Erhard Seminars Training

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Erhard Seminars Training, also known as est, EST, and est training, was an organization founded by Werner H. Erhard, which offered a two-weekend (60-hour) course known officially as "The est Standard Training". The purpose of est was "to transform one's ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, clear up just in the process of life itself."[1] The est training was offered from late 1971 to late 1984.


Quotes by founder[edit]

Werner Erhard in 2011
  • In est, the organization's purpose is to serve people, to create an opportunity for people to experience transformation, enlightenment, satisfaction and well-being in their lives.
    • Jamie Cresswell and Bryan Wilson, editors (1999). New Religious Movements. Routledge. p. 66. ISBN 0415200504. 
  • I knew that I couldn't create the space for other people to participate as long as my ego was in the way. It was after I solved that problem that I started est. The way I solved the problem was by realizing, 'How dare you not have an ego! How dare you! That's the ultimate ego!' The ultimate position of ego is to try not to have an ego. So, where my ego is, is right here, and I handle it by taking responsibility for it rather than by being the effect of it. Instead of being my ego, I have an ego.
    • Werner Erhard, quoted in — John Johns (May 1976). "Interview: Werner Erhard". The California Magazine: p. 15. 
  • Some people think est came into being because of my past. Actually, est came into being because I completed my past … Having confronted it, taken responsibility for it, communicated, and corrected it, it is now completed for me.
    • Werner Erhard, quoted in — Jesse Kornbluth (March 19, 1976). "The Fuhrer Over est - Werner Erhard of est: How the king of the brain-snatchers created his private empire". New Times: The Feature News Magazine. 
  • The purpose of est is to transform your ability 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.
    • Werner Erhard, quoted in — Jesse Kornbluth (March 19, 1976). "The Fuhrer Over est - Werner Erhard of est: How the king of the brain-snatchers created his private empire". New Times: The Feature News Magazine. 
  • My plans could be said to be to make est as public as possible. My notion on how to do that is through the educational system. So I would like to give est up to the environment.
    • Werner Erhard, quoted in — Jesse Kornbluth (March 19, 1976). "The Fuhrer Over est - Werner Erhard of est: How the king of the brain-snatchers created his private empire". New Times: The Feature News Magazine. 
  • I am a sort of revolutionary. I have a strange ambition, though. I don't want any statues. I don't want any ordinary monuments. What I want is for the world to work. That's the monument I want. There's egomania for you! The organizing principle of est is: 'Get the world to do what it is doing.' I want to create a context in which governments, education, families are nurturing. I want to enable, to empower, the institutions of man.[emphasis italics in original]


Alphabetized by author
Erhard Seminars Training is analyzed in the book Outrageous Betrayal, which is referenced in testimony to the United States House of Representatives, 1995
  • There are scores of modern religious cults and sects that have been influenced by Hinduism to varying degrees. Werner Erhard, founder of 'Landmark Education's 'The Forum',' and 'est' seminars, which have about 700,000 graduates, was influenced by Hinduism through Swami Muktananda, one of Erhard's principal gurus.
    • John Ankerberg, John Weldon (1996). Encyclopedia of New Age Beliefs. Harvest House Publishers. p. 216. ISBN 978-1565071605. 
  • TM, Erhard Seminars Training (est), and the Rajneesh Foundation are currently the most visible NRMs offering a release service to clients in Western Europe, but a large number of smaller groups are also in operation.
  • Although est and the Forum are frequently characterized as NRMs or 'cults' (q.v.), leaders and participants have typically denied that undergoing the seminars involves following a religion.
  • Paul Heelas, in his study of the New Age movement, includes firmly structured organizations such as the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), Osho and the so-called 'self religions' such as est (Erhard Seminar Training), among others.
  • The originator of Erhard Seminars Training (est) was John Paul (Jack) Rosenberg (1935- ), who changed his name to Werner Hans Erhard. … Erhard's seminars became particularly controversial because of the conditions to which participants were subjected.
  • est training should not be thought of as a form of therapy, either. The employee in the illustration is not meant to be paranoid, with a persecution complex to be addressed in some form of treatment. est is not primarily for people with problems, and the company executives who have undergone est training have not typically been marginal performers, or members of companies experiencing difficulties.
