This branch of the New Age "movement" likes to dress itself up in vague Zenlike platitudes that give it some Age of Aquarius cachet but aside from a brief early flirtation with Eastern philosophy it quickly became co-opted as a money making corporate scam.
(Some of these documents have been removed from the web. I copy this stuff into files as soon as I find it because these groups have a habit of pressuring people to take the information down. I'll provide the links even if they are dead, so if someone wants to try to retrieve them from google cache there will be something to start with.)
Background and some definitions
Mind Dynamics - Alexander Everett
Mind Dynamics, founded by Alexander Everett, was the major forerunnner of the Large Group Awareness Trainings. Although it was only in existence for a few years, it has certainly sparked an entire industry of similar trainings.
Alexander Everett was from England and arrived in America in 1962 and went to Missouri. "Deciding that the Unity ministry was not his calling, he (Alexander Everett) left Missouri in 1963 and went to Fort Worth, Texas, where he had been invited to help establish a private boarding school. He remained in Texas for seven years. In Texas, he not only helped set up the Fort Worth Country Day School but more importantly, completed the work that led to the founding in 1968 of Mind Dynamics, the experiential human potential training organization that was to become the forerunner of est, Lifespring, Actualizations, and several other human potential training organizations that flourished in the 1970s and continue to do so in the 80s.
Alexander states that Mind Dynamics grew out of the various paths of spiritual and personal growth that he had been exploring since leaving England. He lists, as the primary influences, Edgar Cayce's work, Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, Egyptology, Silva Mind Control, and, of course, Unity. He knew when he put the Mind Dynamics course together that, primarily, he wanted to develop a training that dealt with the workings of the mind, and secondly, since we live in the Aquarian Age, a mind sign, that he wanted to have the word "mind" in the organization's name.
The four-day trainings, which were largely experiential, caught on rapidly--not in Texas, where they were first offered, but in California, where Alexander was soon being invited to present them. As a result the headquarters of Mind Dynamics was moved to San Francisco in 1970. Interest in the course, however, was not restricted to California. During the four remaining years of the organization's existence, the course was taught throughout the United States and in Europe and Australia.
Looking back upon it, Alexander feels that the organizations expanded too quickly. It grew larger than he had originally intended, and was soon being controlled by the dynamic, young staff that he had recruited. Alexander brought in as trainers young men who were soon to become leaders in the human potential movement that spread throughout California in the 1970s and, later, across the country."
Mind Dynamics was a success and attracted William Penn Patrick's attention. He had a pyramid sales organization called Holiday Magic, which sold cosmetics. He also had a training organization known as Leadership Dynamics. He bought Everett's training in 1970 intending to use it as an additional training vehicle for his distributors. While Mind Dynamics was a non-confrontational course in self-hypnosis like the Silva Method, the Leadership Dynamics program was a hard hitting group encounter. The influences of both trainings are found in the training organizations which followed.
William Penn Patrick's Leadership Dynamics training organization went out of control in its methods according to a book called "The Pit, a group encounter defiled" by Gene Church (out of print). The resulting lawsuits pretty much shut down Leadership Dynamics as well as Mind Dynamics. The Holiday Magic MLM was busted as a pyramid scheme. Penn Patrick died when he crashed his F-86 Sabre at an airshow in Sacramento.
When Leadership Dynamics and Mind Dynamics shut down, some of the instructors went out on their own.
• Four of them [Bob White, Randy Revell, Charlene Afremow, John Hanley] founded Lifespring in 1974 and developed the Lifespring training with psychologist John Enright.
• Another, Werner Erhard, founded est in 1971 which evolved into The Forum. (Landmark)
• Bob White left Lifespring, went to Japan, and started a training organization there called Life Dynamics.
• Randy Revell left Lifespring and founded the Context Trainings.
• Charlene Afremow joined Erhard's organization as a trainer. She later left in a dispute , returned to Lifespring, then returned to Landmark and is now leading Forums..
• Howard Nease founded Personal Dynamics.
• Jim Quinn founded Lifestream
• Thomas Willhite founded PSI World Seminars
• Stewart Emery worked for est and later founded Actualizations
• William Penn Patrick's training organization recovered and is known today as Leadership Dynamics.
LGAT: Large Group Awareness Training (also known as Mass Marathon training)
http://www.csj.org/rg/rgessays/rgessay_lgate.htmThe term Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) refers to "training" offered by certain groups sometimes linked with the human potential movement. By using LGAT techniques, these providers claim to (among other things) increase self-awareness and bring about preferred personal changes in individuals' lives. Michael Langone has referred to Large Group Awareness Training as new age trainings and Philip Cushman referred to them as mass marathon trainings.
Large Group Awareness Training programs may involve several hundred people at a time. Though early definitions cited LGATs as featuring unusually long durations, more recent texts describe the trainings as lasting from a few hours to a few days. In 2004, DuMerton, citing "Langone (1989)", estimated that "[p]erhaps a million Americans have attended LGATs".: 39 Forsyth and Corazzini cite Lieberman (1994) as suggesting "that at least 1.3 million Americans have taken part in LGAT sessions".
