Thursday, November 30, 2006

Missing - James Brian Rowe

The bulk of the text for this post was taken from a recent blog entry by James' sister on his MySpace Page. This is how they introduced the story at Project Jason - Voice for the Missing, in an October 11, 2005 post entitled "A "Landmark" Decision" :

Laura Hebert is certain that she lost her brother, James Rowe, when he decided to attend a personal development seminar called “The Landmark Forum”. He’s been missing since July of 2004, after having gone to the seminar. In her own words, Laura tells us the story.

This is the text of the recent blog post by James Brian Rowe's sister :

I am glad Landmark Education is receiving attention for their questionable tactics. My brother would be here today if it wasn't for his attending a Landmark Forum two years ago. Read on...

James Rowe attended a Landmark Forum July 24-25th in Denver, Colorado. He was living in Crestone, CO at the time. He called my mother and me after the forum and sounded very strangely on the phone. He was first and foremost a believer of Landmark and all they stand for. He told me that he found "the answer" and urged me to attend a forum myself. He started laughing and told me that we create our own reality, and said, "do you know what this means?!". He then started crying and said he felt so connected to me. I immediately became suspect of the seminar he attended and asked him more about it. I told him to call me soon, to be in touch, because I was worried. This was the last time I heard my brother's voice. He disappeared July 30th, days later.

According to James' friends, they noticed a marked change in his demeanor after the forum. He had very strange behavior. He shaved his shoulder length hair and took out all of his jewelry (he has gauged ear disks and piercings). He abandoned his vehicle 20 miles outside of Crestone, with his camping and hiking gear inside, and hitch-hiked back to town. He asked a friend for a ride to the trailhead so he could go for a hike to clear his mind. His friend obliged. James showed up in his friend's backyard later that day, barefoot and confused. He said he was having a hard time telling reality from illusion. His friend asked him if he was okay, James said "no". He then walked into the woods. This was July 30th, the day of his disappearance.

A missing person's report was filed with local police, and the woods surrounding Crestone were searched via air and land. No trace was found. There were unconfirmed sitings in nearby towns shortly after his disappearance, it seems he (thankfully) left the woods. The next time he was supposedly seen was the day before Thanksgiving, in 2005. He was seen at a truckstop in Hainesville Georgia. We are fairly certain this was a true siting.

My family is extremely angry at Landmark Education. We received a call from one of the higher ups after James' disappearance, and he had no explanation for James' behavior, which was obviously related to the forum he attended. We feel strongly that James disappeared due to a mental breakdown he suffered because of the Landmark Forum.

For More Information:

"10/11/05 A "Landmark" Decision"
The post mentioned above from Project Jason - Voice for the Missing

"Landmark Education- the reason James is missing"
The blog post quoted above from James Brian Rowe's sister, at the James Brian Rowe MySpace page, as originally posted at the Cult Education Forum message boards.

Help Find James Rowe
The main website for information on how to help find James Rowe.

See also the Related Prior Posts section in the post Second EFF Interview on Landmark Education.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Second EFF Interview on Landmark Education

Jason Schultz at EFF on DMCA Take Down Notices - Part IV

This is another interview by Enric Cirne with Electronic Frontier Foundation representative, Jason Schultz.

Enric Cirne's description of the interview:

Continuing the discussion with with Jason Schultz at the Electronic Frontier Foundation on using the DMCA to inhibit internet speech. Landmark Education's DMCA usage and a new users response to DMCA notices is discussed.

The video in question is "Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus", a French expose film on Landmark Education. Recent events surrounding the film and attempts to suppress it from the internet are detailed at the Cult News report: Landmark Education wants to make French news report a “forbidden video” on the Net.

Related Prior Posts:

Interview with Electronic Frontier Foundation

Protecting Children from LGATs

LGAT News Blog Update - Take 2

LGAT Updates from the Blogs

Self Improvement or Selfish Profit?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Interview with Electronic Frontier Foundation

EFF on Landmark Education's DMCA subpoena

From Enric Cirne:

On November 8th, 2006 I interviewed EFF lawyer, Kurt Opsahl, on EFF's defense of the Internet Archive from the Landmark Education DMCA Subpeona. Landmark Education subpoenaed the Internet Archive, Google Video and YouTube to reveal the identity of who uploaded the France TV 3 video on the Landmark Forum. Kurt recommends bloggers, whether using text, audio or video, review the EFF: Legal Guide for Bloggers. Another source of information for online rights is the Chilling Effects Clearinghouse with a database of take down notices. Should you receive a Cease and Desist notice(s) they can be put up there.

