Esther Friedman's wonderful book about her dreadful experience in Sharon's cult is out now. I highly recommend.
Manhattan Cult Story
Exposing The Sharon Gans Cult
Monday, February 27, 2023
Saturday, January 14, 2023
Liar Liar, Pants on Fire
The hallmark of the Ganscult is its intense secrecy. It's like the rules of Fight Club: 1st rule: you do not talk about Fight Club; 2nd rule: you do not talk about Fight Club. Members attend meetings for decades and tell nobody, not even spouses. In other words, they are compelled to lie. It's all justified under the four degrees of truth which the cult follows:
Stupid Insincerity: Lying to cult leaders.
Stupid Sincerity: Truthfulness with outsiders.
Clever Insincerity: Lying to outsiders.
Wednesday, January 11, 2023
"Be A Man"
On the occasion of my tenth anniversary of escaping from the OSG Cult, here's a reprint from my book of that moment. The set-up is that I had missed class the previous night and got a call from one of the junior teachers who I call "Kim" in the book.
The next morning, on January 10, 2013, I saw that Kim, from School, had left a message on my voice mail at 1:00 a.m., in a frenzied tone: “Spencer, Sharon told me to tell you that it is unacceptable for you not to come to class and that maybe it’s time for you to leave School.” I called her back.
I said, “Hi, Kim, I got your message.”
She asked,“Where were you last night?”
This was a typical question for School, but my response was not typical: “It’s really none of your business. I was busy.”
This was insolent. This was an answer that meant fuck off. My answer stunned me as much as it did her. Silence.
“Well,” she said, “Sharon thinks maybe it’s time for you to leave School because you’ve been missing so many classes.”
I didn’t think before I spoke. “I totally agree: maybe it is time for me to leave School.”
She interrupted, “No, no, no, no, no, Sharon is not saying you should leave at all. She doesn’t want you to leave. This is just a shock to help you get over whatever interval you are crossing now. Sharon wants to shock you,” she said in a panicked tone. Her plan was back-firing. Sharon would be furious.
I let her squirm. “Kim, Sharon is absolutely right for me to think about this, and I’m going to follow her instructions and consider whether it’s time for me to leave.”
I told her I’d get back to her in two weeks, hung up, and took the uptown train to Union Square. I hadn’t experienced a sense of power like this in years.
When I got out at Union Square, she called me again. She sounded peppy, energized because (as I expected) she’d just spoken with Sharon, who had a customized message for me. In a solemn tone suggesting she had just conferred with Queen Elizabeth herself, Kim said, “Sharon said that you should come to class on Tuesday and talk about it in front of your friends. This is not something to think about on your own.” And then she said something that severed any remaining connection to Sharon and School. Kim said, “Sharon wants you to come into class and get up in front of your friends and be a man.”
Be a man? That’s exactly what I haven’t been: I have been a robot. I said, “Kim, thank you very much, but actually I am a man. Don’t contact me anymore.” I hung up the phone, and from that moment, was officially out of School.
Wednesday, December 28, 2022
The Big Lie: Recruiting
Monday, December 12, 2022
No Talking In the Library!
I spoke recently at the Shelter Island Public Library to a few dozen folks who came out one cold Friday night. Link here. They asked great questions. After all the years of secrecy, its wonderful, cathartic to hear strangers speak openly about the cult.
Thursday, November 10, 2022
How People Fall Into Cults
Three recent comments on Amazon about Manhattan Cult Story from readers. I like. They are on target about how people fall into cults.
Reviewed in the United States on November 6, 2022
Unfortunately, the people who need to read this book won't. Looking back over my life, I can see the point in time where, simply by accident of place and time, I didn't fall into the same trap that it took the author 23 years to get out of. Powerful, insightful retelling of how cults lure people in, keep them in, and make it difficult for them to recover.
Reviewed in the United States on November 3, 2022
Being a New Yorker I am living in the city during the office time The Cult sounded so interesting! I couldn’t put it down.
Reviewed in the United States on November 2, 2022
The author tells an incredible story about his involvement in a cult in NYC which recruited affluent people and his ability to escape, which probably saved his life as well as his sanity.
Monday, November 7, 2022
Oldie But a Goodie
Cult Education Institute is a not-for-profit library run by Rick Ross, one of the leading cult experts in the United States. Courageous and smart, he has been put through hell by the cults he's written about and whose members he has helped. His web-page is exhaustive and he has extensively covered Gans and Horn. Here's a post which appeared back in 2005 about Gans. Written by a former member with intimate knowledge of the group, it helped me to escape.
You wanna know how to escape Alex Horn & Sharon Gans?
You are being preyed upon by phonies-- very clever, manipulative, and charming (when they need to be) frauds. They crave three things-- money, power, and a sense of self-importance-- to excess. Any shred of self-doubt about their motives and behavior disappeared long ago-- they have convinced themselves that they are superior to you and others, further justifying their need for power, money, and self-importance. They manipulate, abuse, and misuse the ideas of Gurdjieff, Ouspensky, Nicoll, and Collin to suit their agenda. I repeat-- they do not serve the ideas, the ideas serve them. They are not conduits for higher influences-- they are self-deluded and power-mad with a long trail of exploitation and destruction of lives and families. They will dangle the carrot of "meaning," "consciousness," and "freedom" before you but at the same time undermine your self-esteem by showing you how mechanical and helpless you are.
