and Outlines - Contemporary Issues - Transformational Seminars
Date: 6/10/2003 7:23:10 PM
The Loss of Mental Health
By Russ Wise
Change has become the latest commodity for sale in the world of business and the Transformational Seminar1 has become the tool of choice. However – this new transformation of the workforce is not necessarily for the best. In fact, it may likely be detrimental!
As a result, this new commodity is a multi-billion dollar growth industry. The issue that the Christian needs to address is simply this: Is this new transformational technology in agreement with my Christian worldview or is it a potential hazard to my spiritual well-being? The answer lies ahead! This paper is written for the express purpose of helping you, the reader, to adequately determine if becoming involved in a transformational seminar is healthy for you and your family.
Transformation on the Job
So! – What is a transformational seminar and what is the purpose of such a technology in the workplace? To fully answer this question it is first necessary to understand that business management and owners not only want productivity from their workforce, but also desire to foster a sense of shared goals within the work environment.
Historically, people in the business world have always sought out those who could give them the competitive edge. Consultants are hired, strategic plans are made, ad campaigns are launched, and consumers are lured.
Many business people, in order to gain this edge, are turning to consultants with non-traditional training methods. Modern business trainers are usually well-versed in traditional business principles and methods, but some apply these concepts in a troubling manner. In applying their ideas, some trainers use Eastern forms of visualization, meditation, and guided imagery. Some also promote the development of one’s “intuition” and divining the future. These questionable practices can open people up to occult influence.
Dozens of major corporations have employed seminar trainers in an attempt to align employees with the goals and purposes of the employer. In doing so, the employer – naively in many cases – hires a consultant to bring about this transformation in the work place. And as a result – the Transformational Seminar was birthed.
The pay-off for business is twofold. First, there is a perceived need in many corporations to ensure that each employee is in alignment with the goals and purposes of the company. In many cases, like-mindedness has become the opiate of corporate management. Therefore, because of this new cooperation, productivity is believed to be enhanced significantly. Secondly, transformation occurs in the workplace: transforming one from an out-dated way of thinking about work to a new understanding of working together in harmony. Sounds like a worthy goal? Yes! However, it is not so much what the trainee receives cognitively but what he receives subliminally as he is introduced to foreign ideas.
Transformational seminars were already on the scene. They were and continue to be a part of the counter-cultural revolution of the sixties. These seminars were a rejection of the Judeo-Christian worldview that was embedded in the American consciousness during previous decades. Mind Dynamics was one of the earliest seminars that arrived on the scene. It fostered others, such as Actualizations, est and Lifespring. These seminars were an eclectic combination of pop-psychology, new age spirituality, and personal experience.
It was a short jump from Transformational Seminar to Business Seminar for these entrepreneurs. One seminar previously titled New Age Thinking Seminar was changed to Investment in Excellence, a product of The Pacific Institute. Louis Tice, the seminar owner-leader, is one of the most sought-after trainers for corporate transformation. His seminar alone does more than twenty million dollars a year according to a Wall Street Journal report.
New Age trainers have cleverly disguised their agenda in the marketplace. Their goal is to bring about a paradigm shift, a total realignment of humanity from a Judeo-Christian world view to one that is metaphysical (the belief that the mind has power to influence forces within the universe which can change material reality) at its root.
Trainers of new age programs speak of their “value neutral” approach, yet on close inspection one finds that they are not totally candid regarding their approach. These trainers certainly are not neutral where Christians are concerned. Cynthia Hargrove, a New Age trainer with Relationships Seminar, says this about her approach. “My New Age philosophy sneaks in when I talk about the need for love, openness and respect in the work place.”2 At least according to this trainer, one has to be manipulated in order to accept this new “truth”.
Perhaps a more alarming trend is the growing exposure of this new age teaching in business schools. It is one thing for a mature adult to be exposed to this aberrant philosophy in a management seminar, but quite another for an impressionable student to be subtly introduced to a philosophy meant to bring a shift in their belief system even to the point of dislodging it.
