MITT = Lifespring = Cult

Illustration by Kristin Hugo

Illustration by Kristin Hugo

I guess we could call this one a third generation Scientology clone.

Lifespring was founded in 1974, was a private, for-profit, New Age/Human Potential training company by John Hanley Sr., Robert White, Randy Revell, and Charlene Afremow. These four had previously worked with and studied under Werner Erhard, the founder of EST, which became the basis for Landmark Education. Before founding EST, Erhard had been a Scientologist and had worked with and studied directly under L. Ron Hubbard.

In its 40 year history, Lifespring boasts over 40,000 graduates. In that same amount of time, at least 30 lawsuits have sought to hold Lifespring responsible for participants’ deaths or their mental damages. The company paid to settle some of the suits before trial and in other cases lost jury decisions.

More evidence that Lifespring is a business type cult is that all members are “strongly encouraged” to bring in their families and friends for courses.

Although courses are no longer being delivered under the Lifespring name, Mastery in Transformational Training is under the corporate umbrella of Lifespring. The basic course is $695.00 for five days of evening programs. The second part of the program, Advanced Training, is five 12-hour days, and costs $995 and the final “Legacy” program is $1,295. There are also many various self improvement courses that members are encouraged to take at $495 each. Where does all this money go? Here is a hint. The staff who deliver these services are all “unpaid volunteers”

Persons who have decided to leave the organization are hounded by phone and personal visits to encourage them to come back into the fold. One prominent critic of Lifespring is Virginia Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. Mrs. Thomas asserted in an interview with The Washington Post that she chose to seek counseling after her decision to stop participating in Lifespring. In order to avoid phone calls from fellow Lifespring members, urging her to remain in the course, she chose to hide in another part of the United States.

Yeah. Lifespring qualifies as a cult.

13 thoughts on “MITT = Lifespring = Cult

  1. I did Life Spring in the early 90s….It was a great experience….I t took my awreness to a different level. I was amazed about what I could do with my life…..the experience is still relaxant to this day…….the only problem I had and it was a huge turn off….werr always required to take another course or somehow volunteered your time for a “cause.”
    Once I realized that I left….
    If you could do the program and move on you are okay… if you couldnt move on then you were screwed… literally became a slave for their organization…..whit all sorts of manipulations…..

  2. I went to a “seminar” once with a friend who was curious….it turned out to be a sales presentation before a huge huge hotel ballroom full of people. Film clips, little speeches that reminded me of my mom’s Christian churches…they have a name I forget for their stories–mostly fiction–about how they were miraculously saved in their darkest hour. I admit I am a lawyer, very independent, went through counseling with a psychiatrist years ago before this (for childhood abuse), so I know myself pretty good and am not open to emotional manipulation.

    I read a lot, and studied international relations–guys like Stalin, Mao and Hitler were world class experts at breaking people, but the tactics are the same. Immediately, I recognized the bs these Lifespring people were pulling. They preyed upon young people around 20 to 24 years old, people that weren’t dumb but certainly weren’t rocket scientists, astrophysicists, or curing cancer. People smart enough to go to college but not graduates of law or med school or Cal Tech. Just like Scientology, they went after the nicest guys and girls in the room. They wanted me out and kept trying to slip my friend the info, get him to fill-out forms that I had used to tell them exactly what I thought.

    The basic training course was classic brainwashing–no sleep, no food, no contact with family or friends. I remember it being a weekend course, but it may have been longer–because they deprived the kids of sleep for at least 24 hours though it may have been 2 or 3 times that long? They knocked newbie’s egos to the ground, then, as they broke from lack of sleep and food, the organization’s people were there to pick them up, put them back together again, and voila! they were supposedly all better due to the program’s miraculous benefits!

    My friend thought it sounded great. He was such a nice guy, super non-confrontational, a perfect recruit for a cult, except he had no money to give them. I kept trying to explain how they made you weak from lack of food and sleep, and they isolated you, made you feel so down, gave you nothing to reinforce the energy and emotional strength being depleted, until you collapsed, at which time they’d run in and tell you what a great accomplishment it all was, you were empowered, you were able to survive the worst anyone could throw at you, so you’d be so grateful to them…I’m sure the brainwashing experts have terms for it–it’s what Patty Hearst claimed happened to her after she was kidnapped, and others have told similar stories after kidnappings, being held in foreign prisons, etc. I bet the CIA has terminology for the entire procedure–they probably learned everything from these cults.

