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Celebrating Your Relationships

by John Poppy

From The Graduate Review, September 1978


A young man holding up a sign danced his early-morning greeting so joyously that waving arms and beaming faces popped out of car windows to say hello. In bold letters his sign read CELEBRATE, telling what 25,100 people in three cities came to do in Werner Erhard’s “Celebrating Your Relationships” course during June and July. Some traveled from distant states and other countries to join 7,300 friends in Los Angeles, 9,000 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and another 8,800 in New York to refresh—and in some instances discover—their relationship with Werner and each other.

Each city produced its own version of a further greeting. The auditorium would be filling up, 20 or 30 minutes before the start of the course, when some of the participants began cheering and applauding. The first time, I wondered for an instant what was going on; then the cheering spread, people all around got to their feet, and everyone could see what was happening. We were acknowledging each other.

Months before, Werner had said the intent of this fourth course in his series on Making Relationships Work was to break through from relationships that merely work “to create with you a transformed context in which your relationships become brilliant and magical opportunities to express your magnificence.”

And today, as he stepped onto the stage, Werner’s opening words were simply, “You handled it all before I got here …. You’re doing a great job, and I always want to have an opportunity to come to your events.” Yet the way he spoke made me feel, before we were five minutes into the course, that Werner and the graduates were about to confirm the creation in est—the organization, the people who have taken the training, everyone—of a transformed state of being. He spoke with a humorous intimacy and a gentleness I had often seen in him personally and had never before associated with an est event. There was about the entire course that gentleness, a sense of inclusion, and above all a lightness coupled with passion. Taken together, they are the basis of the ground of being from which est now celebrates its relationships with the people it serves. The following article contains portions of the course itself, as well as the personal experiences of some poeple who have participated in the course.

During his day-long conversation with graduates, Werner said:

“In Making Relationships Work I, II, and III, people had to really work. The processes, for instance, were quite long and required a lot of concentration and intention.

“There is not much work to be done here,” Werner said. “This is about celebrating the miraculous, the magical, the unreasonable, things about which you can’t do anything anyway.

“This is not about doing. It is about being. This is not about the world in which explanation occurs. It is about the world in which creation occurs.

“This course is not, strictly speaking, what we’ve come to call in est an ‘experience.’ What we’re up to here is contextual rather than experiential. It is about that from which experience comes. It is about lighting the fire, not about warming yourself at it.”


…… “Ordinarily I would prefer to keep myself as a persona out of this, to deliver the material and stay out of the way. For this course, I want to shift that. I want to make something available to you out of my experience. So I want this course to be about you and me as much as we can make it that way…. You and I are going to be lovers.

“Being lovers has nothing to do with one’s masculinity or femininity. It’s much more fundamental than that. What we’re talking about is not the lover as man or woman, it’s the lover that is the basis of man and woman.”

For this course, Werner said, “leave behind whatever ideas about your relationship you brought with you. You might have some relationships that are not working, or you might have some you consider perfect; you might want to fix some up and keep others as they are. Let all of that go. Open yourself to the unknown.
“When you allow yourself to let go completely, as if you’re falling back freely into what I call a great blue void—it could be something else for you—and you surrender into the experience, you might wonder where you’re going to land. It’s frightening to let go, to fall out of this reality and fall back into the mysterious.
“I want to tell you that when you stop holding on, when you allow yourself to be in the experience now, when you stop checking it all out, when you surrender and fall back, where you always land is right here. But suddenly, when you’ve arrived here by letting go into your experience, ‘here’ is a
brand-new, sparkling, and brilliant place….

“This is about the realization of ecstasy, of joy, of pleasure—but not pleasure in the way we ordinarily hold it, in which we find we’re a little reluctant and a little bit guilty about the expression of pleasure. We’re talking not about pleasure as a measure of gratification but pleasure as an expression of love, pleasure as ecstasy. An incomparable pleasure.

“Ecstasy isn’t what we often think it is, either. The ecstasy I’m talking about is a loss of persona, a loss of personality, in which you realize some¬thing more profound, more magnificent, than that which you’ve been calling your self.

“One falls back into and realizes one’s true self. That ecstatic experience is the loss of one’s self as a position.”


