Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Discussion of the SES' satellite schools in Australia and New Zealand.
icehouse
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Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby icehouse » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:25 pm

Hello, I was wondering if anyone could tell me about the Sydney School for Self Knowledge. I have had my own private concerns for a number of years about a relative who is heavily involved in this school. I am not sure if my concerns are just because I am seeing something from the outside that I just don't understand, or if there really is need for concern. My concerns are that this person puts this school before anything else, and partakes in activities that I see as a form of control. Can anyone shed any light?

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Free Thinker
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Free Thinker » Sun Jan 16, 2011 11:03 pm

I haven't heard of it before but I'm sure some of our Aussie members have. It's not directly part of the SES/School of Philosophy, as there is one already in Sydney. YOu can compare their course content via their website: http://www.practicalphilosophy.org.au/

However, they do sound very similar, and as the one you are concerned about was founded in 1987, I wonder if it's an offshoot by a former SoP member.

icehouse
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby icehouse » Sun Jan 16, 2011 11:10 pm

I know there is a very close connection to Mavro, and some of the things I have been reading about him seem very closely related to what happens there.

Ahamty2
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Ahamty2 » Wed Jan 19, 2011 4:01 am

Icehouse,

The School for Self Knowledge in Sydney and Canberra was started by Michael and Nina Mavro after they both were expelled from the School of Philosophy in Sydney which is part of the SES in London. Mavro left with a number of ex SOP'ers who were loyal to them rather than the SES. In 1987, they started up the School for Self Knowledge using modified material from the SES of which they had a huge amount at their private house. It may not be structured the same as SES but Mavro saw himself as another George Ivanovich Gurdjieff and just as sadistic.

sydneykatieking
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby sydneykatieking » Thu Feb 03, 2011 11:16 pm

Ahamty2 wrote:Icehouse,

The School for Self Knowledge in Sydney and Canberra was started by Michael and Nina Mavro after they both were expelled from the School of Philosophy in Sydney which is part of the SES in London. Mavro left with a number of ex SOP'ers who were loyal to them rather than the SES. In 1987, they started up the School for Self Knowledge using modified material from the SES of which they had a huge amount at their private house. It may not be structured the same as SES but Mavro saw himself as another George Ivanovich Gurdjieff and just as sadistic.


I wonder if the Mavs continued their corrupt and utterly self-serving practice of turning their private residence at 25 Undercliff St, Neutral Bay, Sydney into a little fiefdom, complete with servants, cooks, dog walkers, car washers, gardeners and, especially, hands-and-knees-on-the-floor house cleaners. That is, the poor, gullible, trusting dupes from their fraudulant School for Self-Knowledge, a sad knock-off of their SOP/SES fascist regime. But then, the fruit didn't fall far from the tree; one corrupt and self-destroying cult giving birth to another. With Mickey Mavro's death, I wonder if the power will be passed onto some other power-hungry monster who loves to turn decent and trusting advocates into mindless dummies. No thinking citizen of a liberal democracy needs these losers like Mickey and Nina Mavro; don't let more good people be drawn in and exploited.
Sydney SOP survivor 1969-1980, proud contributor to the expose, Secret Cult.

Ahamty2
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Ahamty2 » Sat Feb 05, 2011 11:32 pm

The person who fits this job description is Danny Opacic, who was Mavro’s Minder and Head Gestapo in his SOP days. Opacic followed Mavro to the School for Self Knowledge.
His rapid rise through the ranks of SOP with a view of entering the inner sanctum of the so called “top group” who were Mavro’s favourite punching bag, we were the idiots who allowed him to brow beat us, humiliate us every Friday group night, insult us with his sadistic small mindedness.
We were the fools of the SOP in Sydney. Every time McLaren left Sydney after his visit, we were all hauled before Mavro because the boss wasn’t satisfied with us, in this still penal colony of the British Empire.
Mavro was so paranoid that we might turn on him like rabid dogs that he kept pulling the leash tighter and tighter. He was blind to the fact that he had a group, his original band of men and women who were so dedicated to the ideals of the SES, lovers of Truth and Goodness (which one questions what that is nowadays) that it was they who allowed him to do what he did to them.

Moxons
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Moxons » Mon Feb 20, 2012 11:28 pm

Wow. Looks like I may have found some fellow Sydney SOP sufferers from my era!

I detect the same bitterness and frustration that I feel, and have felt all my adult life.

For some reason I typed "Michael Mavro" into Google the other day, and here I am. He is an un-erasable part of my life that keeps surfacing, even 30 years after leaving that hated School. Mr Opacic also featured very much in my childhood.

