Dr. Marc Gafni on Anthro-Ontology: How We Know What We Know

An Excerpt from Our Online Course “Actualize: Living Your Deepest Heart’s Desire to Empower Your Life and Awaken Humanity”

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Bring it in. Silence of presence. Do we have a drum roll in the house? Do we have a drum roll in the house? Are we ready to go? Do we have, do we have, do we have, do we have, do we have, do we have, do we have, okay, so let’s do addition. Ten second recapitulation. Here we go. This is critical. Here we go. So what did we say yesterday? What did we say yesterday? And kind of part two. Just in 10 seconds. Evolution is the evolution of intimacy. Evolution, which is an expression of ultimate reality, Divinity, one face of Divinity, that would be the third face, is the evolutionary impulse. The evolutionary impulse is desire. The evolutionary impulse is the desire that pulses through reality, the feeling of the evolutionary impulses, the desire of ecstatic urgency. What is it? Desire, desire’s intimacy. So desire is Eros. It desires contact, touch. That creates greater wholeness, which is a new intimacy, intimacy, shared identity in the context of otherness.

Otherness, as we’ll see today, is critical. Leave that aside. It’s not fusion. The atom doesn’t obliterate the subatomic particles. The molecule doesn’t obliterate the atoms. The cell doesn’t obliterate the parts of the cell. The organism doesn’t lose the individuated cells. Intimacy is shared identity in the context of otherness. Plus, stay with me, big additional sentence, plus mutuality of pathos, meaning we can feel each other. So in a cell or in any intimate new whole, there’s both telos. Desire has telos, direction and desire has pathos. When we’re in desire, we feel each other. And it’s another place that the sexual models Eros, it doesn’t exhaust Eros. Pathos means, we feel each other. So intimacy means shared identity. In the context of otherness, there still you and me, we’re part of a larger field plus mutuality of pathos, which means you feel me and I feel you.

So the first loop of IntimacyDesire is I feel you, You feel me. The second loop is I feel you feeling me. Isn’t that great? You feel me feeling you. You get what I mean by the sexual models the erotic? The sexual… that’s one of the places you can do that just by kissing shoulders. And I keep coming back to kissing shoulders to liberate us from that one vision of what the sexual is. So I won’t say it anymore, but just keep it in mind the whole morning kissing shoulders is our, our icon. Okay? So the second loop of Eros is: feel you, feeling me. Feel me, feeling you. Now that can be in terms of emotion, ideas, creativity, embodiment, but there’s loops of desire. There are loops of desire. So the third loop would be, this is totally hot. It doesn’t get hotter than this.

Feel me feeling you feeling me. Cha. Cha. And it’s hot. Emotionally, we’re talking about an idea. Just like at times you’re trying to share an idea, no no, feel the idea, feel me you feeling the idea, feel me you feeling me feeling the idea. It’s gorgeous. Does everyone, did you feel that? If you wanna know what they were doing in monasteries, well they’re doing a lot of things in monasteries, but, but you know what? They were trying. When they were trying, it was this, you were talking to your study partner and it was wildly, in Aramaic it’s called a chavruta. It’s a study partner. It’s short. I feel you feeling me feeling you. That takes time. Sometimes you gotta go a whole year till you get one walk for an hour.

Okay, we got to try. We could do that. It’s like that. But that’s, that’s, that’s intimacy. And we impact each other. Because we can feel each other. So, the third loop: Feel you feeling me feeling you. So, intimacy and desire merge together. So we live, and intimacy drives, we said yesterday, the entire process, all the way up and all the way down, the desire for intimacy. Evolution is the progressive deepening of intimacies. Now, I’m going to now resist the temptation to recapitulate that anymore, so stop. Okay? But now here we go.

Okay, here we go. Here’s the sentence. Ready? So what that means is: we live in an Intimate Universe. It’s a big sentence, but it’s only the first half of the sentence. We live in an Intimate Universe, but now that means something. And that’s what it means. We’ve created a new Kosmic habit. Those words have meaning now. It’s got all that. Had we not done yesterday, that would be just a nice sentence. Not even that interesting… We live in an Intimate Universe. Now, here’s the next step. It’s wild, but we need a drum roll for this. Give me a drum over this step. We’ve got a drum roll. We got drum roll, cheap seats in the back. Let’s get the hat. Don’t give me no flag, sag, ready? The Intimate Universe lives in us. Did everyone get that?

That’s why AI is such bullshit. Now you get it. Meaning not just we live in an Intimate Universe, the entire Intimate Universe lives in us. So in other words, all of that allurement, all of that attraction right from the first quarks, every one of those quarks and leptons and muons, they’re all in us. And every subatomic particle and every atom, right from the moments of the big bang, it’s all in us, the whole thing. But in all of them, all the cells, the whole thing, it’s all living in us. So the Intimate Universe, all the way up in all the way down in Linnaeus, who’s one of the greatest thinkers that ever lived, and Goethe said no man was greater to him. Linnaeus talks about this notion already a couple hundred years ago, about: it’s all in us. All of evolution lives in us all the way up and all the way down.

Linnaeus, by the way, is awesome. All the way up and all the way down. It’s everything’s in us. And then after all of that, vibrating, pulsing, feeling, pathos, is in us, then we finally evolve. 12 billion later, later, later, later, neocortex. But the neocortex is the thought. We don’t think just in our, our neocortex is utterly indivisible from everything. And we now know, we don’t even think from the neocortex. The frontal lobe, neocortex isn’t even where we think from. We actually think from the whole body, and that’s where we’re actually on. The whole body is thinking the neocortex is one of the organizing structures. But actually the whole body is thinking, there’s heart math. The entire body is awake and alive, which is why the word Ratzon – will – which is my intellectual decision means in the original Eros.

