Context: This morning I spent several hours reading Facebook posts commenting on the December 25th story on Marc Gafni in the New York Times. They included links to public statements by several key Jewish organizations and calls for a culture-wide reckoning by members of the international integral ecosystem surrounding Ken Wilber and other integral leaders. There were so many posts full of emotions running high! Shortly before all this publicity I had signed a statement declaring my decision not to work with Marc; this was also signed by Stephen Dinan, Craig Hamilton, Jean Houston, and many other evolutionary teachers. One of them, Andrew Harvey, recorded an eloquent statement about Marc, and about the denial of shadow in contemporary spiritual culture. All of this landed in 180,000 inboxes, including mine, this afternoon. (Note: if the dates seem wrong it’s because it’s taken me a couple of days to finish this piece. In the meantime there have been more articles and online conversations.)
I’ve long had strong feelings about Marc, and the complex issues raised by his engagement with leaders in integral and evolutionary spirituality. I personally decided to stop working with him in 2011, and came to see him as pathological. While I sincerely pray for his healing and redemption, I think communities of practice do need to bar him from functioning as a spiritual leader within them. I’m glad that lines are being drawn, and I’m lending my name to help that happen as unambiguously as possible.
I’m writing this blog as a member of the integral community, and as a teacher and leader who has been repeatedly asked to weigh in. We have no formal elders or wisdom council, so there will be no official integral response. This leaves everyone who is interested in integral evolutionary philosophy, spirituality and practice on their own to discern amidst an avalanche of strong perspectives. I feel an impulse not to say anything, to “rise above the fray”, since it tends to muddy all participants. All I can offer is my own perspective. I am not all-knowing. I will do it imperfectly. And others will disagree. So this will probably anger people I care about. I won’t be benefited. I’m writing this out of a sense of moral responsibility to do what I can to bring clarity here. I hope my bearing witness will be of service.
The Current Controversy
What’s caused this scandal, this viral outpouring? It seems that Marc Gafni did nothing recently to provoke this. There’s no accusation of any new bad behavior. It’s all a result of an article in the “paper of record”. That’s what seems to have provoked a firestorm of condemnation. Marc and those sympathetic to his leadership have been mostly quiet. They may seem somewhat dignified by comparison with the fevered tone of the opprobrium that’s being heaped on him. Some of those attacking Marc tell hair-raising stories of psychological control and abuse. Many ugly dynamics come into play. Male authority figures (especially spiritual teachers) accused of sexual misdeeds are often “guilty until proven innocent” in the court of public opinion. Sexual misconduct can be the “new witchcraft” of our contemporary Salem witch trials. Many who have spoken up seem to buy completely into a narrative of victimization. And the tone of the critique seems to have no room for complexity, nuance, or shared responsibility.
From what I understand (unconfirmed rumors) Marc himself has not only been remarkably productive lately, continuing his scholarship, writing, teaching, and community-building activities, he’s been more magnetic, warm, funny, compassionate, charming, and winning than ever—even more balanced and dignified. To hear him tell it, he’s the victim. All of this is sourced in personal and professional resentment, envy and malice. Even the accusations from nearly forty years ago are gross exaggerations. He feels confident that those who know him will stand with him. His reputation is certainly badly damaged, but he will just keep doing his good work, and those with discernment will appreciate the insights, the evolutionary inspiration, the group celebrations, the shared love and ecstasy. And he will continue. And if I were to talk with Marc, I imagine that he would be enormously persuasive, and I would begin to wonder if perhaps he is not entirely right.
On both sides of the controversy, we are invited to examine the record. And if we look at the evidence supplied, we will find lots of historical detail to support both points of view. His victims will tell stories of mind control. His supporters will show that the victims were lovingly related to him long after his abuses had taken place. It’s “he said, she said” isn’t it? How do we get to the bottom of this?
But that doesn’t really add up. Where there’s this much smoke, there has to be some fire. It seems like nothing since the Holocaust has united the Jewish community as much as Marc Gafni has. When have 300 rabbis agreed about anything? Isn’t the integral community being tested? Are we so bound up in our complex perspectives that we can’t cut through the confusion to make a basic moral judgment and protect our own vulnerable members?
Either/Or — Drawing a Line
In this situation it seems important to include both a strong “either/or” moral stand and a deep “both/and” nuanced view. In other words, more is needed than deciding that Marc Gafni should not be a leader in the integral spiritual community, or any other community, for that matter. Nor is it sufficient to notice all the other complex issues at play. We have to grow into holding BOTH both/and AND either/or perspectives here. We have to be able to hold both nuanced and polarized perspectives.
First, I will speak from my own experience about why I won’t work with Marc.
When he was publicly accused in Israel in 2006, I presumed there were two sides to the story, and extended my hand in friendship. I tried to put an arm on his shoulder and accompany him through the process of exploring how he had somehow participated in creating hurt for others, and how now that was perhaps unjustly coming back around to hurt him. I wanted to compassionately help him learn whatever he needed to learn and do his own deep work. He could reckon with his shadow, learn how to love better and be redeemed. I liked him. I could feel his pain. I could see that there was much animus directed toward him, and I thought he deserved care. I didn’t want him to be alone.
