Talk:Werner Erhard (book)

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Good article Werner Erhard (book) has been listed as one of the Language and literature good articles under the good article criteria. If you can improve it further, please do so. If it no longer meets these criteria, you can reassess it.
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September 27, 2009 Good article nominee Listed
Did You Know A fact from this article appeared on Wikipedia's Main Page in the "Did you know?" column on September 17, 2009.

Suggestions regarding the Contents section[edit]

Following discussion here last March, here are some initial proposals for a re-write of the "Contents" section to give a fuller and more balanced summary of the book. Maybe we can reach consensus here and then icorporate the changes into the article? DaveApter (talk) 13:02, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

The book covers three related aspects: it describes Erhard's personal life story, including his family relationships; it details the various schools of thought Erhard had come across in his personal search, before creating the est program; and it provides an overview of the basic practical and theoretical assumptions underlying Erhard's outlook, as transmitted in the est program.[1][2] Erhard wrote a foreword to the biography.[3] He comments that a quote from Søren Kierkegaard selected by Bartley "seems to pierce to the heart of what happened" in Erhard's life.[3]

OK, though the punctuation is poor in the original and needs to be fixed, which I will do once the revision is published. Sensei48 (talk) 18:24, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

Life story[edit]

The book recounts how Erhard, originally named Jack Rosenberg, interrupted his education in his final year of high school to marry and support his pregnant girlfriend Pat Campbell. He took on a variety of jobs available to an unqualified school-leaver drop-out – meat-packing, plumbing, construction work - and proved to have an special aptitude for salesmanship, working successfully in several automobile dealerships.

By the time he was 25, Jack and Pat Rosenberg and his wife had four children, but he was feeling increasingly restless and constrained. He formed a friendship with a woman named June Bryde, which gradually deepened into an affair. He secretly arranged a flight from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with June in 1960, leaving behind his wife and their four children.[3] They settled for a time in St Louis and severed all contact with his family; it would be twelve years before they would hear from him again. It was at this time that he assumed the name Werner Erhard, and June called herself Ellen Erhard.

After more work in car sales during which he adopted the pseudonym "Jack Frost", Erhard joined the sales staff of ‘’Parents’’ magazine and was rapidly promoted to training manager and eventually appointed Vice-President in 1967. During this period they Erhard moved frequently to different parts of the US as dictated by the demands of the job, finally settling in San Francisco. When Parents Magazine was sold to the Time-Life group, he was recruited by the Grolier Society as Divisional Manager. According to Grolier vice-president John Wirtz the intention of appointing Erhard was that he would bring “integrity, honesty and straightforwardness” to their sales practices [4].

Personal search and self-education[edit]

Shortly after moving to St Louis, Erhard began to ponder the perennial issues of life, and [text is vague and inflated] to embark on a program of inquiry [U.S. sp. for U.S. topic] and self-education. Initially he focused on self-improvement classics [POV]books such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.[5] and Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz.

From there, he widened his search to academic but unorthodox Human Potential Movement psychologists such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers,[both are anything but unorthodox] a range of traditional Western philosophers, and Eastern disciplines such as Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Subud and the Martial arts; and also, as well as contemporary movements including Mind Dynamics, and Scientology.[6] Bartley writes that Erhard was "profoundly dissatisfied with the competitive and meaningless status quo". Erhard told Bartley he had a positive experience with Scientology which helped expand his mind, but that he had deep reservations regarding certain aspects of its teachings and methodologies.

Erhard's outlook, as transmitted in the est program[edit]

Bartley recounts a revelation Erhard asserted that he experienced in March 1971 while driving into San Francisco, California to work at Grolier Society.[7] Erhard described to Bartley what the revelation experience felt like: "What happened had no form. It was timeless, unbounded, ineffable, beyond language."[8] He told Bartley that he realized: "I had to 'clean up' my life. I had to acknowledge and correct the lies in my life. I saw that the lies that I told about others — my wanting my family, or Ellen (his second wife), or anyone else, to be different from the way that they are -- came from lies that I told about myself -- my wanting to be different from the way that I was."[7] He set up a business venture for Ellen which gave her the financial freedom to choose how to structure her life and her relationship with him. Erhard and Ellen divorced in 1988. [This is the fact related in the book, sans positive spin.]

