Watch This Featured Clip by Dr. Marc Gafni
Welcome, everyone. It’s a hard time. It’s a painful time. We live in a world of outrageous pain, and the only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love. One of the things that we’re trying to do here at the Center for Integral Wisdom and the Foundation for Conscious Evolution and we’re also trying to do it in a broadcast program that’s its own world that spun off originally from the center and the foundation and is now an independent and beautiful movement which is called One Church: Many Paths, One Mountain—we broadcast every week and we’re together every week; it’s an incredible community of some 10,000 people around the world—what we’re trying to do is what I would call sensemaking. We live in a moment of decentralized sensemaking. We don’t rely at this point on the government or the church. Our information ecologies are broken. Our sense of larger patterns and larger worldviews has been fractured and fragmented.
So as we find ourselves in the middle of this outrageous pain, the pain of the coronavirus, which is now a collective pain across the world, I just read an amazing set of stories about five Italian doctors, heroes, heroes of outrageous love who died this week, and the stories abound across the world. And we don’t know what’s going to happen. We’re doing everything we can to flatten the curve, but we’re not doing enough. Will we be able to flatten the curve? What are the timeframes? There’s an enormous amount that needs to happen now.
But what I want to talk to you about in this moment is the sensemaking that we need to do. Now, sensemaking takes place in the context of action, so clearly the very first thing that needs to be done now is to heal the sick, to have enough ventilators, to have enough beds in hospitals, to not collapse the medical system, to not collapse the economy, because the economy is about people being able to buy basic necessities. It’s about survival in the most essential of ways. Let’s take the United States just as an example. Seventy percent of the families in the United States live from paycheck to paycheck.
So the amount of pain and dislocation and disruption and suffering is intense and real and we need to respond to it, and the only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love, and outrageous love means that there are outrageous acts of love to perform, and it’s not just the Italian doctors who are being the most incredible—this is a moment where Italy truly is filled with outrageous lovers, unbelievable beyond imagination—but it’s not just those Italian doctors. It’s all of us who need to be, in this moment, heroes. We need to protect our elderly who are more precious than precious. We need to provide every resource we can. We need to share our homes when it’s appropriate within the context of physical distancing. We need to share our resources, which means our money and our time. We need to share our hearts. We need to join hands. We need to respond to outrageous pain with outrageous love.
Various aspects of Eros – Video with Dr. Marc Gafni
Stay tuned for the new Online Course with Dr. Marc Gafni to be launched soon: Our First Steps as “Homo Amor”. The course was recorded during the last Festival of Love in Holland and is being produced right now. It will be launched on our CIW Programs Platform. Snippets of that course were used for the video above.
What is Eros?
So in A Return to Eros, we tried to define what eros means. And we got almost there. It was one of the more depressing moments. We got like, just about there, then we published it, and then I realized it was one tad off. Right? And I just like, killing myself, calling the publisher, “Stop, stop, stop!” And he said, “Fuck you, don’t talk to me. No one cares.”
But here’s the best definition of eros. This is what eros … right, we got almost there in Return to Eros. And I apologize, we’ll correct it in the next edition.
Eros is … and listen. Try and look like, wildly excited about this, because this took me 20 years, this very simple sentence. So just look … just, even if you don’t get it, just like look, like, “Wow, that got so amazing. Like, that’s so fantastic.”
Okay, ready? So Eros is … eros is … Eros is the experience of radical aliveness moving towards ever-deeper contact and ever-larger wholes. W-H-O-L-E-S. And those of us who are hanging out with Joost someplace in France, we did that sentence over there, right?
Eros is the experience of radical aliveness which desires. It’s filled with dripping desire to make ever-deeper contact and create ever-larger wholes. That is the quality of eros. Eros is all the way up and all the way down.
Eros and Desire
Every single person in this room, and every single person in the world has some experience of our basic needs, the dignity of our desire, being fundamentally degraded. Desire is the quality of finitude. It’s not just the shame of aliveness, it’s the shame of finitude. It’s the shame when my basic needs are shamed. My fundamental desire for the first scene, food, and the second scene, touch. Your Need is My Allurement restores the dignity of personal need, which is not a psychological category. It’s not an existential category. It’s not even a spiritual category. The word’s too narrow. It’s not even just a scientific category, but it’s the essential structure of reality. The structure of reality is eros, desire, is the intimate Universe, and the entire intimate Universe lives in me.
What Whitehead called the Lure of Feeling for the primordial One, which drives every quark and atom, which is how we describe prehension, which moves atoms to come together, is alive in me all the way up and all the way down. When you have a structure of reality in which there’s no sexual narrative, and there’s no narrative of touch, and there’s no narrative of desire, and there’s not an understanding that I am a unique expression, a unique set of allurements, that allurement guides my life. Allurement is clarified allurement. I wrote 1000 pages on that. How do you clarify your desire, the clarification of desire? The distinction we’ve made between eros and pseudo-eros. Of course, that’s all in place. But, remember that all desire is the source of ethics.
