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From the Holy of Holies: A Dialogue between Drs. Tom Goddard and Marc Gafni on ErosValue and Choice and Choicelessness
Discovering Your Unique Self Is the Key for New Conscious Business Leadership — with Dr. Marc Gafni and Studio Stijn
Challenging the Purity Culture: All of Reality Is Driven by the EROTIC — with Dr. Marc Gafni and the Medicin Podcast
In this important conversation, we are challenging the ethos of Purity Culture and offering a new shared Story of Value.
This is an early draft of an essay drawn from the forthcoming volumes of The Universe: A Love Story—First Meditations on CosmoErotic Humanism in Response to the Meta-Crisis in the Great Library of CosmoErotic Humanism. The first draft of this essay was written by Dr. Marc Gafni in conversation with Barbara Marx Hubbard and Dr. Zak Stein. It was edited and prepared for publication by Kerstin Tuschik. We welcome substantive feedback as we prepare a more advanced version of this essay.
At the core of CosmoErotic Humanism—in contradistinction for example to the Kingship model of God that dominates much of classical organized religion, or the flatland reductionism not of authentic empirical science but, rather, of the dogmas of scientistic materialism—is the realization that Reality is Eros. Eros, as we have noted, is not a one-dimensional force of allurement. If it was, Cosmos would disappear in a split-second. Rather, Eros is the precise balance between allurement and autonomy—attraction and repulsion—fusion and fission.
It is this kind of First Value and First Principle that animates our words when we write, we live in an Intimate Universe—or what we sometimes refer to as a CosmoErotic Universe. Eros seeks intimacy. Indeed, the plotline of Reality is the progressive deepening of intimacies. Evolution is the Love Story of the Universe—The Universe: A Love Story.
This gnosis of First Principles and First Values, however, is disclosed to us not through natural law, which would then be subject to the naturalistic fallacy, nor through what is classically termed a supernatural intervention of revelation. We do not turn first to nature. Nor do we turn to the caricature of a small local God, owned by one nation or religion.
Rather, we turn inward. And here, we invoke the Anthro-Ontological Method. At the core of Anthro-Ontology is the realization that not only do we live in Reality, but Reality lives in us. We not only live in an Intimate Universe, but the Intimate Universe lives in us.
The far-reaching implication of this realization is that our own clarified interiors—as humans (= anthropos)—disclose a deeper truth (ontology) about the nature and structure of Reality itself. That means that the Eros—or Love—that throbs at the core of our being is not isolated or local. Rather, the qualities of clarified Eros that live inside us participate in the largest qualities of Evolutionary Love, as intrinsic to Cosmos.
These First Principles and First Values of evolution are both the ground and the telos of Cosmos.
It is within the context of this telos—these evolving First Values and First Principles—that the Reality of Cosmos unfolds.
In this context, there is no contradiction between freedom and necessity, or between contingency and elegant order and design. Eros is full suffusion and presence, and full freedom—living in dialectical relationship—which is the core nature of the Eros that animates Cosmos. Radical presence, which animates, suffuses, seduces, invites, and even subtly directs us, lives dialectically with contingency, freedom, and surprise—with the possibility of possibilities inherent in every moment.
As our close colleague, the philosopher and scientist Howard Bloom, expresses it, from the perspective of exterior science, opposites are joined at the hip.
Indeed, this notion of paradox—opposites joined at the hip—has been articulated by us, together with Howard, as itself being one of the First Principles and First Values of Cosmos. In the Eros of Cosmos, we directly experience ostensibly designed, elegant order and telos—dancing with contingency and freedom.
You can access this quality—anthro-ontologically—directly in your own experience.
Consider a truly great conversation between close friends, unfolding over many years, which is almost a sacred process.
The nature of such conversations is never pre-planned. There is no formal itinerary, no designated or designed program. They are filled with radical surprise. They are defined by contingency.
At the same time, they are not in any sense random or arbitrary. Indeed, they are filled with elegant order and inherent design. Pieces, strands of conversation, and themes weave themselves together into a larger whole that would have taken months of painstaking planning had they been pre-ordained or written out as a script. And it is doubtful that such pre-design could yield that level of elegance, nuance, and depth. Such conversations are ultimately meaningful and often disclose depth and originality in an always surprising and often shockingly beautiful fashion.
In the Eros of the conversation, the apparent contradiction between elegant design and contingent surprise disappears.
That is the nature of a genuine sacred conversation.
Conversation itself is the erotic structure of Cosmos. Conversations—exchanges of inherent design, proto-interiority, and freedom—define Cosmos from its inception.
It is in this sense that, as noted above, we join Howard Bloom in referring to Reality as the conversational Cosmos. All the way down and all the way up the evolutionary chain, within the conversational Cosmos, randomness and contingency are paradoxically seamless with elegant order and telos.
