When Cults Collide Scientology vs. Landmark
Pop Psychology self improvement vs Religious cult, but which is which? Oh wait, they are both both…
In the 1960s, an American man named Werner Erhard entered Scientology and rose a short way through the ranks before leaving. He was especially interested in E-meters, devices that measure the skin’s conductivity and electrical resistance and supposedly reveal meaningful facts about an individual’s mental state and personality. Erhard studied many belief and self-help systems during this time until he set up his own in 1971, which taught participants to focus their minds on controlling their desires and urges to become more productive in their daily life.
Erhard’s techniques can be seen as having two levels of intensity: The Forum, or Landmark, is a global group now separate from Erhard that utilises his techniques for training mostly corporates; and Est Training, run by Erhard Seminars Training, which is almost nonexistent nowadays but was popular until the early ’90s. Est Training used more extreme teaching methods in which participants spent around 60 hours over four days in intense workshops (for example, you were not allowed to go to the bathroom, at the expense of wetting your pants). Erhard’s training concepts and jargon reflected Scientology in many ways, with training sessions initially involving use of the e-meter.
Some might say that Erhard did more than use Scientology for inspiration, but rather blatantly exploited Scientology’s concepts. In the early years of his self-help system, Erhard expected his staff to take Scientology courses for research and understanding as opposed to religious gain. Techniques such as‘bull-baiting’, where a single participant would angrily confront everyone else in the room at once (a technique he still uses in his motivational speaking) are a direct facsimile of training programmes in Scientology.