Monday, 29 December 2008

Spurious Education and the Year's End...

My apologies for not posting for a while.

Landmark Education has a way of insinuating itself into organizations often without them being aware of what they might be harboring. I have mentioned how some companies pay for Landmark "courses" under the belief that they are truly educational and not preying on people's insecurities. This is often done under the guise of continuing professional education.

It is when the cult starts insinuating its way into the minds of more impressionable people that it turns more insidious than usual. The fact that it runs Landmark Forums for teenagers speaks to the foolishness and recklessness of parents. But when Landmark gets itself into the university curriculum, we should be on guard.

What Landmark tries to do is find a course or module that involves some kind of development work. Many universities have put personal development in the syllabus. The result is that coaches with Landmark backgrounds are teaching undergraduates the basics of the Landmark ideology. For example, see here

Is the university aware of what is happening? And what it is paying for? Highly unlikely. 

I have seen this happen. It enables Landmark acolytes to lend a spurious authenticity to their proselytizing activities by announcing that they have delivered courses to such and such university. 

This is similar to the way Landmark Education has used doubtful management research to bolster its shaky credentials while attempting to prevent any respectable impartial research into its activities.

A Happy New and Free-Thinking Year to all and let's keep the cults outside where they belong.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Lawyers' Ethics and Landmark

Imagine the following scenario. A law firm in a major city undertakes much work in media and intellectual property areas. Clients might be seeking to protect copyrights or attack them. The crucial point is that no other lawyers in the firm should be committed to organizations whose positions might make maintaining that independence difficult.

Suppose then some lawyers in the firm are acolytes of Landmark and might have even persuaded the law firm to subsidize their Landmark courses under the guise of continuing professional development.

Now imagine a client comes to the firm who is being threatened with a lawsuit by Landmark. Landmark is not a client of the firm. What then is the position of the firm with respect to taking on the client?

If the lawyers have disclosed their interests, the firm could say 'we can't accept this client.' But, as is likely, the (Landmark) lawyers haven't made any disclosures, then would the firm be in breach of conflicts' rules.

I suspect it could be since those lawyers would find themselves in a situation where to give the client zealous advocacy could be compromised by their adherence to the defendant organization.

Professional service firms--law, accounting, consulting--should audit their members' allegiances to external organization to prevent such conflicts coming down the pipeline. Or they could face potential malpractice lawsuits. At least, there are challenging ethical issues abounding.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Turn up, Tune in, Transform?

This is one of the fairer newspaper articles on the Landmark Forum that I've seen. Even so, it would appear too critical for acolytes.

Turn up, tune in, transform?

The Landmark Forum claims to change utterly the lives of its devotees - and it is spreading fast by their word of mouth. But are its 'breakthrough' sessions a good or bad thing? Some see it as education, and others as brainwashing. Mary Braid reports

Friday, 5 December 2003

Friday morning rush hour, and 150 young, affluent professionals are piling into a bland office block near Euston station in central London. They appear to be part of that desperate daily attempt to hit the desk before the boss gets in, but this crowd - sprinkled with lawyers, artists, business and City types, as yet all strangers to each other - are all on a day's holiday. They are hurrying to make the start - 9am sharp - of an intensive three-day course called the Forum, run by the American corporation, Landmark Education.

Friday morning rush hour, and 150 young, affluent professionals are piling into a bland office block near Euston station in central London. They appear to be part of that desperate daily attempt to hit the desk before the boss gets in, but this crowd - sprinkled with lawyers, artists, business and City types, as yet all strangers to each other - are all on a day's holiday. They are hurrying to make the start - 9am sharp - of an intensive three-day course called the Forum, run by the American corporation, Landmark Education.

Among the Forum crowd there is a real buzz - a mix of excitement and trepidation. And no wonder. Within this very ordinary building, Landmark promises something rather more special than the usual humdrum day at the office. The Forum course dangles the alluring prospect of complete life "transformation", in just three days.

As the crowd is about to discover, achieving transformation is no picnic. Once inside, the 150, who have paid £275 each for a long weekend's tuition, are directed by smiling course assistants to a large featureless room, lined with rows of hard-backed chairs. The course leader takes up position on a small raised platform at the front of the room.

And so begins the first of three gruelling days that will each last an average of 13 hours, and may run over until midnight. That sounds exhausting enough, but participants also have "homework" to complete overnight. Individual Forum sessions last around three hours. There are only three breaks during the day - two for 30 minutes, and a 90-minute break for dinner.

Mid-session visits to the lavatory or, god forbid, to puff on a cigarette, are frowned upon. (All stimulants and drugs, including coffee, tea and aspirin, are discouraged). Course leaders warn participants that even a few minutes' absence from the room - where the group discuss their personal "rackets" (Forum-speak for the complaints human beings nurse that prevent them achieving joy) - carries the terrible risk of their missing their personal "breakthrough" (ie, a new vision of relationships and life that leads to happiness).

