By way of introduction

Discussion of the children's schools in the UK.
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bonsai
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By way of introduction

Postby bonsai » Wed Feb 15, 2006 4:28 pm

Hello all

I am new to posting here. I was a pupil at St James boys? school for my entire education from four and a half to 18. I also attended SES in a foundation group for a year or so.

My time in St James and the SES was far from wholesome and happy, though I wasn't subject to the physical brutality that has been the subject of the inquiry. I do however fully recognise it and have witnessed plenty of it in my time at school and I know that the Inquiry has only scratched the surface. My troubles at school were far more to do with the lack of emotional support and well being. To me school was a cold place. I did not feel I had real friends. I generally kept my head down and conformed in the hope that this would lead me to the person I wanted to be. Also at the time I knew little that was different and thought that I was happy. However it was when I left and went to university that I began to see our unprepared I was for the outside world and real life and I have since spent a lot of time as an adult working out what I really thought at the time and recognising that my own opinions and thoughts are far more important to being the best person I can than those that were inflicted on me at school.

I have been lurking here for sometime, about 8 months, (I can keep my mouth shut no longer) and this has re-opened many wounds which I have already spent much time dealing with and trying to heal. I feel angry that even today, over ten years on, there are still consequences that I have to deal with and things that can not yet be put in their places. It is with great sadness that I read many of the stories posted here. Strikingly also it is with sadness that I read the three apologies from the teachers of St James that have been brave enough to do so. Of the three that have done so, I can only recall one of them dishing out this kind of mistreatment that has been raised as a concern and even he was not someone I particularly recall as harsh in this behaviour during my time at school. Whilst I am grateful that these apologies have been forthcoming I have found them quite unsettling. These more than anything bring to light the reality of what we went through at school, something, that in a way, I wish wasn?t true.

I must offer my own apology to those who worked so hard to get an inquiry for not making my own submission. I only became aware of the inquiry once it was underway and it has taken until now to feel brave enough to open my mouth and speak at all publicly about my own feelings on my past. I am grateful and have a great deal of respect for those who have had the courage to contribute to this process. I am also grateful that the governors accept the inquiry report and have offered the apology that they have. This is a start however I believe there is a very long way still to go.

My concerns with St James and the SES stem not from the physical abuses but more the mental abuses of children. I can not stand the high and mighty self righteous arrogance of many of those who teach in St James and who tutor and attend the SES. What they insist is the Truth can only at the most be classed as a belief with nothing more substantial or rational to support it. That this so called Truth is instilled in children in the way it is can be so damaging.

I am aware that the schools have changed somewhat and softened a little. Most of this does seem to have occurred since the time I have left these organisations. For example the pressure to join foundation groups is less and proportionally far fewer do these days. Particularly this seems to have been since the death of Leon MacLaren. However, whilst physical chastisement is no longer used on pupils at St James, there is plenty still that can lead to other damage particularly mental health issues. This is far more concerning as my own experience tells me psychological injuries take far longer to heal than the physical ones.

Bonsai

Tom Grubb
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Postby Tom Grubb » Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:03 pm

Bonsai,

Thank you so much for your very courageous post. Much of what you have written chimes with my own experience. What alarms me is how relatively recent your experience is. I was also very good at keeping my head down at the school and witnessed a great deal of brutality against others without being a frequent target of it myself.

I was particularly struck by this: "I have since spent a lot of time as an adult working out what I really thought at the time and recognising that my own opinions and thoughts are far more important to being the best person I can than those that were inflicted on me at school." Even now I have difficulty expressing my opinions in speech, though not at all in writing. I sometimes find myself physically shaking or blushing when I say something to disagree with someone, even someone I know quite well.

Anyway, welcome to the forum! I hope you'll stick around.

Tom

Justice
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By way of introduction

Postby Justice » Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:15 pm

Dear bonsai,

I think that your posting was very brave and informative.

