January 28, 2021

Daily Wisdom: We can only hear through the love that listens….

imgres-16A phrase in the Zohar used for those soul printed souls who are living their story is lechisah, whispers. To live your story is to be able to hear the intimate whisper of divinity erotically caressing your life.  We are all recipients of cosmic love notes. Paul Tillich reminds us that we can only hear through the love that listens. Buber captured the spirit of biblical myth when he wrote, “To live means being addressed – We have only to present ourselves and to perceive.” To live my story is erotic in the resonance of its melody and the fullness of the canvas. The world, when I am in my story, is no longer empty. The soul is not just here to pay back karmic debts. It has a contribution to make from the depth of its infinite specialness. It is in the making of that contribution that a human being fills fulfilled. That is the eros of living your story.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

Daily Wisdom: Those who turn darkness to Light

imgres-7The members of the Zohar’s holy fellowship are called “Those who turn darkness to light.”

It was their profound engagement in their personal darkness which was the matrix for their radical creativity, their light. Zohar is only revealed through the prism of one’s soul print. All creativity wells from this place. In this spirit we understand Rilke’s advice to the Young Poet: “Go deep into yourself and how deep is the place from which your life flows.”

Not all of us are soul printed to write the book of the Zohar. But all of us have the creative potential to write a book of life that shines. That creative potential is our divinity. When we say God is one, we mean original. When the Hebrew mystic experiences herself as part of God it can only be through the path of her originality.  God is an original and can’t stand imitation.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

 

 

 

New Year Wisdom: Arise, Arise, to Return to Your Soul

arising-western-sunrise-togetherFrom the Erotic and the Holy by Marc Gafni:

A line, circle, shadow story from the depths of Hebrew mysticism.

Every year in the days approaching the new year, people would be awakened for the special early morning forgiveness prayer. The truth is, people were awakened at around three in the morning and came to pray while it was still pitch black. These were not the usual morning meditations. Instead, they were special prayers of arousal in which one would try to awaken oneself from more than the sleep of the night. It was a bid to awaken from the accumulated stupor of the entire preceding year. This is the primary time of the year for teshuva, the return of which we have been speaking.

With that background of the spirit, you will understand just how amazing that what happened really was. In this particular year, everyone in the town arrived late at the prayer hall and shared the same strange dream. They had dreamt that they were awakened to prayer by the Outcast. It was a strange dream, so they did not get up till it recurred again and again, finally rousing them from their slumber. [Read more…]

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: A Paradigm Shift in Understanding Joy

imgres-1Joy, teach the Kabbalists, is both a source and a conduit of energy.  The word most often associated in Kabbalah with joy is chiyut, roughly translated as “life energy,” somewhat like the Chinese notion of chi.  To be happy is to be plugged into the chiyut of the Uni-verse.  The portal to that energy is the self, the vital Unique Self.  At the same time, once you are plugged in, the joy itself is not only an energy source but also serves as a medium to channel ever-more divine energy.

Dr.Marc Gafni
Your Unique Self
Page 224

Daily Wisdom: Joy is more than an attitude; it is a potent and powerful source of energy.

 imgres-2By Marc Gafni

The idea of joy as divine energy is expressed by the Kabbalists in many different codes.  Let me share one of them with you.

A favorite epigram of the Kabbalists is simcha poretz geder:  “Joy breaks through all fences.”  One Kabbalist, the master Simcha Bunim (whose first name actually means “happiness”), used this epigram to give a novel explanation of a famous mystical passage, “All the gates are locked, the gates of tears are never locked.”  Traditionally, this verse has been taken to extol the power of a broken heart to break through all barriers when all other avenues have proven ineffective.  When nothing else works, tears can still open the gates.

In a subtle twist, Simcha Bunim turns the passage on its head:  If you are sad, he says, then you can enter only if the gate is unlocked, already wide open.  Thus, God has no choice but to leave the gates of tears unlocked.  If you are joyous, however, then you can get through even the gates that are locked.  After all, simcha portez geder, “Joy breaks through all fences.”

Dr. Marc Gafni
Your Unique Self
Page 224, 225

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: We make mistakes in the right direction

A life well lived does not mean a life without mistakes. It means making mistakes in the right direction. A famous Talmudic passage re-read by my teacher Mordechai Lainer of Izbica says roughly as follows “One cannot follow the direction of one’s life until one first fails in pursuing that very direction.” Or in another passage, the Talmud itself writes, “The wicked falls once and does not rise, the Master falls seven times and rises each time again”.

