Tracing the money trail

Discussion of the SES's satellite organisations in the USA.
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bella
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Postby bella » Fri Jul 01, 2005 9:52 am

Keir, I appreciate the time you took to respond thoughtfully, but I think you've misunderstood my post, or I wasn't clear. In my reply to the suggestion that I should "go to the source" rather than attending the school, I was saying that the source material in isolation wouldn't do it for me. I didn't say I had no interest in the source material, hadn't studied it, or that I hadn't a reasonable idea about the school's beginnings, impetus, and changes in direction and "sources" over time. What I was saying was that my attending the school is a factor in my appreciation of said sources. It might be easier or tempting to categorise (or characterise) me as a nodding dupe, but it's not the case. I can only say that with my own knowledge of who I am, though - obviously people will take what they will take from my writing here.

As for the financial aspects, I'd still like to know what the actual issue is - which particular aspects of SES economic theory are being twisted or ignored. It seems there are a couple of strands in this thread - one followed by yourself, gandalf and a couple others, and another that is a bit more general and cult-cliche. I've given my opinion and personal experience on what I saw as the cult-cliche strand, but I'm still asking for clarification on the other. I know I have the facts when it comes to my experience, just like everyone else on this board, but I do sincerely want to know what the crux of the issue is, in regard to the London school owning several expensive properties. If I'm not allowed to ask that question - because it's not as clear to me as it obviously is to some - then my estimation of this board's calibre just went way down. I'm not actually some evil mindless zealot out to obscure your intelligent debate - I'm genuinely asking questions here, too.

leonmich
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Postby leonmich » Fri Jul 01, 2005 5:08 pm

Why do you assume you are not allowed to raise points here, because people disagree with you? That is a strange perspective.

The "crux" of the issue regarding buildings is that they were used to generate money by exploiting cult members who were brainwashed, coereced, manipulated into giving every second of their time to decorate, renovate and maintain at the expense of everything else, their personal safety, their families, their dignity and ultimately in many cases their sanity. And usually being mocked by the tutors the whole while!

I would be interested if you could show anything about SES doctrine that is not in Maharishi, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky or the shank. In other words, what is lacking in the original sources that SEs provides for you?
Regarding the financial issue, it really doesn't take much to notice a conflict between amassing properties for financial gain and Henry Georges economic theories. However it is possible the school has changed it's tune since I was involved. It would be helpful as a current member if you could you briefly explain the current "Economic Science" part of your "School of Economic Science" as it is now taught?

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Free Thinker
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Postby Free Thinker » Fri Jul 01, 2005 5:34 pm

Please contribute Bella! It's important!

I, myself, was actually rather surprised during some of my SES-related research this weekend, to find a statement "The Waterperry Declaration -2003) from some conference the "ES" part of the school had recently regarding the world's poverty, free trade, etc. I found their statements to be pretty much on line with what I believe in, and rather liberal.

Now of course, how this relates to a school where all service is done FOR the school, and not for people who TRULY need service, I'm not sure.

But it's a great first step! Here's a link to the declaration.

http://www.schooleconomicscience.org/ne ... cs-dec.htm

xmember
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the one good

Postby xmember » Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:46 am

in my time in the school during the 70's and 80's I and every member must have put in hundreds of hours maintaining and improving the properties in Auckland. While all this was meant to have practical and philosophical purposes, my long term issue has been that this energy was not directed into the lives of the members.

A true community such as was idealised in the teachings would have meant the embracing of the members families and immediate community to result in the school members collectively helping each other and the community, building, restoring, nursing, etc.

Instead, non-member family members and non members at large were treated with suspicion and we were warned of the dangers of "the world".

If there is resentment about all the hours I worked for the school, it would be that it was all work for the school.. instead of "the world" in which I actually lived and contributed to.
NZ ex member 16yrs (age 1-16)

xmember
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financial gain

Postby xmember » Sat Jul 02, 2005 8:06 am

to contribute an answer to the original question, I saw no evidence of the larger membership gaining financially, nor the tutors or the leadership. It was understood that the leaders lived by donation, which meant however that any previously earned weath was enjoyed without any living expenses. It did grate that the leader of the school had a holiday home...while seemingly not having a day job...

anyhow.. initiation saw the contribution of one weeks wages, and it was understood that of you could affort it, larger donations were appreciated.

