This is a good article. Follow the link for more information.

Werner Erhard (book)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Werner Erhard
Werner Erhard The Transformation of a Man The Founding of est.jpg
1978 Edition
Author William Warren Bartley
Country United States
Language English
Genre Biography
Publisher Clarkson Potter
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback)
Pages 279
ISBN 0-517-53502-5
OCLC 3892730
158 B
LC Class RC339.52.E7 B37 1978

Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est is a biography of Werner Erhard by philosophy professor William Warren Bartley, III. The book was published in 1978 by Clarkson Potter. Bartley was professor of philosophy at California State University and had studied with philosopher Karl Popper. He was the author of several books on philosophy, including a biography about Ludwig Wittgenstein. Prior to writing the book, Bartley was a friend of Erhard's and was involved in his company Erhard Seminars Training (est). While writing the book, Bartley was paid US$30,000 in the role of philosophical consultant for est. Erhard wrote a foreword to the book. The book's structure describes Erhard's education, transformation, reconnection with his family, and the theories of the est training.

The book became a bestseller and was well received by graduates of the est training. Reviewers generally commented that the book was favorable to Erhard, and a number of critics felt that it was unduly so, or lacked objectivity, citing Bartley's close relationship to Erhard. Responses to the writing were mixed; while some reviewers found it well written and entertaining, others felt the tone was too slick, promotional, or hagiographic.


Werner Erhard (born John Paul Rosenberg), a California-based former salesman, training manager and executive in the encyclopedia business,[1][2] created the Erhard Seminars Training (est) course in 1971.[3] est was a form of Large Group Awareness Training,[4][5] and was part of the Human Potential Movement.[6] est was a four-day, 60-hour self-help program given to groups of 250 people at a time.[7] The program was very intensive: each day would contain 15–20 hours of instruction.[6] During the training, est personnel utilized jargon to convey key concepts, and participants had to agree to certain rules which remained in effect for the duration of the course.[8] Participants were taught that they were responsible for their life outcomes, and were promised a dramatic change in their self-perception.[6]

By 1977 over 100,000 people completed the est training, including public figures and mental health professionals.[6] est was widely ridiculed in the popular press and aroused a great deal of controversy. William S. McGurk, a lecturer in Clinical Psychology at Brown University, summarized:

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.[6]

In 1985, Werner Erhard and Associates repackaged the course as "The Forum", a seminar focused on "goal-oriented breakthroughs".[3]

By 1988, approximately one million people had taken some form of the trainings.[3] In the early 1990s Erhard faced family problems, as well as tax problems that were eventually resolved in his favor.[3][9][10] In 1991 a group of his associates formed the company Landmark Education, purchasing The Forum's course "technology" from Erhard.[3]


William Warren Bartley, III, professor of philosophy at California State University, prior to writing his biography on Erhard, had authored The Retreat to Commitment, on the epistemology of Sir Karl Popper; Wittgenstein, a biography of the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein; edited Lewis Carroll's Symbolic Logic; and authored a book titled, Morality and Religion. Bartley was first introduced to and referred to est in March 1972 by a doctor whom he had consulted about his nine-year struggle with insomnia.[11] As a result of his experience in the est training his insomnia was cured. He then became very involved in the est organization,[12][13] and served for several years as the company's philosophical consultant.[13] He received payments of over US$30,000 in this capacity during the two years he spent writing the book.[14] He also served on the "Advisory Board" of est.[13] Bartley interviewed a number of individuals who were involved in his subject's life and made use of quotations from a wide array of sources.[15] Bartley commented on his subject in an article on the book in The Evening Independent, stating: "He's not a huckster, although he's a great salesman. I think he's a very good man, a very important man. ... He's a fascinating man. People are interested in him."[16]


Life story

The book recounts how Erhard's childhood events, job positions and self-education lead to the development of the est training. Born Jack Rosenberg, Erhard was an inquisitive child who was close to his mother. In his student years, he read profusely and earned superior grades. As a teenager, Eerhard experienced both conflicts with his mother and a growing dissatisfaction with his life. Shortly after graduating from high school he married his girlfriend Pat Campbell, who had become pregnant.[1] Instead of pursuing his plans for higher education, he took on a variety of jobs including meat-packing, heating and plumbing, estimating and selling cars. By the age of 21, Erhard had become the top car salesman at the dealership he worked for. By the time he was 25, Erhard and his wife had four children and 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, who would not hear from him for twelve years.[17] The couple settled for a time in St Louis, and it was at this time that he changed his name to Werner Erhard with June changing hers to Ellen Erhard. After more work in car sales, 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 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.[1]

