Review of “Your Unique Self” by Mariana Caplan, PhD

Mariana Caplan

Your Unique Self is a great gift to the modern spiritual world. The author, Marc Gafni, has been immersed in spiritual study and practice for over three decades, and his work comes to a full flowering in this beautiful book.

In this way, Your Unique Self is both a philosophy and a practice that is relevant to seekers and practitioners of all traditions, both traditional and modern. The radical but grounded theory and method Gafni articulates offers the reader a chance to experience not only his or her unique gifts to the world, but to recognize uniqueness itself as an enlightened expression of our own inherent divinity. Unique Self in Gafni’s realization is the expression of the irreducibly unique “personal face of essence”. Here is a direct taste of the book itself.

“You are a unique incarnation of the love intelligence and love beauty that initiated the cosmos itself”. “The only response to outrageous pain is outrageous love. To be an outrageous lover is to know that you are a unique expression of the love intelligence and love beauty that initiated the cosmos.  There is a corner of the world which is UnLove that only be healed by you. To live in outrageous love is to be lived as love – as awakened divinity- giving the unique gifts that can only be given by God through you and as you”.  “The universe awakens in you, as you and through you”. “The universe moves from unconscious to conscious uniqueness as the creative evolutionary impulse which moves all of reality awakens as your Unique Self”. “God is having a You Experience”.  “Evolution is the evolution of complexity, the inside of which is the evolution of consciousness, the inside of which is the evolution of love, the inside of which is the evolution of uniqueness, the inside of which is the evolution of God”. “Love awakens as your Unique Self”. “You are the personal face of the process, the personal face of essence”.

Unique Self draws deeply on Gafni’s kabbalistic lineage as well as his deep immersion in all the great spiritual traditions including Sufi, Buddhist and Christian seamlessly merged with his integration of the best of psychology, philosophy, history and integral wisdom into a larger vision of World Spirituality. Gafni’s teaching of  Unique Self adds a crucial dimension to the modern conversations around enlightenment in that it celebrates an experience and expression of Oneness which includes the personal, gritty, relational and human aspects of life that everyone experiences. We don’t have to leave ourselves at the door to enter the domain of the mystical. Uniqueness is in Gafni’s realization, not an expression of ego but of essence. Uniqueness at the higher levels of consciousness is the irreducibly special expression of enlightenment and not a function of contraction.

Whereas many of the Eastern traditions subtly discourage the full expression of the personal life, Your Unique Self celebrates it, while compromising nothing of the great truths of the world’s wisdom traditions. Enlightenment is seen not only “as the realization of oneness with all being” but as the irreducibly unique expression of that oneness which lives within and through the individual. Western secular enlightenment and mystical enlightenment are each honored, critiqued, and then integrated, resulting in important distinctions such as the difference between separateness and uniqueness, the personal beyond the impersonal, the three stations of love,  the five levels of self and many more key building blocks of what Gafni calls Unique Self enlightenment which is the cornerstone of his vision of World Spirituality.  Through this series of distinctions the best of western and eastern enlightenment are united in a higher integral embrace.

I love this book and have seen it through many of its evolutions. The applications of this model pertain to all aspects of life, ranging from one’s sense of vocation and outer expression in the world to one’s innermost private and personal relationship with the divine. The unique value of both joy and loneliness are embraced. The writing is speckled with colorful examples from everyday life that illustrate its points. It is also worth noting how rare it is to find a contemporary teaching that is informed by the ancient mysticism of Judaic Kabbalah, yet translated and evolved in such an accessible way that its tools are understood, easily applied, and the results experienced.

Marc Gafni loves to think and study. He is both a mystic intellectual and a scholar. Therefore, this text comes from a deeply learned foundation that in many places spans centuries of academic and mystical literature, as well as being well grounded in contemporary spiritual and psychological discourse. The result is that the teachings of Your Unique Self are simultaneously profound, mystical and practical.  This work is grounded in three earlier works including a two volume academic magnum opus titled Radical Kabbalah, Unique Self and Non Dual Humanism (Integral Publishers, 2011), a peer reviewed academic Journal on Unique Self (Suny Press, 2011), and an earlier book entitled Soul Prints (Simon and Schuster, 2002), where Gafni first coined the term Unique Self.

Some other highlights of the book include a chapter on a process Gafni calls “Sacred Autobiography.” I have witnessed Gafni’s work in this area dozens of times, and it is extraordinary to watch its effects on a person who may have imagined her life to be full of failures and traumas, to retell her story from the perspective of Love or a loving God, and to come to believe and experience her life as sacred.

As always, Gafni daringly approaches the highly charged arena of sexuality. Whether or not one agrees with his conclusions, the open-minded reader can enjoy, spar with, and be challenged by his perspectives on what he calls Eros. Given the daring nature of Gafni’s life, the reader can journey through some of its hard won insights without having to traverse the same territory and challenges that have faced the author.

Gafni also loves to share the message of mystical ecstasy. Once again the readers will be surprised to find a perspective and experience of ecstasy in the pages of this book that is surprisingly intimate personal while at the same time uncompromisingly mystical. The ecstatic nature of this approach to the personal has exhilarated Gafni’s readers and followers for over three decades. The reader receives a deep permission to embrace parts of himself that were previously in the shadows, and to hold and work with them in a way that transforms them into assets. This approach, when deeply embraced, unearths a quality of self-esteem that is bone deep.

Every great thinker and teacher should be continually evolving, and this book marks the pinnacle of Gafni’s work to date. It also leaves the territory ahead wide open, and an invitation to participate in its evolution through the uniqueness that each reader brings to it. I invite all readers to delve into the wisdom of  the waters of Your Unique Self, and to emerge both cleansed of self-imposed limitations, and ready to open themselves to the as yet unlived possibilities of his or her life.

~ Mariana Caplan, PhD


Mariana Caplan, PhD, is a psychotherapist, professor of yogic and transpersonal psychologies, and the author of seven books in the fields of psychology and spirituality, including The Guru Question: The Perils and Awards of Choosing a Spiritual Teacher and the seminal Halfway Up the Mountain: the Error of Premature Claims to Enlightenment. Her recent release, Eyes Wide Open: Cultivating Discernment on the Spiritual Path, won five national awards for best spiritual book of 2010. She has spent 20 years researching cutting edge and controversial topics in Western Spirituality, and focuses her consultation and psychotherapy practice on somatic approaches to healing trauma and spiritual issues. She is the co-founder of The Center for World Spirituality and an adjunct professor at the California Institute of Integral Studies and Naropa University. She has degrees in cultural anthropology, counseling psychology, and contemporary spirituality, and is a teacher and practitioner of yoga philosophy and asana.


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