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


Moment Of Truth

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

October 2, 2009



"The truth believed is a lie."  ... 
This essay, Moment Of Truth, is the prequel to Transformation II.

It is also the third in the sextology Truth:
  1. Used By The Truth
  2. Not Truth / Truth
  3. Moment Of Truth
  4. Nobody's Doing It To You Except Yourself: A Study In Truth
  5. Tell Me The Truth
  6. Authentic Truth: The Coca Cola Animals  Incident, And More
in that order.

It is also the fifth in an open group on Transformation:
  1. Transformation
  2. Nelson Mandela And Transformation
  3. The Way Of Transformation
  4. Transformation: The Life And Legacy Of Werner Erhard
  5. Moment Of Truth
  6. Transformation II
  7. No Line
  8. Transformation Is Timeless
  9. Transforming Life Itself: A Completely Started Inquiry
  10. Transformation Is Accountability Plus Committed Speaking
in that order, so far.

I am indebted to Professor William Warren Bartley III who inspired this conversation.




In all likelihood, you first heard about the possibility of transformation when someone shared it with you. It's entirely appropriate transformation, whose essential nature  is a conversation, would show up for you for the first time in a conversation. And if you ask the person who first shared transformation with you when they heard about it for the first time, they'll tell you they first heard about it when someone shared it with them.

If we extrapolate all the way back, we get to the first person to share transformation: Werner Erhard, the source.

You may ask "Yeah, but  ... who first shared transformation with Werner?". The answer is "No one first shared transformation with Werner.". Or, spoken more pertinently, "Nothing  first shared transformation with Werner.". Werner Erhard created transformation out of nothing. So perhaps a more palatable answer to the question "Yeah, but  ... who first shared transformation with Werner?" is Werner  first shared transformation with Werner  - that is to say Werner first shared transformation with himself. And although it may sound semantically awkward, it's more accurate to say Werner first shared transformation "with his  Self" rather than "with himself". Better yet, Werner's Self  ie the  Self first shared transformation with Werner.

Whatever accounts for transformation showing up for the first time, whatever accounts for transformation being conceived in this immaculate  way, by any stretch of the imagination it was a stunning, historic, extraordinary moment. I know of no better way to describe it than to recreate Werner sharing it verbatim in Professor William (Bill) Warren Bartley III's official biography of Werner titled "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man - The Founding of est". This is from the chapter "True Identity" in part III of the book, "Transformation". There, in an account called "Once Upon A Freeway", Werner generously shares the moment he got it - the Big "IT".

Here's what happened.

One midweek morning in March of1971 Werner Erhard got into his Ford Mustang and drove to work heading south on US Highway 101 from his home in Corte Madera, towards the Golden Gate Bridge to San Francisco.

He never made it to work that day. In Bill Bartley's words, "Somewhere between Corte Madera and the Golden Gate Bridge, the man in the car on the freeway was transformed.".

Werner says the exact  moment occurred on the Golden Gate Bridge itself. He also says there's nothing particularly significant  about it occurring on the Golden Gate Bridge - he just happened to be on the Golden Gate Bridge at the time it occurred.

Bill asks Werner "Who? What? When? Where? Why? How?".

Listen. This is Werner Erhard:


<quote>

WHAT HAPPENED? HOW DID IT HAPPEN? TO RELATE THE EXPERIENCE IN TIME AND PLACE IS TO FALSIFY IT. IT DID NOT HAPPEN IN TIME AND SPACE. EITHER I AM INADEQUATE TO EXPLAIN WHAT HAPPENED OR IT SIMPLY CAN NOT BE EXPLAINED IN WORDS. OR BOTH. ALL MY EFFORTS TO PUT IT INTO WORDS DAMAGE IT.

WHAT HAPPENED HAD NO FORM. IT WAS TIMELESS, UNBOUNDED, INEFFABLE, BEYOND LANGUAGE. THERE WERE NO WORDS ATTACHED TO IT, NO EMOTIONS OR FEELINGS, NO ATTITUDES, NO BODILY SENSATIONS. WHAT CAME FROM IT, OF COURSE, FORMED ITSELF INTO FEELINGS AND EMOTIONS AND WORDS, AND FINALLY INTO AN ALTERED PROCESS OF LIFE ITSELF. BUT THAT IS LIKE SAYING THAT THE HOLE IN THE SAND LOOKS LIKE THE STICK THAT YOU MADE THE HOLE IN THE SAND WITH. HOLES IN THE SAND AND STICKS ARE WORLDS APART. TO PUT WHAT HAPPENED INTO LANGUAGE WOULD BE LIKE TRYING TO DESCRIBE A STICK BY TELLING YOU ABOUT THE HOLE IN THE SAND.

PART OF IT WAS THE REALIZATION THAT I KNEW NOTHING. I WAS AGHAST AT THAT. FOR I HAD SPENT MOST OF MY LIFE TRYING TO LEARN THINGS. I WAS SURE THAT THERE WAS SOME ONE THING THAT I DIDN'T KNOW, AND THAT IF I COULD FIND IT OUT, I WOULD BE ALRIGHT. I WAS SURE THAT THERE WAS A SECRET, AND I WAS DETERMINED TO FIND IT.

THEN THIS HAPPENED - AND I REALIZED THAT I KNEW NOTHING. I REALIZED THAT EVERYTHING I KNEW WAS SKEWED TOWARD SOME END. I SAW THAT THE FUNDAMENTAL SKEW TO ALL KNOWLEDGE, AND TO UNENLIGHTENED MIND, IS SURVIVAL, OR, AS I PUT IT THEN, SUCCESS. ALL MY KNOWLEDGE UP TO THEN HAD BEEN SKEWED TOWARD SUCCESS, TOWARD MAKING IT, TOWARD SELF-REALIZATION, TOWARD ALL THE GOALS, FROM MATERIAL TO MYSTICAL.

