absence of any test to determine it? The problem in SFSK is that a lack of proficiency in holding one's attention in the present moment makes the person trying to do it feel inadequate and it undermines their self-confidence.

Also, completely unfounded claims are made on the basis of people's experience with this practice. For example, I cannot count the number of times someone in the group had a 'positive' experience during their practice and the tutor said something like "Well, that was a touch of the Self". What does that even mean? It's a completely vacuous statement. I understand that there is always a certain poetic license that is given when people try to describe their experiences, but this is not the case here. As far as SFSK is concerned 'a touch of the Self' is supposed to be something concrete that actually happens, it's not merely a poetic description of something immutable. It is clearly an unwarranted assumption that whatever experience that person had was necessarily a 'touch of the Self', and yet this is exactly the assumption that is made in SFSK. I think this 'soups up' the experience at the expense of real inquiry into what actually happened. Isn't it just a little strange that no one ever offers an observation of their experience that contradicts the party line or even calls it into question?

As AT said, it's a massive ego trip when you are told (in front of other people no less) that you were 'touched' by the Self. I don't know what it was like in the Canberra school, but in Sydney I never had the impression that we were all 'in it together' so to speak. The majority of people were always trying to show off their knowledge of the Teaching. It was essentially a competition for the favourable attention of Mrs Mavro. Those who were favoured by her were elevated to positions of responsibility, and those who were not in favour were relegated to more menial tasks.

I came to the conclusion that these practices we were all given were not meant to really help us on our 'spiritual journey' but rather to control the responses that would come from people in the group after practising. What I mean is this: Often students' experiences with these practices became worse over time rather than better. It was very common in group for someone to talk about how they found the practice difficult or that their minds were somehow more 'active' even after years in School. The stock-standard response was something along the lines of "You're now working in more subtle areas of the Mind, so you're noticing more activity than you did before." Not once was the possibility entertained that perhaps the practice itself was not effective or that the method they had proscribed to us was flawed in some way.

The key thing is to look at the end result of all that practising. I know that the majority of the Friday group in Sydney are fast asleep through most of their meditation practice. (You can hear the chairs creaking as they 'nod'). I am willing to give them all the benefit of the doubt in terms of the sincerity of their practice. Surely then, their continued inability to meditate after being in School (in some cases) for 20 years is not evidence that the practices or advice given in SFSK are effective. Whether or not you think the idea of spiritual practices is good or not, these ones certainly don't work. If that's the case, then what purpose do they serve? It is clear to me that Mrs Mavro is aware the practices are not working (she sleeps during meditation as well by the way). Why would she continue to promote them if not to serve her own agenda? She makes people feel inadequate and vulnerable by giving them practices they can never do properly, and then poses as the person of 'knowledge' that will lead them out of their 'ignorance'. There is absolutely nothing spiritual about this - it's simply classic manipulation.

2. You said: "The reason for trying to let go of thoughts is that so many of those thoughts are self-focused, negative and self-defeating."

While this may be true, the problem in SFSK is that any thoughts that question the party line are automatically classed as self-focused, negative and self-defeating. People are afraid to voice their concerns because they've been indoctrinated with the idea that such questioning is purely egotistical and therefore arrogant. No one wants to be seen as arrogant, so no one questions. I think it's uncontroversial that some thoughts in our minds are self-serving, however the notion that this means all questioning is unhelpful is ridiculous. It is a common misconception in SFSK that questioning is only valid if it seeks to affirm the Teaching as given in the School. This is indicative of a larger problem: that seemingly uncontroversial statements about the human condition are used as a basis for affirming unwarranted generalisations about metaphysics, or worse - ideas about what constitutes 'proper thinking' or 'appropriate action'. This is just the thought-police all over again and has nothing whatsoever to do with spirituality.

3. List of spiritual readings/practices:
Control over the information students have about the School and the Teaching is one of the main tools at the disposal of Mrs Mavro for controlling the students themselves. When people come into the School they are presented with some information that might be new to them. Perhaps it inspires them to start to look at life differently from how they had done previously. The false move is then for the students to assume that because they have been given this information, they will necessarily be given all the other information required for them to form a balanced opinion about the School or the Teaching. This information is simply not given to anyone. The history of the SFSK is not talked about, nor the history of its leaders or the origins of its so-called Teaching. If Mrs Mavro is so confident in the truth of what she tells people day in day out, then why all the secrecy? I came to realise eventually that there was simply no word that came from the mouth of Mrs Mavro that was genuine. There was always a hidden agendum, and the control she exercised over the reading material of students was simply another example of this fact. Yes, you were given 'interesting' things to read, but there was a lot you were not given to read or discouraged from reading. Therein lies the problem.