It is true that almost all the married male leaders were financially very well off, but rather than making them richer all i saw were disfunctional families, getting worse as more and more time was spent in the school, vs as a family.

to me it seems my family spent more time at the school than all together.

i have no evidence of a greater financial conspiracy.. it seems that everything was invested into the property portfolio, which has enabled the school to grow.

in the twenty five years i had first hand association with the school, the Auckland school quadrupled it's properties.
NZ ex member 16yrs (age 1-16)

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bella
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Postby bella » Sat Jul 02, 2005 12:08 pm

Leon -

leonmich wrote:Why do you assume you are not allowed to raise points here, because people disagree with you? That is a strange perspective.


I was responding to Keir's request: So please, argue facts with facts, nobody doubts that you believe and no one can force you believe any different.

I didn't have the facts - i.e. what the issue was - so I was asking.

I would be interested if you could show anything about SES doctrine that is not in Maharishi, Gurdjieff, Ouspensky or the shank. In other words, what is lacking in the original sources that SEs provides for you?


I didn't say anything was lacking. I said that studying this stuff in isolation is too much like university for my liking. I enjoy the social aspect, and the interaction with the material in a group situation. I guess I also like the fact that a few times a week, I'm in a situation where everyone around me is supposed to be practising the same things, observing the same compassion, tolerance, and working towards becoming better people with understanding towards the times when you miss the mark. I generally get that, before you ask. ;)

I'm not a member of the London school, and I have no insight into their property portfolio or how they run it. But when you say "amassing properties for financial gain", it seems like a hazy statement. Whose financial gain? The school's? Is it not acceptable for the school to use profits from property to expand its interests, e.g. purchasing new properties for school use? That's the bit I don't really get.

It would be helpful as a current member if you could you briefly explain the current "Economic Science" part of your "School of Economic Science" as it is now taught?


I'm in the School of Philosophy, as it's known here. What I understand of Henry George's theories, though, includes the tenet that property should not be left unused, accumulating value. Are any of the SES UK properties unused? All sweat equity should also be recognised in acceptable profits after a sale, so I don't see the conflict in students spending their time renovating a property, to be benefited later by an increased sale value (with a view to expansion of the school, necessary improvements in existing property, etc.). What caught my attention was the implication that the SES "sits" on these properties for some unknown and possibly dubious purpose. Don't they use them? The really interesting thing about the thread, to my mind, was that AFAIK, Henry George's theories preclude keeping profits gained from an increase in land value without any effort on the part of the property holder - be it by luck or whatever. As I mentioned, it's my understanding that the sweat equity needs to be considered when deciding how much of the profit is reasonable, and how much is unreasonably acquired. A disparity of many millions, even accounting for inflation, seems unreasonable. I had hoped that was the point being made, because I could possibly sympathise with it. I would assume, without knowing, that the school's re-investment of these funds into other properties for continuation of "the work" equates to a community contribution in the minds of those involved.

The only other thing I really wanted to say was that if people don't want to spend time working on properties, don't. If people know they're perpetually neglecting their families for the sake of working on an SES property, don't. Easier said than done, you think, but it actually might be as simple as that.

Xmember - What we're continually told is that the work we do at the school is the practice field. Our lives outside the school is where it counts, so make it matter there. I'm sorry if this was not the message you got. I don't mean "I'm sorry" in a flippant "well, I'm sorry" way either - I mean I've found this standpoint invaluable in my continued appreciation of the school, and it's a shame if you weren't given this same view.

On a residential, where you're pretty much confined to the grounds, it makes sense to me to do some useful practical stuff with the property you're at - I would prefer to practise "being in the present moment" while sanding and painting a wall than while polishing the same brass vase for four hours. Call me crazy. People who volunteer extra time to work on these properties at the continual significant expense of their families are doing themselves no favours. Whether they've been coerced or brainwashed to do this is something I really don't have any personal experience with. If I need to be with my family while an SOP thing is happening, I will excuse myself from the SOP thing. However, I don't make commitments to the SOP I know I may not be able to keep. Maybe they're just trying to think of a nice way to give me the boot for engaging in such blatantly attached behaviour, but I don't think so. I'll keep you posted, though.

ross nolan
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'the money' 'the work' etc

Postby ross nolan » Sat Jul 02, 2005 12:53 pm

Hi All ,
Just following this thread and I think appreciate the comments about ostentatious real estate versus the world renouncing asceticism that the likes of Gurdieff espoused -- it seems that the medieval cathedral building craze or the accumulated wealth of the Vatican pose similar dilemmas for religions that claim to be only interested in the next life.

