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Audio 5: From Pre-Personal to Unique Self

The Greatest Story Ever Told: Audio Series with Barbara Marx Hubbard & Marc Gafni

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Welcome to podcast 5 in The Greatest Story Ever Told, the new story, the universe story, and at the core of the universe story is the universe is a love story. This is Marc Gafni, I am here with my beloved whole mate Barbara Marx Hubbard, and we are in the fifth chapter of this great story. What we’re going to do this week is a little different than we have done in the first 4 podcasts. This week I’m going to talk about one key, exciting, life-changing, dramatic, wondrous idea in the universe: a love story, in this great story, and Barbara will comment, inquire, will chat with me about it in her inimitably beautiful way at the end of the podcast. Next week, Barbara is going to talk about another vision of that same idea and another vision of this precisely same idea, and at the end of the podcast next week, I’ll chat about with Barbara a little bit at the end of the podcast, okay? So don’t think that next week Barbara forgot me or this week I forgot Barbara. We never forget each other, ever, but here we go.

Week 5, universe: a love story. The big question in every story is, “What role do I play in this story?” The universe is a love story, but what about me? What do I have to do with this love story? The most important, single shift in our understanding is the realization that we’re personally implicated in the story. That is to say, we are primary actors in the love story, and actually our love story, your particular individuated love story, the great love story of your life, is actually a subset or a chapter in the great scroll, the great cosmic scroll, of the universal love story. To really understand what that means is to really enter into a critical discernment, understanding, insight around the great issue of self. S-E-L-F. Self is, “Who am I?” How do we understand, how do I understand myself?

For example, you can’t talk about self love unless you have an understanding of what’s the self, and the reason people lack self love is because people are complete confused about self. When we talk about self, we think about selfish. Why is the word “self” associated with being selfish? What does it mean to have a self? How does the self express itself? What are the contours and the parameters of the self, which is me and you? It’s the basic human unit of reality, is the self, but what’s the self?

To really understand self is to realize that there are actually, in the story of our lives, different levels of self. There are different expressions of self, and to really get these different expressions, to get these different structures of self, is really to have self knowledge. It’s what the Delphic Oracle in ancient Greece referred to when it said, “Know thy self,” meaning, “Know the nature of the self.” Here’s a little bit of the vision, and it’s exciting and it’ll just open up your world in a really, really momentous way.

Step 1, level 1, we might call pre-self or pre-personal self. What’s pre-personal self? It’s the self before personhood has come onboard. Now, this is critical to understand because in order to know your place in the universal love story, you need to know who you are. To know the self is going to tell us, “Oh, because I understand this about myself, I now understand my role, my script, my lines, my contribution, my expression of the universal love story.” Here we go, pre-personal. What’s pre-personal self? That’s self before personhood has come onboard. For example, a baby. A baby is infinitely cute, but not good. Babies are cute but not good. Why not good? Because goodness is an expression of personhood. I choose good. I act good, and if there’s no personhood, there’s no goodness. Babies are cute, not good. Babies are pre-personal. The baby isn’t separated from the mother.

Margaret Mahler reminds us, developmental psychologist, that separation individuation is psychological birth, so babies are born physically but not yet psychologically because the baby hasn’t separated from its identity with the mother. That’s pre-personal. That’s before there’s a self. Level 2, we have the emergence of what we call the separate self. The separate self is healthy. Good. It’s when the baby individuates and realizes, “Wow, I’m separate. I’ve got an identity. I’ve got a beginning, middle and end. I’m not the same as mother or other,” and that’s wonderful. That’s fantastic. That’s the emergence of what we call the healthy ego. Fabulous. I am a separate self.

The only problem with this story that, well, it’s true. It’s absolutely true. I am a separate self, meaning I am a skin encapsulated ego. Ego in the best sense of the word. I have rights. I have dignity. That’s a big idea. That’s the new, great story of self, the story of separate self, that was born in the western enlightenment. Before the western enlightenment, in the mid-18 century, even earlier, it was rooted in the Renaissance, the Renaissance period … Before the Renaissance and then the western enlightenment, there was no idea of a separate self. The self always remained to some extent pre-personal. The self was subject to the whim and caprice of the church or the king, but the idea that there was a separate self who was an independent unit of reality with irreducible dignity and rights? That is a new story of self which is critical to the universal love story.

