Posts Tagged: White Papers
On the Moral Phenomenology of Participating in the Evolution of the Cosmos
A contribution for the roundtable discussion of David Sloan Wilson’s, Does Altruism Exist. Summer, 2015.
Zak Stein, Marc Gafni, Barbara Marx Hubbard
The Center for Integral Wisdom & The Foundation for Conscious Evolution
The New Paradigm Is Old Hat
Heterodox evolutionary discourse has long entertained the emergence of what Wilson calls superorganisms. These are emergent phenomena that functionally integrate lower-order organisms as parts, lessening within group selection pressure, making the many into one, and thus fostering the evolution of a new organismic totality. Over the years this idea led many to suggest the (inevitable?) emergence of some kind of new evolutionary event—a superorganism of humans. Wilson is interested to argue that, now, with new evidence, we finally really know that, for example, cooperation can have an impact on evolution via group selection, even as it seems counter intuitive to cooperate at the level of individual selection. Moreover, the dynamic systems and evo-devo researchers have been on to something: emergence often works via symbioses and “cooperation,” especially at the cellular and ecosystem levels. This provides a new and better platform for understanding human ethical and moral action in evolutionary terms.
We strongly support these directions and expansions in mainstream evolutionary science. We would only like to note here that heterodox evolutionists have already spilled a lot of ink about the role of morality, self-consciousness, and group-consciousness as a factor in evolution. This tradition has spent more time looking into the implications of evolutionary thinking for the self-understanding of the species, and less time working with models of mechanisms and exteriorities. So the question of whether altruism exists has not been as important as questions about the many forms of selfless behavior, as well as the higher levels of moral development individuals can attain while “becoming a part of something larger than themselves.”
In particular, the focus has been on this question: What would it really mean for our humanity if we become swept up into a superorganism, as if becoming cells organized for the benefit of some larger organelle? This is a profoundly important ethical question, and it tends to evoke, when asked, a religious or spiritual state of mind.
Some us who have been actively asking such questions have also sought to refine the phenomenology of moral consciousness associated with evolutionary emergence in human groups. The key focus is how to strike a balance between what Wilson calls (unfortunately) “selfishness” and “altruism.” We call them autonomy and communion. Too much of either and any group is pathological. Too much communion and you get a kind of totalitarianism or coercive fascism. Too much autonomy and you get narcissists and rouges, lawlessness and violence (like the wolves of Wall Street Wilson laments). These are the kind of phenomena studied in the field of conscious evolution, where the evolution of human consciousness itself is taken as both object and subject.
The First Age of Conscious Evolution
Everything we know about evolution suggests that it is basically inevitable that evolution on Earth will again shift to a higher level (that is, if it continues at all, which is a big “if”). This shift will not only be of physical systems, exteriors, but also of interiors, of consciousness. And this evolutionary leap will take the form of a crisis. It is this crisis that we are in the midst of right now. This crisis is not only to do with the geohistory of technology and the limits of the biosphere; it is also a crisis of self-understanding. Consciousness and self-understanding are not epiphenomenal—they are not merely supervening or reacting to a more basic bio-technological base—human consciousness and self-understanding are driving the global crisis at all levels.
Wilson’s book is one that says, in so many words: it is conscious evolution from here on out: we are able to know and do too much to pretend otherwise: we must consciously orchestrate the future of the planet and the biosphere (OK, we may be putting words in his mouth a bit). We agree whole heartily! Our generation is in an unprecedented position to take responsibility for participating in profoundly generative and destructive evolutionary crises. The question is: can we understand our crises in cosmic context, as opportunities for the emergence of the unprecedented, and as invitations into a higher form of life? Can we merge and unify as fundamentally just and ethical unity or federation of all humanity in a time of crisis?
To make a long story short: heterodox evolutionists and evolutionary phenomenologists have long been concerned with the role of self-consciousness in as a factor in evolution. They have have found that the key concept needed to foster ethical group synergy and emergence is that of uniqueness. It is one of the few keystone concepts that can bridge the gap between interiors and exteriors, science and ethics, matter and sprit, autonomy and communion. A sense of the inviolability and value of each individual’s Unique Self is the feeling of a healthy group. When a group comes together in such a way where no one’s unique self is diminished, but all are, in fact, leveraged, there emerges a Unique Self Symphony. This requires all the members to hold the group in mind, to envision their part in the self-organizing and self-orchestrating social reality to which they consent to participate. This a just form of emergent super organisms because it requires that we care about everyone’s story. It has the perspective of social justice—the omni-considerate view from everywhere—at its core and leverages the benefits of justice to promote further harmoniums evolutionary emergence.
A self-conscious Unique Self Symphony is the feeling of being ethically integrated into a larger totality; having a sense of social justice is having a sense (very literally) for the presence or absence of harmonious social integration. The felt integrity of one’s unique self is the core of an evolutionary phenomenology of moral consciousness, especially when a group is in the midst of dynamic autocatalytic closure. To fit into the evolutionary puzzle or story (why is it always a struggle?), the shape required by each individual is unique. Other forms of superorganic closure require violence and will ultimately be undone, unseated not because they are physically unsustainable (although they likely would be), but because they are unbearable for human identity formation and moral development.