His desire to share this experience led to the plans formed later that year to create the est training. The first promotional seminar was held in September with over one thousand attendees, and the first est training took place in October 1971 in a San Francisco hotel.

In October 1972, while leading an est session in New York, Erhard realized that the time had come to reconnect with his family after an absence of 12 years.[3] Although his long absence from his family caused them feelings of confusion and pain, he re-established cordial and loving relationships with all of them.[3] His brother and sister became est Trainers and took on prominent roles in the business.

Key concepts of the est training (depicted by familiar words, used with specialised meanings) as defined by Erhard and described in the book include:

  • Completion: the acknowledgement of actions or decisions taken in the past, and the taking of steps to bring a resolution.
  • Rackets: behaviour [U.S. sp]patterns ostensibly involving complaints about people in one’s life, but actually resulting in the perpetuation of the complaint and the securing of a payoff such as dominating the other person.
  • Integrity: being whole and complete, and honoring one’s word. In the est context the word is used to depict a matter of workability, rather than with the moral overtones it has in everyday usage.
  • Stories: the interpretations of our experiences which we regard as reality, leading to conflict with other people who have created differing interpretations of the same events.
  • Responsibility: the willingness to accept ourselves as the source of our results in life – whether welcome or unwelcome – rather than blaming others for them.

DaveApter (talk) 13:02, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

Strikethroughs and boldface represent text changes to proposed edits - 10/5/12; italics are my comments. These are initial edits.Sensei48 (talk) 18:24, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

Thank you for the helpful and constructive suggestions. In the majority of cases I have no objection and I would agree that some of your re-wordings are improvements. The points on which I have reservations are:
  1. I am not happy with the substitution of 'drop-out' for 'school-leaver'. Apart from the fact that the latter is factual wheras the former is judgemental, it appears to misrepresent the facts. A drop-out is someone who leaves an unfinished educational course due to idleness or indiscipline. My reading of the account in the book is that he completed his high-school curriculum but did not proceed to college and university, as he and his family had anticipated, because he felt an obligation to marry and support his pregnant girl-friend.
  2. I am not clear why you wish to remove my comment in respect of the est distictions "(depicted by familiar words, used with specialised meanings)". This seems to be factual, and helpful in clearing up a perennial source of confusion.
  3. Regarding Erhard's divorce from Ellen in 1988, I have no objection to that being mentioned but surely you are mistaken in suggesting that this comes from the book as it was published in 1978? I do object to your removal of the comment about setting up a business for her; this is a point of fact and it is stated in the book. It is furthermore a significant matter, as it is part of the process which Erhard describes as cleaning up his life as a consequence of the work he undertook in creating the training. Perhaps it would be improved by making it clearer that it reported speech by Erhard rather than recounting it as though claiming it to be a factual assertion?
I think some of MLKLewis' suggestions are also improvements and could be incorporated.DaveApter (talk) 14:38, 6 October 2012 (UTC)

Discussion of Proposed Changes, August 2012[edit]

I am creating this as a new section because I would like to leave DavidApter's proposal undisturbed for ease of consideration. Reacting with strikethroughs or intralinear comments, even in italics, would confuse what the actual edit says. And my thanks to DavidApter for his considerate adherence to Wiki policy of offering a major edit for consideration before incorporating it into the article.

