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What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: rahrahrah ()
Date: September 09, 2015 09:14AM

I've heard a handful of people I know personally say great things about Landmark. I'm considering going to the Forum. I have plans to attend one of the "intro to Landmark" evenings events.

I know its the opinion on these forums that Landmark is cult-y.

I also know that within a week of joining, my friend who just took it:
- demanded a large raise or else he'll be leaving a job he's been in for many years
- bought an expensive house
- is planning to pursue a career that's in the realm of his passion

Of course, the context to this is:
- he'd also spent many years on his passion and has actually developed the skills that mean he likely can get a "dream job" in that area (whereas for people who hadn't developed skills, this would be silly to quit a job and try and get that "dream job")
- he apparently had an insane amount of savings, so even in light of making large purchases, he can live for several years

He and I had spoken much about different types of therapy for the past few years and shared experiences. We've both made slow, steady progress, ups and downs. He says Landmark's exercises blows all of this out of the water, and his relationships to many of his family members have improved.

I found some of his behavior weird, but...he its also still in line with general weirdness of his personality, its now just...far less restrained, it seems (probably my biggest concern at this point).

He's made the point to me that he sees particular childhood memories where he decided "Oh I'm not [X positive quality]" whereas now realizes that was a decision made in the mind of a 6 year old, and apparently is now willing/able to see evidence to the contrary.

So...what's the problem? Is it the case that many people have positive experiences, but there's the small handful of people who end up going crazy? (Based on some reports I've seen online...which definitely lacked detail/clarity.)

What would you recommend doing or looking out for prior to going to the "introduction night"? (Yeah, at least I think ... I'm pretty good at not buying shit on the spot -- because even if I want it, I'll go home first and just pay for it online.)

Are the huge negatives that you guys claim, that everyone wants to volunteer and work for the organization for free? I personally, at least what I say right now, wouldn't even convince anyone to go to the Forum, until I'd gone through it, and could point back to a year's worth of changes, after the seminar, to say "Well I got this kickass job, I do X Y and Z differently now, and so forth...I found it valuable" versus "Yeah, it seems to have made me look at relationships and people differently, but I have no other tangible results." But then again, my friend is ecstatic enough about it that he says "just go, you'll see...I could take you through it,'d take 3 days."

I don't trust him 1000% (but I also don't trust ANYONE fully, which is the source of many of my "issues" -- and why I decide to quit my most recent therapist, since I wasn't getting much out of "working" with her), but I did also speak to someone else who had done it a year or more ago, and seemed totally fine/well-adjusted, and mentioned similar types of benefits, and based on his experience, told me that he couldn't see "psychological breakdowns" happening for "normal, sane enough people...unless they were going to have one anyway, without the Forum."

So yeah...what's the deal? Why are Harvard, Panda Express, Lulemon, the head of Carnegie Mellon's Robotics Institute, and Michael Zimmerman, a philosophy professor at a top American university all OK with Landmark/EST/Werner Erhard, and there's a bunch of people here calling it a cult and/or damaging?

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: September 09, 2015 08:59PM


You seem to here to apologize for, support and/or promote Landmark.

Harvard has repeatedly forbidden Landmark from using its name.

See []

Criticism about Landmark has also been reported regarding LuLulemon.

See []

Landmark has a history of bad press, complaints, lawsuits and labor violations.

See []

Werner Erhard also has a deeply troubled history.

See []

And see []

Werner Erhard did seem to occupy a cult-like role of "God" within EST (Erhard Seminar Training) now known as Landmark Education or Landmark Worldwide. And Erhard appears to be an example of the failure of Landmark's philosophy.

Landmark is nothing more than mass marathon training.

See []

Much of what Landmark does in its training seems to parallel coercive persuasion techniques associated with "brainwashing."

See []

I would not recommend Landmark training to anyone for anything under any circumstances.

There are many much safer options such as counseling from a licensed professional, group therapy led by a mental health professional, continuing education and an accreditted institution, local support groups run by credible social service agencies, nonprofit organizations or churches.

