Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: kdag ()
Date: July 12, 2020 05:27PM

John Hunter PhD posted a quote from a book about est, in which a woman related a story of incest, then:

"Immediately after that woman finished sharing another woman stood up and said, ‘I just realized listening to this woman how much I loved my father and part of me wished my father had committed incest with me."

That second woman sounded like she was planted, to me, if it ever happened at all. I am extremely skeptical of that story, and anyone who would say such a thing would have to be very disturbed. Which leads to this point: even if that did happen, it would not support the facilitator's assertion that pedophilia and incest were somehow okay, but only demonstrates est's, (and Landmark's) ability to twist and rationalize absolutely anything.. To even have to listen to that "logic" also invalidates the victim, and the way she felt about what happened..

I know lots of people who were molested as kids, but not a one who didn't feel traumatized by it. Add to that the fact that kids will do things that are harmful to them, and that's why parental supervision is so important. The arguments that this organization makes are pure bunk. No Matter how good they are at rationalizing, the damage caused by these experiences has been proven over and over. And molestation is only one example. They do this with every deleterious occurance under the sun.

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: John Hunter PhD ()
Date: July 12, 2020 11:21PM

“Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter. The sitter is merely the accident, the occasion. It is not he who is revealed by the painter; it is rather the painter who, on the coloured canvas, reveals himself.”

- Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray


Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 07/12/2020 11:23PM by John Hunter PhD.

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: facet ()
Date: July 13, 2020 12:23AM

Hi All,

Re the incest subject, in my personal study I found that lots of groups use this sort of subject with specific reason, which is that it works to thoroughly break down inner personal judgement of people and situations - this is a personal boundary. It can be teamed with teachings of absolute non judgement too.

Once this is done, those in attendance are far less likely to challenge any abuse that occurs within the group or setting, and this extends further into other areas of the persons life too.

The faculty of judging someone’s behaviour for ones self in order to work out wether a person or situation is for us is a vital to each of us.

It has nothing to do with projecting unwanted values into others, it is just that internal ‘this is not for me’ometer that helps us to largely keep out of dodgy situations, or even just situations that do not suit us personally.

Personal boundaries are attempted to be taken down for a reason, we all know how important our boundaries are, this is an insidious way of breaking boundaries down that is good to be aware of.


The story given is used as a means to prove that it happens, other people do this do why shouldn’t you? Etc, and wrapped in with that the ego wanting to try and keep up with the Jones’ with the level of non judgement - which, wildly, has been presented as an admirable achievement.

The achievement presented is of course false.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2020 12:50AM by facet.

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: John Hunter PhD ()
Date: July 13, 2020 12:42AM

Dismantling the ATTRIBUTION process

Hi facet

You're very right. LGAT trainers, while telling participants that they are helping them to think independently, dismantle the attribution process (which allows people to make sense of "why" a person may have behaved in a particular way). From page 247 of my thesis:

It should be noted that, while reinterpretation (framing negative events as positive) can be an empowering tool for those who have experienced something painful, it can also be used to justify or downplay unethical behaviour. One has to question the validity of LGAT assurances that they are not stressful when, based on their core philosophy, the Holocaust and child molestation are not stressful either. According to the extreme LGAT interpretations of constructionism and responsibility, death camps and molestation are not inherently negative, but may simply be interpreted as such by those who choose to experience them in this way. Mother Jones journalist, Laura McClure (2009), describes how this philosophy is used by Forum leaders to inflict shame on those sharing:

“‘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.”

Referring to the process of “attribution”, and the importance of being able to independently make sense of interactions and situations, Branscombe and Baron (2017, p. 105) explain, “… only if we understand the causes behind others’ actions or events can we hope to make sense of the social world (and potentially prevent bad outcomes from happening in the future)”. While claiming to enhance independence and freedom (by asserting that participants can assign any meaning to any event), LGATs undermine autonomy by obliterating participants’ confidence in making sense of experiences and, concurrently, imposing their own attributional framework.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 07/13/2020 12:50AM by John Hunter PhD.

