Werner Erhard and
February 1, 1977,
San Francisco, California
The Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, 1977, Vol.9, No. J
This is an edited transcript of a discussion in an informal meeting of a few members of the
Association for Transpersonal Psychology, several Journal editors, and friends.
Werner Erhard was the founder and primary spokesman for Erhard Seminars Training
(est), James Fadiman was a lecturer, author, a past president of the Association,
and an associate editor with the Journal. After opening remarks by Frances
Vaughan Clark, president of the Association, the following discussion took place
with occasional audience participation (Audience Member).
James Fadiman: One thing I'm not sure of is whether you and I agree on the role of the self, or
the personality. That may be because I'm so interested in "devaluing" personality. I
am more and more using the term "personal drama" rather than personality so that
even "getting off one's position" to use an est term, isn't getting off enough since
one is still attached to getting off one's position. This seems to be more a
transpersonal value than perhaps you would accept.
Werner Erhard: No, I'd be wholly aligned with what you just said. I'll tell you where I think the
difference might lie though, and that is perhaps in the path. What one does with
personality is not avoid it, or ignore it, or suppress it, or shove it out of the way,
but take responsibility for it, complete one's relationship with one's personality,
transcend it, and therefore include it as a content in the context which one is
when one transcends one's personality. So, rather than to do away with the
personality (and I'm not sure that transpersonal psychology would do away with
personality) I want to make it clear that est would not do away with the
personality. One would be responsible for it, cause it, instead of be the effect of
it. Essentially one would complete one's personality as a way of being unattached
James Fadiman: I'll go very much for that. I think the difference is that it isn't "destroy" or "ignore", it's "devalue" the personality. What finally made it clear for me was when
I met a couple of people who, in all general senses, are enlightened beings and go
around doing what they do, and who still have personalities. And their personalities
still had character flaws and irritations and neurotic disturbances and bad stuff
from their mother, and I thought, "Oh, what a terrible disaster this is, to be
enlightened and still have your personality." But then as I watch them operate
they also still have their arms and their hair. In this sense, personality doesn't
interfere with their function, but it also isn't the place from which they function.
Their personality hangs around and when it's appropriate, it operates.
Werner Erhard: Yes. That, by the way, is for me the most common popular flaw in the notion
of what it is that we're talking about. That is, the notion that people who are
enlightened don't have personalities and do have or don't have hair, as the case
may be, depending upon which discipline it is, or don't have neuroses, etc. That's
a kind of campaign of mine - to humanize our heroes. And the problem is that you
get caught in a dilemma. If you humanize the hero, then you begin to make human
qualities or personality alright, and that isn't the answer either. It really is just as
you described it. I feel that we're totally aligned on that. I would like to find where
there are differences, if there are some. You have a better insight into both camps
than I do, Jim, so maybe you ought to point out where you think the differences
James Fadiman: Well, there is certainly a difference in method. I think you are more from a
tradition that has people sit out in front of the temple for a couple days, miserable,
cold, hungry, desperate, and if they still want to get in then you let them in. Much
of the work I am interested in uses the method of going out and giving a little soup
while they are out there. Milarepa (in The Hundred Thousand Songs of Milarepa)
has this wonderful dichotomy: he goes to work for Marpa who treats him like a
total disaster, just beats him and kicks him and snarls at him and makes him sick,
and Marpa's wife every once in a while comes and gives him a little soup and a
little love and says, "Don't worry, he doesn't hate you; this is what he calls
teaching." And in some sense you're clearer on this being, the teacher, who, so to
speak, beats people and makes them sore. Less visible is the wife, the
compassionate side, the soft compassionate side. It's very clear that est is
compassionate but it's the compassion of the "steel sword," and I'm not really
comfortable with that approach. I notice that in the work I do when I'm trying to
move people on, it's always from a much gentler place.
Werner Erhard: Yes.
James Fadiman: You and I have talked about this in terms of the way one runs, say, a
communications workshop. That is, is it necessary to force upsets, or force
people's anxieties and irritations and disturbances to the surface to get the job
done? I think this may be an area where we operate differently.
