Venwoude SquareBy Chahat Corten

Hello dearest friends,

Sending you all love and blessing from Venwoude in Holland. This is the first blog post from the Venwoude community days in Holland. In the first couple of days, we had an ecstatic evening with chanting, a teaching on chanting, and storytelling. Ecstatic and passionate ending!

Simply said Marc Gafni has been working round the clock since he got here. First, he created a new World Spirituality process which he called "Growing Up," which was four four-hour sessions in which he guided the community in a brilliant and beautiful exploration of what he called Evolutionary We Space.

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Hands Reflection

Photo Credit: woodleywonderworks

By Hans Jecklin

When, more than 40 years ago, I undertook my first steps into the cosmos of Jungian psychology, I was soon confronted with the opposition of an "I", the person I am in this life, and the "Self" that Carl Gustav Jung understood as both the source and fulfillment of the "I" or as the prior source of potentials for the "I" to manifest in life. Jung was aware of the danger for the "I" to identify with this "Autonomous Reality" or "Divine Archetype" and warned of ego-inflation when a person would - even unconsciously - try to occupy or control that higher reality.

This mostly intellectual differentiation of "I" and "Self" accompanied me for a long time after I started my spiritual search. The longing for the direct experience of God had not only led me beyond psychology, but also to quit the reformed (Christian) church that had been my parents' choice. I then spent nearly twenty years of practicing Zazen, Tao Yoga and Kashmir Shivaism and went through many dis-illusions, having mis-taken the impermanent for the eternal, until finally grace took over.


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The pyramid at Venwoude in winter

Venwoude Retreat Center is proud to announce the appointment of Dr. Marc Gafni as World Spirituality Teacher in Residence.

Venwoude Retreat Center is emerging as an important European Center for the development of a World Spirituality based on Integral Principles, Unique Self Enlightenment, The Democratization of Enlightenment, The Evolution of Love and the Enlightenment of Fullness.

All of these form core parts of the emergent teaching and transmission of World Spirituality based on Integral Principles.

This great and exciting step emerges from an unusual meeting of hearts and minds. Together Dr. Marc and the Venwoude Leadership have forged powerful shared vision on what is possible to unfold in the development of an evolutionary consciousness of World Spirituality in Europe and around the globe.

Dr. Gafni offers, together with leading Venwoude teachers, Mauk Pepier, Chahat Corten, Leon Gras and others, a full year round program.

As part of this collaboration a new set of embodies trainings and  teachings are being developed which form the basis of the emergent World Spirituality Practice. The practice combines deep study, meditation, prayer, the formation of Evolutionary We Space, somatic experiencing, chant, ecstatic practice, reality consideration and contemplation.  Together the path of practical enlightenment is unfolded which engages and evolves the life worlds in all four quadrants.

Marc Gafni, D.Phil., Scholar-in-Residence and Director of the Center for World Spirituality, is a contemporary philosopher and public intellectual who is leading the emergence of the World Spirituality movement based on what Gafni has termed the Democratization of Enlightenment. At the core of Gafni’s teachings is what he calls the Enlightenment of Fullness, the linchpin of which is Unique Self Teachings, a breakthrough technology with the potential to change the source code of the human experience.  The Unique Self teaching is now being adapted in leading treatment centers, universities, private schools and spiritual centers all over the world. In each of these fields serious work is being done by leaders in their respective fields to bring Gafni’s teaching to bear in a way that redefines the field. But three examples are: the Catstlewood Treatment Centers which are now working on what they are calling the “thirteenth step” which is a revolutionary approach to addiction and treatments based on Unique Self teaching which transcends and includes the AA 12 step work. A leading educator at what is considered the leading institution for higher education at the high school level in the United States is working on a new work called Letters to My Students, based on Unique Self teaching. A popular professor at University of Michigan just used Gafni’s teaching on Eros as the core book for his courses last semester.

Over the past 30 years, Dr. Gafni has developed many educational programs and workshops rooted in traditional wisdom and yet fully adapted to the needs of the contemporary world.  His acclaimed writings and standing room only lectures are known for their unique mix of profound teaching and transmission, open hearted compassion and love, intellectual rigor and depending on the night, highly entertaining stand up comedy and storytelling.

