Landmark could perhaps be classified as a large group awareness training, of which there are probably dozens, if not hundreds. Sometimes the 'cult' label is thrown at such groups because some of the participants may feel manipulated and/or abused.
We recognise that any group can become 'Cultist', a political party, a football club or even a one on one relationship. With reference to Landmark Education we merely provide viewpoints from those who have found the training positive and those who have found it negative. We would challenge Landmark to not only put up positive stories on their web site, but also those, which are critical. This is after all what they request of us!
Issues that we would encourage reflection on are the following:
Landmark Forum began in 1985 by those who had purchased the EST "technology" from Werner Erhard. In 1991 the group changed its name to Landmark Education Corporation (LEC), which continues to offer the Landmark Forum training, along with several other courses emphasizing communication and productivity. Erhard's brother, Harry Rosenberg, heads LEC, which in 2000 had revenues of approximately $58,500,000 and has attracted some 300,000 participants. LEC is headquartered in San Francisco, as was EST, and has 42 offices in 11 countries. Apparently, however, Erhard is not involved in the operation of LEC.
Werner Hans Erhard was born in 1936, and for the first 24 or so years of his life went by the name of John "Jack" Rosenberg. His own accounts describe a stress-filled childhood in which he was often told that he was an unwanted child.
Rosenberg graduated high school and married his long-time sweetheart with whom he promptly had four children. He found his true calling in life - as a salesman - at a Philadelphia car lot. Handsome and charismatic, he is said to have used those traits to both sell cars and seduce women.
One of those women was named June Bryde. In 1960, at the age of 25, Rosenberg walked out on his family and Philadelphia with June. Leaving his past behind - a concept that would become a fundamental aspect of his future teachings - he chose a new name gleaned from the pages of a magazine article about two West Germans. The theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg and then-economics minister Ludwig Erhard. June took the name Ellen Erhard.
Erhard sold cars in St. Louis, then books door-to-door in the Pacific Northwest. But he and Ellen soon moved on to San Francisco, where Erhard formed his own book-selling company, motivating his sales force with rousing speeches and group sing-alongs.1 Erhard was also cramming for enlightenment by studying Gestalt and Zen; Plato; Freud; Jung; Heidegger; and Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Fritz Perls (theorists of the human-potential movement). He participated in encounter groups and took courses from Dale Carnegie, Scientology, and Mind Dynamics, collecting ideas he'd later use in his programs.
From there it wasn't far to his next venture: what Erhard called the "mind business." In 1971 he founded Erhard Seminars training, or EST. Erhard claimed to have reached his own enlightenment while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge, when suddenly he realized that he knew everything and knew nothing and didn't know what he didn't know the psychological phrasing that would become scripture in EST. Whatever the epiphany, Erhard also recognized a sales opportunity when he saw it.
From its start in San Francisco, EST spread quickly from coast to coast and then overseas at two-weekend seminars given by Erhard-trained associates. At its peak in the late Seventies, EST was attracting more than 50,000 new customers each year and generating tens of millions of dollars in revenues.
He had problems with Scientology who accused him of robbing their 'tech'. As EST grew in stature, the allegations became more vicious. Erhard was faced with tax problems and claims of physical abuse. Three of his daughters went on air for a CBS programme, 60 Minutes, accusing Erhard of molesting them (these were later recanted). Legal threats and court cases resulted with charges of nervous breakdowns, suicide attempts and clinical depression resulting from these heavy seminars.
EST metamorphosed into the Hunger Project* before the sale in 1995. Suddenly it was not attractive anymore. These scathing attacks though achieved their purpose and finally Erhard walked selling the Forum to his employees. Over twenty years ago another connected project emerged called the MASTERY FOUNDATION*: A Course for Those Who Minister is an advanced, interfaith workshop for both lay and ordained persons based on "Erhard's mind technology" .
Extra Material:When is a cult not a cult?
A sister's testimony.
A critique (Word document)
Learn to love who you are (Word document)
The Mastery Foundation and its connection to Landmark Education (Word document)
Life after EST
Sunday Tribune 31 July 2005 (RTF document)
An article from the Irish Independent written by Ben Quinn (Word document)
External links:The Landmark section in the Rick Ross database
Apologetics research resources on religious cults and sects about Landmark Education
Landmark Education website
The Mastery Foundation website