Werner Erhard: Yes, and again I think that the difference is one of degree. For example, in
the est training it's clear to me that if people don't have the experience of being
loved in the training - I don't mean of being sympathized with, I really mean being
loved - that they are deprived of something in the training. Somewhere along the
line they have got to catch on to the fact that the person who is doing the
training loves them and is doing the training out of the experience of loving them.
By the same token, I agree with you totally that if there is a spectrum within
which to operate, est would be at one end of it and you and the other people I
know who identify themselves as transpersonal people would probably be at the
other end of
it. But what I am trying to point out is that I would feel uncomfortable
characterizing est as devoid of that gentler kind of compassion. And I would feel
uncomfortable as characterizing transpersonal psychology as being devoid of the
harsher kind of compassion.
James Fadiman: I've certainly been a lot meaner since experiencing your training.
Werner Erhard: There is a place where I think there's a real opportunity to explore something,
though we may turn out to agree totally about this too. I want to start the
conversation with what Gregory Bateson calls "natural history" and talk about what
is commonly called experience, or what we ordinarily mean when we use the word
"experience." If you say to someone "What are you experiencing right now?" and
they attempt to describe what they are experiencing right now, what they
discover is the best they can hope to do is describe what they experienced a
moment ago, and can never describe what they are experiencing right now. In
addition to which, they can't even think about what they're experiencing right
now, and they can't even perceive what they're experiencing right now, because
when they stop to perceive it, it puts it back in time. I suggest that it's actually
even worse than that. Not only can't they perceive what they're experiencing right
now, but the best that they can do is to perceive what they experienced a
moment ago. Actually, they're not able to perceive even what they experienced a
moment ago. The best they can hope to do is to perceive the symbols used to
record what was experienced a moment ago. Ultimately all perception is of symbols
only and never of experience. And the symbols of experience are conceptual and
kind of pictorial - perhaps "conceptual" is really the more technically accurate word.
So one has experience and one has concepts of experience. And the purpose of
the concepts of experience is to organize experience, otherwise one would have to
grope around the walls of the room to find a hole to get through because of the
lack of the concept "doors." In addition one would have to fall through the hole
accidentally to get out of the room. So, concepts about experience are very
valuable in that they allow one to survive and function in the world.
We could say that experience is process, is moment by moment by moment, and
concepts are about experiences and organize it and are its organizing principles.
To put it into more conversational language, I would call a concept an explanatory
principle. Fundamentally, I think what goes wrong in people's lives is that the
concepts begin to determine what is experienced. Then one has a conceptually
determined experience which reinforces the concept, which then more fully
determines the experience, which again reinforces the concept, and so on. Then
people almost literally drop out of the experience of life and live in a mechanical
state in which all, or most of, their experience is conceptually derived. So if you
ask someone, "Do you love your wife?", and they say "Yes, but I don't get along
with her very well," what they really mean is that they live with the concept that
they love their wife, and very infrequently do they have the experience, if at all.
Then, if your concepts agree with society's values, you're called successful, and if
your concepts don't agree with society's values, you're called criminal,
revolutionary, insane, etc. And so you have only one of two things to do. First,
the old notion of what to do with deviant people was to give them the right
concepts through some form of brainwashing, a very new term for a very old
technique. It's also called enculturation, socialization, etc. Or secondly, you can
give them therapy.
My notion about the newer therapies is that they intervene in the space between
concept and experience, and break the grip of concept on experience so the
person can begin to experience more directly. These techniques allow people to
get in touch with their bodies, to get in touch with their sense of motion, their
way of being, their emotions and their feelings, etc.
I'd like to suggest a third alternative. The third alternative is hard to describe
because our language is designed to deal almost exclusively with concepts or
explanatory principles and, rarely, with experiential quality. This third part of the
game is simply not available through language for the most part. You can only
point at it, you can never capture it. I am talking about what there isn't a word
for, and there really isn't any way to talk about it because even the syntax
doesn't work very well on this.
