Steven Campbell, “Making Your Mind Magnificent”

MM asks: “Have you any information about Steven Campbell, motivational speaker and author of the book Making Your Mind Magnificent: Flourishing At Any Age?  Mr. Campbell presented a seminar at our parish.  On one level, the book seems to present self-help and motivational strategies for increasing personal effectiveness, and I was planning to read it with reference to my Christian faith.  I’m wondering whether the book might present more insidious challenges to faith?  Thank you!”

I have not read the book by Steven Campbell, but he has written many articles about his theories that can be found here 

Campbell, a former college instructor with a masters in Information Systems and a passion for studying how the brain works, believes that the human brain accepts whatever we tell it – which essentially means that a person can do anything that they tell themselves is possible.

This theory dovetails very neatly with the basic premise of the New Age’s human potential movement which teaches a human-centered psychology based on the belief that a person is in complete control of their destiny.

Other examples of books that fall into this New Age category would be The Power of Positive Thinking (Norman Vincent Peale), A Course in Miracles (Helen Schucman), The Secret (Rhonda Byrne), The New Earth (Eckhert Tolle), Silva Mind Control (Jose Silva), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (Stephen Covey), Dianetics (L. Ron Hubbard) to name a few.

These books, and a variety of seminars such as Landmark and The Turning Point, blend psychology and spirituality into a new kind of personal growth movement that is aimed at helping man to discover his own true potential (divinity).

How far Campbell takes this, I can’t say without reading the book. However, he does openly profess to be Christian and distances himself from books such as The Secret. In an October, 2009 interview with Nicolas Grizzle of The Community Voice, Campbell says his concept is no secret because his message focuses more on scientific research and studies.  “I want you to get in touch with your mind, and The Secret wants you to get in touch with the universe,” he said.

There are so many of these self-help books out there it would be impossible to read them all, but there are certain qualities that mark them as New Age.

1) They involve the use of mental techniques such as visualization, blanking the mind, or other method of achieving an altered state of consciousness
2) The methods are used to create a new reality, such as making yourself rich, attracting romance, etc.
3) The method claims to be a “secret” –  (remember, the meaning of the word “occult” is “secret”)
4) The method enables you to manipulate others to get them to do what you want, such as in Silva Mind Control (see /?p=85 )
5) The method helps you to discover the “divinity within”.
6) The teachings surrounding the method contradict Scripture (i.e., Conversations with God, A Course in Miracles)
7) The method involves “tuning into”  vibrations or “energy” in the universe (i.e., Dr. Wayne Dyer, Synchronicity)
8) It relies on, or incorporates, the use of spirit guides or psychic abilities

There are also specific warning signs to look for before becoming involved in any self-help or personal growth seminar (see /?p=59 )

Remember, the mind is a critical battlefield in the realm of spiritual warfare, which is why we’re taught to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” (Rom 12:2), not so that we can become gods, but so that we “may discern what is the will of God – what is good and acceptable and perfect.”  True transformation of the mind comes through following God’s perfect will, not the imperfect and always ego-seeking ways of the world.

Our booklet, A Course in Miracles, details one of the most dangerous of all the New Age self-help programs, and includes many tips on how to protect yourself against these and other deceptions.   

Send your New Age question to



Silva Mind Control

EC writes: “We are having a parish “retreat” day with a priest who also is heavily involved with the Silva Mind Control Method. Can you point me to any Vatican documents which expressly state that the Silva Mind Control Method is New Age and therefore incompatible with our Catholic faith? I want some  ‘backup’ from the Church, so I can voice my objections to the Parish Priest.”

Read the rest…

Dangers of Landmark

SC writes: “My sister, a confirmed Catholic and the godmother of my daughter, attended a Landmark Forum last weekend in Cincinnati.  She was “invited” by her boyfriend.  After looking at a website on cults and watching a video that a French TV station did on this group, I do believe that it is a cult. It has been around for awhile, but seems to have really hit the Midwest.  I looked on your New Age blog but couldn’t find an entry on this particular group.  I told her it is anti-Christian and at the very least, she will be out of a lot of money.  She has already signed up for more weekends, and asked me why I thought it was anti-Christian.  What could be wrong with trying to make your relationships better with family and friends, she says? She is a smart woman and so is the boyfriend – I can’t understand how they could be drawn to something which is such a scam.”

SC has good reason to be concerned but she needn’t be surprised that someone as intelligent and gifted as her sister could be lured into one of these self-help scams.

According to experts such as Dr. Margaret Singer, Fr. William Kent Butner, Rick Ross, and others, most people who become involved in what are referred to as “white collar cults,” are above average in intelligence, are mentally healthy with normal social skills for their age and tend toward high ideals and a commitment toward making the world better. Even though different seminars recruit different kinds of people, a typical “hook” is to find people who are in the midst of a major change in their lives (divorce, new job, mid-life crisis, etc.). While typical cult converts tend to be people in their late teens and early twenties, in the case of white collar cults, a disproportionate number of attendees are older and female.