IN THE NEXT INSTANT - AFTER I REALIZED I KNEW NOTHING - I REALIZED THAT I KNEW EVERYTHING. ALL THE THINGS THAT I HAD EVER HEARD, AND READ, AND ALL THOSE HOURS OF PRACTICE, SUDDENLY FELL INTO PLACE. IT WAS SO STUPIDLY, BLINDINGLY SIMPLE THAT I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT. I SAW THAT THERE WERE NO HIDDEN MEANINGS, THAT EVERYTHING WAS JUST THE WAY THAT IT IS, AND THAT I WAS ALREADY ALRIGHT. ALL THAT KNOWLEDGE THAT I HAD AMASSED JUST OBSCURED THE SIMPLICITY, THE TRUTH, THE SUCHNESS, THE THUSNESS OF IT ALL.

Photograph courtesy erhardseminarstraining.com
Werner Erhard
I SAW THAT EVERYTHING WAS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT. IT WAS  ALRIGHT; IT ALWAYS HAD BEEN ALRIGHT; IT ALWAYS WOULD BE ALRIGHT - NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENED. I DIDN'T JUST THINK THIS: SUDDENLY I KNEW  IT. NOT ONLY WAS I NO LONGER CONCERNED ABOUT SUCCESS; I WAS NO LONGER EVEN CONCERNED ABOUT ACHIEVING  SATISFACTION. I WAS SATISFIED. I WAS NO LONGER CONCERNED WITH MY REPUTATION; I WAS CONCERNED ONLY WITH THE TRUTH.

I REALIZED THAT I WAS NOT MY EMOTIONS OR THOUGHTS. I WAS NOT MY IDEAS, MY INTELLECT, MY PERCEPTIONS, MY BELIEFS. I WAS NOT WHAT I DID OR ACCOMPLISHED OR ACHIEVED. OR HADN'T ACHIEVED. I WAS NOT WHAT I HAD DONE RIGHT - OR WHAT I HAD DONE WRONG. I WAS NOT WHAT I HAD BEEN LABELED - BY MYSELF OR OTHERS. ALL THESE IDENTIFICATIONS CUT ME OFF FROM EXPERIENCE, FROM LIVING. I WAS NONE OF THE ABOVE.

I WAS SIMPLY THE SPACE, THE CREATOR, THE SOURCE OF ALL THAT STUFF. I EXPERIENCED SELF AS  SELF IN A DIRECT AND UNMEDIATED WAY. I DIDN'T JUST EXPERIENCE SELF; I BECAME SELF. SUDDENLY I HELD ALL THE INFORMATION, THE CONTENT, IN MY LIFE IN A NEW WAY, FROM A NEW MODE, A NEW CONTEXT. I KNEW IT FROM MY EXPERIENCE AND NOT FROM HAVING LEARNED IT. IT WAS AN UNMISTAKABLE RECOGNITION THAT I WAS, AM, AND ALWAYS WILL BE THE SOURCE OF MY EXPERIENCE.

EXPERIENCE IS SIMPLY EVIDENCE THAT I AM HERE. IT IS NOT WHO I AM. I AM I AM. IT IS AS IF THE SELF IS THE PROJECTOR, AND EVERYTHING ELSE IS THE MOVIE. BEFORE THE TRANSFORMATION, I COULD ONLY RECOGNIZE MYSELF BY SEEING THE MOVIE. NOW I SAW THAT I AM PRIOR TO OR TRANSCENDENT TO ALL THAT.

I NO LONGER THOUGHT OF MYSELF AS THE PERSON NAMED WERNER ERHARD, THE PERSON WHO DID ALL THAT STUFF. I WAS NO LONGER THE ONE WHO HAD ALL THE EXPERIENCES I HAD AS A CHILD. I WAS NOT IDENTIFIED BY MY "FALSE IDENTITY" ANY MORE THAN BY MY "TRUE IDENTITY". ALL IDENTITIES ARE FALSE.

I SUDDENLY SAW MYSELF ON A LEVEL THAT HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH EITHER JACK ROSENBERG OR WERNER ERHARD. I SAW THAT EVERYTHING IS JUST THE WAY IT IS - AND THE WAY IT ISN'T. THERE WAS NO LONGER ANY NEED TO TRY TO BE WERNER ERHARD AND TRY NOT TO BE JACK ROSENBERG. WERNER ERHARD WAS A CONCEPT - JUST LIKE JACK ROSENBERG.

NOR WAS I MY MIND, PATTERNED UNCONSCIOUSLY, AS IT WAS, ON IDENTITIES TAKEN OVER FROM MY MOTHER AND FATHER. I WAS WHOLE AND COMPLETE AS I WAS, AND I NOW COULD ACCEPT THE WHOLE TRUTH ABOUT MYSELF. FOR I WAS ITS SOURCE. I FOUND ENLIGHTENMENT, TRUTH, AND TRUE SELF ALL AT ONCE.

I HAD REACHED THE END. IT WAS ALL OVER FOR WERNER ERHARD.

<unquote>


Bill then asks Werner "Was this enlightenment?".

I've distilled Werner's response thus:

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, the transformation he underwent on the Golden Gate Bridge wasn't so much an enlightenment experience, as a shift of the context in which he held all content and all processes including experience and including enlightenment. Hence he describes what occurred as transformation, and prefers not to use the word enlightenment, at all.

That's what happened one midweek morning in March 1971 on the Golden Gate Bridge. That's when the fish walked up on the land for the first time, bringing with it elephants and eagles like a possibility.



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