The emergence of this new vision of self, a self that has inalienable rights, rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, that has the right of being protected by the rule of law, that’s not subject to the whim and caprice of the king or the religion or the emperor or the pope, right? Or the chief rabbi or the imam, is a wonderful, fabulous, evolutionary emergence in the story of reality. Wow, that’s separate self. Gorgeous. The dignity of the human being is rooted in being a separate self, but that definition, that new emergent, that wonderful, new understanding that emerges as love evolves. Love produces this new vision of the self that never existed before. When Genghis Khan was involved in a war, you know, if you lost a couple hundred thousand people in a battle, big deal, that’s just necessary for the sake of the empire.

There wasn’t a notion of the unique dignity, the infinite dignity and adequacy of every individual who is by themselves an entire world. It didn’t exist. While this separate self idea is critical in the emergence of the universal love story, while we are in love with it, while it’s foundational, it’s also limited. It has another side to it which we actually need to see in order for the full power of the universal love story to come online. This second side, this limitation in this idea of separate self, is the understanding, which is every place in the western and in most of the eastern world today, really in virtually the entire planet, we understand that being a separate self is the sum total of the human identity.

Who are you? You’re merely a separate self or you’re merely a skin encapsulated ego. You are separate from everyone else. You’re disconnected from everyone else. You’re not an intrinsic part of nature. You’re not an intrinsic part of cosmos. You’re a separate atomistic, individuated self. Your dignity comes from your separateness. On the other hand, your smallness comes from your separateness. You’re a separate self, a speck in an infinite universe. A fly in a teeming world of fullness and complexity, insignificant, transient, ephemeral, here today, gone tomorrow, and the entire existential angst of the modern self emerges from this sense that I’m not part of the larger religion. I’m not part of the empire. My basic dignity is I’m a citizen. I’m a separate self citizen. That’s a great advance. I’m liberated from the larger context but I’m left as a dangling, separate self with no home, with no roots. No roots in earth and no roots in heaven.

This notion of separate self is on one hand an evolutionary advance of momentous proportions. On the other hand, unbelievably limited and partial and crippling and contracting. Along comes, at a deeper understanding of self, drawn from the inner recesses of the interior sciences in all of the mystical systems of wisdom and a new notion of self we can now introduce, and this new notion of self, which is ancient in its source, that has gotten lost in the modern world, is what we’re going to call true self. True self. What does true self mean? True self means that Barbara and Marc participate in the same true self.

My true self is not my separate self. It’s not merely my personality, which is ephemeral and conditioned and contracted. My true self is the consciousness that is me. I’m actually not my thoughts. I think my thoughts, so I’m not my thoughts. I’m actually not my emotions. I have emotions, so if I have emotions, then my “I” is not my emotions. I’m not my body. I have a body, so if I have a body then I’m not my body, and this deep insight pointed out by the great masters of interior science, pointed out by Fichte and Shelling, in Germany at the beginning of the western enlightenment is a great realization. There’s a deeper “I” than my body, than my emotions, than my thoughts, and that “I” is pure consciousness. I am consciousness. I’m beyond my body. I’m beyond my thoughts. I’m beyond my emotions. I am an expression of the larger field of the one. The one consciousness. The one mind. The one reality lives uniquely in me, but who I am at my core is that consciousness, that awareness, which is the essence of reality.

I’m not separate anymore from the larger seamless coat of the universe. I’m an expression of the larger field of consciousness, and that field of consciousness was born before I was and doesn’t die with me, and I’m born before my birth and I live after my death. I participate in the eternal consciousness of all of reality that lives in me, as me and through me. That is true self. True self is the singular that has no plural. The total number of true selves in the world is 1. 1 true self, and we’re all part of that same 1 true self. That’s a beautiful idea and that’s true. That’s what we call, in the interior sciences, of all the great wisdom traditions, enlightenment.

Buddhism, Kabbalah, Taoism, the Vedic religions, mysticism in Christianity, Meister Eckhart, they’re all based on this great realization, but that’s not the end of the story. True self still can’t bring us to the universal love story, because love isn’t just being part of the one. Love is action. Love is an expression of movement towards. Love is a movement in service. Love is a movement towards mutuality. Love is a movement towards recognition. Love is a movement towards embrace. When you really, really understand the universal love story, you realize there’s actually a fourth self, and that’s our focus. The fourth self is not merely true self, but unique self, and what is unique self? Unique self is the irreducible, unique expression of consciousness, of the very being and becoming of reality, of the inherent creativity that runs through all of reality, living as you.