Is it true Mavro has died? I have many stories, many experiences, all clear in my mind of that ten years of my life, from age 7 - 17. Are any other of the kids of the Seventies on this forum?

It would be helpful to communicate with others who understand.

actuallythere
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby actuallythere » Tue Feb 21, 2012 10:19 pm

Welcome, Moxoms... as far as I'm aware most people here are Brits and were kids in the 1970s and/or 1980s. I think they really got this forum going in the first place.

The forum is much less busy than it used to be, mostly because a lot of what needed to be voiced has been voiced - mainly about wrecked childhoods. Read everything here and you'll find it all very helpful I'm sure. I know that people benefited a lot from simply sharing experiences with those who went through something similar.

I think a lot of people occasionally check in and read, even if they don't post, so it is worth starting a thread with an announcement if you want to get in touch with people.

All the best,

AT

Moxons
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Moxons » Wed Feb 22, 2012 9:54 am

Thanks for the reply AT. I understand I came here a bit late and everything has already been said, but my wrecked childhood stories would rank with the best! Joking. Kind of...

I don't know much about the British side of things, except for the annual visits by McLaren and subsequent meetings, residentials etc. I was more interested to see what other ex-Sydney SOP folk were up to.

I'll read more and see what I find.

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ET
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby ET » Sat Feb 25, 2012 10:59 am

Hi Moxon,

I am one of the ex-pupils and child abuse survivors from the British schools which McLaren set up in the 70s, but I wanted to make sure that you know you are welcome here, even though a lot of the activity on this forum took place some years ago.

We all need a place to talk about what happened to us as kids, no matter how long ago it happened. As you will see, I still regularly read and contribute to the forum. My feeling is that if we can be there for just one other person who went through what we did, no matter where they come from, then this forum is doing its job.

Please feel free to continue posting about your experiences. It really does help to "talk" about them in a friendly and accepting place like this one, and using this forum has helped save many people's sanity, including my own.

Keep posting - someone is always reading and here to give you support.
Pupil at St James Girl's School from 1979-1989, from age 4-14. Parents ex-members of SES.

bluegreen
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby bluegreen » Tue Feb 28, 2012 10:38 pm

Welcome Moxons. I think there are a few Sydney people who check in occasionally. I have certainly seen a fair bit of mention of Mr Mavro and his wife, over the last few years. I am another of the British kids from the 70s. The forum also offers a lot of support to people who are reasonably newly out of the SES/SOP as adults. But as others have said, all sorts of people have a quick read every so often to catch up. Do share your experiences if it would be helpful to you. I'm sure it would resonate with many of us. It looks like the children's experiences at that time were quite similar across the globe.
St James Girls School 1977-1981

Middle Way
Posts: 78
Joined: Wed Mar 28, 2012 3:46 am

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby Middle Way » Sat Mar 31, 2012 5:19 am

Hello. I am a new poster, having recently come across this forum and reading the posts with great interest. At the outset, my thoughts are with all those people who have been damaged by their association with the SES and its satellite schools. Yet again it is staggering to hear about people so victimised in the name of “consciousness”, which I understand to mean love, by insecure people so desperate for control over others. I hope that all victims of this abuse can and will be healed in the name of true love.

Until recently I had attended the School for Self Knowledge for 8 years. I gained much at SFSK, but then it became clear it was time to move on. I will summarise the main benefits as I see them, then explain why I left.
I will be forever grateful to SFSK for revealing to me that to find God you must look inside your own heart, something that a succession of “Christian” churches had failed to do. I learned about the benefits of practising holding attention in the present moment, and I enjoyed the discussions, eg on wisdom and karma. I learned an excellent way to practise meditation, and how to avoid the pitfalls which prevent so many from continuing this worthwhile practice. The list of various spiritual practices has been very helpful as was the continual encouragement to read and discuss spiritual material such as the Geeta, Upanishads, the Bible, Lao Tzu, the Yoga Vasistha, etc. I met many genuinely sincere people who want to establish some measure of discipline over the restless ego, and generally to learn about this mysterious spiritual stuff. Reading all the posts about the old Sydney SOP days, I can only say that much of that extremely problematic behaviour was not repeated in SFSK.

So why leave? Because the talk wasn’t being sufficiently walked: but I only refer to a small minority at the top. Just a few who kept breaching the Golden Rule. “Those who do unto others what they would not like themselves” as Tolstoy put it. A major theme of the teachings is the need to listen. Yet the minority often did not do that. The main example of this is what happens when someone decides to leave SFSK. Instead of the leaver being asked a wise question such as “what would need to change for you to stay?”, it is merely pretended that the person never existed: a bit eerily cultlike.