From Pre-Modernity, through Modernity, to Post-Modernity – Video with Dr. Marc Gafni
In this video excerpt from the Summer Festival of Love 2018, Dr. Marc Gafni paints a historical overview of how humanity landed in this critical moment, where we have all the power in the world but lack a story to give it meaning in a way that evolves us all.
Stay tuned for the new Online Course with Dr. Marc Gafni to be launched soon: Our First Steps as “Homo Amor”. The course was recorded during the last Festival of Love in Holland and is being produced right now. It will be launched on our CIW Programs Platform.
Dr. Marc Gafni:
We’re ready? We’re ready? Yeah? We have a little drum roll in the house. Drum roll in the house. Yes, drum roll in the … oh my God. Here we go, and…
You think by the way, what we’re about, the conversation we’re about to have all week, you think this conversation is happening everywhere, it should be. It should be happening at the best conservative think tanks, and the best liberal think tanks of Europe, and Asia, and America. It should be happening at the leading university departments all over the world. But it’s not.
This is the conversation that everyone knows needs to happen, but it hasn’t happened in a real way since the Renaissance. That’s a very big deal. When I make an assertion like that … So, I’m trust able on some things. I don’t make casual assertions. I’ve spent my life hanging out way too many wild central nights with books. Till 5:00 in the morning I’ve plowed through thousands and thousands of volumes in my life. This conversation is not happening. It’s the single most important conversation we can have, which is after all of the deconstruction, Postmodernity. How many people have heard the term Postmodernity? Anyone?
Postmodern, postmodern means really simply. This postmodern moment which says that all the earlier stories of the past were wrong. Postmodernity says that pre modernity meaning up to the Renaissance. The great traditions, the great religions, up to the Renaissance these guys got it wrong in a really bad way. Voltaire leads modernity with the cry: remember the cruelties. The great evil of pre modernity that was unleashed through the power of sanctioned official religion. So, Postmodernity critiques the hell out of pre modernity, but forgets to make a distinction.
From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 4
Let us give two very simple examples of the body’s knowing: diets and sexual partners. New diet books proliferate, with dozens of them being published every year. Every new diet claims to have cracked the code to easy weight loss. The well-known fact, however, is that diet books have a minimal impact on people. People cannot regulate the most visceral function of the body—eating—based on external rules. The truth is that we do not need diet books. The law of the body always knows when you have had enough to eat and what kinds of foods you should be eating. But when the wisdom of the body is drowned out in the din of our busy lives, we turn to diet books. The diet books almost inevitably fail us if we do not first reconnect to the erotic ethics of the body.
To hear the voice of the body, we need to become proficient in our discernment between Eros and pseudo Eros. Let’s say we feel hurt by some event in our lives. We fall into the hole. We are afraid to stay in the hole, so we seek to fill the emptiness with pseudo Eros. We reach for a Baby Ruth candy bar. We get an immediate rush of sugar. It is damaging to virtually every system in our body. Our consumption of sugar violates our Eros. Candy bars are pseudo Eros. But you do not need a diet book to tell you that. Just feel the experience in your body after one, two, and then three candy bars. When we deny the truths of the body, we begin to read diet books, in all the arenas of our lives. Our Eros becomes blocked, and we lose access to the living divine presence that flows through us.
In the second example, we consider our sexual partners. With whom should we have sexual relations? There are many relationship and religious books that answer this question. But actually, in order to know whom to have sex with, we need only to access the truth of our bodies. Our bodies know perfectly the distinction between sex that is an expression of our vitality and sex that is a violation of our vitality. Relationship books or laws governing sex will not get you there.
The Rejection of Body Absolutism
But that does not mean that diet books or ethical books are unnecessary. Akiva writes, “If the Torah would not have been given, we would have learned all wisdom from the Song of Solomon.” We have cited this Tantric teaching several times in order to open up the radical wisdom of the body. But that does not in any sense imply that we want to revert to the body as our sole source of ethics. The Secret of the Cherubs rejects a kind of body absolutism in which the body becomes the sole Holy Grail. This rejection of naive body absolutism is essential for three primary reasons:
In the body there are states of profound expansion that yield great wisdom. This is the natural state of the body when the character armor is shed and the force of the divine flows unobstructed.
From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 3
The old split between body and soul that lies at the heart of Western civilization has not healed or transformed our world. There is a better way to live. Imagine a world in which we called the courtesan a sacred intimate and the great enlightenment implicit in the sacred secrets of the body became known to every man and woman, young and old. What if a new sexual humanism began to teach us what it means to live in Eros in all dimensions of our lives?
The principle we just articulated—that all failures of ethics have their source in a breakdown in Eros—reminds us just how vital a return to Eros is. There is only one choice at this crucial juncture in history: love or die. Love outrageously, or die. It is not enough merely to love one’s family. We must participate in the evolution of love. This happens when we realize that love is not an ego strategy for comfort. Real love is outrageous, not merely sweet human sentiment but the very essence of existence itself. Outrageous love is the evolutionary love that animates and drives the self-organizing universe. Outrageous love is Eros, suffusing and driving all reality.