4. You said "I also ignored the really silly things which were brought up from time to time, such as having to get out of bed whenever you first wake up, or not meditating in the same room as a dog, or fathers not changing nappies."

This is crucial. You ignored the silly things on the basis of the exercise of your reason and common sense. The issue is however that the same person who tells you that you shouldn't meditate in the same room as a dog is the person that tells you that your continued spiritual development is contingent on you practising meditation twice a day. Why would you accept the latter and not the former? Both statements are as logically incoherent as each other. The only reason why you would accept the latter statement is because it appeals to you in some way (and the former does not). It doesn't offend your sensibilities to consider the proposition that practising meditation twice a day will lead to spiritual unfoldment, but that doesn't make this proposition valid. It's just as 'silly' as the former proposition which you rejected (as there is no evidence that either is true). The School for Self Knowledge is rife with all these sorts of 'eternal principles' which seem to come out of the aether (their source is always 'the Veda', but somehow no one ever checks to see if this is the case or not).

Cherry-picking isolated statements about various aspects of life is clearly not a feasible way to approach SFSK teachings. Doing this would be akin to what religious apologists do in order to try and 'humanise' their religion in the face of their overwhelmingly violent and oppressive histories. The same sentiment can be seen in many SFSK students who rely on the maxim (also taught to them) that one must 'take the good from one's teacher and ignore the bad'. This maxim can justify pretty much anything that goes on in School. It is a perversion of the principle of accepting one's 'karma' as it allows Mrs Mavro to say and do whatever she likes without anyone raising an eyebrow. (It's their karma after all...)

By extension, the fact that some people have isolated positive experiences in the course of their association with SFSK does not in any way justify all the wrong that is done to those people and others in the process. In the same way, there is no doubt that life was pretty good for some Soviet citizens but this fact does not justify all the suffering of so many others in the Soviet Union during the communist period.

I understand that what you're saying is essentially "it wasn't all bad", but I think this can be said about any organisation. The real question is, is the promise of 'realisation' and 'special knowledge' (neither of which is ever cognised by anyone of course) worth all the psychological manipulation and lies? I would say the original promise is bogus, and so of course it's not worth it, but even if you believe that there is such a thing as self-realisation, how can a path to 'truth' be paved with lies and deceit?

5. You said: "I had utterly no idea that the ego could be controlled through meditation and other spiritual practices."
This is a misleading idea taught in the School. Obviously, it's your ego which is doing the meditation and other spiritual practices in the first place. So your ego is controlling your ego... This just shifts the problem up a level and doesn't solve anything. Let's say you control your ego through meditation. Then what about the ego that was doing the controlling? Have you controlled it as well? Obviously not. The same argument applies when they tell you about 'controlling the mind'. Who's doing the controlling? Whenever anyone raises this point in group, then answer comes back something like: "Well isn't the mind crafty! Use the thorn to pluck out the thorn then throw them both away".

Two points. Firstly, there's no evidence that the Mind (whatever that is) has a will of its own separate to your ego's and also wants to deceive itself while also controlling itself through meditation etc. This is clearly nonsense. Secondly, the idea of using a thorn to pluck out the thorn then throwing them both away falls foul of the initial objection. Who's using these thorns? This problem is never resolved in the School. Every time a question is raised the answer appeals to more and more abstract entities to solve the problem and the student asking the question is left completely confused as to what's going on. This is perfect for the tutors because they can always stay one step ahead and appear 'knowledgeable" by using fancy terminology and irrelevant quotes. It sounds convincing at the time, but on closer inspection it's just fluff. All gong and no dinner.

6. You said: "I don’t think the attractiveness at the start was either a deception or an illusion. Like most others, I came wanting to learn about spirituality, and that’s what I got. I still find so much of the teachings attractive. No ”promise” was ever made that we would transcend our egos. We were told that the only way to start to transcend the ego was to diligently apply the spiritual practices. Based on my experience, I think this may well be true."

