Welcome to the seventh installment in my examination of the high weirdness that has intrigued the far right over the decades. Over the course of this series I've used high weirdness as a catch all for a host of fringe topics such as UFOs, psi, psychedelics, the occult, human potential and so on. As for the far right, I have primarily been looking at it through the prism of several key NGOs and think tanks such as the Committee on the Present Danger (CPD) Mach I and the American Security Council that are closely aligned with the American military-industrial complex.
With first installment of this series I considered the bizarre Sikh temple shooting of 2012 and the possible deep political implications behind it as well as the high weirdness of the 2016 US presidential election cycle. Also briefly touched upon were the two primary US elite factions, the traditional conservative establishment largely centered around the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and other such think tanks, and the far right. Part two moved on to the origins of the military-industrial complex, which can be traced to a group of middle managers close to Secretary of War (and Bonesman) Henry Stimson and the emerging class of technocrats groomed by Vannevar Bush in the National Defense Research Committee (NDRC) and the Office of Scientific Research and Development (OSRD).
The third installment primarily focused on the rise of the far right within the military-industrial complex, a shift that was largely driven by a cabal of military officers that had served under/with General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific Theater of World War II and/or Korea. Many of these military officers also turn up in the Roswell incident and would later go on to found the American Security Council, the premier lobby group for the military-industrial complex throughout the Cold War. Part four continued to examine Roswell, and the alleged technology recovered from it.
The fifth installment moved along to the extensive overlap between the ASC and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). With the sixth and most recent installment I went to examine the ASC's involvement in spreading the Hangar 18 mythos and the flurry of UFO-related books Regnery (the family of which had helped found the ASC, as was noted before here) published during the late 1960s and early 1970s that profoundly influenced the development of UFOlogy. The early works of Jacques Vallee were largely published by Regnery and have proven to be especially influential in this regard.
"...This was est (Erhard Sensitivity Training), the organization founded in 1971 by Werner Erhard, a former Scientologist – and used car salesman – who decided to exploit and adapt some of Scientology's concepts and techniques for his own self-improvement system. The now notorious est held seminars that attracted such celebrities as Buzz Aldrin, Yoko Ono, John Denver and the future UFO abduction researcher John Mack, but it wasn't long before est became a dirty word. Attendees were disturbed by the fascistic regime and zombielike demeanor of the members, as well as Erhard's own dictatorial control of the organization. Media disapproval was intense, and soon est was relegated to the scrapheap of dangerous cult. Erhard himself fled from the United States after press revelations about his private life and financial affairs. He is now believed to be somewhere in Russia.
"Tellingly, Erhard's real name was Jack Rosenberg, but it is said that he changed his name 'to replace Jewish weakness with German strength'. (His father was Jewish, but he converted to Episcopal Christianity.) Erhard had close links with Esalen Institute and gave funds to SRI's remote viewing project..."
(The Stargate Conspiracy, Lynn Pickneet & Clive Prince, pg. 235)
Since the publication of The Stargate Conspiracy in 1999 Werner Erhard has once gain returned to respectability. He routinely lectures at prestigious universities (and seems especially loved by Harvard) while his leadership courses are embraced by numerous multinationals. Many swear by Erhard's methods, which were compiled from a host of curious sources. Scientology was of course one of them, along with more conventional self-improvement gurus such as Dale Carnegie.
"... Earlier in the year, a friend had handed Erhard a science fiction novel called est: The Steersman Handbook, written by an author named L. Clark Stevens. In his book, Stevens wrote that 'est' stood for 'electronic social transformation,' and heralded the arrival of 'est people' bent on transforming society. Erhard was excited about Steven's message and made sure other staff members read the book. It wouldn't be long before he borrowed 'est' to fit his own needs."
(Outrageous Betrayal, Steven Pressman, pg. 40)
Curiously, both Stevens and Erhard also appear to have gotten mixed up in the bizarre saga of The Nine as well, although it does not appear that the two men ever met. The connections that either man had to The Nine are extremely fascinating, but well beyond the scope of this series. The great Christopher Knowles of The Secret Sun had does incredible work on this topic here.