I call this third alternative the "generating principles" of life. So we have, first, the
generating principles of life, second the process of life itself, and third the
explanatory principles of life. When you're functioning with the generating
principles you can't explain life. So, in Zen, it is said that those who know don't
tell. In other words, what generates the process does not organize it or explain it.
To say those who tell don't know means that which explains the process of life
does not give rise to that process but merely organizes it.
As far as I can tell transpersonal psychology is very much about the generating
principles, at least it approaches them through the paradigms of processes and of
concepts. It still has some of its roots in therapy and psychology, which seem to
be conceptual, and more of its roots in what I like to can the humanistic
psychological approach, which I see as experiential. Transpersonal psychology
seems to be centrally concerned with generating principles. Now just to give us a
language to talk with, let's call these generating principles "abstractions."
James Fadiman: Your model is one which points toward abstraction. In Buddhism there is a
name for this, it's called the "boat." One gets in the boat and crosses the great
water with the boat. Only an idiot carries the boat onto the land on the other side.
We call those "idiots" scholars and theologians. Some of them write for the Journal.
They hang out here for a while and then decide that since their stuff is useless on
the other side they better go back - which is what I think I do because I love
playing with concepts, kind of like juggling invisible baseballs.
Werner Erhard: The usual models exclude abstraction, which leaves only experience and
concepts. Either you're a touchy-feely or you've got some intelligence, one or the
other and never the twain shall meet. I think that some of the people in humanistic
psychology kind of bought that, and my suggestion is that true intellect is a
function of abstraction. There was a time when you couldn't really learn relativity
theory, although you could know it. In other words you could abstract it, but you
couldn't "concept" it. In Copernicus' time, one probably couldn't conceptualize the
sun as the center of the solar system. You could create that notion, you could
know it by making it so - not by concept-making, but by creating it. Physics
fascinates me because at its edge, Einstein took physics out of the sensorium, out
of concepts. Even if you use concepts that seem to transcend the sensorium,
ultimately they're rooted back in the sensorium. For instance, infinity is a beautiful
symbol. You can put it right in the center of your concepts, and manipulate it in
mathematical models, and it's lovely. But the concept of infinity and the "sense" of
infinity at the level of abstraction are two entirely different entities for me. So
concepts have one logic and abstractions have another logic, and the two logics
are entirely different. And they are based on entirely separate epistemological
James Fadiman: I guess I'm seeing it from a place called "certainty." Certainty is right in the
middle of abstraction. The degenerative form of certainty is called knowledge and
then it goes down from there to the lowest form which would be rationalization or
reasons. The concept of infinity, which I can't handle at all, is more useful to me
as "eternity." In terms of the conceptual world, eternity is a long time, and in the
abstraction area eternity is an experience, and] know that many of the people
here have experienced it. If you haven't experienced it, you don't know what it's
about, and when people say, "Well isn't eternity a long time?" You say, "That isn't
it." And you say, "Well how about a very long time? How about three of them?"
So the thing that is fascinating to me is that all that I'm interested in, in some
sense, is the little sign posts that people leave out. It's that old problem of
pointing the way, and people come and suck on your finger. I'm really interested in
how Transpersonal is trying to set up a little set of road maps that say not only, "There's the finger that points the way," but then there's another sign that says
that "This is only a finger, do not suck." That's the place that I see transpersonal
psychology doing a service, talking in the conceptual world but continually pointing
out where all the windows and doors are. In some sense I see transpersonal as a
highly intellectualized activity, drawing from experience, taking it from eternity,
and seeing what happens.
One of Ram Dass' many stories is about his teacher who went in and out of
Nirvana. He'd ... [inhales] ... and he'd be in Nirvana and he'd come out and
everything would be totally new and cool and fascinating, and he'd say something
which was from a place of certainty and then he'd start to get stuck in the world.
