imgres-4We long for something deeper; something more, a higher and more noble authenticity. We masquerade in the mask of our wholeness knowing all along that it is but a charade; that we are part of larger whole with whom we yearn to be re-united. A shard of a shattered vessel whose hidden sparks seek to be uplifted and absorbed into the one even as they retain their sacred separate identity.  “As the gazelle yearns after the stream of clear water, so does my soul long after you, my God.”

Kalonymous  Kalman of Piacezna teaches in his book Holy Fire, “in response to our yearning for God, God longs and draws closer to us.” [Read more…]

imgres-3The unfolding of divine consciousness is not a purely intra-divine process. The great privilege of being a human being is that we participate in the evolution and healing of God. We are God’s healers. It is the evolution of the human spirit that catalyzes the evolution of God. When God and man meet in an evolutionary embrace redemption is achieved. 

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy




imgres-3By Marc Gafni

Prayer is man pouring out his deepest need before God. Philosophers and mystics alike scoffed at this prayer seeking the more pure prayer which pleads for alignment between man and god. Such prayer is surely sacred and noble. The psalmist prays to God “A pure heart create for me God”¦.Take not your holy spirit from me.” Or in another passage the mystic yearning bursts out with full force: “As the deer desperately yearns after the brook of water so does my soul desperately after you O God; My soul thirsts for the living God. When shall I come and appear in the presence of God.”  Or in the Koan prayer of 19th century mystic Shneur Zalman of Liadi as he cries out in prayer;  “I do not want your hell; I do not want your heaven; it is you; you alone that I want.” All of these God in second person prayers whether coming from a dualist psalmist or a non dual mystic Schneur Zalman are an integral part of prayer. Yet none of them replace the core staple of Hebrew spiritual practice; the pouring of the heart’s deepest need before God.[Read more…]

imgres-3To be in temple consciousness is to be in God. Eros pure and simple. This shift in consciousness is hidden within the folds of biblical myth text itself. We have already seen that the biblical term lifnei hashem, usually translated as “before God,” can be more fruitfully unpacked as “on the inside of God’s face.”

This allusion plants the seed for the much more radical move made by mystic Isaac Luria in the 16th century. In Luria’s graphic and daring vision, the world is not formed by a forward thrusting male movement which creates outside of itself. Quite the contrary – Divinity creates within itself a sacred void in the form of a circle. This is the Great Circle of Creation. The circle, unlike in the original biblical image, is within God. It is an act of love which moves God to withdraw and make room for other – paradoxically – within God.[Read more…]

imgres-9Contemporary Hassidic master Shlomo Carlebach in his simple yet deceptively deep prose taught, “What is the highest level a person can reach?” I’ll tell you on a simple level. Sometimes you hear a person laughing and it sounds like laughter.  But if you have really good ears, it sounds like crying.  You listen to a hurricane, and it sounds like the wind is angry – but if you have really good ears, you know that the wind is searching for something.  It is so desperate.  A wedding is a strange thing, and if you don’t have good ears, the whole thing sounds shallow. Most people don’t hear what’s going on at a wedding. The holy bride walks in, she doesn’t say anything. The holy groom walks in, he doesn’t say anything. That’s only if you don’t have good ears. If you have truly good ears however, you can hear not only that the holy bride is crying now, but you can hear her cries from her very first cry as a baby… and the same with the groom. When they walk to the wedding, they don’t begin from a little room down the hall but from their very first second, their very first cry”¦ to this minute, under the canopy, was one long walk.”

What Shlomo suggests, at least in my reading of his transcripts, is that the beginning of crying, the crying of the baby which is a crying of protest and the crying of longing accompanies us through life. The longing moves from pre-personal to personal. At moments of realization, tears of longing give way to crying of joy which is ultimately crying of union. The personal merges into the transpersonal.

Dr. Marc Gafni
Dance of Tears
(in press)


imgresIn Chassidut the notion of longing became essential to the Chassidic understanding of the universe.  For  my teacher  Mordecai Lanier, Teshuka, meaning innermost desire, is the most important spiritual guide.  In contradistinction to Jewish moments of piety, which tried to use the mind and will to overcome desire, the master of Izbica teaches that stripping away the superficialities to access the innermost desire of our souls is ultimately the only reliable guide on our spiritual path.

Taking this one step further, the great teacher of both  non duality and God in the second person, Levi Isaac of Berdichev, teaches that not only is holy yearning a spiritual guide, but all yearning, all desires, are spiritual guides, for in the end, all yearning is really yearning  for the one.  All roads seek to bring us back to our source.  To our highest integration and one-ness.  And even when on the face of it our innermost desires seem to be for that which is base and not yet holy, a deeper reading of the script of our lives will reveal that in fact, whenever we kneel, we are always on our knees to God.  Whenever we yearn we are ultimately yearning for integration, for one-ness, for divinity.

