Posts Tagged: Essays and Articles
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.
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.
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.
By Marc Gafni
This post is continued from Part 12.
One of the most striking formulations of the Yehuda Moment in Chassidut is the movement’s founder, the Baal Shem Tov’s, teaching on a verse in the Book of Job. The verse in Job reads “There is a spirit in man — the breath of God — which gives wisdom.”
These words, which appear towards the end of the book, are spoken by Elihu in rejection of the ”˜punishment for sin’ theodicy offered as a certainty by Job’s friends. The Baal Shem Tov interprets the verse: ”˜The breath of God is the spirit of man’.
By Marc Gafni
This post is continued from Part 11.
That this is true is mystery and mystery is esoteric — it is secret. Secret, not because, as it is usually explained, it is forbidden to reveal the mysteries to the uninitiated; rather, secret because it is not possible to reveal the mysteries at all. For if the soul is not ready to receive the mystery then the secret cannot be transmitted. The holy energy of uncertainty is in the realm of mystery. I cannot fully explain. Yet two guidelines for those who would struggle to understand are in order.
The Rebbe of Kutzk teaches about the old man and the young baby. They both ask the same questions. ”˜How, When, What, Where – Ayeh?’
By Marc Gafni
This post is continued from Part 10.
The Zohar writes that the Shechina is called “I”. This is a particularly dramatic way of expressing the idea that the Shechina speaks through the human voice. This means that whenever a person finds their voice on the deepest level, they are finding the voice of the Shechina. The human cry to God “Please be King” is also God crying out through the same voice, “Please I am trapped — bound in chains — free me and let me be King.”
God’s voice and our voice are one. The language of God is man.
By Marc Gafni
This post is continued from Part 9.
To go one step further — God feels the pain of the sufferer through the agency of human beings who feel the pain of other. God feels, not only but also through, human agency. We are God’s emotions.
Based on this understanding a number of mystical writers provide us with the vocabulary to re-think the idea of God’s Kingship. It was with this quandry that I introduced the problematics of God-language in a world that suffers. How can we call God King?
By Marc Gafni
This post is continued from Part 8.
The implication of this Kabbalistic strain of thought needs to be unpacked more fully. One of the core ideas in the Lurianic understanding of the religious act is the need to identify with the pain of the Shechina in exile. According to the Talmudic masters the divine presence — the Shechina — is exiled with the Jewish people. In one of the most daring affirmations of divine intimacy, the Talmudic teachers and later the kabbalistic masters insist that the transcendent God of the Bible becomes incarnate in the suffering of the Jewish people (and, I would add, of all people).
By Marc Gafni
This post is continued from Part 7.
An early Kabbalistic text, Bahir, declares that there are ten levels which link the world of the divine with the world of man. Each one of these ten levels of divine presence represents another dimension of God in our world. They are referred to as the Ten Sefirot. When we perform a commandment, says Luria, we participate in one of these levels of the divine.
Indeed the mystical writers point out that the word ”˜Mitzvah’ has more than one meaning. Simply of course it is man’s commandment. The human in doing a mitzvah is thus seen as responding to a divine command which comes from outside the human being.
There is however a second sense of the word Mitzvah. It means Tzavtah — to be together with. When one performs a mitzvah one literally merges with divinity. One is together with God. In the mystical understanding, each Mitzvah moves me toward merger with a different Sefira, a different level of divinity. However, says Luria, we are only able to participate in the lowest seven levels. The human being, trapped in mortality, can never touch the highest three levels of divinity in this world. And yet one word can reach the heights. Ayeh.
Ayeh in Hebrew has three letters, alef, yod, hey. Alef, says Luria, is the letter that represents Keter — the divine crown, the highest sefirah – the level of divinity in the world. Yod represents Chochmah — wisdom, the second highest level. And Hey is Binah — intuitive understanding, the third highest level. When the human being cries out to God in uncertainty — ayeh — he expresses the highest three levels of divinity and in so doing reaches beyond his mortal limits to touch “the highest.” Luria affirms that the expression of uncertainty in God does not contradict spirituality, but rather is the highest expression of the human search for divine connection.