Apart from when they split into smaller workshops, people sit in one huge group listening to the course leader explaining the route to transformation. Participants are encouraged to come down to the microphone and share their most intimate problems.

These days, in professional metropolitan circles, everyone seems to know someone doing the Forum. The Forum leader, David Ure, says that the course, which arrived in the UK in 1991, has seen a spurt of growth in the past two years, and is now so popular that Landmark runs two or three 150-strong forums a month in London, as well as occasional course in other parts of the UK.

Doing the Forum allows you to buy into a whole Landmark world: there are special weekend courses for children as young as eight, with parental permission; courses for families; and a series of advanced courses for individuals that can cost double the price of a Forum weekend. From next year, Forum "graduates" will also be able to find a flatmate or an employee on the Landmark website. Landmark already offers a dating service. Mr Ure says 5,000 people a year are now doing the Forum.

It is unlikely, however, that many know anything about the Forum's roots. In fact, its basic ideas were borrowed from "est" (Erhard Seminars Training), a self-awareness movement that took California by storm in the 1970s, and once counted Diana Ross, John Denver and Yoko Ono among its devotees. Est, founded by Werner Erhard, a former car and encyclopaedia salesman, was a controversial group which folded under the weight of a huge scandal.

What is surprising is the ease with which the young, generally liberal and intelligent London crowd seems to adopt Forum language and comply with Forum rules. Jane, a 40-year-old manager, says that she seemed to be the only participant on one weekend to find the "school" rules, didactic platform tone and Jerry-Springer-style public confessions, pretty unbearable. Like most participants, Jane was introduced to the Forum by a friend. Landmark encourages its "graduates" to persuade family and friends to attend a free introductory evening and claims that 90 per cent of Forum business is generated this way.

It might have been her lunchtime glass of wine, her unauthorised fag breaks, or being four minutes late back from a break, but less than a day into the course, Jane was asked to leave because of her "attitude". "I just thought it was funny to hear some other adult talk to me like I was a child," she recalls.

Course curtailed, Jane missed the "breakthroughs" that occur midway through the Forum, when participants are encouraged to phone husbands, siblings, parents and other loved ones with whom relations are poor. These emotional reconciliation calls often come late at night, during "homework" hours, and are in line with a central Forum message that participants should not let their past determine the shape of their future. The bleary-eyed recipients of Forum calls are usually assailed by declarations of love and forgiveness, and invited to Forum "graduation" - a couple of days after the course.

Jane still laughs at her lone rebellion. But she stresses that her fellow course-mates took the Forum extremely seriously. And there is an army of Forum graduates ready to swear that their lives have been utterly changed by the course.

When Landmark was asked to put up some satisfied customers for interview, there was a surprise. Esther Freud, author of Hideous Kinky and great-granddaughter of Sigmund, stepped forward. Freud started doing Forum courses last year. "I went along because a friend of mine was so transformed by it," says Freud. "She was so much happier and more energetic. One day, I was moaning about something and she said that the complaint was my 'racket'. She was right. I was at a great stage in my life, but I was stopping myself from enjoying it."

Freud says that she was suspicious about the Forum before she took a course, but did not do any pre-course research. "I wondered whether they did it for the money, or whether it was an attempt to brainwash us," she says. "And my partner was a little nervous since he had heard of someone doing it years ago and leaving her husband. I was unbelievably cynical the first time I went. When someone stood up and became emotional, I thought, 'where did they get him from?'.

"But I would say that the Forum has pretty much made all my relationships better. The Forum is about 'getting present' to how incredibly short your life is, how precious it is, and how precious people in it are. Lots of my friends have done it."

But not everyone is so impressed. Disaffected participants claim that they were "brainwashed" by Landmark, and relatives complain that loved ones have been so altered by Forum "transformation" that their personalities all but vanished. Ian Howarth, of the Cult Information Centre, says that he receives regular calls of concern about the Forum. The Forum's detractors include Laura, whose executive husband was taken along to the Forum by a business colleague.

"After just one day on the course, there was a complete change in him," she says. "Some women might like it if their husband suddenly started saying he loved them all the time, but I found it scary. It just wasn't David. It was as if everything that made David what he was had been taken away and replaced with this happy, smiley person. He was weirdly euphoric and animated. Then he became very depressed.

"I did some research and I persuaded him not to go back, but he suffered panic attacks for a long time afterwards. He had to see a psychiatrist a couple of times." Laura and David claim to have counselled scores of disaffected Forum participants.

