Integral Recapitulation One: Unique Self, True Self, Levels of Con, Second Person and the Evolution of God
The Unique Self teaching evolves and qualifies the classic enlightement teaching of many mystical traditions. This understanding of Unique Self realization, which began to emerge with my Soul Print teaching (1986), has been a core element of the teaching that I have tried to share in the world. Beginning in 2003, my intense and delightful friendship and ongoing dialogue with Ken Wilber helped to further evolve and clarifie the teaching. Between 2002 and 2012, the Unique Self teaching has had an impact on many teachers, and has challenged and evolved the way enlightenment is understood and taught in several contemporary Western contexts. Several realized teachers, passionately committed to evolving truth, have encountered the Unique Self teaching, recognized its insight, and audaciously incorporated it into their own dharma.
The enlightened state, according to most of the Eastern enlightenment traditions, is essentially an awakening to the one True Self. True Self—which is called atman or pure Consciousness in Hinduism, and Buddha nature, or mahashunya in Buddhism, is a recognition that the heart of reality is formless, attributeless Awareness. The True Self teaching reveals that this pure Awareness is the basis of every state, and exists at every level of consciousness. In short, there is only one True Self, or pure Awareness, and every being has that True Self as it own essence. TO awaken to True Self means that you become conscious of the underliying reality of which you have been unconscious. You are enlightened when you have the shocking realization that your True Self is the True Self. You then further evolve to realize that the same is true for every other sentient being. You realize that your True Self is utterly one with everything that is, everything that ever was and everything that ever will be. To fully know and live in this this truth is what is usually referred to as enlightenment.
Classical enlightenment practices such as Self Inquiry teach you how to open the eye of the spirit and realize the truth that your essence is your True Self. In this recognition, you are aware of your body, your emotions, your thoughts, but no longer exclusively identified or defined by them. You experience yourself as the consciousness which holds them and in which they arise. You are True Self. The more profound the enlightenment the more clear, powerful and stable the realization of True Self.
What we have added with the Unique Self doctrine is the recognition that your awakened True Self is not the same as anyone else’s awakened True Self. This is a key truth that many of the great Eastern traditions, which have almost entirely dominated enlightenment teaching in the western world, often appear not to have recognized. They regarded your True Self and my True Self as the same. They understood True Self (or its awakened creative state, which has sometimes been called Authentic Self or Evolutionary Self), as fundamentally impersonal. This implies that my True Self and yours are essentially interchangeable, and that whatever uniqueness you might have is ultimately a function of your ego or your “cultural, social and psychological conditioning”.
The essential insight of the Unique Self realization, is that every True Self sees from a different perspective–a unique perspective. Once you understand that perspectives are foundational there is no way to escape this truth. Your perspective is much more than merely your conditioning. Perspective is a property of your essence. While the same True Self exists in every one of us, each of us awakens as True Self from a radically unique perspective. Each one of us has a personal perspective, which is irreducible.
In other words, the Unique Self teaching insists that enlightenment is ultimately not at all impersonal. The Unique Self teaching reveals the radically personal nature of enlightenment. For the classical enlightenment traditions enlightenment was the realization of emptiness, void of all personal dimensions. I call this the . The stage of Unique Self Enlightenment goes beyond the realization of impersonal enlightment to the realization of the radically personal nature of your True Self, which is your Unique Self. For this reasons I have described Unique Self enlightenment as the Enlightenment of Fullness.
Your Unique Perspective forms your Unique Self. In other words, your enlightenment has perspective– your perspective.
The uniqueness of your perspective is the source of the irreducible dignity of your individuality. Your perspective creates your unique insight. Your unique insight creates the unique gifts of being and becoming that you have to bring to the world. The radical and irreducible uniqueness of your gifts is precisely what creates your unique obligation to give those gifts. You have a unique responsibility to give those gifts because there are yours and yours alone. There is no one else in the world that ever was, is or will be that can give those gifts.
When we fail to recognize the truth of Unique Self, we fail to fully understand the infinitely special nature of every human being. Only when we understand this unique specialness do we fully recognize why it is so deeply wrong to use another human being purely as a means to an end. To love a human being is to recognize their Unique Self and support its emergence in the world.
Unique Self, like True Self, always exists. It is available at every level of consciousness. Yet Unique Self only fully grows into itself after there has been an awakening to True Self, and an evolution to higher levels of developmental consciousness.
Unique Self and Human Development
In the years after I unfolded the core of the Unique Self teaching, I was exposed to a number of developmental models. Each of these confirmed that it is at the more evolved levels of consciousness – beginning at what has been called ‘World Centric’ (where your priority is the good of the world) and progressively deepening – that Unique Self is naturally and spontaneously experienced. At these higher stages of awareness, your consciousness as True Self awakens to its unique perspective of the world. So while Unique Self, like True Self, is present all the way up and all the way down the spectrum of consciousness and at every stage and state of human development, it comes online spontaneously as the natural property of the higher reaches of developmental consciousness.