Ayeh — where are you — the ultimate uncertainty — is then the highest level of religious authenticity!
By Marc Gafni
The pinnacle of Ayeh cries out in the biblical story of the binding of Isaac. Isaac turns to his father and asks, “Ayeh? Where is the lamb for the burnt offering?” Many commentators recognize that in asking this question Isaac is beginning to understand the nature of his silent journey with his father. For three days he has walked beside his father in tense silence, and now without even meeting his son’s eyes, Abraham asks the servants to stay behind as the two of them climb the mountain alone. Laboring up the incline with the kindling weighing heavily on his back, noticing the knife and firestone in his father’s hand, Isaac feels a terrible darkness approaching. Can his father truly be intending to hurt him? When Isaac speaks we feel the shattering inside, the destruction of the child within, the death of the child’s innocence: ”˜Father!’ – he says – and father answers, ”˜Yes my son.’ ”˜Here are the firestone and the wood; but where – ayeh – is the lamb for the burnt offering?’
For the Ishbitzer Isaac’s Ayeh is the embrace of God in uncertainty.
“Ayeh?” Isaac cannot suffer the uncertainty in silence. A child at the beginning of his life’s climb through uncertainty, Isaac’s question reaches the highest place.
Kabbalist R. Isaac Luria comments on this word ayeh — where is God — in the liturgy of Shabbat, when we paraphrase the text in Isaiah and say, “Ayeh mekom kevodo? — God, where is the place of your involvement in the world?”
Just as ulai has become our indicator of deep uncertainty in biblical text, so ayeh can be seen as the code word for the deepest questioning of the justice of God.
This post is continued from Part 5.
By Marc Gafni
R’ Nachman, I would suggest did not originate this understanding of Ayeh — rather it emerges out of a tradition of Biblical ”˜Ayeh’ stories.
In the book of Judges, a messenger of God comes to Gideon at a time in which Israel has suffered greatly at the hand of the Midianite nation. The messenger of God offers certainty to Gideon: “God is with you, hero of valor,” and Gideon rejects this pat offer of security: “You tell me that God is with us? Then why is all this…” He cannot even give it a name. The silent questions ring out in the spaces between the words: ”˜Why has all this suffering, why has all this pain, defined our lives for so many years? Why are men killed? Why are children orphaned?’ And the text goes on: “”˜Ayeh’- where are all of his great wonders of which our Fathers told us, saying God took us out of the land of Egypt. And now, God has abandoned us.”
Gideon the Judge, in the tradition of Abraham, turns to God and says, “Does the Judge of the entire world not do justice?” Gideon the Judge challenges God, challenges the messenger and challenges the message. The divine response seems unclear, enigmatic and troubling; but also powerful, inspiring and deeply directive. God answers Gideon: “Go with this strength of yours and save Israel … behold, I have sent you.” (Judges 6: 12-14)
What “strength” is God referring to? I would suggest, and at least one Midrash implicitly supports my reading, that God meant: ”˜Go forth with the power of your uncertainty.’ God is confirming that if Gideon has the ability to doubt that this is the best of all possible worlds, this means he shares a common moral language with God. The wrestling with God in itself implies messengership on behalf of the divine: “Behold, I have sent you.” God confirms the Chassidic tale that initiated this chapter: to grapple with God is indeed to touch God, and to enter into the wrestling ring is to be a representative of all Israel, to plead redemption for all the world.
Gideon says to God’s messenger: “Where, ayeh, are all of His great wonders?” — echoing Moses’ and Abraham’s uncertainty about God’s dealings in the world.
This post is continued from Part 4.
By Marc Gafni
Said differently, by holding uncertainty and not settling for explanations of suffering that our soul intuitively rejects, we reach a higher certainty — the certainty of rage. It may well be that in a century that has seen one hundred million people brutally killed the only path back to God is the certainty of rage. Those who deny the holiness of our anger deny God.
