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June 1, 2023

Unique Self Essentials

Welcome to the Unique Self Institute

Watch Marc’s video message and read the summary below it


Unique Self is the commitment to your story. Your story is the unique expression of love intelligence that lives in you, as you, and through you.

Unique Self enlightenment is awakening to and aligning with the unique and personal expression of the evolutionary impulse, the ecstatic God impulse, the evolutionary imperative that awakens as you.

We realize that every human being has a story, and we’re not talking merely about the ego story which is contracted, petty, grasping, fearful, and insecure. We’re talking about the unique narrative, the unique letter in the cosmic scroll which is your life.

The realization that every human being has a Unique Self, the realization that every human being has a story that’s dignified, that’s adequate, that’s sacred, and that that story deserves to be lived and loved and received—that understanding changes everything.

At the center of the Center for Integral Wisdom is the Unique Self Institute—a new chapter in Integral theory, a new structure in the consciousness of humanity. We believe and know this new chapter is essential in charting the next step of our personal growth, of our personal awakening, of our own emergence into the fullness of our Eros.

Unique Self is not merely an idea, but the lived experience of our collective awakening.

A Summary of the Unique Self Teaching

by Marc Gafni from Your Unique Self

Puzzle And Hand by Idea go,

Picture by Idea go

The Unique Self teaching evolves and qualifies the classic enlightenment teaching of many of the mystical traditions. The Unique Self-realization, which began to emerge with my Soul Print teaching (1986), has been a key lodestone in the dharma that I have tried to share in the world. In the last years 2003-2012) an intense and delightful friendship and dharma dialogue with Ken Wilber further evolved and clarified the teaching within the context of Integral Theory. In the last ten years (2002-2012) the Unique Self teaching, has challenged and evolved the way enlightenment has been understood and taught in many, if not most, contemporary Western con- texts. Many realized teachers, passionately committed to evolving truth, have encountered the Unique Self teaching, recognized its insight, and audaciously incorporated it into their own dharma.

The enlightened state, in the classic Eastern  enlightenment traditions, is your awakening to the one True Self. The total number of true selves in the world is one. True Self is the realization of reality—which  exists unconsciously in every state and in every level of consciousness—that there is only one True Self and every being has that True Self as it own essence. Awaking is when your unconscious reality of True Self becomes our conscious identity. You are enlightened when you have the shocking realization that your True Self is the True Self. You then further evolve to realize that the same is true for every other sentient being. You realize at the same time that your True Self is utterly one with everything that is, everything that ever was and everything that ever will be. The sensual knowing of this truth is what is usually referred to as enlightenment.

Enlightenment practices and processes teach you how to open the eye of the spirit and realize the truth that your essence is your True Self. You are aware of your body, your emotions, your thoughts, but you are not exclusively identified or defined by them. You are the consciousness that holds them and in which they arise. You are True Self. The more profound the enlightenment the more clear, powerful and stable the realization of True Self.

What we have added with the Unique Self doctrine is that your awakened True Self is not the same as anyone else’s awakened True Self. This is a key truth that many of the great Eastern traditions, which have almost entirely dominated enlightenment teaching in the Western world, simply did not understand. They thought that your True Self and my True Self are simply the same. They understood True Self (or its awakened creative state, which have been called Authentic Self or Evolutionary Self ) as fundamentally impersonal. My True Self and yours are therefore essentially interchangeable. Whatever uniqueness you might have is ultimately a function of your ego or your “cultural, social and psychological conditioning”.

What Unique Self realizes in its genuinely evolutionary unfolding of True Self, is that every True Self sees from a different perspective. Every True Self sees through a unique perspective. Once you understand that perspectives are foundational there is no way to escape this truth. Perspective is not less than but it is much more than merely your conditioning. Perspective is a property of your essence. While the same True Self exists in every one of us, each of is awakened as True Self from a radically unique perspective. Each one of us has a personal perspective that is irreducible.  Unique Self thus insists that enlightenment is ultimately not at all impersonal. Rather, Unique Self reveals the radically personal nature of enlightenment. For the classical enlightenment traditions enlightenment was the realization of the emptiness that is empty of all personal dimensions. I call this the enlightenment of emptiness. The new enlightenment of Unique Self is the realization of the radically personal nature of your True Self, which is your Unique Self. For this reason I have called Unique Self enlightenment  the Enlightenment of Fullness.

Heart shape made by team by Ventrilock,

Picture by Ventrilock

Your Unique Perspective forms your Unique Self. This is the unique expression not merely of your manifest self but also of your unmanifest self. This is what the Hebrew mystics called Ayin and the Buddhists called sunyatta or emptiness. (This is why we deployed the term Unique Self instead of soul. While some texts refer to soul as I am using Unique Self, see for example, some passages in Gafni, Soul Prints, 2001. Other classical mystical texts refer to soul as the spiritual substance of separate  self. Soul is thought in this usage to be the unique expression of your manifest self.) Unique Self, however, transcends  and includes this understanding of Soul, for unique self is the infinite and irreducible uniqueness of both your manifest and un-manifest self. You un-manifest essence, which was there before the big bang, is unique as it always looks out through a unique set of eyes. Your enlightenment has perspective. Your perspective.

Your perspective is the source of the irreducible dignity of your individuality. Your perspective creates your unique insight. Your unique insight creates the unique gifts of being and becoming that you have to bring to the world. The radical and irreducible uniqueness of your gifts is precisely what creates your Unique Obligation to give those gifts. You have a unique responsibility to give those gifts because they are yours and yours alone. There is no one else in the world that ever was, is or will be that can give those gifts.

The failure to realize Unique Self undermines  the recognition of the infinitely special nature of every human being. It is only such a recognition that prohibits you from using another human being as merely a means for your end. To love a human being is therefore to recognize their Unique Self and support its emergence in the world.

Unique Self like True Self always exists. Unique Self only fully grows up into itself after awakening to some level of True Self and after evolving to higher levels of developmental consciousness. After I unfolded the core of the Unique Self teaching I was exposed to a plethora of developmental models, which confirmed that it is at the more evolved levels of consciousness – beginning at about World Centric and progressively deepening – that Unique Self is naturally and spontaneously experienced. At these higher levels of consciousness your True Self-consciousness awakens to its Unique Perspective of the world. So while Unique Self, like True Self, is present all the way up and all the way down in every stage and state of sentience, it comes online spontaneously as the natural property of the higher reaches of developmental consciousness.

Enlightenment then can be properly understood as having two distinct steps. The first step is waking up and the second step is growing up.

The first step is when the human being wakes up to their state of being fully identified with True Self. The realization that True Self—your awakened conscious knowing that the living essence of all that is, lives in you, as you and through you—is step one.

Step two is when True Self grows into the realization of its irreducible uniqueness. In growing up you realize that what you thought was your identity at the level of separate self-consciousness was an illusion. Your ego claimed that all sorts of expressions of self, which are illusory and fleeting, are your core identity. These might include your wealth, social status, physical prowess and the like. When you liberate those illusions of self into the realization of True Self, you wake up.

You grow up when you reclaim every part of you, including the unique properties of your separate self, as an expression of your unique perspective. The natural and spontaneous experience of your unique perspective comes on line at the higher levels of developmental consciousness.

Pause for a second to review how we are deploying some of these terms. A state of consciousness, be it a mystical, orgiastic or drunken, is attained through free grace of practice. It is transitory and not stable. In a mystical state you feel in first person the true nature of your expanded identity. A level is not  an awakened state but  a structure stage of developmental consciousness. The simplest example might be the movement of moral consciousness to expand your circle of love from your self, to your tribe, to the whole world, including all human beings, and then even beyond. These expanding  circles of caring, concern and love are often labeled ego-centric, ethnocentric and World Centric. Each is a distinct structure of consciousness that once you realize you virtually never lose.

