March 30, 2020

Daily Wisdom: The Choir of Creation

imgres-2Lines and circles dance together in the hierarchy of nature. For chains for example are key to every eco-system. A chain is hierarchical, yet it is also made up of interloped circles! The balance of nature means that there is an appreciation for each, at every level. That you can’t be where you are without the other being where they are!

The erotics of interconnectivity however extend beyond the community of human beings. We are not alone on this planet. A wonderful encounter is recorded both in the Zohar and in an ancient Hebrew mystical text called the Perek Shira, the Chapter of SongThe Chapter of Song is a stunning tract which knows to tell that every creature on the planet has its own unique song. Moreover, it cites a sacred text from the Torah as the source of every creature’s song. The implication is radical and beautiful. The Torah, which includes all twenty-four sacred books of the Hebrew Bible, does not address humans alone. Both speak to and express in some mystical way all of creation.

Dr. Marc Gafni
The Erotic and the Holy

Daily Wisdom: Spiritual realization carries a terrible burden: an obligation to communicate

Woman shouting from snowy mountain topKen Wilber from “A Spirituality That Transforms”:

And therefore, all of those for whom authentic transformation has deeply unseated their souls must, I believe, wrestle with the profound moral obligation to shout from the heart–perhaps quietly and gently, with tears of reluctance; perhaps with fierce fire and angry wisdom; perhaps with slow and careful analysis; perhaps by unshakeable public example–but authenticity always carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree, and shine your headlights into the eyes of the complacement. You must let that radical realization rumble through your veins and rattle those around you.

Alas, if you fail to do so, you are betraying your own authenticity. You are hiding your true estate. You don’t want to upset others because you don’t want to upset your self. You are acting in bad faith, the taste of bad infinity.

Because, you see, the alarming fact is that any realization of depth carries a terrible burden: Those who are allowed to see are simultaneously saddled with the obligation to communicate that vision in no uncertain terms: that is the bargain. You were allowed to see the truth under the agreement that you would communicate it to others (that is the ultimate meaning of the bodhisattva vow). And therefore, if you have seen, you simply must speak out. Speak out with compassion, or speak out with angry wisdom, or speak out with skillful means, but speak out you must.

Read the entire article…

Daily Wisdom: Authentic spirituality starts elitist and ends up egalitarian

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From Ken Wilber’s “A Spirituality That Transforms”:

And so, even as we rightly criticize merely translative religion (and all the lesser forms of transformation), let us also realize that an integral approach to spirituality combines the best of horizontal and vertical, translative and transformative, legitimate and authentic–and thus let us focus our efforts on a balanced and sane overview of the human condition.

But isn’t this view of mine terribly elitist? Good heavens, I hope so. When you go to a basketball game, do you want to see me or Michael Jordan play basketball? When you listen to pop music, who are you willing to pay money in order to hear? Me or Bruce Springsteen? When you read great literature, who would you rather spend an evening reading, me or Tolstsoy? When you pay sixty-four million dollars for a painting, will that be a painting by me or by Van Gogh?

All excellence is elitist. And that includes spiritual excellence as well. But spiritual excellence is an elitism to which all are invited. We go first to the great masters–to Padmasambhava, to St. Teresa of Avila, to Gautama Buddha, to Lady Tsogyal, to Emerson, Eckhart, Maimonides, Shankara, Sri Ramana Maharshi, Bodhidarma, Garab Dorje. But their message is always the same: let this consciousness be in you which is in me. You start elitist, always; you end up egalitarian, always.

But in between, there is the angry wisdom that shouts from the heart: we must, all of us, keep our eye on the radical and ultimate transformative goal. And so any sort of integral or authentic spirituality will also, always, involve a critical, intense, and occasionally polemical shout from the transformative camp to the merely translative camp.

Read the whole piece…

Daily Wisdom: The Path to Understanding

adi-da-in studio3Ken Wilber in “A Spirituality That Transforms”:

[Chogyam] Trungpa [Rinpoche] had to introduce translative and lesser practices in order to prepare people for the obviousness of what is.

