When I started this new blog, “Integral Spirituality in Real Life”, I archived all the old contents from past blogs. From time to time, I will bring out some of my older writings in order to respond to ongoing issues in the Integral community and beyond. At this time, I am presenting my three most significant older blog posts as context for future articles that I may publish about Dr. Marc Gafni and his work. These blog posts reflect my views at the time I wrote them, and are not a perfect representation of my views as they have somewhat evolved to this day.
1An Apology To Tami Simon (Statement on 3/19/2017)
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.
2An Apology as A Former Marc Gafni Defender (Statement on 4/28/2016)
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.”
3My conclusions on the Marc Gafni blogosphere controversy in the Integral community (Statement on 12/26/2011)
Recently statements from Ken Wilber and the Special Committee of the Board of Directors for the Center for World Spirituality (CWS) have appeared online regarding Marc Gafni. They have made up their minds. They have chosen to continue to work with Marc Gafni in his vision for evolving a world-centric spirituality based on Integral principles. They appear to have seen through the misinformation and distortions which have appeared in the blogosphere since September.
In his new statement, Ken Wilber says that Marc is a very gifted spiritual teacher who has the capacity to be a “good spiritual leader” of the CWS. He affirms that Marc is serious about doing his inner work, despite not being dysfunctional. In a 2008 statement with Sally Kempton, Wilber wrote:
Marc, more than almost anyone we know, lives from a profound sense of being responsible to love. In practice, that means that when he loves someone—and he has the gift for genuinely loving many people– he is willing to offer whatever he has. This willingness to love and give himself—sometime against his own best interests—is one of Marc’s remarkable qualities. One aspect of this gift for loving is that people who spend time with him will often experience a natural opening of the heart, which gets played out in their own relationships and work life. Marc’s open heartedness is unusual, and has often been misunderstood, just as his spontaneous, playful and experimental nature has been misunderstood…
I also have high regard for Marc’s spiritual gifts, brilliant and original teachings, and have experienced his opening to Eros which expresses itself in unusual warmth and open heartedness. I applaud the decision by Wilber and the Board of CWS and am glad to be holding a similar vision of a spirituality that advocates careful ethical discernment and which calls us to listen to many different voices and become informed with many different perspectives before exercising judgment. While not everyone will make the same decision, I’d like to share a few of the observations that have led me to support Marc Gafni’s leadership role in the Integral spiritual world.
As you may know, I’ve been tracking the controversy since late September, when I first started to pay attention to the so-called “sex scandal” manufactured by Bill Harryman’s Integral Options Café blog. Although I’d never spoken to Marc up to that period of time, I have since then met him personally, spoken to several persons with close knowledge of the events, and familiarized myself with many of the relevant aspects of the controversy. (A list of my past posts on the topic can be found at the end of this post.)
After having spent dozens of hours in conversation, interviews, and reading relevant archival material, I can find no basis for rejecting Marc Gafni’s teachings and indicting his ethics in any way that he has not already publicly acknowledged, as when he says that he is sorry that the privacy he asked of the two women he dated was psychologically painful to one of them (the one who was not a student).
While I’m not done with my research into the entire history of the controversy, I feel it’s important in the interim to let my readers know about my findings so far. I’m coming to the conclusion that this may all be much ado about nothing. Where there is smoke, there is not always fire. Sometimes there is smoke that is intentionally and maliciously planted there and sometimes there is only the illusion of smoke.
Unfortunately several persons closest to the controversy are not willing to go “on the record” at this time with the sort of details which would help the public form an educated opinion. This puts me in the difficult position of passing along anonymously sourced claims which are subject to possible errors or withholding the story and simply passing along my judgments without explaining their basis. I hope that a more complete story can be told in the future; meanwhile, here are a few general remarks that could help to bring more light into our discussion.
Much ado about nothing?
Basically, Marc and his partner (to whom he was not married and had supported in having a child) had stepped out, by mutual agreement, from a monogamous domestic relationship. He then dated two women at the same time. Both women knew he was not monogamous before dating him and both knew of each other for most of the two or so months they went out. The parties all agreed mutually to hold the relationships private for a while, and eventually one woman came to feel the deception required by the privacy was too much for her to handle, especially their joint decision not to inform Tami Simon, CEO of Sounds True, with whom she was closely associated in professional contexts. She did not intend to stop seeing Marc, but decided that the best course of action was to inform Tami that she was dating Marc.