Getting advice from an old friend, mentor or family member would be preferable to attending a mass marathon training seminar with strangers run by unlicensed leaders employed by a for profit privately owned company like Landmark.

Landmark has no published peer-reviewed study that offers scientifically measurable objective results to demonstrate that its training produces anything tangible such as a lower divorce rate, higher grades, increased income less need for medication or professional counseling among its graduates. Instead Landmark offers polling results that record the subjective feelings of its graduates.

No one doubts that Landmark training influences the way people feel.

BTW--Tom Cruise and John Travolta support Scientology. Madonna and Donna Karan support the controversial Kabbalah Centre. Deepak Chopra and David Lynch are old followers of Maharishi, the guru that created TM. All of these groups have been called "cults." Celebrity endorsements don't mean much of anything. Celebrities and notable people make mistakes just like the rest of us.

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: rahrahrah ()
Date: September 10, 2015 03:01AM

Makes sense about Tom Cruise and Scientology not meaning Scientology isn't bad.

However, I respect academics and business leaders more so than actors, but your argument still holds. I would be shocked to hear of a CEO talking about scientology haha.

I could not find the study applebaum (1976) tho I did find this psychotherapy research project online it seemed to say psychotherapy is better than psychoanalysis. I don't know whether lgat events are more similar to therapy or analysis, so I'm not sure how useful the results are, as dictated in the articles you linked. It sounded like the implication was "some people shouldn't know about their ego defenses" and that would apply to either therapy or landmark, based on what I understood...whereas I don't understand this sites stance being that therapy is also bad.

I also had trouble understanding where the 1976 hampden turner reference came from...was it the book Sane Asylum by Charles Hampden Turner?

In any case, I'm looking for a stance...what is the harm? Are the people who did est years ago and say it was great going to explode one day? Or are they "safe" and now they are just so enthusiastic about it that others go to an event w a small chance of having negative repercussions?

Is it "innocuous" to many but harmful to a few?

I understand many cults probably try to infiltrate sites like this, but...I'm just a guy considering doing the program and want to double check that it's not a horrific idea.

Thanks for any other insights...I'll add to any research here.

BTW I don't necessarily care that Werner was bad at business if his "product" ends up helping me...but I understand his being bad at business could mean he tries to be sneaky (e.g. sneak in a bunch of bad memes like "Recruit heavily for landmark" along with the good stuff like "my past really no longer affects the present").

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: rahrahrah ()
Date: September 10, 2015 03:13AM

I'll have to read this book: "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism" cited in your last link, as well as "Cults in Our Midst" which is one a girl who had taken a non-Landmark LGAT (and while she had gotten some lasting "positive effects" since leaving the group, she also became so immersed in it that she only hung out with the people from the group and self-alienated herself from her group of friend) told me about.

Thanks for the links. Am still curious about the whole thing but I also still want to understand the criticisms by reading original research and books.

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: September 10, 2015 03:34AM


See []

This book has a chapter specifically on LGATs (large group awareness training) like Landmark. There is also a chapter about an intervention to get someone out of Landmark.

Many people have been hurt by LGATs.

Do the reading and research and you will find that out.

See []

This article ran today about the LGAT leader James Arthur Ray. Three people died at his LGAT.

Landmark has repeatedly been sued for personal injuries and has a long history of complaints about abuse.

See []

After this news report was run in France Landmark left the country.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/10/2015 03:34AM by rrmoderator.

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: rahrahrah ()
Date: September 10, 2015 05:27AM

So, yeah, I definitely trust research from Irvin Yalom, who's study was put in there. His point/finding about the critical nature of a group leader versus an empathetic nature of a group leader seems to make sense to me.

In fact, I can remember a few years ago, while having 2 different therapists at the same time, one of them was extremely patient, empathetic, loving, and able to "see me" whereas the other one was, well, critical, seemingly judgmental, and would tell me "Yes I need to break down your defenses, because they're so strong." I remember leaving the latter guy's office, many times, feeling like "Yeah, this guy is right about a lot of things, but he's also such a dick." He also said stuff like "You seem to have a problem with authority" which is in line with at least ESTs commentary based on "The Book of EST" (not sure if Landmark says this stuff too).

