September 21, 2020

Daily Wisdom: On Baseball and Life’s Other Great Questions

My uncle used to tell this story every year at his birthday celebration.

There were once two best friends who loved baseball. Their great theological question in life was whether there is baseball in heaven. So they make a pact that whoever passes away first will come back and tell the other whether there is baseball in heaven! Well, one passed away and sure enough, true to their pact, appears to his friend in a dream several days later.

“Well,” asks the surviving friend, “tell me already – is it good news or bad news?” 

“Truth is,” comes the response, “it is both good news and bad news.” 

“Well what’s the good news?” 

“The good news is there is most certainly baseball in heaven. Not only that but there’s the finest diamond you could imagine. Moreover all the greats are here. DiMaggio, Ruth, Cobb…and we get to play with them. Everyday you look and you see what teams are up for the next week.” 

His friend is overwhelmed with the good news. “That is fabulous!” he responds. “After all that, what could the bad new possibly be?” 

“Well, I just looked at the lineup…and tomorrow…you’re up to bat.”  

As long as we think we will live forever, we can afford to ignore ultimate issues. But once the simple truth that we are all “up to bat tomorrow” is internalized, then the search for meaning becomes a central concern.

Of course, there are appropriately many different answers as to what constitutes meaning. What is absolutely intriguing, though, is that all of the great systems of spirit viewed some form of significant giving beyond the circle of family as being essential to a life well lived!

You cannot be a lover without being committed to the growth of a community beyond your own circle.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

Daily Wisdom: I cannot do it alone…..

In the image of the Temple, we are told of the priest who hears the voice of God, praying. To whom could God be praying? The answer — to us. “Please,” says the Voice. “I cannot do it alone. Please help me…”

Effectively, the gift of love which gives up unilateral control is nothing less than the gift of need. To say “I love you” is to say  “I will not or cannot do it alone.”  To say “I love you” is to say “I need you.” God needs our service!” is the great and radical cry of the Hebrew mystics. “I need you at my side. Are you willing to stand by me?”

Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

World Spirituality Unplugged: Four Audiences for World Spirituality

Recorded in 2010, Marc Gafni’s “Who’s Out There? Dual Citizens?” explores the audiences for a World Spirituality.

There are two broad groups of people out there we need to understand as we lay the foundation for spirit’s next move, an emergent World Spirituality.

Group One. People who are part of an ethnocentric religion (“We got the truth, you don’t,”) 70% of the world is hanging out over there.

The second group is people who have for whatever set of religion moved beyond the world religions. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, whatever. They no longer view themselves as part of the classical religions. Moreover, they don’t feel comfortable in the classical religions. They don’t feel held, addressed, compelled, invited.

Why? Lots of different reasons. Some of them may have actually internalized the critique of the religions introduced by modern thinking and post-modern thinking … and we’ll look at those critiques and where they are relevant and overstated. But whatever those critiques are, they have been incorporated into the Zeitgeist, the very fabric of our contemporary context.

Watch the video and read further below:

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Daily Wisdom: Tears in a cross-cultural perspective

Tears or their absence in every culture across time are considered the signposts of spirit glimmerings of eternity and whisperings of divinity.   Tears are the divine whisper which utters the secret of our destiny in a tear drop. Heinrich Heine cries out in ecstatic rapture, “What poetry there is in tears;” Hebrew Wisdom would add, “What Wisdom there is in tears.”

A central mystical practice is to keep a tears journal. Identify the five major episodes of crying in the last twenty years of your life.  Then give voice to those tears. Language them even though their truths are beyond words. You will hear the voice of God speaking directly to you with much of the wisdom, courage and direction you need to guide your life.  For the Zohar when tears are present we know that God is present.

“The Sava wept and his tears fell upon his beard.
He said, Sava, weary in strength,
How wonderful are these tears upon your beard!
They are as wonderful as the goodly anointing oil
That would fall on the good white beard of Aaron.
Speak your words Sava,
For the holy King is present.”

The Sava takes the wondrous sight of his tears as a sign that God is present.  For the Sava the presence of tears equals the presence of God.

Thus to understand the language of tears is to know the language of God.

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

Daily Wisdom: Transformation of Identity

Unique Self mystics in the old Aramaic texts spoke of two paths, itcafya and ithapcha.