Exactly the same thing happened with Adi Da, another influential (and equally controversial) adept (although this time, American-born). He originally taught nothing but “the path of understanding”: not a way to attain enlightenment, but an inquiry into why you want to attain enlightenment in the first place. The very desire to seek enlightenment is in fact nothing but the grasping tendency of the ego itself, and thus the very search for enlightenment prevents it. The “perfect practice” is therefore not to search for enlightenment, but to inquire into the motive for seeking itself. You obviously seek in order to avoid the present, and yet the present alone holds the answer: to seek forever is to miss the point forever. You always already ARE enlightened Spirit, and therefore to seek Spirit is simply to deny Spirit. You can no more attain Spirit than you can attain your feet or acquire your lungs.

Nobody got it. And so Adi Da, exactly like Trungpa, introduced a whole series of translative and lesser transformative practices–seven stages of practice, in fact–leading up to the point that you could dispense with seeking altogether, there to stand open to the always-already truth of your own eternal and timeless condition, which was completely and totally present from the start, but which was brutally ignored in the frenzied desire to seek.

For more, read the entire article.

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: authentic spirituality is revolutionary

lightning2Ken Wilber, from “A Spirituality That Transforms”:

Whereas translative religion offers legitimacy, transformative religion offers authenticity. For those few individuals who are ready–that is, sick with the suffering of the separate self, and no longer able to embrace the legitimate worldview–then a transformative opening to true authenticity, true enlightenment, true liberation, calls more and more insistently. And, depending upon your capacity for suffering, you will sooner or later answer the call of authenticity, of transformation, of liberation on the lost horizon of infinity.

Transformative spirituality does not seek to bolster or legitimate any present worldview at all, but rather to provide true authenticity by shattering what the world takes as legitimate. Legitimate consciousness is sanctioned by the consensus, adopted by the herd mentality, embraced by the culture and the counter-culture both, promoted by the separate self as the way to make sense of this world. But authentic consciousness quickly shakes all of that off of its back, and settles instead into a glance that sees only a radiant infinity in the heart of all souls, and breathes into its lungs only the atmosphere of an eternity too simple to believe.

Transformative spirituality, authentic spirituality, is therefore revolutionary. It does not legitimate the world, it breaks the world; it does not console the world, it shatters it. And it does not render the self content, it renders it undone.

Would Jesus, Krishna, and Buddha have been best friends?

Note: The following dialogue transcript is taken from the conversation between Marc Gafni and Dada conducted in December 2012. The entire dialogue is currently available for a very limited time at the Imaginal World website.

We need to actually grow up to higher and higher levels of consciousness. The way we do it is we have to tell the story. We need to teach about levels of consciousness. People don’t even know they exist. There are clear and distinct stages of consciousness. That needs to become part of our vocabulary.

We need to being looking at where are we on the map. Where’s my people? Am I egocentric? Ethnocentric? Worldcentric? Cosmocentric? That’s just one simple way of talking about levels of consciousness. It’s really easy. Every one of our holy listeners, who are awesome and thank you and deep bow, can get that.

Egocentric: my felt sense of concern is me and my people, my family, people who help me survive.

Ethnocentric, which is a leap of consciousness: I have expanded my circle of care and concern to those in my circle, my country, my tribe, my religion.

Worldcentric: I actually have a felt sense of caring and concern for actually every human being in the world.

Cosmocentric: I’m even wider and more expanded. I have a felt sense of care and concern for every sentient being, for the cosmos, for past, present, and future, and I’m awakened to the divine in me and I’m acting as a divine agent catalyzing and taking the responsibility for this whole story that we’re in, because you started the story. You were there at the Big Bang. Where else could you have been? Because it’s your story, step up, take responsibility for it, play in it, in all the ways you can in your life.

Those four levels of consciousness, ego-, ethno-, world-, and cosmo-centric: that’w what I mean by levels of consciousness. it’s just a simple way to talk about it. We’ve got to grow up, and we need to wake up.

[Read more…]

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)

Marc Gafni and Dada Nabhanillananda

On December 4 at 9 a.m. PT, Dr. Marc Gafni will be in dialogue with Dada Nabhanillananda, known as the Yoga Dude — a teacher, yoga activist and musician, on his free Imaginal World teleseminar series, “Creating a World Based on Love.” Marc and Dada will explore Unique Self enlightenment and diverse facets from Marc’s award-winning new book, Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment. Tune in as well for special offer of a one-time-only curated set of Marc’s wonderful teaching resources.

You can check it out and sign up here:

http://www.imaginalworld.com/love/marc/invite/

Acharya Nabhaniilananda normally called “Dada”, is a senior meditation instructor of Ananda Marga, an authority on Yoga philosophy, a published author and a popular musician. In 2011 his song “The Love Remains” was a finalist in the prestigious Song of the Year International Songwriting Contest.

Dada was born in New Zealand in 1955 of English parents. During his early life he studied classical music and poetry. At the age of 11 he started composing music for the piano, and his teachers had high hopes of him becoming a concert pianist. However, during his time as a University student he developed a deep interest in Eastern mysticism. In 1975 he left his native land for Australia, and later Nepal and India where he studied the disciplines and philosophy of Yoga and Meditation within sight of the Himalayas, and was ordained as a Yoga Monk in 1979.

Dada plays melodic folk rock in the style of Simon & Garfunkel or Cat Stevens. He sings about spiritual experiences and ecological or human rights issues, and derives many of his ideas from myths and legends of different cultures. His early musical influences include folk singers Donovan and Don Mclean, and 70’s bands Yes, Crosby Stills Nash & Young, Genesis & Santana. Dada’s immersion in eastern mysticism adds a deeper dimension to his music, giving it a lasting quality.

Dada has been recording and performing since 1984, and has played on every continent save Antarctica. He frequently appears at ecological protests or alternative festivals where his songs and audio-visual presentations about the environment are always well received.

Marc Gafni and Charles Randall Paul: The Roots of Individuality

Charles Randall Paul, Ph.D., is one of the most creative leading edge orthodox theologians in the world today. He is board chair, founder, and president of the Foundation for Religious Diplomacy. He has lectured widely and written numerous articles on healthy methods for engaging differences in religions and ideologies, and he is currently completing two books: Fighting about God: Why We Do It and How to Do It Better and Converting the Saints: An American Religious Conflict. He is on the board of editors for the International Journal of Decision Ethics. Charles is also a member of the Wisdom Council of the Center for World Spirituality.

Today the Spirit’s Next Move blog features a 25-minute audio conversation between Dr. Charles Randall Paul and Dr. Marc Gafni, director of CWS and scholar-in-residence. In this segment, Gafni establishes the essential contours of Unique Self teaching on enlightenment and Paul asks for clarification regarding its implications for Eastern enlightenment. Gafni says that unattachment is a higher integral embrace of East and West, and its general position is that nobody is entirely wrong. Every great system has its own understanding that is true and partial, he says. The great understanding of the East is that to move beyond suffering, you have to move beyond your identity as a separate self. And Unique Self retains that central insight by incorporating the teaching that separateness is the source of suffering but it is different from uniqueness.

Charles takes issue with Marc at times, as their exchange on the nature of Western enlightenment in the Renaissance shows, along a path towards a greater shared understanding. They agree that the roots of Western individualism can be traced back both to Christianity as well as the Judaism’s teaching of Imago Dei, but neither religion fully escaped ethnocentrism. It was not until the Renaissance, Marc says, that the individual is given dignity qua individual without being located in a particular religious context.

Listen to the audio: [Read more…]

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:

[Read more…]

World Spirituality Unplugged: “All Religions are Not the Same!!!”

In this 2010 video from the Center for World Spirituality archives, Dr. Marc Gafni articulates a vision for World Spirituality based on a ranking of worldviews into a new hierarchy of truth, beauty, and goodness. He says, in part:

There are two people today. Ethnocentric = my nationality, my religion, my group has got it going on. Augustine: there is no redemption outside of the church. There are about 30 percent of the world that have transcended: trance-ended. That’s how I like to teach that word. To end the trance of. They have ended the trance of the ethnocentric context that says our system is the superior system. A lot of people who are holding that belief including many people who are very loving and beautiful are still holding that belief. [Read more…]

Unique Self Dialogue: Ken Wilber & Marc Gafni, Part 5

Why have so many people, especially spiritual teachers, resisted the idea of Unique Self? What are the implications of Unique Self for shadow work? And how are these two questions related? The answer may be connected to a failure to hold paradox.

Ken Wilber and Marc Gafni explore these topics in this part of their Unique Self dialogue (a 12-minute clip from a conversation recorded in September 2012). The answer which emerges is that, in Marc’s phrasing, there is a failure to discern the difference between egoic disassociation and disidentification. In spiritual traditions which “bash the ego,” there is a risk of losing one’s ability to make out the shape of the “individuated essence of the divine mind-heart which lives in you and as you.”

In Ken’s formulation, there is a failure to understand deeply “the infinite nature of the genuine Self and its unique nature appearing in each individual.”

Listen to the audio and read a partial transcript:

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A partial transcript of the dialogue follows:

Marc: I think one of the reasons in the early years why Unique Self had such opposition is that people had such a hard time in disambiguating the distinction between ego and Unique Self. Lots of the reason was an inhability to hold paradox, an inappropriate either/or thinking. The paradox is so important here.

In paradox … the Garden of Eden, my teacher once said, is not paradise but paradox. There’s an unbelievable text which ppears in the Zohar, not really commented on a lot, which calls King David the Jester of the King. Why is he the jester?

He says to God, “Test me.”

God says, “I don’t think so.”

David says, “Test me.”

David sits on his rooftop. He sees Bathsheba bathing unclothed. The whole story unfolds. Bathsheba inappropriately becomes David’s wife. David commits a number of cardinal life mistakes. God says, “You see. I told you not to be tested. It wasn’t a good idea.”

David said, “What do you mean, God? You said I would fail the test. I said I would succeed. You’re the master. I’m the servant. so I failed.”

The Zohar says, for that reason David is the jester of the king. I remember when I first read a version of that story, in my lineage master, Mordechai Lanier of Izbica, the source of all the Unique Self and non-dual humanism work, not of the post-kind but of the metaphysical traditions. He cites the story a lot, but doesn’t explain why.

Ten years after seeing the story for the first time … I realize this is about freedom and determinism. Of course! It’s about choicelessness. You’re both choosing and not choosing. Couldn’t be any other way. The paradox is: Total divine pride and total humility. Total audacity and total surrender in the precise same moment. How to tell between someone who is genuinely living their Unique Self compared to someone who is caught in some egoic hijacking of Unique Self. It’s a nice distinction.

Ken: It is. That denial we see in the denial of the Unique Self as well. In some cases, it’s just a flat out mistake because some of these things do sound contradictory and we have to just hear an explanation to agree. In other cases there are deeper dysfunctionalism almost which is a failure to realize and deeply acknowledge the infinite nature of the genuine Self and its unique nature appearing in each individual. And so in some cases it’s an innocent mistake, and in some cases it’s part of the structure of the lie I’m caught in, vis-à-vis my Unique Self.

Marc: That’s a fantastic analysis. If we would apply the disassociation/ disidentification discernment to this issue. I think what’s often happened is that when spiritual teachers don’t disidentify from ego but disassociate from ego, that creates a blindness. You can never evolve beyond ego, you can evolve beyond exclusive identification with ego. You disassociate from ego, demonize ego, you are blinded to Unique Self, because you disassociate from anything that is unique. When you teach a radical neo-advaita tradition, which is beautiful and holy, in Kabbalah or Hindu tradition, it doesn’t matter who’s doing it, it’s the same moment… when you adopt that kind of tradition which bashes the ego – then you lose your ability to discern the contours of the individuated essence of the divine mind-heart which lives in you and as you.

Ken: Definitely. That’s part of the whole consideration that each individual needs to go through as they begin to honestly confront their Unique Self.

Marc: We’ve identified denial of Unique Self as a fundamental matrix of shadow formation and pathology. You pointed out something else recently… Two other things you shared. One was Maslow’s Jonah complex, which is fantastic. Jonah, for the listeners, is asked by the divine voice to go to Nineveh to give a prophecy, and Jonah flees from being in the divine presence. He ends up in the belly of a whale. The Jonah complex of Maslow takes on an enormously deeper resonance when you think of it as not merely self-realization, which is critical, but also Maslow’s later understanding which you’ve talked about extensively, self-transcendence. It deepens our Jonah complex.

