In Reply to: Landmark posted by Christopher on January 08, 2003 at 00:40:30:
I'm a graduate of the organization that spawned Landmark Education Corporation, called "est".
est was started by Werner Erhard, a former used car salesman turned new age guru.
I took the training in 1980 after a girlfriend took it and could not stop talking about it.
Cults are often described as all consuming organizations. For me, for about four years, est was all consuming for me. While I kept a job, and did not cut ties with my family, my job and family became a place for me to constantly recurity people for est. On my off hours, I would "volunteer" at the est center and sell seminars and trainings to people.
I also volunteered as an assistant in the actual trainings, and achieved the level of "confronter" or "presenter". I would perform this function late on the second night of the training, where myself and about eleven others would stand nose to nose with trainees while they stood in front of about 350 others and the trainer would scream at them. Part of my job was to never break eye contact, until I experienced that the person had "been with me". This was called "The Danger Process".
When we were in the group, my friends and I spoke in "est Jargon", which was our own language that outsiders had a hard time figuring out.
At some point in the mid to late 80's, Werner Erhard resigned after allegations that he had abused his wife, children and some est staff members. He sold the "technology" to the staff and last I heard he was living on a boat off the shore of Costa Rica, and says he is being harrassed by The Church of Scientology for stealing their "data".
est became "The Centers Network". "The est Traning" became "The Training". Later the organization was renamed again to "Landmark Education Corporation", and "The Traning" became "The Forum".
I never took the Forum, and the start of that was what got me thinking about the whole thing. We were told in est that we had "gotten it", and there was "nothing to get". Then all of a sudden there was this new thing, and if we didn't take it, we didn't get it. Which was hard to understand, since "it" was "nothing".
My last seminar was one called "The Experience of Integrity". In it, we learned that all we are is our word, and when we do something that is inconsistent with our integrity, we damage ourselves. So, I figured out that being involved with that organization, I was damaging myself. So, I quit.
The training I went through was much more intensive than the current one. It was sixty hours over four days. The new one is only three days, and far fewer hours. We were treated very harshly. The Fourm is much more professional. The organization has made a gigantic effort to reform. But, it is still about getting people convinced that they are missing something that The Forum has. Once you are convinced, your job is to get as many "guests" as possible to attend introductory seminars and eventually take The Forum.
A lot of people take The Forum, and walk away with some new ideas, that are pretty positive. Others become consumed by the whole thing and can talk and think of nothing else, sometimes for years.
The group has always been kind of a watered down version of Scientology. In fact, when I was in, they openly admitted that Werner Erhard had been a Scientologist. It starts out with some fairly useful information, but if you get sucked in, there is no end to the seminars you can take and what you can spend on them.
Here's a link to the Apologetics Index and what they have to say. It includes other interesting links about The Forum and Landmark: