A Time Between Stories

A Time Between Stories Episode 6

Dr. Marc Gafni and Andrew Cohen in Dialogue

This series of conversations between Marc Gafni and Andrew Cohen probes the intersection of absolute meaning and relative reality, within the context of the most destabilised and destabilising time in recent history.

Marc and Andrew will look deeply into the relentless challenge of being human, particularly at this unique moment in time, while simultaneously celebrating the profound cosmic and metaphysical significance of human incarnation.


Episode 6: The Evolution of Spiritual Community and Leadership

In contemporary western culture, communities that are built around a particular doctrine or philosophy are usually regarded with suspicion and fear. For the sophisticated postmodern mind, there is an almost reflexive mistrust of any religious, spiritual or political ideology in which shared agreements begin to emerge – and most especially where there is a charismatic leader at the center.

The historic mistakes of such communities, and the often shameful and destructive tendencies of their leaders, are all too real. They conjure frightening images of abuses of power and sexuality, loss of independence, groupthink, superstitious belief, and blind subservience to a charismatic authority figure.

But in our relentless preoccupation with what can go wrong in these settings, we invariably fail to recognise the bigger picture. Coming together in an experience of profound communion is a deep human need, and we see it manifest in many different ways throughout history. Indeed, when we cannot meet in an awakened state of oneness with each other, we are denied one of the deepest joys of being human.

The problem is that when this kind of coherence is achieved, it often comes at the cost of individual sovereignty and higher levels of sense-making. At the same time, when we abandon the idea of authority and hierarchy in this context, our respect for learning and attainment is lost, and we end up smothering any opportunity for developmental growth.

The complex truth is that human coherence or “communitas” can be either positive or negative, and usually it’s not a black and white distinction. Coupled with that, inspired authority or leadership inevitably comes with deep risk, but when we abandon it completely we deny the truth and profound rewards of natural hierarchy.

Is it possible to achieve high states of coherence within a group of people who are independent thinkers, sense-makers and sovereign souls? And are we ready to admit that no group can operate without hierarchy, or without authentic leadership?

When all is said and done, human culture and civilization, with all of its profound successes and failures, is built upon communities and their shared vision for what is possible. Inspired leadership is surely an intrinsic part of this picture, and as such we abandon it at our peril.

Marc Gafni has spoken at length in recent times about what he calls the democratization of enlightenment. Gafni sees this as an inevitable evolutionary step in our journey towards ever greater coherence and sense-making as we venture into the 21st century – just as the democratization of governance propelled us into the modern age in the 19th and 20th.

Andrew Cohen proposes that if enlightenment is to truly make sense in the 21st century, our onward journey must encompass the evolution of the “Triple Gem” or Three Jewels of Enlightenment. In the Buddhist tradition, spiritual aspirants take refuge in the Three Jewels: the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. As we enter the meta-modern or Integral age, Cohen argues that we must preserve this essential structure, but radically rethink it. Calling his vision “Triple Gem Integral”, he sees it as the starting point for any conversation about the complex matrix of community, sovereignty, coherence and natural hierarchy.

On the rare occasions when human beings do really come together in a field of deep coherence, our felt experience of ecstatic aliveness is magnified and intensified, propelled beyond the ordinary into an elevated state of unity consciousness that cannot easily be described.

A collective creative flow state emerges, and a kind of new being, seemingly with its own sense of identity, agency and direction. At the same time, none of the unique gifts of the individual are lost – on the contrary, they are enhanced and augmented by the deep trust that is discovered.

From a scientific perspective, flow states are said to promote heightened decision making, problem-solving, innovation, creativity and teamwork. What if we could harness such flow states reliably in this extraordinary shared context?

Both Gafni and Cohen agree that the goal of any new or emerging meta-modern spirituality should be to achieve such a rarefied degree of coherence. The challenge is to do so in a way that is most appropriate to our cultural context – without ever abandoning autonomy or rational thought, and while simultaneously respecting natural hierarchy.

This most likely has not been accomplished yet in any kind of stable way. But the promise and potential of awakening to this rare kind of communion, where autonomy is preserved and hierarchy respected, is enormous. If we can develop the methodology and the technology, it may be possible to achieve something that exceeds our wildest dreams.

In this provocative dialogue, Andrew Cohen and Marc Gafni explore the evolution of spiritual community and leadership in our postmodern and emerging meta-modern culture. Drawing on first-hand experience of both the positive and negative dimensions, Cohen and Gafni invite us to engage in a sober reassessment of this critical dimension of spiritual and cultural endeavour – and look for new ways to understand and cultivate the deep human need for coherence and connection.


A Time Between Stories

We are truly living in “a time between stories” – a phase-shift in human history. We face either unimaginable utopia or dystopia, and it is far from clear which of these two parallel universes we will ultimately choose.

The apparently sturdy, reliable, fixed structures that have held our world together are on the brink of collapse. We are collectively realizing that we are not too big to fail – and in the face of such overwhelming insecurity, we may well lose sight of our moral compass completely.

Cohen and Gafni both believe strongly that unless we are in control of our internal environment – in particular our capacity for radical sovereignty and sense-making – the outcome will be immeasurable suffering for billions of people.

Cohen asserts that such sovereignty naturally arises from the liberating power of what he terms “spiritual self-confidence” – a position of deep trust that arises out of an unshakable certainty in the absolute, and an anchoring of the self-sense in that which cannot be grasped by the mind.

Similarly, Gafni describes an intention to live one’s life as “Outrageous Love” – a condition in which true sovereignty and authentic spiritual self-confidence naturally come into being. Rather than a dogmatic assertion that “it is true”, Gafni speaks of a radical knowing that “I am true”.

Cohen’s approach has always been grounded in the direct experience of nondual enlightenment, and this transmission of the ground of being – prior freedom and unity consciousness – is absolutely foundational to his teaching. For Cohen, a profound inner breakthrough from which there is no return is a prerequisite.

However, Cohen’s pioneering realisation is that such an awakening only begins to make a significant difference when it is shared, intersubjectively, between two or more individuals. He has long emphasised the need for enlightenment to make the evolutionary leap from the individual to the collective, and has pioneered practices which reliably enable profound intersubjective coherence.

Likewise, Gafni sees radical enlightenment in terms of a higher individuation beyond ego. What he calls the “Evolutionary Unique Self” participates in a new quality of consciousness – the evolutionary intimacy of a “Unique Self Symphony”. He describes the process of attainment as “loving your way to enlightenment”.

Gafni adds to this the need to democratize the possibility of human sovereignty, proposing a new “universal grammar of value” that integrates the best of premodern, modern and postmodern wisdom as a generator function for a new humanity. It is from within this shared human story woven from what he calls First Principle and First Values that Gafni envisions a radical re-making of policy and refashioning of culture.

Both Cohen and Gafni see a deep and abiding virtue in humanity - a truth, beauty and goodness that is real and tangible, even amid the sometimes painful limitations and vulnerabilities that we are reminded of, and humbled by, on a daily basis.

Both men agree that for spiritual attainment to mean something, it cannot be only rooted in the ego-self-personality, and that any basis for real change must include a new hierarchy of values that places radical spirit at the apex of our attention. What this actually means in terms of our models and practices for invoking the new human will be one of the key themes of these conversations.

These two distinct but strongly aligned approaches to the wicked problems faced by humanity ultimately point in the same direction – only through a radical reorganisation of our sense of value can our capacity for clear thinking, feeling and sense-making be unleashed.


In their first dialogue, Marc Gafni and Andrew Cohen will share and explore their deepest insights into the ultimate mystery that lies beyond life and death.

  • From the deepest metaphysical perspective, what is the distinction between life and death?

  • Is life the manifestation of an eternal metaphysical source, or is it merely the extraordinary emergence of a fundamentally material process?

  • How do our conscious and unconscious convictions about the ultimate source of the evolving universe affect our moral and philosophical relationship to living and dying?

  • Is consciousness part of an unbroken developmental continuity in the cosmos, or merely an emergent epiphenomena of matter?

  • Is death the absolute end of what was, or a transition that is part of an infinite unfolding?

  • Is the nature of death a question of belief, or do we have real data to support our understanding of it? If there is data, then what is it and where do we find it?

  • Do we have a more enlightened relationship to death in the 21st century, or can the great wisdom traditions still illuminate our understanding?

  • Is the fear of death an experience to be transcended, embraced or both? Is living forever a wish that we would want fulfilled?

  • What are the political, social and economic implications of our relationship to death?


Marc Gafni and Andrew Cohen

Dr. Marc Gafni and Andrew Cohen are spiritual teachers and thought leaders who share a strong foundation in an evolutionary approach to spiritual awakening and practice. Both are original and innovative thinkers who have produced pioneering bodies of work in evolutionary spirituality, and formulated many of its core tenets.

Their teachings uphold and demystify the foundational principles of traditional, modern and postmodern wisdom streams, weaving them together into an integral whole. The aim of these dialogues is to generate a creative and dynamic evolutionary tension – to catalyze an awakening to higher and deeper states and stages of consciousness, liberating insights and life-affirming perspectives.

The dialogues will unfold organically over time as an inspiring example of emergent spirituality in action – one that gives rise to its own unique tapestry of coherence and meaning.


A Time Between Stories Episode 5

  • Series of FREE dialogues

    Marc Gafni & Andrew Cohen in an inspiring demonstration of emergent spirituality in action

  • Live interactive Zoom video call

    Including 90 minutes of dialogue and 30 minutes of Q&A

  • Video recordings available after each event

    Lifetime access to all dialogues in the Manifest Nirvana library

Frequently asked questions

Date and Time

Manifest Nirvana and One Mountain, Many Paths Present
A Time Between Stories: Dr. Marc Gafni & Andrew Cohen in Dialogue

Thursday 4th November 2021

Cost: FREE

Video recording will be made available after the event

USA: 8am PDT • 9am MDT • 11am EDT

UK: 3pm


INDIA: 8.30pm IST



Nov 04 2021


3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Local Time

  • Timezone: America/New_York
  • Date: Nov 04 2021
  • Time: 11:00 am - 1:00 pm


Manifest Nirvana
Online at Manifest Nirvana


  • Andrew Cohen
    Andrew Cohen
    Resident Teacher

    Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher, author, cultural visionary and inspirational speaker. His work has been acclaimed by luminaries from all walks of life, from academics to philosophers to spiritual pundits.

    Andrew has become known for his willingness to boldly cast aside the sacred cows of the spiritual world. His work grapples with demystifying the wealth of knowledge found in the great wisdom traditions, and with making enlightenment deeply relevant to a post-modern audience.

  • Dr. Marc Gafni
    Dr. Marc Gafni
    Co-founder of The Center for Integral Wisdom

    A visionary thinker, social activist, passionate philosopher, and author of ten books, Dr. Marc Gafni earned his doctorate in philosophy from Oxford University. Gafni is considered by many to be a kind of Einstein of Philosophy who is leading a team of thinkers articulating a new vision of meaning for the world.

    He teaches on the cutting edge of philosophy in the West, helping to evolve a new ‘dharma’ or meta-theory of Integral meaning that is helping to re-shape key pivoting points in global consciousness and culture.

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