the last cult of England
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Staff of Programmes Ltd, London, England. Dateline: mid-1980′s.
Programmes Ltd. was the UK’s sales prodigy of the time. These people could sell any one most anything, authorised or not: they worked insanely hard and made their association the attention personality in about two years. No consternation they fast won Britain’s tip phone selling award.
Never mind selling – this is about a unusual organisation of people whose story has never been told. If a story of cults in complicated Britain were to be written, these people would be in it. Fact: all or almost all the staff seen here are graduates of the argumentative – some would contend scandalous – Exegesis Seminar. Without Exegesis, Programmes would never have existed. It was these group and women who launched Programmes in Bristol and after London. They fast proceeded to change write selling in the UK. The year was 1981.
Founded, desirous and tranquil by the charismatic Robert D’Aubigny, a master trainer, Exegesis copied the character and calm of Werner Erhard’s est precision – and pushed further. Exegesis seminars were much smaller, more heated and confrontational than est trainings. Once the convention commenced the 4 long days in a road house room, you fast satisfied the tutor was not like any one you had ever met. He, or she, was ruthless. It was as if your diversion was up. You could not hide. Nothing had rebuilt me for it.
Was it disturbing? Absolutely. Was it abusive? Did it go ‘too far’? I never witnessed that. The British media were intensely biased about Exegesis and slammed it as a fraud and worse. I cheerfully disagree.
A male needs a little stupidity or else he never dares to cut the wire and be free.
If anything, I suspicion Exegesis did not go far enough; still, of what use would the most shining precision be if it was so intolerable that the authorities criminialized it?
Active in England and Wales from the late-70s to the mid-80s, with domicile in Bristol and London, whoever was propitious – or cursed – enough to do the Exegesis Seminar, and had the haughtiness to continue it to the end possibly went through ruin and came out transformed, as we used to say, or merely squandered time, income and the event of a lifetime – and didn’t. By normal, required standards it was a irrational and frightful thing to do.
Given Exegesis’ damn-the-torpedoes code of full-frontal experiential education, poisonous media reportage and indirect prominence were all but guaranteed. In fact, Exegesis got such lousy press it led to antagonistic questions in the UK Parliament. Thus, from Hansard:
Full disclosure: I never worked for Programmes. I took part actively in Exegesis. Did I like it? No. I desired it. I hated it. I was preoccupied by it, and at times troubled as well. I longed for to get out, I longed for to stay in. It was as if we were being baked in a cauldron of ever augmenting joining to be entirely here now. My time in Exegesis was priceless, unforgettable. It invited me to believe passion, excellence, total commitment, trauma, grace, and enlightenment. If you could mount it, Exegesis was the shock diagnosis of your hold up (those barf bags underneath every chair in the seminar? They weren’t props). Every impulse was wake-up time: take full shortcoming – no excuses! now! now! now! Committed elucidation graduates were like warriors but a fight – or rsther than the fight Robert had us fighting was no reduction than the age-old devout fight opposite our own copping out, opposite apathy, opposite the fear-driven profanation of life, law and of love.
Your biggest present lies over the doorway spoken ‘fear.’
“The need for law is more dedicated than any other need.”
Well, that was what dismissed me up. Other graduates responded differently. For many, the energy they detected in the convention was shortly deployed in business; in this, Exegesis’ array of communication, and other-themed, seminars were very successful. The applications for sales were obvious, and in Programmes they were put to full use.
Reality check: if Exegesis sounds implausibly gruelling, maudlin and too good to be true, well, it was. Personal firmness was beaten into us at seminars; yet, outside, the Exegesis ethic was to go for results by whatever, uh, worked. Morality was irrelevant: ends fit the means. Even full of health and beautiful critique was in a huff rejected: unquestioning certitude in Robert’s directives and appointees trumped all other considerations. Dysfunctionality shadowed note in a uncanny duet. Largely as a result, devise after devise was launched with high hopes only to go nowhere.
Away from the convention – only, there was no ‘away’ from the convention – there was no shun from the in-your-face final by staff for more sacrifice, more joining and most of all, more registrations. We grunts, called gaspers (graduate partner convention programme: an ultra-committed armed forces of delinquent employees) were not authorised to dont think about that Job One was to get people, thousands, millions of people, the total freaking world! to do the Exegesis Seminar.
"Hello, I want to suggest you this singular event to be humiliated, taken detached and incited inside-out in front of strangers. This is your once in a lifetime possibility to all renovate your hold up and get enlightened."
I mean, come on. You had to be crazy, right? We were!
