The Landmark Forum: A Worldwide “Self-Transformation” Program. A Cult.

By Adina Kutnicki

Combatting Cult Mind Control.jpg

AS an experienced investigative journalist, all manner of projects land in this lap. But, as any professional with an ounce of integrity realizes, it is best to stay in one’s (expert) lane, in a manner of speaking. Yes, the lanes within can be gleaned within the above bio-link.

EVEN so, exceptions are made to certain queries. This is one of those times. Indeed, a multi-level (no pun intended) backgrounder is in order to set the stage.

FIRST things first. For the record, too: The Landmark Forum is a worldwide, tentacled Multi-Level Marketing pyramid, a/k/a MLM. But what remains front and center re its dangerous effects is its cult-like attributes. No doubt.


Suppressed CBS News 60 Minutes on Landmark cult leader Werner Erhard, 3 Mar 1991


The ZIP archive presents the video and transcript of an investigative report into “est” (Erhard Seminars Training) guru Werner Erhard by CBS News, originally broadcast on the program 60 Minutes on March 3, 1991.

Both, video and transcript, have been published at various points in time, but are not publically available anymore due to legal threats against publishers from Werner Erhard.

The material contains interviews with friends, business associates and family of Werner Erhard making serious claims against him. Erhard is accused by family members of beating his wife and children, and raping a daughter, while still giving seminars on how to have relationships that work. The story also includes interviews with two former staff members of Werner Erhard: Wendy Drucker (a senior manager) and Dr. Bob Larzelere (head of Erhard’s counseling staff).

The current incarnation of the est training is now known as Landmark Education, with its course the Landmark Forum. Landmark Education is run by CEO Harry Rosenberg, who is Werner Erhard’s brother, and General Counsel and Chairman of the Board of Directors Art Schreiber, who has acted as Werner Erhard’s lawyer. Werner Erhard’s sister Joan Rosenberg also sits on the Board of Directors of Landmark Education.

The likely audience for this material includes researchers of the “est” and Landmark Education / Landmark Forum movement – including psychotherapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists, as well as those researching the controversial life of Werner Erhard. The audience also includes potential clients/customers of the company Landmark Education – whose course the Landmark Forum was originally developed by Werner Erhard as the “est training”.

The material can be verified as the original CBS broadcast on 60 Minutes of March 3, 1991. The episode of 60 Minutes is Program # 2325.

Additionally, Cult expert Rick Ross of The Ross Institute Internet Archives for the Study of Destructive Cults, Controversial Groups and Movements maintains a large database on Landmark Education[1], est[2], and The Forum[3], and his attorneys are also quite educated as to the organization’s methods[4].

See also: US Department of Labor investigation into Landmark Education, 2006


ATOP it all, “est training” was based upon the brainwashing techniques of Scientology, indubitably, that bastion of cultish insanity!

“Landmark has been referred to as “scientology-lite” or, as per Werner … concerning LE, formerly known as Erhard Seminar Training (EST) ….”

IPSO facto, if it looks like a (cult-driven) duck, trust, it is. By extrapolation, well-honed MLM professionals (many of whom are so-called “life coaches“, burnishing their online “degrees” via no-name centers of learning …. how dare they!) know precisely how to repackage one scheme into another. A circular cycle of madness is re-jiggered into “transformation/self-empowerment” techniques ala step-by-step, by-step ….


NOW that that is established, let’s segue to the second-level, that is, the recent request from a trusted investigative source — who happens to bounce between Israel and the U.S. re this and that.

AS it happens, while on assignment for a client, he accumulated Landmark documents/recordings from a California-based contact (its U.S. corp. headquarter is located …. go figure …. in loony San Fran), with particular track-backs to Tel Aviv, of all places, the “mini-me/wanna-be” version of the left coast! Hmm.

גרום לתמורות חיוביות ומתמשכות באיכות חייך.

בסקר שנערך, יותר מ94% מהמשתתפים שנשאלו, אמרו שהפורום של לנדמרק חולל הבדל משמעותי ומתמשך בחייהם.

הפורום של לנדמרק מעוצב לגרום תמורות חיוביות ומתמשכות באיכות החיים שלך – בשלושה ימים בלבד. תמורות אלו הן הגורם הישיר לסוג חדש וייחודי של חופש ועצמה – החופש להיות רגוע והעצמה להיות אפקטיבי בתחומי החיים שהכי חשובים לך: איכות מערכות היחסים שלך, רמת הביטחון העצמי בה אתה מנהל את חייך, הפרודוקטיביות האישית שלך, האופן בו אתה חווה את עצמך 

AND, since this writer enjoys a working relationship with the aforementioned contact (for 20 years, by way of a U.S./Mid East money-laundering investigation), he recalled a brief mention (that’s all it was) of the dangers of Landmark. At the time, he was investigating a particular cult for a high-powered client.

FAST forward. Since he is on a working-vacation in Israel, we arranged a sit-down. A full circle, kismet-like moment in time. Sweet.


TO said end, this go-around, the devastating impact of Landmark was recounted, in full — the toll its wreckage heaped upon a highly-educated, well-respected, very successful family member, and, by extension, those closest to him. Frighteningly so, at times. Like a horror film in real-time.

LONG story short: Back in 2004, regular weekly phone calls (what used to be a source of family pleasure between a nearest and dearest and the referenced member) took on an increasingly disturbing pattern and air.

OUT of the blue, akin to the blink of an eye, the “transformed” caller would steer their conversation towards: When are you going to attend Landmark’s intro course? Almost as if conversing with a hard-sell salesman, as opposed to a dear family member, the follow-up mantra became: What are you afraid of? After all, it is all about “self-actualization”, etc., etc.! And no matter how many ways, how many times, the nearest and dearest responded (with the patience of a saint, and in a very gentle manner …. in juxtaposition to these instincts, to just hit him over the head with a frying pan to knock some sense into him!) that he was highly-contented and not interested, it was as if he conversed with a tone-deaf mute.