Unique self is the answer, the most sophisticated answer we have, based on all the evolutionary sciences, all the system sciences, all the interior sciences, chaos theory, complexity theory. It’s the greatest answer to the question of who are you that we’ve talked about earlier in our story. Who are you? You’re a lover. What does it mean, you’re a lover? You’re a unique expression of the love intelligence that is the initiating and animating energy, eros, of all that is, that lives in you, as you and through you, and as a unique self, you have a unique perspective, a unique quality of intimacy, a unique capacity, which generates your unique gift, which actually addresses as love in action a unique need in your unique circle of intimacy and influence. Wow. Who are you? You are a unique self.

Now, that realization is the realization that love is in action uniquely in me. I am unique self, and as unique self, I have gifts to give, a life to live, poems to write, songs to sing, ways of laughing, being, becoming in the world that are mine and uniquely mine alone. Now, for this week, Lady B, Barbara, I would love to turn to you. I’m not going to get to this week evolutionary unique self. I don’t want to talk about this in the larger evolutionary context yet. I want to focus actually this week, our discussion, on these selves, pre-personal self, separate self, true self and unique self, and then next week, we’ll talk about kind of the bigger context, right? Visions of a more universal vision of self, which we’re going to call evolutionary unique self. We’ll save that for next week. Now if we can kind of just focus any thoughts you have, any comments on these kind of core distinctions as they relate to the universal love story and me living and being personally implicated in that story. Lady B.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

Well, thank you, Marc. I find that the shift from true self in which I am one with the whole, with no particularly unique part of my self even of interest to me, goes up to a point, but then the fact is, every one of us has an impulse of creativity that is unique. Even if we only feel that we’re part of the one, we are a unique part of the one, and what I’m finding, Marc, in my life, and the life of everyone I am working with, is that unless we identify the uniqueness within the oneness that we are, and have some form of expression of it, we will be discontent. That is to say, if you have any kind of evolutionary impulse, and I’ll just make the question.

Some people are more, let’s say, innately Buddhist, innately the one, but there are this entire family of people who have what I call an evolutionary impulse, to want to express your own potential, and if you have that in you, which I believe is about 90 percent of humanity, you’ve got to be unique, and instead of thinking of unique as separate or egotistical, think of uniqueness as the incarnation of the divine as you, and the …

Dr. Marc Gafni:


Barbara Marx Hubbard:

It’s very obvious in looking at the creative intelligence of the universe that the creator creates. If anything that God, the one, does, God, the one, creates infinite diversity. It must be that God really loves infinite diversity and uniqueness, so I’ll just end by saying that when any one of us gets in touch with the unique quality of that impulse, of love, uniquely as ourselves, something starts to grow inside you and you become animated. You may feel a sense of joy. You may be attracted to find others that share that impulse. You turn on and, remember, years and years ago, Tim Leary said … What was it, “Tune in, drop out.” Drop out, tune in? No, tune in, turn on and drop out.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

I think it was drop out. Tune in, turn on and drop out. Yes.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

This is just the opposite. Tune in and drop in. In other words, the more that you tune in to the unique self, the more that you drop in to the new story of creation. The more that you find your place in that story and even more important, the more that story is in you, and so even that unique self with the story inside you, you’re carrying the impulse of the evolutionary story from the original big bang to you, and in the deepest sense, Marc, in which I feel, myself, to be a unique self, I always remember the genius that it took to get those quarks attracted, the electrons, the protons, the neutrons, the single cells, the multi-cells, and that that unique cell set, I am, you are, we are, is an actual resume of that whole story embodied as you.

