In 2011, I became friends with Dr. Marc Gafni, currently the head of the Center for Integral Wisdom. I visited him and listened to him extensively discuss the allegations of various parties (mostly women alleging emotional or sexual abuse), and learned that he had an archive of private materials in his defense. I perused the private materials and, after some deliberation, came to see matters much as he did, as a misplaced and unsubstantiated vendetta.
In all of my deliberations, I relied mainly upon public information and his private archives, except for one scandal. It was the scandal that brought Marc and I together, actually. Tami Simon, the head of Sounds True, cancelled Marc’s book deal, alleging that Marc had been inappropriately involved with two persons, one a student. Marc expressed regret about some of his behavior, such as asking for privacy/secrecy from the women, but not all of his behavior. I interviewed the two women and attempted to interview Tami. When Tami refused an interview, I posted a blog post with my interview questions for her. I really didn’t feel I had enough information to judge Tami, but I did feel that Marc’s behavior while problematic was not an obstacle to his continued involvement in the Integral community.
In 2012 and 2013, I collaborated with Marc on a variety of projects, the most important being my work to help ensure that the website for Your Unique Self got off the ground. For over a year I was an independent contractor for the Center for World Spirituality (which would later be renamed CIW).
Our family and our home, the human family and its civilization, are at risk. There are too many concerns which plague us as a planet and global collective which are too serious to ignore and too complex for our present level of consciousness to handle. It is a dangerous time, and we need to face it with courage and insight and the spirit of a genuinely new world philosophy.
Fortunately it isn’t necessary to create a worldview out of thin air. There is already a potential candidate at hand: Integral World Spirituality (by whatever name finally emerges). As Marc Gafni so eloquently said in “Spirit’s Next Move”:
For the first time in the history of planet earth, in the history of consciousness, a world spirituality is utterly possible and utterly necessary. A world spirituality is one that transcends, ends the trance of any particular religion and nationality, that weaves together the best medicines of every great system of spirit and knowing into a larger whol,e in which we understand that that which unites us is far greater than that which divides us, in which we understand and live the common truths and calls and obligations that are laid out by all the great systems of spirit and we also experience and benefit from the unique gifts of the different systems of spirit woven together into a larger, gorgeous tapestry that gives us a system to live by, and that all peoples of earth can find themselves as citizens of a world spirituality. That is a possibility that exists today in a way that never did before in the history of planet earth. This vision is a necessity today and was never possible at any other time in the history of the planet.
This blog will spend lots of time discussing integral spirituality (including contributions by its pioneering thinker Ken Wilber) and there is no need to introduce the topic today in a comprehensive fashion. Let me just say three things:
First, that an integral world spirituality is not a pipe dream, but a substantive reality which is already here. I have what may be called an integral spirituality and many thousands of people do (I know; they’re my Facebook friends; they congregate in conferences and conventions and meetups; sometimes they come over for dinner). When Marc Gafni says world spirituality is already possible, he might also have said is already happening.
Second, an integral spirituality will probably not become a new religion, even if sociologists eventually categorize it as such in order to track its observable features. Instead it is most likely to flourish as a “common language” which unites people from around the world regardless of their religious belief or lack thereof based on a shared way of talking about and thinking about the realities of spirit.
Third, world spirituality cherishes the uniqueness of persons — our unique selves — and it honors the distinctiveness of each religion and system of knowing. It does not like to divide people up into “more developed” and “lesser developed” as if those things mattered to Spirit. They don’t, though developmental thought is honored for its contribution to helping us understand our individuality and commonalities better.
And so there you have it. We are here. We are learning to see beyond the boundaries of conventional religions and spiritual systems which haven’t been able to hold us. There are common truths to be known and felt, truly catholic openness to Truth itself, knocking on our door. We don’t know the Truth perfectly, but we are sure that you don’t either but we all have enough truth between us that we ought to be able to solve the problems we face as a civilization.
Joe: Where is the World Spirituality movement today?
Marc: The World Spirituality movement has many expressions in the world. There are many people practicing World Spirituality not in an organized way, not in a theoretically consistent way, often not in a dharmically completely sound way, but they have this core intuition and they are grasping and looking for ways to express it. At some point, we are looking to develop means to allow this grassroots world movement expression, and the book you’re working on, The Rise of World Spirituality, I hope will at least in part, the way you described it to me which sounds really exciting, you’ll be able to point to this, that it’s already happening.
