Archive for the ‘Est’ Tag

John Denver

“Werner Erhard epitomizes for me what it is to be a human being. It is through my experience of him that I have most completely come to know myself.”– John Denver

werner erhard and jojn denver

John Denver first became involved with est in 1973 when he was 30 years old. Many of his lyrics are tributes to the ideas and awareness he gained through his experiences of himself through est. John Denver, along with Werner Erhard and Robert Fuller, was one of the founding members of the Hunger Project, a global movement with a vision and commitment to end hunger by organizing the necessary leadership, training, and education.

You Can’t ‘Apply’ The Training

Article from a 1978 Graduate Review, “Viewpoint: You Can’t ‘Apply’ The est Training.

…When I became a department chairman, shortly after taking the est training, I knew that what I had learned in the training could be applied to academic administration. Every time I tried to apply something however, it didn’t work. I would make a policy of open communication, for example. No good. At the same time, I noticed that whenever I simply did what seemed appropriate – just having open communication, say, without the policy – it worked beautifully. I was enjoying the job and being acknowledged as a good administrator.
Eventually it dawned on me that perhaps Werner had meant it when he said that the experience of the training wasn’t about “things.” It was about context and the experience of Self. I noticed that I had been trying to convert my experience of the training into things of substance: techniques, ideas, beliefs, philosophies, etc…  read more at


“We can discover another possibility: living in a way, now, moment to moment, that makes a difference to life. We discover that as human beings we can live in a possibility instead of in what we have inherited, that instead of just being a human being because we were born that way, we can declare the possibility of being for human beings. This is the work of transformation: bringing forth a breakthrough in the possibility of being human.

“We could say that what happens is a shift in what orients your life.  Ordinarily, what orients our lives is the attempt to reach satisfaction. It might be at a very low level an attempt to get food or water.  At a little bit higher level it might be an attempt to be safe.  But, at any rate, we could say that what orients our lives is the attempt to get satisfied, to be satisfied.  What happens in the est training is that that gets turned 180 degrees around and your life is no longer about attempting to gain satisfaction.  It’s no longer about attempting to prove that you’re all right.  It’s no longer an attempt to prove that you’re satisfied.  What happens in the training is that there’s a 180-degree shift to the experience of being satisfied, and now life, instead of being an expression of the struggle to get satisfied, is an expression of satisfaction experienced.  You now begin to have what you do orienting around the expression of satisfaction instead of the attempt to get satisfied.  And we could say that’s what transformation was.” Werner Erhard 1982 

Werner Erhard on Authenticity

The est Training

“The way est happened was very simple.  I had this transformational experience.  I had a transformation.  Whoever I had been up until that point, I no longer was.  And it was on my way to work, and I happened to be – not anything significant about being on the Golden Gate Bridge – but I happened to be there, and that’s when I had the realization that what my life was about was really meaningless.  It was empty.  And this realization that the things that I thought were so significant, like looking good and winning – just the normal things that I guess most people think are important – that they really had no importance, that it was all empty and meaningless.  When I broke through the sadness, broke through the sense of despair at having wasted my life, I all of a sudden realized, “My God, I’m free.”  What – free – what does that mean to be free?   Free to choose, free to create a life that was worth living.  So I took a day with my staff – shared with them the best I could something that would allow them to create for themselves the kind of transformational experience that I had had.  And we all decided, okay, we’ll do this.  Instead of selling books, we’ll do this.” –Werner Erhard, 2005, from Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard Interviews Robert Reich

The est Training

The est Training

The est Training

Werner Erhard’s Work in Northern Ireland

Peace and Reconciliation in Northern Ireland and Israel: Werner Erhard developed the Ireland Initiative for the Mastery Foundation in 1999 in collaboration with Peter Block as a three-day conference to bring together a broad base of community leaders already working on peace and reconciliation in Northern Ireland. The Mastery Foundation continues to lead this course in places where religious differences are a source of conflict, including Northern Ireland and Israel.

The Mastery Foundation grew out of a series of conversations in the late 1970s and early 1980s among Christian and Jewish clergy who had experienced a personal transformation when they participated in The est Training. In 1984 Werner Erhard developed a program designed specifically for this constituency and their work continues to this day. Throughout its existence, Werner Erhard has continued to generously donate his expertise and services, at times developing new program material and leading courses. The distinctions and tools he created are at the heart of all the programs and courses of the Mastery Foundation.

Werner Erhard: You Don’t Alter What You Know You Alter The Way You Know It

JOHN: What I’m trying to get at is your view of whether or not what people get from the training is somehow equivalent to what in Zen, for instance, would be called enlightenment.

WERNER: You’re not going to trap me into saying that, because that’s nonsense. It’s the same kind of nonsense that keeps people from realizing that they’re already enlightened.

(excerpted from

Here’s an observation that I know will parallel what you’ve seen. People are willing to give up anything to get enlightened. You and I both know people who’ve given up wealth, given up jobs, families, their health people will give up anything to get enlightened. Give up talking, give up sex, give up you name it, they will give it up. There’s only one thing people will not give up to get enlightened. They will do everything they know to hold on to this thing that they will not give up no matter what. The one thing people will not give up to get enlightened is the idea that they’re not enlightened. That’s the big holdout, not anything else.

