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


The Lightning Bolt

Marin County, California, USA

May 28, 2001



This essay, The Lightning Bolt, is the companion piece to

I'm often asked how Werner's work started. The most often asked question is whether or not his work is a blend of other disciplines, rituals, and bodies of knowledge. Did he get what he got as some fortuitous combination, as some lucky fluke amalgam  of everything he read and immersed himself in? Did he simply repackage  all that, unoriginally albeit brilliantly, then resell it? While that may seem to be a plausible explanation, in truth it's not what happened.

There is a razor thin distinction between what we know, and our direct experience.

Transformation comes out of our direct experience, not out of what we know. More precisely, transformation comes out of being able to distinguish the one from the other.

One midweek morning in March 1971 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.

On the way, something extraordinary happened.

As Professor William Warren Bartley III (Werner's biographer) put it, "somewhere between Corte Madera and the Golden Gate Bridge, the man in the car on the freeway was transformed". Werner later specified the location more exactly as on the Golden Gate Bridge itself.
Werner had had an extraordinary experience in which he didn't suddenly find out some new thing. Rather, he realized he had accumulated all the things he already knew in order to "make it", in order to survive. He realized he really knew nothing. In that experience, he came to know all the things he already knew in a whole new way. In other words, he hadn't become aware of something new to know. Rather, he'd become aware of the epistemology of knowledge itself: not what he knew, but rather how he held everything he knew.

He never made it to work that day. Instead, he spent the day walking on Twin Peaks, a mountain overlooking San Francisco, looking at what he was going to do with the experience he had just experienced and how he was going to share it.
Werner's work which resulted, isn't (as it's erroneously considered to be) an amalgam of everything he read and immersed himself in. Neither is it a repackaging and reselling of other disciplines, rituals, and bodies of knowledge he'd experimented with. The source of Werner's work is his own authentic experience of who he really is, of the transformed man's own experience of himself, of who he became on that fateful day, out of time, on the Golden Gate Bridge.

There are many articles and books discussing Werner and his work, some of them great and some of them not so great, some of them laudatory and some of them outright hostile. I've got no attachment to people's opinions - not yours, not my own ... especially  not my own. People have opinions, as widely differing as they have noses. Listen to everything you possibly can about Werner, then draw your own conclusions out of your own experience.

However, there's only one official biography of Werner's life, the one written by Professor William Warren Bartley III titled "Werner Erhard, The Transformation of a Man - The Founding of est". It's must read reading not only for people who want to know how Werner's work started, but also for people who want to know about the layers upon layers of experiences Werner had along the road to being transformed.>



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