I’m seduced after you. So look, wow. So now we’re going to bypass all of that. You know what? You get it. Now we’re going to bypass all of that and we’re going to say, okay, let’s take computational power. Access through harvesting of data, because you’ve got a trinket, which was a free g-mail, you’re giving your data. It’s exponentially increasing in these next coming years. Biometric sensors that [inaudible] exponential data, and we’re now going to actually, we’re going to basically downgrade humans and upgrade computers. Do you get what I’m saying? And it’s like you’ve got a wild animal, a beautiful wild animal, and then you tame, not just tame, you domesticate and you crush the animal. So we’re downgrading humans. We can’t even taste anymore. We eat while we’re looking at our email.

Lunch, we’re being productive. Why are we being productive? Because there’s a win/lose metrics. And we need to actually be assured that we’re actually loved in some way or another. We have to be productive, stay on our horse, we look at our email. We’re getting… win/lose metrics all the time. All of them all the time. Never stops. We don’t even taste. We don’t even taste. We just had a whole lunch. We have no idea what we just did. “Taste and see that God is good.” [Hebrew text] We don’t even taste. We barely see what’s in front of us. We can’t hear anymore. We’ve got facial recognition. We’re in every room face to face. We don’t recognize ourselves or each other in any real way. We’ve actually lost the ontology that lives in us. That’s what we meant when we said that word where a couple of eyes roll.

Don’t worry. I caught it. God, really? I mean really. Could you come up with something better? It’s a great word. Okay, and it’s going to become famous, I promise you. Okay. This is the Anthro-Ontological Method, anthro, Anthropology, anthro. It’s in me, ontology, for realsies, isn’t that gorgeous and it’s for real. Thank you. Thank you. Okay, good. Believe me, I knew it wasn’t you. Okay, here we go. So Anthro-Ontology means, ontologies, the mysteries are within us. That’s what it means: The Intimate Universe lives in us, like, wow. Which means I can trust my clarified desire. My clarified desire is a source of ontology and it’s a source of information. Harari writes, Yuval Harari, my colleague, writes one important thing. He’s a very good storyteller; the story is a bad story and it’s off in a thousand ways and he’s got some great sentences.

He says, the most important thing we need that we don’t have is we need new philosophers. What’s the story? He got that right. 1,000%. Anthro-Ontology, the Anthro-Ontological Method is: What are our shared deepest knowings and what are my unique, deepest knowings? But actually the mysteries, the ontologies live in me and they live in me and I can access them. That’s what we call One Love, One Heart. Isn’t that beautiful? It’s One Love, One Heart. One Love, One Heart. One Love, One Heart, isn’t it beautiful. It’s One Love, One Heart. We live in an Intimate Universe.

The Intimate Universe lives in us. And it’s trustable. It’s trustable. It’s not true. The second a society tells you you can’t trust your body, you’re a slave, I want you to get that. The second you can’t trust your own body… it doesn’t mean you don’t have to work with your body. It doesn’t mean you act out every bodily invitation. You’re discerning. You clarify desire. Well, but of course, duh. But, but at the core, you’re not living  in a home you can’t trust. I mean, do you get that? I mean, it makes me cry. We’re told we live in a home we can’t trust. Wow. Wow. I’m living in a home I can’t trust. I can’t trust my body.

I can trust my body. Anthro-Ontology. And Anthro-Ontology is AO. And AO is the response to AI. You got that? And that’s, AO, that’s the response to AI. And I want to just, I just want to give you a sense for a second with your permission, just going to do this very briefly, this is about three hours and I’m doing it in like two minutes. Okay, here we go. Ready? Two minutes. One everyone, okay? Do we get a drum roll? Help me out. Give me a drum roll so we are awake.

I’ll just give you a wild thing. Okay. Here’s a wild thing, I’ll just give you one source, one text, something about Shimon and something about Werner. Shimon says, why are you talking about me now? Oh, okay. So, so I was talking to this dude. I shared with somebody, this conversation, great guy named Werner Erhart and Werner starts something called originally EST and it became called the Landmark, the Forum. And it’s the largest kind of personal development transformation kind of industry in the world. And he’s a brilliant guy. Of course, his original name is Jack Rosenberg, different story. He changed it on a plane to Germany to Werner, kind of thought about it on the plane. And I met him, I don’t know him well. You know, I met him because we made contact when I was having a kind of rough moment about three years ago.

And he called me and he said, that’s nothing. Let me tell you what I went through. And so we had a great phone conversation and we liked each other. So we kept contact and we finally met, you know, I don’t know, X amount of months ago and Werner’s kind of actually like every second watching. He feels very close to the end of his life and there’s things he wants to get done and he’s not doing it. So we agreed to meet and it was a kind of a big deal. And you know, everyone around his world knows, he’s kind of inaccessible, and is like, wow. So we met in a hotel in Silicon Valley, you know, at the bar. And we spent the first hour, I would say something, I talked about Unique Self, he would talk about something.

I would say something, he would talk about something, and whatever. We suitably impressed each other, but basically nothing had happened. And you know, we hadn’t… We’re pretty much done and it took us a long time to make, and I was disappointed. You see, he was disappointed. I said to him, let’s, let’s, let’s break out some wine. So we started drinking. Four hours later, his wife comes down in the middle, he’s taking notes, we’re going like, we went ballistic. We had this awesome few hours, but here was like the height of the whole thing. So Werner has a distinction that actually comes from a Hasidic source, but the core of the distinction is right, which comes from a story about a Hasidic master in the 1950s that made his way to him. But I’ll resist the temptation to tell you any of that.