They include Julie, a 28-year-old advertising executive, who was introduced to the Forum by a best friend three years ago. "She had been at me for ages to go along, and I've always been a bit of a New Age bunny so eventually I went." Julie completed the three-day course but was persuaded by her boyfriend, alarmed at the change in her, not to graduate.

"During the first day, we were asked to talk about our most painful experiences," says Julie. "One girl said she had been raped by her father. She was told to ask herself why her father had done that. The Forum tries to get you to put a different interpretation on things. I went home so sad and so drained.

"Next day, the leader asked us all to sit with our eyes closed and conjure up a painful memory. He then asked us to imagine that we were each on a packed London Tube and everyone was looking at us and was out to get us. I can remember feeling terrified. All around the room I could hear these terrible screaming sobs; I realised that I was crying too.

"Then the group leader said to us that it did not matter. He said that there was a funny side, and the funny side was that we were not alone. And he laughed and then people who had been crying laughed, too. I also laughed. It sounds mad now but I went home euphoric. I told everyone I met how great the course was. By then my boyfriend had all these printouts about the Forum from the internet, but I wouldn't listen to him. I felt that I had been to the deepest, darkest place and had come out feeling great. I wanted the feeling again; not going back felt disloyal to the group.

Julie says that she was called and texted by Forum organisers after failing to turn up for graduation. "They said my boyfriend was trying to control me," she says.

Esther and Julie - it is as if they are speaking about two entirely different organisations.

Mark Kamin, who handles Landmark's PR out of Texas, describes the Forum as "a philosophical inquiry into the way we look at life". He rejects absolutely that it is a cult, or that it employs any cult-like mind-control techniques. With 125,000 people in 54 cities across the globe currently "doing the Forum" each year, and annual earnings of $58m (£34m), Landmark is understandably sensitive to the allegations.

Kamin puts the adverse publicity down to a sensation-seeking media. He disagrees that Landmark's connection with the now defunct "est" - Landmark was founded by former est members who purchased Erhard's "technology" (in layman's terms, ideas and methods) - is partly to blame, but it is hard not to conclude that Landmark picked up some of the smell around est along with Erhard's ideas. Est was, after all, accused of using harsh control techniques. And est folded after scandal engulfed Werner Erhard. Erhard was accused of abuse by his daughters - at least one later recanted - and tax fraud. Mark Kamin points out that Erhard never faced criminal charges on either accusation and that he eventually successfully sued the US tax service for $200,000 for wrongful disclosure.

Kamin says that Erhard has nothing to do with the organisation now and that his "technology" has been developed and modified by Landmark staff. Kamin denies that Erhard receives any income from Landmark, but he confirms that Erhard's younger brother Harry is Landmark's CEO.

Landmark fights hard to counter cult allegations. Kamin cites the 1999 study by Professor Raymond Fowler, then executive vice-president of the American Psychological Association, who attended a Forum course and reviewed the methods that Landmark says it uses to screen for the emotionally unstable. Fowler said that he had seen nothing harmful. "The Forum is not a cult or anything like a cult," Fowler concluded.

Fowler pointed out that cults generally have charismatic leaders, and cult members tend to remove themselves from their families. He found neither of these features in the Forum. Esther Freud also insists that the Forum has no cult characteristics. She says that she is nicer to her partner, the actor David Morrissey, since starting Forum, and a better mother to her two children.

Dominic Richards, a property developer and presenter of Home Start on Channel Five, says that attending the Forum in 1995 helped him to build bridges with his parents. For a decade, they had found his homosexuality hard to accept. "Now, they go on holiday with me and my partner," he says.

That doesn't chime with the experiences of Alex, a London-based media worker, who says that his family was shattered when four relatives did a series of Forum courses a few years ago. "They were down-to-earth people. Then suddenly they were phoning their parents and siblings at 3am in distress, talking about how much they loved them and offering to pay for them to do the course, too.

"My relatives were hooked in for ages and spent a lot of money. They even tried to get their teenage kids involved. Everything was 'a racket'; you could not even suggest that they were being manipulated. They lost interest in the Forum in the end, and, in the long run, I don't think that it did them any mental damage. But it was a terrible worry for the rest of the family."

But Esther Freud remains convinced "that the people who run the Forum genuinely want peace in the world". Richards, who has done five Forum courses, sees the same good intent. "A room full of smiling people who all think life is great is always going to be odd," he says. He adds that the Forum fills a 21st-century gap. "There is so little community in modern city life. The Forum creates a sense of community with which it is good to touch base."

Julie sees it so very differently. She argues that the London crowd doing the Euston Forum have no idea of the danger they are in. "I think that the Forum can damage mental well-being. It's basically a pyramid selling scheme. The irony is that they aren't selling anything tangible. There is nothing real there."