The first thing about this is that while it is true that no promise was ever explicitly made regarding the inevitability of transcending our egos, it seems difficult to understand why anyone would stay in School if they weren't operating under the assumption that they would, through their diligent practice, eventually transcend their egos. They told us that the only way to transcend our egos was to diligently apply the practices they gave us. So they gave us this notion about transcending the ego, and then gave us 'practices' for the stated purpose of transcending the ego. If that's not an implied promise that we would eventually transcend our egos I don't know what is.

Well this is now an essay-length response, so I'll stop there. Thank you for your posts MiddleWay, I think it's very important to have other points of view on this, especially when they're as well written and considerate as yours.

MOTS

Earlgrey
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Feb 27, 2012 2:47 pm

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Earlgrey » Wed Jul 11, 2012 8:04 pm

Manonthestreet, your description exactly matches what School of Philosophy was like when the Mavros were running it. The Mavros were booted out of SOP by the so called senior students when they finally woke up to the fact that they were members of a cult. The Mavros, along with their diehard followers, went off and started the School of Self Knowledge.

Thanks for identifying and expressing so well the obvious shortcomings of the School of Self Knowledge. We need more well written essays describing what goes on in these organisations.

I am still attending School of Philosophy and the current organisation bears little resemblance to the one the Mavros ruled over. I wont go into its shortcomings here.

Tootsie
Posts: 151
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:37 pm

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Tootsie » Thu Jul 12, 2012 4:10 pm

An esoteric school can operate correctly only if the person in charge is a master who is free of the urge to play ego games. Phony teachers and phony schools greatly outnumber the real ones. Such schools trap large numbers of seekers and can seriously damage the psyches of their members. The SOP put me off seeking for about 2 years after I left it, until I realized that the pupil always gets the teacher he or she deserves. A fool gets a fool for a teacher, a fraud gets a fraud. The Mavro's task was simply to hold up a mirror and anyone could choose to look into that mirror.

As far as rules go such as not meditating when dogs are present I learned from experience this rule was useful. Why? Because once when I was quietly meditating with my eye shut my dog got into the room and as is their custom with smell jammed its nose in a place that made me nearly hit the roof!

I found a simple Sufi aphorism useful when in a School.
Expect nothing.
Demand nothing.
Desire nothing.
Be nothing.

Ahamty2
Posts: 79
Joined: Fri Sep 11, 2009 2:03 am

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Ahamty2 » Thu Jul 12, 2012 10:58 pm

Tootsie,
Well I looked at that mirror a long time ago now and I remember to this day saying to Michael Mavro in the front room of the “House” in Neutral Bay to him these words:
‘When a person forsakes his own conscience for his worldly duty he leads himself and those around him on a short route to chaos and when I leave this house this morning (3am) I will never return and he will know it.’
I have kept that word to this day.

ManOnTheStreet
Posts: 137
Joined: Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:32 am

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby ManOnTheStreet » Fri Jul 13, 2012 12:25 am

Tootsie wrote:I realized that the pupil always gets the teacher he or she deserves.

This is yet another 'School principle' that we were all taught. However, doesn't this 'principle' also just serve to allow the leaders to do whatever they want? Any objection to their behaviour can be quashed by saying that it is in fact the student that is at fault because they themselves are morally defective. This process both seriously undermines the self-esteem of the student and crushes any thought of challenging the way things operate in School.

Becoming more accepting of the behaviour of Mr and Mrs Mavro was surely not a sign that we were beginning to understand their behaviour on a 'deeper level'. Rather, it was simply evidence that the brainwashing they inflicted upon us had become even more entrenched.

Elsewhere on this forum are the personal accounts of so many people who were formerly children in the SES/SOP. Most of them are horrifically moving in their description of what used to go on in the name of 'the Truth'. Do you really think these (then) children 'deserved' their teachers? I don't think any person at any time deserves to be brainwashed and psychologically tampered with. While I understand that staying in or leaving the School is ultimately a personal choice, this fact does not excuse in any way the actions of its leaders when they actively seek to deprive people of the strength and courage to make that choice.