An iconoclastic artist and provocative visionary, Dr. Gafni has led spiritual movements and learning communities as well as created and hosted the leading national Israeli television program, on Israel’s leading network, on ethics and spirituality. Now, he is focusing on bringing his passion, brilliance, and ability to transmit an open hearted presence to the World Spirituality movement which he initiated together with Ken Wilber, Mariana Caplan, Sally Kempton and dozens of other intellectual and spiritual luminaries which is chaired by John Mackey.  World Spirituality is a new framework for meaning based on an attempt at the highest possible integration of pre-modern religions, modern scientific principles, and post-modern philosophies based on Integral principles. More than an interfaith movement, and beyond perennial philosophy, World Spirituality thinkers are blazing new evolutionary paths in discovering the New Enlightenment, a path for realizing authentic self-discovery and evolving the source code of human meaning and values. .

Dr. Gafni has written seven books including the national bestseller Soul Prints, which won awards including the NAPRA Nautilus Award for Best Spirituality Book of 2001, and the critically acclaimed book The Mystery of Love, which focused on Kabbalah and Eros. Both books were published by Simon & Schuster, and Soul Prints was also made into a National PBS special and both books were made into audio series by Sounds True. All of Gafni’s books are being re-issued by Integral Publishers. Gafni is presenting writing a major new work on World Spirituality together with Ken Wilber.  In a series of dialogues with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Ram Dass, Moshe Idel, Deepak Chopra, Surya Das, Gabriel Cousens, Michael Murphy and many other thought leaders, he advanced the radical notion that all of Hebrew wisdom may be properly understood as a form of  evolutionary panentheism whose intended goal is the greatest depth of enlightenment for the greatest possible span of humanity.

Dr. Gafni’s forthcoming book – already considered a classic by all of the reviewers, is called Your Unique Self. This work challenges the conventional wisdom of enlightenment as suggests a fundamental evolution of the source code  of enlightenment thought. It is the culmination of years of research into Western and Eastern enlightenment traditions and many hours of conversations with cutting-edge thinkers and spiritual teachers from diverse lineages and traditions.

His other forthcoming books include a two volume thousand page work, Radical Kabbalah, based on his doctoral dissertation at Oxford University, Towards Integral Religion: Dance of Tears, and Between Certainty and Uncertainty: The Future of Faith, and World Spirituality Based on Integral Principles co-authored with Ken Wilber. Collectively these works set the context for and elucidate a teaching he refers to as the Enlightenment of Fullness.

The themes of Dr. Gafni’s early books have been transcended and included in a new paradigm based on Integral principles with Unique Self as its first core principle. The World Spirituality movement brings the Enlightenment of Fullness into practice in real world communities, creating a vibrant and fulfilling context of meaning for people around the globe who can no longer locate themselves in the religious traditions or who no longer feel that one religion can be their exclusive home. The Unique Self principle reconciles Eastern and Western approaches to enlightenment in an elegant, exciting, and original way. Together with Mariana Caplan, Sally Kempton and other leading teachers, he is shaping a revolutionary way of understanding the nature of human existence, a new paradigm which could very well re-make today’s spiritual landscape.

For a public figure, he has been remarkably unafraid to show his continual evolution as a thinker and in his personal life, at times facing trials to his reputation on hate-sites and in the some corners of the blogosphere. He has lived boldly the mantra of World Spirituality: wake up, grow up, show up, and lighten up. As he defied the odds to successfully overcome injustice and  obstacle, he brought his deepened awareness of personal and collective shadow to his writings in such areas as the evolution masculinity and femininity and ethics in spiritual communities.

Dr. Gafni, born Marc Winiarz, is the son of Kehath Winiarz and Claire Subar,  survivors of the Holocaust. He earned his doctorate from Oxford University in England and today he lives in the greater San Francisco area. He is the father of four children. He is the director of the Center for World Spirituality and teacher in residence at the Venwoude Spiritual Community in Holland and at the Shalom Mountain Wisdom School in New York. He occasionally forays into the corporate board room leading widely acclaimed seminars for CEO’s.

Gafni’s teaching is marked by a deep transmission of open heart, love and leading edge provocative wisdom. Gafni is considered by many to be a visionary voice in the founding of a new World Spirituality and one of the great mind/heart teachers of the generation.

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Kenneth’s mystical diary:

This entry was written by my student and friend Kenneth Daviknes Hansen. Kenneth is not a native English writer or speaker but I think his core intent is clear in this long journal entry. To be read by mystics only!

