– 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.

[Read more…]

by Dr. Zachary Stein – after the 15th and final Wisdom School at Shalom Mountain, which concluded a 10 year cycle

marc gafni, wisdom school, shalom mountainIn 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.

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

>> Download the Transcript of the Video Here <<


Reclaiming Eros Course ImageImagine 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.

>>> Learn more and register here for our online course Reclaiming Eros <<<

Enjoy this beautiful introduction and story by Dr. Marc Gafni from our recent CIW Board Retreat:


The Story of Levi Isaac of Berdichev Told by Dr. Marc Gafni

from the book Your Unique Self by Dr. Marc Gafni

When you fail to hold the personal, you may begin to engage in manipulation or possibly even psychological abuse. When you begin to see yourself as aligned with the process, which was the great teaching of Hegel, you may inadvertently give birth to the worst evils of Fascism, Communism, and Nazism, all of which were very heavily influenced by Hegel’s teaching that demanded that the individual must awaken and identify with the great evolutionary process of divine unfolding in absolute spirit. In Hegel’s powerful clarion call to align with the ecstatic impulse of historically unfolding evolutionary God, the holiness of the individual was somehow crushed in all the grand rhetoric, with devastating results for God and humans. The process must always remain personal.

For me it was always the Hasidic master Levi Isaac of Berdichev who radically reminded me of the primacy of the personal even when in the throes of evolutionary ecstasy. Levi Isaac was once leading the prayers at the close of Yom Kippur services. Yom Kippur is a fast day and the holiest day in the Hebrew calendar. The twilight hours at the end of the fast are filled with potency. According to the evolutionary mystics of Kabbalah, the enlightened prayer leader, during that time may potentially enter the virtual source code of reality and effect a tikkun; that is, effect a momentous leap in the evolution of consciousness for the sake of all sentient beings, in all generations. This is precisely what Levi Isaac—greatest of all enlightened evolutionary prayer leaders—was doing on that Yom Kippur. Night had already fallen, the fast was officially over, but the ecstasy of Levi Isaac was rippling through all the upper worlds. All beings held their breath in awe of the evolutionary power of Levi Isaac’s consciousness. All of reality was pulsating with him towards an ecstatic evolutionary crescendo. Just as the great breakthrough was about to happen at the leading edge, Levi Isaac spotted out of the corner of his eye an old man who was thirsty. The fast had been very long and the old man needed to drink. So in the midst of his ecstasy, Levi Isaac brought the whole evolutionary process to a halt. He immediately ended the fast and personally brought the old man a drink of water.

Dr. Marc Gafni: What causes the emergence of the post-tragic level of consciousness is always the deepening into what we might call emotional maturity or wisdom.How can you feel the pain of the world and still be empowered?

How can you become a beacon of light and love in the midst of all the pain you face – both yourself and the pain you see in the world?

How can you become a beneficial healing presence on the planet?

These are the questions that we need to answer in order to create a Politics of Love and an Integral Planet.

In the video below, CIW President Dr. Marc Gafni shares a daily practice from his tradition called participating in the pain of Eros in exile. What that means is that you open yourself up to the pain of the world without becoming dysfunctional.

That means you plug into the portal of pain in a way that’s powerful rather than impotent.

In this mystical practice that Marc Gafni transmits in his video, you open up to the pain fully for 5 minutes a day. You might do it by getting silent, bringing to mind images of pain, and letting your mind dwell in it. You might do it by reading a newspaper article.

By opening yourself to the pain fully for a limited amount of time, you realize a deep mystical knowing: When you enter the pain, you find yourself participating in the sweetness of the Divine.

The alive personal intelligence of All-That-Is is both the infinity of intimacy and the infinity of pain. The Divine pain is infinite. In this sacred practice, you are entering into God’s heart and are participating in the pain of the personal Eros of All-That-Is. In that participation, an infinite sweetness emerges.

Yeats wrote of this sweetness, in the understated but raw Eros of his verse:

When such as I

Cast out remorse

So great a sweetness fills my breast

We can dance and we can sing

We are blest by everything

And everything we look upon

Is blest.

