D3C_9523From the Introduction to Tears

We have collectively read thousands of books in our lifetime. Only very rarely do we have the experience that we are reading one of the great minds and hearts of the generation. I (Gershon) had that experience when I read Abraham Joshua Heschel, Martin Buber, and Joseph Solovietchik. We have that experience when reading Marc Gafni. Before introducing the volume in front of you, we want to take this opportunity to introduce you to Marc, the thinker, the activist, the teacher, and the thought leader, particularly in the areas of Self, World Spirituality, Eros and Intimacy, Success 3.0, Enlightenment, approaches to God, Gender, and a new Integral Universe Story. What marks all of the work is a message, sometimes hidden and sometimes revealed, which Marc refers to as Outrageous Love. We used to think that the best characterization of Gafni’s work was brilliance bathed in love. We now think that it is love bathed in brilliance. In the last two years all of this teaching has been introduced with one potent sentence. “We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love.” Gafni’s teaching today emerges both from his broken heart, holy audacity, and Outrageous Love.

Gafni spent the first half of his adult life as one of the great teachers of Torah in this generation. His Torah was and is among the most profound that we have ever studied. And, we are not easy with such superlative adjectives. He planted many seeds in the Jewish lineage path, which are now sprouting in the works of the many who were influenced, both directly and indirectly by his work and teaching. Early in those years he was the star summer Rabbi of Lincoln Square Synagogue for several summers where thousands of people heard him teach.

He then evolved a beautiful Jewish presence in New York City public schools, developing a large and highly effective organization called Jewish Public School Youth, which he revitalized and took to an entirely new level of depth and effectiveness. At a pivotal moment, he energized the Orthodox Jewish community of Boca Raton and, under his leadership, the synagogue reached its first tipping point.

When Marc moved to Israel, he was able to do the same thing for the Israeli settlement of Tzufim. In a key period, he helped the leadership of Tzufim move the settlement to a tipping point of stability, which allowed its continuity and growth. These are only a few examples of Marc’s impact as an active communal leader, deeply committed to oral teaching and service.

While Marc is primarily an oral teacher, he has developed a very significant body of writing over the years which we are convinced will stand the test of time and become part of the core Jewish and World Spirituality Library. He wrote the Orthodox Jewish response to Harold Kushner’s book When Bad Things Happen to Good People, published in Tradition, the premier intellectual Journal of Modern Orthodoxy when he was in his early twenties. He, then, wrote two articles in Hebrew about creating a shared spiritual language between religious and secular Jews published in leading intellectual journals in Israel, Nativ and Machanayim. He also wrote some important pieces in the West Bank Settler magazine, Nekudah. The most important article protested the use of the incendiary language by right wing settler leaders which he said would lead to political assassination. This was only two years before the Rabin Assassination. He wrote a short book on Jewish values and law for Russian immigrants in the mid nineties. He created several pivotal seasons of an Israeli television show, which he wrote and hosted on spirituality, culture and values. The show was highly popular and beloved among many sectors of Israeli society. The show was called Tachat Gafno, Under His Vine, which is a phrase from the bible describing enlightened consciousness. He then went on to create three other seminal television series. One was with leading Israeli comedian Gil Kopatch on the weekly biblical Torah reading. The second was a series of twenty-five minute mini shows. These shows opened Israel’s leading channel’s morning program with a wisdom download from Marc. The third was a series of seven short programs Marc prepared as a spiritual response to be aired on national Israeli television after terrorist attacks with civilian casualties.

The First Stage: Five Major Jewish Books

Marc’s writing falls into two distinct stages. In the first stage, he wrote five major Jewish books with two CD sets. The books are Soul Prints, Mystery of Love, Lilith (with Ohad Ezrahi), Certainty, and Uncertainty. Each is groundbreaking. We will offer you a brief review of his core work so you will be able to contextualize the work in front of you, Tears, within the overall arc of his work. Soul Prints appears in English and Hebrew. In Hebrew, it has extensive original source footnotes, which he prepared together with Abraham Leader. Soul Prints became a National Best Seller and also a PBS special. It introduces the idea that every human being has a soul print and that to fully live your life is to know, live and evolve your soul print. In this book, he introduces some of his core themes and terms. The recognition of loneliness, the move from loneliness to singularity, sacred autobiography, the embrace of personal story as an expression of enlightenment, the centrality of voice, soul print calls, We Space created though Soul Print Encounters, a new vision of parenting, the idea and term Unique Self, as well as startlingly original and beautiful new readings of classical Jewish sources, texts and traditions. Besides all of this, Marc appears in the book as a master storyteller, and perhaps most important with an overflowing heart and brilliance bathed in love. Soul Prints hit the best seller lists in the United States and has an accompanying six CD workshop.

