On October 3, 2011, I wrote an open letter to Tami Simon concerning remarks she made to another blogger. In her remarks, she explained her reasons for cancelling the book publishing deal of one of Sounds True’s contracted authors, Marc Gafni. She explained that “[N]ew and incontrovertible information came to light that made me aware that Marc was involved in a sexual relationship with a student and that the relationship was shrouded in secrecy…” and that the other woman “often … witnessed Marc telling lies to cover his tracks.”
At the time, I was just getting to know Dr. Marc Gafni, the former Jewish Orthodox rabbi and one-time Israeli public celebrity turned Oxford University scholar with revolutionary ideas about Kabbalah’s “nondual humanism” among other things. At the time, circa 2011, many people felt that despite a history involving personal controversies, Gafni was one of the Integral scene’s brightest stars and most promising leaders.
Given Tami Simon’s impeccable reputation for integrity, her letter to the blogger seemed likely to end Gafni’s career. It left many reasonable people wondering if she needed to say anything at all. It left many reasonable people wondering if she was handling Gafni’s controveries with even-handedness or if he was being singled out for past misdeeds unfairly. I had heard she was in fact pressured and threated with a boycott and character assassination by individuals who Gafni and his associates claimed were part of a “dishonest smear campaign” to discredit him based on “trial by Internet”.
What the heck was going on between Sounds True and Tami’s decision to cancel Dr. Marc Gafni’s book deal? As a blogger in the Integral community, I tried to get to the bottom of it. But only Marc Gafni and people close to him would speak to me. Tami declined to speak to me, but I did speak to the two women Gafni was involved with simultaneously while being in a relationship with his child’s mother. One woman spoke of atrocious behavior by Marc that made me sick to hear of it including outright lies, infidelity, and telephone stalking. But it seemed to me that there was no smoking gun of physical abuse and the relationship was consensual. The other woman spoke to me and said her relationship with Marc was healthy. Years later, in the spring of 2016, she revealed to me that she secretly felt threatened and psychologically terrorized by Marc and could not speak openly to me of her actual experience with him which was emotionally and spiritually traumatic on many levels. I didn’t know any of this at the time, and I believed her public story that she thought well of Marc.
So in October 2011, I looked for a smoking gun, some evidence to tell me to stay clear from Marc and avoid getting involved with him, despite the brilliance and usefulness and humaneness of his spiritual writings. Tami’s public letter was a warning sign, but Marc had convinced me that there were many misunderstandings between him and Tami that she was unwilling to get past. So I wrote a blog post challenging Tami where I said things like, “Since you don’t mention any specific lies it’s hard for me to determine if there’s any truth to this comment, you know. There’s nothing to investigate, nothing that Marc can say in his defense.” and “How can there be a healing of these fresh wounds between you and Marc? I have heard him say that he loves you and hopes that you will forgive him for mistakes he’s made and that he hopes you can accept his friendship. I know that he is reluctant to make a public apology so long as the stink of the recent toxic blog posts lingers in the air, but he wants healing so very much for everyone. Is there any chance you will forgive him?”
Between 2011 and most of 2015, Marc Gafni and I had a positive relationship and spent over a year in public collaboration. I was on the lookout for signs of duplicity, deception, and potential abuse of myself or any associates. I did not find anything that set off alarm bells, though as I have said before Marc has a strong and domineering personality, a charismatic presence, circles of trust among his associates, and sometimes he isn’t aware of the impact that he has on other people. He is not perfect, but I never saw him as the monster or demon that his opponents put on him.
In the final days of 2015, the New York Times wrote a story on Marc Gafni as a rising political figure within the Integral community who was plagued by scandal. It brought many new developments to the forefront even though Marc was accused of no new misdeeds. At the time, I was not on the board or really very active in the organization he founded, the Center for Integral Wisdom. Nevertheless, it happened that the Board Chair of the CIW back-forwarded me a document which purported to exonerate Marc Gafni of his misdeeds. It seemed likely to me that she was sending this document, with Marc’s permission, to the Board of Directors of the CIW to influence them to stay loyal to Marc in the face of brutal public attacks on him. The author of the exonerating document has since gone on in 2017 to create a blog focused on defending Gafni against his attackers.
When I read the document, called the Integral Institute Report Summary, I soon learned that there was an entire section concerning Marc’s dismissal from Sounds True. Every single sentence of the paragraphs in this section contained falsehoods, lies, and distortions. I knew this because I had spoken not only to Marc but to the two women involved in the Sounds True controversy. I didn’t want to accept the truth that I had learned about my friend Marc. He seemed to be doing his best to prove his enemies correct who say that he is a pathological liar. While the document was not apparently written by Marc, it bore his fingerprints as a ghost writer or single source. He lied to the document’s author about key details, denying for instance that he had been involved with one of his students, even though the fact that she was his student was not in denial at the time. In fact, he made a very public defense of spiritual teachers having relationships with students to the Integrales Forum. Nevertheless, what he previously admitted, he now lied about. Wouldn’t he know he would get caught? Not necessarily, if we think through the mind of a pathological liar. He could make Kate demand that everyone who received the document keep it secret so that the lies within it could not be scrutinized by his attackers. He was perpetrating a brilliant, risky fraud, with the reputations of every one of the Board of Directors of CIW at stake. I couldn’t stand for it. First I leaked the document to the Internet so that it could not be re-written to cover up the lies. Then I wrote what I knew to Ken Wilber and Kate Maloney and Marc Gafni. (Marc wrote me back the next day, explaining that there were “errors” in the report that would be “corrected” and republished.) Finally, at the behest of a commenter on a Facebook forum, I published my letter to Marc disclosing everything (which was soon republished by Robb Smith in the Integral Global forum).
After the incident with the leaked report, I remained distant from Marc and his organization. A few months later, I penned “An Apology as A Former Marc Gafni Defender” for my blog. I met with one of the two women from the Sounds True controversy and apologized personally for having not seen Marc more clearly and defending him for too long. But I never apologized to the other woman, who I deeply regret not having perceived her pain and validated it earlier than today. I am truly sorry. And I never apologized to Tami Simon personally.
She saw Marc Gafni more clearly than I did much sooner than I did, and I cast doubt on her testimony. She said she didn’t trust Marc, and I dismissed her concerns with a trust in him which was built on sand. She exercised sound judgment about Marc’s honesty when I did not, and I (relying on Marc’s account combined with Tami’s refusal to speak with me) insinuated that perhaps she was being less than fully honest. I regret that insinuation very much, though at the time I spoke those words I was in a difficult position. One of the brightest stars and most talented leaders the Integral community had known was being publicly assailed based on evidence outside the public view, and the controversy threatened to derail the publication of an entire body of literature which the world had a right to see. I did what I could in the situation, but I erred in judgment in key respects. I hope all three women I have apologized to will forgive me for failing as I did, and I wish them well.