Subsequently, Tami and the second woman had a series of conversations the results of which, from what I can tell, resulted in the woman who was dating Marc at the time coming to believe that she had been “emotionally damaged” (according to Simon’s public statement). Tami is in a position of power over this second woman. Tami has declined to answer the question as to whether she had any role in influencing the woman to feel “emotionally damaged.” About six weeks later, Tami issued a statement critical of Marc to a blog known to regularly traffic in malicious attacks on spiritual teachers who the blogger regards as “abusive gurus.” This blog post had substantial ripple effects through the blogosphere, setting off hundreds of comments on blogs many of which brought out savage character attacks by anonymous commenters from outside the Integral community.
In my opinion, Marc’s judgment was problematic in a few practical respects but he did not deserve Tami Simon’s moralizing rebuke. Simon refused to comment as to whether there is an ethics policy for Sounds True authors or if she held Marc to a special higher standard to which other authors are not held accountable. In rebuking Marc publicly, she appears to have been motivated by factors outside of public view, which when taken into account cast doubt on her characterization of Marc.
Tami did not tell people that she was in close contact with a third woman, one who has been centrally involved in false statements about Marc, and who has been actively and even obsessively working against him for many years. Tami also did not share that this person represented a group that had been pressuring Tami to withdraw the chapter on false complaints in Mariana Caplan’s book, which at the time had just been published by Sounds True. Tami also did not share that she put the second woman —- her friend, who had just told her she was dating Marc —- in touch with this purveyor of vitriolic attacks on Marc. This person’s intense agenda of vilification, which she downloaded to Tami and the second woman, could not have been without substantial influence. These are just a few of the related facts that she chose not to share in her public statement. I don’t think she intended to deceive anyone, but her words have nevertheless done truth a disservice.
Tami Simon, as I have noted, declined my repeated requests to interview with her. Effectively, she did a “hit and run” piece on one of the most gifted scholars, organizational leaders, and spiritual teachers in the Integral / Evolutionary Spirituality world. She offered no factual evidence to back up her specific charges against Marc and her central moral claim — that Marc’s private relationship with his student was wrong — is steeped in some sort of unacknowledged Oppression Theory-based ideology which is inadequate to explain the complexities of this particular situation. She also believes that Marc should have violated his comitment to privacy and shared the relationship with her (Tami). Marc has denied making the promise to her which she alleged he did, and she has refused to back up her assertion. Marc says that he promised Tami not to create a scandal; it is arguable that Tami and not Marc turned a private matter into a public spectacle. None of this however by itself warrants the kind of actions that Tami took in response which were obviously motivated by much more then these issues.
Since she used first-person language (i.e., “I statements”) to express her criticisms of Marc Gafni, she can probably make a case for evading responsibility for technically defaming him, but the question of moral culpability remains open. My expectation and hope is that the claims in her blog-delivered attack will be questioned by readers with careful discernment or that she will come forward with facts that will show her behavior in a more comprehensive light.
Marc’s public statements — which Simon probably knew about (and if she didn’t, as his publisher she ought to have known) — made it clear that he has articulated a sophisticated approach to teacher / student relationships in post-conventional contexts. From what I have been able to ascertain, Marc behaved in accordance with his public teachings. Simon did not speak to the student of Marc’s to learn her point of view nor did she make an effort to get Marc’s point of view or clarify highly disputed claims prior to making her public assault on his character.
Instead, she probably based her statement against Marc primarily on conversations she had with another woman Marc dated and with one or more of Marc’s ex-lovers who have a documented history of making grotesquely false accusations and reprehensible legal complaints against him. It is quite likely, from what I have been able to learn, that Simon did not even review the very extensive and compelling documentary evidence vindicating Marc of the baseless charges against him by the woman with whom she was in close communication in the days prior to her statement.
Simon listened to women providing a very selective and distorted picture of events but didn’t get Marc’s point of view, an apparent neglect of her responsibility to get the facts right before throwing stones. Why she would lapse in her diligence I cannot be certain, and perhaps she will address a few unanswered questions in the future.