Tootsie
Posts: 151
Joined: Sun Jul 26, 2009 1:37 pm

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Tootsie » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:11 pm

While believing in the law of karma I must admit ignorance as to how it works with children. The Catholic Church in America has paid out more than $3 billion for the 4500 priests accused of child abuse. The AMA has said that 20% of all victims develop serious long term psychological problems so handing out money will not help them. As the Pope is the leader of the Catholic Church should he be held responsible for his organization and put behind bars? Why were these children born into Catholic families? Karma's answer would be the children were abusers in previous lives and their previous deeds were coming home to roost. First of all you would have to believe in reincarnation and then like the Gnostics you would have to say that the God that created this world is not the God of love because he allows the law of karma to rule.

Reading this forum child abuse must have occurred in the SES too, maybe not so much on the physical level but certainly in the emotional and mental levels. But nothing ever seems to get done. Can anybody please explain why this is so?

Tootsie
Posts: 151
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Tootsie » Fri Jul 13, 2012 1:47 pm

Man On The Street can I ask you a simple question? What kept you in the School for Self Knowledge?

Surely the door was always open and if you had any suspicions about Mrs M and that brainwashing was being practiced you would have left. You keep mentioning School principals were to blame but if you can see clearly now how false some of them were, what changed your opinion? By the way I have ordered Dr Deikmans book Them and Us from the Book Depository.

actuallythere
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby actuallythere » Fri Jul 13, 2012 7:23 pm

Dear Tootsie,

Bear in mind that Laura Wilson stated for public record than an SES member killed herself rather than leave.

Considering why that person chose suicide over leaving might help your question to be answered.

AT

woodgreen
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby woodgreen » Fri Jul 13, 2012 8:20 pm

Hi Tootsie - you raised a very very big question about why God allows karma to exist, but equally does not punish the Pope or the leaders of the SEs over child abuse. It goes to the nub of many people's questions about life, especially when we have come close to these abuses. My only answer on God's front would be that God didn't set up karma, the SES, or the criminal system - mankind has done that as a way of coping, and trying to put some structure into life's mysteries. Unfortunately mankind is still a work in progress and it gets it wrong sometimes. The Catholic Church has got some things wrong, the SES most certainly has, and so have many many other organisations, whether they are spiritual, financial, cultural of just governmental. If they get it wrong -as they seriously do- then somewhere along the line there is a price to pay.
I do hit a bit of a brick wall with reincarnation and it's links with Karma. Karma does exist, and it is a level of understanding / consciousnes linked with our actions, but I have not yet defined reincarnation in this world. It may allude to some invented or percieved levels after death but I have not yet accepted that view either yet. It does mainly come from the Eastern cultures and religions, especially Hinduism, which I respect, but do not fully understand. In the Christian world we only live once here - who knows what is next, but the threat of coming back even worse off does not exist.And if the Catholic Church has been brought to account then good - they are learning too. I am one but I will always struggle with the Church's doctrines and their stubbornness. I will also acknowledge that my Catholic upbringing helped me stay with God's truth after the SES.
The world is about living, and the SES seem to have a very low level of the perception of the fullness of life. Even to the point where they are afraid of it, and attempt to restrict it in its members. Their promises never happen, they seem unable to deliver even their simple promises through God, i.e. reconciliation said David Boddy on Channel 4. Never happened. If he is trying through some karma level then it will never happen, because I suspect he thinks it is the people from the St. James School and the adult SES leavers like me who need to reconcile with him. Wrong way round again Mr.B. Ego got the better of some men, including those in the SES hierarchy. So much for Boddy, Lambie, et al, and their God. ( I think their God was called McLaren, who sadly lost his God along the way too). Perhaps they believe in some old way of getting away with it until they die, which says little for their belief in the next world/heaven/ the reincarnation.

