The Context for Creating a Transformed World: A World that Works for Everyone

“Sometime around now – it may have happened five years ago or fifty years ago – but sometime around now, the rules for living successfully on this planet shifted.  We can no longer hope to live meaningful, purposeful lives using the rules of a you or me world.  It’s becoming clearer and clearer to those who will look that in order to live successfully on this planet, we must discover and live by the rules of you and me.” – Werner Erhard

Youth at Risk

“I got an opportunity to work with Youth at Risk, which program continues to today, to see what happened with young gang kids when they got the possibility of making a difference in other people’s lives. I saw what that did with them and how committed they became to that possibility…When you can leave behind the way you wound up being, when you are free to choose beyond the way you wound up being, that is a very powerful experience.”

Werner Erhard at University of Pennsylvania, 2016

wernererhard-jonathanmorenoWerner Erhard and Professor Jonathan D. Moreno

Werner Erhard

He also has 11 grandchildren, and one of his current preoccupations is the numbing effects of digital technology on millennials. Warming to the subject, he read aloud another passage, this one from a dense Heidegger essay calling for a “comportment toward technology which expresses yes and at the same time no.”

”The cost to this generation is enormous,” Mr. Erhard said. “They are losing access to their humanity.”

Maintaining access to his own humanity may be Mr. Erhard’s biggest project. Floating around the screen of another computer was the word “impeccability,” a reminder, he said, “to deal with whatever I touch with care.” If he learned his lesson the hard way, maybe there is no easy way.

“Here’s how it is for me,” Mr. Erhard said, leaning in, giving his vocal cords a break. “When my integrity is lacking, I am clear that I just got to be a bit smaller as a person. And the thing you have to remember about integrity is it’s a mountain with no top.”

Werner Erhard Video 2016

Werner Erhard and Professor Jonathan D. Moreno discuss Werner’s ideas, the est Training, and more at the University of Pennsylvania in April 2016 where the film Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard was featured in their First Annual Bioethics Film Festival.  Watch the full discussion between Werner Erhard and Jonathan D. Moreno:

The New York Times

“For several years before his latest professional reincarnation, Mr. Erhard consulted for businesses and government agencies like the Russian adult-education program the Znaniye Society and a nonprofit organization supporting clergy in Ireland.

Enter the Harvard economist Michael Jensen. Dr. Jensen, who is famous in financial circles for championing the concepts of shareholder value and executive stock options, had taken a Landmark course in Boston at the suggestion of his daughter, who mended a rocky relationship with Dr. Jensen after taking the course herself.

“I became convinced we should work to get this kind of transformational material into the academies,” he said, adding that he considers Mr. Erhard “one of the great intellectuals of the century.”

Interview in The New York Times, November 29, 2015: “He had traveled with his Dutch-born third wife, Gonneke Spits, from Toronto to see friends, do a little business and visit his favorite chiropractor and tailor. He was also in the city to meet with a reporter — virtually the only press he has done in more than two decades.”

What There is To Do Today

HAVING: THE ONLY THING THERE IS TO DO TODAY IS WHAT YOU DO TODAY

From PAGES: Essays by Werner Erhard for the est training staff, January 1, 1981

The only thing you are going to do today is: what you do today.  Therefore, the only thing there is to do today is: what you do today.  That’s all there was to do when you started no matter what you thought or think.

THE “OH MY GOD” SYNDROME

Most people go around thinking that what there is to do today is all that stuff that there is to do, that is to say, everything that isn’t done.  This is a lie.  This lie leads to stupidity.  This stupidity leads to ineffectiveness.  The ineffectiveness leads to fewer results being produced, leaving, apparently, more to be done.  And there you have the downward spiral which is unworkability.

The only thing there is to do today is: what you actually do today!  There is nothing else to do today!  You get it?  There isn’t anything to do today except what you actually do.  That’s all there is to do today.  Do you get it?  If you do actually get it, you should feel the muscles in your body begin to relax.  A sense of freedom and power begins to well up within you.  Read more…

New York Times

Werner Erhard in The New York Times:

“For several years before his latest professional reincarnation, Mr. Erhard consulted for businesses and government agencies like the Russian adult-education program the Znaniye Society and a nonprofit organization supporting clergy in Ireland.

“Enter the Harvard economist Michael Jensen. Dr. Jensen, who is famous in financial circles for championing the concepts of shareholder value and executive stock options, had taken a Landmark course in Boston at the suggestion of his daughter, who mended a rocky relationship with Dr. Jensen after taking the course herself.

“I became convinced we should work to get this kind of transformational material into the academies,” he said, adding that he considers Mr. Erhard “one of the great intellectuals of the century.”

Read the full article

Werner Erhard and The Hunger Project

“What The Hunger Project intended to do was to catalyze the global grass-roots committed movement and action that would put the end of persistent hunger into place, which means not just feeding hungry people today, but establishing the whole design, the whole infrastructure so that people can feed themselves and their children well into future generations. You see, it was a project of great faith in human beings. Great faith that if hundreds and thousands and millions of individuals took a stand for the end of the persistence of hunger, as an idea whose time has come, that they would then find an action that was appropriate to them. So if they were an engineer or an agricultural specialist, or if they were a politician, or a United Nations delegate, or if they happened to be a scientist or a professor, or the President of the High School Student Body, all of those individuals would have different actions available to them that would have a different impact. The entirety of the impact would be that child in Uganda being fed on a given day, being inoculated so as to survive disease, and being educated – of great importance to end the persistence of hunger – and that ultimately, we the global citizens of the world would be acting for the benefit of our children. And the necessary actions would take place.

