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

Natural Knowing

Cowboy Cottage, East Napa, California, USA

January 5, 2015

"Experience is simply evidence that I am here."  ... 
I am indebted to Nassrin Haghighat who inspired this conversation.


This very idea ie this seminal notion of "natural knowing"  has been around for a long, long time, and has been explored many, many times before by various commentators, authors, and lofty talents including no less than Italian saint Thomas Aquinas and American spiritual teacher and philosopher Vernon Howard. In this sense, my deployment of the phrase "natural knowing" can hardly be considered original.

Moreover I suspect (in fact I'm pretty certain) my deployment of the phrase "natural knowing" in this essay will in all likelihood neither exactly mirror nor perfectly re-create the way the phrase precedes this essay in current use in the common debate.

However, when I wrote this essay I didn't set out to mirror or even attempt to re-create the way the phrase "natural knowing" precedes it. Rather what I set out to do was share a distinction I've gotten for myself from being around Werner and from participating in Werner's work for almost thirty seven years. It's to this purpose and in this sense that I've selected and am deploying the phrase "natural knowing" quite originally.

All that said, if there's any overlap between my deployment of the phrase "natural knowing", and its current use in the common debate (and in all likelihood there's bound to be some), my intention is for my deployment not to replace it, step on it, or obfuscate it, but rather to complement it, honor it, and contribute to it.

What is natural knowing? What's the access  to natural knowing? What other modes of knowing are there?

One access to natural knowing is (paradoxically) through not  knowing - which is to say, through knowing "I don't know.".

"I don't know" gets a bad rap. There's nothing wrong  with "I don't know.". "I don't know because I don't know", yes? That's one possible way to contextualize  it. Another possible pivotal  context is "I don't know - it's a mystery!". That's not the retort of some smart aleck  - rather, it's the truth. What's pivotal about both the latter and the former contexts is they grant being to not knowing. In addition, the latter also grants being to a mystery - and both not knowing and a mystery are things we only reluctantly grant being to. Just as Aristotle said "Nature abhors a vacuum", we're thrown to abhor a mystery - and there's nothing wrong with a mystery. There's nothing wrong with "I don't know how  ..." ("It's a mystery"). There's nothing wrong with "I don't know why  ..." ("It's a mystery"). And there's particularly nothing wrong with "I just plain don't know"  - it's an experience.

Authentic "I don't know" is actually a very high space. It's a very high space if you can just be  with it and experience it and not try to change it by figuring out  (figuring out is so hard not  to do, yes? - it's on perpetual automatic). We're so convinced ie we're so addicted  to the notion that there's gotta be a why  for everything. This conviction which constantly clamors for figuring out, is an ongoing distraction from being with things just the way they show up ie just the way they occur  - mystery of existence, and all. We're so insistant there's gotta be a reason for why things happen (I'll bet you good money you know at least two people whose mantra  is "Things always happen for a reason  ...") that we almost never experience (or we're not open  to experiencing) things happen just because they happen. As evidence of this, Werner Erhard adroitly observes "Something's happening because everything's moving.".

Natural knowing is "I know by knowing because I know.". But watch: if "I know by knowing because I know" is really  natural knowing, then there won't be any trace of being right  in it (memo to all fundamentalists: do not pass "GO!", do not collect $200.00 until you check your righteousness at the door). Moreover, if it's really natural knowing, it's grounded on being alive and experiencing, rather than derived from the available facts or from something having been proved.

Interestingly enough and paradoxically enough, not knowing ie authentic "I don't know" (which is to say, knowing "I don't know")  is one access to natural  knowing. How so? When I know "I don't know", I know it naturally. When I know "I don't know", it isn't derived from facts, and it doesn't require proof. I know  "I don't know". I know "I don't know" naturally.


It's very Zen: not  knowing ie authentic "I don't know" (which is to say, knowing "I don't know")  is one access to natural  knowing.

Sit with it in your lap like a hot brick (it will drive you crazy if you try to figure it out).


Here are two more pointers to natural knowing - in the form of questions: "Are you alive?" and "Are you experiencing?". When you answer these questions, notice that you answer them from being, from experience, yes? Their answers are known to you naturally. They aren't derived from facts or from something having been proved. Neither are they grounded on opinion, assessment, or even on something you feel strongly about.

It's also crucial to notice the answers to the questions "Are you alive?" and "Are you experiencing?" are for sure  not grounded on or come from or even require  that which we euphemistically call the "small voice inside"  ie the "voice of conscience", the Jiminy Cricket  to your Pinocchio  - if you will. I personally dispute that natural knowing equates to the "voice of conscience". Both historically and religiously however, many do make that equation ie many do blur the line between natural knowing and the "voice of conscience". For those who do (perhaps inadvertently) blur that line, I argue the distinction is quite clear: it requires natural knowing to know the "voice of conscience" in the first place.

So there's knowing based on facts, on proof, and then there's another mode of knowing, the prior  knowing, the knowing by knowing because I know, the knowing because I'm alive, the knowing because I'm experiencing. I don't need facts or proof to know I'm alive. I don't need facts or proof to know I'm experiencing. This is the realm of natural knowing.

The differentiation then, between natural knowing and knowing derived from facts, from proof, is decisive. But be careful: the one's not better  (or worse) than the other. They're just two different modes of knowing. The realm of differentiating between the two, the realm of differentiating between natural knowing, and knowing derived from facts or knowing derived from proof, is the realm of distinction. Werner's space is congruent with the realm of distinction, and the realm of distinction is the realm of Werner's work, the realm of transformation itself.

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