This is a great wake up call for humanity. While we have been morally guided by all great traditions to love one another, now we find that pragmatically, if we do not learn to join together in collaboration and concretion—in Unique Self Symphonies—we will become one of the many extinct species.
Think Tank Documents in Development
Scholars at the Center for Integral Wisdom are conducting research and co-creating publications which can help to chart the course for the next step in the emergence of humankind. Some of our authors have traditional academic credentials and others are independent scholars and thinkers who bring unique perspectives to bear, often informed by real-world involvement in putting insights from Integral Wisdom into practice.
Note: Dr. Marc Gafni is involved at different levels in many of these projects, ranging from being the lead author, co-author, or at times simply writing an introduction to frame the topic in terms of the larger world spirituality conversation.
The following white papers and extended essays have been or are now being actively developed at the Center for Integral Wisdom think tank – the links lead to the final or current versions of the papers:
Dr. Marc Gafni & James Bampfield: Corona – A Crisis of Imagination, A Crisis of Intimacy
A crisis has swept over our planet. As the virus has woven itself into the fabric of society, so have many aspects of our ordinary lives unravelled. We may be in fear about our health and that of our dear ones. We may find ourselves locked down at home, we may have found that our work has ground to a halt. Almost certainly, many of our plans have disintegrated like sandcastles in the oncoming tide. This wind of collective change is probably the strongest many of us in the developed world have felt in our lifetime.
Life feels different. The world feels a different place.
Instability and uncertainty are here to stay for a while.
In times of crisis, there are two equally important responses.
The first is immediate and practical: help and protect those most affected.
Attend to the frontline of suffering and disruption.
Acknowledge and feel the hardships round the world, acknowledge the privileged bubble in which many of us live – just having a garden is a massive bonus right now. Do what we need to do, take social responsibility.
The second imperative of a crisis is to make sense of it and learn from it.
Crisis is an ‘evolutionary driver.’ Crisis is a potential birth. If we look at the way evolution has worked in all domains – biologically, psychologically, culturally, politically, economically, spiritually – it has often taken a crisis to precipitate the next level of development.
We are suggesting here that crisis at every level of reality is of two kinds: a “crisis of intimacy” and a “crisis of imagination”. Crisis of intimacy points to a new level of relationship, crisis of imagination refers to a new perspective, a new form, a new system, a new constellation of parts. Emergency must lead to emergence.
Dr. Marc Gafni: On the Crucial Import of Good Spiritual Sense Making in Times of Crisis
Note: This is the lightly edited, updated, and expanded transcript of an oral talk given by Dr. Marc Gafni towards the end of March, 2020. The original talk is found here.
Welcome, everyone. It’s a hard time. It’s a painful time. What we want to do in this short article is what we might call sense making. It’s a time when we need to do sense making – both personal and collective.
Part of meeting this challenge – and any challenge – is having a common thread, a shared understanding of the truth, both subjective interior and objective exterior truth, based on the best information we have, the best cumulative wisdom we have drawn from all of its sources, contemporary as well as ancient. We might call this shared sense making common sense. We need common sense making to understand everything that is happening and our place in it. But it is not only an interior necessity for our internal well-being and sanity – which of course has enormous impact on our external health [see PsychoNeuroImmunology and all of the extensive literature on the feedback loop between interiors and exteriors] – but it is more than even that.
It is deeper than that. This is a moment where we need to come together deeply – as One People, One World, One Cause, One Love, One Heart, to fight for the common good against a common enemy. And yet although it is not New Age, politically correct, it is appropriate to call a virus that kills people a common enemy. Obviously viruses are not the enemy. We are each constituted by 380 trillion viruses. We are viruses. But this particular virus that is killing us is in this moment our enemy. To fight it and other deadly mutations of the virus in the future we need however not only to create a vaccine but to do deeper sense making and understand as best as we can the deeper fact patterns that caused the virus. To do that we need common sense or common sense making, a shared story, a narrative thread of meaning that we can all locate ourselves inside of…
Dr. Marc Gafni: Short Notes on Sense Making in Crisis
Note from the Editor: This article is based on the transcript of an oral talk given by Dr. Marc Gafni towards the end of March, 2020 as well as a longer article by Dr. Marc Gafni. The original talk is found here.
“As I churn through an inbox filled each day with articles, questions, and commentary about the Corona virus, I see the incredible range of our response. I read about health care workers risking their lives to save the dying, and friends sharing recipes and cocktails on Zoom, and everything in between. I say this with no judgment—there is no one way to respond to such a crisis. But whatever our response, most of us are asking what sense we can make of the meteorlike (but actually well-predicted) arrival of Covid-19 in our presence. The crisis reveals our lack of a map, and the need to articulate a new one. We need a shared story that includes but is underneath all our experience, no matter how varied. This is a time for sense making, both personal and collective. A shared story includes a sense of where we are—a kind of shared universe story, together with who we are—a kind of shared narrative of identity, and what we should be doing—a shared ethos.”
