from the Ask Leonard Orr Teleseminar Series, conducted by Sara Dawn.

© Sara Dawn, 2012-2023 All Rights Reserved. No part of this content may be used without written permission from Sara Dawn.

Hi everybody, this is Sara Dawn. I’d like to welcome you to tonight’s teleseminar, a Special Interview with Leonard D. Orr. He is the founder and discoverer of the worldwide, modern day Breathwork Movement. He’s considered to be one of the originating pioneers of the New Age Movement and has devoted over 40 years of his life to spreading his ideas and the healing power of Rebirthing Breathwork around the globe, covering six continents and circling the globe dozens of times. He’s authored over 20 books in more than a dozen languages. And it’s just a great honor to have him here with us tonight for this special interview.

Early Childhood

So, Leonard, I just have to say that you have to me one of the most fascinating life stories that really reflects the energy of rebirthing and transformation. I find it amazing that you went from being a shy, quiet farm boy in a small community in Walton, New York to a self-made millionaire and internationally famous author and trainer and discoverer of this whole new healing technique and profession in the world.

Well my home town had a population of two or three thousand people. It’s settled in the Delaware River Valley and it’s surrounded by mountains. And the closest town is about nine miles away over a mountain.

So it really felt like an isolated community. It’s an ideal place for anybody to have a childhood. And so I have a lot of thoughts about that…

On the one hand it was perfect and actually when I saw the movie Brigadoon I felt like it was really a movie about my hometown.  Brigadoon is a movie which is about a small town that materializes, I think for a year, every hundred years. All the people materialize in this Valley in Scotland for a year. And so they’re all immortals and the drama goes on in this movie. But there’s a feeling of paradise. And I kind of had that feeling.

However, since I didn’t have a good relationship with my mother, I would go escaping into nature. In fact I started running away from home every day as soon as I could walk. That was a result of my traumatic relationship with my mother. And my older brothers and sisters had to find me when they got home from school. That was one of their chores, was to find their little brother.

And so since it was a small town, I never thought about leaving town, but I used to take off and run around town. So then having a relationship with nature was really helpful. And I only remember relating emotionally to two people in my entire childhood before college. 

One of them was my aunt, who is interesting because she was my father’s sister and she married my mother’s father. She was my aunt and my grandmother at the same time. And she had the ability to contact me emotionally. And she’s the only person I can remember before I was a teenager. 

And then I had a successful relationship with a guy who was in love with my sister. My sister was close to me who was four years older. So I gravitated towards sports. And of course, I always wanted a mother substitute so I was always chasing girls. And so sports and girls was pretty much my life before I graduated from high school. And I lettered in all sports and also actually created some new letters in skiing and soccer. I played football, basketball, baseball and track. And actually set records in baseball as a pitcher. 

So in that context, my best friend who was a year ahead of me from school, in high school, was a reformed Presbyterian and never talked to me about religion before he went away to college. But he got some training, some evangelical training from an intelligent guy during his first year of college. When he came back he told me how to become a Christian and I prayed and had a born-again experience. He used to get me up in the morning and take me out in the forest and we would pray and read the Bible. Then he took me to church camp, that was my senior year in high school. 

So he took me to church camp in the summer after high school before I moved to California, and I fell in love with the Bible. And so having a book or a piece of literature or a philosophy or a religion or something, I think, is really helpful to give people structure. Our mind needs structure, some kind of a system of thinking to relate to so that our mind has something to do.  Otherwise, it just collects garbage and creates problems. 

That’s interesting. So Leonard, I understand that you were 18 years old when you had this born-again Christian experience, when you became a born-again Christian. Can you tell us a little bit about the experience that you actually had in that moment? 

Well my buddy told me to kneel beside my bed before going to sleep and to ask God and Jesus Christ to come into my heart. And he told me that they would answer my prayer and that I would be able to have them as constant companions and that I would have eternal life. 

So I did that and I had a mountain top spiritual experience. I just got really high. And so I knew that I was connecting with God and Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit and that was the real thing. 

And so did you feel that that inspired you on into your college years and later into life?

Well it it awakened my intellect.  Before college or by the time I graduated high school I’d never read a book all the way through, including Peter Rabbit. I wasn’t able to make it all the way through Peter Rabbit. I was kind of a failure of American education. And it was interesting because the fact is that chemistry and physics courses excited me. I did well in those courses, but the easy courses I almost flunked out of. And in fact, in college, my first year of college, I did actually flunk Greek. And I flunked English composition in college. I went to Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania which was the reformed Presbyterian Church College.

