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1935 - Werner Erhard was born John Paul Rosenberg
Erhard’s father was Jewish but converted to Baptist and later Episcopalian. Erhard was raised Baptist.

1953 – Erhard graduated from Norristown (PA) High School and married Patricia Fry with whom he had four children.

1960 – Erhard left his family, traveled west with June Bryde, and changed his name to Werner Hans Erhard (a combination of West German economics minister Ludwig Erhard and philosopher/physicist Werner Heisenberg.

1961 - Erhard sold correspondence courses in several western states, Great Books for Encyclopedia Brittanica, and the Parents Magazine Cultural Institute.

1960s - Erhard studied Dale Carnegie's positive thinking, hypnosis, Gestalt psychology, Zen Buddhism, Scientology, Mind Dynamics, Silva Mind Control, Swami Muktananda's yoga system, and Subud (a Javanese-based synthesis of yoga and meditation), yoga, Norman Vincent Peale’s Power of Positive Thinking, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich, work of psychologists Sigmund Freud, Karl Rogers, and Abraham Maslow, encounter group therapy.

1963 – Erhard participated in Esalen and encounter groups.

1967 - Erhard completed a Dale Carnegie sales course and courses in Gestalt therapy and in transactional analysis

1971 Erhard founded est

1984 - est is “retired” and replaced by The Forum after participation in est declined dramatically. An estimated 750,000 individuals participated in est. The Forum was intended to be more attractive to business/management markets.

1991 Erhard sold the company to a consortium of employees, including several family members, severed his formal ties with the corporation, and disappeared from public view.

1991 - The Forum became Landmark Education Corporation, headed by Erhard’s brother Harry Rosenberg

1993 – Erhard appeared on a Larry King Live show segment titled "Whatever Happened to Werner Erhard?" via satellite from Moscow.

1994 - Erhard attended an event at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, entitled "From Thought to Action: Growing Leaders in a Changing World".

2007 - Erhard presented a talk exploring the link between integrity, leadership, and increased performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for Public Leadership

2007 – Erhard led a course on integrity at the 2007 Sloan School of Management’s SIP (Sloan Innovation Period)

2008 – Erhard participated in a course on leadership at the Simon School of Business at De Paul University.

Currently Landmark claims 42 offices in 11 nations and 300,000 participants during the 1990s

Erhard currently lives with Gonneke Spits (pronounced "Hanukkah"), an associate from his early days in est, reportedly in the Cayman Islands.


1971 - Erhard reported having a revelation while crossing the Golden Gate Bridge. He reports seeing the world as perfect "the way it is." He concluded that his attempts to change or modify either his physical circumstances or his mental outlook were rooted in a had their basis in a conception of the world (that it should differ from "the way it is") that precluded or at least limited one's experiential and creative appreciation of it.

Nothingness is the context for everything. Creation can only occur out of nothingness

Beings begin as pure context and manifest themselves through content

Every being is coextensive with all existence and therefore has created everything else. Everything that exists arises from the self. There is no other reality. “This is it, and that’s that.”

All beings operate within two distinct types of reality
●true reality
, which is experiential (accepting, observing, participating, sourcing)
● ordinary reality , which is illusory and involves non-experiential concepts (e.g., beliefs, values, attitudes, and rules)

The truth originates as experiential reality but because the mind operates through symbols rather than immediate experience, communicating with others involves concepts rather than experience.

While ordinary reality is compelling, its concepts are no more than agreements about what is true rather than experiential truth.

As soon as concepts (beliefs) become detached from experience, they lose their experiential truth value because truth can only be experienced. The truth believed is a lie.

Since the individual creates everything that is real, all concepts through which life is organized ultimately are the product of individual agreement. This means that the normative order on which society is based actually is a set of agreements to which the individual subscribed at some prior point. Every aspect of individuals’ lives was chosen at some time.

Since individuals have chosen the rules governing the social order, they should embrace those rules as their own choices. You should choose what you have got because you have got what you chose.

The conclusion is that the world and individual beings are perfect just the way they are because they have been chosen

The problem of humanity is that beings operate through concepts and develop an investment in them, treating them as true reality. Behavior is therefore shaped by beliefs that in turn condition behavior. Individuals then justify their beliefs and behavior, creating the illusion that they are free when in fact they are trapped in their own concepts

The mind, which is a being’s survival mechanism, ends up undermining the individuals' capacity for direct experience and hence for survival

To make life work what is necessary is to keep one’s agreements, and keeping agreements requires making them on the basis of experience rather than concepts

The standard by which acts should be measured is aliveness, which is defined in terms of such individual qualities as spontaneity, naturalness, centeredness, wholeness, awareness, and fulfillment.