Let us return now to Erhard's influences. Two other crucial ones appear to be equally dubious self-improvement organizations Erhard was involved with in the early 1970s called Mind Dynamics and Leadership Dynamics. There was much overlap between these two companies as well with a third, Holiday Magic, a company specializing in hawking cosmetics door to door that was revealed to have been a massive pyramid scheme in federal courts by the mid-1970s. But more on that in a moment.
Mind Dynamics was the organization that appears to have had the greatest and most direct influence on Erhard's path to self-improvement. Mind Dynamic and its methods were largely the creation of an Englishman known as Alexander Everett. While little known nowadays, Everett is generally considered one of the early pioneers in Large Group Awareness training and the Human Potential Movement in general. Everett largely devised his methods in the mid-1960s while living in Texas. There he found a most curious mentor.
"Launched in the Bay Area only a few months earlier, Mind Dynamics was the hybrid creation of Alexander Everett, a former English schoolmaster whose own fascination with mind-cure principles had begun in the 1950s, when he worked in Kansas City for one of the Unity Schools of Christianity, a mind-cure offshoot. From there Everett had wandered down to Texas, where he found work as an assistant principal at an exclusive private school in Fort Worth. It was in Texas that Everett ran across a man named José Silva who years earlier had concocted something called Mind Control that purported to teach its adherents over the course of four twelve-hour sessions how to relax and harness the power of their minds. By controlling the brain's alpha waves, Mind Control held out the promise of extraordinary results, from waking up without an alarm clock to ridding the body of dangerously addictive habits.
"By the late 1960s Everett had created a similar mental exercise program called Mind Dynamics. After a few courses in Texas, he soon realized that California with its free-spirited environment, might provide a more hospitable climate for his metaphysical theories about brain waves. Everett settled in San Francisco in the early spring of 1970. Not long after he began selling for $200 a thirty-two-hour course on controlling the brain's alpha waves. By mastering Mind Dynamics, students supposedly could achieve almost any goal they set, from improving their IQs and ending insomnia to curing cancer while learning to avoid other life-threatening illnesses.
(Outrageous Betray, Steven Pressman, pg. 34)
|possibly Alexander Everett|
As far as this researcher can determine, Silva's methods do not appear to have been investigated directly by the national security apparatus. In point of fact, Silva apparently offered his methods and techniques to the US government in the mid-1960s only to be rebuffed. He served in the Army during WWII in the Signals Corp, and this appears to have been the extent of his involvement in national security.
It is possible, however, that Silva's theories indirectly influenced later interest of the deep state. And it has been reported that Silva had contact was famed parapsychologist J.B. Rhine of Duke University. As was noted before here, Rhine's parapsychological experiments at Duke were of especial interest to Project ARTICHOKE. It is possible Silva's theories were discovered in those heady days and indiscreetly investigated. Mind Dynamics may even have been such a project.
"To reach more people, Everett needed a better marketing plan than simply the promise of untapped human potential. He found one in William Penn Patrick, a ruggedly handsome and self-confidence master salesman, who presided at the time over a worldwide pyramid-sales network of companies that sold products ranging from motor oil additives to banana-flavored body lotion. Patrick, a former door-to-door salesman in Illinois, was impressed with Everett's seeming ability to motivate people and quickly realized that Mind Dynamics could play a part in expanding his own business empire. Together he and Everett created the unlikely marriage of mass-marketing sales techniques and the human potential movement.
"Six years earlier, at the age of thirty-three, Patrick had begun a pyramid-sales company called Holiday Magic that ostensibly sold a line of fruit-flavor cosmetics. Holding out the tantalizing promise of handsome profits, Patrick sold distribution franchises to thousands of men and women for coast to coast. More often than not, the hapless distributors ended up with basements or garages stacked to the ceiling with jars of avocado face cream or cases of Sta-Pro motor oil additive while they vainly searched for other 'distributors' to keep the endless chain letter of marketing in motion. At the top of the pyramid stood Patrick, who amassed a fortune estimated at $200 million and lived on a 6,000-acre ranch north of San Francisco, where he pursued his hobby of restoring and flying vintage military airplanes.