I understand that there you went from being a complete academic failure into being really amazing, your teachers, and becoming a straight A student and scholar. 

Yes, I had a mental revolution my second year in college. I was totally dedicated to Christ. And I majored in Bible and philosophy and humanities. And so I wondered one day while I was sitting in the library reading my principles of economics books and I was seeing my buddies across the lawn playing tennis. I thought well I would rather be playing tennis than sitting here reading this economic book.

And so then I asked myself the question, why? If getting a college education is valuable for me, to make me a better servant of Christ, then why isn’t studying economics, if it should be a part of my education, as exciting to me as playing tennis? That question really grabbed me and I kept thinking about that question for eight hours a day for a year.

And so I was skipping classes and I wrote a composition on the origin of sin and concluded that in the context of the sovereignty of God, theology, which is the reform theology of John Kelvin, God is the sovereign and is the ultimate cause of everything. And so I said, therefore, God must be the ultimate cause of sin and that God created the devil. And so the devil is the intermediate cause of sin. And then people are the immediate cause of sin. 

And so I wrote an essay with that idea and my English composition teacher got a little upset about it and actually recommended, because I skipped classes and because I had such radical ideas, she recommended that I be brought before the discipline committee of the college and maybe be expelled. And so what happened during that year when I was spending all that time thinking about life is that I examined everything that I’d ever learned and questioned everything that I believed to be true until I discovered what you might call more absolute truths. I really didn’t get the absolute truth until several years later when I had a spiritual teacher that led me into spiritual enlightenment. 

But as a result of questioning everything, I came to conclusion that in order to be a successful human being which you have to be before you could be a successful Christian or minister of Christ then I had to function successfully in five categories of life, which was the spiritual category the physical category, the mental emotional intellectual category and the social category. 

And so once I had that framework of those five categories of life, I thought that a valuable education would give practical knowledge in all of those categories. And so I didn’t realize it until I did become spiritually enlightened a few years later. But what I was really doing was unconsciously connecting to my personal connection to Infinite Intelligence and as a result of forming those categories I had a framework which could contain all human knowledge and with which I could evaluate all human knowledge…

Joelle Teutsch

So then I understand that the following year is when you studied with, and tell me if I’m saying her name right, Joelle Teutsch?

That actually was 1960. I was involved in what was called the Charles Simmons Institute, and that was a self-improvement institute which was similar to Dale Carnegie. And Joelle’s husband, Champion, gave a series of six lectures, which was a special event for the students of all the Simmons Institute classes. During the last lecture Joelle got up towards the end and took over and just wowed everybody in the audience. So I invited her to my college, the LA Pacific College, she came in there and spoke and I invited her to the Baptist Church and she came there and spoke. Then she had some classes going and I joined the classes. I had over a year of classes which were just totally mind blowing. Then about three years later she had a church in Beverly Theater in Beverly Hills for at least a year and I attended that faithfully.

I understand that Joelle had a really unique life story and presence about her. Could you tell us a little bit about her as a person and a teacher and what you learned from her?

Yeah, well, Joelle was actually born deaf, blind, and paralyzed. She was a human vegetable for the first twenty-some years of her life. And her brother became a Protestant minister and believed that God had some purpose for her body and had her body donated to Mayo Clinic. And while she was there, she was used as a live cadaver. Medical students did operations on her body, in some cases without anesthesia because they didn’t believe she felt anything. 

And so while she was there maybe for a couple of years, a being one afternoon came into her room. She could see that being. And that being totally healed her so that she could walk and talk and see and hear. And so the healing process maybe took a couple of hours as she described it. The nurses came in and when they saw her walking and talking, they fainted. 

And since Joelle had never had prior experience, she thought that was normal behavior, for people to faint. So when one of them regained consciousness, the nurse went to get the doctors and I guess two or three doctors came in and at least one of them fainted.

It’s interesting, that’s an interesting phenomenon because fainting evidently is caused when people have an experience that conflicts with so much of their prior knowledge or conditioning that they can’t accept it and so they just pass out. 

And so at any rate they examined her and couldn’t explain why she could see when she didn’t have an optic nerve. And after a few weeks they released her. 