Over the course of many years they have surrounded themselves with weak-spirited and wretched lackeys whose real motivation is also the lust for power, money and the need to feel important. The way to get away from them requires both a strong mental effort followed by action. Both will be addressed here.
First of all, you must believe in your suspicions enough to look further into what type of person Alex Horn and Sharon Gans really are. Do some research on your own and study the traits of "malignant narcissism" or "malignant narcissists." This should help to ground your suspicions in what you have observed about your "teachers." Your "teachers" are, according to the traits of "malignant narcissism," fully functioning sociopaths/psychopaths. That's right-- they are insane, but very dangerous so long as you think they have power over you because you continue to believe they are sane. The sad thing about the Work and these wretches is that the "Ideas" you have been studying-- when manipulated by them-- dovetail perfectly with the agenda of maintaining the state of Grandiosity that characterizes them as sociopaths.
How do they succeed? How do they get away with all of this? How do they fool so many people so much of the time? You might as well ask how did Hitler and Stalin get away with their agenda. It is the exact same chilling phenomenon, just a different scale. Hitler and Stalin liquidated people who got in their way or threatened them. Stalin, when he did not make people "disappear" sent them to the Gulags. With Sharon Gans or Alex Horn, when you are sent away you too become a non-person. You are in fact treated as a disease by the diseased!
Look at the following websites: www.geoffmetcalf.com/psychopath.html and www.halcyon.com/jmashmun/npd/dsm-iv.html Ask others in this forum on this website about the substance abuse they have witnessed too: food, tobacco, alcohol, mood-altering medications. Talk about "habit" and slavery!
The way to escape, once you have been convinced enough of what you read here and elsewhere, is simple. But the final obstacle to leaving is being aware of and being able to cope with the loss of all the friends you have made during your stay in the group. This will feel like a big and painful sacrifice. But ultimately they must take responsibility for their beliefs and their lives, too. Those beliefs that you once shared that brought you and your fellows closer to each other will now be the source of a divide. And the ideas that helped create that bond must now at this point not outweigh the evidence that is in front of your eyes-- that Sharon Gans or Alex Horn and their respective inner circles are not really for you. They are parasites and vampires who have successfully exploited you, and you must rid yourself of them even when it means losing many friends, misguided though they may be. Which is worse, remaining in a prison-- in a punitive and demoralizing environment with your companions-- or being out of prison without them? You must make an intentional decision to maintain that they are wrong and you are right. Can you do that? Yes, you can. Have the courage to get out of group-think.
What about "consciousness?" Are you frightened of losing "everything?" Consider this: Is it possible that the phenomenon called "self-remembering" is actually a form of auto-hypnosis? Is it a coincidence that Gurdjieff was a professional hypnotist before "discovering" the Ideas? Is it possible that the power that Sharon Gans or Alex Horn or the other ones has over you and so many others is based on your capacity to reach a semi-hypnotic state that they "teach" you in the first place? By considering these alternative explanations you may strengthen your resolve to get out as fast as you can.
What about the lure of Higher Sex, eroticism, and "sex energy" connected with "self-remembering?" Think about it: if it is possible that self-remembering is simply a way to hypnotize yourself, then it is also possible that the urges you repress that belong to your libido are freed a little bit. Unrepressed libido and "sex energy" are equatable-- yes, it could be that simple. Be courageous enough to think about it.
Again, after you have gotten past this obstacle of leaving your friends behind, the way out is simple: With either Sharon or Alex's group, the only thing that these people understand is force, threats, intimidation, power, and the possibility of exposure. After your last "class" or "meeting," leave pretending that all is normal. Say nothing of your intention and be resolved to never return. Then, when you are contacted by a partner for missing your next meeting...remain vague and inform them that you have decided to leave-- you do not need to give an explanantion no matter how coercive they may be. No, you do not owe them an explanantion! Whatever you do, do not be talked into announcing your departure in class! You do not owe your jailers anything! Tell them that you want no further calls and you are not open to any persuasion. If they persist, remain vague but allude to either an investigative reporter acquaintance at a local newspaper, an acquaintance at the local police department, or a friend at the FBI. Any threat of an authority or potential menace that can expose Alex Horn or Sharon Gans will scare them away for good. Be prepared for a lot of idle threats and violent language though-- that's the last-ditch effort of a so-called Higher Being having a tantrum. In the end, though, it is all bark. Alex Horn and Sharon Gans may be psychopaths but they are also cowards interested only in self-preservation. They will continue to "do" nothing but talk, as they have been "doing" for many many years. If there were such a thing as Sleep, Mechanicality, buffers, and real Conscience in the sense they speak of it, those two and their crowd are much worse off than you-- and incurably so.