Most people trade aliveness for survival

When individuals recognize that they have in fact chosen their own circumstances, then it makes little sense to blame others and conflict vanishes. The method for achieving this recognition is fully experiencing the source of conflict

Individuals “get it” when they recognize that they are ensnared in their own beliefs and that they are free to create their own experience. Getting it means being able to discover that you are holding a position (a context) which costs you more in aliveness than it is worth and being able to choose to give up (or transform) that position

Getting it is therefore not learning new facts (additional content), it involves understanding those facts in a new way (a change of context). The result is that previously experienced conflicts simply disappear

The test is whether an individual is able to experience living so that the situations you have been trying to change or have been putting up with clear up just in the process of life itself

Once a sufficient number of individuals have transformed their lives, a societal transformation will occur


Seminar training spans sixty hours over two weekends.
seminar training
mid-week meeting
post-training seminar

Each day is a marathon-style experience of sixteen-hour sessions with one meal break and two or three water and bathroom breaks

Sessions involve periods of lecture, questions, sharing, and processes

Pre-training Seminar

Pre-training seminar is devoted to eliciting from the trainee what specific goals they hope to achieve through the training and reaching agreements about trainee behavior through the seminar. There is a long list of prescribed (name tags, changing seats, punctuality) and proscribed behavior (eating, taking notes, leaving seat)

Seminar First Day
Trainees engage in three processes the first day designed to experience experiencing and to understand one's self in terms of space. The trainer informs them there are powerful barriers to direct experience.
Identifying space - the trainer methodically lists parts of the body and asks trainees to locate space within each.
Creating safe space - trainees are asked to locate spaces with various parts of their bodies and then to locate a safe, idyllic internal space.
Recreating and experiencing conditions - One of the fundamental assertions of est is that conditions persist if they are resisted. By contrast, re-creating and experiencing conditions causes them to disappear. Trainees identify a discomfort they are feeling; by fully experiencing its location, size, shape, color, etc., they experience it out and it disappears.

Seminar Second Day

Trainees are informed that experiencing out problems at one level leads to the emergence of more fundamental problems lurking behind the original ones. Experiencing pure space and beingness therefore is a progressive process that is analogous to peeling layers of an onion.
Experiencing out - trainees engage in the truth process in which they identify some longstanding physical or psychological hurt and experience it out.
Danger process - trainees are to get in touch with their acts and rackets. Groups of trainees in groups come up to the stage and stand and face with the trainer's assistants. The difficulty that many trainees have in just being is attributed to their inability to relate except through their acts and rackets.
Fear process - trainees are instructed to be terrified of those around them and then are confronted with a room full of fear and dread.

Seminar Third Day

The trainer lectures on the nature of reality and unreality, arguing that the only reality is what they experience and that they are the sole creators or what they experience. The trainer asserts that they resist this conclusion because it would force them to abandon all of their “acts” and “rackets,” which allow them to treat others as the cause their experience.

Seminar Fourth Day

The trainer lectures on the "anatomy of the mind." He teaches that the mind is a survival mechanism that records all past experiences. Since the number of traumatic experiences increases through life, an ever larger proportion of the mind's records come to be of the traumatic time. This means that over time the mind increasingly works on a mechanical stimulus-response basis. He concludes that individuals are just machines, with totally mechanical, stimulus-response lives. There is neither meaning nor control. This leads to est's definition of enlightenment, knowing that you are a machine.

The trainer concludes that enlightenment means doing nothing, simply accepting what is, because what is is, whether we accept it or not. The assertion that the being is nothing but space creates an initial sense of emptiness for trainees, but the trainer reminds trainees that nothingness is the transition point between non-experience and experience. Creating one's own life requires beginning from nothingness.

All current personal problems are attributable to a connection to memory records. When the being concludes that it is the mind and joins with the mind, ego is created. The being's conflation of itself with the mind/ego is problematic because the mind relies on accumulated records of experience (beliefs, thoughts, decisions, points of view) in which it has a vested interest. And so the mind is continually engaged in trying to prove that it is right by seeking agreement from others.


est defines itself as an "education corporation"

Werner Erhard is referred to as “the source”

There is only a tiny paid staff. Most staff are volunteers

Other organizations founded or closely associated with est include
● Transformational Technologies, Inc. (TTI), a licensing company that licenses other firms to train managers
Breakthrough Foundation - assists at-risk youth
Holiday Projects - assists the elderly
Werner Erhard Foundation - supports research on crisis management
Education Network - works to reduce drop-out rates among high school students
Prison Possibilities - offers est training to incarcerated individuals
Hunger Project - combats world hunger

John Denver
Diana Ross
Yoko Ono
Jerry Rubin
Valarie Harper
Tiger Woods' father


Scientology claimed that Erhard had stolen material from them and added him to its list of "suppressive persons." Scientology runs an "est repair rundown" session that it claims will repair damage created by est. claiming to "undo the damage" done by est.
It is rumored that Scientology was behind a character assassination scheme in which rumors surfaced of child molestation and tax evasion by Erhard, reported by CBS' 60 Minutes.

The Cult Awareness Network retracted a characterization as a “cult” after being sued by Erhard.

Conservative Christian groups condemned est for basing its teachings on non-Christian belief systems.

Psychologists and psychiatrists reported case studies in which participants in est trainings
experienced psychological problems of various kinds following the trainings.

1998 - Charlotte Faltermayer in “The Best of est?” in Time (March 16), reported on allegations made in a 60 Minutes segment on Werner Erhard that "was filled with so many factual discrepancies that the transcript was made unavailable with this disclaimer: 'This segment has been deleted at the request of CBS News for legal or copyright reasons.'"
Faltermayer also reports that Celeste Erhard's allegations of incest were recanted after she reported receiving a substantial advance to write a book that contained those allegations.

1992 – It was ruled in a civil suit that "The Forum" had not caused any “mental injuries” to Stephanie Ney; though it entered a $380,000 in absentia default judgment against Werner Erhard.

1996 - The United States IRS settled for $200,000 in a damage suit Werner Erhard brought against the IRS for false statements IRS spokesmen made to the press about his tax information (that Erhard owed millions of dollars in back taxes, had transferred assets out of the U.S. to evade the payment of taxes, and that the IRS had sued Erhard over delinquency in the payment of his taxes).