A case in point: A professor at Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business has been teaching a course not about marketing strategies or balance sheets, but about such unlikely assets as understanding one’s essence and how to develop one’s intuition.
Professor Michael Ray3 doesn’t rely on graphs or analytical data to convey his ideas. Instead, he helps students tap into their own inner wisdom through spiritual disciplines such as meditation techniques, yoga and I Ching. Dr. Ray has a rich background in Eastern philosophy from the time he studied with Swami Muktananda in India. Chanting and meditation has become an integral part of his daily life and he introduces these disciplines to his students with zeal.
As an example, Ray will have his students draw mandalas to bring out images of their inner selves. He also teaches his students to use mantras to connect themselves with the primal essence of all things. A mantra (chant) is intended to create a sound vibration to facilitate a bridge between the origin of the universe and the root of one’s mind. These ideas, so thoroughly expressed in many ancient religious and spiritual teachings, pose great problems for most in the business world.
In the world of business Eastern ideas are gaining ground. These Eastern techniques do not attempt to sharpen one’s business skills but bring about, as stated earlier, a total transformation in the way one thinks and interprets information. There are a large number of organizations catering to this type of training.4 Two of the most notable groups with widespread access to the business community are Sterling Management and Transformational Technologies Inc. Sterling Management is part of the World Institute of Scientological Enterprises (WISE), an umbrella organization with ties to Scientology. Transformational Technologies Inc. is the business management division of The Forum, formerly known as Erhard Seminars Training (est). It is interesting to note that Werner Erhard borrowed from several occult new age organizations including writer L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, to establish est in 1971.
Large Group Awareness
Transformational seminars are more commonly referred to as Large Group Awareness Trainings. Werner Erhard – the founder of est – was one of the first on the scene. He had been involved with Mind Dynamics in the early seventies and quickly became the one to imitate. John Hanley, a training associate of Erhard’s, developed Lifespring and quickly became known on the training circuit as one who had mastered the process of self-discovery, peak performance, and success. His non-traditional techniques and exercises were meant to literally transform one’s life. Hanley’s program was developed to help an individual realize who he really is through non-traditional thinking and learning.
Large Group Awareness Trainings have not only become popular, but they have also grown exponentially. There are literally hundreds of such programs available. Some are blatantly new age in their approach while others attempt to mask their underlying philosophy and draw upon a Christian label for credibility.
The challenge for the Christian, or for that matter, anyone – secular or otherwise, is to determine whether a given seminar would be psychologically healthy for them to pursue. In this author’s opinion, after twenty-eight years of observation, there is not one seminar that would meet the criteria needed to allow any degree of peace.
Transformational seminars, regardless of their origin or who developed them, have a large number of shared characteristics. The reason for their common profile is that they all have a common ancestor – Alexander Everett, the creator of Mind Dynamics. Everett, a student of Unity (and later Jose Silva – the founder of The Silva Method of Mind Control) had a great interest in mind-cures. As a result, he created a mental exercise program to help the participants reach their full mental potential – Mind Dynamics. Werner Erhard was one of Mind Dynamics first disciples and after his completion of the training course he was given the Mind Dynamics franchise in San Francisco.
Erhard quickly became a success in his new venture. By the fall of 1971 he was laying plans to step out on his own and develop a new seminar program that would become the standard for other like seminars to emulate.5 In doing so he attempted to recruit other successful Mind Dynamics trainers like Stewart Emery, who later developed Actualizations – another in a long line of transformational seminars.
The Training Experience
A potential recruit to the seminar is met with the non-telling phrase, I can’t tell you about it. You’ll just have to come and experience it for yourself. It changed my life. I just can’t describe it! The methodology of the seminar staff and recent graduates of the training is simply to get you to an exploratory meeting. Once there, the sales pitch begins! The majority of those in attendance are seminar graduates. Their job is to sell you on the seminar without actually telling you anything about the seminar – at all! They give testimony of the positive changes in their lives and how they know that you would benefit from the training. Once the testimonials have concluded the high pressure is applied. The force is so strong it is difficult for anyone to stand against.
