J.L Moreno on Werner Erhard

From the book, Impromptu Man,  by Jonathan D. Moreno

“Erhard Seminars Training, known as est, epitomized the Great Crossover. In the 1970’s, as hundreds of troubled hospitalized patients were daily being released for their involuntary commitment in vast institutions, hundreds of “normal people” were voluntarily entering hotel ballrooms in the hope of transforming themselves. The attraction was a handsome and charismatic young man named Werner Erhard, who had undergone his own “transformation.” The word has a nearly technical significance for Erhard, who uses it to refer to his realization that what stood between him and his completeness as a human being was within his control. A critical part of “the training,” as practitioners refer to it, is freeing oneself from the past, accomplished by “experiencing” recurrent patterns and problems rather than repeating them, where “experience” again has a technical significance. To fully experience the pointless repetition of old, burdensome behaviors is to “experience them out.” An early biography of Erhard explains that:

“The Training provides a format in which siege is mounted on the Mind. It is intended to identify and bring under examination presuppositions and entrenched positionality. It aims to press one beyond one’s point of view, at least momentarily, into a perspective from which one observes one’s own positionality… The setting for the training is arduous and intrusive, …In the training ordinary ways to escape confronting one’s experience are- with the agreement of the participants-sealed off in advance. On the concrete level this means limited access to food, water toilets, bed. Alcohol and drugs are forbidden. There is limited movement, there are no clocks or watches by which to tell the time; one may not talk to others; nor may one sit beside friends. Internal crutches and barriers to experience – such as one’s own belief systems – are also challenged by means of philosophical lectures and exercises in imagination.”

Participants might have been surprised how both physically and emotionally challenging and how philosophical the training was…Erhard struck a chord among many, partly because it was simultaneously original and familiar. Erhard brought a uniquely American voice to the themes of the fading human potential movement, and est training was in the American tradition of Great Awakenings and motivational programs. He had a way with pithy, often spontaneous observations about life and living. Evan as the spirit of the 1960s lost steam, there was a powerful lingering desire among many for personal exploration and for more authentic connections to others. In many ways the training was the most important cultural event after the human potential movement itself seemed exhausted, with elements of theater, therapy, and social networking.

Somewhere along the line the clunky term “large group awareness training” had been coined in reference to experiences like est that were on a bigger scale than Lewin’s T-groups, but still aiming at Maslow’s peak experiences. Crucially, est workshops took place on a stage before dozens or even hundreds of people. That was a departure from the usual encounter group size of a dozen or so participants, and further still from the analyst’s couch. Erhard also confronted participants one-on-one, challenging them to be themselves rather than playing some role that had been imposed on them, a form of Socratic interrogation reminiscent of J.L.’s story about mounting the stage to confront the actor in the “legitimate” Vienna theater. Erhard was sensitive to the aspect of theater in the training; his biographer even calls it “a new form of participatory theater,… Like most drams, it has catharsis as one of its aims. Unlike most drama, it also aims to bring the participant to an experience of him or herself which is tantamount to transformation.” In the early years of est Erhard cited psychodrama as one way of “rehabilitating the imagination in the attempt to bring people to their potential.” And he plainly had enormous charisma and self-confidence, qualities that J.L. also didn’t lack. Erhard sold his company in 1991; it survives as Landmark Worldwide and its basic program is called the Landmark Forum. Erhard now travels and lectures on leadership education and integrity. Referring to a book he is completing with a friend, Erhard says that “I’d like to live long enough to get the ideas down.”

From Impromptu Man: J.L. Moreno and the Origins of Psychodrama, Encounter Culture, and the Social Network, by Jonathan D. Moreno

Jonathan D. Moreno is an American philosopher and historian who specializes in the intersection of bioethics, culture, science, and national security, and has published seminal works on the history, sociology and politics of biology and medicine.

Interview With Werner Erhard

“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.

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Werner Erhard and James Fadiman

From The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1977, Vol.9, No. J, February 1, 1977, San Francisco, California

This is an edited transcript of a discussion in an informal meeting of a few members of the Association for Transpersonal Psychology, several Journal editors, and friends.

Werner Erhard was the founder and primary spokesman for Erhard Seminars Training (est), James Fadiman is a lecturer, author, a past president of the Association, and an associate editor with the Journal. After opening remarks by Frances Vaughan Clark, president of the Association, the following discussion took place with occasional audience participation (Audience Member).

James Fadiman: One thing I’m not sure of is whether you and I agree on the role of the self, or the personality. That may be because I’m so interested in “devaluing” personality. I am more and more using the term “personal drama” rather than personality so that even “getting off one’s position” to use an est term, isn’t getting off enough since one is still attached to getting off one’s position. This seems to be more a transpersonal value than perhaps you would accept.