He'd think he was hungry, or an old Hindu, or whatever his thing was, and he'd
take another breath and he'd go out again. And "out" was eternity and
timelessness and selflessness, etc., and then he'd come back and everything was
new again and he'd say something else. When you've been in the place of
certainty and "come out" now and then, the story makes a lot of sense. If you
haven't, it sounds like one of Ram Dass' crazy stories. Physiologically it looks like
you can't be in it because that type of eternity isn't a long time, and you're in it in
time so you come in and out. And the thing about the est training or sitting Zazen,
or taking dope, or falling down the stairs, or a lot of other things is that you may
break, just for a moment, into "eternity." Once you've been in it long enough or
often enough, then at least you know that it was there.
There's a phrase in the training called "I got it," when really the phrase should be "I had it," because all you get is that you had it. As soon as you say you've got it
you no longer have it, but you know you had it and therefore things can change. I
think that's what we're all talking about, and that all of our work has been in that
direction. We're coming up with different signposts and different ways, and the
thing that I like about what you [W.E.] do is that the training has brought into
possibility that moment of eternity, or certainty, or infinity, for people who seem
not to have any other signposts.
Werner Erhard: There's something I have to say, and I want to say something less than I
mean as a way of sneaking up on what I mean. I want to say that if you don't
keep reminding yourself that you're talking about that which one can't talk about,
you can rapidly come to false conclusions. When you're manipulating symbols, you
can make conclusions that are wholly consistent or logical or legitimate within a
given system of symbols, but which have little or no legitimacy in the realm of
experience and certainly none in the realm of abstraction. So at the level of
concept, we manipulate symbols around and come up with new answers or new
ways of looking at things, and that's really a lovely process and people enjoy it
and I enjoy it too. I'm repeating a lot of what you said, by the way, to keep
reminding us that a good idea isn't necessarily accurate about experiences or
It seems to me that concept is never sufficient to tell the truth in the world of
experience - that it's always deficient. It's essentially deficient in a quantum way
rather than in a linear way. It's not just less than experience, it's different than
experience. I would say to transpersonal psychology people, watch out for an
equivalent deficiency with regard to experience. Being high, getting zonked,
knowing, insight, whatever, is so far beyond concept and provides such valuable
insights into concepts that it becomes very appealing, almost like bait to get
caught on and stop at experience. When you get marvelous, incredible insights,
and it feels terrific, and you have a sense of at-one-ness and a sense of
spaciousness or spacelessness, then
it's a good idea to watch out that you don't get trapped there because that isn't
the source of the process, that is, the process, and the process does have a
source. What you can learn by experience lies about the world of abstraction or
the world of the source of the process.
Let me give you an analogy. Imagine that you and I are caterpillars and we're
down here on the floor and we're talking about being up there in that plant and
you say, "Listen, I'm going to turn y'all on to something. I want you to get that it's
possible to go from down here on the floor to up there on that leaf without
crawling over the space in between." Now l know that experientially that's crazy,
that cannot be done, it's experientially impossible - I know because I've been up
on plants like that a thousand times. So I say to you, "You're talking about some
concept, about getting from here to there without covering - what would be for a
caterpillar - the space in between." So I accuse you of conceptualizing, but a kind
of mad conceptualizing since it doesn't fit with the consensus reality. If you think
about it you'll see a caterpillar could simply not get the idea of flying, it's simply
not available to a caterpillar.
I like this analogy because no matter whether he knows it or not, the caterpillar
turns into a butterfly, which is my view of the way it's all going - so all this
conversation may be irrelevant anyhow. But to the butterfly, the idea of flying is,
of course, very natural and the butterfly encompasses within the flight the
equivalent to the walk up the wall, or the space in between. So one of the things I
would say to transpersonal people is that just as there is a distinction between
concept and experience, so there is a distinction between experience and
abstraction. The process of life has one system of logic, an epistemology, a
philosophy and an ontology, which is distinct and different from and not
predictable by the epistemology, logic, etc., of experience. Now there's one last
point I want to make but I think it's your turn.
