by Dr. Marc Gafni
This article is an edited Transcript from One Church – Episode 189 – May 24, 2020. You can watch the whole episode on the Watch page of the One Church Website. One Church: Many Paths, One Mountain is a project of our sister organization, the Foundation for Conscious Evolution.
Read below or download the article here:
The Great Conspiring of Reality:
What Do Conspiracy Theories Get Right?
On every news channel in the world in the last six or seven weeks, the conversation is around one thing. The conversation is around conspiracy theory. Conspiracy theory has moved from the periphery of culture, from its fringe to its center. Why has conspiracy theory moved from fringe to center, at this particular moment in time? And why do we need to talk about it, why does it matter? In newspapers in Asia and in Europe and in South America and in Africa, all over the United States, Mexico, Canada, why is conspiracy theory in the mainstream media the lead item? Why is it so critical for us to understand this?
Because it’s actually speaking to something unbelievably important. The sensemaking that we need to do is to understand this in the largest light. The sensemaking that’s being done around conspiracy theory, there is some truth, there are some good things being said, but it’s so shallow, almost insipid, pallid. Neither the conspiracy theorists don’t understand the mainstream media, the mainstream media doesn’t understand the conspiracy theorists. Both of them dismiss each other. It’s an expression of the larger polarization, the larger culture war.
Why are we attracted to conspiracy theory? Why is it driving the click bait structure of the virtual world? What is attractive in it? Where is the allurement? Where is the attraction? That’s the deep question. Anyone who believes every conspiracy theory is a fool. Anyone who doesn’t believe any conspiracy theories is also a fool, perhaps a greater fool.
by Dr. Marc Gafni and James Bampfield
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 unraveled. 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.
By Dr. Marc Gafni
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:
Sense Making in Crisis
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 shared universe story, together with who we are—a shared narrative of identity, and what we should be doing—a shared ethos.
Decentralized Sense Making
We need this because we live in a moment of decentralized sense making. We cannot rely on the government, the universities, the press, or the religious institutions and the alternative churches of the human potential movement in its New Age varieties. There is wisdom in each of those, but they are as fragmented as our sense of larger patterns and larger worldviews is fractured. We need to find our way back to a vision of goodness, truth, and beauty, based on the best information in the interior and exterior sciences that we have available to us. By exterior science I mean the hard and soft sciences with their measurement, experimentation, and data collection. By interior sciences, I mean the validated gnosis interior experience—the world of spirit, feeling, and inner wisdom. Together they are teaching us where we are, who we are, and what needs to be done in response to the Covid-19 crisis.
The Realization of Unique Self
We are in a powerful moment of evolutionary reset. We have the potential now to redefine our identities as humans. The central knowing that is crystalizing in this evolutionary moment, sourced in the interior sciences, is that each of us is a Unique Self, with a unique perspective, quality of self and capacity for action. Our Unique Self is not simply our talent as separate monadic units. According to the best of the interior and exterior sciences, we are each—not fundamentally apart but rather—part of the larger whole of existence. But we are distinct parts. Each of us are unique emergents of the entire system. We are unique configurations of the larger field of life and consciousness. And therefore, we each have a unique gift to give that is needed by the whole. That is our core identity.
Blessed by Unique Self Heroes
This understanding of identity has not yet emerged into society. But more people are recognizing that we are not cogs in a production machine, nor merely a monadic separate self in a win-lose success struggle but rather—I am a Unique Self—had not yet emerged into society. The separate self identity still dominates culture almost entirely. But with the crisis of Covid-19 we have been blessed with so many heroes, Unique Selves in action every single one of them. Heroes, like poets, are often several steps ahead of culture. And as Unique Self the first response that our sense making demands is unique action. That is what it means to be the hero of your own life.