Love in the Body
Sex is but love in the body. In Hebrew Tantra, the body is not merely a vessel to hold the light. Rather, it is the highest form of light. In the image of Hebrew Tantra, at the moment of the world’s inception (called “cosmogenesis”), a divine shaft penetrates the divine circle, and vessels are formed that hold light. The light is too intense for the vessels. In a defining primordial event, the vessels shatter. Some of the light from the vessels returns to its original source in the Godhead. Some of the light descends downward, where it becomes trapped in the shards of the broken vessels. This is taken to mean that hidden in our physical world of embodiment—which is a world of broken vessels and broken hearts—there is light that can be liberated by the one who has attained mastery.
From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 2
In sexuality we are all vulnerable. To be a great lover in the sexual, technique is woefully insufficient. Genuine sexual Tantra has nothing to do with circulating the energy up your spine through practiced breathing. Genuinesexual Tantra is about making love with an unguarded heart. This requires radical vulnerability. Authentic sexual Tantra is about merging your heart with your yoni and phallus. Yoni and phallus are not merely exterior forms of genitalia. They are qualities of being that live in every man and woman. It is only from that place that you can be vulnerable enough to risk being ultimately fierce and ultimately tender. It is only from that place that you can risk sexing your partner open to God or letting your partner sex you open to God.
Both of these wonders require your total surrender. The ethics of the sexual is the ethics of vulnerability. You have to be willing to let your partner witness both the surrender of your power and your surrender to your power. Your small self and contracted ego disappear in erotic sex. In sex Eros, we bypass ego and access our most sacred, scared, and secret selves.
A new vision of human possibility emerges from our vulnerability. “Sex is ethics” means that we are radically loyal to the vulnerability aroused by our sexing. We are loyal even after the ego rushes back in, eager to reassert its dominion. Loyalty means that we do not—years later—tell a different story in which we negatively revise our experience of the sexual. Sex that was beautiful, mutual, and vulnerable cannot ethically be recast as predatory or abusive. Regret is not rape, just as arousal is not consent. That is a violation of the Holy of Holies. Remember the two teachings of Akiva: “All the [biblical] books are holy” and “The Song of Solomon is the Holy of Holies.” The sexual love song is the Holy of Holies. To falsely narrate a sexual experience or to break sexual boundaries without invitation is to violate the Holy of Holies.
From Sexual Ethics to Sexual Eros Part 1
We recently had dinner with a colleague who has written some significant work on Eros. It is far more nuanced than virtually anything else out there. In general, we think her work is studded with insight, and we are delighted to recommend it. However, we believe she makes two important mistakes that need to be addressed in the spirit of public debate because they are so impactful in terms of how we experience our lives.
First, she collapses the sexual and the erotic. For her, Eros is a term that for the most part refers to the sexual. She is talking, however, not about banal sex but about what is often called great sex. By Eros she means sex that is, at least on some level, hot and deep. She then makes a very dramatic claim: that Eros by its very nature is transgressive. With this we take exception. The nature of the erotic (including the sexual) is subversive but not transgressive. The difference between these two positions is vast.
Transgressive means to violate an appropriate value or boundary. Subversive implies the intentional subverting of cultural values or boundaries for the sake of a higher vision. Transgressive undermines that which should not be undermined. Subversive is revolutionary, undermining that which needs to be overthrown. The difference is subtle but highly significant.
Our colleague is somewhat of a sexual anthropologist. She looks at the practice of sexuality and finds that what is most alive in people’s sexual lives involves transgression—by which she means transgression of the cultural mores held by society or even by the people themselves. Of course, that is exactly the point we were making in the previous chapter. But we would argue that transgression is not the ideal state of the sexual but what one might call the unconscious or shadow expression of the sexual. It is descriptive of the fall of Eros. The goal is to move from the unconscious to the conscious, from shadow to light. When we liberate Eros, we are able to access the aliveness of transgressive sex in the context of our committed relationships of whatever nature they might be. The way to do so is to restore temple consciousness—that is to say, a world in which sex is not transgressive but subversive.
Sex is subversive in that it points to an order of being beyond the conventional. Ordinary reality involves pragmatic surface relationships in which each person looks out for his or her own self-interest. The basic social contract of society is built on precisely such notions of individual self-interest and civil interaction. Sexuality models the possibility of breaking the boundary of the superficial to enter the deep. Sex, in its ideal form, subverts the “normal” order of society.
On A Return to Eros
In this translineage conversation, Sianna Sherman, Sally Kempton, and Dr. Marc Gafni talk about how they each view Eros, Shakti, radical aliveness and how we can go about embodying this sense of allurement in our lives.
