Erhard, Werner (1935– )
Public name adopted by John Paul Rosenberg, who developed
a modern system of experiential philosophy known as est
(Erhard Seminars Training). Erhard was born September 5,
1935, in Philadelphia.
He left home in 1960, and to keep his family from finding
him, he changed his name to Werner Erhard. Over the next few
years, he held a variety of jobs and also examined a variety of
the new spiritual disciplines and self-help programs, including
the Church of Scientology, Zen Buddhism, and Mind Dynamics.
Erhard’s own system, distilled from his involvement in the
many movements, coalesced for him one morning in 1971
while driving on the 101 highway in Marin County, California.
Basic to his insight was that each individual is the source of
their own experience, they were not the labels that others had
put on them. Understanding this insight would later be labeled
‘‘getting it’’ in the est training. Shortly after receiving this new
insight, he founded est.
Nearly 500,000 people attended the est seminars usually
given on two consecutive weekends. Most people were not dissuaded
by a small chorus of detractors who noted cases of psychological
problems experienced by attendees, accused est of
brainwashing tactics, or were upset with the large sums of
money Erhard was making.
In 1978 Erhard created The Hunger Project, a motivational
program to get people to see the situation with world hunger
as an opportunity to make a difference in the world and to commit
themselves to ending hunger in the next twenty years.
In 1985 Erhard replaced est with a new program, The
Forum. It represented an evolvement of his understanding as
well as answering some of his critics, especially those who had
complained of the rigid rules forced upon the attendees of the
est training. He also founded Transformational Technologies
to market training courses to corporations for employees.
All of Erhard’s ventures came to an end in 1991. The IRS
attached liens on seven million dollars worth of property; he
faced a law suit from a former top employee he discharged; he
was accused of child molestation on a national news show. Est
was sold by Erhard to a group of 150 employees who formed
a new company called Landmark Education Corp., led by Erhard’s
brother Harry Rosenberg. It was then that Erhard disappeared
from public view. Landmark is still thriving today, carrying
on Erhard’s legacy to a new generation.
Bartley, William Warren. Werner Erhard The Transformation
of a Man, the Founding of est. New York C. N. Potter, 1978.
Bry, Adelaide. est, Erhard Seminars Training 60 Hours That
Transform Your Life. New York Avon, 1976.
Fenwick, Sherida. Getting It The Psychology of est. Philadelphia
J. P. Lippencott, 1976.
Self, Jane. 60 Minutes and the Assassination of Werner Erhard
How America’s Top Rated Television Show Was Used in an Attempt
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Erhard, Werner
to Destroy a Man Who Was Making a Difference. Houston Breakthru
Publishing, 1992

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