But he wasn’t up for that kind of friendship, or that kind of work. He never showed any curiosity about those questions, or his psychological dynamics and shadows, or any sincere interest in gleaning the moral lessons of his life. Those were the conversations I tried to have, again and again, for years, but they were never forthcoming. He redirected every discussion back to the injustice of the accusations against him. The story was always about his victimization, and he was always only defensive. He was not receptive but active, recruiting me to see it all his way.
It didn’t feel healthy. I remember trying to give him a back massage in 2006 right after his first scandal broke. I was shocked. His body was eerily tight, utterly unable to relax, not even aware, seemingly, that relaxation was a good thing. It seems to me that he has remained tightly wound, utterly committed to defending himself, feeling under attack. I understand that his parents were holocaust survivors. Perhaps he was raised in an environment with a constant sense of threat. My heart goes out to him. I would love to see him broadly forgiven and redeemed. But what I needed then, and still need, is to see his heartfelt grappling with moral and spiritual issues, to see him bowing to a higher principle, truly surrendering to God or goodness or care or to a process of ongoing learning and growth.
Slowly, over time, I came to a clear moral apprehension. This wasn’t an analytical mental process. It was a process of heart discernment. Even though Marc can be incredibly loving, sweet, affectionate, thoughtful, generous, fun, playful, witty, warm, creative, insightful, and magnetic… I couldn’t locate him as a fellow devotee of a higher truth. I couldn’t trust him. He seemed to have chosen a kind of dark refusal.
I think he’s a ronin, “a samurai without a master.” He has great powers,. But I cannot trust him because I do not see his devotion and surrender to a higher divinity, morality, set of values, true teacher, or even a group of friends and mentors.
Marc can be disarmingly charming, incredibly warm and affectionate, and devotedly attentive to the people he chooses to lavish his attentions on (many of whom are among the important creative thinkers I most respect). But in my view he has used them, and everyone around him, to constellate a version of the authentic natural integral evolutionary cultural movement that places him at its very center. This is a terrible distortion—he was never at the very center of this movement. He was always an opportunist, exploiting the integral evolutionary ecosystem to gather power, credibility, and exciting new ideas to engage with to further his personal ambitions. He can make things happen, including high-energy events. But they are subtly changed by his way he shows up. The intelligence or love that they were supposed to be about are no longer at the dead-center. Subtly, they become all about him.
Those motives present a performative contradiction—the integral evolutionary vision cannot be furthered as an act of narcissistic self-aggrandizement. It has to be about service to something larger than oneself, something no one can possibly own or dominate, something that activates and liberates the creative cooperative agency of a diverse network of free autonomous creative human beings. Integral evolutionary culture is characterized by a growth into authentic mutuality, aided by a new kind of more selfless leadership.
Paradoxically, Marc’s unique sins are exaggerations of failings common to many of us human beings, including genuine teachers and leaders. He loves attention, accolades, and the sound of his own voice. He wants to charm and persuade. So do I. So do many of us. But he stands out. He has an uncanny ability to think ahead strategically. He was always many chess moves ahead of me—and everyone else around him. And he has enormous personal energy and ambition, working hard every day, networking and reading and writing and teaching and executing each move in his greater strategic plan. Is that evil? No. No one is perfectly pure, and I’ve seen all of these egoic qualities in people I admire and respect.
But Marc is more formidable than the ordinary ego. He uses his power of seduction and persuasion to gain associates, and then builds networks of loose and strong alliances from which bigger projects (that showcase him) can emerge. He can overwhelm the people close to him, energetically, psychologically, intellectually, and sexually. This is why his ability to “make stuff happen” is almost supernormal, even despite his damaged reputation. In Marc’s case, these formidable capacities seem to turbocharge his ordinary egoic impulses, and they become something far more dangerous than ordinary human foibles.
This is what I think drives people so crazy. That’s what I think is behind the over-the-top animus directed toward him by the Jewish community. I think he is the source of it, even though it seems to oppose him.
The egregious violations I saw firsthand were not primarily sexual. What in my experience has been most outrageously diabolical is his unique way of getting inside people’s heads and subtly casting a spell on them, and then using that influence to influence or manipulate others. To be used in this way is a form of abuse. To add sexuality to it, is even more hurtful. So my heart does go out to the women involved. He’s been able to work this magic with many influential individuals and thus afflict whole communities. This is the phenomenon we are dealing with. This is why I am writing this blog post. This pattern has long needed to be countered, and now that it is “going viral” I will take the opportunity to point to what I can recognize about the underlying phenomenon.
I am now confronting some uncomfortable questions:
- Why didn’t I speak out publicly until now?
- In what ways was I intimidated? In what ways was I too, perhaps in a lesser way than his primary defenders, drawn into his hypnotic spell? In what ways did I imagine that he had a kind of power I should “handle with care?”