I was concerned to hear of your ongoing worries when you wrote:

However, whilst physical chastisement is no longer used on pupils at St. James, there is plenty still that can lead to other damage particularly mental health issues. This is far more concerning as my own experience tells me psychological injuries take far longer to heal than the physical ones.


This is a problem that is referred to often throughout this bulletin board.

There are a number of organisations that can assist people who have been badly affected by cults by offering counselling and support and/or by introducing them to other respected professionals.

The ones I am aware of are:

The Cult Information Centre:

http://www.cultinformation.org.uk/

The Wellspring Retreat:

http://wellspringretreat.org/

Steven Hassan's Freedom of Mind Resource Centre:

http://www.freedomofmind.com/

Even if you dont use their services, I am sure that they could give you some useful impartial advice.

I wish you the very best of luck!

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Wed Feb 15, 2006 5:19 pm

It does take courage to write and I have spent three days writing what I did there and re-reading it before deciding to post it.

I don't have much difficulty anymore knowing or expressing what I feel. I do however, as other here have indicated, have a huge issue with confrontation and expressing my own anger.

It is interesting your comment about me leaving relatively recently. I have, whilst lurking here, acquired a copy of The Secret Cult and set about reading it. I very much hoped that I would not recognise the organisation that it described. It is sad to say that very little, if anything had changed by the time I left in early 90s.

Alban
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Postby Alban » Wed Feb 15, 2006 8:04 pm

Have to add my welcome to the others Bonsai.

When in our 20's there is a tendency to think of ourselves as indestructable and as such it is extremely difficult to face up to having been mistreated during earlier years as it conflicts with our image of ourselves. Ten or fifteen years ago, I certainly couldn't have written some of the stuff I have posted in the last two years. So no wonder you have hung around for several months before posting - hopefully you'll feel able to post more freely now you have "broken your duck".

You have also added weight to the conclusion that many of us have reached independently - that the schools haven't really changed, despite what they say.

I'm sure there are many more of your generation out there who have similar experiences and maybe a couple of them are lurking here too. If that's the case then hopefully your post will encourage them to join in as well and reap the rewards of having a bunch of people who understand what they have been dealing with since leaving.

Alban

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Wed Feb 15, 2006 11:14 pm

Yes the schools have not changed. Yes I think they are more open. Certainly the Schools website does now explain that there is a link between it and the SES and the SES's own website also explain a little more about the what is involved when you join. It does explain that its core philosophy is based on Advaita and that meditation is involved. The difficulty though is it is still almost impossible to determine what the SES is really about without having been in it. And it is only when you leave that you realise just how much of a bastardisation and mish mash of ideologies the whole thing is.

The biggest problem with the SES is that it has no way to really describe itself to the outside world. What is a philosophy organisation? The SES certainly has nothing to do with philosophy as the subject has developed and is studied today. And it claims not to be a religion of religeous movement. Well what is it? And when it fails to come up with a description it comes out with one of its most manipulative techniques "Try it for yourself"



[/quote]

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Postby ET » Thu Feb 16, 2006 10:22 am

Hi bonsai,

I just want to add my congratulations to you for having the courage to post on here. Your post is proof that there are still so many of us out there who are just starting to come to terms with their experiences.

I also think it's good to have the emotional abuse at the schools and in SES itself highlighted as often as possible, so thank you. The inquiry dealt with the physical abuse as it related to "discipline policy" but it barely touched on the emotional abuse, which I agree is far more damaging in the long term.

The well-known saying about "sticks and stones" is, in my opinion, complete rubbish. Words can hurt far more.

I too, like Tom, hate confrontation and get very hot and bothered and shaky if I am forced into a confrontational situation. I also agonise for days afterwards about whether my confrontation was necessary. I feel like a bad person, no matter how legitimate my complaint. I think this effect of the way I was treated at school is the main reason why the SES has been able to get away with all of this for so long.

More power to those of us who are now standing up and saying "I was hurt, and I blame you!"

Alban
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Postby Alban » Thu Feb 16, 2006 8:21 pm

The emotional abuse is indeed far worse, but unfortunately it is not consistantly measureable, and while we know why we feel like we do, it would be a nightmare to prove.