The higher path is called ithapcha, which means “to transform.” In the language of the mystics, it means to transform “the bitter to the sweet.” The bitter is not erased or diluted, however. The bitter becomes the pointing-out instruction for the sweet. Ithapcha is the way of the dragon. It is far more that just making peace with your “dark side.” It is the transformation of identity, which is an act of memory. You remember that you have forgotten. You have forgotten that you are Source.

In the language of one Unique Self mystic, the master Abraham Kook:

The primary transformation
Which reveals the light in the
darkness
Is that a person returns to himself
To the root of his soul
And that in itself
Is to return to God
Who is the soul of all souls. 

Dr. Marc Gafni
Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment (p. 282).
Ingram Distribution. Kindle Edition.

Daily Wisdom: Alexander and the Eye of Acquisition

A Story from Marc Gafni:

The rapist, the corporate raider, the Don Juan, and the conqueror are always taking. The sad result is that they never give and therefore never receive. Therefore, the more they take, the less they have. As a result they always remain empty. For many of the biblical mystics, the symbol of conquest was Alexander the Great. He took almost the entire known world of his day. Yet, insisted the masters, without becoming a lover, Alexander would necessarily remain empty.

The legend tells of Alexander finding the Garden of Eden, symbol of all fulfillment, on the African continent. Now the Talmudic masters have a little bit of a soft spot for Alexander. They saw in him not only a conqueror but also a wisdom seeker. So along the way to Eden, Alexander is depicted as growing wiser and slowly divesting the personality of a pure taker.

In one of his adventures Alexander is confronted by an army of women warriors – mythological symbols of Eros and Shechina. They say to him, “It is not worth your while to attack us. For if we kill  you – you will be known as ‘the king killed by women,’ and if you kill us you will be known as ‘the cruel king who killed women.’” A lesson in the futility of taking.

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Daily Wisdom: Mastery is the ability not to be emotionally reactive

According to Hayyim Vital, the premier student and mystical partner to Isaac Luria, leader of the great renaissance school of Kabbalah in Safed:

“The soul of the kabbalist itself, when it becomes transparent to the divine, is the revelation which guides the person in all of his life paths.”

The path of the soul in these texts and  traditions is understood explicitly to mean the path of passion, emotion and feeling. The goal is to be able to access and listen to the voice of deep emotion and detect within it the voice of God. This is how these mystics read the text. “The masters are those who have mastery over their hearts.”

Mastery, a kind of spiritual emotional intelligence, is understood as the ability to be not merely emotionally reactive, welling up with tears, laughter or anger only in response to some external event.  To be a master is the ability to identify and access a broad range of deep emotions at will, using those depth emotions to guide and interpret reality with the eyes of God.  While the intellect clearly remains a vital tool, the prophetic kabbalistic tradition insists that one who engages spirit, “with only mind and intellect….cannot attain the level of the Garden of Eden….the inner emotional work of amazement, deep feeling and ecstasy….in this world {which is} part of the enlightenment of the higher worlds.”

It is only by doing this work that “you can experience your future redeemed world, your portion in the Garden of Eden….in this world.”

Dr. Marc Gafni
Dance of Tears
(in press)

Daily Wisdom: The core characteristics of the realized person according to Hassidic master Mordechai Lainer’s teaching

They point out the highly humanistic undertone of Lainer’s non dualism.

1) Affirming and honoring of the unique individuality of every person.

2) Engendering of human freedom and empowerment.

3) Affirms the necessity, ontological impact, and dignity of human activism.

4) Affirms the ontic idenity between the human and divine name as the empowering realization of enlightenment.

5) Affirming of the ontological dignity of human desire and viewing it as an important normative guide.

6) Affirming the ontological dignity and authority of the human capacity to employ trans-rational faculties, “Lemaalaha MiDaato”, in apprehending the unmediated  will of God.

7) Affirms the centrality of will and the ultimate ontic identity between the will of God and the will of the awakened person, who has achieved post Berur consciousness.

8) Views not only the Tzaddik but that every person, Berur awakened state, as a source of ultimate moral and legal authority. We have termed this the “democratization of enlightenment.”

