Erhard, Werner (1935-)

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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 Attemptto Destroy a Man Who Was Making a Difference. Houston: Break-thru Publishing, 1992