The potential recruit may ask for more information before making a decision to participate, but the answer is always the same. More testimonials and pressure! The seminar does have a brochure and other material available. However, they do not offer any further information other than non-descript verbiage that lends little if any help in answering the original question. The brochure usually mentions that you are about to begin an adventure into better understanding yourself. It’s experiential! It is a life changing experience and of course – more testimonials. One popular seminar, The Forum, “promises to produce an extraordinary advantage in your personal effectiveness and a decisive edge in your ability to achieve.” Every seminar has a brochure and every brochure is pretty much the same – it tells you nothing!
There are brave souls among us! They have withstood the pains of the seminar and survived to render aide. They, in short, are the ones who have filled-in the blank spaces the brochure adeptly left out. Mark Brewer, a writer for Psychology Today,6 is one of the brave souls. He attended est and wrote about his experience. Mark gives an in-depth look at the seminar and reveals to the reader the underlying “truth” of est. You are perfect the way you are! Werner Erhard gave greater understanding of this idea with the following statement, “Sometimes people get the notion that the purpose of est is to make you better. It is not. I happen to think you are perfect exactly the way you are.”7 To arrive at this profound understanding the participant is first told, “We’re gonna throw away your whole belief system. We’re gonna tear you down and put you back together.” In essence, the trainer is given the responsibility to cajole the participants to the point that they no longer have a sense of individuality, but are left with a debilitating sense of worthlessness.
However, this sense of worthlessness is only temporary. The trainer is then responsible for restoring the individual to a sense of empowerment, wholeness, and potential to conquer. In effect, what happens is a psychological conversion experience. Some liken this conversion experience to that of being reborn – as a Christian might view it. However, this conversion is not Scripturally supported. It is rooted in a psycho-spiritual realm that is bathed in deception.
According to Margaret Thaler Singer, a clinical psychologist and professor emeritus of University of California – Berkeley, “The majority of complaints about this kind of training have centered around the fact that employees weren’t informed either about the intensity of the psychological attacks that would be made upon them as individuals or about any underlying belief system or philosophy being taught.”8
There are other concerns that open a new forum for debate within the workplace. Singer mentions three: “They are religious and philosophical in nature and thus don’t belong in the workplace. They use thought-reform [brainwashing] techniques and methods of psychological coercion and can cause psychological breakdowns. And third, they produce social friction in the place of business.”
It is one thing to have your personal religious belief system challenged during the course of a seminar, but it is quite another to find only after much psychological damage that you were exposed to thought-reform (read brainwashing) techniques that were designed to manipulate you. In extreme instances the participant undergoes a psychotic-break where the individual considers and ultimately takes his or her life.
So! What’s Really Going on in There?
Transformational seminars are sold as an adventure, a mystery! It’s a mystery that can only be discovered by experiencing it personally. In one sense, the mysterious adventure becomes a hook that snares the unsuspecting. However, the hook is used to ensnare the trainee in a way that, in many cases, causes long-lasting mental and emotional problems.
These programs are said to offer breakthroughs for the participant, to cut through the psychological defenses an individual has used to protect themselves. The training is also said to help the trainee take charge of his or her life in a way that leads to authenticity. Whatever that means!
