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.

A Breakthrough in Individual and Social Transformation

Presentation By Werner Erhard At The Eranos Conference 2006
Ascona, Switzerland
18 June 2006

While I was asked to speak about individual and social transformation, I will start by talking about knowing.

Think of the circle I have drawn here as containing all knowledge. The circle is divided into three sections. The first section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I know.” We all know what to do with what we know that we know – we put it to use. The next section of all knowledge is called, “What I know that I don’t know.” Again, we all know what to do with what we know that we don’t know – we learn. Finally, there is this vast remaining section of all knowledge called, “What I don’t know that I don’t know.” What to do about what we don’t know that we don’t know is something of a dilemma. And, what we don’t know that we don’t know about human beings is an important question when it comes to individual and social transformation.

I am reminded of a physics paper entitled “Chaos” that I read some years ago about the discovery of the chaotic nature of certain physical phenomena, where a small input could result in a very large scale output, while a large scale input could result in a very small output. As I read the article it occurred to me that chaos theory certainly applied to human beings. For example, with very little said, a person might get massively upset, while years of training have very little impact on some people. Chaos theory was followed by complexity theory where, to oversimplify somewhat, the whole was not merely the sum of the parts, but the sum of the parts plus the interaction between the parts. Again, complexity certainly applies to human beings.

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Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard

Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard
Symon Productions, Inc. & Eagle Island Films, Inc.
Robyn Symon Writer, Producer and Director

Watch the full length film here.

Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard, pioneer of the multi-billion dollar personal growth industry, breaks his long silence about his ideas, his life and the controversial program est that became the ‘thing to do” among celebrities and middle America and made him a cultural icon of the 1970’s and 80’s. With exclusive and rare footage, you’ll step inside est seminars, and hear provocative interviews with peers, naysayers, family members, participants and experts. The seminars exploded out of San Francisco when Erhard introduced the notion of “transformation” which would become a worldwide phenomenon.

Two-time Emmy winner Robyn Symon offer viewers a rare insider view into the life and ideas of Werner Erhard. Erhard speaks candidly about the early days of est, the adulation and media attacks, and the ideas themselves that underpin his work. The documentary doesn’t shy away from the hard questions about his controversial program, his past, his enemies, nor the “60 Minutes” expose that prompted him to leave the US in 1991. Viewers will be surprised at how Erhard’s course and ideas have permeated the very fabric of society today – in our language, advertising campaigns and in personal growth seminars around the world.

What People Are Saying
About the Film:

The film was great.

“It redeemed or balanced the lopsided/negative reports about Werner’s life via earlier media. Also, showed how pervasive his work is in the world, he seemed to be the “granddaddy” of transformation, with little credit given to him. I highly recommend.”

It was Fascinating!

“My friends told me about est for years and I never did understand why they wouldn’t leave me alone about it. After seeing your film and getting an in depth look at the man and what he cared about I now see what all the excitement was about – it was fascinating!”

 

A Shot Heard Round The World

The Context for Creating a Transformed World: A World that Works for Everyone

“Sometime around now – it may have happened five years ago or fifty years ago – but sometime around now, the rules for living successfully on this planet shifted.  We can no longer hope to live meaningful, purposeful lives using the rules of a you or me world.  It’s becoming clearer and clearer to those who will look that in order to live successfully on this planet, we must discover and live by the rules of you and me.” – Werner Erhard

Thousands of people came together to participate with Werner Erhard in the birth of a context, to discover for themselves ways to take advantage of what was previously unthinkable: that we as individuals have the unique opportunity to make a difference in creating a world that works for everyone…

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“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?

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Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard, a documentary by Robyn Symon.

The Heart of The Matter

The subject of this is transformation – a deep, profound and committed choice about the way we live our lives. Transformation is the possibility for a breakthrough in our living, a clearing for aliveness to show up in our everyday activities, self-expression and commitments.

Talking about transformation is no more than a representation, an image of the real thing. It’s like eating the menu instead of the steak – neither nurturing nor profound. It is in being transformed – in being authentically true to oneself – that one lives passionately free, unencumbered, fearless, committed. It is in living life in a transformed way that the steak and its sizzle show up.

We invite you to be here this evening for the actual benefits of transformation, for the meal – not the menu. Thank you for being here. Thank you for participating.

THREE KINDS OF TALKING

Our language, the way we speak, shows up in three different ways.

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Werner Erhard on Transformation and Productivity

The following is an interview with Werner Erhard done by Norman Bodek and published in ReVision: The Journal of Consciousness and Change,  Vol 7, No. 2, Winter 1984/Spring 1985.

DO OUR CURRENT PARADIGMS STRANGLE OUR PRODUCTIVE CAPACITY?

In 1971, Werner Erhard developed The est Training, an approach to individual and social transformation. He is the founder of Werner Erhard and Associates, which sponsors, in addition to the Training, workshops and seminars on communication, language, and productivity in the United States, Canada, South America, Western Europe, Australia, Israel, and India. He has formed a number of partnerships to apply his method of inquiry to business, education, government, and the health profession, including The Center for Contextual Study (psychotherapy), Transformational Technologies (management and leadership), and Hermenet Inc. (language and computers).

