From Shalom Mountain Wisdom School teaching by Dr. Marc Gafni. Transcribed by Adael Bullock.
Photo by Julie M. Daley
Divinity is not only the infinity of power; divinity is the infinity of pain. It is the infinity of tears. Divinity at its core is the infinity of intimacy. The infinity of intimacy feels your pain and doesn’t relegate it to separate self. Is there part of your pain and my pain and all of our pain that comes from an obsessive grasping in the realm of separate self? Of course. Is that unnecessary pain? Of course. And can we liberate from that pain by awakening? Of course. That doesn’t end the story of pain. That ends the unnecessary pain in the world. But then, there is the legitimate and the real pain that comes with being incarnate. That is where the Christ consciousness got it better than the Buddhist consciousness. The Christ consciousness didn’t say there is no pain; the Christ consciousness said, I die for your sins. That is a very different move. That is not the same spiritual move. One is, “life is suffering” because your mind is fucked up, so unfuck your mind, and you will not suffer – the 4 Noble Truths. The second is, suffering is so fucking intense, there is nothing you can do, so I am going to die for you.
The real way to integrate it is you bring both together. This is gorgeous. The world spirituality ninja move is, on the one hand, True Self. You actually realize True Self, and you know that you can deconstruct the illusion of a grasping separate self as being the fullness of your identity and actually realize your identity as True Self, as Christ awake and alive in you. When Christ awakens and lives in you, then you participate in the infinity of intimacy. You become Christ. As you awaken, you take the pain and joy of the world unto you, your own pain recedes. As you awaken as Christ, you don’t awaken as a neutral True Self, you awaken as Christ, you awaken with your own ability to feel the infinite pain and joy of the world. When you reach out to hold someone’s hand, your own suffering recedes. You wake up.
You wake up–not as No Self. You wake up as Christ, as a living, breathing, pulsing source of divine love and compassion, radical empathy, radical intimacy, radical caring, radical eros, awake, alive in you, and you feel AS Elijah, AS Bodhisattva, the full pain, joy and grace of the world coursing through you. And all of a sudden, your own wounds, they are in this much larger context. You own wounds, the fact that your father abused you, and your mother did not let you leave the light on by the bed is all real. When you actually take those wounds into the larger context of your own Christ consciousness, those wounds assume a different place, and they begin to melt, to dissipate, in the infinite Christ consciousness that is awake and alive in you.
To be a person of Torah, to be enlightened, is to live from the inside. To be an insider, to feel ”” oh my God ”” I have a place. It’s important that I exist. I am called uniquely to do something in the world that nobody else in the world is capable of doing except myself. The experience of my irreplacability is the beginning of my joy. The experience of my replacability is the beginning of my depression. Life is about finding out, disclosing, revealing that I am an insider.
Now the reason this is important is not only because it makes me feel fully alive in the world, not only how I manifest my unique gorgeousness, but because if I don’t experience myself as an insider, my ethics, goodness, and integrity collapses.
The human being actually can’t live without the experience of being an insider. If I don’t feel that I am on the inside ”” and to be holy is to be on the inside, to be a lover is to feel from the inside. If I don’t experience my authentic experience as an insider, I try to steal that status. I draw a circle and put other people outside that circle to give myself the experience of being on the inside.
That’s an experience nobody can steal from me. Nobody can slander it away from me. It’s the essence of who I am, glimmering in the face of God. That’s myself, fully comfortable, fully alive, fully powerful, in the universe. When I don’t access it, I begin to put other people on the outside.
“Mystic philosopher Teillhard de Chardin writes, ‘The farther we penetrate into matter by means of increasingly powerful methods – the more we are overawed by the interdependence of all the parts.’ In the beautiful image of Mahayana Buddhism, speaking accurately for the Kabbalah as well, the universe can be likened to a vast net of jewels–the reflection from one jewel contained in each. In the words of Isaac of Homil, and countless Hebrew mystics over the ages downing whiskey in European shtetls or running ecstatically through Jerusalem’s ancient streets, ‘Alt is Gud v’Gud ist Alt — All is God and God is All!’