“What we’re looking for here is not something to achieve, not something to add to ourselves, but a space to come from, that absolute and fundamental space of ourselves as ecstasy, as absolutely magnificent. Ecstasy is not merely a way of looking at things, but the entire space in which things occur. At that level, one experiences one’s own and other people’s magnificence, and a relationship becomes a celebration of that magnificence.

“Many of the problems that people have in their relationships simply pale into insignificance in the space of this pleasure as an expression of love. People often feel compelled to work hard on each and every one of the difficulties in their relationships: the doubts, the pettiness, the misunderstandings, upsets and perpetrations. The space we’re talking about doesn’t force those things out. It includes them, and its light becomes so brilliant that those other lights pale by comparison.”

Many people had arrived at the course, Werner said, already in touch with what he was talking about, “that space beyond words.” They would leave the course with a certainty that would be with them always, and “It is nothing that I’m going to do. I’ve really gotten to know you and I’m absolutely, totally blown away by who you are. I am so deeply and completely in love with you that it has put me into a space of ecstasy, and all I want to do is to share that with you.”


He went about describing ecstasy in a number of ways. “We’ve all had, or heard about, at least one relationship of the kind that completely sweeps us away from our usual fingers-and-toes-dug-into life position of hanging on. We have very poor words to describe such a relationship. I’m not going to explain what we’re getting at as we examine such relationships. That isn’t the way to get at it. I have brought along some friends, though, who can assist us.”

With that Werner began reading from the works, primarily poetic, of E.E. Cummings and St. John of the Cross. He read, not to explain or to add content to the day, but simply as a way of making love. For example, he read this from Cummings early in the day and at the end as part of his summation:

i carry your heart with me (i carry it in
my heart) i am never without it (anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear
no fate (for you are my fate,my sweet) i want
no world (for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you


In the presence of relationships that simply swept him away, Werner remarked, “I remember myself saying things like, ‘Marvelous, fantastic… but, an accident.’ We think that such things happen only by chance.
“They are not accidents. We have the power to create the space of relationship, to achieve mastery of our relationships. I’m not talking about being in ecstasy, or working little by little toward ecstasy. I’m talking about being willing to come from ecstasy, even when you are being serious, or having a problem, or not even thinking about ecstacy.”

“What do you do to create this context of ecstasy? Nothing. Just as you don’t do anything to be. You create it simply by considering it created.” Werner emphasized that you cannot create such a context in opposition to something else—say, a condition of misery or non-relatedness. That is creation at the level of dichotomy, where a “yes” always creates a balancing “no.”

“At the level of context,” Werner said, “one creates by consideration alone. The way to create a context is to wave your magic wand. The name of the wand is consideration. You consider ecstasy to be the space within which all the circumstances and conditions of your relationships occur. You see no evidence of that—or you see everything as evidence of it. The only thing that makes a difference is your consideration of it.”


Inevitably, the sharing in each city raised a question: Is that context all there is, or is there yet another context for the context?

Werner replied, in part: “What allows for ecstasy—that is, what creates a context for the context—is to commit your relationship to something larger than itself: to the quality of relationship in the world. Ecstasy comes from devoting your life to a purpose larger than all the little things in it. George Bernard Shaw said it well:

This is the true joy in life, the
being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the
being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod
of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote
itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community, and as long as I live it is my
privilege to do for it whatever I
can …. I rejoice in life for its
own sake. Life is no mere “brief candle” to me. It is a sort of
bright torch which I have got hold
of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.

That is what makes life work for people, ultimately.

“A truly complete relationship makes a contribution all over. It isn’t a place to retreat to, or a place to come home to from the world and hide in. By its existence, it contributes to the entire world.”

As one example, Werner offered Don Cox, the president and chairman of the board of est, an educational corporation, representing the entire est organization: “He put himself on the line to make this event possible for all of us. Often, people in Don’s position can hide behind their organization, but Don didn’t do that. He worked right alongside the people who were doing what needed doing to make this course possible, and in doing that he committed himself totally to something bigger than the circumstances of his life.”

At the same time and this is no contradiction—the context of ecstasy demands that you go completely into each individual relationship, holding nothing back.