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: John Hunter PhD ()
Date: July 13, 2020 12:47AM


Thought reform condition 7 of 8: Doctrine over Person

Doctrine over Person, according to Lifton (1961), refers to the way that the interrogator processes the experiences of prisoners through the philosophy of the environment. Participants in LGATs are pressurised into revealing their “stories” for interpretation. The trainer takes what they give him, applies his philosophical formula, and returns the reinterpreted story back to them. Of this element Lifton says “… the resulting ‘logic’ can be so compelling and coercive that it simply replaces the realities of individual experience” (p. 431).

Because the philosophy is considered a Sacred Science (Lifton's 5th condition of thought reform), anything shared will be processed using this thinking. Lifton continues, “The underlying assumption is that the doctrine – including its mythological elements – is ultimately more valid, true, and real than is any aspect of actual human character or human experience” (p. 431). In the following example from a Landmark Forum in Paris the trainer, after explaining the difference between facts and stories, convinces a participant that cancer is not a problem:

“Marc no longer even knows what the word ‘problem’ means. Alain Roth addresses him on the microphone: ‘I’ll give you an example. If you get cancer, do you have a problem?’ Marc answers: ‘Er, no. I have cancer!’ Gone! Marc has integrated the concept discussed a few minutes earlier: That ‘there are no problems, only things that happen.’ He did this so well that he can no longer recognize a problem. It’s useless to put forth the idea that this nonsense scrambles your thinking. Alain Roth won’t hesitate to impose his truth: ‘I’m the leader. You need to be coachable!’ Total surrender required” (Lemonnier, 2005).

In another example, a participant objects to being harassed by Landmark employees, who call her three to four times a week trying to get her to sign up for another training. The following exchange, which was captured on camera (Cult Awareness + Information Centre, 2017) , shows how the “logic” of the environment is used to replace the realities of this person’s experience. Astonishingly, the woman in this exchange ended up agreeing with the perspective offered by the trainer:

TRAINER: So, if you have a question, raise your hand and ask it.

NARRATOR: Up front, a woman voices a criticism.

PARTICIPANT: Yes, I would like to know why there is so much harassment.

NARRATOR: Murielle complains about being harassed by the Landmark staff, of incessant phone calls to get her to register for the workshop.

PARTICIPANT: When people…

Before the participant has a chance to speak, the leader interrupts and disarms her, reminding her that she must obey his rules, while suggesting that her objection is invalid.

TRAINER: Wait, wait. Turn on the microphone. Don’t destroy the microphone. Thanks.

PARTICIPANT: What I wanted to say was…

TRAINER: Wait a second. Where’s your name tag? Because I don’t want to harass you too much. Thanks.

The leader then convinces this participant that her own experience is invalid. Landmark’s (self-serving) constructionist perspective is applied, and it is ultimately accepted as being more valid, real, and true than this woman’s own experience. This is a perfect example of Doctrine Over Person:

TRAINER: You don’t make a distinction between what’s happening and your interpretation. You confuse the two, as we’ll see. There’s no harassment. There is what happens.

PARTICIPANT: May I say something?

TRAINER: Wait, wait. You will say what you want. The Forum isn’t “I go to the microphone and I talk”. There’s a leader who leads the discussions and I’m the leader. So, I will give you the floor, but let me create a certain context first. So, “harassment” never happened. That’s an interpretation.

PARTICIPANT: So, if you tell me “It’s not true”, I don’t see how I can talk to you.

TRAINER: Yes, but hold on. You didn’t have ten people demanding… “You will enrol, you will enrol”.

PARTICIPANT: No, I also had someone call to ask me if I had a problem. Another one asked something else…


PARTICIPANT: But when you get three, maybe four calls in the same week, you’re overwhelmed.

