Tag Archives: Werner Erhard

The Type 3 Culture of est? (Part 3)

In which I finally (sort of) get to the point—or at least a point.

Werner Erhard

Werner Erhard

During my two years of participation in est, I took all of the seminars, some more than once, and many workshops. I also took the later incarnation of the training called the Forum. For 12 months, I was team leader of trainer support for the Berkeley/Oakland Area Center, which meant I enrolled trainer support supervisors for all trainings and workshops and made sure they enrolled teams. Sometimes I ran trainer support for a training or workshop myself.  For six months, I was team leader for seminar logistics (although I had never assisted on a logistics team). As team leader, I enrolled logistics supervisors for all the 10-week seminars, made sure they enrolled teams, and visited each seminar at least once to make sure everything was running smoothly. I also assisted for several months in the office of the San Francisco Area Center.

I thought about going through the guest seminar leader program, but decided against it. While I was still considering it, I was encouraged to spiff up my presentation. Although I had plenty of nicely tailored business suits, I didn’t have a particular style. As an 8, I’ve always been more interested comfort than style. But I was willing to look into it—and it was the 80s—so I followed the suggestion of a couple of my peers and hired a wardrobe consultant. Her name was Rivka, and she wanted me to get my colors done. [There was a book called Color Me Beautiful that was popular at the time. It helped you decide whether you were a spring, summer, winter, or autumn and then gave you a suitable palette of colors for your wardrobe.] I refused to do that, though, which disappointed Rivka. But she said she thought I was an “autumn,” and we went shopping from there: new make-up; new shoes; new clothes—all in colors I would never have thought of for myself. Turned out I am an autumn. In terms of physical presentation, I was transformed.

The Motivator?

It’s hard to escape making a connection between the 3’s preoccupation with having a successful image and the est preoccupation with personal presentation. In Personality Types, Riso and Hudson say:

The United States is fast becoming a dysfunctional “Three” culture: driven, narcissistic, image-oriented, emphasizing style over substance, symbols over reality.

I never felt that est emphasized style over substance or symbols over reality, though. As far as being driven, Werner said:

Your power is a function of velocity, that is to say, your power is a function of the rate at which you translate intention into reality. Most of us disempower ourselves by finding a way to slow, impede, or make more complex than necessary the process of translating intention into reality.

It’s part of my nature as an 8 to be driven, so those words were fuel for me. That’s one of the few quotes I typed up (pre-personal computer) and still have.

3s are called the Motivator, the Achiever, the Succeeder, the Performer, and the Status-Seeker. I could see applying all those names to Werner. He is a very persuasive guy, and many aspects of type 3 fit him. But having said all that, I’m not fully convinced he is a 3.

Or the Maverick?

Here’s how Riso and Hudson describe the healthy version of the 8w7 subtype in The Wisdom of the Enneagram:

Having a quick mind combined with a vision for practical possibilities, people of this subtype are often charismatic and able to attract the support of others to join them in their vision. They are action-oriented, and want to have an impact on their world. They are also good at challenging others to stretch their abilities and to surpass their own expectations so that their lives can be better in some practical way. This is the most independent subtype, often entrepreneurial and interested in creating projects that will ensure their independence.

Based on my experience of him, that description fits Werner perfectly.

Parting Ways

I stopped participating in est after two years because I realized that it was too easy for me. The assisting program, especially, was the perfect place for me to excel at what I was already good at doing. I didn’t have to stretch myself at all. My partner, on the other hand, had a much harder time with assisting, but he ultimately got more out of it than I did. After learning about the Enneagram, I understood that est was Doing-oriented, just like I am, with an emphasis on getting the job done, whatever the job was.

In life you wind up with one of two things – the results or the reason why you don’t have the results. Results don’t have to be explained. They just are.

When we were assisting, we put our personal feelings on the back burner. Feelings were allowed and dealt with in the training, of course, which was a very emotional experience for some people. But although I recall very little specific detail from my own training, I do remember Werner standing on the stage with a box of tissue, pulling them out one-by-one, waving them to the side, and then letting each one flutter to the floor. “Here’s a feeling. Here’s a feeling. Here’s another feeling.” The point was that feelings are fleeting. They come; they go. Don’t get attached to them. I may have interpreted that to mean they could be easily dismissed.

When I decided to get certified as an Enneagram instructor, I chose the training offered by Kathy Hurley and Ted Donson because they seemed to include more of the Feeling Center in their work. That’s the Center I access least effectively, and I realized I needed to stretch myself.