What is remarkable about Lainer’s thought is not that all of these features are present. Indeed many of them could be easily identified in many writers on secular humanism. What is unique is that all of these flow directly not from a secular perspective but from a radical non dualism which affirms that all is God. The idea that the human being substantively participates in divinity is the conceptual matrix which radically empowers and frees the human being.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears

 

Daily Wisdom: Divine Imagination

God is the possibility of possibility – limitless imagination. The first of the ten commandments is “I am God.”  When this God is asked to identify himself, He responds, “I will be what I will be.” That is, ‘You cannot capture me in the frozen image of any time or place. To do so would be to destroy me.’ It would be to violate the second commandment against idolatry. Idolatry is the freezing of God in a static image. To freeze God in an image is to violate the invitation of the imagination. It is to limit possibility.

The Temple modeled after the Biblical myth tabernacle in the desert is the product of imagination. In a wonderfully paradoxical set of mystical texts, Bezalel, the master craftsman of the book of Exodus, receives no clear blueprint from God or Moses on how to build the tabernacle. And yet he builds it in accordance with “God’s will.” For the Kabbalists, this is a hidden allusion to the power of holy imagination to intuit cosmic truth.

When the mystics suggest that Bezalel is “taught by God,” they speak in code. The artist is “wise of heart,” “filled with the spirit of wisdom, intuition and intimate understanding.”  All of these draw their inspiration from the breath of divine imagination.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment

This white paper, “Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment,” by Marc Gafni suggests that the Democratization of Enlightenment is the evolution of an enlightened society, with Enlightenment defined as knowledge of one’s own True Identity. Accordingly, three conclusions are drawn: First, that enlightenment is sanity and hence a necessary ingredient for all individuals, not merely for elites. Second, attaining Enlightenment does not involve denying individuality, but grasping a key distinction between separateness and uniqueness. Third, the goal of enlightenment is said to be not the evolution beyond ego, but beyond exclusive identification with ego. After these three findings, the Marc Gafi suggests that the Democratization of Enlightenment is essential both for individual mental health as well as planetary survival.


“Three Steps to the Democratization of Enlightenment” was originally published in the October 2012 issue of Integral Leadership Review.

Daily Wisdom: Unique Perspective – an Absolute Quality of Essence

Every evolved culture and every evolved individual may realize Unique Self when True Self awakens to its Unique Perspective. An early expression of this equation is sourced in pre-modernity in the great teachings of the Kabbalists. For these masters, the sacred text of the Torah is the word of God. Yet, paradoxically, in Hebrew mystical teaching a human being who is deeply grounded in True Self while fully incarnating his or her own uniqueness, also speaks the word of God!

Human insight HOWEVER is considered the word of God and, given the status of Torah, only when it derives directly from the clarified unique perspective of a human being who is connected to the ground of True Self. In this radical teaching the supreme identity between the human being and the godhead is only realized through the paradoxical portal of radical human uniqueness. Irreducible uniqueness, the full inhabiting of unique perspective or voice, is revealed to be an absolute quality of essence.

Dr. Marc Gafni
from:  Perspectives as Post-modern Revelation

Daily Wisdom: Every generation is part of the unfolding revelation of divinity

R. Kook, twentieth century philosopher mystic, teaches that every generation is part of the unfolding revelation of divinity.  Each generation, picking up from where the last one left off, moves closer to understanding the full depth and divinity of sacred rites and passages. In this sense the “covenant between me and the children of Israel”  is not only between God and the people – but “between”  the children of Israel…. and their children ….and their children – a covenant between generations. Israel means for me, borrowing a reading from my teacher Mordechai Lainer of Izbica, based on a close and creative reading of the original Hebrew, Yashar El; the direct apprehension of the divine.

The community of Israel are those who receive tradition reverentially and yet seek their own unmediated experience of divinity as the lodestone of their spiritual and ethical journey.  In this covenant each generation promises its forbearers to continue the journey of unfolding divinity though the prism of our questing souls.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears (forthcoming 2013)

Marc Gafni on Post-Postmodern Art: A New Article in Parabola Magazine

By Marc Gafni

Artist Claudia Kleefeld is not the first person to see the symbol of the spiral as being a portal to a vision of a coherent cosmos. She is original in that she is a first-rate, old-master-style artist with thirty years of training, who paints the spiral as an expression of an Eros of certainty that asserts the utter meaningfulness, depth, and order of the cosmos. Kleefeld’s paintings emerge from her own opened eye of the spirit and speak directly to the higher spiritual intuition of her viewers. Finally, Kleefeld is unusual in that she is part of an emergent form of art, which seeks to reveal the enchantment of a cosmos — a cosmos that is good, true, and beautiful.

