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Posted: Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:44 pm
I left the School of Philosphy last year after fifteen years of involvement. We were a "philosophy family" - husband and wife senior members, children in children's group, eldest initiated too.
I am so glad I left. It took about four years of wanting to leave but not having the courage and then I finally did it. I have sought psychological help since and am coming to terms with the time I spent there and what went wrong. I would like to say that if anyone is reading this forum because they are thinking of leaving that they should do so. The School has no idea how dangerous it and the practices are. It's a very damaging environment that allows no room for doubt or questioning. The School will not take any responsibility for any harm the practices may incur.
I guess I chose to write for the first time today because I know my old group are getting ready to go to a week long residential starting tomorrow. I started thinking about what that would have meant to me in the past. It's the first week of school holidays here and end of financial year. My husband would not have been able to get the time off because he works in finance. That would not have been seen as an acceptable excuse. No one would have ever said that outright of course, we would have just had to have lived with the passive aggressive disapproval so widely practiced at SOP by the members on each other. I would have either had to bear the guilt of not attending because I have my children to look after or I would have had to farm them out to either a family member (god knows who?) or another Sop family. And worried about them all week. Felt uncomfortable, and like so many times before be told I am too attached to my children and it is good to be without them.
Thank the gods I am not doing any of that! I love my children and got tired of being made feel inadequate because of it. The School of Philosophy will never rob me of a School holiday again. My psychologist is helping me undo so much that I learnt there. Like that it is wrong to not want to leave your children with just anyone ("in the end it is worth it for the Truth", " The tradition will protect them" - how many times did I hear that?).
So here's having the courage to walk away and never going back. Here's to an awesome holiday having fun with my children, not waking at dawn and doing gardening in the rain.
Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 12:43 am
Hello Minnie and welcome to the forums. Thank you for posting - this forum is read by many current and ex-students so I'm sure your words will not go to waste.
Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:13 am
I am so very happy for you and your family. I take it you are referring to Sydney SOP? Is that the one on Pacific Highway and, I think, Fox Valley Rd, that big house and garden that the slave students maintain as part of their 'spiritual 2nd line work'? I was in Sydney SOP for over 11 years, from 1969-1980 and we were a "philosophy family" too, husband, wife, child. It was an insane, mindless, irresponsible and unloving place to be. And just plain stupid. I connect completely to what you said about the pressure that is put on parents, being told your love is really 'a claim on absolute substance' and similar garbage designed to destroy your family, while committing your life to 'the family of School.' God, what wickedness!
I wish you all the very best in your return to normalcy. It's good to have a sensitive psychologist to help you. You may find joy and gratitude, as I did, that now everyday you wake up and can say your life is your own again, there are no more SOP thought police in your head, no more never-ending rules and regulations for every waking moment and every aspect of your life and you can be a normal, ordinary, happy person who loves your family, without some sort of sick guilt trip about loving your family and children.
May you enjoy a full return to mental health.
I came to this forum very late, not discovering it until 2010, but I have found it a real treasure. If nothing else, it provides an openness and honesty not known in the SES/SOP systems. It is just the most amazing place where people have documented their personal experiences with SES, SOP and now SFSK, all spiritual blackholes. It's amazing how much we all have in common. There was no Internet in 1980 when I made my break for sanity and I went through some hard patches readjusting to normal society and Reality. I practically had to learn how to make friends and hold a normal conversation all over again. I became aware how immature and childish I had become. It was like, I wasn't an adult (I was 36!), I had to learn to be a responsible grown-up again. Also, I had to rediscover my creativity, those artistic talents that had been disrespected and dismissed by Sydney SOP as 'not useful.'
