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

somewhere between east and west

Nickel & Nickel, Oakville, California, USA

August 18, 2019

"somewhere between east and west" ... Steve Shapiro, Cape Argus reporter, headlining Laurence Platt introducing Werner's work to South Africa, 1979

This essay, somewhere between east and west, is the companion piece to The Friends Of The Landmark Forum In South Africa.

It was written at the same time as I am indebted to Steve Shapiro who inspired this conversation.

Werner Erhard's work is thriving in South Africa today. That it's happening, represents the fulfillment of a promise I made to Werner (or to rephrase that more potently, "That it's happening, represents the fulfillment of a promise I made with  Werner ...") at 2:00am one morning in 1979 in the kitchen of his San Francisco home, the Franklin House, over a midnight snack of celery spears and cream cheese, following which I went to South Africa, and over the course of a year, led the first series of ten guest seminars around the country in all the major cities, causing the first one thousand enrollments in South Africa, inexorably starting the work there.

We were est  (Erhard Seminars Training) back in those days. This was long before WE & A  (Werner Erhard and Associates), long before LEC  (Landmark Education Corporation), long before Landmark Worldwide, long before the EJI  (Erhard-Jensen Ontological / Phenomenological Initiative). With a perhaps unorthodox strategy (given today's carefully crafted, tried, tested, and proven methods), my colleagues and I (on a whim) cold-called  all local media outlets, making our intention known.

Steve Shapiro, a reporter from one of them, the major evening newspaper, the Cape Argus, interviewed us. That interview resulted in a comprehensive, full page article in the Cape Argus' widely read Saturday weekend edition magazine, which Steve headlined "somewhere between east and west". Its font was black lower case, with the letters "e", "s", and "t" in both the words "east" and "west" cleverly highlighted in red. That was Steve's truly original idea (my colleagues and I had nothing to do with it). The first time we saw it, slack-jawed, agape, was when the newspaper's first print-run hit the streets. That was the kind of astonishingly generous coverage Steve and others in the media afforded us, which virtually guaranteed the acceptance of Werner's work in South Africa, and the country's subsequent transformation.

As a reminder, those were the apartheid  years. Given the repressiveness of the regime, (as if in response to it) people listened the conversation for transformation intently and acutely, arguably eager-er  than anywhere else on the planet at the time. Enrolling people was easy, effortless, delightful, inspiring, and energizing. What transpired next, is history. But that's not what I want to focus on. What I want to focus on is the way Steve listened est  as a discipline, and where he perfectly located it: somewhere between east and west. Given est  was out-of-the-box  brand new, Steve had to begin listening it somewhere. So he began listening it as a discipline.

Interimly, listening est  as a discipline, is a totally valid view of it. But ultimately, the notion of est  as a discipline, isn't required. Rather what est  provided was access to the context for all  disciplines. With that said, if the purpose of the classic disciplines (ie any  classic discipline) is to release the being from self-imposed constraints, then est  could certainly be accurately described as a discipline, differing from others only in its mode of presentation, and body of distinctions. Explain, Laurence? OK.

Many classic disciplines are practiced one-on-one with a coach / facilitator (confession, therapy - to name two). Others like meditation, are often practiced in solitude. The group format, in which the discipline that was est  was practiced, became known as an LGAT  (Large Group Awareness Training). We didn't assign that term: it was contrived by an armchair critic. It stuck. est  was arguably the forerunner of many wannabe  LGAT trainings which arose thereafter, inspired as they were by it.

Here's an intriguing question: was "getting it"  in the est  group format, any different than getting it in solitary meditation in a cave in the Himalayas? Probably not. But bear in mind, most of real life doesn't happen in a cave. Most of real life happens in a big group we call "humanity". In this way, enlightenment gotten in a group, obviously offers something beyond enlightenment gotten solitarily in a cave. No, wait: that's neither rigorous nor entirely accurate: est  brought forth transformation. That's distinct from enlightenment (which is the de rigueur  term in the lexicon of many classic disciplines). My explanation of Werner articulating the experience of est  as "transformation", preferring not to use the term "enlightenment" at all, has been fully addressed on various occasions elsewhere in this internet collection of essays.
Werner Erhard's work, as it turns out, is also thriving in India  today. Taking est  to South Africa required no less intention than taking est  to India. But taking est  to India, for thousands of years the home (and destination) of enlightenment seekers, required an entirely new order of brass, verve, nerve, and boldness ("You're taking transformation to where? India???  Really. Wow!"). That's why Steve locating where Werner's work showed up up in South Africa (or India, or anywhere else for that matter) as "somewhere between east and west", is so uncannily on-the-money  accurate even now, forty years later. That's the sign of a truly great, original idea.

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