Here’s the distinction. The distinction is there’s only two choices in life, and it’s a core Landmark distinction. Either you’re in the stands or you’re on the court. That’s a great distinction. Either in the stands, you’re watching the game, you’re watching, you’re in the stands, or you’re on the court. If you’re on the court, you’re in action. I sometimes call it that in my language you’re a victim. You’re in the stands of being a victim, or you’re a player. You’re on the court. That’s always what you got to ask, where are you asking from? Are you asking from the stands? Or are you on the court? And, and I’m so tempted, but don’t, Marc, do not tell them the story of the Hasidic master where this came from. They don’t need to know that. You just want to tell it. Okay? So, boom! I’m not going to tell you that story.

So, I said to Werner, at some point… And this is where we just kind of broke open. I said, “Werner, why are we here? Why are Shimon and I friends?” Same question, Shimon and I have known each other for 20 years. We don’t talk often. He does his thing, I do my thing, but I always know he’s there, and I’m always happy that he’s there.

And we went to a festival. “[Hebrew] Shimon, can’t do without Shimon.” “Why?” “Just because.” But what’s the core of our connection? The core of our connection is allurement. I like being with him. I like hanging out with him. Allurement. So, I said to Werner, “Werner, why are you and I in this meeting? You’re so busy.” I’m saying, “Why are we here? We’re here because of allurement. We were allured to this intimacy. And allurement drives your life.” And Werner went nuts.

He said, “Oh my God.” So, in all… And we recorded these conversations, all Landmark distinctions, I just missed allurement. That’s an on the court distinction, I’ve got to change and rework the system. He just got wildly excited. And the way a person does who is not egoically bound to my system that I… No, he’s just wildly excited. Allurement.

So allurement lives inside of me. Does everyone get that? Allurement’s Anthro-Ontology. Allurement actually… I can actually trust my allurement. My allurement… I follow my allurement. And to actually know that kind of changes everything.

So, I want to give you just a simple text, which is about: how do we know things? So, we know things, say the mystics, because, not that mystics are good. There are idiot mystics like there are idiot scientists. Mystic doesn’t mean good. A lot of corrupt mystics, a lot of mystics doing bad shit, … mystics. No, there are mystics who are clarified, and mystics who aren’t, just like anything else. But the best of the mystics. The best of it is an interior scientist. And I’m an interior scientist. I’m doing experiments in interior science.

So I want to read you just a couple of little passages, just you get Anthro-Ontology. And Anthro-Ontology is: the allurement lives in me and I can trust the allurement. The allurement means that which I desire, my clarified desire. And where does it live? In my body.

Here’s Kook, Abraham Kook, interior science, erotic mystic. He says, “To ask about the higher knowing… ” And I’m translating here. “To ask about the higher knowing, how do you know, has no meaning. Once we find it in the center of the heart-soul, there lives a higher spirit and a treasure of organized knowing which fit together. And this is the highest of all proofs. And all knowledge that comes from research is only a means by which to arrive and clarify this higher knowing, which the soul spills forth from within the deepness of her depths.”

Anthro-Ontology, AO. But if we don’t have a sense of AO because we’ve got a reduced human being who’s been disqualified, reduction, we have reduced the human being to a flatland, separate self, materialistic web of exteriors, well then, why don’t we get the most powerful web of exteriors we can find, which is AI. Do you get that? The logic makes sense. But no, it’s AO. But it’s Anthro-Ontology. It’s: the mysteries are within us, and if we don’t invest in info-tech and biotech and nanotech, which means the consciousness of those people who are creating it, with Evolutionary Love, and with the realization that I live in the Intimate Universe and the Intimate Universe lives in me.

We don’t put Homo amor into the world so that it’s accessible to every man, woman, and child, we don’t tell that new story, then the exponentialized AI, naturally becomes the culmination of reality.

Second text: “All words reveal themselves within the heart-soul. And the more we immerse…” Here’s the word, immerse. In other words what’s that word, immerse? Everyone? Immersion.

That’s what we’re doing this week. This week’s not… This week is beautiful, it’s not easy. Does everyone get what I mean by that? I’m having a beautiful week, I’m not having an easy week. Does everyone get what I mean by that? It’s a beautiful week, not an easy week. And there’s always a part of me that dreads the festival. Fuck! It’s festival time. It’s hard. How many of you can access that? Access it, it’s really important. In other words, the reason we need it is because we need immersion. I have to be immersed. We don’t immerse anymore. When they did Lakshmi chance in Kashmir Shaivism, they weren’t on the web and emailing and moving, they were deep in Anthro-Ontology. The mysteries are within, but we’ve got to go within. And we got to actually sit in it and let it well up. All the words reveal themselves within the heart-soul. And the more we immerse ourselves in inner knowing of the content of the heart-soul, the more our knowledge about everything increases and increases.” I wouldn’t miss the festival for anything. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.

Last one. “Let each person describe with truth and completeness what his/her heart-soul shows them.” That’s not reduction, everything, no, it’s just, no, there’s a unique truth which is where we’re about to go.

“Let him/her bring forth his/her spiritual fruit from potential to actuality without false lips of superficiality. And from sparks like these…” from sparks like these, that is from each of us, “torches of light will gather, and will illuminate the world with their glory. Particles of inner truth of flame like these will gather together as great truth.” Anthro-Ontology.