In retrospect, I found the SES/SOP system of teaching was what I call "The Donkey Whip" technique. By that I mean, the 'leaders' believe that human beings will not do anything good for themselves unless they are beaten into it, whipped and prodded. This extremely negative view of humanity is so ignorant. The 'leaders' have no real leadership skills and don't know how to motivate and guide people, no positive social and communication skills. They just know how to boss and bully people around. They are also masters of passive-aggressive methods to manipulate people away from their own best interests. And this negative way of dealing with people is contagious, like the 'flu. We begin to become like the people we hang out with and all that 'good company' was deeply bad company for the soul. I had to relearn basic social skills and stop holding myself apart and 'aloof' from others. All SOPers have 'tickets on themselves,' to use the Aussie idiom, but they only fool themselves.
But I succeeded as I am sure you will too. Give yourself permission to take your time to readjust to sanity and learn to love your freedom and life again.
Best regards, and thanks again to Daffy for making all this possible.
Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 7:17 am
Thank you both for replying. sydneykatieking, you must have really been in the thick of it being in Sydney those years. I have heard the stories. And to think that thirty years later you are still moved enough from the experience to be on this forum. I'm glad you hung in there with your own recovery and then be able to connect with others and help out.
Funny you should mention the Internet, I actually think opening a Facebook account was an early step towards me being discontent with the School. In my Stepford Wife existence. Isolated by SOP commitments and home all day raising children, I was perfect fodder for the School. As soon as I started having on line contact with the friends I had stopped seeing because of Philosophy, things started to change. I began to remember who I was and all of the things I had given up for Philosophy: friends, political interests, journal writing etc.
I am so grateful to have this community to turn to and I was very lucky to get an understanding and supportive psychologist at my first attempt.
Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 11:38 am
Hello Minnie and welcome to the forums,
Thank you for your great post, I can relate to every bit of it.
Gardening in the rain brought a smile to my face .. yes I remember freezing windy weather
being out there ..no gardening gloves allowed, being given 'instructions' from another student
on what we were to do. When it was finally over, a 40 minute break to have tea, shower and
change before giving the wise spiritual insights expected about our daily experiences.
As sydneykatieking has said all SOP'ers (and of course all SFSKer's) have 'tickets on themselves'
Michael Mavro used to say "You are not better than anyone else ..but different"
It is a subtle thing that you feel somehow so fortunate that you have (possibly) 'evolved' this far
to be one of the few in life to find this path ..
You do not recognise that 'you have tickets on yourself' (generally) until after you leave and can view
everything in a better perspective.
In life on the other side, you can still do spiritual practises if you so choose, nothing changes
except for the unnatural restraints of school.
Thank you sydneykatieking for all your posts ..I have loved them all ..
La Nina and Mickey included, your irreverence, humour etc all with truth and insight into what lies behind the facade.
Even a simple thing that you just mentioned about learning to hold a normal conversation again,is so true as when in school you live within a set of concepts about what is appropriate to say and how to present yourself, it really makes you further away from yourself, but acting out someone elses idea.
I recall 'enlightened' after her first residential ..commenting in 'observations' on the residential
that the senior students were like zombies, walking around with straight faces trying to look quiet
(or similar words ..but most definitely using the zombies word) I could not forget it, hilarious but oh so true!
Posted: Fri Jun 21, 2013 2:04 pm
Hi Minnie and welcome to the forum. It has been over 20 years since I left the SOP and would have expected a lot of changes to have occurred for the better in the school. But reading your post its still the same! Parroting the Upanishads and other holly scriptures and following all the rules about measure and letting your attention rest on the working surface is all nonsense unless you experience that bliss that lasts forever. If your heart was not full of love for the SOP, leaving was the only action you could take.
You are a very courageous lady because after 15 years in the SOP and having your mind filled with all its 'Stepford Wife' existence as you mentioned in your post you will find there is a life after school. All that energy you gave to the SOP can now be given to your family and finding new friends. Thank you for telling us your story, we are here because like you we had the courage to take the necessary step and leave. I wish you well.