  • Werner Erhard, a former used-car salesman, founded his Erhard Seminar Training system (EST) in 1971. He drew upon many sources in the development of his philosophy including Zen Buddhism, Dale Carnegie's Positive Thinking, L. Ron Hubbard's Scientology and Jose Silva's Silva Mind Control. Erhard's seminars were at first 60-hour courses over two weeks designed to give insights into the meaning of life; his philosophy has been described as 'the most important of the self religions' that developed in the 1970s and 1980s.
    • Ray Clancy (21 July 1992). "Professionals fall prey to New Age gurus". The Times (United Kingdom). 
  • Rupert (1992) discusses a range of cases where religious or philosophical ideas have been used to underpin business training seminars, including both movements which fall under the 'New Age' umbrella and the so-called 'self religions' such as the human potential movement, est, or Scientology.
    • Peter Bernard Clarke (2000). Japanese New Religions: In Global Perspective. Routledge. p. 64. ISBN 978-0700711857. 
  • New Age communities appear to be driven more by a concern for individual spiritual growth than by collective concerns. A majority focus on teaching the various techniques for improving the quality of one's life and greater effectiveness by kindling the divine spark within. Transcendental meditation, the Self-religions (see Self-religion, The Self, and self) including The Forum, formerly est, Insight, The Life Training, the Silva Method of Mind Control, based largely on New Thought, Mind Dynamics, an offshoot of Silva Mind Control fall into this category.
    • Peter Clarke (2005). Encyclopedia of New Religious Movements. Routledge. p. 445. ISBN 978-0415453837. 
  • In 1985, riding the waves of the eighties, Erhard changed est's name to the more businesslike handle 'The Forum' and raised the price to $525. He replaced est's boot-camp encounters and harsh training rules with more accomodating 'dialogues' and training 'requests.' But according to many customers, the new package contained essentially the same product. Forum participants were often given sickness bags in case of vomiting. Some trainees were designated 'body-catchers' to catch those who fainted, and there were more serious casualties. A 25-year-old Connecticut man dropped dead during a Forum session. His attorney said the otherwise healthy man died of fright. In 1992, a federal judge ordered Erhard to pay $380,000 to a Maryland woman who, like Jean Turner, suffered bouts of euphoria, anxiety, manic behavior and, then, a full-fledged mental breakdown after her Forum training.
    • Conway, Flo; Siegelman, Jim (1995). Snapping: America's Epidemic of Sudden Personality Change. New York: Stillpoint. p. 17-18. ISBN 0964765004. 
  • ...the human potential and psychotherapy movements, as well as the more 'life-affirming' New Religious Movements and religions of the self. This was the complex world of the Californian 'psychobabble', of Scientology and est (Erhard Seminars Training, later called Forums Network), of Encounter Groups, meditation techniques and self-help manuals designed to assist individuals 'realise their potential'.
    • Jamie Cresswell and Bryan Wilson, editors (1999). New Religious Movements. Routledge. p. 35. ISBN 0415200504. 
  • est and Large-Group Awareness Seminars: Arising out of the human potential movement in the 1960s were a number of workshops, seminars and training programs. The most famous human potential program was erhard seminars training known as est. est was an intensive 60-hour workshop designed to alter a person's life view. There are a number of est clones including Life Spring, Actualizations and Forum, which is a successor to est. All of these workshops have several features in common. Participants are verbally attacked. The idea is to break down emotional defenses in order to allow new beliefs and attitudes to take over. There is a significant cathartic element in that emotional release is generated by the est techniques.
    • Eisner, Donald A. (2000). The Death of Psychotherapy: From Freud to Alien Abductions. Westport, Connecticut: Praeger. p. 60. ISBN 0275964132. 
  • Years ago recruitment for cultic groups was far more obvious than today because extreme religious groups were easy to identify. They lived isolated from the general population, and the public had become aware of their deceptive recruiting techniques. Today many are attracted to organizations that are less overtly cultic, not overtly religious, and are often linked with the human potential movement, while others operate as businesses, with their tactics focused around financial success. Landmark Forum, for example, is a human potential/business hybrid.