My main takeaway is that the Rick Ross position on an LGAT such as Landmark (though its based on a wide selection of LGATs, not just Landmark) "people seem to believe Landmark has done a lot for them, based on empirical studies, it seems to not do much beyond make the participants have an increased internal locus of control for maybe a few weeks, some people do one training and walk away just fine, others get addicted to that company (dependence, basically) for a while, and a small percentage have some sort of a psychotic breakdown." I would say the sweatlodge incident is tangentially relevant but still largely irrelevant since my understanding is that the Landmark Forum takes place in a classroom or office building or something like that, not in physically dangerous situations,

I imagine my friend who just took it would say (re: "there is not that big of an effect in the long term") "Yeah, just going to the event won't do anything, if you don't do the exercises, or maintain the right habits, of course its not going to work."

Which makes sense. I also didn't realize Werner had a lot of life/family issues after he started EST, I assumed most of that was from beforehand, which is why it was easy to dismiss it. It seems like it would be relevant if "his life was't working" even after he started teaching the workshops.

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: yasmin ()
Date: September 12, 2015 02:54AM

Hi Rahrahrah;

Of course you can choose to do whatever you want. But you have chosen to post here, so here is just my own opinion for what it is worth.
Re your friend.
I'd be interested to see how it all turns out long term for him. What you describe may indeed be a great beginning. From my cynical point of view though;unless he paid cash for his new house;
He has just committed himself to a huge new mortgage payment at the same time as he is looking to change careers.

Had a friend who made similar bold money choices after a different kind of seminar. Several of us could see the writing on the wall but my friend and her husband were gung ho and thrilled. After several years it all fell through and they lost their own money and some of a family member. As you say though, perhaps for your friend it may indeed be a great thing.

Having grown up in a religious movement where it was used frequently, the "Catch 22 outcome" has always been a red flag for me.

Are you familiar with it? It goes something like this.

Person X or organization x has a philosophical /life changing suggestion for person Y.

Then one of three outcomes happen.

Something bad happens
Person Y caused the bad thing to happen, or the bad thing would have happened anyway and person Y is to blame because their thoughts etc were not right.

Nothing happens
person Y did not do it right, or did not put enough effort into it.

Something good happens
Person X or their philosophy is responsible and Person Y owes person X.

Or to put it another way, good things happen because of organization X. Bad things happen because of person Y. Bad things are never the responsibility of person or organization X.

Just an opinion on something I watch for in any group. Hope it might be of interest to you.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/12/2015 02:57AM by yasmin.

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: GloriaG ()
Date: September 16, 2015 07:10AM

So here is my personal experience for you.

I took part in the Forum, the Advanced Course and 1st day of the 3 month session. After the Forum, which was a highly charged, emotional 3 day experience, I felt high, as if I was on something. And I felt very powerful. But I did not feel like me.

During the Advanced course, I felt very frightened and I wanted to leave but I was coerced into staying and also I didn't want to waste the money I'd spent, so I stayed.

I was unsure whether to do third part which was over 3 months. I was told to come along and if I didn't like it after the first day, I could get my money back. I tried to leave in the morning of that first day but was persuaded to stay but by the end of the day, I knew something wasn't right. I tried to walk out before I was assigned to a group and the course leader took me aside for word. I ended up in tears and felt very manipulated. Looking back, I realise that personal worries which I told the people who persuaded me to stay in the morning, had been fed to this leader. And rather than act concerned about me, he threw them at me as a sign of weakness. And only by completing the course, would I improve my life. I said little. But when I left, I knew I was not going back.

That night, I woke in genuine fear and phoned a UK national helpline, the Samaritans, talked with someone who spoke in normal use of English and I realised the whole experience was warped and I left. And I got my money back.

I could recount all the workshop details but that is not my point.

2 months later, I heard Landmark mentioned on a TV comedy show and I felt really alert and excited. But that freaked me out. So I googled Landmark, Danger, depression and I came across this forum and resource.

I spent days and days reading all the articles and accounts on here and then I discovered the smokes and mirrors that Landmark use.