In the face of tremendous tragedy and urgent need we have seen so many people step up to give whatever unique gifts they have. They are not waiting for direction from others—they are putting their lives on the line and supporting others in every way possible. They are doctors coming out of retirement, they are teenagers delivering food, they are neighbors staging a drive-by birthday party complete with horns and balloons, they are sewing masks, they are applauding health care workers every night from their balconies, they are telephoning people who live alone, they are sending money to first responders and restaurant workers who lost their jobs. This is beautiful to experience, and tells us everything about one major thread of human nature—our inherent capacity to align with goodness and love even at great risk to ourselves. That makes sense only if we feel our identities to be unique and needed expressions of the large field of consciousness and love, not separate selves essentially alienated from the whole.
The immediate steps in sense making take place in the context of actions like these. The very first thing that needs to be done is to heal the sick, to have enough ventilators, to have enough beds in hospitals, to protect those who work in them, to make sure that everyone has access to basic necessities as we face a new economy.
– in Response to an Invitation of the German “Integrales Forum” in 2011
Thank you for your kind invitation to comment on the Integrales Forum position paper in regard to teacher-student relations. First let me congratulate you on this paper, which serves to initiate this important conversation. This topic is a worthy one in need of urgent address on many levels. Let me also commend your excellent deployment of the Integral framework in discussing these issues. It is the use of the Integral framework that allows for this discussion to hold the necessary complexity, multiples perspectives, and nuance that it deserves.
In broad terms, I agree with your conclusions in terms of the need for some essential standards in regard to spiritual teachers. Clearly we are all aware of the most horrific abuses that take place in the context of some pre-personal cults, as well as of some of the more subtle forms of psychological manipulation, financial dishonesty and sexual abuse that take place in these same contexts under the fig leaf of the teacher-student relationship for the sake of the dharma. To protect the potential victim and shield the powerless from the whims of the powerful is a core obligation of any community.
At the same time, as you indicate in your paper, much discernment is needed in this conversation to assure that the teacher-student function is upheld. For indeed, without this teacher-student function, both the transmission of wisdom as well as the personal and collective enlightenment of the interior face of the cosmos would be severely impaired. The teacher-student function is essential for these evolutionary goals.
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.
by Kerstin Zohar Tuschik
This blog post is based on a deep dive private study session I did in the Dharma of the Center for Integral Wisdom, the dharma of Unique Self, World Spirituality, and Evolutionary Eros, that I am studying and being initiated into by Dr. Marc Gafni, who is my teacher, my friend, my colleague, the co-founder and President of the Center of which I am the Executive Director.
In the first part of our session we talked about the innate modesty of the enlightened person.
The highest person, the highest Rebbe, the highest master is the one who can hold confidentiality. That is the nature of enlightenment. Not all must be shared. You might know great wisdom but you do not need everyone to know that you know.
The initiate into an esoteric tradition is the one who can keep a secret. He keeps the wisdom that he or she knows a secret. The word esoteric comes from the Hebrew word seter which means hidden. Keeping a secret means to live in the mind of God.
“Normal people,” when asked to keep a secret, will only tell two people… who will then tell two people… which is why there are no real secrets in the world anymore.
To live an enlightened life means to become essentially self-referential, to not be dependant on the passing fads of the frivolous because you do not have a grasping need for that extra hit of attention you get from telling a secret. You can be wise, do good, and change the world but you do not need to tell everyone.
That is the major teaching of the Eastern traditions. Enlightenment means that you are one with everything. There is no outside. So why would you need anything from anyone else. The very notion of there being anyone else outside of you is already a sign of your unenlightened state.
That is certainly true. Yet, the complete opposite is also true.
If you really get the nature of Enlightenment and you are in relationship with another person, that other person is all of reality just as you. So, when this person doesn’t call or doesn’t write back or is rude to you, it is not just your ego getting hurt by another ego. It is all of reality doing that to you.
To love from that place means to wait breathlessly for the other person to call or write. It is to empathize and feel and care so deeply, so completely that it hurts. From that place you want to share everything.
How is it possible that both of these are true?
In the Eastern traditions that is often seen as the dialectic of the absolute and the relative truth.
Absolute truth means that there is no other. It means to be totally self-referential. Absolute Love is a state of Oneness that is impersonal because there is no person left. There is only One Self that is No Self. There is no outside. And because of that there is no inside either. Inside and outside don’t even make sense.
