This is a staff list for Landmark Forum in San Francisco, CA
(a.k.a. Landmark Worldwide, Landmark Forum is Headquartered in San Francisco, CA but offers intensive overnight seminars that last between 3 and 7 days around the world including, but, not limited to: Thailand, Florida (USA), Texas (USA), India, Minnesota (USA), Pennsylvania (USA), Utah (USA), New York (USA), Canada, Georgia (USA), Illinois (USA), Colorado (USA), England/United Kingdom, Australia, Washington State (USA), New Jersey (USA), Israel, Missouri (USA), New Mexico (USA), Netherlands, Washington DC (USA), Massachusetts (USA), Germany, New Zealand, Michigan (USA), China, Japan, Arizona (USA), Turkey, Wisconsin (USA), Ireland, Oregon (USA), Maryland (USA), South Korea, Scotland, Kenya, South Africa, Brazil, North Carolina (USA), Mexico, Connecticut (USA), Greece)
(we are working to acquire the complete records for ALL years)
We advise current and/or former staff to report any abuses you may have witnessed while working at Landmark Forum/Landmark Worldwide. For information on your rights and how to take action, visit www.heal-online.org/blowthewhistle.htm. If you were fired or forced to resign because you opposed any illegal and/or unethical practices at Landmark Forum/Landmark Worldwide, you have the right to take action.
If you were harmed (family or survivor) by Landmark Forum/Landmark Worldwide, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you remember the long-term employees and from which years. This will help! Also, if you recognize any of these staff as having worked at another program, please send in any information about their past or present employment at other facilities and/or cults.
HEAL has received multiple reports stating this program is a "cult" and should be avoided.
|Dr. Joe DiMaggio||Research Director|
|Udi Ipalawatte||Leader/New Zealand|
|Matt Kerr||Leader/New Zealand|
|Zoe Masters||Leader/New Zealand|
|*(Landmark Forum/Landmark Worldwide, like many other programs in this industry, keeps a "tight lid" on any specific information regarding their staff, qualifications, and practices. Please contact us with the names of any staff of which you have firsthand knowledge or experience. Thank you for your help.)|
|Special Note: Landmark Forum/Landmark Worldwide
claims to have over 700 "leaders" indoctrinating people into their
pyramid scam/cult. We have not yet gathered the names of all these
"leaders" and will update as soon as possible. We appreciate your
Also, while Landmark Forum/Landmark Worldwide is not a long-term residential program, it operates reportedly as a cult and many of its victims have asked HEAL to include it on our watch-list. In addition, Angel Hayes of Passages to Recovery (an Aspen Education Group residential facility on HEAL's watch-list) was deemed qualified to work for Aspen Education Group after completing Landmark Forum's "Landmark Education's Core Curriculum". So, there is a connection to the programs on our watch-list with this cult.
|TEDITION US THE BLOG 03/05/2008 12:10 pm ET Updated Nov 17, 2011 Inside The Landmark Forum By Karin Badt 200 “You’re lying. You don’t love your daughter. You just wanted her to keep away from men because you were rejected by men. You ruined her life, admit it, for your own selfish purposes. If you want to help her now, you can go kill yourself. No, that’s not good enough. Get cancer. Make it last for 29 years so you suffer and die.” The woman on the stand bursts into tears—“Yes, I am a bitch,” she admits—and the leader of the Landmark Forum, Alain Roth, leans forth in victory on the stage. She has “cracked”: a breakthrough moment. This scene begins the 2004 French Channel Three report on the Landmark Education Forum in Paris. Reporters hiding secret cameras had snuck into the Landmark, a self-help program launched in 1991 as the successor to Est, after Werner Erhard, the founder of the organization, escaped from the United States a millionaire, to avoid possible imprisonment for tax evasion. It was this TV program that closed down the Landmark in France, leaving it only 24 other countries in which to spread its word. Seeing this TV program, I was curious whether the French reporters had themselves manipulated the presentation of the Landmark or whether this organization, revered as “life changing” by so many professionals and associates I knew in the US, was truly the amazing fix they claimed: a three day seminar that can jump-start a new life. One woman in the US said it made her confront her mother, who had beat her, after 20 years of avoiding all contact. Another woman claimed that if I had only participated in the Landmark Forum, my relationship with my partner would have been saved. There was a reason to give the Landmark the benefit of the doubt. The Channel Three program—which circulated on YouTube, until the Landmark subpoenaed the site and got it suppressed—seemed to carefully select its scenes of abuse and brainwashing, out of context. It was edited with racy soundtrack music that made it sound like a spy investigation. And it also reflected a French bias: that radical self-confrontation was always already a suspect activity. Quite frankly, it did seem true that the woman on the stand had manipulated her daughter. What could be at stake was a re-evaluation of the meaning of “parental love”, unsettling cherished French clichés about how relationships worked. I arranged with the Landmark Education Forum to take the seminar in London with Sophie McLean, a charismatic 47 year old French Moroccan, self-proclaimed to have once been a socialite, jet-setting from party to party until she too, at age 33, took the Landmark course and realized she wanted “to contribute to society.” Sophie would be the ideal leader to learn from: she is the official spokeswoman for the Forum. The first day was inspiring enough. 150 participants sat in a pleasant room in downtown London and listened to Sophie give a humorous lively presentation of the Landmark’s key tenets. We learn that most people perceive their future in terms of their past, using past traumas to interpret and predict what will happen to them in the future. “The problem with most people is that they put their past where their future should be,” smiles Sophie, elegantly dressed in a ruffled green shirt and midriff blazer. She draws three circles on the board, with past, present, future, and adds arrows to show the absurd reversal of time: a distortion the Landmark claims to solve by day three. She brings up Citizen Kane as an example of a man who lived his future in the wrong direction, ending his life back where he started, obsessed with his childhood sled. Already it seemed that Channel Three had unfairly presented the program as a cult using brainwashing techniques à la Taliban in Afghan internment camps. The TV announcers had said the room was purposefully darkened with no windows, that people were not allowed to go to the bathroom except on a limited break during the entirety of each twelve hour day of the three day weekend, and that eating, except for one evening meal, was prohibited. I had come ready with candy bars in my pockets and a small flashlight for light recuperation, to avoid my own brainwashing. The