Landmark Forum — Undercover cult
A common device new age products use is the method of keeping their descriptions wafer thin. The Secret mastered the use of getting people to read an entire book under the general guise of the powers of wishful thinking. So when a book, religion, or in this case a self help philosophy can cram in so many jargon words whilst systemically redefining language to bend to the will of its’ creator, success can be a surefire and continuous event.
Landmark Education, formally known as EST, is a self help company featuring the “Landmark Forum” — an intensive, three day introductory seminar. There are numerous (and progressively more expensive) seminars, yet the Landmark Forum is the most widely known first impression to the general public.
It’s creator, Werner Erhard, was a used car dealer who fused Zen philosophy with a healthy dose of American go-get-em’ mentality in the early 70’s. The similarities between Landmark and Sceientology result from the two creators crossing paths before falling out in the late 70’s.
Very generally, Landmark is a self help company. It is designed to be life changing by breaking down a person’s character, with a strong focus on relieving childhood traumas. These altercations apparently have created the person (and their limitations) that exist today. Simply put, Landmark’s aim is to get very very personal, break a person down, and build them back up in the course of a few days.
The results have ranged from breakthroughs to breakdowns, and it should be noted that Landmark leaders are not professionally councilors. This has had some disastrous consequences, as some people relieve such painful accounts as being sexually assaulted as a child, effectively pushing people to their limits without giving them a parachute.
I have two friends who both attended Landmark Forums seperatley, with one being involved for over a year as a volunteer. In a way it’s good to finally see my own personal proof that not every brainwased ex-cult member or extremist religious person are weak headed; these two people are very clever, proffesional and skeptical people. Whilst one was 18 when he attended, the other felt pressured to attend as his new boss was a Landmark graduate himself.
What Landmark Forum have successfully strengthened over the years is the practice of a very short, basic yet powerful brainwashing process, including 14 hour days, repetition of jargon, manipulation of language and a very closed off windowless environment.
They focus on giving truth a very wide berth. “Possibility”, “break throughs” and “running a racket” are all terms repeated and given new meanings, effectively changing the definition and reality of that word. In a very clever way, participants learn to accept Landmark’s reality as their own, and the manipulation of language plays a key role.
I could go on and on ( and have!) about this company, but I just wanted to give you guys a brief understanding of Landmark so you can tell people to steer clear. Landmark Forum is designed to leave a person feeling overwhelmed and lost, and the team members happily point (but mostly push) these people towards other seminars with higher fees.
I’m in the proccess of devloping a short film about something similar, and am intervieiwing the two friends who completed the course. If anyone else has had contact with someone involved I’d love to hear about it. I’ll keep you informed as the slow process plods along.
Here’s a video of a recent graduate. Note how she repeats the buzz words.
Also google this video. It’s hard to find a copy as Landmark sued google video for putting it up there, but I’m pretty sure there are a few random versions floating around.