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Let’s talk about the core teaching of Unique Self. Unique Self is the understanding that you are at the level of essence – not merely at the level of social, psychological, and cultural conditioning – you are ultimately unique, you are an infinitely unique expression of All-That-Is, an expression that never was, is, or will be ever again. That uniqueness of essence is your Unique Self.
13.7 billion years of evolution conspired in an infinite number of configurations to yield the precision, the gorgeousness, the grandeur of your Unique Self. And Unique Self lives at every level. Check your biology: the unique cellular signature. Take a picture of your immune system. You think that you’re standing next to someone and think that you’re only different in your exterior, but actually your immune system and entire biological signature is a wild ecstatic expression of uniqueness. Uniqueness lives at the biological, uniqueness lives absolutely at the social, cultural, and psychological levels – how you relate to the world at large, what we call the world of form – but Unique Self is more than that: Unique Self is your unique expression of your essence, it’s your unique perspective of your enlightenment.
What does it mean to answer the call?
To answer the call is to respond to the call that lives in you, as you, and through you, of your Unique Self. The unique individualized expression of essence that is you calls you, invites you to find your vocation—the claiming of your unique voice in the world. To find a voice that is yours, not imitative, you have to inhabit your Unique Perspective.
Your Unique Perspective is your particularized way of looking at the world, the angle at which you look at reality that opens a space of insight open only to you alone. There are shared spaces of insight; we can all look at the same book or bush, but ultimately we are all looking at it from a different angle. We have a common language. Your perspective is inescapable; it is the prism through which you experience reality.
What emerges from your Unique Self / Unique Perspective is a set of pleasures, unique skills that you have in the world, unique proclivities, capacities, all of which come together to reveal Your Unique Gift. It is available to the world through no one else but you. To know that you have a Unique Gift which is desperately needed by All That Is. No one else has the capacity to give that gift. This is a realization that changes everything.
What does it mean to answer the call?
To answer the call is to live a values-driven life, a purpose-driven life. It’s to incarnate the values of your life in the unique and gorgeous way that you are able to, that only you are able to do. To do so is to fulfill your Unique Obligation.
When we hear the word “obligation” in our post-postmodern context, we cringe. It makes us contract. We feel like we spent so many years in therapy getting beyond the obligations that violated us. But actually the only genuine freedom is the freedom to fulfill your Unique Self. Anything else is a form of slavery.
To actually fulfill your Unique Self—which is to meet the unique obligation of your life—that’s what it means to be free.
There’s a five-fold doctrine of Unique Self obligation.
Imagine you’re shipwrecked with Mother Teresa alone on an island. Mother Teresa was a great woman, and she was tough, an inordinately difficult woman. She’s completely impossible. She drives you nuts. You know you’re not going to be rescued. It’s just you and her on this island for the rest of eternity.
She goes scuba diving and breaks both her arms, and she can’t eat. Do you or don’t you have an obligation to feed her? I’ve asked this question the world over and 99.9999% of the people say yes…even though if you let her die you will never be found out and it will not affect the world. Why?
- There’s a need.
- It’s a genuine need. It’s not frivolous.
- You have the capacity to address that need.
- You’ve identified the need.
- You’re the only person in the world who has the ability to both identify and fulfill it.
When these five obligations are met, you create obligation at a higher level of consciousness—what we sometimes call second-tier consciousness. When all these things are in play, you have fulfilled your Unique Self obligation and you are at ease. You have a right relationship to the world. You are fully inhabiting your story.
Imagine if you were able to live in the world with that experience…at every moment in your life. There’s a song you can sing, a way of being and becoming, that is yours alone. That profound realization, that awakening to your Unique Self, creates in every moment of every day a profound sense of obligation that enlivens you and transforms your life to one filled with a plentitude of meaning, sensual Eros, as you live a life of enlivened play in the world giving your Unique Gift.
Why does Unique Self matter so much?
At the most basic level, Unique Self matters because without it, life for the individual becomes virtually irrelevant.
About a year ago, I was giving a TEDx talk in Las Vegas and met a man who has since become a close friend, Eben Pagan. I met him and his delightful partner, and it was a Unique Self encounter. There was a flash of recognition.
At some point, Wyatt Woodsmall—one of the great inventors of NLP—and Dave Logan, who is a wonderful professor at USC, wrote a fantastic book called Tribal Leadership joined the conversation. The four of us had one of those delightful Plato conversations— egoless, where nobody is jousting or jockeying, but they are doing a deep reality consideration. It is one of the most delightful engagements you can have. We found ourselves in the lobby of this gaudy Las Vegas hotel for what must have been several hours.