Sianna Sherman is an internationally celebrated yoga teacher, evocative storyteller, and passionate speaker at conferences and festivals throughout the world. She is the founder of Rasa Yoga, Mythic Yoga Flow®, and co-founder of Urban Priestess® – a platform that serves the empowerment of women. She was featured in Yoga Journal as one of the 21 top teachers shaping the future of yoga. Sianna has a unique ability to touch the human heart through story, transmission and devotional practice. As a globetrotting yogini, she leads high-vibration gatherings, teacher trainings, workshops, sacred site retreats and pilgrimages as an offering of Love. Sianna is an innovative, visionary spirit with a deep devotion to Soul Alchemy, and her teachings are a true convergence of science, mysticism, art and yoga. Her vision is to serve for the Benefit of All Beings & awaken magic into the world!
Sally Kempton teaches meditation as a process of inner exploration, in which we learn to integrate heart, mind and body in order to experience our natural state of wisdom and love. Sally also offers a wide variety of classes on yogic wisdom texts, as well as hands-on, contemplative practices for moving through psychological obstructions, understanding the intricacies of inner life, and how to apply spiritual principles to relationships, work, and life in our time. Students say that her classes create an atmosphere of support and joy that allows deep exploration. “Sally’s classes are deeply transformative,” a student says. “Her guidance is gentle and loving, yet challenging in all the right ways. She brings yogic teachings out of the books, and into real life in a way that makes it totally practical.” Though Sally offers many courses for beginning meditation students, she is also regarded as a ‘teacher’s teacher’, whose approach inspires long-time practitioners to free themselves from routine meditation practice, and move deeper.
Dr. Marc Gafni is a visionary thinker, social activist, passionate philosopher, and author of ten books, including the award-winning Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment, the two-volume Radical Kabbalah, the recently-published Self in Integral Evolutionary Mysticism: Two Models and Why They Matter, and Tears: Reclaiming Ritual, Integral Religion, and Rosh Hashana. Marc Gafni holds his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. He teaches on the cutting- edge of philosophy in the West, helping to evolve a new “dharma,” or meta-theory of Integral meaning that is helping to re-shape key pivoting points in consciousness and culture. Together with Dr. Kristina Kincaid he authored the recently published book A Return to Eros that is the topic of this dialogue.
Oh, my God, welcome, it is so good to be here with you Sally, Sally Kempton and Sianna, Sianna Sherman. Two goddesses incarnate, and teachers and transmitters and what an absolute delight to be with you. We’re here to talk about Return to Eros, which is so critically crucial exciting, delighted, honored to be with you. Sally, I turn to you.
Okay, so the first thing I think we need to establish is exactly what is Eros? Maybe Marc you could give us any definition of Eros that really goes to the heart of it, just so everyone will be on the same page in this conversation.
Fantastic. Thank you, Sally. When we speak of Eros, we’re talking about something which is core to reality. Eros existed for at least 12 billion years before there was sexuality. We know that. Eros is the experience of radical aliveness, moving towards ever greater contact, and ever larger wholes. That sentence, which is birthed over 20 years is the nature of reality, the experience of radical aliveness, moving towards ever greater contact and ever larger wholes. That basic movement is the nature of reality itself. One could actually say, since God is reality and reality is God, God is Eros. Reality is Eros. God’s not only Eros, God’s Eros, right? That actually shifts everything.[Read more…]
On A Return to Eros
In this dialogue, John Friend & Desi Springer, Founders of the Bowspring Yoga Method discuss with the co-authors of our Think Tank Book A Return to Eros, Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Kristina Kincaid, the importance of frameworks for a new sexual narrative and the embodiment of Eros.
Welcome, it is delightful to be here with you all. This is Marc Gafni. I’m here with Desi Springer, and John Friend, and Kristina Kincaid, and we are here to do a conversation on the Return to Eros, the new book that Kristina and I are delighted to have just put into the world through our Center for Integral Wisdom, where John, you’re been a board member for a number of years. And, John, you and Desi, Desi, you and John, are now doing this international global community built around this next leading age innovation in embodiment and yoga, the Bowspring Method.
So, maybe, let’s just start. Tell us, Desi, John, John, Desi, kind of a word about it.
Very good. We’re excited about the Bowspring Method as part of an emerging new modeling, a new paradigm that at first, it came out of the modern postural yoga world where four, literally, the last century, in the various styles, it came out of India, and spread through the West, have held a certain modeling, we consider quite patriarchal, very linear, based even on certain bio-mechanical ideas that the skeleton of the human hold the body up, and therefore to make it more upright, and you try to align your spine straight up and down. You pull your tailbone down and pull the top of your head up. This general alignment idea is all over the world.
Well, it was Desi, when I started working with her five years ago and collaborating, she said, “John, you know, have you really considered making the body more curvy?”
I said, “Well, if you do that, you’re gonna get compression in the spine. Believe me I’m an expert of so many years.”
She was very respectful and didn’t really push the argument, but in some time I started to see her point, and through certain evidence that we don’t need to get into right now, that it was, literally, helping my own body and many of our students and clients, not to follow into this modeling of just linearity and straight up and down, and the curviness, what Desi said, when you’re really in this state of true openness, when you are in a state of pure eros, in love, the body is gonna take a natural ecstatic form. If you look at it, it’s not straight up and down. It’s not this linear, like a military position. It’s a curvy, open position, and not just on the front. It’s on all sides so this has been a huge shift for us. We’ve been putting it out. Now, a large part of the modern postural yoga world is even shifting toward curvy, dynamic, functional movement. This is the really rage right now. We’re offering a very organized, systemized method, the Bowspring. That’s what we’re calling it.