The leading institution in the movement is the Center for World Spirituality. We just finished our second annual board meeting. I want to give you a sense of where we are because it’s really exciting. We’ve decided that our mission, our mantle, is to shift something in the source code of consciousness. The evolution of the source code of consciousness is our core mission statement. Some of our board members, Tom Goddard and Kathleen Brownback, are heading a group to work on this. It’s a fantastic board of people from around the world.
What we’ve done is identify what we’re going to do. We identified two things at the meeting. One, what is the theoretical framework of World Sprituality? And two, what are the action items? The theoretical framework is different, so I’ll talk about the action items.
Joe: So by “action items,” just so my readers are clear, you’re talking about this organization, called the Center for World Spirituality, you’re talking about what this organization has in store for the near future. Is that right?
Marc: That’s correct. The Center is one I founded a few years ago with Mariana Caplan and Sally Kempton, and Ken Wilber was involved as a very important member on the Council, and any number of fantastic leaders and teachers from around the world. We’re partnering with our friends who have a Global Spirituality website and we will be integrating that into the Center in a very deep way.
The center is both a lower-left and lower-right expression, actually an all-four-quadrant expression now that I think about it, whose prime purpose is to articulate the dharma of a World Spirituality and to evolve the dharma of a World Spirituality. That’s the job of the Center. The job of World Spirituality itself is to evolve the source code of consciousness.
What are the methods for doing this mission? We’re focusing on three major areas.
First, the Center has decided to focus on acting as a think tank / publishing concern. We actually chartered approximately 12 – 15 major projects of different natures.
Joe: I’m glad you were able to keep track of them. There were about 25 different people in attendance, and just about all of them committed to some sort of project or other key way of supporting World Spirituality. That’s more than I expected. I heard that too from some of the other board members, the newer ones who didn’t know quite what to expect. Once we engaged with the rest of the board, we got a feel for the caliber of the people in attendance, our expectations were exceeded, and we ended up feeling more optimistic than when we sat in our first meeting.
Marc: That’s great feedback to receive. Even though I knew going into the meeting all of the different pieces, but just hearing all the pieces spoken aloud into the room, hearing the interaction of the board community. Of the 20 projects, if the top 10 happen, we’re in really good shape. The top 10 include a book on The Rise of World Spirituality, a collection of essays on the Enlightenment of Fullness. There will be a major book on World Spirituality based on Integral Principles with Ken Wilber. There will be a book on shadow work – Lighten Up. There will be a World Spirituality practice book. Without going down the entire list, there’s … people like yourself, to Kathy Brownback, to Ken Wilber, to Warren Farrell, Wyatt Woodsmall, Helen, Tom, Mariana. And there were some board members who weren’t there who all have fantastic contributions to make. So we’re very excited about the think tank / publishing dimension.
The second dimension is training. We’re working on creating a new series of trainings which are rooted in World Spirituality and Unique Self technology.
And third we are calling “community lab.” Instead of creating one big World Spirituality Center or Church, there will be smaller circles meeting around the world, circles of people. That’s a big deal, that’s exciting, that’s good. At least at first, those circles will be circles of study – whether in Holland at Venwoude or Shalom Mountain or San Francisco, perhaps in Seattle something will emerge.
And finally a very strong Web presence which we are going to be working on in the next six months. I hope by six months from now the Web presence will reflect this vision of World Spirituality, its five-part theoretical framework – which we won’t get into on this phone call – but which is a beautiful, modular way of understanding the core principles, which you can understand on a popular level and a deep mystical level, will appear as the core of the website as the core module of all the books. It’s a lot.
Joe: We’re running out of time today. On this topic, we could drill into detail on all of these and talk much longer, so we’ll need to look for updates on the CWS website, watching for news as it develops. I know there’s a lot of information coming in the future. But if somebody wants to get started today practicing World Spirituality in Toledo, Ohio, or the jungles of the Amazon, what are they to do?
Marc: We’re not completely yet prepared to fully receive that question, meaning, the framework is not yet completely articulated. I would say, go to the website, go to the teaching tab – “Core Teachings” – and they’ll be able to read the basic principles of World Spirituality, which will give someone a framework for practice which they can immediately implement.