Written and published by Marc Gafni in 1986 for Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought, Vol. 22, No. 3 (FALL 1986), pp. 54-65.
In a very profound way, Harold Kushner’s When Bad Things Happen to Good People (Avon Books, 1981) and the themes it treats evoke in the reader feelings of warmth, compassion, and drawing one closer to all who suffer in this world. The tragic story of Aaron Kushner (the author’s son) and the very real depth with which his parents experienced suffering cannot but make one feel like reaching out in love and respect to the author. Yet, at the same time, I found the underlying premises of the book deeply troubling. Its message, meant to be comforting, is, in fact, nothing short of terrifying.
Kushner, claiming to speak for Judaism, asserts that God is, in his term, “powerless” (pp. 42-44). “God does not, and cannot, intervene in human affairs to avert tragedy and suffering. At most, He offers us His divine comfort, and expresses His divine anger that such horrible things happen to people. God, in the face of tragedy, is impotent. The most God can do,” Kushner eloquently proclaims, “is to stand on the side of the victim; not the executioner.”
That God gives free reign to an executioner is a common Jewish position, classical, medieval and modern. “Once permission is given for the destroyer to destroy, no distinction is made between the righteous and the wicked.” (Rashi Exodus 12:22).
While Judaism certainly maintains that God, in His divine empathy, stands on the side of the victim, no classical Jewish position has ever maintained that God is incapable of controlling the executioner.
Kushner uses the book of Job to lend the weight of religious authority to his position. Merely to point out the obvious-that Kushner’s interpretation of the book of Job, for instance, has little or nothing to do with the Biblical book by that name-fails to undermine the popular appeal that has propelled Kushner’s book to the bestseller lists. In fact, Kushner feels quite comfortable admitting to intellectual dishonesty. In an interview with Moment magazine (November 1981), he was asked: “You argue that it is simply wrong to blame God for the bad luck, for the nastiness, for the evil; and yet you are perfectly prepared to praise God for the good, to thank God. How do you reconcile that?” To which he carefully replied: “Walter Kaufman calls it ‘religious gerrymandering’.’ That is you draw the lines for your definition of God to include certain things and exclude others.”
While I certainly believe that profound suffering moved Kushner to take up his pen, that still cannot justify intellectual gerrymandering.
The heart of Kushner’s position is the claim that traditional beliefs about God’s relationship to the universe, and to man, are wrong, and that his own account is right.
Kushner’s basic method of argumentation is anecdotal. He cites particular cases of suffering and then a,· mpts to demonstrate the inadequacy of various theodicies as applied to those cases. But the best theodicy is still a human, all too human, theodicy. No theodicy can give pat answers for every circumstance of suffering. Theological reflection can deepen our appreciation of the problem and provide frames of reference with which to approach the experience of suffering. However, from no single set of theological premises can an all-embracing solution be expected. God, we believe, knows the results of all good and evil, past, present, and future, and measures the diverse values (spiritual; intellectual, ethical, aesthetic, hedonic, etc.) which the universe displays, and with which man is confronted. Man does not. Therefore, we must beware of “refuting” theological reflection by showing that it has difficulty fulfilling claims that it has never made.
It is instructive to examine Kushner’s position on his own terms. This section of the essay will comment on six of the life cases which Kushner cites to support his general conception of religion, his rejection of classic theodicy and his central claim: that God cannot control what happens in our world.
The Case of Bob (pp. 94-96)
Bob has just made the difficult decision to place his mother in a nursing home. Although his mother is “basically alert and healthy and does not require medical care” she can no longer live alone. After a brief attempt, Bob and his family decide that “they are not prepared to make the sacrifice of time and lifestyle which caring for a sick, old woman requires.” That weekend, Bob, who did not usually go to synagogue, went to services hoping they would give him “the tranquility and peace of mind he needed.” As luck would have it, the sermon that morning was on the fifth commandment. The clergyman spoke of the sacrifices parents make in raising children and the reluctance of children to make sacrifices for older parents in return. He asked: “Why is it one mother can care for six children, but six children can’t care for one mother?” It bothers Kushner that Bob was made to leave the service feeling “hurt and angry.” Bob feels that religion has told him that he is a “selfish and uncaring person.” He is haunted by the idea that if she dies soon he will never be able to live with himself “for having made her last years miserable because of his selfishness.” And Kushner, too, is upset with religion because “the purpose of religion should be to make us feel good about ourselves” after making difficult decisions. (more…)
The God Pod: Spiritual Evolution & A Vision of Value for Humanity with Dr. Marc Gafni and Luke Storey
Excerpt from the Pre-Version of the Book
The Rise of Evolutionary Relationships
The Evolution of Relationships
In Response to the Meta-Crisis
By Dr. Marc Gafni
Barbara Marx Hubbard
Decades of research and study have led us to the conclusion, as we will briefly unpack below, that only a New Story of Value can avert unimaginable suffering or worse and change the vector of history towards ever-deepening expressions of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful. As perceptive historians point out, history changes when a compelling New Story [hi-story] emerges that changes the vector of cultural evolution.