Why does the SES actually NEED to "upgrade" -- does it make for a better class of meditation or what ?

Can someone please explain the meaning of "the work" as attributed to Ouspensky ? (you obviously understand this as an 'in' term as former members but it is not immediately obvious to the great unwashed -- can someone, somewhere -- maybe a new thread -- just outline or encapsulate the basic worldview of the SES ie is 'salvation' gained by works or attainment of higher conciousness , how many levels of conciousness are involved ? what is the doctrine on karma, reincarnation,zen vs hindu vs christianity etc is TM still kosher ?

BTW didn't the Mahareshi have dozens of Roll Royces given by devotees or am I confusing my gurus ? (conspicuous wealth,storing up of earthly treasures etc vs the ideal of non material existence again )

Doesn't unpaid labour also exploit the non capitalists and so defy Georgist
principles? There is a tiny office of the Georgist league in Melbourne (a or was a few years ago) and I remember reading progress and poverty which condemned non economic holding of land and property -- what is the ECONOMIC return to the community of SES properties ?

Also BTW Bella how many is " a few times a week" when engaging in study at the SES amongst amicable company ?

Ross Nolan.
Skeptic

xmember
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the work

Postby xmember » Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:11 pm

hi Bella,

two points:

1 Yes, we all understood that the work was practice for the outside world, and yes, it was practical to practice this when at the school... HOWEVER... many of us has been SOP members for over ten years...many longer... NEVER in my recollection, did the school organise for us to practice the work within the community... in fact we were only warned of the dangers of exposing the teachings to non-members... one expression being "don't wake a sleeping dog"... ie: they will snap at you if they do.. (the dogs being non members who may not be receptive to the teachings..)

2 The VERY strong message was that taking time off from the school activities WAS NOT AN OPTION, unless you had a death in the family or you were virtually dying. This is less than ten years ago that I observed this attitude first hand. To excuse yourself from an activity for sporting, social, or family activities was seen as a sign of weakness amd reflected badly on not just you but your family. Guilt was the most significant tool used. Families lterally fell apart as members spent more, and more, and more time with the school, and less and less time with thier families and friends, and community at large.

I am speaking about my experinces in the NZ school, having grown up in it. NOT the current UK school. While I aknowledge changes, my purpose in being here is to offer another historical view to other ex members of my vintage, which i hope will help all of us.

You may argue that historical recriminations are pointless, however, I think that 70% of the leadership i had in the old days are still in those positions of power now. Not a happy thought.
NZ ex member 16yrs (age 1-16)

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Re: the work

Postby Free Thinker » Sat Jul 02, 2005 7:33 pm

Hi Bella and Xmember (welcome, BTW!)

I have found that my experience almost mimics Xmember's in every facet despite the fact that I was in the US school while he was in the NZ. Interesting...When did you leave, X? I left in 1997.

Shortly before my mother left the school, I wrote her a letter addressing many issues I had with her personally, some of which overlapped with the school. I also wrote her a list of things that I found wrong with the school (and urged her to leave, for her own sake). One of my biggest complaints (and I had many) was X's first point.

xmember wrote:NEVER in my recollection, did the school organise for us to practice the work within the community


This was certainly the case before and during my time there. All that talk about service and helping others, I felt, was bullshit if all you had to do was spend your time polishing brass doorknobs at the house of a rich, white person. Certainly when the school is located only a mile from a very impoverished area of NYC, there is work in the community that is more important than making sure the floor has been polished, by hand, with Butcher's wax!

xmember wrote:2. The VERY strong message was that taking time off from the school activities WAS NOT AN OPTION, unless you had a death in the family or you were virtually dying. This is less than ten years ago that I observed this attitude first hand. To excuse yourself from an activity for sporting, social, or family activities was seen as a sign of weakness amd reflected badly on not just you but your family. Guilt was the most significant tool used. Families lterally fell apart as members spent more, and more, and more time with the school, and less and less time with thier families and friends, and community at large.