Dr. Marc Gafni & Dr. Zachary Stein: CosmoErotic Humanism: Philosophy in a Time Between Worlds
This brief paper represents an overview of the project of CosmoErotic Humanism, which is a philosophical orientation conceived here as an emergent aspect of the historical moment. We view this moment as a kind of Da Vinci moment, when new syntheses and sciences become possible, when new worldviews can emerge. We are poised between potential dystopia and utopia, a position rooted in global intimacy disorder (who are we?) and a consequent global action paralysis or confusion (what should we do?), which itself is sourced in a foundational collapse of narrative frameworks including a shared universe story and its derivative narratives of identity, community, sexuality, purpose, and power (what is the nature of reality?).
When looking at the world situation, our first reaction is to ask about what, who, and how? What has happened? Who has gotten our civilization into this? How can it be helped or changed for the better? These questions are essential, and we encourage people to ask them. However, there is a more important question that is asked less often, which is: when is it? Which is to say: when are we? Or more basically: what time is it?
It is time for a change. We live in a time between worlds; a time of almost unbearable intensity, potential, and change.
Dr. Zachary Stein: Love in a Time Between Worlds: On the Metamodern “Return” to a Metaphysics of Eros
In this paper, Zak discusses the core think tank meme of CosmoErotic Humanism that is the central underlying theme of A Return to Eros. It is this theme, which is the meta-vision of the think tank, and which all other memes express in different ways.
Key future works of the Center on Evolutionary Spirituality, Homo Amor, Unique Self theory with Marc, Zak, our co-chair and partner Barbara Marx Hubbard, and many other writers and scholars revolve around this new vision of Humanism.
The Four Sexual Narratives of Culture and Why They Don’t Work: Towards a New Sexual Narrative (Drs. Marc Gafni & Kristina Kincaid)
This work was written by Drs. Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid and is one of the core source texts for the new meta-theory of the Center which we call Cosmo-Erotic Humanism. It has been widely recognized as a seminal work.
The CosmoErotic Universe (Drs. Marc Gafni & Kristina Kincaid)
“A Return to Eros is a tour de force of the kind that comes along once in a generation. The way this volume brings Eros to consciousness as the fundamental force, direction, and “purpose” of reality on all levels and all quadrants, really is the discovery that now underlies, directs, and “explains” the sacred purpose of cosmogenesis, the birth narrative of the New Human. It’s the second coming of humanity for the first time in history incarnate as a fully embodied sacred sexual being. It’s the early stages of the next evolutionary unfolding. A Return to Eros forms the basis of evolutionary spirituality. It captures the glory of its conscious experience from the inside out in the sexuality and Eros of the evolutionary unique self.” – Barbara Marx Hubbard
The Murder of Eros (Drs. Marc Gafni & Kristina Kincaid)
It is the collapse of Eros that leads to what we have called the murder of Eros. Wilhelm Reich called this “the murder of Christ.” By “Christ” he meant Eros or life force. This is one of the most common but hidden dimensions of human existence. To live an erotic life, we must guard against the murder of Eros. This is a fundamentally denied yet ever-present human impulse. Human beings may be ready to confess many sins, but all feign innocence when accused of the murder of Eros. And yet this primal impulse is as old as civilization itself. Despite our genuine moral evolution in many regards, this fundamental human compulsion has changed little. What has changed, however, is that because the murder of Eros is no longer socially acceptable, the impulse is carefully disguised.
On the Pain of Eros (Drs. Marc Gafni & Kristina Kincaid)
The sexual models the erotic is true for both the pleasure of Eros and its pain. We have talked much about how sex models Eros in all of her faces, including pleasure. Now we turn to the pain of Eros. Here, too, the sexual models the erotic.
Sexuality leaves so many mortally wounded in her wake. There is so much pain from what is supposed to be the source of so much pleasure. We are confused about sexuality. And that confusion is the source of much of our distress, as Persian poet Hafiz attests below in his poem “A Barroom View of Love.”
Social Justice and Superorganisms: On The Moral Phenomenology of Participating in The Evolution of The Cosmos (Dr. Zachary Stein, Dr. Marc Gafni, Barbara Marx Hubbard)
26 Distinctions Between Ego and Unique Self (Dr. Marc Gafni)
The primary critique of Unique Self teaching, leveled by students of Authentic Self in all of its names—for example, evolutionary self—is that Unique Self is but a clever front for ego. Or that even if it is not actually identical with ego, it can all to easily be hijacked by the ego. The latter is a fair and important point. However, the same critique might be just as easily leveled at the clarion call to identify with the evolutionary impulse which lies at the heart of both Unique and Authentic Self teachings. (The difference, as we have already noted, is that in the Authentic Self-teaching, the evolutionary impulse is wholly impersonal, while in the Unique Self teaching, the evolutionary impulse at its core is expressed only personally through you as the personal face of the process). It is all too easy for the ego to hijack the evolutionary impulse as a fig leaf for every manner of ego’s misdeed. Indeed, this is not a theoretical concern, but a sadly well-proved truth as the history of the evolutionary movements show. The grandchildren of Hegel’s evolutionary teaching, communism primary among them, deployed the evolutionary imperative to cover every form of heinous crime against humanity. And yet, that does not invalidate the sacred power of the evolutionary impulse, just as the crimes committed in the name of Christ do not deconstruct the truth and beauty of Christ consciousness, nor does the atom bomb disqualify the nobility of the humanist creative urge born of the new scientific paradigm. Nor does the fact that ego might hijack Unique Self lessen the critical nature of Unique Self realization. All goods may be hijacked. We must, therefore, guard against the hijacking, but we must not refuse to fly. To guard against the conflation of ego and Unique Self, it is necessary to clearly discern between these two very different states and stages of consciousness. Below, I offer the beginning of a discussion of just such a set of discernment.
