November 17, 2017

If you ask, surely you must be in need

The story of the holy snuff box

A beautiful story retold by Marc Gafni

Everybody knows that Holy Beggars hold the world together. Thus would one modern master introduce the following sacred story. Never, never pass by a holy beggar, and they are all holy. Walk across the street. Go out of your way! Who knows who he really is? Who knows what great soul lays hidden in that tattered beggar? You never know… You never know. All you can know that is if someone asks, they must certainly need.

One day a beggar came to see the Holy Israel, Master of the Name. He was angry and depressed. “What kind of a God do you have. I used to be rich – I helped many people. But now look at me – I have lost everything. It’s not fair. How did such a fate fall upon me?!” And with that the beggar broke down into tears.

Chinese Mother of Pearl Lacquer Box with Peony Decor“Sweet Yossele,” said Israel, Master of the Name. “All the mysteries are in your own life. Think back to Yom Kippur six years ago.”

And now the master Israel had Yossele’s complete attention. For how did he know that his name was Yossele – and how could he know what he had done six years ago? Master Israel continued. “It was a fast day, the holiest day of the year. A day when we pray all day long. People on that day are at their weakest, but also at their highest. You remember, Yossele, that you brought the snuff box to the prayer service?” For although on this fast day eating is proscribed, fragrance is permitted. Often, as in the prayer fellowship I grew up in, snuff boxes would be passed around, to offer fragrance to revive the spirits for prayer.

”Do you remember, asked Master Israel, how you went around to all the congregants giving snuff to everybody?” Yossele, now spellbound, could only nod silently. “Well there was a beggar in the back of the room, lying lifelessly on a bench. You said to yourself – just for a second, ‘Why should I walk back there for him? He can come up to me to get his snuff.” Yossele was overwhelmed as he recalled for the first time that fleeting thought. “Well,” continued Master Israel “that beggar hadn’t eater for three full days. If only you knew how much he needed that pinch of snuff! He was so inside of his prayer that the heavenly gates were wide open… listening to his every word, his every sigh.

“When the holy angels saw that you did not walk back and give this holy soul some snuff, that was it – they were enraged! They decreed you should lose all your money and that the beggar should become wealthy instead of you. Well, that beggar is now the wealthiest man in your town.”

At this point, Yossele’s contrition turned to anger. “You mean that beggar has all of my money? What chutzpah! How do I get it back?”

“Actually, you can get it back,” answered Master Israel with a twinkle in his eye. “If you can find a time when you ask him for a pinch of snuff, and he refuses, at that moment all of that lost wealth will be returned to you.”

Read the whole story here…

 

From the Holy of Holies: The Pain of Intimacy

From Shalom Mountain Wisdom School teaching by Dr. Marc Gafni. Transcribed by Adael Bullock.

Photo by Julie M. Daley

Photo by Julie M. Daley

Divinity is not only the infinity of power; divinity is the infinity of pain.  It is the infinity of tears.  Divinity at its core is the infinity of intimacy. The infinity of intimacy feels your pain and doesn’t relegate it to separate self.  Is there part of your pain and my pain and all of our pain that comes from an obsessive grasping in the realm of separate self?  Of course.  Is that unnecessary pain?  Of course.  And can we liberate from that pain by awakening?  Of course. That doesn’t end the story of pain.  That ends the unnecessary pain in the world.  But then, there is the legitimate and the real pain that comes with being incarnate.  That is where the Christ consciousness got it better than the Buddhist consciousness.  The Christ consciousness didn’t say there is no pain; the Christ consciousness said, I die for your sins.  That is a very different move.  That is not the same spiritual move.  One is, “life is suffering” because your mind is fucked up, so unfuck your mind, and you will not suffer – the 4 Noble Truths.  The second is, suffering is so fucking intense, there is nothing you can do, so I am going to die for you. [Read more…]

The God of the Encounter: The Glory of the Personal, Part 6

by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 6)

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

Two Faces of All That Is

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

The God of the Encounter: The Glory of the Personal, Part 5

by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 5)

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

***

God in the First Person:

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

~R.M. Bucke

God in the Second Person addressing man:

I will be united with you in marriage forever

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

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

I will be united with you in marriage in complete trust

And you will erotically know the divine

Hosea the Prophet: 2: 21- 23

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

The God of the Encounter: The Glory of the Personal, Part 4

by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 4)

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

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

The God of the Encounter: The Glory of the Personal, Part 3

by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 3)

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

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

Presence by its very nature overwhelms all individual existence. [Read more…]

The God of the Encounter: The Glory of the Personal, Part 2

by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 2)

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

 

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

The God of the Encounter: The Glory of the Personal, Part 1

by Dr. Marc Gafni

(part 1 of 3)

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

image courtesy of Stuart Miles (c) 2013

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

Daily Wisdom: Ken Wilber on Shadow and Shadow Symptoms

by Bill Longshaw, www.freedigitalphotos.net

Bird And Shadow Longshaw, www.freedigitalphotos.net

from No Boundary by Ken Wilber

It should be apparent by now that shadow projection not only distorts our view of reality “out there,” it also greatly changes our feeling of self “in here.” When I project some emotion or trait as shadow, I still continue to perceive it but only in a distorted and illusory fashion—it appears as an “object out there.” Likewise, I still continue to feel the shadow, but only in a distorted and disguised fashion—once the shadow is projected, I feel it only as a symptom.