Of course, I went through—and saw—the est training through my own particular filter. The process of the training was not a pleasant experience for me. But the doing involved in assisting was my metier. When I decided to stop participating, my point of view of est—and of assisting—was still colored by the filter through which I viewed the world. I wonder what my experience would have been if I’d been aware of the Enneagram while I was actively involved in est. I’m pretty sure there was a lot more I could have gotten out of it if I hadn’t been so darned good at that particular piece of it.

est and the Enneagram

There are a lot of similarities between est and the Enneagram. Werner talked about the filters through which we look at the world and which distort reality. The Enneagram describes the particularities of those filters. Werner was all about authenticity and authentic self-expression. The Enneagram is a tool to help us move beyond the compulsion of type to experience our true nature, or essence. In the training you get, beyond any doubt, that you are a machine. With the Enneagram you get that you function on autopilot almost 100% of the time.

Making a Difference

These concepts are not unique to either est or the Enneagram, of course. They’re just different approaches to what seem to be universal truths. est focused on making commitments, showing up, and producing a result (doing). The Enneagram is a more intellectual, systematized approach.

What I’m left with from est—what has stayed with me all this time—is this:

You and I want our lives to matter. We want our lives to make a real difference—to be of genuine consequence in the world. We know that there is no satisfaction in merely going through the motions, even if those motions make us successful or even if we have arranged to make those motions pleasant. We want to know we have had some impact on the world. In fact, you and I want to contribute to the quality of life. We want to make the world work.

The Type 3 Culture of est (Part 1)

In which the universe hoodwinks me into being trained by Werner Erhard himself.

English: Face portion of a casual photo at a m...

Werner Erhard. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I took est (officially Erhard Seminars Training, but known to us graduates simply as “the training”) in the early 80s. I’m surprised I didn’t encounter it much earlier, since I moved to San Francisco in 1974 in an experimental frame of mind and San Francisco was home base for est. I bumped into the Scientology crew downtown one night and signed up for their beginners’ class just to find out what it was all about. I enjoyed the class, but that organization had so many layers of bureaucracy, it made the IRS look streamlined. I also spent some time at one of the Synanon enclaves in the East Bay, since the first friend I made in the City was an ex-junkie. (Synanon was an alternative drug rehab community founded by Chuck Dederich, a former alcoholic.) But I don’t recall ever running into anyone around that time who was involved in est.

A friend in Michigan had taken the training, however, and would not shut up about how amazing it was and how I should take it, too. I was tired of hearing about it, so on one of my visits, I agreed to go with him to a guest seminar if he agreed that regardless of whether I decided to take the training or not he would stop talking to me about it. We had a two-hour drive to Detroit where the seminar was being held. On the way, I had to listen to a series of cassette tapes of talks given by Werner Erhard. I hated the sound of Werner’s voice so much that my mind was made up: there was no way I was going to take the training.

As it turned out, the man who led the guest seminar (Les?) had a very low key and matter-of-fact demeanor. He was the anti-Werner Erhard, if you will. What he said made sense and sounded like something I could benefit from. Est was supposed to “transform one’s ability to experience living so that the situations one had been trying to change or had been putting up with clear up just in the process of life itself.” Sign me up. But wait a sec. It turned out that although Werner had not been involved in leading trainings for a while, rumor had it he was going to lead the next scheduled training in San Francisco. So no, do not sign me up for that one. What else do you have? The next available training in my neck of the woods was in the East Bay.


So, yes, I enrolled in a training in Berkeley, which involved a considerably longer commute, just so I could avoid Werner Erhard—the founder of the training I was enrolling in. Absurd as they were, my efforts turned out to be for naught.

The est training consisted of two weekends (all day Saturday and all day Sunday) and three Wednesday evening sessions in between the two weekends. The Wednesday evening before the first training weekend, my partner and I, along with a couple hundred other trainees, trooped into the ballroom where the training would be held. I glanced at the staff in the back of the room, and although I had never seen a picture of the man, I said to my partner—and these were my exact words— “Fuck. That’s Werner.” Which it was.

I got over my resistance to Werner. The man is very charming and disarming, as well as relentless. He’s generally typed as a 3, which seems right on. Although I hated the training itself, that didn’t have anything to do with Werner (other than the fact that he created it). What I didn’t like was having to sit in a chair hour after hour listening to other people talk. You could say I resisted that. And I resisted being confronted with my own stuff, which you’re pretty much forced to confront while you’re sitting in a chair hour after hour unable to escape or even converse with the person seated next to you.

It’s true that you were not allowed to go to the restroom except during the very infrequent official breaks. On the first day of the training, I got into a conversation with someone during the first break and failed to make use of the restroom before we were ushered back into the training room. Five hours till the next opportunity. Herb Caen, who was a long-time columnist for the San Francisco Chronicle, once included an anecdote about a woman who asked a clerk in a downtown San Francisco department store to direct her to the ladies room. The clerk said there were no restrooms on the premises. The customer asked what the clerk did when she needed to use the restroom. The clerk said, “I took est. I don’t have to use the restroom.” My friends today will tell you that I can go longer than anyone else they know without needing to stop for a bathroom break. That has been so valuable I think it was worth the price of the training.

But that’s not all I got.

Next time: Part 2, in which I am apparently recognized as an 8, even though none of us has heard of the Enneagram yet.