In 1989 I was 27 years old and had recently made a new friend, a Harvard-educated writer who was ten years older than me and lived in my building. David was bright, erudite and took a keen interest in me, which was both immensely flattering and exciting. Our conversations ranged widely and soon touched on matters of philosophy, religion and the yearning to make sense and meaning from the world. Before long I was invited to join a "study group", an invitation I accepted without reservation.
Joining me that inaugural and fateful night in 1989 was Spencer Schneider, and another recruit still currently involved with the group.
Fast forward to 27 years later. Now 54, I decide to leave the group. Simply put, I had been going through the motions of being a "student" for years, attending largely from a sense of obligation, habit, and fear of disappointing my peers and "teachers". It was a difficult decision, but I knew in my deeper self that it was the correct one.
However I was not prepared for what would ensue.
People who I thought were my true friends and had known for decades - some with whom I had travelled to other countries and had been guests at my wedding (yes, the rules against "fraternization" are bullshit) simply disappeared.
The day I left, I called a teacher with whom I had been close (or so I thought) to thank her for her many years of friendship and support. Her response: "You're sweet," and then she immediately hung up.
That was it.
I had officially been excommunicated.
I reached out to others to say goodbye - my messages were not returned.
In retrospect I shouldn't have been surprised.
I had seen numerous "students" pass through "school" (quotations intentional) with nary a mention of them when they disappeared.
A cult of silence.
A silence that was for me confusing, saddening, depressing.
Fortunately and blessedly I had (and continue to have) a strong and loving marriage, wonderful vibrant children (and grandchildren!) and a rich and diverse group of friends.
All of this helped buffer the painful sense of loss I felt, a sadness still present when I think of certain people I will always hold dear in my heart.
I wonder how some former "students" can cope with the cruel and intentional silence that follows their exit from "school" and its all-encompassing embrace.
I recently read an excellent article from The Atlantic that addresses the psychological effects of the "silent treatment"
In short, the author - to paraphrase - refers to intentional silence as a form of psychological abuse with deleterious effects to all the involved parties.
Silence does of course hurt and cause damage - I know this to be true.
And therein lies one of the greatest hypocrisies and contradictions of Sharon Gans's supposed "school of inner development" that was an integral part of my life for twenty seven years:
Leave and you're dead. Useless. Valueless. Erased. Invisible. Deleted.
This is how "evolved" people behave and treat others?
I encourage anyone with the wish for contact and reconnection to reach out - none of us should be forced to suffer in deafening silence.