Integral Notes on Unique Self and Perspective
By Marc Gafni
Unique Self does not stand alone as its own intellectual island. The concept is part of a wider Integral school of thought which combines the best insights from pre-modern, modern, and post-modern wisdom. In the following footnotes from Your Unique Self, Marc Gafni explores the intersection between Unique Self and central topics in Integral Theory, especially the notion of perspective.
Footnote No. 5 from Chapter 1
5. The modern notion of perspectives is foundational in the Lurianic one-letter tradition of Kabbalah. For a discussion of the Lurianic one-letter tradition and its influence on Unique Self, see Marc Gafni, Unique Self and Nondual Humanism (forthcoming), Chapter 4. For an intellectual history of Unique Self within Hebrew wisdom, surveying Talmudic, Zoharic, Lurianic, and Hasidic sources, see Chapters 1–4, 8, 9, and 14.
Footnote No. 1 from Chapter 2
1. Living “in you, as you, and through you” means that Unique Self is refracted through all the prisms of your consciousness.
An Integral View of Unique Self
Unique Self is a liberating realization that promises to integrate the so-called trans-egoic, No-Self teachings of Eastern traditions with the individuality emphasized in the West and the uniqueness that is inherent to all human beings. We would offer Unique Self as a living koan; an inquiry meant to provoke curiosity, exploration, and presence, rather than an attempt to reify or fix our self-understanding.
We understand that Unique Self can and will be interpreted differently according to personal inclination and constitution, cultural orientation, and differences in stages of development. For example, a Benedictine monk, whose realization validates an eternal transcendent soul, may understand Unique Self as an expression of that unique soul. A Zen Buddhist, whose realization does not posit a reified transcendent, may experience Unique Self as the freedom to manifest exactly as we are: complete, whole, empty, and unique. In another example, a secular materialist might understand Unique Self as an expression of one’s unique perspective and abilities to succeed and develop.
In each case, we would hope that the Integral practitioner would see that classical enlightenment, in the formulation of the great traditions as a realized state of unity with the oneness of all ever-present reality, is recognition of what might be called “True Self.” This realization finds that the total number of True Selves only and always is one. This, however, is only true in unmanifest oneness. There is no True Self anywhere in the manifest world. At the same time, every person’s awakening to this oneness arises through their own unique perspective. In this way, True Self plus my own perspective equals My Unique Self.
In developmental-psychology terms, the fullest flowering of Unique Self might best be articulated as a living glimpse into the “Indigo” stage of human consciousness and self-identity: this is the stage of evolution of human consciousness at which my felt ever-present unity of reality—a state of ongoing “flow presence,” if you will—and the unique characteristics of my own life and perspective—the unique evolutionary features of my life— clearly intersect and find a cohesive and stabilized integration. At second-tier and third-tier, perspectives are inherent in awareness. It is an inherent aspect of what emerges at Turquoise and Indigo. So even though Unique Self was present from the earlier stages of consciousness, it can seem to emerge at second-tier and third-tier. Perspective is an inherent part of the realization of the Indigo structure. When someone develops to Indigo, they know that they are looking through a particular perspective even as they recognize other perspectives, and are even to some extent able to disidentify from their own. And my own perspective is never absent, even as it is progressively clarified and deepened through the evolution of self to Self. It is important to note, however, that proto-expressions of Unique Self appear in significant ways in earlier stages of consciousness as well.
Our efforts at ISE are meant to provide a vibrant, open, and enlivened look into the emerging potential of the possibility for humanity at this stage in our evolution. In the first-person perspective, Unique Self is a practice of recognizing the profundity of your own life, the preciousness of your specific perspective, history, and talents, and the opportunity to become fully who you already are—I am uniquely this. In the second-person perspective, Unique Self is minimally an opportunity to see and support the Uniqueness of others’ gifts and to foster a durable community that supports the evolu-tionary possibilities of humankind—I see who you uniquely are. At a higher level of intersubjective space the collective intelligence of evolutionary We space becomes possible. This is one of the core features of Unique Self encounters. (See Chapter 21, The Seven Laws of Unique Self Encounters.) And in the third-person perspective, Unique Self can be understood as an evolutionary emergent—a subtle, gentle, yet powerful and compelling whisper from the emerging future of humankind—this is who we can become.
