Reading Prophetic Charisma by Len Oakes will probably help you make sense of all this and dispell a lot of the mystique.
Sounds like Michael gave you all 'hits of energy' to attract even more energy from you as a group. Its interesting how you mention that the energy behind the teaching was more important than content.
This very long URL will take you to an article on a Google discussion group. Its about how people got addicted to energy surges produced by a particular yoga cult. The ability to foster energy or an intense atmosphere is a neutral skill and can be learned even by charlatans. The ability to foster intensity does not prove that someone is enlightened. But few know this.
I am convinced that when someone is charismatic and mysterious, he or she is using it to hide some major deficit in being an ordinary human being. People who feel secure dont need to be charismatic.
Living the kind of cloak-and-dagger existence Michael lives, is a sign of a frightened person playing smoke-and-mirrors games.
Michael may have started out with clinical credentials and therapeutic training, but he lacked the attitude needed to be a true professional. The nature of professionalism is to honor privacy without being secretive.
Professionals stay connected--they need a network of colleagues, continuing education. Isolation runs counter to professionalism--to be a professional is to be a member of a community.
A professional also makes it clear who his or her teachers are, and is happy to produce up to date credentials.
A professional, in short, does not hide.
Our Zen Center library has a list of clues that a person is becoming more conscious:
Two of them are:
An increasingly clear understanding of the difference between privacy vs secrecy.
Choosing to refuse participation in the roles of dominance/submission on offer in various theaters of cruelty
Professionals and genuine spiritual teachers honor and protect privacy--but they are not secretive. They particpate in the free exchange of & testing of ideas (science + scholarship) and secrecy kills both science and scholarship.
There are also two kinds of power:
Power that is enhanced by sharing it so that as many people as possible are empowered (More people you can play with on equal and enjoyable terms!)
Power that remains potent only by being kept secret, and in the hands of one or just a few people. This breeds hierarchies and perpetuates 'various theaters of cruelty'.
Michael's preference for secrecy is a sign that he was, despite his training as a therapist, not a professional but in essence on a narcissistic career. It takes a huge amount of energy to live in a secretive manner--energy no longer available to just be human. And a fetish for secrecy would sabotage genuine enlightenment anyway. Even if Michael was enlightened, his secretive cultmeister lifestyle would have dissipated that enlightenment very quickly.
Amy Wallace notes that people were forbidden to ask questions in Carlos Castaneda's group. If you are forbidden to ask questions, you must anxiously monitor the leader for cues. That means your energy is powerfully focused on the leader --and away from your own inner wisdom. Leaders can get addicted to attention, like vampires. So if someone forbids you to ask questions (like who are you, did you serve time in jail, did you study with other teachers?) that's a power play, right there.
(It would be interesting to know whether Michael did serve time in a penal institution--it might account for hiding his name and his determination to avoid leaving a paper trail)
Damned interesting that Michael got some of his material from Gurdjieff work--Gurdy's ideas (and his entire career) have been a rich quarry for many, many crooks. Gurdjieff fostered a very unhealthy atmosphere of secrecy, mystique, made huge claims to authority, yet his material could not be fact checked. He even claimed that humans were so dense that the only way to convey the truth to them was through lies. He created an atmosphere that has been disastrously attractive to hustlers and crooks.
This site is for people who have been members of another 'under-the-radar' group. It may have similarities to yours and the sidebar articles are superb.
There are two other bogus groups, the Sharon Gans group and Renaissance. Rick Ross's archives have a ton of material. You may get some validation by reading through it, though you may shudder, too. Its possible Michael got some of his ideas by associating with these people.
The atmosphere of shared intensity and the comraderie of belonging to a seemingly noble project are hard to walk away from. Ordinary 'civilian' life can seem flat and dull by comparison. I felt that way after leaving a borderline cultic sector of the peace movement.
And if some of Michael's material derived from Gurdjieff work, you may have been told that the group was your only shot at waking up, that people not 'in the work' were just robots or 'meat-machines' and if you leave, you'll just be settling for a animal level existence.
The tough thing is that all the emotions that made us vulnerable to recruitment, may be waiting for us, unresolved when we leave, which can double our sense of failure and tempt us to believe that we made a bad decision to leave, because we seem to feel so very much worse after leaving.
You're not deteriorating, even it it feels that way. A frostbitten limb doesnt feel pain. But when circulation first returns and that limb is in the early stages of healing, the pain is tremendous and its tempting to think, 'God, I was better off being frostbitten'.
Early recovery can feel like total regression and flunk out. Its very important to stay steady and not panic. You'll eventually ride this out and stabilize.
If you like, there is a very old fashioned book that I have found helpful in my Zen practice. It links body and body work with awareness pratice and gives precise instructions on how to tell you're waking up. The title is Hara: The Vital Centre of Man by Karlfried Graf von Durckheim.
Its out of print and you may need to go to a main library and request it from storage. Even people in Gurdjieff work use this book as a resource (and probably find it a relief because the author writes lucidly and was evidently a kindly, non manipulative person who was crystal clear on where his material came from--no mystique or mumbo jumbo)
Durckheim's material was high quality. He never became fashionable, his books went out of print in the US quite quickly, and its possible that a lot of spiritual teachers have appropriated his material without giving him credit.
Most cults incorporate excellent material along with the crud. Using Durckheim, you can identify the good material and jettison the cultic crud. Deikman's articles will help too.
Durckheim wrote another book The Japanese Cult of Tranquillity (best to read the Hara book first) and he says that what the Japanese sought to learn from various masters of martial arts, fine arts, and Zen practice was, how to return to stillness--an inner core of personal truth that was alive and vibrant but ran deeper than language. You did not get addicted to a teacher's energy; you worked with that teacher to discover your own energy, connect with your own capacity for stillness.
Its significant that the Japanese masters all served to transmit a tradition--they were not isolated, secretive or self aggrandizing.
Dave Lowry, an American master of Japanese martial arts has a collection of essays entitled Moving toward Stillness. Its an easier book to find than Durckheims. In it he describes how he treasured opportunities to practice with different masters--that even to be thrown in aikido by one master was an opportunity to feel the man's energy.
Lowry's teachers never fostered mystique or adulation. And they all served a lineage that could be verified, they were all part of a pedigree that could be traced. And their skill was something to be developed and passed on to the next generation, not something to be hoarded.
If you read Lowry's essays, you'll see how far short Michael falls when compared with a mature and genuine tradition of awakening.
If you are not currently in a partnered relationship, be careful if you're dating. Leaving a cult is like a heavy divorce and you can be 'on the rebound' without realizing it.
After realizing how I had been manipulated, it took me about 4 years before I get get a stable understanding of how it all happened. Only after I was clear on how and in what way I'd been manipulated, was I able to begin looking at my blindspots without takng all the blame for what happened.
If at some point you are considering therapy, only work with a therapist who has had training in working with persons in cults. You were in a secretive, 'under-the-radar' esoteric group, which is a different kind of cult experience from the kind suffered by those in groups that are well know for obnoxious recruitment drives.
There's a ton of information and support groups for persons who are recovering from well known cults; because these discreet groups are smaller, have fewer members and garner less publicity, there's much less validating info available for someone who has crawled from the wreckage.