Joe: What about the book Unique Self which we’re all waiting for?
Marc: I don’t have a final word. But the last word I have as of a few days ago is that it’s supposed to come out in mid-June or July. The latest it would come out is the fall. We’ve just completed the transactional pieces of that book. We’re very excited that Your Unique Self: the Democratization of Enlightenment, will be out by the summer. And there’s already some key pieces on the Web. On our website, there’s a keynote address I gave at J.F.K. on Unique Self, and there’s the Journal of Integral Theory & Practice, Vol. 6, 1, on Unique Self. There’s a core article there, a 40 or 50 page article there, which gives you the core of the teaching, which is already available and will be fully fleshed out over the book. We hope over the next 18 months there will be about 5 volumes coming out covering these dimensions even as we’re writing the next stage for the library.
Awake, Aware & Alive will be featuring short dialogues with some of the leaders of the World Spirituality movement. Our first dialogue is with Marc Gafni, Director of the Center for World Spirituality.
Joe: Let’s limit our dialogue today to about 10 minutes so it won’t overwhelm readers of my blog. I sent you a few questions earlier to get us started. With that in mind, let’s begin by talking about your vision of World Spirituality and go from there.
Marc: Fantastic. It’s great to be with you on the phone, as always. You sent me three different questions: What is World Spirituality? Is World Spiritualilty a new religion? And what’s the difference between World Spirituality and the interfaith movement? Those are awesome questions and I understand why you limited it to 10 minutes; we could easily talk for eight hours on just these three questions.
World Spirituality is not a new religion. A new world religion is exactly what we don’t need.
Particularly in the World Spirituality framework where Unique Self is a key lodestone, we have a realization, not only a belief, but a realization, that every human being has a Unique Self. And that every religion has a Unique Self. Every great system of knowing, pre-modern, modern, and post-modern, is a unique epistemological expression of Knowing.
We use a number of images to describe this. One is a symphony in which each instrument is playing its own music, recognizing that the essence is not the instrument but the music, but the uniqueness of the instrument is irreducible and each reveals a different dimension of the music. In that sense, the great systems of knowing in the world are music. Each great system of knowing is approaching the knowing asking different questions, using different methodologies, enacting different inquiries, and those different instruments produce different faces, dimensions, notes in the music.
Joe: Are you suggesting, Marc, that each of the world religions is like a musical instrument or a band, and somehow World Spirituality steps into play like an orchestra conductor might?
Marc: Exactly. That’s right. … Each system of knowing is a unique instrument in the symphony of gnosis. The job of World Spirituality is to act precisely as the conductor and help these different instruments find their right tone, find their right relationship to the other instruments, and ensure that each instrument is listening to the others, so that what emerges is not noise but music. That’s what World Spirituality is. Not heaps, but wholes. Not noise, but music. It’s a grand symphony with enormous texture and depth in which the integrity of every instrument is honored and yet a larger whole emerges from it.
Joe: That’s fine, Marc, but you know there are people who don’t want that. They would say that if every religion is like an instrument, then each individual is his or her own symphony conductor and they don’t want some holistic framework or universalizing narrative to enter the scene which can become another competing instrument. They want every individual to be her or his own orchestra conductor, not to look to some outside authority. How would you respond to that?
Marc: That is green [post-modern] thinking, classical green thinking. Green thinking says there is no canon, no authority, and so everyone does it in their own way and they’re all equal. That’s not true. It’s impossible for even the wisest person to swallow whole all the great systems of knowing, and be able to independently navigate them, find the right weight of each one, etc We need an operating system. An elegant operating system to allow us to get what we need from each, establish right relationship, etc.
Now that doesn’t mean that the operating system is the one eternal authoritative voice. It’s an evolving operating system. You could have open source code. People could participate, share their insights, and more deeply evolving what World Spirituality is. But at its core, it’s a “framework/symphony” in which the job of World Spirituality is to create an ability for people to see the patterns that connect the dots. An individual is practically and epistemologically usually unable to do. It’s an evolving system.