My own reactions are mixed but tending to regard this edit proposal with with significant caution. It is clearly thoughtful and well-composed and certainly well-intended. However, it appears to me to be only a limited improvement over what is in the article already, and rather than creating a more balanced NPOV as DavidApter suggests, it slants and spins details within the book away from neutrality and toward a positive image of a controversial book about a controversial personage. Much of the language in the proposed edit is problematic, but content and removal of sourced material is more significant and needs to be addressed first.

Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I’ll respond to the individual points below, but first a few general remarks:
a) The intention of my suggestions is to create a section which provides a concise, accurate, balanced summary of the book’s contents, the need for which has already been agreed in discussions on this talk page some months ago.
b) The point has already been made in the article that some critics have expressed reservations about Bartley’s partiality, and no doubt readers will bear that in mind when evaluating the summary of what he says.
c) Since I am summarising what the book states, I do not concur with your accusations that I am commenting, spinning, or introducing bias. I had not thought it necessary to explicitly and repeatedly ascribe the points to Bartley as I had considered it obvious in the context. However, since this apparently was not clear to you and may not be to other readers, I will add suggested citations above.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
(Note on 8/18 - Don't want to quibble, DA, but "accusation" is probably the wrong word here, as may be the use of the first person pronoun. It's always safer to focus on the edit and not the editor, which I'm trying to do here.Sensei48 (talk) 17:01, 18 August 2012 (UTC))
My apologies for being a bit thin-skinned there - I had taken your remarks as indicating a failure to assume good faith on my part (this reaction of course being an example of my failure to assume good faith on your part). I agree that focus on the content of suggested edits rather than on personalities or assumed motivations is in the best interests of improving the quality or the article. DaveApter (talk) 15:13, 19 August 2012 (UTC)
On another point I see you have partly reverted my edit to the 'Background' section. I thought we had reached consensus in discussion here (admittedly some months ago) that loaded terms such 'Fascist' are not really appropriate in an encyclopedia article unless they are (a) intended literally rather than rhetorically, and (b) referenced to a serious scholarly appraisal rather than to lightweight magazine features. DaveApter (talk) 15:13, 19 August 2012 (UTC)

Proposed edit in italics; my responses below.

  • The book recounts how Erhard, originally named Jack Rosenberg, interrupted a promising education in his final highschool year to marry and support his pregnant girlfriend Pat Campbell. He took on a variety of jobs available to an unqualified school-leaver – meat-packing, plumbing, construction work - and proved to have a special aptitude for salesmanship, working successfully in several automobile dealerships.

"Promising" "special aptitude" "working successfully" - all unacceptable POV with a positive spin. How is this better than the text as in the article now? -

Regarding the adjectives, I think you are over-reacting. "Promising", we can remove if you insist. The facts are that both Jack and his family expected him to go to to college and university but he didn’t because he married his pregnant girlfriend. The fact that he had talent as a salesman is one point on which I thought both supporters and critics could agree and I wouldn’t have thought it either POV or spun. This is the main point of the rather laboured passage that you wanted to retain. I’m open to suggestions of alternative wording that you find more acceptable.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

"The book recounts how Erhard, previously known as Jack Rosenberg, used the name Jack Frost in his work as a car dealer.[24] Erhard explains to Bartley: "It was an introductory gimmick. I wanted to give customers a name that was easy to remember."[24] The author interviewed Erhard's mother, Dorothy Rosenberg, who said of his skills as a salesman: "He could sell you City Hall."[25] Erhard's aunt, Edith, commented: "Not only would he sell you City Hall. You would think you got it all tied up in a ribbon. Werner sold something to you graciously."[25] Erhard left Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1960, leaving behind his wife and their four children."

I believe my version is superior in that it conveys at least eight significant facts culled from 43 pages of the book in 59 words. The existing paragraph uses 91 words to convey just two facts, one that he was an accomplished salesman, and the other (surely trivial) that he briefly used the pseudonym ‘Jack Frost’; and omits several important details of his early life. (And incidentally, I have not removed the point about his abandoning his family for 12 years; reference to this is retained in my draft).DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

The quotations in the passage above appear to be from the book itself - removing them and replacing them with this - "According to Grolier vice-president John Wirtz the intention of appointing Erhard was that he would bring “integrity, honesty and straightforwardness” to their sales practices" is self-evident spin to the positive and in no way objective.