Werner Erhard: No, I’d be wholly aligned with what you just said. I’ll tell you where I think the difference might lie though, and that is perhaps in the path. What one does with personality is not avoid it, or ignore it, or suppress it, or shove it out of the way, but take responsibility for it, complete one’s relationship with one’s personality, transcend it, and therefore include it as a content in the context which one is when one transcends one’s personality. So, rather than to do away with the personality (and I’m not sure that transpersonal psychology would do away with personality) I want to make it clear that est would not do away with the personality. One would be responsible for it, cause it, instead of be the effect of it. Essentially one would complete one’s personality as a way of being unattached to it.

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Paradigm Thinking and Productivity

From the Fall 1989 issue of Benchmark Magazine, a publication of Xerox Corporation

PARADIGM THINKING, properly applied leads to tangible results. JMW Consultants. A New York based management consulting consulting firm, helps companies boost productivity through paradigm shifts with an approach called “Productivity Breakthrough Technology.”

Three years ago, a major computer manufacturer called in JMW to help deal with a crisis.

The manufacturer was trying to get an important product out in order to take advantage of a rapidly closing marketing window. If the team of software developers responsible for the project continued the development process at their current rate – a rate that was in line with industry standards – the product would not be ready on time. If the company hired more programmers to speed up the process, they would exceed their budget. Clearly, a breakthrough was needed.

After working with JMW, the software team began to double their previous productivity. The breakthrough enabled the company to get the product out in time – and save more than $100 million over the next three years.

JMW did not teach the team new techniques for developing software. Instead they helped them shift their paradigm. In their old paradigm, the rule was “X (the predictable) amount of work in X amount of time.” The new paradigm was stated as a possibility – “Y (the required) amount of work in X amount of time.”

“The shift was to create a future – the one they needed – as a possibility, not as a prediction,” says Werner Erhard, who founded a national affiliation of management consultants with which JMW is associated. “At that point, no one knew how to do it, but they could still create the possibility.

Because there was now a new paradigm in which to see the work, the team began seeing the job of developing software differently. They then were able to generate a commitment to that possibility.”

Erhard points out that when a breakthrough is needed, what is often called for is the development of a new paradigm.

“Changing the paradigm does not negate the need for realistic, hard-headed thinking, ” he says. “In ‘business as usual’ we get clear about the situation to determine what we can do and what we can’t.

But to produce a breakthrough, you have to stand the usual approach on its head.”

The process begins with inventing a new possibility, without regard to whether you know what to do to realize it. You then look back at the situation from the standpoint of that new possibility.

“That is what gives you the new perspective and what allows you to see the situation in a way you haven’t seen it before,” says Erhard. “That is the beginnings of generating a new paradigm.” At some point in the process, he says, it will be evident that you have come up with the best paradigm for a breakthrough in that situation.

“Productivity breakthroughs are a product of seeing something in a new way, which enables you to see new opportunities and new openings for action that you couldn’t see before,” he adds. “Breakthroughs come as a result of shifting your commitment from the predictable future to a possible future.”

est: Communication in a Context of Compassion

by Werner Erhard and Victor Gioscia, Ph.D.

Format of the est Standard Training

The est Standard Training is approximately 60 hours long and is usually presented on two successive weekends: two Saturdays and two Sundays, beginning at 9 a.m and ending after midnight, when the trainer observes that the results for that day have been reached.  “Breaks” are usually taken every four hours and there is usually one meal break during the day.  People eat breakfast before and some have a snack after the training day.  Included in the #300 tuition are pre-, mid-, and post-training seminars.  These are each about 3 1/2 hours in duration, and take place on three weekday evenings, one before, one between, and one after the training weekends.

Approximately 250 people take the training together at one time, seated in a hotel ballroom.  Chairs are arranged theater style, facing a low platform on which a chair, a lectern, and two chalkboards are placed.  Everyone wears a nametag printed in letters large enough to be read from the platform.

In est there are four principle topics addressed in the training – belief, experience, reality, and self.  Trainees have the opportunity to examine their experience of each of these topics in three ways: (1) lectures by the trainer, (2) “processes” (guided experiences, usually with eyes closed, and (3) sharing – communications from individual trainees to the trainer and/or to the class.

Trainees realize early in the training that the trainer is not actually “lecturing” i.e, presenting conceptual information – but presenting the trainees with a chance to “look and see what is so for you in your own experience” about the topics discussed.  Similarly, trainees seen realize that ” processes” are opportunities to examine the records of previous experiences in the privacy and safety of their own experience (or “space”) and that, as they wish, they may or may not share what is so for them.

The following chart presents these schematically:

Topic
Process
Sharing
Day 1
Belief
Body
Yes
Day 2
Experience
Truth
Yes
Day 3
Reality
Center
Yes
Day 4
Self
Mind
Yes

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