So it’s amazing to think about that because she had no ability to function in the world whatsoever. She was like a newborn baby and I think she was in her early 20s at that point. And so she was out on the street with the mentality of a newborn baby. 

And so everything, all sensual experiences were just totally fascinating to her. And so the being that healed her, which she never really identified, but I identified the being as Jesus, although I’m not sure if it was completely.  Because he used to sometimes occupy her body during the classes and it was really interesting to watch the transformation that occurred when he took over her body. When she got out of the hospital this being befriended her and just became her friend, her constant friend, and took her including actually to the Vatican to meet the Pope.

She went on planes and trains and buses and she didn’t know if they had tickets because she didn’t have any conditioning or experience to even ask the question as they took their trip around the world, but she learned a lot. 

Her husband, Champion, had a giant inferiority complex and had a list of degrees as long as his arm; engineering degree, MD degree, PhD degree and it seemed like he could never get enough degrees to feel good about himself. He heard about Joelle because he was actually an intern at the same hospital where she was, and heard about her but he never met her, until he tried to pick her up on the street and seduce her at a certain time after she had left the hospital, a few years probably after she had left the hospital. 

And so Joelle told him that you won’t seduce me but you’ll marry me. Completely blew his mind. And I don’t remember exactly how many months or years it took him but eventually, they did get married and had a very successful career. 

And so, Champion was like her worldly knowledge and she had the spiritual power. So they were an interesting couple. I can tell you lots of stories about their relationship but maybe you have other questions.

I understand that Joelle had the idea of the personal law and that also Phineas Quimby, who was a famous healer in the 1800s who is connected to Mary Baker Eddy and Christian science, he also had the idea of personal law. 

Champion and Joelle were specialists about that. They wrote some beautiful books. The most famous one is called From Here to Greater Happiness, and it talks about personal law, and how to resolve complicated and difficult life situations by changing people’s beliefs. 

So how important was it for you in your healing process to uncover your personal law and heal it? 

Well, it was more than just personal law. It was the whole context of Joelle’s magical being, having that time with her and taking the principles that she was teaching and applying them in my daily life. And Joelle could do amazing things. For example, she could eat gobs of food and lose weight, and she could fast and gain weight. And so she used to do demonstrations like that for scientific groups of scientists, medical scientists and doctors in order to demonstrate the power of belief and the power of the mind, the supremacy of the mind to control the material reality. 

And so all of that context, the basic idea that thought is creative and that we are the thinker was the foundation of my… what you can call real truth about life. And so I began implying that and integrating it. And of course I’m still doing that. On one level, we have to do it forever to keep track of what’s going on in our mind and to keep getting out of the traps that we create for ourselves and to build more beautiful reality….

Consultant to Werner Erhard

So after doing your training and education with Joelle Teutsch, you graduated college and you worked in various sales rep jobs and became a very successful business entrepreneur, business consultant. And you moved on and you were a personal consultant to Werner Erhard who developed the EST training, which has now evolved today into the Landmark training. And you were also his staff training consultant. 

Can you share some of what your experiences were there? What was your impression of Werner and what did you enjoy most about working with him and his staff as their consultants? 

Well, the way that developed, I’ll tell you the whole story, how it started. I had become a successful business consultant and was doing that for five years. It started after 1967, after I healed the death urge which I learned from my family tradition. And so I had to heal my death urge or die in 1967. And I successfully healed the death urge, which is actually a pretty major spiritual landmark for people to go through to actually heal the death urge which they learned from their family tradition. 

And so as a result of doing that, I had boundless energy and creativity, which is still working for me. So that enabled all the metaphysics that I had learned up to that point to actually work because death is such a big negation. It becomes the dominant limiting factor of most people. And so my career took off as a business and personal consultant.

I reached a conclusion earlier that Retiring when you get old is a waste of time because then people just sit around and die. What’s the point of accumulating money so you can retire and die? So then I thought it would be much better to retire when I’m young and then work when I get old. And so that was my philosophy. And so I would have a group of clients and work for 10 or12 weeks and then I would take a month or two months off. And that has a tendency to stimulate creativity as well as energy.

At a certain point, I realized that I produced results 100% of the time with all my clients,. That is, I taught all my clients how to double their income. By that time I had an understanding of birth trauma, death urge, the parental disapproval syndrome, and how the mind works. And so I thought that since I validated it so many times that it would be a good idea to make it available to more people. 

