In 2011, I became friends with Dr. Marc Gafni, currently the head of the Center for Integral Wisdom. I visited him and listened to him extensively discuss the allegations of various parties (mostly women alleging emotional or sexual abuse), and learned that he had an archive of private materials in his defense. I perused the private materials and, after some deliberation, came to see matters much as he did, as a misplaced and unsubstantiated vendetta.
In all of my deliberations, I relied mainly upon public information and his private archives, except for one scandal. It was the scandal that brought Marc and I together, actually. Tami Simon, the head of Sounds True, cancelled Marc’s book deal, alleging that Marc had been inappropriately involved with two persons, one a student. Marc expressed regret about some of his behavior, such as asking for privacy/secrecy from the women, but not all of his behavior. I interviewed the two women and attempted to interview Tami. When Tami refused an interview, I posted a blog post with my interview questions for her. I really didn’t feel I had enough information to judge Tami, but I did feel that Marc’s behavior while problematic was not an obstacle to his continued involvement in the Integral community.
In 2012 and 2013, I collaborated with Marc on a variety of projects, the most important being my work to help ensure that the website for Your Unique Self got off the ground. For over a year I was an independent contractor for the Center for World Spirituality (which would later be renamed CIW).
Last year, new information came to light — as I have written publicly and which I and Robb S. published in a Facebook forum — and I withdrew my support for Marc’s role with the CIW. For one thing, there was the secret I-I Report which Marc had long touted as a vindication. I read the Summary and it was deeply flawed and did not address some of the most serious allegations against him. It contained a paragraph full of falsehoods about the Sounds True story: every single sentence contained a falsehood or half-truth! I can think of no other explanation for the lies in the I-I Report Summary than that Marc lied to the report’s author, knowingly spreading a falsehood that in turn was being used to bolster Marc’s credibility with Board members and supporters. It reeked of cover up, not exoneration, and I told Ken Wilber and the CIW Board Chair so. I even leaked the I-I Report Summary on Facebook so the truth would get out there, even if it meant creating a rift.
Once I saw conclusive evidence that Marc committed a serious lie, I became resistant to Marc’s explanations regarding the older information which had been publicly available on the Internet regarding Marc’s misdeeds. I don’t know what to think of all these past allegations, but I certainly don’t dismiss them as I had for years earlier, believing Marc’s narrative instead. I’m sorry I wasn’t able to see through the smoke sooner, but I had been earlier won over to Marc’s self-defense, and it took my personally uncovering something indisputable (the lies regarding the Sounds True scandal) before I could be more open to the perspectives offered by the earlier victims.
Once I began to see Marc in a more ambiguous light, his halo was gone from my sight. I no longer wished to have any role defending him publicly from any charges, especially ones about which I did not have first-hand information. I believe I have made it clear that I am no longer a “Gafni defender” or “Gafni collaborator”. I regret the role I played in the past which without my intent may have made things worse for other people, women and men in Gafni’s past and current associates. I am sorry deeply that I did not see the light so that I could have disavowed Gafni publicly earlier, and I would advise others to not collaborate with him. I wish I could have seen reason to disavow him earlier, but my judgment was clouded and I was unwilling to look deeper into the stories of his victims to find facts that I might have overlooked. It was a moral failing, not just a logical error, which I regret.
If I have not made a bigger fuss over this apology, it is because I do not agree with those individuals who have gone on a vendetta to ever prevent the man (Gafni) from earning a living as a scholar and book author. From what I have read, Gafni’s books have wonderful, brilliant, incredibly useful ideas (as I see it). People who want to read his writings or learn from him, buyer be warned, ought to be able to do so. He has been found guilty of no crime. To the extent possible, I would prefer we could just agree to leave him in peace to continue his intellectual contributions or live his life as he wishes. If others cannot just leave him be, but insist on policing community standards of behavior, then I think we will continue as an integral community to be haunted by this shadow for many years to come. I will not persecute the man, but as I have said I do not think he is suitable to lead CIW.
Below: My initial statement regarding Marc.
FROM: JOE PEREZ
TO: MARC GAFNI
3:16 PM 12/30/2015
RE: The report is flawed
Buddy, I’ve read the II report summary a couple of times, and I know some of this stuff pretty well. It’s flawed in many ways. It doesn’t serve as a vindication of you, the way I’m afraid you think it does or want it to be.
It omits consideration of several of the most defamatory pieces that are written about you, including the two incidents of you with underage women.
It mischaracterizes [REDACTED] role at CWS and falsely says she wasn’t a student. How did that happen? I think this is intentionally misleading (i.e., lie). Once the report is scrutinized publicly, how many other lies or misleading statements will be found?
The repeated allegations of plagiarism IMO would need to be investigated in a full official independent report. You deny them, I know, but to the public you have been called by powerful and influential people a “pathological liar”. This is just too much to give a pass on without some sort of independent look at it … and I don’t know if the CIW Board has the balls or energy to do that.
There’s a whole laundry list of allegations against you over the years that it doesn’t cover in sufficient detail — maybe the detail would be in the full report, I don’t know.
There’s a whole bunch of other stuff that looks iffy to me… plus Robb has now written that he thinks *you* secretly wrote or ghost wrote the report.
The report says you’re no longer a spiritual teacher. I don’t think that’s accurate.
People are saying (correctly) the report reads like it was written by you, in your characteristic style. This undermines its credibility.
It doesn’t rebut any of the specific first-person women’s accounts, as people on Facebook have correctly pointed out. This might be in the full report, but my guess is that that report is probably never going to come out publicly. Am I wrong?
Robb makes a totally valid point about the sheer bulk of allegations against you over the years from a very wide range of communities, all speaking to a pattern. The report calls it false pattern making. I think an impartial, objective standard would say “I don’t know *exactly* what he’s guilty of, but he’s a liar. He’s guilty of ENOUGH. Let’s let him live his life, but not put him in the lead of a spiritual organization.”
This is just for starters. I don’t want to try your patience with a longer email.
I’m being honest with you here. There are no saints in this story, you or Robb being the main protagonists. In my heart I want to believe there are no villains either.
You spoke last night of the Center being with you on this, and Facebook being irrelevant. Facebook is basically the public right now. It’s the Center v. the public, with the public polling overwhelmingly against you (and me, as a supporter and defender).
And that’s a recipe for a cultish community, not a credible public institution. Your/CIW’s strategy for addressing the allegations of statutory rape was basically a fail. You tried, CIW tried. It didn’t convince. Retreating to an insular intellectual environment may work for some people, but I don’t think it would work for me.
Let me speak to egoic considerations. Honestly. I try not to think about it, and hope it doesn’t influence me. But I’ve got a book coming out in two months. People are unfriending me and openly attacking me too in vicious terms. It would probably be in my best interest to step away until this thing settles down and focus on my book, and step back from defending you on Facebook. I know you’ve heard all of this before, too many times (sad).
This isn’t a “Joe turning against Marc, Marc going to call to give Joe a verbal hug that will make it okay” email. This is a “Joe telling Marc his trust in Marc’s honesty and ability to perform in his official capacity as leader of a scholarly think tank is shaken, but not utterly destroyed, and I don’t know what I’m going to do or say, feeling a need to take a breath and step back a bit. I got sucked into playing the role of your public defender on Facebook and it may be time for me to stop trying to control things so much and just let the process unfold.”