Regarding Steve Jackson's "True Believers," in the April 18 issue:
I am a regular reader of Westword. Since I am a human being and have my own opinions, I don't always agree with everything that is written in your paper. However, that hasn't stopped me from continuing to read it. This time, though, I think you have gone a little far. Steve Jackson's "True Believers" was outrageous. I had a hard time even believing what I was reading because it was so ridiculous. I am a graduate of The Forum and I have completed various other Landmark programs, including assisting/volunteering. I am a successful, normal person who has benefited greatly from Landmark.
From my firsthand experience, I can tell you that Landmark, its staff and the assistants are committed to nothing more than making a difference with the people who do The Forum, their families, communities and, ultimately, the world. If you are so cynical that you can't imagine anyone making a positive difference in the world, then I feel sorry for you. Not only are you closed-minded about people--and especially yourself--having lives that they actually enjoy, but you based the story on the opinion of one man who did not like the program. Mr Plywaski never intended to get anything out of The Forum, and so he didn't. You have to want something out of it in order to get anything (besides having your daughter get off your back). In fact, if you had talked to any of the thousands and thousands of people who have completed The Forum and enjoyed it and gotten something out of it, you would have begged them to let you stay when you were "spying," instead of writing an article that makes fun of people's visions and ideas of ways to make the world we live in a better place.
I'm truly thankful for Landmark and what they have done and are doing, and I know your article won't stop them from continuing to make a difference in people's lives. As for "true believers," I wouldn't be surprised if anyone actually believes the article you wrote, because the media, and especially your paper, strives to have its own opinions put upon thousands of people. That sounds more like a cult to me.
Ah, the mixed feelings from your article on Landmark. I was taking a seminar when the employees took over from Werner Erhard.
Let me say that I had to be dragged into The Forum. I was one of those people who had a preconceived notion that these people were on a ride that was only about money. But by the end of the first two hours, I was interested in what I might learn.
I wound up taking The Forum twice. I took seminars, too. I wasn't a groupie, nor did I succumb to the pressure to bring guests to the special-guest events. I was fine with that. (They would have preferred that I bring all my friends and enemies as well.)
What did happen for me was that I learned that I could step out of what was comfortable and what was succeeding in my life and take it up a notch. Or five notches. Or...
I now own my own business with 22 employees, and I still draw upon what I learned from the Work. It is not for everyone, yet in a society where crime is so high and most of us go home and watch TV, I know that there are people out there who have had training to make a difference in their lives as well as their families' and friends' lives. That is reassuring!
At the very least, these people have taught me that thinking out problems on various levels is far better than reacting from past experiences, which offers no possibility of changing a conditioned way of being. By thinking things through, many opportunities are available. The Buddhists say that there are 2,000 possibilities for every situation.
If this is a cult, I wonder why I am free to think for myself and make better decisions than I did prior to doing the Work? I got my money's worth from the Work I did, yet it is truly up to the individual to determine if he or she is satisfied with life as is.
Keith M. Spiegelman
Comparing the Landmark organization to Hitler and the Nazis is some of the most slanted "reportage" I have ever seen.
I was one of the hundreds of thousands of people who took the est training. I believe I have achieved a higher level of success in life than I would have without the training. I was never "sucked into" doing any recruiting for the est organization.