TRAINER: OK, but you call that harassment?

PARTICIPANT: Yes, I call that harassment.

TRAINER: But is it harassment?


TRAINER: That’s because you interpret it that way. You could interpret it another way.


TRAINER: That people are calling to support you, they’re committed to making something happen for you.

This is a clear example of framing something negative in a positive way, and it should be patently obvious that this sort of manipulative logic would be dismissed in any other situation. If a person was summoned to the HR manager’s office at work because he was calling up a co-worker three to four times a week to ask her out (and she had repeatedly asked him not to), he could not argue that dating him would be in her best interests, so he was “supporting”, not harassing her.

Of Doctrine over Person, Lifton (1961) states that “… the resulting ‘logic’ can be so compelling and coercive that it simply replaces the realities of individual experience” (p. 431). Considering the participant in the above exchange accepted the “logic” offered by the trainer – and considering the proportion of LGAT trainees who submit to trainers’ interpretations of their own experiences – it is not unreasonable to argue that Landmark processes, at a minimum, remotely resemble Doctrine over Person.

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: John Hunter PhD ()
Date: July 13, 2020 12:48AM

Link to my PhD, for those who want the detail:


Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: facet ()
Date: July 13, 2020 01:02AM

Thank you John, I’ll be having a good read up here.

“According to the extreme LGAT interpretations of constructionism and responsibility, death camps and molestation are not inherently negative, but may simply be interpreted as such by those who choose to experience them in this way. Mother Jones journalist”

- denial solves nothing, where as acknowledgement does because it begins the process towards resolution.

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: John Hunter PhD ()
Date: July 13, 2020 01:10AM


(kdag commented on this earlier and Lifton would class this under thought reform condition 2 of 8... "Mystical Manipulation"):

From page 232 of my PhD:

Mystical Manipulation refers to events which take place in the environment that may seem spontaneous, but are actually orchestrated by the group (Lifton, 1961). Lifton states that those controlling the environment seek to “provoke specific patterns of behaviour and emotion in such a way that these will appear to have arisen spontaneously from within the environment” (p. 422). Processes employed by LGATs which misleadingly create the impression of spontaneous behaviour or spontaneous emotion can, therefore, be considered Mystical Manipulation.

From page 236 of my PhD:

Another example of Mystical Manipulation in an LGATs, according to Singer (2003), is the use of plants who eagerly follow the leader’s instructions, use the jargon, and model the correct behaviour:

“New customers are unaware that most LGATs allow or even encourage those who have taken the training before to reattend. These people serve as a claque or modeling section. They clap, speak the same jargon as the leader, make endorsing statements, and are models for the new customers to pattern themselves after. Because the returners talk the talk and walk the walk, they get good responses from the trainer when they make comments. New customers begin to pattern their language and demeanor after the behavior of these others who, they notice, receive praise for using certain language or revealing personal material” (pp. 193-194).

Because Singer had no personal experience of Landmark, it is important to comment on this practice within Landmark separately. Former Landmark participant and volunteer, Robert Black, explains that plants were used by Landmark to create a more convincing experience during its courses:

“What I did not know until later was that some of the testimonials were coming from volunteer assistants at the center who had already been through the Forum and other Landmark courses and were participating as a free refresher and to help the participants ‘get it’ and fully appreciate the life altering experience” (Black, 1997).

Another online commentator says that he was warned by a graduate about sitting next to people who were retaking the Forum, and who would likely be extremely enthusiastic about the training:

“He also said to avoid sitting next to the people with black bars on their badges, since they were graduates retaking the Forum, and were apt to be overly earnest in a way that would undoubtedly annoy me” (Drew, 2010).

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: July 13, 2020 01:21AM

Notice too how often the trainer interrupts the participant, trips her up when she's trying to say something. Distraction tactic.

John, you really nailed it, did us a service when writing,"the “logic” of the environment is used to replace the realities of this person’s experience."