Posted: Sat Jun 22, 2013 4:52 am
People have mentioned a "holier tha thou" or superior feeling that the School seems to bring out in people. Although I recognise that attitude and have definitely shared it, the main problem for me has actually been with my self-esteem. Some of the therapy I am undergoing since leaving the School involves learning to be assertive. The first note in the training is about " using plain 'I' statements" - now iam sure that anyone who has spent time with the School would understand how difficult that becomes. I have spent years of linguistic gymnastics ("this person here" and all that crap) to avoid even using the word "I " never lone to use it to express plainly what I want!
Things such as my experience of leading a particular service team for nearly ten years before giving it up so my child can play sport on a Saturday and not even being told, " Well done", " Great effort" or anything else. Instead I was put in to a "less Senior" group immediately because I had not found another Service duty to replace it yet. I have since learnt that the randomness with which the School punishes and rewards behaviours ( and what rewards they are - " you can be in charge of washing up now") is part of the cult technique. It is what gamblers get hooked on.
I also have a lot of trouble expressing my emotions since using the School practices for so long. " The fruit of negative thoughts is endless suffering and ignorance", my psych believes to be particularly harmful. I get very distressed to the point of panic if I experience negative emotions. The school has let me ignore my me tal health problems ( which I admit we're there before joining the School) for a long time. It's attitude toward psychology and the discouragement from criticisms or negative thoughts have just allowed it all to fester. I recall being in a ladies' group one night and someone had confessed to having experienced depression. A lot of people in the group opened up and I sat there amazed. I had spent so much time with these women and never knew how they felt. The next week our tutor came back and said she and told the leader of the school about the conversation and he had said there was no way we were to talk like that in group. We were " allowed" to talk alone with the tutor about such feelings but not in group!
I do feel bitter sometimes. I invested a lot of emotional energy in the School. I mostly feel bitter about the pathetic tutoring I received over the years from people who really didn't have a clue. It took me a long time (maybe really only when I left) to realise people were chosen to be tutors because they were conforming. Not because they were wise or insightful or particularlY empathetic. They were just willing to toe the line and try to make others do the same.
Posted: Sat Jun 22, 2013 12:48 pm
now everyday you wake up and can say your life is your own again, there are no more SOP thought police in your head, no more never-ending rules and regulations for every waking moment and every aspect of your life and you can be a normal, ordinary, happy person who loves your family, without some sort of sick guilt trip about loving your family and children.
Yes, it is an interesting process to go through life now thinking, "well this is what I was told was true, but what do I believe?", and there have been some very surprising answers.
Unsurprisingly, my life has not fallen apart with it's new lack of measure. The world will not end if we sleep in til 7.30 on a Sunday morning!
There were so many reasons for leaving, I could go on and on. What I can't believe was how much crap I put up with, how much "suspension of disbelief" I was willing to sustain. Really the whole process of gradual disentanglement has taken four years to date, starting with when we stopped a long term service duty. The catalyst for me to make the final phone all was one of those end of term stern lectures about Service that are supposed to inspire. I sat there in silent disbelief at what I was hearing, and oddly enough, it was as if, I woke up! Just as they describe. As if I heard the words for the very first time! And what a crock of shit it was!
I phoned the next day to tell the leader of the school that I would be having a term off. He totally lost it with me! Firstly he said, "no one has a term off, once they leave they don't come back" - gee, I wonder why? Then he went on to virtually curse me. This man had been like a father to me and he knew it. He let loose such a vitriolic stream at how horrible my descent would be if I left the school. I felt at once cursed, shamed and utterly determined that I would never return.
I would like to share more, but even retelling this experience now has left me too shaken to continue for a while. My hope is that it will be in some way therapuetic in the retelling of these experiences with people who have had similar ones.
Posted: Mon Jun 24, 2013 12:07 am
Hello again, Heroic Minnie! Good on you for standing up to the Head Bully. Clearly, these petty fascists have never read How to Win Friends and Influence People!. They have a sick and dysfunctional attitude on how to manage thinking, feeling, loving human beings.
I just happen to be reading Dante's Divine Comedy, translated by none other than Australia's own Clive James. These following lines, written in the 14th century, perfectly, poetically describe the descent into the Hell that is the School of Philosophy and ends with escape from that Hell.
