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Werner llhard
"What is, is. And what ain't, ain't."
by John Johns

Sixteen years ago there was no Werner icans will someday have taken the est
Erhard. Five years ago there was no est. training.
Today Werner Erhard and est (Erhard Q: Werner, what brings people to est?
Seminars Training) are truly an American Considering the relative affluence of est
phenomenon, a thriving succefs in the graduates, could it be a dissatisfaction with
fertile garden of modern pop psychology . material success?
Werner Hans Erhard was born Jack A: I don't think it's a dissatisfaction with
Rosenberg 40 years ago in Philadelphia. personal success or material success that
He married his high school sweetheart brings people to est. In many respects,
and, in true story-book fashion , proceeded having achieved that allows you to take a
to raise a family of four children. But in look at what your life is really about.
1960 the story took an abrupt turn- Jack Material success isn't all that bad a thing;
Rosenberg ran away with Ellen, who is however, it's only what people thought
now his second wife. With characteristic they wanted. When they have it, they often
candor, Werner admits that he took off " to realize it's not what they thought it would
avoid the responsibilities I ·had ." (He has be, and doesn 't in itself bring them satis-
since become very close to his first family, faction . I think it's the recognition that
while also raising three children in his there's something beyond personal and
namics, Gestalt and numerous psychic lay-
second marriage.) material success that brings people to est.
overs along the way . Then, driving the
It was in St. Louis that Jack Rosenberg Q: Do you feel that part of the attraction is
freeway one day, Werner Erhard "got it"-
became Werner Erhard, borrowing from the experience that transformed his life the American preoccupation with instant
Werner Heisenberg, Nobel Prize winning gratification? In this case, overnight en-
and led him to the formation of est (also
physicist, and former West German Chan- lightenment?
Latin for "it is" ). His message : "What is, is.
cellor Ludwig Erhard . From St. Louis, And what ain't, ain't." A: There are some elements of that. How-
Erhard made his way to California, where In the 4 ~ years that the San Francisco- ever, there is a piece of information ~hich
he worked for a correspondence school. based est has flourished , it has doubled in strongly belies that notion, and that is, that
Not long afterward he went to Spokane size each year. A paid staff of 230 and a among est graduates there is a large body
and a job managing a sales office for rotating volunteer corps of 6000 to 7000 est of what are ordinarily called "seekers"-
Britannica's Great Books series. graduates currently power est offices in 12 people who have spent their whole lives
In 1963 Werner took a job with the cities. There are now more than 70,000 seeking for "it," usually doing that the
Parents Cultural Institute, a subsidiary of mostly middle-class graduates (this is no hard way. But there's no such thing as
Parents Magazine, which published and fringe hippie movement) who pay $250 to long-term enlightenment. You can't take a
sold encyclopedias. Within three years " get it" from the demanding 60-hour, two- long time to get enlightened. What takes a
he had become vice-president, having weekend course. Last year revenues were long time is trying to get enlightened, and
excelled as a sales manager. He remained more than $9 million, and 12,000 people as anybody who's studied enlightenment
there for six years. are on the waiting list, anxious to swell the knows, one of the things that will keep you
Werner's next position was ·with the ranks of enthusiastic est graduates . from getting enlightened is trying to get
Grolier Society, Inc. Their business was Werner himself disclaims any ambitions enlightened . The only thing there is is
also encyclopedias, and again Werner to become a millionaire . His salary is instant enlightenment. It happens out of
demonstrated remarkable organizational reported to be $48,000 a year and he lives time, so it is really instantaneous.
and motivational skills in sales. in a $100,000 bouse in Marin, pilots a Q: You say that people are dissatisfied
While he was sharpening his man- rented Cessna and drives a Mercedes that because they think they have what they
agement skills, however, Erhard also em- sports license plates reading SO WUT. want but find that they're not really expe-
barked on a spiritual quest that took him Looking to the future, Werner Erhard riencing it. What are the barriers to their
through Zen, yoga, Scientology, Mind Dy- nourishes the hope that 40 million Amer- experiencing it? •