truth was that we had breaks every two hours, at which point I stuffed myself with delicacies at various local London diners. Having a restless syndrome, I also excused myself to the bathroom every half-hour. While the shades were drawn behind Sophie, giving the focus on her form, behind us the London daylight, or its simulacrum, kept us aglow. Perhaps the Forum had changed its Draconian techniques since that TV program. But it had not changed its method. Participants were invited to the microphone to present their problems, and while speaking, Sophie would begin to smile, circle closer to the participant, look them up and down with a steady glance, keeping her two feet firm on the ground, a rather effective theater technique, and then suggest: “tell me what happened to you when you were seven. What happened that is similar to the way you are treating your husband now?” One by one, participants who had been complaining about their husbands, mothers, employers, children, began to realize how unfairly they were dumping their resentments from childhood onto everyone around them. Without exception, each participant would burst into tears and realize what a “worm” she or he was. Sophie teased them humorously. “When you die, the tombstone will read, X was abandoned at a school one afternoon by her parents, and her life has been a revenge on that moment ever since. The end. What a worm you are.” The smile would disarm the participant with its evocation of tough love, and the concluding statement was always a heartfelt: “thank you.” How could one argue with these basic tenets of the Landmark Forum? We all know how we approach new situations with prejudices of the past. Many theorists have even developed whole systems of thought from this premise: Freud, for example. Besides Sophie’s interrogation at the stand had none of Alain Roth’s nasty brutality in the TV program: no suggestions to throw oneself over a bridge or get cancer. This was a lot milder than I expected, and even helpful. The tenets are prologue to practice. The main activity of the Landmark is to make—not urge—participants to apologize to the people around them for the “rackets” they have dumped on them. A racket is a state of being, Sophie explained, a story one tells oneself where one is a victim in a permanent state of complaint. We are constantly affixing “stories” to events rather than seeing the separation between “event” and “interpretation,” and these stories are usually based in our self-righteous feeling of being wronged. Homework assignments were to call our loved ones and apologize for the years of victimology; coffee breaks became the cherished moment to make phone calls to parents and friends. By Sunday, participants tearfully explained in testimonies how they had made breakthroughs with family members they had not spoken to for years. One husband of a participant even came to an evening session to thank the leader for giving him back his wife. There was nothing too objectionable about a program that has as a result reconciliation in relationships, as well as a new commitment to responsibility for one’s present. Philosophically, the concepts are too sensible to be controversial. Forgiveness is a key feature of most of the world religions; so is living for a clean present. The idea reiterated by Sophie throughout the program, that one must have integrity and honor one’s word, cannot help but make anyone feel like a better person. So where is the rub? Why has the Landmark been subject to so many lawsuits and claims of being a cult? The most criminal aspect of the Landmark Forum’s insistence on its methodology is precisely that: its insistence on its methodology. I clocked two hours the first day devoted to “spreading the word” of the Landmark forum as a sign of the participants’ “integrity.” If they had integrity, they would, like Martin Luther King or Mahatma Gandhi, take courage to spread the beliefs of the Landmark Forum to all their friends, enroll them in the program, get them to come to the famed Tuesday night ending ceremony for their free introductory session. I clocked four hours devoted to this subject on Saturday. I clocked the first three hours of the Sunday session to the subject: including suggestions to bring our children for special youth landmark forums geared to get them started early in the Landmark, at age fifteen (alone) or at age eight (if accompanied by a parent). Yes even little ones have rackets. Participants, having heard the argument drone in their ears for 9 hours in a period of 72, began to cheer and smile as they raised their hands to say they too had the courage to stand for the Forum. This was brainwashing. I began to clench my fists in the back as I heard the conflation of Martin Luther King, integrity and the Landmark Forum. I now went to the microphone, and asked my question. I had noticed that all questions objecting to the Forum were turned into problems of the self: the ad hominem argumentative strategy seemingly working on all 150 participants, who cheered as any person with an objection was pushed to confront the fact that their own lives were a wreck, from whence came their question. A woman objected to what I considered the most objectionable exercise: the participants had been asked to close their eyes and imagine being afraid of their neighboring participants, then the entire group of 150, then all 7 million of London and finally the 6 billion fellow creatures on the planet, an exercise that had turned into mass hysteria of crying, sobbing, calling out “mommy mommy!” in regressed childhood voices, this until Sophie invited them to laugh, to reach the conclusion that while these 6 billion were frightening, imagine how afraid people were of you! Think of the bombed people in Iraq—aren’t they afraid of us? The crowd, on command, burst into hysterical howls of laughter, aching belly howls that went on and on and on, an event which frightened me far more than my 6 billion co-inhabitants, as a demonstration of how easily mass emotion can be created, just by urging one to recall primordial fears. The woman who objected to the hysteria was asked if there was “something behind her question”: perhaps a further disagreement with her estranged husband? Perhaps her own inability to stand up to her beliefs, or honor her breakthrough in the previous session about how she was being a worm in her marriage? The woman burst into tears and thankfully agreed: a new breakthrough! I snuck into the stall next to this woman when she took a bathroom break and told her I thought she had been manipulated. The woman said she did not care. The insights she had gotten about her relationship were far more important. Then I went to the stand. I noted I agreed with the basic tenets of the program, but I questioned the slippery propagation of these tenets: the idea that these tenets were original to the Forum, rather than an intelligent hodgepodge of the best of East and Western philosophy; the evangelical emphasis on telling our friends; the insistence that integrity should be applied to us spreading the word of the Forum, rather than to beliefs we already had developed in our lives and professions. Finally, I questioned