Canto One: Descent into Hell
At the mid-point of the path through life, I found
Myself lost in a wood so dark, the way
Ahead was blotted out. The keening sound
I still make shows how hard it is to say
How harsh and bitter that place felt to me --
Merely to think of it renews the fear --
So bad that death by only a degree
Could possibly be worse. I ... can't say
even now how I had come
To be there, stunned and following my nose
Away from the straight path.
Canto Thirty-Four Escape from Hell
. . . And here the journey ends
Through Hell where that sad flood is a spent force --
My Guide and I were on the hidden road
That leads back out to where the world is bright.
No need for rest. We bore an easy load:
The task of getting back to the sweet light.
And up we went, he first, I second, to
The point where I could see an opening.
And it was there I saw, when I looked through,
A sight more wonderful than anything --
Some of the loveliness revealed to men
By Heaven. We could see the stars again.
Cheers and support from Texas
Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:38 pm
II am so happy to find this forum.I left the wgtn school over twenty years ago.bit it hasn't left me.I was a student for 15 years and a senior.I've read comments by exstudents on the psychological safe safety and the lack of ptoffesionLs in that area.my school days came to end after I had a pyschotic breakdown sat the onstart of a weeeks residential.the episode was very alarming and I have no recalll of what followed.no help was sought for mewell I left not long after permanently damaged and noreliant on medication for life. Only this year did I seek compensation for costs. Only to be told I had left it too late. I also learnt that I had a case to Sue food negligence.worse than as I wax no longer flllowing truth my husband divorced me and took the children. I lost everything dear to me.. but life then foot even worse.I agreed saith the comment that women at home were simply fodder.I have so enjoyed reading the postdoctoral too found it difficult ultimate to fit back in w ith society with tjr doctri nest running through Emmy mind
Posted: Thu Sep 26, 2013 8:42 pm
Will get back to the topic later on my cell pbone
Posted: Sat Sep 28, 2013 4:51 am
hi minnie , id like to say that we too were a philosopy family. dawn and dusk meditation. early morning classes and saturday school for the children. like i said it all came to an end for me on a week residential with Mr M and David Body and Miss van oyen. I dont remember anything after the psychotic breakdown until i got home, but i never recovered. and spent many years in misery and loneliness. Today i am on medication and will be probab;y for a very long time. I began my years in the school when i was 21 and felt in need of a study of somethink. Little did know that the course was to be so esoteric. Yet years went by and we attnede all the residnetials. we submitted to what was the truth and slowly i lost my view of the world and where i belonged. I question now who is it that becomes self realised. is that not peolple who are famous and humble and spiritual and stand out in the world such as mother theresa? or maybe even sir edmond hilary. Surely its enough that we settle for happiness or bliss or a good life with the push to become selfrealised. oh how i remember those gruelling afternoons in the summer months repeating scripture until my head pounded. I wonder if we were guinea pigs in those earlier years. we were pushed until we couldnt take it any longer yet I still kept going. I found meditaion a great bonus and benefited form that practice. resarch lead my to an article written about psychosis and how it was not uncommon for these attqacks to happen on residential type of enlightment groups. they went on to use the terms used in school such as atman and other words that i cannot recall at the moment. i beleive that studnets should be warned of the possible dangers of having ones conscousness raised to high and that the school should be made by law to provide back up assitance in the case of someone having a breakdown. there was no such person when mine occured . none of the leaders had any kind of psychiatric training. FOr many years i had much trouble making a connection with the world. i ws under the care of amental health worker who found me very hard to understand because of all the jargon that went through my mind. HOw odd i would have appeared had i told her that i couldnt think straight because of the guna balance. haha. It angers me that i was too late to sue them. I will still try to perservere with my case. I know had a job and earn my own money and what a graet feeling it is to succed with out being in the school. there have been many heartbreaks and they still go on. I feel that we were guinea pigs and should have been allowed more of a say.