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March 21, 2023

The Five Great Awakenings ~ by Dr. Marc Gafni

Marc GafniBy Dr. Marc Gafni

The following is a condensed excerpt from the forthcoming volume Your Unique Self: The Democratization of Enlightenment.

There are five great awakening of the human spirit. Each level of awakening is to a deeper and more expanded sense of identity and consciousness.

1) Prepersonal to Personal Awakened Self. The first great awakening takes place when the human being emerges from the slumber of immersion in the Great Mother. In the dawn of human existence, the separate self has not yet emerged. This self was, to varying degrees, identified with nature and the immediate environment with no sense of an individuation. At this level, there is no sense of larger frameworks of time beyond the immediacy of the present moment or present day. This is awakening to separate self, or level-one personal. You experience this awakening in your life in the beginning of your journey as your baby self awakens to an individuated identity as a separate self ego. This is the move from the prepersonal to the personal. It might also take place when you free yourself from any pre-personal context, such as a cult or a family system which crushes individual emergence. One expression of this awakening crystallizes in Hebrew mysticism, which affirms the human being as a homo imago dei, a separate dignified self, rooted in the divine, possessed of infinite dignity, value, and adequacy.

2) Unity Principle. This awakening is an awakening to the absolute, the eternal divine principle, which is the ground of being and lives in you, as you, and through you. The human being at her core is realized to be identical with the spacious ground of All That Is, incarnate as the essence of all life. This awakening takes places through the vehicle of the key thinkers in the axial religions, including Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, and many more that flowered between 800 BCE and 200 CE. The human being at her core is realized to be identical with the spacious ground of All That Is, incarnate as the essence of all life.

2a) The Great Mother. This awakening takes place when you awaken to the reality that this unified principle—the organizing principle of the cosmos—holds you. The arms of the Mother hold you. Abraham may awaken to the unity principle, but Solomon awakens to the arms of the Mother.

3) Awakening from Separate Self to True Self. It is possible to awaken to the unity principle and still be in separate self. You can be in the arms of the Great Mother and still be in separate self. True self is the awakening of classical enlightenment, where I realize not only that there is a unity principle, but that unity principle is part of me. Infinite no-thingness is who I am. I am part of the All, not separate form the ground of being. All the love that inheres in all that is flows through me and incarnates in me.

4) Awakening from True Self to Unique Self. The fourth great awakening is the realization of your Unique Self, when you awaken to your identity as a radically singular expression of the single One. You realize that you are not only the process, but also the personal face of the process; you realize that your Unique Self, level-two personal, is God having a You experience. You know that you incarnate a unique emanation of All That Is, with Unique Gifts to give to and as the evolutionary process itself. This is the essential joy, obligation, delight, awesome privilege, and responsibility of your life.1

5) Evolutionary Unique Self Awakening. The fifth great awakening is also an awakening to the ground of being. However, this time, the ground of being is understood to be constantly evolving. This is an awakening to the divine nature of the evolutionary process. In some sense, it is an awakening of the process itself. The Unique Self awakens to his or her nature as evolution, as a unique expression of the evolutionary impulse. In this awakening, you realize that the evolutionary impulse lives in you, as you, and through you. You understand that your heart is identical with the evolving heart of the kosmos, that the heart of the kosmos beats as you and through you.

The evolutionary awakening is profoundly expressed in the evolutionary mysticism of Kabbalah. According to some scholars, this teaching has significantly influenced the German Idealist Schelling, writing at the dawn of the Western Enlightenment and often identified as the first progenitor of contemporary evolutionary spirituality. This teaching also finds profound expression in the writings of two modern mystics: Abraham Kuk and Sri Aurobindo. It is when you realize your identity with the impersonal creative energy of the divine, what has been called the evolutionary impulse, that this realization awakens.2

In developmental thought, based on empirical study, levels four and five characterize the highest rungs of what has been called second-tier consciousness. Each rung of awakening transcends and includes the previous rung of consciousness.