The Foundation of Unique Self
World Spirituality based on Integral principles provides a foundational program upon which to reconstruct spiritual insights and human meaning-making in a modern world that has transcended merely literal interpretations of religious mythology and seeks to transcend the nihilistic and narcissistic assertions of atheistic scientism and postmodern relativism. Unique Self rests squarely on the “postmetaphysical” core of Integral World Spirituality.
Tenet 1: Perspective is foundational.
Integral World Spirituality maintains that the deep structure of reality is composed of perspectives. Whether we take this commitment as “strong” (ontologically real) or “weak” (usefully descriptive), we can still easily understand that all sentient creatures have a perspective.
Tenet 2: Uniqueness is obvious.
All human beings and perhaps all sentient beings will have a unique perspective. This perspective will be unique on the one hand due to different location—all perspectives have a unique angle of perception—but also due to the different psychology, biology, culture, and history of each crea-ture and its context. According to the realization of the eye of the spirit, human uniqueness is essential, and that human beings’ location reflects the unique dimension of divinity that literally births the individual. (See Gafni, “Unique Self and Nondual Humanism,” Pt. 2, forthcoming.)
Tenet 3: Perspectives evolve.
Going further, we see that all sentient creatures have their being arise in four quadrants—those of subjective experience, biological, cultural, and social dimensions—and that each of these quadrants is holonic in nature. Therefore, each aspect of reality evolves over time and thus perspectives will also evolve over time.
Tenet 4: “Conventional” metaphysics is unnecessary.
There is no necessary metaphysical aspect to perspectives. At the same time, while a metaphysical perspective is not necessary to an engagement with Unique Self, there is nothing about perspective that precludes ontological revelations. Perspectives thus create a common ground up and down the spiral. In the postmetaphysical view they arise, for example, in human beings and evolve over time, inexorably influenced and cocreated by the evolution of all four quadrants. We need not make any necessary reference to any transcendental concepts or extra-evolutionary features to describe Unique Self. At the same time, Unique Self does not exclude communities who hold a set of realizations that they signify as pertaining to the transcendent (e.g., God). Thus every perspective grounded in direct experience supported by a valid community of interpreters has an honored, if partial, place at the Integral table.
Tenet 5: Ego need not be transcended or obliterated.
“Ego” is a term that is used in many ways. We will use “ego” in this context to mean the general patterns of self-understanding and self-identity that developmental psychologists have tested and articulated using Integral’s Zone 2 research methodologies (the outside view of an individual-interior reality). Of course, viewed from within our own subjectivity (i.e., Zone 1), these same patterns “look and feel” as purely phenomenological realities. Because this usage of ego is around an enduring line of self-development that extends up and down the first-person holonic spectrum, it is inaccurate to think of ego as being transcended per se. Rather, ego expressions become more inclusive, subtle, refined, and expansive with each successive stage of development and envelopment. When the West first ran into the Eastern traditions, particularly Theravada Buddhism, and first met the whole notion of transcending self, the ego was made bad in all ways. You had two columns. In one column was ego, which was equated with the devil, and in the second column was non-ego, which was equated with God. The critical Western insight of ego being the functional organizing center of conventional awareness, which is utterly essential in the finite world, was effaced. This was a disaster because if you get rid of ego in the finite world, you are borderline or psychotic. You’re not enlightened.
Tenet 6: We are never outside of a state, and always within a stage.
All “structure-stages” of consciousness get enacted only within the ontology of present-moment states. We are never outside of the now. So states describe a “substrate of awareness” in which the real arises (and gets interpreted), and stages of consciousness can be understood as the large-scale characterizable patterns of these moment-to-moment interpretations. So we can discuss a state of deep presence, flow states, or nondual identity. But as any uniqueness of self comes into the picture, there will always be a stage particularity to the interpretive act. It makes no sense to talk about Unique Self as a state outside of a particular developmental stage. Unique Self is always interpreted through the prism of stage development.