    • Farber, Sharon Klayman (2012). Hungry for Ecstasy: Trauma, the Brain, and the Influence of the Sixties. Lanham, Maryland: Jason Aronson/Rowman & Littlefield. p. 139. ISBN 9780765708588. 
  • ...casualties have also been reported among members of est, a self-help group involving commitments in a large-group setting, based on teachings of a charismatic secular leader.
  • More direct evidence comes from a careful study of Large Group Awareness Training programs, variously known as Erhard Seminars Training (est), Lifespring, or simply the Forum. The basic procedure of these courses parallels the group training workshops … but the emphasis shifts from group effectiveness to personal development. By talking through life challenges, aspirations, fears, and the like with fellow participants and professional counselors/teachers, individuals hope to change how they view themselves, their family and friends, and their prospects for a fulfilling life.
    • Gastil, John (2010). The Group in Society. Los Angeles: SAGE. pp. 228-229. ISBN 9781412924689. 
  • The 1960s and 1970s were decades during which there was a proliferation of social movements and new religions of various kinds. There were New Age movements (e.g., channeling, personal growth, and firewalking groups), quasi-religious therapies and corporations (Erhard Seminar Training, Lifespring, Amway), a diverse array of intentional communities, and a host of political movements.
    • Olav Hammer, Mikael Rothstein, editors (2012). The Cambridge Companion to New Religious Movements. Cambridge University Press. p. 20. ISBN 0521196507. 
Irving Hexham in 2005
  • EST. Erhard Seminars Training, a program involving spiritual practices derived from Zen Buddhism and Scientology.
  • Founded in 1971 by Werner Erhard, the movement, (which has operated under a variety of names), organizes intense weekend seminars intended to break down inhibitions and put the individual in touch with his or her true self. Many participants report occult experiences and encounters with spirit beings toward the end of the seminar, which is officially nonreligious.
  • Another potent element of the new cult milieu was the therapy sect, which offered believers the chance to achieve their full human potential through personal growth and self-actualization by taking total responsibility for one's actions. The prototypical movement of this kind was est (Erhard Seminar Training), in which intense and often grueling sessions forced followers to confront a new view of reality.
    • Jenkins, Philip (2000). Mystics and Messiahs : Cults and New Religions in American History. London: Oxford University Press. p. 180. ISBN 0195127447. 
  • Paul Heelas, for example, includes a significant number of what he calls the 'self religions': groups like Landmark Forum (also known simply as The Forum, formerly est or Erhard Seminar Training) and Programmes Limited (formerly Exegesis).
  • Erhard Seminars Training, more commonly known as est, was begun in 1971 by Werner Erhard. While not a church or religion, est is included here because it has often been accused of being a cult.
  • In 1985, est was discontinued and replaced by a program called The Forum, which is very similar to est.
  • Est was known for its intensive workshops that promote communication skills and self-empowerment. The purpose of est was to transform one's ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with, clear up just in the process of life itself.
  • The first two hours of est training were devoted to the rules: No one could move from his or her seat unless told to do so. No smoking, eating, or drinking was allowed in the room. One meal break was scheduled during the day. The sessions began at 9:00 A.M. and went to somewhere between midnight and 4:00 A.M. No one could go to the bathroom except during short breaks announced by the trainer. Note taking was prohibited. Wrist-watches had to be turned over to an assistant. No one could talk unless called on and they had to wait until an assistant came over with a microphone. Students were commonly called 'assholes' during the training.
  • These two opposing strategies of new religious movements for delivering compensators I will term 'compensation delivery systems' (CDS). The gradual CDS can best be described as religion as a multi-level marketing (MLM) tactic - a term I take from the business world. … Exemplars of new religious movements with a gradual CDS are Scientology and Erhard Seminar Training in its various manifestations.
  • He [Steven Tipton] pointed out that the youth of the early 1960s rejected the traditional ethics of American society and tried drugs, sex, communes, sit-ins and be-ins, but finding them unrewarding turned to religion, in one or other of the three main forms. The first of these he described as 'born again' charismatic Christianity, which he examined in detail in his case study of the Living World Fellowship. Secondly, he examined the way of enlightenment in his study of the 'Pacific Zen Centre'. Finally his study of EST (Erhard Systems Training) provides an insight into the work of the human potential movement which aims at self realisation.
