(Before you read further, make sure you are in a good place and have some Kleenex and/or a good friend you can call. I am offering some ideas that may help clarify what happened to you but you may find some of this very upsetting. If you're feeling fragile you can keep this post for later)
The reason I was a bit cautious when responding to your post is that while I have never (Thank GOD!!!) been involved with any Fourth Way groups (I think G himself was merely a psychic adventurer/adept and a brilliantly successful con artist whose only contribution was to empower other con artists.) But I've read some of the horror stories and done some research.
IMHO the deceit and the game playing that go on in dysfunctional parts of the Fourth Way world are astounding. When you've been taught that anyone outside your group is a robot, that gives a license to manipulate all other human beings any way that the teacher and students desire. want.
No, Midwesterners for the most part will not be able to comprehend the horror of what you've been through. (My mom's side of the family live in Minnesota. I can just picture my uncle gawking and saying, 'You let yourself get pushed around by a someone like that?!') In a way someone has to have gone through the same ordeal or something very similar before they can really understand what you have been through
In his book The Harmonious Circle, James Webb makes a very convincing argument that Gurjieff was a spy for the Imperial Russian government and in that capacity he travelled in Tibet and Central Asia on assignment and appropriated elements from valid traditions like Sufism and Tibetan Buddhism--that that was what enabled him to do all the travelling described in Meetings With Remarkable Men. In those far off days, world travel was difficult and very expensive. But if you were a spy on assignment--that part was taken care of. And the areas where Gurdjieff travelled were espionage hot-spots for the Great Game--the competition between Imperial Russia and Great Britain for dominance of Central and South Asia.
. Problem is the pressures of espionage would subvert spiritual progress--you're anxious all the time, tense all the time, and you're contantly pretending to be someone you are not, while at the same time keeping a low profile or manipulating others. Espionage is not right livelihood--you could learn a lot, intellectually about spiritual practices while living as a spy, but your ego would be so hyper active that you'd make little progress applying those spiritual practices. Whatever progress you'd make dismantling your ego through meditation would be ruined by your next days work as a spy!
So because G was ego driven with a greed for power, he missed the spiritual core of Sufism and Buddhism and the only elements he could appreciate (and steal) were 'power tools'--stuff that empowered his ego and enhanced his charisma. The guy cultivated mystery and mystique and used all kinds of techniques derived from espionage to manipulate and recruit people
The atmosphere inside a bad Fourth Way group is remarkably like that of a spy operation--the spy master, his minions, lying to the outside world, being on a mission, and the ego thrill of knowing stuff that no one else does. Think about John le Carres' Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Gurdjeiff stayed employed by creating a brilliant psychic adventure novel in which a vast, cosmic spy mystery plays out across the eons. The priviliged few who get to be secret agents have all the fun of being 'in on it'. It sure guaranteed that Gurdjieff stayed employed. He still had minions and a purpose in life, even after Tsarist Russia was swept away. He probably half believed his own BS which made it all the more convincing. But the truth was G was not a spiritual teacher at all. His ego, his personality, and his crazy story telling were distractions from the Big Picture and could never lead to the Big Picture.
If you want some help discerning the difference between real spirituality, read a collection of articles by [www.deikman.com
] -- look for 'Evaluating Spiritual and Utopian Groups.' What I like about Deikman is that he is both a psychiatrist and a Sufi, uses common sense. He spells out which states of mind are compatible with spiritual practice and which distract from or undermine spiritual practice. By his standards, Gurdjieff was NOT a spiritual teacher at all-Deikman does not say so, but thats my conclusion.
When Fourth Way groups go bad, they are among the most damaging of all cults. They zap you in all the important areas:
1)mental health (the meditation techniques sometimes trigger dissociative reactions. Even Ouspensky suffered a severe dissociation amnesia when he did Self Remembering following G's instructions!)
2) isolation from mainstream society
3) estrangement from your friends, family and outside interests
4) teaching that empathy and compassion are signs of weakness
5)financial exploitation and (in your case)
6) sexual exploitation
The plain fact is that you were LIED TO--it is standard practice for these people to recruit you in by counterfeiting friendship. People with decent instincts cannot comprehend that certain characters or groups make it a policy to lie their way through life. You were not roped in by novices, but by expert recruiters .
Two, very likely some form of trance may have been used in group work. The self remembering meditation may lead to trance reactions and dissociations. The burden of secrecy is heavy. You were gradually isolated from healthy outside influence. And it is so intoxicating to believe you are on a mission. If you were originally from the Midwest, you probably felt pretty lonesome in NYC and were an easy mark.
I know this sounds horribly depressing but there was a newspaper article in the SF Examiner last year about teenaged girls who are trapped into prostitution in SF. Turns out that many of these young women are from--Minnesota! They grow up in one of the sweetest friendliest places in the USA. They are targeted in bus stations by pimps who know exactly how to exploit their naivete.
All this was described by a Lutheran minister in the Twin Cities who runs a project designed to educate Minnesota girls about the hazards they face if they go to the big cities. Again, this probably sounds horrible to read but I am telling you this to reassure you that you were not stupid, and were not weak. You had a heart and you were targeted and recruited by crooks who were trained and knew precisely what they were doing.
There's also a glittering mystique to Fourth Way ideas. I have no sympathy for G, but always find myself getting a little obsessed when I think about his ideas--even when demolishing them. I think that the man assembled a lot of ideas and symbols and selected the ones that elicited curiosity and induced subtle confusion. When you can target very intelligent people, pique their curiosity, but simultaneously keep their minds from being able to get a clear focus on what the hell you are doing, this is a kind of 'cognitive aphrodisiac'--it triggers craving for a Solution--which empowers the con artist who has created the confusion and promises to teach the solution!
An old biker I met had a bunch of tattos on his arms. (He had left his gang years before). I asked about one of the tattoos. It looked like a geometric symbol. He rolled down his sleeve and looked rather ashamed. 'It is a conversation starter. It makes girls curious.' A man with that tattoo could increase his chances of getting laid.
I mention this story because James Webb makes a case that G studied all the Western occult literature he could get his hands on. He had been a spy--which is all about manipulating people. He had staggering opportunities to travel and make observations. I suspect that G identified all kinds of ideas and symbols that were 'conversation starters'--that picqued curiosity in specific groups of people. And according to James Webb's book The Harmonious Circle, Gurdjieff set up practice in many Russian towns as a hypnotherapist so that he could test techniques on people--he felt entitled to do this. His aim was not to serve and heal all humanity but merely to empower himself. All he could do was empower a long, long pedigree of crooks.
I dont know if this is of any help, and I am not a therapist. All I can say is that it appears that you were entrapped by experts. The only way to escape is by trusting your gut. Problem is, many of us have trouble trusting our guts to begin with. And once you're in a nasty group, you become further estranged from your gut.
Test the integrity of anyone who responds to your posts and do not reveal personal information too soon.