Tenet 7: Unique Self is fully expressed at an “Indigo” stage of consciousness.
After considering all other tenets above, it is clear that Unique Self therefore can best be described as the stage at which general patterns of ego development evidence an integration between stabilized “No-Self” insight (e.g., cosmic identification) and one’s own felt-sense of uniqueness in their life, talents, and history (i.e., their four-quadrant evolution). This stage has been empirically mapped and articulated using Zone 2 methodologies as the “Indigo” self.
We might describe the subtle and refined ego of the Unique Self understanding as one that has let go of the exclusive identification of the subject with its separate self. The transcending of the egoic separate self through repeated access to “presence-flow” states is the goal of classical enlightenment teaching. This, however, does not mean that the ego is annihilated. Rather, the exclusive identification with the egoic separate self is overcome. We are able to experience our fundamental identity—not as an ego isolated from other, nature, community, and All-That-Is—rather, as part of a larger whole. Note the similarities of this description with how researchers have characterized the Indigo stage of ego development:
[They] experience themselves and others as part of ongoing humanity, embedded in the creative ground, fulfilling “the destiny of evolution” and are in tune with their lives and their shared humanity “as a simultaneous expression of their unique selves.” (Cook-Greuter 2002)
That is, these individuals are capable of integrating the unity of real-ity realized only in deep presence-states (the “creative ground”) and their own uniqueness as a living expression of a dynamic evolutionary process that continually will call on them for their special contribution (“the destiny of evolution”). We allow for the possibility that glimmerings of this stage of consciousness, where Unique Self has emerged as this integration, can appear up and down the spiral of human development.
A much earlier version of the following note was occasioned by a debate between me and Robb Smith from the postmetaphysical nature of Unique Self enlightenment. The original version of this note was coauthored by me, Robb, Diane Hamilton, Ken Wilber, and Sally Kempton. It appeared in the ISE1 attendee guide.
In our discussion of the Indigo level of consciousness, a potential distinction between the premodern realization and postmodern Indigo realization of Unique Self suggests itself. For much of the premodern world (excepting many of the great realizers and their inner circles who founded new schools of thought), Unique Self was a deduction that went something like this:
“Since we all view the mountain from a different perspective, we all have a unique perspective.” At the postmodern, second-tier, and third-tier consciousness of Indigo, Unique Self is not only a deduction but a realization. Every person at Indigo has direct access to what only the great realizers were able to access in the premodern world.
Footnote No. 6 from Chapter 2
6. Any experience of formless True Self, when it manifests as any object at all, manifests as the Unique Self. So to repeat, there is no True Self anywhere in the manifest world. There is always a perspective—that is to say, True Self always manifests as Unique Self. That means Unique Self is always the source of awareness, “all the way up and all the way down.” Of course, Unique Self is always present as the witness of consciousness at all levels of awareness, because awareness or consciousness is always embodied in form, and therefore always has a perspective. Unique Self, however, becomes progressively more conscious and full in direct proportion to one’s level of True Self realization. The base awareness of Unique Self is True Self. True Self is the actual origin of awareness at all levels of development, even though it only comes online as conscious awareness with the stage of enlightenment, or what Integral Theory has referred to as third-tier growth. The point is that there is no True Self in the manifest world. The True Self is always looking through a perspective. So in the manifest world—that is to say, in the only world we know—there is only the Unique Self. Only pure, formless unmanifest awareness is pure perception without a perspective. In this unmanifest state there are no objects, only consciousness without an object, so there is nothing to take a perspective on. This can be said to be unqualifiable True Self. But we live—always—in the world of manifestation. Once the awareness of True Self manifests, it does so through a particular perspective. That is always the Unique Self.
Footnote No. 7 from Chapter 2
7. With the emergence of second-tier and particularly third-tier structure stages of consciousness, perspectives themselves become noticed. So at this stage the conscious realization of Unique Self fully emerges. It was of course present all along but tended to be confused with True Self because perspectives were not yet fully conscious. But when the full awareness of perspectives emerges, the awareness of Unique Self emerges. Then any experience of formless True Self, when it manifests as any object at all, manifests as the Unique Self.
