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


It Just Works, And I Can't Say How

Special Evening About The Landmark Forum [Online], Landmark Worldwide

May 10, 2023

This essay, It Just Works, And I Can't Say How, is the thirty first in an open group inspired by Landmark Programs: I am indebted to Kathy Bosco who inspired this conversation, and to Mehul Mehta who contributed material.

Even though our ubiquitously woolly thinking equates the two, enlightenment and transformation* are actually distinct. In this conversation I'll ante that we conceptualize transformation as enlightenment. Then to get what we've conceptually considered enlightenment to be, we'll give up almost anything except:

1) our entrenched, unshakeable conviction that we're not already enlightened, and
2) our propensity to settle for explaining the work of transformation rather than experiencing it directly.

Throughout history, monks, nuns, sanyasins  etc have committed to living in monasteries and convents for years and years  to get it, the Big "IT". In certain noble circles, three lifetimes  is considered to be a fast path to enlightenment. So with that already present in the culture of our listening, how can I explain that Werner's work, the work of transformation, requires just three days and one or two evenings to work, to get its job done, to enlighten, to transform?

A trouble alarm goes off for me when I say (or even attempt to say) how the work of transformation works. Any explanation I come up with isn't the work of transformation. The work of transformation doesn't explain transformation in a way that makes it a getable experience. Explanation and experience exist in different domains. And we're thrown to blur the line between the two. To be clear, our mental faculty which explains phenomena, is thrown to overshadow our direct experience  of said phenomena. That's not wrong. It's OK. That's its design. It's its job. It's our defense mechanism. And it's the job of the work of transformation to un-blur the two (if you will). The explanation of transformation is one thing. The direct experience of it is truly something else entirely.

It's not necessary to explain the taste of chocolate in order to experience the taste of chocolate. To experience the taste of chocolate, I remove the wrapper, take a bite, and voila!  And even though I don't have a clue how taste works, my palate registers "Mmm ... chocolatey!". Like that, in order to experience transformation / the work of transformation, I engage in the conversation that is the work of transformation, and voila! Then if I'm still skeptical while I'm engaging in the conversation (or having  engaged in the conversation) that is the work of transformation, I'll see if I'm willing to be courageous and suspend disbelief temporarily. I'll try on engaging with it without the wrapper. I can always resume disbelief later / I can always put the wrapper back on again later.

In 1666 Sir Isaac Newton observed an apple fall in his garden, thereby prompting him to develop the law of universal gravitation. Whether I can explain the law or not, neither enhances nor diminishes the force of gravity. But I don't have to. I can experience it directly. It just works, and I can't say how. In 1752 Benjamin Franklin flew a kite which lightning struck in a thunderstorm, thereby observing the electrical nature of lightning. Whether I can explain its nature or not, neither enhances nor diminishes the power of electricity. But I don't have to. I can experience it directly. It just works, and I can't say how. In 1971 Werner Erhard was transformed on the Golden Gate Bridge, inspiring him to distinguish the work of transformation. Whether I can explain how the work of transformation works or not, neither enhances nor diminishes its efficacy. But I don't have to. I can experience it directly. It just works, and I can't say how.

* Footnote: is transformation enlightenment?:

In the account titled "Once Upon A Freeway" in chapter nine called "True Identity" in Part III, "Transformation", of Professor William Warren "Bill" Bartley III's official biography of Werner titled "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man - The Founding of est", Bill asks Werner if what happened to him on the Golden Gate Bridge was enlightenment.
Werner says he sometimes calls it enlightenment yet he has two reservations with describing it as such. Firstly enlightenment connotes a kind of eastern mysticism, a context he doesn't require. Secondly his experience on the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't so much an enlightenment experience as it was a shift of the context in which he holds all content and all processes including experience and including enlightenment. Hence he refers to what happened on the Golden Gate Bridge as transformation  and prefers not to use the word enlightenment at all.

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