Failure and falling is part of the process. Our response-ability is  is a constant process of  Teshuva.  Teshuva means literally to return.

In the language of R. Kuk,

“Man has forgotten himself, When he remembers himself he must gather the fragments of his soul from their exile, he must return to himself, to his essential I, and when he returns to himself, at that very moment, he will have returned to God.”

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears

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

 

World Spirituality Unplugged: From Jerusalem to Tibet with Love: Marc Gafni and Dalai Lama in 2008

Marc Gafni (from his 2008 dialogue with the Dalai Lama):

To love someone is to see them with God’s eyes, to perceive them at their highest place, like — as His Holiness said — the mother who sees the baby. The mother,  no matter what the baby does when older, always sees the baby as divine. Therefore we call God in Hebrew mysticism, Kabbalah, the divine breast of the Mother who feeds us all.

So we are all, like God, trying to see Other with God’s eyes. So to love is to see with God’s eyes, not an emotion, but a perception. … That’s our basic idea. So we say we can train people to love. Because if love is an emotion, we can’t train an emotion. But we can train a perception. We can train people to see.

So good Hebrew teaching is to train people to see… and to give… The Hebrew word for “love” also means “to give” and “ecstasy”… Ecstatic emotion that comes from giving. In Hebrew tradition, I first give, and if I give, I love. That’s just a gentle wisdom from Jerusalem to Tibet. Thank you so much for your wisdom on loving…

Video after the fold…

[Read more…]

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: He becomes the Language of God….

The human self understanding as “King,” stems from the insight, fruit of all serious spiritual practice, that all of reality is included in the divine. Once one realizes that all is the Godhead then one may draw one of two conclusions. First, one might say, well if all is God then I must immediately nullify and surrender to God. And that is good. However one might also say – if all is God, then I am God as well. And that is much better. For the first realization produces what Jewish, Christian and Eastern mystics have called Via Passiva. It’s a passivism, even a kind of resignation which results from the realization that human action is but illusion and the only will which is real is the will of God.

The second far deeper realization understands that if the human being is part of God then he is ultimately liberated. All of his actions count infinitely. He becomes the language of God. God’s adjectives, nouns, verbs, even God’s dangling modifiers. His identification with the divine is not emasculating at all. On the contrary it is radically liberating and empowering. His realization that there is nothing in the cosmos independent of God, the realization that is formally termed acosmism, yields not a tepid quietism but rather, what we have termed an audacious and impassioned “Non Dual Humanism.”

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Dance of Tears
(2013)

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: 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: 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 gates of tears are never closed

The wise of heart in biblical consciousness are those who are deeply connected to the inner emotional rhythms of their lives.  All personal growth is dependent on emotional intelligence – wisdom of the heart. And in Biblical thought we are alive for nothing if not to grow. The archetypal symbol of the spiritual emotional intelligence in much of ancient and  modern literature is tears.  Tears have the ability to be our inner masters. Each tear, or at least each form of crying opens up a new path to follow. Each bout of tears discloses something essential about the truths of our lives.

No two people cry alike. We have already mentioned 19th-century mystic Tzadok Hacohen of Lublin teaching that we are each are own esoterica.  We are each our own secret. Wisdom is esoteric not because it is intentionally hidden, teaches Tzadok; rather knowledge is kept secret because we are unable to access it.  Further when we do finally uncover wisdom, we are often incapable of transmitting it.

One portal however which remains, to our inner secrets – both to reveal them to ourselves and to share them with intimates – is through the gateway of tears. ‘All the gates are closed’, writes the Talmud, ‘the gates of tears are never closed.’

Dr. Marc Gafni
The 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

 

World Spirituality Unplugged: Marc Gafni Teaches Jewish Mysticism (Part 1)

From the World Spirituality Unplugged archives: an audio teaching by Marc Gafni on Kabbalah, delivered in English in the spring of 2006 at a spirituality conference in Midtown Manhattan. In this 10-minute introductory segment, Marc brings the audience members (with several hundred in attendance) into a meditative posture and introduces chanting.

Marc Gafni:

The Hebrew word for God, the God force, whether you are a theist, or not a theist, in talking about the force of the universe, the word is breath itself. In breath. YAHH… Breath in breath. YAHH…

Listen to the audio: [Read more…]

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