Handbook of Today's Religions



"But don't get me wrong, I don't think the world needs EST; I don't think the world needs anything; the world already is and that's perfect."
"If nobody needs it then why do you do it?"
"I do it because I do it because that's what I do."
(Adam Smith, "Powers of Mind, Part I1 The EST Experience," New York, September 29, 1975, p. 284).

This statement is from an interview with former used car salesman John Paul Rosenberg, now known as Werner Erhard, founder and director of EST (Erhard Seminars Training) one of the fastest-growing movements in America. Thousands of people, including prominent public figures, have given glowing testimonies of the transforming effects of EST.

Dr. Herbert Hansher, psychology professor at Temple University, has called EST "one of the most powerful therapeutic experiences yet devised" (Adelaid Bry, EST 60 Hours that Transform Your Life, New York: Avon, 1976, p. 200). Singer/Songwriter John Denver has said of his EST encounters, "It's the single most important experience of my life" (Newsweek, December 20, 1976).

Although not primarily religious in nature, EST denies the basic beliefs of the historic Christian faith, yet claims compatibility with Jesus Christ and Christianity. It is for this reason we treat EST with the non-Christian cults.

By way of background, Erhard (or Rosenberg) traveled the religious merry-go-round of Scientology, Zen Buddhism, yoga, hypnosis, Silva Mind Control and a host of other religious movements before presenting the world with EST in 1971 ("Werner Erhard-An Interview with the Source of EST" Part 1, The New Age Journal, No. 7, Sept. 15, 1975, pp. 18-20).

What is EST?

EST consists of 60 hours of intensive training, usually on two successive weekends, where the initiate attempts to reach the goal of EST "getting it." It is, however, never clear exactly what one gets, for Erhard's system is a unique combination of Zen Buddhism, Scientology, and Vendanta Hinduism, coupled with the power of positive thinking.

Erhard has said, "We want nothing short of a total transformation - an alteration of substance, not a change of form" (Werner Erhard, What's So, Jan. 1975). This alteration or transformation is accomplished during the training sessions by attempting to change the individual's concept of who he is. Once a person's belief system is shredded, the person becomes vulnerable to accepting the ESTian world view.

The Philosophy of EST

Erhard's world view of life is perfect, with no difference between right and wrong. "Life is always perfect just the way it is. When you realize that, then no matter how strongly it may appear to be otherwise, you know that whatever is happening right now will turn out all right. Knowing this, you are in a position to begin mastering life" (Werner Erhard, What's So, January 1975). "Wrong is actually a version of right. If you are always wrong you are right." (Adelaide Bry, op. cit., p. 192).

Accordingly, there is no objective truth, no absolutes except the absolute of "whatever is, is right." With this viewpoint one could argue that anyone has the right to do whatever he wishes, including killing six million Jews, because he is perfect. Such a world view opens the door to frightening possibilities.

At the heart of the ESTian world view is the assumption that God is man and man is God, and that each individual must come to understand he is his own God. John Denver illustrated this assumption in his statement, "I can do anything. One of these days, I'll be so complete I won’t be human, I'll be a god" (Newsweek, Dec. 20, 1976).

Erhard's seminars attempt to enlighten the uninitiated to this truth. As one EST trainer told his trainees, "It ought to be perfectly clear to everyone that you are all (expletive deleted) and I'm God. Only an (expletive deleted) would argue with God" (Luke Rhinehart, The Book of EST, New York: Holt Rhinehart and Winston, 1976, p. 47).

Seeing that all of us are God, we are now provided with justification to do whatever we please, since as God we are answerable to no one.


If indeed we ourselves are God, the need to look to a supreme being for salvation is gone, and the God of the Bible is unnecessary Erhard has stated, "For instance, I believe that the belief in God is the greatest barrier to God in this universe-the single greatest barrier. I would prefer someone who is ignorant to someone who believes in God because the belief in God is a total barrier, almost a total barrier to the experience of God" (Werner Erhard, East-West Journal, September 1974).

The Bible reveals not only that man is not God, but that he can never become God. God is by nature infinite (unlimited) whereas man is finite (limited). God is the creator and man is the creature. We are dependent on Him for our very existence.

The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of Heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; neither is He served by human hands, as though he needed anything since He Himself gives to all life and breath and all things (Acts 17:24, 25 NASB).

Jesus Christ

Jesus supposedly was saying the same sort of thing as Erhard. Consequently in EST there is no need to give Jesus Christ any special adoration.

... the church totally misinterpreted what Jesus said. He kept telling over and over that everybody was like He was: perfect. He was experiencing life, like Werner. He knew He was the total source, living moment to moment, and was spontaneous.

Jesus is just another guru who happens to be popular here in Western Civilization. I can't go into a church and praise Jesus. But I really got where he is coming from. He wants to let everybody know "I'm you." So my whole point of view about religion has totally altered (Adelaid Bry, op. cit., p. 182).

It is difficult to understand how anyone who reads the Bible could believe Jesus said everyone was perfect. The truth is that Jesus said: " For unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins" (John 8:24 NASB).

"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the mad". (Mark 7:21-23).

Furthermore, as uniquely God in human flesh, Jesus deserves our wor-ship at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father" (Philip-pians 2:10, 11).


The entire EST system centers around the self-centered individual rather than the biblical God. In EST, God is non-existent. Any religious or psychologically-manipulating system that leads people away from the true and living God is functioning as antichrist and should be avoided.

The experience EST offers is a pseudo-answer to man’s deepest need. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can truly satisfy the longing of the human heart. Jesus said, "If therefore the Son shall make you free you shall be free indeed" (John 8:36 NASB).

EST Terms

The Centers Network-New legal name for EST.
EST-Designation for Erhard Seminars Training, advertised as nonreligious self-help training sessions designed to bring participants to fulfillment. Teaches that you are your own God, and that everything you experience (even bad things like assault) is a product of your own divine creative will.
Erhard, Werner- Founder of Erhard Seminars Training (EST). Born John Paul Rosenberg, Erhard experimented with a variety of groups including
Silva Mind Control, Zen, and Scientology before forming his own self-help cult, EST.
Games -EST's name for the external world and its events. EST declares that the world of games is illusory. The only reality exists in the individual's mind.
Trainers-EST staff persons who conduct and teach the EST seminars. Truth Process-One segment of EST's seminar.


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