Dr. Singer states that “the majority reaction seen in people who leave thought reform programs . . . is a varying degree of anomie, a sense of alienation and confusion resulting from the loss or weakening of previously valued norms, ideals, or goals.”9 Singer makes another observation that should cause the intended recruit (read victim) a degree of concern. She has found that as many as 15% of those attending transformational seminars suffer serious psychological problems –including reactive schizoaffective-like disorders, post-traumatic stress disorders, difficulty in concentration, self-mutilation, phobias, and suicide.10
Mark Brewer comments in his Psychology Today article that “the tension and harassment, along with the trauma many of them [trainees] suffered at standing openly before a large crowd, produced a number of breakdowns. In each row of 30-40 persons who took the stage, there were usually four or five who sobbed piteously or even swooned, completely overcome.”11
The participants are, in most cases, totally unaware that they “will participate in exercises of a hypnotic or even assaultive character designed to strip away their traditional Judeo-Christian world view and replace it with an essentially Eastern-mystical one.”12 The psycho-spiritual conversion that the trainee experiences during the seminar is destined to usurp any prior religious or spiritual experience the individual may have had. The reality is this – this trainee has become fully actualized. He or she has now become the center of his or her universe. In essence, they have given themselves permission to live life on their own terms. They no longer pay attention to an authority beyond themselves. They become self-serving, self-focused, and ultimately self-defeating.
Another price to be paid for “transformation” is paid by the trainee’s family. “Relationships end when one partner gets involved in training while the other shuns it. Family members come under bitter, unrelenting attack for ‘abuses,’ such as a lack of love or concern, that the convert has discovered during his or her training.”13
I recall a woman who called some time ago who was distraught that her husband had attended a transformational seminar in Austin. She shared with me that her husband came home after the weekend seminar and told her that he was leaving her and their three children. He had become actualized! He decided to live life on his own terms. He had been invited to the seminar by a female co-worker who seemingly had an interest in him. During our lengthy conversation I asked my caller about her husband’s spiritual life. She found it to be an interesting question in that he told her that he had become a Christian at the seminar. This intrigued me, so I asked her to elaborate.
He told her that his past sins were forgiven, his present sins were forgiven, and that his future sins were forgiven as well. Essentially, he believed that he now had a license to sin! Evidently the seminar leader did not mention Romans 6:1 during his explanation. He now lives with his female co-worker and has abandoned his family.
The above brings us back to our question: So! What goes on in there? Once again Dr. Singer comes to our aide. She offers us a look inside the typical transformational seminar. Singer had been court-ordered to attend several such seminars by virtue of her being an expert witness in as many as sixty civil suits. Large Group Awareness Training programs tend to last four to five days in length. The trainers caution the attendees not to tell anyone about their experiences during the seminar so their friends and relatives will get the full experience in relation to their transformation.
The following description of the typical seminar is taken from Singer’s foundational text, Cults In Our Midst. Day one14 is usually “devoted to demonstrating the leader’s absolute authority. The leader, often called a facilitator or trainer, immediately takes control of the setting with a demeanor that suggests he is a powerful, in-charge person and no one is to challenge what he says. He remains totally in charge, acts knowledgeable, and is practiced in verbal skills, so that he never loses an encounter. Anyone who challenges the trainer will be humiliated and verbally mashed.” The overbearing stance taken by the trainer is meant to intimidate anyone who may consider questioning his authority. The message is – you are not going to win this one!
Day two is focused on laying out the trainer’s philosophy about life and how it works. The critical news is that you create everything. In short – you caused everything that has ever happened to you. Your loss of a job, your broken relationships, and your negative attitude – everything that you suffer from is your fault. You are responsible! Essentially, your life is not working and you need it fixed! The answer is always the same. The seminar is your answer to every problem you have ever faced.
All you need to do is get it! That is get the message that the trainer is attempting to teach you. You are perfect the way you are! You simply need to tweak your thought process. The idea behind the concept of “getting it” is that you realize that you are responsible for everything in your life and that you create it through changing how you think about it. In essence you create your own reality. This idea is literally taken right out of Eastern mystical thought. This concept is no different than what Jose Silva or L. Ron Hubbard teach in their respective seminars.