But then on a practical point, our last point, what we could really do is take this whole conversation, is we can take the 3-2-1 of shadow – a gold-starred module of Integral Practice – as you’ve integrated it from the great traditions: taking shadow from 3rd to 2nd to 1st person, that’s an integration of shadow qualities into you. (Oh, that asshold lives in me.) You can go 3-2-1-0 and see they are realizations of your unlived life. Because you haven’t lived your own Unique Life, qualities such as stinginess or anger or jealousy. They might all come back online, if you trace them back to their roots, the shadow qualities are unique. They lead you back to your Unique Self. I’ve never been jealous of a ballerina. But I can walk into a bookstore and see that Ken has written another book. Then he says – I hate him – you own it. Then you see that it was his Unique Self, and that lets me live my Unique Self. Ken it’s just stunning. Unless you do that… When you actually go from 1 to 0. Follow your Unique Shadow back to your Unique Self. We’ve done this over the last few years and it’s just stunning.

Unique Shadow is the yellow brick road back to Unique Self. Jung. Sometimes Jung got it, sometimes he doesn’t. He moves away from it, back and forth. Jung’s complex. What he didn’t get is – and he got a lot and we’re all in his debt in so many ways – is what I would call the virtue of Unique Self. He used to say I’d rather be whole than good. Your Unique Self is your wholeness and goodness together. He had some idea which is based on his elevationist move. You’re either going to be whole or you’re going to be good, based a view of religion which makes you good but not whole. Unique Self invites you to your wholeness and goodness as one.

Listen to the entire dialogue:

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Daily Wisdom: Divinity Has One Ultimate Secret

Ken Wilber, writing in “The Deconstruction of the World Trade Center” (as republished in The Simple Feeling of Being):

Divinity has one ultimate secret, which it will also whisper in your ear if your mind becomes quieter than the fog at sunset: the God of this world is found within, and you know it is found within: in those hushed silent times when the mind becomes still, the body relaxes into infinity, the senses expand to become one with the world–in those glistening times, a subtle luminosity, a serene radiance, a brilliantly transparent clarity shimmers as the true nature of all manifestation, erupting every now and then in a compassionate Radiance before whom all idols retreat, a Love so fierce it adoringly embraces both light and dark, both good and evil, both pleasure and pain equally; for “I make the Light to fall on the good and bad alike; I the Lord do all these things”; a passionately embroiling Heat so painful it will melt your bones while you hurl yourself to the ground with awe and supplication and reverence and surrender.

And just when you are bowing to that Radiance, thrown to the ground by a Force that crushes mind and body and ego into microscopically insignificant dust, just at that point exactly: that is when it whispers, in barely audible words, a whisper like a beautiful woman calling your name on a shining, silvery, moonlit night: You are bowing to yourself. Don’t you remember who and what you really are? Did not even Saint Clement say, He who knows himself knows God?

Daily Wisdom: Individual Love

From Sally Kempton’s “What is Love?”:

Individual Love

All of us, throughout our lives, constantly do what I did project onto other people and things the feelings of love that actually come from within. “It was the music,” we say. “It was Ned (or Sarah, or Jeannie). It was the surf! It was my teacher’s presence!” Yet the yogic view is that all of our experiences of human love are actually glimpses of the Great Love. (“God’s joy moves from unmarked box to unmarked box,” Rumi wrote. “It hides within these, till one day it cracks them open.”) It is only when love gets filtered through the prism of the human psyche that it begins to look specific and limited. It becomes veiled by our thoughts and feelings, and we start to think that love comes and goes, that we can feel it only for certain people, or that there’s not enough love to go around. We can’t help doing this.

Our senses, mind, and ego, hardwired to give us the experience of separateness and distinction, set us up to think that love is outside us, that some people and places and things are lovable and others are not, and furthermore that love has different flavors: mother love, romantic love, love of movies, love of nature, compassionate love, sexual love, love of the cozy feeling of being under the covers at the end of a long day.