My best guess is that she bought into the poisonous “hermeneutic of hate” spread as gospel by the anti-Gafni cohort. Perhaps she also reacted out of anger and a self-protective fear that Sounds True would be attacked as “guilty by association” if the anti-Gafni cohort chose to turn their guns on her next as an “ennabler” of a bad man who abuses women. Was she mad that he dated the specific woman he did because of her relationship with that woman? Was she afraid of possible harm to her professional reputation, and therefore she went public with an unusual critical statement? It seems possible.
Notably Marc during this whole story, who is arguably the injured party, has refused as far as I can tell, to attack or demonize any of the parties. If you know Gafni at all, you know that he is genuinely committed to repair and healing. Marc has offered to do a facilitated public or private dialogue with the parties to this issue but there have been no takers.
A “vast first-tier conspiracy”?
If Tami Simon were the only person to ever criticize Marc Gafni for his behavior in his love life, her statement would have been greeted with a much different reaction. Unfortunately, she selected as the target for her statement a particularly vulnerable man: a spiritual teacher with a long history of controversy and a small group of highly vocal attackers who have pursued an Internet vendetta against him for years under the disguise of “protecting” vulnerable people from a “dangerous” man.
The whole affair is the most complicated spiritual scandal/controversy that I’ve ever read about … and I’m not even nearly done researching the archive of documents on the case, or speaking with all the most important players. Some of the most helpful backdrop of the story is told by Mariana Caplan in “An Unexpected Twist: False Complaints Against Teachers” and a detailed article “Trial by Internet: an archetypal spiritual drama” in Catalyst Magazine. The picture that emerges is that of a spiritual teacher — Marc Gafni — who has been repeatedly demonized by a vocal group of people as an “abusive guru,” despite a paucity of evidence and the testimony of many smart, sane people who insist that he is nothing of the sort.
It isn’t necessary to think that the women who have come out against Marc over the years are all delusional or mentally unstable, although at least one prominent attacker has a bizarre history of unstable statements (claiming on Oprah in the 1980s to have been the victim of a Jewish satanic cult which forced her to murder babies and refuses to recant her story). This is weird stuff. Nor is it necessary to claim that there’s a “vast first-tier conspiracy” against Marc (to adapt a term once used by Hillary Clinton), though evidence is overwhelming that the online vendetta against him is perpetuated largely by a handful of folks who are all connected to each other although they do not disclose that fact and who are apparently obsessed with ruining his reputation by spreading a mix of truth, distortions, and lies by posting anonymously or under multiple pseudonyms on comment boxes (sometimes purporting to speak as the moral conscience of the “entire Jewish community” as they do so). Very strange, indeed.
What’s most important, as I see it, is that when you look at the evidence with an open mind with careful attention to separate facts from interpretations of fact, you find that a picture emerges of Marc Gafni dramatically at odds with what you read in the seediest corners of the Internet. Instead of viewing Marc’s evolution through stages of consciousness — from ethnocentric to worldcentric, for example — and instead of viewing his evolving teachings on Eros and spirituality in a life affirming manner, they choose to make Marc out to be a monster.
It is significant that almost all of the group was directly involved in supporting what Mariana Caplan termed “the false complaints” against Marc almost six years ago. It may well be that after being culpable of making or supporting the promulgation of false complaints — truly henious acts from any ethical perspective — the only choice that remains to them is to try to ruin Marc Gafni. To feel good about themselves, they must continue to view Gafni as bad. Therefore, they conclude, anyone today who believes Gafni must be delusional and duped, seduced by his charm and charisma. Accordingly, they feel justified in ignoring everything they say which challenges their own beliefs.
Marc’s detractors post with missives reeking of self-righteousness and an unwillingness to own any shadow or responsibility for unethical, demonstrably distorted or false communications. They do not acknowledge when they have passed along falsehoods or correct the record. They usually hide behind anonymity. They inaccurately paint Marc’s defenders as holding to a “situational ethics.” They have to a person, so far as I can tell, all refused to engage Marc in direct dialogue aimed at healing.
It’s time for closure
Marc has never claimed to be perfect or to have always lived up to his high ethical ideals, and he’s accepted his share of responsibility for the controversies as best he sees it. But for the small group of vigilante crusaders fueling the fires in the blogosphere, this isn’t enough. They will not rest until Marc apologizes for “abuses” that did not in fact occur, except in the minds of “victims” steeped in an Oppression Theory ideology and a poisonous hermeneutic which does not permit them to accept any responsibility for their role in the messiness of their relationships with Marc or their role in bearing false witness.