James Fadiman: I just had an image of a surfer. If you've ever been surfing and you're riding a
wave, particularly if you're body surfing so you're more into it, there's a feeling of
total unity and oneness. Now what would happen to a surfer if you came up to him
and said, "Excuse me, do you realize the cause of this is the moon!" He might say,"I doubt it, because every way I have of knowing, it's very clear that it has
nothing to do with the moon." To say it's the moon might imply living in a space,
which, even if so, detracts from life. Now I'm not sure if that image fits what you
Werner Erhard: I think it does. What I think you're saying to me is "Look, what you do with
experience is experience it, be conscious of it, be aware of it, be in it." Now are
you telling me that you want me to be in and conscious of and aware of the
source of my experience? Even that seems to detract from the experience. I
agree. You've fallen beautifully into my trap.
James Fadiman: You may now make your last point.
Werner Erhard: Yes. The reason I say you've fallen into the trap, which obviously you
haven't, otherwise I wouldn't be telling you you did, is that you're applying
experiential values to abstraction, and abstraction has no experiential value when
viewed from abstraction. Abstraction only has an experiential value when viewed
from experience, just as experience doesn't have much value when viewed from
concept. So the validity of an abstraction is not predictable and even sounds
ludicrous or strange from the structure of concept.
Let me give you another analogy. If you take a deck of cards and they are
arranged in their logical sequence from ace through king, you may for example,
want to know about the king. But if you are coming at the king from the ace, the
way you get there is to go from ace to two to three to four to five to six to seven
to eight, and every step gets you closer and closer to the king and finally you
bang into the king and you say "Ah, I now know what the king is because I stood
on the queen and reached the king." What I'm suggesting is that as fully as you've
apprehended the king, apprehending the king the other way, from the top of the
deck down, is entirely different.
Similarly, if you get experience backwards, which is the way in which I think
humankind has it, then in fact, no matter how smart you are, you are stupid,
because the best you can do is explain it, but have no mastery of it. Or, the very
best you can do is to force it, which is the other end of the spectrum from
mastery of it. So, I say that if you don't start at the abstract end of the spectrum
with the cause of things, if you're not coming out of the cause of things into your
experience, then you're not fully experiential. And if you're not coming out of your
experience into the concepts, then you're not even fully conceptual. I'm
suggesting that there is a logical sequence here and that there is a logical flow or
an appropriate flow or a natural flow,
James Fadiman: There are two ways to look at that flow. One is, detachment is of no value to
someone who is detached, which is a valueless space, which is very awkward
when you're striving for detachment because you realize that when you get it you
won't care about it. The other side is, and I quote a Sufi source, "A donkey with a
load of books is still an ass," and as you pointed out, "here we are," coming from
the load of books side of the hassle. In the first research I ever did many years
ago with psychedelics it was clear that something changed after the participants
had a single high-dose psychedelic experience. We tried to get at what had
changed, and it wasn't really physiological. It was something about personality
structure, but mainly it was attitudes, beliefs, and values, which made huge shifts
almost overnight. Subsequently, the research subjects spent a long time trying to
figure out how to restructure their lives to include these' new values.
Audience Member: Would you say that same kind of thing happens to the people who go through
the est training?
Werner Erhard: Yes, I would say that it's a secondary result rather than a primary result. The
primary result for me is a shift not in attitude - that happens secondarily - but a
shift in one's attitude about attitudes. So that rather than, "I used to have a
shitty attitude and now I have a positive attitude," one hears, "I used to be stuck
in my attitude whether it was shitty or positive, and I actually thought I had that
attitude and that was my attitude. And now I can see that I have a whole
spectrum of attitudes through which I move back and forth, none of which I am,
and none of which is my attitude because I don't have an attitude - I am watching
attitudes occur." So I think that when that happens, when you transcend attitude
and you don't have that attachment to your attitude anymore, you know things
are rotten, but so what, you know they are just rotten, that's all. It's not rotten
that they are rotten, they are only rotten. Whereas yesterday it was terrible if
they were rotten, now, you know they are just rotten and later on they will be
terrific, and after they are terrific they will be rotten again, and it kind of goes like
that in no particular order necessarily. Anyway, I'm here amongst all the
psychologists so I can't let you get away with that attitude stuff.