More information on this continuing saga of litigation and threats of litigation across the globe by Landmark Education:

Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus
Rick Ross Institute informative page about the France 3 documentary

Landmark and the Internet Archive
Electronic Frontier Foundation's legal case page

Freedom of Speech
Posts related to Free Speech at the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Self-help Group Bullies Net Critics
Kansas City Infozine

Landmark Education vs. a link on Apologetics Index
Landmark Education threatens Religion News Blog in Amsterdam over a hyperlink to a website in hosted in Australia - Cult Awareness and Information Centre.

Landmark Education wants to make French news report a “forbidden video” on the Net
Cult News report

Google faces legal challenges over video service
The Washington Post, originally from Reuters

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Protecting Children from LGATs

United States Representative George Miller introduced House Resolution 1738, the "End Institutionalized Abuse Against Children Act", on April 20th, 2005. The legislation seeks to regulate facilities in the United States and abroad, that service families and "treat" children and teenagers.

Related Links

Write Your Representative
To find and write your local United States Representative on the issue.

The Real News
Related news regarding teenagers.

Sign the Petition
Petition for the passage of the End Institutionalized Abuse Against Children Act of 2005.

Petition to Close Provo Canyon School
A school with teen "treatment programs" that has been sanctioned with injunctions by Federal District Court and been found guilty of controversial treatment of children by other courts.

Stress fear in $700 child forum
WA children as young as eight who attend "life-changing" coaching sessions by a controversial US company could have difficulty with their schoolwork afterwards, according to experts.
The Sunday Times, Australia, June 11, 2006 - by Peta Hellard

Unregulated Residential Treatment Facilities Exploit Children and Families,
Say Mental Health Experts and Advocates; Urge GAO Inquiry, Passage of Legislation
U.S. Newswire

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

LGAT News Blog Update - Take 2

Recent posts from the blogosphere related to Large Group Awareness Training :

How To Know If You Are In A Greed Group (aka a Capitalist's Cult)
A very funny laundry list of things to watch out for.
The Nite Owl

Landmark Forum abuses copyright to suppress criticism
Sums up some of the latest developments.
The Lippard Blog

The Gentle Wind dropped
More on the strange saga of the overly litigious "Gentle Wind Project", since defunct in Maine.
Strange Maine

EFF on Landmark Education’s DMCA subpoena
An interview with Kurt Opsahl of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Tech Alley

November 18, 1978 - Mass Suicide at Jonestown
Blog post about the horrific event, from someone indirectly connected to it: "Two friends of my family died at Jonestown."
Constructive Bitch

Related Prior Post:

LGAT Updates from the Blogs

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

False Gurus and LGAT Teachers

Many thanks to the Guruphilliac blog for their short article on this blog, and for linking to us.

I think there is a pretty significant overlap between the ideas used in Large Group Awareness Training and the methods used by the many false gurus who are out to exploit people.

Today, many people are making a move to spirituality, as opposed to religion, and this has spawned a rapidly growing industry where a guru or teacher is willing to lead pupils to the promised land – but at a price.

Many of these gurus use mind control methods as described by Robert Jay Lifton to gain the confidence of prospective devotees. One that would immediately come to mind is that of Mystical Manipulation. Get that one right and it is amazing how many people becoming instantly willing to hand over their power to someone else.

And funny, isn’t it, how often someone else finds the answers in a divine revelation? Just like Werner Erhard, aka Jack Rosenberg, after he walked out on his wife and kids, and then suddenly – BOOM! – while driving into San Francisco it all came to him in a divine revelation and the Est Training (which was then reinvented and became Landmark Education) was born.

So, how much came to him from this great revelation and how much had to do with his self training as described in The Skeptic’s Dictionary? Indeed, did part of Erhard’s revelation include studying all the influences described in the Skeptic’s Dictionary article?

Erhard’s story is simply an example of many similar stories out there.

Apart from Guruphilliac’s excellent blog, another source for finding out more about gurus is the website Guru Ratings. Also, James Randi has made a career out of exposing people’s false claims.

There is a great video featuring Randi on Xenu TV called The Power of Belief. It is an ABC News special. It shows, among other things, how people can be tricked by someone claiming psychic powers. The amazing thing is that even when the hoax was shown, people still wanted to believe in the false guru!

And if you thought Uri Geller was the only one who could bend spoons and read minds, you're wrong. Randi did it too!

As a word of warning about the high ideals and dreams false gurus sell, I want to share the following quote with you (not that the works of false gurus extend to this degree, but the potential for serious damage is there):

"When you meet the friendliest people you have ever known, who introduce you to the most loving group of people you've ever encountered, and you find the leader to be the most inspired, caring, compassionate and understanding person you've ever met, and then you learn that the cause of the group is something you never dared hope could be accomplished, and all of this sounds too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true!