I have compassion for anyone who claims suffering, but I can’t accept their ideological distortions which divide people into victims and perpetrators and which has constructed a bizarre, demonizing narrative around Marc Gafni that is not reality-based. I am also reminded of Mariana Caplan’s point that much malice hides behind the fig leaf of “I was hurt.” Claims of victimization are not always to be assumed valid, especially when they don’t pass the smell test. Sometimes people exaggerate the hurt in relationships in order to inflict undeserved damage on the other side.
Of course, from a perfectly ordinary point of view, there are genuine victims and perpetrators of terrible acts of exploitation. No credible evidence exists that I have seen that over the past 30 or so years Marc Gafni has been involved in any terrible acts of exploiting others; however, some of his intimate, consensual, adult relationships have involved hurt feelings by persons who later blamed him for causing their own emotional pain.
When he was very young, Marc was accused of impropriety by two young women, whose version of events he denied vehemently; a lie detector test by a highly regarded expert later backed Marc’s version of events. In any case, no complaints were ever brought against him. Both of these stories were spread and encouraged by an Orthodox rabbi who disliked Gafni, and whom Gafni had been in a personal conflict. This man has continued to encourage and support various attacks on him for some thirty years. This same rabbi was a key supporter of the disreputable sexual abuse advocate mentioned above (the one who appeared on Oprah claiming to have murdered babies as part of a satanic cult). It was this same person who sowed the ground, for over twenty years, for the hermemenutic of hatred that others later picked up on.
Gafni has a strong presence with a penetrating and challenging transmission. It is understandable that he would elicit negative reaction from some percentage of his audiences over the years, especially as he may have outgrown theologically the level of consciousness of the communities in which he resided. Gafni can catalyze people’s confrontation with their own shadow. He calls people out in a deep way. At the same time, most people who hear Gafni find him compelling and profound. I sense his love and goodness and know many others do as well. But given the existence of the negative prism of Internet attack, any negative response to Gafni can potentially be filtered through the demonizing prism, and then linked together on the web by those invested in keeping the demonization alive.
Furthermore, in my experience Gafni’s most vocal detractors generally engage in a sort of group-think which perpetuates a myth that only those people who dislike Marc Gafni know the real man and everyone who likes him needs to be constantly reminded that he is disreputable. The fact that others think the same way they do seems evidence enough to persist in their beliefs even after they are presented with counter-factual evidence. In this way, they remind me of birthers who deny that Barack Obama was born in America or the Clinton Derangement Syndrome sufferers who believe Bill Clinton murdered Vince Foster. Many millions of people hold these false beliefs sincerely and the mere prevalence of an idea does not make it better.
I hope Marc’s attackers will look within and not simply lash out with projections of malice and patronizing attacks on more reality-based thinkers as “Gafni’s puppets” as they have sometimes done. I hope they will own that they have situated their beliefs about him in the dubious context of an intellectual rubric of Oppression Theory, especially a sort of victim-feminism which disempowers women and ignores the voices of the many women who have found in Marc an ethical, gifted, and brilliant teacher and friend. We will see.
I’m glad that the Tami Simon/Bill Harryman-manufactured controversy is now coming to a close. The statements by Ken Wilber, Marc Gafni, Warren Farrell, and the Special Committee of the Board of the Center for World Spirituality sound true to me, and I am proud to be part of a spiritual movement in which many leaders are capable of looking at even the most complex ethical quagmires with a multi-perspectival, all quadrant, all levels lens. The world desperately needs more integral, evolutionary visions … and we cannot afford to be distracted with faux scandals perpetuated largely by First-Tier ideologies in action and Integralists who haven’t exercised very careful discernment and owned their own shadows.
Marc is facing the controversy with courage and determination to emerge stronger and more conscious than ever before as evidenced in his statement of closure. Now I look forward to moving on to the important business of helping to co-create the framework and foundation for a cosmo-centric spirituality which is capable of bringing about breakthroughs in healing the world and feeding souls hungry for a more radically expansive love and life more whole, passionate, and ethical.