One last point. To take issue with one word you said: you referred to the world religions. As you know, when we talk about great systems of knowing, we aren’t just talking about world religions. They are almost exclusively pre-modern, with exceptions for Mormonism and a couple of small exceptions. We are talking about a framework which includes modern: for example, science and psychology, which come out of modernity; and post-modernity, which is this deep understanding that context is essential, the crucial recognition of development and finally the great insight that everything arises and develops within an evolutionary context.
We want to take all the great systems of knowing, give them all an appropriate place at the table, and then show the patterns that connect. What are the deeper structural understandings that will allow us to live in a context of meaning? That’s what World Spirituality is. It’s to create a shared framework of meaning in which an individual can realize the full gorgeousness of their Unique Self, in which every great system of knowing can be honored, reverentially received … and evolved.
Joe: I think you’ve begun to answer my question about interfaith. At least one way that World Spirituality differs from the interfaith movement is that interfaith leaves out of the picture science and post-modernity. They’re interested in inter-religious dialogue. What are some of the other distinctions?
Marc: That’s an important distinction. That’s distinction one. First off, interfaith has made an important contribution. We bow to it. It’s critical and necessary.
There are two versions of interfaith: version one — what I call “soft interfaith” — says, “Hey we’ve been killing each other. We need to respect each other. That’s not helpful. We need to respect that we’re all doing our best, we have good intentions, we are all engaged in spirit in some sense, so let’s respect each other and love each other if possible. And so we need dialogue.” Clearly important.
A second, what I would call a “hard interfaith” says that the depth structures are identical, even though the rituals and other surface structures may be different. The same core practices and core understandings are shared. Another name that has been given for what I’m calling hard interfaith is perennial philosophy.
Perennial philosophy is a version of hard interfaith. World spirituality transcends and includes. It negates the problematic elements of each one of these, to borrow Hegel’s phrase, including both soft interfaith and hard interfaith. In that, clearly we need to respect each other.
Clearly there are shared depth sstructures. But the next step is to recognize that actually there are evolving depth structures. The cosmos is evolving and everything is evolving at the same time. Everyone is tetra-evolving. All four quadrants of reality. Everything Spirit is evolving. We don’t want to reify what we know today and freeze it. We wan to recognize that in a thousand years from now these depth structures will have evolved.
World Spirituality is perennial philosophy in an evolutionary context.
Joe: We’re out of time. I think that’s going to have to be the end of part 1 of our conversation. Let’s continue next with a discussion of where we are at today in the development of World Spirituality as a distinct movement.
Today I’ll begin a regular series of posts discussing my own views of the Story of Enlightenment, an important theme in the thought of Marc Gafni, one of the world’s brightest lights in terms of awakened consciousness.
Gafni’s pioneering work on the Enlightenment of Fullness — a vision to be set forth more fully in upcoming books and workshops and trainings — has the potential to revolutionize the world’s view of enlightenment. It is already catalyzing a World Spirituality movement based on integral and evolutionary principles. One of its core ideas, a teaching extended from the Kabbalah tradition, is about understanding the distinction between separateness and uniqueness.
Here’s a quote from one section near the middle of the talk:
The great [religious] traditions are beautiful, they’re holy, stunning, they’re deep. But they’re pre-modern. So if we are going to actually be guided by the shared depths structures of pre-modernity, we’ve made a regressive move. We’ve gone backwards.
So a World Spirituality has to integrate the best and deepest insights of the pre-modern, the modern, and the postmodern. We have to weave those together in a vision that actually allows for a shared story that we can actually transmit and hold and live in.
It’s not that the story knows everything. There’s so much we don’t know. We hold the uncertainty, we dance in the mystery. But there’s also that which we know. That which we can feel. We know it not because of faith. We’re not interested in faith. We know it not because it’s a dogma someone has told us. We know it because we have first-hand, first-hand experience after having done experiments in Spirit. Having done them in double-blind structures all over the years for thousands of years. We’ve gathered the results. We’ve checked them with the community of the adequate, which is precisely the scientific method, and we have revealed using the faculty of the Eye of the Spirit a shared story, which actually is one which can unite us.
Marc’s first point is that the great traditions are pre-modern. Straightforward enough. Or is it?
Look around at the traditions called “World Religions,” we see that at around 2000 BCE, there were was Judaism and religions in Greece, Rome, and Egypt, and Brahmanism; Theravada Buddhism, Jainism, and Zoroastrianism emerged close to 500 BCE, Christianity and Mahayana Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism, and Shintoism, around 0 CE, give or take a few hundred years. The last great tradition was the founding of Islam around 610 CE, to say nothing today of the important faiths to emerge in the last 200 years.