Personal search and self-education

Shortly after moving to St. Louis Erhard began to embark on a program of inquiry and self-education. Initially he focused on self-improvement books such as Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill [18] and Psycho-Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz. From there, he widened his search to Human Potential Movement psychologists such as Abraham Maslow and Carl Rogers, a range of traditional Western philosophers, and Eastern disciplines such as Zen Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, Subud and the Martial arts as well as contemporary movements including Mind Dynamics, and Scientology.[19]

Creating the est training

Bartley recounts a revelation that Erhard said he had experienced in March 1971 while driving into San Francisco, California to work at Grolier Society.[20] Erhard described to Bartley what the revelation experience felt like: "What happened had no form. It was timeless, unbounded, ineffable, beyond language." [21] 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." [20] 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.[17] 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.[17] His brother and sister became est Trainers and took on prominent roles in the business. He also set up a separate business venture for Ellen that gave her the financial freedom to choose how to structure her life and her relationship with him.[1]

Key concepts of the est training 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: behavior 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 experiences which are regarded as reality, leading to conflict with other people who have created differing interpretations of the same events.
  • Responsibility: the willingness to accept oneself as the source of outcomes in life – whether welcome or unwelcome – rather than blaming others for them.[1]


The biographical chapters on Erhard are interspersed with chapters that Bartley refers to as “Intersections”. These chapters contain Bartley’s scholarly overview and analysis of the various disciplines that Werner Erhard explored before founding the est training.[22]


The book was a bestseller in 1978,[23] taking 8th place on the TIME non-fiction bestseller list of November 20, 1978.[24] Bartley told The Evening Independent in February 1979 that the book had sold a total of 110,000 copies and gone through five editions.[16] The growing numbers of est graduates contributed to strong sales.[2]

Jonathan Lieberson, writing for The New York Review of Books, described the book as "attractively written, never shrill or unduly proselytizing, careful to avoid the hysteria and tribalism that usually characterize the early years of movements like est", but considered Bartley to have "fallen" for Erhard.[25][26] Given Bartley's previous work, Lieberson stated, he might have made an ideal interpreter of Erhard, but he found this expectation "disappointed [although] the book is nevertheless instructive".[25][26] A review of Werner Erhard in Kirkus Reviews similarly concluded, "Too entranced to be truly objective, Bartley is nonetheless an insightfully partial observer."[27] Booklist stated that Bartley, as an est student, had made the "mistake of being too close to his subject to be objective or critical."[28]

In Psychology Today, Morris B. Parloff stated that Bartley had written his biography of Erhard "carefully, lovingly, and well".[22] Kris Jeter, writing in Cults and the Family, commented that "wise researchers know and teach that one should be in love with their research topic", and counted Bartley's book among several in which "this love was highly evident".[12] Steve McNamarra, in the Pacific Sun, said that the book was "clearly written and, while basically sympathetic" was not "an adulatory 'house job'." McNamarra found the sections detailing Erhard's "soap opera", making up three-quarters of the book, the easiest to read, while the "intersections", passages in which Bartley provided concise summaries of the philosophical traditions underpinning Erhard's est training, were tougher but ultimately rewarding.[29]

Kenneth Wayne Thomas, in Intrinsic Motivation at Work, described the book as "somewhat sympathetic" to Erhard and the est philosophy;[30] Steve Jackson, writing in Westword, similarly included it among "books sympathetic to Erhard, est and Landmark", written by an "old friend of Erhard's".[31] Stephen Goldstein, in a Washington Post review, said Bartley had made it "obvious from the start that he cares about his subject and his own est experience" and had told "a rather simple, straightforward story that pretty much lets you draw your own conclusions [about Erhard] or keep the ones you have already reached."[32] A reviewer in Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries stated he was "enthusiastic about this book", praising the "personal quality [of] the narrative, which, though, sometimes becomes overly detailed."[15] He highly recommended the book for general and college libraries focused on the social sciences.[15]