Love and Teaching, Non-Dual Humanism and the Democratization of Enlightenment (Dr. Marc Gafni)
The Universe: A Love Story (Dr. Marc Gafni & Barbara Marx Hubbard)
We are storytellers, philosophers, poets, psychologists, and scientists of the new universe story. We trace the new universe story, integrating for the first time diverse elements from all the leading sources of authoritative wisdom available today on the cutting edge of thought. The result is the greatest love story ever told. Recently someone came to us seeking advice. He was in a very scared, paralyzed state. We said to him, “If we lived inside of your consciousness we could be sacred and paralyzed too…” To up-level, our consciousness is to evolve our worldview.
Evolutionary Unique Self & Unique Self Symphony (Dr. Marc Gafni)
Taken from a first draft text from the forthcoming book The Path and Practice of Outrageous Love by Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Kristina Kincaid, this paper elaborates on a critical advancement of the Unique Self Dharma that Dr. Marc has developed after Your Unique Self was published.
Calling in an Integral Religion (Dr. Marc Gafni)
Society, as it is currently constructed, is designed to bypass your tears. Yet, crying is an art. Tears are the colors with which the tapestry of your awakening is painted. Sometimes we cry surface tears in response to stuff that happens – good stuff and bad stuff. But the truest tears are those that well up from the deepest place on the inside of the inside – they may be triggered by a specific event or image, but they are larger than any one event.
Every time you cry these true tears, you cry for all the times you never cried before. True tears come only on occasion, but when they do, they are harbingers of great wisdom and guidance. These are the tears of the holy of holies. They carry revelation. To receive that revelation, you must be willing to sit still and be truly alone, so that your deep core can come out naked. From that place you wail, flooded to the core by deep sadness or profound happiness. These are not superficial tears but what we might call source tears. To hear the voice of source tears emerge, we must access the ground of dynamic stillness which is the well from which this revelatory crying rises up.
The Unique Self and Nondual Humanism (Dr. Marc Gafni)
A Study in the Enlightened Teaching of Mordechai Lainer of Izbica
This essay outlines one of the key sources in the great traditions for the integral teaching of Unique Self. The Unique Self is rooted in what is termed as nondual or acosmic humanism of a particular strain in Hebrew mysticism, as expressed in the teachings of Hasidic master Mordechai Lainer of Izbica. After examining and challenging previous scholarships on Lanier, the article reconstructs a theory of individuality from Lainer’s writings, which becomes the lodestone of his nondual humanism. In unpacking Lainer’s metaphysics of individuality, his ontological understanding of will, Torah, name, and uniqueness, the framework of the Unique Self teaching become clear. The article then reconstructs two matrices of sources from the intellectual history of Kabbalah, which serve as possible precedents to Lainer’s Unique Self teaching in the older traditions of Kabbalah. The article then outlines the seven core principles of acosmic humanism that are incarnate in the typology of Unique Self that appears in Lainer’s writing (in what is termed the Judah archetype). Finally, Lainer’s view is places in a larger context even as it is distinguished from the intellectual zeitgeist of its time.
THE EVOLUTIONARY EMERGENT OF UNIQUE SELF: A New Chapter in Integral Theory (Dr. Marc Gafni)
This article outlines the basic teachings of a new chapter in Integral Theory: the postmetaphysical evolutionary emergence of Unique Self. The article begins by contextualizing the Unique Self conversation within a larger discussion on individuality and traces the emergence of the Unique Self teachings through the life and writings of the author. The core Western understanding of individuality and its affirmation of the dignity of the separate self is contrasted with the Eastern teaching of dissolution of the small self, before both are integrated into a higher integral embrace through a new understanding of Unique Self. This article elucidates how the teachings of Unique Self fundamentally change the classical enlightenment paradigm through the assertion that enlightenment has a unique perspective, which might be termed the “personal face of essence.” Perspective taking, which emerges from enlightened consciousness, is rooted in the ontological pluralism that lies at the core of the Hebrew textual tradition. The new enlightenment teaching of Unique Self therefore rests on a series of integral discernments between separateness and uniqueness, ego and Unique Self, and personal and impersonal man. The Unique Self teaching suggests a new understanding of enlightenment through intersubjective love; the Unique Self perception is then set within an evolutionary context of being and becoming, in which it is seen to express one’s response to the personal address of the evolutionary God impulse itself. In this sense, Unique Self is understood to be an essential chapter in the emergence of a truly evolutionary mysticism.