“Many people keep a hold card in reserve, just in case something goes wrong, just in case the person we’re with isn’t ‘the one.’ You say, ‘I’m not going to be ecstatic as long as she (you fill in the blank). If she won’t stop (you fill in the blank), I’m not going to give her the satisfaction of seeing me ecstatic.’

“One of the problems with all of this is that you have to be willing for her, or him, to make it. ‘But,’ you ask, ‘if I do that, and she’s made it, what do I have left to hold over her? What do I have to protect myself with?’
“Don’t you see? The circumstances don’t determine the space, they are contained by the space. When the space is ecstasy and you’ve got everything you could possibly need to be satisfied, you don’t need protection….

“There are certainly things you have to let go of. For instance, in manifesting and sharing your pleasure as an expression of love for other people, you might have to give up sympathy—the sympathy you’ve collected for putting up with them.”


Well, true as that was, said more than one participant who shared during the course, I’m afraid to let myself go completely. What if I’m just fooling myself into a feeling of ecstasy instead of really creating it? Or what if people take advantage of me and I lose everything I have?

“Yes,” Werner said, “the issue of being conned is basic. The fact is, you can’t function at the level of ecstasy if you bedevil yourself with those doubts. Remember, you create by consideration. You’re going to get ripped off once in a while no matter what you do. Either you’re ripped off in a context of ecstasy, in which case you can consider it evidence of ecstasy, or you’re preventing the creation of that context by holding your doubts and you’re not going to be satisfied even when you aren’t being ripped off.”


In the context of ecstasy, everything is possible. As one vivid example, Werner read a Cummings poem that talks about the way one of the most unpleasant of emotions, jealousy, expresses itself in that context:

it may not always be so; and i say
that if your lips, which i have loved, should touch another’s, and your dear strong fingers clutch his heart, as mine in time not far away;
if on another’s face your sweet hair lay
in such a silence as i know, or such
great writhing words as, uttering overmuch, stand helplessly before the spirit at bay;
if this should be, i say if this should be–you of my heart, send me a little word;
that i may go unto him, and take his hands, saying, Accept all happiness from me.
Then shall I turn my face, and hear one bird sing terribly afar in the lost lands.

“Werner, I have the space now to love everyone the way I love you,” said one graduate. “The woman with whom I’ve had a relationship has decided to leave me, and being alone was a little frightening for me at first, but I’m discovering that I can be alone and complete. I want to thank her for the space she’s given me. I know she’s here today and I want her to know that I love her and always will.”

Werner replied, “That’s a valuable reminder to everyone here. If you don’t love her now, you never did. Love isn’t bounded by time or space.”


The course returned repeatedly to the theme of people’s innate magnificence. “You can withhold your magnificence”, Werner said. “Of course. That’s why you are magnificent. If all you could do was express magnificence, you’d just be a magnificence machine. Having the choice is what makes you so brilliantly alive.

“A true evil is to withhold your magnificence, to live as if you were small, to live as if you didn’t get it. The truth is, you aren’t small. You don’t have to wait until you’ve cleaned up all the petty problems in your life to start expressing your magnificence; you simply include them in the context of ecstasy that you create.

“One great disservice we’ve done ourselves is that we’ve held up our heroes as people with no flaws, instead of as people so big that their magnificence included all the flaws. I have a sense that the people who make a difference in this world are the full-blooded, wholehearted people, not the stony, thinned-out, cautious ones who are afraid to make a mistake. To do great things you will make some mistakes. Then you can measure your size,” he said, laughing, “by the size of the mistake you can be bigger than.”

…… We are talking about taking responsibility for your own worth. About admitting that you are magnificent and noble. About communicating to people’s true selves, not to where they’ve positioned themselves. About communicating to their magnificence.”


“You know, people will give up anything—their jobs, their money, their families, their health—to get it. Anything except the one and only thing you have to give up in order to get it: the conviction that you haven’t got it.

“We are all here because you are willing to give up that you didn’t get it.

“I know that. I don’t like to make things up. I like to look at the way things are going, and then draw attention to it. Are you willing to stick your neck out and take responsibility for creating a context of ecstasy for your relationships? I know you, and I know you are.

copyright 1978 Erhard Seminars Training (est)