Day three is devoted to psychologically filleting the trainee. This is accomplished through the use of mind-games. Psychological exercises are designed to cause you to call into question every belief you hold as being true. The trainee is confronted with issues that may have been competently laid to rest years previously. However, according to the trainer, these issues need to be re-evaluated and dealt with in a manner that reflects the trainee’s new-found process of taking responsibility.
Day four is a transition day. The trainer becomes less abusive and becomes a charming seductive caretaker of the trainee’s mental health. The trainer’s goal is to literally seduce his audience. The participants are allowed to share their innermost healings and how the training has helped them achieve mastery in and over their particular problems. The testimonials begin!
This, of course, is well orchestrated by the trainer with the ultimate goal of enlisting many of the new-found converts to take the next available seminar. The convert is promised that his or her needs regarding relationships, success, parenting, you-name-it-there-is-a-seminar-for-it will be further met if they would only sign on the dotted line.
Day five is the party. It seems that every time you turn around there is another opportunity to celebrate by dancing and entering into the party attitude. The only party that has more to offer would be Mardi Gras. On day five the trainees are subjected to a relentless sales pitch to sign-up for the next seminar. The day ends with the trainee’s family and friends congratulating them at the seminar site. It becomes obvious at this point that the promotional value to the seminar staff is tremendous. The trainee has just experienced a euphoric presentation extolling all the positives of the seminar, he or she has just been strongly encouraged to sign up for the very next session and suddenly they are presented with well-wishers, in the form of friends and relatives, as a recruiting ground for their desired ends. Obviously the desired end for the staff is for all the well-wishers to sign up as well!
The trainee during these four to five days is exposed to an exhaustive and intense process that leaves them “flooded with more emotion and conflict than they can handle all at once. Up until this time, they’ve handled their lives in their own way, but at these training sessions they’ve had to look at their entire past, in a brief but enforced way. This is quite different from psychotherapy, for instance, where the therapist and the patient progress more slowly in order to allow the patient to deal with whatever she or he wants or needs to at a manageable pace.” In reality, “the success of the seminar rests largely on the deliberate emotional and psychological manipulation of its trainees.”15
Diversification and Transformation
We have spent the bulk of our time, thus far, considering the typical transformational seminar and its process. To complete our understanding of transformative seminars we need to look at how these seminars impact the business community directly. There are numerous programs that are written strictly for the business person, whether he or she is a dentist, a lawyer, a medical doctor, or an entrepreneur with an affiliation or not.
The most widely known seminar that has been developed to reach those in the medical profession is Sterling Management Systems. The hook for the medical professional is that they will experience an expansion of their practices and subsequently increase their bottom line. These seminars are not inexpensive. They cost thousands of dollars. I counseled one individual who had spent upwards of thirty thousand dollars within eight months. Sterling Management positions itself in the market as a secular organization. However, in reality it is a front organization for The Church of Scientology.
Landmark Education Corporation is the parent company of The Forum. In 1985 est ceased to be viable as a result of pending litigation and The Forum was birthed. The Forum was a remaking of est and resulted in a more user-friendly, less abusive seminar. However, the philosophical tenets were kept as an integral part of the training.
Erhard developed a system for franchising his seminar material in 1984 and launched Transformational Technologies. He subsequently franchised over sixty organizations that would promote his brand of enlightenment. Erhard did not only have an interest in influencing those in the business world and the public at large, he equally had a desire to bring his influence to the clergy. The Mastery Foundation was established with the sole purpose of affecting clergy and lay people alike.16
The Transformed Church
There are other transformational seminars with the express purpose of affecting the church body. One such seminar is Momentus which also goes under the name Mashiyach Ministries and is currently known as Breakthrough: Yje Association for Christian Charactrer Development. This seminar was begun by Daniel Tocchini a former Lifespring trainer. In effect Tocchini has attempted to Christianize Lifespring.