Here’s the last piece, and then we’re ready to start. Here’s the last piece. Last piece, and we’re going to finish on time, for sure, it’s all good. Just relax. We’re in Vipassana, it’s all good.

What’s the definition of life? It’s very beautiful. What’s the definition of life? So you might say, everybody, DNA. But that’s not true because for example, when we find old remains of skulls, we check the DNA. So DNA as Dr. Venu knows, and who knows much more about this whole field than I do, of course. So I’ll go to him for questions. But just the basics. The DNA obviously lives after you’ve passed. So, DNA is obviously not the marker of life. So I looked up, I don’t know, 60, 70 texts over the last couple of weeks.

And pretty much what people say is that life is connected to metabolism. And metabolism means, there’s this process of life. So, for example, a mineral crystal is not alive. It’s got a pattern of intimacy, do you get what I mean by that? A mineral crystal has a particular molecular, atomic pattern, has a pattern of intimacy, but it’s not alive.

What does it mean to be alive? It’s very beautiful. And this just hit me six days ago, like middle of the night. Actually to be alive is to be in dynamic intimacy. Because actually anabolic, catabolic, what does it mean? It means I’m constructing, I’m building and I’m building. I’m building. That’s actually, there’s anabolic and catabolic pathways in metabolism.

And all what metabolism means is, it’s the livingness of a cell. A cell, a mineral… The crystal doesn’t have cells. A cell is the mark of life. And a cell means it’s metabolizing. And metabolizing means… But these are just words. What happens with scientists, science gives something a word and we stop thinking, we stop imagining. We can’t actually see what it is. Can’t see it in front of us.

So, metabolizing actually means, on the one hand, there’s these, we call them anabolic pathways, which means we build complex molecules, meaning new configurations of intimacy. But just… do you notice that? You could lose all of these; metabolism, anabolic pathways, complex, you don’t even see what’s happening.

Actually, what it means is, reality builds complex molecules from simpler ones. Meaning, new patterns of intimacy emerge, and then old structures break down, they’re called catabolic pathways, in order to pour new energy. So, old structures of intimacy break down because they’re not… You got to pour new energy into life.

So, life itself… This is wild, and we’re going to end our recapitulation here. Life is… the very definition of life, ‘evolving intimacy.’ Wow! And in all of the science, you could, as happens all the time, completely not even notice.

Let’s just breathe that in with permission. Thank you.

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Dr. Marc Gafni on Anthro-Ontology: How We Know What We Know2023-09-02T06:26:00-07:00

Exploring the Paradox and the Problem of Evil and Outrageous Pain – Marc Gafni and Ken Wilber in Dialogue after the Success 3.0 Summit

How do we live in a world of Outrageous Pain?

In this conversation Dr. Marc Gafni and Ken Wilber explore the paradox and the problem of evil and Outrageous Pain. They talk about the problem of suffering and the problem of evil in the world.


Exploring the Paradox and the Problem of Evil and Outrageous Pain

Marc We’re going to talk about the problem of suffering and the problem of evil in the world. How do we live in a world of outrageous pain? From that place we going to kind of end and take questions on what we talked about, if there is something pressing or something else and we’ll each answer the question. So, you will be able to hear the play and the answer while we continue our usual dialogue through your questions. I talked about Ken very little before, just kind of understated.

I am going to say just one thing, Ken has two things going for him, the second one is much bigger than the first. I’m insanely right mind, that’s awesome. He’s kind of pended integrator, actually standing and integrating and weaving in a way that’s virtually unparalleled in the generation. It’s a stunning integration that’s actually tipping the source code of what is possible and I made a decision to locate myself here and I wouldn’t have started the think tank with anyone in the entire world, not any other candidate other than Ken. There were two people in the running, there was only one. There was only one person possible to do this thing with, in this culture, in this moment. That is actually his second-best attribute.

His first is, he’s a wild outrageous lover in the deepest essence of who he is. Everything he is about outrageous love, the entire integral project is about weaving creating the force of attraction which everyone and everything has a place at the table. Everyone is included, nothing is excluded to weave a possibility of a world of outrageous love. From that place and in that place, we live in a world of outrageous pain.

Ken Yes, absolutely.

Marc So take us in, take us in. Those shoes, by the way, are fucking awesome. Just saying. Let’s just start and we began this conversation. What do we do with the problem of pain? You don’t address it a lot in your books, a couple places here and there. Like, 8 years ago, at the spiritual center, I think it was Patrick Sweeney that asked us a question when we had that exchange. So, you start off. How do you enter that and the I’ll take it from there?

Ken One of the things that you start to notice about pain and suffering is that it seems very much to be connected with the type of self-identity that you draw. One simple way of putting it is that the more things that appear outside of you that feel other to you are ones that can afflict pain. The Upanishads say for example wherever there is other, there is fear. A very interesting notion that as soon as we recognize something outside or separate from us, then that then can hurt us. The more we recognize it, our identity envelopes that, includes that, then the less that thing can come across as pain.

Until, when we get to the supreme identity, an identity with everything arising moment to moment. This is traditionally defined as no pain or no suffering. There’s an idea of tradition, enlightenment, awakening, Moksha, freedom, the great liberation, the supreme identity is defined as a dropping away of suffering. That doesn’t mean pain is gone. You can still experience pain, but because you are identified with it because it is not something outside of you, because it is not something you are fighting or contracting against, it doesn’t cause suffering.

