I was doing my weekly Google trolling for articles and resources related to Integral, post-metaphysical topics and I came across the following article by Chris Dierkes, posted at Beams and Struts: 


Unique Self, Authentic Self, and the Flavor of Embodied Enlightenment


An excerpt:


This piece compares two teachings in the integral spiritual world: The Authentic Self (from Andrew Cohen) and The Unique Self (from Marc Gafni). As I was in the midst of writing and editing this piece and preparing it for publication, news broke of another controversy surrounding Gafni. I’ve already posted my views on that subject on Beams. See also the excellent comments thread to that piece. So I’m not going to rehash that conversation here. Anyone interested in conversation on that point is encouraged to add their voice to that post where it rightly belongs.  


As I said in the previous piece that I just linked to, whatever one’s views on Marc as a person and his actions, I believe the teaching of The Unique Self is extremely important. I think it’s bigger than any single person. This site is dedicated to holding multiple perspectives and in this piece I’m endeavoring to do precisely that thing. While I said earlier that I think the teaching of The Unique Self is extremely important, this piece fleshes out how I understand that statement.


Something similar (though by no means identical) can be said for the teaching of The Authentic Self. Simply mentioning Andrew Cohen raises protest from certain quarters—some of which we have experienced here at the site. But again I think the teaching can be examined without having to focus exclusively on the teacher and one's views of him/her. Br. Bergen is a student of Andrew’s and has interview with him on the site. Juma has mentioned both his support and critiques of evolutionary spirituality in this piece. Here I add my voice to that conversation. There is no monopoly of thought on this point among the Beams crew.


The basic stance I take in this context is at the core of the embodiment of integral theory: unless someone takes up the practice and checks the data of spiritu... and enters the interpretive framework of a teaching, they are in no place to really be able to speak in any legitimate way to the teachings.  


I’ve left the original piece largely untouched from its original state--it is published here as Part I. Part II, an experiential guide into some of the terrain is a later addition. Please Note: This is an in-depth heavy-duty exploration of a rather subtle topic. With all that said, onto the piece itself.






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While I'm personally not interested in either Gafni's or Cohen's “real” enlightenment, I reference previous IPS threads below where we've discussed them before. My previous discussions with Dierkes led me to conclude he was of the same type of dualistic nondualism I've criticized ad nauseum in these threads and elsewhere.

Evolutionary enlightenment

Evolution as metaphysics and spiritual violence

Gafni's World Spirituality

The Advaita Trap

Authentic Enlightenment

I'm thankful you provided those links, Ed, because I had forgotten about the "Gafni's World Spirituality*" thread.  Good to be reminded of it again.  I posted this one today by Chris Dierkes, in part, because I offer my own take on "unique self" in the recent paper that I just wrote (and that I'm feverishly editing!).  I posted this partly just as a placeholder and reminder.  I want to come back to it and talk about this in relation to (relevant parts of) my paper, at a time when I am better able to do so.

*Interestingly, perhaps, I will begin teaching a class called "World Spirituality" next week.  But it will not be based on Gafni's work.  It is a new title for my "Integral Spirituality" class -- changed at department request to accommodate the preferences of more students in other programs (who are not very fond of Wilber).

This thread on states is also relevant, since it is often a particular state of consciousness these folks associate with authentic enlightenment.

Two of Dierkes' points with which I agree:

"What if Gafni and Cohen aren’t in fact arguing over the exact same territory? What if their respective spiritual practices are each picking up on a distinct dimension or stream? What if they are in fact correctly interpreting the differing experiences they are having—since they are arising from different practices?"

"In a post-metaphysical framework, what we meditate on, how we practice, and how we understand what we experience all determine what actually comes to be.  These forms of awakening are being co-developed in and through the communities of practice and interpretation. They are each forging their own streams."

Where I disagree with this urge to integrate Gafni and Cohen with some third perspective that sublates the two, which is based on a dualistic (and kennilingual) form of Hegelian nondualism. We've also discussed that ad nauseum on this forum with an alternative, Madhyamaka-flavored postmeta interpretation. Granted Dierkes' pluralisitic point can be taken that there are other postmeta flavors, but all flavors are not postmeta. We must still maintain some qualitative criteria lest we come off as relative MGM! Balder's work with homeomorphic equivalence and polydoxy is another postmeta flavor to handle this.

I also disagree with an Absolute distinct from a Relative, and that nondual means their "integration" (again the dual nondualism). And that we directly access this absolute via meditation. Granted we are experiencing something (or no thing) when we do this, but this has been discussed ad nauseum in the states thread and contextualized more postmetaphysically, imo.

Yes, I think this is well said:


"In a post-metaphysical framework, what we meditate on, how we practice, and how we understand what we experience all determine what actually comes to be.  These forms of awakening are being co-developed in and through the communities of practice and interpretation. They are each forging their own streams."


I guess a fundamental question, though (for me), is whether I trust these particular teachers to forge what each claims is the "next phase" of human evolution.  While I see value in aspects of both teachers' work, I do not see either as representing, for me, a trustworthy exemplar of the "leading edge" of being human.