Hope this makes some sense, Toostie. I reckon the SES has been getting away with quite a lot and having a free ride across many levels. But just like the Catholic Church, they will have to pay their fine one day. At all the levels they have transgressed.

still hoping for peace, and love, if God can work with us!
woodgreen
Ex-SES Member. (Member for 3 years in late nineties).

woodgreen
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby woodgreen » Fri Jul 13, 2012 9:54 pm

Hi Tootsie - just something I wanted to add, if it helps. The reincarnation question that you posed included their suggestion that a Catholic had been born into a Catholic family because of some wrong/bad karma in a previous life. (?). Not sure if this came from the School, but I don't think that has any bearing on God, or love or anything else. I was born into a catholic family because my parents loved each other, had sex, and made me. They just happened to be Catholics. ( I nearly didn't survive because medical science had only just found a way of dealing with my condition - I was a rheusus baby - and the reason I survived was because of World War 2, during which blood transfusions were enhanced to the point where I was able to be given two tranfusions to survive. Even then I think it was touch and go. But God bless any soldiers who helped on that score).
God no doubt also made me through his creation, in the biggest sense, but I really do not think that he re-created me as a catholic for some negative reason or for a cult to get it wrong. Being born physically is a result of physicality between two people - simple as that - and it is the same in any culture or religion where two people come together to make another life. When people try to reinvent us as reincarnations they mess with God and Science, neither of which they fully understand. But if the SES purport to follow the reincarnation theory I would suggest they leave most other religions alone, because as far as I can tell it is only Hinduism ( maybe Buddism too) that adhere to reincarnation, and as yet I have had no explanation about what that means in terms of our individual souls/selves or anything else that makes sense. The universe is made up of many particles, including the God particle we have recently been told, but hey, I do think some some scientists need to catch up with God. And stop getting into cults with the name science in them. Dr. Cairncross from the NW School was a Chemistry Grad apparently. Much good it did him in God. Maybe he is hoping to be reincarnated - in another cult where false privelege and money prevail (?) Or maybe he'll stop messing about in his failed McLaren cult with his leaders Boddy and Lambie and getting his meditation wrong.
And they can all go find themselves in the great universe. To the SES : try meditating in love , it is really that easy and simple. But you have got to be genuine. If you seek reconcilation.

cheers, woodgreen.
Ex-SES Member. (Member for 3 years in late nineties).

Tootsie
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Tootsie » Sat Jul 14, 2012 11:17 am

Hi woodgreen,
You were lucky your parents were not Jehovah's Witnesses, or was it karma! The first time I heard a different take that human life is not exclusively reproduced by sexually, was by a SOP tutor who told her class 'that we pick our parents' so we can complete the lessons we need to learn here on earth. She explained the reincarnation theory with examples like Mozart composing symphony's at 5 years of age and how impossible this would be unless having experience previously. My opinion at the time was it is never a question of belief; the only scientific attitude one can take on any subject is whether or not it is TRUE. Judith the tutor was a very nice lady but could never give any scientific proofs for the statements she made. She once told me wearing long dresses had its advantages as she did not have to shave her legs, so that statement was true! She eventually followed the Mavro's when they were kicked out of the SOP, and started their School for Self Knowledge.
Last edited by Tootsie on Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:21 pm, edited 1 time in total.

ManOnTheStreet
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby ManOnTheStreet » Sat Jul 14, 2012 12:56 pm

So many good points of discussion! I'll try not to be too long-winded.

First of all, Karma:

woodgreen wrote: I was born into a catholic family because my parents loved each other, had sex, and made me. They just happened to be Catholics.


Couldn't have put it better myself woodgreen. Why bring karma into it when there is a perfectly good physical explanation for an event? There's really no objective reason why anyone would want to circumvent Occam's Razor http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Occam's_razor in this case and say that karma must have a role in the creation of children (or the manner/environment in which they are created).

Tootsie wrote:Karma's answer would be the children were abusers in previous lives and their previous deeds were coming home to roost.


I'm not sure if you believe this statement Tootsie. However, even if you do, you have to concede that this statement is merely one of affirmation, not one based on any kind of proof or evidence. As woodgreen rightly said, karma is essentially a tool that was invented by people to explain suffering in the world. You simply can't take it as automatically true - especially when absolutely no evidence supports it at all. At the very least we must be open to the very real possibility that another, more reasonable explanation exists that explains why these children were abused. I would suggest to you that it was purely because of the actions of the people that abused them.

