a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: SeanK ()
Date: January 24, 2009 05:56AM

Landmark Education has come under some very intense public criticism. I went through both The Landmark Forum and The Advanced Course. While much of the criticism leveled against Landmark is indeed well founded, I think that some of it goes WAY too far. In essence, I don’t think that its fair to throw Landmark into the same category as scientology and other destructive cults, for reasons that I will enumerate below.

Landmark doesn’t cost that much money. Scientology and most other cults demand huge sums from their participants. The most advanced programs in scientology are in the order of $100,000 U.S.D each. The main course work in Landmark Education is called “The Curriculum for Living,” and is divided into three parts: The Landmark Forum, The Advanced Course, and the Self Expression and Leadership Program (SELP). Completing all 3 of these courses will cost less than $1,500 U.S.D. While there are many other courses offered by Landmark Education, I have never once been hounded to enroll in any of them. Basically, once a participant completes the 3 main courses in Landmark, they are left alone. This hardly rises to the order of cult status.

Landmark doesn’t require that much of a time commitment. The Landmark Forum and the Advanced Course are both 3.5 days, and the SELP takes place over several months. While there are certain people who ultimately volunteer for Landmark Education and staff their offices gratis, they do so on their own accord. I was asked a couple of times if I would like to volunteer, I politely declined, and I was not asked again. Completion of the SELP will mark the end of most people’s involvement in Landmark. And although other courses are offered, I have experienced no pressure whatsoever to enroll in them. I didn’t even receive a phone call when I failed to show up for the SELP. Such is not the case with actual cults. Scientology, Hare Krisna, the Mormon Church, and other related organizations are lifetime commitments that demand much of one’s time and energy. Given the limited amount of time one typically invests in Landmark, it can hardly be said to threaten an individuals outside responsibilities.

Landmark doesn’t isolate you from the rest of the world as genuine cults will do. For example, Scientologists and Hare Krisna’s basically do not associate with anyone outside of their organizations, and will typically cut all ties with family and friends. Even Christianity preaches that those outside of the faith will burn in hell for all eternity. There is no “us” and “them” mentality in Landmark. In point of fact, healthy relationships between family and friends are encouraged. Therefore, Landmark doesn’t present any danger to an individual’s preexisting relationships.

In essence, it is my humble opinion that where an organization requires only a modest commitment in time and money, and poses no real threat to an individual’s preexisting relationships, it cannot properly be said to be a cult. However, there are indeed many valid criticisms one can make regarding Landmark.

In the final analysis, I would argue that landmark is selling personal transformation at $1,500 a hit, and does not deliver on its promises. Completing the Curriculum for Living will not alter the course of one’s life in any meaningful way, and most of Landmark’s philosophy is simply a bunch of hot air. But that doesn’t make it a cult. The term “cult” should be reserved only for those truly destructive organizations that deserve our most virulent condemnation, and should not be used casually. Landmark does not rise to such a category.

Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: January 24, 2009 08:11AM


I have never said that Landmark Education is a "cult."

See [www.culteducation.com]

And also see [forum.culteducation.com]

These disclaimers are linked from every page.

Landmark is a very controversial company that presents large group awareness training (LGAT) programs.

Indeed, Landmark Education "has come under some very intense public criticism" and for good reasons.

Landmark, formerly known as EST, is a private for-profit enterprise run by the siblings of Werner Erhard (aka Jack Rosenberg). The company has a history of personal injury lawsuits, labor violations and serious complaints from families and past participants.

See [www.culteducation.com]

Based upon the complaints I have received about both Landmark and EST since the 1980s, I would not recommend its programs to anyone under any circumstances.

See [www.culteducation.com]

This is a research study done by a clinical psychologist about such training. He points out 13 liabilities to watch out for within such programs.

13 liabilities of encounter groups, some of which are similar to characteristics of most current mass marathon psychotherapy training sessions:

1. They lack adequate participant-selection criteria.

2. They lack reliable norms, supervision, and adequate training for leaders.

3. They lack clearly defined responsibility.

4. They sometimes foster pseudoauthenticity and pseudoreality.

5. They sometimes foster inappropriate patterns of relationships.

6. They sometimes ignore the necessity and utility of ego defenses.

7. They sometimes teach the covert value of total exposure instead of valuing personal differences.

8. They sometimes foster impulsive personality styles and behavioral strategies.

9. They sometimes devalue critical thinking in favor of "experiencing" without self-analysis or reflection.

10. They sometimes ignore stated goals, misrepresent their actual techniques, and obfuscate their real agenda.

11. They sometimes focus too much on structural self-awareness techniques and misplace the goal of democratic education; as a result participants may learn more about themselves and less about group process.

