Why I left the New American Wing
By Lou Weir
I am married, have two children, and belonged to the NAW for approximately 2 years in the early nineties. Before the 4th way, I have had some experience with esoteric Christianity, and a fair amount of reading in that area. My first meeting with the 4th way was powerful and somewhat disturbing. I had an excitement about the ideas and also a concern about the fact that the people conducting the meeting seemed to be in their heads and not their hearts. I'm not sure what the significance of that is. Later, as I participated in these meetings, I realized that it was probably because of the rote memorization required. Nonetheless, I wanted more of this and I think I became a more or less sincere student.
Meetings were very exciting at first. I had read parts of "The Fourth Way" a few years previously, and not understood it. Now I found it possible to understand it more and more. Eventually my house became a "teaching house" with 2 to 4 additional students living with my family (my wife also had become a student.) School activity became more and more intense. At this time I started to have some misgivings about the process and doubts about myself as well. In retrospect, it took this more daily contact with the school to see what it was and what it meant for me.
I had started to notice some warning signs, but there was a decided lack of interest from the school in looking at the school's potential problems as they might be described by the students. I felt a certain 2nd class status as a beginning student and to a large degree trusted the school. When I brought up ideas which might be construed as criticisms of the school I was photographed as being in feature and usually not answered. After a while, these festered and become a problem. The NAW seems to be highly organized at developing will in the individuals, but with little compassion which I could see or feel. Carolyn seems to have her heart in the right place, but the situations in which the older students find themselves in seem to be out of their league ("beyond their being " in NAW-speak). I found that sometimes the older students would lie to me. It was sometimes about general questions ("where is our teacher's teacher and what is he(she) doing?" Or, "how is the money used by the school?" -- answer "none of your business" or "we hardly have enough to worry about") and other times I had been told that "the teachers want such and such" at times which were untrue.
During this time, I also had experiences which were deep and caused me to appreciate the school. My way of viewing the world changed and deepened. The friction of looking at my habits in detail helped me to see more about me and the world. So, it was not easy to decide to leave the school. Eventually, I had to face the questions which were unanswered for myself and decide whether this process was for me. There is a lot of fear within the students about leaving the school or even questioning it. One thing which gave me hope is that even Ouspensky says that ordinary people can hear conscience. In the final analysis, I knew that it was a decision which would be made from my own heart. The crux issue for me was the lack of support from the school in being a parent. I know that this karmic commitment of mine is important to fulfill and in many ways is an essential movement for me. There is a story in current Zen circles of a couple who asked a Thai master, their teacher, for advice on the upcoming birth of their child. He replied that it was best to go up to the mountains to have the child. (Like in his country in his experience) The couple did as he suggested, and had extreme problems in the birth being away from hospital care, and family. They decided that though he was a good meditation teacher, it may have not been sensible to ask birthing advice from a celibate monk.
Having a rich and fulfilling family life came up from time to time in the NAW. When it did, it was considered a vanity, or at times just another irritant from life . At one meeting Jim K. actually said, with a straight face and serious demeanor, that once a child is over 5 years old or so, all that was necessary was to provide a place to live and enough to eat. As Carolyn K. once said, if you go to the hardware store to for milk, you will be disappointed. As I looked at the others in the school, I could see no older students, admirable in many ways, who had managed to meld the 4th way with family. Abandonment is the primary word which comes to mind. And denial about the pain and misery caused by this and their own responsibility in this. It was painful to see in one student, in particular, the sentimentality around children, which was misplaced love, anguish, and denial around that student's own lack of connection with family. Selfishness was another way to see it. Or perhaps they felt so bad about themselves and how they were that they were somehow doing their children a favor by not being around. Question - Do you think that Jim and Carolyn will eat the karma which comes from ignoring your sacred obligations? My conclusion was that they would not and it was my own responsibility to live with my decisions.
After leaving, it is both liberating and a little scary. There is the feeling of loss, of having been on the path with dedicated practitioners. I missed the people and the events which fed me in a deep way many times. I have looked at different paths and now have a daily spiritual path which feeds me and supports me. It has taken a few years. I have a vipassana practice and belong to The Ridhwan School which, perhaps not coincidentally states that it is a modern version of "The Work". Do you lose all of the being when you leave the school? I experienced that I lost a little, but kept much. Perhaps you reach the level of your own being. I experienced the delight of many realizations while in the NAW, and I continue to experience them, though, frankly, not as often.
The NAW, with its extreme cloistered secrecy, has a decided inability to look at itself clearly and even entertain questions which may be construed as critical. The following are some questions and some random thoughts which may be helpful to think about.
| 1. The superego - This is considered by many to the part of our personality which internalizes the do's and don't's of our parents. As an adult, it is often manifested by telling ourselves that we are not good enough and did not do this or that right. It can be studied and found out that it is characterized by inflexibility, cruelty, and hypercriticalness. "Nothing" is ever good enough for the superego. It will never be happy with "anything" which you do. It may be a significant obstacle to knowing one's self. A closely related psychological problem is projecting. Many times people will lash out against others in a way as to defend their own superegos. (Their own conditioning.) This may be theory, so verify it for yourself. |
My experience in the NAW was that the older students were required to make many photographs and corrections. Though these are to be made from a place of love and respect I experienced it many times as something else. After my ongoing and beginning study of the superego, I suspect that at least half of the time it was a projection of superego. Well, you say, so what? You can always learn from a photograph. I'm not sure, but the taste is wrong and seems to be part of the control structure of the school. I do not wish to belong to a school based, even in part, on cruelty and inflexibility.
2. If you look at the lives of the older students closely, what do you see? Is this something which you aspire to? Is it a life of kindness? (Verify for yourself if there is sentimentality in this inquiry.) When I looked at it it seemed that there were some who have been in the school so long that they had simply exchanged their identification with life for identification with the school. They could not live without the school and sometimes cannot live in it. Are there burned out cases who can not live without the dependance upon the school? (Is that why "life", God's precious gift, is looked at with such disdain?) Are there older students who have given up careers and money and connections to gain something impossible? Are they now allowing J and C to strip them of all their possessions to no end except an inability to live anywhere? If a person has all of these great hollywood experiences and may even be able to say that he or she is more aware, is it worth it to give up your personal responsibility to the school?
3. Why are there no open discussions of the money issues in the school?
To all of you in and out of the school, I bid you Godspeed along the way. Trust your own heart.