Erhard Seminars Training

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Erhard Seminars Training, or est (always in lower-case), was a controversial New Age large group awareness training (LGAT) seminar program, widespread during the 1970s. Werner Erhard (born John Paul Rosenberg) founded est and conducted the first est seminar in San Francisco, California, in October 1971.

The company was originally incorporated in 1973 as a non-profit foundation in the State of California under the name of the Foundation for the Realization of Man. An amendment to the articles of incorporation was filed in July 1976, renaming it as the est Foundation.

Contents

Influences on and Philosophy of "est"

The forebears of est allegedly include Heidegger. Erhard himself cites Zen, or as some have alleged, Westernized Zen. The "est" principle that we ourselves created this world as God and created amnesia so as to play a game on ourselves (or Himself) derives from the writings of Alan Watts, a hipster popularizer of religious thought, most notably Zen and other eastern religions.

As quoted in est: Making Life Work by Robert A. Hargrave, Erhard cited the influence of Zen, Subud, Encounter Therapy, Gestalt Therapy, Scientology and an obscure group known as Mind Dynamics. Erhard's supporters would later accuse Scientology of having engineered a campaign against Erhard for his borrowing of key concepts, such as "being at cause", meaning the cause of an event.

Responsibility assumption formed an important part of the est curriculum: however, critics charge that responsibility operated only in one direction, from the top down -- est Forum Leaders and Erhard himself tending towards autocratic shows of discipline.

Nowadays, Large Group Awareness Training (LGAT) programs like Landmark Education contribute to promoting the ideas and concepts of Werner Erhard, though without stressing his name, his controversial reputation or his ideological forebears.

One can perhaps best grasp the nature of the est program by reading through some of the many personal narratives available on the web. These illustrate the nature of est from the points of view of both the program's supporters and detractors. The Psychology Today article gives a factual account and occasionally shows up in on-line sources.

Controversies Surrounding

One participant, James Slee, died during a seminar, and his family sued the organization. Other participants had breakdowns. These were very rare occurrences and causation was never established.

In 1976 the IRS indicted Harry Margolis on charges of tax fraud on behalf of Werner Erhard and Associates, a charge later dropped. Erhard later sued the IRS for damages and won $200,000.

A segment on 60 Minutes portrayed Erhard as physically abusive to his wife and featured accusations by some of his daughters of incest and of physical abuse. One daughter later retracted allegations of violence, saying that a reporter had offered her two million dollars to make accusations. Defenders of "est" and Erhard alleged a sting operation by the Church of Scientology, as detailed in the book by Dr. Jane Self (see below).

"Est" metamorphosed — supporters might say "transformed itself" — in 1980 - 1981 into the corporate "Werner Erhard and Associates" and the course "The Forum", eventually becoming the corporate "Landmark Education" and the course "The Landmark Forum" around 1991.

Quotations

... Erhard Seminars Training (est), a pricey, psychobabbling series of long and demeaning behavior-modification sessions that preached the virtue of selfishness.

- Hunter S. Thompson in Fear and Loathing in America.

External links


Critic sites

References

Books

  • W.W. Bartley, III "Werner Erhard, The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est"; (Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1978)
  • V.J. Fedorschak "The Shadow on the Path"; (Hohm Press,1999)
  • Eliezer Sobel “This Is It: est, Twenty Years Later” (QUEST Magazine, Summer 1998)
  • Perry Pascarella “Create Breakthroughs in Performance by Changing the ‘Conversation’” (Industry Week, June 1997)
  • Brewer, Mark. "We're Gonna Tear You Down and Put You Back Together", Psychology Today, August 1975
  • "Research on Erhard Seminar Training in a Correctional Institution" (Hosford, Ray, E., Moss, C. Scott, Cavior, Helene, & Kerish, Burton. Catalog of Selected Documents in Psychology, 1982, Manuscript #2419, American Psychological Association)
  • "Psychiatric disturbances associated with Erhard Seminars Training". L. L. Glass, M. A. Kirsch and F. N. Parris. American Journal of Psychiatry, 1977; 134(3): 245-7.
  • Rhinehart, Luke, The Book of Est
  • Fenwick, Sheridan, Getting it: the psychology of est
  • Self, Dr. Jane, 60 Minutes and the Assassination of Werner Erhard
  • Bry, Adelaide. est (Erhard Seminars Training): 60 Hours That Transform Your Life, Harpercollins, 1976
  • Frederick, Carl. est: Playing the Game the New Way, Delacorte, 1974.
  • Hargrave, Robert. est: Making Life Work, Delacorte, 1976.

Periodicals

  • Marin, Peter. "The New Narcissism." Harper's, October 1975, 251:45-56.
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