September 25, 2016

What is evolutionary enlightenment? Marc Gafni and Andrew Cohen in dialogue

With the launch of UniqueSelf.com, a wide range of dialogues have been published which cumulatively situate Unique Self within the context of Integral Spirituality and Evolutionary Spirituality. Over the next several months, Spirit’s Next Move will be highlighting this new material and inviting commentary and discussion.

Andrew Cohen and Marc Gafni, two of our most influential teachers of enlightenment, engage the nature of spiritual realization in an excerpt from “Authentic Self and Unique Self,” published in the March 2011 issue of Journal of Integral Theory and Practice. Additionally, in the 2011 “Future of Love” teleseries (audio provided at the bottom of the page), the discussion of these important topics continues.

Perhaps no topic in contemporary spirituality is more discussed than the nature of enlightenment and how it relates to the modern, post-modern, and emerging integral world.

Andrew Cohen is one of the most influential figures in the dialogue, bringing wisdom that is defining a movement called Evolutionary Spirituality, which identifies essence with the evolutionary impulse itself and issues a powerful call to shed limited identifications of the self. Cohen breaks from classical enlightenment thinkers in his description of spiritual realization as constantly evolving.

Marc Gafni, co-founder of CWS and the most influential voice defining Unique Self Enlightenment, offers a view of enlightenment which overlaps and also differs from Cohen’s vision in important respects.

Two of their public dialogues are now published on UniqueSelf.com.

Listen to the audios and read a partial transcript:

A short clip from Andrew Cohen:

It is important to understand my distinctions and the way I speak about the structures of the self from an enlightenment context because I am a teacher of enlightenment. The context and perspective of enlight- ened awareness is the ultimate background and context for my teaching and worldview. Because of this, I use words to describe the self and the structures that make up the self in a way that point toward an enlightened perspective. When postmodernists seek enlightenment in the Eastern model, which is my own background, they are usually taught the traditional path of dhyana yoga or meditation.

Fundamentally, when one mediates, one makes the effort to cease to identify with the content of consciousness—with thoughts, images, ideas, memories, etc. When we are able to assume a disidentified relationship with the content of consciousness, so that we cease to compulsively identify with thought and the stream of memory, what happens, either gradu- ally or suddenly, is an awakening to and discovery of what I usually refer to as the Ground of Being. This is true for all of us. In our most intimate sense of self, in this deep state of meditative awareness, we discover the dimension of our self that transcends time. It is the part of us that has never been born and has never entered the stream of time or the evolutionary process. It’s what the Buddha called the unborn, the “unbecome.”

A short clip from Marc Gafni:

As you already said, we share a deep common language in regard to much of the teaching even if we arrive at it through very different paths and say it in different ways. Let me try and outline, in a similar way, the basic understanding of Unique Self. Your core intuition that we are basically talking in the same realm seems absolutely correct, but our difference in emphasis could also yield a great richness out of which great music could emerge. And as you said in one of our delightful phone conversations, emphasis matters.

The context out of which I talk about Unique Self is really the context of my particular lineage in the Kabbalistic teachings. The particular master I want to honor in this tradition, and the one whom I draw from, is Mordechai Lainer of Izbica, a Hasidic master that lived in the mid 19th century. I spent much of my life breathing him in and trying to merge with him as my text guru, if you will. I also have spent a good part of my life writing a couple thousand pages that served his teachings and outline this great tradition of Unique Self as it moves through the Kabbalist lineage. A similar tradition appears in Sufism, and I recently discovered that A.H. Almaas has also written about this. Using different language, Unique Self expressed in Eastern terms is a realization of the nature of emptiness.

Unique Self is, in my understanding, not merely the necessary expression of distinction, which results from cultural, social, or psychological conditioning. Rather, Unique Self is the only quality of essence or realization of emptiness that we ever experience. But I am getting ahead of myself; let me speak initially out of my lineage tradition of Kabbalah.

Read a partial transcript and listen to the dialogue in full at UniqueSelf.com.

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