- How can I simultaneously condemn Marc Gafni’s narcissism and endorse integral evolutionary spirituality communities where he has been a leader?
- How did he co-opt these communities surrounding such powerful philosophical and spiritual frameworks?
- How can the precious wisdom gems at the center of these enterprises be protected and defended?
- If I had “blown the whistle” on Marc earlier, what would have happened? Would my condemnations have cast doubt upon the leading edge of cultural evolution and some of its key figures, such as Ken Wilber and John Mackey, who Marc is effectively using as “human shields”? I didn’t want that. Or would I have simply been ignored like Marc’s other most vocal critics? So what can be learned now?
- How can I stand against Marc without lending strength to a strain of righteous piety that reminds me of Kenneth Starr and Linda Tripp? I want no part of our pious puritan postmodern sexual McCarthyism. Since I appreciate not only Apollonian but also Dionysian streams of spirituality, how can I condemn Marc’s sexual manipulation without also empowering the narrow conservatism that tends to censor the ecstatic and tantric dimensions of spirituality?
- How can I point to this moral issue without colluding with victimology? Or being seen as reactive myself, seeming shrill and bent-out-of-shape like his other accusers have sometimes seemed to me?
I am asking myself all these questions now, fiercely, and the process is humbling. I don’t have all the answers. I am a practitioner and I am still learning. (I hope we all relate to this in that spirit!)
Not exactly in my defense, but to provide some perspective, I should also say that Marc’s energy presented me with a daunting communications challenge, and required a greater level of skill and energy than I felt confident I could bring to the task, given that I would be operating on a game board in which Marc himself would be playing—given that he’s a grand master in positioning and spin.
But the fact remains that I somehow allowed myself to be intimidated. I smelled a rat and yet I went along with his presence in our community. I spoke to my friends, including most of Marc’s main supporters, and to students when that seemed appropriate, but only privately.
It seemed like it would have taken endless tiresome hours of being embroiled in fruitless dispute, rolling around in the mud with him. So I was stymied. I take some solace in the fact that it doesn’t seem that any new victims of sexual abuse have surfaced since 2011. But this does seem to be a public relations disaster for integral evolutionary culture.
Marc’s thrusting of himself into the integral community has been, for me, a nightmare and even a violation. All we really have is our awakeness, clarity and purity, the “ring of truth” in our more adequate perspectives. And he has been, from the beginning in my estimation, a source of impurity, taint, and distortion. Yet I have mostly felt strangely neutralized in my impulse to address the problem. I have been intimidated. I have been ineffective.
Marc has continued to charm and persuade people and raise his profile, yet again, in our community, further compromising our reputation. Until now I have not felt it was possible to make an effective public statement. And now, suddenly, it’s unavoidable.
In a sense, we’re all his victims. This includes the Jewish community, especially the living post-conventional ecstatic Dionysian mystical stream of Jewish mysticism. It certainly includes the integral and evolutionary communities. The effect of his presence among us is not unlike Donald Trump’s in the current election cycle. He’s scandalous! Fascinating! Click bait! As a result, deeper and crucial considerations are obscured.
The victim narrative is too easy, too convenient, and very incomplete. We are all autonomous adults. No matter how smart , talented, and tenacious Marc Gafni might be, the only power he has over anyone is the power we have given him. If he has compromised our community, it’s up to us to reclaim it. It’s our responsibility to draw a clear line if we want greater goodness and moral intelligence. That’s my intent. But I’m not at all claiming to be a moral paragon. It’s not just darkness that repels me. Too much piety also makes me ill.
Both/And—The Evolution of Justice
For me, some of the most important features of this phenomenon reside in the nuances, the things that easily tend to get completely lost in a conversation that focuses only on a couple of narrow issues—whether he can be trusted or not, or perhaps whether our community should have come together and somehow protected people from him sooner.
What I read this morning were a series of intelligent, passionate, and necessary online conversations, the process through which a community finds its way to discernment about an unusually brilliant, talented, powerful and dangerous person, and the many knotty issues raised by his behavior. I agree with the need to call him out, and I’m delighted that it’s happening at last.
But the phenomenon amounts to much more than a simple “good/bad” polarity; it is both a watershed moment in our community moral discernment and an occasion for more nuanced perspectives.
There is much baby worth not throwing away with the bathwater. Marc is talented. He’s really good at everything he does. So many of us have fond memories of the loving spaces he has convened, and of loving exchanges with him. It makes sense to me how he is beloved to the people to whom he unreservedly devotes his support and affection.
He’s also shown, in bitter irony, excellent judgment in his taste of contemporary philosophies. He made a beeline from Jewish mysticism to what I believe are the most important and critically useful philosophical ideas of our time. But this, in my opinion, is another reason he’s dangerous. His unexamined shadow compromises everything he associates with, so it’s undermining those remarkable philosophical ideas and this community of practice and inquiry, not serving them. They are the victims I’m most interested in defending.