I have had the opportunity to interview several of his graduates and from their testimony Tocchini did not accomplish his goal. Momentus has been the catalyst of splitting at least one church in Santa Rosa, California. However, Tocchini claims that his program is in “tune with orthodox Christianity. . . Moreover, he says his training challenges people to examine their lives in a hands-on approach seldom used in church.”17
Terri, a Christian of eleven years and a Momentus survivor, shared the following comments with me. “They used guilt and fear to hold us to our commitment and accountability.” She was tardy returning to her seat the first night and she felt emotionally raped when the trainer laid into her. “I was yelled at and badgered. After the trainer was through, I felt stripped, laid bare. I felt like I had been raped of my dignity and self-worth. He raped me emotionally and spiritually. I was left emotionally devastated and was angry at the fact that another human (a Christian) could take someone’s hurts and use them to totally crush them and then make them believe it was good for them. When I got home I was so crushed, devastated, I couldn’t believe what had happened. I was angry and hurt. I felt betrayed that I was lied to about what Momentus was. When I got home, I told my friend, ‘No way would I EVER let my friends go through this!’ I won’t let them be hurt or torn apart like this. It was cruel.”18
The question that comes to mind of most individuals who are relatively healthy psychologically is this – How can someone sit still and allow something like Terri shared with us to happen? Drs. Singer and Ofshe offer an answer. These programs use “intense guilt, shame, anxiety manipulation, combined with the production of strong emotional arousal in settings where people did not leave because of social and psychological pressures or because of enforced confinement. The pressures could only be reduced by participants’ accepting the belief system . . . of the thought reform programs.”19 In other words, leaving would take an extremely strong-willed individual once they have been seduced by a friend to attend, not to mention the fact that he or she likely paid upward of five hundred dollars to be there.
Another aspect of transformational seminars that needs attention is the methodology employed by the trainer to accomplish the desired goals – the introduction of a new belief system. Cynthia Hargrove, mentioned earlier, said that she bootlegged the metaphysical stuff during her seminars. The question thus arises, what is she bootlegging?
Stress management and stress relief are two of the most prominent avenues for Eastern metaphysical techniques to be smuggled into a seminar program. Meditation along with visualization is the most useful by the trainer. When asked, most employees mention stress as a primary concern that needs to be addressed in the workplace. Seminar trainers are quick to pick up on the need to reduce stress in the office and offer their solution to reduce the problem. “Techniques recommended for their stress reduction value include transcendental meditation, self-hypnosis, guided imagery, yoga, and centering.”20 These disciplines are not only introduced to relieve stress but they are to be used to improve interpersonal skills, or promote creativity in the individual. These techniques are easily found in such occult practices as Scientology, Silva Mind Control, various Mind Science cults, and A Course In Miracles21 and can easily open the door to spiritual experiences.
These disciplines are spiritually harmful in that they open the doorway to occult experiences. I’m not talking about the kind of visualization that an athlete may use in seeing his follow-through when shooting a basketball or swinging a golf club. I’m referring to the kind of visualization used to manipulate reality – creating something in your mind that did not happen. Visualization is a subtle form of manipulation at best, but in the end it opens the door.
Meditation has been effectively sold as a stress reducer. Eastern forms of meditation are meant to do one thing – to introduce Hinduism to the Western world. Meditation in general and Transcendental Meditation in particular are used to link one’s spirit to the universal spirit – Brahman. A former guru once told me that meditation and yoga are inextricably linked. There is no meditation without yoga and there is no yoga without meditation. Yoga means union! The obvious question would be – Union with what? Brahma! Meditation is foundational to the introduction of occultic mystical experiences. Yoga is not a new exercise program that is really cool. It is a pathway into the world of the occult!