the odd apolitical bias of the program. Martin Luther King and Ghandi were not just victors of positive thinking: they had a radical political agenda to re-adjust political inequality. Their belief system was based in believing in something more than ourselves. Why were we being compared to Gandhi and King if we could stand up to our husbands and get a more successful career? Let us say the participants were not on my side. I was being a party-pooper. If the stakes were higher, I might have been stoned. As it was, I was just asked by Sophie what was “behind my question.” “Nothing is behind my question besides my question,” I noted. (Note: as a journalist I had to sign a form that I could not quote or paraphrase any participants in my article; I would hope that my own words are admissible.) “Are you always so arrogant? Are you always such a know it all?” Sophie moved closed, circled to me next to the mike, and looked deeply into my eyes. “Tell me Karin, do your friends run away from you? Do you know how self-righteous you seem to them?” I had been prepared and curious to see what ad hominen approach she would come up with me. I was—as many people—inherently egotistical and vulnerable to judgment—so was intrigued to see what I could learn about myself. I had an intelligent woman’s cunning attention. Someone was finally telling me how it was, daring to sum up my personality in a way that most of my friends would not dare to. I experienced for myself the allure, the thrill, each participant had experienced before the attack on stage. It is intoxicating to get full attention in front of l50 people from someone who is truly gifted, as many fortune tellers are, with the power of quickly sizing up and reading one’s personality. Also as a professor, I am used to manipulation from students who have not done their homework and risk failing a course: they will use any method to get me to “weaken” my stand. Such as reminding me of my own faults in a course, or using a charming smile, or, as Sophie was doing, sidling up and standing two inches away from me as she asked me if people did not like me. I quickly ran through my appallingly brief list of friends and wondered if she was right. Was I self-righteous? Had people run? If they had, I concluded, I would not even know: they were long gone down the jogging trail. “No,” I said. The crowd snickered. I was not breaking. What an ass I was not to admit my faults. I felt like offering up some other of my defects—of which there were plenty I already knew about before this moment of enlightenment—to win people to my side, to have their looks of empathy after the session, as everyone else who had sobbed about their faults had as well. What is worse than a know-it-all who could not admit she was a know-it-all? Sophie seemed exhausted as I just repeated my question, and repeated again that behind my question was just intellectual curiosity about how the Forum worked. Not my break-up with my boyfriend, my miscarriages, my mother speaking with an accent when I was five years old in a New Jersey kindergarten. “Okay you win,” Sophie said. “You win but you have won nothing. This is why your life is a wreck. This is why nothing works for you. Go on, continue. But I urge you to spend the weekend questioning your integrity.” “A lifelong project,” I said. “Arrogant,” Sophie said. “Rebellious child who has to get the last word.” We stood in silence in a truce. Sophie froze with an icy smile. I realized I would probably not be able to get the private interview I wanted with her for my article. I would be shunned. The extent of my unpopularity was revealed when I sat down, and all the participants avoided my eyes, except three people who came and put their hands on my shoulder, as if I needed comfort for my “humiliation.” One man eagerly told me: “We were all waiting to see when your armor would break, but no you stayed composed.” Why were they all waiting in gleeful anticipation for me to break? What does this say about group psychology? Sophie announced a break herself right after our conversation, as if she too was disoriented, as revealed by the uncharacteristic lack of charisma in her face and her stiff shoulders. But when she came back, she was ready. She pointed her finger at me and said: “Karin is a journalist.” The crowd nodded. She could have substituted “communist” or “non-patriot”. The effect would have been the same. The irony was that I had no problem with the Forum. I did experience my own breakthroughs. I was glad I went. I did see how I used my past in my future; I did contemplate the rackets I laid on my friends and family. I thought overall this was a healthy experience. I just did not see any reason to 1) prevent critical thinking and 2) make evangelism the marketing strategy of the Forum. It also disgusted me to see people unwilling to have their transformative weekend tampered with by critical thinking. One participant at the break said he objected to my critique of the Luther and Gandhi references. True my point was valid, but couldn’t I accept that a mass of average people might get so much mileage out of the inspiration of being compared to these great leaders that I was spoiling their fun if I was too logical and “intelligent” about it? Another thought I was being needlessly picky when I pointed out that using Sarkozy as an example of integrity (he sticks to his word; he admits his Carla Bruni affair in public) pointed out a rather shallow rightwing prejudice. The last hours of the Forum were thankfully devoted back to the life lessons of the Forum, rather than the push to call every last friend we knew to come on Tuesday night, so that one day the world could be “transformed” and we would live in a community of the Forum—an urging that inspired one woman from Slovenia to vow to open the Forum in her country, as well as a man from Spain to do the same. Instead, Sophie gave a brilliant, truly brilliant, performance of how human beings are like donkeys (this said, running around the stage following an imaginary carrot at her nose), who are always pursuing an imaginary “someday” of satisfaction. She repeated the most original philosophy of the Forum, one that I was quite taken by: don’t change your life, transform it. Change is based on adjusting, modifying, always having the past dragging behind you (like the chair she dragged behind her, in demonstration). Transformation is simply deciding and declaring a new way of being, tout court. She also gave a mini-lecture on existentialism, citing Shakespeare’s “sound and fury signifying nothing” as well as a little known poem by e.e. cummings on “nothingness”. Create your meaning; there is none inherent in the world. Do not live in hope, but in action. As throughout the Forum, she sprinkled her lecture with an inspiring array of quotes, including my favorite: “A successful person goes from failure to failure with enthusiasm” (Churchill) and concluded, per forma, with moving descriptions of Gandhi and King. Sophie was a gifted speaker, who kept our attention and enthusiasm during each twelve hour day, making her speeches seem original, with personal anecdotes; only later, searching the web, do I find the same speeches