On A Return to Eros
In a recent dialogue, Swami Chetanananda (“Swamiji”), the abbot and spiritual director of the Movement Center, a teacher in the lineage of Bhagavan Nityananda of Ganeshpuri, who is a powerful presence and a source of great nourishment for those who come in contact with him and John Friend who has developed two major systems of yoga and is a master and transmitter of the yoga tradition in an embodied form, came together with CIW President Dr. Marc Gafni to discuss the recent book of the Think Tank A Return to Eros.
- Why we so desperately need a new narrative of Universal Eros as it is layed out in the book
- Why it is essential to overcome the fear of our own bodies and fear of our own sexuality that is so deeply engrained in our culture
- Why sexual ethics needs to be grounded in a sexual Ethos
- How this new narrative of Eros results in a new narrative of the sexual that is both deeply grounded in the old traditions and yet evolves way beyond it
Transcript of the Dialogue
by Dr. Marc Gafni & Dr. Kristina Kincaid
It was the sensual Persian poet Hafiz who understood the full power of erotic surrender in every arena of life. The ecstatic poem “Tripping Over Joy” transmits something about the power of surrender:
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That the spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I Surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves.
Loosening the Reins
The one master who saw it as his role to reclaim the erotic at the core of life was the Baal Shem Tov, Master of the Good Name. We have already met this master of Eros in this book, and we will encounter him many more times along the way. The Baal Shem Tov was an eighteenth-century magician, mystic, and healer who founded the movement of spiritual renewal, Hasidic Judaism, that swept Eastern Europe in the 1700s. The story is told of a fateful meeting between Jacob Joseph of Polnoye, a well-known religious master of the time, and the Baal Shem.
The master from Polnoye had apparently heard of the Baal Shem before but had refused to join his ecstatic movement. Then Jacob Joseph heard that there was a lone individual in the marketplace telling stories. His stories were preventing people from coming to the prayer house for morning prayers. He had his attendant summon the renegade storyteller with the intention of severely reprimanding him. The Baal Shem came to him, smoking his pipe.
by Kerstin Zohar Tuschik
A couple of days ago, many of us returned from the fifth annual Mystery School with Dr. Marc Gafni in Holland. Still basking in the aftertaste of it, we are in the process of integrating it all into our bodies and our lives.
At the Center for Integral Wisdom, our mission is to evolve the source code of culture by evolving the memes and distinctions that govern both our personal and collective lives. The Mystery and Wisdom Schools are our Dharma labs for the new distinctions that we are developing and learning how to deploy into culture to evolve the source code.
As our Academic Director Dr. Zachary Stein has stated so beautifully in a previous blog-post:
“Across the centuries, mystics have convened mystery schools on the edges of civilizations and worldviews. Intentionally small and remote, peopled with trusted initiates, these schools have been the storehouses of innovations in consciousness, sourced in ancient traditions, guided by a memory of the future. Off stage and out of sight, a few have always been preparing seeds for planting in the compost of the rapidly degenerating culture of the so-called civilized.”
Mystery School is where we come together as evolutionary mystics, the Wheel of Dharma turns, new dharma is coming down, SHE dances, and we can literally feel the source code shift.
Mystery School is not a personal growth seminar. And yet, paradoxically, personal transformation happens at much higher rates than at any personal transformation event. All of us committing to evolving the source code of culture, to the conscious evolution of the all, is exactly what fuels our own transformation with the power of the all.
Once we realize that we are not separate from, but unique embodiments of, the Evolutionary Impulse it all starts to make sense.
As long as it is about MY transformation, I separate myself from the all and I am narcissistically lost in ego. Once I begin to serve the evolution of the all, that same impulse becomes alive in me and my own transformation becomes a byproduct of the evolution of the all.
When you read my testimonial below and the ones of my colleagues linked to at the end, keep in mind that they are written with great delight from within the energy of the Mystery School. They are not 3rd person accounts but rather 1st person mystical testimonials.
Each year at the end of the Festival we say: This cannot get any better! And then it does get better. And OMG, we did it again! This was the most awesome Mystery School of Love EVER!!!
Deepest bow to CIW President Dr. Marc Gafni, our dharma teacher, who opened the space again and again, every morning, every moment with open heart, penetrating insight and clarity, deep humility, devotion, purity, and holy audacity. He has been more humble, devoted, pure, open, and audacious than ever, serving the dharma, serving the Goddess, serving the collective field and the awakening of every single human being in the room and on this planet while dancing with us to the end of love, the end of shame, and the leading edges of culture.
by Dr. Zachary Stein – after the 15th and final Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain, which concluded a 10 year cycle
In a popular culture that has re-packaged the great cultural revolutions of the 1960s we have to ask exactly where and what a “counter culture” could be in today’s world. One answer is that the counter culture has gone mainstream, it’s everywhere now—massive numbers are marching for women and the Earth, even more are engaging in political critique and ethical activism on social media. Cultural evolution proceeds via the center metabolizing the periphery; the fringes of culture move to the core. What was a rare view becomes common and identity formation and cultural production follow suit. Whole industries spring up around ideas and practices that used to be tucked away in obscurity. As the mainstream drifts to accommodate and commodify cultural innovations for the masses, true cultural innovation continues underground, as it always has been, articulated first and raw in some place off the map.
