Marc Gafni on Unique Self – Part 13. Intellectual and social history of Unique Self teaching

My colleague and friend Joe Perez asked me to share a little bit of the intellectual and social history of Unique Self with you, and I’m glad to do so.

Unique Self emerged about 25 years ago when I first began what I call the Soul Print teaching. I was delighted and privileged to put out a book called Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment and a PBS special. The PBS special was horrible. The book was really good.

The book was the crystallization of the teaching which began in 1986 in Delray Beach, Florida, where I was an Orthodox rabbi, and I was speaking to about 500 people. I was teaching about the laws of Sabbath which are exciting and compelling and important, but somehow I couldn’t give the gift I wanted to give them. Somehow the sentence emerged – fell as grace: I said that you have not only a finger print, but you are a soul print. You have a Unique Gift to give in the world. You can actually feel the energy or subtle field or inner space change.

Everyone kind of woke up, and we knew something had happened. Ever since then, I have worked on developing on an understanding of Soul Prints.

Soul Prints emerges from my lineage tradition in Kabbalah. Today I don’t teach in that tradition. It informs me, it defines me in my cellular structure, but I teach in this new lineage which is World Spirituality – which is awesome and beautiful and exciting and delightful and a privilege and honor. It exists in certain moments in esoteric Christianity, Arabian Sufism. I kind of took it from the air, as it emerged that day in 1986; and I went back to see who else in the intellectual history might have felt and thought in this way, and for the next 15 years it was core to the teaching I did in the world.

And it spread in different ways. At some point, Sounds True did a Soul Prints workshop … and Simon and Schuster did the Soul Prints book and PBS did the Soul Prints special. So it began to find its way into the world.

In Soul Prints, I use the term “Unique Self.” There are two ways we talk about the soul print and/or Unique Self – one, the soul quality of the individual; second, as the unique expression of All-Oneness. We use it in both ways in an undiscriminating way in the book. That’s the first level.

The second level is the work I was privileged to do with Mordecai Lainier of Izbica. I never met him. He became my lineage teacher. He died in 1848, but I was able to, honored to, and invited to by grace merge with his teachings. A year or two later, I moved to Jerusalem and met a circle of people who were influenced by a neo-Hasidic singer, whose favorite book was the Teaching of Mordecai Rainier of Izbaca.

Over the years, I had a tempestuous complex relationship with his teaching and at some point accepted him as my teacher. In 2002, I went to Oxford University. Around this time, 2003, I wrote the core of my doctoral dissertation – about a thousand pages – on Mordecai Rainier of Izbica. I submitted it and it was approved in 2008. Now that teaching, which I call Radical Kabbalah: Unique Self and Non-Dual Humanism – is being offered as a two-volume work in the summer of 2012 from Integral Publishers. That’s the second stage of the work.

Third. At some point, I begin a series of conversations with Ken Wilber who gloriously and prophetically, and with a visionary sense, initiated the Integral Spiritual Center. The ISC was for a couple of years a kind of Camelot. We came and delighted in each other, and in the exchange between different lineages. Although the term was never used there, World Spirituality was birthed in the ISC – it was the notion of trying to create a trans-path path which transcended and included all the lineages in a higher vision of what a contemporary spirituality might look like.

In 2003 – 2005, Ken and I had a series of conversations about Soul Prints, the term Unique Self in Soul Prints, and about perspectives. In Kabbalah, when a person clarifies their perspective, they speak the Word of God. I wrote Ken a long letter after a conversation at his loft about how your clarified perspective creates new God or new Torah in Kabbalah. Out of that comes this wonderful formulation by Ken: True Self + Perspective = Unique Self.

Ken and I then evolved this Unique Self teaching … At some point in 2006, Ken invited me to give a Unique Self / Soul Print teaching at ISC. Ken suggested in a phone conversation that we identify Soul Prints both as soul prints and as Unique Self—because it is a more neutral term which doesn’t get lost in the potential misunderstanding of soul, which one might understand as the spiritual nature of separate self, which is the spiritual nature of the manifest; whereas Unique Self is also unique expression of the unmanifest. It’s True Self + Perspective = Unique Self.

I was delighted to answer Ken’s invitation to teach Unique Self to a group of 40 or 50 spiritual teachers at ISC in February 2006. That seeded Unique Self in the world in a particular way. An enormous amount came out. Genpo Roshi and I had a delightful time in that particular space. Genpo brought Unique Self into his Big Mind teaching. His colleague and student, Diane Hamilton, a close friend of mine, began facilitating the voice of Unique Self in the Big Mind process, and what came together was a wonderful and rich exchange. When Genpo published his book on Big Mind, there was a section on Unique Self as a critical evolution of the Big Mind teaching. Big Mind by itself is what we might call True Self—what Kabbalah calls expanded consciousness.

Big Mind is contrasted with small self. Usually you would facilitate the voice of small self and contracted ego with Big Mind. What Genpo and Diane began to do is, after receiving and encountering the Unique Self teaching, they began to facilitate in the 1st person the Unique Self voice as “the apex of the triangle,” meaning you have small self, Big Mind, and the apex in Unique Self. This is the nature of influence. I was profoundly influenced by Diane’s deep soaking in Buddhist teaching and through Genpo and Big Mind and his deployment of the voice dialogue process as a Big Mind process. It shaped different dimensions of how I looked at the world. And Unique Self had influence on this Buddhist teaching. That was the grace that was invoked by Ken at the ISC.

That’s one place Big Mind began to have impact in the world.

I remember Sofia Diaz talked to me beautifully about how it shifted something profound for her in her own process. John Kesler incorporated Unique Self in his teaching on polarities and the stillpoint between polarities which has had influences in the world specifically at Pacific Integral in Seattle where John’s been a formative force.