Two of the Beams & Struts bloggers reveal the course of their spiritual autobiographies, or at least that part concerned with Ken Wilber, the Integral philosopher.
Juma tracks her journey in a three-stage process from romance to rebellion to appreciation; Chris speaks of the three stages of childhood, adolescence, and mature sweetness. It’s worth noting that in their general orientation, knowingly or unknowingly, they employ the Three Stations of Love dynamic described by Marc Gafni and others and taught at Integral Spiritual Experience 2.
All I have now is gratitude. My life would not be what it is today without the work of Ken Wilber. He taught me better than any teacher I’ve had how to be at once sincere and critical, open and discerning, and maybe even, someday, wise.
And yet, it is coming time for a torch to pass, not just from Ken, but from his generation to the next, and from the structures that he helped erect to those that are just now emerging.
For several years, I’ve been bantering around with friends about how a second generation, or Second Wave, integral would look. Meaning, reports from the field from those who are considering, embodying and integrating the work, and who have grown up with it in their bones.
And suddenly we have a group emerging explicitly calling themselves Second Wave. And certainly that is the thrust of our efforts here at Beams and Struts. Creating platforms for emergence. Opening spaces for collective intelligence. Inviting people to lean in towards genuine liberation.
Stage 3 is the second naivete–or better second simplicity. A simplicity, a certain kind of sweetness. The sweetness is in a sense putting down’s one arms and dropping the suspicion. It is becoming suspicious of the suspicious mindset. There’s a coming home feeling.
This response in relation to integral has a great deal to do with the state of Ken’s health. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone I love dearly suffer so greatly.
I think back to experiences and insights he shared with me. I remember how as a young (and full of myself) 25 year old, I went on a Dzogchen Tibetan Buddhist retreat. It was at that retreat that I was graced with an awakening. I came back from this retreat, blissed out on Consciousness, and wrote a long flowing email to a circle of friends and family. It was a paean to the merits of Enlightenment and the Perfect Nature of all arising reality. I had originally meant to send the note to friends and family first and then separately and individually to Ken. But somehow I ended up sending it to Ken as well. Ken then hit ‘reply all‘ and wrote very simply:
“Nice letter. Nice experience. Now get on with your life.”
I don’t have a whole lot to say about my relationship to Ken Wilber at this time. The story of how I notoriously introduced myself to Ken Wilber is told in his Foreword to my book, Soulfully Gay. Since then we have met and corresponded warmly, but since it’s a personal relationship I don’t feel a need to write about publicly now.
What I most take away from the posts by Juma and Chris is the importance of becoming rooted in one’s relationship not so much to Ken Wilber as to the Integral movement itself. Even as they have each chronicled the steps in their journey away from infatuation with Ken and his writings, they remain within the paradigm of “Me and Ken, Me v. Ken, Me and Ken in a new way.”
Relatively few people who are touched by Integral ideas or practices will actually have personal relationships with Ken Wilber, but many more will come to know Ken through the people who he has touched, is touching, and will touch. I am more interested, therefore, iin how Juma and Chris are embodying or not embodying the Integral philosophy in their own ways.
Until we get on to telling the story of “Me and Integral, Me v. Integral, Me and Integral in a new way,” then Integral will remain immature and what is to emerge will be a ghost of Ken’s ideas and not a living, breathing, embodied reality within each of us.
From time to time I hear about someone who is becoming disillusioned with “Integral”; that is just part of the course, and may be the station they remain with for years or even for life. There’s nothing wrong with abandoning the Integral philosophy or movement and walking a different course. Integral is not a cult; nobody comes knocking on your door. Juma and Chris show how the story can have a happy ending, one which allowed them to embrace the fullness of their humanity.
When I say Juma and Chris are overly focused on Ken Wilber himself, I’m not saying that they are not telling their Integral stories in all the various things they write, not in the least. They are part of the Integral story, and helping to create new Integral stories in others.
What I am saying is that I would like to see many more people who have been touched by Integral books, people, and events telling their stories publicly. We are the Integral movement, and what that movement is is US. When we talk about our relationship to Ken Wilber, we are really talking about our relationship to our own self.