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Dalai Lama Does Landmark!

Rachel Jones does a neat job on exposing the phoney academic studies Landmark uses to allegedly support the efficacy of its work at She also probes Landmark's continuing links to Eberhard Weber, the founder of est. (Don't forget that Landmark's licensing agreement with Weber expires next year.)

But the best and most hilarious part of the article is that David Ure, one of Landmark's Forum "leaders" ran a seminar for the Dalai Lama and 300 monks in the foothills of Tibet. When Jones contacted Tibetan exile officials, she was met with a form of "What the @#%& are you talking about?" Apparently she couldn't get David Ure--now in London--to discuss this monumental claim. I wouldn't be surprised if this is not the reason that the Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. How could he have done it otherwise?

I have seen Ure in motion and I can imagine him actually saying something as outrageous as this. He is conceited enough to believe his own hype--foolish and stupid with a kind of elemental cleverness.

Friday, 12 September 2008

Q: What Exactly is the Purpose of Landmark? A: It's a Racket

Most people get sucked into debates about Landmark's brainwashing techniques. This is important because of the consequences to individuals and relationships. Yet the most important issue is often sidelined.

Landmark Education is designed to make lots of money for its owners. Nothing wrong with that perhaps, but when you are running what is basically a pyramid scheme something is very wrong.

Landmark charges high "tuition fees" for its courses. They are designed for you--the punter--to keep buying more of them. No single course is ever sufficient in itself. The result is that Landmark is reportedly earning around $70 to $80 million a year.

It has two more tricks it uses. The first is that the punter must bring along new recruits. If not, there is chastisement. The second is that punters are expected to volunteer their time on the phones and at meetings. Landmark has very few employees. This is why Landmark falls afoul of various countries' labor laws.

Landmark likes to target professionals--investment bankers, lawyers, and other financial types--because, to paraphrase John Dillinger, "That's where the money is." These are people who have been high achievers and will feel questioning about the value of what they do.

So on the one hand, there is a spiritual vacuum or malaise, and on the other, there is the cash to allay it. Landmark has identified its market targets with supreme care.

What is most surprising is how gullible these professionals are at the hands of a sophisticated organization like Landmark. Their gullibility leads them into questionable behaviors. In the French TV documentary on Landmark, a medical doctor who graduates from the Forum is shown describing how he is telling his patients to attend the Forum because that will cure their ailments.

This is a clear breach of ethics in any society or profession and should be sanctioned by the professional body.

So ask yourself, have you been approached by your lawyer or doctor or accountant or banker and asked to attend a Landmark meeting? Have you been told that it will be the best thing you could do for your life? Whether you are a client or friend or both, the one who asked you was behaving unethically at your expense.

Can you really trust the judgment of professionals who behave this way and who are so gullible, to really put your interests ahead of any other? Anyone who has been in this situation should have serious, serious doubts. Because they are putting Landmarks profits ahead of you.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Is It Worth Doing the Landmark Forum? Is It a Racket?

Buster McLeod has produced an interesting take on the Landmark Forum. As he says, "Mostly, what I got out of the Forum was a collection of very expensive new works and phrases."

Here's his report and the comments following: 

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

do the landmark forum (read all 2 entries…)

Worth doing!

What I learned at The Landmark Forum: The story slows you down  — 1 year ago

The Landmark Forum was fun. It was a fun weekend trip. Probably almost as fun as visiting a new exciting city, except this city is in your mind. Muhahaha. You notice things that you’ve probably thought about before at one time or another, but they string it all together and package it all in such a way that it feels more tangible. Plus, you paid for it. They constantly remind you about the cost of the Forum, very deliberately I think. You paid $425, and offered 3 whole days of your life. Using the pressure of prior investment, you feel strongly compelled to get ANYTHING out of the Forum, even if it’s just a few phone calls where you tell your family and friends that you love them. Once that happens, it’s difficult to feel like you didn’t get your money’s worth.

Mostly, what I got out of the Forum was a collection of very expensive new words and phrases. Here are some of them:

  • Inauthenticity: Being false with someone in order to avoid or gain something. Doing something for a reason.
  • Blind spot: Something that you don’t know that you don’t know. Your set of blind spots has more control over you than the set of things you actually do know, or even know that you don’t know.
  • Racket: A persistent complaint with someone or something that leads you into a habitual way of being, thinking, feeling, or acting.
  • Strong suit: One of your strengths. But the quality that makes you strong and productive will sometimes be used in such a way that it will hurt you.
  • Being unreasonable: Being reasonable means being controlled by your reasons. You may feel compelled to find reasons before you can do something. Being UNreasonable means doing something simply because you are doing it, taking responsibility for it, and enjoying it as it is.
  • What’s happening vs. the story: There are two universes… one in which things are happening (words are passing through the air as soundwaves) and another in which a story is created about what the soundwaves mean. In the story, the past and future are very prominent (motivations, intent, expectation, attitude). And in what’s simply happening, there is only the present, and an constant stream of new moments, each complete in itself.
  • This is not the truth: The Landmark Forum is very explicit in stating that nothing they’re saying is the truth. They claim to have created a POSSIBLE way of being that they’ve found produces results, and works in a practical way for people who want to live more powerful lives. It gave an easy out for any arguments that seemed to fall apart to just say, “oh, but this is not the truth, it’s just a possible way of being”. It is a good safeguard against getting too attached to the philosophy though.
  • Extraordinary problems: Extraordinary people have extraordinary problems. There is an endless cycle of problem -> solution -> problem -> solution that you can’t get out of… the only thing you can do is choose bigger, more exciting problems to tackle. Problems that you don’t want are really just boring problems.
  • Life is empty and meaningless: Their mantra is that life is empty and meaningless and it’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless. Yes, we are meaning-making machines that fill the emptiness with whatever meaning we can invent. I like the second half, which many people trip over. The resulting mindset isn’t one of futility or depression or hedonism but rather the opposite: feeling free, excited, inspired, and ready to face life.
  • Transformation: To be transformed is to realize that you can invent yourself as one of an infinite number of possibilities, limited only by what you can invent, and your ability to not be driven by automatic default behaviors. I think every field of self-help advertises this truly free way of being. The difficulty of getting it to stick is their business model.

Being transformed means you feel free, keep your word, don’t need to be right, are straight in your communication, acknowledge but are not controlled by your fears, responsible for what’s happening, don’t scheme or do things for ulterior motives, and share with and inspire others.

What I learned

I think I learned about the costs of living in a story. You know how in a movie, people are shooting at you, or you’ve fallen in love, and you have to wait 2 hours to finally die or fall in love? I remember when I was playing paint ball with some friends, I would start the game and within 30 seconds I’d be dead (usually shot right between the eyes by my friend’s father who was a retired cop), and then I’d have to wait 15 minutes for the next game. I remember feeling that there was something wrong about that… I never would’ve died that quickly if this had been a story in a book, or a movie. We’ve come to expect life to be a movie… for it to begin, build up, climax, and end. But in reality things just happen. The less we try to make things stick to a story, the quicker they can happen. I needed a story to get divorced. And a story to start a company. That’s being reasonable to an extent that it actually slows me down. I should just do things when I do them, and not spend months or years on “reason-gathering” missions.

What stories am I currently gathering reasons for? I can think of several. Some of them are as simple as getting my eyes checked. The period between deciding to do it and actually doing it can be months simply because I’m waiting for my story to create an opening for it. It’s why we’re all procrastinators. Things get done according to an invisible timeline, often because of deadlines, and when there are no deadlines nothing gets done. Because the story just goes on and on like War and Peace. Things can happen immediately. Screw the story. Stop being ruled by reasons.

Would I recommend it?

I guess I would recommend it. It’s definitely a cult, so there’s always the danger that you might get caught up in it and give them all your money (that’s all they’re really after), but if you like cults and are careful you can gain a lot of the benefit without becoming dependent on them for a sense of purpose in life. That would be madness. And, anecdotally, a lot of people do get caught up in the madness it seems. So, if you’ve got a cult-sensitive personality, or tend to only feel at home in a big supportive group, I might stay away. Lost souls and cynical bastards will find it sort of weird and fun. Our “coach” was a bit of an asshole, though, so if you go to the one in Seattle, I’d love to hear your impressions of him.


Great summary. I have so many thoughts about this experience and I really need to find a moment to write it all down. I totally had moments where I felt caught up in the madness myself and found myself considering advanced courses in order to sustain the high, even while a little mouse in my brain was whispering, “Maggie, are you crazy?” I felt part of my brain becoming “Landmarky” even as I resisted it.

But after a couple days of distance I am also starting to see some of their techniques as very transparent—for example, now “being unreasonable” seems like it is just a way to combat all our excuses for not signing up for more classes.

However, I can’t deny that I had a couple of what I suppose would be called “breakthroughs” (perhaps better described as moments of clarity) and that I felt intensly happy and peaceful on Sunday night and Monday morning, and I felt a really strong connection and ability to express myeslf with you on Sunday. The question I am left with is, can I sustain that kind of attitude without the high prices and cult-like atmosphere of Landmark? Maybe all it take for me to feel connected to you or other people is a few words of acknowledgment and a couple glasses of champagne? Hmmm.

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

I think being unreasonable is a good thing to strive for as long as it’s coming from inside yourself rather than as a pressuring tactic. They were inconsistent in their unreasonableness… for example, not signing up for the free seminars wasn’t allowed to be considered unreasonable.

