Odyssey Study Group
Sharon Gans, Robert Klein
Alex Horn and Sharon Gans-Horn
Other Names of the Group:
Fourth Way School
The Theatre of All Possibilities
Description of the Group:
This is a very secretive and elusive group. They claim to be a Fourth Way school with connections to other esoteric schools in history (especially during the Renaissance) and claim to be possessing knowledge for personal development through Fourth Way ideas. However, the group originally founded by Alex Horn and Sharon Gans in California in the 70s, now operating in New York and Boston, has no link to any legitimate Fourth Way school, branching from Gurdjieff or Ouspensky. The Boston group is lead by Robert Klein. Sharon Gans leads the New York group and has the ultimate control over all the groups and activities.
There is a monthly fee (called “tuition”) that is adjusted for each member (ranging from $250 to $400 per month depending on member’s personal income - some members pay three months in advance), members are required to pay for everything outside of the tuition (i.e. books, meals, items purchased for events, etc.) and also there is “acting” class offered once a month (on Sundays for 6 hours) with a $150 monthly fee (all members are encouraged to take this class).
OSG’s outer group named “younger class” is a pro-social group. It is often encouraged that members should socialize and do things that they feel passionate about within 5-week aims that they state. The amount of time available for leisure and entertainment decreases as students remain in the group for longer periods of time as the demands on their time to complete group recommended /directed activities increases with time leaving less time available for personally directed choices.
It is required to attend all classes and be on time. It is also strongly suggested that members take vacations that coincide with “School” vacation schedule. However, this rule is not heavily enforced. Several times a year members are asked to spend a significant amount of time (20-40 hours a week for a period of 4-6 consecutive weeks) organizing and implementing outside events including “class outside of class” and “Christmas Party”.
There are many rules that all members must abide by. They are primarily around protecting OSG’s existence:
Members are not allowed to discuss OSG’s indoctrination with anyone
Members are not allowed to tell anyone that they are in OSG (including family, friends and spouses, etc.)
Members are not allowed to socialize with other members neither in class or outside of class
Members are not allowed to even recognize other members outside aside from a look (even smiling is not permitted) Regarded as being “invisible” to each other in life.
Members must fulfill all assigned tasks and given “help”
Members are required to keep an hour of silence after each class
Members are not allowed to reveal any personal information about themselves to other members (e.g. phone numbers, address, place of employment, etc.)
Members are strongly encouraged to share issues/problems with their sustainer related to class and their lives (Students are lead to believe that these conversations are confidential. However, in actuality sustainers share information with teachers)
Members are not allowed to talk to former members
Members are required to maintain the standards set by the school for class attendance and participation (e.g. attending all classes, arriving for class ten minutes early, arriving prepared for class discussions, etc.)
Members are not allowed to complete any assignments using the internet
Members are not allowed to share with each other anything in writing without approval from teachers
Members are required to participate in clean up activities related to refreshments provided during class according to a schedule set by a designated member of the class
Member are required to pay tuition – three months at a time in advance and the tuition amount is set by the teacher for each individual member
Members are required to pay a monthly maintenance fee of $25
Members are not allowed to share their tuition amount with other members
Members are not allowed to reveal to select students (e.g. newest members) that members have participated in specific events (e.g. Christmas party) and have read specific books as part of the curriculum.
All members must abide all the rules and “teachers”. Failing to do so is regarded as deficiency in member’s being and attributed to his or her weakness. Not abiding by the rules may result in expulsion.
Members depend on teachers to communicate the sources of material for “esoteric knowledge”. Particularly because members are discouraged to use the internet, television and other media which might be used to discover these sources on their own.
OSG uses profound ideas from many teachings along with ideas that sound profound to keep members in control and they constantly infuse self-doubt, need for purification and need for higher levels (meaning teachers and the school) to help them/show them a new way of thinking about their lives.
OSG uses sophisticated methods to recruit new members. The process is presented to the recruiters (select current members) by teachers as a privilege to help the school and an opportunity to work on themselves while serving a higher purpose (meaning the school). The process involves "making friends" with strangers through a series of meetings initially with the recruiter and then if recruits meet the OSG criteria then further meetings will involve an “older student” to extract more personal information from recruits and determine whether the potential recruit is ready to meet a teacher (in this case, Robert Klein). If the promising recruit is accepted by the teacher (if he or she had made it this far to meet with Robert Klein, they will be asked to join) start as an “experiment” for a month (about 8 classes) to see whether they would like it and want to continue. At that point the newly joined member will be told the tuition amount by Robert Klein and begin paying it( tuition amount changes from person to person depending on how much they make. It ranges from $250 - $400 per month and some members pay three months in advance).
During this process recruiters are not to share any information about themselves with people that they’re recruiting. Each recruit will have a voice mailbox that they will give out as their phone number, use only their first name, has weekly aims to talk to certain number of people or has certain number of meetings, is conditioned to be in recruitment-mode all the time and is encouraged to lie, distort truth about themselves and the school (this is presented by teachers as being “cleverly insincere” and since recruiters are doing this for a higher purpose, it is justified).
The promising recruits are constantly lied to about the nature of the group:
They are told that the group does not have a name
What they say to their “sustainer” will be kept between them and will not be reported to the teachers (every member is assigned a “sustainer” whom has been with the school many years and he/she can talk to this person (“sustainer”) about class experiences and anything else in their life. They are encouraged to do so.).
They are told that like-minded people come together on a regular basis to discuss and study ideas that are important to them.
Gays, journalists and/or anyone with a close connection to law enforcement, the military or intelligence services are immediately dropped from the recruiters list. Trusted teachers offer elaborate esoteric explanations for these restrictions.
OSG recruitment criteria:
Personal income $60K or higher
Be in a transition
Dissatisfied/disappointed with his/her life
Spiritual in nature
Not in therapy
Not taking drugs/medications on ongoing basis.
Not in a relationship with someone who will demand/ pressure for full disclosure of activities. If married, must be willing to keep secrets from spouse.
Willing to follow rules (discussed as willingness to place yourself under a higher influence and be obedient to that influence even when it is unpleasant. Parallels are drawn to King Arthur’s Knights of the round table)
Willing to keep secrets from friends and family (discussed as valuing privacy and keeping certain higher things sacred)