I’d like to increase the number of tools in our lightworker toolbox by looking at what Werner Erhard called “context” and “transformation.”
I look upon the Human Growth Movement as my Father and Spirituality as my Mother. And, in my opinion, no one (with the possible exception of psychologist and workshop leader John Enright) approached Werner’s mastery of human growth.
Werner had two experiences of enlightenment. The first woke him up to a new domain of possibility and the disappeared.
The second occurred while driving his car across the Golden Gate Bridge. To try to convey what occurred and provide others with access to that experience, he created the est Training.
In all his programs, Werner combined social activism and spiritual depth in a unique and valuable approach to creating what he called a world that works for everyone. We call that world the Fifth Dimension.
Central to his view were the two notions of context and transformation.
What is Context?
Context for him meant the whole. The whole is equivalent to saying the One, All That Is, Unity, etc.
If Spirituality stresses unitive consciousness, I’d like to coin the phrase “holistic consciousness” for Werner’s focus. I think the two terms refer to the same state.
One of Werner’s code names for God was “Everything/Nothing.”God was everything that is, while at the same time being no thing. Krishna captured this paradox:
“This entire universe is pervaded by me, in that eternal form of mine which is not manifest to the senses. Although I am not within any creature, all creatures exist within me. I do not mean that they exist within me physically. That is my divine mystery. You must try to understand its nature. My Being sustains all creatures and brings them to birth, but has no physical contact with them.” (1)
Like so many paradoxes this one is resolved by distinguishing between the two levels of reality that are implied but not acknowledged.
“Everything” refers to all levels of reality, from the material to the transcendental. God is everything. “Nothing” refers simply to the material: God is “no thing” or not a thing, an object – and especially not an object of awareness. God is the universal Subject, the only One that is, the One without a second.
When viewed from a transcendental standpoint, God is everything; when viewed from a material standpoint, God is “no thing.”
That which is everything while being no thing is the context for all that is.
Context is a principle that organizes everything in the space it creates. Examples of contexts include peace, health, love, etc.
War could go on in peace but peace cannot go on in war and a state of war exist. “War” does not describe the whole but “peace” does.
A context needs no maintenance. Peace needs no maintenance but war does. New recruits need to be trained. Men and materiel need to be transported to the front.
Battles need to be fought. The wounded need to be tended to and the dead buried. On and on the activities of war go until war finally ends in peace again.
Peace is therefore a context and war is a condition that goes on in the overarching context of peace.
Since only God is whole, context ultimately refers to God. “Coming from context” we’d call today coming form the divine qualities of love – bliss, compassion, detachment, patience, etc. Being qualities of God, they’re contextual or holistic. Both Werner and the Company of Heaven, for instance, talk about coming from love. That’d be an example of what Werner meant by “coming from context.”
What is Transformation?
The est Training was eminently hands-on. It wasn’t a mere discussion of spiritual truths. It was a training session in two things: Ways of being that worked to (1) end unwanted conditions like depression and despair and (2) provide the participant with tools to keep unfolding their own transformation and that of society at large into transcendent satisfaction and universal workability.
Transformation is an inner process of realization that results in an instantaneous discontinuity in thought and emotion. One is not the same after as one was before and yet one has not changed at all. “I used to be different,” Werner would say, “and now I’m the same.”
Change/no change is another paradox until we resolve it by sorting out the dimensions of reality being referred to.
“Transformation” refers to a shift at a very deep level of our being. Compared to it, “change”causes only superficial altering of surface matters (clothing, hairdo, habits, beliefs). The changes we make are merely cosmetic, merely window-dressing, compared to transformation.
Many aspects of the shift that transformation causes are permanent. Change does not produce a permanent shift.
At best, the impact of change is weak and transitory. Because it avoids a deep shift in consciousness while keeping us spiritually busy, it can be said to cause the persistence of the phenomenon in question. The unwanted condition, underneath the cosmetic changes, continues on.
Change can postpone the time of ascent by distracting us endlessly. The failure of change to ultimately satisfy means that we move from one sensory object or pursuit to another in an endless cycle of desire.
In our language, change is a Third-Dimensional concept; transformation is multidimensional.
If life is all about ascension from plane to plane to plane, then what Werner calls “transformation” is the way to ascend and ascend and ascend.
The significance of context and transformation to lightwork is that they provide a second perspective on the value of the ultimate goal – holistic or unitive consciousness – and the means of attaining it. For anyone who can’t “get” the path and goal as the Company of Heaven are describing it, Werner’s way offers an alternative.
Vigrinia Satir emphasized the usefulness of having three approaches to a therapeutic breakthrough. If we had one, we might encounter an insurmountable obstacle and have no way around it.
If we had two choices, the mind tends to make one right and the other wrong. So it creates having only one from two anyways.
If we have three choices, the mind cannot handle it. It tends to fall silent in the face of three. I therefore am looking for a third approach in addition to Spirituality and Growth.
The teachings attached to the Human-Growth perspective offer hands-on, practical ways of achieving the constant and continual opening that transformation is. If you don’t think you know what these tools are and yet have been reading this site for any amount of time, you’ll have been exposed to them because the extent to which I’ve drawn on Werner and other Growth leaders is great.
The Growth Movement in general offered us tools to harness the levels of intellectual and experiential knowledge to the process of ascendence, something many conventional Spiritual sources don’t necessarily emphasize. Growth was more about a human push towards holistic consciousness rather than a divine pull. It was seen as “down and dirty,” as opposed to the more pure and perfect conventional Spiritual paths.
Linda Dillon might say that growth concerns itself with a divine process of descendence – descent into the heart of physicality – our feelings, experience, beliefs and assumptions. We ascend by descending into this now moment of life. We ascend by being here now. We ascend by being fully alive to everything in and around us while not attaching to anything.
We ascend by being fully who we are. And the “fully who we are” of Growth is no different than the “fully who we are” of Spirituality.
(1) Sri Krishna in Swami Prabhavananda and Christopher Isherwood, trans., Bhagavad-Gita. The Song of God. New York and Scarborough: New American Library, 1972; c1944, 80.