His primary victims are especially his best friends. Many of the people who have chosen to work with him, from Ken Wilber to Sally Kempton to Mariana Caplan, Barbara Marx Hubbard to Brett Thomas, Sam and Barbara Alexander, Zak Stein to Clint Fuhs – all are friends for whom I have great affection and enormous respect. Although I don’t know John Mackey or Michael Beckwith, I have great respect for them too. I hate to see their names and the ideas they stand for tarnished by this entanglement.
I made a different call than they did in relation to Marc, at least so far, but I am in a lifetime conversation with these people. They will offer perspectives that might in the future influence my view. I certainly don’t resonate with those who offer a more general moral condemnation of the integral and evolutionary communities and all Marc’s supporters.
I am grateful that Marc never fully seduced me and cast his spell on me. He has a remarkable capacity to create a “reality distortion field” suffused with playful affection, resilient humor, innovative ideas, generous acknowledgment, creative energy and generative magnetism. I understand how so many good people have been swayed. They may have been fooled, in my opinion, but they are not fools.
But make no mistake: this is a teachable moment, a developmental opportunity. Our community needs a way to protect itself from talented sociopaths with histories of unprocessed shadow and violating others’ hearts, souls, and bodies.
This is a function our gathering hasn’t yet developed. A justice system is an inherently conservative function, which requires formal structures the integral and evolutionary communities don’t yet have. Such structures first emerge in response to a need, and push forward the creative dialectic of cultural evolution. This is part of the necessary “negation and inclusion” of the previous stage of embodiment. In this spectrum of polarities, the conservative justice function is one half of an indestructible polarity, always in creative play with an inherently liberal, creative function.
Like Marc and many of his allies, I tend to embody the other half, the innovative creative impulse. This is where he has made his contributions. Perhaps our community will have to evolve, now that our life conditions may be beginning to require this conservative justice function to emerge. I just hope it doesn’t suppress the aliveness of our gathering. Let’s remember, the rest of us have for the most part spontaneously abided, from the heart, to sincere ethical standards. Let’s not institute a repressive TSA security system at the entrance to our ecstatic gatherings!
A big part of what bothers me most is Marc’s “reckless driving.” He aspires to leadership and to have a major impact on the most advanced thinking of our time. Those are high aspirations. But look: his actual impact has been to damage the credibility of ecstatic spirituality, integral spirituality, and evolutionary spirituality. He is detracting, not adding. This is because his extraordinary powers are linked to extraordinary shadow. Thus, everything becomes all about him. But it’s not. It’s about the values and expanded awareness that have attracted all of us to the conversations we’re engaged in together.
Reflecting More Deeply on My Experience
Marc Gafni brought a unique combination of eloquence, psychological acumen, brash obnoxiousness, intellectual brilliance, charisma, resilience, sheer energy, and ambition to the integral community. He’s multitalented. He performs his teachings like a great (if narcissistic) thespian.
Still, we must appreciate that this is a complex dynamic. I don’t know about his careers in Judaism, but in the integral evolutionary world he really did notice some of the most important “next new” distinctions and then articulate them forcefully in a way that sparked insights in thousands of people. He did convene amazing gatherings. He did treat many of the people he was working with really well. He often would spark creativity, and communicate love and warmth to his colleagues, in ways that have made them his willing defenders. I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. He was remarkable in his ability to consistently transmit joy, affection and certain forms of kindness.
But he would also often turn his evocative exciting insights and teachings into advertisements for himself. He would frequently use others to legitimize himself, and then take up center stage, tainting the transmission with his inflation, perverting the goodness at the heart of the movement. He did do so by frequently generating private conversations, “just between you and me”, and he’d avoid explicit agreements about money and then make sure that disparities in understanding were settled in his favor. And he really would arrogate the ideas of others, and work hard to convince people to defend him or keep their experience secret, even when this was costly to them psychologically, emotionally, and/or professionally. He really did show very little capacity for self-transcending care for the happiness and emotional well-being of his lovers and friends.
He would tell one person one thing, and say something contradictory to another. He was the master puppeteer, and his victories made sincerity seem like it was for saps. When someone was important to him, he made himself irresistibly charming and supportive—the friend their hearts had always yearned for. He engaged in regular energy exchange arcs of mutual support, and cast his insidiously astutely tailor-made hypnotic “spells”, through which he captured so many people.
I always felt like Marc was trying to “work” me, to get something from me, to position me within his great initiative. He seemed to want to be endorsed and embraced by anyone with some degree of visibility, so that he could be the central leader of the whole movement. He appealed to my own narcissism, once telling me that Ken Wilber was like Freud, and the rest of us, including him, could be like Jung and Adler. He drew my attention to the “favors” he did for me, and signified that I should do them for him in return, warning me in words I could only interpret as a threat: “I can be positively medieval.” That happened at a time when Marc dominated Integral Spiritual Experience, the largest regular integral gathering. To my lasting shame, I bit my tongue and cooperated with him.