But that aside, I also like Dierkes' suggestion that Gafni and Cohen "aren't in fact arguing over the exact same territory."  They and their followers appear to be orienting towards and enacting distinct spiritual "landscapes" and realizations -- which may, indeed, have a number of homeomorphic equivalencies across topographies, but which also have their own non-negligible particularity.  I don't have any objections, in principle, if someone wants to explore both perspectives and to find a way to integrate them (say, through better understanding their relation) -- so, here I agree with Dierkes that, if we would like to do so, both paths should be followed to some degree independently, which is similar to what I argued in my recent paper on trans-lineage practice -- but I agree with you (and Bonnitta) that we do not have to formulate their relation dialectically.


On something of a side note, concerning Bonnitta's response to this essay, I follow her argument that the AS and the US might form an asymmetric polarity, and agree that this might be one fruitful way we could formulate it (with AS transcendent to US).  But I'm not sure that, within the context of these teachings, these two concepts can be so neatly separated conceptually (treating them wholly as either "general" or "particular" categorical terms).  In other words, I think they are conceptual complexes rather than primary categories (complex assemblages of concepts, commitments, etc).  As such, I'm not sure you can render one as wholly transcendent to the other without doing some conceptual violence to one or the other.  I'm thinking here also, in part, of Ferrer's argument that attempts to elevate either theistic or non-theistic terms (say, God or Emptiness) to the supreme position (as is often attempted in inclusivistic approaches) are problematic because frequently the criteria used are vague enough* that they could be used to support either position (and frequently the very same criteria are used by members of both camps to arrive at, and defend, opposite conclusions).  I'm not familiar enough with either Cohen's or Gafni's teachings to say for certain, at this point, whether the criteria they appeal to in order to establish the superiority of their views, but I expect there is a bit of overlap, which would complicate attempts to definitively situate one in a transcendent position to the other.

* He gives Wilber's criterion of "encompassing capacity" as an example.

Chris Dierkes responded to me on the B&S thread, so here's my response to him:


Hi, Chris,

Yes, I definitely think Bonnitta's work in post-dialectics is valuable and important for Integral thinkers to better or more fully digest. Tom, on the IPS forum, has also long argued (following Hartshorne) for the need to recognize the asymmetric relation of polarities, so that is where I was first exposed to this understanding. As I mentioned above, I think the way that Bonnitta has related US and AS could certainly be a valuable way to formulate a self-model within a (hypothetical) spiritual tradition, but clearly relating these terms in this way would involve -- I expect -- a translation of these terms beyond their present formulation in Gafni's and Cohen's respective systems (where each involves a complex of ideas and dimensions likely in excess of what their meaning would be within an explicitly polar formulation).

Concerning drawing a line between teacher and teaching, that is something I've struggled with, too. It's not easy. In relation to these two teachers and their teachings, I've kept up to some degree with their work over the years, since I do find value in what both are doing, even if I have also have disagreements with them; and yet I also have kept myself fairly distant from them, personally, and from their communities. I'm actually not sure at all that this is the best approach, though. Given their prominence within the Integral community, perhaps it would be better to be more engaged with them. Instead, I've chosen just to work and inquire in my own little corners of Integralia (online and in my local area), and to explore and engage with alternate extra-Integral traditions and teachers with whom I have more natural resonance.

Regarding Edward's response, he can of course speak for himself, but my impression is that he is more concerned with the shortcomings, postmetaphysically, of Cohen's and Gafni's teachings, than with the controversy surrounding them as individuals.

On another note, I just wanted to comment that I share the "wondering" you expressed to Elizabeth above about a framework focused primarily on higher and higher stages, the unheard of new, evolution as "ultimate value," etc. I love some of the "new cosmology" work of Swimme, Dowd, and others, but I'm also concerned about a kind of fetishizing of evolution in some corners of the Integral community (and thus appreciate the cautionary note about this Joseph expressed awhile back: http://integralpostmetaphysics.ning.com/forum/topics/evolution-as-m...

All the best,


Indeed I can Balder. Recently at Integral World Chris and others did a 1-2-3 process in their relationship with Wilber. Not coincidentally it followed Wilber's own steps of fusion-differentiation-integration: 1) I loved his work at first; 2) I had my disagreements; 3) I've come to an integration with his work. I'm in step 4 or 5 now, in that his work doesn't hold much interest for me anymore. As this forum can attest, I've moved in several other directions in the last few years which might be construed as integral in a broad sense, but Wilber plays less and less a part in that inquiry. More of a footnote these days. Same with those that still use him as a main source, like Cohen and Gafni, for example. Just no longer my cup of tea.

Interesting; I hadn't seen those.  I just read Visser's take on that (I notice he gives you some props!).

If Wilber picked up from where he was at in the Kosmos excerpts, and then took it a few steps further, that would likely rekindle my interest.  But I don't expect much new work to be produced, and the recent more popularized works (like "The Integral Vision") leave me flat.

What's important is that we are taking it further here, as of course we must.

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