Across the centuries, mystics have convened mystery schools on the edges of civilizations and worldviews. Intentionally small and remote, peopled with trusted initiates, these schools have been the storehouses of innovations in consciousness, sourced in ancient traditions, guided by a memory of the future. Off stage and out of sight, a few have always been preparing seeds for planting in the compost of the rapidly degenerating culture of the so-called civilized.
The Catskills seem to be trying to hide Shalom Mountain in clouds and endless back roads, making it feel secluded enough to shout secrets into the air through a megaphone. The mystery school displaces the center of self and knowledge, shifting us to the surrounding realms of imagination, memory, instinct, and revelation. Everything is on the table, as Gafni becomes a trickster, weaving Tantric Kabbalah from ancient texts, modern science, and depth psychology. Paradox and laughter co-emerge in the dissolution of culture-wrought truncations of self, world, and God. Audacious sovereign greets audacious sovereign in a dance of co-empowerment and natural hierarchy. Gafni is repeatedly moved to tears by sacred texts, so much so that a late June thunderstorm is easily felt as God moved to tears by reading the book of Gafni’s life. So much was taught that I might only select one lesson—one from the calm in the morning after the storm.
T’shuvah means literally “to turn” and is usually translated as penitence or repentance, meaning roughly to turn towards one’s sins and mistakes, to understand them, and to fix them. This is exemplified in the tears shed by King David before the profit Nathan, followed by the King’s humble admission, “I have sinned.” He had sinned, and would sin again. David, like others in the line of the Wisdom of Solomon, is identified as one whose greatness is intimately bound up with flaws and error. The finitude, limitation, and darkness of the human being have long been the mystical keys that open the heart of Tantra. We are exactly (precisely nobody but) the ones making mistakes, taking risks, landing in failure, illness, and shadow. Religions are built around the core idea of a fall. From Adam and Eve to maya and samsara, humans are destined to make mistakes and live with them. You and I will make mistakes again and again. On one view this is terrible—the fall is our shame, and it means that no one is innocent, no one is really truly good. On another view—the non-dual view—the fall is great news because everything is grist for the Divine Mill. The Good is not some static absolute innocence of non-action. The Good is making mistakes in the right direction. We can only learn and evolve by virtue of the mistakes we make and how we respond to them.
T’shuvah is a practical answer to the idea that because humanity is destined to make mistakes we are all tragically flawed. T’shuvah is a practice for turning mistakes into insight and transformation. The practice is clear, simple, and could not be any more radical in a broader cultural where mistakes in some areas of life are enough to mark someone as untouchable for life. What could be more radical than a practice allowing for an individual and collective turning toward sin, failure, and mistakenness? We can all lose face together, abandon the moral high ground together, and turn then toward each other before God, seeking only learning and transformation through and within our own and each other’s mistakes. Individually and as a culture we must turn towards our mistakes and thus toward our Unique Selves, which are fumbling toward actualization, making mistakes in the right direction.
Importantly, the situation and dynamics in which we make mistakes have occurred before and will occur again. History repeats itself, both personally and culturally. T’shuvah becomes a kind of mystical fixing when practiced as way of life. By turning towards the dynamic that caused us to fall, seeing it, and committing to change it into something new, t’shuvah liberates the memory of each person and culture, destined as they are always to carve a unique path of mistakes. History itself must be unwound from the trauma of repetition and freed from the faltering stutter of eternal return. Beyond and after the total reciprocal forgiveness of each and everyone there is a new planetary culture that is possible. The mystery school felt like a living visitation from the future of humanity, transformed from the fall, moving up from Eden.
from the Mystery School of Love 2015 and the forthcoming Online Course “God Is Eros”
Some Statements by Dr. Marc Gafni in this video:
Guilt means I did something wrong. Shame means that I am wrong. Shame is the root of all evil.
Click to Tweet:
In best sexual moments, the meaning of life is self-evident.
Sexual shame is the experience that I cannot come home in the sexual.
The start of the Irak war was directly related to our sexual confusion.
The video ends with an invitation to a practice:
Explore how the sexual has influenced your life by writing your own sexual sacred autobiography.
God Is Eros: Seven Tastes of Sexing with Marc Gafni
In order to create the bright future that we yearn for, we need a bold vision of the deepest and most Outrageous LOVE that will prompt us to “be and become” the greatest possible version of ourselves.
