I was living in the San Franciso Bay Area when Werner Erhard (aka John Paul Rosenberg) introduced EST. In fact I was there when just about every kind of New Age idea came along, and I was involved in most of it.
In the Bay Area, there was a kind of natural progression from the anti-war movement, which included the Hippie phenomenon, to the civil rights movement, which overlapped with the Hippies, to the New Age. The New Age movement has had its ups and downs but seems to still be alive and well, especially as seen in the success of the low budget movie “What the Bleep Do We Know” and followed by the current phenomenon of “The Secret.”
Erhard took advantage of the times and the hunger for personal transformation. Erhard didn’t really create anything new. He cobbled together all kinds of ideas that had been around for a long time. Jane Roberts began channeling Seth in 1963, beginning with a OuiJa board. Seth put forth the same philosophy as Werner except in much greater detail and without taking any power away from individuals.
Edgar Cayce, in the early part of the 20th century put out the same philosophy in his own words and style. The truth is, the Erhard philosophy or metaphysics can be found in Hindu writings from 3,000 years ago and has been part of Buddhist teachings from the beginning.
So Erhard put together a bunch of old and well-known teachings and, as a good snake-oil salesman would do, made it seem not only new and exciting but somehow secret. In Erhard seminars, the whole point was to get “It.” What exactly was “It?” Well nobody could really tell you. “It” was really something akin to a born-again experience where you suddenly realized all kinds of interesting and helpful things about your life.
The actual EST meeting was similar to a revival tent meeting with Erhard being the preacher. It involved insulting his audience quite a bit, which some people seemed to enjoy. It also involved some subtle mind-control devices such as not allowing people to go to the bathroom whenever they wanted. As soon as his audience agreed to this absurd notion, he had them because they had already given their power over to him.
I talked to a number of people who had done EST, including a female therapist. She thought it changed her life. Others weren’t so sure. One journalist went to an EST meeting and brought with him an engineer’s helper. This was a container you strapped to your thigh with a tube running to and attached to your penis. It allowed you to pee any time you wanted. He wrote an expose on EST that wasn’t very favorable.
EST was just another way to package some very ancient knowledge to try to make it new and exciting. Erhard pretended it was his own idea and essentially used brainwashing techniques to deliver his product.