I have not ‘replaced’ anything with the sentence about the move to Grolier, it is additional detail. And the questions of spin or objectivity do not arise in regard to the comment by Wirtz. This is taken directly from the book, and it is a direct attributed quotation.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
  • Shortly after moving to St Louis, Erhard began to ponder the perennial issues of life, and to embark on a program of enquiry and self-education.

First, as with much of this proposed edit, the passage above is a commentary (and one with loaded and adulatory description) of Erhard and not of what Bartley says about Erhard. This entire section must be phrased and carefully reported as Bartley's understanding of Erhard. The relevant portion of the current article -

"Erhard was self-educated in philosophy, Mind Dynamics, and Scientology.[28] Bartley writes that Erhard was "profoundly dissatisfied with the competitive and meaningless status quo", and was influenced by the book Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.[29] Erhard told Bartley he had a positive experience with Scientology which helped expand his mind, commenting in the book: "After my experience with Scientology, I saw what it means to see the mind as a machine. I can now operate my mind accordingly, with exactitude. I can do the familiar mind over matter experiments-- the control of pain and bleeding, telepathy, those things."[28] Erhard reconnected with his family after an absence of 12 years.[23] According to the book, his long absence from his family caused them feelings of confusion and pain.[23]" - is greatly superior to the proposed revision in this regard.

Regarding the program of self-education, my opening phrasing may be a bit florid, and I’m open to suggestions, but I strongly disagree that the present account is superior overall. By limiting the topics to two contemporary and generally suspect movements, an entirely misleading impression of the breadth of Erhard’s studies is conveyed (perhaps deliberately?). I omitted the lengthy quotation because it appeared to me to give undue weight to a minor matter.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "Bartley recounts a revelation Erhard experienced in March 1971 while driving into San Francisco, California to work at Grolier Society"

This sentence appears in the current edit but needs revision here and across other Wiki articles on Erhard. As a guide and reference, I looked to Wiki articles on Buddhism, Mormonism, and Scientology, selecting those because they are three prominent movements based on the claim of transcendent revelations to the founders. All three include the careful and objective (and non-perjorative) idea of a claim or perception of revelation rather than as a statement of fact.

This wording I haven’t changed of course, but if you’d be happier with 'Erhard claimed to have experienced' that’s fine by me. I think it’s obvious that no-one but he can know whether he did experience this or just made it up.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "He set up a business venture for Ellen which gave her the financial freedom to choose how to structure her life and her relationship with him."

The current edit does need to be rewritten because it refers to a People magazine article and not to the book. However, this sentence ignores the fact that Erhard had affairs during his second marriage and that they had a negative impact upon his wife. To my memory, Bartley discusses this, but the proposed edit appears to spin and whitewash an unpleasant fact to the end of creating a positive image of Erhard.

I agree that it would be appropriate to make some mention of Erhard’s infidelity. In fact the quotation given does come directly from this book and not from the cited People article (unless they lifted it from there), but it is taken out of context and leaves a misleading impression. It is from a conversation between Ellen, Werner and Bartley presumably around 1977 when he was working on the book, ie about 14 years after the affairs and about six years after their reconciliation.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
  • In October 1972, while leading an est session in New York, Erhard realized that the time had come to reconnect with his family after an absence of 12 years.[23] Although his long absence from his family caused them feelings of confusion and pain, he re-established cordial and loving relationships with all of them.[23] His brother and sister became est Trainers and took on prominent roles in the business.

The content is acceptable but phrasing needs changing, especially a grammatical subtlety. First and again, this must be phrased an sourced as Bartley, not as Erhard. Second, the "although" most emphatically needs to go - as the proposed edit stands, the feelings of pain appear in a subordinate clause and are (quite naturally) subordinated to the cordial and loving relationships (for which I suggest a direct quote or it is a violation of NPOV). That sentence needs to be compound, both halves then being equal. - as "His long absence from his family caused them feelings of confusion and pain, but he re-established cordial and loving relationships with all of them."

I agree with your point of grammar, and the improved balance of your re-phrasing.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)
  • "Key concepts of the est training (depicted by familiar words, used with specialised meanings) described in the book include:"

...and the subsequent passages to the end of the section are off-topic and inappropriately violate several Wiki principles, especially OR and synthesis. This section is the editor interpreting est, not a factual report of Bartley's book. The best alternative here would be simply to say that Bartley recounts the basic principles of est and wikilink to the main article about them.

I disagree that this segment is off topic, or that it violates OR or SYN. I don’t see it as my attempt to "interpret est" – as I haven’t experienced it, I’m not in a position to. You agreed in your comment of March 19th on this page that the third matter covered in the book was not represented and this was an honest attempt to do so. All these distinctions are mentioned in the text; I will cite the relevant passages.DaveApter (talk) 16:37, 16 August 2012 (UTC)

Again, I think we agree that the section needs revision, but extreme care must be taken to avoid removing negatives about Erhard that Bartley reports and phrase the language of the new edit in a neutral manner. regards, Sensei48 (talk) 16:44, 15 August 2012 (UTC)

I removed the last paragraph of the contents section. It might be the the writer used the Bartley book as a source of info about Erhard, but the article is not written about the book. So it seems to me we can't use the article as a source of information about the contents of the book --MLKLewis (talk) 16:36, 18 August 2012 (UTC)

Hello MLK and welcome to our discussion. Just 2 minutes ago I left an invite of your talk page. I agree with you on the rv - the section is agenda-driven and isn't directly from the book. Other comments you could make here would be appreciated.
David, I have read your comments but just haven't had time yet to respond.I do believe we can find some common ground here to make the article better and NPOV. regards to both, Sensei48 (talk) 16:51, 18 August 2012 (UTC)
Thanks Sensei, yes, I'd like to chime in. I'm having a bit of trouble parsing through the discussion above, but I plan to comment after I digest it a bit.--MLKLewis (talk) 17:02, 18 August 2012 (UTC)

MLKLewis' response to proposed edits[edit]

I too want to thank you Dave Apter for diving in and proposing for discussion a change to the content section. Overall, I agree with the proposed edits, along with some of Sensei's revisions, and some other's that I'd like to propose. I like that the proposed edit for the Contents section is split up into the three sections that relate to the "three related aspects of the book." This is an important point about the book that is not adequately handled in the current version. The book is really quite complex and a good portion of it is concerned with Bartley's philosophical and scholarly investigations into the various disciplines that Erhard studied. He calls these chapters of the book, "Intersections." I'd like to see a bit more about this dealt with.

My comments on the Life Story section: I do like Dave's more overall summary of the contents of the book, rather than the current version which cherry picks a few relatively minor points. The book is not even close to primarily being about how Erhard chose his name or names. To lead with "The book recounts how Erhard, previously known as Jack Rosenberg, used the name Jack Frost in his work as a car dealer" is misleading as to the content of the book. The early life section takes up a full quarter of the entire book. Jack Rosenberg using the name Jack Frost when he was a salesman and why he did so is merely a few lines in the book, but if we want to leave it in it should be in context, so I added it with the full quote from the book in my proposed edit. Here is a proposed rewrite:

Life story
The book recounts how Erhard, originally named Jack Rosenberg, grew up and how his childhood events, job positions and self education lead to the development of the est training. As a child he was close to his mother and was inquisitive, read profusely and got A's in school. As a teenager he had conflicts with his mother and became dissatisfied with how things were going in his life. Much to the sadness of his family, he interrupted his plans for higher education in order to marry and support his pregnant girlfriend Pat Campbell. During the first few years of their marriage he took on a variety of jobs including meat-packing, heating and plumbing, estimating and car sales. By the age of 21 he had become the top car salesman at the dealership he worked for. He adopted the name Jack Frost to use in his work as a car dealer. Erhard told Bartley, "By the time someone bought a car from me he knew that my real name was Jack Rosenberg. I wanted to give customers a name that was easy to remember when they were out shopping for a car."[Bartley-p.43]
By the time he was 25, Jack and Pat had four children but he was feeling increasingly restless and constrained. He formed a friendship with a woman named June Bryde, which gradually deepened into an affair. He secretly arranged a flight from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania with June in 1960, leaving behind his wife and their four children.[3] They settled for a time in St Louis and severed all contact with his family; it would be twelve years before they would hear from him again. It was at this time that he assumed the name Werner Erhard, and June called herself Ellen Erhard.
After more work in car sales, he joined the sales staff of ‘’Parents’’ magazine where he was promoted to training manager and then to Vice-President in 1967. The Erhard's moved frequently to different parts of the US as dictated by the demands of the job, finally settling in San Francisco. When Parents Magazine was sold to the Time-Life group, he was recruited by the Grolier Society as Divisional Manager. John Wirtz, then vice president of the Grolier Society said, "Werner's demonstrated ability to develop programs of integrity, honesty, and straightforwardness and his ability to develop high-caliber people who could manage and carry out their own programs made him especially interesting to us." [Bartley p.146]

My comments on the Personal search and self-education section:

Regarding the line, Erhard began to ponder the perennial issues of life, and to embark on a program of enquiry and self-education…. I’ve been struggling with how to write this without sounding adulatory, but this actually captures in summation what Bartley says throughout the whole book quite well. A large part of the book deals with Erhard’s self generated impetus to think, learn, discover and create. In the book it is clear that Erhard embarked on pondering the meaning of life from an early age and that it was his thinking about the “perennial issues of life” that was the seed of the est training. It is kind of the point of the whole book. Perhaps too, this section should be where we look at Bartley’s investigation into the disciplines that Erhard studied. I’ll have a crack at it at a later time. As it is I have spent way more time than I planned to on this, and I have got to get on with my day ... I'll come back later with some thoughts for the last section --MLKLewis (talk) 20:26, 18 August 2012 (UTC)

Feedback from Jayen466[edit]

Thanks to Dave for picking this up again. I understand Sensei48's concerns expressed above, about the summary sounding too reverential, but these shortcomings can be overcome. MLKLewis is going in the right direction there. Regarding the line, Erhard began to ponder the perennial issues of life, and to embark on a program of enquiry and self-education a more pedestrian version would be, "Erhard felt a need to understand the meaning of life, and read voraciously" (we should mention the "Intersections" in which Bartley presents Erhard's philosophical background). Lastly, if we mention that his brother and sister became est trainers, we should mention that his first wife too took an office job with est (p. 243). JN466 10:00, 21 August 2012 (UTC)

Hello Jayen, DavidApter, and MKL: I just wanted you all to know that I haven't forgotten this page and the proposed edits, and I'm sure that you won't be surprised that I have somewhat different suggestions. I've just been really busy in the real world of late and on some other Wiki projects. I will try mightily to get you all some feedback this week some time. I'm sure that together and working in good faith we can get some genuinely informative and neutral and needed changes into the article. regards, Sensei48 (talk) 05:24, 26 August 2012 (UTC)

Time to move?[edit]

It's been over six weeks since the last comment in this debate on improving the 'Content' section of the article, which had been agreed to be unsatisfactory insofar as it fails - in its present form - to give a clear and balanced summary of the book. Maybe it's time to go ahead with making some edits and rely on the collaboartive editing process to refine it?DaveApter (talk) 10:37, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