    I kept my friend out, and never heard of this scam again until tonight, reading about Scientology–which makes Lifespring seem like rank amateurs! Glad to hear they aren’t doing this any longer? All the “courses” they offer now are much much shorter than what they did back in the 80s. Makes it much harder to brainwash people, tho the game now is to sell more “courses” (so much pricier than continuing ed courses for lawyers–and they are taught by legit experts who do it for a living, are licensed and have specialty accreditation).

  3. Cult, not Cult…I’m not going to get into labeling… You give everything all the meaning it has. Really a great overall evaluation of the experience by Buster Hymen… (Ha Ha!). Absolutely a positive experience, if you make it one. It is not the answer, it is a message or an invitation to awaken, and they don’t have a lock on “self” discovery. (There is no-self btw, but that’s another subject…) It is a BUSINESS vehicle for change. I will give you one analogy that applies here in reference to the money side. A recent study had two groups of people who were given a placebo (thinking it was a real medication). One was told it was an expensive brand name medication the other was told it was a generic low cost but effective medication… Who got better? You guessed it… The people who believed they were taking a brand name premium medication got better in more numbers. Why? We live in a culture of perceived value… For many of us if it doesn’t have a monetary value it just doesn’t fit into our belief system.Take this for what it’s worth too. The cost of the training hasn’t really gone up in years.

    I went to this training recently. I’m very familiar with the techniques employed. NLP primarily. I met some amazing people, and have connected with them. For those who have never done this type of work, (it’s work) check it out. But by no means should you think that this is the only truth, that only they, would have the answer. I went through it and didn’t feel like others were seeing it like that either. There were certainly some who were very enthusiastically signing up for the next course (Advanced) right after the basic. I’ve had a lifetime full of experiences like that, and I saw through the hard sell at the end of Basic and felt absolutely resolute in my decision not to continue to the Advanced course.

  4. 1. BASIC “graduate”.
    2. CLEAR use of Neurolinguistics, with words like empowerment, commitment, trust, self-love, higher self, and rackets.
    3. ALL about the mindset, like anything in life, you get what you put in.
    4. The P90X for the mind*
    5. Complete and total isolation from loved ones and the outside world. Phones off. Not allowed to discuss your epiphanies other than your coach.
    6. Anything you say to value your commitment to your life, is seen as a “racket” or barrier that you create in order to not reach your higher self.
    7. Unconditional feedback, positive and negative towards your personal self.
    8. Psychological techniques to cause mourning, self-inflicted realizations and overall sense of knowing ones’ subconscious.
    9. Recommend to people who already have a grasp on metaphysics, creation of energy, chakras, and have a willfully strong mind to keep their overall mindset on their happiness.
    10. NOT for the faint of heart, not for those who are okay with feeling comfortable. They will “coach” you through these rackets and show you the power of your mind in a way that most organizations refuse to.
    11. They WILL prey on your new realizations to have you commit to their way of business. Overall, this is still a business, FOR profit, and funds are used to “organize” the meetings, at a shitty board room or Marriott Inn century hall.
    12. You MUST sign a release form, from all and any psychological events you create in your mind. Releasing them from all legal subjects and responsibility.
    13. A double standard to commitment. ie, a member of my team chose to continue his plans with his family reunion out of state, keeping true to his word and to meet long lost relatives, yet the “coach” nearly peered pressured him to BLOW OFF this prior commitment and essentially over commit because it would “take care of you in order to take care of them. Love yourself more than them, to give what you have. Right now you have no love to give, so how are you going to take care of the tuition?”
    14. If you are aware of energies and how to see yourself in others, this is a perfect program to unleash your creativity, handle pain and all the negative auras you let yourself avoid.
    15. This is not a program for those who wish to have a quick reset button from rape, harassment or individuality.
    16. I am an individual with an immense power, I allowed this workshop to give me essential tools for my life, as I saw it. No doubt, the loving energy is strong, however remember to stick up for your desires, no matter the obstacle and excuse, you are strong and powerful by simply being on this earth.
    17. This program is not for everyone and many will fall into a “cult” mindset. This is a culture of love and mutual respect, yet remember it is a business at the core.

