Werner 33I came across this article from 2014 in the course of attending to a request. It’s so germane to our work that I’d like to repost it here.
Yesterday I looked at the context called “a world that works for everyone,” which was created by Werner Erhard in the 1970s. (1) Today I want to look at the organizing principle that Werner put forth for such a world.
In 1980 Werner referred to that organizing principle when he said “a you-and-me world [is] a world that works for everyone.” (2) I actually vividly remember him saying the following words to describe his vision:
“Sometime around now – it may have happened five years ago or fifty years ago – … the rules for living successfully on this planet shifted. We can no longer hope to live meaningful, purposeful lives using the rules of a you or me world. It’s becoming clearer and clearer to those who will look that in order to live successfully on this planet, we must discover and live by the rules of you and me.” (3)
He described this context as “more radical than a revolution.” In place of the exclusionist principles common in society, Werner offered inclusionist principles based on each of us taking responsibility for our world and letting go of our polar, confrontational leanings. He said:
“Here, purpose and meaning in our lives do not come in response to a common enemy or in the wake of a popular leader, but from individuals willing to take on and create purpose and meaning for themselves.
“It is the beginning of a transformation in the quality of life on our planet for each of us, with no one left out. We can choose to make the success of all humanity our personal business.” (4)
The Vietnam War was fresh in everyone’s memory. There was awareness among a few of how the population had been manipulated into going to war. But there was nowhere near the knowledge of the forces that wanted to win control of the world that there is today.
No one suspected what was happening behind closed doors. It took 9/11 to wake many people up.
Werner was speaking into a space inhabited by protesters and activists who had begun by marching but ended by burning banks and eventually devastating the downtown areas through which they marched. No one’s hands were clean in those days. Werner seemed alone in emphasizing accountability and integrity.
Werner’s call for a you-and-me society, a world that worked for everyone, with no one left out, was about as challenging a perspective for me as any that I’d ever heard before. It wasn’t simply its global reach that was revolutionary; it’s that it included very many people whom activists at that time regarded with disdain and missed few opportunities to ridicule.
Werner described the kind of world we lived in here:
“The world isn’t friendly to the experience that your life works; the world isn’t friendly to the experience that you have relationships which are meaningful and nurturing. There’s no room for that out there. There’s plenty of room to be very slick and clever and successful. You’re a slick operator? Terrific! The world’s truly friendly to that. But if you’re decent, you’d better hide it.” (5)
Proposing his vision was radical enough. But Werner didn’t stop there. He practically campaigned for it.
And he wasn’t helped as much as we are by rising energy, the prospect of global prosperity and a shift in consciousness.
Our work to create Nova Earth is helped by the uplifting impact of the energies sent to us from the far reaches of space and from other dimensions. But Werner had no such help. He was a lone person facing into all the unworkability that prevailed at the time.
That unworkability included the undermining of foreign economies, the seizure of nations’ natural resources by multinational companies, the assassination of leaders of other countries who tried to establish democracy, and constant warfare in every region of the globe, disguised as anti-communist and later anti-terrorist.
No one at the time imagined that all this was a strategy to take control of the world from the people and create a “New World Order.”
In 1980 Werner wrote that:
“In this new context, making a difference becomes a way of life – individuals live their lives out of the knowledge that each of us has the responsibility and the power to create a world that works for all of us.” (6)
No one that I know suspected at the time that this generation would actually face into a global shift in consciousness. People like Werner did the heavy lifting for this global shift and cleared the space for us to consider forgiveness on a planetary scale.
Facing into the challenge that Werner issued was the first introduction for many of us of what we now know as “unitive consciousness.” As Werner put it:
“When we start to examine our assumptions about our relationship with the world, we begin a process that results in a discovery. We discover that not only are we related; we are actually members of a vast human family.
“Along with this discovery comes a deeply experienced sense of responsibility for all family members, and a desire to do something, to make a contribution that will make the world work for everyone.” (7)
Werner 22He and his associates created one organization and workshop after another with incredible speed (the Hunger Project, the Breakthrough Foundation, Hermenet, etc.) to address the challenges of the work. His stated purpose for the Community Workshop was particularly revealing:
“The problems of our times are so massive, so pressing, that they cannot be handled by individuals alone. The time for solitary heroes is over. We can no longer rely on old ways of thinking, old patterns of leadership and followership.
