42 Hours, $500, 65 Breakdowns

Finally, from Mother Jones, a new piece on the Landmark Forum by Laura McClure. It’s yet another in a line of first-person, female, and only partially-skeptical takes on the Forum’s brand of white-collar, secular prosperity gospel. This is certainly one of the major supposedly not-religious new religious movements on the scene today. If you don’t know about it yet (or you think you do), McClure includes a good sketch of the background. Basically, it’s New Age self-help repackaged into intensive, Blackberry-friendly spirituality for the modern workplace.

A helpful remark on the limits and possibilities of language:

A querulous man observes that the phrases carefully ruler-lined on the chalkboard seem like poor English. (“In The Landmark Forum you will bring forth the presence of a New Realm of Possibility for yourself and your life.”) David agrees. “It’s very poor English. You know why? Because the usual confines of language would not allow your Transformation this weekend.”

After a couple days, she can’t take it anymore:

By Sunday, I’m in open rebellion. I come bearing contraband—a newspaper, coffee, snacks, and Advil. “How are you?” I ask the minder at the door as I slap on my name tag. “I’m truthful,” he says, giving me the stink-eye. I Invent the Possibility of staying far away from Landmark seminars in the future.

And then, of course, she turns:

Suddenly, I want him to love me as his student, to make him smile, to hear him tell me I’m doing a good job in my life. There are more “shares”; David tears up for the third time in two hours. “I love you forever,” he tells us. “If you ever wonder if someone loves you, the answer is yes. David loves you.”

We’re still waiting, though, to get past this long line of superficial, dabbling articles about a weekend at Landmark for something truly in-depth and definitive about this important phenomenon.


Nathan Schneider is an editor of Killing the Buddha and writes about religion, reason, and violence for a variety of publications. He is also a founding editor of Waging Nonviolence. His first two books, published by University of California Press in 2013, are God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet and Thank You, Anarchy: Notes from the Occupy Apocalypse. Visit his website at The Row Boat.