Wednesday, February 20, 2013

"Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard": self-help 30 years ago

I can remember, when living in Dallas in the 1980s, that a couple other members of the gay community there actually tried to encourage me to attend a weekend of EST. I can recall going to information sessions on it in New York in the 1970s.  I saw it as another new-age or self-help movement that appeared comparable to Rosicrucianism, Understanding, and even Scientology.
There is a 2006 documentary “Transformation: the Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard” (2006, 77 minutes, directed by Robyn Symon), which replays some of the hotel weekend sessions from that period and shows some of the major points of EST. One of the major ideas is that EST isn’t about “getting better”.  It’s about becoming something else.  EST, according to the film, also takes the position that “there are no victims” (or another favorite aphorism of mine, “there is no They”).  That’s offensive to some people.  It also makes people aware of how others see them.  One woman reported growing much closer to her parents and biological family, after separation and psychological exile.
The official site is here. It played at Atlanta and Palm Beach film festivals.  The distributor is Eagle Island. The film is available from Netflix.
Here is a clip from an interview of Erhard by Charlie Rose.

Erhard is now 77 and his original name was John Paul Rosenberg.

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