My other main sticking point was the instruction that negative emotions are never to be expressed. But when people are emotionally upset they need to talk (to a person prepared to listen), to vent, to help clarify inconsistencies. They need to be genuinely heard, so any areas for development or healing become apparent to both speaker and listener. They definitely do not need to be told that the upset is simply your attachment to your ego so just drop it: which is akin to telling someone suffering from depression to just build a bridge and get over it. It’s like telling sailors trying to keep their ship afloat in a massive storm they should not be feeling stressed because that is just their ego. I saw too many instances where people’s upset was handled with insufficient loving care, and in some instances with no apparent care whatsoever: even if the “helper” genuinely believed they were caring.

In the end, the inconsistencies and unacknowledged human frailties leading to unconscious attachment to power over others became too much. Also the ever-present underlying subtle fear I suspect many others also felt: of never quite doing the right thing, never quite measuring up, not giving the right answer often enough, never doing enough service, and the oh-so-subtle message that we should never leave SFSK because the Truth was only to be found there and we were all so special to have found it. And the ever-increasing subtle demands for increased loyalty the longer you stay, so that gradually SFSK is expected to be your first loyalty in life over your family, friends or job. Worst of all was the fear that prevented me from speaking up in class and challenging instances where care was not being shown. If I have any regret, it’s that.

Overall, I think Tootsie is right about the blind leading the blind. I too wonder which school she subsequently found. Hopefully one where it is safe for everyone (including the tutors) to acknowledge that we are all fallible humans blundering along looking for the truth. And where joy, laughter - and silliness at times - are positively welcomed, not increasingly suppressed in the name of “detachment” as is now unfortunately happening at SFSK. It’s such a shame because SFSK is packed with good people, and the teachings are excellent.

actuallythere
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Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby actuallythere » Sun Apr 01, 2012 7:48 am

Dear Middle Way,

Thank you for an extremely important posting. You've perfectly summed up what appears to be the most common issue with SES for people who stay long term: that it is extremely attractive at the start, and only very slowly reveals the problems that can cause serious damage - sometimes too late.

I'm especially interested it a few of your comments in particular. I have genuine, good faith questions about these and I'm not being rhetorical or ironic. My questions will be direct and somewhat personal, but please do not perceive offence, as none is intended whatsoever.

You mentioned "insecure people so desperate for control over others" causing the abuse. What is it about SES that attracts these people? What is it about these people that attracts them to SES? What is it about SES that prompts them to behave in this way?

You said: "I will be forever grateful to SFSK for revealing to me that to find God you must look inside your own heart, something that a succession of “Christian” churches had failed to do." Personally I happen to be agnostic, but isn't 'love' central to Christian theology? How was it that SFSK 'revealed' it to you? Surely it was you who found God in your own heart yourself, and you do not have SFSK to thank for that? Is it fair to speak of Christianity's "failure" to give you want you personally needed? Could it be that that the way SFSK treated you gave you something that you wanted or needed, for a time, whereas the way Christian churches treated you had not given you something that you wanted or needed, for a time? You quote Tolstoy on “Those who do unto others what they would not like themselves” - did you know that Tolstoy was a devoutly Christian mystic, and that in this quote he was paraphrasing the Bible?

"I learned about the benefits of practising holding attention in the present moment," - There are special SES/SFSK jargon terms here, verbal cues shared by members. What are the differences between 'practising holding attention in the present moment' and hypnotism; or, say, the full focus one has on a fireworks display? What is the the difference between 'the present' and 'the present moment' ? What's the difference between 'holding attention' and giving attention? Why are these special phrases used by the SES/SFSK ?

"The list of various spiritual practices has been very helpful as was the continual encouragement to read and discuss spiritual material" - Are such lists not available in any bookshop or online discussion forum? Was the encouragement attractive and emotionally rewarding in itself ?

"I met many genuinely sincere people " How many of them were wide-eyed and impressionable, as opposed to discerning and self-confident? How many of them had low self esteem and a wish to be loved and accepted, a wish to be better than what they once were?

"who want to establish some measure of discipline over the restless ego, and generally to learn about this mysterious spiritual stuff." Did these people know they wanted to "establish some measure of discipline over the restless ego" before they joined the SFSK, or were they encouraged to understand that was what they wanted, at least after a first year of induction?

You have an ego, I have an ego, everyone has an ego just like they have a brain and a heart. What is a "restless" ego? What "measure" of discipline can be achieved over it? How does one assess that measure of discipline? Once one establishes "some measure of discipline over the restless ego", is one better than one was? Is one better than society at large? Is one on a special path? Does one get an ego boost from the impression that one has established some measure of discipline over the restless ego? And if the answer of that is yes, isn't that exhilarating, and empowering and emotionally stimulating?