This is a text that conveys a visual view of enlightenment – the awakening from ego identification- as seen through my own eyes. It is a free flow of consciousness written by Kenneth in his diary and not a formal essay. The first half of the essay was edited after the initial diary entry and the second half was not.

First there are the perspectives and the clarification:

We are talking about the 1st person awakening to the enlightened view of reality. This is the 1st person view of both inside and outside when they awaken and realize their true nature. When talking about this experience in the language of perspectives, this is a first person experience as well as 3rd person experience of the 1st person. One realizes that one is something more than ego.

When one has the realization of oneness with what you see -the expression of this in terms of how to understand it will express itself through various cues that will make the understanding and indeed possibility for realizing oneself that there is in fact naught any distance whatsoever in what comes to be the relationship between the one observing (the 1st person) and the one/that which is being seen by the observer. Here the distinction between 1st person and 3rd person will be crucial because we are all observing from the 1st person while within this 1st person what we see is the third person, and the observer is what we call 1st person. So to be clear we are always seeing from within the 1st person.

There are five expressions of what we can term the 1st person realization of oneness with what you see. Before I proceed for the sake of full disclosure I want to share that I am writing based on my own first person experience interpreted through 3rd person categories of enlightenment thinking.

When you have a realization of oneness it often expresses itself through various cues. These cues point to the understanding and make possible the realization that in fact at the essential level there is no distance whatsoever between the observer (1st person) and that which is being observed (3rd person). We are all observing through first person and that which is observed to the extent that it can be communicated becomes available to a broader population as a third person reality. However all third person reality is paradoxically seen differently by every first person. At the same time in the awakened or enlightened experience there is not any distance between the one observing and the one /that which is being seen by the observer. There are five expressions of what we might term the first person realization of oneness with the visual field.


First, as George Bishop* has also pointed out, length is perceivable as a line. When we willfully turn the line towards the eye, we can only see the end of the line. The distance becomes depth and cannot be seen.


When we wondrously examine the definition of distance we realize that distance requires two points to be present so as to be perceived. However when one is relating to an external object the requirement of having two visible points cannot be met. One can only see one of the two points necessary for the visual distance to arise, which is the object of observation.   The person that is seeing cannot see the eyes themselves and therefore is no distance perceived.

Secondly, when we are wondrously examining the definition of distance the necessary requisites are that two points will be present so as to be perceived. However when one is relating to an external object – in one sense you are not seeing distance – as two visible points are not available – as one can only see one of the two points necessary for the visual distance to arise which is the object of observation. The person that is seeing cannot see the eyes themselves and therefore is no distance perceived.

Thirdly, we have the fact that one eye is seeing the object that is under observation from a distinct angle. While the other eye is seeing it from its own angle. The image produced in the mind is a collaboration of the two individual images. Two distinct images however have been formed, each one focusing on one point when observing an external object – and as such seeing that point from their own angle, – as such seeing the point from their own distinct 3rd person, -which is exactly the realm of distance, -where one sees two points (second person) which constitutes distance. To give an example as to what I mean -when holding a finger pointing towards your eyes and seeing that each eye see one side of the finger. The eyes together see the length of the finger, whereas if one were to focus on the finger with one eye one would only see the tip and not its length. This shows that even as the two images in our mind, from the two eyes, are formed into one, the given of having a unique angle to each eye remains true do not perceive distance directly with our mind but by the fact that each eye steps out of a 1st person direct perception of a point (which is the minds merging of the two) and looks at it (from an angle) in the 3rd person. True.

Now an expression that is grounded in a basic intuition that what we see is not over there, rather as we see the objects what we see will be over here. Or as one might say “in here”. In you. Take an observer standing at a distance while observing what we will say is a tree. The tree as we see it is at a distance towards the observer, but to the observer (1st person) what he see will be the photons and light rays that are emitting from the tree and towards his eyes. So quantum-physically we have that what the observer is aware of visually will not be the observed tree as we see it from the 3rd person, what he or she sees is the tree’s emitted light that hits his eyes. That is; in the light’s raying from the tree towards the observer there is no visual distance, as we can understand from the observers point of view! This is the 1st person, where there will be only oneness and no separation, what the observer is aware of is visually the photons as they enter the eyes’ lenses and hits the retina of his or her eyes and as such is as close to the observer as they can get.