STILL yet, right on cue, the below list of Landmark “buzz-words” were reiterated, over and over again. By the way, these ears heard everything, since the phone was on speaker to assure that he wasn’t going crazy!

  1. “What are you being?”
  2. – “Racket.”
  3.  “Integrity.”
  4. “Enroll.”
  5. “Possibility.”
  6.  “Present.”
  7.  “Vicious cycle.”
  8.  “Story.”
  9.  “Blind spot.”

IN this regard, by now, the cult-like features of its “teachings” should be self-evident. In the main, the first-level of toxicity is gleaned through its underbelly and various distinct, non-disparate factors.

ITS major knock-on effects are exhibited through the actual victims. As a primary “case study”: Once Landmark took over the family member’s thought processes, he became a full-blown narcissist; fused with a total sense of entitlement and self-righteousness. No criticism was tolerated and that was that.

NOTHING loved ones said to him had any resonance. Effectively, if the aforementioned successful professional was turned into a robot-like, shadow of himself, what are the odds that the average Joe or Jane can resist their brainwashing techniques? Not a snowball in hell.

BACK to the catch-up. It was mid-way through that his jaw noticeably dropped — hardly a regular reaction for this seasoned, somewhat hardened, investigator. It was revealed: Out of loving concern for this brainwashed family member, and to ease the mind of a nearest and dearest, this writer agreed to find out what was really going on inside Landmark.

TO said end, a deep-dive was executed (with open source utilized as supplemental back-up, not primary material) into whatever “roots” made sense.

WELL, since this distressing situation arose at the tail-end of a financial-based investigative series (commissioned by FrontPage Magazine), a skill-set utilized to the max came in very handy. It took many hours, with twists and turns all over the map. Literally.

BUT, at the end of the “colonoscopy-like” examination, the smoke cleared. As is said, “follow the money.” Resultant, finally, the nearest and dearest recognized (with much gratitude shown for the heavy-lifting) that sans a professional de-programmer taking charge, well, there was nothing to be done but to accept the impenetrable “transformation.” It was out of his hands. He understood (better than most) that its opaque LLC-styled set-up is designed to maximize profits through various inter-related, maze-like layers. Most significantly, to hell with the wreckage left in its wake! And that’s just for starters.

CONCLUSIVELY, sans any reservation, hesitation, or jive-talk, incontestably,


AND, one more thing: It is hardly accidental, almost two decades onward from the onset of this “disease”, that the poisonous effects of Landmark (again, which completely flipped a life-long loving family dynamic into one fraught with severe disappointment, on a multiplicity of levels) landed in this lap by happenstance. Not a chance.

ALAS, when the trusted investigator requested: Can you “do your thing” to set the stage, well, the response was immediate. A no-brainer.

3 thoughts on “The Landmark Forum: A Worldwide “Self-Transformation” Program. A Cult.

  1. Hi Adina,

    A few months ago, someone I know read your blogpost and thought I would be interested in it, given I agree with a whole lot of your comments about things. However, the one thing that stood out was related to The Forum – something I happened to have done and I thought I’d let you know about. First, it sounds like you had a bad experience with Landmark with a family member years ago, and I’m sorry that happened.

    For whatever it might be worth, Landmark really is not a cult. I wondered about them also and did research. You don’t need to take my word for it. Many experts independently observed Landmark’s programs and they said there is actually nothing cult-like about their programs. For example, Peter L. Sheras said “As a Member of the Board of Directors of the American Psychological Association, I’ve observed numerous Landmark programs. Based on my professional background and experience, Landmark programs are clearly not a cult or cult-like, brainwashing, or harmful.” And even the late Dr. Margaret Singer, one of the world’s leading experts on cults and author of the book, Cults in our Midst stated: “I do not believe that either Landmark or The Landmark Forum is a cult or sect or meets the criteria of a cult or sect.”

    Also, the 1991 60 Minutes episode about Werner Erhard you mentioned in your blog was not suppressed. Investigative journalists from major news outlets (The Boston Globe, TIME magazine, ABC News, etc.) exposed 60 Minutes’ reporting on this matter as inaccurate. In fact, learning the truth, CBS News disavowed their own reporting and the 60 Minutes episode was pulled from their library.

    Finally, the Landmark Forum nor the est Training (which was retired in 1984) were derived from Scientology. Dr. Norbert Nedopil, Head of the Department of Forensic Psychiatry at the University of Munich and a recognized expert on Scientology and sects (cults), stated in a comprehensive and extensive study: “In sum the differences between Landmark and Scientology described in the expert opinion were confirmed by this comprehensive and extensive study. No similarity could be found between the two organizations in regard to their objectives, methodology, techniques and their effects on the health of their participants.”

    Having started out thinking the whole thing was BS, thought you’d want to know some of these facts that I found out when I researched them, Once I did it became obvious Landmark is simply a for-profit corporation real company, not some kind of Multi-level Marketing organization or Pyramid scheme.

    Again, since your blog is helpful, I thought I’d share this info back to you. I hope it has been useful. Keep on writing!!

    • Andre, shalom from Israel!
      Thanks for taking the time to write such a thoughtful post. On its face, your assessment makes a lot of sense. However, my final analysis was based upon internal docs from Landmark’s ‘inner sanctum’ – shared by an investigator whose creds are absolutely impeccable.
      The second-tier of my findings came from what I saw/heard with my own eyes and ears – all of which coincided with a deep enmeshment with Landmark.
      Bottom Line: I will stake my reputation as an investigative journalist that the entire expose is bullet-proof, so to speak..
      Regardless, your feedback is very interesting.

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