James Fadiman: From an attitude to beatitude.
Audience Member: We should probably look at what attitude really means. Mood is more what
you're describing I think.
Werner Erhard: Technically, attitude means a way of holding the world or a way of holding
what you view. In other words, you have a point of view about the content of
your perception or the content of your experiences.
Audience Member: It literally comes from how to hold yourself in the world, a body attitude.
James Fadiman: The word "attitude" is a stance. Every time people try to define transpersonal
education, or psychology, or whatever their discipline is, what I try to say is "No,
Transpersonal isn't that, it's simply a stance or an attitude, a way of taking on
whatever it is you're taking on," which is my way of trying to project us from being
the kind of group that people would have to say, "They're stuck in their attitude,
let's form something else."
Werner Erhard: That's one of the things that I think is brilliant about transpersonal. It's really
beyond point of view. The word itself almost means that.
Audience member: I was interested in your caterpillars and your quick statement when you were
talking about how the caterpillar is going to become a butterfly anyway and for
that process to occur it's not necessary for him to know it. And then I
thought,well then, why est, why transpersonal education? Certainly not because
Werner Erhard: Well, I have something to say about that. Life is essentially about "making it"
and you get to define what "it" is. Maybe it is living in the right part of town, or
maybe it is not living in the right part of town, depending upon which culture
you're part of. But life is essentially about making it or, to put it in the terms we
use in est, it's about surviving. Most of what we know about life is rules about
surviving, and you can survive mightily or you can survive tinily, but it's about
surviving. The three rules about surviving are "more, better, and different"; they
are the answer to all problems of making it. If you've got any problems, the answer
is one or a combination of more, better, or different "Different:' by the way, has a
parenthesis after it; it's called "change." That's what I liked when you said, "We
don't need it." How the hell do you talk about something you don't need? Obviously
it's stupid to talk about something you don't need - we don't talk about things we
don't need in this world. In a world which is composed of making it, the only
question is, what do you need? The only question is, if you're not talking about
how to make things better or make me better or something better, or if you're not
talking about more (oh, and the new more is "less," what we have to have is more
less) or better, or different, then you're talking drivel and nonsense. I tell people
they don't need the training, that it won't make them any better. They won't be
any more sexy or smart or better off than they were. They won't be any different
and they won't have changed. They'll be exactly as they were when they walked
into the training and they'll have gotten nothing out of it. People only value
something because in the world of "making it" only something is of value, nothing is
of no value, and it's the whole incredible stupidity of the Western concept of
Nirvana. For my money most of the Buddhists have sold out and explained it so
that it could be held in Western terms. This has totally ruined it. Nirvana seems to
be so patently obvious that I can't get why the Buddhists have sold out and
explained it. I mean this is Nirvana, obviously, it can't be otherwise. All of it is
exactly the way it is and none of it isn't the way it isn't, and in the dictionary
that's the description of "perfect."
James Fadiman: Earlier someone asked, what do we do it for if those folks who we are helping
don't need it. Well, it's clear who needs it. We do. I mean why do I like to talk to
six hundred people? It isn't that they need me, but if they weren't there I couldn't
do that, so my feeling is that therapists, much more particularly, are filling their
own needs by doing therapy on people.
Audience Member: Last week some friends and I were talking about the Association's
forthcoming Fifth Annual Conference. We were discussing "source" and the process
of creativity, and a friend quoted Einstein (from Conversations with Einstein)....
knowledge lay ready before the first discoverer appeared. He did not create it but
merely drew back the veil that enveloped it so that ultimately we get back to
intuition and its literal sense of becoming aware of things, an exact consideration
of things, states, and relationships, and this intensive consideration full of
wonderment has always been a privilege of a very few chosen men" and I want to
add that he said "and women."