Unique Self-Realization becomes  a natural, spontaneous  and stable expression of self at the higher levels of developmental consciousness beginning around the World Centric stage. Beyond the World Centric stage is where states and levels (sometimes  called stages) arise together. This level of consciousness has been called Kosmoscentric. At this level one’s circle of love includes not only human beings but all sentient beings and not only in the present but also all past and future. In parallel, in Kosmoscentric consciousness at its more evolved stages, you awaken to your real identity as True Self.

At Kosmoscentric  consciousness the movement of waking up happens together with growing up as well. Growing up at Kosmoscentric occurs when you make the ultimate shift in perspectives. You move, as it were, from the human to the divine perspective. You become God’s perspective. But not in the sense of being absorbed in the undifferentiated source. You do not become indistinguishable oneness or divinity. Rather, you shift to God’s perspective through growing up fully into your Unique Self that is grounded in your unique perspective. When your unique perspective wakes up and grows up into itself, a new emergent quality of divinity that never was before comes into being and becoming. God has evolved.

God evolves as and through the awakening of your Unique Self. This particular quality of essence that awakens in you when you fully grow up is your unique perspective that births your Unique Self. This is the radically personal face of both enlightenment and evolution.

When you grow into Kosmoscentric consciousness you become fully aware of the larger evolutionary context of ever emerging source, which seeks to  awaken in you as you and through you. Your  awakening as Evolutionary Unique Self is source’s  evolutionary awakening to  itself.

Through you and only through you can a unique set of gifts be given to reality, gifts that are not extra or ornamental, but gifts which are desperately needed and passionately desired by all.

Paradoxically Unique Self also implies relationship. Irreducible uniqueness creates the face of the other that yearns to recognize and be recognized. Mutual recognition is realized in the face-to-face relationship. For Unique Self the paradoxical encounter with the second person of God is not dogma, but realization. Sufi master Rumi and Hasidic master Levi Isaac of Berdichev do not “believe” in the personal god. Rather, they know and taste the personal face of essence. Unique Self is paradoxically the unique expression of God in the first-person, what the Upanishads called, Thou Art That, known in Buddhism as I Amness, as well as God in the second-person, the unique face-to-face encounter of other with Source. At the same time Unique Self incarnates God in the third person, the conscious and unique expression of the evolutionary impulse, God having a You experience. Therefore, it would be most correct to say that in Unique Self-realization the three faces of God incarnate in paradoxical unity.

Unique Self, Levels of Self, and the Puzzle-Piece Dharma

Watch Marc’s video message and read the summary below it


According to the Unique Self teaching, there are six core levels of self. To understand this journey of self-hood is to realize the purpose of your life, to find joy, to participate in the evolutionary context of giving your gifts. Be aware of these levels in order to better understand Unique Self enlightenment.

1. Pre-personal self – This is the developmental level before self has actually been formed.

2. Personal self or personality or separate self or ego self – This is the puzzle piece which has an experience that there’s a puzzle, a larger context, but it can’t quite find the puzzle. You have boundaries (you are a “skin-encapsulated ego”). You have embraced your individuality as a separate self. At this level, yearning exists and there is no genuine intimacy.

3. False self — This is the separate self. It is a corruption of your separate self with false, limiting, distorted beliefs about who you are.

4. True Self — The separate self is transcended and you have realized your larger identity. It is the singular that has no plural. There is no puzzle piece at all, only a puzzle. If you think there are lines that seem to be separating the puzzle pieces, that’s an illusion. At this stage, separation and uniqueness are illusions that need to be dispelled.

5. Unique Self — The True Self sees through a unique set of eyes. The puzzle piece is now located in the larger puzzle. Your unique essence and the unique contours of your puzzle piece self connect you. It is not separate, but unique in the larger context. Uniqueness is discovered to be the currency of connection.

6. Evolutionary Unique Self — Unique Self is connected not only to pieces around it, but the entire puzzle.

These six levels underlie the teachings that you will find at the Unique Self portal.