What that does to my uniqueness is so much greater than even the fact that I am a unique individual, because I’m seeing God in every unique expression of itself. The divine, so I think, Marc, the greatness of your thinking, in identifying the unique self as natural is liberating the potential of the person, which is so needed now for the evolutionary story where everybody is needed to be their unique self, so that’s what I see.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Yeah, awesome, awesome, awesome, and let’s think about it for a second, love, right? In other words, I specifically said I want to kind of stay away, and next week we’re going to head into the evolutionary unique self big time, so I’m going to kind of bracket the evolutionary piece for a second because sometimes by bracketing it, we can get these distinctions really clearly, and when we head into evolutionary unique self, the whole world opens up, so just take a couple of things here. At the level of separate self, you have uniqueness, but you think that your uniqueness is socially conditioned, culturally conditioned, psychologically conditioned, so your uniqueness, you experience as a function of your conditioning, but you don’t actually get in the same way that your uniqueness is actually beyond your conditioning.

Your uniqueness is a priori. It’s essential to who you are. Your uniqueness is there as it were before you’re born, right? Your uniqueness births who you are. It’s not that you’re formed by your social, cultural and psychological conditioning. Your social, cultural and psychological conditioning, of course, contributes you, but you have a kind of prior uniqueness. Your uniqueness is your unique originality, which births you, and it’s not that your uniqueness emerges from your life. The desire of reality to birth your uniqueness is what manifests you into consciousness, so at separate self, obviously you have some uniqueness, but at the level of unique self, this higher level of consciousness, you realize, “I’m actually part of the larger field and the larger field desired my uniqueness.”

Larger field intended my uniqueness. The larger field adores my uniqueness. The larger field loves my uniqueness. The larger field needs the service of my uniqueness, and I can understand that even before I get to an evolutionary context, which is going to take the whole thing and exponentialize it and give it rocket fuel and take the next step, but I want to invite everyone listening just to first get that idea by itself. You’re a unique expression of the impulse of reality. Reality desires your uniqueness, intends your uniqueness, and you really get, now, how self love happens. Self love is awareness of the nature of self. What does self love mean? Self love means that I get that reality desires me. How do I know? Because reality manifested me uniquely. I get that reality loves me. How do I know? Because reality sees my uniqueness. Love is a perception of unique self.

Reality needs me. How do I know? Because reality went to an enormous trouble to manifest an irreducibly unique unit, expression, personhood, being-ness that’s me, so all of reality needs my service. To really get that in a deep way, it is actually stunning. It’s wildly exciting. There’s more to say about this, and Barbara, as you’ve said, beloved, next week, let’s talk about, wow, how does this personal expression of the evolutionary impulse which is unique self, how does evolution change the story? How does knowing that I’m living in an evolutionary context change my understanding of the unique self? That’s the next step we want to take, but for now, we just want to invite everyone to just get that idea.

My unique self, your unique self, is not your Myers-Briggs test. Your unique self is not the social, psychological and cultural conditioning of your egoic separate self. It’s so much more than that. Unique self is the source that births you. It’s the intended desire of cosmos manifests an incarnate in you, and that’s the best scientific take we have on who you are at this moment in time. Wow, to know …

Barbara Marx Hubbard:


Dr. Marc Gafni:

… Barbara, that all of reality needs you, intended you, loves you, desires you and adores you.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

I must say, that is good news, Marc.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

That is good news. (laughing) That’s the good evolutionary good news. That’s the good news of the unique self.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

We have heard a lot about there isn’t any good news, but there is. If everybody is a unique self, and that is uniquely an expression of the whole story of creation as you, when you really come down to it, each person is the good news.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Yes, yes, every person. Isn’t that great?

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

It is.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Every person is the irreducibly good news, so on that note, Lady B, you who are the good news and who are so beautiful, Lady B, Barbara Marx-Hubbard, Marc Gafni, we are signing off in this fifth episode of the greatest story ever told, and next week we’re going to take you together with us to the next deeper level of self, where it all blows open what we’re going to call evolutionary unique self. That’s week 5, and then week 6 and 7, Barbara’s going to take us back into the story of self and we’re going to deepen with a whole new set of distinctions and by the time we’re done with week 6 and 7, we’re going to have a really, really awesome blow away answer to the question of, “Who are you in this love story? Why does this love story need you so very much?” Thank you. Barbara, give us a closing blessing, love.

Barbara Marx Hubbard:

This is to every unique self listening. We are really tuning in to you, and as Marc has been talking, I’ve been thinking of every person listening, and what a joy and privilege it is for us to be in touch with you and hoping that you feel that way about being in touch with us. Thank you.

Dr. Marc Gafni:

Amen, how beautiful. Love you.


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