Babies are part of our core certainty. They remind us of all that is pure. They somehow cut though our posturing and touch something deep inside us. Have you ever seen a baby brought into an office — no matter how serious the office — grown men and women almost immediately revert to baby talk, to goo goo gaga. Babies cry out for our protection. They call us to rise to our highest selves. Perhaps this is what Leah understood for the first time as she looked down at little Judah. Until Judah’s birth Leah had been so intent on using her children to get Jacob that she hadn’t really seen them. Only when she gives up her need for Jacob is she able to see her baby. It is from this place she cries out — “I have found myself before God.”
Babies being ripped apart — my mother’s youthful vision — destroy that core certainty. “Where Is God” writes Weisel, “he is hanging on the gallows”…. In the body of a young boy. Incarnation is reversed in the horror of suffering. God becomes human and dies on the gallows. In the reversal is the death of God about which some post-holocaust theologians wrote with such pathos. The Biblical response is different. Biblical men and women work their way back to God, not through pious imprecations justifying God nor through pathos-filled announcements of God’s demise, but through the certainty of rage.
By Oleg Linetsky
Open letter to Ken Wilber and integral teachers
First of all I would like to express my deep love and gratitude for the light of wisdom you bring and your incomparable contribution for the good of sentient beings. Your works had a great impact on my own life, for which I am very grateful to you. On my journey through the pages of your books I experienced a true divine joy.
In this letter I would like to illuminate a side of the Integral Approach (IA) which up until now remained in the darkness, i.e. boundaries. Just like any other objects inside the quadrants, boundaries are objects that can be felt and realized, so they cannot be ignored and left outside the integral map. There are boundaries, even though also illusory for the non-dual witness.
In the natural state of non-dual oneness it becomes clear that all forms arise from the light of primordial ground, and even boundaries are a concentrated light of clarity of the nature of the mind and the final barriers on the way to the inexpressible. They are the very core of our feeling of aliveness and awakeness. They let us feel joy and suffering of life and make life meaningful. The message about boundaries (as five elements, fivefold mahabhuta or five skandhas) came to us from ancient traditions dating back thousands of years. This message is as valuable for humanity as The Great Chain of Being. There is a special method which lets us study boundaries today even in our usual waking state. Boundaries are the missing link between the absolute and the relative, emptiness and form, spirituality and religion, IA and its popularity.
Today we see that the message about boundaries actually describes the mechanism of conscious evolution, understanding of which can promote a progress of humanity towards 2nd tier and simply help us living from the deepest part of us that you and Marc Gafni call the Unique Self. Five boundaries described here are right about how to live in resonance with our Unique Self and how to resolve the problem of wise choice in everyday life using an integral approach.
This post is continued from Part 3.
By Marc Gafni
R. Nachman of Bratzlav, in a profound and daring teaching, reveals the light shimmering in Alyosha’s speech. It is a teaching on the word ”˜Ayeh’. Ayeh in Hebrew means where, in the sense of ‘where is God?
Ayeh encapsulates in one word Alyosha’s entire oration. I want to share with you R. Nachman’s teaching directly, in my trans-interpretation of the original Hebrew text. The bracketed words are my additions:
By Marc Gafni
Note: This post is continued from Part 2.
It is this paradox that Dostoyevsky in Brothers Karamazov does not fully grasp. He does not understand that the rage of Ivan is the rage of ”˜heresy that is faith.’ Ivan, responding to Alyosha’s certainty of belief, has just described to him the brutal murder of a child torn apart by dogs for sport. Ivan’s uncertainty burns with the fiery anger of faith:
Although the passage is longer than what one would usually expect in a quoted text, it is so germane to our theme and so compelling that I did not shorten it. Thus I invite my dear reader to experience the truth and power of Ivan’s plea. He needs to be read as a modern echo of Abraham’s cry “Will the judge of the entire world not do justice?”
