I am writing this open letter to any current "students" within the Sharon Gans' "Fourth Way School," or any others concerned. As a former student, I am aware of the fear, defensiveness and loneliness that often come from being secretive. That secrecy is somehow justified as necessary in order to protect "School"-- which is portrayed as "sacred"-- from those outside the group. I also know how difficult it can be to admit when something is wrong, after having invested so much time, energy and money to support it.
We were told repeatedly that leaving the school would mean losing everything. This would include the loss of my opportunity to "awaken," to realize my "possibilities," to "evolve," as well as the loss of many long-term friendships, which gave me a sense of belonging and community. I was terrified. As a result, it was very difficult for me to acknowledge the inherent problems I saw, and to be strong enough to walk away.
I now know that belief in the integrity of the school's stated ideals is not the same as supporting its conduct. The philosophical ideas Sharon Gans appropriates can and should be separated from her teaching methodology and behavior. In this sense, behavior and belief are distinct and separate categories.
If you feel that something is "not quite right" regarding the Gans school, whether at its "classes" or as exemplified by its teacher's conduct, you are not alone. Perhaps you, like many past students, are feeling unhappy or unfulfilled after years of trying to implement Sharon Gans' teachings.
Please understand that any system that requires an end to meaningful critical inquiry, free expression and open discussion is not about honest dialogue, the free exchange of ideas, growth, improvement and increased awareness. Instead it is simply a system that takes away individual free thought and replaces it with someone else's concept of what your truth should be.
Hopefully, you have read the information collected on this website with an open mind and a "nickel's worth of trust." Most often Sharon's students are told things on a "need-to-know" basis. But now it is possible to easily obtain information to better understand the Gans school, both as regards its actual history and teaching methodology. It appears that the behavior of those "in charge" at the school ironically often contradicts an objective definition of evolution, happiness, and integrity.
Please ask questions. Be brave and investigate, despite the anger and fear you may encounter. You should not feel fear about openly discussing anything that might contradict the opinions of your "teachers." Evaluate and reflect upon everything you have experienced. Do this within the sanctity and privacy of your own heart. This may require breaking free from, and going beyond fear and anger. But if you really are seeking truth, consciousness and your possibilities, it's worth the effort.
There are many students who left the Gans school after completing the process I have outlined above. And we have found real freedom, both within our minds and hearts. Many of us have rediscovered family and friends while also regaining our sense of integrity, honesty and, ultimately-- happiness.
The development of consciousness should not be dependent upon a group or person. Many of Sharon's former students have learned this the hard way. But we found there was tremendous support, encouragement and healing waiting for us. There can be a better life "on the other side."