GUEST EDITOR’S INTRODUCTION from the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice 6.1 (Dr. Marc Gafni)
In his keynote at the Integral Spiritual Experience, Wilber described Unique Self as ‘something that is extraordinary, and historic, and not to be denied.’ I want to share some of what I see as historic about the Unique Self teaching, and why its birthing has been one of my primary commitments over the last two decades. Unique Self is vitally important because it reclaims the centrality of the personal as a primary category in discourse about the realization of enlightened consciousness. Enlightened consciousness itself is a fundamental category in the integral spiritual discourse because it is the implicit or explicit goal of virtually all of the great spiritual traditions that inform Integral Spirituality. … The myth of a community shapes the norms of a community, even if only partially realized.
UNIQUE SELF AS IT UNFOLDS OVER THE ARC OF DEVELOPMENT from the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice 6.1
A Dialogue with Susanne CookGreuter and Dr. Marc Gafni
How Unique Self shows up in the developmental spectrum is, from an integral perspective, a critical dimension of the Unique Self inquiry. In addition to addressing this issue in depth in “The Evolutionary Emergent of Unique Self” (pp. 136 in this issue), Marc Gafni engaged in four dialogues with two prominent developmental theorists involved in integral discourse. In two dialogues with Don Beck and two dialogues with Susanne CookGreuter, an initial exploration of Unique Self as seen through their respective developmental models was explored. Below is a transcript of the second dialogue with CookGreuter, in which Susanne and Marc explore the references to uniqueness in Susanne’s writings. What emerges is that Susanne’s empirical research confirms uniqueness as a central emergent property of awareness at higher levels of consciousness.
ON SPIRITUAL TEACHERS AND TEACHINGS from the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice 6.1 (Dr. Zachary Stein)
This article examines the dynamics of authority in educational contexts where teachers and students engage with religious or spiritual subject matter. My aim is to offer a framework that can be used to sort “good” educational relationships of this type from “bad” ones. After positioning the spiritual teacher in the context of eclectic traditions in American moral education, I look into the structure of teacherly authority and into the dynamics of this authority when it is exercised in reli- gious contexts. In the process I tease apart two types of teacherly authority for heuristic purposes, the Classic and the Modern. I discuss their respective liabilities, affordances, and most typical spiri- tual teachings. Finally, I suggest that some contemporary spiritual teachers and teachings may be harbingers of new emerging configurations of religious authority—configurations dubbed Integral. This rough triadic typology—Classic, Modern, and Integral—allows us to critically discuss the kinds of authority assumed by different types of spiritual teachers. Specifically, I use EnlightenNext (An- drew Cohen) and the Center for World Spirituality (Marc Gafni) as case studies, demonstrating how to use the framework I have developed as a way to explore preferable possibilities for the future of religion and the spiritual marketplace.
Towards a New Narrative of Identity: First Principles of Unique Self Realization (Dr. Marc Gafni)
Ken Wilber writes about Your Unique Self: DR. MARC GAFNI’S INTEGRAL UNIQUE SELF TEACHING IS SEMINAL. What you hold in your hands is a radically exciting and ground-breaking book that will change forever not only how you think about enlightenment, but how you understand, from a post-metaphysical perspective, the very nature of human life itself. The Unique Self work is magnificent, and it belongs among the “great books.” It offers what may arguably be one of the most significant contemporary evolutions of enlightenment teaching. Unique Self brings together East and West in a higher integral embrace of stunning implications. Unique Self is a pivotal step toward an authentic Enlightenment.
Unique Self and the Future of Medicine (Dr. Vinay Julapalli and Dr. Venu Julapalli)
There is a dire need for the integration of the art, science, and morality of medicine. This paper explores the deep implications of the Unique Self in integrating medicine. Co-authors and physicians Venu and Vinay Julapalli call on their extensive understanding of the promises and pitfalls of modern health care to reconceive the practice of medicine. The paper provides the framework to evolve medicine through the emergent Unique Self insight. At stake is no less than the future of how we care for ourselves and each other.
Between Unique Self and Authentic Self: Why It Matters (Dr. Marc Gafni)
This paper compares the core Authentic Self-model offered by Andrew Cohen in Evolutionary Enlightenment and the audio series Awakening to Your Authentic Self as well as other core material, which the core Unique Self model developed by Marc Gafni (JITP 6:1) and Radical Kabbalah. The purpose of this paper is to contrast and compare the implications of these two models and to lovingly critique the potential pitfalls which might emerge from core applications of the Authentic Self-model. This paper has evolved into the book Self in Integral Evolutionary Mysticism: Two Models and Why They Matter. Buy Now>>>
From Deconstruction to Reconstruction: Marc Gafni and the ‘Unique Self’
“The old maps that your parents and grandparents grew up with are not enough, and there don’t seem to be others around that really describe the territory. Your liberal arts education has taught you critical analysis and fluency in different ways of thinking, but hasn’t equipped you with a reliable “inner GPS” that can navigate contradictions and find its way. You might sense that such a thing is possible, but you observe that many in the world around you seem to lack both compass and map—and you do not want to be among them.
