The ego is always splitting. It always sees dualities, and it cannot hold paradox or complexity. For the ego, others are either enemies or friends. Actions are either good or bad. The separate-self ego has a very hard time stably holding perspectives other than its own for extended periods of time. The Unique Self can naturally hold paradox. Contact with the transcendent within the large field of divine reality allows for the holding of opposites. Sacred outrage and equanimity live in paradoxical harmony within the Unique Self.
Here we meet with one of the paradoxes of the Unique Self teachings, which is that we can wake up to realize Unique Self (as a state experience), since it is our very essence, which is always already present, yet, to really live it in a sustainable way, we need to also grow up to higher levels of consciousness and complexity.
How wonderful that we have met with a paradox. Now we have some hope of making progress. (Niels Bohr)
Growing up involves developing the ability to hold more and more perspectives. While in the beginning stages of our ego development, we are only able to hold exactly one perspective – our own – we then grow up to hold a 2nd, then a 3rd, a 4th, 5th, up until the nth perspective. This is a natural development, although only very few people grow all the way up to the highest stages, and there is a great deal of practice involved.
At the higher levels of development, the ability to hold paradox naturally increases. We are less identified with our own perspective, after we have seen the validity of so many other views. We learn to take a perspective on our perspective, looking at ourselves from the outside. Then, we learn to take a perspective on ourselves taking a perspective on ourselves. We deconstruct our own relative truths that we had held as objective truths for a long time on lower levels of consciousness.
Little by little, we become less identified with our own view. In order to be able to hold more complexity in our mind, we need to open up our perception and start to see complex situations or questions from different angles – not only one after the other, but simultaneously. It is as if we become the open space, in which the situation appears. In this state we can recognize the partial truth of each perspective, as well as its partial falseness.
For more information on Ego Development, see e.g. Susanne Cook-Greuter’s Ego Development: Nine Levels of Increasing Embrace.
Another way to access the ability to hold paradox – as a state experience – is through sustained spiritual practices, especially meditation. We learn to dis-identify from our body, thoughts, feelings, and sensations – from everything that can be perceived as an object. The more we access True-Self consciousness, the more we open up to that spacious awareness, in which thoughts, feelings, and sensations arise and dissolve, come and go. We cease to identify with them.
And in that open spaciousness, we learn to see the cosmic joke that Niels Bohr, one of the founders of modern quantum physics, an exact science that is so full of paradox, refers to when saying:
There are trivial truths and the great truths. The opposite of a trivial truth is plainly false. The opposite of a great truth is also true.
In growing up and waking up to our Unique Self, we also learn to hold as one our perception of the Unique Self of a person we love AND the perception of their false self and shadow issues. We no longer identify them with their false self, which – paradoxically – allows us to see their issues so much more clearly (as well as our own).
This makes it possible for us to love them (and us) dearly while at the same time becoming fierce ego slayers – like the archetypical images of Kali and Shiva depict. This is the aspect of fierce love that we can embody from our Unique Selves, which Dr. Marc means, when he says that “sacred outrage and equanimity live in paradoxical harmony within the Unique Self.” Yet, we need to be careful not to deceive ourselves, since our ego is always waiting in the shadows to hijack Unique Self. And sacred outrage can turn into unholy rage in an instant.
So, let’s again turn to Niels Bohr:
There are some things so serious you have to laugh at them.
There is a deep Hebrew teaching on laughter as a faculty of perception that enables us to hold paradox. Dr. Marc writes in Radical Kabbalah:
One of the fascinating hidden structures containing the idea of paradox in Lainer’s theology is laughter. Like paradox itself, this theme has until this point escaped the notice of Izbica scholars.
Lainer emerges from a long kabbalistic tradition that views laughter itself as both a faculty of perception and a very particular path of the spirit. This tradition dates back to Sefer Yetzirah, which suggests that each of the twelve months of the Hebrew calendar corresponds to a particular faculty of perception. Of course, the author assumes that human beings possess not five but twelve major faculties of perception. The twelfth and highest month is the last month of the year, Adar, during which the rabbinic holiday of Purim falls. Not surprisingly, the faculty of perception for this month is laughter. Just as smell yields something that sight cannot, and so on, this implies that laughter allows us to grasp a dimension of reality that cannot be accessed through the other faculties.
The thesis I suggest is that according to the Kabbalists, laughter is the faculty of perception that enables us to hold paradox. Most significantly, according to Lainer and his student Tzadok, the ability to maintain paradox is a mark of divinity and, perhaps, the most profound expression of redeemed consciousness. (p. 239, Book 1)
In his 2011 teaching tour in Germany, Marc Gafni started his evening workshop in Essen with a longer version of this teaching: Click here to find an audio of this evening with German translation at the bottom of this page.
How do you deal with complexity in your life?
Can you recall a situation when you turned to simplistic black and white thinking – dividing the world into good and bad, enemies and friends? What effects did that have on you, the other persons as well as the situation?
On the other hand: Can you identify a time when you were able to embrace the complexity of a situation and embrace paradox? What effects did that have?
Are you able to see the false self or shadow of someone (and yourself) while at the same time seeing and embracing the gorgeous beauty of their (and your) Unique Self?
What can you do to increase your ability to consciously hold complexity and paradox?
Share with us – if you will – your thoughts, ideas, and practices you engage in – in the comment section below or on Facebook.