The key to our joy and personal fulfillment is to engage erotically in all areas of our lives…
Discover the Secret of Eros in Order to…
- Experience pleasure, adventure, and freedom in your life
- Live passionately in your life, all of your relationships, and the work you do in the world
- Return to innocence but on a whole new level
- Cultivate an enlightened sexuality that enhances your ability to live more powerfully in all areas of your life
- Receive the power to live epically & be powerful in the face of challenge
Watch this teaching by Dr. Marc Gafni as our special gift from our Online Course on Reclaiming Eros:
Some of the themes Marc Gafni covers in this video:
- The lineage of the “Einstein’s of Consciousness”
- King Solomon, his wives, and the Temple in Jerusalem
- The Raiders of the Lost Ark – The Ark of the Covenant
- The Practice of Jewish Yoga
- The Talmudic Story of the Poisoned Cookies
- Temple Consciousness and Sexuality
- Eros in Exile
- Reclaiming Eros = Reclaiming Temple Consciousness
Imagine being fully expressed with an unstoppable life force that aligned you with the will, the desire, the knowledge and the creative impulse to engage ALL areas of your life full-on; without fear or shame stopping you from moving forward. Imagine the transformative power and positive impact you’d have on your personal relationships and potentially be a major influence in the world.
This is what you will learn and become through taking this 9-week video course, professionally filmed on location during the First Festival of Love in Holland.
That’s the real question underlying this beautiful talk by our Academic Director Zak Stein.
Watch and listen to this fascinating thought experiment:
What would be a “seed bank” of ideas that—if preserved—would allow us to recreate civilization from the ground up, in case humanity survived some sort of an apocalypse?
Playing off of Noah’s Arc, Zak calls it the “Nous Arc.”
Engaging in this thought experiment a bunch of questions arise:
- Who gets to decide what should be in there?
- What should be the content of this “Great Library?” or in other words:
- How can we assure that we give the next generation everything they need?
The Need for Meta-Theories
In order to engage these questions, we need Meta-Theories. What are Meta-Theories?
While theories take the world as data, Meta-Theories take theories as data. Meta-Theories norm the norms of discourse.
Listen to this exciting 20-minute talk and learn:
- What a new legitimate model of teacherly authority and intergenerational transmission could be
- How our image of the ideal human looks like that we can teach into
- Why we need a theory of Cosmos and Self
- Which educational environments we need to create—in contrast to the informational environments that are stressful for most nervous systems
Enjoy the talk:
Humanity is facing extinction level crises in not one but in multiple and distinct sectors. That alone could throw us into a personal crisis of overwhelming dimensions—without even beginning to take into account the many crucial personal existential challenges most of us face in our own lives.
How can we possibly look seriously into the face of global existential risk, manifest as extinction level threats and be motivated and energized into the joy of our lives? That is the question that Marc addresses in this very moving video.
How does Existential Risk become the catalyst to profound joy and awakening into the Outrageous Love we are capable of instead of shutting us down? That is the invitation that we all stand for at the Center for Integral Wisdom.
CIW President Dr. Marc Gafni has recorded a half hour video, where he shares some of the thinking that emerged from many of the great conversations during and after our CIW board meeting:
- How do we live with and constructively respond to the existential risk we live in?
How can we use it to motivate us instead of shutting us down?
How can we make fear conscious so it enlivens instead of paralyzes us?
Listen to this inspiring talk by Dr. Marc Gafni:
From an unedited draft of the forthcoming book Towards a New Politics of Evolutionary Love
by Dr. Marc Gafni & Dr. Zachary Stein
The core structural principle from Integral Meta-Theory involved in the formation of a Unique Self Symphony is the scientific principle of self-organization. The idea of self-organization is according to many the single most important scientific idea to emerge in the last sixty years. It exists at every level of reality and across all four quadrants. While many scientific accounts focus only on self-organization in systems and structures in biology or cybernetics (i.e., Lower-Right reductionism), there is a whole history of work in psychology and social theory dedicated to modeling how minds and cultures are complex dynamical systems, that evolve and self-organize in remarkable ways.
Multiple scientific fields, when held in an Integral embrace, tell us that self-organization is a basic principle of reality at all levels. Most forms of evolutionary emergence are a function of this ubiquitous tendency of all life and matter toward self-organization. This leads to the idea of an inherently creative cosmos, always evolving and organizing at higher and higher levels. Throughout the evolution of the world it appears that self-organization is often catalyzed via the leveraging of uniqueness. When you look at the emergence of complex processes in nature that display remarkable forms of self-organization, such as an ecosystem like swamp or rainforest, they are always complex symbiotic systems in which there are an endless number of unique niches.
This is why one of the core ideas behind the new politics of outrageous love is enabling self-organization at the level of human culture. So we must ask, what enables self-organization at the level of human culture? The answers is clear and in keeping with both the best of what we know about evolutionary theory and the best of our ideas for political and personal Enlightenment: the catalyst of self-organization in human socio–cultural systems is the Unique Self. Paradoxically, this means that the “shape” every human needs to assume in order to contribute to the creation of a healthy social organism is unique. Strange as it may sound, a just and healthy society needs to “socially engineer” for uniqueness, especially the institutions that shape human personalities and self-understandings: schools, news media, entertainment industries, computer technologies industries, etc. The whole social system would be like an incubator for uniqueness.