When you step inside, you are blessed by everything. The contraction melts away and you feel the aliveness and awakeness of the feminine Goddess Divine – the personal embrace of the loving intelligence of the universe.

You have the power to love and dance and sing and create.

You are empowered to become a beneficial healing presence on the planet.

Enjoy this video by Dr. Marc Gafni:

View more videos by Dr. Marc Gafni on how to close the gap between our ability to feel and our ability to heal the pain here>>>


by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 6)

Two Faces of All That Is

This is the animating impulse that moved eastern spiritual teaching, motivated by love, to seek to free you from the illusion of separate self. Their great mistake was to jettison Uniqueness along with separateness by conflating the two in a way that was both unnecessary and wrong. This confusion of separateness and uniqueness forgot that you could be both part of the whole and a distinct part at the same time. The recovering of that memory is essential to healing the fractured and broken self. The dignity of the part can be held even as your are connected to the whole. You are part of the seamless coat of the universe. Seamless, but not featureless.  You can transcend your exclusive identification with your part nature, the ego, even as you identify with the larger whole. But that does not mean that your unique part nature is absorbed in the whole. Rather, it is integrated in the seamless coat of reality without compromising its unique features.

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by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 5)

God in the First Person:

"All at once I found myself wrapped in a flame-colored cloud. For an instant, I thought of fire and immense conflagration somewhere close by in that great city; the next I knew that the fire was in myself. Directly afterward there came upon me as sense of exultation, of immense joyousness accompanied or immediately followed by an intellectual illumination impossible to describe. Among other things, I did not merely come to believe, but I saw that the universe is not composed of dead matter, but is on the contrary, a living presence; I became conscious in myself of eternal life. It was not a conviction that I would have an eternal life, but a consciousness that I possessed eternal life then; I saw that all men are immortal, that the cosmic order is such that without any peradventure all things work together for the good of each and all; that the foundation principle of the world, of all worlds, is what we call love, and that the happiness of each and all is in the long run absolutely certain."

~R.M. Bucke

God in the Second Person addressing man:

I will be united with you in marriage forever

I will be united to you in marriage through justice and righteousness

I will be united with you in marriage through overflowing love and compassion

I will be united with you in marriage in complete trust

And you will erotically know the divine

Hosea the Prophet: 2: 21- 23

Only someone who lacks both of these realizations can identify all that is as merely a process or impulse. Realization teaches that the all that is expresses as a process or an evolutionary impulse, but that God is process plus personal, not process minus personal.

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by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 4)

It is precisely this fellowship of prayer and prophecy, which we might refer to as the second face of God. In this pointing out instruction, God in the first person would be the face of god you feel flowing through you in meditation. God in the third person would be the face of God reflected in your radical amazement at the wonder and infinite intelligence displayed in every nook and cranny of existence. God in the second person is in the mystery of the encounter between God and Man. A relationship of intimacy is revealed between the finite and the infinite.  All of the infinite power, glory, and intelligence of the first person and third person of the divine were felt and revealed as relationship in the second encounter between the prophet and God. The precise flip side of prophecy is prayer. In their essence, they are the same. Both are expressions of the fellowship between man and God. The difference is simply this. In prophecy, God initiates and God invokes. In prayer, man initiates and man invokes.

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by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 3)

The sense of peril resulting from direct contact with the divine ground has nothing to do with any ideas that the people are sinful or the god wrathful. It is more like the famous question of the Bhagavad Gita: "Suppose a thousand suns should rise together in the sky,” what would happen to our reality? How can the individual hope to survive contact with Source? Source incarnates all the energy and power in the Cosmos and infinitely beyond.

Presence by its very nature overwhelms all individual existence.

This strange and awesome paradox is resolved not by theory, but in the very experience of the encounter itself. The living presence of the divine “which is the suchness and substance of all that is” not only IS but is also FOR man. The person experiences an overpowering concern, in which they are held, cared for, recognized, and loved--within the very encounter itself. So the paradox of the encounter is that it is, on one hand, overwhelming and at the same time radically affirming. The individual is rendered powerless, almost lifeless before the divine, even as the individual is enlivened and empowered.

