Excerpt of the Essay by Dr. Marc Gafni:
In their 2013 ITC conference presentation, Marc Gafni and Sally Kempton will explore “Integral God: Sacred Activism and Falling in Love with the Divine.” To explore this, they will consider two models of self in evolutionary mysticism and why these models matter. Both models emerge at the time of important updates to the source code of enlightenment. The first update is the understanding that all of reality, including spirit, is evolving, and this is a shared understanding of both Unique and Authentic Self teachings. The second update to the source code of the enlightenment teachings can be understood as the emergence of the awakened personal function, and this is a key area of divergence between the Unique and Authentic Self teachings. Read more in this excerpt from the introduction of the essay :
Unique Self and Authentic Self in Context:
Within the Integral context, two ways of thinking about self have emerged which are distinctive both in their shared contours and significant distinctions. One framework or model has been called Authentic Self, and the other, Unique Self.[i] Their implicit assumptions suggest both a shared worldview and subtle but important distinctions in their vision of the ideal homo religiousus. These distinctions are foundational with vast implications in virtually every dimension of life, and therefore, need to be laid out with clarity and precision. Each suggests a different understanding of what it means to wake up from the narrow identity as a separate self or ego self into a more enlightened and correct identity as, respectively, Authentic or Unique Self.[ii] Both the Unique Self and Authentic Self models locate themselves within the context of classical mystical enlightenment teaching. Neither emerges from a western flatland paradigm which views the self as an isolated and discrete unit, or what has been called a skin-encapsulated ego. For both Unique Self and Authentic Self, the first major step towards enlightenment is the realization that the person is not merely an ego or separate self, but rather that the person’s true identity is their absolute, essential, or true self.
However, there’s a second evolution of the enlightenment teachings, which similarly derives from emergent insights about the nature of the world of form. This is a re-evaluation and significant upgrade of the value of the personal. Just like we realize that the world of form is evolving, we also realize that the world of form is becoming more and more individuated as we evolve to higher and higher levels of consciousness. This individuation, however, is not an expression of separateness or alienation. Quite the opposite. It is an expression of essence individuating in personal forms, all of which form a higher seamless integration. I have spent much of the last twenty years unfolding and evolving this core teaching in a series of both academic and spiritual publications and teaching frameworks.[iii]
To state it succinctly: The first emergence of the personal comes after the pre-personal stage. I refer to this as level-one personal. Level-one personal is the level of separate self, personality, and ego. From one perspective, this is utterly necessary to form a healthy human identity. Ego is understood as the organizing principle in the identity of the separate self. However, this identity is limited. To awaken into enlightenment, one needs to move beyond the exclusive identification with ego self. The ego identification of level-one personal creates a contracted human identity, which the classical enlightenment teachers correctly pointed to as the source of suffering. One must transcend level-one personal into the impersonal ground of being, which is one’s True Self. It is impersonal in the sense of being beyond level-one personal—in other words, beyond separate self, ego, and personality. This is what many enlightenment teachers refer to when they talk about the Impersonal. That, however, is not the end of the personal. The personal is a core quality of essence. When we talk of someone touching us personally, or the personal quality of a connection, we are referring to a quality of unique intimacy. Essence is from one perspective the infinity of intimacy.[iv] Beyond level one personal is level-two personal which clarifies and reveals itself post-contact with some level of True Self. From a level-two personal perspective, we realize that although essence may be more than personal, it is never less than personal. This is the personal beyond the impersonal. This is one of the core realizations of Unique Self enlightenment. This is the unique individuation beyond ego, which is Unique Self enlightenment. This is the uniqueness beyond separateness, a distinction to which I devoted a full chapter of Your Unique Self. So, in effect there are three core stations of consciousness described here. The first is personal, the second impersonal, and the third is personal yet again. This second appearance of the personal, which arises from the impersonal, is level-two personal, and forms the essence of what I have termed Unique Self. This teaching is rooted in kabbalistic lineage, which understands enlightenment as the awakening not only to Ayin or sunyata, the suchness that lives in you, but also as both the clarification and enactment of post-egoic uniqueness. Enlightenment is an awakening in this teaching, not only into being, but into unique becoming.[v] This model of enlightenment is activist at its core and is what I have termed in other writings Non-Dual Humanism.[vi]
It is the place of the personal in enlightenment teachings that is the great point of departure between Unique Self and Authentic Self and it is various facets of this distinction as it has appeared in Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening (2011) and Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment (2011), which the remainder of this essay will address. I will unpack four core distinctions between these models.
For more on this topic, we hope to see you at the 2013 ITC session. You can also look for the forthcoming CWS e-book on the topic or you can view much of this information in Unique Self (2012), Radical Kabbalah (2012), or at Uniqueself.com, where the timeline of Unique Self thought is available: http://uniqueself.com/unique-self-timeline/.
Partial Footnotes for the Excerpt above:
[i] The following emerged from a series of conversations between Ken Wilber and myself, which sought to clarify the term Unique Self. Some of these issues are more fully explicated in the scholarly treatment of Unique Self and in the footnotes there. See Gafni (2011) fn. 3, 13, 17, 21, 26, and 27.
What I am calling Unique Self is primarily a structure-stage of consciousness that one awakens to at a particular level of development. That is the primary usage of Unique Self. Unique Self, however, is also accessible as a state of consciousness—for example, during an ecstatic flow state—at earlier developmental stages. Unique Self in its fullest expression is also the unique perspective of True Self, and it is therefore a fully Self-realized state of consciousness.
As I have pointed out over the years, at the level of Unique Self, the Integral theory distinction between states and structure-stages of consciousness melts into the larger One. Using the term Unique Self in an entirely different way, it is also true that every form has its own intrinsic uniqueness. So, in this sense, in early dialogues both Ken and I have said things like, all forms have a Unique Self. This meaning of the term Unique Self refers not to the Self-realized state or structure stage of consciousness, but rather to the essential uniqueness that form always exhibits once it emerges from emptiness. To avoid the confusion of double-dipping terms, Unique Self virtually always refers to the structure-stage of Unique Self realization, which occurs when Unique Self awakens as the unique perspective of True Self. This is the expression of Unique Self as both state and structure-stage of consciousness. It would be more accurate not to refer to other expressions of uniqueness as Unique Self because unique essence as the structure-stage of a developed and awakened self-quality does not come online until much higher stages of human development, both in terms of states and structure-stages. For nuanced discussion of these issues, see Gafni (2012), footnote 1, Ch. 1.
[ii] The former is often associated with what has come to be termed Evolutionary spirituality, and the latter is one of the first principles of what has come to be termed World Spirituality based on Integral principles. These terms are, however, confusing, as World Spirituality has a strong evolutionary dimension, and evolutionary spirituality has a strong world orientation and since both are based on Integral Principles. There are many distinctions between them, but both are important and legitimate faces of an Integral spirituality.
[iii] For a complete intellectual history of Unique Self as I’ve developed it since 1989, please view the timeline available at this url: http://uniqueself.com/unique-self-timeline/.
[iv] See Your Unique Self (2012), chapter 1.
[v] See my Radical Kabbalah, Unique Self and Non Dual Humanism (2012). Tucson, AZ: Integral Publishers.
[vi] Many kabbalistic scholars have missed this strain in Kabbalah. But, it is a critical strain, which I develop fully in a two-volume academic work entitled Radical Kabbalah (2012).