Relative truth however is all about relationship. There are parts that are in relationship, that are attracted to each other, and that form greater wholes that are parts of an even greater whole… ad infinitum. Relative Love is all personal. It is about communion. It is about giving up your autonomy to become part of a greater whole.
However, in our Unique Self World Spirituality lineage of evolutionary mystics, we maintain that these two truths are one in the Mind of God. These are no absolute and relative truths that are in fact mutually exclusive opposites, but these seeming opposites live in a dialectical tension within the Absolute. The distinction between absolute and relative truth, absolute and relative love is a false dichotomy. It comes from a logical mind that cannot hold paradox.
Love in this dialectical sense is both absolute and relative, personal and impersonal. It is not only communion, nor is it just the autonomous state of All-Oneness. Love is exactly the sweet spot between autonomy and communion. It is the space in between – the space in between the Cherubs on top of the Ark in the Holy of Holies of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem, as we call it in our lineage.
It is station 3 of the three stations of love that move from falling in love, through falling out of love, to falling in love again at a higher level that transcends and includes the first two… or from submission, through separation, to sweetness… from pre-personal oneness, through personal autonomy, to a communion or intimacy, in which both partners don’t lose their distinctness.
In dialectical thinking, the first two stations act like thesis and antithesis that seem mutually exclusive. Yet, at a higher level the dialectical tension is solved (not dissolved) into a new synthesis.
Real intimacy or communion are only possible between partners that are not separate but distinct. That goes further than the whole-part relationship that is often used in the two truths doctrine with the absolute being the ultimate whole, while the relative is built from wholes that are also parts of a larger whole and so on.
In Marc’s teaching the partners are not only parts of a greater whole. Rather, they are unique expressions of the whole that offer a unique perspective, a unique taste, and a unique intimacy into the whole, while also being animated by it.
This is a principle that goes all the way up and all the way down the evolutionary chain, which is what Dr. Marc Gafni means when he talks of the intimate universe, the evolutionary Eros, or that reality is relationships.
The Intimate Universe at the Most Basic Level
An example of that on a subatomic level became obvious to me through my study of physics earlier in my life. Looking at it tells me something about reality at the very basic level.
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.
Dr. Venu Julapalli, CIW Board Member as well as founder and president of Integral Gastroenterology Center, P.A., an active private practice in gastroenterology in Houston, Texas, is writing an amazing blog-series both on Medium and his personal blog about Conscious Medicine about the tenets of what he calls Health 3.0.
Health 3.0 is of course very much related to what he and his brother Dr. Vinay Julapalli, in collaboration with the Center for Integral Wisdom and Dr. Marc Gafni, have called Unique Self Medicine.
In his blog, Dr. Julapalli writes about the problem of medicine:
In one way or another, we all sense that our approach to our health is flawed. But we are not as conscious about this as we could be, from both the patient’s and the doctor’s perspectives.
He then offers the following plan:
CIW Board Member Peter Fiekowsky is the founder of the Healthy Climate Alliance and a voice for possibility and action in a world going off the tracks. As an accomplished physicist, entrepreneur, and expert in language and brain science, he is developing pathways to achieve futures that humanity wants. His current project is giving our children a healthy climate, which he says can be accomplished by 2050.
At CIW, we know that for a bold vision like this we need to shift the collective consciousness. We need to evolve not only individually but as a culture. We need to evolve not only at the surface but at the deepest level possible (what we call the source code).
That’s why we are excited to announce this new blog-series by Peter Fiekowsky, where he links his scientific perspective with the discussion of memes and distinctions we are so passionate about at the Center.
Here is the first post in his series called Humanity Inventing Its Future:
Are Religion and Art Critical to Restoring the Climate?
“Would we have a better chance of giving our children a healthy climate if we set a goal of doing that?”
I have asked that question dozens of times, and have never gotten a “Yes”. I have also never gotten a “No”. I get stunned silence every time.
Scientists then respond, “It’s too expensive”, while economists say, “It’s impossible.” And then they stop. They implicitly agree that we have an obligation to give our children a healthy planet, and then they absolve themselves by saying it’s too expensive or just impossible. I would say that too–wouldn’t you?
