I recently received an e-mail from a guy in California who had just completed the Landmark Forum and Advanced Course. He had read a book published in 1992 lambasting Werner Erhard, the founder of the technology that is the basis of the current Forum and other work. However, Werner has been out of the country since 1991 and has no connection to the company formed after he left, Landmark Education Corp. The guy sending the e-mail was concerned about corruption at the head of the company that sponsored the programs that he participated in and by his own words had received great value from. He was asking if I still stood by the work I had done in the book I wrote in 1992, "60 Minutes and the Assassination of Werner Erhard," which negated the allegations made against Erhard. I'm posting here part of the response I sent him.
"Thanks for writing and expressing your concerns. I can totally understand where you get them. And congratulations on completing the Forum and Advanced Course and getting value from them. I strongly recommend that's where you focus -- on the value you got from participating in the work rather than on who originally founded and developed the technology decades ago.
"Yes, I absolutely still am confident in what I wrote in that book. I made it very clear to the people who I spoke with and the people who helped open doors for me to get to others that I was not going to step over anything. If I found a shred of truth in the serious allegations, I would print that and not tiptoe around it.
"Secondly, all of the daughters who were on the '60 Minutes' program or reported about on the program have since recanted their stories. As pointed out in the book, there were issues Werner had with his children because he wasn't the daddy they thought he should be. But the allegations were false and just their way of lashing out at him. Werner has been focused on healing his relationship with his children and last I heard making great progress. One of the reasons he never brought suit against Pressman (author of the first book) was that he wasn't going to publicly drag his children through the mire. And he wasn't interested in a drawn-out expensive court battle since he had left the country and had no intention of ever returning. And Landmark has no ground to sue. It wasn't part of the picture at the time.
"Werner sold his company, Werner Erhard and Assoc., to the employees when he left in 1991 and it was afterward that it became Landmark Education Corp., still using and expanding the technology but completely reorganizing its structure. Werner has no connection with the company and hasn't since its formation. Yes, his brother, Harry Rosenberg, is the CEO and I'm sure they are in communication on a regular basis as brothers. But Werner has no financial or managing interest or control in Landmark.
"I still participate in various Landmark programs, mostly in Atlanta and mostly in the Wisdom curriculum. I completed the Wisdom course in 2001, Partnership Exploration in 2002 and Power and Contribution in 2003. Since taking the first course, I have been an active member of the assisting team and been an accomplishment coach for Wisdom each year. I continue to find great value for myself and my communities by assisting and participating and I know for a fact that thousands of others around the world do as well. I find that the conversations generated are quite powerful and continue to call me forth to not be stopped by my petty circumstances.
"Right after the Werner stuff broke in late 1990 and before the '60 Minutes' piece aired in early 1991, I wrote a column for the newspaper I worked for at the time as I was trying to sort out my feelings about the situation. I was stunned and thinking I had been duped, etc., probably similar to some of your reactions. But what I got was regardless of the veracity of the allegations against the man -- which I again am confident are all untrue -- I had to weigh the value I received from the work. I certainly wouldn't stop using light bulbs if I found out Thomas Edison was a slimy con man ripping off people right and left."
If anyone else has questions about any of this, I'll be glad to talk about it. Just contact me at email@example.com.
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Had it not been for taking est in April of 1980 or maybe 1981 (I forget) I would not have had the life I have led. The freedom that came out of knowing I was the source of every aspect of my life gave me the power to create an astounding life. After being a special ed teacher working with severely emotionally disturbed kids, I became a lawyer and have helped over 200 couples have a peaceful divorce with no fighting and saving their co parenting relationship to say nothing of millions of dollars in attorney fees. I have spearheaded the peaceful divorce movement in North America and am taking on transforming the way people divorce from litigation to mediation. If I ever get the Nobel Peace Prize, I will thank Werner from the stage. He is the single biggest influence on my life and I would not have had the vision without him.
Is it entirely accurate that all the allegations were entire fabrications? That's not what I have heard. I appreciate your desire to salvage Mr Erhard's legacy but his odd retreat from the public realm and the hesitancy of the organization to speak in plain English about his whereabouts and financial interest (ongoing) in the company would give a responsible adult concern.
It is not entirely accurate to say that Werner has no role in the finance or operations of Landmark. Werner is the primary consultant Landmark uses and pays for the development work being done in the fields of "transformation / possibility / enrollment" and the work being done through the Barbados Group on Integrity.
The integrity work is being used to reorganize the structure and operations of Landmark's staff and training. That's a major contribution.
I did the est training and most of it's available courses including and especially the interim "freestyle" courses that became the Forum. I found the courses extremely valuable but not without some problematic element. It's the responsibility of an adult to examine things from all relevant angles and make an informed determination. I am glad I read Jane's book AND Steven Pressman's book, I trust my ability to evaluate the truth somewhere in the middle.
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Very moving letter, Jane. I loved the book, thank you so much for setting the record straight! And this post is a great clarification that resonates deeply with me: your story about "feeling duped" etc was mine, despite having a personal relationship with Werner, having been on his personal staff in 1978-79 as part of "Breakthrough Racing".
In my view, it is a measure of your great open heart that you were able to resolve that apparent conflict so rapidly ... in my caes (stubborn old boy that I was as my story) it took a lot longer.
The Edison/light bulb metaphor is perfect! Even if the false accusations had actually been true, the value I got from 'est' was and is undeninable.
Has I not had the training in my life, I would have had a far different (and shorter) life. What a difference 4 days made!
Being alive, making a difference in whatever small ways I can, engaged rather than resigned ... no way that would have happened without the training. I too still paricipate with Landmark and have written several books out of the inspiration of their courses.
Much Love and Respect to you!
Thanks for this thoughtful post. I did the est training about 25 years ago, and got my life back. Before that I felt like something was missing inside me, and after I did the training, I realized I could have my life be about whatever I said my life was about. When the 60 minutes thing aired about Werner Erhard, I didn't much like it, and I felt sadness, but I also realized that there was probably much more to the story, and I still got so much for my own life, that it didn't matter. It as heartening to read in your post these many years later that Werner Erhard did not want to embroil his family in the allegations that were made on 60 minutes. To me that shows true responsibility.
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