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by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 2)

The most powerful expression of this realization is in the prophetic encounter with the divine mystery. This encounter runs like a thread from Abraham and Sarah to Moses, Miriam, Jeremiah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and the larger legions of prophecy. As America's second president John Adams has already noted, the best of everything Western man knows about freedom, love, ethics, and responsibility emerges from the great encounter between the finite and the infinite.

The Encounter with other marks the emergence of the pre-personal slumber. The baby encounters other even as the emergent human being who experiences his separate self turns to other. The  encounter–relationship–is born as the central dynamic of human existence.

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by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 1 of 6)

The realization of the personal which has been derided as the separate self or ego is so important that I want to ask you to enter this even more deeply with me. You need to feel a sense of this realization in your own being. You need to feel the love and care implicit and explicit in the loving personal address of the Cosmos.

There is clear a moment in where you will need to move beyond separate self and realize the underlying unity of all that is as the seamless coat of the universe. You will need to trance-end the merely personal to realize the next station on the road to your  enlightenment. This will engender in you a profound love. It will open your heart in a radical and unconditional way. It will move you beyond alienation into full integration and power.

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Excerpt of the Essay by Dr. Marc Gafni:

In their 2013 ITC conference presentation, Marc Gafni and Sally Kempton will explore "Integral God: Sacred Activism and Falling in Love with the Divine." To explore this, they will consider two models of self in evolutionary mysticism and why these models matter. Both models emerge at the time of important updates to the source code of enlightenment. The first update is the understanding that all of reality, including spirit, is evolving, and this is a shared understanding of both Unique and Authentic Self teachings. The second update to the source code of the enlightenment teachings can be understood as the emergence of the awakened personal function, and this is a key area of divergence between the Unique and Authentic Self teachings. Read more in this excerpt from the introduction of the essay :


Unique Self and Authentic Self in Context:

Marc GafniWithin the Integral context, two ways of thinking about self have emerged which are distinctive both in their shared contours and significant distinctions. One framework or model has been called Authentic Self, and the other, Unique Self.[i] Their implicit assumptions suggest both a shared worldview and subtle but important distinctions in their vision of the ideal homo religiousus. These distinctions are foundational with vast implications in virtually every dimension of life, and therefore, need to be laid out with clarity and precision. Each suggests a different understanding of what it means to wake up from the narrow identity as a separate self or ego self into a more enlightened and correct identity as, respectively, Authentic or Unique Self.[ii]  Both the Unique Self and Authentic Self models locate themselves within the context of classical mystical enlightenment teaching. Neither emerges from a western flatland paradigm which views the self as an isolated and discrete unit, or what has been called a skin-encapsulated ego. For both Unique Self and Authentic Self, the first major step towards enlightenment is the realization that the person is not merely an ego or separate self, but rather that the person's true identity is their absolute, essential, or true self.

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Editor's note: The following essay is published as a white paper of the Center for World Spirituality think tank. Our Spirit's Next Move blog is pleased to announce the paper's availability.

Implications: A Great Voice Which Does Not Cease

Some teachers have taught that revelation heard long ago at Mount Sinai when God spoke to human beings was an event occurring once in the lifetime of the universe, calling it according to its biblical phrasing, “A great voice which did not continue.” Again, the mystics insist that another reading is possible. In the original Hebrew, the phrase “did not continue” can paradoxically be read as “did not cease.” The voice of Sinai is accessible even after the echoes of the original revelation are long since lost in the wind. The voice of revelation has never ended.

So if the voice still continues, in what form does it live on?

It thrives in the voice of the human being who speaks from the silence. This is what I have termed Silence of Presence. When we listen deeply, we are able to uncover the God-voice within us. We become present in the silence. We are called by the presence--the God-voice within us--that wells up from the silence.