I did not feel high and powerful at the end of the Forum because of the amazing therapy or family conversations. I felt high because they had stressed me out, both physically and emotionally to such and extent, that they had tripped my body's dopamine levels to a high. And that is why I felt amazing.

Through out the 3 day weekend, the course Leader kept saying, "you're all gonna pop. It will around 4pm on Monday and you'll pop." At the time I thought it was nonsense but sure enough on Monday, I did start to feel fantastic. And that is because of my dopamine levels.

There is a thread on this forum about how they do it. Search for it and read it.

And they use waking hypnosis to instil fear in you. I read about that on here too. And I had written down exactly what happened to me and it all made sense.

This was all 5 years ago and looking back, one reason I got so affected by the experience was that I was in a very low place. And I would try anything (except drugs/alcohol) to get out of that place. But my natural scepticism saved me.

During all their courses, they divert your attention from this in other ways.

1) You to have difficult, emotional conversations with family members you have issues with. That takes over much of your thoughts, so you have little space to notice much else.

2) They assign new meanings to words you know well and if you're open minded, it sounds plausible and you get sucked in. And before you know it, you start believing that black is really white and white in fact means black and now the world makes much more sense. This is reinforced by others around you.

This last point is of course total nonsense but it sounded clever at the time and it binds you too them because only other Landmarkers will understand what you are talking about. Anyone else can see it is meaningless.

Of course there is some good basic psychology on human relationships in there. And many people who simply attend the Forum and their lives are okay when they go quite enjoy the experience. Its time out of their busy lives to take stock and other people they meet are often interesting. The good psychology stays with them but they forget the slightly weirdness of the experience. And so many people will doubt the naysayers.

But I see this group as dangerous for anyone in a vulnerable state. The only aim of Landmark is to get people to sign up for their courses and to get others to work for free. So if you go hoping for new insight into life which will sustain you, you will not find it unless you give over your life to Landmark. But then you are trapped.

Once you are in their group, the friendliness goes and they start telling you how to behave when you either volunteer or train. I didn't do this but I know people who have.

I did witness group humiliation by participants and the course Leader when anyone challenged anything that disagreed with the Landmark way.

There are better ways to spend your money and I suggest that you don't need Landmark to make the most out of your life.

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: Skipshot ()
Date: September 19, 2015 09:06AM

Stay away from Landmark, rahrahrah. If you are a well-adjusted person in a good place it will be a waste of time and money. If you are in a weak place in your life (money, job, family, love life) they will exploit it by filling you with "empowerment" and other feel-good mumbo-jumbo. I went through the training with a different LGAT called "New Era" in Corcord, CA, which I documented in another thread on this forum and had a very bad experience which involved my wife.

Paradoxically, I agreed with the lessons the trainers were giving, but they don't tell you anything that can't be found in any self-help book, or licensed therapist, or some beginning philosophy classes. Their authoritarian tactics of not allowing discussion during training lectures, or to question the trainers, and the trainers never give their credentials or full names raises too many credibility questions.

Trainees are expected to contribute experiences, but these people often lack self-esteem and/or confidence and relate sob stories of abusive spouses, loneliness in lacking friends or family, or not having goals and lament that their lives are stuck in neutral while life passes them by. I wasn't in a bad place and announced it to the class and was soundly dog piled by the trainers for admitting such.

Read the fine print in the refund policy very carefully. If you quit you lose the money. If you cross them they may threaten to call the cops to have you escorted off the premises.

LGATs are listed in this Cult Awareness Forum for a good reason. I don't think spending about $1600, missing time from work, being pushed around by strangers in a windowless room while the thermostat is fluctuated from too warm to too cold to make everyone uncomfortable, and putting my marriage through a serious stress test is time well spent.

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Re: What are these "negative effects" of Landmark Forum?
Posted by: ajinajan ()
Date: February 14, 2016 03:27AM

Here is some good background info regarding the mentality of the founder of the predecessor organization:

A fair use news summary:



"60 Minutes" broadcast about Werner Erhard
A News Summary/August 26, 2009

By Rick Ross


Beginning in the 1970s a company named "est" (Erhard Seminar Training) sold courses, which are now often called "large group awareness training" and/or "mass marathon training" for "self-improvement." This included an introductory course known as "The Forum."