Footnote No. 8 from Chapter 2
8. The centrality of perspective was simply not understood in the premodern world the way we understand it in our postmodern context. We used to think we were directly engaging reality as it is. This is why every spiritual system thought that it owned the truth. Every system thought it was seeing reality itself. This was only half true. At some point we began to realize that there is no reality without perspective—or put another way, reality itself is fundamentally constructed from perspectives. There is nothing we see that is not filtered through the prism of perspective. True Self cannot exist independent of your Unique Perspective. Thus, every enlightenment realization is defined in part by the unique perspective of the practitioner.
Of course, perspective itself can be understood from many perspectives. Perspective might imply ontology, methodology, or epistemology. All of these understandings of perspective appear in the old Hebrew texts, which unfold perspective as the central hermeneutic category of textual interpretation, which is the essential spiritual act of the Talmudic homo religiosus.
In the matrix tradition of Unique Self, which is that of Talmud and Kabbalah, taking different perspectives on the sacred text is a central spiritual practice. Judaism is first and foremost a textual tradition. The nature of a textual tradition is that competing readings of the text need to be explained, especially if the text is said to be divine. How can it be, it is asked, that different readers of the text, with different and often mutually exclusive readings, all express the word of God?
This question is answered in a number of ways. Each is based on a different reading of the idea of perspectives. The champions of methodological pluralism claim that in fact only one reading of the text is correct, and the other readings are granted equal status simply because we lack an appropriate method to inform us which reading is correct. In this reading, what is emphasized is the limited nature of each perspective on the one hand, and the hierarchy of perspectives on the other; namely, one perspective is better than the others because it more clearly captures the true intention and meaning of the divine text.
On the far other side of the spectrum are the champions of an ontological pluralism, who assert the radical ontology of perspectives as the core tenet to be recognized and affirmed. This position is rooted in both the classic Hebrew legal and mystical traditions, for whom the text was thought to be a living expression of divinity that did not exist independently of the perspective of its reader. “God, Torah, and Israel are One,” is an old Kabbalistic dictum, which essentially means, “Reader, God, and text are One.”
In one expression of this teaching, this ontology of perspectives is thought to originate at the source event of revelation, the theophany of Mount Sinai. In this teaching, every person standing at Mount Sinai during the time when the divine voice was heard is said to have stood at a different angle in relation to the mountain. As a result, each person heard a different voice of revelation. And in a nondual matrix of realization, each Unique Perspective on the mountain is understood to have yielded a unique voice of God. This is an ancient version of the New Enlightenment teaching of Unique Perspective, which creates Unique Self. For the Kabbalists who assert ontological pluralism rooted in perspectives, the validity of the hermeneutic is based on the unique perspective of the interpreter who is situated at a unique angle toward—and therefore experiencing and incarnating a unique expression of—the divine face. It is this unique angle that dictates a person’s Unique Letter in the kosmic scroll. This original insight of perspectives in regard to revelation becomes the matrix for a sophisticated ontological pluralism in Talmudic and Kabbalistic sources.
Related to this pluralism in regard to the voice of revelation, there emerges what has been called the one-letter teaching of Lurianic Kabbalah. In this teaching, each person is regarded as having their own letter in the Torah. In one-letter theory, your letter in the Torah is both the ontological source and purpose of your existence. Your individual existence is both rooted in, nourished by, and intended to realize your Unique Letter in the Torah scroll. Your Unique Letter is your Unique Self, your Unique Song whose notes are formed by your Unique Perspective.
Footnote No. 10 from Chapter 2
10. In an email correspondence with Ken Wilber, after much conversation at his loft and over the phone in 2005, I formulated the core understanding of Soul Print/Unique Self as perspective, as emergent from Hebrew mystical sources on the ontology of perspectives. In this understanding emerging from Hebrew mysticism and from deep conversations with Ken, including his radical emphasis on perspective, Soul Print/Unique Self was understood as the perspective attained at the post-egoic enlightenment level of consciousness. I have kept my note to Ken in its original form to capture some of the energy and excitement of these early conversations:
So much love to you! In terms of Soul Print/Unique Self.