A: The simplified answer is that people ordinarily the principle of gaining satisfac- expressing that in moving through the
seem to exist in three parts. We have the tion. Essentially what organizes life for world .
outer part, which is the thing we put most of us is an attempt to gratify our 0: In other words, people come out of est
together to survive in life-our persona, needs: our psychological needs, our mate- not "trying"?
our ego. This best-foot-forward face . Un- rial needs, our personal needs. Some peo- A: Yes. Now, just let me mitigate that a
derneath that we' re trying to hide, particu- ple bring that to a very high leveL for little bit, because I spoke to you in abso-
larly from ourselves, the person we're instance. charitable and good citizens. But lutes to make a sharp contrast. I should
afraid we might be: small-thinking, fright- it's a behavior to fill a high-level need. If have used words like "ordinarily you and I
ened , concerned about our own survival, you look at Maslow's hierarchy, the ulti- are expressing becoming." What happens
pretending. arrogant. So we put on the mate need is the need for symmetry and in the training is that the predominant way
face, and underneath that is the thing beauty, and people who are behaving to you are is "being" rather than "becom-
we' re afraid we might be . Some of us put fulfill a need for symmetry and beauty ing." All of us have experiences of being.
on the face so successfully that we don' t don't look very driven. because they're I'm sure that you can recall experiences of
even know this person we're afraid we are. really not very driven. They're at the peak being, and you know that the quality of
Underneath that is the self. So the barrier of this hierarchy of needs. That. however, life has somehow shifted. Whether they' re
to the experience of who we actually are is is not a transformed individual. Indi- frequent or infrequent, everyone's had
the unwillingness to confront who we are viduals transform when there's a shift in those experiences of being. and they can
afraid we are, or dramatizing who we are the principle which orients their life from get in touch with that and know what we're
afraid we are. You see, some people are one of 'gaining satisfaction to one of ex- talking about.
acting out their fear of who they mjght be. pressing the satisfaction they've already 0: Let's look at the training, then . Can you
That is the simple answer. /
0: So people come to est hiding behind
got. What distinguishes a human being is
becoming. What distinguishes an en-
illuminate somewhat how this transforma-
tion is accomplished?
their persona, wearing their "face." Yet so lightened human being is being. The dif- A: Sure. The first day, or at least the first
many est graduates come away excited ference between an enlightened or half of the first day of the training, is spent
about a change or transformation . How "transformed being and an unenlightened explaining the training in detail, so people
could you characterize this? or not-yet-aware-of-themselves being is know exactly what's going to happen.
A: Let me try to back aro und to it. The that one is becoming something and ex- They find out what they're likely to bump
transformation is the shift of the principle pressing himself in the striving to become up against. This is so they can take respon-
which orients the person's life. which is th at and the other one is something, and is sibility for being in the training. The train-

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ing cannot occur when it's being "done" to The last day you have a direct experi- lem that ought to be handled by psycho-
somebody. We also, on the first day, pre- ence of your own mind, which is akin to therapists. That's an important thing. We
sent facts that are inconsistent with the seeing the back of your eyeballs with your handle that very specifically .by telling
way people believe the world to be- and I eyeballs. You turn yourself inside out, and people who need psychotherapy or. medi-
emphasize the word believe. The second you come face to face with your own cal attention that est is not the place to go,
day, you have a very direct experience of mind - and it happens to be who you al- that est is not psychotherapy. If you need
this thing we spoke about before: you ways thought you were. But if you are therapy, you should go to a therapist. If
really haven't been experiencing life, you looking at who you always thought you you need doctoring, go to an M.D.
have been conceptualizing it. The shift were, you've got to be the person looking. Q: You personally have reached an un-
here is from having your life as a story of That's where most people "get it," al- usual place, especially as the source of a
what's happening to having your life as the though some people get it in the first hour dynamic organization like est. Where is
experience of what's happening. The sec- and some people get it three days later. your ego in all this?
ond half of the second day is what we call Then you look at the true nature of prob- A: I think the best thing to tell you is after I
the danger process, and in that process you lems. You look at the way relationships are had this experience, I worked for many
actually get to experience- not think actually set up and why they become so months before I actually started est. I
about, not figure out, not have somebody muddied and confused, and why they're worked hard, really hard, to try to get my
tell you- but experience what is really often unsatisfying. ego out of the way . I knew that I couldn 't
making you hold onto your act, or face. Q: Is the training complete when a person create the space for other people to partici -
The third day is spent in discovering graduates? pate as long as my ego was in the way. It
what is actually real for you, as contrasted A: Yes. It's a complete beginning. In other was after I solved that problem that I
with what you always thought was real and words ... started est. The way I solved the problem
what appears to be real, and you discover Q: Not an end? was by realizing, " How dare you not have
the actual nature of reality. You also dis- A: Precisely! The training ends nothing. an ego! How dare you! That's the ultimate
cover those false notions you 're ~ ing in What it really does is start something- and ego! " The ultimate position of ego is to try
your ground of being, those things which it starts it completely. not to have an ego. So, where my ego is, is
are so so for you that you never think Q: Why do you suggest that someone right here, and I handle it by taking re-
them. They're what you think with , and who's not "winning" in psychotherapy not sponsibility for it rather than by being th e
what you see with . You discover you can enroll in est? effect of it. Instead of being my ego, I have
create your own experience. A: Because, obviously, they've got a prob- an ego . •

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