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.
Let’s begin with a 20-minute video on “The Future of Enlightenment” from MarcGafni.com which outlines the essentials of the vision.
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.
Modernity, on the other hand, refers of course to certain cultural, intellectual, and sociological movements beginning in approximately the 15th century and continuing to the present day. Modernity had great trust in the ability of science to reveal objective knowledge and consequently it battled pre-modern worldviews.
In the last century or so, certain elements of culture and society began to demonstrate postmodern features which were critical of both premodern and modern understandings of spirituality. Post-modernity had great distrust of both pre-modernity and modernity, having grown weary of all past attempts at universalizing ideas and movements as inherently oppressive and therefore suspect and ripe for overturning. Post-modernity generally rejects religion, and if it affirms spirituality at all, it only does so as a “seeker” never as a “finder.”
The twenty-first century is really the first time when humans are beginning to inhabit a notably post-postmodern time. We have grown skeptical of the skepticism. We have grown weary of spiritual seeking and are ready for spiritual finding. We have begun to notice that we may not know everything, but we have more information about more than ever before in history … and one would have to be blind not to notice.
As Marc Gafni put it, “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.”
What we know is hard to put into words, unless you gather all the knowledge in the world together into piles upon piles and begin to organize it with a giant map. In fact, that’s just what Ken Wilber’s Integral philosophy does: a cross-cultural, developmentally informed map for describing everything human beings have ever called True, Good, or Beautiful. It aims to include all the pre-modern, modern, and post-modern perspectives.
But at the end of the day, it’s just a map. When it comes to spirituality, how do you believe in a map? What good is it?
Marc Gafni’s answer in this TEDx Talk is a good way of approaching these questions. He says that we need not a mere meta-map but a SHARED STORY, one that we can live in, hold, and express. He says we need a story that is the common heritage of the entire world — one which makes room for every story told by the great religions, science, and post-modern insights.
You have to be careful not to misunderstand what Marc said about faith. Marc isn’t opposed to having beliefs that one can’t prove with scientific certainty. He isn’t at all opposed to practicing the doctrines and rituals of religion. He’s saying that in a post-postmodern world it is necessary for us to take our faiths in a different way if we are to thrive. We need to look at our beliefs and practices as scientists do, as experiments in being human. We need to look at the results of our experiments honestly, and be open to the ongoing development of our spirituality. There are no 100% certain ideas; nothing is beyond some degree of questioning and doubt.
So when beginning to explore World Spirituality, it’s important to recognize that your own story is part of your own experiment in being human. Your story can become part of the SHARED STORY of the Enlightenment of Fullness, if you see that story as one in which you are a part, and which you want to re-tell as a step in your own journey.