I remember breathing a huge sigh of relief as I felt the change in the psychic field at Merrill Hall at ISE3. Marc had co-led the first two events, and they had been remarkable in many ways, primarily due to the interwoven talents of Diane Hamilton, Sally Kempton and Ken Wilber. However, the volume was occasionally dialed up beyond my pain threshold, infected by Marc’s frenetic narcissistic energy in a way that to me felt diabolical. The beauty and goodness and truth of Integral consciousness and spirituality still shone through. They were luminous events. But there was this strange torque in the field from Marc’s unhealthy relationship to his own identity, and his centrality to the events. The purity of the integral transmission was subtly compromised.
During Marc’s 2011 scandal, Robb Smith decided that Integral Life would no longer work with him. Robb asked Jeff Salzman and me to join Diane Hamilton in anchoring ISE3 at Asilomar, and the field clarified. I felt like we all were able to take a deep full wholesome breath. Although the previous two ISE occasions he led had been better attended, very high energy, successful events at the level of spiritual entertainment, that swirl of energy had hidden the aftertaste of Marc’s manic agenda. I realized then that I couldn’t countenance it anymore. It was a moral compromise. It cut to the core. It was like willingly adding a toxic chemical to the ambrosia of integral evolutionary truth.
Cynicism Is the Worst Poison
What bothered me most as I read the Facebook posts was the way this scandal has fed people’s tendency to become cynical. People are quick to generalize, and it’s easy to lose touch with our best selves.
Very destructive attitudes easily take root through scandal like this. And I could see them in various posts. Stated more baldly, they expressed attitudes like, “The whole integral enterprise is bullshit.” “There’s no such thing as spiritual sexuality.” “All gurus are con-artists.” “Ken Wilber’s philosophy has no moral core.” These and similarly cynical attitudes are poisonous.
There were serious issues with Genpo Merzel and with Andrew Cohen. Many integral teachers have had lessons to learn; it’s true. But neither of those individuals should be equated or conflated with Marc Gafni. What can be learned? It’s hard work transcending ego and evolving consciousness and culture. But these are not failures; they’re lessons. They’re not a valid basis for cynicism.
Sanctimony too hides an underlying cynicism. Victimology is at root profoundly cynical. We are asked to care and pray for the women. I don’t disagree. But we—and they—are not doomed to being victims, persecutors or rescuers. We and they can escape the drama triangle. That’s each of our responsibility. We are creating our experience.
What shall we create? In gathering our energies and making our choices, I suggest we not draw on cynicism; it’s a toxic ingredient. It’s worth renouncing thoroughly even as we draw a bright moral line about this particular individual at this particular time.
Back To Marc
It’s worth remembering a core teaching from Neem Karoli Baba, a guru worth remembering with a sense of reverence: “Never put anyone out of your heart.” So that goes for Marc Gafni too. It seems far-fetched to expect him to become interested in learning, to repent and atone for his manipulation. But he needs a route to redemption as much as anyone. Let’s not forget that even as we draw a clear line. We don’t have to put him out of our hearts, and we don’t have to keep him in our lives.
In conclusion, I want to address something to you, Marc: What can be next for you? Here’s what I suggest: Find a real master, a true teacher or teaching or community that you can surrender to and serve. Your career as a ronin, a samurai without a master, is not a happy story in the end. You need someone you cannot outsmart, someone who won’t enable and empower you, someone who sees through your bullshit brilliance and narcissism.
You need a master who can actually help you go through a process of Teshuvah. That word is usually mistranslated as “repentance,” but it really means “return” – a return to God and, especially, a return to the person you were meant to be. There is more to spirituality and leadership and integral evolutionary consciousness than you already understand. Be a devotee of what you don’t know. Your brilliance and charm could still be beautiful; they can have a contribution. But you need to go to the very root and really be transformed. Your destiny is not to stand at the very center of a movement. Find someone who can really master you and who you are willing to surrender your whole life and work to. Learn to be a devotee. May this touch you.
Taom MacDougall says
ot surprisingly to me knowing you better than anyone else I know in the integral network, your post has been the most complete and nuanced I have yet seen.
While I have little experience of Gafni( just ISE 3 ( where I got absolutely nothing from his talk, immediately was wary and was astounded at the gushing admiration I saw and heard around me at the time. He seemed immediately to me self-absorbed, self- promoting , ingenuine and untrustworthy. I had never, nor have ever since had such a negative reaction to anyone involved in Integral, nor so immediate .)
While there are, as you eloquently point out and explore, many facets to this story, the main one seems to do with apparent complete unwillingness on Gafni’s part to even acknowledge, much less be willing to work on ,what seems to be a massive and very dangerous and harmful Shadow. Until he does( and I very much liked your words to him) he should, I believe, have no acres to or association with any Integral organization or presentation.
Thank you once again, Terry, for your deeply perceptive , nuanced and always principled contribution. I had been waiting to see what your contribution would be. Deep Appreciation, Taom
on Marc Gafni
I agree that the kind of sharing Terry is doing here is a model of compassion, nuance, balance, and high-mindedness. If only every difficult discussion could be handled the way Terry is handling himself here, the world would be devoid of war. If Marc could share at a similar level, there would be no more war here on this issue.
