My Relationship to Leverage Research

Posted by Lydia

This blog post will describe my relationship to Leverage Research. My primary intention is to make myself available, as a potentially helpful resource, to people who were part of Leverage 1.0. I’ve been encouraged to do this by people who were involved in Lev 1.0 who know me and my past work.

This post is aimed at subcultural insiders who have been tracking the Leverage situation. If you’ve never heard of Leverage Research, then this post probably isn’t the place to start, and you should probably move on with your day.

If you’ve never heard of me, there’s some information about my past work here. And here are some specific ways I’ve been asked to help:

  • As a listener — and/or as a spiritual/psychological caregiver — for ex-Lev people who would like to tell their stories privately;
  • As an editor for those who would like to tell their stories publicly. 

I may also write up the broader Leverage story someday, because I think it’s an important story that deserves an in-depth treatment. I believe that the tale would be best told by someone with both access to the Leverage folks and a similar type of psychological experience. There aren’t many experienced professional writers who fit that description — I might be the only one. I know that the fact that I could eventually write a broader thing could make it harder for some people to feel safe talking to me — and that’s why I’m stating this up front, so that it doesn’t surprise anyone. But I care more about supporting each ex-Lev individual than I do about telling the broader story of Leverage Research.

As such, I want to be clear about where I stand on this: I will not reveal information about what happened at Leverage without (a) getting consent from the people involved and/or (b) completely anonymizing their part of the story, which may include fudging or even lying about identifying details to protect the people involved. Many people in the Leverage Psychology program suffered a great deal, and I have no desire to compound their suffering by non-consensually revealing it to a hostile world. 

I first heard about Leverage Research in 2016. Over the summer of that year, I had experienced a major spiritual transition that moved me from agnostic to a believer in God, magic, and miracles. As a result I was spending pretty much all my time researching spiritual practice. Leverage initially came to my attention as a group that was exploring some of the questions I was. However, although I had immediate opportunities to get involved with the org, I simply tracked rumors while keeping my distance.

The reason I kept my distance was that my boyfriend at the time was a survivor of the Church of Scientology. The rumors we heard about Leverage pattern-matched to his hard-won understanding of abusive cults. So, although I was very curious about Leverage, it didn’t feel right to get myself closely involved at the time.

Then recently, over the last few years — 2019 through 2021 — I started making friends who’d been employed at Leverage. This initially occurred via a series of coincidences. I met one person through a book club and another through a political discussion group, for example, and I didn’t realize they’d been at Leverage until months into those friendships. Thus it became clear that I gelled remarkably well with most of the ex-Leverage people I met. And this has continued to be (usually) true as I meet more ex-Lev folks.

One reason I seem to gel with the group is that I do everything I can to be rigorously empirical in general — but especially in my spiritual practice, which is in some ways indistinguishable from my psychology. My style of spiritual/psychological empiricism is a thread of inquiry I share with a lot of Lev folks, particularly those who were part of Lev’s Psychology program. This ultimately led to me picking up some of Lev’s techniques and frames of reference.

Simultaneously, I also care about harm reduction and trauma care, and I’ve been trained in related disciplines. For example, I was trained as a rape crisis counselor in my twenties. I also did a fair amount of work in public health, and as a social justice activist. (My training was with the Chicago organization previously known as Rape Victim Advocates, now Resilience; I served as a public health volunteer in the Peace Corps HIV program and in other spaces; and I wrote extensively about feminism, sexuality, and consent under the pseudonym Clarisse Thorn.) While I no longer strongly identify myself with a social justice worldview, I still want to support trauma survivors and help where I can. 

As I became closer to Leverage people I began to perceive, through the lens of my spiritual practice, that many Lev employees sustained trauma during their time there. My perception of this trauma initially took the form of identifying “demons” that were visible to me within my spiritual framework. A “demon” can be defined as a personal trauma pattern, and interacted with as a psychological structure; alternatively, within some spiritual practices, “demons” can be visualized and interacted with anthropomorphically. 

I first began encountering “demons” connected with Leverage 1.0 in late 2020, and I have now worked on them with several ex-Lev folks. Eventually, the word “demons” was publicly connected to Leverage in Zoe Curzi’s writeup of her time as an employee, which she publicly posted on Medium a couple months ago. I don’t know Zoe, but the facts in her description align with what I’ve heard from others, although opinions vary about the objective reality of demons or whatever.