    • Nelson, Geoffrey K. (1987). Cults, New Religions and Religious Creativity. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul. p. 177. ISBN 0-7102-0855-3. 
  • L. Ron Hubbard repackaged Scientology from occultism, and est/Forum was a repackaging of Scientology by Werner Erhard, but few Scientologists or estians ever see the connections, and both leaders seem to have gained little from their teachings. This is what the followers of Erhard found so unsettling; he was the great pop artist of spirituality, yet was unable to apply his insights to himself.
    • Oakes, Len (1997). Prophetic Charisma: The Psychology of Revolutionary Religious Personalities. Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 189. ISBN 0815627009. 
  • Scientology is thus one of several groups that form part of the Human Potential Movement (HPM) - an umbrella term for organization that offer enhanced quality of life. Werner Erhard, founder of Erhard Seminar Training (est - now Landmark Forum) previously studied Scientology, but other groups have no such influence: for example Silva Method, PSI Mind Development and the School of Economic Science (SES), the last of which is influenced by TM.
  • Both est and Landmark Forum could be classified as LGATs (large group awareness trainings), a sociological grouping that includes neuro-linguistic programming, Insight Training Seminars (see the Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness), and a whole plethora of sales and motivational courses.
    • Puttick, Elizabeth (2004). "Landmark Forum (est)". in Partridge, Christopher. New Religions: A Guide: New Religious Movements, Sects and Alternative Spiritualities. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 407. ISBN 0195220420. 
  • Some spiritual management trainings, aiming at the self-actualisation—or rather self-realisation—in the corporate world, have advocated a rather authoritarian treatment of their trainees. A well-known example is Landmark Education International, Inc., a management-oriented derivate of Werner Erhard's famous seminars called est (an acronym for Erhard Seminars Training) developed in the 1970s. Participants of Erhard's seminars were typically treated as follows[...] In an article of the German management magazine Wirtschaftswoche, Landmark was indeed accused of 'brainwashing' [...] The trainings of Landmark, Block Training and UP Hans Schuster und Partner thus display strong similarities with the self-improvement seminars of Scientology, which are incidentally called 'auditing sessions', a term taken from the business world.
    • Ramstedt, Martin (2007). "New Age and Business: Corporations as Cultic Milieus?". in Kemp, Daren; Lewis, James R.. Handbook of the New Age. Brill Handbooks on Contemporary Religion. 1. Leiden: BRILL. pp. 196-197. ISBN 9789004153554. 
  • est was developed from the beginning as a well-organized business enterprise, structured to maximize profits and minimize tax liabilities. Its major corporate arm, Transformational Technologies, is an extreme example of the rationality that pervades some such movements that have as a major goal the maximizing of profit. By 1988, it had trained nearly 400,000 people, all of whom had taken the two-weekend, 60-hour training session, paying a sizable fee ($400 per person) for so doing. est grossed some $30 million dollars in 1981, and it was claimed that one of every nine San Francisco Bay Area college-educated young people had gone through the training.
    • Richardson, James T. (1998). "est (THE FORUM)". in Swatos, Jr., William H.. Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, California: AltaMira. pp. 167-168. ISBN 0761989560. 
  • Erhard has become a controversial figure, with many lawsuits against him, mostly by the Internal Revenue Service but including some by his own family members. The controversies have contributed to Erhard reestablishing his enterprise under a new name—The Forum—which is the organizational form under which he operates currently.
    • Richardson, James T. (1998). "est (THE FORUM)". in Swatos, Jr., William H.. Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Walnut Creek, California: AltaMira. pp. 167-168. ISBN 0761989560. 
  • Many of the new religions attract individuals by the promise of peace of mind, spiritual well-being, gratifying experiences, and material success. In doing so they stress their concern for the individual and highlight one's personal worth and self-development. This is especially so in human growth movements such as Scientology, The Forum (previously known as Erhard Seminar Training [EST]), and quasi-religious encounter groups.
