Werner Erhard on Transformation and Productivity: An Interview (1985)

The following is an excerpt from an interview with Werner Erhard done by Norman Bodek and published in ReVision: The Journal of Consciousness and Change,  Vol 7, No. 2, Winter 1984/Spring 1985.  The entire interview can be found in the archive section at the Werner Erhard website.

Norman Bodek: This domain you’re talking about is a function of Being?

Werner Erhard: This phenomenon I’m trying to get at is in the domain of Being. Creating distinctions—not naming or explaining distinctions but creating distinctions—is a phenomenon in the domain of Being.

Let me give you one more example. Let’s say you study all the books there are about balance. Then you go out and sit on a bicycle, but you fall off. You know everything there is to know about balance, but you fall off the bicycle because the ability to balance on a bike is not really predicated on what we think of as information or knowledge. That is to say ability, skill, and prowess are not epistemological phenomena—not phenomena of knowledge or information.

Now, we observe that if you take someone out on a bike, and he sits on it and falls off enough times, then at some point he’ll sit on it and balance. So, we then say to ourselves, “Ah, the answer is not knowledge, but experience!” I say that too is a misinterpretation. I say that if you use that interpretation in working with people, you’re going to be very frustrated. I think that what happens when someone learns balance is that he sits on a bike, falls off, sits on it, falls off, until at some point, out of all that experience, he brings forth the distinction of “balance.” And in that distinction, or in that “domain of possibility,” he can now discern balance from not-balance. He’ll still fall off some more, but he’s now over the hump. The possibility of balance is present because he’s had that break­through. He now has a domain of distinction called balance, in which the experience “balance” can show up.

There is a transcending of the ordinary rules here. The ordinary rules are: you learn a little bit, then you learn a little bit more, then more, and finally you know enough to do it. I’m saying that there is a whole body of problems or concerns for which that theory does not work. For that body of problems, the solution is an all-of-a-sudden phenomenon—an “ah-haa” experience. We don’t understand it very well because we try to get at it with disciplines which cannot contain it. Our work proposes a discipline directed at those phenomena, and we think we now know something about the content of that discipline. We now know that the “ah-haa” is a product of bringing forth a domain of distinction, literally creating it. It’s as if you know you don’t have to go through that process one step at a time—you’ve got it all at the moment of bringing forth the distinction. It now lives for you as a possibility. It’s true that you’ll have to go through the practice and add the steps in, but you’re adding the steps into the possibility, not trying to build towards the possibility.

This technology of breakthrough is distinction-creating, or paradigm-creating, or context-creating. The traditional disciplines can say something about it, but they have no power to bring it about. Bringing it about requires a whole different discipline. It is talked about in religion, psychology, and philosophy. But it’s talked about rather than brought forth. You can read books from now until doomsday on creativity and only associate with creative people, and you’re still not likely to be much more creative than when you started. It requires a whole new discipline to be creative. And that’s the discipline we’re talking about.

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