So, pain plus the self-contraction is suffering. As you get rid of the self-contraction, you can get rid of suffering and then pain is just an interesting, energetic sort of vibration, but it is not something that is threatening you, because it is no longer outside of you. So, when you get into states of enlightenment, states of non-dual unity, consciousness, then there is literally nothing outside of you, nothing feels like it’s outside of you. You get this deep feeling that everything that is arising is the texture of yourself. That all of this is what you are.

So, even right now, you’re not, if you actually sort of watch how your awareness can shift, the standard idea would be that you are in this room. Everybody kind of agree with that. But if you stand back a bit, let your awareness relax and unfold, you start to recognize that actually this room is arising in your awareness. You are actually embracing this room. This room is something that is in you and the same as you go out and you can look at the environment out there, you can look at the mountains, you can look at the clouds going through the sky and the clouds are something that is arising in your awareness. The clouds are in you.

So, as you continue in that fashion, you can get yourself into a state where the entire universe is arising within your fundamental awareness. Within your own being. In that situation, there is nothing outside of you and because of that there’s nothing you fundamentally can desire because there’s the thing outside that can be desired and in the same way there is nothing that can threaten you. There is nothing that can frighten you. There’s nothing that can harm you because there is nothing outside of you.

Marc Usually at this point of the conversation, I would say something like you’re always the most brilliant explainer of Buddhism, better than Buddhism itself. What the fuck, man? Here’s where we would go back and forth and kind of feel it, of course. You are approaching it, again, you always just restate it better than its stated the first time. The response to outrageous pain is actually shifting your own identity in a core way.

Ken Sure.

Marc For example, there’s a great non-dual master that you and I have talked about when we talked to Moshe Idel back in the day by the name of Levi Isaac of Berdichev who’s the greatest non-dual master ever. Super cool dude. I mean, he didn’t dress nearly as well as you, but he was like super, super cool. And his like Levi Isaac, and Idel calls him the greatest non-dual master of the 19th century. When he responds to outrageous pain, he actually did in Berdichev is, he held a trial where he put God or reality on trial. He actually called witnesses from all the surrounding towns, you know, orphaned widows, people who were destitute and this great non-dual master, who was a kind of Gupte figure in terms of his writing, in terms of his depth, puts God on trial.

The trial lasted a couple of weeks and then since he was the local Rabbi, he was the arbiter, he found God guilty. His response was protest, which is a different response in a lineage tradition and of course three faces of God, that you articulated so gorgeously, not in conflict but just kind of play with that other way of doing it where you protest but not from a place of contraction, I think that is how people read it.

It is not just a Separate Self protesting, but if you put the kind of classical Kabbalistic and Buddhist position together, I shift my prospective because I am one with the Divine but then that oneness with the Divinity, that lives within me, then shouts out and says, “It’s not fair!” It shouts out and says, “It can’t be this way!” and it shouldn’t be this way and by developing a kind of spirituality of protest, I am actually able to respond to outrageous pain. This is a different way to play. How does that play with you?

Ken Say more about how you play with it under different circumstances.

Marc When I am experiencing outrageous pain, I need to affirm the dignity of my life and I can only do that by actually saying that this is not fair. It’s not that I just have to shift my identity, which of course, I do, yes. But actually, it’s like prayer forms the dignity of personal need. Protest affirms the dignity of the human situation. The human situation is such that we are storied beings and although there is an egoic story we need to move beyond. There’s the Unique Self story that we have to live in and when that story is violated, it’s a violation.

We would rather hold the mystery of the violation and protest, but not from our Separate Self, paradoxically, but as Divinity, I am now crying out God’s protesting God through me. Which allows for the possibility of existential dignity of which I am always troubled, not just in Buddhism, Kabbalism, as we’ve talked about several times, has similar positions. I am always troubled by that, what Scholem used to call the anti-existential position. I know Yadah kind of talks about that also. How does that play with you?

Ken Well, fine.

Marc Fine, right?

Ken Yeah.

Marc They live together.

Ken Huh?

Marc They live together.

Ken Yeah, basically and they strike me as essentially two different perspectives on the same fundamental situation. The situation we are talking about is this outrageous, weird, completely crazy situation of the relationship between the human and the Divine. They are in so many ways deeply interwoven, they deeply need each other, they have, on the one hand, just looking at the face of it, they have different, if you will, perspectives, different views. The thing that makes the human condition such an extraordinarily wild condition, at the very least the intersection of these two…

Marc The ultimate paradox.

Ken It is.

Marc The ultimate, ultimate paradox.

Ken Completely.

Marc You can only laugh.

Ken Completely. Somebody said a paradox is truth standing on it’s head trying to get attention.

Marc Nice.

Ken it’s not just that they are contradictory, although they can appear that way, but the contradictions where both of them are known to be true.

Marc Right. No, that’s great.

Ken So, that’s very different.

Marc Paradox is the core of the whole thing.

Ken Paradox is the core of the whole thing. Paradox is the direct key to this relationship.

Marc Aren’t they parenthesis? I’d say if one thing marks integral it’s the ability to hold paradox.

Ken There are so many different aspects about that, but paradox is core.

Marc Let’s come back to paradox afterwards.

Ken Also it’s tied up with the opposites. So, what we have in the manifest world, is a world of opposites and so, you have virtually no concept makes any sense unless it’s contrasted with its opposites. Infinite doesn’t make sense with finite and pleasure doesn’t make sense without pain and inside and outside etcetera. Almost any concept we use has meaning only in terms of it’s opposite. One of the things that of course humans want to try to do is when they describe their situation, they want to describe it with a set of concepts or a set of ideas that they think captures essential truths, but right there we are stuck with a paradox because the very concepts that you use to describe what you think are true, only makes sense in terms of their opposites.