And yeah, I think we can by-pass the expensive route by just paraphrasing it into our own words and continuing to talk about the things that are useful.

We already have our own phrases for so many of their ideas. I should make a list:

  1. Enroll -> Rally
  2. Being unreasonable -> Accept all offers, in it to win it, stop dilly-dallying
  3. Extraordinary problems -> Higher highs and lower lows
  4. Meaninglessness -> That’s absurd
  5. What’s happening -> Now this is happening
  6. Give up “there’s something wrong here” -> Be the thing

I know there were others. I think these phrases are the way you can keep good ideas in mind. And champagne.

be the thing!

well, not going to the free seminars is pretty reasonable using their definition—after all, I did not “accept all offers.” I understood “be unreasonable” to mean something more like “no excuses.” No excuses for not calling your ex-boyfriend, no excuses for not signing up for $1000 classes.

you forgot my favorite—be the thing! Also, I know it is not our phrase but “creating possibilities” is intent manifesting and they also mentioned the concept of the the zeitgiest.

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

Oh yeah...

I meant for that last one to be “be the thing”.

And yeah, an unreasonable person would just say, “I’m not signing up for the classes because I’m not signing up.” It’s as easy as not giving a reason. I can see how this could easily be abused though. It’s very similar to the infuriating “Because I said so” of our youths.

Fantasic Summary

I think you did a good job on this summary. It’s funny because I can read it and understand exactly what you’re talking about, but I wonder if that’s only because I received the same neuro linguistic programming.

So, it’s been almost exactly a year since I started my ‘life of transformation.’ I want to dispel the idea that you’ll somehow forget what you learned or the feelings you had upon exit. I’m sure the metaphor will sound familiar, but it’s like riding a bike. You’ll never forget it.

For better or for worse, you now have access to a way of thinking that will never go away.

However, you will have breakdowns, and you will have rackets, and you will have cynical and resigned moments. The thing is, now you can call them what they are.

Over time the Landmark stuff and my own personality/beliefs/philosophy have worked themselves out. Most of my exceptions where the ones you mentioned. The hard-sell, the exploitation of emotional high, the cult-like recruitment tactics, were all things that bothered me from the beginning.

However, it certainly changed my life for the better, and I don’t have any problem recommending it to people I feel are ‘strong enough.’

The thing that helped me the most with this settling process was a single big realization:

The Landmark Forum is a ‘racket.’

Buster McLeod is feeling crazy

You’re right, it’s totally a racket. I realized that I love running into rackets. It’s sort of like running through a car wash.

hey Buster -

I did the Forum back when I was in high-school.

My dad got into it back then, and my stepmother is actually a Landmark seminar leader.

anyway, it’s cool to know other cool people I respect have done it as well.

I loved it!

Yeah, sure there are moments when you think “What the hell?!” but overall it was the most powerful and inspiring thing I have ever done and I cannot wait to start putting everything into practice!

I originally did it 2 years ago and have just done it again this weekend where I got x50 more out of it! I have a lot of time and respect for people who have taken the plunge – it takes guts to do something like this, but once you do, I don’t think you’ll ever regret it. xx

Nice post thanks

When they announced that everyone who had not signed up for further seminars should go to the back table for consultations (badgering)...
all of these people dutifully reported to the back tables.


share some stuff

I have been in breakthrough and break down situation for the many time. I was breakdown for 2 days and never thought that breakthrough will come back. any do you have any trick for bringing this feeling back?

Saturday, 6 September 2008

How Landmark Legitimates Itself

One of the keys to Landmark's success is the missing element that is in its name. How do I mean this? 

If you google Landmark, what comes up is "Landmark Education". Most forget that second tag. But it is this that enables Landmark to worm its way into the heart of conventional thinking and organizations. And when you have an array of "graduates" from your courses, respectability looks promising.

Universities, for example, are keen on promoting personal self-development plans for their students to equip them supposedly for the workplace. This is precisely the opening that Landmark seeks to insert its programs.

Even law firms without their full knowledge are supporting Landmark with lawyers earning continuing legal education points for taking their courses. But remember, Landmark IS NOT ACCREDITED BY ANY SIGNIFICANT EDUCATIONAL SPONSOR.

Because Landmark uses a variety of volunteers who work with them and their own organizations it eases the process of introducing Landmark techniques into the legitimate workplace.

Added to which we see how graduates can overstep the line when they start to suggest to clients  (I know lawyers who have attempted to sign up clients) or patients (as did the doctor in the French documentary). This becomes unethical.

Friday, 15 August 2008

What Are the Concerns About Landmark?

Here is a brief survey from Apologetics Index.