Indeed the entire cultural –spiritual enterprise of the Judaic spirit in the post biblical age is to hear the voice, even in - some would say especially in - the silence. The Biblical age ended when God stopped talking. For the Buddhist, even if one were to assume some notion of divinity – there is clearly no such absurdity as a talking God. For the Hebrew however, the essence of divinity is a talking God. Indeed the Hebrew God of the Bible talks almost endlessly, pouring out 24 books of divinely spoken or inspired word - the Hebrew Canon. What to do then when God stops talking and retreats into silence? In the interpretive reaction to this silence Judaism and early Christianity parted ways. For Christianity the cessation of speech by a talking God could only be a portent of divine withdrawal of favor. They interpreted the silence as a silence of absence. God no longer talked to the Hebrews for he had chosen a New Israel. The post prophetic Hebrews however refused to accept this understanding of God's silence. This is the silence, not of abandonment they insisted – but of mature love. It is not silence of absence but silence of presence. Imbued with intense and profound religious passion they listened to the silence and insisted that they heard God talking. That speech is the Halachic enterprise, which insists on the radical presence of the divine in every facet of existence. It is only in this sense that we understand the Rabbinic comment after the temple's destruction, “God's presence in this world now rests in the four cubits of Halacha”. It is not a statement of dejection or resignation – it is rather the confident commitment of the lover.

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Editor's note: The following essay by Marc Gafni is published as a white paper of the Center for World Spirituality think tank. Our Spirit's Next Move blog is pleased to announce the paper's availability.

Ten Words to Live By

The second biblical myth word symbol of freedom is actually mistranslated into English as the Ten Commandments. The people, so the story goes, having fled Egypt, gather at the foot of Mount Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments. Of course, nowhere in the biblical myth is there any mention of Ten Commandments. Here is where the old witty maxim, “Reading the bible in translation is like kissing a woman through a veil,” becomes not altogether untrue. In the original Hebrew, the people receive at Sinai not Ten Commandments but “Ten Words.” Here Voice becomes Word, the articulation of speech. It is the beginning of the vision that follows revolution.

The third word symbol is no less than the word “Messiah.” “Messiah” in the original Hebrew is understood by the Kabbalists, quite astoundingly, to mean “conversation.” Master Nachum of Chernobyl, mystic and philosopher, points out that the Hebrew word for messiah, Mashiach, can be understood as the Hebrew word Ma-siach – meaning “from dialogue” or “of conversation.” His assertion radically implies that the Messiah is potentially present in every human conversation””every mutual act of voice-giving.

All authentic conversation is sacred conversation. The ability to have an honest face-to-face talk in which both sides are true to themselves, vulnerable and powerful at the same time, is Messianic.

Simply put, sacred conversation is the vessel that receives the light of Messiah.

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By Marc Gafni

Editor's note: The following essay is published as a white paper of the Center for World Spirituality think tank. Our Spirit's Next Move blog is pleased to announce the paper's availability.

The Second Stage: from Silence to Sound

The beginning of freedom is the emergence of voice. This stage is expressed both by the initial cry of the Israelite slaves that broke their silence, as well as by Moses' arrival on the scene. “When Moses came, voice came,” writes the Zohar. Moses does what the charismatic revolutionary always does: he gives voice to the people. Indeed, biblical myth text records the beginning of redemption with the following words: “”¦It came to pass in the course of many days that the King of Egypt died and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage and they cried out and their cry came up unto God.” The enslaved Israelites are received by the presence of God at the point when they move from the dumb silence of the slave to sound which is the beginning of speech, the characteristic of a free people. This “cry” is not an elegantly articulated protest – it is a cry as in the cry of a wolf, or the cry of an infant. It is primal, impassioned, pre-civilized, a howl of protest that makes it into the halls of heaven, heard by God himself.

For the first time the enslaved can express distress. They seek to articulate words that are not yet ready to form themselves on their lips. At this stage of moving toward freedom, we do not yet know how to tell our story. We do not know what we would do with the world if it were given over to our stewardship. We just know that we must protest.

The biblical myth symbol (Leviticus 25) for the transition from slavery to freedom is the primal blast of a ram's horn. No trumpet of gold, it is rather the rawness of the ram's horn that captures the slave's first fitful sounds. The first thing a revolutionary movement must do is sound its ram horn--start a newspaper, set up a radio station, build an internet site. It is not by accident that the fundamentalist and totalitarian states are trying to disallow or severely limit internet access. Freedom's beginnings are expressed in the first shouts of protest.