12. They pay inadequate attention to decisions regarding time limitations. This may lead to increased pressure on some participants to unconsciously "fabricate" a cure.

13. They fail to adequately consider the "psychonoxious" or deleterious effects of group participation (or] adverse countertransference reactions.

He also points out four dager signs.

The groups were determined to be dangerous when:

1. Leaders had rigid, unbending beliefs about what participants should experience and believe, how they should behave in the group. and when they should change.

2. Leaders had no sense of differential diagnosis and assessment skills, valued cathartic emotional breakthroughs as the ultimate therapeutic experience, and sadistically pressed to create or force a breakthrough in every participant.

3. Leaders had an evangelical system of belief that was the one single pathway to salvation.

4. Leaders were true believers and sealed their doctrine off from discomforting data or disquieting results and tended to discount a poor result by, "blaming the victim."

In my opinion Landmark exhibits all 13 liabilities and four danger signs.

Various mass marathon training programs have also allegedly used coercive persuasion techniques.

See [www.culteducation.com]

The key factors that distinguish coercive persuasion from other training and socialization schemes are:

1. The reliance on intense interpersonal and psychological attack to destabilize an individual's sense of self to promote compliance

2. The use of an organized peer group

3. Applying interpersonal pressure to promote conformity

4. The manipulation of the totality of the person's social environment to stabilize behavior once modified

Coercive persuasion differs from other means of persuasion such as education, advertising, propaganda and indoctrination in distinct ways.

See [www.culteducation.com]

Such distinctions are outlined in the above linked chart by clinical psychologist and researcher Margaret Singer.

The problem with groups like Landmark is accountability.

Unless the leaders are trained and licensed mental health professionals they don't have meaningful accountability regarding their education, training and practices to a licensing body or board.

Unless they are trained and licensed as mental health professionals they specifically don't have the proper training and education to recognize the 13 liabilities completely from a professional and psychological perspective.

You have offered your opinion regarding Landmark based upon your personal subjective experience.

But after decades of presenting its programs and making many millions of dollars, despite its fantastic claims of success Landmark has never funded a scientific study that has been peer reviewed and published based upon something other than anecdotal evidence.

Specifically, how has Landmark's programs been objectively and professionally evaluated concerning content, potential risks, liabilities and scientifically measurable objective results?

For example, objectively measurable results might include such things as a higher grade point average experienced by students, increased job income, lower divorce rate, reduced need for psychological counseling, lower rate of prescribed medication for anxiety or depression, etc. notably sustained by its graduates over a period of time after completing its programs.

Instead Landmark offers essentially polls and surveys such as its so-called "Harvard study" based upon anecdotal evidence and subjective opinion.

FYI--Harverd didn't appreciate its name being used by Landmark.

See [www.culteducation.com]

Bottom line--people are safer going through counseling, group therapy or educational programs supervised and led by licensed professionals accountable to licensing boards and bodies, such as clinical psychologists, pscychiatrists, marriage and family therapists etc. There are also accredited programs for continuing education regarding various subjects of interest provided by community colleges and universities.

A support group and/or group therapy focused on a particular concern or issue is also often available through community social service agencies led and/or facilitated by a properly trained and licensed professional.

These are the safer alternatives offered within most communities that people often forget about before becoming involved in unlicensed and essentially not accountable mass marathon training or large group awareness training (LGAT) groups and companies.

Before signing a waiver required by Landmark to take its programs (e.g. the Forum), which relinquishes the right to a trial by jury regarding any potential personal injury claim, people should consider the above points very carefully.

Think about it.

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/24/2009 08:15AM by rrmoderator.

Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: SaneAgain ()
Date: January 24, 2009 08:46AM

SeanK, I'm not sure whether your post is tongue-in-cheek or not:


In the final analysis, I would argue that landmark is selling personal transformation at $1,500 a hit, and does not deliver on its promises.

Are you saying its just a cheap version of a really bad cult? Or not a cult and therefore not a problem? Or not a cult but still a problem? Your arguments are:


Landmark doesn’t cost that much money. Scientology and most other cults demand huge sums from their participants.

Landmark doesn’t require that much of a time commitment.

Landmark doesn’t isolate you from the rest of the world as genuine cults will do.

All true, though I'd argue that Landmark isolates people psychologically, if not physically, based on what people have reported here and elsewhere.