JOHN: In the traditions there’s a lot of warning about thinking that you’re enlightened, that that’s one of the greatest dangers of them all.

WERNER: Yes, it is. Yes.

JOHN: It’s equivalent. You could get that in two weekends?

WERNER: Yes, it is equivalent, and no, you can’t get it in two weekends. If it takes two weekends, you didn’t get enlightened. Enlightenment does not take two weekends. Enlightenment takes no time. The two weekends are a waste of time. If we could eliminate those, and just have the enlightenment we would do that. By the way, I know that lots of people are infuriated by the suggestion that enlightenment is possible without long practice and great struggle. I consider the notion of the necessity of practice and struggle to be nothing more than a notion. It may be a notion borne out by lots of experience, but so was the notion that the earth is flat.

JOHN: Well, the Buddhists, for example, would say that your true nature is enlightened already, but nonetheless, you still have to practice because there’s a long path to realization. We can act as though we’re enlightened, but there’s still some kind of realization that has to happen, over a long period. You can even have enlightenment experiences, but they’re not particularly trusted.

WERNER: I agree with everything you’ve said, and I’m not simply being nice about it. What you said actually reflects my own experience and my own observations. At the same time, I know it’s possible to put the end of the process at the beginning, and then do the process.

JOHN: So, just to get it on the record, you are saying that the training does the same thing as the spiritual traditions

WERNER: Discussing enlightenment or thinking about enlightenment is not enlightenment. In fact, we don’t talk about enlightenment in the training very much at all. We do talk about it, but not much.

JOHN: I’m wondering why you’re avoiding the question of whether this is the same kind of enlightenment that’s talked about in the spiritual traditions.

WERNER: Because those who know don’t tell, and those who tell don’t know.

DICK ANTHONY: I’d always heard that the training does seem to claim that it provides something that is the equivalent of enlightenment, and is just as serious an experience, just as serious or valuable a state as is provided in Zen or Hindu traditions, and I thought that that was implausible, that it must be some kind of exaggeration.

WERNER: Well, I have never said that, nor would I say it.

DICK: But when I went through the training-

WERNER: Nor would I say the opposite was true.

DICK: When I went through the training, the trainer did in fact seem to be saying that. I don’t know if that was an eccentric trainer, but in fact, that was my understanding, and it was the understanding of the other people in the training that I talked to, that this man was telling us that what was happening to us was enlightenment, and was just as genuine an enlightenment as happened in any Zen monastery or up in the Himalayas, and that there were no degrees of enlightenment; it was enlightenment. Now, that seems like an outrageous claim to me; much of what goes on in that training seems outrageous to me. Now, if I understand that to be what the claim is, then I don’t think that I agree with it.

WERNER: As far as I know, that claim is not made. I appreciate that you were there and I wasn’t. I still don’t think it was made. The reason I don’t think so is that I’ve listened to many hours of trainers doing the training, and they don’t make that claim. At the same time, I do understand how you could come to that conclusion.

But none of that is the point. The point is this: I think that discussions about enlightenment are useless, and I think making enlightenment sacred is even more futile. My question is, what’s all this conversation about?

What I’m trying to get across is that the structure of your questions and our conversation doesn’t allow for enlightenment. We’re not really talking about anything. I don’t know how else to respond to you. You can’t ask, “Is this enlightenment like that enlightenment?” That’s counting enlightenments. That’s nuts! That’s truly nuts!

JOHN: Would the training then be a substitute for any other spiritual practice?

WERNER: No! That’s craziness, that one thing substitutes for another. In the realm of enlightenment, there aren’t substitutions. That kind of mentality can’t hold enlightenment.

JOHN: Would there by any value, for example, in meditating and practicing

WERNER: One of our trainers is a Zen Buddhist. He goes away and spends long times sitting, meditating and practicing.

JOHN: Why would he do that if he’s done the training?

WERNER: He would do that because he’s done the training. Look, can’t you hear what you’re saying? You keep saying that one thing substitutes for another thing; your notions about enlightenment are all tied up with exclusivity and ideas about “one path” and “if this, then why that?” and ideas that there’s someplace to get to. None of that is the way enlightenment works. You need to go back to whomever is talking to you about enlightenment and get them to talk to you about it some more. You’re talking about it inaccurately. I’m not kidding. In Suzuki Roshi’s book Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, he said if you are enlightened, then you’re out doing what enlightens people. Enlightenment is not a stage you reach, and your statements seem to come from the idea that enlightenment is a place you reach. There’s no such thing as enlightenment to get to.

Werner Erhard’s Influence

Werner Erhard’s  influence contributed to the development of the Werner Erhard Foundation which helped to fund research, scholarly endeavors, and voluntary action in many diverse areas of human endeavor and experience.  Through their work, the recipients of these grants made profound contributions to human thinking, growth, and achievement over the more than forty years since the start of the Werner Erhard Foundation.

Werner Erhard and Buckminster Fuller - The Werner Erhard Foundation