"Patrick's decision in 1970 to add Mind Dynamics to his stable of pyramid-sales companies came at a time when other pieces of his enterprise were coming under increasing legal attack. By then the California attorney general's office had received a rash of complaints about Patrick's business methods at Holiday Magic. Around the time he met Alexander Everett, Patrick had added an even more bizarre new program called Leadership Dynamics, which eventually created additional legal headaches. The four-day 'sensitivity' course put participants through a physically and mentally abusive regime in the name of offering them a 'more creative and constructive life.'
(Outrageous Betrayal, Steven Pressman, pgs. 34-35)Holiday Magic is still studied to this day as one of the earliest and most notorious pyramid schemes. It was initially denounced in the US Senate in 1974 and is still used an example of such in graduate level criminal justice coursework to analyze corporate scams. For our purposes here, however, it was his other 1970 business venture that is most intriguing.
Leadership Dynamics was exposed to the public at large in a 1972 work called The Pit: A Group Encounter Defiled. It was principally the work of Gene Church, a Mind Dynamics employee who later joined a class action lawsuit against Leadership Dynamics. At the onset of this work Church laid out the stated aims of Leadership Dynamics:
"Leadership Dynamics Institute was formed on the principles outlined in a booklet entitled 'Happiness and Success Through Principal' written in 1967 by William Penn Patrick, the founder and corporate king of Holiday Magic, Inc., and apparent co-owner of LDI. The foremost principle set forth by Patrick is honesty, complete and total honesty, both toward yourself and others. Another attribute stressed is courage, courage to stand up and fight for what you believe.
"A further major principle put forth by Patrick is the necessity to differentiate between selfishness and greed. Selfishness is a normal and necessary human quality that everyone has and uses. If we, as individuals, were not selfish we would never have anything. Selfishness to Patrick means that you want something and are willing to work to get it. Greed, on the other hand, is an extension of selfishness to the point of wanting something for nothing."
(The Pit, Gene Church & Conrad D. Carnes, pg. 2)
|The Pit was later adapted into the above film, also known as Circle of Power|
The Leadership Dynamics course lasted four grueling days and cost participants $1000 each, no small sum of money in the early 1970s. Before the training began participants were required to sign waivers (a process later adopted by est up to a certain point) that gave the Leadership Dynamics trainers free reign to do virtually anything to their chargers short of killing them.
Upon signing the waivers, participants were subjected to what can best described as a cross between basic training for the US Army, Fight Club and an initiation ritual for Skull and Bones. Armed with swagger sticks and other curious props, the Leadership Dynamics instructors subjected their charges to a host of bizarre psychological, physical and sexual abuse.
"... the Leadership Dynamics course had become the target of lawsuits brought by participants who had signed up only to find themselves the unwitting victims of cruel physical and emotional abuse during the sessions. In some cases instructors ordered participants into closed coffins. Others were hung onto large wooden crosses for hours at a time. Still others were forced to take off all their clothes while fellow participants taunted them with cruel insults. In one session, a man was forced to perform fellatio on an artificial penis while women attending a separate Leadership Dynamics class were brought in to watch...
"In depositions and other court documents, Patrick and other Leadership Dynamics officials acknowledged the accuracy of some of the charges leveled against them in several lawsuits that stemmed from the brutality of the courses. Asked about simulated sex with an artificial penis, Patrick responded: 'Well, to put it bluntly, there are a lot of men that come to class that have forgotten how to use theirs in their marriage.' Patrick also admitted that it was common practice to hit people during the sessions. 'I slap my children from time to time. It serves a useful function,' he told lawyers during his deposition. The lawsuits eventually settled out of court, and Leadership Dynamics soon after when out of business."
(Outrageous Betrayal, Steven Pressman, pg. 41)Every Leadership Dynamics participant was forced to stand in "the pit," an area in the conference room outlined by chairs and such, that served as a ring and confessional in one. Typically men and women entered the pit in the nude and were forced to tell their greatest secrets. Frequently they were assaulted throughout these confessions. Sometimes they were forced to fight one another in "the pit." As was noted above, mock-crucifixions were also performed while participants were sometimes left in closed coffins overnight.
