What is the difference between the True Self and Unique Self? Ken Wilber and Marc Gafni approach this topic in the third part of the dialogue on Unique Self (about 24 minutes). Early in the conversation, Ken says:
Ken Wilber: The egoic self still has not yet passed through Emptiness, so it still believes it has a real existence and is something that is permanently everlastingly existing instead of something that is timelessly existing, and its specialness comes from the way it is different from other egos, and it still hasn’t experienced the True Self. At most, it exists at the soul level. The soul still exists — the soul is essentially the self in subtle realms. In the causal realms, it’s the True Self. The whole point that making sure you’ve passed through Emptiness is to strip through the soul of the separate self at that level.
Marc coined the term “Unique Self” in his book Soul Prints, and has been working to develop the Unique Self teaching for over two decades. Marc’s latest book, Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment, explores and unpacks it even further. For a timeline of the Unique Self’s development, see the Unique Self Timeline.
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Marc Gafni: What happens is that once the distinction – let’s try to describe how the phenomenology of thought works – once you actually incorporate a new breakthrough – let’s say the distinction between states and structures into your mental furniture … then the new distinctions suggest themselves. The distinction between separateness and uniqueness then spontaneously suggested itself to me, once the integral distinction between states and structures was in place.
I remember calling you or emailing you late at night a few years back. I was literally sitting reading texts. My desk was covered with modern books of enlightenment –from all different perspectives, Buddhist, Jewish – and old texts, originals in the Hebrew or translations. I just saw it. They all make the conflation between separateness and uniqueness. And of course they all conflate structures and states.
Once you make these two distinctions, you realize Oh My God, you can take all the goods of the East, you can move beyond separate self, attain that realized state of consciousness, and not lose the goods of the West, which are the dignity, and – because we’re doing it post-Emptiness – the infinite dignity of the unique individual, and you can retain both in this higher embrace, which literally changes the game. I’m not using this phrase as a branding or marketing expression. This is really critical.
Enlightenment is the change that changes everything. You’ve awakened, you’ve blown your wind, you’ve moved beyond at least the obsession with all the contractions … if that’s true, let me phrase it in crass terms: if this product is so good, then why aren’t people buying it? Do we need a better marketing firm, branding, list? This is the great elixir of the perennial philosophy of all the great traditions. So why is it so singularly uninteresting to the masses of the West and Western world … well, all the enlightenment teachers say that it’s the traps of the ego. It’s hard to die to the separate self. All the correct answers. But these answers are all insufficient.
But people have this intuitive sense that I exist uniquely. I am a unique feature of the seamless coat of the universe, and the way that enlightenment is taught to them, they have to deny that intuition, that this intuition is the function of ego. What mystic philosopher Kook called healthy spiritual intuition of the massages. They say, “No, I’m not giving up my uniqueness. I’m not denying my dignity.” So they didn’t have a move to make.
For the first time, World Spirituality based on Integral principles, Unique Self, changes the game. You can actually begin to talk about enlightenment in a way which speaks to the correct intuition which both wants to move beyond the contraction and wants to affirm uniqueness. Once you get the distinction between states and structure-stages, and between separateness and uniqueness which is based on the first distinction, you literally open up the single most important human understanding, fruit of the Eye of the Spirit, which heretofore has been blocked. I can’t think of anything more exciting at this moment.
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