How can contemplative practice help you discern such a map?
First, there is the practical level. Contemplative practice can encourage the ability to focus and enter into a subject with minimal distraction and interruption. It can help a great deal with stress reduction. Moving more deeply, it can foster the capacity to hold apparent contradictions in tension with each other without immediate dismissal of one side. It can encourage you to listen to and help develop the ideas of others from a less egoic perspective—and to see connections between disciplines that infuse their understanding of each other. It helps provide the space for deeper creativity and inspiration. At its most profound level, contemplative practice has the potential to help you reconnect with a deeper sense of purpose, meaning, and value in your life.
This goal is at the heart of the work of philosopher Marc Gafni, director of the Center for Integral Wisdom, a think tank dedicated to evolving and articulating a shared global framework of meaning and responsibility. Gafni, who holds a Ph.D. from Oxford, is classically trained in the study of the Kabbalah, as well as in modern and postmodern schools of epistemology (the study of knowledge, or how we know what we know).
His work brings significant developmental insights of modern psychology and science together with spiritual practice and the study of world religions. Along with philosopher Ken Wilber and other scholars, Gafni is working on the articulation of an Integral world spirituality.
Its first principle is what Gafni has termed “Unique Self”—a theory of self and contemplative practice that he has likened to a puzzle piece. The unique self has all the idiosyncrasies—the many-formed edges—of an individual life, and yet it is also profoundly committed to the larger whole.
This article is an introduction to Gafni’s theory of the unique self, and to the making of maps and the solving of puzzles”
Foundations for World Spirituality: Learning the Language of God
By Marc Gafni
Editor’s note: The following essay is published as a white paper of the Center for Integral Wisdom think tank. Our Spirit’s Next Move blog is pleased to announce the paper’s availability.
“As the Kabbalists point out, the word Moses spelled backwards is Ha Shem, meaning ‘the name.’ Importantly, Ha-shem in biblical Hebrew also is the most common reference to God’s name. When you respond to your call and realize your soul print, fully becoming your name, you become one with God. When Moses did this, he found his voice, he became a prophet.”
To live your story is to move from a state of slavery to freedom. Slavery is not limited to our old image of the oppressed Hebrew or black slave being whipped by the cruel master. We are all potentially free, just as we are all potentially slaves. Our intent in this brief essay is to at least begin to unpack a core intuition of the Zohar that a free person is a person who has found voice. As we shall see in the very last paragraphs of this discussion the implications of freedom are wondrous indeed!
Interiors, Face, and the Reconstruction of Eros
By Dr. Marc Gafni
Summary: The four faces of eros, described by Marc Gafni in this excerpt from Mystery of Love (2003), are 1.) being on the inside, 2.) fullness of presence, 3.) desire, and 4.) interconnectivity of being. As Marc describes, with its mystical role in these four expressions, the face itself is the truest reflection of the erotic. In the flow of eros, we access the experience of being on the inside of God’s face, which Marc explores here through the Temple mystery of the sexually entwined cherubs atop the Ark who are positioned face to face; the Hebrew word “panim,” which means “inside, face, and before;” and the erotic experience of having a true face-to-face conversation. This significant passage from Mystery of Love invites you to embody the erotic””which is modeled but not exhausted by the sexual””more deeply in your own life.
Eros has many expressions. Each expression is hinted at in the temple mysteries. There are four faces of eros which, when taken together, form the essence of the Shechina experience. In this essay, we will explore the erotic understanding which forms the matrix of the secret of the cherubs and informs every arena of our existence. As we shall see, at the very heart of Hebrew tantra was a very precise and provocative understanding of the relationship between love, sex, and eros. This will open us up to a whole new understanding of our sexuality and will show us the way to erotically reweave the very fabric of our lives in more vivid patterns, sensual textures, and brilliant hues.
By Dr. Marc Gafni
Your Unique Self is radically singular, gorgeous, and special in the world. But it is even more than that. Your Unique Self is a puzzle piece that is utterly necessary to complete a much larger puzzle. The Unique contours of your puzzle piece are what allow you to connect with and offer your gift to all-that-is. Giving your puzzle piece unto the world adds an irreducible dimension to the completedeness of the kosmos. Paradoxically, uniqueness is the currency of connection. It is the portal to the larger evolutionary context that needs your service.
But it is even more than that. Your Unique Self is evolution waking up as you. Your Unique Self is animated by its puzzle piece nature. As such it is naturally connected to a larger context that it uniquely completes. It is paradoxically through the unique contours of your Unique Self nature that the alienation of separation is overcome. Unique Self is the source code of all authentic relationships; and it is only through a fraternity and sisterhood of Unique Selves that we can begin to bring profound and loving transformation into the world.