…[I]f [Enlightenment] is actually the source of love and compassion, the source of all that’s virtuous and good, if it actually would allow us to move beyond suffering, which is precisely the promise of enlightenment teachers, then why isn’t everybody rushing to buy this incredible product (putting it in lower-right marketing terms)? Why isn’t everybody rushing to buy it off the shelf? Why isn’t there an incredible desire for everybody in the world rushing to become enlightened?
Not only is that not happening, but actually, people don’t really care about enlightenment. In my new book, “Your Unique Self,” I insisted on putting a subtitle on it, “The Future of Enlightenment.” The problem with putting “Enlightenment” in a book title is that you automatically cut your audience by 2/3. Because who cares about enlightenment?
So it doesn’t make sense, friends. If enlightenment is that important, if it’s knowing your true nature, if it’s sanity, if it has the transformative potential to shift the way we live together in this global commons, to end war and slavery because there’s been a shift and deepening of our perception and knowing of our True Nature and identity, and expanding our sense of small-self and becoming Big Heart and Big Mind; if that’s truly the case, and it is the case – that’s the great teaching of all the enlightenment traditions – then why doesn’t anybody care? Why isn’t this more popular? Why is this on the fringes of society? That’s our second question.
So what’s the answer? Some people say it’s because enlightenment is hard; you have to practice a lot. People don’t want to give up the comforts of the ego. People are unwilling to die to their separate self. The enlightenment teachers tell us this, and there’s some truth in it. But there seems to be more. Is it really that people are too lazy, they’re really just afraid to die to their separate self? Don’t people realize this would be an incredible, wild gift to everyone? What’s the deeper reason that enlightenment teachings actually don’t take hold in the general culture? Why does it remain such a fringe part of our conversation?
It’s not just that people aren’t willing to die to their separate self. It’s more like people aren’t willing to lose a sense of their uniqueness.
People feel, “my uniqueness is my personal identity; that’s who I am. But if I become enlightened, I’ve got to leave that whole separate self thing behind, and I just become part of the One, which feels kind of blah. I become ‘blah-ified,’ amorphic. I lose my distinguishing characteristics, my uniqueness. I don’t want to do that, because to lose my uniqueness, my distinction, I feel is actually to lose myself; it’s actually to disappear.”
It’s the fear of disappearing that prevents people from engaging in enlightenment conversations.
People are actually right, and most enlightenment teachers are actually wrong. That is to say, that fear of getting lost, of losing that sense of being a unique self, that sense of being distinguished, that’s a correct fear. In fact, much enlightenment teaching suggests that in order to be part of the One, you need to leave that sense of your uniqueness behind.
If you engage the dharma deeply, you realize it’s actually not true [that you lose your unique self]. You realize – and here’s the core of what we’re saying here, the essence of what this Unique Self enlightenment teaching is – we need to posit a central and compelling distinction between “separateness” and “uniqueness.” That distinction allows for a higher integral evolutionary embrace of the best teachings of East and West, and allows us to evolve the dharma and evolve the very trajectory of our own personal lives, and change everything.
Note: the following “liveblogging” post reflects my notes and impressions, and is not intended to be a transcript.
8:59 AM — Moments from now, the official program for Day 2 of the Integral Spiritual Experience event begins. Dr. Warren Farrell, the award-winning and best-selling author with a great beard will be joining us. The opening bell is rung…
9:05 AM — Marc Gafni introduces Dr. Farrell by telling his story of his involvement in the women’s liberation movement, the NOW organization, and his efforts to open up a new area of discourse around the men’s liberation movement.
Warren walks out on stage. Holy smokes… where’s the HELL is the beard? I am seated at the back of the room (maybe I can’t see it). Okay, I’m calming down now. The goatee… not so sure about it, but moving on.
9:09 AM — “Every society that has survived has survived became healthy by preparing its boys for death in battle.” What a powerful way to get going. “We’ll see today why men in industrialized nations are about half a century behind where women were, how that happened, and what must change. We are making a transition not from a women’s movement, not a men’s movement, but a gender transition movement. In the context of love, we are looking at how to make the transition from role mate to soul mate.” Continue reading “ISE Morning Session, Day 2: Dr. Warren Farrell”