Werner Erhard

From Academic Kids

John Paul "Jack" Rosenberg, born on September 5, 1935 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, founded the large group awareness training program est, short for Erhard Seminars Training (aka WEA and "The Forum" - aka Landmark Education).

Rosenberg married at age 18 and had four children. In 1960, he left his wife and fled his marriage. Rosenberg changed his name to Werner Hans Erhard and his lover, June Bryde, changed hers to Ellen Virginia Erhard. Erhard later said that he chose the last name "Erhard" almost at random, selecting it from a magazine article he happened to read about then-West German economic minister Ludwig Erhard. The newly renamed Erhards moved to St. Louis, where Werner Erhard sold used cars. After a few years, the couple moved further west to California.

After selling correspondence courses and encyclopedias, Erhard trained door-to-door salespeople for Grolier Society until 1971.


Philosophical Transformation

After engaging in a wide variety of spiritual disciplines including Zen Buddhism and Dianetics, Erhard had a peak experience while driving on U.S. Highway 101 in Marin County, California in 1971. Essentially he realized that the world was perfect the way it is. His attempts to change or modify either his physical circumstances or his mental outlook were grounded in a conception of the world (that it should be different than the way it is) that precluded or at least limited one's experiential and creative appreciation of it.

In the 1970s Erhard maintained financial links with Jack Sarfatti and the Physics/Consciousness Research Group.

He also attempted to foster links with Michael Murphy and the Esalen Institute, and allegedly contributed funds to the SRI remote viewing project.

Erhard became an instructor of Mind Dynamics.

Erhard Seminars Training

After his initial realization Erhard put together an long, intensive two–weekend course he called est after the Latin 'It is' and/or Erhard Seminars Training. This course was designed to bring its students into a place where they were able to experience a similar realization. This long course, consisting sometimes of 18–hour days, was controversial and, to many people who went through the seminar, exciting. Many participants experienced greatly increased vitality and self expression. A weekly seminar program concerned with various aspects of life (integrity, self expression, sex, money, commitment, etc.) evolved. A more intensive six-day course was created as a communication workshop.

The Hunger Project

Main article: The Hunger Project

In 1977 after the great success of 'est' with individuals, Erhard contnued to expand his work into the community and society. He began to study the subject of chronic world hunger and declared that the end of death by starvation was possible. In looking at the conditon of hunger or "death by starvation" with some of the world's known experts Erhard distinguished that the source of death by starvation was not that there was an insufficient amount of food on the planet to feed all those who were suffering from chronic hunger. Instead he said that the source of chronic hunger and death by starvation was actually caused by the context in which chronic hunger was viewed and interacted with. That context,he said, was a closely held belief or discourse or conversation that hunger was inevitable, a context of scarcity that governed all the interactions and fixes that were currently being applied by those who were then attempting to fix the problem.

Erhard committed himself and his resources to the problem and the promise that The End of Death By Starvation was indeed an idea whose time had come, and The Hunger Project was born.

Werner Erhard and Associates - The Forum

In the 1980s the est training was transformed into a less confrontational program called The Forum. This program continues today in most of the major cities in the US and elsewhere.

Erhard later faced tax disputes and allegations of domestic violence and an allegation that he had sex with one of his daughters. The daughter later recanted, saying that a reporter had offered her two million dollars to make the accusation. Claiming persecution by the Church of Scientology (as detailed in the book by Dr. Jane Self - see References), he sold WEA to his brother, Harry Rosenberg and left the United States for Russia, Ireland, Costa Rica, the Cayman Islands, Mexico, and other places abroad.

Landmark Education

Erhard changed his name to Werner Spits and continues to have indirect family, consulting and financial links with the successor organization to WEA, Landmark Education.

See also


  • Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man, by William Warren Bartley
  • Outrageous Betrayal: The Real Story of Werner Erhard from Est to Exile, by Steven Pressman
  • 60 Minutes and the Assassination of Werner Erhard by Dr. Jane Self

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