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CosmoErotic Humanism: A Late-Stage Map of Reality

Updated: Jan 16

By David Cicerchi, certified Unique Self Coach (Unique Self Institute)

with advisory support from Kerstin Tuschik (Center for World Philosophy & Religion)

In the previous posts in this series, I provide an evolutionary framework within which vertical development occurs in humans. After describing each stage of development, I now would like to provide an illustrated glimpse into what it may feel like at these late post-conventional stages of vertical development.

One meta-map that arises out of the Self-Actualizing, Construct-Aware and Unitive Stages is called Cosmo-Erotic Humanism, as articulated by Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Zachary Stein. Here’s a taste:

Reality is not a fact, but a story. Not just any story, but an evolutionary story. And your personal story of growth and development is part of the universal evolutionary story. Evolution lives inside you -- feel the very aliveness of your being. Feel into the experience within your cells that make up your tissues. The trillions of metabolic processes taking place right now, all in synergistic resonance in order to enable life to flourish in, as, and through you.

There was nothing, and then there was something called the Big Bang, which catalyzed the evolutionary process. This story of evolution is governed by a fundamental force called Eros, which is the movement of everything toward ever greater wholeness and ever deeper connectivity. This eros is the driver of evolution to bring separate parts together to form larger wholes, in response to need. This same eros is what created you and me, and is what is creating us in every moment.

The experience of eros is aliveness. This aliveness is not static, but is moving in a particular direction through our evolving desires.

Eros is a First Principle and First Value, meaning it is a deep pattern that has existed all the way back to the beginning of the cosmos, and it is an organizing principle of reality. There are others, too. For example, evolution, relationship, and love are first principles of existence that operate invisibly throughout everything. First principles and first values are both eternal -- beyond time -- and evolving. As we realize at Construct-Aware Stage 5/6, these first principles, like all language, are constructs. But when we say they are constructs, we are not saying that they are not real. Rather, it means that we construct our perception through language that points to, approximates, or gives us access to an underlying reality that ultimately cannot be reduced to language.

Indeed, there are a near-infinite number of ways to construct these first values and first principles, and yet some constructs are more precise than others because they include more information, and help us perceive more fully that underlying irreducible mystery.

Experientially, at this stage, we feel that we’re being lived by this larger mystery that is reality or evolution -- that reality is living through us. That there's really no separation between us doing anything in the world and the world being done to us. It's all happening in, as, through, and to us simultaneously in all directions.

So we might say that I am a participant in this whole thing called reality, or evolution; but even the choice to participate in it is something that does not originate from me -- it's not ultimately "my choice". The very desire to participate is itself sourced in the very unified field of all of reality that gives rise to this unique experience that is me -- "I" am a unique expression of that field. The field and my "I-ness" are not separate.

We are each unique expressions -- unique perspectives -- of the evolutionary process that never was, is, or will be ever again except through us, here, now.

As I mentioned earlier, all these words, this map that I’m presenting now can be oriented with other maps and clarified in a thousand different ways -- and yet this map is an integration of many meta-maps in and of itself, which means this map is a closer approximation of reality as we currently can perceive it. It will continue to evolve and be integrated with other maps, and so it's not anything fixed and solid in a permanent way. But these are useful descriptions that someone at the Construct-Aware stage could perceive: for instance, that I am a unique expression of the entire evolutionary process, which lives in, as and through me.

Let's go back to the first principle of desire, because this may come across as a strange word to read in an article on evolution and identity -- "why is he talking about desire? My desire is mine and mine alone!". Let me challenge that notion: Not only does my personal desire originate in the field of desire, but we perceive that there is desire encoded in the very process of evolution itself, in the field of all of reality that manifests uniquely through me, that desires through me and every other person. Let me clarify: I’m not speaking of “the universe desiring” in an anthropomorphic sense (projecting human qualities onto non-human phenomena), but in the sense that the human experience (anthro) of desire is actually an expression of the underlying first principle of subjectivity, and of desire, that exists all the way down to dogs, frogs, atoms, and electrons. Of course, the experience of subjectivity and of desire is very different for an atom as it is for you and me, but there is a very primitive version of subjectivity ("I-ness") and desire all the way down to the smallest sub-atomic particle. That's kinda wild to consider, isn't it? It makes us stretch our own notion of what it means to be an "I" and that actually there are near infinite ways to perceive "I-ness", depending on where in the cosmos we're situated.

Let's keep going. The unified field of reality is not static and unchanging; it's encoded with allurement. There's an allurement, or a calling, if you will from the unified field that is matched with my desire – and ultimately, my deepest desire and a felt sense of being called by something larger are one and the same. Stemming from this realization is another one, that there's a unique set of capacities that only I can give to meet a unique set of needs in my sphere of influence. Those unique capacities and needs are always evolving and changing.

So, in one sense, we can align ourselves with this mysterious universe and surrender to a larger force that is living through us. We might call it love. In other words, we are both held in the mystery and participate in the mystery. But one thing is quite apparent at this Construct-Aware stage: it’s all still quite a mystery.

At the Unitive Stage 6, when we even conceptualize ourselves at all, we may acknowledge that we are cosmic beings, simultaneously transcending and inhabiting time and space. Our actions are no longer bound by personal agency but are integrated “dances” within a cosmic “musical symphony”. We dance with opposites that are not contradictions but paradoxes that are united and interpenetrating all throughout the cosmos.

Marc Gafni’s phrase encapsulates this sentiment: "Heaven is not paradise; heaven is paradox". In other words, the term heaven (beyond the literalist understanding) refers to the deepest nature of reality -- the most real. The more paradoxes we're able to hold within our being, the bigger our being actually becomes, and the more we identify with the very deep, deepest realm of reality itself – also known as heaven. All paradoxes are resolved and unified at this stage. Even the paradox between "oneness" and "the many". Paradoxes between non-duality and duality are resolved. The mind itself comes and goes as an instrument of this mysterious seamless coat of the universe -- and yet the "universe is seamless but not featureless." The dance between experience and mental constructs that we create are resolved, not separate but co-exist on a continuum. The very feeling of being -- here and now is all there is. And yet the "now" includes past, present, and future.

At this point, you may be thinking -- "that's a nice theory, but it's not something I feel in myself, so it's just a theory". On the other hand, you may feel an intuition that this is real and good and true, and yet not fully grasp it. In either case, our perception of depth can be trained in a similar way as our muscles can be trained to grow stronger.

Well, then how do we cultivate this perception within ourselves? CosmoErotic Humanism offers the Unique Self framework, which outlines the "5 Selves" that catalyze this growth and evolution in you. It's a sort of pointing-out instruction for your deepest identity. In the Unique Self Emergence Process, a pioneering coaching modality designed by Integral Master Coaches Barbara Alexander and Claire Molinard, we provide step-by-step instructions, practices, and processes to train the perception of late-stage consciousness and of the cosmo-erotic universe. Below is a brief tour of this process.

First, we realize that most of the time, we operate from Separate Self consciousness. We think we are separate from all that is around us, and experience fear as a result. Therefore, as separate selves, we need to fight, struggle, and strive against those around us in order to feel our aliveness. We seek money, power, and reputation in their superficial forms in order to feel alive. In reaction to the utter shock of existence, we each have a set of unconscious patterns -- avoidance, aggression, self-criticism, etc -- that result from distorted or limited beliefs about the world. In our program, we use the Enneagram to reveal these patterns and break free from their unconscious hold.

The False Self is the most emotionally impactful force within the Separate Self that creates repetitive reactions based on early childhood wounds -- "I'm not good enough", "I'm not loveable", "I don't belong", etc.

When we are able to pause and observe the patterns of the Separate and False Selves, and bring mindfulness and compassion to them, we can begin to untangle their stronghold on our psyche and dissolve the feelings of separation into what's called the True Self.

The True Self is the realization that we are connected and one with all of reality, that there is no separation, and that at some level, all is perfect and complete and healed. Marc Gafni calls the True Self "the change that changes everything" because it opens up a literal infinity of possibilities in life. We access the True Self through three doorways: 1st person (e.g. meditation), 2nd person (e.g. prayer, intersubjective meditation), and 3rd person (e.g. studying astrophysics).

This True Self is expressed uniquely by each person -- we call that the Unique Self. As the Unique Self, we can look back at our lives and realize that every detour was a destination and that each crisis was an evolutionary driver for our own life, toward more wholeness and connectivity. You know you're living your Unique Self when you feel "lived" by something larger, in the flow, where you feel at home in the universe. Not only do you not feel separate, but you feel like your very being in the world somehow completes the grand puzzle of the universe.

Which leads us to Evolutionary Unique Self. As an Evolutionary Unique Self, you realize that you live in an evolutionary context and that your personal journey is participating in the larger evolutionary process. Your unique transformation contributes to the evolutionary transformation. Even if you don't see the results, there is a ripple of impact that you can cause. When you wake up to this power within yourself, you realize that by giving your unique gifts in response to a unique need in your circle of influence, you are actually impacting the entire unified field, and trajectory of evolution.

Each of the five selves has an access point, a practice, and a path. The Unique Self Emergence Process is just that path that can guide you toward this perception of your deepest nature and fullest expression.


Work with me!

I am Certified Unique Self Coach by Claire Molinard of the Unique Self Institute, and as a Leadership Maturity Coach by Beena Sharma and Susanne Cooke-Greuter of the Vertical Development Academy. If you're interested in learning more about Unique Self Coaching and the Unique Self Emergence Process, please email me at


For more information on the topics discussed above, click the links:

Watch my impromptu video that inspired this blog post:

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