  5. I attended LifeSpring’s Basic & Advanced trainings in the mid- 80”s. I found the exercises very useful to me then and they are still relevant today. I did speak out about the conflict between the business aspect of the organization and the stated wish to make the world a better place. They did not censure me at the time but it was clear I wasn’t going to go on to become a volunteer recruiter.
    The training had value but it required one set limits about participation in recruitment efforts latter. I talked others who choose to continue as volunteers to consider that they might be being used. It was a powerful program which could be useful to participants able/ready to face what was revealed about self-defeating or self-limiting aspects their interactions with life. For those who were not ready to grapple these issues I imagine it could be a jarring experience.

  6. They say that you are “resistant”” if you don’t want to do it. My boss fires any employee who won’t join. If that’s not a cult, what is?

  7. M.I.T.T. is a CULT! Run as fast as you can!


  8. M.I.T.T is the biggest scam! And yes, I believe boarderlining on CULTISH ways. First let me start by saying, they prey on the weak minded, and brainwash some, so they are emotionally exhausted they can’t think anymore! And yet, when you ask someone what their time was like at MITT for the last 4 days, they will give you no real answer, it’s all a big fricken secret, why is that, I’ll tell you why… Because from the get-go, you are yelled… at made to feel humiliated, and defeated.

    I feel so badly for people that sign up for this class. Part of the reason, is they don’t have the fundamental tools within, to know that this behavior is not acceptable it’s all a ploy, to have them recruit others, to brainwash!!! . To be so profoundly lost that someone takes advantage of you, is tear-jerking. If you don’t recruit others, you’re yelled at again and again, that you’re not a ‘winner’ (their words). And speaking of which, they use many keys words, “commitment” “trust” . The place should be investigated to be honest, as there have been more than a handful of lawsuits, which they settled out of court, which I am sure has to do with the fact, they didn’t want the bad PR. Bottom line, run as far as you can from this place. It’s all about the money and nothing more!

    Brainwashing is such an invasive form of influence, it requires the complete isolation, and what do they do, they take 4 days out of their lifes and isolate them, and yes 7:00am to 2:00am is a long day, just long enough to do this.

    The (the brainwasher) the MITT leader must have complete control over the target (the brainwashee) so that sleep patterns, eating, using the bathroom and the fulfillment of other basic human needs depend on the will of the agent. And he does!

    The leader of MITT breaks down the target’s identity to the point that it doesn’t work anymore. The agent then replaces it with another set of behaviors. And so it goes.

    Its all very very sad!!!

    #M.I.T.Tcult #Brainwashing #lostsouls #MITTCULT

  9. Having been in Lifespring for about a year, I agree with JT – it’s not a cult in that there’s no reverence paid to the founder. But they do use a lot of cult-style mind techniques and business models.

    In HS, an Orthodox Jewish HS, in the early 80s, they gave us training to counteract the major campus threats they saw at the time – intermarriage/assimilation, cults, and missionaries. Correct Jewish readings of the Prophetic books (Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc), readings of the existential angst of people who tried to assimilate and failed (Heinrich Heine’s poetry), and cult techniques.

    Cults often prevent you from going to the bathroom at other than designated times, demonstrating their control over you. I went to the bathroom in the middle of a lecture, their door guards tried to engage me in an argument over going to the bathroom, when I realized they weren’t going to physically stop me, I just went and ignored them from then on, if I had to go.

    The business model with volunteer or low-paid (free course credits) assistant trainers and office staff, that struck me as pretty cultish. If you even want to try out for those positions, you have to bring in a quota of new recruits. They had a low-cost “sales training” whose prerequisites were the Basic and Advanced ($1200) courses, but they didn’t do much training, just nagging to get more recruits. Only those who were good salesmen before, did well.

  10. Actually, the definition of cult most often includes the extreme, ill-placed reverence for and devotion to ONE particular individual, or “leader”, and the idea that the group members forgo their own interests and self-identity for the sake of his.

    If MITT is a cult, then I am that leader! I’m definitely OK with that!!

    While MITT is a for-profit business and people are making money improving the lives of others while attempting to improve the world in which we live (and thus the requests for invitations to friends and family), it is not a cult. I am OK with someone making money from this type of endeavor … unlike ways that many of the other US companies are making money off all of us!

    • I don’t know anything M.I.T.T. but it seems fair to participate in helping a for-profit business provide these personal growth trainings, as long as you get paid a reasonable wage. But if the stated goal of the organization is to better the overall society why not organize as a non-profit organization?

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