James Fadiman: The Islamic tradition holds that Mohammed was born before the earth was
formed, but he didn't come into existence until the Mohammed that we know was
born out of a mother and a father ... that it was always there.
Werner Erhard: All the scientists I've interacted with take that view exclusively. I have the
same problem with any approach which denies any creative knowledge and says
that it's all there and you can only discover it. Approaches of this kind generate a
problem; how come nobody learns the way the originator learns - that is, not by
discovery but by creation. Originators lie to people about the way they learn
because they did not learn it. They created it. They didn't discover it because the
word "discovery" is a concept word, it's a conceptually valued word, it's the notion
that what exists, exists locationally in time and place, and therefore you fail on it.
Now the very same stuff can be talked about at the abstract end of the spectrum
in which you can no longer talk about discovery in a way that the thing was there
and you are going to flop on it. At the abstract end of the spectrum there is no
evidence, and at the concept end of the spectrum there's only evidence. So up
here at the abstraction you have certainty and down here at concept you have
proof. Down here at concept you can prove anything and can't make anything
happen, and up here at abstraction you can make anything happen and can't
prove anything. Which goes back to, "those who know don't say, and those who
say don't know,"
To refer to what Jim said, Jim said you can only have been enlightened, and I
agree with him on one level. My way of saying it is that what you do when you "get it" is to give it up, because if you hold on to it, all you hold onto is a concept,
because that's all that's hold-on-to-able. Let me say it like this: what we attempt
to do is get to our experience from our concepts, and maybe even get to the
abstractions from the concepts, and I think that was what Jim was saying about
the load of books.
It is my notion that coming to experience from concepts is a condition called "becoming." If you are coming from concepts, you are becoming. It is possible to
create a transformation in which the flow of life comes from abstraction and not
from concept. The thing that I said was happening when we were talking about
caterpillars was transformation. I consider transformation inevitable-with you,
without you, with me, without me, whether I like it or you like it. It's like women
having more scope in the world - my opinion is irrelevant, it's going to happen. Now
I can go kicking and screaming into that, or can go along politely, or I might even
support it, but it's going to happen. The true condition of transformation for me is
a condition in which the process produces transformation naturally, rather than by
force. So "Boy, I made it. I was transformed once. I got my graduation certificate
and no one can take it away from me because I have been transformed." Now I
loved what Jim said, because if you do get a graduation certificate, you are going
to hold on to it, and the only thing that saves you is to be able to give it up.
Because it's only when you're not transformed that you can be transformed; if
you're already transformed, you can't be transformed.
Audience Member: The way good teachers, teachers with a capital 'T', teach, is mostly to rely
on experience, not on words. But every once in a while, when something happens,
when somebody is ready to get kicked over the edge to do it, it seems to me that
concepts do it, a word does it at the right time.
Werner Erhard: I think that it's not possible to produce this state in words. I cannot tell you
the truth; I can talk so that you create the truth for yourself. If I can talk so that
you can create the truth for yourself, and it would come to "aha!" -and I'm not
even there, you didn't even notice me. Now I didn't "get" it from you, but you were
there, and I acknowledge you, in my terminology, as creating a space for me to
create this certainty. So at one end of the spectrum is the world of words, and at
the other end of the spectrum is also a world of words: one is what I think the
Buddhists call "skillful means," the other is a lot of talk.
Audience Member: The thing that I notice about the skillful means theory is that, when a good
teacher tells a story, your thought isn't so much, "Oh, I wish I had that
experience" but, "Oh, I had that experience."
Werner Erhard: Yes, that's beautiful.
Audience Member: So there's no separation between you and him.
James Fadiman: I remember very vividly a friend of ours who came out to the West. When he
arrived I felt this enormous urge to teach him something. And I thought, "I wish I
was a teacher in something, because he is so ready to be taught." And he told us
about his cross-country trip, and everywhere he stopped, where he was going to
hang out with anyone who either was a teacher or knew a teacher, the teacher
would say, "I'll take you on." It was this ripeness, that you just knew he was ready
to be plucked by somebody and it didn't matter who, because he was ready. And it
was rare enough so that I can't think of another incidence.