cited by other landmark leaders: the “nothingness” argument, the “Citizen Kane”. It is a script. The concluding remarks were powerful. Sophie had tears in her eyes as she thanked us for letting her serve us. (I found the same speech on the web). She also mentioned her personal life again, how upset she had been when on her honeymoon, as a young girl married to an elderly millionaire, the man sadly had an aneurism and died (leaving her millions), and how she would have continued to live in disappointment, with rackets, but the Landmark convinced her to leave the past behind. At the end of the day, I found the Forum innocuous. No cult, no radical religion: an inspiring, entertaining introduction of good solid techniques of self-reflection, with an appropriate emphasis on action and transformation (not change). Yes, they urge us to proselytize, which rather than a cult technique, might just be an unfortunate mistake in marketing strategy: I would never urge anyone to do the Forum precisely because they urged me to do the Forum. Such methods backfire on me. No, the problem with the Forum is the participants. Why do they willingly put critical thinking aside, not wanting anything to disturb their pleasure? Why does no one flinch when we are told to enjoy the fact, in a joke, that the Iraqis after all are afraid of us? Why did they not raise eyebrows when Sophie compared herself, obliquely, to Mother Teresa, generously devoting her time to us (she claimed not to need the salary) because she “loved us” and wanted (hands pressed to chest) our “transformation”? It was particularly shocking how quickly every participant adopted the vocabulary, kit and caboodle. Nobody seemed to find it troubling that the Landmark vision was delivered as if it were absolute truth, sui generis. Gandhi, the hero of our seminar, would have objected. His most urgent philosophy, repeated throughout his speeches, is that one must have a commitment to truth without ever presuming its absolute nature. In his words: “When the symbol (of any given religion) is made into a fetish and an instrument of proving the superiority of one’s religion over others, it is fit only to be discarded.” In contrast, most of my fellow participants threw out whatever value system or philosophy they had ever had and began speaking of everything in their lives as either “rackets” or “strong points.” At the testimony session on the last day, each contestant reported the same sort of “breakthrough”, a trauma at age seven and a subsequent script, as if dutifully following a blueprint. One chatty young woman turned to me as I was looking over her shoulder for a friend and announced (self-righteously): “Hey, you’re racketing with me! You’re not listening! You’ve got some racket going on!” “I’m not racketing,” I said. “I’m looking for my friend Roy. Excuse me.” Another young man began repeating verbatim the “nothingness” argument, as if finding no contradiction with his earlier avowed dedication to serve Christ. People are desperate, it seems, for any supportive positive value system to sustain them—for any peak experience to give them hope—which says less about the Forum than the communities we live in. The tenets of the Forum are those fundamental to any healthy close-knit community: work on your relationships, be positive, don’t dwell on the past and stop being a pill. Its own strong point is what was—and still is, in many parts of the world—the fabric for faith and celebration of life. Why the Landmark is so popular, attracting l million participants annually, with an 86 million dollar revenue and 3 million dollar profit (divided among only 400 employees, as the Landmark relies on obsessed volunteers to run it), why it inspires upper middle class people around the world (at 700 dollars a weekend, it is only for those with means) not only to enroll, but to continue taking classes (which oddly enough, get more expensive, as one gets more “advanced”) is that our industrialized societies have apparently led to a breakdown in values beyond individualism and capitalist gain. “There is no meaning but what you give to it,” explained Sophie for us, drawing a new empty circle. Interestingly, the only way to get these individualists back on track—to feeling some sense of “religious” duty and inspiration—is to appeal to their individualism. This program will make YOU transform, as well as enhance your bank account (we are told in the closing remarks, that Landmark Forum participants tend to make 30 percent more money after taking the Forum). We transform to be more powerful in our individual lives, not to change social structures, not injustices, nor to reach truth (there is none). Our aim is freedom to be, the end of any marketing campaign, and like a chain letter that must not be stopped, we must continue to spread the word. Perhaps the hope is that someday those letters asking forgiveness will reach us as well. Download Follow Karin Badt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/karinbadt Karin Badt Associate Professor of Cinema and Theater in Paris Source: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/karin-badt/inside-the-landmark-forum_b_90028.html|
|My (Scary, Destructive) Brush With Scientology Light So. Is it a cult? Technically, no. But, if it walks like cult, talks like a cult, and preys on people like a cult, it just might be Landmark. Author: sarah-fazeli Publish date: August 27, 2012 Tags: Tags: Cult, scientology, landmark Everyone told me not to go. "It's a cult, Sarah. Don't get sucked in!" “The Landmark Forum? It’s like 'Scientology Light.' Run the opposite direction!” I'd just begun a trial separation from my husband. I was heartbroken, confused and vulnerable. That’s when my good friend, Ed, a fantastically positive, well-put-together human being, told me emphatically that The Landmark Forum had changed his life and invited me to a free seminar. Eager, I went online to check it out, and began to worry. On the net, opinions and experiences ran the gamut. There were warnings against Landmark, video testimonials about how-Landmark-saved-my-life, letters of both support and condemnation from psychologists, priests and university scholars. I had other friends who all but begged me not to go, citing it as destructive and dangerous. Now, I was intrigued. Such a range of reactions and emotions! I had to find out for myself. Still, something didn’t feel right. On the day of the free seminar, I had a sinking feeling deep in my gut. Don’t go. But I'd told Ed I would see him there and felt bad bowing out. I explained my conflicted feelings to another friend who advised me to “Go, just don’t part with any money.” Huh. Why would I part with any money? I left late (subconsciously on purpose? Hoping it would be half over when I arrived?) and drove with trepidation to the location, a crappy hotel by the airport. There, I was greeted by what seemed like an endless supply of grinning volunteers. Each name-tagged little helper gushed how happy they were to see me. After tacking a nametag across my chest, they ushered me into a dank, depressing ballroom. Heavy draperies kept out the light of a gorgeous California day. On stage, people stood in line to give witness