Every era has a relatively small number of original and influential persons, those who generate initiative, discoveries, achievements and insights which shape our own cultures and societies — and often those of future generations. If we know these people well, it is through their works: their campaigns and institutions, their books and inventions, their vaccines, their symphonies, their monuments and their firms.
The Saturday Satellite Series with Werner Erhard was a program designed to give us a new access to such people — a glimpse of the commitments and visions that inform such lives, and that serve as the source of their creations. The series was conducted as a dialogue between Werner Erhard and prominent guest speakers who are widely recognized for their achievements and expertise. These dialogues were designed not to present particular views, but to open an inquiry that elicits creative thinking and productive action from and for all participants.
Each session provided a platform for speakers to generate their own discussion, to share influences and experiences, to pose provocative questions, and to allow participants to share in a candid, dynamic and creative exchange. By way of these dialogues, the Satellite Series offered new perspectives, new insights and new ways of approaching key public issues and concerns.
Broadcast live to thousands of participants throughout the United States, each series focused on a particular theme, exploring key principles and assumptions and leading-edge insights that govern the relevant fields.
Leading public figures being interviewed included Alice Cahana, Robert Reich, Milton Friedman, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Milton Friedman, Mike Wallace, Stephen Jay Gould, James Burke, Andrew Tobias, and Senator Daniel Inouye. These interviews are available in their entirety at http://wernererhardvideo.com/
Werner Erhard, host and moderator of the Series, has dedicated his life to transforming people’s experience of what is possible for human beings, and their ability to act on that possibility.
What do you mean when you say, “People don’t know they make a difference?”
“I mean literally that people think the choices they make in life don’t make any difference. They feel as if the decisions they make don’t matter much. In fact, we live in a kind of unseen agreement that nobody really makes any difference. When you do make a difference you are empowered. People are often unwilling to be empowered.”
Why would people be unwilling to be empowered?
“If you are empowered, you suddenly have a lot of work to do because you have the power to do it. If you are unempowered, you are less dominated by the opportunities in front of you. In other words, you have an excuse to not do the work. You have a way out. You have the security of being able to do what you have always done and get away. If you are empowered, suddenly you must step out, innovate and create. The cost, however, of being unempowered is people’s self-expression. They always have the feeling that they have something in them that they never really gave, never really expressed. By simply revealing the payoffs and costs of being unempowered, people have a choice. They can begin to see that it is possible to make the choice to be empowered rather than to function without awareness. Empowerment requires a breakthrough and in part that breakthrough is a kind of shift from looking for a leader to a sense of personal responsibility. The problems we now have in communities and societies are going to be resolved only when we are brought together by a common sense that each of us is visionary. Each of us must come to the realization that we can function and live at the level of vision rather than following some great leader’s vision. Instead of looking for a great leader, we are in an era where each of us needs to find the great leader in ourselves.”
Werner Erhard Interviewed by Loretta Ferrier
Scene Magazine/September-October 1982
A CONVERSATION WITH WERNER ERHARD about The est Training, philosophy, “enlightenment,” authoritarianism and legitimate authority, arrogance, leadership, and vision.
The Network Review, Volume 1 Number 4, September 1983
From their base at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, members of the Center for the Study of New Religious Movements have been exploring ways to evaluate the confusing array of activities they define as spiritual, self development, or consciousness oriented. A continuing seminar at the Center has worked on criteria which lay people and professionals can use to discriminate between harmful and helpful conditions in groups pursuing such activities.
Werner Erhard and 17 members of the seminar met in April 1981 to discuss some of the distinctions between authoritarianism and legitimate authority. The conversation covered other topics as well, and the seminar leader, Dick Anthony, later commented that it was “one of the important turning points in our meetings.” An edited transcript of the interview is scheduled to appear in a book, Spiritual Standards for New Age Groups and Therapies, due to be published next spring. While The est Training is not a therapy or a religion, the conversation between Werner Erhard and members of the seminar clearly applies to the issues raised by the book, and to everyday living.
Excerpts from: Lunch With The FT: Werner Erhard
“Erhard is the man who more or less invented the personal growth movement in California in the early 1970s and who coined the phrase, ‘Thank you for sharing’.”
“Erhard’s influence extends far beyond the couple of million people who have done his courses: there is hardly a self-help book or a management training programme that does not borrow some of his principles.”
“I’m not the first person to struggle to grasp his ideas. Erhard tells me that paramilitaries in Northern Ireland had a bit of trouble too, but when they did get it they disarmed as a result. He also worked with members of the first Russian parliament in 1993, who were apparently even slower getting the point than me.”
“Erhard is an autodidact. Jensen is an emeritus professor at Harvard Business School. Together they are writing academic articles and touring the world’s best universities.”
