Author: Steven Pressman
The influence of Scientology upon the world of fringe beliefs extends beyond the official Church. Throughout it’s history, disaffected members have broken away, to set up rival groups (and there is now a community of ‘Independent Scientologists’).
Occasionally, however, a religious entrepreneur will cherry-pick aspects of Scientology and then strike out in their own direction. Werner Erhard (AKA Jack Rosenberg) was one such. He took a few Scientology courses (and forced them upon employees in his used car business) and then tried to use Scientology to make money for himself.
Erhard’s original plan was to present the Scientology basic communications course to a hundred or more people at a time, and pay Scientology a percentage of the take. He eventually rejected this because, “once his customers had completed the course they would have no more use for him” (pg 31). He left Scientology, but did not abandon his ambition to be a wealthy guru.
After toying with ‘Mind Dynamics’ (which he also abandoned) Erhard came up with his own approach. It combined ‘scientific’ self-development with the ‘motivational’ business seminar to create something new – and nasty – the EST seminar.
After Erhard went into exile, people who had worked for him presenting seminars formed a company called Landmark, which bought the intellectual property rights to EST, and continued to present seminars, mostly to business owners and employees (predominantly salesmen).
Like the Scientology front group WISE (which it resembles) Landmark has frequent problems with employees who sue because they were required by their employer to attend. Landmark also aggressively sue critics – especially journalists – claiming they only do so to correct inaccurate and disparaging statements.
All manipulative cults have a lot in common – Scientology, nor Hubbard, are unique in any way.