hunches for you to mull over, concerning this group:
You said that part of the doctrine seems to be that there are seven levels of human development. Here are remarks from a person who studied Gurdjieff/Fourth Way work in England. Her comments seem to jibe with what you have described:
'The Gurdjieff concept, which Ouspensky had accepted, was that several levels of 'man' already exist, from the primitive to the technologically advanced, and these had been labelled Man Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4. The effort required was to develop Man No. 5, an increasingly conscious man, more in control of his own destiny than the lower states. But beyond this, there must also exist in theory, Man No. 6 and Man No. 7, both of them slightly nebulous concepts of higher states of being.'
This link describes a toxic Gurdjieff type
] See if it feels at all similar to the way 'Michael's' group operates. He may not be 100% Gurdjieffian but may have swiped at least some of his material and operating techniques from that 'tradition.' Ive noticed that G-groups often call themselves 'spiritual' but they often get unhealthily pre-occuppied with magic, psychic powers, and vest a dangerous degree of power in the leader, who is percieved as a Magic Mommy/Daddy--all this actually interferes with spiritual work, rather then helping it.
And it prompts regression in many followers, who become childishly dependant on the teacher. It also inflames greed and ambition in other students-who often defect and create their own bogus groups, so as to compensate for their years of servitude. As a result, teachers often become paranoid, knowing that today's talented senior disciple often becomes tomorrow's rival. The Gurdjeiff/Fourth Way scene is full of squabbles--and it has spawned at least 3 generations of crooks and con artists. Each crook tends to introduce his or her own modification of doctrine. Michael may have cooked up a new recipe.
The persistent bias of Gurdjieff/Fourth Way work is its students tend to see themselves as special, set apart from unevolved yokels like us. If Fourth Way doctrine is modified, the teacher is often drawn to material that has mystique and esoteric glamour-- psychic energies, occult entities and powers--stuff that authentic spiritual teachers consider distractions and of little importance.
Some Fourth Way teachers have became interested in Hindu and Tibetan gurus. With rare exceptions they gravitated toward kept hidden and reserved for advanced practitioners--material that appealed to those with greedy egos and an elitist bias. The elements in Hinduism and Buddhism that involve the practice of wisdom and compassion and service to all sentient beings are usually ignored or downplayed; People in this tradition look for sets them apart and above the run of humanity, rather than what connects us with humanity. 'Invitation Only' is the magic spell.
IF Michael is running a bogus Fourth way group, one of the worst features of this tradition is its doctrine that ordinary people are 'asleep' are nothing more than robots, entitled to no compassion, kindness or ethhical concern on the part of the more highly evolved student of the Fourth Way. Persons in toxic Fourth Way groups are taught that they can ignore conventional ethics when dealing with the world outside the group--and that the teacher is exempt from ordinary ethics or social accountability. Nasty.
This site gives a valuable glossary of Gurdjieff/Fourth Way jargon and some articles [www.jmccabe.com
] See if any of this stuff resembles what Michael is doing.
It appears that Michael may be running something that is less an LGAT than a therapeutic community/personality cult, perhaps peddling some esoteric doctrine. These groups can go on for years if members are pre-screened carefully, skillfully recruited, and if they are taught to behave in a manner that 1) avoids scandal and 2) conceals their group involvement from friends and family.
Problem is that set ups like these can be toxic
1) You're constantly milked for money
2) Your entire social life may be gobbled up by the group, leaving you terrified to imagine leaving/or being kicked out
3) Certain meditation techniques taught in the group may foster paranoia and in some cases make people more vulnerable to involuntary trance/dissociation
and those who do leave (or are ejected) may find themselves disoriented, bereaved, socially isolated, spiriutually and in some cases financially impovrished.