Jack Rosenberg, a former used-car salesman, created Est with no formal education past high school.

In the 1960s Rosenberg left his wife and four children in Philadelphia, changed his name to "Werner Hans Erhard," moved to California and started another family.

Erhard was reportedly "the role model, the living example of what the est Training could do."

But CBS News reported allegations of incest, rape and spousal abuse made against Werner Erhard by his daughters and former employees.

Not long after the airing of this program Erhard sold his company reportedly to his employees and went into prolonged seclusion.

The for profit privately owned company, which still sells the Forum and other training courses, is now known as "Landmark Education" and headed by Werner Erhard's brother and sister.

What follows is a news summary that includes statements made by Erhard family members and insiders, which was broadcast by CBS "60 Minutes" March 3, 1991.

"I am god"

Dr. Bob Larzelere was the head of Erhard's counseling staff for seven years during the 1970s.

"I am god...he did say sometimes in staff meetings," Larzelere told CBS News.

Wendy Drucker was a top manager who worked closely with Erhard for nine years.

Drucker told CBS, "I would never have believed that I, could be a person who would wind up in a cult...And yet, certainly mind control was involved. And if that's what cults do, and they set up a leader to be bigger than anybody else, a god-like figure, I would say yes, that was true in the organization."

"We were told to surrender to him as 'source.' I think that's idolatry...This was not like, being an employee. This was like being, a servant, or a devotee," Drucker said.

Ms. Drucker confirmed Larzelere's statement and said that Erhard told "...the whole staff. At staff meetings...'I am the source...I am god."

"Terrifying man"

An est brochure once featured a loving portrait of Erhard with his second wife, Ellen. The implication was that if Erhard could turn his life around, the Forum could turn your life around too.

In an interview with Larry King on CNN Erhard explained, "[Est is] a program of inquiry into the things that concern people on a very everyday basis. Like - breaking through the ordinary barriers that just go along with children and your relationship with your children at certain ages."

But did that program work for Werner Erhard?

Celeste Erhard, the est founder's eldest daughter from his second marriage didn't seem to think it did.

"I have been afraid, deeply afraid of my father my whole life. My whole life....he's a terrifying man, he can be very terrifying," she told CBS News anchor Ben Bradley.

Dawn Damas was the family's governess and is still a close friend. She told CBS News that she witnessed Erhard assault his son St. John, or "Sinjin" when the boy was twelve.

"He...went over to Sinjin and started to slap him and hit him, and picked him up and threw him on the ground and started to kick him - in front of everybody and nobody moved, everyone was paralyzed. Um, and then said to St. John: 'If you ever get grades like this again, I'll break both of your legs with a baseball bat.'"

Werner Erhard declined to talk to "60 Minutes," but he did speak to reporter John Hubner of the San Jose Mercury News, for an article in WEST, the paper's Sunday magazine. In an audiotaped interview, Erhard denied that he ever hit his son Sinjin.

"Never, ever, ever...Never, ever struck one of my children, not any one of them, ever," he said.

But Adair Erhard directly contradicted her father.

"My dad...freaked out, he pushed him back on the chair, he fell over. At this point you know my brother was so petrified he actually peed in his pants. Um, you know he's down on the floor, he's kicking him, he's hitting him."

CBS anchor Ben Bradley reported, "Sinjin, who is now twenty-three, didn't want to speak on camera, but he told us the beating did take place..."

Ellen Erhard "strangled"

Erhard's daughters also recounted how he and/or his est associates abused their mother.

"At one point someone picked up a statue and hit her over the head. Um, you know my dad constantly saying: "What aren't you saying, what aren't you saying?...he himself also got up and, while she was on the floor, and kicked her a number of times," Adair Erhard told CBS.

Erhard's daughters claimed that the assault on their mother Ellen Erhard continued for two nights.