Dr. Marc Gafni
from: The Dance of Tears
(in press)

nativitystar5Nativity
By Li-Young Lee
(1957 – )

In the dark, a child might ask, What is the world?
just to hear his sister
promise, An unfinished wing of heaven,
just to hear his brother say,
A house inside a house,
but most of all to hear his mother answer,
One more song, then you go to sleep.

How could anyone in that bed guess
the question finds its beginning
in the answer long growing
inside the one who asked, that restless boy,
the night’s darling?

Later, a man lying awake,
he might ask it again,
just to hear the silence
charge him, This night
arching over your sleepless wondering,

this night, the near ground
every reaching-out-to overreaches,

just to remind himself
out of what little earth and duration,
out of what immense good-bye,

each must make a safe place of his heart,
before so strange and wild a guest
as God approaches.


Li-Young Lee is an American poet.

imgres-1Posted today on Marc Gafni’s Tumblr blog, “The Third-Person Path to Spirit” – a loose transcript of a video with Marc Gafni:

What’s the path of third person? The path of third person is the path of wonder, utter and absolute wonder in which I engage not in a human face-to-face relationship, not in a dialogue. Not in a place in which there’s a conversation that takes place. It’s about the path of awe and wonder where I step back and I allow myself to be overwhelmed by the full and infinite wonder, texture, beauty, complexity, infinity of All-That-Is.

There’s a great little short movie called 10 where you have a couple laying in a park, and you take a  look at them and they seem ordinary couple having a nice afternoon. But then we extract 10 powers – ten squared, ten squared again, farther and farther again, into the galaxy, and we reach a larger perspective”¦ we go 10 square up, again and again, and we reach the infinite vastness and complexity of all the infinite galaxies to the end of the reach of human grasping and we set them in this large context. And then the camera shifts and goes inside, 10 times down, back to the couple, and into the skin, the man’s skin particularly on his hand, 10 powers squared as it were, in and in and in and in, into the organ, into the cell. And you realize that actually going inside and expanding there’s this huge expanse.

You finish this film and Wow your entire mind has been shifted and expanded when you realize that this small self is this external signifier, a sign post we’re living in it, but there is infinite depth within us and infinite depth in the context in which we live. There are these two frames of infinity that hold us. Wow. That’s third person.

Read the entire transcript or watch the video.

A life well lived does not mean a life without mistakes. It means making mistakes in the right direction. A famous Talmudic passage re-read by my teacher Mordechai Lainer of Izbica says roughly as follows “One cannot follow the direction of one’s life until one first fails in pursuing that very direction.” Or in another passage, the Talmud itself writes, “The wicked falls once and does not rise, the Master falls seven times and rises each time again”.

Failure and falling is part of the process. Our response-ability is  is a constant process of  Teshuva.  Teshuva means literally to return.

In the language of R. Kuk,

“Man has forgotten himself, When he remembers himself he must gather the fragments of his soul from their exile, he must return to himself, to his essential I, and when he returns to himself, at that very moment, he will have returned to God.”

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears

Photo: www.DanielLeePhotography.co.uk

By Marc Gafni

We live in a world of outrageous pain. The only response to a world of outrageous pain is outrageous love. We need to become outrageous lovers. What does that mean? It means to see with God's eyes, and to let God see through your eyes. To be enlightened means to move from your perspective to God's perspective.

Bill Clinton said recently that only a shift in consciousness will allow us to take the necessary steps to heal our future. The mystical and political are coming together because that is the invitation and demand of this evolutionary moment.

The shift in consciousness that we are invited to is no less then the awakening of the outrageous lover that lives in us. The outrageous lover shatters her mistaken identity as a skin-encapsulated ego, loving only what serves her superficial survival and prosperity. The outrageous lover expands beyond the contractions of ego, into larger and larger fields of felt caring and concern. The purpose and trajectory of her life is the evolution of love.

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By Marc Gafni

By deploying intellectual, meditative and mystical faculties, the lover of divine text moves to unpack the fresh invitation of the divine voice. The divine voice speaks presently to the individual and the community in the eternal now.

It is however more than even that. In this ongoing conversation the interpreter/lover of the text does not merely uncover the original divine intention. She does not merely reveal that which was ostensibly latent in the text from the time of  it’s inception and only now ready to reveal itself. Rather the interpreter/lover of text actually participates as a primary catalyst not only in interpreting, but in actually evolving the divine voice.

Said simply the hermeneutic act is a catalyst for – and actually participates in – what is no less than the evolution of God. When the divine lover of text reads and interprets from their own deepest divine center, the divine voice in the texts evolves, expressing truths that the original voice which wrote the text “did not know and could not have dreamed.”