to how Landmark changed their lives. I thought it would be over -- I was almost an hour late -- but it was nowhere near over, and would go on another two hours. Somehow, despite my skepticism, halfway through I ended up sobbing my marital sadness to the two Landmark women with whom I was put into a small group. And by the end of the afternoon, I had written a check for $300 (merely a deposit) and registered for the course. I know. By the time I got back on the highway, I regretted it. What the hell was that? I asked myself aloud. I called to get a refund. At first, the Landmark rep on the phone acted as if a refund was no problem. Great, I thought. That was easy. But when she smoothly launched into a series of circular questions, I didn’t have a chance. “Mmm, this refund, let’s talk about this. Why do you feel this way? What could you be resisting in your life? What if 'I want my money back' is just a story you are telling yourself?” Hm. Gosh. Never thought if it that way. And she seemed so nice. So caring. I said I’d think about it and hung up. Every single day for the next month, I was barraged with phone calls and messages from Landmark. It was like having a collection agent who also needed to buy crack from you. I had been willing to consider doing the course, but now I was pissed. The phone rang yet again. I saw the Landmark name (I had labeled it on my phone as a warning to screen the call) and picked up. This time I would give them a piece of my mind! Of course, the Landmark rep, “Paul,” wasn’t having any of it. “Sarah, can you honestly say you are where you want to be in your life?" Uh, well. “What is really going on here? What are you resisting?” Apparently, “resisting,” as they labeled my decision to get my money back, was proof of how much I needed their help. You know, the help I needed to stop resisting THEM. Get it? “I just want a refund,” I stumbled, somehow getting roped back into another big ass, circular conversation. They’re really good at that. After almost 20 minutes on the phone it was clear I wasn't getting my deposit back. Paul “reframed” it for me: essentially I could lose the $300 or pony up the additional $200 and just see what the fuss was all about. Even then, as I was agreeing to pay the balance, I could feel my heart pounding, stuffing down a little voice that said, This isn’t right. Don’t go. “All righty!” Paul interrupted my inner monologue. "So the total on your Visa will be…” he slowed down. “Oooh, Sarah,” I could hear him inhale through his teeth, “It looks like since you registered last summer, but didn’t complete the forum, we can’t honor your deposit.” What? “And, it looks like the price of the course has gone up since you registered.” "Seriously?" I balked. “I hear you, Sarah, but I want you to be open to the possibilities that lay ahead for you.” I didn’t feel open to new possibilities. I felt taken advantage of, swindled, even a little bullied. But bullied in a really nice way. As the seminar weekend approached, the feeling in the pit of my stomach returned. But I had spent the money. I was going. The schedule was as follows: Friday 10am-Midnight, Saturday 10am-Midnight, Sunday 10am-Midnight. The leader, a stern, non-nonsense woman I’ll call Chris, explained the contract we must all agree to: no use of alcohol, drugs. No problem. I agree. They went on to reject the use of coffee, caffeine, painkillers like Advil, and snacks. Coffee? Snacks? Tylenol? Also, there would be very limited breaks. As in one meal break for the 13-hour day. I didn’t think this was a big deal until I’d been sitting for four hours in a hot room in a stiff row of people in a very uncomfortable chair. One person got up after about an hour, presumably for the bathroom, and Chris made quick work of explaining all the reasons this was not okay. The tone was set: You followed the schedule; you did not veer from the group. Later, after spotting a few travel mugs of coffee in the audience and more unofficial bathroom breaks, Chris exploded. “You can’t control yourselves? Geez, you’re like babies here whining about going to the bathroom and having your snacks.” She mocked us in a high-pitched voice. Then, she got very serious. “You get up and take a break? Don’t blame me if come Sunday everyone else 'gets it' and you don’t. I can’t guarantee the transformation that will happen Sunday at 5pm unless you are here and present every second.” Within the first hour of the seminar we were pressured to take the $800 “advanced course.” To push us along, the drones in the back of the room came up and gave testimonials like “I was like you once! Skeptical, unsure.” I look around the room. Does anyone else see what’s going on here? A few do -- we make eye contact and quickly look away before the drones can see us connecting and possibly staging a rebellion. Nametags: They were very strict about them. I mean hardcore. You had to have your nametag on and in view at all times. They were collected anytime you left the room. Presumably to keep tabs on who had returned (or were late returning) and who had not. It was weird. Also within the first few hours, we were “challenged” to “powerfully enroll our friends and family in the possibilities Landmark is giving you!” This would mean using the few and far between breaks we did have to call our friends and “get complete” with them. Then we were supposed to bring them Sunday night to our own “completion” where they could hear about our transformative weekend (and pay their own $300 deposit). One woman raised her hand. She was handed a microphone, and was thus allowed to speak. “I’m sorry,” she started, her voice wobbling in preliminary apology, “but do we have to tell them about Landmark? All of this feels like a big commercial for Landmark.” By the time Chris was done with her, this young woman had shrunk about two inches and said, “I guess I wasn’t seeing the possibilities,” she smiled hopefully, “Thank you.” Cheers and applause broke out. “Yes! Look at that, people! She just grew tenfold!” But, not everyone was buying it. A man raised his hand. I'd noticed this man before because it seemed whenever I was sighing or looking askance he was doing the same thing. In a very reasonable, professional manner, he raised his hand and said, “Excuse me. I’ve been here for a little over three hours now. And the only thing I’ve heard is how I should sign up and pay for more Landmark classes.” A small wave of nods rippled across the room. In a roller coaster two minutes, Chris lauded the man for his honesty, encouraging others who felt this way to show themselves. Then she went in for the kill, spinning it around so anyone who questioned the program or its tactics was “resisting.” The second day, the man expressed the same feeling. This time, the mic was ripped out of his hand, campaign manager style, “We are not discussing that right now!” Chris snapped On the third day he was “asked” to leave. All of those things were freaky, but none truly scared me until we go to this rule: NO WRITING. This was when the little hairs on the back of my neck came to attention. Writing, whether it’s journaling, taking notes, even just having a pen in my hand, is how I process the world. When I