What Are The Concerns?

A Landmark critic sums them up as follows:

To round things up, everything in short:

A friend/relative tricks you with the most sincere words into attending an introductory meeting, while appealing to your trust and curiosity, or actual weakness, or all of the above.

Group pressure techniques and wordplay are used upon you and at least 100 more people in 3 days, during which, proper rest and natural needs are denied from you.

Overwhelming. Might lead to personality disorders. The Forum becomes the most important thing, not its outcomes. You might become a zealot for the Forum (without even registering for the advanced courses), or addicted to it by registering for more, or both. The real effect, most importantly, is economically beneficial to the Forum (unless, of course, you lose your mind and sue them...)

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

What is the Landmark Forum Really Doing?

Scaring the bejasus out of people for one, especially when they start their racket on "fear". They say they are providing tools, a new technology. But this is bullshit.

As some have spotted, much of what is said in Landmark forums "...being the potential of...." and so forth, comes straight of Heidegger or Gadamer. So it's a jargon based on philosophy and some sociology. (Bourdieu always argued that sociologists were truly therapists. Little did he know.) In acquiring that jargon, as in any field, one feels empowered and different. Or I should say distinguished or distinctive.

Being able to talk a jargon isn't in itself a way of living. I've found if you read enough about what goes on in Landmark, after a while it's easy to pick up the jargon and use it. Does it matter if it's being used "authentically" or with "integrity"? Not really, because no one could distinguish one from the other. After all, that's what makes a con man so effective. (Sociological note: read Goffman's Asylum for a real analysis of a Forum.)

It's the use of this jargon or language which gives the self-rightous air to some. When some family members have gone this way, they can be dismissive of others because they justify all in terms of their jargon. An explanation by someone can be dismissed as "running a racket". Refusing to see the "light" means you are committed to your "strong suit" and therefore not open to the "possibility of transformation". Change by the way is negligible. What counts is "transformation"!

This stuff isn't hard to learn. Spend a little time and you too can fun with your Landmark cultists! Go on, jig them around a bit!

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Landmark Cited in Religious Discrimination Suits

The blog, "The Truth about Human Potential Seminars", has a disturbing post on employees of Growing Generations, a sperm bank and surrogacy company, being compelled to attend Landmark Education courses contrary to their religious beliefs. A number of lawsuits against GG have been filed.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Can Landmark Cause Suicide?

Lars Bergwik, a former Landmark devotee and "Introduction Leader" in Sweden, talks about how Landmark operates by breaking you down until there is nothing and reconstructing a persona that is smaller than the original but controllable by them.

He also discusses how psychological disorders can result after participation in Landmark courses, even the possibility of suicide.

Here's his talk:

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Legal Tactics by Landmark to Suppress Criticism

Landmark are tenacious at suppressing criticism even that which does not violate law. This video describes how they work.

Electronic Frontier Foundation on Landmark Education DMCA

Abstract: November 8th, 2006 interview with EFF lawyer, Kurt Opsahl, on EFF's defense of the Internet Archive from the Landmark Education DMCA Subpeona. Landmark Education subpoenaed the Internet Archive, Google Video and YouTube to reveal the identity of who uploaded the France TV 3 video on the Landmark Forum. Attribution: For more information on the background of the video, do an internet search for "Why did Landmark Education Leave France?". The French program was titled: "Voyage au pays des nouveaux gourous."

Marion in Wonderland Doesn't Do Landmark

Marion in Wonderland ultimately refused to take the Landmark Forum. Good for her. She gives a useful list of relevant websites. Here they are:

Below are some of the websites I visited, both pro- and anti-. Hopefully you will find them a useful aid to making up your own mind.

Tom Hume’s blog - an interesting post, with lots of comments which led me further, to The Truth about Human Potential Seminars / Total Group Awareness Training Truth - two sites for a blog apparently set up to debunk Landmark.

The Skeptic’s Dictionary entry on Landmark.

THE FREETHINKERS PAGE - a rambling personal account with lots of interesting comment - anyone who quotes Frank Zappa is ok with me.

Apologetics Index - another site investigating Landmark, which seems to anticipate harassment and feels obliged to print all sorts of legal disclaimers.

The Scoop About the Landmark Forum - a fan site

What’s the deal about Landmark Education? - a broadly favourable site, hosted by “psychology professionals” (sorry, my bias is showing)

Cult Awareness Information Centre (CAIC) - a general site providing information about a large number of cult organisations. This page in the site gives access to “Journey to the Land of the New Gurus” - a French TV documentary about the Landmark Forum.

The Rick Ross Institute investigates a number of organisations, including Landmark.