“If we are going to create a world that works for everyone, we must learn to function in communities; to be effective and produce results in participation with others. …
“The [Community] workshop is an opportunity to be responsible for a convergence of vision and circumstances which results in true community action.” (8)
He held that the world of his time was run on the basis of survival. In fact, the fundamental insight that brought on Werner’s own transformation was his realization that he too was skewed toward survival:
“I saw that the fundamental skew to all knowledge, and to the unenlightened mind, is survival, or, as I put it then, success. All my knowledge up to then had been skewed toward success, toward making it, toward self-realization, toward all the goals, from material to mystic.
“In the next instant – after I realized that I knew nothing – I realized that I knew everything.” (9)
A survival-oriented world gave rise to a you-or-me way of life (looking out for Number One, as one author described it). “In a you-or-me world, nothing makes a difference,” he said. (10) Trainer Angelo d’Amelio referred to the rules of such a world:
“I know how to win and to make others lose. I know the rules of the ‘you or me’ game. I’ve been trained by society in these rules.” (11)
We could engage in individual acts of kindness and charity that “proved” our benevolence, which Werner would have called “gestures” and “pretense.” But we were not to allow others into the winners’ circle or share our knowledge with them of how to win. Angelo said:
“You can share the fruits of winning but don’t share winning itself with them because you [may] have to start wrestling again and, when you do, it’s still ‘you or me.’” (12)
In a you-and-me world, “I win by virtue of your winning. It’s true but,” Angelo added, “you’re not allowed to think in this way. It’s not natural. It’s naive, stupid.” (13) We know that the strategy of the CIA at this time was to ridicule those who witnessed UFOs so as to keep us from knowing of the presence of the galactics. That strategy was not limited to one field; it was practised against anyone who tried to make a difference in the society of the times – if they were not assassinated (like John Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, etc.).
Angelo asserted that “a completely-developed, whole human being will naturally select as a context for life that life will work for everyone.” (14) Others at the time were calling this context win/win. The work to make the world such a place was to be found precisely where we stood, he held.
“If you want to make a difference, if you want your life to matter, you must devote yourself to finding out what’s wanted and needed where you are.
“You need to go home and find out what’s wanted and needed to make the world work where you are, to create a you-and-me world context for life.” (15)
Today we’d say that a you-and-me world is run on the divine qualities, such as forgiveness, trust and love. We’d talk about how everyone in the world is connected and that our separative consciousness is what caused the problems on our planet.
Werner chose to leave America when Scientology threatened his life and his daughter accused him of sexual assault on the promise of a large bribe (which she never received).
My understanding was that he went to Russia and was largely responsible for glasnost and perestroika and to Northern Ireland where he assisted in achieving peace there. In these years he established the Mastery Foundation and trained peace negotiators and leaders.
I can’t think of another person who’s labored harder for world peace and for a world established on a firm foundation of workability. There may be people who have but I personally don’t know of them.
Now we’re on the brink of creating a world that works for everyone, based on the organizing principles of inclusion, universality, non-judgmentalness, etc. In my own view, in many ways, we’ll be reaping the crop that Werner sowed.
I certainly acknowledge my debt to the man whose associates turned me completely around the day I walked into that training room. He taught me principles that molded my thinking like no one else has.
The research for this article comes from the “est Dictionary,” which can be found here: http://goldenageofgaia.com/spiritual-essays/the-path-of-awareness/est-dictionary/. Given that Werner’s views are so relevant to the work we’re doing today, I’ll be writing more about them as we go along.
(1) “Creating a World That Works for Everyone,” July 1, 2014, at http://goldenageofgaia.com/2014/07/01/creating-a-world-that-works-for-everyone/.
(2) Werner Erhard, Graduate Review, May/June 1980.
(3) Werner Erhard at the Werner Event, c1980.
(4) Loc. cit.
(5) Werner Erhard in Morty Lefkoe, “Taking It Out into the World,” Graduate Review, Feb. 1977.
(6) Werner Erhard, Graduate Review, May/June 1980.
(7) Graduate Review, probably citing Werner, February 1979.
(8) Werner Erhard quoted in Joan Bordow, “Inventing the Community Workshop,” The Review, May/June 1982, 5.
(9) Werner Erhard in W.W. Bartley III. Werner Erhard: The Transformation of a Man; the Founding of est. New York: Potter, 1978., 166-8.
(10) Werner Erhard at the Werner Event, c1980.
(11) Angelo d’Amelio, Post-Training Event, Vancouver, Nov. 1979.
(12) Loc. cit.
(13) Loc. cit.
(14) Loc. cit.
(15) Loc. cit.