Other commentators felt that the book was unduly favourable to Erhard. A review of the book in The Christian Century stated that Bartley had got "sucked into" writing a "promo on Erhard, founder of one of the pseudo-therapies of the '70s."[33] The Los Angeles Times commented that "[Bartley's] philosophical justification of est as a mishmash of totalitarianism, hucksterism and existentialism makes this book more a public relations product than an objective study."[2] A Chicago Tribune review described the book as a "painstaking [...] act of devotion" that nevertheless failed in its mission: "No one reading it is likely to agree with Bartley that the founder of est is a philosopher and spiritual leader of Gandhian magnitude except the already convinced."[34] James R. Fisher, in Six Silent Killers: Management's Greatest Challenge, and Suzanne Snider, writing for The Believer magazine, referred to Bartley's book as a "hagiography",[35][36] and Rachel Jones of Noseweek considered the book "sycophantic".[37] A review in The Evening Independent described Bartley as Erhard's "friend and admitted booster", telling his "often-sordid story in detail."[16] E. C. Dennis, writing for Library Journal, found that Bartley's work "has a slick tone and more than a trace of hero worship".[38] Dennis acknowledged that the book gave "the full details of Erhard's 'soap opera,' often in his own words," but was critical of Bartley's writing, saying he cast "a Freud's-eye-view on his subject's youthful failings, but after the famous 'transformation' his tone becomes almost reverential."[38] Dennis stated that the book failed to ask important questions, but that large public libraries should carry a copy, given its status as an "authorized" biography.[38]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e Bartley, William Warren (1978). Werner Erhard The Transformation of a Man: The Founding of EST. Clarkson Potter. pp. 84, 90. ISBN 0-517-53502-5. 
  2. ^ a b c Pressman, Steven (1993). Outrageous Betrayal: The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 5–7. ISBN 0-312-09296-2. OCLC 27897209. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Hukill, Tracy (July 9, 1998). "The est of Friends: Werner Erhard's protégés and siblings carry the torch for a '90s incarnation of the '70s 'training' that some of us just didn't get". Metro Silicon Valley. Metro Newspapers. Archived from the original on 2009-10-21. Retrieved 2008-04-11. 
  4. ^ Fisher, Jeffrey D.; Cohen Silver, Roxane; Chinsky, Jack M.; Goff, Barry; Klar, Yechiel (1990). Evaluating a Large Group Awareness Training. New York: Springer-Verlag. p. 142. ISBN 0-387-97320-6. 
  5. ^ Denison, Charles Wayne (June 1995). "The children of EST: A study of the experience and perceived effects of a large group awareness training". Dissertation Abstracts International. Ann Arbor, Michigan: University Microfilms International. 55 (12-B): 5564. ISSN 0419-4217. 
  6. ^ a b c d e McGurk, William S. (June 1977). "Was Ist est?". Contemporary Psychology: APA Review of Books. 22 (6): 459–460. 
  7. ^ Berzins, Zane (February 6, 1977). "Getting It". The New York Times Book Review. 82. The New York Times Company. p. 25. 
  8. ^ Bader, Barbara (Editor) (July 15, 1976). "Getting It". Kirkus Reviews. Vol. 44 no. Part II, Section No. 14. p. 821. 
  9. ^ Faltermayer, Charlotte (2001-06-24). "The Best Of Est?". Time. Retrieved 2007-09-28. 
  10. ^ "Leader of est movement wins $200,000 from IRS". Daily News of Los Angeles. Los Angeles, California. September 12, 1996. 
  11. ^ Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, the Founding of est, William Warren Bartley pg. xiii
  12. ^ a b Jeter, Kris (1982). "Analytic Essay: Cults". In Kaslow, Florence Whiteman; Sussman, Marvin B. Cults and the Family. Routledge. pp. 189–192. ISBN 0-917724-55-0. 
  13. ^ a b c Ebenstein, Alan O. (2003). Hayek's Journey: The Mind of Friedrich Hayek. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 215. ISBN 1-4039-6038-0. 
  14. ^ Pressman, Steven (1993). Outrageous Betrayal: The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from est to Exile. New York: St. Martin's Press. pp. 5–7, 140–141. ISBN 0-312-09296-2. OCLC 27897209. 