Wake Up and Grow Up
Enlightenment, then, can be properly understood as having two distinct steps. The first step is waking up and the second step is growing up.
The first step is for the human being is to wake up to their full identity as True Self. This is the realization that the living essence of all-that-is, lives in you, as you and through you.
In this stage, you realize that what you regarded as your identity at the level of separate self-consciousness was an illusion. Your ego identified the self with forms of identity that are actually illusory and fleeting. These might include your intelligence, talents, social status, physical prowess and the like. When these illusions about the self dissolve in the realization of True Self, you wake up.
Step two is Growing up. Growing up in its’s highest expression transcends and includes waking up. To grow up is to incorporate into your realization of True Self into a naturally experienced realization of its irreducible uniqueness.
At Step Two, , Growing Up, you reclaim every part of you- including the unique properties of essence which shaped the countours of your separate self – as an expression of your unique perspective. Developmental rsearch in any number of models reveals that this natural and spontaneous experience of your unique perspective comes on line at the higher levels of developmental consciousness. To Grow up is to grow into these higher levels of consciousness.
Said slightly differently; Waking up means to wake up to a state of consciousness. In a mystical state you experience the true nature of your expanded identity. Sometimes the realization achieved is fleeting. You are in the state and then it passes. This might be true about a an orgiastic state, drunken state or most mystical states. (There are however high level mystical realizations that are stable and do not receede. ) To grow up by contrast means to grow up to a ‘level of consciousness’ which is the term often deployed to describe a structure stage of developmental consciousness. Structure stages unlike states are virutally always stable. Once acheived they are permanent and do not naturally receede. The simplest example of a structure stage of consciousness might be the movement of moral consciousness to expand your circle of love from your self, to your tribe, to the whole world including all human beings, and then even beyond. These expanding circles of caring, concern and love are sometimes labeled as “Ego centric”, “Ethnocentric” and “World Centric.” Each of these stages affects every aspect of a person, including her relationships, ways of speaking, and values. It is therefore described as a structure of consciousness that, once you realize it, you virtually never lose.
Unique Self-realization becomes a natural, spontaneous and stable expression of self at the higher levels of developmental consciousness beginning around the World Centric stage. Beyond the World Centric stage, is where states and levels (sometimes called stages) arise together. This level of consciousness has been called by Integral theory ‘Kosmocentric’. At this level, one’s circle of love includes not only human beings but also all sentient beings and not only the present but also all of past, present, and future. In parallel, at in Kosmocentric consciousness at its more evolved stages, you awaken to your real identity as True Self.
At Kosmoscentric consciousness the movement of waking up happens together with growing up. Growing up at Kosmocentric occurs when you make the ultimate shift in perspectives. You move – as it were – from the human to the divine perspective. You become identified with God’s perspective, but not in the sense of being absorbed in the undifferentiated source. Its not that you merge into undifferentiated oneness. Rather, you shift to God’s perspective through growing up fully into your Unique Self, which is grounded in your unique perspective. When your unique perspective wakes up and grows up into itself, a new emergent quality of divinity that never was before comes into being and becoming. God has evolved. Someone who truly understands this cannot hear or say these words without exploding into ecstasy and wonder. To realize that a human being has the capacity to participate in the evolution of God through awakening to Unique Self can only send the one who understands into immediate and sustained ecstasy.
God evolves as and through the awakening of your Unique Self. The particular quality of essence that awakens in you when you fully grow up is your unique perspective, that births your Unique Self. This is the radically personal face of both enlightenment and evolution.
When you grow into Kosmocentic consciousness, you become fully aware that there is a larger evolutionary context for your journey. You recognize the presence of an ever-emerging Source, which seeks to awaken in you, as you, and through you. Your awakening as Evolutionary Unique Self is Source’s evolutionary awakening to itself. Through you and only through you, can your unique set of gifts be given to reality, gifts that are not ‘extra’ or ornamental, but gifts that are needed and passionately desired by all.
Paradoxically, Unique Self also implies relationship. The irreducible uniqueness of your unique self is mirrored in the face of the other, who yearns to recognize and be recognized. Mutual recognition is realized in the face-to-face relationship. Unique Self realization can also include having a devotional relationship with the ‘personal’ face of God. In fact, for a person who has realized Unique Self, the encounter with the second person of God is a natural facet of experience. Sufi master Rumi and Hasidic master Levi Isac of Berdichev do not “believe” in the personal god. Rather, they know and taste the personal face of essence.
In that sense, the Unique Self realization includes all three facets of spirit. Unique Self is a unique expression of God in the first-person—the experience of Thou art That, or pure I Am. It is also experienced in relationship with God in the second-person, as a unique face-to-face encounter of self with Source. At the same time, Unique Self incarnates God in the third-person–the conscious and unique expression of the evolutionary impulse, God having a You experience. Therefore. it would be most correct to say that in Unique Self realization, the three faces of God incarnate in paradoxical unity.