Watch this beautiful teaching from the Summer Festival of Love 2012 “Loving Your Way to Enlightenment” by Marc Gafni on Dharma and read the transcript below:
Transcript of Marc Gafni’s Teaching on Dharma
Marc Gafni: When I say going into the Dharma, what do I mean? Do I mean that we are going to be in a university class? No. What I mean is Dharma. So what does it mean? Anyone?
Marc Gafni: Okay, which might be true in a university class as well.
PERSONS: Deeper calling. / Vision. /Wisdom. /Transmission. /From the heart, from within. /A path. /Coming together in the Dharma.
Marc Gafni: There’s a deeper calling in the teaching, and wisdom, yeah. Who said transmission? The Dharma comes from inside, your inner-self response to it, right? And there’s a coming together in the Dharma. The Dharma is spirit, living spirit, in the same way that love is living spirit, that chant is living spirit, that Shikantaza and meditation are living spirit.
Dharma is not words; Dharma is not about the mind, even though we’re using the mind. There’s this crazy New Age idea that spread through the Western world that “wow, we’re having an experience, but for now, we’re just using the mind.” That’s nonsense, right? Dharma is the mind part, the embodied expression of spirit. So you respond to Dharma not just with your mind; your body knows whether Dharma is true, your body can feel it. The book of Job: “Through my body I vision God.” Your body knows if a Dharma’s true, your heart knows if a Dharma’s true, your mind can respond.
So when we engage in Dharma, like these mornings, we’re not doing a university lecture, we’re doing Dharma. We’re engaging whole heart, body and mind in getting a sense of the story of reality, of the grand narrative of reality, of the meta picture, of the patterns that connect. Do you begin to feel that? Let me give you a sentence, tell me if this sentence works for you: “One of the great yearnings in the year 2012 is a yearning for the patterns that connect.” Does that sentence make sense to you?
Eros is the principle of aliveness and magic inherent in all of reality. Something infinitely real animates everything. Reality is realness, which is another way of saying Eros or aliveness. Everything radiates an intense aliveness. The intensification of aliveness is the natural result of living an erotic life. Most people have had the experience of visiting a place and finding it vibrating with aliveness, color, and immediacy. Some years later they may visit the same place again and find it drab and dreary. Most likely it is not the place that has changed, but the person. Beauty is always in the eye of the beholder. When your eyes are alive, then the hills are alive. When your eyes are asleep, then even the most beautiful vista is deadened.
Our lives are a search for passionate aliveness. Our lives are a search for Eros. We remember well Eros lost. Until we are able to recover Eros, we are filled with an inconsolable longing that can be healed by no external balm.
We hunger for the depths of aliveness, for it is only from those depths that we are capable of love. It is only in the quivering of aliveness that we are capable of being all we can be. That is what it means to be holy. The opposite of holy is not unholy. The opposite of holy is superficial. The holy is the real. We long for what is real. That is why we yearn with all of our being to return to Eros.
When we talk about Eros or the erotic, we suffer from any number of confusions. There’s an important relationship between the erotic and the sexual, but as we said above, they’re not the same thing. Eros is the essential aliveness of reality—it’s the experience of being on the inside. Like when you’re running and at some point you break through and you’re in the zone or the inside of experience.
There is a fullness of presence in Eros and a feeling that your yearning participates in the evolutionary yearning of being. In Eros you have a felt experience that you are not separate; you experience your own interconnectivity with the larger context, with the wholeness of it all. All blessings flow from Eros. The goodness of life, the color in a black-and-white world, and all ethics flow through the channels of Eros. The loss of Eros is the failure of ethics. Creativity, intimacy and relationship, politics, economics—nothing moves without the erotic. When there’s a disconnect from Eros, systems begin to break down both in the world of the personal and in the world of the collective.
When you feel fully alive, when you are in Eros, there is no question about the meaning of life. When you are in Eros, there is no question about the essential goodness of life. When you live in Eros, life is self-evidently meaningful and obviously good. Here is an example of how sex models Eros: when you are on the edge of orgasm, you are on the inside of life—yearning, totally present, ultimately connected, lost in the experience, and yet most radically your unique self. When you are in Eros, you have no questions about the meaning of life. You are life.
At the edge of sexual explosion, you do not stop in the middle to contemplate philosophical issues or life’s meaning, nor do you question the natural goodness of life. You are fully alive and fully in. In fact, those five qualities—living on the inside, fullness of presence, yearning, wholeness and interconnectivity, and the experience of your unique identity—are the first five of the twelve faces of Eros that we will be exploring in this book. “Sex models Eros” means that sex models the experience of being on the inside, fully present and connected, deeply yearning, and ultimately yourself, in every facet of your life.
From an unedited draft of the forthcoming book A Return to Eros by Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Kristina Kincaid
Align with the evolutionary impulse that is the inherent Eros of reality and become part of your evolutionary community at Evolutionary Church.