"So why leave? Because the talk wasn’t being sufficiently walked" Why wasn't the talk being walked? Not in what way, but why? Could it be that the attractiveness at the very start was a deception? Not an "illusion", but a deception? Was that promise at the start to transcend the limitations of the ego ever delivered? Can it be delivered? Is it acceptable for mere mortals, rather than supernatural forces, to promise that delivery?

"it is merely pretended that the person never existed" - what other pretences have you noticed, when you think back some more? Could a "measure of discipline over the restless ego" be a pretence? Could "holding attention in the present moment" be a pretence?

"My other main sticking point was the instruction that negative emotions are never to be expressed." Why are any "instructions" about what you should feel acceptable from anyone, let alone a purported "tutor" (I say purported, because they are not in that position based on any recognized educational qualifications whatsoever)? Is not the very practice of taking a authority's instruction on feelings evidence of mind control? What's the definition of a "negative" emotion? Is it what someone with more power in the organization says is negative, or can it be generally accepted to be negative? If you are naturally feeling tired after a good day's work, can that be objectively described as negative or positive? Would it be positive if you had fulfilled your task for someone in SFSK that day? Would it be negative if you had not fulfilled your task for someone in SFSK that day? Who decides what is positive and negative? Could "negativity" serve as a jargon word to destroy any form of waywardness from SFSK control? Were you made to feel guilty about being negative? Is the danger of being negative that one might lose out on the desirable goal of establish "some measure of discipline over the restless ego" and the ego boost that it paradoxically brings?

"unacknowledged human frailties leading to unconscious attachment to power over others became too much." Another use of a special phrase here - "attachment". Is it not the case that the promises at the start, of not being attached to power - a limitation of the ego - was deceptive? Are impressionable, needy people not been conned by that promise? Is this deception, this profound lack of self awareness, which is accentuated by SFSK/SES, what causes the abuse?


" Also the ever-present underlying subtle fear I suspect many others also felt" What is "subtle" fear? The word "subtle", often suffixed with "realm" is another special phrase, programmed into members. 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 established control over a group for the emotional - egotistical - gain for those of higher social rank?

" it is safe for everyone (including the tutors) to acknowledge that we are all fallible humans blundering along looking for the truth. And where joy, laughter - and silliness at times - are positively welcomed, not increasingly suppressed in the name of “detachment” as is now unfortunately happening at SFSK." Can you get this from a 'school' ? Is it deceptive to used the word 'school' for an organization from which one does not graduate or gain qualifications? Is spiritual group not a less deceptive term?

Might you get acknowledgement that we are all fallible humans blundering along looking for the truth from a family, from children, from friends, from an amateur drama group, from a sailing club, from a love affair, from therapy, from a stand-up comedy show, from a long dark night of the soul with a stranger in a wine bar on the other side of the world?

You've been able to walk away after 8 years. Can you imagine what its like for teenagers, who were born to and brought up by SES parents, and educated by SES, who cannot walk away if they want to? Would you be surprised if running away from home, mind-altering drug use and and suicide become the options considered by SES teenagers if they cannot walk away? Personally I wouldn't be surprised, and I wonder, what can we do for these young people?

And for adults who chose to join a long time ago, and are now in the psychological turmoil of realization of what has happened to them, only after decades in the group, what can we do for them?

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 3:53 am

Thanks for your comments actuallythere. No, I don’t perceive or take any offence. Your questions are very important and it is clear you have been thinking deeply about these issues for some time. You are also right in saying these are personal questions. And so I want to do them justice which will take me a little more time. I was in the middle of drafting up a response when my copy of Secret Cult arrived, courtesy of Amazon. So I am reading that before putting up the response.

But now I can already give you a very succinct summary of what I believe. And here it is, written by someone in New Zealand, and quoted on page 73 of Secret Cult:

“Many of the rules they abide by are good, if governed by love, but when governed by fear become intolerable”.

For me, this simple quote nails the whole issue, wherever humans gather together and live according to rules: whether in religious, spiritual, work, sporting, craft, political or welfare circles: anywhere.

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

Re: Sydney School for Self Knowledge

Postby actuallythere » Fri Apr 06, 2012 6:53 am

@Middle Way,

Thank you for your courteous reply. I must urge you to post your initial or preliminary responses to my questions before you finish Secret Cult, with the understanding that you might modify or even completely change them after you have finished the book.

Perception is reality, as they say - that book will influence your perception of the situation, like any guide would.

It is extremely important for me to know what you feel, and think, without a guide.

AT


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