The World Spirituality Unique Self Vision of Dharma, Lineage, Students, and Teachers (Kerstin Tuschik)
From the abstract:
In this article, I want to elaborate on the concept of “Dharma, Lineage, Transmission, and the Student-Teacher Relationship” in the specific way these words are used in my World Spirituality community and specifically by the initiating teacher of the community, Dr. Marc Gafni. Marc has infused the word “Dharma” with a series of meanings which have become self-evident in our community. Because Marc has not yet written about his expansion upon the meaning of “Dharma” for the broader public, I have felt that it is necessary to do so.
The Unique Self teachings that Marc has brought into the conversation are now changing the way that enlightenment is experienced and taught around the world. In my perception, the power, love and clarity of his teaching and transmission of Unique Self enlightenment has been so profound that now, in many enlightenment circles around the world, Unique Self thinking under a host of names is virtually a given. And that although ten years ago, Unique Self Dharma was still unheard of in the enlightenment world. While this (often unconscious) adoption of the core teaching of Gafni’s Unique Self Dharma is an excellent achievement and a necessary and gorgeous step for a cogent meme to become mainstream, I find it—for the many reasons that I will discuss in this article—very important to give honor to Marc Gafni’s original inseminating work and transmission as well as to the lineage(s) that he is part of and whose wisdom he is embodying and evolving.
I, myself, have come a long way from studying cognitive concepts and maps, methods of self-transformation and healing, to studying and embodying a comprehensive dharma. The insights and discoveries I want to share with you in this article have also occurred along with the transition from being a devoted and passionate student of the Dharma to becoming more and more a teacher and lineage-holder of the Dharma myself. Specifically, I have been teaching, sharing and representing Unique Self Dharma in the German-speaking world, which in turn has deepened my own studies. So, let me share the frameworks that I have encountered and that have worked or not worked for me in relation to the teacher-student-relationship and in relation to the “Dharma.” These discernments are I believe critical for what my teacher Dr. Marc Gafni calls the “post-postmodern integral reconstruction project” which is so profoundly needed in our post-postmodern world.
Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment (Dr. Marc Gafni)
This paper by Marc Gafni suggests that the Democratization of Enlightenment is the evolution of an enlightened society, with Enlightenment defined as knowledge of one’s own True Identity. Accordingly, three conclusions are drawn: First, that enlightenment is sanity and hence a necessary ingredient for all individuals, not merely for elites. Second, attaining Enlightenment does not involve denying individuality, but grasping a key distinction between separateness and uniqueness. Third, the goal of enlightenment is said to be not the evolution beyond ego, but beyond exclusive identification with ego. After these three findings, Marc Gafni suggests that the Democratization of Enlightenment is essential both for individual mental health as well as planetary survival. “Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment” was originally published in the October 2012 issue of Integral Leadership Review.
On Boundaries, Mechanism of Conscious Evolution, Perennial Philosophy and Experiential Approach to Integralism (By Oleg Linetsky)
By Oleg Linetsky
Open letter to Ken Wilber and integral teachers
First of all I would like to express my deep love and gratitude for the light of wisdom you bring and your incomparable contribution for the good of sentient beings. Your works had a great impact on my own life, for which I am very grateful to you. On my journey through the pages of your books I experienced a true divine joy.
In this letter I would like to illuminate a side of the Integral Approach (IA) which up until now remained in the darkness, i.e. boundaries. Just like any other objects inside the quadrants, boundaries are objects that can be felt and realized, so they cannot be ignored and left outside the integral map. There are boundaries, even though also illusory for the non-dual witness.
In the natural state of non-dual oneness it becomes clear that all forms arise from the light of primordial ground, and even boundaries are a concentrated light of clarity of the nature of the mind and the final barriers on the way to the inexpressible. They are the very core of our feeling of aliveness and awakeness. They let us feel joy and suffering of life and make life meaningful. The message about boundaries (as five elements, fivefold mahabhuta or five skandhas) came to us from ancient traditions dating back thousands of years. This message is as valuable for humanity as The Great Chain of Being. There is a special method which lets us study boundaries today even in our usual waking state. Boundaries are the missing link between the absolute and the relative, emptiness and form, spirituality and religion, IA and its popularity.
Today we see that the message about boundaries actually describes the mechanism of conscious evolution, understanding of which can promote a progress of humanity towards 2nd tier and simply help us living from the deepest part of us that you and Marc Gafni call the Unique Self. Five boundaries described here are right about how to live in resonance with our Unique Self and how to resolve the problem of wise choice in everyday life using an integral approach.
Protest as Prayer
By Marc Gafni
The mandate of biblical consciousness demands that the human being enter into partnership with God in the task of perfecting the world. The classical expression of this in the lineage of Kabbalah is the obligation of Tikkun. Tikkun means not merely to hear or to fix but to be co-creative evolutionary partners with the divine.
