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


Thrice-Born People

Andretti Winery, Oak Knoll Appellation, Napa Valley, California, USA

April 18, 2016



"What I have is a place to stand. Not the right place, for I do not pretend to know what is right even for myself, let alone others, but a place I am willing to try out to see if it leaves me as a clearing where the truth can more powerfully go to work."
 ... 
"For me this is a practical matter. Instead of having the answer about God like some guy or some thing or some explanation or some anything, I have a space of possibility like an openness, like a place for God to show up in my life."
 ...   speaking with Reverend Terry Cole-Whittaker about God 
"In his great work, The Varieties of Religious Experience, the American philosopher and psychologist William James identified two very different kinds of person: the 'once-born' and the 'twice-born' man.

The once-born man appears to fit effortlessly into a 'rectilinear or one-storied' conception of the universe of our experience. For him everything is as it seems, and the values of this life are calculated in pluses and minuses. Happiness and satisfaction consist in living on the 'plus side' of the account, rather than on the minus, or debit, side. Such a man will, in the course of growing up, experiment with, dabble at, religions and disciplines; he will decorate his life with them; but he will not become absorbed by them. Such things will not be central to him.

The twice-born man, the 'homo-religiosus' or 'homo-philosophicus', experiences reality differently. For him, as James writes, 'the world is a double-storied mystery. Peace cannot be reached by the simple addition of pluses and elimination of minuses from life. Natural good is not simply insufficient in amount and transient, there lurks a falsity in its very being. ... It gives no final balance, and can never be the thing intended for our lasting worship. It keeps us from our real good ... and renunciation and despair of it are our first step in the direction of the truth'. To achieve satisfaction and happiness, one must see the falsity of the one-storied world - one must 'die to it' - and be born again with new values that transcend those of the first world.

The Werner Erhard who is known today is obviously a twice-born - or perhaps even a 'thrice-born' man."
... Professor William Warren Bartley III, Werner's official biographer, in the account titled "Twice Born" in the chapter called "Quest" in part II, "Education", of "Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man - The Founding of est"
"You gotta make way for the homo-superior."
... David Bowie, Oh! You Pretty Things
This essay, Thrice-Born People, is the companion piece to
  1. In The Clear Now: Born Again Again
  2. The Space In Which God Shows Up
in that order.

I am indebted to Jeff Willmore who contributed material for this conversation.




We're each born of a mother and a father - if not of their roles, then of their DNA. We're born into the world as babies. That's our once-born  designation. It's a given which ensures our arrival, physical presence, and ongoing life on the planet. Everyone now in the world, everyone who ever was in the world in the past, and everyone who ever will be born in the world in the future, are clearly once-born people (at least to start with) who may become born again  (so to say) - even born again again.

At some point in our physical existence, many of us will find ourselves in the inquiry about our purpose here. We'll ponder the meaning of it all. We may even discover ourselves inside a question people have been asking repeatedly over the millennia: whether or not there is a higher power  which created all this. That there is creation, is fait accompli  for everyone. And some will deem the higher power ie God personal  and will enter into a relationship with God declaring they've been reborn  into this relationship (or at least into the possibility  of it), and have died to the old world in which a higher power ie in which a personal God was neither a consideration nor a possibility. They say they've been "born again" because this is their second "birth" following their first physical birth. So you can designate them as twice-born people.

Cartoon by Will McPhail

New Yorker Magazine

September 21, 2015
Are there thrice-born people? Can you be born again again?  Yes, and yes. This third birth (if you will) is being reborn into context  ie being born into the awareness  of context. When twice-born people become aware of the context in which the events and objects of their lives occur, they are "born again again"  ie they are thrice-born.

Please notice the distinction "thrice-born" ie "born again again" in this sense of being reborn into context, really works just as well for once-born people as it does for twice-born people. Moreover, this distinction "thrice-born" ie "born again again", does not negate, supersede, lessen, or nullify the distinctions "once-born" or "twice-born" ie "born again". What it does is recontextualize  (I love that word) both being once-born and  being twice-born.

The events and objects of my life show up in the context of who I am. And I have a space of possibility like an openness, like a place for greatness and for great things to show up in my life. This is the recontextualization of my once-born life. I also have a space of possibility like an openness, like a place for God to show up in my life. This is the recontextualization of my twice-born life (ie my born again life). Thrice-born people are transformed.

Listen: this distinction "thrice-born people" has a lot  of utility. It has considerable leverage. Yet as with any distinction, it carries a warning of the inherent danger that it'll devolve into a belief, and falsely assumed to be "the truth"  when at best it's a pointer  to a clearing where the truth can more powerfully go to work. And it's pure arrogance if you say you won't let your distinctions devolve into beliefs. They will. They'll do that - regardless of your good intentions. So as soon as you notice you've started believing your distinctions ie the moment you catch yourself doing it, there's an opportunity to review the distinction as a distinction  and not as a belief, newly.

Notice being thrice-born isn't better  than being once-born or being twice-born. Rather it's merely something else that's possible in a galaxy of possibilities, for people.


Postscript:

The intention of this conversation is to flesh out the distinction "thrice-born people". It deliberately doesn't touch on the similar sounding yet unrelated concept of reincarnation  which isn't essential for the making of this distinction.


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