It is very important to understand that soul prints do not emerge from the world of ego or soul but rather from radical nonduality. Soul Prints is an expression of the Self with a capital S. The way I teach it to my students, Story and non-Story are one. Or in the expression of the great vehicle of Buddhism, Emptiness is form and form is emptiness. Or in classic Kabbalistic expression, Keter is Malkhut and Malkhut is Keter. This is what I refer to as “a nondual humanism” in the fullest sense of the word.
To explain what I mean, let me offer a simple map of the three classic levels of transpersonal consciousness that—as you [Ken] have pointed out—show up one way or another in virtually every system. We can call them Communion, Union, and Identity. Communion, which Scholem felt was critical in Hebrew mysticism, is ultimately dual. God in the second person. Union moves toward nonduality, and full nonduality is achieved in Identity. Or we might use the more classic terms, which you deploy in your wonderful essay “The Depths of the Divine”—psychic, subtle, casual, and nondual. Or we might call them Ego, Soul, and Self. Or we might call them ani, ayin, ani. Or we might use Eastern terms in which “psychic” and” subtle” might be roughly equivalent to savikalpa samadhi. At the highest edge of savikalpa samadhi, the way I understand it, there is already a glimpse of the formless void of the next stage.
This next stage of formless union, what for some Kabbalists would be called ayin, the realm of the impersonal, approximates the Eastern state of nirvikalpa samadhi. This is a stage of formless awareness that is beyond the personal. You call this stage the causal state.
The highest and deepest stage is, however, beyond even the formless state of ayin, nirvikalpa samadhi; this is the nondual that is the very Suchness of all being. It is the Suchness of both emptiness and form, both personal and impersonal. This is the world of One Taste or sahaj in Eastern terms, or the shma declaration of hashem echad, “God is one” in Judaic consciousness.
The way to reach the ultimate nondual realization—for example, according to my teacher Mordechai Lainer of Izbica—is through the prism of soul prints or Unique Self. Soul prints is the absolute and radical uniqueness of the individual, which is the expression of emptiness in form; it is ein sof, revealing itself in the only face we know—the face of unique form. It is not only that there is absolutely no distinction between the radically personal and the radically impersonal; it is also that in terms of stages of unfolding, the radically personal is the portal to the embrace and identity of the absolute one. Moreover, the absolute one expresses itself only through its infinite faces, or what have been called its infinite soul prints (or Unique Self).
Another way to say this might be to borrow the image suggested by the Midrash in this regard, that of the ascending and descending ladders on Jacob’s Ladder. For the Kabbalists, this is the ladder of nonduality. On the ladder are angels of God. “Angel” in biblical Hebrew refers to a divine entity or to a human being. What they share in common is that each is a radically unique messenger of God. Or said differently, each is a radically unique perspective. One ascends to the divine through soul print, and the divine descends through soul print (Unique Self). Indeed, all human reality as we know it is soul print (Unique Self).
But even this language is insufficient. For in the experience of nonduality, soul print (Unique Self) is the divine. So one ascends to the divine through the divine soul print (Unique Self). And divinity descends to the divine world of form through the divine soul print (Unique Self). All faces of divinity are kissing each other. What the sages of old called nashkei ar’a verakia,“the kiss of heaven and earth.”
Now, another term for soul print might be “perspective.” As we have pointed out many times, the classic image for unique form or soul print in Hebrew consciousness is panim, face. “Face” is an expression in Talmudic language for what we moderns and postmoderns might call perspective. This is what the ancient sages meant when they taught: “There are seventy faces to Torah.” Torah contains objective God-givens and yet can only be read through the prism of perspectives.
