Conversations For Transformation: Essays Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

Conversations For Transformation

Essays By Laurence Platt

Inspired By The Ideas Of Werner Erhard

And More

Father Of Transformation

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

July 29, and August 9, 2020

This essay, Father Of Transformation, is the twenty fifth in an open group on People: I am indebted to Father Patrick Gerard "Gerry" O'Rourke who inspired this conversation, and to Anita Lynn Erhard and to Charles "Raz" Ingrasci and to Ann Overton and to Catholic San Francisco who contributed material.

Werner has often remarked that if religion had gotten its job done, the work of transformation would be redundant. In this regard, the work of transformation has powerful advantages over religion as an instrument of inquiry. One is that in the bigger scheme of things, it's still relatively new. Not enough time has elapsed for its constructs and ideas to become gelled into hardened, blindly-accepted-without-scrutiny  beliefs (beliefs being but close approximations to the truths they represent). Another is it's woke  enough to detect and examine any such fixed beliefs if and when they do appear (as, given the nature of beliefs, they inevitably will) and to bring back the germaine ideas and experiences which tease out authentic transformation, fast. The world's great religions, on the other hand, are centuries-old conversations whose cherished yet sometimes static beliefs are taken on face value without scrutiny (which is a matter of adoring, pious respect, not willful negligence or oversight).

The obvious should be stated: God isn't a central pillar of the work of transformation, as she is of religion. Please be quite clear there's nothing wrong with that. God isn't a central pillar of physics either. Yet both physics and the work of transformation, are incisive, razor-sharp inquiries into the nature of reality, and pragmatic ways to be  with, live with, and work with reality. In this way, both physics and the work of transformation provide platforms to stand on to honor "God as Creator", without that being their prime directive, intention, or mission. In this way, both make massive contributions to our religious experience, simply out of what they give access to.

I see two possible ways to approach God for myself (there are waaay  more than two obviously, but for the purposes of this conversation, let's consider two). The first is I can ask God to save me and my life (and by "save" me, I mean to make me whole and complete) as her gift to me ... or  ... I can bring myself, already  whole and complete, to God as my gift to her (by which I mean by having what Werner calls "a space of possibility, like an openness, like a place for God to show up in my life"). The former is the way of religion; the latter is the way of transformation. It's quite rare to encounter a man of the cloth, which is what the priest I called "Father" (of transformation) was, who appreciated and embraced both, and in so doing, honored and respected both, thereby enhancing them and making them real for people.

As a widely known and much respected, admired (indeed beloved) Catholic priest in the traditional sense, it may have been eyebrow-raising for some who saw him in close proximity to Werner Erhard and, more than that, as a frequent and committed participant in his programs, in which he made a contribution both by his speaking and his listening, as well as by what he, replete in his priestly collar, represented just by being there. But it wasn't merely a token contribution he made: it was a huge, enormous, vast  contribution he made. He personified what bringing being transformed to the face of God, looked like. And he totally got the possibility Werner's work makes available for people, all people, lay people, people of the cloth ie especially  people of the cloth, indeed people of all faiths, and atheists and agnostics alike.

And because that's who he was, he almost single-handedly legitimized  the work of transformation for those who struggled with reconciling their own religious beliefs with the unavoidably powerful experience which the possibility of being transformed, makes available. Although the work of transformation doesn't require it, his life epitomized and provided a bridge between the rich body of distinctions which is the work of transformation, and the powerful expression of worship of and adoration of God, which is the essence of religion, and the church's raison d'etre. His cross-over was astounding, the connection astonishingly on-target, and (for some) the mixture (given the plethora of religious belief-systems which devolve into creating self-preserving limitations in spite of their own best intentions), disconcerting. It fully legitimized the work of transformation in an arena already beset by dogma, opening the door to the possibility of it transforming religion and the entire church as well.

I had the good fortune of meeting him on a number of occasions, all of which occurred when both of us were participating in Werner's programs. During a break in the proceedings, he would be sitting in a chair, sometimes standing but mostly sitting, with a long line of people waiting patiently to meet him and greet him and speak with him. I remember the first time I went up to greet him, something I had long wanted to do. When each person was about to leave and make way for the next, he shook their hand and, in some cases, reached out and hugged them, seated. When I reached the front of the line, he looked up and saw me, then suddenly stood up, hugged me (this without us ever having met before or being formally introduced), then took both my hands in his, his nose inches from mine, his eyes twinkling with divine fire, and stayed standing there with me like that, holding my hands, speaking, listening. I remember thinking the skin of his hands was much softer than mine.

At first I was mildly embarrassed to be with him like that, just standing there, two adult men holding hands ... but then, given it was happening anyway, I surrendered to the experience of being there with him like that in full view of hundreds of people. When our conversation completed and it was my time to leave, we embraced, and then he sat down again, continuing with the next person in line, seated. To tell you the truth, I don't remember all the words we exchanged in that extraordinary encounter. Whatever transpired between us, didn't transpire in the domain of memory - that much is certain. What I do recall is the softness of the skin of his hands, and my experience of what it was like standing there with him, two adult men holding hands, noses inches apart, in full view of hundreds of people. It's an experience of him I cherish, one which says it all about him for me. If you get it, it'll speak to you too. He uncannily represented the very best of our humanity and our divinity.

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