Personal Reflections on Contemporary Philosophy of Transformation #2

Posted on | September 30, 2009 | Comments Off on Personal Reflections on Contemporary Philosophy of Transformation #2

So, it is with a mixture of hesitation and excitement that I ‘come out’ here on the Five Questions blog and begin to share some of the philosophical, even theological, underpinnings of my work. If you are a traditional Christian, you may find what I have to say disturbing or even blasphemous, but this is the direction my life experience has taken me and my ‘working theology’. . .

This is the next in a series of blogs connecting the Five Questions approach with its philosophical and spiritual development roots.

The stated and intended outcome of the world’s great religions is changed lives.  This usually means not only an ultimate transformation—e.g. salvation, nirvana, satori—but also some kind of penultimate here-and-now, I-can-see-it-in-your-life change.  In spite of the central place of transformation in their theologies, however, mainline western religions have not addressed nor explored the process nearly as much as you would expect.

That may be one reason why mainline religions have recently become less significant in people’s lives.  More and more folks looking for something that makes a real difference are looking elsewhere.

In the late 1960’s a controversial figure, Werner Erhard, emerged as the head of a California-based movement which enjoyed a rapid popularity.  He established a large network of people who were graduates of a seminar he designed and led, called est, derived from the Latin verb, ‘to be.’

Without intending it, the est workshop represented a bridge between the search for meaning by everyday people and the transformational work of Jesus as I understand it.  Even though Erhard’s trainers denied it, it appeared to me that they were teaching a process for believing. The content of belief was not their concern.  The experience was.

As a life-long student of Jesus, especially his parables (which I view as transformational encounters), I want to offer here a few theological reflections on the Erhard approach and summarize what might be of value for spiritually-oriented change agents.  It will be too brief, highly personal and incomplete, but perhaps it will invite conversation into a contemporary philosophy of change.

I also believe Jesus would have a few things to say to Werner Erhard, and I will briefly describe what appear to me to be missing ingredients in his approach.


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