This was also exactly the case when I was in the school. At the last (I think?) residential week I went to in Andover, MA, they wanted me to stay for a second week. (I was 18 at that point, about to be out of the house, and definitely beginning to become my own person (with green hair, I might add) and I think they hoped that if I stayed an extra week, they might mend my sinful ways.) I got a LOT of pressure from my tutor and the leader to stay an extra week, even though it meant that I would have to call my boss the day before I was supposed to work and say that I couldn't make any of my shifts that week. It put my job in a bad position, and also made me lose a week's wages. But I was so pressured that I did it anyway. I think that week had the opposite effect from what they hoped, especially since it began with my seeing Mr. Lambie for the first time that year and his "greeting" to me was, "What have you done with yourself?" That was the beginning of the end. Particularly because another week meant more of those awful meetings where no one asks any interesting questions, and if they do, they're brushed off or ignored.

xmember wrote:You may argue that historical recriminations are pointless, however, I think that 70% of the leadership i had in the old days are still in those positions of power now. Not a happy thought.


This is another thing I brought up.

Now Bella is in a different situation, since she is part of a new school in a new location. She has replied, I feel, very honestly, and it certainly sounds like her school is much more "modern" than the historically-established ones. However, that doesn't negate the facts about the other schools, or that her school is taking its guidance from the other schools.

xmember
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parallels

Postby xmember » Sat Jul 02, 2005 8:04 pm

Hi Free Thinker, thanks for the welcome.

I left around 1988 I think, but my family was heavily involved until only a few years ago. I won't say how much right now, since it won't take a genius to work out who I am.

I have mentioned in another thread that NZ suffered from a "Lord of the Flies" syndrome, in that we were so isolated, and tutors could do alot without censure.

Sorry to hear that NYC was just as bad.

I trully mourn the YEARS I spent isolated from my community.. not making friends, not playing sports, not LEARNING TO SOCIALISE.... just about every member or ex member is socially stunted.. weather they be 18 or 80 !!

I wish that the school really was a school that you attended, then graduated with all the tools for life they could pass on. That to me is the tru model of a teaching. I was there for 16+ years... surely they had covered everything I need to to survive !

crazy.

still got green hair !!? how could you defile your sacred vessel :)
NZ ex member 16yrs (age 1-16)

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Keir
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Postby Keir » Sat Jul 02, 2005 11:37 pm

Hi Bella,

Quite possible I have misunderstood you, and for the record I don't presume that you are a mindless dupe. I too would think that was a lazy assumption, and am very glad that there is at least one voice that is prepared to put the time in to contribute at length and with passion.

I know probably less than you about the financial dealings of the SES in actual fact, indeed, neither have I read around the sources mentioned on these boards for the SES material, though I have read a few others.

As I was not really what you might call a voluntary member of the SES but there by default of the fact that my parents put me into St James and SES membership at that time came as a package, my personal interest was one of the last things to be taken into consideration by the SES, my teachers, or my parents. As such SES was endured rather than celebrated.

As any child faced with that situation I made the best of a bad situation and accepted aspects of the practice that I saw had value and meaning. Some of those aspects of the teaching I put into practice on a daily basis even now. So being taught about focussing on the space between the working surfaces is a useful life lesson about attention and focus in action. The fact that it was learnt whilst providing free upkeep of the SES's property portfolio could be seen as immoral considering we were children there not of our own free will. The fact that the lesson on attention and focus in action can be learnt in any situation does raise the issue about why was it only ever practised whilst cleaning or maintaining SES buildings or serving senior SES staff members.

My frustration at the SES is at least partly due to its apparent fear of 'the outside world' and the subsequent restrictions it places on the field of practise and the general air of paranoia it promoted in its 'disciples'.

I am prepared to accept that I am unnaturally suspicious of the motives of senior members of the SES, but if you had been in my shoes and seen what I had seen I suspect you would be too. But in the same way that I must not presume that you are a dupe, please dont presume that I am a wildly paranoid and delusional basket case.

I personally met most of the characters that are now running the SES and the St James schools, and was around at the time that Leon Maclaren was running the SES when most of the current leaders were still students. Having experienced first hand the culture of emotional repression and opportunistic use of the enthusiasm and hard work of the students - and heard the 'amusing anecdotes' that were shared amonst senior tutors about some poor unfortunate student that had been on the receiving end of a tutor's cleverly subtle and 'on message' slight - I do find it hard to accept that they are all now remarkably reformed and it was all Leon Maclaren's fault.

It seems that your experience has been vastly different from mine thank goodness, but the distrust you hear from many on this site is informed on the whole from that different perspective.