I am delighted to present an article which celebrates the work of Claudia Kleefeld, one of the brightest shining lights in the universe of art today. My new article, “Post-postmodern Art: A Return to Belonging,” is now published in the latest issue of Parabola Magazine.

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Daily Wisdom: Creation is in our hands

God is called in biblical myth “Shadai,” translated by the wisdom masters as, “He who said to his world, ‘Dai’ – enough.” Two meanings well up from the word. The first is that the creative process was stopped when God said enough. Divinity turned to humanity and said, “I have done enough. You – each one of you – be my partners in completing the work of creation.”  Have you ever created something, conceived of a project and then handed over responsibility for it to another. You have to really trust that person to “entrust” to them Your creation. The phrase “Raba Emunatecha” – from the Hebrew liturgy, literally means “Your trust is great.”  I read it to mean that God’s trust IN US is great. God entrusts creation into our hands.

The Erotic and the Holy
Dr. Marc Gafni

 

Daily Wisdom: Where is God?

Love implies not only freedom but responsibility – awesome responsibility. Remember Master Menachem Mendel who was asked by his students, “Rebbe (teacher), where is God?”  The master responds, “God is only where you let him in.”

The repair and healing of the world depends on our partnership with God. God steps back and says, “I cannot do it alone. I need you to be my messengers. Even more, I need you to be my eyes and ears and hands.”

When you see someone, and in the process give a person the gift of feeling seen in the world, then you are seeing with God’s eyes. When attention is paid and a person feels heard, then you are God’s ears. When you move to heal after seeing pain and hearing the cries of oppression, then divinity is visible and active in the world. The language of God is man. We are God’s love verbs in the world. Conversely, when you oppress and hurt, when you ignore the cries of the sufferer and turn a blind eye to evil, then you make God blind and deaf.

The Erotic and the Holy
Marc Gafni

The weekend of loving outrageously

The Center for World Spirituality is pleased to share a spontaneous artistic creation inspired by a recent event of ours in connection with Shalom Mountain. John Tarcza tells us that a “wild idea started to stir and evolve uncontrollably” in him while editing audio recordings from the weekend. He combined a few minutes of reflections by Marc Gafni with music (Erik Satie Gnossienne No. 1, Buddha Bar remix) … and created this wonderful combination. John has graciously allowed us to share it with you.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Enjoy!

The one thing we all know is true
Every one of us in the room
Is that we live in a world of outrageous pain, outrageous pain
Beyond imagination

The world’s an outrageously painful place
And the only response to outrageous pain
Is outrageous loving

So I want to invite everyone to actually do a reset on intention
And to actually play one step larger
And say if you dare, if I dare,
That I want to be a lover
For the sake of the evolution of Love
Boldly, clearly, the evolution of Love
Depends on me

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Daily Wisdom: On corporate kindness

By Marc Gafni

Yet, corporations in the end are made up of real people, and real people all have the potential to be lovers.

The following is an excerpt from an acceptance speech made by Howard Schultz, the chairman and chief global strategist of Starbucks.

 “When I was in Israel, I went to Mea Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox area within Jerusalem. Along with a group of businessmen I was with, I had the opportunity to have an audience with Rabbi Finkel, the head of a yeshiva there. I had never heard of him and didn’t know anything about him. We went into his study and waited ten to 15 minutes for him. Finally, the doors opened.

What we did not know was that Rabbi Finkel was severely afflicted with Parkinson’s disease. He sat down at the head of the table, and, naturally, our inclination was to look away. We didn’t want to embarrass him.

We were all looking away, and we heard this big bang on the table: “Gentlemen, look at me, and look at me right now.” Now his speech affliction was worse than his physical shaking. It was really hard to listen to him and watch him. He said, “I have only a few minutes for you because I know you’re all busy American businessmen.” You know, just a little dig there.