[Read more…]

Unique Self Video 15c: History of “Wake Up, Grow Up” terminology

In the ongoing Unique Self video series, Part 15c gives us an overview of history of the terminology of “wake up, grow up, etc.” as used today in World Spirituality. Tracing the terms back to John Wellwood, Gafni also discusses why this information is important. [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

Daily Wisdom: The thing about spiritual gossip…

Daily Wisdom from Mariana Caplan’s “Walk the Talk: The Principles and Practices of Embodied Spirituality”:

Since that first trip to India, a great deal has transpired. I have engaged over a decade of discipleship with my own spiritual teacher, Lee Lozowick, who is a master at revealing the countless forms of self-deception we encounter on the spiritual path, ranging from spiritual narcissism, to erroneous notions of enlightenment, to a collectively mistaken notion of the goal of spiritual life itself (Caplan, 1999). I have done extensive research into the movement of contemporary spirituality in the Western world, and interviewed many of the greatest teachers, mystics and scholars in the field, as well as countless spiritual aspirants. As a result of my research and of working as a spiritual counselor with clients and teaching at several spiritually oriented universities in the U.S., I have found myself privy to an uncommon body of spiritual data—what we might call “the underbelly of enlightenment.” The kind of spiritual gossip that would make any serious aspirant of the path quiver in their shoes if they took it seriously and realized that absolutely nobody, including themselves, is exempt from such spiritual shortcomings, and that anyone, including themselves, can fall.

I have heard harrowing tales of how some of the most admired, “enlightened” teachers of our time have abandoned their children in their pursuit of spirituality; how they have used spiritual practice to avoid human intimacy and mistreat their intimate partners, often using spiritual terminology itself to justify this dismissal (Caplan, 2002b). Scandals of sex, money, and power pervade the contemporary spiritual scene like a lewd virus that spreads undetected until it has caused irreparable damage. Nearly every time I give a public presentation, somebody approaches me and begins, “I’ve got a story the likes of which you have never heard . . .,” at which time they proceed to tell me a relatively common story about how “X” teacher, a self-professed celibate, slept with countless students, claiming they were providing a “tantric initiation”; or how they cheated on their wife and had sexual relationships with the young women and men in the community; or how they forbid women in the community to have children, telling them it would cause too much attachment, or that it was impossible to raise a healthy child before one was enlightened oneself. They tell me stories of how self-proclaimed enlightened teachers manipulated their students to give them large quantities of money, or how their narcissism ran rampant and they ended up lying, cheating, and abusing their students and loved ones—whether the abuse occurred on a physical, psychological/emotional, or spiritual level. As Theravadan Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield is fond of saying, “If you want to know how enlightened somebody is, ask their husband/wife.”

Read the full article…

Unique Self Video No. 15a: The Cornerstone of World Spirituality Practice

In the next video in the Unique Self series, Marc Gafni summarizes World Spirituality as follows:

At the core of World Spirituality teaching is what’s been called wake up, grow up, show up, lighten up, and open up. That’s the whole teaching. [Read more…]

Daily Wisdom: God in second person is all about relationship

Whether the relationship is that of a servant to his master or a lover and his beloved or a relationship between partners or even friends, they are all “relating” to God.

The most powerful form of God in the second person is almost certainly the prayer experience. It is told that when Hassidic master Levi Yitzchak of Beridchev used to pray he would begin the standard liturgical form of blessing. “Baruch Ata Adonai,” “Blessed are you God,” and then break out of the mold of blessing crying out in sheer joy,  ” YOU… YOU… YOU… YOU!” He would lose himself in these words repeatedly shouting in ecstasy, “YOU… YOU… YOU!!!” This is the rapture of God in the second person.

For Levi Yitzchak the blessing is a kind of Buddhist pointing out instruction. It points however not to sunyata or emptiness but to God in the second person. Nachman of Bratzlav taught the spiritual practice of Hitbodedut.  In one form this meant walking alone in the forest “talking to God as you would to your friend.”

In God in the second person we meet God and bow. In God in the second person we meet God and partner. In God in the second person we meet God and love. The key however is the encounter. It is the encounter with God in history and in the lived reality of every human being that is the essence of the God in the second person experience.

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

 

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