The est Experience – 1976

werner erhard and anthony zerbe - the est experience 1976

Werner Erhard discussing the est Training

From: “The est Experience” – KHJ TV, May 24, 1976 with Werner Erhard and Anthony Zerbe

There’s a Sufi story about a man who’s in the street on his hands and knees looking for something. It’s at night. Another man comes along, and he said “What happened?” and he said, “Well, I dropped my keys, and I’m down here looking for them.” And the other guy says, “Well, I’ll help you.” And he gets down on his hands and knees and they’re both looking, and finally the man that came along – the stranger – said, “Well, exactly where were you standing when you dropped your keys?” The man says, “Well, I was down the block about a half a block, but there was no light down there, so I looked up here.” A lot of what people talk about regarding the training is about what can be talked about, rather than what there really is there. Because what there really is, you can only get by experiencing…You can’t be told about it. You can’t be given the facts of it. We should then talk about what we can talk about.

What happens in the four days of the training?…The first half of the first day is spent explaining to people in really great detail—in fact, minute detail—exactly what’s going to happen, exactly what they can expect and exactly what notions est has put together. And the second half of that first day is spent presenting material which allows people to take a look at the difference between what is actually so and what they thought was so.

During the second day, you’ll be confronted by something which doesn’t fit your belief system. In other words, you will see something happen, or actually, you’ll experience something within yourself that you know can’t happen, and yet there it is – it did happen. In the truth process you discover that you haven’t really been experiencing life fully. In this process you come into that part of yourself that actually experiences things directly. You work on something that has been in your life, and has been a problem, and allow it to disappear.

The second half of the second day is the danger process. In the danger process, you find out that you have to have an act in order to survive. After the danger process, you still have an act, but you don’t have to have it any more. The act is still there…. Life is kind of like a Monopoly Game, and you can’t play a Monopoly Game unless you have a piece — a Scotty dog, or a Top Hat, or whatever it is – and in life, I need one of these, and a personality, and a mind, and all of those things. The difference is that after the danger process is over, you don’t have the kind of intensity invested in your act. It kind of relaxes a little bit, and you can just be this person you are pretending to be, without being stuck in the person you’re pretending to be. You can distinguish between your act, as we like to call it, and yourself. That is a really incredible experience. And when that happens, you’re let in on this wonderful, wild joke that you’ve been playing on yourself through your whole life. Most people spend the last half-hour of the second day laughing. Then they go home for a week, and begin to experience life without this intensity of having to have an act.

The first day of the second weekend is spent examining what is real for you in a really intensive way, and in a very conscious way. Most of us take reality for granted. In the first half of the second day, you actually get into how you create reality … What’s real for you, and how do you know what’s real and what isn’t real? What notions of reality are running your life, and how do they box you in? And then the second half of that day is spent learning to create experience for yourself, actually having the experience of creating your own experience, so that you’re not the effect of your circumstances, but you can begin to create whatever experience you choose to have of your circumstances.
Then on the last day, you come face to face, and I mean directly face to face, not hearing about it or thinking about it, or figuring it out, or understanding it, but directly face to face, experientially, with that person who you thought you were, who you were absolutely certain you were. That person who you know you are – just absolutely convinced. And when you meet yourself face to face, suddenly, it gets very clear that you can’t be who you thought you were, because somebody’s got to be looking at who you thought you were. You have this experience that really, you are the context, you are the space in which your life occurs, rather than the player, the actor, rather than the play, the circumstances. You are the space in which that occurs. And there’s this incredible release, or transformation, or enlightenment, or whatever you want to call it.

People do the training in this set of agreements, in this very tough harsh set of agreements where they do agree to sit in their chair until the break is called and four hours is plenty long enough to be uncomfortable. They do that out of their own volition. In other words, they choose to do it and rather than breaking people down, and then building them back up, the real purpose is to give people an opportunity to just sit with themselves so that when they get uncomfortable, they can’t have a cigarette or when they get bored, they can’t go to the bathroom, or when they get frightened within themselves, they can’t talk to the person next to them. They literally are given the opportunity to really be with themselves. I don’t think I’ve got anything that’s of any value to you – so I’ve got nothing that I want to build into you. I do think that you’ve got something that’s enormously valuable to you and the training is really an opportunity for you to get in touch with what’s valuable to you in yourself rather than what’s valuable to you within me.

I started est for the same reason that the graduates share their experience with other people. It is a natural part of this experience. A natural part of the experience of transformation is to share it with other people. It’s the natural thing to do. It isn’t something you have to do. It isn’t something you think to do. It is very natural to do it. It’s as I told you with the Zen masters. When you’ve experienced yourself, you’ll want to create the space for other people to experience themselves. It just takes you out to other people. And I started est for that exact purpose. As a matter of fact, after I had the experience, I remember sitting around talking with people, and they would say, “Yeah, well, I want to get in on it. How can I do it? And, what did you do, and what discipline did you get it from?” From no discipline. I got it – I just got it. I got it because I got it. And they said, “Well, let’s do something.” And that’s how we started the training.

Ultimately, the perfect thing to happen to est is for it to disappear. If any monuments are built or any institutions are left, est will have failed. Because it isn’t that kind of a thing. Est can support institutions, but it shouldn’t be one itself. For est to be really viable – for it to have really worked, it has to disappear into people’s being. It has to become who you are, because actually all est is is the experience of who you are. So that you can be one with yourself and express yourself naturally without effort, without having to try to figure it out. And so my intention is that it will kind of disappear and you won’t need to do the training, because it will all be a part of the way life is. Things will begin to open up and if I am around you and you are around me, our lives will expand together. And that’s what I’d like to see is it to happen in this way, and that’s the way I’d like to see it turn out.

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