Exegesis (group)

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Exegesis, an alternative therapy programme, operated in the United Kingdom in the later 1970s and early 1980s. Exegesis was founded by Robert D'Aubigny, a former actor, in 1976 as Infinity Training, offering "enlightenment and personal transformation" through a course of paid seminars.[1]

The initial seminar lasted for over 3 days and took place in a large function room of a prominent hotel. Such hotels began to refuse the cult access to its services when publicity surfaced about the nature of the cult. The seminar room was blacked out so as to prohibit any daylight entering and all attendees sat in rows and prohibited from talking amongst themselves. The opening lines of the seminar delivered by an assistant was "Your lives do not work: that is why you are here" and "we have your money so it is too late to do anything about any grievances you may have" . Robert D'Aubigny would then introduce himself as the trainer and begin a threatening monologue incriminating all attendees as people who were unable to manage their own lives satisfactorily and thence were driven to admit as much by attending the seminar. The basic premise being that Exegesis would only tolerate those who would admit to being dysfunctional. Anybody who resisted this label of being dysfunctional would not be allowed into the cult. Throughout the course of the following 3 days all attendees were subject to deprecation and humiliation in order to bring them to a point where any encouragement would be welcomed. At the very end of the seminar all attendees were then informed that they were all "amazing" and that they should take what they had learned into the wider world and seek out new "converts". Among the more egregious comments made by the trainer were observations such that everything that happens in your lifetime you want to happen whether you are aware of it or not. Exegesis held follow up seminar series focusing on particular aspects of life such as sex or finance. The sex seminars would involve attendees stripping naked and becoming subject to abusive observations from other members. Anger seminars would involve pairs of attendees shouting at each other with the most vituperative and malevolent observations that could be thought of. Exegesis believed this to be a therapeutic exercise. D'Aubigny threatened that if any attendee ever divulge the contents of the seminars: " I will break your arm: this is not a threat but a promise"

At the outset of the Exegesis training programme, D'Aubigny set out his vision for the future in which he would "transform Society" and stated his aim to become a member of Parliament within "5 years" (from 1980). To this end he arranged for one of the members (graduates) to contest a constituency in south east London for the Liberal party. The Party hierarchy were unaware of this "trojan horse" attempt until the news was leaked to the Daily Mail who published it and made the Liberal Party aware of the machinations of the Exegesis Cult. Exegesis subsequently made no attempt to enter Parliament.

People were encouraged to believe that the seminars were places where encouragement and support would be offered. Instead of which they were routinely subject to humiliation and derision and infused with the belief that only the framework of the Exegesis training could help them.

The Exegesis programme resembled est in consisting of workshops where participants "worked on their personal and individual development" and were encouraged to "visualise their worst fears and problems, then confront them".[2][3] A central tenet of Exegesis asserted one's full responsibility for causing one's problems, instead of entertaining any idea that other factors might have caused them. In its time, the Exegesis programme stirred controversy, with reports that Exegesis personnel physically abused participants in the workshops, shouted at them and forced them to explain their sexual fantasies without restraint in front of the group[citation needed] or stared hard at them directly in their faces.

In 1978, British musician Mike Oldfield underwent Exegesis therapy during a seminar in London, including a rebirthing experience.[2] People[who?] who met Oldfield after he had undertaken the therapy often found that he would stare at them as above, with his face only a few inches from theirs. The part that perhaps left the biggest impression on Oldfield was where he went through a rebirth experience. The course-goers were encouraged to do so. Through this, it emerged that Oldfield's problems all stemmed from him having a distressing birth. He then went through this rebirth experience to counteract it. Oldfield's metamorphosis has been described[by whom?] as "astonishing", a transformation from a "painfully diffident recluse" into "a garrulous, over-bearing extrovert". Oldfield, who has since undergone psychotherapy and taken up meditation, described his behaviour after the programme, which included frequent interviews, nude photographs, flying lessons and a short-lived marriage to D'Aubigny's sister, as "a reflex action... I wanted to try everything, but also stated: "But it was right for me, that's all I know. I felt like I'd turned the clock back and had a second chance. It became obvious to me that all the panic I’d felt was the memory of my birth, coming out into the world."[3]

Greater interest in the programme, arguably due to Oldfield's proselytising, led to the group being investigated by the press and becoming the subject of a controversial television play.[3] British Members of Parliament raised questions in the House of Commons, resulting in an investigation by Scotland Yard. Although the police brought no charges, Exegesis ceased to operate around 1984,[4][3] [5] but re-emerged as a telesales company called Programmes Ltd.[1]

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  1. ^ a b George D. Chryssides, Exploring New Religions Contimuum (1999), p. 372.
  2. ^ a b Richard Carter, "Incantations", Tubular.net (2002).
  3. ^ a b c d Mick Brown, "I know I'm unstable. I accept that". The Daily Telegraph, August 31, 1998.
  4. ^ Terry Kirby, "Caplin 'recruited' for therapy cult investigated by police". The Independent, 12 December 2002.
  5. ^ Jordison, Sam. "Everything you always wanted to know about sects". Retrieved 2 August 2010.