His second book, Mystery of Love, is thought by many to be one of the most insightful and original works today on sexuality and Eros. This work is accurately called Kabbalistic Tantra. It maps the relationship between the erotic, the holy and the sexual. Gafni transmits the following core teaching: Eros is holiness. The sexual models the erotic, it does not exhaust the erotic. He then outlines the ten major qualities of the erotic. He shows how all these qualities of Eros are modeled by the sexual. But then in paradoxical tour de force he shows how living in the sacred requires us to liberate the erotic from its exile in the sexual. Human beings need to live erotically in every dimension of life. Expanding Eros beyond the sexual to every dimension of life, based on the ideal model of the sexual is the practice of Kabbalistic Tantra outlined in this book. There is an accompanying six cd set of teaching on this material entitled The Erotic and the Holy.

Marc’s third book is on Certainty. This book is currently only available in Hebrew. It is slated for release in English by Integral Publishers. In this book Gafni redefines the place of certainty in our lives according to a deep reading of sacred text and the human situation. In the old spiritual world, “certainty” meant, “It is true.” It referred to specific beliefs and dogmas. Today certainty has a deeper nature. It no longer simply means, “It is true.” Certainty is no longer certainty of dogma. Rather, certainty means, “I am true.” The figure that incarnates this sensibility, this core certainty of being, is Judah. The Judah figure is profoundly unpacked in this book and in later works by Gafni. He is the archetype of Messianic consciousness in that he embodies a deep rootedness in his own true identity, his God Self. Judah is the model for the fully embodied human. Gafni makes seminal links between the Modeh Ani morning prayer and the Judah story in the biblical text that shine prisms of light on the inner meaning of Hebrew ritual, prayer and sacred text in way that truly opens everything up at a higher level. It is precisely this core certainty of being that, according to Gafni, allows the awake human being to hold uncertainty.

Gafni’s fourth work is Uncertainty. Like Certainty, it is written in Hebrew and slated for publication in English by Integral publishers. Gafni’s point of departure is a claim made by a well-known religious author that uncertainty is the opposite of faith. This author points out that the word Safek, which in Hebrew means uncertain, does not appear in the Hebrew bible. Gafni takes exception and re-visions living in uncertainty as the very hallmark of the genuine homo-religious. He essentially reclaims uncertainty as a core spiritual value. To do so he cracks a biblical code and uncovers a new genre of hidden biblical stories that he labels as the Ullai, the “Maybe Stories” of the book of Genesis. He points out that while the word Safek does not appear, the word Ullai, maybe, does appear time and again. He uncovers this previously unnoticed code in the Genesis text, which revolves around the word Ullai, maybe. Each story in this hidden genre of Maybe Stories pivots on the ability or inability to engage uncertainty. In this book, Gafni also dramatically evolves our understanding of the great issue of theodicy, why a good God apparently allows bad things to happen to good people. In Gafni’s re-visioning, deeply rooted in re-reading of original source texts, the great question of Why, itself becomes the answer. The answer lies in the question itself. In this re-reading, the problem of suffering is not, as he puts it, a theo-logical problem, it is a relational problem. It is an intimacy issue, rather than a theo-logical issue. Gafni’s approach turns the entire discussion of theodicy on its head. In the very screaming of the question against God, the ruptured intimacy with God is reestablished. The question is the answer.

Gafni’s final book in the first half of his writing is called Lilith Re-reading Feminine Shadow in Rabbinic Literature. This book was originally published in Hebrew by Gafni and Ohad Ezrahi and is now available in English at the Center for Integral Wisdom website. The essence of this work is to help catalyze the emergence of the powerful feminine, particularly the integration of Lilith into the sacred, through an audacious act of mystical scholarship, which re-read and evolved deep structures in biblical and Kabbalistic thought, Isaac Luria and the great Biblical archetypes of the book of Genesis.

Stage Two: The Evolutionary Emergence of Unique Self

Stage Two of Gafni’s work began in 2010. In stage two Marc produced five new volumes. The first two volumes are Radical Kabbalah, called by Sally Kempton a magisterial work unfolding what he calls non-dual or acosmic humanism. Prof. Richard Mann has already fruitfully compared this work to the work of Elaine Pagels on the Gnostic Gospels. In this work, Gafni reads the Hassidic writing of Mordechai Lainer of Izbica. He discloses a hidden textual code in his work based on what Gafni identifies as the Goddess sources, which Lainer refers to as the Wisdom of Solomon sources. This is the source of Non Dual Humanism. In this work he unpacks the kabbalistic roots of what would later become his Unique Self enlightenment teaching. The implications of this work are then drawn out in his third volume, a highly acclaimed masterwork Your Unique Self, The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment. This work, which won the USA books, best spirituality book award in 2012, was called by Andrew Harvey “one of the most brilliant, provocative, and original books of the new century.” Ken Wilber called it “a seminal work, which forever evolves the nature of enlightenment.”