expressed my concern over this, I was used as an example of someone who is clearly resisting the work by choosing not to follow the rules. Others around me, who only moments before had echoed my feelings, now clammed up. They wouldn’t even meet my gaze. So, after we’d all been given our East German Stasi cards -- oops, I mean our nametags -- we were reminded that if someone is doing something they’re not supposed to (taking notes, taking unofficial breaks), you say something. Hold them accountable. Yes, we were asked to police our neighbors. About15 minutes after this “reminder,” the woman next to me tapped me hard on my arm. “Yes?” I looked up, assuming she wanted to borrow something or ask for a piece of gum. “No writing!” she said, and waved her finger back and forth in my face. I almost stabbed her with my Bic Roller Gel. I nearly walked out so many times, usually during the abusive interactions between the leader and whatever emotionally wracked person onstage. These were serious emotional breakdowns being handled in five-minute increments by this Landmark leader. Not a well-trained, experienced therapist in a safe environment but an arrogant, would-be dictator who egged on these breakdowns, gave them a quickie “tool” to get over their childhood trauma, and moved right along to the next person. There were first-time revelations of childhood molestations, my-father-murdered-my-mother divulgements, I-think-I’m-gay moments. The words that best sum up Landmark’s catch-and-release handling of these fragile situations are dangerous and irresponsible. I’ve done self-help work. I’m an actor, for Christ’s sake! Introspection and being alone on stage is what we do! So I asked questions in response to “the work” and was struck down, humiliated and branded “uncoachable.” Chris mocked me, "Oh, you have questions? You’re questioning me? How long have you been leading the Forum? Do you think I know a thing or two more than you about it?” I could literally hear cackles from various part of the audience. It was fucking Animal Farm in there. It went on like this as I watched others get worked over. It was abusive, demeaning. Yet, people kept coming back for more! The only reasonable explanation is Stockholm Syndrome. You are trapped like sardines in rows with random people, after hours without food or daylight, put into a high-pressure emotional situation, and told the only way out of the emotional basket-case-ness that they have instigated, is for you to pay for and take more of their seminars. (And to “powerfully enroll others to do the same.”) Looking back, I can’t believe I stayed as long as I did. I suspect some people stay out of curiosity, a wanting-to-get-your-moneys worth feeling. I might have stayed even longer but then I heard this: Everything in your life is your fault, including your rape. They were SUCH assholes to me onstage after I'd bared my soul, and talked about everything from being raped to my husband never wanting to have sex with me. The upshot was essentially, Guess what, bitch? It's all your fault! Streams of people came up to me after I got up to do "the work" (translation: get emotionally eviscerated/abused in public). "The way she talked to you up there made me sick." "After witnessing that, I don't think I can come back for another day." "That was unconscionable." Yet, they all stayed. Why? Like a crowd around a wagon back medicine show, they were desperate to see this "transformation" they had been promised (over and over again) all weekend. ("Don't leave! You are this close to "getting" it.) That was Saturday night. I could have just gone home and not returned for the third day, but something in me woke up. That pit in my stomach? It was on fire. And it wasn’t going to go quietly. I had to make a statement. As homework the night of Day 2, we were supposed to write a letter to someone we’ve “been inauthentic with.” I went home and wrote out three pages on a legal pad. I returned bright and early Sunday morning, on time and sitting in my seat (lest I be scolded) like all the other good little sheep. When it was my turn, I went up to the microphone and began to read: “Dear, Sarah -- I realize now I have been inauthentic with you." I could feel sympathetic nods up and down from the crowd. I continued. “When I first heard about Landmark Forum, I had this terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. An instinct. A sense of dread. I ignored my inner voice. I let myself look past all the unethical business practices, the high-pressure sales tactics, the abusive, emotional manipulation --" “-- Turn off her mic! Turn off her mic!” Chris shouted, her arms raised arms up and down like a stiff Henny Penny, and the drones scurried do her bidding. A Mack truck couldn’t stop me. I didn’t need a microphone, just my own authentic voice. The drones went berserk, buzzing around in the back, bumping into each other over the sound equipment. Someone finally just ripped the cord out of the wall. Chris raced toward me. She tried to shuffle me offstage -- physically. I calmly (maybe too calmly) told her not to touch me. The audience gasped. Gasped! As if I had done something to HER! Wow, they were goners. I went on with my letter. She interrupted, shouting, “What do you want? Do you want a refund?” I said, "Hell, yes!" and then got the hell off stage. Three people booed me. Yes, BOOED ME. Another three came to the back of the room to shake my hand, clap me on the back, and tell me that I had just articulated everything they were thinking. Soon enough, though, the drones broke up the conversation. “I have to ask you to stop this conversation because you are just creating another 'racket,'" which is Landmark-speak for “a persistent complaint with someone or something that leads you into a habitual way of being, thinking, feeling, or acting.” “See?” I said to the three would-be-defectors. You take issue with something Landmarkian? You are labeled as having a “racket,” “resisting,” or -- my personal favorite -- being “uncoachable.” So. Is it a cult? Technically, no. But, if it walks like cult, talks like a cult, and preys on people like a cult, it just might be Landmark. If this is what people call “Scientology light,” I’d hate the get anywhere near the real thing. I have since discovered that a couple of my friends have actually done the basic Landmark Forum. I still don’t understand quite how they couldn’t see through all the mindfucking-disguised-as-enlightenment, deceptive business practices, Stockholm Syndrome-y seminars or the constant, hard-sells to get more involved. That said, if they got something positive out of it, I am truly glad for them. (And a little in awe.) One of them asked me, hopefully, “But, Sarah, you must have learned something from it?” I thought for a moment. “Yes,” I said. “I learned that I should trust my instincts.” Like the time my gut told me, "Sarah, run fast. It’s totally a cult.” Source: https://www.xojane.com/newagey/landmark-forum-cult|