If you are wondering why anyone would go through four days of this, Leadership Dynamics had two effective methods of keeping their audiences captive: On the one hand participants were assigned a partner to room with and if one individual fled the course, his or her roomie would also be thrown out and both individuals' nonrefundable $1000 was down the drain. This encouraged participants to spy on one another and inform the instructors if someone was contemplating escape.
There was an even more effective method, however: Patrick required participation in Leadership Dynamics to advance in his other business ventures:
"Leadership Dynamics Institute (LDI) was a required seminar for anyone wishing to take a managerial position with the Holiday Magic organization.
"Though not then employed by Holiday Magic, I had not strayed for long from the Holiday Magic family. Earlier in my life I had been a distributor for their home care and cosmetic products, and now I was involved in another Holiday Magic affiliate, Mind Dynamics. It had been make clear to me by my superiors within Mind Dynamics that Leadership Dynamics Institute would be an important rung in my personal ladder of success..."
(The Pit, Gene Church & Conrad D. Carnes, pgs. 1-2)
Most other LDI participants were sent there by family and close friends. This made the LDI courses especially brutal as the instructors were able to gather intelligence on their next batch of students from coworkers and family. This led to some extremely awkward confessions in "the pit." Many Holiday Magic employees carried out extramarital affairs with one another, for instance, and these were frequently exposed in "the pit."
In one incredible confession described by Church, a Holiday Magic employee is forced to acknowledge that he had witnessed his mother having sex with another woman as a child and was later molested by his father. The instructors were told of these traumas by the participant's own mother, who also a Holiday Magic employee.
When est's ties to Patrick's business enterprises come up, whatever influences Erhard derived from them is attributed to Mind Dynamics, which Erhard also worked for in the early 1970s. And yet est on the whole bares more of the confrontational style of Life Dynamics, at times coming off as a watered down version of Patrick's pressure cooker. After witnessing the numerous lawsuits Patrick and Leadership Dynamics were subjected too, Erhard no doubt realized that there were certain lines he couldn't cross. So while est featured ample verbal abuse from the instructors, a certain degree of physical discomfort from the length of the sessions and frequently traumatic confessions, the shocking physical abuse of Leadership Dynamics was largely dropped. At least for the rank and file est participants, anyway.
At least one of Erhard's early lieutenants, the Australian Stewart Emery, had been through Leadership Dynamics. In 1971 Erhard asked Emery to put himself and his chief aides through the same type of techniques. Emery obliged and Erhard was apparently impressed. He appears to have later developed his own version of Leadership Dynamics for est trainers and other important officials and his family. It was dubbed the "fish bowl" rather than "the pit." There are much disputed accounts of Erhard subjecting his then-wife to extreme physical abuse during one of these "fish bowl" sessions in 1977 that resulted in one of Erhard's aides nearly choking her to death.
Naturally very little is known about Patrick's doings until the mid-1960s, after he had established Holiday Magic as a viable source of income. But once the big bucks began rolling in Patrick wasted no time in become active in politics. And would you be surprised to learn, dear reader, that his politics appear to have been to the right of Joseph McCarthy?
Prior to becoming involved with Everett and Mind Dynamic, Patrick had forged ties with Robert DePugh, founder of the Minutemen. The Minutemen in turn were the first large scale right wing paramilitary network of the Cold War era. And not long after DePugh got the Minutemen off the ground, he was approached by Colonel William Potter Gale, a former military intelligence officer and Christian Identity minister who would go on to establish the Posse Comitatus.
Gale would establish his own paramilitary outfit, the California Rifles, not long after DePugh got the Minutemen off the ground. There was much overlap between Gale and DePugh's organizations in the early years, but DePugh broke with Gale in the mid-1960s after he became concerned that Gale was co-opting his organization and working for some branch of US intelligence.
Just how serious the break was is highly debatable, as Gale and DePugh appeared to have patched things up by the mid-1970s, after DePugh was released from prison for arms smuggling charges. They appear to have remained in contact up until the time of Gale's death in 1988. This bizarre chain of events was addressed on this blog before here.