Thus, as we have just seen, if I project my own hostility toward peo­ple, I will imagine that people are harboring hostile feelings for me, and thus I will begin to feel a creeping fear of people in general. My original hostility has become my projected shadow. So I “see” it only in other people and I feel it in myself only as the symptom of fear. My shadow has become my symptom. [Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: Being an Insider

(c) 2011 photo courtesy of Exsodus

2011 photo courtesy of Exsodus

To be a person of Torah, to be enlightened, is to live from the inside. To be an insider, to feel — oh my God — I have a place. It’s important that I exist. I am called uniquely to do something in the world that nobody else in the world is capable of doing except myself. The experience of my irreplacability is the beginning of my joy. The experience of my replacability is the beginning of my depression. Life is about finding out, disclosing, revealing that I am an insider. [Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: ….A Vast Net of Jewels

imgres-1“Mystic philosopher Teillhard de Chardin writes, ‘The farther we penetrate into matter by means of increasingly powerful  methods – the more we are overawed  by the interdependence of all the parts.’  In the beautiful image of Mahayana Buddhism,  speaking accurately for the Kabbalah as well, the universe can be likened to a vast net of jewels–the reflection from one jewel contained in each. In the words of Isaac of Homil, and countless Hebrew mystics over the ages downing whiskey in European shtetls or running ecstatically through Jerusalem’s ancient streets, ‘Alt is Gud v’Gud ist Alt — All is God and God is All!’

[Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: Eros and Ethics Merge

imgres-6The Hebrew phrase or koan of “loosen the reins” is too wonderful not to share with you. “Harpeh et HaMoshchot.” Harpeh, meaning “loosen,” is also the word for heal. There is something powerfully healing in letting go of the tightness – loosening the fixities. The word for reins, moshchot, also means attraction or desires. Let your desires breathe; your deepest attractions are wise. Listen to them.

Implicit in the sexual circle are three levels. Circle: unchecked raw sexuality.  Line: sexuality delimited and controlled by ethics.  Circle: The Secret of the Cherubs.  The sexual models but does not exhaust the erotic. This is not an abandonment of ethics. It is a higher ethic which has absorbed the sacred intrusions of the line even as it  reintegrates the primal longings of the circle. Eros and Ethics merge.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

Daily Wisdom: The Identification of Genuine Need

imgres-7The practice of prayer is a teaching to the human being about the identification of genuine need. What is it that I truly desire? This is the sense of the popular aphorism, “Be careful what you pray for.” the prayers I choose to bring to God, the deep desire with which I pour out my heart like water before the living god, must be my most true, intimate, and genuine desire. Prayer is thus a spiritual exercise in the clarification of desire. Thus, side by side with spontaneous prayer and the creative prayer written by the individual who prays, there is also the prayer book written by the enlightened masters over the ages. It is not that their words necessarily contain mystical secrets to open the gates–although they well may–but rather it is that the prayer book is a great teaching on the identification of true desire.

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

[Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: The Moment of Creation is One of Ecstasy

imgresOriginally, creation was said to have been a one-time event, an erotic, divine implosion in which the primal line bisected the primal circle and cosmos poured forth. This image was recast by post Renaissance Hebrew mystics in the light of the re-ascendancy of circle consciousness. Hebrew Mystic Levi Isaac, for example, opens his commentary with a radical assertion: creation is happening every second. The force of love which is divinity is constantly pouring through existence. Indeed, it is existence itself.

The moment of creation is one of ecstasy. Creation is an erotic outpouring, emerging from our ability to step fully inside, to touch what Levi Isaac calls ayin and Buddhists would call the void, to let the fullness of being pour through you.  Levi Isaac, seeker of Eros, simply cannot accept  the alienating masculine line image of creation common to the medieval schoolmen. For them, creation is a one-time event, which while originally caused by God, takes place outside of God.  Levi Isaac insists in a God who inheres in all of reality, in the ecstasy of creative union, replayed constantly in an eternal now. In his insistence, it becomes so. Thus for Levi Isaac, Luria’s image of circle being penetrated by line is the constant reality of existence. It is the yearning force of being – played over and over again.

We may at times lose touch with the interpenetration of line and circle, but is always present longing to be exposed.

~Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

Daily Wisdom: Greater is the Light That Comes from the Darkness

Awakening

by Marc Gafni

Carl Gustav Jung offered a profound direction in understanding shadow. His core teaching, drawn from many sources, is that we cannot be whole human beings without recognizing and incorporating our shadow energy. Jung has an expression that he uses constantly to express this idea: “In the Shadow is the Gold.” By this, he means to say that most of what is valuable in the human personality—the gold—can be mined only from the shadow. But what does that mean, and why should it be so? It is to this all-important question that we now turn our attention. We will seek to fundamentally evolve what shadow means and how shadow work is done! At this point, I am going to unpack directly from the original tantric sources a radical new teaching on shadow integration. [Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: I NEED YOU

imgres-1Still more daring is the assertion of divine dependency on man which is made in the Talmudic masters audacious  interpretation of a verse in the prophet Isaiah, “You are my witnesses says the Lord, and I am your God.” Explain the masters, “when you are my witnesses I am God, and when you are not my witnesses I am not God.”

The key gift the lover gives to the beloved is to need the  beloved. And the converse. The gift of the beloved to the lover is to allow herself to need her lover. And of course the roles of lover and beloved are forever interchanging between the partners. This is the great gift of love for it fills the most basic and essential need of the human being; the need to be needed.

It is in being needed that we realize our humanity.  In being needed by God we disclose our divinity as well. There is no more ultimate need than to be needed by God. There is no more ultimate human dignity than to need and be needed by God.  What the mutuality of the covenant teaches us is that our need of him is but an echo, a reflection of his need of us. The great goal of spiritual work is turn God’s need – not into a merely human obligation – but into a genuine human need.  In doing so the human paradoxically begins to realize his divinity.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears
(page 379, in press)

 

 

Daily Wisdom: “Through my flesh I vision God.”

imgresA second source of authority for the Bible is spoken of best by that greatly afflicted mythical figure, Job. Job tells us, “Through my flesh I vision God.”  (Or, as nineteenth-century poet John Keats reformulated Job’s insight, “I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination.”)  For the mystical reader of biblical myth, to “vision God” is to understand being, for God and being are one.

Kabbalists read Job’s words with a pronounced emphasis on the word my.  “My flesh” means not only my physical form, but also the body of my life experience, my heart’s affections, and my imagination.  The verse is thus taken to mean that we access the epic of being through the drama of the psyche.  Each of us can access the psyche only through our singular psyche–that is, through our unique story.

Radical truth is to be found, albeit paradoxically, in radical subjectivity–in the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.

 

Dr. Marc Gafni
Soulprints

 

Daily Wisdom: “The Men of Trust call out their Pain to God”

imgres-8Prayer in its Original Face is also a fellowhip between God and man. God meets us as our friend in prayer.

Ephraim of Sudykov writes that we seek God’s intimate friendship even as he seeks our fellowship for we both feel somewhat out of place in the world. We seek God’s friendship in bringing before God the raw cry of human insufficiency and pain. Reading the deep intent of the Psalmist, “I pour out my complaint before you,” the Midrash teaches, “The Men of Trust call out their Pain to God.”

To pray means to turn to God as my most intimate friend and confidant. I pour out before God my true pain and authentic need. I tell God my story in prayer and God receives my story. A child who is hurt runs to his mother. In part the child wants a bandage. But no less the child seeks the presence and intimacy of the mother. The enlightened ones teach that the ancient masters are those who are able to pray like children.

We cry out to God in prayer not to inform him of our need. That would be preposterous. We cry out to God in authentic prayer precisely because we know that God always knows our need. Every human need which is genuine is possessed of infinite value and infinite dignity.

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

 

Ethics is an erotic expression of our deeper divinity

imgres-4If we come to understand that ethics is an erotic expression of our deeper divinity, we are truly moved to the ethical. For at that point we realize that it is an expression of our deepest selves, a  response to the call of our own voice. Ethics, to be compelling and powerful, must be an expression of your erotic divine nature and not a contradiction to it. So when the prophet insists that God and the God within you is beyond nature, and can therefore act ethically against nature, they are referring only to your first nature, not to your deeper second nature. Your deeper nature is God.

The marriage of the erotic and the ethical, when it takes place not merely intellectually but in all of your being, makes you the greatest of lovers.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

Daily Wisdom: Frog Song

urlBy Marc Gafni

King David, the biblical author of Psalms, perhaps the greatest spiritual poetry every written, is walking by the river lost in ecstasy. In this state, he cries out, “God, tell me – is there anyone that has ever praised you as much as I?”

At that moment, a frog fantastically exclaims to him, “Be not so proud, David, for I have done more than you. You sing to God on occasion – I sing to God with every croak.” [Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: Longing is the matrix of God’s revelation to us…

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

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