Bill McCart says
Thanks, Terry, this is really beautiful. Unflinching about Marc’s transgressions yet full of the insight and love that is so strong in how you engage everything. It breaks my heart that Ken and others in the Integral world haven’t been able to see Marc clearly but I hope your words will help open their eyes. Thank you for speaking out so eloquently!
well said, Bill.
John Wagnon says
Thank you for this contribution. I spoke with you very briefly at an open mic at ITC 2010 on related matters – though you and I could not agree at the time on an attitude toward these questions, I thought your response to me was honest and showed integrity. I knew that even if we disagreed, I could respect you and expect you to engage with me honestly.
I think I can honestly say that I resonate so strongly with this piece even if we may have started at very different places with respect to Marc. Secoya – the infamous 13 year old – is a member of my personal community and so I have never had a positive response to Marc, his speaking, his writing, his personal energy. They were tainted and undermined from the beginning by his failure to adequately respond to his earliest accuser and and arguably his most vulnerable victim.
May we all have the courage to speak honestly against evil, corruption, and poison in the future – as well as the insight to keep condemnation appropriately constrained and calibrated. Courage and insight in the face of all the confounding factors of livelihood, community, philosophical commitments, agendas, and goals.
Frankly, the only way I could have the courage to speak out to the limited extent that I did was to distance myself from the integral community. And even then, I was forced to admit that I was stuck. I believed his accusers – but I had no way to change anyone’s mind and the only things for which there were multiple witnesses and reinforcing testimony could arguably be reduced to messy polyamory (tho later some of his defenders recanted and revealed that they were being coerced and manipulated at the very time they were defending him).
I will always wonder if there was more I could have done. A better argument I could have made. I stronger stance I could have taken with honesty and integrity.
Thank you again.
John Lamenzo says
Terry & Marc
Since I have known you for 20 years, and recognize the level of consciousness’ you carry, what did you see in MG that he had, and you didn’t?
Personally, I never met the man, never want to meet him, and if I had, I would have taken him to the woodshed for a serious ‘come-to-shakti-meeting’, a la ‘Chinnamasta Devi’ meeting.
William Harryman says
I want to thank you for this honest, unflinching look at this deeply wounded human being. Gafni has unfortunately chosen not to heal his wounding, or to even look at it objectively, but instead has perpetrated new suffering on the women who have been seduced by his charisma and his intellect – as well as the men who have worked with him, for him, or have been his students.
Gafni should not be in any position of leadership – any organization he leads will be infected with his narcissism and persecution complex.
I hope your words here will help others in the integral world (and beyond) to also take a stand about Gafni’s abuses and remove all support.
Steve Marshank says
Beautifully written and articulated Terry. This is heartfelt and cuts as sharply as Manjusri’s sword. More than heartbroken like Bill, I am more astounded that Marc has been brought inside by those who I thought were more astute than they seem to be with their actions with regard to him. While the growing vocal majority seems to be coalescing around marginalizing Marc’s influence, if not the Integral community, he’ll find another one or persist in creating his own. But getting the message? We’ll see. Time will tell. However if history is any indicator, the chances are not very good.
Michael Shingleton says
Outside looking In and the Inside looking out.
I must first be clear how I am coming out of “left field” regarding Marc Gafni. Although I heard his name associated with a sexual scandal some time ago, I immediately placed the information in a mental file called: “There are no new stories.” As I read Terry’s insightful blog, a recurring thought arose: “Why is Terry defending himself?” I recalled a story surrounding my guru Baba Muktananda regarding Swami Vivekananda, (now Brother Charles) who ran an ashram for Baba in Houston, Texas and due to his charismatic personality developed a cult following. When “Vivi” entered a gathering called an “Intensive” he organized a number of people to play guitars and sing the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun.” Those in the inner circle and others around Baba were aghast at Vivi’s audacious behavior and reported it to Baba. Baba said: “it doesn’t matter how people come to the Guru (experience their own Being) that’s important, it only matters they do.” This guy Gafni apparently opened a significant number of people to an experience of their own Being and to the Integral Life gig. Ergo, one doesn’t need to condone his actions as a sexual predator or deny his shakti. It is what it is. Somewhere between the words of Ramana Maharshi: “The only thing keeping us from the bliss of the One is the thought we are not.” and the understanding: “It is all an illusion.” is the context of the Gafni reality.
David S says
Why are you defending yourself Terry
Yes, why is Terry defending himself? I think this goes to the Heart of the matter. What was/is your mind state in this post terry?
I was really dismayed to see Integral called New Age and associated with another spiritual teacher sex scandal in the New York Times fercrisake. I knew I had compromised with something that felt unhealthy. I needed to reckon with whatever there is to learn from this as a teachable moment. I didn’t feel fully cooked on the topic so I knew I’d be working it out as I wrote. I had to take a stand for a higher moral expression of integral evolutionary consciousness. I wasn’t specifically worried about new women being victimized because I believed it when I was told that he has reigned in his sex life. But I felt the movement needed to be defended from where I stood.