The sixties and seventies were such second-stage revolutionary generations. This helps explain why so many sixties hippies became late seventies and early eighties yuppies and then transformed again into the establishment of the nineties. The feeling of distress generated protest – sound and even the first glimmerings of voice--but there was no alternative vision of society to generate “speech.” Similarly, many third world revolutionaries reflect such second stage thinking. Consequently, as we all know, that not a few third world revolutionaries became the leaders of far more repressive regimes than the ones they overthrew. Because they lacked speech to articulate the primal manifestations of voice, they needed to repress all of their own pain, the very distress and disease that initially led to the revolution.

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Editor's note: The following essay is published as a white paper of the Center for World Spirituality think tank. Our Spirit's Next Move blog is pleased to announce the paper's availability.

The First Stage: The Silence of Absence

The aforementioned passage in the Zohar (Exodus 25a) suggests that there are three distinct stages in the continuum from slavery to freedom. The first stage is silence. The second stage involves moving from silence to sound without speech. And the third stage is speech--voice and articulated word.

In the first stage, slavery, we are mute and dumb. We live our lives without ever really crying out. The routines of the everyday deaden our sense of injustice, and our passions atrophy amid the narrowness of Egypt, when all sounds are smothered in our throats. In the biblical myth, the people were silent in the first stage of exile in Egypt. The pain broke their spirits and they became mute--no longer able to even cry out, much less to express the injustices with the eloquence of speech. We all have touched a fraction of that experience when, after a protracted argument, we are so worn down that we lack the strength to protest even the most blatant offenses of those who oppose or oppress us.

In a less familiar reading of the biblical story, Talmudic masters suggest that the slavery in Egypt was not of the usual kind. In fact, the Israelites were successful and prosperous. However, the deadening quality and comfort of their routine had anesthetized the sensitivity to their own wounds of alienation. How many of us suffer and hurt, yet remain fundamentally unaware of our suffering, deadened by the soma pills of the expected, and the narrow straits of success?

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Editor's note: The following essay is published as a white paper of the Center for World Spirituality think tank. Our Spirit's Next Move blog is pleased to announce the paper's availability.

"As the Kabbalists point out, the word Moses spelled backwards is Ha Shem, meaning 'the name.' Importantly, Ha-shem in biblical Hebrew also is the most common reference to God's name. When you respond to your call and realize your soul print, fully becoming your name, you become one with God. When Moses did this, he found his voice, he became a prophet."

By Marc Gafni

To live your story is to move from a state of slavery to freedom. Slavery is not limited to our old image of the oppressed Hebrew or black slave being whipped by the cruel master. We are all potentially free, just as we are all potentially slaves. Our intent in this brief essay is to at least begin to unpack a core intuition of the Zohar ””that a free person is a person who has found voice. As we shall see in the very last paragraphs of this discussion the implications of freedom are wondrous indeed!

The Hebrew name for the Passover Storytelling Ritual, which celebrates and reenacts the dynamic movement from slavery to freedom, is Pe-Sach. Renaissance mystic Isaac Luria reminded us that Pe-Sach is a combination of two words””Peh, meaning “mouth,” and Sach, meaning “talk.” Pe- Sach, therefore, means the mouth that talks.

One school of Hasidic masters unpacks this idea by defining redemption as the emergence of speech. To move from a dumb and mute existence to a communal storytelling existence is to undergo redemptive transformation. “To be redeemed,” writes one mystic, “is to lead a history-making, storytelling, communing, free existence.” To be in exile is to lack history, tell no story, fail to commune, and exist as a slave, silent.

The most oft cited source for this idea is a stunning passage in the Zohar which describes the Egyptian slavery as the “exile of speech.” In Kabbalah, every biblical nation represents a different organ of the body; Egypt represents the throat. The mystics read the Hebrew word “Egypt” literally as meaning narrowness. The throat is, of course, the narrow, constricted passage between the wide spaces of the heart and mind. The narrow throat, Egypt, is thus the ideal symbol for the exile of speech. Speech remains caught in the throat, in the dark passage, and can't make it to freedom's gateway, the mouth. Redemption comes in the birth of the word. In the actual process of your retelling, you reclaim your story. But to be capable of retelling your story you need voice. Redemption then is the process of finding voice.

