September 21, 2020

The Victorious Surrender

imgres-5God is waiting for us to give up the imitations in our lives so that we can receive the real thing. Imagine what would happen if we really opened up to the knowledge that there is a force holding things together without our being in control. What if we surrendered to that force and allowed it to guide us in our lives? What if we stopped to realize that the planet is constantly supporting our lives?

The very air we breathe – unless we interfere with the natural systems – is constantly made available to our lungs by plants and ocean plankton through an incredible process of photosynthesis. The universe is consciously supporting us and breathing life into our souls at every moment. For the Hebrew mystic, creation is not a one-time event. It is instead a continuous process, hinted at by modern quantum physics, in which the universe recreates itself in love at every second.

This essential giving up of control does not mean that we do not expend enormous effort and energy in trying to chart our destinies and repair the world. It does mean that we need to do so in a way where we understand that even as we labor mightily, we know that it is simply not all up to us. Knowing that, we consciously invite the universe to partner in our efforts, breathing its life and energy into and through us.

The spiritual process of giving up control is called by the Hebrew mystics bittul. Usually, this is explained as self-nullification to God. In reality, it means something quite different. Rather than abnegation, it is a way of making ourselves transparent to God. We give up lower self control because we desire the higher divine self to flow through us. This is the experience of eros modeled on the sexual. We can access it in creativity, prayer, sexuality, study and any other arena of life in which we are willing to be lovers.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

Daily Wisdom: Light

imgres-6Light, quantum wisdom teaches us, has two distinct properties that describe it: the particle property and the wave property.

Light is understood to be a twofold phenomenon not only in modern physics but also in ancient biblical myth.  Light in Hebrew is referred to as sapir. You may be familiar with the English word—sapphire–which is derived from the Hebrew word.  A sapphire, with its incomparable blue shine, is a stone of light.

The identity of spiritual and physical light becomes clearer when we focus on two more words that spring from this luminous Hebrew root, sapir. Those words are mispar and sippurMispar means number.  Sippur means story.

Mispar, like “particle,” expresses the point-like quality of light; sippur, like wave, captures light’s fluid nature. They are sister terms, both born from sapir. Not by coincidence, these words express the unique dual nature of the spiritual light our soul prints emanate.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

Daily Wisdom: Enlightened Lovers, Shared Vision

One of the key values a couple must share in the biblical myth vision is a commitment to make the world a better place. They must be lovers not only to each other but to the world. This means that they are committed to looking beneath the surface of reality to search for the sparks of the sacred that can be hidden in the most unlikely of places. This is the commitment to love as perception: to find the good – the God points – hidden behind the obfuscating veils of an often painful reality. They are committed to healing and repairing the world even as they understand that they are not in control.

Their commitment to be lovers of the world together, and not only of  each other, finds a beautiful expression under the wedding canopy. In Hebrew mystical tradition, the bride and groom break a  glass to conclude the ceremony. Why do we break a glass?  The answer in the sources is zecher le churban ha mikadah, to remember the destruction of Temple in Jerusalem. We know that the Temple with its intertwined cherubs atop the ark is the symbol of eros and love – beyond the merely sexual. The couple is affirming the mystery of love hidden in the cherubic secret. They commit to make their lives a model for living erotically as lovers in the world.

Deeper still – the Temple is a symbol of a redeemed world. A world without stomachs distended from hunger, without soldiers killed at 18 and 19, without millions of people going to sleep alone, missing the warmth and comfort of another body. The world is filled with broken people. That is something we can never forget – especially under the wedding canopy, which is a symbol of hope and healing.

When we break the glass under the hupah, the broken pieces represent all the broken people in the world. We invite all of them, from Bosnia, Rwanda, Afghanistan, Gaza and Jerusalem to come under the canopy with us. We invite them to participate in our moment of perfect joy when we are on the inside of the inside. The newlywed couple promises never to forget the emptiness. They commit to do something in their lives to make this world a better place to live, for everyone. This is the spiritual contract entered into by every bride and groom with each other. This is shared vision.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

Daily Wisdom: As You Love Yourself

Of course, to remind another of their full beauty you have to be fully aware of your own.  The Baal Shem Tov has a wonderful teaching on the biblical mandate “love your neighbor as you love yourself.”  First it is a statement of fact–you love your neighbor precisely as much as you love yourself.  For in the end, you can only perceive another’s greatness if you have glimpsed and believe in your own. Self-love is self-perception.