I realize that some readers will find my language here frustratingly vague, and that some will want more details about what I perceive and do when I interact with this stuff. Unfortunately it’s incredibly difficult to write precisely about spiritual, energetic, or whatever-you-want-to-call-it phenomena. If I ever develop this story for a broader audience then I will do my best to tell it in a way that is compatible with both a “spiritual” mindset and a “physicalist” mindset. (I don’t love these words and am open to suggestions for better language.) With these caveats in place, I can at least offer information about the standpoint from which I interact with these things:

I was raised Unitarian Universalist. I am now working from a paradigm that is heavily influenced by both Buddhism and Christianity; other influences include various New Age practices. I am familiar with the Western mental health paradigm — I took my first college-level Psychology class as part of a gifted youth program when I was thirteen years old — but I have no professional therapeutic training and I generally prefer spiritual frameworks to the DSM. I’m happy to share details about my spiritual psychology with people who were employed by Leverage 1.0, and additionally, I will try to answer comments left on this post whenever I have time. Some of the Lev-related skills I’ve picked up include internal linguistic conventions, and attentional pointing (which I believe to also be present in at least one Taoist energy school); but I have not gotten very involved with techniques like charting, or debugging, or with the overall connection theory framework.

I bullet-pointed some ways I’m offering help to Leverage 1.0 employees at the top of this post, and here’s the list again, with further details:

• I can literally just listen to your version of events, as a person who takes it all seriously, and doesn’t dismiss the “crazy” parts.

• I can offer active spiritual/psychological support or intervention (only if you want it — I’m more than happy to just listen).

• I can help you tell your story for a broader audience. This might mean that I help edit a piece you’ve written, or it might mean that I interview you and help get the interview transcribed. Again, I won’t publish anything about your experience without your consent, and if I ever use your quotes in a future article then I’ll give you the opportunity to review quotes before they are published (which isn’t normal journalist practice, but this isn’t a normal journalistic project).

I should note again that I’ve already had extensive discussions and developed friendships with some Leverage 1.0 employees. In the interests of full disclosure I will further note that I went on several dates with a former Lev Psych employee in mid-2021, during which we had some minor physical contact, and the conclusion of those dates was extremely amicable. In short, I care deeply about a bunch of ex-Lev people — just as I cared about my fellow travelers in the Latitude Society, and about the people I described when I was writing about sexuality as Clarisse Thorn — which essentially renders any potential project I could do here as “deeply entangled feminine caring gonzo journalism,” a non-standard form that I feel demands higher standards of consent and transparency than standard journalism.

One of the people I’ve become acquainted with is Geoff Anders, the founder of Leverage (NB: those dates in mid-2021 were not with Geoff, haha). Geoff began realizing that I was holding a unique Lev-related space in early 2021. I’ve done some minor psych/spiritual work with Geoff, and he and I have been occasionally meeting up and discussing my relationship to Leverage since mid-2021. The possibility was floated that I get paid directly by Leverage, both for the spiritual/psych work I’m already doing, and for potential future writing or editorial work. I greatly appreciated this offer, because I know it comes from a sincere recognition that what I’m doing is valuable, but ultimately I don’t want to distort my incentives in favor of Leverage leadership — therefore, I have no intention of taking money from Leverage in any form. In other words, I’m handling my relationship with Geoff in much the same way I’m handling my relationships with other ex-Lev 1.0 friends, and I don’t report to him.

With that said, this work is time-intensive, and any community support would be appreciated. If you’re interested in supporting my work financially, then currently the best way to do that is to either subscribe to my magazine The New Modality, or donate to my media organization; you can even write the donation off on your taxes! (A friend asked why I’m not asking for direct donations to myself. You can certainly send me money directly if you want. But there is more pre-existing monetary infrastructure for my org, especially if you want to get something in exchange for your support, or if you want a tax write-off.)

If you were at Leverage 1.0 and would like to talk, I’m available at [my full name at gmail dot com]. I get a lot of email! Please put the word “Leverage” in the subject line so it catches my attention 🙂

Moderation Note: Comments on this post that insult or degrade anyone, but especially Leverage employees, will be deleted. Comments that disclose private information about Leverage employees without their consent will be deleted and the IP addresses banned. Please try to be kind and respectful, and treat this space as an oasis.


May the benefit of these acts and all acts go to all beings everywhere. May the frightened cease to be afraid and those bound be freed. May the powerless find power and all beings seek to benefit each other.

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