The levels of development may happen in a different order than described here, but to freeze at any one level creates shadow—shadows of the personal and impersonal.


1.This is also the core teaching of my colleague Andrew Cohen. He calls it awakening to your Authentic Self. My disagreement with Andrew is that I locate level four awakening to your irreducible uniqueness, beyond merely your psychological, social, and cultural conditioning, as the essence of the new enlightenment, while he locates the essence of the new enlightenment as the impersonal evolutionary aspect of what I am calling here level five. I call level four “Awakening to your Unique Self,” and the difference between Unique Self and Authentic Self is profound. The core of Authentic Self is what Andrew calls an “awakened impersonal function.” The core of Unique Self is what I call the awakened “infinity of intimacy,” which is the infinitely personal face of essence living in you, as you, and through you.

2.This fourth awakening together with strong elements of the fifth awakening is the core teaching of Renaissance Hebrew mystic Isaac Luria. Kabbalah scholar M. Kallus characterizes the Lurianic realization as being absolutely non-dual, in which the human being awakens to his or her place as an incarnation of the divine process. This creates an activist posture in which human consciousness is realized to be an expression of evolving divine consciousness. This activist posture, based on the evolutionary impulse living in the human being, caused Kallus to characterize Luria’s mysticism with the poignant pathos of Nikos Kazantzakis’ phrase, “We are the saviors of God.” This teaching is also powerfully expressed in the writings of Abraham Kook and Sri Aurobindo, the two modern evolutionary mystics mentioned earlier. Now, what it means to be a “savior of God” shifts and evolves as the human being ascends to higher structure-stages of consciousness. For Luria, this teaching has little of the humanist cast that it takes on in Kook and even more dramatically in the teachings of some contemporary evolutionary mystics. Some of those teachers understand the awakening to be the emergence of the inherent creativity, which is the enlightened creativity of what has been called the Authentic Self. In this teaching, the awakening is to the impersonal face of the process, which expresses itself in you, as you, and through you. In my reading, Lurianic Kabbalah can best be characterized as a form of evolutionary mysticism. Clearly Luria and the Zoharic authors before him write before there is an awareness of evolution in the physiosphere and biosphere. It is for that reason that I have chosen to characterize these seminal Kabbalists–in a private dialogue with Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber–as proto-evolutionary thinkers. The topic of this dialogue was the relationship of world spirituality, evolutionary spirituality, and integral spirituality as well as the relationship between Kabbalah and evolutionary thought. The dialogue took place in 2011.

The Five Great Awakenings

[audio:|righticon=0xff0000|titles=The Five Great Awakenings]


About Marc Gafni

Marc Gafni is a visionary scholar, philosopher, and wisdom teacher. He is teacher-in-residence and co-initiator of the Center for Integral Wisdom. He is the leading theorist and teacher of Unique Self enlightenment, an emergent post-postmodern wisdom lineage which builds on his national bestseller Soul Prints, winner of the Nautilus Award for Best Spirituality Book, as well as the highly acclaimed Your Unique Self (2012) and Radical Kabbalah (2012), which is based on his doctoral dissertation at Oxford University.


  1. at :39 the recording stops and it says “Plug-in Failure”. Too bad, I was curious about that song. =)

  2. foggygoggles says:

    Just an FYI–the quote “You’re either part of the problem or part of the solution”, was made by Eldridge Cleaver not Stokley Carmichael in 1968.

  3. says:

    Fascinating to find similarities between the theory of The 5 Great Awakening and Hindu philosophy- The prayer–
    Asatho maa Sathgamaya
    Thamaso maa Jyothir gamayaa
    Mrithyo maa Amrithamgamaya.
    Let us wake up from Untruth to Eternal Truth.
    Let us grow towards Eternal Light- away from the shadow of Worldly Darkness.
    Let us raise our level of consciousness away from Death [The Transient World]towards The Eternal Principle within us.

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