I have gone ahead and crafted the Contents section incorporating the comments of all the editors who have expressed views here. I think that it reads well and covers the points made. Comments are of course welcome. --MLKLewis (talk) 02:11, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
And I would agree - I think you did a fine job. There are a couple of technical points I'd like to address (like too many "he"s, italics, and the like), but I believe the style, tone, wording, and content are now much more objective and appropriate to an encyclopedia article. Sensei48 (talk) 16:21, 19 October 2012 (UTC)

Background: Fascistic?[edit]

On another matter, I feel that the background section remains unsatisfactory. This is a boilerplate paragraph that was inserted into numerous articles on related subjects by an editor who has since been sanctioned for POV violations, and seems to me to be biased towards creating an overly negative perception of the est trainings.

My last edit was immediately partially reverted to re-introduce the terms 'Facistic' and 'Narcissitic'. Surely these are inapproriate in this context in an encyclopedia article? Wikipedia defines Fascism as:

Fascists seek to unify their nation based on commitment to an organic national community where its individuals are united together as one people through national identity. The unity of the nation is to be based upon suprapersonal connections of ancestry and culture through a totalitarian state that seeks the mass mobilization of the national community through discipline, indoctrination, physical training, and eugenics.

Surely even est's most virulent detractors did not assert that this is a valid description in any literal sense?

Neither is it very helpful to know that some critic applied the term 'Narcissistic'. The wikipedia article on that states:

Narcissism is a term with a wide range of meanings, depending on whether it is used to describe a central concept of psychoanalytic theory, a mental illness, a social or cultural problem, or simply a personality trait. Except in the sense of primary narcissism or healthy self-love, "narcissism" usually is used to describe some kind of problem in a person or group's relationships with self and others. In everyday speech, "narcissism" often means egoism, vanity, conceit, or simple selfishness. Applied to a social group, it is sometimes used to denote elitism or an indifference to the plight of others. In psychology, the term is used to describe both normal self-love and unhealthy self-absorption due to a disturbance in the sense of self.

The reader is left with no idea which of these multiple meanings is intended, but with a vague idea that they didn't like it.DaveApter (talk) 10:37, 5 October 2012 (UTC)

