Marc Gafni on Evolutionary Unique Self & the Unique Self Symphony (Part 21)

Continued from part 20.

Love the Stranger

When apes meet stranger apes, they famously move to kill the stranger ape. The stranger is virtually never welcome in the animal kingdom. Human beings have evolved love and developed a revolutionary idea. It’s called, “love the stranger”.

Love the stranger is not a casual idea. It is the single most important ancient mystical idea, repeated thirty-six times in the central canon western spirit, multiple times more than any other single notion. The original expression of this idea is the famous commandment: “love your neighbor as yourself.”

This principle or law is given a special term in the sacred texts which unpack what we might call the physics, or the interior face of the cosmos. It is called, Klal Gadol Ba-Torah, The Great Principle of Torah, meaning the foundational principle of inner and outer reality. Loving your neighbor is not merely a sweet ethical injunction, it is the core principle of evolutionary Eros. It is kelal gadol ba-torah because it is the great organizing principle of reality. Why? As science proves, loving your neighbor is no less than the guiding principle of self-organization. This is true in two distinct ways. First, to love your neighbor is to recognize and give the unique gifts that are yours to give that address a unique need in your unique circle of intimacy and influence. Second, the principle, which guides the self-organizing universe, is Eros or love by any other name. Love is expressed as the creative advance of novelty. Newer and ever higher levels of complexity are produced by reality’s ceaseless creativity. Evolution is a process initiated and driven by Eros towards higher and higher levels of complexity, depth and uniqueness.

Indeed, in some profound way, Eros, Uniqueness and Creativity are but three faces of the one. The universe is both driven by Eros and births more Eros as it evolves. Eros or love, is the drive to ever-higher levels of mutuality recognition union and embrace.

From a third person perspective the universe births more and more reality at higher and higher levels of complexity. From a first person or second person perspective, the inside of complexity is consciousness. Consciousness expresses itself in the ability to think, self-reflect, build hospitals, create music, poetry, and art, foster goodness, truth, and beauty, and so much more. A dog is more is more complex than an amoeba. A dog is also more conscious than an amoeba. A human being is more complex than a dog. A human being is also more conscious than a dog. Dogs are beautiful with enormous depth of their own. But when was the last time you saw a dog building a hospital, curing cancer or going through a psychological or spiritual transformation? A dog has a greater ability to love more of reality than an amoeba. A human being has a greater ability to love more of reality than a dog. The natural trajectory of evolution is both driven by love or Eros and at the same time produces more and more love and Eros[1].

Love awakens at a new level at the beginning of cultural evolution, that is to say the beginning of the human story. Both in individual human stories, in the life of an individual and in the life of culture, love evolves. In human beings love, through time and development, gets deeper, wider, richer and more nuanced. The core principle guiding love at the human level is love your neighbor. At the simple evolutionary level what evolves is the definition of who is your neighbor. As we saw the understanding of who your neighbor is evolves from the egocentric to the ethnocentric to the worldcentric to the cosmoscentric level of consciousness. This is the trajectory of the evolution of love. At the same time love evolves by deepening its clarity, purity, intensity or depth within any particular level of consciousness.

But love your neighbor is even more than that. Love your neighbor is –Klal Gadol BaTorah– the “great principle of reality” – because it is the organizing principle which guides the self-organizing universe.

What does this mean? On one level it means that love or Eros is the driver of evolution which produces more and more uniqueness. In this sense one might say that the ever higher levels of uniqueness and depth are the strange attractors which draws evolution forward.

Science is now clarifying an evolutionary theory called emergence. Emergence recognizes that evolution is not simply generating higher levels of complexity by recombining the constituent parts of yesterday to form a new whole. New emergents are greater than the sum of their parts. There is a higher wholeness, a higher complexity, creativity and Eros all expressed as more evolved uniqueness, which may be seen as the evolutionary attractors constantly drawing evolution forward. That is what it means when we say that love and uniqueness are both the result and the motive forces of evolution.

Love your neighbor is also the guiding force in manifesting the self-organized Unique Self Symphony, which commits Outrageous Acts of Love all over – in relation to every dimension of reality. To understand this clearly let’s look again at the nature of love itself.

As we have seen love is not merely an emotion. Love at its core is a posture, a perception and an action. Let’s briefly remember this dharma for the sake of this last set of insights.

  1. Love is a posture. To be love is to be open and not closed. This is the basic posture of love. You open to be lived as Outrageous Love by writing Outrageous Love Letters.
  2. Love is a shift in perception. In writing Outrageous Love Letters you shift your perception. To love is to have eyes to see. To love is to shift your perspective from that of small self to that of big mind and big heart. Said simply to be a lover is to see with God’s eyes. To see other is to see their essence. Essence is Unique Self, the irreducibly unique expression of the love-intelligence and love-beauty that lives in you. Love is a Unique Self perception. To love a person is to see their Unique Self. Love is not just a generic cosmic force of Eros. Love penetrates essence. Love sees the uniqueness that lies at the core of essence.
  3. Love is an action. To love is to give. Particularly, to love is to commit the Outrageous Acts of Love that are yours to commit. These are the Outrageous Acts of Love that are a function of your Unique Self which address a unique need in your unique circle of intimacy and influence.

Now is the moment to remind ourselves that there are four commandments to love in the classical texts of the western mystical cannon.

  1. Love your neighbor.
  2. Love yourself.
  3. Love the stranger.
  4. Love God.

In the first step of the evolution of love, the sacred text’s natural command to love your neighbor demanded that you also love yourself. Self-love. In the second step, love your neighbor was extended to include the stranger. Thirdly, however, you can only love the stranger if you love all of yourself. For as tenth century mystic Rashi points out, if you do not love yourself–that is to say love the stranger in yourself–then you will project your own anger at your inner stranger on the other. This is where the demonization of the other, the external stranger, begins. Love the stranger in yourself and in the world. Realize the stranger is also your neighbor. Lastly, loving your neighbor who is also the stranger is what it means to love God.

As we saw the understanding of who your neighbor is evolves – that is to say it expands to ever more inclusive circles of people who are more and more distant from the inner egocentric circle that gives you security and safety. This is again, what we mean when we say that love evolves from the egocentric to the ethnocentric to the worldcentric to the cosmoscentric level of consciousness. This is the trajectory of the evolution of love. To love the stranger means to recognize the stranger. To recognize the stranger is to know what the stranger needs. This is what it means to love the stranger.

To be continued…

Taken from a first draft text from the forthcoming book The Path and Practice of Outrageous Love by Marc Gafni and Kristina Kincaid, this series elaborates on a critical advancement of the Unique Self Dharma that Dr. Marc has developed after Your Unique Self was published.


[1] It is no less true that the greater complexity the more potential for suffering produced by the pain of love’s distortion. Dogs have never built gas chambers for other species of dogs.