Presentations of Douglas Harding

The Werner Erhard Foundation sponsored presentations by Douglas Harding, a prominent British philosopher, architect, artist, lecturer, inventor, and scientist. Douglas Harding is a pioneer in the technology of "enlightenment" and the author of On Having No Head: A Contribution to Zen in the West. He discussed his findings and presented perceptual exercises for audiences in eight cities across the United States in 1975.

From the February 1979 issue of The Graduate Review:

est and Taking It Easy - by Douglas Harding

I want to be clear about what I've got out of est, so far. This will involve looking at what I had—where I was—when I first made contact with est a few months ago.

In fact, I'll have to go back a lot further than that. It was in 1943 that I saw who I really was. I certainly needed to. I'd become a very serious case of mistaken identity. I'd conned myself into believing that I really was somebody called Douglas Harding, a particular person milling around among hordes of other persons, one separate thing alongside or up against a lot of other separate things. It was hell. Then one day I noticed that I was that insignificant thing in appearance only, and that in reality I was an im­mense space in which everything was going on, and on, and off, without affecting the space at all. Looked at from six feet away I was something, all right; from zero feet, nothing what­ever. Nothing but the source and con­tainer of all things.

Still, of course, that somebody called Douglas hung around, making himself felt in countless ways. He con­tinued to loom large and often in my space, clouding and distorting the other contents. Not that this worried me too much. I felt sure that seeing my true nature—the inside story of who I really was here—would in due course sort out what I appeared to be over there, without my having to tackle Douglas and his hang-ups directly, a huge task for which I felt unqualified anyway. After all, I'd got to the root of my problems: I'd solved the riddle of my identity. I'd uncovered my total perfection.

However, my Douglas-impersonation—that mysterious character who masquerades as ME —didn't in practice improve much as the years went by. Actually, there were times when he seemed to be getting worse instead of better. Well, I reflected, it's the human condition to be not okay. The very best thing I could do for him, for his friends, for all creatures, was to go on seeing steadily that I am forever where they all come from and go back to, and to go on devising new and more telling means of sharing this crucial seeing with as many people as possible.

This was how it was with me when, a few months back, I became involved with est. And this, basically, is how it is now. And I did get, and am still getting, a whole lot out of my est experience. What, then, has been added to or subtracted from what I already had? The rest of this article doesn't really answer that question, but it makes a start. What I got wasn't new light on who I am (which is the light itself) but on who I seem to be, on Douglas and what makes him tick.

For example, I've come to realize vividly how it is that I'm not simply the Source of the entire Universe, but also the source of that peculiar world which Douglas has found himself in, his special circumstances over the years. I set it all up that way. I created, as a sort of permanent loyal opposition party, a world that was mistaken and unenlightened and needing my treatment. I recognize now that this was the family pattern, into which I naturally fell. For, like my father, I was raised according to an exceedingly narrow and austere religious tradition. We regarded ourselves as an oasis of rightness in a desert of a world where all was wrong, wicked, hellbent. Then, at 21, I began exploring the desert. I found it richly, alarmingly fertile. So I detached myself abruptly from that tradition, and my family cut me off even more abruptly. I celebrated my freedom by experiencing my first play in the theatre, my first film, my first concert....

But was I free? I've come now to see how my life was in fact powered by the conviction that I was right, that I held the truth or enlightenment the world desperately needed and didn't want to know about. Indeed, after breaking away from my family, I continued to follow the family pattern in spite of myself. The content of my life changed utterly, the overall form remained.

I must at once add that I'm neither excusing nor deploring any of the patterns I've had in my life. Quite the contrary, I take full responsibility for them all and regret nothing. They weren't just used to good effect, they proved indispensable. I set it all up—the whole cat's cradle —and by and large it worked. A job got done. A difference was made in the world.

But now I find myself completing these patterns — by becoming more aware of them, by re-experiencing how they tended to structure my life, and by sharing about them with you now. And, to the extent that they are completed, they disappear. Certainly at this time I find myself delighted to be free of the notion of having to set the world to rights.

The world is fine as it is. So I'm taking it easy, sailing with the wind instead of into it. You could say that I've retired.

And, paradoxically, I've done nothing of the sort. I'm getting on with the greatest work that can ever be done for the world; namely, to see steadily who I am without any particular reason and without doing anything special about it. For the seeing is the doing, and this seeing-doing is no personal or private experience. I can only see this as you, and for you, and on behalf of all. It's a cosmic happening and bears no date. No human, as such, was ever enlightened, for enlightenment is seeing that you aren't so much a human being as plain being. And no being, as such, was ever unenlightened, for Being is enlightenment. It follows that the enlightenment of one is the enlightenment of all (past, present, or future) and just can't be contained. So, far from retiring, I've taken on the toughest and most responsible of jobs—and the only one whose success can be 100 percent guaranteed.

My intention is nothing less than the world's enlightenment. I'm getting what I want, absolutely. And I owe to est the clarity of this statement. I look forward to being with you in America.

- Douglas Harding: The Graduate Review: February 1979


Graduate ReviewIntroducing Douglas Harding

Werner Erhard first met Douglas Harding in England two years ago. "I had, in a way, known Douglas before I met him face to face," Werner said. "And known him intimately, given that he has really shared himself in his book, On Having No Head.... I am truly excited about his work. "

Many est graduates and their friends will have an opportunity in March and April to spend the evening with Douglas at a special series of events which The Werner Erhard Foundation is presenting in eight cities.

A philosopher, architect, author, inventor and scientist, Douglas developed his "technology" of enlightenment, which he calls "The Headless Way," 30 years ago. He was one of the first Western philosophers to say that enlightenment is instantaneous, that a human being is much more likely to see who he or she is in one minute of active experimentation than in years of thinking, lecture-attending, ritual observance, or passive meditation. He has developed simple perceptual exercises which pose the question, "How do I look at myself?"

These exercises enable people to have a direct experience of things that they may already "know about" yet have not perceived on the level of insight.
Last March, while Douglas was in the United States, Werner invited him to spend a day with the est trainers. The trainers instantly felt a kinship with Douglas. He talked about what he called First Person, which is seeing the world from here and now and not in time or in dimension or positionality, and recognized for his part that they knew exactly what he was talking about. It seemed as if lie had come home.

est trainer Ron Bynum, who remembers that day with Douglas well, explains a bit of what The Headless Way is. "You've never seen your face, you've only seen a reflection of your face, or perhaps you've seen a two-dimensional representation of your face. Yet we all keep going around as if we had a face. We know that we bring foreign substances and put them into holes in our head. We exist in this place over here, behind these eyes... and we know we have eyes only because we've seen them in the mirror. We are coming from no place looking out at all of these things which are places."

Seeing the trainers' interest and excitement in meeting and knowing Douglas, Werner Erhard wanted to share him with everybody. "Douglas is a beautiful, remarkable man," he says. "He has a rare ability to assist people in expanding their appreciation of personal reality. I am thrilled to be able to share Douglas Harding with the est graduates." Douglas Harding returned to England and subsequently took the est training.

from The Graduate Review, Feb 1979

Douglas Harding







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