So you see it was a stand based on faith and the goodness of humanity, that if human beings knew what they needed to know and lived inside of a context of “it can be done” they would take the actions that were theirs to take that would make that difference.

The Hunger Project enrolled over four million individuals who signed a paper saying “I have taken a stand. I will make the end of hunger an idea whose time has come as my personal responsibility.” The Global grass-roots educational campaign went on from 1977 and through the 80’s. Millions of people enrolled and participated and contributed money and there were many, many groups that broke off from The Hunger Project. “Results” was one that did political action in Washington, DC. Another was “World Runners” where people would do marathons to end world hunger, to get out the news, to alert people that something could be done. In those days, that was really rare, and now you see marathons for everything, which is wonderful. Walks to end breast cancer, and marathons for AIDS awareness, and in those days it was really unusual, it was new. And there was enormous participation through the 80’s and then at the end of the 80’s The Hunger Project made a transformation of its own and began to do very high level strategic work, which it’s currently doing in Africa and India primarily.

I would say in many ways it was successful all the way to the hungry people, in that millions more dollars were given and raised for organizations that were working on the ground doing relief work as well as for The Hunger Project. The Hunger Project raised hundreds of millions of dollars for other organizations as well. Infant Mortality rates fell in many countries. In some countries, due to war since then, they have again risen, The correlation between war and the infant mortality rate is a direct one. War creates the persistence of hunger and starvation. Also, really tens of thousands, if not more, of people, like me, became lifelong advocates for the end of the persistence of hunger and contribute as volunteers, contribute as donors, contribute as professionals to all kinds of organizations and vehicles and policies to help bring about the end of the persistence of hunger.

I think that once one makes a commitment with your heart and soul, I think it takes over your very molecules in a way. It becomes a very part of your personal life’s mission, and then the choices you make will be consistent with that mission. I’ve changed jobs and have participated with projects with many different countries and organizations, all of them consistent with the end of the persistence of hunger, and that will always be the case for me. And I think really for the many thousands of people who made this stand in the 70s and 80s.”

From an Interview with Catherine Parrish on The Hunger Project and Werner Erhard

What the est Training was and was not

wernererhard0339“The fact is, no one needs the training. It is not medicine. If you are ill, you need medical attention. If you are mentally ill, you need therapy. The training is not medicine or therapy. If you are hungry, you need food. You need air. Actually you need someone to love and someone to love you. You need to feel some self-respect and the esteem of others. Without these, we do not function very well as human beings.

The training is none of these. It does not solve problems. It is true that some problems dissolve in the training, but not because it is the purpose of the training for people to work on their problems in the training. The training is not about people’s problems per se. What the training is about is related to those rare moments in life, which while rare, seem to come into everyone’s life at some time or another. They are moments in which one is absolutely complete, whole, fulfilled – that is to say, satisfied. (I limit the word gratification to mean the filling of a need or desire, or the achievement of a goal. I use the word satisfaction to mean the experience of being complete.)

Each of us has experienced moments in our lives when we are fully alive -when we know – without thinking – that life is exactly as it is in this moment. In such moments, we have no wish for it to be different, or better, or more. We have no disappointment, no comparison with ideals, no sense that it is not what we worked for. We feel no protective or defensive urge – and have no desire to hold on – to store up – or to save. Such moments are perfect in themselves. We experience them as being complete.

We do not need to experience completion. People function successfully without such moments. Like the training, such moments are not something we `should’ have. Like the training, such moments do not make us any better. We are not smarter or sexier or more successful or richer or any more clever. These moments, these experiences of being complete, are sufficient unto themselves. Like the training, such moments are not even ‘good’ for you – like vitamins or exercise or things of that sort.

In the training, one finds there is something beyond that – the opportunity to discover that space within yourself where such moments originate, actually where you and life originate. In the training, one experiences a transformation -a shift from being a character in the story of life to being the space in which the story occurs – the playwright creating the play, as it were, consciously, freely, and completely.”

The est Standard Training,  Werner Erhard and Victor Gioscia, San Francisco, Calif.

Published in Biosciences Communication 3:104-122, 1977

“Maybe life is not about the self but about self-transcendence! You got a problem with that?”

No one in the room had a problem with that. The desks were occupied by 27 name-tagged academics from around the world. And in the course of the day, a number of them would take the mike to pose what their instructor referred to as “yeah buts, how ’bouts or what ifs” in response to his pronouncements — but no one had a problem with them.

In some ways, the three-day workshop, “Creating Class Leaders,” recalled an EST training session. As with that cultural touchstone of the 1970s, there was “sharing” and applause. There were confrontations and hugs. Gnomic declarations hovered in the air like mist: “We need to distinguish distinction”; “There’s no seeing, there’s only the seer”; “There isn’t any is.”

But the event was much more civilized than EST. There were bathroom breaks. No one was called an expletive by the teacher.

This is significant because the teacher was none other than the creator of EST, Werner Erhard.