Saturday, December 26, 2009

Scientogy, EST, Landmark and Me

I told Dail Doucette of St. Mark's that I would write this up.

Scientology is a financially successful cult that was started back in the 1950s by science fiction author L. Ron Hubbard to make money. To learn more about this, check out the anti Scientology website Operation Clambake. I've never had much interaction with Scientologists. They have, shall we say, a very bad reputation in many circles. In any event, I'm not all that drawn to highly authoritarian groups. Yes, they have their place in our society. They are not, though, my cup of tea. Unless, of course, they step over the bounds of legality and honesty -- as Scientology does.

Werner Erhard -- original name John Rosenberg -- apparently tried out Scientology along with several other offbeat kinds of psychological groups during the 1950s and 1960s. Wikipedia has an article titled Werner Erhard about the man. The accuracy of the article is debatable. Just see the beginning of the article. I first heard about EST through magazine articles in the 1970s. The group made a very bad impression on me. Spending a weekend locked up in a room with people shouting abuse at me and not even being allowed to relieve oneself in a rest room seemed very bad to me. Some people, though, claim to have gotten good things from EST training. In any event, there are websites dedicated to Erhard and his career that are critical of him. The charge that EST is authoritarian -- perhaps in the extreme -- seems reasonable. Googling EST and cult produces a list of webpages that is 1.3 million entries long. A number of people at St. Mark's Episcopal Church have been through EST and swear by it. I've had little discussion with them about EST, though. The people I do know who have been through EST seem like reasonable people for the most part.

An organization called Landmark (or Landmark Forum) apparently succeeded EST. I've heard that it is a kinder, more gentle EST. I do have a few comments about Landmark from personal experience.

I met Gary Oleson through the L5 Society. L5 was a visionary, idealistic group which I joined in the late 1970s while living in New Jersey. Some people clearly went overboard. Perhaps because of the way I was brought up, I did not. After a few years, I learned that space colonies were far in the future and not a realistic possibility in my lifetime. Still, though, I enjoyed my work with the group. I even became a leader because of a successful Space Day event I organized in New Jersey. To learn more about that part of my life, I suggest reading a few of my blog postings:

I met Gary Oleson through L5 in the mid 1980s. He seemed like a reasonable guy. I'd say he still is for the most part. Every so often, though, he would invite me to something else, not apparently an L5 activity. There wasn't any real pressure, though, since I lived in New Jersey at the time and could not readily come down to DC for events that did not already have significant interest.

In March 1990 I moved to Maryland to work at Goddard Space Flight Center. At around the same time Gary invited me to a session of what turned out to be a Landmark introduction. I spotted authoritarianism right away. I was also not favorably impressed with what they were teaching. It seemed like some sort of baby psychology -- something I was not interested in because of my extensive background in psychology. In any event, nobody really followed up with me. Perhaps no one saw me as a likely candidate. Perhaps, also, because I started fading from National Space Society activities at the time and did not have much contact with Gary over the next several years. I got back into NSS activities after being fired from Goddard in 1999. To learn more about that, just read Politics and My Technical Career.

In 1998 I did get involved -- at first quite heavily -- in the Hash House Harriers. I did get one surprise relating to Gary after I joined the hash. Since I am pretty open about my life, I told several people in NSS about the hash. Everyone of them told me Gary was a hasher too. That surprised me. He had never mentioned the hash to me. Considering the fact that I am a runner -- and lots of people know about my sense of humor -- it would seem a natural suggestion for me.

In any event, I did get more involved with the space activist crowd again after being driven from Goddard. I started running into Gary more often. Still not a lot, though. I also started running into him occasionally at a hash. Our interactions have been light, though, for the most part. Gary has now started pushing Landmark at me some times, though. So far I have shown essentially no interest. At one point I did ask Gary about finding love in the hash. He replied that I should not bother but should look in the space activist community (not likely) or Landmark (virtually impossible).

I don't know what to make of all this. I'm rather independent and turned off to all sorts of authoritarian groups, not just EST or Landmark or Scientology. I wrote this posting mostly because Dail was interested. He's a good guy. So are the other people I know at St. Mark's.


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