Synthesis: an MLM-type cult manages to brainwash seminar attendees into harassing everyone around them (family, friends, employees, acquaintances and even strangers) into joining, with messianic promises of changing their lives for the better. After a single weekend spent there, enthusiasts start speaking in jargon and proselytise ceaselessly, which often leads to broken relationships. Some keep investing money into further courses, to the point of becoming bankrupt (Scientology style). Observing that these people are truly brainwashed is not an overestimation. 

Landmark evolved out of EST, which borrowed a lot from Scientology. Their method of “helping” people is to deconstruct their identities by devaluing everything they’ve done or experienced prior to attending. That is done by insulting them and dismissing any trauma they’ve experienced as part of the “story” they tell themselves about their lives. Anything is dismissed, however egregious (even rape). Participants are told that whatever happened to them, they brought it on themselves.  

previous post contains a number of sources detailing what this group really does and how it hounds its seminar attendees to recruit others, including family members and friends.

What they do to people’s minds in such a short time is morbidly fascinating, and not a small phenomenon by any standards; according to Landmark, 2.2 million people have gone through the seminar (at least the first one). Its fierce defenders are outraged that anyone who hasn’t taken part feels the need to issue an opinion.

However, one only has to take a quick look at what comes out of there. The obsession, the missionary zeal, disregarding any inappropriateness.

“I just ran into one of these whackjobs on a blind date. I am not exaggerating when I say that ten minutes into the date she had invited me to come to a landmark seminar as a guest and that it would “change my life”. I was like…uh thanks anyways but I dont even know you, never heard of landmark, and I dont want my life changed. My life is my journey and no one steers my ship but me.” (YouTube comment).

It’s no secret “converted” business owners put pressure on employees to sign up; it has come out in the press repeatedly. The French documentary they managed to take off internet platforms also featured a doctor who had been pushing everyone around him to attend, as shown in the transcript, available here.


Who did you enroll?


My whole family. My wife, my kids, my associate, my assistant.


But this doctor doesn’t only enroll people close to him. With trust built through common experience, he reveals that he’s been recruiting well beyond his family circle.


Your associate is a surgeon?




Is she signed up for The Forum?


Well, she hasn’t signed up yet, but she’s coming to the presentation.


There are a lot of doctors here!


Lots! You saw them. Doctors, nurses, psychiatrists.


Why are there so many doctors and nurses?


Because we’re all in the shit. When we’ve tried every possible treatment on a patient, and they’re useless, what do we do? We give up. We do nothing. We don’t care. And it bugs you.


In a few seconds this doctor admits that he just sent his first patient to Landmark Education.


You share it with the patient. And I can tell you, these guys are great for enrollment.


Just like that? A patient you see?


I did it. Just like that.




I did it once. I said, I can’t let him miss out on it. It’s too obvious that he needs it. So I told him about it. But I kept him guessing. I told him, “What you need is relaxation, self-confidence.” “Oh yes,” said the patient. “Well, there is something that could interest you.” I don’t know if he did it, I didn’t ask about it. I didn’t take responsibility.


Did you want him to do it?


Oh yes. The guy needs it. If he does it, he’ll be transformed.

In the online environment, it seems the only negative (or suspicious) appraisals they don’t flood with propaganda are on websites which don’t allow commenting. Anywhere else, they try to recruit, even when the author or OP is clearly not interested.

They are even targeting anonymously posed questions on Quora. Seriously. And not necessarily acidic ones. Take this innocently formulated conundrum of someone not knowing how to tell their enthusiastic “Landmarkian” brother they didn’t want to sign up (presumably after enough insistence on the brother’s part).

Post after post after post praising the forum and encouraging them to change their mind, even trying to guilt-trip them into going (it’s hundreds of dollars for a weekend of pseudo-psychology).

Later edit: I initially thought the person asking how to deflect an invitation on Quora was male, but upon reading again, there’s no way to tell, so I corrected the pronouns.

“So essentially you’re saying you don’t trust your brother and his good intentions.”

“Maybe you realize that in the Landmark Forum you will confront yourself and live life with no excuses? If that’s the case, you should be straight and tell him you are afraid of what you might learn about yourself and you aren’t willing to risk it.”

