FROM SOUL PRINTS TO
Unique Self started as an original enlightenment teaching with antecedents in both Western and Eastern enlightenment traditions, and especially the Kabbalah lineage. It was developed principally by Dr. Marc Gafni between 1989 and 2012 in dialogue with numerous partners who have contributed to its unfolding. Key early dialogue partners were primarily Ken Wilber, Sally Kempton and Diane Hamilton.
- 1989 — Dr. Marc Gafni first taught “soul prints” at the age of 26 in a dharma talk at Delray Beach, Florida. The talk, delivered to five hundred senior citizens, communicated the Hebrew mystical intuition that our lives are infinitely and uniquely significant. He said for the first time, “Not only do you have a fingerprint, but you also have a soul print.” In the soul prints book, Gafni explicitly coined the term Unique Self and talks about Soul Print not as a typology of ego, but as an expression of clarified [ enlightened ] essence.
- 1990s — Dr. Gafni developed the intellectual framework of the “soul print” idea from research and teaching related to what he termed “Nondual Humanism and the Unique Self in the thought of Mordechai Yosef Lainer of Izbica and in the Talmudic and Kabbalistic tradition from which Lainer’s ideas emerged
- 2001 — Dr. Marc Gafni’s book Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment (Simon and Schuster) is published, becoming an international bestseller. Marc wrote about Unique Self in a number of early contexts, including multiple passages of Soul Prints like the following: “The address of the divine commands us each to realize our Unique Self.” In this context, he referred to the internal divine voice that lives in and as the interior face of consciousness. The Soul Prints book would later become the subject of a PBS special presentation. The book’s scholars’ page located a core source of the Soul Print teaching in the teachings of Mordechai Lainer of Izbica.
- These teaching of Lainer were later unpacked by Gafni in his two-volume Oxford Dissertation supervised by Dr. Moshe Idel entitled Radical Kabbalah. Part three of Radical Kabbalah was co-developed and authored by Gafni and Avraham Leader. [Note: [Neither parts two or three were submitted to Oxford as part of the doctoral dissertation. The dissertation itself was constituted by only a part of Part One of Radical Kabbalah.] Part of these ideas from Radical Kabbalah was published in 2010 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Integral Theory and Practice in its special issue on Unique Self, Guest Edited by Gafni, under the title, Unique Self and Non-Dual Humanism.
The term Unique Self appears for the first time in Dr. Marc Gafni’s book”Soul Prints”. In this book, the importance of “living our story” by identifying our Unique Selves is revealed. Only then can we connect on a deeper level with the world and with those sharing it alongside us.
- Early 2000s — Unpacking the earlier reference to Dissertation: Dr. Marc Gafni expanded his Unique Self idea in the writing his doctoral dissertation at Oxford University under the co-supervision of Professor Moshe Idel and Dr. Norman Solomon. Gafni showed that for Lainer, an essential part of the process of what Lainer termed berur, clarification – might well be understood as a clarification of Uniqueness beyond the egoic separate self, that is today, individuation beyond ego. It was in this work that Gafni clarified his own understanding of this process of berur as being about the realization of Self beyond ego or individuation beyond ego.
- 2005 —Dr. Marc Gafni 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 multiple dialogues with Ken Wilber, including his radical emphasis on perspective, Soul Print/Unique Self was understood as the perspective attained at the post-egoic enlightenment level of consciousness. Unlike postmodernism, however, Gafni understood perspective to be a function of essence. Perspective and essence were in his understanding virtually synonymous. Multiple perspectives disclosed what he called in his teachings at the time – ontological pluralism.
- Note: Multiple perspectives were understood by Gafni as an expression of a plenitude of meaning in direct contrast to post-modernism which understood multiple perspectives to be a function of the paucity of meaning. The first position expressed by Gafni and Wilber and writes like Idel speaking for the interior sciences might be understood to live within the Tao, within the intrinsic experience of meaning. The second postmodern position locates itself – outside the Tao – in fact, it is based on the dogmatic denial of the Tao.
- 2003 to 2006 — Ken Wilber and Dr. Marc Gafni entered into dialogue about the nature of enlightenment. When Gafni sent an early almost a thousand-page draft of his doctoral dissertation to Ken. Ken read it carefully -and according to the students who gathered in those days in Ken’s loft, he annotated almost every page and the manuscript was passed around to his best students.
- Ken responded to the draft – in a series of conversations and emails with Marc- , by recognizing that the Unique Self teaching that Dr. Marc was articulating – was a significant new enlightenment lineage- very different than the classical Buddhist and even Hindu traditions, – an enlightenment lineage that has much to offer Integral Spirituality.
- Ken in his early reading of Soul Prints understood it to be a spiritual expression of the separate self. This was an accurate reading of one strain of Hebrew wisdom teaching. However, in Gafni’s academic work on Unique Self and Non-Dual Humanism, he evolved that teaching significantly moving from the classical perspective of soul print, rooted in a theistic notion of soul, to a more “translineage universal world spirituality position”, which could be integrated across a wide spectrum of beliefs and worldviews – from Buddhism to Judaism to Islam, to Taoism to Christianity to certain forms of secular humanism that still located themselves within the Tao, and more.
- Unique Self theory was no longer about the soul as the spiritual expression of the separate self, although it could encompass that possibility. Rather Unique Self theory became about one’s irreducible uniqueness being a unique incarnation of the larger fields of consciousness, value, Eros, and allurement.
- Wilber agreed with Gafni that Unique Self was a crucial evolution of the classical enlightenment teachings. Gafni also evolved some of the implicit structures in his position as a result of the dialogues with Ken, formulating the core understanding of Soul Print/Unique Self more clearly as a unique perspective and later as a unique quality of intimacy and desire. in effect, as Gafni expressed in response to a recent question, “Unique self is the Tao in person, uniquely”.
- Ken’s re-ontologized postmodern emphasis on perspective naturally dovetailed with the ontological Kabbalistic emphasis of the irreducibly unique perspective that Marc had made central in his Unique Self presentations to Ken’s integral Institute, and together with Marc and Ken further deepened the Unique Self teaching.
- Dr. Gafni’s teaching may be seen as emergent from Hebrew mystical sources on the ontology of perspectives, from modern science, from kabbalistic lineages, and not least and from his own realization of the nature of reality, what Stein and Gafni would later come to call Anthro-Ontological knowing. [Anthro-Ontology as a key source of knowing is the core of a new book in preparation by Gafni and Stein]. Gafni clarified that it is a perspective attained at the post-egoic enlightenment level of consciousness, and he identified perspective as an expression of essence. Unique Perspective however as he would later clarify cannot be separated from Unique quality of intimacy, eros, and desire. [This was first shared in writing in the 2014 Success Summit, Unique Self book. There the core unique self formulated as expressed by Gafni and Wilber was originally True Self +Perspective = Unique Self. It was upgraded by Gafni in conversation with Wilber to True Self +Unique Perspective +Unique Quality of Intimacy = Unique Self + Evolutionary Context = Evolutionary Unique Self = Homo Amor.
The Unique Self Theory has roots in key sources of Hebrew mysticism, and primarily in the teachings of Hasidic master Mordechai Lainer of lzbica. Lainers’s metaphysics of individuality, his ontological understanding of will, Torah, name, and uniqueness provide the framework of the Unique Self teaching.