  • Beginning with the concern with self-expression in the 1970s, when cultural developments encouraged self-exploration, the New Age developed from what has been described as self-religions such as EST, a self-improvement method based on Erhard Seminars Training.
  • New Age religions, televangelism and fundamentalist religious sects, and self-religionist or self-actualization movements such as est (Erhard Seminars Training) and Scientology emerged to fill the empty place of any unifying or collective belief system for many Americans in the '80s.
    • Amy E. Seham (2001). Whose Improv is it Anyway?: Beyond Second City. University Press of Mississippi. p. 83. ISBN 978-1578063413. 
  • On federal court orders, I have attended six large group awareness training sessions (sponsored by est, the Forum, Lifespring, and PSI World) and have interviewed dozens of persons who have attended these and such other programs as Silva Mind Control, Actualizations, and Direct Centering, as well as the myriad of other programs now available, some started by former employees and even, on occasion, attendees of the larger well-known LGATs. I have studied the training manuals and videos used to train trainers and have interviewed a number of trainers.
  • EST (Erhard Seminars Training), a therapeutic movement founded by Werner Erhard (Jack Rosenberg), a salesman, and based on consciousness training programs and psychology-of-success literature. EST was incorporated as an educational corporation and employed techniques drawn from Scientology, Zen, Dale Carnegie, and humanistic psychology; thus it accommodates elements associated with oriental mysticism to the American success ethic. EST was widely criticized for sanctifying selfishness and for abrasive and traumatic training sessions. Highly successful in the late 1970s, EST was later officially discontinued and replaced by a new organization, the Forum. See also North America, new religions in.
    • Smith, Jonathan Z., ed (1995). HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion. New York: HarperSanFrancisco. pp. 343, 365, 795. ISBN 0060675152. 
  • Werner Erhard's highly successful est cult is partly derived from Scientology. Erhard had some experience with Scientology in 1969. Then he worked for a while in Mind Dynamics, itself an offshoot of Jose Silva's Mind Control.
    • Rodney Stark (1985). Religious movements: Genesis, Exodus, and Numbers. Paragon House Publishers. p. 167. ISBN 0913757438. 
  • Like the NAM, many of the Self-religions (Heelas 1991) have been heavily influenced by Asian, and more generally Eastern, ideas of spirituality and divinity and do not acknowledge an external theistic being but, rather, use spiritual and psychological techniques to reveal the god within and/or the divine self. The Forum and/or est, whose origins are in the United States (Tipton 1982) holds to the belief that the self itself is god.
    • Charles Taliaferro, Victoria S. Harrison, Stewart Goetz (2012). The Routledge Companion to Theism. Routledge. p. 123. ISBN 978-0415881647. 
  • Zen Center welcomes visitors, guests, and prospective students, but it does not engage in systematic institutional or network recruiting of new members, unlike the Christian sect and Erhard Seminars Training.
    • Steven M. Tipton (1984). Getting Saved from the Sixties: Moral Meaning in Conversion and Cultural Change. University of California Press. p. 104. ISBN 978-0520052284. 
  • If the range of religions on offer is a symptom of religious interest, then the second half of the twentieth century appears to rebut any suggestion that the West has become increasingly secular: the counter-culture of the 1960s produced an astonishing array of new religious movements (NRMs). The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (or ISKCON or Hare Krishna), Transcendental Meditation (or TM), the Divine Light Mission and the Healthy-Happy-Holy of Yogi Bhajan (a variant of Sikhism), were imports from the East. Others were what Paul Heelas has called 'self—religions': Erhard Seminar Training (or est, always spelt with lower—case letters), Insight, Exegesis, and Scientology were quasi—religious psychotherapies.
    • Marta Trzebiatowska, Steve Bruce (2012). Why are Women More Religious Than Men?. Oxford University Press, USA. p. 37. ISBN 978-0199608102. 
  • According to published reports, Erhard incorporated elements from a variety of religions, including Zen Buddhism and Scientology.
    • James K. Walker (2007). The Concise Guide to Today's Religions and Spirituality. Harvest House Publishers. pp. 137-138. ISBN 0736920110. 
