“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.

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