Anyway, my question is, do you see it as a problem? Do you think its okay to use covert manipulation to part people from their time, money and (something you haven't mentioned, mental well-being), in the guise of providing an improved life?

Re: an unbalanced look at Landmark Mis-education
Posted by: The Anticult ()
Date: January 24, 2009 09:08AM

we need to post to the links/text to the Landmark Forum waiver they force everyone to sign before they take the Landmark Forum.
Landmark supporters first need to sign their own waiver, and get it notarized, and state that the Landmark Forum is not going to harm you.

So for the Landmark supporter, post the text to the Landmark waiver first, lets see it.
Post it.

there are links in these threads.

Landmark waiver

Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: MartinH ()
Date: January 27, 2009 08:54PM

Hi SeanK,

what you describe is just the one side of it. But what do you say about the fact, that a significant fraction of Landmarkers end up as Landmark selling machines for free? It is part of the programs of Landmark to tell people over and over to invite their family and friends.

Personally, I would call that "brainwashing". Let's say 8% of the people in the Forum end up thinking their lifes or their results depend on inviting guests for Landmark. Landmark suggests, that you have results from their courses if you invite guests.

That is exactly, what the "Boston Church" does.

Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 27, 2009 11:18PM

This entire discussion thread includes a discussion of the LEC disclaimer form mentioned by Anticult. The situation referred to happened August 24 2008--so its recent.

My husband lost his job b/c he would not do the LANDMARK FORUM


The intense public criticism SeanK refers to is from people whose lives are being disrupted. That's far beyond 'criticism'.

Its bearing witness to suffering.

Makeup began the thread by telling us this:


We need help! I have no idea where to start. My husband lost his job yesterday because he refused to go to the Landmark forum 4 day induction. He was tricked into going to the seminar last Tuesday night. When he told his boss that he wanted to discuss the program with me (his wife) his boss ignored him and signed him up anyway & paid the $500. He said that he wanted him to join. He told him that anyone that works at his job will attend landmark. His boss has been harassing him all week about the program because his boss knew that I did not want him to go. That made him mad. So When he picked up his check yesterday he told his boss that he could not participate in the forum because he was on medication & his boss said “ he has heard enough bull-shit”. & said that if he didn’t participate that he is not to come into work on Monday that he was fired. His boss was mad because I said that it was a cult. My husband is on 3 of the medications that are listed on the enrollment form that landmark suggests you not participate in the program if you are on any of them. I should mention that my husband is Bi-Polar. I know that we have some sort of case against his boss but I just don’t know where to start.

It's Sunday Morning & my husband is so depressed that he has not got out of bed since Friday around 6:30 pm. He has only got out 1 time to eat a bowl of cereal. I am thinking of bringing him to the ER. Gosh what a nightmare!

The company that he worked for has only 7 employees and the lady that I spoke to yesterday said that they could not help us because he didn’t have 15 or more employees. She gace me a Federal phone number to contact. I will call that on Monday but if you have any ideas or suggestions I would surely appreciate any help that you can give.

I apologize for the way this may read…. I have been up all night with worry that my husband doesn’t have a job.

Thank you for any help in advance!

A number of us advised 'MakeUp' and her husband (who had bipolar didnt want to do LEC and whose boss was pressuring him to take LEC or lose his job)--to get legal advice-which had the potential of generating paperwork that would have been a matter of legal record and exposed LEC to public scrutiny.

And she was even advised to ask the lawyer when the filing deadline would be--a very common blunder is for people to delay in seeking legal redress only to find that the filing deadline has passed.

So it is interesting that one day later on August 25th after the RR.com community urged M to get legal advice and learn the filing deadline, a correspondant named Elaine popped up on behalf of LEC.

Elaine wrote some cruel things insinuating that 'Makeup' needed to get a job herself (Makeup already had a job!) and offered some potentially misleading advice to Makeup.


Makeup - get yourself a job in the meantime, how else will you support your husband? (What a vile thing to say to someone in distress-C)

And resolve any issues first by communicating with your husband's employer, then with an attorney, if the chat with the employer bears no successful outcome for both of you (you and his employer).

No one is allowed to force people into taking the Landmark Forum - however, no one can also preclude an employer from listing attendance of the Landmark Forum as a condition of employment, just as one can not preclude an employer from listing an educational requirement (e.g. a B.S. or M.S. degree in some specialty) as a condition of employment.

I would definitely take up the issue with the employer before I pursue force (e.g. the court system). There's nothing that can not be resolved through communication.


Mr Ross replied



I disagree with Elaine's assessment and advice.