“The best image to describe the kabbalistic universe comes from mathematics in the form of fractals. Each fractal consists of all the other fractals. What this all means is that the universe is erotic, an interconnected web of relations whose parts are only defined by their relation to the whole. Literally, we are living in, housed in, an ever spinning world-wide web!”
The Hebrew phrase or koan of “loosen the reins” is too wonderful not to share with you. “Harpeh et HaMoshchot.” Harpeh, meaning “loosen,” is also the word for heal. There is something powerfully healing in letting go of the tightness – loosening the fixities. The word for reins, moshchot, also means attraction or desires. Let your desires breathe; your deepest attractions are wise. Listen to them.
Implicit in the sexual circle are three levels. Circle: unchecked raw sexuality. Line: sexuality delimited and controlled by ethics. Circle: The Secret of the Cherubs. The sexual models but does not exhaust the erotic. This is not an abandonment of ethics. It is a higher ethic which has absorbed the sacred intrusions of the line even as it reintegrates the primal longings of the circle. Eros and Ethics merge.
The practice of prayer is a teaching to the human being about the identification of genuine need. What is it that I truly desire? This is the sense of the popular aphorism, “Be careful what you pray for.” the prayers I choose to bring to God, the deep desire with which I pour out my heart like water before the living god, must be my most true, intimate, and genuine desire. Prayer is thus a spiritual exercise in the clarification of desire. Thus, side by side with spontaneous prayer and the creative prayer written by the individual who prays, there is also the prayer book written by the enlightened masters over the ages. It is not that their words necessarily contain mystical secrets to open the gates–although they well may–but rather it is that the prayer book is a great teaching on the identification of true desire.
Originally, creation was said to have been a one-time event, an erotic, divine implosion in which the primal line bisected the primal circle and cosmos poured forth. This image was recast by post Renaissance Hebrew mystics in the light of the re-ascendancy of circle consciousness. Hebrew Mystic Levi Isaac, for example, opens his commentary with a radical assertion: creation is happening every second. The force of love which is divinity is constantly pouring through existence. Indeed, it is existence itself.
The moment of creation is one of ecstasy. Creation is an erotic outpouring, emerging from our ability to step fully inside, to touch what Levi Isaac calls ayin and Buddhists would call the void, to let the fullness of being pour through you. Levi Isaac, seeker of Eros, simply cannot accept the alienating masculine line image of creation common to the medieval schoolmen. For them, creation is a one-time event, which while originally caused by God, takes place outside of God. Levi Isaac insists in a God who inheres in all of reality, in the ecstasy of creative union, replayed constantly in an eternal now. In his insistence, it becomes so. Thus for Levi Isaac, Luria’s image of circle being penetrated by line is the constant reality of existence. It is the yearning force of being – played over and over again.
We may at times lose touch with the interpenetration of line and circle, but is always present longing to be exposed.
Carl Gustav Jung offered a profound direction in understanding shadow. His core teaching, drawn from many sources, is that we cannot be whole human beings without recognizing and incorporating our shadow energy. Jung has an expression that he uses constantly to express this idea: “In the Shadow is the Gold.” By this, he means to say that most of what is valuable in the human personality””the gold””can be mined only from the shadow. But what does that mean, and why should it be so? It is to this all-important question that we now turn our attention. We will seek to fundamentally evolve what shadow means and how shadow work is done! At this point, I am going to unpack directly from the original tantric sources a radical new teaching on shadow integration.
So let us begin. In the book of Genesis, one of the oldest texts of Unique Self teachings, the creation myth is expressed in the words, “God said, Let there be Light. And there was light.”
Light, with its unique frequency for every person, is””as we have already noted””one of the primary mystical symbols for Unique Self. In the third-century mystical esoteric texts on Genesis, it is taught that this original light that initiated the creative process was too much for the world to bear, so “God hid the original light. The light will be revealed to the righteous in the world of becoming.” In a similar way, contemporary neuroscience suggests that we deploy only a fraction of our mind’s potential for consciousness.