You can never get rid of those opposites and the sense that’s what a lot of the non-dual theorists say is that here’s why alternate spirit is non-conceptual, or why you can’t approach it in theoretical terms or just conceptual in terms and that is that any concept that you use to try to approach spirit is going to make sense only in terms of it’s opposite. The spirit doesn’t have an opposite. It’s not just half of the world it’s the entirety.

Marc Abraham Cook has a beautiful thing he says, “The Holy has an opposite, the Holy of Holies has no opposite.”

Ken Exactly.

Marc It’s its very nature.

Ken Exactly.

Marc It can’t have an opposite. Let’s just go back to the human. Let’s look at the paradox we just played with here. So, you put this position to the space which is, and it’s gorgeous, you have shifted your own self-perception and when you shift that, pain doesn’t go away but suffering, that part goes away and then the other position, which is no, actually, you affirm the dignity of your suffering and you protest. Where now in the old world that would have caused a theological war. Oh my God, which one is true? What we’re saying now is no, actually those are two faces of reality and those two faces of reality emerge from, let me just unpack it for 2 minutes and pass it back to you.

If I basically experience reality from a kind of mystical perspective in which there is no other. You’ve got to move beyond the personal and kind of realize that the essential underlying oneness of everything move beyond Separate Self to True Self. As you always love to say quoting Schrödinger, “Single has no plural”. Then if you’re suffering move to True Self. That would be the move you make, but if you’re kind of Rumi, and you fall in the arms of the beloved, and the beloved just fucked you over, and if you can’t actually call the person that you are in love with on conflicting pain, then you have violated the relationship.

The only way to can restore it and it’s from that perspective, it’s not a theological problem, pain, it’s an intimacy problem. It’s a violation of intimacy. As Divinity becomes not just nothingness but the infinity of intimacy. Intimacy has been violated in the relationship through suffering you can only restore the relationship by restoring intimacy. You restore intimacy by getting angry and having the dignity of your anger affirmed. We don’t need to fight because actually those are two perspectives that live in paradox, what you would call the first and second person of God and you get to actually be in both of them.

Ken Well, that’s the thing.

Marc That’s stunning.

Ken Exactly. Part of what we are dealing with here, again, is the, the eye of flash, the eye of mind and eye of contemplation. Each of these are three different types of knowing, at a minimum, that human beings have access to. One of the problems that we have is that we’re always trying to make one eye…

Marc Thé eye.

Ken Thé eye, and one eye have all of the answers and it just doesn’t.

Marc I should tell our friends, by the way, this is e-y-e, eye.

Ken E-y-e, eye. So, all of it’s connected to the I, capital I. If you look at science, for example, it bases its truths ultimately on, at least orthodox science, on the types of truths that it can find using censoring data. Censoring data or its extensions, telescopes, microscopes, X-ray machines, and so on. That’s the kind of truths that science gives us, basically.

Then you also have the eye of mind and the eye of mind can give these truths that the eye of flesh can’t. With the eye of mind, you have things like logic or mathematics or interpretation and when it comes to something like mathematics, nobody has ever seen the square root of negative one running around out there in the sensory world. Yet all of science, the eye of flesh, depends on logic and mathematic.

There’s a higher realm of truth that we have access to and then when we finally get to the eye of spirit, and again each of these eyes transcends includes its predecessor, by the time we get to the eye of contemplation then you starting to get into states of consciousness that have no other. Again, those in those states sometimes called unity, consciousness or non-dual awareness, but that’s where it gets tricky, that’s where it gets paradoxical because we have ultimately a reality that is all embracing, all encompassing and yet we have all of these differentiations and all of these paradoxes all of these contradictions in the relative realm that we really can’t solve in that realm.

So, we have to move to eye of contemplation to actually get answers to these ultimate questions but those answers themselves aren’t something that can be put into words nor can they give us nice answers in a philosophical system. If nothing else, they going to plug us in to this ultimate radical, all inclusive reality and we’re simply going to, if you will, vibrate with the truths of an all-encompassing reality. That’s itself is the answer to any questions that we would have. Who am I? Where I come from? What’s ultimately real? Though there are answers to those questions, not from the eye of flesh and not from the eye of mind, but from the eye of contemplation, from the eye of spirit.

Marc So, let me just kind of check you. Let’s jump into the eye of spirit. I have a contemplation. I just kind of want to throw a suggestion into the space and we’ve pushed back and forth on this over the years. Sometimes the non-dual teaching is presented it actually loses paradoxical nature. That is to say paradoxes’ thought to exist in the manifest world. When we actually get to oneness, there is no paradox, we’re just paradoxically non-paradoxical. Meaning, that I can be a master of total oneness, total non-dual unity and there is still other and the other is the personal face of essence that knows my name.

Now, in Kashmir Shaivism, for example, they refuse to ultimately hold the paradox because as you know the tat was the highest levels, there’s just the one. In Kabbalah they hold the paradox. There paradox is different than in Kashmir Shaivism, that actually you’re in the complete oneness, there is no paradox at all and there’s other and who’s the other? Divinity, that’s you, that’s also holding you at the very same time. That is this wild paradoxical move and without that paradoxical move, oneness, so, in some sense, there is one taste but the paradox is there is two tastes. The two tastes exist even in the highest oneness.