Because much of Werner Erhard’s recent work has focused on transformation in corporations and because his influence has been so broad, we asked our guest editor, Norman Bodek, to interview him in his San Francisco office. What follows is a discussion not only of transformation in the workplace, but of the art and discipline of transformation itself.

Norman Bodek: What do you mean by your use of the word “transformation”?

Werner Erhard: We use the word “transformation” to name a distinct discipline. Just as psychology, sociology, and philosophy are disciplines, so too we see transformation as a distinct discipline, a body of knowledge, and a field of exploration. I should add that because the discipline of transformation is brand new, it’s likely to be misunderstood—something that happens to a lot of new disciplines. At the beginning of the study of cybernetics, for example, people didn’t know what cybernetics was. They assumed it was a branch of engineering or mathematics. People tried to grasp it in terms already familiar to them. Eventually, however, it became clear that interpreting cybernetics as a branch of anything actually missed the whole point of cybernetics.

From our perspective, the same situation is now true of transformation. Most people at­tempt to understand our work in terms of psychology, philosophy, sociology, or theology. While it is true that almost anything can be analyzed from those perspectives, none of those disciplines is our work. Each can provide a certain perspective on our work, but none of them is the work. Fundamentally, transformation is a discipline which explores the nature of Being. Less fundamentally, but still pretty accurately, we would say it is a discipline devoted to possibility and to accomplishment, in the sense of the source of accomplishment.

Norman Bodek: Does a “discipline of Being” focus on working in the moment?

Werner Erhard: Not exactly. To grasp this usefully, we have to put aside a lot of notions we’ve come to take for granted—particularly the jargon of the ’70s—terms like “the now,” “the moment,” “enlightenment,” and the like. Once you’ve come to grips with the abstractions which those terms represent, of course, they are useful; but without grasping the abstraction, the terms can be misleading. The same can be said, by the way, about any of the terms I’m using.

I’d put it something like this: a “discipline of Being” begins with a commitment to distinguishing what is actually present.

Let me give you an example. One of our clients asked us to work with their executives on the issue of leadership. In their own work, they had become promoters of leadership, and even sponsored courses on it. The first question we asked was, “O.K., we know that it’s possible to talk about ‘leadership’ and to work on ‘leadership,’ but have you noticed that when you are dealing with leadership, you are dealing with a phenomenon that is never present? That is, when one says, ‘Mr. X is leading,’ have you noticed that at the moment that one says it, there is no leadership actually present? You can look in every corner of the room, even inside Mr. X’s head, everywhere, and nowhere will you find leadership. You attribute leadership to him, yes, but nowhere can you find it.”

If you follow this line of questioning and keep asking the question without hastening too quickly to get an answer, you find out some very interesting things about the phenomenon of leadership and about a lot of other phenomena as well. In fact, you will eventually have to come to grips with the notion of Being.

I’ve had the opportunity and the privilege to count some great men and women among my friends. They all have the same problem: they cannot get their students to be masters as they are—even students with all the intellectual equipment you can imagine. I tell them that the reason why they can’t turn their students into masters is that they are fibbing to themselves about the source of their own mastery. They attribute their own mastery to everything other than its actual source: creation. Creating and Being exist in the same domain. And there is a discipline to Being, to creation. The domain of Being has its own rigor; Being is approachable, it is masterable; it’s not nebulous.

Imagine someone who wants to be a great manager. In the normal course of events, such a man or woman would start off by, let’s say, studying management—perhaps in school, in books, or as an apprentice. Eventually, he or she would collect all the things that great managers have—degrees, credentials, diplomas, great track records, and great biographies. Then, at that point, we say, “Well, Mr. or Ms. X is a great manager!” Later, we send our children to the same schools so that they can become great managers too.

Except, most of the children who go to those schools never do become great managers. And we explain that failure on the basis of genes, environment, intelligence, opportunity, and the like. It never occurs to us that our template for becoming a great manager, or, more accurately, for becoming a great anything, is backwards. Never do we consider that what makes a great manager is NOT the school, books, or education, but simply BEING a great manager.

Now, I know that statement looks absurd at first, but it’s a very interesting possibility. If you discipline yourself to look for what’s present, for what is occurring in the moment, then you can ask yourself, “When someone is being a great manager, what is present?” What’s present (and all that is present, really) is being a great manager. What produces greatness, at the moment when greatness shows up, is being great, period. All the credentials follow from that, not the reverse.

Most people to whom I talk think, “Hey, great! That means I don’t have to go to college!” That’s not what it means. All the learning, apprenticing, practicing, and thinking are still necessary. My point is not that those practices aren’t necessary; my point is that when greatness does show up, none of those practices is the source of it. They do provide the conditions for it, but none are the source of the greatness itself. The source is, very simply, Being great. The question we are concerned with in our work is, how does one master this domain of Being?

So, I apologize for a very long answer to a very short question, but it hit right at the heart of our work—that of exploring, investigating, and making available what it means to be anything.

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