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.
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.
Responding to the Second Shock of Existence
Paper by Academic Director of CIW Zachary Stein & President Marc Gafni Published at World Future Review.
Abstract: Foreshadowing arguments from the forthcoming book, Towards a New Politics of Outrageous Love, this paper suggests that humanity is in the throes of a species wide identity crisis, precipitated by a broadening awareness of our impending self-inflicted extinction. This growing awareness that humanity is responsible for its own fate and the fate of the planet is referred to as the second shock of existence. The second shock has spawned a great deal of discussion about the need for revolutions in technological, economic, and ecological infrastructures, yet this focus on exteriors addresses only half the picture. Comparable revolutions of our interiors must also take place—radical transformations in the very structure of our consciousness and species-wide self-understanding. This is a call for attending to the interior dimensions of the current global crises, recommending in the strongest possible terms that tremendous energy and resources be rechanneled into planning for the vast educational reconfigurations facing humanity in the coming decades.
Keywords: Global crises; Integral Theory; Human Identity; Unique Self Theory; Cultural Evolution
Because of the current state of copyright law we only provide a pre-publication draft of this paper. There are bound to be errors that were corrected as the manuscript went through to press, so please track down the published version before citing any of this material or contact us for permission.
Stein, Z. & Gafni, M. (2015). Reimagining humanity’s identity: responding to the second Shock of existence. World Future Review. 7(1) 1-10. [pdf]
From the paper:
Today, in the maelstrom of post-modernity we are collectively facing the second shock of existence*, which is the realization that the survival of the entire human race is in danger.Moreover, we now face this second shock—this awareness of the mortality of the species—precisely because of the actions that followed in the wake of the first shock. Our attempts to build a world that would insulate us from death have brought us to a point where we must now face death on a scale that is almost unimaginable. The more perceptive among us know that it is our own actions that brought us to this point, and we know that it is only by our own actions that we might avoid the apocalyptic scenarios that haunt our collective imagination. Nothing defines our era more than the dawning awareness of the possibility of the self-inflicted extinction of the human race.
We suggest that, in fact, the second shock of existence is an important, necessary, and world-historical millstone in the evolution of consciousness and culture. The first shock made us aware that death threatens the meaning of each individual’s existence; the second shock teaches that self-inflicted extinction threatens the meaning of the whole species’ existence. Just as the first shock was necessary in furthering humanity’s mature and complex relation to the universe, so the second shock is necessary as a further impetus toward greater maturity and complexity. However, whereas the first shock served to separate us from nature and each other, the second shock will serve to reunite us with the natural world and weave the diverse strands of our now fragmented global culture into a common humanity. The second shock is awakening us to the patterns that connect all of humanity as part of a common destiny, a destiny intimately tied into the future of the biosphere. The second shock is a deepening of humanity’s awareness of its place in the universe; it results in the dawning awareness of our profound ethical obligations as the sole stewards of humanity and the planet.
Humanity is now in a situation where we recognize (for the first time, really) that our ability to exploit nature is profoundly limited—we have run up against very real physical boundaries to our continued existence. At the same time, in some sectors, there is a dawning realization that we are already in possession of an unlimited resource—the power of human creativity and innovation, a realm in which there is no scarcity. The tensions between these two realities—dangerous scarcity alongside inspiring plentitude—define our age. It is an age in which heaven competes with hell for a chance to be born. Culturally, this has given us two camps: the pessimists and the optimists, both focused on the state of our techno-economic-ecological exteriors. Techno-Optimists see a future in which our current techno-economic systems are salvaged, re-designed, and made increasingly scientific, efficient, and profitable; we will avert ecological disaster by creating a hyper-scientific, human controlled Heaven on Earth. Pessimists see these very attempts at continued scientific control and economic growth as the problem, sensing that the technologically wrought future they yield will give us more of what we’ve already had for nearly a century: a techno-economic system that decimates communities and ecosystems, and that will eventually degrade the Earth until the biosphere is simply unable to sustain life. Both pessimists and optimists focus on external systems, processes, resources, technologies, and economies. When they speak of crises they refer to broken or scarce things (broken ecosystems, unhealthy food, toxic air, failing schools, etc.). When they speak of innovation, they mean the creation of new and better things (healthy forests, organic food, new energy technologies, fresh air, good schools, etc). The future is in the balance for both camps, no doubt, and they both set their focus on the impacts of science, with a focus on sustainability and the physical continuity of life as we know it.