If this is so, then a powerful question arises.  How do you love yourself when you know all of your foibles pathologies and blemishes?  Isn’t self-love self-perception?  And does not honest perception yield forth all of the reasons why we are not lovable?  And yet most of us manage, at least to some degree, to love ourselves.  Is it just self-deception?  No, not at all.  Love is not merely perception, it is a perception-identification complex.  Self-perception means that although you are aware of the full complexity of your personae–the good, the bad, and the ugly–you identify the essence of who you are with your good–your good, loving, giving, creative, and generous self.

That does not mean that you deny your beast.  It is, of course, critical to integrate all of you into your self picture.  To love yourself is to identify yourself as part of the Shechina. Writes the Baal Shem Tov, “To love yourself is to love the Shechina.” Not to love yourself is to send the Shechina into exile. So proclaim the Kabbalists, to which Rumi adds:

By God, when you see your beauty
You will be the idol of yourself.

In your deepest nature you must know that you are the hero of your story.  In your deepest nature you are love and grace and strength and splendor.  Now you must decide to identify with your deepest nature.  Do you focus on your innocence or your guilt?  Do you focus on your ever-inevitably dirty hands, or on your ever-eternally pure soul?  To love yourself or anyone else, you need to know that your innocence is your essence.  That you always remain worthy of love.  That your innocence is never lost.

The Mystery of Love
Dr. Marc Gafni
Pages 121, 122

 

Daily Wisdom: Godot is waiting for us

Dr. Marc Gafni:

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 second meaning is that God turns to you and me and says, “Enough. You are enough! Know that you are worthy enough to be called to the ultimate service of tikkun, the healing and repair of the world.”

For God to give up full control means, for the Hebrew mystic, an invitation to the most exhilarating, ecstatic and overwhelming partnership that the universe can offer. It is not us waiting for Godot; instead, Godot is waiting for us. God’s echo is heard in the voice of the prophet. “Why did I come and there was no one? Why did I call and there was no response?”

The Erotic and the Holy

 

 

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

 

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

Daily Wisdom: “I am God”

Sacred hermeneutic is ultimately an erotic act according to the mystics in which the God in the interpreter meets the God and the text and realizes that they are one.

It is this erotic merger with the divine in the act of interpreting sacred text which has been the central realization of my own personal path to the divine.  In this meeting between infinite and finite, the meetings blurs into a merger, a unio-mystica, achieved  through the meditative ecstatic intellectual act of sacred study. Thus when we engage text we meet both third person descriptions of reality, a second person encounter with the Noten Hatorah, the torah given in the eternal now by the eternal divine thou, as well as the merger of the mystic with the word of God in which the voice of God speaks through the mystics Torah in the realization that “I am God.”

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

Time is running out! Last chance to register for “Falling in Love with the Divine”

November 9-11, 2012
Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA
Falling in Love with the Divine: Devotion and Tantra of the Heart
Weekend Workshop with Marc Gafni and Sally Kempton

This is a weekend of heart-awakening practice–powerful teachings and methods for opening up your hidden capacity for relationship to the Beloved–both within yourself, in the people in your life, and in the world.

It’s been said that the path of love is the easiest of all paths to enlightenment. Relational spiritual practice–devotion–has been part of every spiritual tradition. There are skills to be learned if we want to walk the path of love, and we need to know how to apply them not only in ecstatic moments or times of intimate connection, but also in the moments when love seems far away and difficult to access.

Through talks, meditation, chanting, partner practice and contemplation, we’ll unfold a series of practical steps to an awakened love practice.
Click here to register.

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

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.”

[Read more…]

Marc Gafni’s “From Sex to Eros” appearing in Spanda Journal

Marc Gafni was recently featured in Spanda Journal, the peer-reviewed biannual publication of the Spanda Foundation.

The Spanda Foundation offers publications related to “sustainable advancement of peace, knowledge, and understanding.”

Marc’s article, entitled “The Future of the Holy: From Sex to Eros,” begins like so:

“Sex. Is there anything else that so grabs our rapt attention, inessantly pursues us, occupies our daydreams, fantasies, and yearnings? The kabbalists state the obvious: God is trying to get our attention. Now I am not talking about the God who sends good people to burn in hell because they slipped up on one of his impossible demands. nor even the Grandfather in heaven who hands out chocolate to do-gooders. Forget that God. The God you don’t believe in doesn’t exist. Rather, the God that exists for us is the personal erotic life force that courses through reality. The God we believe in is the vitality of eros. The God we believe in is the force for healing and transformation in the world. The God who knows our name. That is the God who so clearly calls out to us that sex is the answer.”

For the entire article, click: SPANDAJOURNAL_C&D2.0_Marc_Gafni.

See: Gafni, M. (2012). “The Future of the Holy: from Sex to Eros”, Spanda Journal, ed. S. Momo, III,1: 131-139.

The refusal to love always means the desperate desire to retain control at all costs

This spiritual law of the universe plays itself out in many hidden ways which you need to recognize if you truly want to return to love. I want to outline for you areas where, in order to become a lover, you need to give up control. Just as the Hebrew mystics portrayed the God lover as stepping back in order to make space for world, so do we need to step back to create space for our love to flow. First, if we love ourselves, we have to give up our need to be perfect. If you don’t love yourself then you expect perfect self control. If you do love yourself, then you have to allow room for imperfection and failure. Emerson was right when he wrote, “There is a crack in everything that God has made.”

Ring the bells that still can ring.
Forget your perfect offering.
There is a crack in everything.
That’s how the light gets in. — Leonard Cohen

For nothing can be sole or whole
That has not been rent.
—W. B. Yeats, “Crazy Jane Talks with the Bishop”

Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

 

Daily Wisdom: Yearning and Each Other’s Story

(c) 2010 Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev

2010 Photo courtesy of Evgeni Dinev

We yearn – in our deepest hearts – not to take but to give, and in that giving to deeply receive. Sexuality is the model for this, because there one single act contains within it both giving and receiving. The same is true, however, in all of our relationships. Every interpersonal relation is an iridescent web of exchange. We each have a piece of each other’s story. A lover’s exchange is when I invest myself in our relationship sufficiently – that over time I share with you the piece of your story which I carry with me, and I receive from you the piece of my story that you carry with you. It may be an idea, an experience, a perspective, a song, a moment of intimacy or a thousand other possibilities. The nature of the world is that every significant meeting we have is choreographed in order to return to us a precious missing piece.

It is said that a true master is only able to give to his disciple if  he is first able to fully receive him. This is accomplished by finding the spark of the disciple in his soul.

One Sunday morning the Mittler Master was seen to be exceedingly troubled. When queried by his students, he replied – Whenever someone comes to me with a sin – I help him to heal by first finding that sin in myself. This morning however someone came to me but I cannot help, for I cannot find it in myself.

In the written tradition the story ends here. In the inner circle it is told that a man whose wife had died, had come to the master. The man had refused to bury his wife immediately; instead he had sexual intercourse with her lifeless body several times before he took her for burial. The master simply did not know how to receive this story in himself and was thus unable to give healing. That is until the following morning when he is reported to have come to prayer services full of good spirit. Apparently he had found a way to locate this sin in himself. How? He answered, “In my prayer, I kept dancing in ecstasy for a few seconds after the ecstasy had gone!”

Israel, Master of the name, said to each student, “I am dependent on you; without you a part of my teaching can never be heard in the world.” And so it is with us. For we are all teachers and all students. And so it is with God. Every human being is a prism which can uniquely refract a particular color in the spectrum of divine light. We are all God’s faces.

The Erotic and the Holy
Marc Gafni
www.marcgafni.com

 

Daily Wisdom: The Lovers’ Art of Attention

So far, the two major qualities of the erotic lover have been perception and giving. We have seen how the sexual models the erotic, hinting to us how we can live a deeper, more profound existence in all areas of our lives. In order to give in the realm of the sexual, we must be great listeners – fully attentive to the subtlest nuances of our lover’s desire. Similarly, to be a giver in all arenas of being requires our mastering the lover’s art of attention.

Just as the sexual lover listens deeply to the needs of the beloved and thereby brings the beloved to satisfaction, so too must the erotic lover, in all facets of life, be deeply listening and attentive to the needs of the beloved.

The Erotic and the Holy
Marc Gafni

For more information on private study or to book a public teaching, contact Dr. Marc Gafni at support@ievolve.org

Daily Wisdom: Love is as Love Does

Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new. — Ursula K. LeGuin, The Lathe of Heaven

Loving and giving are inextricably bound up. The great medieval philosopher Maimonides teaches that to love God is to know the divine in both world and self. Maimonides understands well that to know and not to love is not to know. But he goes one step further; to love and not to do is not to love. Love is as love does.

So when Maimonides lists what it might mean to love God, he talks about a broad range of simple acts of goodness that we do for other people. Helping the poor, rejoicing with the bride and groom, escorting the dead at a funeral, and the list goes on and on.

Small deeds, simple acts of kindness – that is what makes me a lover of God. People are God incarnate in this world. Each person is a different face of God. To love people by being a giver is to love God. There is no great deed of loving God. There are only small deeds of giving to people – done with great love!

The Erotic and the Holy
Marc Gafni

For more information on private study or to book a public teaching, contact Dr. Marc Gafni at support@ievolve.org

Daily Wisdom: Transcendence & The Gradual Widening of Self

To be a lover is to be a giver. It is through the consistent commitment to the growth of the other expressed through regular and spontaneous acts of giving that you become a lover.

Slowly over time – in a gradual expanding of self – you are able to regain and surpass even the initial ecstasy of falling in love. The ego boundaries dissolve, self is expanded to include other, and the true intimacy of shared identity is achieved. This is the spiritual dynamic between lover and beloved.

It is of course important to remember that the beloved could be a man or woman, a community, a child, a vocation, location, animal or cause. The principle remains the same. There is no loving without giving. Love always involves the willingness to transcend self for the sake of the growth of an other.

The Erotic and the Holy
Marc Gafni

For more information on private study or to book a public teaching, contact Dr. Marc Gafni at support@ievolve.org

Daily Wisdom: You-nified

Closeup Of Young Affectionate Couple Holding Hands Over White Ba by David Castillo Dominici

David Castillo Dominici, www.freedigitalphotos.net

As we have said, the model for being an erotic lover – in all facets of our existence – is the sexual. I see you and you are gorgeous, magnetically dazzling, to me. I yearn for you – all of me wants to break down and dissolve the barriers between us, to enter the inside, where the world stands still for a moment and I am inside the chrysalis of all reality. You-nified.

Since being a lover is modeled on the sexual, we understand that love too is a perception. Moreover, love is a Perception-Identification Complex. I perceive the infinite specialness, the God point in you, and identify that highest point in you as the Real You.

In the understanding of the quantum spirit, I understand that my perception not only discloses a reality that exists, it actually brings this particular reality into existence. “I love you” means both “I perceive you in your beauty” and “You become even more beautiful under my gaze.” Remember, love is a verb. So just as when I shine shoes, they become shinier, when I love you, you become lovelier.

[Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: In Ecstacy

The perception of falling in love is but one expression, however of a broader kind, of perception. This higher way of seeing is the path of Ecstasy. Ecstasy, from the Greek word ex-stasis, means “to move beyond stasis,” that is “beyond the apparently solid, into motion, movement, and life itself.” Its Latin root ex-stare means to stand outside yourself. To say I’m ecstatic is to say “I am beside myself. I am overwhelmed by intense experience. The veils of my illusions have been pierced and something essential touched.”

Ecstasy is the highest perception of love. Ecstasy is modeled in the raptures of sexuality, but expresses itself in every facet of being as well. Ecstatic dance, music, exercise, study or work are all an essential part of what we need to be, both nurtured and wise in the world. The defining feature of ecstasy is that we touch a place of union where the walls have come down. In falling in love we touch it in the experience of intimacy. We have defined intimacy as shared identity. It is precisely this expansion of self which is ecstatic. The move from I to We is the greatest joy of a human life.

[Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: Arousal from Above

Love is almost always proceeded by an act of will. We do not fall in love unless we decide to fall in love. Only after we internally give ourselves permission are we open to the experience. But once we open the gate, the radically pleasurable perception of falling in love, and the joy and wonder created in its wake, are given to us free of all charges. The Kabbalists refer to falling in love as “arousal from above.” The love granted to us is real enough; it is simply not the result of human effort. It is something which is aroused from beyond.

According to the Kabbalists, there is nothing malicious or even capricious about the whole enterprise. Falling in love is a gift from God, pure and simple. Falling in love is a divine gift from a God whose primary characteristic is love for Her creatures. God bestows upon us a gift of inner certainty and clarity.

On the other hand, the nature of such a gift is that it is too great for us to accept fully. We cannot hold the dazzling brilliance of the light… something shatters. We can touch the love for a time, but we lack the vessels to hold it.

Falling in love is actually the core of the Kabbalistic Big Bang myth. A close reading of Lurianic Kabbalah reveals the powerful meditative truth that the motive force of creation was God falling in love with the world. Out of that love emerges the universe. God emanates a world in love. The image for this emanation is light pouring into vessels. God “in love” with the world. The emanation of light just keeps pouring forth. The vessels, however, are unable to hold the light. They shatter. The process of living is to gather the sparks of this fallen light and to repair the broken vessels.

The Erotic and the Holy
Marc Gafni


For more information on private study or to book a public teaching, contact Dr. Marc Gafni at support@ievolve.org