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Outrageous Betrayal: The Real Story of Werner Erhard from Est to Exile Hardcover – August, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Before he abandoned his wife and children, changed his name to Werner Erhard, moved to California and began promoting his self-awareness programs, known in the 1970s as est and later as the Forum, Jack Rosenberg was a car salesman in Philadelphia. Inspired by a self-help course called Mind Dynamics, by Napoleon Hill's book, Think and Grow Rich , by Scientology and cybernetics, and advised by a skilled tax lawyer, Erhard launched est in 1971. And for 20 years he reigned as guru of the "human potential movement." According to freelance journalist Pressman, the womanizing, charismatic and demanding Erhard collected tens of millions of dollars from 500,000 people who took his courses. Eventually lawsuits, desertions among his coterie and the rise of new New Age mind-improving programs ended Erhard's empire and in 1991, owing millions to the IRS and others, he went into exile in Mexico. Pressman here cuts into him with surgical precision.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Pressman, a San Francisco-based journalist, offers a compelling account of the 1980s guru who rose from selling used cars to peddling personal transformation. Erhard's dubious Est program--today known as The Forum--promises outlandish benefits in return for outlandish cash outlays. Like many of his predecessors, (notably L. Ron Hubbard, the demented fabricator of Scientology, whom Erhard briefly followed), Erhard progressed from a tireless, aggressive proselytizer to a psychotic egomaniac. Pressman skillfully documents Erhard's ascension to godlike status, and his irrevocable, shameful plummet following an episode that aired in 1991 on 60 Minutes , in which Erhard's daughter accused him of sexual abuse (a charge that Erhard allegedly deflected by characterizing it as "a nurturing experience"). Most public libraries should place this expose on the same shelves as Wendy Kaminer's I'm Dysfunctional, You're Dysfunctional ( LJ 6/1/92).
- Mark Annichiarico, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 289 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st edition (August 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312092962
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312092962
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #512,443 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

2.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

60 of 78 people found the following review helpful By lightwolf on November 29, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I find it fascinating that most of the other reviews give the book either 1 or 5 stars - similar to the thoughts of most people I know about est/Landmark who have either gone thru est/Landmark or known someone who has. I read this book as the "other side of the coin" against Erhard's biography, and was disappointed. I think that for a work like this, the author needs to provide better documentation for his information. There are footnotes in places, but I was looking for rather thorough documentation, and this is lacking. It ended up being a view of Erhard and est that offsets Erhard's version of things, and little more. In the end we are left with a he said/he said argument. Like the earlier reviews suggest by their polarized ratings, people have already chosen their sides. So this book doesn't advance the debate, but it does flesh out the story.
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103 of 138 people found the following review helpful By Michael C. on January 29, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I find it interesting but predictable that Werner Erhard has often been described as a "used car salesman" (when he was in his twenties-like we all had great jobs then, right?) but never as someone who went on to become a lauded executive of a Fortune 500 Company before his founding of EST. Just an unbiased, unintended oversight, I imagine.

I also find it almost amusing that serious consideration was not given to hundreds of thousands of EST and Landmark alumni from some of the world's most respected disciplines and vocations including educators, clergy, business executives, medical and psychiatric professionals, philosophers, government leaders, etc. who have praised and then recommended first the EST and then the Landmark Education programs to others. If one is to believe Steven Pressman they must all be stupid, duped, gullible fools, unlike him, upon whom Erhard simply would not put one over.

That Mr. Pressman was not interested in finding the well documented contributions of Werner Erhard to millions world wide (The Hunger Project, etc.) should not stop anyone else from doing so.

Since my first experience of EST in 1981, there is not one day that goes by that I don't use something I learned from the Werner Erhard programs I attended. Of course it helped that I, unlike this author, did not have a glaringly obvious bias starting out.

So I can believe my own experience and those of hundreds of thousands of others who say they have benefited greatly by their course participation, or I can buy into this author's subjective misrepresentation of Erhard and his long lasting, proven programs. As someone who became a CEO, best selling business book author, successful parent and contented human being, I make no apologies for crediting very much of what I have to Werner Erhard's work. Easy choice.
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101 of 145 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 24, 2004
Format: Hardcover
It all came flooding back to me, the EST training, followed by a communication seminar, an advanced communication seminar, the Six Day training (where we were to become "commandos", were required to watch some, er, "offbeat" movies, and talk about real personal stuff), then Mastery Of Empowerment, where we did Zen like meditations, repeatedly acknoledged that Werner was Source (of ??? not exactly specified), and got a jolly good vibe going.
Oh yes, there were also seminars with Fernando Flores, an interesting fellow who was once the finance minister for Salvador Allende, heavily into language and information theory... once upon a time Werner's left brain, so to speak, who inexplicably wasn't there on Mount Olympus one day...
Needless to say, there's a lot of stuff, many narratives woven together that many self proclaimed Forumites don't know about, weren't there when it happened, all of which got simplified and cooked down into easy to digest tales of days gone by.
Let me tell ya something. It never is so simple, never was, never will be. Pressman's book Outrageous Betrayal rings true as pure coin to my ears, it succeeeds in capturing the flavor of the 70's into the 80's hustle, the strange blend of improvisation, amateurishness, needfulness, as well as the intensity, the drive, the self deception, and the absurdity of that era. Werner was kind of an uber-manifestation of all that.
Somewhere along the line I found myself growing. The sense of community and shared purpose that once was sustaining and uplifting turned stale and oppressive. It was time to move on,
grow up another notch, leave the great psychodrama behind for another generation to project it's unresolved collective issues on.
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35 of 51 people found the following review helpful By Mars Trader on June 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover
I took the Training, and I also took one of the follow up seminars, Be Here Now. I also volunteered several times. There were no commandos, no cults, no weird movies. There was however, tremendous pressure from the organization on all of us to concentrate on serving the attendees and to not become zealots. There was a "trainer" i.e. the instructor, and he/she did a tireless job with poise and dedication. It was an amazing experience. What I learned made me more honest and at peace with myself and my relationships than I thought possible. The staff who ran the seminars were invisible when they needed to be, and precise in their work, and mostly were volunteers. These were the best run events I have ever attended, and I attend conferences all over the world.

Every person who starts something like EST goes through his/her own transformation and that may include turning their old lives upside down. They may also make money with their new mission. So what? Why not? Why go after Erhard? He didn't hide his background from attendees, staff and volunteers. Perhaps it was personal. Perhaps, since Erhard didn't spend much time dealing with criticism in the press, it was easy timing for Pressman to write a slam book and get his name known. I am not an enlightenment junkie. Recently I decided to take a few personal growth workshops to see what's new and I will tell you that what Erhard gave to me back then far surpasses a lot of the work going on now. I am sorry that the author had a bad experience, or more likely, chose to write up a selection of bad experiences. Each person's experience is their own.
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