Five stages of business and the emergence of the Unique Business

Business Group

Photo Credit: seekingthomas


By Marc Gafni

There is a parallel between the emergence of business and the emergence of self is both fascinating and highly instructive in understanding the narrative of conscious capitalism. Both the evolution of self and the evolution of business go through five core stages, which in large measure parallel each other. These five stages unfold in the historical emergence of the self and business even as they may also unfold in the life of the individual person or business. This highly conceptual account is necessarily quite simplified. Nevertheless, this framework is offered as a way of looking at conscious capitalism that adds to the discussion.

Level One:

At the first level, both the self and business begin in what we might call a pre–personal stage. At this stage, both form their identity in relation to the large context that holds them. In the pre-modern period, the idea of an independent business which served it's own prosperity did not exist. Nor was there a notion of self as a self-justifying unit. For example the king (or queen) or the church formed the corporation in the Middle Ages. The corporation served the interests of the king and church. It did not have independent capital or will. Rather, it was defined in relationship to state or church. The individual was in the same situation. He was a subject of the king and vassal of the church.

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Introduction to The Seven Levels of Certainty and Uncertainty (By Liza Braude-Glidde)

BouquetBy Liza Braude-Glidde

An important deep structure in Marc Gafni's teachings is his use of polarities such as Personal and Impersonal or Certainty and Uncertainty. These clarify central quandaries in the evolution of consciousness and spirituality. I might call this approach to polarities “The Art of Holy Erotic Argument.” It draws from the esoteric teachings of Marc's Kabbala lineage.

The polarity of Certainty and Uncertainty clarifies the relationship between scientific knowledge and other types of knowledge such as spiritual knowledge. A critical mass of people the world over now see science specifically and truths of the physical and monetary world in general as the only forms of truth. While science and related truths make our lives workable, in order to connect with others and with the Whole in a deep, moral and pleasurable way, we need other forms of truth; those of culture, esthetics, morality and most of all spirit.

The following description of these seven stages is a work in progress based on a transcript of Marc's verbal teaching given to some of the leaders of the Shalom Mountain Wisdom School. This is the beginning of the modeling of a clear structure that helps spiritual truth, beauty, and morality shine through into the twenty first century.

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The Israel Moment: Reclaiming uncertainty as a spiritual value

Old Person

Photo Credit: .craig


By Dr. Marc Gafni

Uncertainty is ethically and spiritually essential, Marc Gafni writes here, because it allows us to reach higher certainty, avoid the seduction of false certainty, and reach spiritual authenticity. In this excerpt from Chapter One of his volume Uncertainty, Marc introduces the core “Ullai Stories” or “Maybe Stories” of the Old Testament, explaining the role of Jacob, whose name is changed to Israel, as a major character in these stories.

The Israel Moment: Reclaiming Uncertainty as a Spiritual Value

Much of religious tradition can be understood as culture's attempt to fully triumph over uncertainty. Indeed one of the most important modern Biblical commentaries argues that divine revelation is the gift of a loving God who wants to spare the world the pain of uncertainty.  Many voices in the religious world have declared unilateral victory, arguing that all of life's doubts can be defeated through faith, religious observance, and logic.1

I believe our life experiences give lie to absolute religious and spiritual claims to certainty. Sometimes the way religious tradition critiques itself and conveys its more subtle and even radical ideas is through the seemingly innocent story. It is in this light that I understand the following wonderful story:

Yankele used to go to the market every week to buy the basic necessities for the Sabbath. Every Friday, he would buy Sabbath candles for one ruble, bread for one ruble, and Kiddush2 wine for another ruble: three rubles were all he and his wife could spare for the Sabbath meal. One day, Yankele arrives at the market with the three coins jingling in his pocket, and he comes across an elderly gentleman that he has never seen before. The old man looks at him deep in the eyes and says softly, “Excuse me, young man, but I am terribly thirsty. Could you please buy me a cup of tea?”

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Free feeling: Using emotions for liberation

Laughter

Photo Credit: greekadman


By Sally Kempton

Practice can change your relationship to emotions, so that instead of being swamped by certain feeling states, you can hold them, contain them, see into their essence, and ultimately, use emotions in the service of your liberation.

Many years ago, I walked into the kitchen of my guru's ashram, and found him shouting at the cooks. Force- waves of anger were bouncing around the room, almost visible to the naked eye. Then, in mid sentence, he turned, saw us standing there, and smiled. The energy in his eyes went soft. ”˜How did you like the show?” he asked. Then, chuckling, he slapped the head cook playfully on the back, and walked away. The cooks giggled, and went back to work, galvanized by the energy he had injected into the afternoon.

That moment changed my understanding about emotions. The clarity and fluidity with which he had shifted from intense anger to good humor was only part of it. More interesting, I felt, was the fact that he had been using anger as a teaching tool. Was he really angry? I don't know. All I know is that he seemed able to ride the wave of his anger with perfect easiness, and let it pass without a trace.

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Prayer is not a dogma. Prayer is pointing-out instruction for God.

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.


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Meditation for Life: Awareness, Inquiry, Realignment, and Return to Self

Shiva Meditation

By Sally Kempton

Cross-posted from Patheos.com.

Meditation makes you more self-aware. That's one of its biggest gifts, even though we don't always like what we see. When meditation is really working, it has a way of showing you unknown parts of yourself””pockets of your psyche that are beautiful and sublime, but also parts of yourself that are not so tasty. In fact, there will be periods when your life seems to bristle with situations that seem designed to reveal your most embarrassing reactive patterns and unskillful ways of coping. And I'm not even talking about big crises, just about the normal irritations of life.

Maybe you get the flu, or your back goes out, and you realize how cranky you feel when you're physically uncomfortable. Maybe you notice the impatience in your voice when you talk to your teenager. Or, as happens regularly to a friend of mine, the moment of truth can come from a co-worker asking you pointedly if you would be acting so prickly if you'd meditated today.

The gift of meditation in these situations is that you have resources that can let you shift out of these patterns””sometimes right away.

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Teaching Marc Gafni’s “Unique Self” Enlightenment in the classroom

Exeter

By Kathleen Brownback

Note: This blog post is adapted from "Teaching Marc Gafni's 'Unique Self' Enlightenment in the Classroom: Reflections from a Phillips Exeter Class in Mysticism (for the annual conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, November 2011, Amherst College)."

A new course introduced at Phillips Exeter Academy in the spring of 2011 began with these words on the syllabus:

What we are about to explore has many names. It has been called the mystical tradition, the perennial tradition, the direct path, the path of the heart, the journey to (and with) the beloved, the practice of yoga, and the contemplative tradition. Aldous Huxley called it “the science, not of the personal ego, but of that eternal Self in the depth of particular, individualized selves, and identical with, or at least akin to, the divine Ground.” What these traditions share is the understanding that there is the possibility of union between the self and whatever we might call Ultimate Reality or God or Spirit, and that this union is primarily realized through a path of spiritual practice.

There is no possible way to make a comprehensive study of all these traditions in one term, and no need for us to do so. The main goal here is to locate various paths within the religious traditions, and to begin to understand what is meant by “spiritual practice.”

As the first teacher of this class, my main goal was to engage the students in a deeper understanding of ego development and the way in which the contemplative or mystical dimension of religion could help them both intellectually and practically as they move into their adult lives.

Phillips Exeter is a secular independent secondary school in New Hampshire, an hour north of Boston, with a 200-year history as an academic powerhouse for boys. It became coeducational in 1972 and has retained its high academic distinction, with all students headed for college and many to the top schools in the country.

The students are bright and lively and curious. But as anywhere, they struggle at times with nonacademic life circumstances that have the capacity to affect their intellectual engagement””a superficial and highly commercialized teenage (and often adult) culture, a pervasive unease about the future of their society in an era of environmental and economic challenge, and for some, personal or family histories of addiction or depression. For this reason I sought out texts and readings that were inclined to prompt questions at the interface of psychology and religion. I had the sense that these would speak to students in both an academic and a personal way, as in fact they did.

In this paper I will first describe student background and interest, then give a brief overview of the course, then focus on the work of one scholar and teacher, Marc Gafni, whose writing in particular spoke to the students in a powerful way.

In the course of the term I had to develop and articulate to myself my own changing philosophy of teaching, which I began to explore in a 2009 article in the Exeter alumni/ae bulletin entitled “In Pursuit of Truths.”

I will describe this evolution more deeply at the end of the article, but also briefly mention it here.

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A hidden danger of high states and structure stages: unkindness

DeerBy Marc Gafni

There is great danger in both in the New Age idolization of state experiences and the excessive premium that much of the Integral community places on complex levels of cognition. As I have pointed out in many teachings, higher levels of cognitive complexity do not a better human being make. It is not by accident that we rarely see posts in the blogs of persons at higher stages of development about kindness.

Kindness is a value that all to often is relegated by writers and thinkers to the lower levels of amber (AQAL) or blue (Spiral Dynamics Integral) consciousness. It rarely appears as a value in many Integral contexts. Or worse still it is given lip service even as it is ignored in practice when the real gods of cognition and power are worshipped.

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The Narrative of Conscious Business (By Marc Gafni)

Meditator

Meditator

By Marc Gafni

Cross-posted from Spirit's Next Move.

Marc Gafni recently participated as a guest scholar at the Conscious Business Conclave at Esalen. Here is an excerpt from Marc's reflections on the urgent priority of articulating a narrative of Conscious Business. In Marc's words, there is no World Spirituality that does not include the spirituality of the workplace.

The world of business is becoming one of the great cathedrals of spirit. Businesses are becoming places in which meaning can be created, in which mutuality begins to happen, in which intimacy and trust become core values, in which the expression of one's unique self as part of a larger context becomes a reality.

Capitalism is the force that has lifted humanity out of poverty through voluntary exchange. Communism tried to life people out of poverty through coercion, but wound up killing 17 million collective farmers in the Ukraine and countless millions elsewhere. Business has lifted more people out of poverty than any other force in history. That is so shocking and so powerful that it makes you sit up in your chair and say “Oh my God! Could it be that evil corporations are actually responsible for lifting more people out of poverty than any other single force in the history of consciousness and the history of the planet?”

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What Do I Mean By “Answering the Call”?

By Marc Gafni

Recently people have been asking me what I mean by the phrase, “Answering the Call,” which I have been talking about so often during my talks about the democratization of enlightenment teachings in these past years. So when I woke up this morning, before I was fully awake, I jotted down a couple of words on this topic”¦

Once you understand that your uniqueness is not a historical accident but an intentional expression of essence, then your realize that enlightenment is a genuine option for every human being. Including You. When you realize that your Unique Self is the God having a You experience, everything in your experience of your life changes.

Once you understand that your uniqueness is not the haphazard result of your cultural social or psychological conditioning, but all of these are necessary conditions for the emergence of the personal face of essence which is You, your essential experience of your life transforms. You move from a desperate need to escape your life to the radical embrace of your life.

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Resonance and Dissonance Between the World’s Great Religions (By Sam Alexander)

Methodist Church

Methodist Church By Sam Alexander

Religion. The very word strikes fear in the hearts of your average citizen...or boredom, or maybe confusion. My Uncle Joel, a Chemistry professor at UC Berkeley, kept a scrapbook of clippings he said proved religion to be the root cause of humanity's ills. And who could blame him? The traditionalist mindset holds tight to its religious construct, sure he is right and others wrong, convinced his life depends upon it. Wars are fought, atrocities excused, fear promulgated year after year, all in the name of a god. Humbug.

It's understandable that culture heaves a deep sigh of relief as the modernist mindset deconstructs the traditional religious myths. The archeologist, the geologist, and the historian of religion all play their part in unraveling the context of meaning which has sustained humanity for 4000 years.

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What is Somatics? (By Mary Ann Gray Voorhies)

SomaticsBy Mary Ann Gray Voorhies

Somatics, in the tradition of Thomas Hanna, is a powerful new discipline in the field of health care.  Somatics  (also called Clinical Somatic Education) gives us the technology and the tools that enable us to learn to control our own physiology. Now, for the first time in history, we have the POWER to change our own bodies in relatively rapid ways that can dramatically improve our health and well being. For the first time in history, thanks to Thomas Hanna, we have at our disposal simple ways to become victorious over the negative effects of accumulated stress or trauma on the human body.

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The Democratization of Enlightenment

e pluribus unum

e pluribus unumBy Marc Gafni

It is time for a radical democratization of enlightenment.

It used to be that enlightened living was for the elite. The few great lovers, saints, and sages throughout history reminded us that something more was possible, that there was a better way to live, that joy and overflowing love could and did exist, at least for some, as the animating essence of everyday life.

This tiny elite of subtle and evolved minds and hearts held alive for all of us the possibility that human beings could genuinely realize a transformation of identity, that they could truly evolve from their small constricted egos into spacious, dynamic, enlightened beings. In days gone by, we relied on this elite to guide our world. Today, that age has passed. The old elite no longer has the power to guide us. We can no longer hope that in some room somewhere, in the halls of spiritual power or the inner chambers of an ashram or temple, there are holy, wise people upon whom we can rely for our salvation.

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Finding God in Our Contraction by Dr. Marc Gafni

By Marc Gafni

Your state, in this case a mystical state, is always interpreted through your level of consciousness.

Hurt is a state. This is a huge insight. You need to really take it in.

Hurt is not an objective reality that gives you license for cruelty under the cover of “I was hurt.”

Hurt is a state, and it is interpreted through your stage or level of consciousness. As you evolve, your relationship to your wounds naturally shifts. More than any other single barometer, what you do with your hurt reveals to you and others your genuine level of consciousness.


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Teaching Marc Gafni’s “Unique Self” Enlightenment in the Classroom

Exeter

Exeter

by Kathleen Brownback

Teaching Marc Gafni's “Unique Self” Enlightenment in the Classroom: Reflections from a Phillips Exeter Class in Mysticism (for the annual conference of the Association for Contemplative Mind in Higher Education, November 2011, Amherst College)

A new course introduced at Phillips Exeter Academy in the spring of 2011 began with these words on the syllabus:

What we are about to explore has many names. It has been called the mystical tradition, the perennial tradition, the direct path, the path of the heart, the journey to (and with) the beloved, the practice of yoga, and the contemplative tradition. Aldous Huxley called it “the science, not of the personal ego, but of that eternal Self in the depth of particular, individualized selves, and identical with, or at least akin to, the divine Ground.”  What these traditions share is the understanding that there is the possibility of union between the self and whatever we might call Ultimate Reality or God or Spirit, and that this union is primarily realized through a path of spiritual practice.

There is no possible way to make a comprehensive study of all these traditions in one term, and no need for us to do so. The main goal here is to locate various paths within the religious traditions, and to begin to understand what is meant by “spiritual practice.”

As the first teacher of this class, my main goal was to engage the students in a deeper understanding of ego development and the way in which the contemplative or mystical dimension of religion could help them both intellectually and practically as they move into their adult lives. Phillips Exeter is a secular independent secondary school in New Hampshire, an hour north of Boston, with a 200 year history as an academic powerhouse for boys. It became coeducational in 1972 and has retained its high academic distinction, with all students headed for college and many to the top schools in the country. The students are bright and lively and curious. But as anywhere, they struggle at times with nonacademic life circumstances that have the capacity to affect their intellectual engagement””a superficial and highly commercialized teenage  (and often adult) culture, a pervasive unease about the future of their society in an era of environmental and economic challenge, and for some, personal or family histories of addiction or depression. For this reason I sought out texts and readings that were inclined to prompt questions at the interface of psychology and religion. I had the sense that these would speak to students in both an academic and a personal way, as in fact they did. In this paper I will first describe student background and interest, then give a brief overview of the course, then focus on the work of one scholar and teacher, Marc Gafni, whose writing in particular spoke to the students in a powerful way.

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A World Spirituality Guide to How to Survive being Home for the Holidays, by Sally Kempton


By Sally Kempton

Your roots are showing.

Your relatives have the power to push your buttons like no one else. But they can also illuminate your path to personal transformation.

If you think you're enlightened, go visit your family. Ram Dass, the influential American teacher of spirituality, said that back in the 1970s. For Anne, who called me recently to confess her fear of an upcoming family Christmas, this is more than an ironic quip.

Each Christmas, fifty of her family members””siblings, and step-siblings, spouses, children, grandchildren and assorted step-children””show up en masse at her father's ranch in Montana, each harboring a personal grievance, grudge or secret rivalry with at least one other family member. Ann's mother can't even say hello to Ann's sister without making a comment about her weight. Two of Ann's cousins are Scientologists, another a Christian who believes that Scientology is a cult. Even the yogis in the family disagree with one another's life choices. Ann's sister-in-law left her teacher and still blogs angrily about him. That teacher happens to be Ann's teacher, which is just one more complication in the family stew.

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Joy is a Unique Obligation, by Dr. Marc Gafni

From Daimon Comes Eudaimonia

The novelist Honoré de Balzac wrote, “Vocations that we wanted to pursue, but didn't, bleed, like colors, on the whole of our existence.” If we do not pursue our particular call, then the ghost of that call will pursue us, like a haunting that stains our days.

For when you respond to cues that are not yours, when you're a police officer instead of a painter, ultimately you can't be happy. Happiness comes from being yourself in the most profound way possible. The ancient Greeks referred to happiness as eudaimonia. “Daimon” is the word for calling. You are happy only when you are responding to your daimon. Your daimon calls you to realize your Unique Self. Your happiness lies in your hands, if you would but take it.

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Thoughts on The Unique Self

By Thomas G. Goddard, JD, PhD

Tom Goddard is a board member of Center for World Spirituality and a senior student of Unique Self Enlightenment and World Spirituality.

The array of forces that brings a human being to this point in space at this moment in time — here, now — is infinitely beyond comprehension. If we feel beyond the obvious (e.g., I am here in this chair because I walked here from over there) into all the actions that we and everybody else has taken that has brought me here, and then try to find an end to those connections, we cannot. Certainly, without an infinitely immense number of decisions that brought my mother and father to meet each other in Boulder, Colorado in the late 1930s, I wouldn’t even exist, at least not in this form, much less be sitting in this chair on this Saturday morning in the Catskill Mountains of New York. Similarly infinite forces brought their parents together, and so on, all the way back to the beginning of time. Similarly infinite forces also brought the chair on which I sit, the computer on which I compose this, and breakfast I ate this morning, to this here-now.

And it doesn’t stop there with human activity, of course. Other forces of nature, like weather, animals, plants, even solar flares, have had their influence as well. Some of these influences are at the cellular level, expanding exponentially the array of forces at work in bringing me to here, now. Going further, these influences are also at the sub-cellular level, naturally, as it makes no sense to draw a dividing line below the cells that influence us. The very operation of molecules, then atoms, then sub-atomic particles are behind my being here, now.

This unfathomable array of influences is not limited in time and space. Because drawing a boundary within this immense fabric of causation would be arbitrary, the influences go all the way out in space and all the way back in time to at least 13.7 billion years ago, to the birth of the universe as we know it. And it’s not just the dance of things — there are energies, both detectable by humans and beyond our current awareness — that are at play in the gross, subtle, and causal realms.

And this process continues, with each new emergent here and now. We ride the crest of a wave of infinite emergence, as though we are a surfer on a wave that began eons ago.

What is astonishing is that the particular wave on which I am surfing is not your wave. It is utterly customized to my here, my now. Not one other person (or animal, plant, or thing, for that matter) has the particular constellation of forces converging on this here, this now. It is an intensely intimate and personal point in the time-space fabric of the universe that I occupy as I write this, just as it is an intensely intimate and personal point in that fabric that you occupy as you read this.

The practice underlying this realization is first a conscious seeing, feeling, even tasting of this infinitely glorious, shimmering fabric that extends throughout time and space. Once practice brings us in touch with this, practice can then lead each of us to finding our place woven into this Kosmic tapestry.

While I am not separate from this fabric, I am a unique and shimmering expression of it. This awareness of both interconnection with the All and the unique spot in space and time that each of us occupies is the awakening of Unique Self. It is a form of awakening that goes beyond the classic enlightenment’s “I am one with All” to an intimate understanding of who I am, in this irreproducible Here and infinitely unique Now.

[Deep bow to Marc Gafni, whose book, Your Unique Self (in press) and teaching, both in private instruction and at Shalom Mountain’s Wisdom School, has informed this piece to its core.]

Crisis of Imagination, by Dr. Marc Gafni

The greatest crisis of our lives is not economic, intellectual, or even what we usually call religious. It is a crisis of imagination. We are getting stuck on our paths because we are unable to re-imagine our lives differently than they are right now. We hold on desperately to the status quo, afraid that if we let go, we will be swept away by the torrential undercurrents of our emptiness. The most important thing in the world, implies wisdom master Nachman of Bratzlav, is to be willing to give up who you are for who you might become. He calls this process the giving up of pnimi to reach for makkif. Pnimi, for Master Nachman, means the old familiar things that you hold onto slavishly, even when they no longer serve you on your journey. Makkif is that which is beyond you, which you can only reach if you are willing to take a leap into the abyss.

Find your risk, and you will find yourself.  Sometimes that means leaving your home, your father's house, and your birthplace and traveling to strange lands.

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