“What got the two started on this [integrity] was not the usual stuff about corporate scandals. It was reflecting on how their own “out-of-integrity behaviour” had stunted their own performance and damaged themselves and others around them. After seven years of research the upshot is a (somewhat impenetrable) model that links integrity, morality, ethics and legality into a single system that promises great benefits for everyone.”
Lucy Kellaway is the FT’s management columnist
“The truth is not found in a different set of circumstances. The truth is always and only found in the circumstances you’ve got. – Suffering is a function of the notion that ‘this is not it.’ ” – Werner Erhard
THIS IS IT- AN INTERVIEW WITH WERNER ERHARD, by Eliezer Sobel, New Sun Magazine, December 1978
Werner’s life and work is the subject of William Bartley’s recently released book, Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, the Founding of est, published by Clarkson N. Potter, Inc. The book is unusual in that it is not so much a story, but an experience. On the surface, it is the history of Werner Erhard; one step in, and it’s a biography of the Self, the story of each of our own inner unfoldment.
New Sun: I’d like to know what you feel is the single most important thing a human being can learn in life?
Werner Erhard: The problem with the answer to that question is that it depends on where the person is. I think that until you know that life does not work you’re unprepared to know anything else. And yet that’s not the most important thing to know. But it might be the first thing to know.
NS: That it’s not all right the way it is?
Werner Erhard: No. I didn’t say that. I said that life doesn’t work. What I mean by that is whatever it is that you think is going to make life work, it isn’t going to make life work. People think that when they get educated that that’s going to solve all their problems and handle things; or when they get married, or when they get divorced, and so on. People think there is something that is going to make things work, and nothing makes things work. The fact of the matter is that there isn’t anything that’s going to make anybody happy.
NS: Okay … and with that realization begins the search? Or ends the search? What comes next after that realization?
The atmosphere of Werner Erhard’s office in the elegantly restored Victorian on Franklin Street is one of quiet, old-world charm; the decor is massive and comfortable. Like the man, it is powerful and has an air of efficiency.
Erhard is a highly intelligent, communicative man who is intensely charismatic. There is about him a sense of ease, grace and elegance. Basically a shy man who would like to spend his days sailing, he has instead become the center of est, an organization dealing with individual and social transformation. He is to this day highly controversial. Mention his name in public and you will generate responses ranging from pure love and adoration to hate. He has often been accused of being an opportunist. Those who know him say if he is, it stems from a genuine concern about the current state of humanity. They also say he has softened over the years, grown more compassionate and developed a kind of dignity that is inspiring to others.
“What is is and what isn’t isn’t,” An Interview by John Johns, 1976
Sixteen years ago there was no Werner Erhard. Five years ago there was no est. Today Werner Erhard and est (Erhard Seminars Training) are truly an American phenomenon, a thriving success in the fertile garden of modern pop psychology.
Werner Hans Erhard was born Jack Rosenberg 40 years ago in Philadelphia. He married his high school sweetheart and, in true story-book fashion, proceeded to raise a family of four children. But in 1960 the story took an abrupt turn—Jack Rosenberg ran away with Ellen, who is now his second wife. With characteristic candor, Werner admits that he took off “to avoid the responsibilities I had.” (He has since become very close to his first family, while also raising three children in his second marriage.)
It was in St. Louis that Jack Rosenberg became Werner Erhard, borrowing from Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winning physicist, and former West German Chancellor Ludwig Erhard. From St. Louis, Erhard made his way to California, where he worked for a correspondence school. Not long afterward he went to Spokane and a job managing a sales office for Britannica’s Great Books series.
In 1963 Werner took a job with the Parents Cultural Institute, a subsidiary of Parents Magazine, which published and sold encyclopedias. Within three years he had become vice-president. having excelled as a sales manager. He remained there for six years.
Werner’s next position was with the Grolier Society, Inc. Their business was also encyclopedias, and again Werner demonstrated remarkable organizational and motivational skills in sales.
While he was sharpening his management skills, however, Erhard also embarked on a spiritual quest that took him through Zen, yoga, Scientology, Mind Dynamics, Gestalt and numerous psychic layovers along the way. Then, driving the freeway one day, Werner Erhard “got it”—the experience that transformed his life and led him to the formation of est (also Latin for “it is”). His message: “What is, is. And what ain’t. ain’t.”
In the 4 1/2 years that the San Francisco-based est has flourished, it has doubled in size each year. A paid staff of 230 and a rotating volunteer corps of 6000 to 7000 est graduates currently power est offices in 12 cities. There are now more than 70,000 mostly middle-class graduates (this is no fringe hippie movement) who pay $250 to “get it” from the demanding 60-hour, two-weekend course. Last year revenues were more than $9 million, and 12,000 people are on the waiting list, anxious to swell the ranks of enthusiastic est graduates.