|The Landmark Forum: 42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns My lost weekend with the trademark happy, bathroom-break hating, slightly spooky inheritors of est. Laura McClureAug. 17, 2009 11:21 PM Looking for news you can trust? Subscribe to our free newsletters. Illustration: Michael Byers AFTER NEARLY 40 HOURS inside the basement of Landmark Education‘s world headquarters, I have not Transformed. Nor have I “popped” like microwave popcorn, as the Forum Leader striding back and forth at the front of the windowless gray room has promised. In fact, by the time he starts yelling and stabbing the board with a piece of chalk around hour 36, it’s become clear that I’ll be the hard kernel left at the bottom of this three-and-a-half-day Landmark Forum. I have, however, Invented the Possibility of a Future in which I get a big, fat raise, a Future I’ll Choose to Powerfully Enroll my bosses in, now that I am open to Miracles Around Money. My reluctance to achieve Breakthrough Results is clearly not shared by many of my fellow Forum attendees. Even on day one, most seem positively elated to have plunked down 500 bucks for a more efficient, passionate, powerful life. “Hey, it’s cheaper than therapy,” a therapist-turned-real estate agent tells me. He ponders how to persuade one of his employees to pony up for the Forum. She’s going through a rough patch, he explains—the recession, her marriage. Not that being broke or brokenhearted would make her a minority in this room; several attendees talk about being between jobs, and one woman says she’s on welfare. In the scribbled shorthand of my furtive notes, PW stands for “incidents of public weeping.” I lose track after the PW count hits 65. Landmark Education, a for-profit “employee-owned” private company, took in $89 million last year offering leadership and development seminars (and cruises, and dating services, and courses for kids and teens). It claims that more than 1 million seekers have sat through its basic training, which is offered in seven languages in 20 countries. Its consulting firm, the Vanto Group, has coached employees from Apple, ExxonMobil, JPMorgan Chase, and the Pentagon. Though it’s hardly a secret, Landmark does not advertise that it is the buttoned-down reincarnation of the ultimate ’70s self-actualization philosophy, est. Erhard Seminars Training was founded by Werner Erhard, a former used car salesman who’d changed his name from Jack Rosenberg, moved to Northern California, and dabbled in Dale Carnegie, Zen, and Scientology before seizing upon the idea that you, and only you, are responsible for your own happiness or unhappiness, success or failure. Est’s marathon Transformation sessions were legendary for their confrontational tactics (Erhard calling his students “assholes”), inscrutable platitudes (“What is, is, and what ain’t, ain’t”), and the pressure put on participants to bring in new recruits for the next cycle of seminars. In 1985, Erhard changed est’s name to the innocuous-sounding The Forum. Amid controversy over his convoluted tax records, he left the country in 1991 and slid into obscurity. But before he did, he sold the company’s “technology” to his former employees, who used it to create The Landmark Forum. Erhard’s brother, Harry Rosenberg, is Landmark’s CEO. Like a successful grad of its own program, Landmark has shed its past hang-ups and realized Breakthrough Results. “We are on the list of offerings in the human-resources departments in hundreds of companies and organizations around the world,” boasts PR director Deborah Beroset. The company’s language of personal productivity, confidence, and communication (much of it trademarked) has become white noise in corporate America—and possibly in your personal circle, too. “Authentic life,” anyone? Landmark’s corporate clients bring not just respectability but more warm bodies bearing checks. (Landmark relies entirely on word-of-mouth advertising.) The yoga apparel chain Lululemon pays for its employees to enroll in Landmark. Other firms have been sued by employees claiming they were pressured to attend the Forum: In 2007, a Virginia man accused his former employer of firing him for his “refusal to embrace Landmark religious beliefs.” Not that Landmark itself condones such arm twisting. At the start of my session, we were asked to affirm that we were attending of our own free will. A couple of people who confessed otherwise were asked to leave. Still, I talked with several who’d been sent by their employers. The profitable field Landmark helped pioneer is now crowded with life coaches, time-management gurus, and productivity bloggers. Like David Allen’s Getting Things Done or Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Landmark is just one of dozens of quasi-philosophies that promise to empty your inbox and fulfill your personal goals. And maybe survive the recession. Since the Great Depression, when Dale Carnegie’s seminars on how to win friends and influence people became popular, the personal development industry has bloomed under darkening economic skies. Forget work/life balance; that’s so 2008. How to do more in less time is today’s hot productivity trend. (Landmark’s website touts a survey in which one-third of Forum grads reported that their incomes rose at least 25 percent after participating; 94 percent of those attributed it to the program.) Yet if Landmark is just another outpost in lifehacking country, why does it seem so insidious? Part of it is the in-your-face, hard-sell ethos embedded in the corporate DNA it inherited from est. Forum grads are urged to stay involved and “invite” friends and family. After finishing the Forum, I received calls asking me to volunteer at the Landmark call center and come in for one-on-one coaching. The company also vigorously guards its reputation from critics. After I told Beroset I’d be writing an article on my mixed feelings about the Forum, she called several times and sent me an email that might be described as threatening—but in the most benign, centered kind of way. I first heard about Landmark while working as a Peace Corps recruiter. Every now and again I’d see it listed at the end of someone’s resume, occupying the same spot as, say, a Kiwanis leadership award, or a pastime like water polo. Applicants described it as a professional development seminar—most had been signed up by employers—and gave glowing reports. “You should try it,” they invariably added. I forgot about the whole thing until a generally sane, well-meaning friend called me one weekend with a frog in his throat. He was at some time-management seminar, he’d really gotten a lot out of this thing, and would I want to come by and learn more next Tuesday night? It was hard to say no. But then I googled Landmark. Eventually, as part of an ongoing attempt to hack my own overscheduled life, I did sign up for the Landmark Forum. I vowed to go in with an open mind and to follow the rules, no matter how restrictive. That meant taking just one meal break per 13-hour session, no Advil or other over-the-counter drugs, no speaking out unless called to the microphone by the Leader, and wearing my name tag at all times. I signed a six-page disclaimer in which I declared that I understood that after attending the Forum, people with no history of mental or emotional problems had experienced “brief, temporary episodes of emotional upset ranging from heightened activity…to mild psychotic-like