Celeste Erhard said, "At one point, on the second night, I did stand up and say: 'Please, you're killing her, you're killing her.' I mean, my mother was blue, her face was blue, she had, like drool coming out of the side of her mouth. She was dying. She was, you know, suffocating. And all he said to me was: 'Sit down, or you'll get more of the same.' And that is a direct quote, I remember every word. And that's all he said. And I sat down."

Adair Erhard agreed with her sister's account, "She was strangled literally. She turned blue, there was spit running out of the side of her mouth..."

A consultant that worked for Erhard did the actual choking, according to Adair Erhard.

And Dr. Bob Larzelere admitted to CBS that he was that consultant.

Larzelere said,, "'Somebody's got to volunteer, to hurt Ellen, to punish her, and make her talk, and make her confess.' And nobody did, until I thought, oh my god, this is an opportunity for me, finally, to get Werner's total approval. Now I can be a real soldier for him, now I can make him, proud of me, now I can get him to smile at me. Now I won't have to be afraid of him anymore. So I volunteered."

He did it "to scare her into confessing" about alleged infidelities.

Lazelere said that Erhard "didn't try to stop [him] all."

Lazelere lamented, "It was a despicable thing to do. And it took me days to realize it. Afterward. When I began to let myself feel again. It was, my god, it was like a nightmare. That I could have, gone that far, with wanting to please, wanting to get approval from, wanting to get love from another human being, to do that."

Erhard's daughters also told CBS that their father wouldn't allow their mother to live with them for two years. Adair Erhard said that periodically Ellen Erhard was allowed to come into the house, but "like a maid" to "scrub the floors." And the daughters "had to watch this," but "weren't allowed to speak with her."

Adair Erhard explained, "You know, he, whatever he said, that she should do, she had to do. And that was part of the instructions. Yeah, you have to be a maid for your house...I wanted to - say something so bad, or just do something about it, and there's, it's just so petrified all the time and there's just no way I could be okay with myself to, to tell anybody or to do anything about what was going on."

In an audiotaped interview Erhard dismissed these accounts about his marital relationship.

"Essentially nonsense. Ellen was never a maid. Ellen was my wife, and I always treated her like my wife," he said.

Ellen Erhard divorced her husband and reportedly as part of the divorce settlement she cannot talk publicly about their marriage.

Adair Erhard told CBS that her mother was grateful though that she chose to speak out about her father's behavior and wished she could do the same.


Deborah Rosenberg is one of Erhard's daughters, from his first marriage. Ms. Rosenberg told CBS that her father "molested" her when she was sixteen. She also claimed that Erhard had abused her siblings with "pornography all the way to rape."

She told Ben Bradley, "I wasn't there. But I believe my sister when she says that my father raped her...forcibly had sexual intercourse with her."

Erhard said that the rape never happened in an audiotaped interview.

But Deborah Rosenberg told CBS that when she confronted her father about this claim he admitted, "There had been sexual intercourse, and that it had been a nurturing experience for my sister. He said that 'I did not rape her.'"

When Deborah Rosenberg repeated what her father said to her sister she said that her response to his explanation was that "it was not a nurturing experience for her. And she's had to have a lot of therapy about that" and it was not consensual.

Governess Dawn Damas told "60 Minutes" that Erhard's daughters told CBS "true things about their father that are terrible...he beats his wife, and he beats his children, and rapes a daughter - and then he goes and tells people how to have marvelous relationships. I'm sorry, that's what I have against Werner Erhard."

Celeste Erhard commented about her relationship with her father as an adult.

"I kept thinking - that he would be a father, I kept thinking that when he got older, he'd want children, and he'd want his daughters. I just, I, I really thought that. You know that maybe he'd get wiser with age and he'd regret what he'd done, but um, he didn't," she said.

Erhard's response

Erhard's lawyers sent CBS affidavits from his sister and brother and from a few of his close associates disputing some of the stories from his children and denying that Erhard ever abused his wife.

Erhard stated, "There is only one appropriate response to these allegations, to heal and restore my family. And that is what I will do. To respond to the accusations at this time, would only further publicly exploit my family, and there has already been enough of that."


Above is a fair use news summary.

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