These three volumes together with the Suny Press academic journal volume on Unique Self (Journal of Integral Theory and Practice 6:1) which Gafni edited and to which he contributed to major essays, together constitute a landmark contribution to human evolution and consciousness. They reveal a core structure of human consciousness, the Unique Self. In Gafni’s language, “The Unique Self is not a function of social, psychological or cultural conditioning. Rather, Unique Self is the personal face of essence.”

Gafni’s fourth work is a short work with a long title, Self in Integral Evolutionary Mysticism, Two Models and Why They Matter. It offers a comparison between what he calls Unique Self an alternative construct of Self expressed by Andrew Cohen and his students, which is popularly termed Authentic Self or Evolutionary Self. Gafni argues that at this pivotal moment in the formation of a new world spirituality dharma, foundations are essential. The conception of self is particularly foundational. For this reason, Gafni devotes this short volume to critiquing the Authentic Self model of self. This model views awakening as an ultimately impersonal function, severely critiques the personal, mistakenly identifies the personal with ego, and views the process as primary.

Gafni’s final work in stage, which you are holding in your hand, is called Tears: Reclaiming Ritual, Integral Religion and Rosh Hashanah. The first draft of this book was completed in April 2006 and a second draft in April 2014. The book has two major goals. First, it re-visions ritual through the prism of the New Year Ritual that is central to biblical thought, popularly known as Rosh Hashanah. In Gafni’s rigorous and beautiful re-reading, the core theme of Rosh Hashanah is tears. Gafni then unfolds a compelling hermeneutic in which ten major forms of tears are shown to weave the tapestry of Rosh Hashanah. Each form of tears is revealed through a combination of spiritual, emotional, literary, poetic and psychological prisms. The second goal of the book is to place tears front and center in human consciousness. Tears are seen as a core expression of the Eros which needs to guide our lives. The third goal of the book is to demonstrate how Integral philosophy informs the emergence of an Integral Religious consciousness within a great tradition, in this case Judaism. This work is startlingly original, brilliant, and moving. Key rituals like the blowing of the shofar and biblical archetypes are re-read with fresh eyes, pouring new life and Eros into the Hebrew lineage tradition.

It is perhaps worth appending here before concluding a few lines that Gafni recently penned which links some key part of his work. It was written not for the general reader but to students familiar with his work:

“In Certainty we charted the path of Judah. This is the biblical matrix for the emergence of what I would later call Unique Self. Judah is born in the certainty of the blessing of the Mother. Judah is, of course, the ancestor of David, Solomon and ultimately the lineage of Messiah. What that simply means is that Judah births Messianic consciousness into the world. One might, from a Kabbalistic mystical perspective replace the word messianic with the word enlightened. Judah is the spiritual, psychological, and mystical birth of enlightened consciousness. Judah represents what we call in Certainty, ‘core certainty of being.’ This is called “Yechidah” by the mystics. (See the writing of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Hasidic master of Chabad, on Judah as Yechidah). This internal core certainty of being is birthed by his mother, Leah. Leah, as we point out in the book Lilith, is the powerful mind and powerful seductive sexual feminine. She is, however, also the mother. In liberated consciousness there is no split between the mother and the sexual woman.

It is precisely through internally integrating the properties of mother and the audacious intellectual/sexual feminine, that Leah is able to be the great matriarch who breaks the pattern of her conditioning and gives Judah the experience of his own core certainty of being. The full integration of the sexual as a model of the erotic is the basic theme of the Mystery of Love work on the erotic, the sexual, and the holy. That work is only the beginning of our work on sexuality. In a later (still unpublished work), we show that the life affirming embrace of the sexual is itself the essential source of human dignity, core certainty of being, and ultimately enlightenment. The full experience of the sexual state when awakened into full consciousness is the enlightened state in which the human beings realize that she is both beloved and love itself. Sexuality is an expression of what we call Outrageous Love.

Outrageous Love is the initiating and animating evolutionary Eros of reality itself, which appears in one guise as the sexual. It is, therefore, essential that Judah consciousness is born of Leah, who in a careful read of the biblical story claims her sexuality and her man. She thwarts Rachel to claim Jacob (29 Genesis). She claims him a second time (30 Genesis). These texts are explained in the Lilith book and in the Uncertainty book. She demands that Jacob come to her bed. Leah is Lilith in Luria’s reading. Luria’s reading however is based on a close read of the biblical narrative.