This is a pivotal deep structure of Isaac Luria’s Kabbalistic thought whose essence was perhaps best captured by Nikos Katzanakis when he said, “We are the Saviors of God.” Said slightly different we are co-creators with the divine responsible for the evolving divine spirit.

Dance of Tears
(in press)
Dr. Marc Gafni

 



Dr. Marc Gafni:

God is called in biblical myth “Shadai,” translated by the wisdom masters as, “He who said to his world, ”˜Dai’–enough.” Two meanings well up from the word.

The second meaning is that God turns to you and me and says, “Enough. You are enough! Know that you are worthy enough to be called to the ultimate service of tikkun, the healing and repair of the world.”

For God to give up full control means, for the Hebrew mystic, an invitation to the most exhilarating, ecstatic and overwhelming partnership that the universe can offer. It is not us waiting for Godot; instead, Godot is waiting for us. God’s echo is heard in the voice of the prophet. “Why did I come and there was no one? Why did I call and there was no response?”

The Erotic and the Holy



The stunning thing about Dr. Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self book is the deep conversation it opens, furthers, and makes possible. With Marc Gafni’s vision of democratized enlightenment and his artist-lover’s touch, he has found the key-tumbler combination for a previously locked moment in Western history.  This genuinely significant moment, when the Eastern and Western enlightenment traditions are greeting one another through a shared language, is the emergence of Unique Self, which can be understood as True Self + Unique Perspective. This book shines precisely because it prepares the way for questions of how beauty, embodiment, love, integral principles, and action in the world are newly invited players in conversations spanning the world’s non-dual, mystical, and religious traditions. In Your Unique Self, Marc Gafni challenges and explains his departure from interfaith dialogues that seek common depth structures for the worlds’ great religious traditions, noting instead the significance of unique depth structures specific to the individual religious traditions that are now converging in a larger moment and building their shared story.[Read more…]

My uncle used to tell this story every year at his birthday celebration.

There were once two best friends who loved baseball. Their great theological question in life was whether there is baseball in heaven. So they make a pact that whoever passes away first will come back and tell the other whether there is baseball in heaven! Well, one passed away and sure enough, true to their pact, appears to his friend in a dream several days later.

“Well,” asks the surviving friend, “tell me already – is it good news or bad news?” 

“Truth is,” comes the response, “it is both good news and bad news.” 

“Well what’s the good news?” 

“The good news is there is most certainly baseball in heaven. Not only that but there’s the finest diamond you could imagine. Moreover all the greats are here. DiMaggio, Ruth, Cobb”¦and we get to play with them. Everyday you look and you see what teams are up for the next week.” 

His friend is overwhelmed with the good news. “That is fabulous!” he responds. “After all that, what could the bad new possibly be?” 

“Well, I just looked at the lineup”¦and tomorrow”¦you’re up to bat.”  

As long as we think we will live forever, we can afford to ignore ultimate issues. But once the simple truth that we are all “up to bat tomorrow” is internalized, then the search for meaning becomes a central concern.

Of course, there are appropriately many different answers as to what constitutes meaning. What is absolutely intriguing, though, is that all of the great systems of spirit viewed some form of significant giving beyond the circle of family as being essential to a life well lived!

You cannot be a lover without being committed to the growth of a community beyond your own circle.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy


The human self understanding as “King,” stems from the insight, fruit of all serious spiritual practice, that all of reality is included in the divine. Once one realizes that all is the Godhead then one may draw one of two conclusions. First, one might say, well if all is God then I must immediately nullify and surrender to God. And that is good. However one might also say – if all is God, then I am God as well. And that is much better. For the first realization produces what Jewish, Christian and Eastern mystics have called Via Passiva. It’s a passivism, even a kind of resignation which results from the realization that human action is but illusion and the only will which is real is the will of God.

The second far deeper realization understands that if the human being is part of God then he is ultimately liberated. All of his actions count infinitely. He becomes the language of God. God’s adjectives, nouns, verbs, even God’s dangling modifiers. His identification with the divine is not emasculating at all. On the contrary it is radically liberating and empowering. His realization that there is nothing in the cosmos independent of God, the realization that is formally termed acosmism, yields not a tepid quietism but rather, what we have termed an audacious and impassioned “Non Dual Humanism.”

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears
(2013)

In the image of the Temple, we are told of the priest who hears the voice of God, praying. To whom could God be praying? The answer — to us. “Please,” says the Voice. “I cannot do it alone. Please help me…”

Effectively, the gift of love which gives up unilateral control is nothing less than the gift of need. To say “I love you” is to say  “I will not or cannot do it alone.”  To say “I love you” is to say “I need you.” God needs our service!” is the great and radical cry of the Hebrew mystics. “I need you at my side. Are you willing to stand by me?”

Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy


Charles Randall Paul, Ph.D., is one of the most creative leading edge orthodox theologians in the world today. He is board chair, founder, and president of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. He has lectured widely and written numerous articles on healthy methods for engaging differences in religions and ideologies, and he is currently completing two books: Fighting about God: Why We Do It and How to Do It Better and Converting the Saints: An American Religious Conflict. He is on the board of editors for the International Journal of Decision Ethics. Charles is also a member of the Wisdom Council of the Center for World Spirituality.

Today the Spirit's Next Move blog features a 25-minute audio conversation between Dr. Charles Randall Paul and Dr. Marc Gafni, director of CWS and scholar-in-residence. In this segment, Gafni establishes the essential contours of Unique Self teaching on enlightenment and Paul asks for clarification regarding its implications for Eastern enlightenment. Gafni says that unattachment is a higher integral embrace of East and West, and its general position is that nobody is entirely wrong. Every great system has its own understanding that is true and partial, he says. The great understanding of the East is that to move beyond suffering, you have to move beyond your identity as a separate self. And Unique Self retains that central insight by incorporating the teaching that separateness is the source of suffering but it is different from uniqueness.

Charles takes issue with Marc at times, as their exchange on the nature of Western enlightenment in the Renaissance shows, along a path towards a greater shared understanding. They agree that the roots of Western individualism can be traced back both to Christianity as well as the Judaism's teaching of Imago Dei, but neither religion fully escaped ethnocentrism. It was not until the Renaissance, Marc says, that the individual is given dignity qua individual without being located in a particular religious context.

Listen to the audio:

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Unique Self mystics in the old Aramaic texts spoke of two paths, itcafya and ithapcha.

The higher path is called ithapcha, which means “to transform.” In the language of the mystics, it means to transform “the bitter to the sweet.” The bitter is not erased or diluted, however. The bitter becomes the pointing-out instruction for the sweet. Ithapcha is the way of the dragon. It is far more that just making peace with your “dark side.” It is the transformation of identity, which is an act of memory. You remember that you have forgotten. You have forgotten that you are Source.

In the language of one Unique Self mystic, the master Abraham Kook:

The primary transformation
Which reveals the light in the
darkness
Is that a person returns to himself
To the root of his soul
And that in itself
Is to return to God
Who is the soul of all souls. 

Dr. Marc Gafni
Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment (p. 282).
Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.

A Story from Marc Gafni:

The rapist, the corporate raider, the Don Juan, and the conqueror are always taking. The sad result is that they never give and therefore never receive. Therefore, the more they take, the less they have. As a result they always remain empty. For many of the biblical mystics, the symbol of conquest was Alexander the Great. He took almost the entire known world of his day. Yet, insisted the masters, without becoming a lover, Alexander would necessarily remain empty.

The legend tells of Alexander finding the Garden of Eden, symbol of all fulfillment, on the African continent. Now the Talmudic masters have a little bit of a soft spot for Alexander. They saw in him not only a conqueror but also a wisdom seeker. So along the way to Eden, Alexander is depicted as growing wiser and slowly divesting the personality of a pure taker.

In one of his adventures Alexander is confronted by an army of women warriors – mythological symbols of Eros and Shechina. They say to him, “It is not worth your while to attack us. For if we kill  you – you will be known as ”˜the king killed by women,’ and if you kill us you will be known as ”˜the cruel king who killed women.’” A lesson in the futility of taking.

[Read more…]

They point out the highly humanistic undertone of Lainer’s non dualism.

1) Affirming and honoring of the unique individuality of every person.

2) Engendering of human freedom and empowerment.

3) Affirms the necessity, ontological impact, and dignity of human activism.

4) Affirms the ontic idenity between the human and divine name as the empowering realization of enlightenment.

5) Affirming of the ontological dignity of human desire and viewing it as an important normative guide.

6) Affirming the ontological dignity and authority of the human capacity to employ trans-rational faculties, “Lemaalaha MiDaato”, in apprehending the unmediated  will of God.

7) Affirms the centrality of will and the ultimate ontic identity between the will of God and the will of the awakened person, who has achieved post Berur consciousness.

8) Views not only the Tzaddik but that every person, Berur awakened state, as a source of ultimate moral and legal authority. We have termed this the “democratization of enlightenment.”

What is remarkable about Lainer’s thought is not that all of these features are present. Indeed many of them could be easily identified in many writers on secular humanism. What is unique is that all of these flow directly not from a secular perspective but from a radical non dualism which affirms that all is God. The idea that the human being substantively participates in divinity is the conceptual matrix which radically empowers and frees the human being.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears