Spiritual Teachers and Students

by Marc Gafni

As many of you know, I have spent the last several years unpacking what I call Unique Self enlightenment. Let me share in a few short words, what I mean by Unique Self. Unique Self is not merely ego or personality, it is the essence that lies beneath and beyond your personality. More precisely, it is the personal face of essence. It is the unique God-spark living in you and as you. Your Unique Self is the infinite love intelligence, which is all that is—living in you, as you, and through you. It is the perspective of your enlightenment. Your Unique Perspective is sourced beyond any and all social, cultural and psychological conditioning. Classic enlightenment is what I call evolution beyond the exclusive identification with ego and the realization of one’s True Nature, which is sometimes called True Self. The New Enlightenment of Unique Self is a momentous leap beyond classical enlightenment. In Unique Self enlightenment, you realize that your enlightenment has a perspective. Your perspective has infinite value and dignity and is both the source and purpose of your existence. I have written about this in other places and mention it here in these few sentences because of the implications of this integral evolutionary understanding of enlightenment for the teacher-student relationship.

The Unique Self-teaching has two major implications in the spiritual context of teacher-student relationship.

When a teacher gives his students only impersonal or cosmic love, even when it is genuine, the student cannot truly grow. It is personal love that releases the contraction of ego. When the teacher sees the student merely as a seeker whose ego longs for release, something of vital importance is lost in the teacher-student relationship. The student doesn’t need to be coddled by the teacher, yet it is absolutely essential for the student to be seen and valued uniquely by the teacher. This is an essential human need. This is what it means to be loved. When this personal love occurs, a deep place in the student begins to stir. The student has been seen and therefore their self-contraction begins to uncoil. Their ego relaxes its grasping grip. The Unique Self of the student begins to emerge though genuine contact with the Unique Self of the teacher, which elicits the Unique Self of the student, and vice-versa. The ability to make contact and be intimate or not is the essential distinction between Unique Self and Ego. Unique Self can make contact, Ego cannot. Many teachers trapped in ego fail to make contact and therefore keep their students trapped in ego as well, even if their professed goal is to evolve the student beyond ego to True Self.

When the substance of one Unique Self touches the substance of another Unique Self, contact is made. Contact is a touching without ego boundaries and yet without the loss of the unique individuation of being. One is not ‘being in the past’ but it is totally ‘present in the now.’ Presence meets Presence. Both sides have personal history. Both sides of the contact are intensely personal, but neither side is attached to personal history.

When a teacher denies Unique Self by confusing it with egoic uniqueness, and thus views the goal of enlightenment as being the realization of Oneness with the ground of being, the result is always apparent in the student of that teaching. The student may be bright and articulate, they may say all the right things and look the right way, but at some core level we cannot make contact with them. We get this uneasy feeling and we aren’t quite sure why. Images of the old movie the Stepford Wives comes to mind. In this movie, the men of Stepford consider their wives to be nagging, troublesome, egoic, and generally underdeveloped, so the men kill their wives and replace them, in the same body, with wise, wonderful, devoted, mega-sexy, compliant Stepford Wives. The male teacher in the guise of husband often kills the Unique Self by mistaking it for the ego. The authentic divine feminine in both teacher and student is also therefore killed. What then emerges is the student who is a perfect, appropriate, articulate and clean-cut Stepford Wife—but there is something essentially effaced.

It is because of this that the teacher is obligated to give his students radically personal love, which is the honoring and recognition of the Unique Self of the student. The recognition of the student’s Unique Self releases the student’s contraction of ego. Personal love always releases the contraction of ego. Personal contact is the joyous essence of being. It can solve world conflicts and create the intimacy that makes life worth living. When we feel that genuine contact has been made, we have the delightful experience of our Unique Self being received and witnessed. The process of being seen, in and of itself evolves us; it invites us into our fullest majesty and reveals our inner splendor. Unique Self offers a quality of presence which shows up when the ego is set aside, even if temporarily, and our deeper being and becoming emerges in all of it’s resplendent beauty.

The second implication of Unique Self in the teacher-student relationship is that it acknowledges the natural limitation of the authority of the teacher. The Unique Self teaching illuminates this limitation particularly when it is contrasted with other more impersonal constructs of Enlightenment. If one experiences that the awakening of self beyond ego is the awakening of an activated and engaged “impersonal” Authentic Self, then the teacher’s authority is naturally greater then it might be to a student who experiences the awakening beyond ego as True Self plus ontological perspective, which equals Unique Self. If the goal is impersonal Enlightenment, then the teacher who is more realized then the students in their Absolute awakening might naturally assume a powerfully authoritarian approach towards the students. The authority of the teacher is rooted in him or her having a profoundly higher degree of Enlightenment then the student. If this authority is exercised with integrity, then this may be for the benefit of the student. If the authority were exercised in a corrupt or demonic manner, then this relationship would clearly not be of benefit to the student. The potential shadow of the impersonal in the teacher-student context may therefore be stated as an excessive authority exercised inappropriately. If, however, the core teaching being used is that of Unique Self, then even if the teacher has natural authority based on a higher degree of realization then student, the teacher’s authority will none-the-less be limited. While the teacher may have a higher level of realization of True Self then the student, by definition the teacher cannot have a higher level of realization of the Unique Self of the student for the very reason that the unique perspective of the student is not available to the teacher. It may well be the case that the realization of the teacher enables him to see and point to the Unique Self of the student more clearly then the student himself. However, this pointing out of the Unique Self of the student by the teacher must always be held with humility because the teacher realizes that while his experience of True Self fully exhausts and transcends that of the student, the same cannot be said for Unique Self. There is an intimate dimension of Unique Self that can never be penetrated by the teacher; hence, the authority of the teacher is naturally limited. The ultimate authority of the student derives from her authorship of his/her own story, which can never be plagiarized by the teacher.

Unique Self is important because personal contact is the joyous essence of Being. Personal contact can solve world conflicts and create the intimacy that makes life worth living. When you feel genuine contact has been made, you have the delightful experience of your Unique Self being received and witnessed. As in quantum physics, the process of being seen, in and of itself, evolves us, invites us to our fullest majesty, and reveals our inner splendor.

Uniqueness is not a concept! Unique Self is a quality of presence that shows up when the ego is set aside, even temporarily, and our deeper being and becoming emerges in all of its resplendent beauty. When someone shows up in Unique Self, we are aroused to love them and are intensely desirous of being loved by them. This is the personal relationship with Jesus Christ that so many sectors of Christianity understand so profoundly. It is this personal relationship with God that is also so derided by New Age teachers and even more sophisticated dharma thinkers because they are caught in the impersonality of so much mis-understood Eastern teaching.

In conclusion, it is my intention and prayer that all of these reflections, while not definitive, will at least open the conversation to a more paradoxical, compassionate and loving place. We live in a world that is in desperate need of passionately committed teachers and students. This is probably the most vital modality we have for the transmission of spirit in it’s full ethos and etos. All of us are charged with a post postmodern evolutionary integral obligation to develop the teacher-student relationship in a way the incorporates the best insights and technologies of the pre-modern, modern and postmodern epochs.

Also read this great article by our Academic Director Dr. Zachery Stein:

Stein, Z. (2011). On spiritual teachers and teachings. Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. 6(1), 57-77. [pdf]


In this short video Marc Gafni is talking about the Student-Teacher-Relationship in the light of the Unique Self Teaching:


A new teaching on the 2nd Tier Student-Teacher-Relationship from the October 2014 Wisdom School:


>>> Also read Spiritually Incorrect: Some Remarks on the Teacher-Student-Relationships by Dr. Marc Gafni in the Spiritually Incorrect Porta. <<<

Enlightenment of Fullness

Here is a partial transcript (by Heather Fester, Ph.D.) from a dialogue between Marc Gafni and Rob McNamara in which Dr. Marc elaborates on his definition of the Enlightenment of Fullness.

Marc Gafni defines the Enlightenment of Fullness:

In Buddhism, it’s about the enlightenment of emptiness. It’s the realization that all the things you thought were substantial are actually empty. Underlying all of them there’s this ground of being called sunyata. It’s beautiful. It’s a pure non-conceptual understanding. But, the key move in Buddhism is to challenge the apparent substantiality of it all, whether it’s the substantiality of the self in Theravaden Buddhism, the substantiality of phenomena… it’s an illusion. You got to get underneath that illusion. That’s a very critical step. Deep bow to that holy tradition.

The next step, which takes place in Buddhism, but it’s not really the key focus in the way that Buddhism is transmitted in the West. The next step is what I call enlightenment of fullness. So, if Buddhism focuses on EoE, what I call World Spirituality focuses on Enlightenment of Fullness. And, EoF is the realization of the shimmering, blazing aliveness of reality.

Now, in reality… what do we know about reality? We know two things about reality… We know three basic things. One, we know reality has form, body. That’s what Rob’s talking about. Reality has form. Reality doesn’t exist without form. As a matter of fact, emptiness, what Nagarjuna called in Buddhism emptiness, meaning kind of the ground of being…. He says there’s no emptiness without form. So, there is actually no emptiness, meaning there’s no spirit any place that exists without form. There is no possibility in this reality that we live in of spirit appearing without body. Doesn’t exist.

Actually in the great lineage of the Biblical mysticism, there’s a great text which says, “Through my body, I vision God.” That should be the subtext of Rob’s book. Rob’s book is about “Through my body, I vision God.” “Book of Job,” Chapter 19. Job’s little footnote, he says, “See Rob McNamara in 2000 years. He’s going to explain what I mean.” “Through my body, I vision God.”

So, Enlightenment of Fullness has to fully embrace the body. That’s the first requisite. You can’t move without that. And, the body is the portal, the opening, to everything that comes beyond it. So, we always include the body. Not just because it’s the body temple you need to hold your soul, in which case the body is just utilitarian. The body’s instrumental. You need the body to hold your spirit—No! The body itself is your spirit. When you actually access the fullness of the body, the wisdom of the body actually holds in it every spiritual truth. Everything. There’s nothing that’s not there. So, that’s one thing, the body.

The second dimension of this world that we live in is uniqueness. There’s no body, there’s no form, that’s not unique. The second you’re talking about form, about body, you’re talking about uniqueness. So, if you would take an internal look at Rob McNamara’s immune system. I don’t know why you’d be doing that; it’s a little kinky, but whatever. I don’t know why you’d be doing that. You’re into Rob McNamara’s immune system. And, you put that up on a screen next to Brett Thomas’s immune system, they’d be totally different. You’d just be blown out of your mind at the radical uniqueness and singularity of these two great men’s immune systems. They’re completely different. And, if you put Ken Wilber up there, and Marc Gafni up there, and Diane Hamilton up there, and you put Sally Kempton up there, you’d be blown away time and again that you have these radically different immune systems, and actually, all the people I just mentioned have radically distinct DNA structures, cellular signatures, all through.

So, the body is absolutely and radically unique. So, the second dimension of EoF is the radical embrace of uniqueness.

And, the third dimension of the enlightenment of fullness, and we’re just creating this dharma on this call, we’re doing live dharma here. It’s kind of like jazz dharma. We’re jazz dharma-ing here. Jazz Dharma #3, the third dimension of reality that Rob addresses in his book Strength to Awaken and I address in Your Unique Self is creativity. Reality is creative. Reality is ceaselessly creative. And, the creativity of reality comes from the body uniquely expressing, through the mind, spirit, creatively.

Through this creative grand gesture of bringing something new into being, the creative advance of novelty in Whitehead’s famous phrase, that’s exciting, that’s EoF—and, what we need to do now is to create a new language of spirit that brings us into this new millennium, we have to get back to basics. The basics are body (form in the old language), uniqueness, and creativity. That’s the holy trinity. Body, uniqueness, and creativity, and all ethics come from that—from how you train your body, how you engage your uniqueness, how you emerge your creativity, that’s everything. So, Rob, your book is a critical piece in this new emergent teaching of enlightenment of fullness. And, just like, big congratulations on it. It’s exciting.

Read more about the Enlightenment of Fullness:

Enlightenment is not loss of identity but a reclaiming of your true identity.


Evolutionary Spirituality

Marc Gafni in this video teaching on Evolutionary Spirituality:

Evolutionary Spirituality is making an important contribution. My teachers are all evolutionary mystics, a term that’s been used in the academic scholarship of Hebrew mysticism. Evolutionary mysticism is the sense that I am participating in the evolving All, the evolving process.

It might be fair to say—and we actually coined this term in a beautiful phone conversation between myself, Ken Wilber, and Andrew Cohen—we were talking about the relationship between the earlier evolutionary thinking in Kabbalah and evolutionary spirituality, and we called Kabbalah a kind of proto-evolutionary spirituality. At the time when the great Kabbalists were writing the key evolutionary tracts—the later phases of the Zohar in the 13th cenury, the key teachings of Luria in the Renaissance, the notion of the evolving biosphere wasn’t in play. There are glimmers of the idea in the most esoteric of texts, but there was no empirical evidence for it and it wasn’t really in consciousness at all. It came into consciousness in the hundred years before Darwin, and Darwin crystallizes it and it explodes into public culture as one of the four great ideas of the last 200 years. So clearly evolution itself is evolving. We are understanding that all levels of reality are evolving.

The notion that there is an evolution of divinity itself is a core feature of Lurianic thought. My colleague in Jerusalem, who wrote a fantastic doctorate on Luria, quotes Nikos Kazanzakas to summarize Luria’s doctrine of the evolution of God: “We are the saviors of God.” What he means is that God is evolving. There’s something new that is being created that didn’t exist before. There’s an evolution of divinity.

[Read more…]

World Spirituality Practice: Wake Up, Grow Up, Show Up…

In World Spirituality we use practices from all different traditions as well as modern psychology and postmodern perspective taking. Basically, those practices can be divided into practices to wake up, grow up, show up, lighten up, and open up. Make sure that you practice in every of those areas since that ensures a harmonious development for you and also acts like a cross-training–boosting your overall development in all those areas.

Further down, you’ll find 3 videos with transcripts (you need to be logged in to see them) that Marc Gafni has made as introductions to these terms and areas of practice. For a deeper understanding read his Article on the World Spirituality Essentials.

But let’s start with our Ten Commitments of World Spirituality Based on Integral Principles.

Ten Commitments of World Spirituality Based on Integral Principles

The Commitment to the Enlightenment of Fullness:

The journey begins with a recognition of the fullness and depth of reality and to the specific experience and innate dignity of every human life. Every human being has an innate right to participate with joy in the fullness and depth of reality.

The Commitment to Awakened Heart:

Awakened heart is a set of meditative practices which open the practitioner to the subtle dimensions of the heart, fostering the fullness of love and compassion.

The Commitment to Unique Self:

Unique Self is a set of enlightenment principles and practices containing teaching maps and technologies which allow a person to identify the nature of their Unique Self.

Unique Self is the recognition that you are the personal face of essence, that God is having a You experience, that God loves you so much that His love signature is written all over you. Unique Self is the recognition that God lives in you, as you, and through you in the fullness of your being and becoming and that to love God is to let God see through your eyes.

The Commitment to Answering the Call:

Your Unique Self creates your Unique Perspective, which is in effect your unique love intelligence seeing the world through it’s own eyes. Unique Perspective creates Unique Gifts, which can be given only by you. Giving those gifts is your Unique Obligation. In doing so, you identify and embrace the Unique Life Mission for which you were born on this planet in this time and this place. That is what it means to answer the call.

The Commitment to Shadow Work:

Shadow Work is an intensive surfacing and cleansing practice, which shatters the lies of shadow and allows the person to once again tell the truth about who they really are. World Spirituality shadow work directly causes a person to reconnect, evolve, purify, or simply reclaim the dis-owned shadow dimension of their authentic and Unique Self. It is based on the 3-2-1-0 practice, which follows Unique Shadow back to Unique Self.

The Commitment to Awakened Eros:

Awakened Eros is an embodiment practice in which the full power, aliveness, and wisdom of the human body is accessed and integrated into the fullness of the person’s life. The four faces of Eros, interiority, presence, yearning, and wholeness–which are embodied in daily living–are the core of Eros. The failure of Eros always leads to a collapse of ethos. So we realize that in source, Ethos and Eros are one.

The Commitment to Wake Up and Grow Up–State and Stage Evolution:

States and Stages are both an experiential and mapping practice. To wake up is to awaken to your highest state and to grow up is to evolve to your highest potential stage. In state practice, a person gains access to state experiences, which tells the person something important about their true nature and mission in the world. In stage practice, a person studies the trajectory of human evolution in the life of the individual and in the lifespan of human history and culture along the major lines of development. In so doing, one is able to identify both their own location and to set concrete goals for the next stage of their evolution.

The Commitment to Social Activism:

Social Service practice is the commitment of World Spirituality and of individuals to commit significant time to the betterment of the lives of others. In the experience of wholeness, you cannot be satisfied if someone else is starving. This is a violation of Eros.

The Commitment to Integrity and Skillful Means:

Integrity is an evolutionary quality. In understanding this, an individual recognizes that integrity and not mere survival is the lodestone of human existence. Skillful means practice is a set of understandings, insights, and technologies that foster effective communication, teamwork, and relationship building skills, which all serve the larger integrity of the system or individual.

The Commitment to Devotion:

Devotional Work Practice serves the Divine within us and beyond us by recognizing, praising, honoring, connecting, and disclosing that very divinity. The commitment to devotion is a commitment to fall in love with reality time and again.


Marc Gafni on Wake up, Grow up, Show up, Lighten up, Open up-Part 1

At the core of World Spirituality teaching is what’s been called wake up, grow up, show up, lighten up, and open up. That’s the whole teaching.

And I want to talk to you about what each of those means.

Wake up means to move beyond narcissistic self-involvement with your own contracted story. Most people live lives around their contracted self, thinking about the petty details of their story. They are their own self-context. But when you wake up, you wake up to a deeper truth. You wake up to the truth that I am not merely a skin-encapsulated ego.

I am sitting here with my friend Eric. If I said my name is Eric, he would think it was a joke. But if I keep doing it for an hour, he calls my good friend Chahat and says he’s insane. He think’s he’s Eric. Then Chahat says I’m really insane. To be insane is to not know your identity. To actually think that I’m only a skin-encapsulated ego, separate from All That Is, and to not know that my True Self is THE True Self, Essence, inextricable indivisible part of All That Is, not to realize that all the love-intelligence of the All flows through me, but to think that I am apart … that is to be asleep. So to wake up is to wake up to the true nature of reality, to blow up your mind as a separate mind, alienated, and to wake up to your enlightenment.

That’s the first step: waking up as True Self.

In World Spirituality, you can adopt or deploy any number of practices which will be outlined in the World Spirituality practice book – which I am co-writing with Tom Goddard – 10 major practices for this bucket of wake up practice.

The second major dimension of World Spirituality is grow up.

Growing up means to grow up to higher levels of consciousness. For example, at one level of consciousness, I might have a magical interpretation based on bloodlines and magical relationships between people, the clan, and the Earth which gives me protection (legitimate but partial insights). But by itself, a magical interpretation of the world is insufficient. At a higher level, I might move to a mythical interpretation. And then I might move to a rational interpretation of reality when I move beyond identifying myself by my membership in a particular church but I am governed by universal principles, and then I might move from there to a perspective which is far more multi-cultural, which recognizes the unique contributions of every culture and honors them in a new way, and then I might move to an integral consciousness in which I take the best of every level of consciousness and integrate it at a higher level, the best of pre-modern, modern, and post-modern consciousness and integrate it and act at a higher level.

Or, in moral development, you go from ego-development to ethno-centric to world-centric to cosmo-centric. Those are expanding or ascending levels of moral consciousness.

To grow up is to grow to higher levels of consciousness, emotional consciousness—actually measured development in all lines—the most important being moral development. I might also develop cognitively. Piaget measured those lines of development. I might develop to higher stages of leadership. The core growing up is to grow to higher levels of consciousness in an ever deeper view of the world: from magic to mythical to rational to pluralistic to integral. Each of those represents a higher level of consciousness.

How? We are now developing new practices that allow you to grow up. In the World Spirituality practice book, we are developing growing up practices.

The third facet of World Spirituality practice is show up. To identify your Unique Gifts. To fulfill your Unique Obligation. To see through the eyes of God in your Unique Perspective. Of course these are related because when you wake up as True Self at world-centric and above you realize that your True Self is unique. But doing the work to clarify your unique perspective, gifts, and responding to your unique needs, that’s the work of show up.

Lighten up, number four, is shadow work. It’s to identify the unique way you mess up—how to follow your unique shadow back to your Unique Self. Everyone has a unique wound, and when you identify it this allows you to bring your Unique Self back online. So we identify practices in the World Spirituality practice book both for showing up and lightening up.

Finally, there’s open up: to open up as love in the world as an embodied self. Your sensuality. Your sexuality. In whatever is for you the right committed context for love and sensuality and the full range of emotion to express itself. Here, again, there is a series of understandings and technologies. There is a teaching that I have developed from my lineage tradition called the three stations of love. There is understanding the nature of Love as perception, giving, and openness (the trinity in understanding the nature of love). There are the three faces of Love: love in the first person (living as love), second person (being in love with other), and third person (love as the Eros of evolution, the love that moves the suns and the stars which moves atoms to become molecules…) Within open up, there are three trinities: the three faces of love, the three means of love (giving, opening, perception), and the three stations of love (falling in love, individuation, and re-falling in love). … Submission, Separation, and Sweetness.

Wake up, grow up, show up, lighten up, open up. These are the core structures of World Spirituality teaching. The names aren’t that important. They’re labels to allow someone to hold easily the teaching. The teaching comes from two core places: Unique Self teaching and Love teaching, which I’ve developed over the years with wonderful interactions with many people, and Integral Theory. They come together to form the matrix of World Spirituality practice which is exciting and fantastic.

In each of these five buckets, you need practices. Each person is going to do different practices. At different times in a person’s life they might focus on a different area. There is a profoundly Unique Self dimension. You actually wake up to your unique eyes which is the full awakening. You grow up into Unique Self. You show up as Unique Self. You lighten up by following your Unique Shadow back to Unique Self. And Love is a Unique Self perception; you live uniquely as Love; you are a unique expression of the love-intellligence of All-That-Is.

Unique Self is the animating teaching of all five and you begin to see how Unique Self and Integral Theory come together in this larger frame. That’s the cornerstone of World Spirituality practice.


Marc Gafni on Wake up, Grow up, Show up, Lighten up, Open up-Part 2

Wake up, grow up, show up, lighten up, open up: these are the core structures of World Spirituality teaching.

The names aren’t that important. They’re labels, lovely branded labels, to allow someone to hold easily the teaching.

The teaching comes from two core places: Unique Self teaching and three stations of Love teaching, which I’ve developed over a number of years, and Integral Theory. They come together to form the matrix of World Spirituality practice.

In each one of these five buckets, you need practices. Each person is going to define, as it were, their own “religion.” – the practices they choose. Different grow up practices, different lighten up practices, etc. At different times in their life, they might focus on different areas. All of the teachings revolve around Unique Self.

Your highest growing up is Unique Self. You lighten up by following your Unique Shadow back to Unique Self. Love is in 2nd person a Unique Self perception, and in 1st person you live as live but live uniquely as love, and in 3rd person you are the unique expression of all love-intelligence of All-That-Is.

Unique Self is the animating teaching of all five – and you begin to see how Unique Self and Integral Theory come together in this larger frame. That’s the cornerstone of World Spirituality practice.


Marc Gafni on Wake up, Grow up, Show up, Lighten up, Open up-Part 3: History of the terms

Let me share with you a brief intellectual history of the labels of wake up, grow up, show up, lighten up, and open up.

The wake up/grow up distinction is sourced to John Welwood’s book, Psychology of Awakening, and I thank Sally Kempton for the reference. John really develops this; he makes a break between the awakening dimension of the spiritual line of development, waking up to classical True Self / no-self enlightenment– and growing up, which is doing the psychological work, which is psychological maturation. There’s waking up and growing up. John’s teacher, Trungpa Rinpoche, founder of Naropa University, when he would talk about the “jewel and lotus” teaching in Buddhism, he would say the mantra– meaning grow up. The jewel and lotus means wake up, so in essence Trungpa was saying grow up. Really you can source this in some sense [of] wake up, grow up in Trungpa’s insight [as] coming from the East that we need to do both kinds of work.

There are two different lines of development. The mother of my son and dear close friend, Marianna Caplan, is a protégé of Welwood, and she does real work with people on these two different lines of development.

Ken Wilber, a colleague of John’s, either in discussion with John or independently, moved into this distinction between wake up and grow up, and deployed the distinction extensively. Ken used it slightly differently. He uses wake up like John, but he uses grow up to refer specifically to levels of consciousness. Of course, levels of consciousness per se – developmental theory– is all of developmental theory. Awakening is the great traditions. We’re taking the developmental traditions and the great wisdom traditions.

In Kabbalah, which is my source tradition, that distinction is made very extensively. There’s a whole set of practices for growing up– meaning psychological maturity– and waking up, enlightenment. Then what happens next is Dusitn DiPerna made a wonderful suggestion to me and to Ken, which is to add in a more complete set of terms. In the context of Integral Religion, he suggested adding in show up and clean up (in relation to shadow work). I shifted the term clean up to lighten up (I like the word better as a label; we’re not really talking about content).

I also shifted the meaning. Open up became about Love. The teachings I’m doing [are] on the three stations of Love, the three meanings of Love, and the three faces of Love, two of which I developed and a third which comes from the great traditions and Integral Theory. So open up became understandable in light of these Love teachings. And show up is all about the Unqiue Self teaching. And lighten up is a specific teaching about the Unique Shadow and following it back to your Unique Self.

This cluster of terms became a transformation in meaning in terms of the context of the Unique Self teaching: growing up to the higher levels of developmental consciousness which your Unique Self expresses itself spontaneously. Lighten up, following your Unique Shadow back to your Unique Self. Open up at these three trinities of love: three natures of love, and three faces of love (for example, Love as a Unique Self perception in the second person).

All of these terms have been recast in terms of a merger between Integral Theory and Unique Self. Lots of people contributed to this. My work in Unique Self theory is one piece of it. John Welwood, Ken Wilber, Dustin DiPerna, Marianna Caplan’s sourcing in Trungpa, [they] have all contributed. And now we’re using this five-part schematic as a simple way of delivering the formula of World Spirituality in the world. Wake up, grow up, show up, lighten up, open up.

We’re making it easier to access the teaching, and it’s important because the teaching has to have amplitude. The nature of the great tradition is that you can access it at all different levels of consciousness and sophistication. You can be a popular Buddhist doing prostration to an idol, and a pure-emptiness Buddhist, and you’re all practicing Buddhism. Judaism, Christianity, are all experienced at different levels of consciousness. It’s helpful to have a simple formula to create an elegant, Steve Jobs / Apple interface. It’s the interface of a World Spirituality app with popular culture. So I hope that gives you a sense of where these terms come from.


Integral God

“The God you don’t believe in doesn’t exist. The mystic God is dead. So, let that God go.” ~ Marc Gafni

Many of us have difficulties with the word God. We associate an outside mythological figure with it, either a Santa-Clause-in-the-skies, a cosmic candy machine (you put a prayer in and a fulfilled wish comes out) or the punishing God that our parents asked for help when we were not doing what they wanted us to do. Most of us decided at some point of our lives not to believe in this God anymore.

While some of us let go of religion and spirituality altogether–believing in Science and our own experiences alone, others took refuge to the attitude: “I am spiritual but not religious.” The Eastern Enlightenment traditions with their practices seemed to do well without an explicit notion of God. And so we thought that with our understanding of God we had outgrown GOD altogether.

Yet, is that really true? Is there an understanding of God that might emerge after we let go of the traditional view? Is there something we might call an Integral God?

In long conversations about this topic Ken Wilber and Dr. Marc Gafni, coming from their respective perspectives of Integral Theory and Buddhism as well as Hebrew Mysticism and World Spirituality, have come to an understanding of what they call The Three Faces of God. They have both written extensively about that.


Here is an excerpt from Marc Gafni’s new book on The Dance of Tears:


The Three Faces

God in the first person is the experience of God flowing through you. God flows through you not by your denial of your unique perspective, or what Carlos Castaneda and many teachers influenced by him referred to as your “personal his-tory”–rather, your unique perspective is precisely the place in which you, the human being, meets and embraces the Divine. In God I the first person to awaken means to be lived by love. It is the realization that you are an irreducibly unique expression of the love intelligence and love beauty that initiated and animates all that is.

Thus, according to the Hebrew wisdom masters, God in the first person is realized not through generalized meditation, as is usually thought to be the case and which effaces one’s unique perspective. Rather, it is accomplished by what Lainer of Izbica calls Berur–literally, clarification or purification. Berur is a mystical technique that can take many forms, including meditation. The core of this, however, is that through Berur you first clarify and then merge with your radically unique perspective. This is your unique face. It is only through the embrace of your unique perspective that you are able to transcend your narrow human perspective to embrace a Divine perspective.

The paradox of Kabbalah, in contrast to the no-self of Theravada Buddhism, for example, is that it is through your unique face that you embrace your original face. Or, said differently, it is not merely that the personal precedes the transpersonal. Rather, the personal itself is the very gateway to the transpersonal. Of course, the Divine perspective naturally includes all perspectives. It thus transcends and includes one’s own unique perspective as well.

This move from a sacred but limited personal perspective to an all embracing transpersonal perspective is what Schneur Zalman of Liadi called the move from “our side” to “his side.” Like most post-Lurianic Hebrew mystics, he viewed this movement as the basic goal of all spiritual work. This first path is what is usually referred to as the path of enlightenment, in which the individual actually seeks to attain a state or permanent stage of mystical illumination. This spiritual path was one of the demarcating characteristics of the great mystical revival in Safed in the 16th century. It is for this reason, writes scholar of mysticism Elliot Wolfson, “that, in contrast to the general trend in Jewish mysticism to avoid writing first person accounts of mystical experience, we find an abundance of such first person testimonies in the Safed period.”

In the “God in the first person” practice one experiences a level of ontic identity with some dimension of the Divine. For example, according to the School of Izbica the experience of God in the first person is through the realization of the ontic identity of wills between man and God. Man actually has a first person experience of the Divine will animating and ultimately merging with his own will in complete identity. Practices such as meditation, which lead to the realization of some form of supreme identity with the Godhead, are aimed at revealing God in the first person.

Scholars like Moshe Idel tend to call certain forms of these “God in the first person experiences,” Unio Mystica or extreme Devekut experiences. Idel, however, was careful to note in later essays that after the moment of Unio Mystica the initiate returned, revitalized and empowered, to their own unique individuality. It is Lainer of Izbica, however, who crystallized most clearly the great paradox of Hebrew mysticism: the non-dual experience must affirm and not efface the unique individual even as personal uniqueness is the path to the non-dual One.

God in the second person is what Kabbalah scholar Gershom Scholem called “Communion.” This is the core experience of the human being who is not merged with the Divine but rather stands in relation to God. This is the essence of Hebrew biblical consciousness, and, according to Scholem, defines Hebrew mystical consciousness as well. God in second person is all about relationship. Whether the relationship is that of a servant to his master or a lover and his beloved, or a relationship between partners, or even friends, they are all “relating” to God. All of the above models of relationship find expression in Hebrew wisdom teachings. All are forms of God in the second person.

The most powerful form of God in the second person is almost certainly the prayer experience. It is told that when Hassidic master Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev used to pray, he would begin with the standard liturgical form of blessing: “Boruch Ata Adonai – Blessed are you, God,” and then break out of the mold of conventional prayer and cry out in sheer joy: “YOU! YOU! YOU! YOU!” He would lose himself in these words, repeatedly shouting in ecstasy, “YOU! YOU! YOU!!!”

This is the rapture of God in the second person. For Levi Yitzchak, the blessing is a kind of Buddhist pointing-out instruction. It points, however, not to sunyatta or emptiness, but to God in the second person. The 16th-century Kabbalist, Yeshayahu ben Avraham, taught the spiritual practice of Hitbodedut. In one form, this meant walking alone in the forest “talking to God as you would to your friend.” In “God in the second person” we meet God and bow. In “God in the second person” we meet God and partner. In “God in the second person” we meet God and love. The key however is the encounter. It is the encounter with God in history and in the lived reality of every human being that is the essence of the “God in the second person” experience.

God in the third person is all of the talk that describes and maps the Divine reality of the world. God in the third person could be the physical sciences, social sciences, systems theory, Buddhist Dharma or Jewish Law or metaphysics. Of course, the various sciences, system theories and the like are unconscious faces of God; they only become conscious faces of God when they recognize not only the surface but the interior depth-dimension of reality. All third person maps of reality are God in the third person. Third person perspectives offer detailed maps of reality, whether through the tools of sociology, complexity theory, psychological theory, the sciences, or certain forms of theology and philosophy.

Now here is the key point. In order to attain a significant level of enlightenment, one must engage all three faces of God as one. It is in the integration of the three faces that one attains depth and wisdom. This is of course very different than usual understandings of enlightenment which locate it in a first-person God experience in which individuality is effaced and the separate self is absorbed into the One. Although absorption is a key feature of God in the first person in Hebrew mysticism, it is only a stage in a larger God-face process that is itself but one of the three major faces of God.

Each face of God has its own natural strength and its own unique shadow. It is only through the integration of all three that one attains the depth beyond the surface. It is only then that one can stand face to face with God or attain what the Kabbalists call Partzuf Shalem: the full face of God.

The contemporary world of spirit, however, can be most appropriately mapped as a struggle between the three faces. Each face attempts to dominate or colonize the other two. Each face claims that truth is accessible only– orat least primarily–through the perspective of its own eyes. Both, individuals and social systems, find themselves tugged between the three faces.

Often, a person or a community abandons one face in order to embrace a different face that they feel is truer. In doing so, they feel compelled to reject their previous “face” experience. Soon enough, they begin to feel incomplete and dissatisfied and are often unsure why. They then often wind up reverting to the face they initially rejected, but in doing so they usually abandon the new face they had more recently engaged. The implicit message of contemporary culture, as we shall see below, is that one must choose between the three. This is a tragedy, because the lack of any one of the three leaves one with a gaping hole of need, ethics, desire and illumination.

Ashram, Synagogue and Academy: God in first, second, and third person

Speaking in general terms we might say that Ashrams, new age seminars, and spiritual retreat centers such as Esalen, Omega, Hollyhock and Spirit Rock, place an enormous emphasis on God in the first person. The chief activity of the Ashram is usually meditation, with additional tracks in various forms of movement, psychodrama and the like. All are God in the first person practices. In meditation, the goal is the realization of the supreme identity between the human being and the god. It is to know the “I am God” to which the novice aspires.

The first person experience is also a primary domain of the many schools of Kabbalah which seek unio mystica with the Divine, employing a vast array of spiritual technologies. Likewise, in the contemporary Jewish Renewal movement there is an enormous prejudice in favor of God in the first person engagement.

This expresses itself both positively and in shadow terms including, a refusal to genuinely bow before a second person God who makes demands which itself fosters a disguised narcissim. It manifests as well in a tragic refusal to engage in third person the careful processes which characterize law, fairness and integrity before which the first person preference must bow. Without these second and third person dimensions truth, goodness and love are often hopelessly distorted.

The synagogue and the church are the primary proponents of God in the second person. Their primary activity is prayer, which involves the human being talking to God. Their secondary activity is the fostering of a “we” space which is called community. Here, in the well-known nomenclature of Martin Buber, man meets the infinite Divine in his fellow and his neighbor. Or, in Levinas‘ reformulation of Buber, man meets God in the face of the other.

The academy is the primary home of God in the third person. The academy is dedicated to objective third-person descriptions of all facets of reality. The social sciences and the hard sciences, as well as moral philosophy and metaphysics, are all ostensibly objective third-person descriptions of reality–God in the third person.

The problem is that each of the above views itself is wielding somewhat of a monopoly on authenticity and genuine spirituality. Synagogues and churches are very suspicious of ecstasy, Ashrams and Kabbalah because they are rooted in God in the first-person experience. A recent example is the new Catholic pope’s scathing dismissal of Buddhism. He confuses the God in the first person emphasis and its non-theistic character with atheism. Not recognizing the more familiar God in second person experience in the Buddhist system has made the pope a fierce spiritual opponent of Buddhism.

This kind of dismissal of God in the first person, dripping with invectives of all sorts, is dominant in Jewish intellectual and social circles as well. For many religious philosophers, God in the second person is the fundamental Jewish spiritual moment. Such eminent voices include Eliezer Berkovitz of Modern Orthodoxy, Joseph Soloveitchk, the pre-eminent philosopher and Talmudist of a central stream in 20th century Orthodoxy, Yaacov Reines of the Religious Zionist movement, Gershon Scholem the major voice of contemporary Kabbalah scholarship, the preeminent Jewish historian Salo Baron, most leading Wissenschaft scholars and virtually all the founders of the Reform movement. Berkovitz, for example, in two essays which are representative of his thought, “Crisis and Faith” and the “Philosophy of Encounter” scathingly critiques the aspiration of unio mystica as being a fundamental violation of Jewish Theology. He lumps drug-induced experiences of LSD and mystical experiences in the same category, dismissing both as a violation of the core Jewish ethos of “encounter”–God in the second person. To get a sense of the complete rejection of one face of god by another–particularly the absolute rejection of God in first person by the God in second person–there is indeed no better citation than that of Eliezer Berkovitz. In his own words:

It is important to distinguish between our interpretation of the prophetic encounter as the basic religious experience and the way of the mystic. The encounter should not be confused with mystical communion. The mystic’s goal is the surrender of personal existence. His desire is to merge with the One, to pour himself into God, to be drawn into the All. The mystic finds his fulfillment in the extinction of his dignity through being consumed by the absolute. For him individuality is a burden and a shame. Only the One or the All is real, and every form of separateness from it is an unworthy shadow existence.

In the encounter, on the other hand, the original separateness is affirmed; in fact, it is granted its highest dignity by being sustained by God. The encounter may occur because the individual personality is safeguarded. When there is encounter there is fellowship and fellowship is the very opposite of the mystical surrender of man’s identity in an act of communion. Judaism is not a non mystical religion. Judaism is essentially non mystical because it is a religion. The mystical communion is the end of all relationship, and therefore, the end of all religion.

Judaism is essentially non mystical because according to it, God addresses himself to man, and he awaits man’s response to the address… Man searches and God allows himself to be found. In the mystical union, however, there are no words and no law, no search and no recognition, because there is no separateness. Judaism does not admit the idea that man may rise “beyond good and evil” by drowning himself in the Godhead…

[The mystic’s] worship of the absolute demands the denial of his own separateness from it; thus we are led to the Spinozastic amor dei; since nothing exists apart from the infinite, man’s love for God is “the very love of God in which God loves himself.” One is inclined to agree with those who see in this the monstrous example of absolute self love. The truth is, of course, that where there is no separateness there is no love either. When there is no encounter there can be no care and concern. The mystic endeavors to overcome all separateness; the pantheist denies it from the very beginning. Judaism, on the other hand, through its concept of the encounter, affirms the reality as well as the worth of individual existence. Judaism is not only non mystical; it is also essentially anti-pantheistic.

A similar prejudice appears in Gershon Scholem’s work. Much of Scholem‘s work on Devekut was paradoxically to affirm that Unio Mystica was either absent or rare in Jewish mystical sources. According to Scholem, the mystic was engaged in communion, not unio-mystica with the Divine. In effect, Scholem implied that, even in mysticism, God in the second person–what he called communion–is the primary experience. Contemporary Kabbalah scholar Moshe Idel has spent a good part of his career taking issue with this central assertion of Scholem . He has shown decisively that God in the first person, through many and varied forms of unio mystica, is a demarcating feature of Devekut for the Hebrew mystic.

Two passages–not from esoteric sources, but each from a mainstream Hassidic master, will serve to illustrate this point. The first is from Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founding master of the Habad dynasty:

And we see that when man cleaves to God it is extremely delightful for him, and very sweet, so much so that he will swallow it into his heart…as the bodily throat swallows; and this is true devekut–cleaving–as he becomes one with the essence of God into whom he was swallowed, without being separate [from him] as a distinct entity at all. This is the meaning of the verse ‘And you shall cleave to him’ Mamash-literally.

A second passage, from Levi Isaac of Berditschev, raises the possibility that this can be a permanent state of being and not merely a temporary state experience:

There is a tzadik who (cleaves to the nought) and nevertheless returns afterwards to his essence. But Moses our master, blessed be his memory, was annihilated all the time since he was constantly contemplating the grandeur of the creator, blessed be he, and he did not return to his essence at all…since, as it is well known…Moses our master was constantly cleaving to Ayin–nothingness, and from this aspect he was annihilated.

It is these types of texts, which clearly affirm Idel‘s position that God in the first person, in the sense of total identification and absorption in the Godhead, is an important goal of the Hebrew mystic. This scholarly argument has probably been one of the most important discussions in Kabbalah scholarship in recent years. I have shown elsewhere that Idel and Scholem‘s positions are not as far apart as they might seem and that they are actually referring to different stages of the mystical experience. Be that as it may, the choice on each of their parts to emphasize a different moment in the mystical experience is driven not by text but by personal religious and moral inclination.

The energy around this conversation is of course bound up with a deeper argument: What is the essence–or at least the ultimate–in religious experience? Is it God in the first person, or God in the second person? That is the question. Idel emerges in his personal biography from the ground of eastern European Romanian folk mysticism, which was all about God in the first person experiences. By contrast, Scholem emerges from the central European model, which preferred God in the third person, but at most could tolerate small doses of God in the second person.

Unio Mystica, God in the first person, was regarded by Scholem, his student Joseph Weiss, and most of the others who followed them, as rooted in a kind of religious quietism or even fatalism. This was for them the great weakness of the God in the first person model. This was too much of a violation of both Biblical and Talmudic personalism as well as the Zionist and western ethics of activism and autonomy which influenced their own values. Since they were explicitly looking to Jewish mysticism as a potential source for the revival of the Jewish spirit, God in the first person kinds of quietism were re-read by them into more palatable second person experiences which never negated the separate existence of the individual. In doing so, Scholem explicitly states his intention to distinguish Hebrew Mysticism from the dominant currents in general mysticism whose language was more that of union than communion.

The primary difference is that in communion the unique individual is not effaced, whereas in union the unique individual is annihilated. Writes Scholem:

Devekut or ‘communion’ with God is not ‘union’ in the sense of the Mystical Union between God and Man and of which many mystics speak.

Here, Scholem is describing Kabbalah in general, and Hassidism in particular, primarily through the prism of the Baal Shem’s teaching, even though he himself recognized that more extreme formulations are present in the teaching of the Baal Shem’s foremost disciple, the Great Maggid. In a parallel passage, Scholem writes,

It is only in extremely rare cases that ecstasy signifies actual union with God in which human individuality abandons itself to the rapture of complete submersion in the Divine stream. Even in this ecstatic frame of mind, the Jewish mystic almost invariably retains a sense of distance between the creator and his creature.

Scholem, in these texts, and in many other places in his corpus, has a clear agenda; he is making important orienting generalizations which serve to distinguish Hebrew mysticism from its non-Jewish counterparts and in doing so makes it more congruent with what he felt to be the essentially personal gestalt of Hebrew wisdom. His particular agenda here is the retaining of the personal, individual moment as primary in Hebrew thought–evidenced by its centrality even at the height of mystical ecstasy–in marked contrast to other mystical systems which highlight “the abandonment of individuality to rapture.” Even when Scholem talks about mystical passages that use the terminology of union, he struggles to blur the clear God-in-first-person sense of the term Yichud, which means unification, as in the realization of union. In describing the practitioner of the meditative rites of Yichud, Scholem writes:

He breaks down the barriers and brings about unification by making into an organic whole what seemed separated and isolated. He does not become God but he becomes ‘united’ with him by the process in which the core of his being is bound up with the core of all being.

Scholem’s insistence on retaining God in the second person as the primary model of Hebrew wisdom by blurring the significance of God in the first person texts becomes even more evident in his description of the writings of the Great Maggid. The maggid‘s writings abound with passages that seem to reflect strong pantheistic and unio-mystica orientations, yet Scholem comments:

[The Maggid taught that] man finds himself by losing himself in God, and by giving up his identity he discovers it on a higher plane.

Here, as in many other saying of Rabbi Baer, devekut is said to lead not only to communion but to ach’dut, union. But this union is not at all the pantheistic obliteration of the self within the Divine mind which he likes to call the naught, but pierces through this state on to the re-discovery of man’s spiritual identity. He finds himself because he has found God…and the radical terms should not blind us to the eminently Jewish and personalistic that they still cover. After having gone through devekut, man is still man–nay he has in truth only then started to be man, and it is only logical that only then will he be called upon to fulfill his destiny in the society of men.

In this passage, however, we already sense a more sophisticated position in Scholem who recognizes God in the first and second person as different levels of consciousness. However, what is clear from Scholem is that first person rapture is a stage on the way to second person address and fellowship. This is of course the opposite of what one might expect from readings in non-Jewish mysticism, where second person is but a stage on the way to the deeper and higher first person experience.

Similarly, Jospeh Soloveitchik’s intellectual enterprise implicitly adopts Scholems position on Unio Mystica. In his work, Days of Remembrance, he writes explicitly:

Judaism rejects Unio mystica.

Moreover, Soloveitchik’s more well-known classical essay, Halachic Man, is in large part a rejection of the God in the first person posture so prominent in mysticism in general and Habad Hassidism in particular. Soloveitchik’s description of homo religiosus is a classic description of the quietist mystical typology. In response to this God in the first person archetype, he writes:

Halachic man is as far removed from homo religiosus as east is from west.

In a like manner, Martin Buber, who began his career in Jewish thought with an embrace of the intense mystical experience as being characteristic of true religion–God in the first person–eventually rejected his initial position and affirmed what he famously called “I-thou” as the demarcating Jewish religious experience. For the most part, Buber and Soloveitchik’s readings of God in the first person in quietist terms of passivity and resignation were accurate for certain schools of Hebrew mysticism.

However, as I have shown elsewhere and noted above, there is a whole other way to read God in the first person experiences. In this second way, championed by Mordechai Lainer of Izbica and adopted from him by Abraham Isaac Kuk, God in the first person is not emasculating but radically empowering of the individual who realizes his core identity with the Divine spirit or will. This is critical because it allows for an integral embrace of all three faces of God by circumventing the major critique of first person God paths, as we saw for example in Berkovitz and Scholem, namely that they are emasculating of personhood and unique individuality. For this reason, I will now showing why this critique is not necessarily valid.

The root of the empowerment fostered by the integration of all three faces of God is what I call “non-dual humanism.” Non-dual humanism, which yields a God in the first person religious typology, is significantly different from the quietist-via-passive variety ascribed to God in the first person understandings by proponents of the personalistic God in the second person orientation of Judaic consciousness. To get a deeper sense of this empowered religious type that emerges from a first person non-dual God experience, let me cite from my academic work on the subject:

The following is a list of the core characteristics of the realized man according to Hassidic master Mordechai Lainer‘s teaching. They point out the highly humanistic undertone of Lainer‘s non- dualism: Non Dual humanism as its core is God realized in the first person of the human being.

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

2) Engendering human freedom and empowerment.

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

4) Affirming the ontic identity between the human and Divine name as the empowering realization of enlightenment.

5) Affirming 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, Lema’alah MiDa’ato – above and beyond his common knowing, in apprehending the unmediated will of God.

7) Affirming 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) Viewing not only the Tzaddik, but every person who walks in a 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 all at once. 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 that radically empowers and frees the human being. Just like the core humanistic principles that find expression in Lainer are not unique to him, neither is the idea of substantive identity between God and Man, a concept deeply rooted in classical Hebraic thought and mysticism. Indeed, Lainer and Abraham Kuk, who was highly influenced by him, may represent the latest stage in the great Jewish Rabbinic and Mystical tradition of apotheosis. This non-dual tradition, which affirms the possibility of human transformation and ontic identity with some manifestation of the Divine, lies in the conceptual foreground of all of Lainer’s thought. This tradition gives birth to many offspring including the ontic identification between God, Torah, and Israel, the blurring and even identification between the name of God and the name of man, the tradition of the Tzadik – who is sometimes seen as a semi-Divine and even Divine figure – and the tradition of the erotic merging of the human being and the Shechinah. All of these traditions find echo and are expanded in Lainer‘s non-dual humanism. What is unique about Lainer is neither his humanism nor his acosmism. His uniqueness lies in his distinctive combination of the two–what we have termed acosmic or non-dual humanism.

According to Lainer, all of the core characteristics of non-dual humanism are manifested by the Judah Archetype. Before discussing the Judah characteristics, it is important to note that, for Lainer, living in the way of the Judah archetype is not an option; for those who are called to this life it is an absolute obligation which, if ignored, conjures Divine curse. Judah is contrasted with Joseph, and sometimes with Levi.

While Jospeh and Levi are characterized by Yir’ah, by fear or awe, the Judah archetype is characterized by love. Judah represents for Lainer the religious typology who has realized his first-person ontic identity with the will of God. He consciously participates in divinity, realizing that his name and the name of God are one. His non-dual consciousness is realized through a process of Berur in which he further understands that there is no such thing as human action independent of God. Rather, he knows and experiences every action he takes as being fully animated by Divine will. This non-dual realization is radically empowering for him.

Judah manifests and is virtually identified with the quality of Tekufot, the personal power and sacred audacity which is a direct result of realizing one’s Divine core. He feels himself called by his inner Divine voice, his own personal revelation, to expand–what Lainer terms Hitpashtut–beyond the narrow boundaries foisted upon him by external structures. Therefore, in Lainer’s language, he can naturally be Mechaven Ratzon Hashem, “intend the will of God.” Judah affirms the dignity of his Teshuka, his desire. Moreover, he allows himself to be guided by his Teshuka once it has undergone a process of Berur.

Judah, writes Lainer, time and again, is connected to the awareness of Ein Lo Gevul: “He has no boundary.” He is identified with Ratzon Hashem even Lema’alah Meda’ato, beyond his conscious will. He has realized no boundary consciousness. His prayer, repentance, Torah and desire all derive from this consciousness of Ein Gevul. This consciousness has normative implications. It moves him–even when he is misunderstood by his own community–to occasionally break the law in order to respond to an order of revelation which is more immediate and personal than the original revelation of Sinai mediated through Moses. His path to “no boundary” consciousness is unique. More than merely participating in the general Divine will, he incarnates the unique Divine will. Paradoxically, it is through boundary, particularly through his own radically individual nature–what Lainer refers to in the Hebrew as Perat, or fruition particular–that he is able to transcend the Kelalim, the general principles of law, and access Peratei Div’rei Torah, the unmediated revelation of the Divine addressed specifically to him, refracted through the prism of his unique soul.

His unique soul, expressed in his unique will, reveals and manifests his ontic identity with the Divine will. He has undergone a process of Berur that allowed him to identify his unique Soul Print (chelek) and Soul Root (shoresh), his unique manifestation of the Divine light, the root of his soul. He is particularly connected to his unique Mitzvah for which he must even be willing to give up his life. Because the very essence of his Life Essence (Chaim) is his uniqueness; therefore to live without it would be to not live at all. In short, Judah is the personification of non-dual humanism. Judah is a classic expression of the God in the first person consciousness.

It is evident that Lainer had enormous influence on the greatest of the modern Jewish mystics, Abraham Isaac Kuk.

When R. Kuk insists in his writing that “I” is “I am the Lord your God,” and sets that up as a major religious model, then he is arguing for God in the first person. In that very same paragraph he teaches that in the realization of “I” is “I am the Lord your God” one claims his essential power–what R. Kuk calls “one’s essential ‘I’.” When his books are burned by those who carefully read them (not just by communities who opposed his Zionism), part of the principled opposition to his teaching is the danger of setting God in the first person as a religious ideal, and not entirely without reason.

The great weakness of God in the first person is that it is a great place for the ego to hide. I have known highly sophisticated spiritual egos who found wonderful refuge and great solace in the God in the first person experiences. Often the Eros and power of their God in first person experiences makes those experiences the focus of their spiritual quest and sadly allows them to override elemental dictates of ethos. This is the danger of God in the first person being the exclusive or even primary face of God. While both Lainer and Kuk were cognizant of this danger, and offered sophisticated treatments of the ethical and spiritual work needed to be done to avoid it, the trap still remains a major shadow in all God in the first person paths.

Shifting perspectives, however, we must note that Ashram disciples, Kabbalah seekers, and Spiritual retreat center consumers–all God in first person advocates–have little use for synagogues, and not entirely without reason. They feel unable to connect to the God in the second person conversation. They find the experience of the synagogue to be disembodying, alienating and not trustworthy. In the words of many: “I do not feel alive in the synagogue.” It is more than even that, however. They feel that the externalized voice of God too often overrides their own deepest moral intuitions. Moreover, they feel that such a division between Man and God is a product of the limited perception of duality and contributes to a world built on divisions and boundaries.

False divisions and boundaries, they correctly point out, are the source of most human suffering. The highly unsophisticated and misguided dismissal of theism that is rampant in both popular and learned Buddhist texts is symptomatic of this tendency. However, on the other side of the divide, a Synagogue Rabbi once asked me why I bothered teaching at spiritual retreat centers, lamenting that,

There is no sense of commitment or conversation with God; it is just another way for the ‘me’ generation to coddle itself.

Shifting perspectives once more, we note how obvious it is that the academic world, which subscribes to God in the third person, has little use for, or trust in, either the synagogue or the Ashram. The academy rejects their methods as being “subjective,” preferring the method of third person engagement, which it considers to be far more “objective,” and–again–not entirely without reason. However, the Ashram and Synagogue are equally distrustful of the academy, viewing it as a place where spirit has been killed, stored in formaldehyde, and mounted for intellectual study devoid of all life, commitment, ethos or Eros.

A final example of the great clash of perspectives which underlies some significant part of the Jewish culture wars: There were and are fierce arguments in Jewish thought over the nature of prayer. The simple and direct understanding of prayer is that it is the archetypal expression of the God in the second person relationship. Indeed, some Hassidic masters, together with the likes of the great Orthodox Talmudist and mystic Joseph Soloveitchik, insist that prayer is linked to man’s acute “crisis of need awareness.” For them, it is this sense of man as creature that translates into the prayer of entreaty and is the core framework within which man may approach God.

Some Hassidic masters, however, especially in the school of the Maggid of Mezeritch, insisted that prayer was about the human being collapsing the Ani–the separate human self–into the Ayin, the infinite pool of Divine nothingness. Human prayer of “mere entreaty” was considered to be of vastly inferior quality to mystical prayer of union with the Divine. As the Maggid of Mezeritch put it:

A person should not pray for his own needs; rather he should only pray for the needs of the Shechinah.

Of course, what the Maggid goes on to teach is that a primary goal of prayer itself is absorption into the Shechinah. Here again there is a felt need to choose between God in the first person and God in the second person.

Of course, within every Jewish movement, one can find occasional lone voices crying for the integration of at least two, and sometimes–although rarely–even all three faces of God. However, usually the faces of God and the camps that champion but one face, are in deep conflict with one another. They are virtually always critical of each other and virtually never work together. In the words of Lainer:

The life-objective of Ephraim, as inspired by God, is to concentrate on the halachah regarding every matter, and not to budge from obeying its every letter… And the root of the life of Judah is to focus on the Creator and to be connected to God in every situation. And even though Judah perceives how the halachah inclines on an issue, he nevertheless looks to God to show him the core of the truth behind the matter at hand… [Judah] looks to God for guidance in all matters rather than engage in the rote practice of religious observances, nor is he content to merely repeat today what he did yesterday…but that God enlighten him anew each day as to what is the God will in the moment. This [quest for ever-fresh enlightenment] sometimes compels Judah to act contrary to established halachah…. But in the time to come, we have been promised that Ephraim and Judah will no longer be at odds with one another (Isaiah 11:13). This means that Ephraim will no longer have any complaints against Judah regarding Judah’s deviation from halachah, because God will then demonstrate to Ephraim the core intention of Judah, that his intentions are for the sake of the will of God, and not for any selfish motif. Then will there be harmony between the two.

As we have already noted, individuals in their personal journeys, and communities in their development, often go through different stages in their unfolding. Each stage implicitly unconsciously prefers one face of God over the others. The different stages are usually viewed as inconsistent and contradictory, causing great confusion of identity and direction. However, a closer look at these stages of development, both in individuals and communities, shows that they are often roughly organized around a preference for one or two of the faces of God over the others.

Integral Judaism makes a simple but powerful point. In order to engage the full face of God, to be before God, Lifnei Hashem, one must engage and integrate the three main faces of God. In our understanding, this is the underlying core of Kabbalistic Yichudim that are engaged in unifying, what were literally called, the “many faces of God.” Failure to fully engage any one of these three faces leaves the person without some critical tool necessary for spiritual growth or for what Hassidism, based on a rich earlier tradition, called enlightenment. Not only does it prevent spiritual growth, but it also leads to the absolutizing of one face of God over the others, and becomes then a form of idolatry. The ancient rabbis referred to this as the “cutting of the shoots,” the act of separating the Shechinah, God’s lower face, from Zeir Anpin, God’s higher faces. Indeed, the biblical text itself frames idolatry as “You shall have no other God Al Panai”: literally “upon my face,” which we read to mean choosing one face of God as the only face.

Perhaps Tzadok HaCohen of Lublin said it best. To paraphrase his teaching: There are three essential expressions of the Divine, each of which plays an integral role in spiritual life. They are called “I, You and He.” I implies my integral experience of God, within my heart and within all of which comprises my universe, for the “glory of God fills the whole earth” and God “dwells within the innard of the earth.” You implies my imminent relationship with God, my encounter with God as Other, as Creation to Creator, as in prayer and meditation–not through my experience of God’s presence across the length and breadth of Creation but through directing my focus toward a specific sacred space like the Holy of Holies in the time that the Temple stood, or–in modern times–eastward toward the Temple Mount. He is the highest level and refers to my transcendent experience of God, my acknowledgment of God as purely unknowable mystery whose existence is unrelated to the known world of Creation, for “the universe is not the place of God, but God is the place of the universe.” He, the Zohar states, is “the most concealed of all mysteries, the most secret of all secrets, and cannot be named.”


Democratization of Enlightenment

By 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.

In a globally interconnected world, one person acting alone or a small group of ignorant individuals has the ability to literally destroy humanity. This is a pointing-out instruction by the universal love-intelligence. Said simply, reality is telling us something that we desperately need to know. The lesson is clear for better and for worse, the age of ruling elites, be they spiritual or political, is over.

Democracy is the evolutionary unfolding of love-intelligence in our era. It began with the democratization of governments. Now it must move to the democratization of enlightenment, and enlightenment of your True Self beyond personality and ego, which then expresses itself in the full glory and power of your Unique Self. Enlightenment is a genuine possibility, and therefore a sacred obligation, for every single person. You are not obligated from without. You are obligated in love by your own highest possibility.

The disciples of one master liked to explain this radical Unique Self principle with a story:

A precocious child was convinced that the king was not as wise as people claimed. And so he set out—as young people are wont to do—to prove his point. He came before the king with a question. “Sire,” he said with great audacity, “it is said that you know the future and can answer any question posed. Well, I have a question for you.” The assembled court gasped at his insolence. But the boy went on. “I have in my closed hand a butterfly, sire. Tell me, is it alive or dead?”

The boy thought to himself, “If he says ‘alive,’ I will simply squeeze and kill it, and if he says ‘dead,’ then I will open my hand and let it fly away.”

The sage was silent for a moment, even as the room grew very silent. When he finally spoke, it was with the gentlest voice the boy had ever heard. “My son,” said the king, “whether the butterfly lives or dies depends on you.” It depends on us. On each and every one of us.

From Your Unique Self, Chapter 3, Pages 19, 20


For more on the Democratization of Enlightenment read Marc Gafni’s White Paper on “Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment” or watch his 11-part youtube video series: