- by Marc Gafni
Unique Self is the essential portal for the democratization of enlightenment. It’s a term I first began deploying in my doctoral studies at Oxford almost a decade ago, and it has become an essential dimension to World Spirituality teaching.
Democratization of enlightenment doesn’t mean everyone is enlightened in an equal way. It means that the possibility of enlightenment is what William James called a genuine option for every human being who aspires to it. Enlightenment is not only the province of the elite. It can expand beyond the narrow sectors of the meditation hall in Nepal or Brooklyn, or the back streets of Jerusalem’s ultra-Orthodox neighborhoods where the pious Kabbalists sit and chant. Enlightenment becomes part of the fabric of every awakened life. That’s a big deal.
Where we are in the world today is a place where there is such a crisis of resources, meaning, direction, hunger, imagination. It threatens the survival of the planet Earth, this epoch of humanity as we know it. It is oft said that a set of problems created at one level of consciousness can only be solved at a higher level of consciousness.
Generally, we understand that is true of the individual. The individual creates a set of problems at one level of consciousness, then has to evolve to a higher level to solve those problems. But it’s also true of the community, the public culture, the We-space.
Planet Earth has become a We-space. You go on to Google Earth and there’s no place you can’t see today. It’s getting smaller. We affect each other. We’re completely interpenetrated. The old teaching of the enlightenment teachers of the interconnectivity of the All with the All is no longer something you realize in meditation or chant; it’s actually an obvious truth of reality.
The esoteric truth of the interconnectivity of the All with the All a thousand years ago has become the obvious truth of interconnectivity in our lives. To solve the radical problems of today, we need to up-level our consciousness as a community. We need to up-level the consciousness of our We-space. And we can only do that in an Internet, intertwined world where billions of people affect the We-space; this is to begin to enact the possibility of the democratization of enlightenment.
To make enlightenment in the public culture and social mind a genuine psychological / spiritual possibility…Again, that doesn’t mean everyone is enlightened at the same level. It means the possibility of enlightenment awakens.
Unique Self is the ultimate democratic principle. Our Unqiue Selves are all different. Everyone’s got one. Just like “one person, one vote”—one person, one potentially enacted Unique Self. That calls a person in a different way. When I am called to my Unique Self enlightenment, which is to awaken to my Unique Self, I begin to become awakened, alive, and aware in an entirely different way than if I am called to experience myself as pure consciousness. The old enlightenment doesn’t address most of humanity. Most of humanity is looking intuitively and correctly at how can I enact the unique meaning of my life.
If I do that in a narcissistic way, then I’m lost in ego and separate self. I’m alienated. But if I do that in a healthy, awake, alive, aware way, then I want to be part of All That Is, and thereby to express all my unique gifts. So uniqueness opens the portal of enlightenment to the larger population because uniqueness is a democratized concept.
As long as you’re talking about a narrow True Self enlightenment, most people feel excluded from it. When you begin to talk about a Unique Self enlightenment, people awaken to the conversation and it becomes interesting and then it attracts attention. Once it grasps the heart, you can explain it in a new way that if you want to awaken your Unique Self, you must evolve beyond exclusive identification with ego because ego distorts your Unique Self.
Ego seeks to satisfy itself, so it might choose shortcut paths to fulfillment that don’t really do the work of identifying, living, and giving your Unique Gifts. Moving beyond ego is not only an invitation to awaken to pure consciousness, but to an awakening of your Unique Self, the great desire to move beyond ego, to identify with True Self, essence, and to enact and awaken further with my awakened Unique Self, which gives its gifts as part of a larger evolutionary context.
Unique Self and the democratization of enlightenment are inextricably linked. They are part of a larger cluster which is essential to an emergent World Spirituality.