I was having a conversation with a [professional friend] that led to discussion of personal life and past traumas. He asked me if I had ever heard of "The Forum" and after he told me a bit about it I recognized it as a group that a friend of mine's mother had been a part of. I recalled my friend making jokes about "The Forum" being some sort of "cult" [sic], but never took it too seriously. This [professional friend] reassured me that it was not a "cult" and that he really thought that "The Forum" could "transform" me. I am normally a very hesitant person, but he seemed to be going out of his way to make arrangements for me to come to a meeting with him that evening. Since I had no plans for the evening, and figured the trip would be good for me anyhow, I decided to meet him there.
When I arrived there I was asked for photo ID, given a nametag and escorted to my friends "class". When I met him, someone I've met in person for 10 minutes of my life before yesterday, he greeted me with a big hug and expressed his enthusiasm for me being there. The room was filled with cheery people who seemed to be speaking another language ["Loaded Language"?].
After a while, I was escorted to another room, then again to another room where I was placed with three other "guests".
I had no intention of signing up for this class at this time, am normally a very strong person who enjoys debating things and to be honest I have no idea what came over me. I remember thinking that this is a bunch of crap, and reminding myself not to listen, then at one point I began to defend another person in the room who was trying to leave, but it seemed he didn't want to be rude.
The next thing I remember I was in the hall with one of the volunteers crying and telling my life story and how I felt that "The Forum" was a "cult" [sic], which is why I wasn't listening to what they were saying. I remember saying that although I had been through a lot in my life, the only thing I would like to change about myself is my motivation and that if only I had support I could do all the things I want to achieve. I said that the only thing I would be getting out of "The Forum" was support and how I felt like a loser having to pay for friends or support.
Then I remember sitting at a table, pen in hand, feeling ill to my stomach and wanting to leave, but not wanting to be rude and cause a scene. Being a [professional], I encounter pressure to do things I don't want to do often, but usually after I express that I am not interested a person gives up. But this was not the case [at "The Forum]. It seemed that whatever line I threw out there was some counter action to it. I had said that I would think about it, but didn't want to make any decisions until I did some research. I was given a pamphlet from USC and one from Harvard Business School and the pressure began again-- not even giving me time read it over.
Being [away from home] and not having any money on me to get [back], I signed up for "The Forum" so that I could just get "my new friend" to lend me money to get home. Writing out a check for $100 dollars, which left $2 in my account and not having cash to even get home on my own!
The people seem so sincere and really believe what they are saying. I figured that if I had any doubts, they would look at me and say, "think about it and come back if you are interested". But I was emotional and not thinking rationally. I looked at the paper the lady was filling out and one question was--"Do you feel like you are being pressured to sign up for any classes". But she wasn't really considering the questions individually and seemed to be just going through quickly and checking, no, no, no.
On my way home, I read over the literature I was given and thought, well I dished out my money--why don't I dish out the rest and just give it a try, it might help me. If it did help me, wouldn't $375 be worth it, I thought.
I was greeted coming home by an email from my [professional friend], praising me for making the right choice and offering me the opportunity to stay with him during my weekend for "The Forum" so that I didn't have to [commute] each day. He also said he was going to find me some [work] so that I could pay for the "new me". It really felt good that someone seemed to care so much for me and to believe in something like this must be good. He seemed like a well educated, wealthy, successful man and in fact he [claims] to base his success on "The Forum."
I came home and decided I should search the Internet before I sent them any more money--to see if there were any bad stories out there. I figured that the worse that might happen would be that "The Forum" would not move me or "transform me". Boy was I wrong. Reading some of the things that "Graduates" have gone through, about "The Forum's" abuse by "leaders" and abuses "The Forum" in general is known for! I have decided to let them keep my $50 non-refundable deposit and don't care if it ticks off my [professional friend].
I have always had an interest in cults, but was never aware of the variations that exist until I visited your website. I am planning to do as much research as possible about Landmark Education, EST and all that is associated with The Forum. I consider myself a strong person, but I almost got sucked in.
The accounts of people's experiences may be considered allegations, but when there are masses of people who have been used by this corporation, they cannot all be false. Perhaps they don't consider themselves a "cult" [sic], but who would if you are part of it. [But it seems to me] they do have "cult" attributes [sic].
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