A course offered by Landmark Education(www.landmarkeducation.com). I have heard many conflicting opinions on the Landmark Forum. One person said "somewhere between Amway and Scientology". One person said "the most profoundly important thing I have ever done". Some people use the word 'cult' to describe the Forum and some people view their experiences with the Landmark Forum as having fundamentally changed their outlook and attitudes in a variety of positive ways.

The Forum seeks to introduce people to the Landmark Curriculum for Living over a series of days, usually a whole weekend and then the following Tuesday evening. "The Landmark Forum costs US$350 in most places, slightly more in New York City, and somewhat less in places like Africa." - from www.landmarkforum.com

From the information I can gather (I have not done the course) it seems to me that the purpose of the Landmark Forum is to offer people an open and honest environment in which to challenge and assess their own attitudes towards life, including relationships, people, success, love, honesty, etc. The buzzword in The Forum seems to be 'authentic' - getting to really understand your belief structure and how it affects your behaviour and getting to understand the true nature of your personality and using this understanding to take an active role in creating the world around you. Self actualisation and acceptance, basically. But as I said, I have not done the course.

Like many others before me I got taken to a Landmark Forum meeting in London last night. Most people get taken along to one of these meetings by a friend or relative who have done the course. The purpose of this meeting is to share the transformation experiences had by the person who did the course and, sadly, to recruit as many people as possible into further Landmark Forum courses. This is where the problem arises. The Hard Sell. IMHO its unfortunate that the possibility that the Forum offers a genuine life changing experience is clouded by the brutal economics of it all. I suspect that somewhere out there some guy is getting extremely rich selling this product. I suppose its a bit prudish to frown on this when that, after all, is the nature and goal of Capitalism. I suppose that on some level I don't think its right, yet I will pay to see a psychiatrist. Anyhoo...

I was really interested to see what happens at this meeting. I was worried that I would be duped by some really clever marketing ploy riding the guilt ticket straight into my wallet. I did read some experiences online of people being coerced into doing the course by some cleverly disguised guilt trips. My friend who invited me did sound a bit, um, dodgy, when she called me up to tell me about it. She used big words and wanted to "have a conversation with me about some important things". It sounded a bit concerning really. I was thinking Ernst Stavro Blofeld's sexy female minions in On Her Majesty's Secret Service.

Needless to say I was sceptical to the extreme on the night. I arrived and was expecting to be pressured into parting with my money for the course and I was convinced that my friend had some evil (possibly financial) motive for wanting me to sign up for the course. I was thinking pyramid schemes.

The night involved getting a name tag (first names seem to be a big thing in the Forum) and them sitting in this big hall listening to 8 or so course members tell their stories about how their lives changed by doing the course. All of them seemed to have two central themes: taking responsibility for the nature of your relationships and moving false or pretentious relationships onto a whole new level of honesty and openness. Buzzword: authentic. Picture some 22 year old girl calling her Dad up in the middle of the night after a long painful evening of honest introspection and telling him that her whole life all she was after was his approval and that she had decided for herself he was not proud of her. He tells her he loves her and is proud of her, her life is vindicated and she has a breakthrough (more Forumspeak). It was really touching to see her tell her story. It was not a sales pitch and it was honest. She says her life now is "like having liquid cocaine fed intravenously all the time" (in the exhilarating sense not the paranoid loathing sense :) Others who spoke showed amazing amounts of personal courage in telling a room full of strangers their deepest personal problems and how they confronted them. I was thinking walking over hot coals.

The evening was hosted by David. I was thinking a mixture of Tony Robbins and Jerry Seinfeld. The evening is broken up into 2 sessions. The first involved David calling on course members to tell their tales and of David espousing the virtues of the Forum and how it can change your life. There was, of course, a little time set aside for the visitors to read the brochures and sign up for the course. The second session sees the visitors get split into smaller groups led by Group Leaders who will spend some time asking you what you could get out of the course and how it could benefit you. I didn't stay for the second session. There was a fair amount of intriguing secret handshake stuff and the course members completed their course during the second session. I have no idea what goes in in this session but I suspect that they would have been asked who they brought to the evening and why etc. The sceptic in me says that this is the old Capitalist engine making sure that they introduce as many people to the course as possible. That is pretty sceptical to be sure, but then who has friends who have done the course and not tried to get them to do it as well. Its a neccessary viral marketing process. But wether or not that makes the course evil or worthless is a matter of personal opinion.

I don't know if I will ever do the course, but I can definitely see the benefits of it as well as some down sides (aside from the heart attack my 3am call to my father will induce, not to mention the drug abuse theories this will cause in the minds of my parents). I personally would enjoy the opportunity to be brutally honest with some people and to have them be brutally honest with me. Hell, I could do with a whole lot more insight into my own personality and I would love to get to understand how to build more solid and enjoyable relationships with other people. One thing I did notice, however, is that another person who did the course afterwards sat down and said with a wry smile "I signed up for the advanced course". So could it be because the courses are just so damn good, or because the marketing is just so damn good? I dont know yet...

More information can be found at:

Other people's experiences:
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