Don't give up your education, your hopes and ambitions, to follow a rainbow."

-- Jenne Mills, former member of the People's Temple and subsequent victim of assassination a year following the November 18, 1978 Jonestown suicide/murders of 911 adults and children.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Are LGATs like Con Artists?

This post will examine the similarities between helpful information posted at the advocacy website FraudAid: First Aid for Fraud Victims, and a description of common Large Group Awareness Training tactics, as outlined in Dr. Philip Cushman's 1993 book, The Politics of Transformation, also another excerpt from the work here at Mass Marathon Trainings.

Aggressive recruiting tactics
"As a result, participants and leaders may unconsciously distort their feelings and responses when reporting to researchers about the group or recruiting for future groups. This might result in a deceptive "oversell" that could undermine informed consent and lead to unrealistic regressive expectations in new recruits, the specific type of problems that have been found to lead to psychological casualties. Since these liabilities are so similar to the techniques used in some mass marathon training's, they may also cause psychological damage in that setting as well." - Dr. Cushman

"On the other hand, sometimes a con will merely play the game on someone who may not have a lot of money himself but who has relationships with others who do. In that case, you will not be aware that you have been duped. Or you may be made aware at a later date and threatened with repercussions if you do not continue to bring in money. " - FraudAid

Obsessive compulsive manipulation
"Participants are instructed and guided to move directly to the seat nearest to the front I the room. They are not allowed to save seats, move the chairs around, or take a seat at the back or on the side. After everyone is seated the unused seats are quietly "whisked away-" One subject noticed this and thought this was done in order to hide the number of no-shows. Participants are instructed to be seated before the music stops, or they will be considered late and will not be allowed to continue the training. Then there is silence until the trainer strides quickly and purposefully onto the center of the stage and takes the microphone. The staff applauds loudly." - Dr. Cushman

"In most instances, the middleman stars in the first two scenes. Once you have been carefully manipulated into a state of confidence and excitement, the middleman introduces you to the insideman. In today's world of financial scams, the insideman - the person running the show - is often the one who directly approaches you. If that's the case, then there is always the concept of someone higher up. This higher-up person is frequently a myth, created in order to apply pressure on you once money has changed hands. He is created to provide the con artist with an alibi, allowing the him the appearance of being at the mercy of a higher authority and therefore in the same fix as you, and therefore making him appear to be your friend. Regardless of whether you are approached by a middleman or the insideman himself, the con artist will always present himself to you as one who has to respond to a higher authority, in whatever form will pose the greatest threat." - FraudAid

Intimidation and legal threats
"This is where terror tactics are used. This is the step where the swindler will use every sort of threat imaginable to induce your deepest fears in order to prevent you from contacting the authorities for as long as possible, or maybe never. The swindler will threaten you with anything from total loss of all funds, convincing you that you have involved yourself in some sort of questionable activity, or threaten you with maiming or death. The swindler will use stall tactics by telling you that funds are tied up in a bank audit, or that transfers are frozen during bank mergers, or that the SEC is investigating the investment fund and no money can be disbursed until the investigation is finished... The results are always the same - it gives the swindler time to wrap up his scam and make a clean get-away, and/or it gives him time to clean out other victims he has on the hook before making his getaway." - FraudAid

Certain Large Group Awareness Training organizations have historically developed policies which involve the use of copious legal threats and indimidation as a form of inducing a chilling effect amongst their would-be critics. In fact, certain LGAT organizations have actually initiated litigation in their history against virtually every single media/press organization and individual who has publicly criticized these groups. This is not the standard of practice amongst reputable for-profit companies. Most companies will simply spend money on advertising campaigns - illustrating the postive nature of their organizations as a way to counter negative criticism in the press. However, most LGAT's do not operate in this manner, and instead of attempting to advertise and reinforce positive ideas, they will often go after critics in an attempt to silence negative ideas and destroy their enemies financial resources and their reputations.

Attorneys Peter L. Skolnik & Michael A. Norwick elaborate on this type of legal methodology:

"This type of lawsuit -- typically accusing the defendant of defamation and related torts -- is known in various American jurisdictions as a SLAPP suit: i.e., a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation; a lawsuit brought not for its merits, but for the specific purpose of silencing a vocal critic, often one who is unlikely to have the financial resources to defend himself. "

The organization in question which Skolnik and Norwick refer to here will not be mentioned in this particular post, for fear of similar reprisal in the form of frivolous intimidatory legal actions, as further mentioned in their article. Now isn't that funny and ironic?