As children we did not have any say over what we were led to believe, but such is the subtlety of the indoctrination that many "responsible" adults allow themselves to be led in exactly the same way by living the SES life.

I guess the point I'm making is that given the above, it is understandable why the SES has been able to carry on unchecked for so long. You know it's wrong but you just can't quite put your finger on it, because no matter how you describe it you're always left thinking, "...no it's more than that...it's..."

Justice
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By way of Introduction

Postby Justice » Thu Feb 16, 2006 11:19 pm

Dear Alban,

I think that your last posting has raised some absolutely critical points and is worth expanding upon.

You said:


?
As children we did not have any say over what we were led to believe, but such is the subtlety of the indoctrination that many "responsible" adults allow themselves to be led in exactly the same way by living the SES life.

I guess the point I'm making is that given the above, it is understandable why the SES has been able to carry on unchecked for so long. You know it's wrong but you just can't quite put your finger on it, because no matter how you describe it you're always left thinking, "...no it's more than that...it's..."



Mind control and indoctrination as practiced by destructive cults can be, and usually is, very subtle and powerful. Not everyone is equally susceptible, and so it is the case that just as some adults attending SES lectures will become bored or lose interest after the first one or two and then drop out, others may be more easily influenced.

In the same way, many children attending St. James may not join the SES and will leave the schools and go on to have happy and successful lives, while others will be more easily influenced and will join up. In many cults, chanting is used as part of the ?softening up? process.

It is the SECOND group in both cases that the cults are really interested in. And this applies to ANY cult. They don?t want to waste time with people who are more ?difficult? to deal with, so they concentrate their efforts on the second group in the hope and expectation that they can effectively take control of their lives, to a greater or lesser extent.

In the same way, most cults will soon abandon anyone who starts developing serious psychological problems as a result of pressures placed upon them by the cult. They are difficult to handle and they could attract negative publicity. That?s not to say that the cult wont keep hold of people who are SLIGHTLY damaged by their experience, but who manage to hold themselves together, and maintain their ?beliefs?.

There are probably many people who have suffered psychological damage as a result of cult indoctrination who look at bulletin boards such as this (or ?lurk? as its sometimes described) and who are simply unable to take part for a whole range of reasons. These are the ones I pity the most. You won?t hear them complaining, either to the Governors, the Media or the Police, or ranting and raving at each other on a bulletin board. Whatever strength and happiness they once had has been sucked out of them by the cult.

When it comes to discussing St. James Independent Schools today the matter is no less complicated. Whilst I have ?crossed swords? with Zathura in the ?Don?t be intimidated by SES Staff or St. James Parents? posting, I feel I understand him better when he said:


?My position is I have a problem with St James ideology and 'some' affection for some the teachers. This causes my perceived split. It's that simple. It's an emotional thing. I don't like the ultra extremists on this site. This is emotional too. I find it slightly heartbreaking that in my opinion a small number of persons are unnecessarily painting a darker picture than what actually happened. If you are intimidated by 'me' then I will say that is your problem not mine. You were not even vaguely in my consciousness. The S.E.S obviously is a cult. But how much of a cult? I think this is still open to debate and I think there are varying degrees of assimilation and cultish behavior in different parts of the school and with different members. I hate these blanket statements either by books, cult agencies or by ex parents who just read books and talk to cult agencies. Of course cult agencies are just going to have the bad stories that disaffected members came to them with.?


If you have a school which is set up by a cult, and the purpose of the school is to educate children and to recruit and indoctrinate as many of the children and their parents into the cult as possible, what happens if:

Some children and parents are recruited and indoctrinated and remain with the cult

Many children and parents are not recruited and indoctrinated and go on to lead perfectly ordinary lives

Some children and parents develop psychological problems whilst with the cult, possibly as a result of the indoctrination process and demands placed upon them

Other parents and children who are recruited and indoctrinated into the cult don?t appear to suffer any ill effects

Some of the teaching staff behave unprofessionally and are cold and ?cruel?

