Why it’s important to do your own research on spiritual organisations

Do your research. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know that I have some pretty hefty feelings about those who take money for spiritual help. Yes, we all have bills to pay, even spiritual groups. Yes, I will volunteer if I like your organisation. Yes, I will set up chairs, bake cookies, give donations and be involved. What I won’t do is pay hundreds or thousands for “spiritual help”.

I won’t do this as it always leaves me feeling cheated. Maybe you are different.

A person I do not know very well approached me to tell me about a spiritual and personal development group that they were attending. Fair enough – this person genuinely thought that I might benefit from this group.

This person kept casually mentioning that they had something to talk to me about – and I instantly got a weird feeling. Days later, a polite email arrived in my inbox, telling me about some sort of information night and seminar that I might like to attend.

Now, I get these a lot – I’m sure you do too if you are a spiritual seeker. How do you tell if something is legit or not?

Ummm – just do your research. Don’t listen to me. Find out your own position by reading widely from a variety of sources.

So – I ignored the email and hoped this person would get the message. No dice. A couple of days later (and a bit pushily, I thought) this person then sort of cornered me and told me about The Landmark Organization.

Well – didn’t he pick the wrong gal?

I wouldn’t say I let loose – but within a few minutes of him talking, I cut to the chase and asked him about the profits this “spiritual organisation” makes. He reassured me that it was a non-profit company and that all shares were owned by the people in the group. Red flag. That sounded like a line to me – and something that this person had not researched for himself.

Let’s just say that after a couple of minutes talking with me – this person probably wished that they’d never bothered. He reassured me that he wasn’t trying to “sell” me anything and that “It’s a shame you have such a block about stuff like this.”

Pfft.

That annoyed me. Not wanting to pay exorbitant amounts to an unproven “spiritual” group is not a block – it’s good sense. I could tell that this guy had been bamboozled. He had no idea what this company represented beyond the glossy marketing messages on their website. For the record – he told me that my investment after that “information session” would have been around $600 – money that I would rather flush down the toilet than give to a bunch of charlatans.

Anyway – I’m not here to criticize The Landmark Group specifically. But, it made $77 million last year and is actually an “employee-owned for-profit private company” according to Wikipedia.

There are many reports that it’s religious or quasi-religious. Some have called it a cult. Others have just called it a giant waste of money – including the Victorian Government here in Australia who canned “a plan to spend tens of thousands of dollars to fly in educators from a controversial American training group to help public servants develop qualities such as ‘charisma’,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Anyway – they’ll continue to do their thing, and good luck to them. They won’t be getting one cent from me. All the groups I have attended over the years are free, or by donation. Most major religions won’t charge you to go to church or temple – will they?

Over my lifetime I have met dozens of people who have shelled out literally thousands and thousands of dollars to organisations like these. I had a friend who just loved Tony Robbins – and would put his CDs on in the car and make me listen to them.

Sigh. Poor old Tony certainly had lots to say, some of it even interesting. Most of it just inflated ego-babble to me. It’s the sort of stuff that gets you puffed up temporality – you’re on a high for a few hours, maybe days – then you go back to the way you were.

The Wiki page on Landmark says: “Nathan Thornburgh, in his review of The Landmark Forum, said “At its heart, the course was a withering series of scripted reality checks meant to show us how we have created nearly everything we see as a problem …I benefited tremendously from the uncomfortable mirror the course had put in front of me.”

Read the Wiki page – lots of people seem to like Landmark. Maybe you’ll come across this blog post and investigate them – maybe that’s what you’re supposed to do.

If you don’t want to pay $600 or go to an introductory course, here’s what the general gist is:

  • There is a big difference between what actually happened in a person’s life and the meaning or interpretation they made up about it.
  • People pursue an imaginary someday of satisfaction.
  • Human behaviour is governed by a need to look good.
  • People add meaning to events in their life which are not necessarily true.
  • People have persistent complaints that give rise to unproductive fixed ways of being.
  • People can “transform” by a creative act of bringing forth new ways of being, rather than trying to change themselves in comparison to the past.

See? All fairly sensible stuff – but not worth big bucks in my opinion. Also sounds very L Ron Hubbard esque. In Going Clear an excellent book on Scientology founder Hubbard, author Wright says that Hubbard used techniques to “re-program” his mind from traumatic events in his past – in a sort of “question-and-answer” style – which sounds kind of similar in some ways to this Landmark technique.

Again – Scientology – I find it fascinating as a “thing” – I am really interested in modern religious movements – like Mormonism – how do they spring up and entrance so many people? I don’t think that many people know that the entire Book of Mormon was written by “scrying” – where Joseph Smith hid his head into a big hat and yelled out interpretations he had seen written on a little stone inside.

Now they have 15 million followers.

Anyway. Could a group like Landmark be the Scientology pf tomorrow? Who knows. All I can say is that I have done my research – now it’s over to you.

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