Actually, this particular segment of the typical Large Group Awareness Training's tactics - the heavy usage of frivolous legal threats, lawsuits and intimidation as a way to permanently silence critics - could be a book unto itself, and will be elaborated upon in further posts.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Conditions for Mind Control

Plenty of accusations get bandied back and forth between pro-Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) people and anti-LGAT people about the methods used on these courses. Some call them cults. Some say they aren't cults. Others say they use cult-like methods, while their opponents deny this.

What is clear is that many hypnotic methods are used on these courses. So, I thought I would post this checklist that outlines the optimum conditions for brainwashing, thought reform, mind control, coercive persuasion - call it what you will - to occur.

If these conditions look familiar to you, and not all of them need apply , then ask yourself why the group you are dealing with needs to create such an environment.


  • Isolate them in new surroundings apart from old friends or reference-points
  • Provide them with instant acceptance from a seemingly loving group
  • Keep them away from competing or critical ideas
  • Provide an authority figure that everyone seems to acknowledge as having some special skill or awareness
  • Provide a philosophy that seems logical and appears to answer all or the most important questions in life
  • Structure all or most activities so that there is little time for privacy or independent action or thought
  • Provide a sense of "us" versus "them"
  • Promise instant or imminent solutions to deep or long-term problems
  • And employ covert or disguised hypnotic techniques.

  • Now, think critically about the group you are checking these criteria against. Try to objectively assess whether conditions similar to these are used. If they are, do Due Diligence. Research the group well. Take a look at the links provided to the right, do a Google search, and then make an informed decision.

    Also, take a look at this video, called Mind Control Cults. It has been mentioned before on this blog, but this short satire is incredibly accurate and it contains a lot of the jargon and claims you might hear from a questionable group, organization or teacher.

    Wednesday, November 15, 2006

    Finding YOUR own way

    Looking through the Rick Ross message boards, I, some time ago, came across a post by a former moderator, who goes by the username Corboy, which I would like to share with you. In it, he talks about life coaching. The concept and the points he makes could as easily be applied to Human Potential Seminars and Large Group Awareness Training (LGATs).

    A legitimate Life Coach should resemble a gas station:

    You get fuel for the journey, get your car fixed, and can check a road map in case you think you've got lost.

    But the people at the gas station are there to help you reach YOUR chosen destination. They should not trick you into abandoning your plan to follow their plan, nor should they trick you into pitching your tent in the gas station's parking lot, and calling that your vacation!

    The thing with LGATs is, they trick you into camping in the gas station parking lot and convince you it's as good or better than seeing Yellowstone, Yosemite--Sherborne Forest.

    Life Coaching seems to spin off in some very legitimate ways from career counseling and brief, problem-oriented psychotherapy. If life-coaching stays within certain parameters it can be legitimate and helpful. But if it strays beyond these parameters, it is easily corrupted.

    In my opinion, Life Coaching is legit only if:

    1) It is made clear that life coaching is suitable for essentially healthy persons, who have clear cut goals and need to know what resources or skills they need to reach those goals.

    There must never be 'bait-and-switch'

    *The Life Coaching process should serve the stated goals of the client, not subtly recruit or indoctrinate clients into abandoning their goals to serve the covert goals of the group or its leader.*

    **It would be a good sign if the Life Coach encourages clients to write out his or her goals and then check and re-check the goals throughout the process.

    If the client is tricked into abandoning his or her goal to follow the agenda of the group, the life coaching process is no longer coaching but indoctrination and is an existing LGAT, or something in the early stages of becoming an LGAT.

    2) The life coach or career counselor aims to have only short-term contact with the client/customer and is eager to foster the client's autonomy and be part of his or her continuing education, not monopolize the process.

    3) The 'here-and-now' approach is only suitable for very clear cut goals (eg how to transition from one type of job to another), and only if a person is essentially healthy. A really ethical Life Coach will know how to refer you to a psychotherapist if it turns out you need one, and will have a list of qualified therapists available if referrals are needed.

    4)It should therefore be a big red flag if a Life Coach tries to keep you attending course after course. That would subvert your autonomy and signal that the Life Coach's intentions are not in your best interest.

    Above all, there should be no hidden agendas, such as fronting for an existing LGAT or using Life Coaching to test one's hypnotic skills or room arrangement experiments on an unsuspecting group.

    Interesting article:

    Do You Need a Performance Coach?
    BestLife magazine, article by Christopher MacDougall

    Sunday, November 12, 2006

    LGAT Updates from the Blogs

    In the tradition of sharing the link love, here are some interesting recent articles related to Large Group Awareness Training that have come out recently:

    Muckraking Landmark Education
    Touching on some of the more controversial aspects of the organization. From ben's commonplace book.

    Google faces legal challenges over video copyright
    Landmark has landed itself in some sort of legal entanglement with Google Video, and this has been spread on the Reuters news service. All because of a documentary made in France almost three years ago, Voyage to the Land of the New Gurus. More on this in a later post. From South Punjab Blog.

    Lifespring Memories
    This one comes from the blog, Sufferin' Succotash. A very interesting take on this controversial, defunct organization.

    Gentle Wind Project becalmed
    Great post about the Gentle Wind Project, as per the blog: "a cult that for more than two decades defrauded its members of millions of dollars." As taken from the blog, disinterested party.

    WARNING: Survivors of Sexual Abuse Could Be Easy Targets - Landmark Forum
    The views of other sites/blogs are not necessarily those of the editors of our blog, but this post has lots of interesting resources, including a 2005 article from GQ magazine. The blog is Jewish Survivors of Sexual Violence Speak Out, and it's also related to their associated site, The Awareness Center, which has some more resources on similar topics.

    Friday, November 10, 2006

    Nobody Joins a Cult

    Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

    This is a trailer for the film, "Jonestown: The Life and Death of People's Temple".

    The opening text of the trailer begins with:

    On November 18th, 1978 in Jonestown, Guyana, 909 members of Peoples Temple died in what has been called the largest mass suicide in modern history.

    Deborah Layton, author of the book Seductive Poison: A Jonestown Survivor's Story of Life and Death in the People's Temple, is quoted in the trailer:

    "Nobody joins a cult. Nobody joins something they think's going to hurt them. You join a religious organization, you join a political movement, and you join with people that you really like."

    This quote is extremely ominous and telling at the same time.

    It certainly hits home why the resources contained in the previous posts are so vitally important to anyone who is considering or who has friends or relatives considering becoming involved in organizations or Large Group Awareness Training groups that they consider to be suspect:

    Six Danger Signs of Harmful LGATs
    To learn what to watch out for in friends/family members newly involved in Large Group Awareness Training.

    Mind Control Made Easy
    To watch a short film that accurately spoofs key characteristics of cult groups and cult leaders.

    Seven Key LGAT Articles
    To read articles from seven sources that research Large Group Awareness Training.

    Doing Due Diligence
    To begin to learn how to question and start the due diligence into these groups. When educating yourself about "personal life transformation" you should check out potential groups/companies as thoroughly as you would when buying a new car or house.

    Thursday, November 09, 2006

    Six Danger Signs of Harmful LGATs

    So, you're on the outside looking in. Someone you know has attended a human potential seminar and when he/she returns you notice some changes - changes that you are not comfortable with.

    Should you be concerned? What do you need to look out for?

    Take a look at some of the points below. If some of these things look familiar to you, don't hestitate to read up more on them. There is a wealth of information on the subject, much of which can be found from the links provided, or else by doing a simple Google seach.

    But even before I get there, I want to say a few things. If you recognize that someone close to you has been involved in a group using cult-like practices, DON'T rush in crying "Cult, Cult" or "Brainwashing!" Please read this article on coping strategies from Rick Ross first.

    You may save yourself a lot of pain, and it may help you put together a constructive plan to help the person close to you.

    A couple of things I have noticed for myself:

    Often people who have been on these courses are told not to say what goes on there because this will spoil the experience for others who might want to do them in the future. Rubbish! This is a means of not revealing what happens on these courses. If it was known, I would suggest that many people would choose not to do them.

    Another thing I have seen is that people who have been on such courses are also very vague about them when questioned. This is a Red Flag. Beware! Some people I have spoken to have had problems remembering what happened on these courses. A number of factors play into this such as confusion, lack of sleep, lack of food, and in some cases (which occur far too often) dissociation. Dissociation happens to people when they are put under extreme stress - this is how the body protects itself from that extreme stress.

    The following warnings signs were posted by Chris Mathe, a Ph.D. candidate in clinical psychology. He has worked as a trainer, facilitator, consultant, executive coach, and senior-level manager for over twenty years. I believe the six points he makes are very useful:

    1. Radical change in personality or behavior.
    Change is normal with any religious, philosophical, political, or social "conversion," but the key here is the word "radical."

    Has the person gone from being a quiet introvert to being an outgoing extrovert? Has he or she suddenly begun talking about new ideas or using new words or expressions such as the drift, enlightenment, getting it, holistic, human potential, resonance, transformation, transpersonal, transcendental, life force, etc.

    2. Severe depression or anxiety.
    These symptoms can be indicators of post traumatic stress disorder, sometimes experienced by participants in New Age seminars.

    These disorders can be triggered by negative episodes undergone during sessions of guided imagery or past-life regression often included as part of such seminars.

    Both depression and anxiety are often accompanied by an inability to concentrate, chronic distraction, and inappropriate emotional response.

    3. Confusion about reality, values, or knowledge.
    Since Large Group Awareness Training and Human Potential Seminars are designed to "transform" the way one views and relates to the world, as well as to the tasks at hand, the transformational process can result in a disjuncture between the individual and everything else that makes it difficult to determine what is real, valuable, or true.

    The insistence that "we create our own reality" can, when inculcated by means of hypnotic or assaultive techniques, cause one to suffer psychotic episodes.

    4. Diminishing or loss of critical thinking skills.
    The basic Eastern-mystical concept of the unity of all things includes as one of its corollaries that there are no distinctions between truth and falsehood, right and wrong, good and evil.

    In fact, Eastern/New Age teaching generally attempts to invalidate Aristotelian logic in toto, so that "A" can also be "not-A."

    This, if carried to the "logical" conclusion, makes nonsense out of language, and meaningful communication becomes impossible.

    A typical New Age statement is, "That may be your reality, but it's not my reality."

    5. Sudden onset of a series of physical ailments.
    As Margaret Singer and Richard Ofshe have found in this article, radical thought reform programs can cause a variety of physical as well as psychological problems.

    These include strokes, heart attacks, ulcers, stomach problems, increased pain related to periods for women, and lowered resistance to communicable diseases.

    People need to be alert to these as they can be signs of psychological distress brought on by these types of training programs.

    6. Marital or other relationship discord.
    Seemingly normal "spats" between spouses, siblings, partners, or parents and children can be precipitated by attendance at a New Age (or other) seminar or program.

    The radical transformation or conversion that often occurs frequently produces a fanatic out of the convert, whether the conversion is to New Age thinking or Christian fundamentalism.

    Unconverted relatives normally find it difficult to endure the religious/metaphysical obsessions of the fanatic.

    People should be prepared to inquire discreetly of the employee who is experiencing such discord at home to find out if the cause may be of this nature.

    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    Mind Control Made Easy

    Mind Control Cults

    Mind Control Made Easy, or How to Become a Cult Leader -
    a film by Carey Burtt

    This 12-minute film has already been mentioned in the posts Doing Due Diligence and Why am I doing this? It is a great short-film that both spoofs cults, and describes some of their most dangerous aspects.

    Right from the get-go, the narrator warns that cults often "establish front groups." The "cult members" then appear on camera and state which front group they are from:

    "We're a bible study group."

    "We're a management course."

    "We're a meditation center."

    "We're a world peace organization."

    "We're a personal development center."

    "We're a drug rehab center."

    At the YouTube location where the video is posted, some users have posted comments comparing the video to groups they feel resemble aspects portrayed in the film. Some of these comments are amusing, while others are quite revealing.

    Monday, November 06, 2006

    Seven Key LGAT Articles

    There is some great research and articles on Large Group Awareness Training methodologies that is available right at your fingertips. New "Research" and "Questions to Ask" sections have been added to the helpful links sections to your right. The Questions to Ask section is pretty self-explanatory. This includes lists of carefully formulated questions that you should ask yourself, the friend who introduced you to the group, and the group's leader in order to gather more useful information.

    Here is a bit about the newly added links to the Research section:

    APA Task Force
    Officially titled: "Report of the APA Task Force on Deceptive and Indirect Techniques of Persuasion and Control," this report was headed by Dr. Margaret Thaler Singer through the American Psychological Assocation in November 1986. This report covers a wide variety of topics related to Large Group Awareness Training, Psychotherapy Cults, Brainwashing and methods of influence.

    In the Image of Man
    Written by a Marcia Montenegro, this is an article entitled "In the Image of Man: An Overview of the Human Potential Movement and Motivational Seminars," written in June 2003. The article contains some useful resources, including a list of warning sign traits to watch out for, at the end of the article.

    LGATs, Cult Observer
    "Large Group Awareness Trainings," written by Dr. Michael Langone, appeared in the Cult Observer, Volume 15, No. 1, 1998, an academic take on the "encounter group movement.

    The LGAT Experience
    The writer walks you through a step-by-step process of an LGAT course, which in this particular article takes place over a 4-day period.

    Mary Polaski "L" Series
    Polaski begins the preface with: "The Mary Polaski "L" Series is intended to provide my opinion about Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) programs such as The Landmark Forum, Lifespring Basic, and others. My opinion is informed by extensive research that I have conducted on the topic, as well as my own first-hand experience."

    Mass Marathon Trainings
    An excerpt from "The Politics of Transformation: Recruitment - Indoctrination Processes In a Mass Marathon Psychology Organization," by Philip Cushman.

    Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism
    Excerpted from Chapter 22 of the book by Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, published by University of North Carolina Press.

    Sunday, November 05, 2006

    Doing Due Diligence

    When considering taking a course with a group or someone, a person is considering taking a look at life and making a change in how they are approaching it. This is an important decision. It is about your life and how you live it.

    If you feel the need to make a change, make sure you are heading in the right direction.

    When you buy a house, you need to do due diligence. When you buy a car, the same applies. Considering changing the way you do life is every bit as important and it too should be given due diligence, maybe even more so than in the case of a house or car. After all, a house and a car are inanimate objects, but your life, the way you move through the world, is something you are in contact with every second of every day.

    So, here are some suggestions if you are considering taking a course:

    - First up, do an Internet search on the group and any individuals involved. The Internet is a wonderful, relatively new source of invaluable information on these groups.

    Probably the best source of information available is the Rick Ross Website.

    Take a look at the Group Information Database.

    Then visit the Rick Ross Message Boards where you will find a section titled Large Group Awareness Training, "Human Potential" Seminars. On the message boards you will find many first person accounts of people who have gone through these courses.

    There are many other useful links on this blog to other sources apart from Rick Ross under Resources to the right.

    Obviously, I come from a skeptic’s viewpoint, but this is necessary when one is considering such an important decision.

    - Secondly, if you can, talk to people who have done courses with the group or individual that you are considering taking a course with.

    - Look into the background of the facilitator/s. Don’t blindly accept their qualifications to be true.

    There are many con artists exploiting people today, and they often make false claims, so check their qualifications out properly.

    The LGAT industry is unregulated and thus people are at great risk of being exploited. Don't be one of them.

    - Consider what the program you are interested in is promising. Read critically what it claims to offer. Then use your critical thinking to assess whether what they promise can be delivered or not.

    Consider the following well-known saying and apply it critically: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”

    - One of the warning signs, I would suggest, is the idea that the prospective attendee is told to get out of his/her head and trust the process.

    This is, in many ways, a suggestion to bypass critical thinking. Reasonable questions you have deserve reasonable answers, not vague-sounding generalities.

    Be wary of being asked to place too much trust in someone or some group too fast.

    - Steve Hassan’s Freedom of Mind website provides a list of questions to ask when you are making an assessment of a group or an individual.

    - Another self quiz can be found from the Psychotherapy Cults & Isms website.

    - It’s a satire, and it has been mentioned previously, but take a look at this short video from YouTube about Mind Control. Many of these groups and individuals have introductory sessions, see if you hear some or many of these ideas.

    - Also look up what mind control is all about. Too many groups use methods of mind control on course participants and the attendees are unaware of what is going on. Robert Jay Lifton defined the criteria for mind control/thought reform in his book "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism".

    - Finally, consider that, if you are dealing with serious life issues, it might be a better option to consult a trained, licensed professional.

    Many LGATs use psychotherapeutic methods, and many of them have no one qualified in working with psychotherapy. The potential for damage is great.

    Many of them use a one-size-fits-all approach. But they don't know you at all. You need to be molded by them in a certain way before they apply their simplistic, one-size-fits-all approach.

    Beware. It is your life, and by extension the lives of your family and friends, we are talking about.

    Family and friends are so important. Any teacher/guru/course leader that attempts to turn you away from family and friends, saying he/she has the answer is waving a massive red flag in front of your eyes.

    Blood is thicker than water. Most of us are lucky enough to know love from family and friends. Many teachers/gurus/course leaders know money from us.

    Saturday, November 04, 2006

    Self Improvement or Selfish Profit?

    Many have accused the culture of Large Group Awareness Training, the Human Potential Movement, and Self Improvement as nothing more than vehicles of profit-mongering - for those behind the various companies, religions and organizations that dole out the "self improvement" in the first place.

    A 2002 documentary by British film director Adam Curtis delves into these questions at great length, in the film, The Century of the Self. The film may be downloaded in entirety at Internet Archive, or viewed in streaming format, at Google Video.