Then he asked, “Who can tell me what the lesson of the Holocaust is?” He called on one guy, who didn’t know what to do–it was like being called on in the fifth grade without the answer. And the guy says something benign like, “We will never, ever forget.” And the rabbi completely dismisses him. I felt terrible for the guy until I realized the rabbi was getting ready to call on someone else. All of us were sort of under the table, looking away–you know, please, not me. He did not call me. I was sweating. He called on another guy, who had such a fantastic answer: “We will never, ever again be a victim or bystander.”

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Daily Wisdom: Room for “Other”

A sacred conversation between the fourth century Babylonian Wisdom masters:

“It is written that God withdraws his presence from the world to dwell in the empty space between the Cherubs in the Temple. But how could this be? Is it not also written that all of heaven, indeed all the space in the cosmos, is not enough to contain divinity? “Ah,” says Master Jose. “It is to be likened to lovers. When they quarrel even a palatial home is not enough for their needs, but when they love, they can make their bed even on the edge of a sword.”

The mystery of creation, of existence itself, is Tzimtzum.

Tzimtzum, meaning “withdrawal.” God creates the world by withdrawing to make space for the world. What is the motivating force of Tzimtzum? Both of our images give the same answer. The motivating force of tzimtzum is love. 

Love is the force in the cosmos that allows God to step back and allow room for us. As with God, so with us. We are Homo Imago Dei who participate in the divine image – divine miniatures. In order for us to create a world, a relationship, we need to step back and create an empty space in which there is room for other, in which there is a place for the relationship to unfold. “Let us be close friends and there will be room.” If I love you, I need to know how to step back and make space for you.  Tzimtzum is God saying, “You can choose – even if you choose against me.” This is the gift of love.

Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

Daily Wisdom: Victims and Pseudo-Victims

The pseudo-victim has genuine options which she refuses to action; she refuses to turn fate into destiny and cries more than it hurts. Another kind of pseudo-victim also may have some level of real hurt but more often than not the hurt is more imagined than real and being a victim is a freely chosen role which has many hidden benefits which the pseudo-victim seeks to exploit. The hidden victims of pseudo-victims therefore are real victims.

The underlying dogma of the Culture of Victimization is the location of human evil outside the human being. This belief significantly undermines the God field. The premise is simply that since human beings are naturally good, all evil must be the result of some external force which warps natural human goodness. The argument between the very many streams of thought who affirm this position is merely about which cause, external to the person, actually is the major factor in causing evil. For Marxists, it is the capitalist structure of economies and societies; for the staunch Republican it might be big government or television violence or liberals. For liberals it might be the old church or handguns or patriarchy.

— Marc Gafni, The Dance of Tears

Daily Wisdom: Tears contain the methodology for the evolution of God

Today’s Daily Wisdom:

The ultimate revelation of tears of transformation is the revelation of nonduality. For the kabbalist, it is within the power of tears to create divinity…

To read the full passage from “The Dance of Tears,” see MarcGafni.com.

Foundations for World Spirituality: Learning the Language of God (Part 2 of 5)

Editor’s note: The following essay is published as a white paper of the Center for World Spirituality think tank. Our Spirit’s Next Move blog is pleased to announce the paper’s availability.

The First Stage: The Silence of Absence

The aforementioned passage in the Zohar (Exodus 25a) suggests that there are three distinct stages in the continuum from slavery to freedom. The first stage is silence. The second stage involves moving from silence to sound without speech. And the third stage is speech–voice and articulated word.

In the first stage, slavery, we are mute and dumb. We live our lives without ever really crying out. The routines of the everyday deaden our sense of injustice, and our passions atrophy amid the narrowness of Egypt, when all sounds are smothered in our throats. In the biblical myth, the people were silent in the first stage of exile in Egypt. The pain broke their spirits and they became mute–no longer able to even cry out, much less to express the injustices with the eloquence of speech. We all have touched a fraction of that experience when, after a protracted argument, we are so worn down that we lack the strength to protest even the most blatant offenses of those who oppose or oppress us.

In a less familiar reading of the biblical story, Talmudic masters suggest that the slavery in Egypt was not of the usual kind. In fact, the Israelites were successful and prosperous. However, the deadening quality and comfort of their routine had anesthetized the sensitivity to their own wounds of alienation. How many of us suffer and hurt, yet remain fundamentally unaware of our suffering, deadened by the soma pills of the expected, and the narrow straits of success?

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