Indeed, it is only a New Story that has the capacity to change the course of history. Technology matters. But the story we tell about technology matters as well. Exponential technology matters. But the story we tell about exponential technology matters exponentially more.
Without such a new, shared, evolving Story of Value, our capacity to escape unbearable suffering and, based on hardheaded analysis, even extinction seems, from a human perspective, unlikely. The results of not being able to articulate a New Story of Value are excruciating, both in the level of suffering for billions of human beings, as well as the entire life system—and, more than even all that, for the trillions of lives that will remain unborn.
All of the past depends on us to fulfill its dreams.
All of the present depends on us to live.
All of the future depends on us to be born.
This essay is also part of a whole volume, The Rise of Evolutionary Relationships: The Evolution of Relationships in Response to the Meta-Crisis. The purpose of that volume and its companion volume The Future of Relationships: On the Evolution of Love is to provide a first articulation of this New Story of Value in the domain of relationship, which, as we will see below, is the core structure of Reality itself.
The Ontology of Story: Story Is the Structure of the Real
Postmodernity argues that Reality is merely a story, that no story is better or worse than any other story, and that stories are but social constructs, fictions, or figments of our imagination.
But of course, postmodernity is not only deconstructing the ontology, or Reality, of Story, but also the ontology, or Real Nature of Value.
These deconstructions of Story and Value are true but partial. It is true that there is a plentitude of stories we tell about Reality, and that Story is the underling unit that constitutes Reality. But it is not true that Story is mere fiction. There is a plentitude of stories, not because there is no Real Value or Meaning, but rather because there is a plentitude of Value and Meaning.
Story is the structure of the Real. This is what we have referred to, in other contexts, as the Ontology of Story. Story itself is the source code, not only of culture and consciousness, but of all of Reality all the way down and all the way up the evolutionary chain. It is for that reason that to evolve the Story is to evolve the source code.
Emergent from the recognition of the Ontology of Story is the recognition that we live in inescapable narrative frameworks—Stories of Value—which define the nature and quality of both our personal and collective human lives.
Stories are not merely randomly contrived conjectures. Rather, stories are attempts to gather information, interior and exterior information about the nature of Reality, and translate it into a coherent Story of Value.
Not all stories are equal. There is a hierarchy of stories. In other words, there are better and worse stories.
A better story takes deeper account of more meaning or information, exterior and interior, and weaves that meaning and information together in the most elegant, good, true, and beautiful fashion.
A better story is aligned with more and wider Fields of Value, even as it integrates more contradictions into greater wholes.
A better story weaves a narrative thread that articulates the most coherent and compelling framework that embraces, honors, and uplifts the most-possible people.
A better story must be not only an eternal story—aligned with eternal structures of value—but also an evolving story, aligned with the evolution of value—the evolution of love—the evolution of the Good, the True, and the Beautiful.
A better story is an eternal and evolving story.
We cannot trust stories that claim to be only eternal stories, or that claim to be ever-evolving stories with no ground in Eternity—in the Real, which is not dependent on the changing mores of time. The more deeply we investigate Cosmos, both in its exterior and interior faces, deploying the interior and exterior sciences, the more accurate—and the better, truer, and more beautiful—story we can tell.
A story with flawed, incomplete, or distorted plotlines can bring us—and indeed has brought us—to the brink of existential risk, the potential end of humanity as we know it. To respond to this meta-crisis, we need to evolve the story, which is to evolve the source code of culture itself.
Eros is life. The failure of Eros destroys life. Our lack of Eros is poised to destroy the world. We call this existential risk, or the second shock of existence.
The first shock of existence is the realization — at the dawn of human existence — that the skull grins at the banquet. Life, before it continues, is first confronted by death. The first shock of existence is the death of the individual human being.
The second shock of existence is the death of humanity, or in a second form, the death of our humanity.
All civilizations have fallen because the stories that they lived in were, in some sense, stories based on rivalrous conflict governed by win/lose metrics. Every civilization was weakened by interior polarization caused by the lack of a shared story of value.
We now have a global civilization, but we haven’t created a shared story of value. We haven’t solved the generator functions that caused all civilizations to fall. Our global civilization has exponential technologies and extraction models depleting the earth of resources that it took billions of years to create, which is going to lead to a civilizational collapse.
Existential risk: risk to our very existence.
The choice is clear: love or die.