A Personal Memoir of the Landmark Forum "Brainwashing"

In a video called, "brain washing in a godless big business cult", a woman tells of her experience in a Landmark Forum. You can hear the hurt, the distress, the fear in her voice. I felt distressed after watching it, but I knew it was heartfelt.

There is one point at 6 minutes in when she describes a particular episode in the weekend Forum. Participants are told to imagine their greatest fears and that those around them are also creating fear. The Forum leader shouts at them and harangues them until many break down and sob and shake. Many others have focussed on this particular point in the Forum as one of its most destructive moments. Here's her video:

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Some Really Praise Landmark

It's clear people do get something out of Landmark courses, so maybe it's not all bad?

Here's one example of a positive experience from Carrie & Danielle:

Five Ways Landmark Education Impacted My Life

  1. Landmark Means Leaving your Past Behind

    Before Landmark Education I experienced the world based on my past experiences, many of which I considered disappointing. After Landmark Education I create my life based on what is possible - versus my past. This was was revolutionary for me. I remember sitting in my chair and feeling years of criticism and judgment drop away. That little voice in my head saying I was worth less than my twin sister…I let that go. I was moved, touched and inspired to create my life. My past did not define me.

  2. Landmark and Confident Communication

    I learned to communicate more clearly and powerfully. I gained confidence in expressing my concerns and I am more comfortable resolving issues personally and in business. Sometimes I feel nervous but I don’t let fear stop me. I would rather live in a few moments of discomfort in order to create a greater ease and momentum.

  3. What is Your Story? Victim or Victorious?

    There is a difference between fact and “story.” What do you receive from constantly complaining about something? We get to be right and make someone else wrong. As long as we can blame someone else for our disconnected relationships, shitty jobs and weight issues we don’t take responsibility. This was monumental for me, I realized how much drama I had attached to my stories and although some were truly traumatic, I left the Landmark Forum without a heavy story weighing me down. I was committed to leading a more authentic life.

  4. Your Word Is Your Wand

    Be accountable to my word, for the sake of honouring myself - not out of fear of criticism, or looking bad, or disappointing my father. Doing what you say you’re going to do is a way off self respect, and you learn that you can depend on yourself.

  5. What Is, Is.

    Complaining about the weather is futile. The weather just is.

Why I Have Set Up Ant-Landmark 2

Doing Landmark Forums and advanced courses has fallout. Members change their lives dramatically, often destructively to those close to them.

Weber says everything is peeled away until there is nothing. Therefore there is no truth but only multiple interpretations, an infinite array of possibilities. Life can be constructed anew. History is bunk.

If this is so and you don't like something, get rid of it. We know anecdotally that members have divorced, quit jobs, left families, and more after doing Landmark courses. They are on a high where anything is possible. We also know that oftentimes they come down and wonder what the hell they've done with their lives.

They've been brainwashed. And they are left bereft.

I have an interest because my wife decided that her possibility was to divorce me because she had not been honest with me in our relationship. I have to live with aftershock. I still am.

Why I Have Set Up Ant-Landmark 1

If you are not with Landmark, then you're against it--automatically. In my case my ex-wife joined it. She tried to get me to join and a number of her friends. None of us took the bait.

The way she explained it made the Landmark Forum seem quite benign. The Forum is a three day marathon affair which takes place in room with no windows where the participants are under strict instructions only to do what they are told. This includes when you can use the bathroom, drink and eat. And since it runs from early morning to around midnight, there's a hefty dose of sleep deprivation also. Even at home the participants must do homework which cuts their rest periods to the minimum.

The Forum entails abuse, harassment, and humiliation of the participants to wear them down. France 3 TV made an undercover documentary of a Landmark Forum in Paris, called: Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus.

You can see the documentary here, where it's hosted on the Cult Awareness & Information Centre. The transcript of the program is here.

The program was made in 2004, so it's current. It shows how Landmark uses cruelty and bully tactics to get its way. It refused to discuss the program and indeed has persisted in trying to shut down websites that host it or link to it.

Once inducted members are persuaded to sign up new members, as I've said, and also take more advanced courses, at considerable cost. These courses cost hundreds of dollars.

Why Anti-Landmark is Necessary

Have you ever been part of the Landmark Forum or been affected by it? Maybe a family member or friend has taken part in their introductory forum. I know how you feel.

Landmark exists to induct people through a form of brainwashing that means that Landmark can do no wrong. But everyone outside, those who don't participate in Landmark become strangers to the insiders.

Landmark derives from Werner Erhard's "est", which was an attempt to break people down over a period of three days in a closed environment with little sleep and food, so they no longer believed anything except what they were told.

Landmark continues to do this today. The purpose of Landmark is to get its members to bring in a constant stream of new members. This activity is often given out as "homework" to course takers. This is the way Landmark continues to make its money. It's looking for suckers and it finds them.