And yet the one thing I was certain I didn’t have time for was to engage people in the important conversations this makes room for. So I tried to explain myself as fully as possible, to everyone, including the inevitable attackers I expected a statement like this to provoke, so I could go back to writing retreat. I was venturing out into a public mudslinging contest a little afraid for my soft “puppy belly.” That was my state of mind when I wrote this.
And now it has been critiqued and I have been learning from those who have challenged and appreciated what I wrote. And I continue to learn from what has followed my blog post. At the moment I am catching my breath.
Vera Ellen Rich says
An abuser never quits abusing. EVER. Not without INTENSE help.
Thank you, Mr. Terry Patten, for your in depth analysis. I sincerely appreciate and honor your words and intention toward healing and protecting the spiritual community.
I, however, do NOT believe Mr. Marc Gafni may have “finished sexually abusing women.” Nor finished, for that matter, with other alleged forms of emotional, spiritual, or financial abuses of both women and men. I firmly believe Mr. Gafni (like other abusers) may seek another– and yet another– experience to feed an ego for what he may perceive as control and power. Or, perhaps more accurately, his “semblance” of control and power. The “endorphins” Mr. Marc Gafni’s “experiences” may have provided his brain and body by such behavior are every bit as fatally addictive as other chemicals or actions.
I hope everyone (and I do mean EVERYONE) who now knows the name of Mr. Marc Gafni remembers to look over his shoulder now. Best case scenario, point every female in his tainted orbit to this website, let women educate themselves, and gain the opportunity to protect themselves! If choosing not to read or believe Mr. Patten’s words, they were at least warned.
I also wondered about Mr. Marc Gafni’s alleged past sexual victims. WHAT happened to filing rape charges against him? Better yet, WHY haven’t they filed ( or started) a “class-action lawsuit” against him? Lawsuits leave a nasty legal and sexual “stain” he’d always be tarnished and followed by. Not many people want to be “spiritually led” by a convicted rapist, yet another way to enforce clarity from subterfuge.
Those who can feel it “KNOW” that energies are “positively” increasing– seeming to gather more strength every day that passes. When adversity “appears” to win, that gives us opportunity to find a deeper faith, doesn’t it?
Mr. Terry Patten, thank you again for your serious, thoughtful and time consuming work. I leave your article more confident than ever that Integrated Spirituality increases every day that passes.
Reflecting the Gafni phenomenon in the integral community
Terry Patten, thank you for above reflection – and honest soul searching.
You call yourself and other leaders of the integral community “victims” of Marc Gafni, who missed out to speak up VEHEMENTLY since 2006 (or even before when he came waltzing towards Integral). these “victims” are/were integral thought leaders who are/were serially enabling (or condoning serial enabling of) notorious predatory power players (wolfs), turning the henhouse around for 30+ years.
Terry, you were a “victim” of Andrew Cohen who you have supported WAY OVER his due time once the scandals broke on him (in 1995) — and supposedly you broke with him in 2014 when the last wave of victims protesting in public drove him into a prolonged sabbatical.
Terry, you are still a “victim”/enabler of Robert Augustus Masters (an abusive cult leader in his third round and integral prince). i’ve met this guru in 1991 and tested him for 5 weeks. he failed ALL my tests till this day, but he succeeded to be marketed by the integral machine.
it took me from end 2011- mid/end 2014 to produce this web article and shadow chart on RAM http://de.spiritualwiki.org/Wiki/RobertAugustusMasters#toc10 .
simply sharing it on facebook with those who shared RAM’s entries on his fb account did the job of demoting him on facebook – he left facebook without a word of explanation — to cover his narrative and reputation gained by the integral marketing machine.
Terry, you are still in support of other victimizers (as in Robert Augustus Masters) – following the desastrous example of Ken Wilber.
I emailed him in Feb 2014 telling him that i see him enacting the role of the “victim” grandmother re-devoured by the wolf (in the henhouse). in other words, Ken Wilber, along with many many “victimized” thought leaders including Terry Patten were/are serial enablers of predatory power players.
Abusive gurus/teachers supported by Ken Wilber
Chögyam Trungpa (1939-1987) – Exposed (1975-onwards)
Adi Da [Da Free John] (1939-2008) – Exposed (1985-1986)
Genpo Roshi (*1944) – Exposed (1992/2011)
Robert Augustus Masters (*1947) – Exposed (1994/Feb 2014)
http://de.spiritualwiki.org/Wiki/RobertAugustusMasters#toc12 (presented in July 2015)
Andrew Cohen (*1957) – Exposed (1997-2013)
(Pressed by five senior students Cohen delivered a public apology and retreated from public office in June 2013.)
Marc Gafni (*1961) – Exposed (2006/2011)
Mahendra Kumar Trivedi (*1963) – Exposed (2010-2013)
(Upon notice Wilber acknowledged his premature judgement, deleted his endorsement newsletter Blog 637 and asked to have his name removed from the Trivedi Foundation website.)