  15. ^ a b c Choice staff (February 1979). "Werner Erhard: the transformation of a man: the founding of est". Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries. Association of College and Research Libraries. 15: 1723. ISSN 0009-4978. 
  16. ^ a b c Rose, Robert L. (Knight-Ridder Newspapers) (February 1, 1979). "The Millionaire Guru - Est King Werner Erhard: Good Guy or Smartest Huckster in the West?". The Evening Independent. 
  17. ^ a b c Rosenfeld, Megan (April 14, 1979). "Encountering Werner Erhard". The Washington Post. The Washington Post Company. p. C1. 
  18. ^ Carroll, Robert Todd (2003). The Skeptic's Dictionary. John Wiley & Sons. p. est and Werner Erhard. ISBN 0-471-27242-6. 
  19. ^ Cerabino, Frank (May 28, 1989). "Erhard Went From Encyclopedia Sales to Marketing 'It'". The Palm Beach Post. Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc. p. 15A. 
  20. ^ a b MacNamara, Mark (May 5, 1988). "Guru II: the return of Werner Erhard". Los Angeles Magazine. pp. 106–115. 
  21. ^ Marshall, Jeannie (June 1997). "The est in the business". National Post. 112 (5). 
  22. ^ a b Psychology Today, "How Werner Got It", by Morris B. Parloff (chief of psychotherapy and Behavioral Intervention Clinical Research Branch), National Institute of Mental Health, November 1978. p. 136
  23. ^ San Francisco Chronicle staff (February 9, 1990). "William W. Bartley III". San Francisco Chronicle. p. B7. 
  24. ^ TIME staff (November 20, 1978). "Best Sellers". TIME. Time Warner. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  25. ^ a b Lieberson, Jonathan (April 5, 1979). "Est Is Est". The New York Review of Books. 26 (5). ISSN 0028-7504. 
  26. ^ a b Lieberson, Jonathan; Barley, W. W. (April 5, 1979). "Deep-Est". The New York Review of Books. 26 (5). ISSN 0028-7504. 
  27. ^ Kirkus Reviews staff (August 15, 1978). "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est". Kirkus Reviews. p. 909. 
  28. ^ CJK (November 1, 1978). "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est". Booklist. p. 438. 
  29. ^ "The participatory theater of est," by Steve McNamara, Pacific Sun, Dec 8–14, 1978
  30. ^ Thomas, Kenneth Wayne (2000). Intrinsic Motivation at Work: Building Energy and Commitment. Berrett-Koehler Publishers. p. 128. ISBN 1-57675-087-6. 
  31. ^ Jackson, Steve (April 18, 1996). "When it comes to Landmark Education Corporation, There's no meeting of the Minds". Westword. 
  32. ^ "William Warren Bartley, III," Contemporary Authors Online. Detroit: Gale 2001. Literature Resource Center.
  33. ^ The Christian Century staff (January 31, 1979). "Werner Erhard: the transformation of a man: the founding of est". The Christian Century. 96: 108. ISSN 0009-5281. 
  34. ^ Chicago Tribune staff (December 10, 1978). "The guru with the most-est". Chicago Tribune. p. E5. 
  35. ^ Fisher, James R. (1997). Six Silent Killers: Management's Greatest Challenge. CRC. p. 43. ISBN 1-57444-152-3. 
  36. ^ Snider, Suzanne (May 2003). "est, Werner Erhard and the Corporatization of Self-Help". The Believer. Retrieved 2009-09-15. 
  37. ^ Jones, Rachel (December 2003). "A Landmark Encounter: A long-overdue critical examination of Landmark "lifestyle training" – Rachel Jones is cajoled, threatened and bullied, and risks having her wages attached for the rest of her life in an attempt to find out the truth behind a purportedly life-changing training". Noseweek. 
  38. ^ a b c Dennis, E. C. (October 15, 1978). "Werner Erhard: the transformation of a man: the founding of est". Library Journal. 103: 2102. ISSN 0000-0027. 

Further reading[edit]

Book reviews
  • Merkin, Daphne (January 1, 1979). "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est". The New Leader. 62: 14–15. 
  • Milder, Phyllis (March 1978). "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est". Best Sellers. 38: 388. ISSN 0005-9625. 
  • New Realities staff (August 1978). "Werner Erhard". New Realities. 2: 35. 
  • Publishers Weekly staff (August 14, 1978). "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est". Publishers Weekly. Vol. 214. p. 58. 
  • Psychology Today staff (November 1978). "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, The Founding of est". Psychology Today: 136. 

External links[edit]