There is no truth, no meaning, no value.
That’s what I learned at last night’s Landmark Education meeting. My friend invited me because she’s excited about what Landmark has done to help her. I spent a couple of hours with her and a mutual friend and the gentleman who led the discussion.
Landmark Education provides educational opportunities that purport to help people all over the world reach their potential. They do this primarily at a 3-day meeting called Landmark Forum.
I wasn’t taught this meaningful truth about no truth or meaning or value during the introductory meeting, but in a subsequent three-hour personal discussion with the leader. I had a good time, and I like everyone I met that night. They all seem like genuinely nice people who care about others.
And that’s part of the problem.
What’s that? Oh. You’re wondering how being nice is a problem, aren’t you? I don’t normally think of niceness that way, but it appears to be a problem for Landmark devotees.
You see, one test of a belief system is internal consistency. I didn’t find much consistency in our discussions. A foundational tenet of Landmark Education, from what I gathered, is that nothing has meaning or value beyond the meaning and value that we individually give. That seems to fly in the face of statements like the one that opened our introductory session: they were committed to giving us something of value before we left. This value statement is echoed on their website, of course…they’re a business:
The Landmark Forum is specifically designed to bring about positive and permanent shifts in the quality of your life. These shifts are the direct cause for a new and unique kind of freedom and power.
Participants overwhelmingly report that their participation in The Landmark Forum yields not mere insights or improvements, but provides lasting results that expand and unfold over time.Landmark Education Website
Do you see the contradiction? Landmark has no value of its own, but they want to convince me to take part because it will help me. The leader (a very nice guy with whom I hope to have more contact) believes that the statement “there is no truth” is true. I find such self-refuting statements both funny and fascinating, like this one:
I’m sure I’d remember having amnesia.
See? In making the statement, you also break it open and expose it as nonsense. Here’s another:
No sentence has more than six words.
That sentence has more than six words, so saying it invalidates the claim. My time learning about Landmark Forum was filled with contradictions like those. Check out these paraphrased bits:
Landmark Leader: What we teach can help you.
Me: And helping me is good?
Landmark Leader: No.
Me: It’s not?
Landmark Leader: No.
Me: Why should I be involved with Landmark Forum?
Landmark Leader: There’s no reason you should.
Me: So what was all that talking you did in that meeting?
Landmark Leader: I don’t know what you mean.
Me: You said that your program could help me, and now you’re saying that helping me isn’t better than not helping me. You’re saying that being involved isn’t better than not being involved.
Landmark Leader: Now you’re getting it!
Me: Why are you involved with Landmark?
Landmark Leader: I’m going to do something with my life, so I might as well do this.
Me: You choose this instead of other things?
Landmark Leader: Yes!
Me: So it’s better to do this than to not do this.
Landmark Leader: No. There’s no value or meaning in Landmark Forum beyond the meaning and value that I give it.
Did you see what I saw? It’s the age-old idea that truth is relative to the observer. Landmark Forum apparently has no meaning or value of its own. If I consider it valueless, it is…for me. If someone places great value on it, then it’s valuable…for them. It’s perfectly okay, by the way, to place no value on it. To do otherwise would be to make a value judgment, which is – I guess – taboo. It gets in the way of being “in the now”.
The truth is that they do make value judgments. It’s at the core of what they do, and why they exist. The three-day seminar costs hundreds of dollars, and Landmark appears to guard both their reputation and their “technology” zealously. Like their (maybe not-so) distant cousin Scientology, they file lawsuits against people who talk bad about the program. For a group that makes no value judgments, that seems pretty inconsistent.
In the final analysis, Landmark is part of the Human Potential Movement. That puts them in the company of people like Norman Vincent Peale, Napoleon Hill, L. Ron Hubbard, and even Joel Osteen and Jesse Duplantis. The idea is that, with the proper application of certain bits of knowledge, we can be all we can be.
Call me cynical and jaded, but I have a serious problem with the idea that humanity is intrinsically good, pure, and complete…and that we only lack ‘technology’ to unlock that potential. Everywhere we look we see another person being raped or murdered or lied to or cheated. The idea that we’re good at heart doesn’t match what I see around me.
The clear message of the Bible is that man does have intrinsic goodness. We were made in God’s image, but that image has been corrupted. It teaches that our potential will be reached when God restores all of creation to the state of perfection that was lost at the beginning of time. The idea that man is both godly and insufferably wicked matches what I see around me, what I read in history books, and what I see when I look in the mirror.
That’s not a latent self-image problem to be overcome by separating my conscious mind from my unconscious…it’s a recognition of reality. For those who buy Landmark Education’s message, Hitler’s murder of millions has no intrinsic value. If we consider it good, then it’s good for us. Stalin killed many more, but that can’t be considered a negative by those who believe that good and bad and truth and error are false distinctions.
I’d love to hear from you. Have you been to a Landmark Forum? Did you “get it” at 4:00 on Sunday afternoon? Have I missed the boat entirely? Fortunately for me, I love to talk about this sort of thing…even if I’m not inclined to believe it.