According to John Weldon “New Age meditation [Eastern] uses the mind in an abnormal manner to radically restructure a person’s perceptions of self and the world in order to support occult New Age philosophy and goals.”22 It is important to note that meditation, as a discipline, does have a legitimate place in the Christian’s relationship with God. However, the use of biblical meditative practices is quite different from those practiced in the East. Biblical meditation, according to Scripture, (Josh. 1:8, Psalms 1: 1-2) is focused on the objective Word (read Truth) of God, not the “self” as does the Eastern forms. The ultimate goal of meditation, as used in the East, is to introduce the concept of Moksha or one’s highest spiritual goal – union with the divine. The process of altering one’s perception of reality leads one to believe that we create our own reality. Any idea of right or wrong no longer exists in the mind. Because we come to believe that we do in fact create our own reality and that we are gods in embryo, we are accountable to no one. We are the solution to our own perceived problems. There is no God outside of ourselves. Salvation, then, is achieved through meditation and becoming more aware of our “true essence or self,” that we are our Higher Self – divine.
Hypnosis is another technique employed by the trainer to alter one’s perception of reality. Hypnosis is primarily useful because it puts the trainee into a state of passivity where the participant becomes highly suggestible. Hypnosis may have a place in a clinical setting. However, the patient should be fore-warned of the potential dangers accompanying such a treatment. The problem in the seminar setting is that the participants are totally unaware they are being seduced. Additionally, the trainee is not adequately prepared for such “treatment” as well. Within the context of a seminar there are at least two concerns that need to be addressed. The first concern is the philosophical orientation of the trainer and the second is the emotional history and condition of the trainee. When these two issues are inadequately understood the groundwork is laid for disaster.
Transformational seminars have introduced a new vocabulary into the business world – words like self-actualization, meditation, transformation, and a host of others words. These words are a part of a growing market in New Age management training. Top managers in major corporations are looking for ways to improve employee loyalty and increase productivity. A key to this realignment is “Transformation.”
We have explored the avenues of transformation and highlighted the problems that arise from its covert introduction into the work place. We have discussed the profound change of a person’s thoughts and actions which leads to the emergence of a radically new belief system. In doing so, we have become acutely aware that the Christian business person must develop a greater sense of discernment.
The transformation lauded by many in the New Age has spiritual implications that often go un-noticed by the immature believer or non-Christian. Yet at the base of this transformation lies an Eastern view of reality that categorically opposes the Judeo-Christian world view. Simply said, one view is false and one is true, and they cannot be blended.
For Christians, transformation is achieved not by self-actualization (a selfish motivation) but by allowing God to renew our minds with His thoughts. Isaiah tells us that our thoughts are at enmity with God’s thoughts and that His ways are different from our ways. Our self-understanding is lacking unless we see ourselves as God sees us.
For the Christian life is a series of transformations. The question that we must answer for ourselves is – Who is my Master? Do I continue on the road to “self-mastery” by utilizing New Age techniques of meditation, visualization, affirmation, guided imagery, and hypnosis? Or do I surrender myself to God and allow Him to lovingly renew my mind as I depend on Him?
New Age training is sold as “value neutral.” However, upon close examination, we find that it is a whole new philosophy. The trainee is introduced to new concepts about God. He is believed to be impersonal and able to be manipulated through the re-creation of one’s reality. The trainer introduces the occult concept that God is energy and that the trainee can tap into this energy at will. Ultimately, the trainee is taught that he, too, is a part of this energy and therefore divine, also. At best this concept is blatantly un-Christian, but just as potentially devastating is the rationale it offers selfish individuals to exploit others in their quest for success. The person who seeks success at any cost can easily fall prey to this false understanding of himself.
Christians are to have a different perspective. We are to build up one another and work for the common good as we recognize that our labor has eternal value. We work for Christ, not for people. Therefore, success takes on a whole new definition.
True transformation begins and ends with Christ. We must submit ourselves to His anvil as He smoothes out the rough places and transforms us into His image. Only then can we echo the Apostle Paul’s words, “it is no longer I who live, but Christ (who) lives in me.”