Michael D. Langone, Ph.D.
Editor, Cultic Studies Journal
Cult Observer, Volume 15, No. 1, 1998
In the 1960s the encounter group movement was born. Advocating enhanced communication and intensified experience, this movement evolved into something that was part psychotherapy, part spirituality, and part business. In some scholarly articles, these groups were referred to as "large group awareness trainings" or LGATs. Erhard Seminars Training (est) was the most successful of these groups, and it has been widely imitated. Even though it no longer officially exists, in the minds of many est is identified with the entire LGAT movement. It is in a sense the progenitor of a myriad of programs that have been marketed to the public and the business community.
The est model of self-transformation is structured around an intense weekend experience which brings together several dozen or several hundred people and a "trainer" with one or more assistants. People are together morning, afternoon, and evening. Breaks, even for the bathroom, tend to be highly structured and limited. Participants are led through a long series of exercises that proponents say are designed to cut through psychological defenses, increase honesty, and help people take charge of their lives. Undoubtedly, many variations of this basic model exist, and some LGATs may depart substantially from this model.
Although reliable scientific data are not available, probably at least a million people in the United States have participated in at least one LGAT, with several hundred thousand having gone through est alone.
Because many observers of this phenomenon have associated such trainings with the new age movement (NAM), LGATs have also been called "new age transformational training programs," or "new age trainings." According to Dole and Langone, the new age can be defined as "an alternative religious paradigm that is rooted in Eastern mysticism, eclectic in its practices and beliefs, tolerant (or undiscerning, depending upon one's perspective) of nontraditional practices and beliefs, and optimistic about humanity's capacity to bring about a great evolutionary leap in consciousness." New age transformational trainings use an eclectic mix of psychological techniques and exercises that proponents believe will improve one's spiritual, psychological, and material well-being.
Some observers and scientific researchers have also associated some LGATs with at least the potential to cause psychological distress to some participants. Some compare the trainings to thought reform programs, or "brainwashing," and to "cults."
The implied, if not explicit, religious nature of many of these trainings and the potential for psychological damage in some trainings have resulted in lawsuits against some trainings and employers who have sponsored them. On February 22, 1988 the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) issued a notice on new age training programs which conflict with employees' religious beliefs. This notice gave official credence to the claim that some of these trainings are fundamentally religious in nature, even though they may be corporately organized as a business. An article from Labor Law Journal elaborates upon the EEOC document.
Werner Erhard & est
The est Standard Training
Werner Erhard in 1979
The first est course happened at the Jack Tar Hotel in San Francisco, California in October 1971. Within a year, trainings were being held in New York City, and other major cities in the US followed soon after. By 1979 est had expanded to Europe and other parts of the world. The popularity of est peaked in 1981, then enrollment for the various courses began to decline. The last est Training was held in December 1984 in San Francisco; in its place came a newly developed course called 'The Forum,' which began in January 1985. The est Training presented several concepts, most notably the concept of transformation and taking responsibility for one's life. The actual teaching, called "the technology of transformation," emphasizes the value of integrity. 'est, Inc.' evolved into 'est, an Educational Corporation', and eventually into 'Werner Erhard & Associates'. WE&A purchased the assets of est in 1981.
In William Bartley's biography, Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, the Founding of est (1978), Erhard describes his explorations of Zen Buddhism. Bartley quotes Erhard as acknowledging Zen as the essential contribution that "created the space [for est]." Bartley details Erhard's connections with Zen beginning with his extensive studies with Alan Watts in the mid 1960s. Bartley quotes Erhard as acknowledging:
Of all the disciplines that I studied, practiced, learned, Zen was the essential one. It was not so much an influence on me, rather it created space. It allowed those things that were there to be there. It gave some form to my experience. And it built up in me the critical mass from which was kindled the experience that produced est.
• 1971 - Erhard Seminars Training Inc, first est Training held in San Francisco, California
• 1973 - The Foundation for the Realization of Man - incorporated as a non-profit foundation in California (subsequently the name of the foundation was changed to the est Foundation in 1976, and in 1981 to the Werner Erhard Foundation)
• 1975 - est, an educational corporation.
• 1981 - Sold assets to Werner Erhard and Associates and est ceased operations
You'll notice at this point that the connection to multi-level marketing and Holiday Magic cosmetics has been written out of the story. These human potential groups have many of the trappings of religion but are still basically Amway but without soap. They are demon recruiters and the point of these classes is to sell more classes. I know this from personal experience as I have a close relative as a member of another branch and was recruiting me as young as 13. I resisted for years and took one introductory class that was frankly pretty mercenary. The main focus is upselling and getting your friends to come to a "guest night" where heavy pressure to enroll is applied.
The next section will transition to Landmark. Feel free to chime in and ask me stuff at any time. I've been immersed in research on this for years and am probably glossing over things.
William Penn Patrick
Description of the Behavioral Structure of the Training