The Dark Journey of Werner Erhard from Est to Exile
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 Mud-slinging exposÇ of the notorious pop guru who ``got it''- -and then tried to give it to the rest of the world. As his title makes clear, Pressman (a former writer for California Lawyer) makes no pretense to objectivity here: His Werner Erhard is a charismatic but abusive con man with a genius for repackaging and marketing others' ideas. Erhard, he tells us, was born in 1935 Pennsylvania as ``Jack Rosenberg''; grew up to be a married car-salesman with kids; fell in love and remarried, committing bigamy; changed his name to Werner Erhard; and moved with his new wife to California. There, while selling encyclopedias door-to-door, Erhard hooked up with Scientology and a teaching method called Mind Dynamics, then broke away to begin est. Within two years, est had expanded into a multimillion-dollar business whose confrontational, allegedly transformational, techniques had been sold to tens of thousands, including many celebrities. Pressman highlights est's little-known debt to Scientology and Mind Dynamics; traces the outfit's byzantine, perhaps shady, financial structure; emphasizes Erhard's sybaritic way of life and cult of personality; and hammers home the guru's bullying side--which, at its ugliest, may have led him to beat his wife and molest his daughters. What the author dramatically fails to provide by bearing down on the negative (to the extent that nearly all his informants denounce est and its founder) is any real understanding of est's teachings--and of why they appealed so deeply to so many. Today, Erhard, escaping bad publicity, is in exile, his whereabouts apparently unknown to the press, including Pressman: a suitably shadowy stage in the life of a man who remains an enigma despite a dogged telling here of what, surely, is only half the story.

Pub Date: Sept. 24th, 1993
ISBN: 0-312-09296-2
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1st, 1993