Introducing the Center for World Spirituality’s new blog with a global vision based on Integral principles

An Enlightenment of Fullness for the rising dawn of the 21st century

Protest as Prayer (Part 3): Two 19th Century Russians, Nachman and Dostoyevsky

Dostoyevsky

By Marc Gafni

Note: This post is continued from Part 2.

It is this paradox that Dostoyevsky in Brothers Karamazov does not fully grasp. He does not understand that the rage of Ivan is the rage of ‘heresy that is faith.’ Ivan, responding to Alyosha’s certainty of belief, has just described to him the brutal murder of a child torn apart by dogs for sport. Ivan’s uncertainty burns with the fiery anger of faith:

Although the passage is longer than what one would usually expect in a quoted text, it is so germane to our theme and so compelling that I did not shorten it. Thus I invite my dear reader to experience the truth and power of Ivan’s plea. He needs to be read as a modern echo of Abraham’s cry “Will the judge of the entire world not do justice?”

I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote infinite time and space, but here on earth, and that I could see myself. I have believed in it. I want to see it, and if I am dead by then, let me rise again, for if it all happens without me, it will be too unfair. Surely I haven’t suffered, simply that I, my crimes and my sufferings, may manure the soil of the future harmony for somebody else.

I want to see with my own eyes the hind lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been for. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer.

But then there are the children, and what am I to do about them? That’s a question I can’t answer. For the hundredth time I repeat, there are numbers of questions, but I’ve only taken the children, because in their case what I mean is so answerably clear. Listen! If all must suffer to pay for the eternal harmony, what have children to do with it, tell me, please? It’s beyond all comprehension why they should suffer, and why they should pay for the harmony. Why should they, too, furnish material to enrich the soil for the harmony of the future? I understand solidarity in sin among men. I understand solidarity in retribution too, but there can be no such solidarity with children. And if it is really true that they must share responsibility for all their father’s crimes, such a truth is not of this world and is beyond my comprehension.

Some jester will say, perhaps, that the child would have grown up and have sinned, but you see he didn’t grow up, he was torn to pieces by the dogs, at eight years old. Oh, Alyosha, I am not blaspheming! I understand, of course, what an upheaval of the universe it will be, when everything in heaven and earth blends in one hymn of praise and everything that lives and has lived cries aloud: ‘Thou art just, O Lord, for Thy ways are revealed.’ When the mother embraces the fiend who threw her child to the dogs, and all three cry aloud with tears, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ then, of course, the crown of knowledge will be reached and all will be made clear.

But what pulls me up here is that I can’t accept that harmony. And while I am on earth, I make haste to take my own measures. You see, Alyosha, perhaps it really may happen that if I live to that moment, or rise again to see it, I, too, perhaps, may cry aloud with the rest, looking at the mother embracing the child’s torturer, ‘Thou art just, O Lord!’ But I don’t want to cry aloud then. While there is still time, I hasten to protect myself and so I renounce the higher harmony altogether.

It’s not worth the tears of that one tortured child who beat itself on the breast with its little fist and prayed in its stinking outhouse, with its unexpiated tears to ‘dear, kind God’! It’s not worth it, because those tears are unatoned for. They must be atoned for, or there can be no harmony. But how? How are you going to atone for them? Is it possible? By their being avenged? But what do I care for avenging them? What do I care for a hell for oppressors? What good can hell do, since those children have already been tortured? And what becomes of harmony, if there is hell? I want to forgive. I want to embrace. I don’t want more suffering. And if the sufferings of children go to swell the sum of sufferings which was necessary to pay for truth, then I protest that the truth is not worth such a price.

I don’t want the mother to embrace the oppressor who threw her son to the dogs! She dare not forgive him! Let her forgive him for herself, if she will, let her forgive the torturer for the immeasurable suffering of her mother’s heart. But the sufferings of her tortured child she has no right to forgive; she dare not forgive the torturer, even if the child were to forgive him! And if that is so, if they dare not forgive, what becomes of harmony?

Is there in the whole world a being who would have the right to forgive and could forgive? I don’t want harmony. From love for humanity I don’t want it. I would rather be left with the unavenged suffering. I would rather remain with my unavenged suffering and unsatisfied indignation, even if I were wrong. Besides, too high a price is asked for harmony; it’s beyond our means to pay so much to enter it. And so I hasten to give back my entrance ticket, and if I am an honest man I am bound to give it back as soon as possible. And that I am doing. It’s not God that I don’t accept, Alyosha, only I most respectfully return Him the ticket.

A 3,500-year-old text anticipates Ivan. Moses says to God – ‘You have promised to redeem the people in the future — that’s not good enough — for how does that help the babies brutally killed and buried in the mortar of Egyptian brick?’