  • The seminar and organization have undergone numerous transformations and name changes through the years. Est was discontinued and replaced with The Forum, and in 1991, Werner Erhard and Associates (WE&A) was dissolved. In its place, Landmark Education was incorporated, with Erhard's brother, Harry Rosenberg, serving as CEO and overseeing the current seminar, which is called the Landmark Forum.
    • James K. Walker (2007). The Concise Guide to Today's Religions and Spirituality. Harvest House Publishers. pp. 137-138. ISBN 0736920110. 
  • est, Werner Erhard (aka John Paul Rosenberg): Personal transformation seminar promising individual growth, business management skills, and stress reduction. Through large group awareness training meeting in hotels and conference centers around the world, Erhard and his disciples sought to help their students to 'get it'—in essence, to achieve enlightenment. Personal responsibility and virtually limitnless human possibilities were promoted through slogans such as, 'You're a god in your universe. You caused it.' Many early participants reported strenuous emotional—and for some, physical—strain from the 60-hour sessions and confrontational tenor of the seminar. According to published reports, Erhard incorporated elements from a variety of religions, including Zen Buddhism and Scientology, into est. Controversy surrounded the movement including charges of tax evasion. A 60 Minutes television report aired in 1991 accused Erhard of spousal abuse and included the accusation of incest by several of his daughters (one of whom later recanted). In the midst of mounting troubles, Erhard decided to leave the United States.
    • Walker, James K. (2007). The Concise Guide to Today's Religions and Spirituality. Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House. pp. 137-138. ISBN 9780736920117. 
  • It was the psychological wing of this widespread and increasingly mainstream cultural development that was radicalized in the 'self-religions' (the most influential of which was est) which came to lie at the 'heart of the "New Age"'.
    • Matthew Wood (2007). Possession, Power and the New Age: Ambiguities of Authority in Neoliberal Societies. Ashgate Publishing. pp. 20-21. ISBN 075463339X. 
  • A second variety of new religion that began to flourish during the 1960s consisted of the various groups, techniques and spiritual disciplines which came to be known collectively as the 'human potential movement'. In some ways, the human potential movement was an offshoot of the encounter group movement which flourished on college campuses during the 1960s (Back, 1972) and of popular psychology which had blossomed in a good many minds since the heyday of Fulton Sheen and Norman Vincent Peale in the 1950s. But the 1960s witnessed an intensification of them with respect to conventional religion, and a noticeable syncretism when it came to influences from mysticism, science, the occult and Asian religions. One of the first of the human potential groups was the Inner Peace movement (1964), dedicated to self-realization, personal growth and the exploitation of psychic energy. By 1972 it had established 590 centres in the United States and Canada. Scientology experienced most of its growth in North America towards the end of the 1960s, resulting in the establishment of centres in 28 locations by the early 1970s, with members totalling around 2,000. Erhard Seminars Training ('est') was not founded until 1971, but as time progressed it gained one of the more devoted followings of the human potential groups (Tipton, 1982) Blending a brash, pragmatic self-help ideology with a mixture of psychic experience, self-awareness techniques and social concern, it 'trained' some 20,000 people during the first three years of its existence.
    • Wuthnow, Robert (1986). "Religious movements in North America". in Beckford, James A.. New Religious Movements and Rapid Social Change. London: Sage/UNESCO. p. 6. ISBN 92-3-102-402-7. 
  • Young (1987:132) assigns est to 'a family in which Arica, Assertiveness Training, Actualizations, Gestalt Therapy and several other psychologically oriented groups belong.' These, as well as Lifespring, Relationships, Self-Transformations, the Church of the Movement for Inner Spiritual Awareness/Insight and others, are what Paul Heelas terms 'self-religions.' For an investigation and analysis of Exegesis, an est derivative, see Heelas (1987).
    • Michael York (1995). The Emerging Network: A Sociology of the New Age and Neo-pagan Movements. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. pp. 93-94. ISBN 978-0847680016. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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  1. Sheridan Fenwick (1976). Getting It: The Psychology of est. J. B. Lippincott Company. p. 44. ISBN 0-397-01170-9.