“He is asking you from his commitment of of making a difference in your life. You can tell him that I got your commitment towards my life and I respect your commitment. However my answer is NO at this point. However my suggestion is just go and do it. Perhaps, you may get from the Forum how to deal with people straight without hurting the relation.”

OMFG, these people are so creepy.

Their quick response was this person actually needed Landmark, as if they were in need of fixing or something. They didn’t even know this stranger, yet they seemed so sure of that.

In fact, that is exactly what they are taught – that every single participant is “inauthentic”, phoney, “without integrity” before completing the seminar (which translates as everyone outside of our group lacks integrity, a claim only made by cults).

“You are living lives of sham and illusion,” Condon assures us from his director’s chair. “Everything you do in life is meant to make you look good or to avoid looking bad. Everything. You are inauthentic. You have no integrity. Your word is worthless.”

It’s them on one side and the rest of the world on the other. They are the “saved ones”. No different than Jehovah’s Witnesses on that front. The attitude of forum leaders is gleefully regurgitated by minions, an example being this typical comment found on Quora:

“There is nothing dishonest about the Landmark Forum, anyone who says otherwise hasn’t taken the course. People who don’t take the course generally fall into the category of either knowing they can’t be helped, or knowing they don’t need the help (ironically the people in both those categories need the help the most). After taking the course I never paid a therapist again to waste my time and theirs. Hands down, taking the course was the best investment of my time and money… ever.”

In other words, everyone has a problem (literally everyone on this planet), especially those who don’t admit it, and the answer is Landmark.

Back to the article linked to above – a sinister technique is described, consisting of inducing despair followed by inducing euphoria, akin to Pentecostal churches where one is sobbing for their sins, then ecstatically praising God.

“Near the end of an endless day, Barry leads us in a visualization ercise about fear that goes something like this: We are told to close our eyes as he reads to us from what sounds like a bizarro relaxation script. “Imagine that are afraid of the person next to you,” he says. “Very afraid.”

He’s quiet a minute, lets the anxiety he’s inspired percolate. I start to hear uneasy, emotion-suppressing sighs.

“Now…imagine that you are afraid of everyone in the room. Imagine that you are afraid of every single person in the city of Oakland, hundreds of thousands of people.”

I’m sitting near the front of the room, and behind me, off to the left, I hear whimpering.

“Imagine you are afraid of every person in the United States.” The whimpering intensifies. “Imagine you are afraid of every single person, all 6 billion people in the world.” The whimpering becomes sobbing: further behind me someone might be hyperventilating.

“Don’t go unconscious!” he yells. “That’s just your way of checking out!”

The sobbing becomes wailing. And then, from right behind me, some lets rip a wild, primal, angst-ridden, high-decibel growl, like I once heard from my dog when she having a wild dream.

Then Barry says, “Just wait! There’s a surprise on the other side of this. Something absurd!” Sobbing, growling, and whimpering fill the air.

“Now, are you ready for the surprise? Imagine the person next to you is—guess what?—afraid of you.” Barry breaks into a giggle just this side of maniacal.

“Now imagine everyone in the room, in Oakland, in America, in the world, is afraid of you!”

The sobbing begins to turn to laughter. We open our eyes onto a world in which we are powerful because we don’t feel fear, we instill it. I guess. I’m not particularly moved by the ercise. But Barry’s performance has provoked in the group a hasty swing of the emotional pendulum that reveals an ever growing willingness to be led. I know everyone is tired, but their mutability disgusts me. I’d thought we were supposed to become more powerful here.”

The all-knowing leader, mind you, is not a trained psychologist, but somehow he is able to induce a trance. Overtime there have been speculations regarding the use of hypnosis. Obviously, this mass hysteria would freak the hell out of anyone who was simply observing.

Another article on the subject is very interesting. Although it ultimately ends in a pitch, which I don’t quite get, the numerous comments, some posted as recently as this year, contain the experience of many with the forum.

“I was involved in Landmark Education for 11 years and I was a staff member before I left the organization. The most effective and confusing element of LEC is that within it’s philosophy is a lot of truth. Most of this truth is based in buddhist teaching. Landmark combines these insights with consumerism and lots and lots of shame. If you are unhappy, you’re in your “racket”. If you are hurt, you’re in your story. I once told someone that I was sad and he said, “Is that your racket or your winning formula?” Landmark discourages self trust and encourages you to judge yourself if you are anything less that joyous and “at cause.”

