Marc Gafni – the Path of Love

The Path of Love

One cannot be told that life is worth while –one must experience the erotic  love of living first hand. Yet so few people have an unmediated sense of the adequacy, dignity and worth of their lives. It is however this very erotic sense that is so essential to making our lives a triumph. So many of us  today are second hand consumers of second hand joy –never touching love or eros  directly. And when love fails there truly is nothing left to live for. For love – not the narrow romantic expressions of it – but erotic love in all areas of our existence is  is the core of  life itself.

We are confronted, personally and globally with a stark  choice –Love or Die! It is that simple. Love is no longer a luxury – it is an absolute necessity for the survival of the individual and the planet. In the last half a century modern psychology has documented an age old truth. A fully nourished baby who is not held in loving arms will die. So too our world, personal and global – even with all the resources intelligence and technology at our disposal- will die without being held in love. We must embrace a personal path with heart and a  global politics of love.

Life is a choice. What is the rhythm of our dance? Are we dancing masters or bottled bees? Who are our dancing partners – desperation and emptiness or Eros and Shechina? Are we lovers in all facets of our lives or are we apathetic, deadened and indifferent? Are we sources of safety and caring or are we  abusers and manipulators? Are we spreading wisdom and love or are we   inflictors of emotional, spiritual and even physical pain on those closest to us? Bees in bottles always sting. But everyone knows that to sting is to die. The only way to not sting is to learn to be a dancing master.

The great mystery tradition of Hebrew wisdom is about a radical and profound path towards becoming just such a dancing master. The ancient temple in Jerusalem was the center of a society where the Hebrew mysteries were practiced and taught. At the core of the temple mysteries lays an ancient set of radical understandings about sex, love and eros. In the deep yet provocative temple mysteries we are taught that  sex is not eros.  But as we shall see,  in the esoteric temple mystery, sex  models for us what it might look like to live erotically in all of the non sexual dimensions of our lives.

The temple mysteries  are a unique Tantra, opening us to the possibility of  becoming great lovers in all of the arenas of our lives. The Hebrew mysteries gently but powerfully chart a  path  which, if we but  have the courage to walk it, will teach us how to live erotically in every facet of existence.

We live in age when ancient wisdoms long relegated to the dustbins of the spirit  are being re-claimed. The Zohar, magnum opus of Hebrew mysticism, teaches that our era is the one in which the “Gates of Wisdom will be opened” . We live at the dawn of a New Age in which for the first time–after several aeons of intense spiritual evolution, we have the vessels to hold the light of the ancient secrets.  Suggest the mystics – we may well be able to hold the light more deeply then even ancients for whom the wisdom was initially intended. It is only know after law, science and ethics have been integrated into our psyches that we can go back and reclaim Eros, Shechina and enchantment.

Life is a choice. You can remain a bee trapped in a bottle and everyone – except yourself – will be convinced you are dancing. Or you can choose to be a dancing master. To dance yourself into your book of life. To be an erotic lover in every facet of your existence.  A wonderful mantra from the Biblical love book –the Song of Songs, reads “I am love sick on my bed at night”; Explain 19th century mystical master Nachumm of Chernobyl, “I have fallen on my bed because my loving has become sick”. When being a great lover is limited to sexual performance and  wild  erotic stories connote anonymous  orgies then love has become sick and we fall on our beds into the depths of emptiness and depression.   The dance of Eros is to teach you how to be  a great lover not only in the sexual – but in all the dimensions of your life. That is the radical invitation issued by this book of Hebrew wisdom.

You need not have studied mysticism or biblical myth before reading this tract. This is book written for all seekers of transformation. This book is for you if you are not sated by pop culture and seek  a passionate, joyful yet deeply grounded and serious exploration of the mysteries as your guide.

I am a biblical mystic. I am studying, teaching and trying to live the sacred texts at my spiritual community, Bayit Chadash, nestled in the hills of the Galilee in Israel, as well as at Oxford University in England. The Aramaic and Hebrew mystery texts have been my guides and friends for many years. [At the end of the book, for those interested, I have included 25 pages of original source notes. In the next year or so I hope to publish a two-volume 1000 page scholarly work replete with in-depth analysis of the original sources.] Of course, like every mystic who engages sacred text, I hear the text in accordance with the inner melody of my soul. I now share this song with you in the form of this book. You are invited to find the place in your soul where you can receive and integrate this ancient wisdom into your own song.

 

The invitation and the challenge of the spirit in our generation is to create a politics of eros and love. That can only begin to happen when each person in the polis takes responsibility for the erotic quality of his or her life. We need to, and we can, realign our souls with the fountain of being. We can connect to the vital currents of loving energy that course though our universe. We can decide to enter the flow and from that place on the inside we can transform first our lives, and ultimately, our world.

 

Marc Gafni – Erotic Living

Erotic Living

The Dancing Master

There is a wonderful story of eros and love which hints at many of  the truths we will unpack in our journey together.  It is about walking through the void and dancing with the Shechina.  Every time we walk through and not around the void we come out stronger.

 

Reports had reached the young Dalai Lama that a certain Master of kung fu was roaming the countryside of Tibet, converting young men to the study of violence. Rumors even began circulating that this Master of kung fu was an incarnation of Shiva Natarajah, the Hindu God in his aspect of the Lord of the Dance of Destruction. The Dalai Lama decided to invite the Master for a visit.

Pleased with the invitation, some weeks later the Master of kung fu strode into the Dalai Lama’s ceremonial hall. The Master of kung fu was stunning indeed, with thick blue-black hair falling down over the shoulders of his black leather suit. “Your Highness,” he began, “Have no worries, I wouldn’t think of doing you harm.”

“Well, when you do want to harm,” asked the Dalai Lama, “what kind of harm can you do?”

“Royal Highness, the best way to show you would be for you to stand here in front of me while I do a little dance. Though I can kill a dozen men instantly with this dance, have no fear.”

The Dalai Lama stood up and immediately felt as if a wind had blown flower petals across his body. He looked down but saw nothing. “You may proceed,” he told the Master of kung fu. 

“Proceed?” said the other, grinning jovially, “I’ve already finished. What you felt were my hands flicking across your body. If I had done it in slow motion, extremely slow motion, you would have seen how each touch of my hand would have destroyed the organs of your body one by one.”

“Impressive. But I know a master greater than you,” said the Dalai Lama.

“Without wishing to offend your Highness, I doubt that very much.”  “Yes, I have a champion who can best you,” insisted the boy king.

“Let him challenge me, and if he bests me I shall leave Tibet forever.”

“If he bests you, you shall have no need to leave Tibet.” The Dalai Lama clapped his hands, “Regent,” he said, “summon the Dancing Master.”

The Dancing Master entered. He was a wiry little fellow, half the size of the Master of kung fu and well past his prime. His legs were knotted with varicose veins and he was swollen at the elbows from arthritis. Nevertheless, his eyes were glittering merrily and he seemed eager for the challenge.

The Master of kung fu did not mock his opponent. “My own guru,” he said, “was even smaller and older than you, yet I was unable to best him until last year when I  finally caught him on the ear and destroyed him, as I shall destroy you when you finally tire.”

The two opponents faced off. The Master of kung fu was taking a jaunty, indifferent stance, tempting the other to attack.

The old Dancing Master began to swirl very slowly, his robes wafting around his body. His arms stretched out and his hands fluttered like butterflies toward the eyes of his opponent. His fingers settled gently for a moment upon the bushy eyebrows.

The master of kung fu drew back in astonishment. He looked around the great hall. Everything was suddenly vibrant with rich hues of singing color. The faces of the monks were radiantly beautiful. It was as if his eyes had been washed clean for the first time.

The fingers of the Dancing Master stroked the nose of the Master of kung fu and suddenly he could smell the pungent barley from a granary in the city far below. He was intoxicated by the aroma of the butter melting in the Dalai Lama’s fragrant tea.

A flicking of the Dancing Master’s foot at his genitals, and he was throbbing with desire. The sound of a woman singing through an open window filled him with exquisite yearning to draw her into his arms and caress her. He found himself removing his leather clothes until he stood naked before the Dancing Master, who was now assaulting him with joy at every touch.

 His body began to hum like a finely tuned instrument. He opened his mouth and sang like a bird at sunrise. It seemed to him that he was possessed of many arms, legs, and hands, and all wanted to nurture the blossoming of life.

The Master of kung fu began the most beautiful dance that had ever been seen in the great ceremonial hall of the Grand Potala. It lasted for three days and nights, during which time everyone in Tibet feasted and visitors crowded the doorways and galleries to watch.  Only when he finally collapsed at the throne of the Dalai Lama did he realize that another body was lying beside him. The old Dancing Master had died of exertion while performing his final and most marvelous dance. But he had died happily, having found the disciple he had always yearned for. The new Dancing Master of Tibet took the frail corpse in his arms and, weeping with love, drew the last of its energy into his body. Never had he felt so strong.

What a holy tale of eros. The darts and lunges of emptiness and violence become the erotic rhythms soarings of fullness and love.  Eros, as the story unfolds so gently, is not sex. Because our society has so lost touch with the erotic we identify it with the sexual. But eros is so much more.

To dance with the Shechina is to live and love erotically in all the arenas of our lives – beyond the merely sexual. Eros is to live the life of a lover in every room of our being. That is what it means to be holy. Eros is to open your eyes and  see for the first time the full beauty and gorgeousness of a friend. To be fully present to what is.   It is to smell the richness of aroma, and to feel  the fullness of throbbing desire, to taste the erotic Shechina experience that connects you with every being. It is to feel the palpable love which dissolves the walls of ego, anger and anxiety.

When we are unable to live in Eros we become very frightened of the emptiness. The void either numbs us to the joy of living or we try and fill the void with the manifold forms of pseudo-eros. We fill it with anger, competition, fanaticism, and excessive consumption of all kinds. The result on a personal level is either depression or an underlying  deadness of spirit which we hide under the facades of success. On a   global level the result is terrible wars, as we fight to validate the superiority of our religions, to affirm our national pride, or to protect our economic power. At the same time we rape the environment, forcing it to produce the glut of goods which we desperately require to provide us with more and more hits of pseudo-eros.

Spirit does not tolerate a vacuum.

The inability to dance through the void always results in pathology. In the case of the kung fu master, pseudo-eros manifested as raging ego, aggression and even violence.

If we do not choose eros then pseudo-eros will always choose us. The consequence is always great pain, personal, social and cosmic. For anything less than eros will almost assuredly destroy our planet. We abuse each other personally. Nations mass murder other nations. We abuse the earth and allow twenty million people to die of hunger or related diseases a year. The simple and essential cause is a lack of eros. We desperately need to feel like we are full but we aren’t. So we settle for pseudo eros. We pretend like we are in the inside by placing others on the outside. We do not feel embraced in real eros of love so we grasp for the  pseudo eros of fear war and obsessive consumption. Life is a mess.

 

Even if we could somehow put aside the starvation and the wars- an even superficial view of our own society reveals that something is seriously askew.  Not a detail problem but an essential flaw in the plumb line of our culture. Every forty seconds someone kills themselves.  This year upwards of one million people will experience a failure of love so intense and painful that they will violently end their lives. In the last 45 years suicide rates have increased by sixty percent world wide. Among the leaders are western democracies like Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand, Finland and of course the United States.

Suicide used to be largely limited to the elderly. People who had, at the end of their lives, looked back and been unable to make  sense of their  story. Not particularly comforting news because all of us want to, and most of us will, reach old age.  The even more jolting news however is that  the average  age is  going down. Suicide is now one of  the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44.  Now of course it would be nice to dismiss this slightly unpleasant information with the thought that only crazy or severely depressed  people commit suicide. Note however that for every actual suicide there are ten suicide attempts. Suicide attempts have increased in the last 45 years twenty times more- than “successful” suicides.

Add to this the easily inferred reality that for every person who attempts suicide there are alot  more people in just as much pain. Just as lonely – just as alienated and just as depressed. They simply are unable to do anything about it. So they live in limbo – suspended between hells – all the while maintaining the façade of normal and even successful lives.

And yet our guilty feet have got no rhythm. Beneath our desperately dancing steps lurks a yawning abyss of emptiness that kills our joy and poisons our satisfactions. We need another way to dance. It is the old dancing master who shows us how. He reminds us that eros is a genuine possibility in our lives. Stay in the emptiness, he tells us, and it will become full. Where before you danced to the music of competition and envy you know begin to feel that you are part of the seamless coat of the divine universe. You no longer feel like you must obey God – you participate in the divine. Eros is the sound of a woman singing, the caress of  a small deed of loving, a gentle tear, or rocking laughter. Shechina is  genuinely felt pain and joy, anger and ecstasy.  All of  these fill your emptiness and enliven your days.  You are no longer alienated from your own life – living externally –wondering; is this all there is? To dance with the Shechina is to step inside to the full erotic  glory and wonder of your life. To live and love erotically in all the facets your being is so to live a sacred life. .

 

Marc Gafni Pseudo-Eros

Pseudo-Eros

The mystics teach us that to access the erotics of being – the fullness of ourselves in every moment – we need to first  linger in the emptiness for a time. To resist filling up the emptiness with quick hits of pseudo-eros. This is the secret of dance. The move between emptiness and fullness. “Dance me to the end of love.”

We live in an age in which we run from depth. The emptiness is so palpable and overwhelming that we would fill it at virtually any price. So we seek immediate gratification – a quick fix – a book, a drug, a relationship, a job – anything to fill the gaping hole in our wholeness. With a book, we read a few pages, if we don’t get a few quick hits of pseudo-eros we move on to the next activity. We run desperately looking for the next watering hole which might fill up the yawning abyss we feel so deeply and try so hard to hide.

On the outside our mad dashing about may look like dance – but really we are gasping for air. Picture the image of a bee in an airtight bottle. Seen from the outside the bee darts from side to side in ecstatic dance. On the inside however there is neither dance nor ecstasy. The bee is slowly dying.  Suffocating. It was not meant to be this way. Life should not be a pathos-filled scramble for some snatches of authenticity  in between the charades of emptiness. There is another way to dance.

Marc Gafni Mystery of Love

The Great Dancer

The truly great dancer -like all lovers- flows with the fullness of being. She trusts the universe. She knows she will always fall right so she allows herself to fall into the erotic rhythm of life. To do so she must first empty herself to receive the flow.

The word ‘dance’ in the original Hebrew is mehol. It has two virtually opposite meanings. Mehol is etymologically identical with the word hallul which means empty. From here springs the Hebrew word mehila –forgiveness. Forgiveness comes from the ability to empty myself to receive the full wonder, complexity and imperfection of another. Mehol however also means halah – fullness – used in the biblical myth text to describe the erotic fullness of a pregnant woman.[i]

Mehol, Hallul, Hallal = Dance, Empty, Full.

The dance of the Hebrew mysteries is the movement between emptiness and fullness, void and eros, absence and Shechina.

Modern day America is choreographed very differently.  “Fulfillment at all costs” is our subconscious mantra – marketed to us in a million packages. To fill the emptiness, in any way at any price. We are desperate. We can hardly distinguish between our desires we are so pained by our emptiness. The natural result is that we fill up with much which is not true to ourselves. We seek fulfillment – full-fill-ment – in all the wrong places.