The outraged existential challenge which Ivan, Moses and Abraham hurl against God is also God’s highest embrace. When we rage like Ivan we affirm the dignity and validity of our rage. We recognize that the rage is holy, welling as it does from the deepest recesses of our being. We refuse to invalidate our core certainty of self and capitulate to the indifference of dogma that denies the uncertainty of evil. We refuse to deny our rage, and in so doing we affirm the holiness of our moral intuitions. In giving voice to our deepest uncertainties, we paradoxically confirm our inner certainty of the divinity in ourselves. Dostoyevsky’s mistake was only that he thought Ivan’s speech to be heresy.

Photo Credit: Bradley Wind

Protest as Prayer (Part 2): The Answer

Japan Prayer

By Marc Gafni

It is to this paradox that we will now turn. We dance in the paradox of certainty and uncertainty. As we hear of recent tragedies in the world –hurricanes, earthquakes, and last year’s catastrophe in Japan — we enter into a space of desperately of grappling with God within the uncertainty. Where are you God? Where are you within me and within the word?  Within the very recesses of the uncertainty however is a powerful experience of certainty. Of the non dual realizationof I Am.  It is in I Am, when I experience the core certainty of self, and therefore of my divinity- of my being loved by God.  This experience is not only not in contradiction to the question, it wells up from the question itself. In the question is God. The question is the answer.

Photo Credit: -= Hobo=

Protest as Prayer (Part 1): A Response to Tragedy the World Over

AIDS Quilt

By Marc Gafni

The mandate of biblical consciousness demands that the human being enter into partnership with God in the task of perfecting the world. The classical expression of this in the lineage of Kabbalah is the obligation of Tikkun. Tikkun means not merely to hear or to fix but to be co-creative evolutionary partners with the divine.

This evolutionary mandate to co-create and the heal the world with and as divinity, emerges, paradoxically, not out of answers but out of questions. The fact that the human being can challenge and that God accepts the human challenge implies a covenantal partnership between the human being and God. Both the human being and God share an understanding of the good, and thus God can turn to the human being and say: ‘I invite you, nay, I demand that you be my partner, my co-creator in the perfection of the world. I began the process of creation; I established the moral fabric of the world. It is up to you to take that cloth and to weave it fully. It is up to you to complete the tapestry, it is up to you to risk to grow and to create a world in which good, love, justice and human dignity flourish and are affirmed.’ A human being who cannot be trusted enough to challenge evil can also not be a partner in fostering the good.

It is true that God very often seems silent in response to our challenge. Yet Jewish consciousness, expressed through biblical text and tradition, affirms that God accepts the validity of the question. In doing so God affirms our role as God’s partner in history. If I am able to recognize evil for what it is, then I am ipso facto obligated in tikkun olam – the obligation to act for and with God in the healing of the world. Man is the language of God. We are God’s adjectives, God’s adverbs, God’s nouns and sometimes even God’s dangling modifiers. We are God’s vocabulary in the world. When I love, when I am able to be truly vulnerable and intimate with another human being, when I am able to share the pain of another and to rejoice in their deep joy, I am acting for God. I become God’s chariot in the world.

More than this: if I can wrestle with God, if I can express my uncertainty with God in the intimacy of challenging relationship, then paradoxically, I convert my doubt into the core certainty of divine relationship.


Note: This post is continued at Part 2.

Photo Credit: enric archivell

The Daily Wisdom: Unique Self is the Enlightened Realization

Three Unique Selves

By Marc Gafni

From Your Unique Self:

Unique Self is the enlightened realization that you are both absolutely one with the whole, and absolutely unique. You are free from the contractions of your personality, even as you experience yourself as personally engaged in the great evolutionary unfolding of consciousness.

Realizing your Unique Self will fundamentally change the way you understand virtually every facet of your awakened life. Once we’ve engaged the core teachings of Unique Self, we will look separately at how these teachings fundamentally reconfigure and dramatically revision our understanding of love, joy, shadow, sexuality, parenting, death, relationships, loneliness, evolutionary spirituality, malice, ego psychology, and the integration of East and West.

Your Unique Self is God’s love-signature written all over you. God loved you so much, He personalized himself as you. You are the individualized heart and mind of God. This is your Unique Self.

The creative process that mysteriously moves from nothing to something is the God-impulse. To live as your Unique Self means to align yourself with that process, with the ecstatic evolutionary impulse that initiated the kosmos, with the ecstasy of God, which re-creates all of reality in every second of existence.

Are you ready to respond to this invitation, to offer yourself to the infinite love intelligence that wants desperately to show up in the world through and as you?

Photo Credit: Stuck in Customs

The Daily Wisdom: Before God…

Stone Circles

By Marc Gafni

From The Mystery of Love:

Before God…

To be in Temple consciousness is to be in God–eros pure and simple.  This shift in consciousness is hidden within the folds of biblical myth text itself.