It is Tamar, however, who fully brings Judah to consciousness. We explain this story (38 Genesis) in the Certainty book. Tamar, like Leah, is an expression of She, the goddess. She uses the sexual to awaken Judah. It is only in claiming the goodness of his sexual encounter with Tamar that he is able to reclaim himself. This is what Tamar demands of Judah. According to Izbica, as we point our in Radical Kabbalah, it is through Judah clarifying his desire (Berrur) particularly his sexual desire and recognizing the goodness of his sexual encounter with Tamar – by claiming the sacred nature of his desire and attraction for her – that Judah incarnates Shekinah, owns his core certainty of being through the sexual, and emerges as the Judah archetype which is the model for Unique Self.

Later, in Radical Kabbalah we unpack the Judah archetype that is the core structure of consciousness in the work of the great teacher Mordechai Lainer of Izbica. The Judah archetype is the one who sources his core certainty of being in his radically unique expression of divinity. This is the essence of the Judah archetype. When Judah sources on that level of self he becomes the Torah. He moves from a position of obedience to the wisdom of the sacred law to an incarnation of the wisdom of the sacred law in his own uniquely personal being. The Judah archetype for Lainer incarnates the law. Judah is what we termed Unique Self. In the second volume of Radical Kabbalah, we show that the Judah archetype is really an expression of the Goddess. This is what Lainer calls the Wisdom of Solomon.

Solomon is in the Judah line and represents the incarnation of Eros and goddess She, installed in the first person in the human being. This is not a generic installation but a singular installation, which makes the person a primary source of revelation. This was the state of consciousness of Solomon. The sacred rabbinical tradition was designed to inculcate wisdom in a way, which allowed for moral development and the survival of the exile. This was the way of the law, based on precedent, which had the organizing power to unite the people and insure their survival.

Solomon’s way was well beyond his time. It represented a proto postmodern integral consciousness of Unique Self. It is precisely this consciousness, which we sought to articulate in the Unique Self book, Your Unique Self. The Unique Self is not prone to fall prey to false certainties because she holds her own core certainty of being. This is the expression of Judah that we began to draw in the Certainty book. It is not by accident that, as we point out in volume two of Radical Kabbalah, Judah in the Zohar is seen as the Shekinah. Shekinah is She or the Goddess. In Mystery of Love (chapter two), we show that Shekinah is Eros. The full equation is Shekinah = Eros = holiness. We might add to this = Judah = Unique Self. In Mystery of Love, we point out, as well, that the sexual models the erotic. This means at the deepest place that the sexual is the enlightened experience of Eros which is the holy.”

Stage Three: Integral Wisdom

We asked Gafni for the sake of this piece to get a sense of the intention for the third stage of his work. He describes the unfolding of the third stage of his work “with God’s help” as follows:

“There are several core themes, which I am now working on, all of which are expressions of what might be called the Integral Wisdom or World Spirituality based on Integral principles. So this is the Integral Wisdom Stage. The first theme is to articulate a vision of the patterns that connect that might be the basis for a new Universe Story. Unique Self and the Evolutionary We Space that emerge from Unique Self play a key role here. The first work, which is now being prepared, is called Integral Wisdom and I am co-authoring it with Ken Wilber. This is the source code work that will, God willing, inform all the rest of the volumes. There are a number of key books or monographs that are now being prepared. They are part of a unified whole which I pray will contribute to evolving the source code of culture. The evolution of consciousness, which is the evolution of love, is the audacious, yet utterly humble, intention of these works. There are several new volumes that I am working on simultaneously, while at the same time re-issuing some old volumes in English (primarily Certainty and Uncertainty) and putting out a new English edition of Soul Prints with primary source footnotes, and re-issuing Mystery of Love as a four volume set entitled Notes on Eros. The core themes and topics of the new volumes are generally, The New Universe Story, Evolutionary and Integral Spirituality, Outrageous Love, The Laws of Love, Gender, Entrepreneurship, Conscious Capitalism, World Spirituality, Wisdom School Teachings, A New Vision of Success or The Good Life, Eros, the Future of Sexuality, Next Steps in Recovery, a new edition of Unique Self, and Sacred Activism. All of this work is being undertaken in the context of our think tank Center for Integral Wisdom. Virtually every one of the works is a collaboration with a leading thinker. Collaboration is the hallmark of the Center and my core commitment at this stage of my life.”

There is also a key academic anthology volume of Gafni’s work, under preparation called Enlightenment of Fullness. A first volume of Gafni oral teaching was just published called Loving Your Way to Enlightenment and a second anthology of his short teaching is slated for publication under the title Teaching From the Holy of Holies. The first volume was edited by Chahat Corten and the second by Elizabeth Helen Bullock, both senior editors at the Center, teachers, and senior students in the Unique Self lineage.

Rabbi Gershon Winkler, Author, Teacher

Kate Maloney, Prof. Clinical Psychology, Entrepreneur


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