1. I have, purposefully, not mentioned all the known transformational seminars that are currently available. I have only mentioned those that have national/international prominence. It is also important to note that these seminars come and go, therefore I have attempted to offer general characteristics of transformational seminars so the reader will have the tools to more adequately discern the possibility of deception.
2. Ron Zemke, What’s New In The New Age?, Training – The Magazine, Sept. 1987, Lakewood Publications, p.33.
3. Bill Thomson, Spiritual Values in the Business World, Yoga Journal, Jan/Feb 1988, p.51.
4. However, after saying the above I find it necessary to mention those seminars that are or have been in use to date. They are as follows: Actualizations, Adventure Seminars, Discover, Focus, Institute For Self – Actualization or Self – Awareness (ISA experience), Charles Krone (Kroning), Managing Accelerated Productivity (MAP), Momentus, Movement of Inner Spiritual Awareness (MSIA), Pathways Educational Corporation (formerly – YOU Seminar), PSI World, Relationships (Cynthia Hargrove), Seminars Unlimited, The Forum – Landmark Education Corporation (formerly – est), The Road Adventure, Technologies for Creating (TFC), Transformational Technologies Inc., World Institute of Scientological Enterprises (WISE) and Sterling Management. The above is a partial listing since entrepreneurs in the field of training seminars develop new seminars, in regional areas, on a growing basis.
5. Every seminar I have ever researched utilizes the same characteristics that were established and popularized by Werner Erhard.
6. Mark Brewer, We’re Gonna Tear You Down and Put You Back Together, Psychology Today, August 1975.
7. John Ankerberg/John Weldon, Est, The Forum, and Related New Age Seminars, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR., 1996, p.266.
8. Margaret Thaler Singer, Cults In Our Midst, Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco, 1995, p.186.
9. Lawrence A. Pile, The Siren Call of Modern Pied Pipers, Well Spring Retreat Center. Margaret T. Singer, Richard Ofshe, Mental Health – Thought Reform Programs and the Production of Psychiatric Casualties, Psychiatric Annals 20:4, April 1990.
10. Ibid., Pile.
11. Brewer, op cit.
12. Pile, op cit.
13. Dirk Mathison, They Want Your mind . . ., Self Magazine, Feb. 1993, p.155.
14. Singer, p.193-195.
15. Weldon, p.280.
16. Ibid., p.297.
17. Robert Digitale, Momentus Loses Momentum, Christianity Today, Dec. 13, 1993, p.52.
18. Interview on file.
19. Singer, Ofshe, op. cit.
20. Richard Watring, New Age Training in Business: Mind Control in Upper Management?, Eternity Magazine, Feb. 1988, p.31. Weldon, p.272.
21. A Course in Miracles – to learn more about this New Age course, believed by many to be channeled by Jesus, see www.Christianinformation.org.
22. Weldon, p.379.
1. Margaret Thaler Singer, Cults In The Midst, Jossey-Bass Publishers.
2. John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs, Harvest House Publishers.
Websites of interest:
Transformational seminars have spawned a number of legal suits against employers. These suits have resulted in the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (February 22, 1988) rendering a ruling on the use of such seminars in the work place. The ruling states, “Where an employee notifies an employer that his/her religious beliefs conflict with a particular training technique or method used in a ‘new age’ training program, an employer may accommodate the employee’s belief by substituting an alternative technique or method not offensive to the employee’s belief or by excusing the employee from that particular part of the training program.” For a complete copy of the EEOC ruling see www.EEOC.gov. (The direct path to the ruling is as follows: www.opm.gov/hrd/lead/Policy/eccoc915.htm − 628B is the document needed. The ruling is also available at Goggle.com with a search of eeoc, 628B).
Transformational Seminars have become a growing threat to the Christian church in that they have made significant inroads into the church body. Christians need to become aware of the seductive nature of these seminars and their ability to cause dissension within the body of believers. It is not uncommon for those who have been through such seminars to develop an elitist attitude toward others and thereby undermine the spiritual climate within the fellowship.