The terms and the phrasing both come from the cited source, which is a reputable publication of the American Psychological Association. The term "fascism" is widely used and understood in its metaphorical context, meaning a rigidly controlling social organization that often focuses on the teachings and writings of a single individual, a critique often directed at Scientology and the "objectivism" of Ayn Rand. If "narcissism" requires more refinement, the Wikipedia article is not the place to go for it, since there is an established Wiki policy that you cannot use one Wiki article in support of another(ditto fascism). The primary definition of narcissism in several dictionaries is "inordinate fascination with oneself; excessive self-love; vanity" - the common understanding of the word and the intended context here. The article is an RS, raises these points, and is important to include here to keep balance - these critiques as reflected in the article are common critiques of est and related movements. The solution is to de-link the questionable Wikipedia articles or direct with a ref to a dictionary.Sensei48 (talk) 18:25, 5 October 2012 (UTC)
I think that in a way you have put your finger on the source of my disquiet with these terms. The 'Fascist' attribution is clearly originally applied in a metaphorical sense (assuming it was not used ignorantly, irresponsibly or maliciously; which is unlikely in the particular instance of this source), but the reader may well interpret it as being intended more literally. In any case, they are likely to have a strong adverse emotional reaction to such heavily loaded terms. The same objection applies to the endlessly repeated references to "brainwashing" and "cult". My wish is to see the article become as useful as possible to the general reader in conformance with the policies of Wikipedia, and I do not think that including emotionally laden terms serves this purpose. How would you feel about something like: and it was widely ridiculed in the popular press and characterised by some critics as being unduly authoritarian and pandering to excessive vanity?DaveApter (talk) 14:04, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
Incidentally, I have been trying to find the McGurk article to see what it is that he actually says. Do you have a link to it, or would I have to go to a university library to track it down?DaveApter (talk) 14:04, 6 October 2012 (UTC)
I have now managed to find a copy of the paper, and what McGurk (a Lecturer in Psychology at Brown University, and Clinical Psychologist) actually says is:
Est promises dramatic awakening to its participants by enhancing the capacity to experience oneself. Trainees are given the opportunity to re-examine those belief systems and reflex patterns of living that keep their lives from working. Notions of self-responsibility are central in which we become cause rather than effect through choosing the inevitable. We can be the directors of our own determined fate.
Needless to say, accounts of est are fraught with controversy and criticisms abound. Its major critics suggest that est is simply brainwashing. They also suggest that it is fascistic, narcissitic, and too superficial. Nevertheless, what follow-up studies have been done report strong evidence in favor of positive health changes among the respondents after the training (even though est claims not to be a form of therapy) Space does not allow for a thorough review of est’s principles here. Let it suffice to say that est appears to have a powerful effect on people’s lives in a short two weekends.
I presume you hadn't seen the original, but the editor who wrote the original paragraph would have done? It strikes me as a shameless example of cynically extracting words out of context to convey an impression that is almost opposite to what the quoted writer was intending. DaveApter (talk) 12:03, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
I think not - not so at all. The article as you quote it above is reflected accurately in the current edit - McGurk says exactly what is presented. "Criticisms abound" is transliterated in the text as "widely ridiculed." McGurk is summarizing the negativity expressed about WE, and the original edit is hardly unfair - McGurk lists "major critics" as the source for "brainwashing" (which has other cites in the text), and he attributed to them as well the fascism & narcissism terms (and the edit leaves out the equally damning "superficial.") The very next sentence in the current edit completes the sense of McGurk's point as you quote it above - "On the other hand, many vocal supporters asserted that it had a profoundly positive impact on people's lives" - with a footnote again to this exact passage. The original edit is paraphrasing this passage from McGurk accurately - and given the reputability and reliability of the source publication, the original edit raises important objections in terms both widely employed and generally understood.
Your suggested edit above seems to be attempting to deflect understanding of Erhard away from the harsh judgments leveled against him in exactly the ways that McGurk summarizes. This is an important point - it is reliable source McG in the reliable source APA that employs the terms that you want to remove because you feel they are too harsh. The equivalent would be for me to take McGurk's closing two sentences and render them as "Some people found the est experience to be generally positive and moderately useful." Were I to do so in the interest of minimizing the good things that McGurk says because I believe the "general reader" needs to understand the overwhelmingly negative perception of WE in the popular imagination - I would be doing violence to McGurk's intent as quoted. His use of the terms is his attempt to strike a balance between the harshly negative critiques as alluded to with the positive experiences of participants. This is a good edit and a fair one as it currently exists.Sensei48 (talk) 16:17, 19 October 2012 (UTC)
Thanks again for the continuing discussion. First off, a point of clarification - my suggested changes above were made prior to my having tracked down a copy of McGurk's paper and having read what is actually written there. Having seen it, I would no longer suggest those edits. I also agree with you that McGurk is an authoratitive commentator in a reputable publication and I think his remarks are entirely fair and balanced. However I disagree that the summary in the article as it stands is a fair reflection; to me it seems to have had a subtle and decidedly negative spin applied. Perhaps the best way to resolve this would be to blockquote the entire passage above, rather than attempting to precis it? DaveApter (talk) 10:52, 24 October 2012 (UTC)
Good idea, and of course it's the most logical and appropriate resolution possible - let McGurk speak for himself. The article isn't overly long anyway, and in the interests of fairness and getting it right, presenting the quotation in full allows for McG's nuance and balance. Along with MK Lewis's recent measured edits to the Contents section, this change will make for a more balanced and NPOV article. regards, Sensei48 (talk) 15:25, 24 October 2012 (UTC)