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By Dr. Marc Gafni

Summary: The four faces of eros, described by Marc Gafni in this excerpt from Mystery of Love (2003), are 1.) being on the inside, 2.) fullness of presence, 3.) desire, and 4.) interconnectivity of being.  As Marc describes, with its mystical role in these four expressions, the face itself is the truest reflection of the erotic.  In the flow of eros, we access the experience of being on the inside of God's face, which Marc explores here through the Temple mystery of the sexually entwined cherubs atop the Ark who are positioned face to face; the Hebrew word “panim,” which means “inside, face, and before;” and the erotic experience of having a true face-to-face conversation. This significant passage from Mystery of Love invites you to embody the erotic””which is modeled but not exhausted by the sexual””more deeply in your own life.

Eros has many expressions. Each expression is hinted at in the temple mysteries.  There are four faces of eros which, when taken together, form the essence of the Shechina experience. In this essay, we will explore the erotic understanding which forms the matrix of the secret of the cherubs and informs every arena of our existence. As we shall see, at the very heart of Hebrew tantra was a very precise and provocative understanding of the relationship between love, sex, and eros. This will open us up to a whole new understanding of our sexuality and will show us the way to erotically reweave the very fabric of our lives in more vivid patterns, sensual textures, and brilliant hues.

The First Face of Eros: On the Inside

“What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

The cherubs in the magical mystery of Temple myth were not stationary fixtures. No, these statues were expressive, emotive. They moved. When integrity and goodness ruled the land, the cherubs were face to face. In these times, the focal point of Shechina energy rested erotically, ecstatically, between the cherubs. When discord and evil held sway in the kingdom, the cherubs turned from each other, appearing back to back instead of face to face.1  Back to back, the world was amiss, alienated, ruptured. Face to face, the world was harmonized, hopeful, embraced. Thus, face to face in biblical myth2 is the most highly desirable state. It is the gem stone state of being, the jeweled summit of all creation.  Face to face, to be fully explicit, is a state of eros.

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Candles Flickering

Photo Credit: Dey


By Marc Gafni

This post concludes the “Protest as Prayer” series. It is continued from post 14.

It was late one Friday night, with the Sabbath candles flickering in the darkness, when the Rebbe stood up. He had been especially pensive this night: wrapped in thoughts and prayers of his own. He walked purposefully to the table, spat on his hands and snuffed out the Sabbath candles. In the sudden darkness the shocked Chassidim heard the cold fury and despair in their Rebbe’s voice resounding in the gloom as he intoned: “There is no Judge, and there is no Judgment.”

Rebbe Menachem-Mendel of Kotsk then walked out of the synagogue, locked himself in his room, and never came out. For over twenty years until his death he remained in isolation and spoke not another word. But his Chassidim did not reject him as a blasphemer, nor a madman. In his silent solitary rage the Rebbe of Kotsk became more respected, more loved than ever before, as the Kotsker Chassidic tradition flourished in all its contradictions.

Somehow the Chassidim understood that ultimate Doubt, ultimate challenge, when conducted from within deep relationship, paradoxically can become the ultimate service, the ultimate worship.


Job

By Marc Gafni

This post is continued from Part 13.

We began with three truths. God is good. God is powerful. Good people suffer. These are the three truths of Job. We hold all three. We can live in the deep and painful uncertainty of not always knowing how all three fit together. Those unable to hold the uncertainty emasculate God. This is Harold Kushner’s basic move. God can’t do anything about evil — God is nice but not powerful.

Others, unable to hold the uncertainty, emasculate man. That is pious orthodox thinker Gottlieb’s move. He has theo-logically solved the problem of suffering. He denies the rage, the protest, the unanswered question which defines Jewish text. He cannot live with the uncertainty of the question so he must argue that certainty has been achieved and the question answered.