behavior.” At 9 a.m. on a Friday I find myself sardined into a basement room with 129 other people, listening to David Cunningham, a boomer in a dark suit and bright purple shirt, whose first language seems to be Tent-Revival Baptist Preacher. (I later learn that he was raised a fundamentalist in Florida.) He informs us that he has personally led more than 50,000 people to Transformation. He’s here to tell us that “anything you want for yourself and your life is available from being here this weekend.” He starts by taking a few questions from the floor. A querulous man observes that the phrases carefully ruler-lined on the chalkboard seem like poor English. (“In The Landmark Forum you will bring forth the presence of a New Realm of Possibility for yourself and your life.”) David agrees. “It’s very poor English. You know why? Because the usual confines of language would not allow your Transformation this weekend.” Another man is called to the mic. He wants to know how Landmark is different from est. David sighs. “If I had to sum it up, here’s what I’d say: They’re both about Transformation, but est was very experiential. It was the ’70s, okay? Your access was an experience. Your access this weekend is going to be just through conversation. We realized we could do it just through conversation.” And that’s the last we hear of that. A slight, blond woman sitting next to me confides that she’s here only because her boyfriend paid her way—with the subtext that this was an offer she couldn’t refuse. She shows me a packet of notes tied with a bow. They’re from a friend who attended a Forum and thought it was brainwashing. In the corner of the top sheet is written, “To be opened on ‘breaks.'” Why “breaks” in quotes, I wonder? I soon find out. “Break” is a misleading term at an all-day workshop that offers no snacks, no drinks other than Dixie cups of water, a single mealtime, and only loosely scheduled pauses to use the bathroom. Also, every break has a corresponding assignment. The first one: Call someone who’d like to hear from you and tell them where you are. I call my brother. “So, it’s like the Hare Krishnas of time management,” he says slowly. On the next break, I hide in a bathroom stall and read a Landmark flyer seemingly translated from Martian: “What would it be like if the San Francisco center was your center of being, and reflected in this, you were being your center?…What if your way of being in the center gives the center its being and you are given your being from the space created in the center?” By ten o’clock Friday night, 13 hours in, David is curing headaches with visualization techniques (an old Erhard trick) and redefining basic math. “How many items am I holding up?” he asks, holding up a Kleenex box and a chalkboard eraser. “Two,” we say in unison. He puts the eraser down. “Now how many am I holding up?” he asks. One? “Two,” he says. “The box and everything else.” We repeat this until it makes sense—kind of. David promises that tomorrow, people will start to pop. Indeed, some attendees have popped even before they return to the basement at nine the next morning. Others pop while tearfully offering “shares” about being molested or abandoned, about illnesses and divorces, their suicidal parents. There is applause for stories of calling loved ones and offering forgiveness, and David gently prods the storytellers to invite their family members to attend a Forum—or even pay for them to attend. A woman re-creates a beautiful conversation she had with her mother this morning and ends by singing “Wind Beneath My Wings.” Next, David calls up a woman—I’ll call her Rose—who is estranged from her siblings. She reports that when she called her sister this morning, it did not go well. “I’m going to get a little intense now,” David warns us with a smile, which he drops as soon as he turns to Rose. “You know the mood of celebration after the last share?” She nods. “What’s in the room now?” David shakes his head ruefully. “You were ‘screamed at’ by your sister? There’s no such thing as screaming.” People start fidgeting and making for the door; there hasn’t been a bathroom break in three hours. “You see, people are leaving,” David says. “This is why people don’t want to be around you, why your siblings don’t want to be around you. You’re too dead to feel,” he says. By now, tears are streaming down Rose’s face. She asks to sit down; he says nothing. Finally, she thanks David, and he gives her a long hug before she takes a seat. Later, I walk over to tell her that I didn’t like how David treated her. To my surprise, she disagrees. After being publicly humiliated, she phoned her sister again, and this time her sister listened. “I guess this is what I needed to hear,” Rose tells me, smiling. By Sunday, I’m in open rebellion. I come bearing contraband—a newspaper, coffee, snacks, and Advil. “How are you?” I ask the minder at the door as I slap on my name tag. “I’m truthful,” he says, giving me the stink-eye. I Invent the Possibility of staying far away from Landmark seminars in the future. We get Monday off. When I take a hard seat in the basement for Tuesday’s final Special Evening, I’m surprised to find I almost—almost—start crying. It’s like seeing a room of beloved camp friends after a year apart. The air is festive and buzzing with chatter about our day and a half away from each other. I think, This is great! No wonder people have brought along dozens of friends to sign up. David quiets the crowd and sends the friends away with a group of minders. Turning to the rest of us, he says, “You know how I wished you big Problems on Sunday? Well, now I wish you big Breakdowns. Because a Breakdown is nothing more than the gap between your life now and the life you’re committed to living. Your job is to step into that gap.” He smiles. “When you came in here Friday morning, you were so certain about who you were, weren’t you? You walked in certain, and tonight you’re walking out uncertain. It could take years to become certain about who you are again. That’s what the rest of the Landmark Curriculum for Living is for: to help you resolve that uncertainty.” Suddenly, I want him to love me as his student, to make him smile, to hear him tell me I’m doing a good job in my life. There are more “shares”; David tears up for the third time in two hours. “I love you forever,” he tells us. “If you ever wonder if someone loves you, the answer is yes. David loves you.” And then, without warning, he launches into the hard, hard sell. “I am committed to having every one of you register for the Advanced Course tonight,” he says. He’s no longer smiling. We can demonstrate our commitment to ourselves, to David, to Landmark—all for $650, a $200 discount—but only if we act now. Before I get up and leave for good, I spot Rose. She’s sitting in the front row, gazing expectantly at David, ready to take the next step toward Transformation, Possibility, and Enrollment™. Source: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2009/08/landmark-42-hours-500-65-breakdowns/#|
|External Link: https://www.growthguided.com/the-landmark-forum-dont-do-it-top-five-fails-of-landmark-forum/|
December 27th, 2017
Last Updated: December 27th, 2017