I remember in those months before kind of the three eyes, the three faces of God got formulated. God in the first person, thou art that, non-dual. God in the second person, I thou, and God in the third person, the energy of the Kosmos, third person. I remember we talked about Levi Isaac, bridges of the story, the same master who would make a blessing and he would say [Hebrew], blessed are you. He would go “Blessed are you, you, you, you!” People would faint in ecstasy because the “you” was so real that he realized that the “you” wasn’t a concept, the “you” was a realization. The actual realization of the eye of contemplation.

Ken Right.

Marc Without contemplation, paradoxically, and there’s where it becomes a great, beautiful, integral ability to hold total oneness so that the question is removed because there is no question, and then the other side is, the answer to the question is the question itself. Let me just go one more second on that and then back to you. So, if I question why is this happening?

I can either remove the question by saying I shift my identity, I am part of the one or I can say in the question itself, where I challenge Divinity, I challenge reality in that question is the answer because the question affirms the goodness, because I can’t challenge goodness if there’s no goodness and it affirms relationships because who an I asking the question to? By questioning itself, I am affirming the relationship, I am affirming that we love each other.

If you hear my anger and we’re angry at each other, the dignity of my anger restores our relationship. I kind of feel like in modernity, when we give an answer to suffering that is only the Ramana Maharshi answer. Without the Kabbalistic answer, we lose something. We need to hold…

Ken That’s the thing.

Marc That’s an integral move.

Ken Well, both of those are one way of looking at it.

Marc Right.

Ken And that’s the ultimate, really the sort of paradox of paradox of paradox. Which is that just by saying it’s a paradox that doesn’t like to sneak in a non-paradoxical answer. Under that paradox is another paradox. I mean, it’s the radically, infinitely of unbelievably, unendingly paradoxical nature of how human beings can see reality.

Marc And this is not theoretical that you are talking about.

Ken No.

Marc This is how I live in the world.

Ken Absolutely.

Marc There is nothing theoretical about this conversation at all. Am I able to live and hold the paradox or am I not? And that affects my ethics, it effects my sexuality, it effects the way I do business, it affects how I show up in every moment in the world. Am I holding paradox or am I not?
Ken Exactly. There’s, in a sense, a deeper paradox where both of those are held.

Marc Are held.

Ken So, that’s what stops either one or the other from being the final answer.

Marc Paradox is all the way up and all the way down.

Ken All the way up, all the way down, all the way in, all the way out, all the way left, all the way right. Because of this peculiar situation, where we have a single universe, if you will, a single spirit, if you will, but it is manifesting. So that means simultaneously infinite spirit is remaining itself, fully. It is also going out of itself, fully. So, it’s both remaining itself and losing itself.

Marc It’s losing itself.

Ken Right there you have a formula for a universe that is always going to be doing that when you are trying to get to the ultimate answers. It’s always going to be fully in itself and fully out of itself. Fully paradoxical and paradoxical about paradoxical. Endlessly, because any time you stop that, then you fix on just a single monolithic answer and that’s the one thing it isn’t, is it isn’t that.

Marc Totally, which is why the traditions lost uniqueness. Uniqueness seemed to be if you moved beyond your Separate Self and your part of the one, how can you also be unique? I remember 10 years ago, when we started talking about it, everyone said that’s completely crazy. You become no self because you can’t be unique if your part of the one. That’s kind of obvious. The answer is of course not. Actually, paradoxically, I can move beyond my separateness, I can be completely part of the one and yet utterly and irreducibly unique in the very same moment. Without that realization and in that sense, I would say that the great traditions, none in there most esoteric form, in their most taught form, were actually guilty of refusing to hold paradox because paradox is hard to hold.

Ken Exactly. Again, there’s, behind all of that, is paradox is the truth standing on its head to attract attention. That’s mere a contradiction which is truths that disagree with each other and just disagree with each other, this jam. Paradoxes are two truths, disagree with each other but we know both of them are right. We know that both of them are true.

Marc Exactly, both of them are true.

Ken That’s where it gets interesting. That’s where you are getting very close to the Holy of the Holies.

Marc Let’s just maybe go one more step and I think there’s some other people in the line, so we will let them ask some questions. There are still some people in the line. Let’s try to go one more step back and forth. The only way I can show myself or people paradoxes is by pointing it out. Not something like a pointing out instruction, you point it out. Is there anybody in this room who’s married?

How’s it going? Who’s married? Are you married? What’s your name? […] Gavi, I knew that, okay. So, Gabi is your husband around someplace? Where is he? […] Raj, okay, so let me just ask you a question. This is kind of paradoxical. When you married Raj, did you have a choice? There was basically no one else for you to marry. He was like the last guy around. [Can’t hear answer 31:40] Was it free, what is a free choice that you made or was it utterly determined? Which one? Was it free or just obviously determined? […] So, how can that be? Both is one of my favorite words.

I obviously chose Raj, right? I mean, obviously, right? […] And there is actually no one else in the world that can be my husband, other than Raj? Even though I heard a little about your past. You went out with a few other guys. We’re not going to mention any of them right now. So, Gabi is holding in her body paradox. She totally chose Raj, and yet there is no possibility that she ever could have married anyone else other than Raj. How could that be?
That is the paradox of freedom and determinism, you actually embody it. I looked at Gabi and I thought of Gabi and Raj like perfect paradox right there. It’s like clearly obvious. That’s pointing out. That’s the eye of the spirit.

Ken Yeah. The whole point of the eye of the spirit is that whenever what its direct immediate realizations are. Whenever they are expressed in conceptual terms, they turn into paradox. These two opposites that are, both of them can’t be right, and yet we know that both of them are right.