And so I was thinking about it. I didn’t really want to go into the self-improvement business alone. I wanted to work with other people who could also handle positions of leadership and kind of not be trapped in it but have a group of people, so that the whole situation could be more flexible. 

Werner Erhard came to LA where I was living and did a guest seminar, and I was so impressed by him that I wrote him a letter. I told him that I wanted to be in the self-improvement business, and I was wondering if we could work together to serve people in that way and enlighten people. 

And he said he did and that he would have somebody call me and make an appointment. So a year went by, I happened to be in San Francisco, and I called the EST office and asked who was supposed to call and make the appointment. And I got ahold of Werner’s personal communicator and he invited me for a coffee and we went and had a talk.

He was very impressed with the things that I was relating to him and thought it was extremely valuable. And so he said that it would be good, however, for me to go through the training before meeting with Werner, and he got me a full scholarship to go through the training. 

Before I’d actually had that appointment with Werner’s communicator, Stuart Emery who was the chief trainer in addition to Werner, came to LA and gave an EST seminar. And I wasn’t really impressed with the quality of aliveness that the organization was producing. The reason I was impressed with Werner is because he felt that he had a system that really makes people alive.

So I went through the training. Stuart happened to be the trainer of that training that I went through. And I didn’t hear this until later, but the way I participated in the first week of the training, (there were two consecutive weekends), Stuart and I got in a confrontation. And Stuart got stumped in the confrontation.

 Specifically, I’ll tell you what that was about because it’s pretty meaningful. Before, as a result of my spontaneous re-birthing experiences in the bathtub and as a result of healing my death urge, I had an experience of remembering my birth and remembering my intuitive ability to walk and having that memory suppressed by the mass mind, which was embodied in my parents  that prevented me from walking. 

However, as a result of having that memory, I had a brand new intuitive connection to my body that I never had. And then subsequently it was probably divine guidance. I spent some time with some friends of mine at Berkeley, California. At the university, they saw a documentary film of an African tribe that teaches their infants to walk within eight hours after they’re born. And so evidently the African tribe realized that humans could walk just like animals walk the same day they’re born. And they facilitated that and produced that effect.

So that tied in completely with my experience. And so one of the exercises in the training that Stuart was facilitating, he would get people up on stage and then he would challenge them to walk consciously and most people couldn’t do it. And so I was the one that was selected for that process. 

He would ask me how to walk and my answer was by entering into the intuitive ability to walk. He’d never confronted that answer before. He didn’t know what to do. He went back after the first weekend and he said, who the hell is Leonard Orr? Of course nobody knew, but that was my introduction.

So after I finished this training, I went back to Werner’s communicator and he set me up with people in the organization who examined me and then I got an appointment with Werner. So during my appointment with Werner, I asked him some questions and we had some dialogue.

His conclusion was that I could read people faster and more accurately than anybody that he’d ever met. And basically what I did was read him and his life experience and how it fit into his successes and failures. And so as a result of that one interview, he decided to hire me as the consultant trainer to the trainers and division managers. 

 I had an appointment with each of the trainers and division managers in the organization. And they all got such benefit out of those consultations that they all wanted me to become a member of the staff. So I had three months to do the initial interviews with all the staff members. I had just given Werner a monthly fee for a quantity discount on my hourly rate. And so I worked on a monthly consultant fee, which actually was a thousand bucks for 50 hours of my time per month. 

The staff members work at poverty level of wages at that time. And many of them still do. And so they wanted me to go on staff and give 100 hours a week instead of a hundred hours a month or 50 hours a month, whatever I was giving. 

And, and I said, well, um, I believe in prosperity and I think that you should raise my wages consistent with my self esteem. And so Stuart said, okay, we will raise your wages $1 per week. And so you’ll, you’ll get  $1,004.00

I laughed, and decided that I would accept that offer, because I realized that that was the extent of their imagination since most of them were making $100 or $200 a week.  And I was making more money than anybody, including the trainers, so I probably should play the game. And so I was working in the organization for three months, a hundred hours a week doing whatever I wanted to do. And the statistics of the EST training more than doubled, they almost tripled during those three months. So I demonstrated that the idea of personal law and removing certain consciousness blocks from individuals in the organization causes the organization to prosper amazingly….

To access the complete interview go here.