*The term Second Shock was coined by Mauk Pieper, see Pieper, M. Humanity’s Second Shock and Your Unique Self. (Independent Publishing, 2014).
Read Barbara Marx Hubbard’s and Marc Gafni’s recent articles on our website where they are speaking out for the Evolution of Public Culture.
In Barbara’s words:
One of the most dangerous problems we face in the world is extremism on behalf of belief. In many cases, extremists convince themselves that another faith or political system or individual is ‘evil’, and that they are justified in destroying them by any means necessary. We see this tendency, with tragic consequences, in the political sphere. We are now seeing it the so-called spiritual world. People who claim to be apostles of higher consciousness see no problem with trying to destroy others without due process, open dialogue, non-violent communication or the possibility of resolving differences with compassion, forgiveness and healing. Even more problematically they often hide their hidden agendas under the veneer of victim advocacy. The spiritual world is not exempt from malice. Malice, as Milan Kundera reminds us, “must never admit of itself so it must always plead other motives”.
This kind of behavior is terrorism. Violence of this sort is very hard to respond to creatively without becoming a terrorist yourself. Yet we have to say NO! to terrorism of any kind, including our own.
Marc addresses in his article “how such a cyber-jihad campaign is done:”
1) You dredge up old stories—some outright false, some merely distorted—and make contact with your target’s old enemies, angry ex-wife, ex-students and professional rivals with axes to grind and hidden agendas, in order to get them to support your campaign.
2) Using loaded words like ‘sociopath’ and or ‘pedophile’ without any evidence as to their accuracy, you begin seeding a series of false or distorted allegations about your target around the web.
3) You might even go so far as to claim, as Stephen’s close allies have, that this so-called sociopath has occult or demonic powers. That way, anyone who associates with him can be said to be under some kind of spell, and anyone who wants to hear his side of the story is warned that they might be affected by his ‘demonic’ energy.
4) You then enroll a group of your friends and colleagues, by telling them that you are protecting ‘future victims’. You point to personal testimonials, none of which have been cross-checked for facts—just as, in the old witch trials, unreliable personal testimony was used to ‘prove’ that someone was a witch.
5) In a short time, using the tools of social media, you have formed an internet mob. Now it is nearly impossible to tell that most of the statements you have made about your target are grossly untrue. And, you have a contemporary Witch Trial by Internet – the modern form of a Salem Witch Trial.
You have crowd-sourced a witch hunt.
They both address in detail the specifics of the cyber-attack against Marc and the Center. And they both conclude with their hopes and wishes to find “a higher level resolution” and to meet “face to face, in a facilitated context whose intent is to create truth and reconciliation. That would require people being willing to admit having borne false witness, made false complaints and more. Everyone in the system—including myself—would need to hear each other and own their own responsibility for their part in the contribution system that led to this very moment. This is a context in which neither myself or my colleagues nor Stephen and his colleagues would be “on trial”; rather, it would be a place to give up being right and seek genuine transformation and peace. We could model this for ourselves and for the larger culture.” (Marc Gafni)
We at the Center for Integral Wisdom – together with leading thought leaders and change agents – are dedicated to transform and evolve the source code of culture through application of Integral principles.
In our Activist Think Tank, we articulate, evolve and deliver a new, Integral narrative for living – which transforms each individual, culture and life itself – creating a world of Outrageous Love, through Outrageous Love. Our mission is to love outrageously, live outrageously, and create an extraordinary world.
Some of the core memes we have articulated are the memes of Unique Self and Evolutionary Love.
“We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to outrageous pain is Outrageous Love.” – Marc Gafni
Outrageous Love is not ordinary love but Evolutionary Love.