Marc Just because it’s us and it’s our Monday call, if you had to pick in your life what is paradoxical, where would you go? Everything, right?

Ken Sure.

Marc Give me an example, just for fun. Just you and me, right?

Ken In terms of do I feel awakened or do I feel self-contracted, ignorant, caught in an illusion, sin, separation, and the tendency is to think, oh gosh, I am in the self-contracted state but I can get in a released, realized awakened state and right there that itself already that’s an incorrect move. I got it wrong, right?

Marc From the start. I am going to become enlightened.

Ken Exactly. The eye of the spirit in two completely separate realms and I am going to get out of one and I am going to get into other. Even if I did that, all that I would have is half of reality.

Marc Right and who would want that?

Ken That’s not going to be good. So, it’s going to have its own form of suffering. It’s suffering of incompleteness; it’s suffering of not really being all embracing. In that sense, deep, deep, deep paradox is the way that spiritual truth shows up in conceptual live mind.

Marc In your day-to-day experience, you kind of feel both always happening. Total freedom…

Ken Part of the trick, and it really is kind of tricky, is that if you look at the opposites the idea is that you really want to be able to get to a position where you can see that all of the opposites are true. You don’t want to end up trying to get just the good, just the pleasurable, just the positive and get rid of the negative and get rid of the evil and get rid of pain, etcetera. You don’t want to hold on to life and get rid of death because underlining both of those is whole reality and both of those, the negatives and positives, are just like if you are drawing a painting, you need both light and dark in order to draw this painting and right now we have this whole painting that’s arising in our awareness right now.

It’s a total painting of all that is. It’s a complete painting and so we consider that and we have essentially one of two possible approaches to it. One is we look at everything that is arising, everything we’re feeling, everything we’re seeing and we say okay, I like that, and I like that, and I like that, so I am going to try to hold on to there. I don’t like that, I don’t like that, I don’t like that, so I get this primordial avoidance of some aspect of the total painting, of all that is.

In that primordial avoidance, I am splitting reality and I splitting myself from it and I am delivering it up in fragmented pieces, which are broken, torn, partial, tortured, tormented and that’s going to convert pain into suffering. That’s the typical way that we do it. The other is through some of the more meditated or contemplative ways and that is to basically relax and allow everything in the total painting of all that is, to arise. Don’t look away from any of it, don’t turn away from any of it, don’t push away from any of it, but radically embrace everything that is arising moment to moment.

Marc I mean, there it is. Maybe just to pick up from that and to finish the last piece and then take questions. So, paradoxically, and here’s the position of the kind of evolutionary mystic, on the one hand it is all perfect, it’s ultimately all perfect and yet I’ve got a change everything at the same time. This notion of Tikkun and Kabbalah is that actually I am participating in liberating the sparks, there’s this kind of emanation of Divinity into, as it were, vessels of reality. Those vessels explode, they break, the shards of the vessels are scattered and then as the heroic human being, I liberate the sparks from the vessels and return them to their source.

That’s Tikkun, I am fixing reality. In that fixing, I am fixing a reality that’s perfect and here’s the wild thing, Abraham Cook, the mystic that we love so much, he says there is two kinds of perfection. He says it in a very simple and beautiful way. He says, “If you have two friends…”, he likes to [Word 39:20] all his spiritualizations, “You have two friends and one of them has got this perfect life. They’re awesome. They’ve always been perfect. Then you have another one who is imperfect but really struggled to perfect. Which one is more perfect? Obviously, the second one who is imperfect but struggling in order to perfect. How can it be then that Divinity can only be perfect?”

If we realize that it is actually more perfect to perfect yourself. Cook says, “Even Divinity itself is evolving. That actually Divinity is completely perfect, yet paradoxically evolving all the time.” [Hebrew 39:57] It’s just the ability to hold that that allows us to live in the world and to kind of, I just know it in my life, I am like ecstatically happy and I am filled with pain. Pretty much all the time and every second I am in complete ecstasy and I cry all the time and I laugh. It’s almost like we cry out of one side of our mouth and we laugh out of the other side of our mouth. To be able to hold that and not to refuse either of the sides, so we’re born in that.

Ken Well, that’s the only actual response to this extraordinarily, deeply ingrained, paradox of ultimate reality. As we strive to understand it through the eye of mind and through the eye of flesh, and so being able to hold on to both sides of those is the way that we stretch our awareness to be able to include the entire painting of all that is.
Everything that is arising is to be embraced in that sense and that’s a practice itself, that is itself an extraordinary action of putting your arms out and embracing everything that’s arising to acts of outrageous love and so on. What you are embracing are these dual aspects of paradox and even the paradox of the paradox and I mean, it is an infinite hall of reflecting mirrors.

Marc It just literally changes everything.

Ken Yeah. The problem with so many approaches to theological systems and spiritual systems they try to nail it to just one.

Marc hey refuse to hold it, they refuse. Utter refusal of the whole paradox. Extremists feel better when they wake up in morning because they take one value, they decontextualize it from the larger constellation of values and they make it a whole.

Exploring the Paradox and the Problem of Evil and Outrageous Pain – Marc Gafni and Ken Wilber in Dialogue after the Success 3.0 Summit2023-06-17T12:23:18-07:00

A Special Gift from Our First Live Sacred Retreat: Truth and Laughter

Enjoy this beautiful excerpt on Truth and Laughter from our recent Sacred Retreat.

Register for Evolutionary Church Every Saturday 9-10 am PT Online
A Special Gift from Our First Live Sacred Retreat: Truth and Laughter2023-06-19T09:41:21-07:00
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