    If you go to the streaming format version, there is a most interesting segment which begins at 31 minutes into "part 3 of 4", in the documentary. This segment of the film analyzes the "Est Training", began by Werner Erhard in 1971. The Erhard Seminars Training company later changed its name to Werner Erhard and Associates, or "The Forum". Werner Erhard and Associates sold its coursework and "technology" in 1991 to a group of its employees which included Erhard's brothers and sister as well as his personal attorney - they then formed the for-profit company now known as Landmark Education.

    This segment of the film includes interviews with Werner Erhard, Est graduates John Denver and Jerry Rubin, as well as journalist Jesse Kornbluth.

    "What Erhard did, was to say that only the individual matters - that there is no societal concern. That you living a fulfilled life, is all you need be concerned about. Est people came out of those trainings feeling that it wasn't selfish to think about yourself - It was your highest duty." - Jesse Kornbluth, quote from the film

    This quote then begs the question: What would a world full of "graduates" of these various types of seminars look like? Would "transformed" individuals be self-improved, or simply selfish? Were the motives of the founders of these various organizations self improvement of their customers, or selfish appreciation of their retirement accounts?

    As most of these groups are either private, for-profit companies, or organizations cloaked under the protective mantle of religion, full financial disclosure and rigorous objective academic study is a rarity if not an impossibility within the "self improvement" movement.

    Indeed, point five of the petition designed by the Landmark Education group of graduates known as the Transformation Reformers, also calls for financial disclosure, transparency and openness to criticism:

    "A commitment to transparency and openness, including openness to criticism, openness to straightforward and public discussion of all aspects of Landmark, its history, and other transformational methodologies, as well as greater transparency into Landmark ownership, decision making, and financial information - openness also to graduate-led reforms such as these, and to changes in Landmark leadership itself if leadership serves as an obstacle to positive reform. "

    To date, the inherent culture of the key management within Landmark Education and other human potential movements does not seem to be one which fosters full financial disclosure, transparency and an openness to criticism, to say the least. This is most obviously evidenced by the Landmark Education Litigation Archive, which clearly shows a pattern of intimidation through legal threats - of many individuals and members of the press who have criticized the group throughout its controversial history.

    Friday, November 03, 2006

    Why am I doing this?

    There are a lot of groups today, selling themselves as having the solution to the problems people are experiencing in their lives. It is a massive industry, but it is unregulated. Any person can set themselves up as a teacher, and that means that this human potential seminar industry is open to serious abuses. And serious abuses are happening every day.

    Some of the groups I am talking about: Landmark Education, Personal Dynamics, The Mankind Project, Millionaire Mind, PSI, The Human Awareness Institute, Impact Trainings, Peak Potential, MSIA (Messiah), Rapport Leadership International, Life Success Seminars, Sterling Institute, NXIVM, Avatar.

    Many of these groups use methods that should only be used by trained psychotherapists because when handled by unqualified personnel the results can be very dangerous. Hypnosis, group pressure, lack of sleep, lack of food, meditation, shaming, blaming, confessions are some of the methods used to make people more susceptible to an often twisted ideology that can totally screw up a person's perceptions and understanding of their world, including of their families, their finances, and their responsibilities.

    These methods are the same as those used in cults.

    I have been exposed to it indirectly. I lost the woman I have loved the most to a man who claimed to be a 'master', one Louis Smit, a South African, who has messed up many people's lives in South Africa, Hong Kong, and the UK. He claims two esoteric degrees and two diplomas that are false.

    He used every method as outlined by Robert Jay Lifton in his seminal book "Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism" to break apart my relationship with my ex, all for his own sexual purposes, and for the purpose of selling another course, and then another, and then another...

    Many individuals such as him exist, and so too do many groups. Sadly, I discovered my story was hardly unique. A visit to the Rick Ross website's (The best resource on cults and contoversial groups on the Internet) message boards confirmed this.

    Pay a visit there at Check out the Group Information Database. Take a look at the message boards and see how this industry is being exploited.

    If people are considering doing a course that could be life changing, then they should treat it with even more due diligence than buying a car or a house, so check out the information on whomever you are interested in very carefully.

    I don't want anybody to go through the trauma I and countless others have gone through.

    Take a look at this spoof on cults on YouTube because if you attend an intro seminar for any of these groups, you might hear a lot of this stuff.

    I'll have more to say, but let this be my introduction. Don't be caught out. Don't allow yourself to be hurt. Don't allow your family and friends to be hurt. Learn what mind control, thought reform, brainwashing is. Make informed decisions. Most of all use your own critical thinking.

    You have the answers to your questions, not some group that doesn't know you from a bar of soap pushing their one-size-fits-all story. And pushing course after course upon you.