Ultimately in Hebrew mysticism, each human being is the bearer of a Unique Face that is by very definition a unique perspective (Unique Self). This is a radically particular perception of the world, which is shared exactly by no other being. In this sense, the person is the eyes of ein sof, of the absolute. The person is the eyes of the absolute in a way shared by no other being on the planet. This is the source of our grandeur, our infinite adequacy and dignity, and occasionally our almost unbearable loneliness, which for this very reason can only be ultimately quenched in the caress of the divine.
How does one get there, to the soul-printed merger with the absolute?
In Hebrew mysticism, through erotic merger with the Shekhinah.
This might take place through many methods of practice, including the concentrated, intense, and ultimately ecstatic study of sacred text (Hasidei Ashkenaz, in the twelfth century, and the Kabbalah of the Vilna Gaon and his school), the intense meditation of sacred chant and song (classic Hasidic practice), the rigorous and uncompromising process of introspection and dialogue, with results in the clarification-purification of motive and desire called berur, out of which the Unique Self naturally emerges (Luria, Izbica, Mussar), classical mystical techniques of letter combination, soul ascent, meditation, crying, and more.
Total Love, Total Good!
My note to Ken, emergent from our many conversations, clarifies both the post-egoic nature of Unique Self—that is to say, Unique Self is fully realized only as an expression of True Self—as well as the identification of Unique Self with Unique Perspective. At Integral Spiritual Experience 2010, both Ken and I gave keynotes on Unique Self in which we crystallized many of our conversations, and for myself, twenty years of writing and thinking in this regard. Ken’s wonderful formulation in his keynote was “True Self + Perspective = Unique Self.”
It is also critical to note that from an Integral developmental view your perspective on the world is largely informed by your level of consciousness, and indeed it is refracted through the entire prism of AQAL, all quadrants, levels, line types, and states—the core matrix of Ken Wilber’s Integral Theory.
Footnote No. 13 from Chapter 2
13. What modernity—beginning with Kant, deepened by Saussure, and driven home by the postmodernists—has realized is the truth of perspective and context. Everything we see is through a perspective. Nothing lives independently of its context. Naturally this does not mean what the extreme postmodernists claimed it did. In their ecstatic confusion, intoxicated as they were with their own revelation of contexts, they thought that reality was only perspectives. This is not the case. There is a reality independent of perspective. But it is always mediated through a perspective. What is true is that perspective really matters.
Now let’s apply this insight to the enlightenment teachings of True Self. The same way that the scientist is seeing reality through a particular perspective, so is the spiritual teacher, the church, and everyone else. The enlightened master is seeing reality through perspective just like everyone else. Just like the church and the scientist. In the premodern world the enlightened masters thought that when they realized their True Nature—their True Self—it was reality as it was, not mediated by any prism. Today we realize that this is simply not the case. True Self is always mediated by Unique Perspective, hence there is no True Self that ever appears without Unique Self. Precisely, Unique Self is the nature of True Self in the manifest world.
Footnote No. 7 from Chapter 4
7. The fourth awakening, together with strong elements of the fifth awakening, is described in the core teachings of Renaissance Hebrew mystic Isaac Luria. Kabbalah scholar M. Kallus characterizes the Lurianic realization as being absolutely nondual, one in which the human being awakens to his or her place as an incarnation of the divine process. This creates an activist posture in which human consciousness is realized to be an expression of evolving divine consciousness. This activist posture, based on the evolutionary impulse living personally in the human being, caused Kallus to characterize Luria’s mysticism with the poignant pathos of Nikos Kazantzakis’ phrase, “We are the saviors of God.” This teaching, partially sourced in Kabbalah had direct influence on German idealists Fichte and Schelling. (Kabbalah scholar Eliot Wolfson  has already pointed to a vast literature showing the Kabbalistic influence on Fichte and Schelling.) In the twentieth century, this impulse was powerfully expressed in the writings of Abraham Kook, Sri Aurobindo, and Teillard De Chardin, three modern evolutionary mystics.