I could go through ten or fifteen other people…

Then what happened is the Integral Life Practice book – a beautiful book put together by Terry Patten, Marco Morelli, Ken Wilber, and Adam Leonard –which added a chapter at the end on Unique Self as an emergent teaching from the ISC. Unique Self began to find its way directly into the Integral conversation.

In this stage of development, together with Robb Smith, Diane Hamilton, Sally Kempton, we initiated the Integral Spiritual Experience. Together with Ken Wilber, we chose the topic of the first experience as Unique Self. Because I was privileged to be catalytic in that conversation, I chose the Unique Self conversation. So 500 people gathered from 35 countries to talk about Unique Self.

In the teacher’s meeting leading up to the actual event … a document emerged from Robb and Diane and myself and Ken and Sally, called an Integral View of Unique Self, which has since been significantly evolved and updated and incorporated into the footnotes of the Unique Self book. Integral became a home for the Unique Self teaching. Unique Self, in essence, became a new chapter in Integral Theory.

First stage is Soul Prints, second stage is Unique Self and Non-Dual Humanism (my doctoral work at Oxford), and the third stage is the infusion of Unique Self and the Integral world in which Unique Self becomes a Next Chapter. That has its final or deepest expression in Integral’s academic journal. Sean Hargens kindly invited me to be the guest editor of a volume on Unique Self. It has seven or eight articles all around Unique Self. I wrote two articles; one is a classical academic article on the core theory and the other is a lineage article based on the Hebrew mystical sources. Zach Stein wrote a wonderful article which among other things compared the Unique Self teaching with the Authentic Self teaching. Dustin DiPerna wrote a lovely article independently developing the idea of the Unique We.

And all sorts of things began to emerge. JoAnna Hunt together with her partner Laura did a weekend in which they took the eight stations of Unique Self which are core to the Unique Self book and did an entire weekend for their coaches based on the eight stations of Unique Self. The teaching has found its way far and wide.

There’s been a sharpening. At least five sets of dialogues…mine, Ken’s, this emergent teaching, Andrew Cohen’s teaching (which emerges from a different strain of Authentic Self). Andrew and I did a separate dialogue. When Andrew came to Israel in 2005, we did a dharma dialogue on the nature of uniqueness and we have clarified our positions and have had seven, eight, or nine exchanges, and finally did a recorded dialogue in the Future of Love series.

There was a second conversation that Zach Stein did on the relationship between Unique Self and Authentic Self. Sonja Student, who is head of the Integralist Forum in Germany, in March or April of 2012, did a dialogue on the relationship between Unique Self and Authentic Self. On the Beams and Struts website, Chris Dierkes wrote a great article comparing Unique Self and Authentic Self. Dustin DiPerna and Michael Wombacher did a fantastic dialogue on Unique Self and Authentic Self in the summer of 2011. That’s just five offhand.

There’s a lot of conversation in the broader Integral / Evolutionary communities trying to clarify that these are important distinctions. Both Unique Self and Authentic Self speak about individuation beyond ego. But there’s a different cast or quality to the teaching. They both inform each other. That gives you a sense of the play of Unique Self teaching.

The other place that Unique Self is influencing and dancing and dialoguing is outside of the Integral world.

Eben Pagan and I have had some fantastic dialogues about Unique Self – at least 10 different times – and that’s coming to play in the way that it is. We’re developing together a teaching called Actualize that is speaking to an entirely different audience.

We’re writing a book called Answering the Call, which is a more popular book, one designed to speak to a broader spectrum of consciousness. Ultimately, it’s our belief that Unique Self will seed the potential of a genuine democratization of enlightenment. Joe Perez, who has been a career coach for many years, is going to use Unique Self …

In Holland, we’re working on developing a new Tantra in which Unique Self sexing is at the core.

I’m working with Richard Schwartz. We’re going to put out a paper on Unique Self and internal family systems. We’re going to influence each other in a delightful way.

I’m working with John Mackey on a paper on conscious capitalism and Unique Self. There’s an enormous amount happening.

We’re working on a new shadow process based on Unique Self teaching. This is just to give you a sense of the excitement. I’m going to give you just a couple of snapshots of the future.

Lori Galperin has galvanized a group of therapists at the Castwood treatment centers and they are developing Unique Self modules that are going to be developed for chemical dependency, eating disorders—the entire world of treatment—a Unique Self process.

In the world of business, I am speaking to a number of key people – Wyatt Woodsmall, Richard Barrett, John Mackey – about how Unique Self might be a practical application.

In the world of spirituality, we’re developing a Unique Self process which will have its virgin voyage in November 2012. We’ve already given two Unique Self online courses in 2010. Now we’re going to create a Unique Self process.

Lastly, I’ve had wonderful conversations with Laura Wood and Zach Stein and Clint Fuhs about what it means to create a Unique Self Index, a metrics which measures Unique Self. It’s not a simple process. We’re beginning to think about that.

We’re beginning to see a catalytic lode stone of World Spirituality teaching which will be added to, evolved, energized, by many people. It’s the initial catalytic offering. Everyone is going to help shape it in appropriate ways. We’ve put together the core dharma into the world and it can find its way.

And I hope that gives you a sense of the emergence of Unique Self, the catalytic role that it’s been able to play already in the last six or seven or eight years…. and of its deep history, the enormous potential for its future in creating a world in which everyone knows that they are living uniquely.

That’s what it’s about. The notion that every human being is an irreducible unique essence, has a story that is worth receiving. No human being’s story can be reduced as a means to another person’s story, and when we live that, and when that becomes part of the source code of consciousness, then and only then we will begin to have moved towards a world in which we can really love each other outrageously. Love is the ultimate Unique Self perception.