Since the publication of Your Unique Self in 2012 by Dr. Marc Gafni and Integral Publishers, the teaching has evolved further into a coherent concept of how Evolutionary Love and the emergence of the Unique Self Symphony allows us to not only articulate a new Politics of Outrageous Love but to solve every problem that we are facing as humanity grows into the new stage of what Executive Board Member Barbara Marx Hubbard has come to call Conscious Evolution.
To give you an update on the newly emergent teaching on Evolutionary Unique Self, Outrageous Love, and the Unique Self Symphony, see our blog-series on UniqueSelf.com.
Here is the first part:
The Law of Feeling and Healing
The Law of Feeling and Healing, while simple in explanation, is quite profound. As the gateway to a seemingly impossible evolutionary shift, this law is our access to the divinity and untold amounts of love, joy, and connection.
Fifty years ago, God was experienced by the great realizers and religions as both all knowing and all potent and powerful. Only God knew of the immense pain in the world. Today, boundaries around knowledge cease to exist and images of unbearable suffering penetrate our hearts, bodies and minds hourly. Consequently, there is an enormous amount of Promethean talk about humans becoming God-like with the power we wield. Ignoring the fact that such talk does not take into account the infinite power of cosmos, these erroneous conversations forget divinity is not merely the infinity of power but also the infinity of pain. As our power of knowledge increases so does our awareness of the depth of suffering. In one way, we are potent like gods; we have the never previously known ability to acquire depths of understanding and graphic detail about the horrific pain happening across the planet. Yet, while we know an enormous amount about the reality of suffering around the globe, we experience ourselves as impotent. We feel powerless. Unlike the gods, we are rendered powerless to heal the hurt surrounding us. For most of us, the only way we are capable of responding is to close our hearts.
The Gap Between Feeling and Healing
Enlightenment teachers of all stripes say the reason we close our hearts is because our coiled ego clenches in a self-centered contraction. I don’t think so. We do not close our hearts—at least not primarily—because we are bad, asleep or narcissistic. We close our hearts because the gap between our ability to feel and our ability to heal is simply too great to bear. It is so hard to open our hearts when they have been broken so many times.
These broken hearts of ours hold outrageous pain. When our hearts break we become wounded and contracted. It becomes exceedingly scary to open our hearts again. We are afraid it will bring a pain that we simply cannot bear. Our wounds are further funded by the essential contraction of being a limited, fragile and mortal being. Our mortality itself is enough to break any awake heart. But the grief is not merely from our personal heartaches. We have more direct access to pain through unmediated images of horror and information about mass suffering than any previous generation in history. Our hearts are broken exponentially every time we log in. Facebook and Twitter offer us instant updates on happenings in every nook and cranny of the world. The moment we turn on CNN we see sickening videos from Syria, Congo and so many other crisis points. When we connect we feel utterly devastated. We also feel utterly helpless. We have never seen so much suffering and been so unable to heal it.
Ken Wilber, Integral Theory, and The End of The World as We Know It
by Dr. Zachary Stein
These are some reflections on the work of Ken Wilber. I’ve been studying his writings for almost half my life. We’ve met a couple times (that is Ken, Rollie, and me pictured), talked at some length on the phone, and exchanged countless e-mails. Ken’s got vocal critics and Kool-aid drinking followers. I’m neither of those. I’m more of what is sometimes called an “integral kid,” meaning I’ve been reading Ken since before I could drink legally. There is a unique kind of indebtedness to those teachers who brought you out of adolescence. But it also means I’ve grown up with, in, and out of this way of thinking. So I have a special kind of distancing and even reactivity and withdrawal from it, again, like one also has with one’s best teachers. All things considered, I think you gotta love and be fascinated by all his books…
Anyway, this is mostly just me yawning at all the simplistic and pedantic Wilber haters….