We each talked about what we are doing in the world, and I brought Unique Self to the table. Dave says, “How does this address somebody’s worst nightmare? If it doesn’t address people’s worst nightmare it’s not useful.”
I said to Dave, Unique Self is the single response to a person’s worst nightmare. A person’s worst nightmare is to be irrelevant, an extra on the set of life, to be quickly forgotten, and ultimately know that they were not necessary.
Personal meaning is the understanding that I have a unique contribution to make to All That Is, and that’s not merely being a cog in a machine.
Communism affirmed the meaning of life, but it said that no unique individual is ultimately significant for that meaning, which ultimately makes them cogs in a larger process. That doesn’t give personal meaning.
But we know in our first-person perspective that our lives are meaningful; not to be able to identify that sense of personal relevance makes me feel insane, meaningless, ultimately not important. That is the most destructive, corrosive, and false experience of a human being.
There is only one great heresy in post-postmodernity: the belief that you are irrelevant. No one can play your part. You have a Unique Gift to give. The world is waiting, needing your Unique Gift. The Divine Force, God (and the God you don’t believe in doesn’t exist)—God as the personal face of essence, God as the Tao, the love-intelligence and love-beauty of All That Is…is seeking a voice.
Who I really am: I am unique. I am a unique expression of the All just like you are. It doesn’t mean I’m more special than you. Unique Self matters for a thousand different reasons, but the first one is that it is the only way to address the fundamental human nightmare of being irrelevant.
Unique Self actually changes everything in almost every field, discipline, endeavor, and arena of human experience.
1. If you want to identify your vocation, if you identify it from a Unique Self place, it’s entirely different than simply asking, “What am I good at?” You begin to approach the vocation issue in a different way. You’re not hunting for a job. You’re finding your way of bringing your Unique Gifts into the world.
2. Relationships. Who do I want to be involved with? I want to be with someone with whom my Unique Self shows up. If I’m with someone who evokes something false or counterfeit in me, or excessive identification with ego in me, that which is ultimately not authentic to my essence, then that’s not who I want to be with. I want someone who can partner with me in giving my Unique Gifts by seeing me in my fullness and supporting the unfolding of my Unique Gifts in the world, and with whom I can support and partner in giving and enacting their Unique Gifts in the world. When I approach relationship from a Unique Self perspective, my search for partnership changes.
3. Love changes. When you realize that Love is a Unique Self perception, your whole understanding of Love shifts.
4. Sexuality. We think of sex as one thing, but actually there are many types of sexing. Sexing is a verb. To be able to outline the six or seven types of sexing changes my whole understanding of sexuality.
5. Shadow. Doing shadow work—integrating the shadow—when you understand that shadow is not generic (contra what most Jungians attest), it’s not all of those shadow qualities. At its core, shadow is your unlived life, your distorted Unique Self. Shadow actually has the same DNA property as your Unique Self, so your entire understanding of shadow work changes.
6. Parenting. What’s the role of a parent? Not to ensure your child is happy. Parenting is to enact a space which allows for the Unique Self emergence of a child.
7. Death. The way I approach death changes. The question at the end of life is: Have I lived my Unique Self? When you understand that is the question, it changes your relationship to living and dying. An understanding of Unique Self shifts dramatically and profoundly that arena.
Once that insight is there—like Integral thought—it becomes startlingly obvious. And it is psychoactive: it moves in you, changing virtually everything, creating community (an evolutionary We-space).
Community completely changes when you understand it through the prism of Unique Self. It’s not just an idea or concept. It’s an expression of the essence of being and becoming. When you let it move into you, when you awaken into it…you can’t awaken to it merely by hearing about it—but by deeply entering into Unique Self space (that’s what we’ll be doing in the Unique Self Course). …
Unique Self is the core technology in creating an evolutionary We-space, a space beyond any individual.
There are always two views of community. From the Western tradition, basically we are all separate selves. We can’t really come together, but we can give up some of our rights to be protected by the central government. No authentic communication is possible. Or—emerging out of a more continental philosophical tradition—is that the primary unit of reality is the community.
Neither of those positions in the world create a genuine We-space of collective intelligence. Separate selves can’t create a genuine new intelligence, so there won’t be a new intelligence.
True Selves—in the sense of classical enlightenment where we are one with the All—there is only one. The total number of True Selves in the world is one. That’s not a We-space, which has dynamic tension and creativity as a result of people who are different.
How do you create a We-space?
Unique Self is your puzzle-piece nature that naturally connects you to another even as you both realize you’re both part of the larger seamless coat of the universe. We are both part of the larger One, but both stunning expressions of that One.
Unique Self becomes, therefore, the essential and only technology that can create evolutionary We-space.