Landmark, the program SC’s sister has become involved in, has a long history of problems. It is classified as a “possible cult” in France and The Cult Awareness and Information Center in Australia has listed Landmark among “psychotherapy cults.”

There have been numerous articles written in professional medical journals about the dangers of Landmark (formerly known as est and Forum) which you can read here.

For example, the Journal of Consulting & Clinical Psychology [990; 58(1): 99-108], published a study of participants in Landmark compared with non-participating peers and found that participants were significantly more distressed then peer and normative samples.

Cult Expert Rick Ross has devoted an entire web page to educating the public about Landmark. This page includes court documents pertaining to litigation against Landmark, labor violations, personal testimonies, and a variety of news reports.

For those who are unfamiliar with all this, Landmark descended from the original New Age self-help seminar known as est (Latin for “it is”).

Est was founded by Werner Erhard (not his real name), a former used car salesman who worked his way into a vice presidency at Parents magazine. He became heavily involved in the New Age and Zen Buddhism, and attended some of the earliest group awareness seminars taking place in the New Age retreat known as Esalen in Big Sur, California from where the modern human potential movement originated.

Erhard claims to have had a vision in 1971 while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge that led to the development of est.

Based on Eastern beliefs and teachings from the Church of Scientology, est is what psychologists call a large group awareness training program. It’s a hodgepodge of philosophies ranging from existential philosophy, motivational psychology, Maxwell Maltz’s Pscho-cybernetics, Zen Buddhism, Alan Watts, Freud, Abraham Maslow, L. Ron Hubbard, Hinduism, Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale, P.T. Barnum, and just about anyone else who appealed to him at the time.

Erhard promised participants that his program would “empower” them to “produce effective action.” He would enable them to “produce new ways of working.” He would transform the basis of their communication. They would be able “to cause life instead of just living it.”

Est adopted, in part, the Zen master approach, which is often abusive, profane, demeaning and authoritarian, and is most famously known for the extraordinary bladder control expected of those in est training as shown in the 1978 Burt Reynolds movie, Semi-Tough.

Before Erhard left the country in 1991, more than 700,000 people had undergone his training programs and he was worth $45 million. Now known as Landmark, a multitude of other programs have spun-off of est, such as the popular Lifespring, many of which employ the same techniques.

The biggest problem with these seminars is that they are often promoted as ways to help improve self-motivation, leadership skills, or workplace performance, which lures people into them who would not otherwise participate.

However, once the attendees arrive, they quickly discover the truth.

“The usual function of these seminars, which is not advertised, is to break down the identity and world view of the participants, and replace it with a new paradigm for reality and self-identity based on the philosophies belonging to the founders of these programs,” writes Marcia Montenegro, founder of the New Age research organization known as Christian Answers for the New Age. “In effect, it is mind re-reprogramming.”

This mind-reprogramming is accomplished through a variety of mind-altering techniques such as deep relaxation, guided imagery, and visualization.

Trance-induction techniques are also employed and involve closed-eye exercises, a form of guided imagery, and the “dyad”, which is the pairing off of participants who are told to stare into each other’s eyes for several minutes at a time. During these “trances” trainers may encourage participants to recall their most powerful memories as a way of conquering their past, something that can cause dangerous psychotic episodes in fragile individuals.
“The trainers usually get you to think of all your most powerful memories, under the guise of somehow conquering your past,” says Margaret Thaler Singer, Ph.D., professor emeritus of psychology at the University of California at Berkley and a leading expert on human potential groups.

Dr. Singer has counseled more than 50 workshop graduates, some of whom attempted suicide in the aftermath of a program. “A trained professional knows when someone should not be put under stress,” she said. “And these people have absolutely no training outside the group.”

This blog has documented similar tragedies associated with another one of these programs known as The Turning Point (see

Because of how many of these programs exist (and how often they change their names after a slew of lawsuits and other bad publicity), it’s important to learn how to recognize them. Marcia Montenegro lists the following warning signs on her website:

  • The organization’s leadership or past participants refuse to share the contents of the seminar beforehand
  • You are required to sign a “hold harmless” agreement which protects the organization from legal action should you be harmed by the program
  • The organization uses hyper language offering self-transformation
  • Strong sales-type techniques are used to get you to participate
  • The organization portrays its critics as ignorant, evil, or influenced by Satan
  • The organization dissuades you from evaluating the teachings and methods yourself
  • The organization discourages or discounts criticism from participants or others
  • Promises are made to redesign your view of your self and reality
  • Past participants exhibit an elitist attitude toward those who have not participated
  • Past participants are pressured to recruit

For all of the above reasons, Christians should never become involved in any of these programs because they often seek to destroy the Judeo-Christian worldview and replace it with a New Age version.

This is why the Pontifical document, Jesus Christ, the Bearer of the Water of Life, condemns the human potential movement, of which Landmark is a part, calling it “the clearest example of the conviction that humans are divine, or contain a divine spark within themselves.”

Send your New Age questions to