Yes, I took part in the drive, in 1981, to pitch an choosing in a heavily Labour subdivision of London to our very own candidate, a important lawyer. Unknown to the public, not to discuss the dear old preoccupied Liberal Party, she was in actuality an elucidation staff-member receiving orders from Robert. In the weeks prior to choosing day, busloads of well-dressed graduates from Bristol assimilated London graduates in canvassing the complete borough, doorway to door, clipboards in hand, scripts memorised, removing the answers we wanted.
Using my deafness as an forgive I had at first not longed for to do it, then altered my mind. It incited out beautifully, floating divided nonetheless another old tying belief: "I can’t do canvassing because I’m deaf". Going doorway to doorway assembly all kinds of people (years after I stop how kind they were to give me their time) and asking for their vote, and mostly removing it, was when I first realised my being deaf is, paradoxically, a gift, also an artistic joke, opening me to total listening, but prejudice, a listening that transcends information exchnage and opens to – whoa! – communion. Nothing else but total listening was – is – the answer to the koan of my deafness. How undiluted it was. My universe was rocked! Could I have schooled this by following amicable norms and carrying a required education? Fat chance.
“The deepest turn of information exchnage is not communication, but communion. It is wordless. It is over words, and it is over speech, and it is over concept.” —Thomas Merton
How beholden I am that Exegesis was almost zero like Aum Shinrikyo, or Heaven’s Gate, or People’s Temple, of "drinking the Kool Aid" infamy.
Being unreasonable, risking yourself and you do the unfit was the Exegesis way. That was what I got from my confront with Robert D’Aubigny and his students.
Incidentally, in that choosing the Liberal Party, the Labour Party and even MI5 never knew who we were until the votes were in and it was too late. Exegesis’ claimant came second, almost winning the chair opposite all the odds.
Ah, memories. Yes, I witnessed the climb and tumble of Microlight Engineering Ltd. (made hang-glider-like planes from alien kits), an Exegesis front association in the heart of Bristol’s old industrial district. All the employees were elucidation graduates, together with – fatally – the management. Its too-trusting connoisseur owner was shortly financially ruined… Yes, I was in at the commencement of the powerplays called the Bristol Project (aim: to partisan key people in the city, and grow Robert’s change there) and the Glastonbury University devise (aim: a university precision note or whatever else Robert wanted)
Dodgiest of all – or maybe not – was the ‘Money Seminar’ (Bristol, 1981) in which Robert raked in critical income from us suckers using a one-game casino, week after week… until we wised up and clammed up. How it worked: every connoisseur in the room wrote down their high bid in tip and handed it to a staff-person. The tip bidder won half the total pool. To this day I recollect the horrible look on the face of initiate connoisseur D_ R_ as he schooled that he had won that night’s hitch with his outrageous peril – and that after the classification had skimmed off the large cut he’d essentially get back about half his stake. We all cheered for the winning loser!
While not as untimely as my untimely cultmate I too was taken for a neat total prior to catching on. Ouch!
The wackiest Exegesis devise of them all? No contest: the Total Transformation of Society – yes, this includes you, dear reader – in 4 years. Or was it two? Launched at a much-heralded entertainment of all elucidation graduates, led by Robert himself, in a city-owned gymnasium at the feet of Park Street, Bristol in 1981, it was to proceed with us ‘transforming’ the city, and go viral from there. If I stop aright, Robert spoken the devise a success after two years.
Or was it one? Whatever.
Anyway, every Exegesis devise more or reduction failed, with the festive difference of Programmes. It made Robert D’Aubigny intensely wealthy.
In 1986 Exegesis ceased operations, carrying remade itself into Britain’s tip write selling firm: Programmes.
The people I lerned with in Exegesis still have a place in my heart – you never dont think about your first time! I longed for more, and became rather of a pig for seminars and groupwork in the 1980s. Pursuing my passion for enlightenment, I went to a zen nunnery in California, then on to Esalen Institute, and did the est precision and the assorted connoisseur seminars. At the last est precision and the first Forum in San Francisco, I assisted Werner Erhard. Curious about Werner and est? Check out:
At the same time, I volunteered at The Breakthrough Foundation, an est offshoot, as also the Hunger Project, and the simply conceptual Holiday Project, and as my decade of crunchy cult integrity came to a close, Ron Kennedy’s ‘Man Woman Training’. The last of these I did, in Russia, afforded us horse opera participants the scary fulfilment that we were you do a convention peppered with KGB agents (Moscow, then-USSR, 1989).
No, they did not just get into the groove.
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