Other members of the teaching staff are loving, caring and professional

The board of Governors consists largely (or entirely) of senior cult members and is a law unto itself, and asking them to ?change? or resign is like asking Turkeys to vote for an early Christmas

When Zathura says, ?S.E.S. obviously is a cult. But how much of a cult?? I have to reply by saying that, in my opinion, there is no such thing as a ?nearly cult?. Either you are, or you aren?t.

So where does this leave us? Should St. James be ?saved? and reformed, and are its severest critics ?ultra extremists?? Can it be reformed if the Board of Governors is dominated by senior cult members who aren?t about to vote themselves out of office without a fight? And is it right to ?sacrifice? a minority of parents and pupils, so long as the majority say ?Everything is fine. These critics don?t know what they are talking about?.

Let?s try and debate this calmly and sincerely??.and soon!

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Fri Feb 17, 2006 9:52 am

I may be moderate here in what I am about to say but I do know the damage the school has done to me and others.

I do not believe that St James or the SES is malicious in its intentions to destroy people's lives. It and many of the members of the organisation really believe that they have found the truth.


Justice you say
Should St. James be ?saved? and reformed, and are its severest critics ?ultra extremists?? Can it be reformed if the Board of Governors is dominated by senior cult members who aren?t about to vote themselves out of office without a fight? And is it right to ?sacrifice? a minority of parents and pupils, so long as the majority say ?Everything is fine.


I do not believe the governors to be a group of people intent on power. I suspect that they feel a true sense of duty to the schools however misguided their beliefs may be. I do believe that the current Governors of St James should resign in light of the Townend inquiry and our job is to continue the pressure to allow them and others to take a good look at what they are doing and the real effects of the system of education and take responsibility for it.

Yes the SES is a cult and I do believe that Leon MacLaren was rather a meglomaniac. Cults don't materialise out of people deciding to set them up. The grow out of innocent intentions being corrupted. I have no doubt that Leon MacLaren initially set out to find answers to genuine questions he had himself. The trouble is that the answers for one person seem to very rarely be the same as the answers for another.

The SES and my St James education seemed to place a large importance on "discrimination". The trouble with the St James is that whilst the detail a set of beliefs, they instill these ideas into children at an age when they are not capable of discriminating between fact and belief. The removes the propensity for real discrimination later on.

I have no particular trouble with a school being based on a Philosophy or belief system that is not mainstream. I do believe though that school should teach tolerance and respect. And most importantly the philosophy or beliefs should be fully open and subject to scrutiny by prospective parents without them having to join the parent organisation.

St James and the SES suffer from be extraordinarily bigotted, sexist and intolerant at times and as yet there is no way to really understand the philosophy that is taught without joining it.

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Postby Goblinboy » Fri Feb 17, 2006 11:40 am

bonsai wrote:St James and the SES suffer from be extraordinarily bigotted, sexist and intolerant at times and as yet there is no way to really understand the philosophy that is taught without joining it.


With respect, bonsai, all of the source material used by the SES is available from other sources. It can also be taught in a very different, far less manipulative way. Perhaps you mean the way the material is taught is what cannot be vicariously experienced?

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bonsai
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Postby bonsai » Fri Feb 17, 2006 12:21 pm

Where are they available?

Yes I agree that the Vedic scriptures are available readily and one can investigate the ideas of Advaita independently of the SES.

But the course material for part 1 etc, the SES interpretation of these scriptures are not publicly available as far as I know.

Also the conversations between the Shankarachariya and MacLaren are not publicly available as far as I know, though the SES does arrange for them to be properly published. These conversations in particular are key to understanding the SES ideology.

I think St James should publish openly what topics are covered in philosophy lessons and the key points that it hopes pupils will learn in a sort of syllabus fashion such that outsiders have a means of determining whether they wish their children to partake.

It is certainly difficult to convey to others the subtle force with which they impose a belief as the Truth.

Bonsai


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