Consulting an attorney first would be in your best interest.

Find a good employment attorney.

Requiring someone to learn Werner Erhard's beliefs/philosophy as a job requirement, seems dubious and probably illegal from an employment perspective.

No one should be forced to change their personal beliefs by an employer, this could easily be seen as religious discrimination.

Employers have been sued for this, i.e. forcing employees to take the Forum through Est or Landmark.

Employers that have employees take thinly disguised Scientology courses through work have likewise been sued.

This is something that requires expert legal advice.

This is just a tiny portion of a remarkable discussion thread that shows how a boss infatuated with LEC was willing to ignore LECs own guidelines and was pressuring an employee with bipolar to do LEC or lose his job.

It doesnt matter how blissful something makes you feel. If that same thing is doing damage elsewhere, the bliss is just a distraction from those larger patterns of harm reported by people like Makeup.

And to say 'That isnt my experience' is just plain selfish and childish.

And it reflects all the more poorly on whoever or whatever has taught you to think that 'its not my experience' is sufficient to write off anything you dont enjoy hearing.

Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 01/27/2009 11:29PM by corboy.

Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: SeanK ()
Date: January 27, 2009 11:39PM

Look guys, I'm not saying that landmark is a wonderful institution. Their hard sell is certainly disgusting, and much of what they teach is total bullsh!t. That being said, virtually ALL spiritual, religious, and self help institutions are cultic and nonsensical. Landmark is no more odious or destructive than any of the major world religions. All of the criticisms and attacks leveled against landmark can easily be leveled against Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and even psychiatry! So why is Landmark getting such a bad rap?

Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: rrmoderator ()
Date: January 28, 2009 12:43AM


First of all, simply because other groups are questionable, "cultic and nonsensical" and/or bad doesn't obviate the facts historically regarding Landmark's practices and inherent problems.

BTW--Though Landmark devotees often respond as if it is a religious belief system based upon faith rather than facts, Landmark is nevertheless a for-profit privately owned company run by the Rosenberg family, i.e. Werner Erhard's siblings.

Landmark gets a "bad rap" because of its bad behavior and sordid company practices, regarding recorded labor violations, reported personal injuries, and regular complaints from families and past participants etc. etc.

And anyone interested can easily find this information by using search engines such as Google. It is all well-documented and easily accessible through the Internet.

As previously pointed out licensed professionals can be held accountable through official outside boards and bodies for their practices and most often have educational requirements, e.g. marriage and family therapist, psychologist or psychiatrist.

And a legitimate educational institution (college or university) to become properly accredited by a respected body must also meet certain requirements.

Landmark as a privately owned company and doesn't do any of this per my understanding.

And licensed professionals and educational institutions don't typically require a signed waiver before you receive services limiting your ability to recover damages if they hurt you.

Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: nettie ()
Date: January 28, 2009 01:28AM

I am saying that landmark is a cult. A cult which uses brainwashing methods.

I have posted a few videos on youtube for your enjoyment. Search for nisseberka.

I think landmark does a very poor job at not being a cult. They pressure you to enroll others. They say that when you stop doing landmark courses your life will go back to its pre-forum state. They say that you should continue to participate. They know that people have suffered mental problems after the course - even people who were well before they entered the landmark world.

I participated btw 1994 and 1998 and have insight into the inner workings of landmark. I was an introduction leader for 2 years. To become an introduction leader I had to personally enroll 10 people. The 10th person I enrolled suffered severe depression after doing landmark courses. He ended up hanging himself.

Landmark knows all about the disastrous results people have but they "choose" not to do anything about it.

A former girlfriend did the forum in 1993. She is still suffering from bipolar disease. During the advanced course she suffered a borderline psychosis and have not gotten back. The landmark staff sent her home and did not even once check up on her.

I don't understand why you defend landmark when you think they don't deliver.

I salute you though for coming here - you will not find much support for your views here.


Re: a balanced look at Landmark education
Posted by: nettie ()
Date: January 28, 2009 01:32AM

Look guys, I'm not saying that landmark is a wonderful institution. Their hard sell is certainly disgusting, and much of what they teach is total bullsh!t. That being said, virtually ALL spiritual, religious, and self help institutions are cultic and nonsensical. Landmark is no more odious or destructive than any of the major world religions. All of the criticisms and attacks leveled against landmark can easily be leveled against Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and even psychiatry! So why is Landmark getting such a bad rap?

Because they deserve it. This is a place where we discuss LGAT's. LGAT's are not comparable to religions. Landmark is not a religion. Landmark is a company.

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