Theorizing at the edge of history
If we are going to take a step in the transition from civilization to planetization, we will need a map. Each of us carries within, an image of space and time, and this cognitive map tells us who we are, where we come from, and where we are going…. [This map is] an imaging of personal values and cultural forms…. A culture provides an individual with a mapping of time and space, but as the culture goes through a period of change and stressful transformation, the [map] becomes distorted. In periods of intense cultural distortion, the [map] becomes so changed as to be almost obliterated. Then the individual becomes lost, profoundly lost in the ontological sense of not knowing who or what he is, where he comes from, and where he is going. For some this can be a moment of terror, for others, a time of release. In a moment of silence in which the old forms fall away, there comes a new receptivity, a new centering inward, and in an instant there flashes onto the screen of consciousness a new re-visioning of the [map]. There in the receptive silences of meditation the new possibilities of time and space announce themselves, possibilities that lie beyond the descriptions of the old institutions of the old culture. This is the prophetic moment, the annunciation of a new myth, and the beginning of a new culture.
—Thompson (1977 p.14)
Philosophers work in socio-cultural contexts, under historically specific conditions, with access to certain communication technologies, libraries, and media. Ken Wilber has been publishing books since 1971, producing a corpus that spans well over 10,000-thousand pages. He has worked with the changing times, from pen and paper to word processor, to the personal computer, and eventually to Internet facilitated multi-media educational initiatives. Moreover, Wilber has worked in response to a dynamically transforming American culture during a period of tremendous global change.
Popular philosophical movements are especially symptomatic of their times. In retrospect historical moments are often best understood in terms of the ideas that thrived during them. Athenian Democracy and the Sophists and Socrates, Medieval Europe and the Church, The American and French Revolutions and the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and Darwinism and Romanticism—no trick of critical historiography could disentangle these groupings of ideas and events, these civilizational eras. What ideas will be associated with the past 60 years, the era since the start of the so-called American Century? What have been the popular philosophies in the post-industrial social systems that emerged after World War II? This question is complicated by the dynamics of the era, which witnessed explosive advances in informational technologies that enabled an unprecedented diffusion of ideas before a growing global public. It is too soon to tell, but the culture of late capitalism—post-modern culture—may very well be defined in terms of its having lacked dominant comprehensive doctrines (Habermas, 1990; Jameson, 1992). This has affected all aspects of life, from the media-saturated textures of our action-orienting self-understandings to the economic policies that structure national geographies.
In their Summer Edition, the Independent School Magazine of the National Association of Independent Schools published an article by CIW Board Member Kathleen J. Brownback on The Unique Self in a Contemplative School. In this article, Kathy clearly and eloquently articulates both the dharma of Unique Self and the need for that dharma in education.
As a teacher for religion and philosophy at Phillips Exeter Academy she skillfully weaves her experience with her students and their need for answers and meaning in the fields of Self, God, and the patterns that connect together with her deep understanding of the dharma of Unique Self as developed and taught by Dr. Marc Gafni.
She places this dharma into the context of contemplative education and mindfulness that has lately reached the mainstream and thereby speaks to teachers and educators who hold such important keys to the evolution of consciousness and love.
A longer version of her article will be published in a special edition on Unique Self of the Integral Leadership Review in Fall 2015.
As practices promoting mindfulness and embodiment become more prevalent in contemporary society, a natural set of questions emerges among educators: What role should contemplative practices play in the academic curriculum?
For much of the modern era, the answer to this question was no role whatsoever. Mind-body practice was generally linked to particular religious traditions, and so was understood to lie outside the objective goals of academic study.
But the last 40 years or so have brought a new understanding of mindful or contemplative practice as embodied self-awareness. These practices involve the movement of the mind and body in ways that are not primarily cognitive, centering on the use of the breath and the stilling of the “monkey mind.” Think of yoga or meditation, or solitary walks in nature, or dance, or the playing of a musical instrument with this focus. Their central goal is to draw us into direct awareness and experience of the present. An increasing number of people are choosing contemplative practice as a way to relate to others differently, to manage strong emotions such as anxiety and anger, to live a more centered and less reactive life, and to find a clear sense of focus and purpose. There is nothing abstract or philosophical about these goals. They emerge from the heart, from questions about human nature and direction. Students ask them of parents and teachers; teachers and parents ask them of themselves and each other. Thus the growing interest in schools.