Again, this 'principle' or 'law' (I don't see how it's a 'law' in any sense of the word by the way) of karma is used to justify the actions of the leaders of the School. They can do whatever they like to you and call it your karma. I stopped giving the Mavros the benefit of the doubt a long time ago and it has helped me see things so much more clearly since. Who stands to benefit from the propagation of this doctrine? Certainly not the children, who feel even more guilty than before when they are told their suffering (over which they had no control) was actually their fault.

woodgreen wrote:I do hit a bit of a brick wall with reincarnation and it's links with Karma. Karma does exist, and it is a level of understanding / consciousnes linked with our actions, but I have not yet defined reincarnation in this world. It may allude to some invented or percieved levels after death but I have not yet accepted that view either yet. It does mainly come from the Eastern cultures and religions, especially Hinduism, which I respect, but do not fully understand.


I think these are some very pertinent words woodgreen. At the heart of this conversation about karma is the fact that no one really knows what it is. If we can't even define it properly, how can we say when it applies and when it doesn't? If we don't know what it is, how can we say whether it's true or not? While the doctrine of karma is of academic interest to me, I can never say that it must be true because that statement would have no basis whatsoever.

My thoughts on karma could probably best be summed up as follows: Just because something can superficially explain an event doesn't mean it is the true explanation of the event. Karma can explain suffering, but that doesn't mean it is the only reasonable option. Why is it so bad to put the responsibility for child abuse on the child abuser? I don't think that's in any way unjust or unfair. This is the harsh truth - the abusers are responsible. All that talk we got of karma seems to be less about Truth and more about inducing guilt and justifying evil.

Tootsie wrote:She explained the reincarnation theory with examples like Mozart composing symphony's at 5 years of age and how impossible this would be unless having experience previously.


This is a typical School tactic. "It couldn't possibly be anything else but karma". Actually, it could. Mozart's obvious musical ability can just as easily be explained using genetics or some other relevant physical science. Again, there's simply no justification for bringing karma into it. Judith's statement is just another example of an argument from incredulity. Essentially, she is saying "I couldn't possibly understand how this thing could happen without karma, therefore karma must be the explanation." Clearly, this is a rubbish argument. Why must our personal sense of incredulity be the yardstick by which we measure the truth of propositions? It's incredibly arrogant to suggest that karma operates in a situation just because we can't understand how that situation could operate without karma.

On to the next point: Why I left the School.
Tootsie wrote:Man On The Street can I ask you a simple question? What kept you in the School for Self Knowledge?

Surely the door was always open and if you had any suspicions about Mrs M and that brainwashing was being practiced you would have left. You keep mentioning School principals were to blame but if you can see clearly now how false some of them were, what changed your opinion?


I left the School for a few reasons. Primarily, I think that what first aroused my suspicion was my realisation that, despite what we were being told there, the material (and the other ideas given to us by Mr and Mrs Mavro) were not a faithful representation of the Teaching of Advait-Vedanta. At that time, I strongly believed that Shankara's ideas were true and that the School was propagating his teaching. Upon actually reading what Shankara wrote in quite a few books (none of which were available at the School of course) I realised that Mr and Mrs Mavro had completely perverted Shankara's teaching in order to serve their own ends.

Almost none of the pre-meditation material reflects Shankara's teaching. None of the karma material reflects Shankara's ideas about Karma. Most, if not all, of the material given to the senior part of the School comes from sources like H.P. Blavatsky which share no connection with Shankara's teaching at all. In fact most of the ideas in School run contrary to Shankara's teaching.

I was sick of the mis-information and dissimulation that went on. You ask what changed. It's important to realise that, while I was aware of the 'brainwashing' before, I didn't see it as such because I thought we were getting the real McCoy. When I actually went out and read real Vedanta I began to understand just how mistaken I was, and furthermore, just how fraudulent the behaviour and character of Mrs Mavro really was. She deliberately indoctrinated us (and continues to indoctrinate her current students) with ideas that are demonstrably false. I don't know what greater disservice a teacher (self-styled as she is) can do to her students. I felt that by staying in the School I was giving tacit support to this practice and I could not do that with a clean conscience.

I hope that answers your (very valid) question Tootsie.

Tootsie
Posts: 151
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Tootsie » Sat Jul 14, 2012 2:49 pm

Thank you for your honest answer Man On The Street. I think if we followed our conscience who is our true teacher, Schools and Guru's would become redundant. I know from personal experience if I listen to my conscience it is always 100% right.


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