We have already seen that the biblical term Lifnei Hashem, which is usually translated as “before God,” can be more fruitfully understood as “on the inside of God’s face.”  This allusion plants the seed for the much more radical move made by the mystic Isaac Luria in the sixteenth century.  In Luria’s graphic and daring vision the world is not formed by a forward-thrusting male movement that creates outside itself.  Quite the contrary–Divinity creates within itself the sacred void in the form of a circle.  The creation not of the line masculine God but of the Goddess, of the Shechina!  This is the Great Circle of Creation.  The circle, unlike in the original biblical image, is within the Goddess.  It is an act of love that moves the Goddess to withdraw and make room for the other–paradoxically within God.

Photo Credit: Jos van Wunnik

Daily Wisdom: Being Held in Love

Holding

By Marc Gafni

From Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self:

The experience of being held in love by the gaze of the divine feminine can be accessed in three primary ways. First, the gaze of another’s love can hold you in the gaze of the divine feminine. Second, in meditation, your own Big Heart/divine feminine can consciously hold your small self in the gaze of the divine feminine. Third, the gaze of the divine feminine is the experience of being held by the personal God who knows your name.

This is what we referred to earlier as “God in the second person.” This is what Solomon alluded to in the Song of Songs when he wrote of the divine embrace, “Your left hand is under my head and your right hand embraces me.” This is the experience that you are resting in the divine embrace, held in timeless time and placeless place. This is the deep knowing that wherever you fall, you fall into the hands of God. It is precisely the knowing that you are thus held in love that affirms your goodness. Chant and prayer are the two major spiritual practices for this realization.

Photo Credit: Tambako the Jaguar

Photo of the Day: John Craig

Cross

By Joe Perez

Across
Up, under
Crying
Creature
God
On, All
Separate
Sin, Son
Cross

Photo Credit: Craig Photography

Prayer is not a dogma. Prayer is pointing-out instruction for God.

Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

By Marc Gafni

We are all despearate for communion. It is what makes our lives worth living. Communion is the movement from loneliness to loving. It is the experience of being held and received.

We are all systematically mis-recognized. To be recognized is to be seen. To be seen is to be loved. To be love is to be in communion. It is only when we are seen that we are called to the fullness of our glimmering beauty as unique incarnations of the the divine treasure. It is only when we are seen that we feel moved the personal evolutionary impulse that lives in us to give the unique gifts that are only ours to give and that are desperately desired by the all that is.

To be in communion is to know that Your deed is God’s need. It is the realization of communion that gives us joy and calls us to evolutionary responsibility.

Communion as God in the 2nd Person View

‘Communion’ is the name that Kabbalah scholar Gershom Sholem gave to the experience of God in the second person. This is the inner experience of a human being who is not merged with the divine but rather stands in relation to God. This state of relatedness to God is the essence of Hebrew biblical consciousness. According to Scholem, it defines Hebrew mystical consciousness as well.

God in second-person perspective is all about relationship–whether it is the relationship of a servant to his master, a lover to her beloved, a relationship with a partner or even a relationship with a friend. All these can be ways of “relating” to God, and all of these models of relationship find expression in Hebrew wisdom teachings. All are ways of approaching God in the second person.

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 Berditchev used to pray, he would begin to say the standard liturgical form of blessing–“Baruch Ata Adonai”, “Blessed are you, God.” Then he would break out of the formal mode 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 what the Buddhists call a ‘pointing-out instruction’. But the words point not to sunyatta or emptiness, but to God as a beloved Other.

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.”

With “God in the second person,” we meet God and bow. With “God in the second person,” we meet God and partner. With “God in the second person,” we meet God and love. With God in the second person, we meet God and pray. The key to experiencing God in the second person 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.

This is the God of prayer. The God of prayer is not a concept, but a realization. I recall a recent conversation with a well-known Buddhist teacher. He said to me, “how can a serious teacher like yourself believe in the dogma of prayer?” I asked him, “How can you believe in the dogma of awareness”? He said to me, “Awareness is not a dogma, it is a realization”. To which I responded, “Yes, of course it is. And so is prayer.”

He told me later that this simple pointing-out instruction shifted his entire relationship to prayer. Prayer is not a dogma. It is a realization of God in the second person. It is the felt sense that every place you fall, you fall into God’s hands. Not the god of the mythic, ethnocentric church or synagogue or mosque or temple. Not that God. Not the God that as a modern or post-modern skeptic, you do not believe in. The God you don’t believe in does not exist! Rather, God in second person is the personal face of Essence. It is the aspect of personal Essence that knows your name, and cares about every detail of your life.

