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Evolutionary Spirituality

by Marc Gafni

Thirty years ago I became seriously interested in the writing of Abraham Kuk. Kuk was a great Kabbalist and revolutionary thinker, who lived a paradoxically and often beautiful conservative lifestyle.

In my recent work on Mordechai Lainer of Izbica, who is in many ways my teacher, I began to realize that a number of the key ideas expressed in the Izbica lineage had direct and clear influence on Kuk.

One of the most important of such ideas is what R. Kuk calls explicitly in the Hebrew “evolutionary enlightenment.”

As I studied more over the years I realized two things.

First, The Evolutionary motif was core to Kuk’s entire experience as well as to his conceptual vision of the ultimate nature of reality.

Second I realized that this idea was far from limited to Kuk.

In fact it is the single most important idea in Isaac Luria’s Kabbalah.

And finally I have– together with students friends and study partners, traced this idea backwards to the very foundational sources of the Kabbalah.

Kabbalah is the opposite of Adavaita.

Kabbalah is evolutionary spirituality.

What does it all mean?

It is very simple.

One view of reality suggests that the way to perfection is what the philosopher Lovejoy called the ascending path. One needs to leave the world of flux and change and enter into the world of eternal and unchanging form which ultimately gives way to unchanging formlessness. It is there and only there that redemption can be achieved. It is only by leaving behind the fluidity and instability of reality in all of its expression of chaos and uncertainty that we may achieve any measure of stability safety and ultimately realize bliss and perfection.

A second view of reality makes an almost diametrically opposed claim. This school champions what Lovejoy called the descending path. This is a very different way indeed.

In this understanding redemption is to be found in the constantly changing and transforming nature of concrete reality which in its ever-dynamic dance sings the praise of spirit in motion.

Monotheistic religion is usually identified with the first view. More pagan orientations in both their ancient and moderns expression are more readily identified with the second view.

Kabbalah forges a more integral view by embracing the primal intuition of spirit held in each of these experiences and conceptions of world.

One expression of divinity is splendid order of eternal forms which transcend the mad confusion of samsara. The world of truth which transcends the world of lies.

And yet the eternal divine which is one incarnates and manifests in the world of plurality.

Moreover this manifestation and incarnation of the one in the many, of the infinite in the finite is not merely an expression of divinity; it is the divine invitation to it’s own great unfolding. For Luria reality is spirit. Spirit is absolute eternal and unchanging.

And yet – as all of us have experienced in our own mystical initiation, that reality – which is spirit – is evolving no less then it is absolute.

God – reality – ultimate spirit is both ever present and already always the ground and of all being even as spirit evolves through her incarnation in form. This for the Kabbalist, is the evolutionary meaning of Nagarguna reading of the Heart Sutra’s, Emptiness is Form and Form is Emptiness. All is one. God is one.

Meaning explain the Kabbalists. God will be One.

Reality will be integrated and unified in an obvious tapestry of gorgeous interconnectivity and wholeness when we – baby faced divine incarnation of the godhead – realize God’s evolution.

In the words of Nikos Kazanzakis, cited by at least on Luria Scholar to explain the essence of Lurianic Kabbalah, “We are the saviors of God.”


We are – each of us – UNIQUELY responsible for the Evolution of God.
In one field of meaning,
Through one set of God’s eyes,
We bow before the God who commands us.
We kneel in prostration seeking to merge with the eternal forms
even as we transcend into the formless consciousness that is our essential nature.
And seen through a different set of God’s eyes, God manifests through us.
God lives in us and through us.
We are God’s nouns,
God’s verbs,
even God’s dangling modifiers.
Not us, merely as humanity in the broad collective sense,
But rather through each infinitely unique individual human being.

The Unique Self of the individual is the chariot of the Shekina.

Each human being is the part of the figure of the God head. Each human soul participates in the divine limbs, sinews, torso, head and sexual organs.

The arousal of God above is sourced in the arousal of man below. Man’s erotic merger with self, his unfolding from self to Self in the apotheosis of spirit, Awakens the God head to evolve in erotic merger with a still higher God self.

Spirit is the unfolding of the divine reality which is all of reality.

Spirit is the birthing of every higher and more evolved forms of spirit in action, healing and transforming the world.

The agents, catalysts and incarnations of that evolution are men and women as they reach beyond their grasp and manifest heaven in their frail and earth bound lives.

The human being is not invited. The human being is not offered the option.

The human being is obligated by reality itself to evolve to the highest level of goodness wisdom and power which his possible.

The very possibility of our freedom demands and commands our freedom.

Since we might be prophets we must be prophets.

Tell every tear is dried.
Till every stomach is fed.
Till all dignity is recognized, affirmed and honored.
Till love flows freely throughout the land.
Till Malice is overwhelmed by Mystery.
Till fear is banished forever
And the unafraid lover reigns in heaven and earth.
This is the promise of Evolutionary Enlightenment.

See Rabbi Marc Gafni’s article in What is Enlightenment Magazine for a brief unfolding of these ideas.

See Rabbi Marc Gafni’s teaching in Israel March 2006 on Evolutionary Kabbalah.

On this site we will over time offer a series of essays on what he has termed Evolutionary Kabbalah. Some of these ideas are directly linked to the material Rabbi Marc Gafni is preparing on Integral Kabbalah.

Passionate pursuers of the evolutionary vision should check both tabs on this site Integral and Evolutionary Kabbalah for important material.

On this site in this section Rabbi Marc Gafni will also offer translations and un-packings of original sources in Kabbalah form the matrix for the vision of evolutionary Kabbalah.

Rabbi Marc Gafni will also attempt to explain in these offerings the unique contribution and invitation of Kabbalah to the symphony of spirit.

Meet Dr. Marc Gafni, Visionary Philosopher,
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