This tactic, "using the logic of the environment" to replace the realities of the person's experience" --- this same tactic is used in Vajrayana Buddhism to justify why we need gurus and to get us to devalue and disown unethical behavior perpetrated by gurus and their acolytes.

This same trick is used by gurus, both Hindu and pseudo Hindu, and other belief systems as well.

I call it estrangement of our guts from our minds and trusting mere logic over instinct that something is just plain wrong.

Years ago there was a discussion abouty Landmark. We learned that Landmark agents may get special training on how to ignore all responses except a "Yes"

Go here and look for this story. The author named Sumerlin, is quoted as alleging that Landmark agents use specific methods, procedures, to manage anyone who says No. These agents look like and sound like responsive human persons but are not. They have been weaponized.

Here's what to read:

Here is how products of Werner Erhard's LGAT (Formerly est now Landmark)are trained.

This entire article is well worth reading.




Louisville's Liz Sumerlin first became aware of Landmark in 1991, after her then-fiancé enrolled in The Forum and began pressuring her and his family to sign up.

"The longer he stayed in it, the less I could talk to him," she recalls. "It was all psychobabble. We'd have a disagreement and he'd just dismiss anything he didn't want to hear by saying 'That's your story' or 'That's your racket.'"

"I found it strange that an organization that talks about how it's creating all these people who have empathy for their fellow man turns out all these people who don't want to communicate so that other people will understand them."

Sumerlin decided to find out everything she could about Landmark. A friend told her about a Wall Street Journal article, but when she tried to find it at the Denver Public Library, the microfiche had disappeared. However, a librarian there handed her a printout with a whole list of suggested reading, explaining that she had lost a relative to est.

"Apparently a lot of people were interested in the same thing I was," Sumerlin remembers. "I was really surprised by the amount of negative publicity."

She was also surprised by the nature of that publicity. "And what about Erhard?" she says, shaking her head. "They're always talking about how this will give you better, more loving relationships with people, but look at what a mess his family life was."

As her boyfriend got further into the organization, signing up for the leadership and self-expression program, Sumerlin agreed to attend an introductory course.

"They were just big sales pitches," she says. "We were whisked away into these back rooms where they try to get you to sign up. If you don't they want to know why. What's so great about your life that you don't want to improve it? Why do you have such a hard time committing to anything?"

"It's like shooting clay pigeons; there was always another question. They just try to wear you down."

At one point, Sumerlin tried to leave - but first she had to get past several hall monitors who kept up the questioning. "it was before I learned that the only way to handle these people is to just say no," she adds. "Anything else gives them an opening to ask another question. They're trained on how to do it."

In fact, she says, a former volunteer told her how they were taught to desensitize themselves to objections from potential recruits by singing "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" and substituting all the possible objections people might have for the verses: "I'm not signing up because…of money. Ee-I-Ee-I-O. I'm not signing up because…I don't want to. Ee-I-Ei-I-O."

Our minds and guts are supposed to work as partners, in harmony, not be estranged from each other. Con artists get us to rely on logic at the expense of our guts.

Re: I'm just a soul whose intentions are good...
Posted by: John Hunter PhD ()
Date: July 13, 2020 11:37AM

Hi corboy

I agree with your sentiments, but I would characterise any occasion where people outsource their thinking as intuitive, and potentially dangerous. Since the "logic" used by LGAT trainers is clearly illogical, the solution - as I explain in the book - is not to "trust your gut" (although this can initially alert you that something is wrong), but to fully trust your own rational thinking.

LGATs rely on participants dropping their rational defences, because intuition is vulnerable to exploitation. This is why very intelligent and educated people are taken in by their processes - they are quite capable of rational thinking, but can be convinced (and exhausted to the point) that abandoning rationality appears to be the best way to "get it", or achieve "transformation". When dealing with these master manipulators, returning to evidence and rationality (which expose their sinister tactics) is the only long-term defence.

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