As a fifth and final expression of the way that enlightened visuals express themselves comes from the definition of distance and the recognition that between objects is but a vacuum of empty space. Between literal objects there is an absolute nothingness that can show us how the very definition of distance implodes on itself and results in a nullification of itself: “We define distance as the amount of space between two things or people.” As the definition suggests we need the amount of space to define distance. To say such a thing will then equalize with saying, “Distance is the amount of absolutely nothing.” which is in itself contradicting the very basis of the definition. The amount of nothing to my best knowledge will equal the very same thing: nothing. So to the definition of distance, which suggests the separation of objects, we can say that the definition does not hold standard. There is no thing there to be measured as to what regards distance. We therefore need a new definition of the way that we understand separation in the 3rd person realm, which is an other theme. To say it shortly we then have to involve the sense of touch and see it together with the sense of sight: In practical terms distance pertains to the sense of touch because if a thing is at a distance towards us we might not be able to touch it, or if it is up close we are at chance of bumping.

The actual seeing of this view and way of perceiving space, is a beautiful experience that gives pleasure and delight, when seeing that space is one and that what we are looking at is in deed not at any distance from us, that what we see we are one with, when we see that and at the same time realize that we do experience them as being at a distance we might very well unlock a fascinating perception of space that makes seeing and watching ever so directly and wonderfully so.

There are sources from Chasidism that shows how using sight, as a spiritual practice is possible.They warn us not to use the sight of beauty to self-indulge rather use it as a way to reach God. Kabbbalah teaches that there are seven kinds of thought that may be transformed into its source, which can be called God. The method that they suggest is that what you have of a thought whether it is love, glorification or other of the seven kinds of thoughts the method is that what you are having of an experience is but a part of the World of that thought. “When you eat something that gives you pleasure, think that it is but a part of the World of Delight. and “then you will find pleasure al [Hebrew] (lit: over) God. .. as it were.” Ascending to the very source.

“Avoid gazing at material things that are attractive. To indulge your desire. For that type of looking is self-worship. Which is like worshipping idolatry.”

Regarding when seeing a thing: “Think to yourself: “Whence came the beauty and form to this vessel. … Its beauty and form. are the spiritual and vital reality of the vessel, which is a Divine portion from Above [for the vitality of all physical things is a Divine portion from Above].” The footnote of that same page does contain the note that: “Nidah 31a: a persons beauty comes from God.” “Likewise when eating, bear in mind that the taste and sweetness of the food derives from the vitalizing force and sweetness of above, and that is its vitality.. It follows then that the Divine vitality from Above is to be found everywhere” For as it says through the same paragraph as sited: an object has a vitality that is evident through its having “existence and durability.”

By Tilmann Haberer

”˜I am spiritual, but not religious”˜– many people make this distinction. They describe themselves as spiritual and maybe they mean by this that they follow a more or less intensive discipline such as Yoga, Vipassana or Zen. Or maybe they lay the Tarot. Perhaps they also believe that, for them, the existence of a higher order is self-understood. However, this higher order has little to do with the god spoken about in religion. For the established religions - in particular Christianity, Islam and Judaism in our part of the world - have gambled away our trust, which, for centuries, was taken for granted. Of course there are reasons for this. One of the most important of these must be that, historically, the churches often played a very disreputable role. Crusades, burning of witches, persecution of heretics and those with different beliefs, religious wars, the conquering of Middle and South America with fire and sword! The list is endless, as endless as the streams of blood and tears that the churches have caused over the course of the centuries. This list carries forward to the present day; the abuse scandals scream to heaven.


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Dr. Marc Gafni has been on a two-week teaching tour in Germany and we are delighted to welcome him back to the states this week!

While Dr. Marc was spreading the World Spirituality dharma, one of our good friends Mark Stollreiter, was able to capture and produce four beautiful teaching videos. He shared these rare teaching videos with us and we are thrilled to share them with our integral evolutionary community.

Originally produced by Mark Stollreiter


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In this video, Mauk Pieper, Alamasta Faber, Marijke Heetveld, and Lena Huisman report on their visit to the Integral Spiritual Experience Year 1. The Venwoude team contributed with practice sessions of breathwork and bodywork and traveled to Asilomar Retreat Center in Pacific Grove, California from the Netherlands.

Don’t miss Team Venwoude again this year at Integral Spiritual Experience 2: The Future of Love.

Can’t make the live event this year? Don’t miss Ken Wilber’s ISE 2 Keynote Address, plus 14 hours of the event in real time streaming and on demand video. ISE 2 online is the perfect way to experience Integral Spirituality from the comfort of home!