It is nigh on impossible for me to talk about, think about, or have any relations with the SES without that whole period of my life coming to mind. Even with all the work I have done to grow forward from that experience, including revisiting my opinions on some of the aspects of the work, it remains as a memory. So when the same people that I met then who are now in charge of the same organisations that I knew then are making out that its all changed at the same time as showing no sign of real interest in the complaints on this board, and acting in a very dismissive and arrogant way with regard to the inquiry, I am sceptical.

But I am not stupid. I do know that it could easily be said that someone who had not had the same experiences as me, who had a reasonable tutor that had very little constraint placed on him/her by the head of the London SES, would see a great deal to be positive about the SES experience. Of that possibility I am not only sure, but hopeful too.

An SES without emotional blackmail, institutional suppression, divisive politics, acquisitive macho culture, must surely be a quite enjoyable place. Its just a shame that they messed it up for so many people before. But the same people that were instructive in messing it up for me and many others, including my family, are now running it, so my belief in their honesty and good nature has long since disappeared. And how was it that the slippery sorts got to the top? Because most people with integrity that I knew took your advice Bella and left.

I am very grateful to leonmich, xmember, Free Thinker, and Gandalf and many others for providing me with the facts about an organisation that due to the circumstances I took less than an enquiring look at before, because it broadens my perspective. Bella, so do you.

The difficulty in believing your description of how it is for you is because it sounds a million miles away from my experience of SES, yet during my time there I met many who started off by saying the sort of things that you are now. Some years on most of them and the decent tutors they praised have left. So pardon me if I misundertand where you are coming from, I have a lot of scepticism.

If you can stand to debate the why's and wherefore's on a BB like this that puts you one ahead of many that I knew and know at the SES. If you get a little anger or distrust, please understand it is not directed at you. This board also has a function in providing what for some people is the first chance in 20 years to talk about a highly disturbing period of their lives, so its not all going to be reasoned debate.

xmember
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reform

Postby xmember » Sun Jul 03, 2005 4:05 am

hi keir, bella, et al,

when ever i questioned the leadership about the bad old days, and reform, I was told...

1 there has been an real effort made to open up the school, and amke it more relaxed.

2 the school held open days to the public inviting neighbours to what was essentially a fair.

3 regarding the wrong doings of the past I was told.. that because things had changed, we should excuse the past seeing as how the school did so much good for people and the community

4 some of the more draconian practices were no longer enforced

5 much of the older leadership was being replaced by younger people

while i accept that all new organisations go through teething periods in their start up, you would expect to hear the odd appology, and for anyone abusing the organisation to be removed swiftly.

unfortunately many of the people abusing the system were also part of the leadership.

i think that anyone part of the existing school structure could easily have a good impression of the organisation, and I have no idea of what Bella's experience is. I appreciate her dialogue since without it this BB would be very one sided.
NZ ex member 16yrs (age 1-16)

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Free Thinker
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Postby Free Thinker » Sun Jul 03, 2005 5:29 am

Hi X,

Thanks for revealing whatever you feel comfortable with revealing.

I'm sure that anyone in the NYC school could very easily figure out who I am, given the various details that I've posted in this and that thread. And because I was the only person of my age there who had green hair.

I don't care, particularly. I still know people there, I'm not accusing anyone of anything illegal, and I have fond feelings towards many people there.

No, I don't still have green hair because my current job does not allow that. But my tattoos are there to stay :)

My mother has always defended the school in the past with those reasons you just listed. But now that she's no longer a member, I wonder what her response would be if we ever get to talk about it (See my post about writing to my mother...)

Keir - Another really clear and helpful post - and so well written!

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Postby Free Thinker » Sun Jul 03, 2005 5:31 am

Ooops - double post
Last edited by Free Thinker on Fri Mar 31, 2006 6:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

daska
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Postby daska » Sun Jul 03, 2005 9:12 am

An example of the schools serving the community...

placing the music room at Earsby Street (The newish St James Junior boys/girls and Senior Girls school building) on the street corner rather than overlooking the courtyard or playground. When the locals said, 'please, no, we don't want to be disturbed by music all day, especially during the summer when you have the window open all day, what about those of us who work shifts or needing to rest during the day due to illness' the response was that it was 'only the best music and would be uplifting to the soul'. No mention of it keeping people awake, disturbing their concentration etc. Seeing as at Waterperry and Stanhill you weren't allowed to talk or listen to music while cleaning etc because you should be focusing on the working surface, this is majorly hypocritical. And as far as I know the music room is still on the corner...

I know of NO instance where the SES has undertaken work to benefit the community that the community in question actually needed, wanted or benefitted from.


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