At some point during DePugh's break with Gale he hooked up with Patrick while in the midst of trying to launch the "Patriot Party." At a 1967 convention of said party Du Pugh endorsed Patrick as the veep on a ticket headlined by George Wallace.
"One of the more intriguing facets of this convention was the role – or non-role – of William Penn Patrick, the cosmetics tycoon from San Rafael, California. A transplanted southerner, Patrick made a name for himself in ultraright circles by a quixotic campaign in the 1966 Republican gubernatorial primary against an idol of the respectable right, Ronald Reagan. After this debut, he helped finance recall effort against liberal Senator Frank Church of Idaho. DePugh envisioned as an ideal ticket Wallace for president with moneybags Patrick as his running mate. Patrick actually flew to Kansas City for a conference with the Patriotic Party brass, and at the convention the ticket was endorsed. Two months later, however, DePugh told his membership that Patrick would have to be dropped, explaining that Patrick had been recommended in the first place 'because he had promised to provide the money necessary to keep the Patriotic Party alive, to open Patriotic Party headquarters throughout most of the major cities in the United States, and to finance the printing, the transportation, the telephones, and all the other expenses.' But not a red cent have been forthcoming."
(Power on the Right, William Turner, pgs. 79-80)
Patrick's early opposition to Senator Frank Church is most interesting. As I'm sure many of you are aware, Church is the Senator who headed the infamous Church Committee of the mid-1970s in which the public first caught a glimpse of the CIA's behavior modification programs in addition to a host of other outrages. Church would draw the ire of the US intelligence community for his role in the committee that bore his name and would lose his 1980 bid for re-election under curious circumstances. It has long been speculated that the US intelligence community heavily backed his opponent, Steve Symms, in their quest to unseat him.
And here is Patrick, attacking Church in 1967 after the Senator had begun to earn a name for himself for his support of Civil Rights and opposition to the Vietnam War. Was Patrick's opposition to Church something more than political? Certainly it seems rather curious that a prominent California businessman would become invested in unseating a then largely unknown Senator from Idaho.
Multiple sites report William Penn Patrick as being a Bircher, but I have not be able to reliably confirm this. He did frequently make common cause with the Birchers, however. And by the early 1970s he had become the chief financial backer of Dan Smoot, who frequently collaborated with the John Birch Society. Smoot was a former FBI agent who remade himself as a far right wing conspiracy theorist in the mid-1950s. Initially he published the newsletter Fact Forum with financial assistance of Texas oilman H.L. Hunt (who was himself close to several ASC members).
Patrick then seems to have had ample links to the early ASC network and even bankrolled some of the most fringe elements therein throughout the late 1960s. And then, in 1970, he appears to have shifted gears, and delved head long into the emerging Human Potential Movement, but with his own fascist flair. He bankrolls Mind Dynamics and establishes his own bizarre Large Group Awareness Training institution with Leadership Dynamics several years before. Individuals who went through Leadership Dynamics, the bulk of whom were either Patrick's employees trying to get into upper management and/or their relatives, were subjected to methods often employed by cults as well as elements of the US national security apparatus to the ends of behavior modification (including the basic training the various US military branches subject recruits to).
And then, just as Patrick's business empire is under investigation on multiple fronts, he conveniently dies in a plane crash. A little under two years earlier Patrick's former employee, Werner Erhard, launches est, which will soon become a major craze by the mid-1970s. Erhard appears to have incorporated methods derived from various sources ranging from Everett, Patrick, Leslie Stevens, L. Ron Hubbard and even Dale Carnegie to cobble together est. But his inner circle was subjected to "fish bowl" sessions that were based upon methods taken from Leadership Dynamics. In both cases, Patrick and Erhard appear to have achieved a cult-like atmosphere within the upper hierarchies of their respective business empires. And Erhard recruited ample trusted aides out of the ashes of Patrick's empire.
|William Penn Patrick|
And with that I shall wrap things up for now. I had meant to reach some of the ASC's shenanigans of the 1980s with this post, but I keep uncovering additional material. Perhaps we shall reach that particular decade that looks more and more relevant with each passing day. Regardless, there will be even more curiosities. Stay tuned dear reader.