By Marc Gafni
Note: This post is continued from part 1.
It is to this paradox that we will now turn. We dance in the paradox of certainty and uncertainty. As we hear of recent tragedies in the world — hurricanes, earthquakes, and last year’s catastrophe in Japan — we enter into a space of desperately grappling with God within the uncertainty.
Where are you God? Where are you within me and within the word? Within the very recesses of the uncertainty however is a powerful experience of certainty — of the non-dual realization of I Am. It is in I Am, when I experience the core certainty of self, and therefore of my divinity — of my being loved by God. This experience is not only not in contradiction to the question, it wells up from the question itself. In the question is God. The question is the answer.
By Marc Gafni
The mandate of biblical consciousness demands that the human being enter into partnership with God in the task of perfecting the world. The classical expression of this in the lineage of Kabbalah is the obligation of Tikkun. Tikkun means not merely to hear or to fix but to be co-creative evolutionary partners with the divine.
By Marc Gafni
The following are notes from Marc Gafni’s dharma talk given in March 2012 at Shalom Mountain Wisdom School, where Gafni serves as the World Spirituality Teacher in Residence.
The seven levels of certainty and uncertainty tells the story of how the great religious traditions came into being and how they were challenged first by science, and then by modern and post-modern mindsets.
This is a rough sketch of a map of certainty and uncertainty.
We have forgotten what we know. Indeed we do not know whether we know or not at all. We do not know whether we know or what we know or even how to know. The general impression today is that anyone who claims to know something is lost in dogma or regressive fundamentalism. Indeed almost the definition of a fundamentalist is someone who claims to know something with is totally “true” about Ultimate issues.
A person cannot survive and certainly cannot thrive without knowing.
A generation cannot survive without its knowing. A generation certainly cannot participate in the evolution of consciousness, which is the evolution of love, without knowing what it knows.
By Marc Gafni
We are all despearate for communion. It is what makes our lives worth living. Communion is the movement from loneliness to loving. It is the experience of being held and received.
We are all systematically mis-recognized. To be recognized is to be seen. To be seen is to be loved. To be love is to be in communion. It is only when we are seen that we are called to the fullness of our glimmering beauty as unique incarnations of the the divine treasure. It is only when we are seen that we feel moved the personal evolutionary impulse that lives in us to give the unique gifts that are only ours to give and that are desperately desired by the all that is.
To be in communion is to know that Your deed is God’s need. It is the realization of communion that gives us joy and calls us to evolutionary responsibility.
A position paper by Integrales Forum
The Integral Forum has set itself the goal to discuss and apply the integral approach within the German speaking community as it has been developed by Ken Wilber and others. In doing so co-operations and partnerships have been developed and are being developed with organizations and individuals including spiritual teachers. These teachers are themselves subjects of public discussion that range from approval to very critical. Against this backdrop, the Integral Forum Board of Members has often been asked again and again and recently even more increasingly how we view our relationship to spiritual teachers and how we deal with the criticism of these teachers.
Based on this background and applying an integral approach we have prepared the two following articles.
Their purpose is:
- to clarify and outline our position on this subject
- to set a standard for our own (also spiritual) work
- to promote discussion and exchange with spiritual teachers
- to serve as a starting point for discussion with an interested public
- to help bridge the gap between humanistic disciplines, their applications and spirituality
- to be an example for an applied integral spirituality.
With the first article, Towards a School and Science of an Integral Evolutionary Spirituality, a philosophical framework is provided within which the discussion can take place. It particularly highlights theoretical questions in which different positions in theory can also have different ethical implications. For example a theoretical disregard of the Relative as related to the Absolute can practically lead to an ignorance and presumptuousness in a practice of the Absolute ignoring the practice towards humanity itself and finally result in spiritual arrogance. The second article, Enlightened Spirituality – A Checklist for Spiritual Teachers with Respect to Competence, Integrity, Responsibility and Transparency, then offers concrete criteria with which spiritual teachers but also their critics can be evaluated.