What’s the difference between Unique Self and soul?
Soul means different things in the different traditions. In some of the texts and traditions, it means the spiritual quality of your separate self. As long as it means this, it is limited in time, place, and duration—so it is subject ultimately to death. It lacks the quality of the infinite. It is special, beautiful, holy, and sacred—it’s your soul—but ultimately it is an expression of separateness and subject to the contraction of the separate self.
Soul in this understanding is the spiritual nature of your separate manifest self.
Unique Self speaks to a different manifest reality. It says that both your manifest and unmanifest reality are unique. Your True Self is also unique – because you have a Unique Perspective. It’s the perspective of your True Self. True Self always sees through a unique set of eyes which is your Unique Self.
Unique Self (unlike soul) lives at the level of manifest and unmanifest, the level of Spirit itself.
It’s important to say that in some traditions the soul doesn’t refer to the spiritual quality of separate self, but refers to something much closer to Unique Self. But because it can be confused, we have gone through pains to differentiate the two. Unique Self is the unique expression of your essence.
Unique Self is the essential portal for the democratization of enlightenment. It’s a term I first began deploying in my doctoral studies at Oxford almost a decade ago, and it has become an essential dimension to World Spirituality teaching.
Democratization of enlightenment doesn’t mean everyone is enlightened in an equal way. It means that the possibility of enlightenment is what William James called a genuine option for every human being who aspires to it. Enlightenment is not only the province of the elite. It can expand beyond the narrow sectors of the meditation hall in Nepal or Brooklyn, or the back streets of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods where the pious Kabbalists sit and chant. Enlightenment becomes part of the fabric of every awakened life. That’s a big deal.
Where we are in the world today is a place where there is such a crisis of resources, meaning, direction, hunger, imagination. It threatens the survival of the planet Earth, this epoch of humanity as we know it. It is oft said that a set of problems created at one level of consciousness can only be solved at a higher level of consciousness.
Generally, we understand that is true of the individual. The individual creates a set of problems at one level of consciousness, then has to evolve to a higher level to solve those problems. But it’s also true of the community, the public culture, the We-space.
Planet Earth has become a We-space. You go on to Google Earth and there’s no place you can’t see today. It’s getting smaller. We affect each other. We’re completely interpenetrated. The old teaching of the enlightenment teachers of the interconnectivity of the All with the All is no longer something you realize in meditation or chant; it’s actually an obvious truth of reality.
The esoteric truth of the interconnectivity of the All with the All a thousand years ago has become the obvious truth of interconnectivity in our lives. To solve the radical problems of today, we need to up-level our consciousness as a community. We need to up-level the consciousness of our We-space. And we can only do that in an Internet, intertwined world where billions of people affect the We-space; this is to begin to enact the possibility of the democratization of enlightenment.
To make enlightenment in the public culture and social mind a genuine psychological / spiritual possibility…Again, that doesn’t mean everyone is enlightened at the same level. It means the possibility of enlightenment awakens.
Unique Self is the ultimate democratic principle. Our Unqiue Selves are all different. Everyone’s got one. Just like “one person, one vote”—one person, one potentially enacted Unique Self. That calls a person in a different way. When I am called to my Unique Self enlightenment, which is to awaken to my Unique Self, I begin to become awakened, alive, and aware in an entirely different way than if I am called to experience myself as pure consciousness. The old enlightenment doesn’t address most of humanity. Most of humanity is looking intuitively and correctly at how can I enact the unique meaning of my life.
If I do that in a narcissistic way, then I’m lost in ego and separate self. I’m alienated. But if I do that in a healthy, awake, alive, aware way, then I want to be part of All That Is, and thereby to express all my unique gifts. So uniqueness opens the portal of enlightenment to the larger population because uniqueness is a democratized concept.
As long as you’re talking about a narrow True Self enlightenment, most people feel excluded from it. When you begin to talk about a Unique Self enlightenment, people awaken to the conversation and it becomes interesting and then it attracts attention. Once it grasps the heart, you can explain it in a new way that if you want to awaken your Unique Self, you must evolve beyond exclusive identification with ego because ego distorts your Unique Self.
Ego seeks to satisfy itself, so it might choose shortcut paths to fulfillment that don’t really do the work of identifying, living, and giving your Unique Gifts. Moving beyond ego is not only an invitation to awaken to pure consciousness, but to an awakening of your Unique Self, the great desire to move beyond ego, to identify with True Self, essence, and to enact and awaken further with my awakened Unique Self, which gives its gifts as part of a larger evolutionary context.
Unique Self and the democratization of enlightenment are inextricably linked. They are part of a larger cluster which is essential to an emergent World Spirituality.