Audience Member: Your example, Jim, of the teacher and the pupil is for me the gestalt of the
object and the background. You can either choose to look at the subject, or you
can choose to look at the background, or you can take it all in at once, which is, I
think, what we're really talking about. In your story it seems to me that the pupil is
the teacher, and so I guess I'm having trouble with the dynamic that is so linear.
James Fadiman: Well, let me add one other concept of Transpersonal which I got from
(Frederick) Spiegelberg. He pointed out that Transpersonal can also be called
transpersonal, as through the mask. When you get back to who's looking through
the mask you-get beyond the subject-object, you're out into the gestalt.
Audience Member: I think that everyone here has had the experience of realizing that we
already not only "know it" but are "doing it." And one of the things that interests
me is why it's so hard to "take credit for it." What it really is, is taking
responsibility for it, and we equate responsibility with credit. Now if you take the
credit that means you've got to take the blame, and none of us want the blame.
The way I see it, we don't get the pleasure of the credit, but we don't get the
embarrassment and shame of the blame, and we don't take responsibility for it. My
own experience is that when I have those moments when I take responsibility
without the credit, then I don't worry about the blame and I really enjoy that very
purely. The question is, why is it so hard to take responsibility?
Werner Erhard: That's the end game move. For me, what it's really all about is, are you really
going to be responsible for being enlightened? You know, we all know people
who've given up all their worldly possessions, who've given up their reputation,
who've given up their parents, their children, their spouses, who've given up parts
of their body, people who'd give up anything to be enlightened, except the idea
that they are not enlightened. They will not give up not being enlightened, it's too
painful, it's too terrible to give that up.
Audience Member: And anyway it was yesterday.
Audience Member: Could you elaborate on that fear of being enlightened?
Werner Erhard: It was just said: To be enlightened is the ultimate statement of responsibility.
I mean, you no longer can lay the onus anyplace,
Audience Member: It's termed, "No praise or blame,"
Werner Erhard: Yes, that's really very good. You know, once you have a real experience of
responsibility there really isn't any credit involved. I mean you can't take credit for
things being the way they are because they always are the way they are. They
are never any other way than the way they are, and you can be responsible for it.
What people are afraid of is this kind of blame - they are actually even afraid of
the credit. You know, as stupid and as small as I've been, I certainly can't take
credit for anything. I might even be able to bear the blame of it, but I sure as hell
can't have any of the credit. And probably the single most misunderstood
explanation that comes out of
people who have been through the est training is this business about responsibility.
People cannot get that there is something beyond blame or fault, credit or praise. I
think what frightens people about ultimately being enlightened is that it's an
ultimately responsible position. People who come out of the training do the same
stupid things they did before the training. The point is that they give them up
after a while. And then they do the stupid things that are next underneath the
stupid things they've given up, and then they give those up after a while. So,
when you got it you do stupid things, and when you don't got it you do stupid
things, so what's the difference? The difference is that there's a sense of
satisfaction about life or a sense of completeness about life when you're
completing counter-productive patterns, a sense which is missing when you're
simply reinforcing or dramatizing or acting out counter-productive patterns. So the
real purpose of est is not to make people better. That's really difficult for people to
understand. People come out of the training absolutely unchanged if the training
has really worked. Now there is some little side stuff that people talk about, about
how they got better and how they lost their thyroid condition and all that stuff.
That's not what the training is about. The training's about not moving someplace.
It's not about growth. The training's about transformation in which the process of
life is reversed, and if, in fact, that does happen, then community is the natural
process which results from transformation.
So the training is not an end of anything. It's the beginning of something and what
it begins is that process of community. But then, instead of trying to get
enlightened, you live as an expression of the enlightenment.
Some Aspects of the est Training and Transpersonal Psychology: A Conversation - Internet Archive