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

Integral Element

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

October 10, 2011

It was put in place forty years ago. Really. Its first graduation was exactly forty years ago today  in October 1971. It was as astonishingly effective then as it is today. Time hasn't dented, nicked, or diminished its Zen-like minimalistic simplicity and efficiency. It's worked flawlessly since its inception. While it's content  has been steadily refined, it's basic format hasn't been changed at all. There's been no need to change anything. That's not because we're blindly following the adage "If it ain't broke, don't fix it.". It's because over the years, its original design has stood the test of time. It's a classic. It came forth in a surge of brilliance, and nothing that's worked better has come along since. Even if we wanted  to improve it, there'd be nothing better to change it into.

Photograph courtesy Ratchaneewan "Jum" Srithumawut
Jerome Downes leading the Landmark Forum
What I'm talking about is the method, the way  Werner's work is delivered.

Firstly there's the physical environment, the logistical space  in which it's delivered. Chairs are arranged in neat sections in a big room, a hotel ballroom, for example, facing a slightly raised podium from where the leader of the course can interact with the course participants. Microphones are placed throughout the room and / or on either side of the podium with which course participants can interact with the course leader and be clearly heard by the other course participants. The leader sits on a tall director's chair to be fully visible, with chalk boards to her or his left and right to illustrate critical ideas.

Secondly there are the processes  ie the guided inquiring conversations which deliver the material ie the content of Werner's courses. Werner's courses are in effect a sequence of these processes which deploy the Socratic method, engaging and fascinating their participants. It's no surprise when Werner's erstwhile flagship program, the est  Training, had a breakthrough in possibility which was years  in the making, he took the name The Forum for it. The processes of The Forum and subsequently of the Landmark Forum, set up their participants for key insights which build one upon the other until a breakthrough occurs for them in their concepts, understanding, and beliefs of who they really are, resulting in the experience of tangible, palpable, leverage‑able, real, thrilling (and until that moment elusive)  transformation. Over and beyond all other descriptors, Werner's courses are grand theatre  in it's purest form.
Werner's work works - time after time after time. It's been proven it doesn't matter which country it's delivered in. It's fait accompli  it doesn't matter which language it's delivered in. It doesn't matter to what age, sex, or religion it's delivered. The almost unanimous reports from the millions and millions of people who've participated in and completed Werner's work say it's the most powerful transformational experience of their lives, and second perhaps only to their experience of their families in closeness to their hearts.

What Exactly Is Its Main Ingredient?

I've been wondering: what exactly is its main ingredient? What exactly is it's key component? If Werner's entire presentation was changed (I'm saying neither that it will be changed nor that it should  be changed - this is just a hypothetical, a "What if ...?"), if it wasn't delivered to a room full of people, for example, if it was delivered by TV  to the privacy of your home, if it was delivered via the internet  as a webinar, for example, if you changed everything we've come to know about the format, the vehicle  for delivering Werner's work, is there an essential piece, an integral element  which could not  be changed without rendering the whole thing unworkable like a falling house of cards?

For example, does there have  to be a course leader? Couldn't the participants, for example, work in groups, each with their own leader? What about the verbal delivery, the guided inquiring conversations, the processes which are the bedrock  of Werner's courses? Are they dispensable? Could course participants, for example, be assigned reading material  in lieu of verbal, face to face stand up conversations? Would that work? For that matter, could Werner's work be written down in a book, the reading of which would guarantee transformation? In other words, can transformation be reliably delivered if any, some, or all of the current components of its delivery method are changed, left out, or superseded?

The answer it would seem  points to yes. The duration, for example, has already changed. It's takes one whole weekend less now. The societal listening  for sure has changed. People are much more receptive  now to the idea of transformation which, in turn allows the processes to be less confronting and still achieve the same results in a shorter timeframe. It could also be said (for the same reason) Werner's earlier courses culminated  in delivering transformation, whereas his latter day courses start  with delivering transformation, then look from there at what's possible for the future living life transformed.

Furthermore, the heart of Werner's work with business and academia has been carefully transcribed and is available in written form - in other words, its domain  is no longer solely face to face stand up conversations between the course leader and the course participants. It would seem, therefore, that the delivery method for transformation is  changeable, malleable, and subject only to the limits of creative flexibility, experimentation, and improvisation.

Indeed, that's the way it seems, doesn't it?

Not So Fast: There Is  One Thing ...

In considering what could be changed in the way Werner's work is delivered, I kept bumping into something at first je ne sais quoi, something always there yet always out of reach  which I came to realize can't be changed or left out if the purpose of the mission is to deliver transformation. As I looked closer at it, it started to come into focus. When it finally came into view, I realized of all the components which go into making Werner's work such an unerring success in delivering transformation, this is the one component without which transformation can't be delivered, no matter whether any, some, or all of the current components of its delivery method are changed, left out, or superseded. This is the essential component. This is the integral element.

The integral element is the unwavering, unshakeable, unswerving, undoubting experience that you are the source of your life. You are the source of the quality (or absence of it) in your life. You are the source of your beliefs and your concepts, in fact of your entire epistemology. You made it all up, and then you forgot (or denied) you made it all up ... and that's when things stopped working.

If the purpose of the mission is to deliver transformation, that's the integral element which can't be left out. Conversely, if it's left out, the mission can't deliver transformation. It may deliver something interesting. It may deliver something comforting. It may deliver something hopeful. It may deliver something warm and fuzzy  and "feel good". It may even deliver something spiritual. But without delivering "You're the source of your life" like an experience, like a natural knowing  with the leverage‑able power to make a difference in your own life and in the lives of others, then there's no possibility of delivering authentic transformation.

You're the source of your life. You made it all up. And you can make it all up again anew, any way you like, any time you want to. That's the integral element. You can deliver the material in a variety of settings through various media. You can change the logistical space. You can move the chairs around. You can change the processes and their content. You can present the guided inquiring conversations through the spoken word or through the written word, in a hotel ballroom or via satellite or through a webinar. But if you don't deliver this, the integral element, then you don't deliver transformation. And if there's anything more powerful, more reliable, more elegant, more far reaching, more all embracing, more of a full tilt blast  than Werner's work delivering transformation, I haven't seen it.

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© Laurence Platt - 2011 through 2016 Permission