This evolutionary mandate to co-create and to heal the world with and as divinity emerges, paradoxically, not out of answers but out of questions. The fact that the human being can challenge and that God accepts the human challenge implies a covenantal partnership between the human being and God. Both the human being and God share an understanding of the good, and thus God can turn to the human being and say: ”˜I invite you, nay, I demand that you be my partner, my co-creator in the perfection of the world. I began the process of creation; I established the moral fabric of the world. It is up to you to take that cloth and to weave it fully. It is up to you to complete the tapestry, it is up to you to risk to grow and to create a world in which good, love, justice and human dignity flourish and are affirmed.’ A human being who cannot be trusted enough to challenge evil can also not be a partner in fostering the good.
The Seven Levels of Certainty and Uncertainty
By Marc Gafni
The following are notes from Marc Gafni’s dharma talk given in March 2012 at Shalom Mountain Wisdom School, where Gafni serves as the World Spirituality Teacher in Residence.
The seven levels of certainty and uncertainty tells the story of how the great religious traditions came into being and how they were challenged first by science, and then by modern and post-modern mindsets.
This is a rough sketch of a map of certainty and uncertainty.
Prayer is not a dogma. Prayer is pointing-out instruction for God.
By Marc Gafni
We are all despearate for communion. It is what makes our lives worth living. Communion is the movement from loneliness to loving. It is the experience of being held and received.
We are all systematically mis-recognized. To be recognized is to be seen. To be seen is to be loved. To be love is to be in communion. It is only when we are seen that we are called to the fullness of our glimmering beauty as unique incarnations of the the divine treasure. It is only when we are seen that we feel moved the personal evolutionary impulse that lives in us to give the unique gifts that are only ours to give and that are desperately desired by the all that is.
To be in communion is to know that Your deed is God’s need. It is the realization of communion that gives us joy and calls us to evolutionary responsibility.
The God of the Encounter: The Glory of the Personal (Dr. Marc Gafni)
This paper points to the quality of the person as quality of essence. It develops a new pointing out instruction which allows the practitioner to access in first-person perspective the experience of prayer. Together with this paper, there will be a recorded guided meditation which similarly gives the practitioner direct and unmediated transmission of being held by the quality of the personal often referred to as the Mother or the Father. This paper seeks in brief form to reintegrate the post-mythic personal God into the spiritual consciousness of the leading edge.
On Post-Postmodern Art (Dr. Marc Gafni, 2012)
This paper, developed for our think tank, was also published in Parabola magazine in November 2012. The article examines the art of one modern pastor, Claudia Kleefeld, as a model for World Spirituality themes emergent in post-postmodern art. Particularly the paper shows this form of art expressing a new post-metaphysical vision of patterns that connect, a universe animated with Eros and intelligence.
Somatology | The Study of the Mysterious Paradoxes of Unique Self (Lawrence Gold)
Too often, people get entrapped or confused by the whirl of words and abstractions of spiritual teachings not easily connected to personal experience. Zen Buddhist practitioners know this pitfall — confusing the “finger pointing at the moon” with “the moon”, itself. The solution to this problem lies not in the mind, but in the body-sense, which includes feeling and movement, mind and intuition, and which is the living matrix of all expressions of consciousness available to humans. This piece integrates the teachings of Unique Self and of Somatics, linking the languages of spirituality, science and philosophy to immediately accessible and recognizable personal functions. Welcome to Earth. Read the White Paper Here.
The Future of the Holy: From Sex to Eros (Marc Gafni, 2012)
In this paper, Gafni compares Kabbalistic and other wisdom traditions with regard to sex and Eros. He concludes that contrary to classical religion and much of psychology, Hebrew tantra insists that sex is integrally related to love and eros.
Unique Self and Levels of Development (Rob McNamara)
The original paper was called Transpersonal Psychology and Unique Self and was submitted for publication to the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice (JITP) 6:1. Because of space limitations in that volume, it was published online as an Integral Institute position paper.
Here is a little excerpt:
Feel into the specific point with which your body-mind rests right now. Only you stand as the timeless unchanging Divinity known as your specific unfolding and evolution of Becoming. To inform, guide and possibly facilitate the stability and evolution of your own Unique Becoming we will next consider this Integral Yoga from a psychological perspective. We will go on a journey through Susanne Cook-Greuter’s conventional and post-conventional stages of ego development.
As you read, practice inhabiting these perspectives as a means of clarifying the evolving nature of your Unique Self and how you can participate with greater fullness in the integral yoking of Being and your Becoming.
Ego development provides a lens through which you can feel and see how perspectives, needs and directed actions towards meaningful ends transform and evolve into ever greater expressions of Embodied Fullness. At each stage of ego development you will briefly explore functional capacities and the state-stage expressions of the Unique Self. As you read, bring awareness as to where you are reading from. Notice how the stages through which you have progressed through can be felt, related to and clarified. Take note of what attracts your curiosity and what invites greater insight into your your integral yoga of the Unique Self. Finally, you may want to notice the ego stages that you have yet to developmentally establish and feel into the pull of your own evolutionary unfolding.
You can read the whole article on uniqueself.com.
Unique Self Recovery (Lori Galperin)
This paper will describe innovations to the dominant recovery models emerging from their integration with the Unique Self model. The paper will suggest Unique Self as a primary healing model in areas such as clinical dependency, twelve-step, eating disorder treatment, and trauma therapy.