“I literally just left an “Orientation” at a members house today, and I feel like I just escaped Jonestown.I was belittled for not coming up with a $200 deposit for the $650 forum. When I explained I had just lost my job and was struggling to survive, the member blamed me for my own misfortunes and continued to degrade me with a litany of personal insults. I’m like, “So, you want me to pay $650 to you NOW?!” (…)This practice seems to prey on vulnerable people. I was relentlessly recruited by a member after losing my job.”

“I’m a mother of a thirty year old son. It has come to my attention that since he’s been involved in the landmark forum for some time he has become very distant and lost still searching for a higher power even though he’s been baptized catholic. This forum has confirmed him and caused great concern over his well being and driven him into debt. The multi marketing companies that are built on hype led him into this scam convince him that he needs it to become successful in the business. I’ve been through enough to know that he’s become distant, hates ppl, lost all belief in himself even he’s become leader which by the way doesn’t pay a dime, and now he’s lost and more confused than ever! He paid money he couldn’t affford because he has integrity ( and they take advantage of that) for my niece to join a weekend seminar and when she attended in Manhattan became seriously ill with an appendix attack but the leaders didn’t give a damn about her and try to force her back into the room. This organization doesn’t give a damn about human life! They refused to give a refund until my sister threatened a lawsuit. I seriously wish this company would fall off the face of this earth! It’s a scam and I’m sick of wondering when or if I’ll ever hear from my son again!”

“Lord, one of their staff members pestered me continuously about signing up for the $700 (!!) weekend session, and when I told him I couldn’t afford it, he had the audacity to tell me I could borrow it from the bank or from someone in my life. When I continued to resist, he urged me to consider that something deeper, something unrelated to money was keeping me from signing up–and perhaps this was what was keeping me from achieving goals in life. First, how offensive to presume I haven’t been achieving goals in life, and second, yes it really is all about money. I have no urge to get into debt. How manipulative though, eh? Telling me that some unknowable force within me was causing me to resist signing up, and that force might be keeping me from happiness.”

“About a year or more ago I lost a great friend to Landmark She can’t afford to eat out but yet she can afford to pay them hundreds and hundreds of dollars to go to seminars to travel with others just like her to be enlightened and to tell me on a regular basis her truths which are nothing more than explanations of how she feels.”

“I have a friend who’s started the Landmark process, and two a few things she reported were hazard signs in my eyes: “I was wrong, i was so wrong…” Having been raised Catholic, i’m suspicious of any thought process that emphasises self-debasement.

She also has encouraged me to attend two ‘graduation ceremonies,’ and if I only started participating in Landmark, we’d have a ‘shared vocabulary.’ You can learn Buddhism for a lot less money, and you get bathroom breaks.”

“My girlfriend of almost two months who I think is a beautiful, smart and wonderful woman put me in a strange position! From first glance things are going good however since we first me has been urging me to join Landmark Education as it’s very important too her! She is 100% into In, she eats it, drinks it, recruits, volunteers and speaks of it religiously daily. (…)Now she demands I join Landmark Forum to reveal my bigger picture or loose her? Question is, what is Landmark Education doing to its paying participants? You see I’m very clear thinking person, so someone trying to hold my relationship hostage will not work on me. I’m stronger that and know when someone in trying to fool me into drinking the koolaid…”

“I have a friend who committed suicide after doing several Landmark courses – he discovered damages that needed far more care than Landmark was capable of supplying – they deconstructed his personality & he was unable to find his way back. It was appalling. And I know other people for whom the same thing has happened to their friends or family. It is irresponsible & dangerous to mess with people’s minds when you don’t know what you’re doing, & no one in Landmark ‘education’ has any qualifications in mental health, ‘Leader Program’ or not. As for putting children, whose minds are still just developing, under this strain – it beggars belief that anyone would do that.”

“I wish I could just vomit and feel better after attending half of Advanced Course for Landmark. I met nice people in the room. Accomplished, educated, interesting. My kind of people. The Forum Leader had the audacity to tell me that people only liked ME because of my accomplishments and did not love me. I told him he was wrong and he argued with me and told me I was ‘not coachable’ so I left. F*** him. F*** Landmark.”