Feel into the quality of the personal that lives in you, as you and through you. Remember, perhaps, a time when you felt alienated in a relationship and you said to your partner, ‘I feel you are being so impersonal.’ Or when you critiqued some dimension of society as being too impersonal. Inherently, you sensed that Essence has a personal quality. This personal Essence is beyond the grasping of the skin-encapsulated ego, which still believes itself to be separate from all that is. It is rather the personal quality of Source.

Levi Isaac of Berdichev in the story above did not faint in ecstasy because he was moved by the dogma of a personal God. Rather, he fainted in ecstasy at the felt experience and realization of the lived encounter, in that very moment, with the personal face of God. It is the experience of God in the second person that inspires prayer. So, prayer is not an act of dogma, or a religious obligation.

True prayer is the ecstatic realization of God in the second person. Prayer is an expression of the radically personal nature of enlightenment–the place in which the personal unique self talks to the personal God. In prayer, the personhood of God meets the personhood of a human being.

It is the flight of the lonely one to the Lonely One. Or as Hasidic master Ephraim of Sudykov said, the meeting of misunderstood man with misunderstood God. Human being and God meet – realizing that they are both strangers in the land. They up in a friendship in which both are liberated and redeemed from loneliness.

We are used to thinking of Essence in impersonal terms. In the usual thinking of the spiritual world, the human being has a personality or separate self, which is transcended in enlightenment and melts into the impersonal Essence of all-that-is. This, however, is only a part of the story. As I have described in depth in my book, Your Unique Self: The Future of Enlightenment, there is a personal Essence, which is beyond the impersonal.

To truly understand and embody the interior face of Essence, one needs to move through four core levels of consciousness.

  • Level One is re-personal. This occurs before the emergence of an individuated separate self.
  • Level Two occurs when the Pre-personal emerges as the Personal Self. This is the important level of separate self, ego and personality.
  • The Third Level is when the personal–-in a healthy and non-dis-associative process–is transcended and included into the Impersonal. This is the classic state of enlightenment, which appears in all the great traditions. The personal is trance-ended. You end the trance of the personal self, and realize that you are part of the vast impersonal Essence of all-that-is. It is impersonal in the sense that is beyond the individual personality of any one person. It is the seamless coat of the universe of which you are a part.

However, that is not the end of the story. The seamless coat of the universe is seamless, but not featureless. Some of its features are expressed uniquely as your personal incarnation of Essence. Your irreducible uniqueness is an expression of the personal quality of the divine, beyond the impersonal.

In this stage of development, the impersonal then reveals its personal face. You experience the personal face of the vast impersonal divine Essence that suffuses, animates and embodies all that is. Here, we are not speaking of a kind of Santa Claus God-in-the-sky. That is merely your personality, or perhaps your your mother’s or father’s personhood, writ large!

Rather this fourth and most profound level of consciousness is the personal face of all-that-is, the aspect of universal Essence that knows your name and cares about your life. It is the divine Mother who holds you in her loving embrace, comforting you, yet challenging you to your greatness at the very same moment.

The second face of God is an infinity of intimacy, which invites your approach and your prayer. Prayer and intimacy are almost synonymous words. The personal face of Essence, which knows your name, affirms the infinite dignity, value and adequacy of your personhood, even as your prayer affirms the dignity of personal needs. Our praise and our petition, our confessions and even our crying out in need are all addressed to the second person of God, which is invoked through the sacred art of prayer. Prayer is our way of initiating a conversation with, and thereby invoking, the infinitely gorgeous face of the personal God, God in the second person.

Pictured: Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

Daily Wisdom: The mysteriously moving creative process is the God-impulse

Whirling Dervish

By Marc Gafni

From Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self:

The creative process that mysteriously moves from nothing to something is the God-impulse. To live as your Unique Self means to align yourself with that process, with the ecstatic evolutionary impulse that initiated the kosmos, with the ecstasy of God, which re-creates all of reality in every second of existence.

Are you ready to respond to this invitation, to offer yourself to the infinite love intelligence that wants desperately to show up in the world through and as you?

Photo Credit: neil banas

Daily Wisdom: Your Unique Self is God’s love-signature written all over you

Hebrew Calligraphy

By Marc Gafni

From Marc Gafni’s Your Unique Self:

Unique Self is the enlightened realization that you are both absolutely one with the whole, and absolutely unique. You are free from the contractions of your personality, even as you experience yourself as personally engaged in the great evolutionary unfolding of consciousness.

Realizing your Unique Self will fundamentally change the way you understand virtually every facet of your awakened life… These teachings fundamentally reconfigure and dramatically re-vision our understanding of love, joy, shadow, sexuality, parenting, death, relationships, loneliness, evolutionary spirituality, malice, ego psychology, and the integration of East and West.

Your Unique Self is God’s love-signature written all over you. God loved you so much, He personalized himself as you. You are the indi- vidualized heart and mind of God. This is your Unique Self.

Photo Credit: Josh Berer