Some centuries later, the Zohar picks up the thread of the earlier teaching. “Where was the original light of creation hidden?” ask the masters. To which the masters respond, “The original light was hidden in the darkness!” “Where does the original light still appear in the world?” ask the masters once more. “In the person of the enlightened ones,” responds the text. And who are the enlightened ones? The enlightened ones, the righteous ones, according to the masters of Tantric Kabbalah, are the ones who have incarnated their Unique Self. The implication of the text is this: to realize your Unique Self, you must follow the path of the light hidden in the darkness.
Still more daring is the assertion of divine dependency on man which is made in the Talmudic masters audacious interpretation of a verse in the prophet Isaiah, “You are my witnesses says the Lord, and I am your God.” Explain the masters, “when you are my witnesses I am God, and when you are not my witnesses I am not God.”
The key gift the lover gives to the beloved is to need the beloved. And the converse. The gift of the beloved to the lover is to allow herself to need her lover. And of course the roles of lover and beloved are forever interchanging between the partners. This is the great gift of love for it fills the most basic and essential need of the human being; the need to be needed.
It is in being needed that we realize our humanity. In being needed by God we disclose our divinity as well. There is no more ultimate need than to be needed by God. There is no more ultimate human dignity than to need and be needed by God. What the mutuality of the covenant teaches us is that our need of him is but an echo, a reflection of his need of us. The great goal of spiritual work is turn God’s need – not into a merely human obligation – but into a genuine human need. In doing so the human paradoxically begins to realize his divinity.
A second source of authority for the Bible is spoken of best by that greatly afflicted mythical figure, Job. Job tells us, “Through my flesh I vision God.” (Or, as nineteenth-century poet John Keats reformulated Job’s insight, “I am certain of nothing but of the holiness of the Heart’s affections and the truth of Imagination.”) For the mystical reader of biblical myth, to “vision God” is to understand being, for God and being are one.
Kabbalists read Job’s words with a pronounced emphasis on the word my. “My flesh” means not only my physical form, but also the body of my life experience, my heart’s affections, and my imagination. The verse is thus taken to mean that we access the epic of being through the drama of the psyche. Each of us can access the psyche only through our singular psyche–that is, through our unique story.
Radical truth is to be found, albeit paradoxically, in radical subjectivity–in the holiness of the heart’s affections and the truth of the imagination.
Prayer in its Original Face is also a fellowhip between God and man. God meets us as our friend in prayer.
Ephraim of Sudykov writes that we seek God’s intimate friendship even as he seeks our fellowship for we both feel somewhat out of place in the world. We seek God’s friendship in bringing before God the raw cry of human insufficiency and pain. Reading the deep intent of the Psalmist, “I pour out my complaint before you,” the Midrash teaches, “The Men of Trust call out their Pain to God.”
To pray means to turn to God as my most intimate friend and confidant. I pour out before God my true pain and authentic need. I tell God my story in prayer and God receives my story. A child who is hurt runs to his mother. In part the child wants a bandage. But no less the child seeks the presence and intimacy of the mother. The enlightened ones teach that the ancient masters are those who are able to pray like children.
We cry out to God in prayer not to inform him of our need. That would be preposterous. We cry out to God in authentic prayer precisely because we know that God always knows our need. Every human need which is genuine is possessed of infinite value and infinite dignity.
If we come to understand that ethics is an erotic expression of our deeper divinity, we are truly moved to the ethical. For at that point we realize that it is an expression of our deepest selves, a response to the call of our own voice. Ethics, to be compelling and powerful, must be an expression of your erotic divine nature and not a contradiction to it. So when the prophet insists that God and the God within you is beyond nature, and can therefore act ethically against nature, they are referring only to your first nature, not to your deeper second nature. Your deeper nature is God.
The marriage of the erotic and the ethical, when it takes place not merely intellectually but in all of your being, makes you the greatest of lovers.
King David, the biblical author of Psalms, perhaps the greatest spiritual poetry every written, is walking by the river lost in ecstasy. In this state, he cries out, “God, tell me – is there anyone that has ever praised you as much as I?”
At that moment, a frog fantastically exclaims to him, “Be not so proud, David, for I have done more than you. You sing to God on occasion – I sing to God with every croak.”
The point is that we are not alone in our song. The symphony of the spirit includes the instrument of every creature on the face of the planet. We were born to make our music and we cannot do it well enough without every other member of the band.
David himself picks up this theme explicitly in Psalms. The following in Stephen Mitchell’s wonderful adaptation of Psalm 148:
Praise God upon the Earth Whales and all the creatures of the sea Fire hail snow and frost Hurricanes fulfilling his command Mountains and barren hills Fruit trees and cedar forests Wild animals and tame Reptiles insects and birds Creatures invisible to the eye And tiniest one cell beings Rich and poor, powerful And oppressed, dark skinned and light skinned Men and women alike Old and young together
David the Psalmist sees us as part of the great song of being and not as a species who dwells alone. The frog has taught him well!
We long for something deeper; something more, a higher and more noble authenticity. We masquerade in the mask of our wholeness knowing all along that it is but a charade; that we are part of larger whole with whom we yearn to be re-united. A shard of a shattered vessel whose hidden sparks seek to be uplifted and absorbed into the one even as they retain their sacred separate identity. “As the gazelle yearns after the stream of clear water, so does my soul long after you, my God.”
Kalonymous Kalman of Piacezna teaches in his book Holy Fire, “in response to our yearning for God, God longs and draws closer to us.”
However, teaches Kalonymous Kalman, this divine-human parallel is incomplete. At first, God’s closeness to us corresponds only to the measure of our ability to yearn for God and to elicit such closeness. Yet, as we continue to yearn for God, God overwhelms us. The divine yearning is more than just reciprocal. God’s yearning is larger than us. We are unable to contain God’s great yearning for us. Our yearning only begins the process.
The master from Piacezna teaches that longing is the matrix of God’s revelation to us. Our longing for God elicits our ability to experience God’s longing for us. Ultimately, however, God loves us so much, that his yearning and longing for us overcomes and overwhelms even our great yearning for him. Perhaps, the greatest comfort for the one who longs is to know that he is longed for as well and even more than the one for whom he longs.
The symbol of the line is the sword. In biblical Hebrew the actual word for sword, often a phallic expression, is cherev. The sword and the lance are male symbols of thrusting forward, combat and conquest. The goal of the sword is to affirm which line (sword) is higher in the hierarchy. The sword is goal-oriented. It does not have conversation; instead, it takes control. The sword cuts through and analyzes. The sword is the discriminating intellect which divides, categorizes and conquers. Clearly the sword/line is both a powerful force of the spirit as well as a scourge.
The circle is not about thrusting forward. It is about receiving. In the sexual image the circle always receives the line’s forward movement. Whatever position one might take, it is always the circle which must receive the line. The circle listens, opening herself up to receive the line. She is able to absorb the line’s thrust – develop it, unpack it, and give birth to something entirely new.
In Hebrew myth Chochmah is the line symbol. Chochmah (literally translated as “wisdom”) is the exploding intuition, idea, or movement, which is received by the circle Binah. Binah (literally translated “understanding”) is the archetypal womb which receives nurtures and transforms.
There is a real need for line energy in the world. Ultimately however, the kabbalists asserted the superiority of circle consciousness. For the world is not empty. It courses with the energy of love and spirit. To be able to access and express that energy is one of the highest human achievements. If one understands the world to be full rather than empty, then being a receiver is an absolutely vital human function. It is the very stuff of our existence.
Hebrew mysticism with its feminine circle nature is called Kabbalah. Kabbalah literally means to receive! To be a kabalist is to be a receiver. It is for this reason that even without understanding its content, much of the Human Potential, Consciousness, and New Age movements are intuitively drawn to Kabbalah. If the hi-tech revolution is a line movement, then New Age, Environmentalism, Consciousness, and Human Potential are circle movements.
Yet, for these to become “fully” effective ”˜movements’ they must move and move forward. A line quality. This is precisely the point! To create a world of eros, for erotic healing to occur, the circle and line must interpenetrate. Whenever the circle and line are separated, the Shechina is in exile. The potential for damage and dysfunction is great.
Dr. Marc Gafni The Erotic and the Holy
Daily Wisdom: Swords – On Thrusting and ReceivingThe Editors2022-07-06T03:20:17-07:00
Let [an awakening] start right here, right now, with us–with you and with me–and with our commitment to breathe into infinity until infinity alone is the only statement that the world will recognize. Let a radical realization shine from our faces, and roar from our hearts, and thunder from our brains–this simple fact, this obvious fact: that you, in the very immediateness of your present awareness, are in fact the entire world, in all its frost and fever, in all its glories and its grace, in all its triumphs and its tears. You do not see the sun, you are the sun; you do not hear the rain, you are the rain; you do not feel the earth, you are the earth. And in that simple, clear, unmistakable regard, translation has ceased in all domains, and you have transformed into the very Heart of the Kosmos itself–and there, right there, very simply, very quietly, it is all undone.
Wonder and remorse will then be alien to you, and self and others will be alien to you, and outside and inside will have no meaning at all. And in that obvious shock of recognition–where my Master is my Self, and that Self is the Kosmos at large, and the Kosmos is my Soul–you will walk very gently into the fog of this world, and transform it entirely by doing nothing at all.
And then, and then, and only then–you will finally, clearly, carefully and with compassion, write on the tombstone of a self that never even existed: There is only Ati.
The unfolding of divine consciousness is not a purely intra-divine process. The great privilege of being a human being is that we participate in the evolution and healing of God. We are God’s healers. It is the evolution of the human spirit that catalyzes the evolution of God. When God and man meet in an evolutionary embrace redemption is achieved.
Prayer is man pouring out his deepest need before God. Philosophers and mystics alike scoffed at this prayer seeking the more pure prayer which pleads for alignment between man and god. Such prayer is surely sacred and noble. The psalmist prays to God “A pure heart create for me God”¦.Take not your holy spirit from me.” Or in another passage the mystic yearning bursts out with full force: “As the deer desperately yearns after the brook of water so does my soul desperately after you O God; My soul thirsts for the living God. When shall I come and appear in the presence of God.” Or in the Koan prayer of 19th century mystic Shneur Zalman of Liadi as he cries out in prayer; “I do not want your hell; I do not want your heaven; it is you; you alone that I want.” All of these God in second person prayers whether coming from a dualist psalmist or a non dual mystic Schneur Zalman are an integral part of prayer. Yet none of them replace the core staple of Hebrew spiritual practice; the pouring of the heart’s deepest need before God.
Prayer affirms the dignity of human need. God is desperately interested and caring about the genuine and detailed needs of each and every individual.
The essential revelation of biblical consciousness is the intimacy of infinity. This is the deep intent of the ancient master and prophet Isaiah:
For thus says God the High and Exalted One
Who inhabits eternity, Whose name is holy
I dwell in the high and holy place
With him that is contrite and humble of spirit
To revive the spirit of the humble
And to Revive the heart of the contrite one.
In the language of the wisdom masters, “Even though he is the high and lofty one he dwells with the one who is depressed and of fallen spirit.”
The infinite god of power expresses his ultimate majesty in loving and caring about all the fallen people; about every details of their lives; about every jot and tittle in their stories. Prayer is the affirmation of relationship of radical empathy between the one who offers and the one who receives the prayer. Prayer heard by God reminds us that our lives matter. Not just their grand goals and designs. But the little things. The terrible disappointments, the excruciating hurts, the joys and ecstasies, the moments when we break though and realize our worth and the moment when we fall and forget our original face. All of these moments matter infinitely.
The following text is a transcript of a short video, part of “Awakening to Your Unique Self,” originally published in May 2010.
So that’s how a pointing out instruction works.
If you feel into the silence, pointing out instruction, I distinguish between silence of presence and silence of absence.
As we open our eyes and step back into the personal space, the personal that’s now been breathed on, infused, touched by by the transpersonal. We would talk about it in Integral language as a state-stage. Or in Sufism, the distinction between hakim and makim. It invites us in. We engage in what Luria called “I see God from behind.” Aftertaste.
The vulgar world is already shouting, and with such a raucous rancor that truer voices can scarcely be heard at all. The materialistic world is already full of advertisements and allure, screams of enticement and cries of commerce, wails of welcome and whoops of come hither. I don’t mean to be harsh here, and we must honor all lesser engagements. Nonetheless, you must have noticed that the word “soul” is now the hottest item in the title of book sales–but all “soul” really means, in most of these books, is simply the ego in drag. “Soul” has come to denote, in this feeding frenzy of translative grasping, not that which is timeless in you but that which most loudly thrashes around in time, and thus “care of the soul” incomprehensibly means nothing much more than focusing intensely on your ardently separate self. Likewise, “Spiritual” is on everybody’s lips, but usually all it really means is any intense egoic feeling, just as “Heart” has come to mean any sincere sentiment of the self-contraction.
All of this, truly, is just the same ole translative game, dressed up and gone to town. And even that would be more than acceptable were it not for the alarming fact that all of that translative jockeying is aggressively called “transformation,” when all it is, of course, is a new series of frisky translations. In other words, there seems to be, alas, a deep hypocrisy hidden in the game of taking any new translation and calling it the great transformation. And the world at large–East or West, North or South–is, and always has been, for the most part, perfectly deaf to this calamity.
And so: given the measure of your own authentic realization, you were actually thinking about gently whispering into the ear of that near-deaf world? No, my friend, you must shout. Shout from the heart of what you have seen, shout however you can.
But not indiscriminately. Let us proceed carefully with this transformative shout. Let small pockets of radically transformative spirituality, authentic spirituality, focus their efforts, and transform their students. And let these pockets slowly, carefully, responsibly, humbly, begin to spread their influence, embracing an absolute tolerance for all views, but attempting nonetheless to advocate a true and authentic and integral spirituality–by example, by radiance, by obvious release, by unmistakable liberation. Let those pockets of transformation gently persuade the world and its reluctant selves, and challenge their legitimacy, and challenge their limiting translations, and offer an awakening in the face of the numbness that haunts the world at large.
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, usually translated as “before God,” can be more fruitfully unpacked as “on the inside of God’s face.”
This allusion plants the seed for the much more radical move made by mystic Isaac Luria in the 16th century. In Luria’s graphic and daring vision, the world is not formed by a forward thrusting male movement which creates outside of itself. Quite the contrary – Divinity creates within itself a sacred void in the form of a circle. This is the Great Circle of Creation. The circle, unlike in the original biblical image, is within God. It is an act of love which moves God to withdraw and make room for other – paradoxically – within God.
Within the Womb of God
In this vision, all of being is within the womb of God. Nature is not outside of God but an expression of the divine. This is of course precisely the power of paganism. In paganism, there is an understanding that God is “on every hill and under every tree.” The hills are alive with the sound of music. The trees are part of God’s erotic manifestation. The central symbol of much of the ancient pagan cult in biblical Canaan was the Ashera tree. The Ashera is the feminine earth goddess erotically expressed in the image of the Ashera tree. In the wonderful phrase of Keats, “Even as the trees that whisper round the temple become soon as dear as the temple self.” For the pagan, the hills were literally alive with the sound of Music. As Abraham Abulafia’s mysticism reminded us, music is divinity undressed to the human ear. Every hill, brook, tree, and blade of grass was invested with its own divine muse.