“I have been hounded for three years to join this ‘sect’. I always politely declined because I smelled the shadiness of this ‘denomination’ from the beginning. I have dealt with at least 10 of these people. Each time, with no exception, the relationship with this group of ‘fanatics’, has ended poorly and each of them have had personal issues that requires professional help.” 

These are just a few of the comments, on that site alone. There are many others elsewhere. Another account described how the seminar leader was pushing a woman to call her ex-husband, whom she’d left after many years of alcoholism (and was happy with her decision) to apologise to him and possibly go back with him as well. Mind-blowing stuff (they were, perhaps, trying to recruit her husband after “saving” a destructive marriage).

The Cult Education Institute shares really disturbing accounts of unsuspecting people being substantially affected by their interaction with Landmark “converts”.

“I have been told to do this Landmark Forum for self-development by my supervisor in my last performance review. I had a brief encounter with it many years ago as some co-workers did it. One of whom left her fiancé and married a Forum leader in the short space of three weeks. I have found out that my manager, other management, staff and others within the company have all done this training. For months I’ve been hearing things like ‘honoring your integrity,’ ‘being authentic’ and ‘commitment.’ The pressure put on us all to go and do this Forum is immense. I feel that my job will be threatened if I don’t do it.”

“I’m convinced that Landmark contributed to the end of my marriage. Although it initially helped my ex get out of psychotherapy, it was basically just a form of self-therapy. He was addicted to analysis. When he felt he had problems with our marriage, he took them to his people at Landmark instead of talking to me. They helped him to decide he needed a divorce. The only person he would accept as a counselor was a Landmark ‘coach,’ who was not a licensed marriage counselor. I took Landmark courses myself largely for the sake of my marriage. The best thing about my divorce is not having to take any more! I gave them an earful every time one of those Landmark zombies called trying to get me back into the fold. So now I’m on their ‘don’t-call list.’ I call them ‘Landmark Nazis.’

“I want to thank you for a most informative website. I was hired by a company and unbeknownst to me, everyone but myself and one other person, were Landmark people. We later left, because we both are very strong people and refused to go to the Forum. I am just amazed at what took place and how this all happened within a successful company with very well-educated and socially astute people. Games were played and the people were hurt, which can suck the life out of a company.”

“A friend of mine has been in Landmark for over a year now and it is taking over her life. She only wants to date men in Landmark and quit her job. Now she has more time for Landmark and volunteering. She is usually broke, but somehow always seems to find money for more Landmark programs. She also found someone through Landmark that would take her in rent free. All her dialogue sounds like rehashed Landmark terminology. She talks about ‘creating new possibilities,’ ‘breakthroughs’ and living a ‘life of authentic etc.etc. Of course she is always trying to get others to try out the Forum. Everything she talks about or does is about Landmark. I personally have nothing against anything that will help people empower there lives and make them better, but my friend’s life is losing balance and she is becoming more and more dependent on Landmark in an unhealthy way.”

“My new employer hired an old friend deeply entrenched in Landmark. Two weeks later there was a general staff meeting and we were all ‘encouraged’ to attend the next Forum. My boss called me into his office and said, ‘Be there.” I knew he meant the Forum. I asked if it was mandatory and he simply stated, ‘No, but be there anyway!’ I didn’t attend and my life at work has been turned upside down. I share my office with two Landmark people. These Landmark people don’t seem to be any better at essential communication skills than they were before they started. They instead seem to be in a world all by themselves, where nothing but Landmark appears to have any significance. I foresee this business hitting the skids soon and that’s really the result of Landmark Education [sic].”

“I had a friend who was sucked into Landmark Forum. We intervened to get him out. It took some psychiatric help, but now he is back to normal. I was amazed to find out how big Landmark is, but yet somehow largely unnoticed. Their manipulation and control over people is frightening. After a single weekend, my friend who is a psychology major, was brainwashed. He was as far from reality as you can be and came so close to losing everything.”

Again, there is no need to experience this directly in order to see it for what it is. Anyone remotely normal would not aspire to end up selling “salvation” harder than MLM recruiters or speaking in jargon (I’m sure there are people in rural parts of China whose English is easier to understand).