What it means to be ”saviors of God” shifts and evolves as the human being ascends to higher structure-stages of consciousness. For Luria, this teaching has little of the humanist cast that it takes on in Kook and even more dramatically in the teachings of some contemporary evolutionary mystics. Some of these contemporary teachers understand the awakening to be the emergence of the inherent creativity, which is the enlightened creativity of what has been called the Authentic Self. In their teaching one awakens to the impersonal face of the process, which expresses itself in you, as you, and through you. In my reading Lurianic Kabbalah can best be characterized as a form of evolutionary mysticism and a precursor of modern evolutionary spirituality. Clearly, Luria, and the Zoharic authors before him, were writing before science had recognized the existence of evolution within the physical world. It is for that reason that I have chosen to characterize these seminal Kabbalists—in a private dialogue in 2011 with Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber—as proto-evolutionary thinkers. The topic of this dialogue was the relationship among world spirituality, evolutionary spirituality, and integral spirituality as well as the relationship between Kabbalah and evolutionary thought.
Every evolved culture, and every evolved individual, may realize Unique Self when True Self awakens to its Unique Perspective. Unique Perspective is the prism of postmodern revelation. An early expression of this insight, expressed as True Self + Perspective = Unique Self, is sourced in pre-modernity in the great teachings of the Kabbalists. For these masters, the sacred text of the Torah is the word of God. Yet, paradoxically, in Hebrew mystical teaching it is said that a human being who is deeply grounded in True Self while fully incarnating his or her own uniqueness, also speaks the word of God! Human insight, however, is considered the word of God and given the status of Torah only when it derives directly from the clarified unique perspective of a human being who is connected to the ground of True Self. In this radical teaching, the ultimate identity between a human being and the godhead is only realized through the paradoxical portal of radical human uniqueness. Irreducible uniqueness, the full inhabiting of unique perspective or voice, is revealed to be an absolute quality of essence.
In modernity and especially in post-modernity, this early realization of the Kabbalists in regard to the primacy of perspective takes center stage. There is an emergent cultural realization, placed front and center in Integral Theory, that perspectives are foundational. But in post-modernity, perspectives have too often been used as the key tool for post-modernity’s deconstructive project. The sentence used to deny all truth is “that’s just your perspective”.
Our conclusion in World Spirituality teaching, however is different from that of the post-modern deconstructive thinkers who were among the champions of this insight. Deconstructive thinkers assume that when perspective is revealed to be part of the process of meaning making, there is no longer any real meaning. However, in the World Spirituality teachings, we understand perspective in this way: every culture and every great tradition of spirit has its own Unique Self and therefore its own unique perspective. Perspective reveals a plenitude of meaning and not a dearth or death of meaning.
All cultures perceive Essence, but each unique perspective gives a particular resonance and cast to Essence. Loyalty to one’s religion and culture is not, therefore (as modern and post-modern fashions sometimes suggest), primitive or fundamentalist. Instead, it is, , partially true, in that it is how my culture intuites essence. The pre-modern mistake was the failure to realize that every religion has a particular perspective, and therefore not to realize that no religion can claim that its intuition of ultimate truth is the only truth. Now that we understand that every great tradition and culture perceived essence through a particular perspective, we can avoid the tragic mistake of deconstructing the traditions as meaningless. Instead, we understand that every tradition has a particular perspective, a particular instrument in the symphony of spirit that is indeed making sacred music. All of the perspectives come together to create a symphony. And at that point, there is the possibility that the followers of each tradition can begin to realize that their particular religion is not the music, but an instrument of the music.
The Kabbalists foreshadow our post- postmodern World Spirituality reconstructive project. Nothing is true, says post-modernity, because everything is contextual. For the Kabbalists, foreshadowing World Spirituality teaching, the opposite is correct. When you fully inhabit your unique perspective, you enter into Source. You not only speak the word of God. You incarnate the word of God. World Spirituality based on Integral principles, including the first principle of Unique Self, understands that uniqueness reveals essence through a particular prism. Perspective creates, not a dearth of truth, but a magnificent kaleidoscope of truth. Every authentic insight deriving from Unique Perspective is true but partial. No part is reducible to the whole, but no part stands alone. It is this insight of Unique Self that is the foundation of the great reconstructive project, which is Spirit’s Next Move.