Terry Patten, when will you leap away from Robert Augustus Masters, another cherished lapdog of Ken Wilber?
Terry Patten, when will you denounce the open elevating propaganda by some integral leaders (KW, JS) of a piece of DANGEROUS diabolical abuse marketed by main stream called “Fifty Shades of Grey”?
Loring Palmer says
Terry, thank you.
As a once-upon-a time student of those on the list of exposed sinners (Baker Roshi, Katagiri Roshi, Chogyam Trungpa, Andrew Cohen) I believe that the Transmission is the whole point and the personality irrelevant. Look at what these “naughty boys” were able to create and bring to this culture: they brought the spiritual revolution, Dharma, love, cooperation, communion, the New Paradigm. Let’s not get stuck on what’s wrong, according to societies’ value system. Let’s focus on the overwhelming love, the satchidananda that is here, now.
Keith Martin-Smith says
Fantastically lucid, powerful, measured, and honest. The first wholly Integral response to the scandal. Thank you, Terri, for taking the time to lead with these words.
Heinz Robert says
Thank you Terry for speaking out in such a differentiated and loving way. One of the best pieces I read so far in the last days. We have spoken about Marc when we both stopped to work with him back in 2011. In your lines above I can feel so much love and embrace for that man who has hurt many people. He might have the best intentions in his perspective and for that we can not “put him out of our heart.” I can so much comprehend his perspective and your words in the last paragraphs in Marc’s direction also touches me.
mike ginn says
Thanks so much Terry for this remarkable statement. A generous contribution to the community. It feels like you said everything there was for you to say, and made space for others to speak and be heard as well. I especially appreciate your questions, and your orientations of either/or, both/and. This is what leadership looks like.
M Thomas says
Thanks for posting your
Thanks for posting your thoughts, Terry.
Ken Rosenstein says
Responding to your thoughts about Marc Gafni
Dear Terry – Thank you so much for your thoughtful, introspective, Integral, sensitive, nuanced reflections. You ask critical questions. As a Jew and one who studied with Marc for several weeks over a year and a half prior to the revelations of May 2006 I appreciate your raising the issue of justice in Integral (which I had spoken to you about when you came to Samadhi in Newton Centre a number of years ago) and invoking the Jewish concept of teshuvah. I would urge the Integral movement to explore establishing a mechanism for adjudicating ethical issues. As I posted on Facebook on January 3 we need to have Integral with integrity. Let not Marc influence any more the value in Integral or for that matter his defenders including Ken Wilber who terms those who criticize Marc neo-Nazis. With this defense of Marc Wilber for me has lost all credibility. He above all should see Marc for who he is and the damage he has caused. Would you be able to send me Ken Wilber’s e-mail so that I may write to him? I would be grateful as I am already. My e-mail is KenRosen@aol.com. May the Integral community emerge stronger as a result of this.
Geoff Fitch says
Re: On Marc Gafni
Great post on Marc Gafni, Terry. I’ve been following this with great interest and energy. It feels like a very important moment of moral clarity (and as you say conditioned by the nuance) and you’ve done something great with it here.
Your words resonate with me very much, even if I’ve not as much first-person data. I decided some time ago to keep my distance from Marc because of intuitions of the issues to lay out here clearly. The move now among the community to take a stand like this is heartening to me. We are all learning and I have certainly my own failings and learning edge. All we can do it speak the truth as best we can and be open to listen, to learn from each other. Your statement is an exemplary.
Wout-Jan Koridon says
I wonder, to which extent do we touch upon our collective shadow here?
Terry, thanks for the encouragement and alchemy.
Judd Maltin says
Real tshuvah on his part would be to embark on a career of teaching how to spot and stop emotionally manipulative teachers. That is one possible positive conclusion and new beginning.
Jessica Britt says
Marc as our mirror, a reflection on Sexuality & Spirituality
The question of Sexuality and Spirituality is a complex one, esp. for wisdom teachers …and worthy of our reflection.
The question seems to be, not that Marc, due to all sorts of young unconscious reasons, expressed his sexuality, his need to express his aliveness, in a primitive egocentric manner that hurt others. Many of us have had such moments, the real inquiry, is how these mistakes have been digested, learned from … a ‘wisdom’ teacher, is not just some one with ‘knowledge and strong intuition, a ‘wisdom’ teacher is someone who is capable of learning, not just teaching … someone whose heart can mature through being touched and opened via sorrow, not just some one with the charismatic power of transmission, of touch…
I have followed the situation with Marc for a number of years, from various vantage points and the conclusion I have come to, taking note that Marc has received many efforts at counseling him on the issues of authority, asymmetry, boundaries, sexuality etc., These efforts, apparently ended poorly, often with excuses being made by him or his allies, as if he is a spoiled brilliant child who needs special consideration vs. a grown man. The excuses are marked by a complete lack of heart full regret, remorse or humility, the outcome of this lack, seems to have left his heart, in an immature state, without wisdom, no matter how smart, rational his mind, or alive his belly –
Of course, many of us have made youthful mistakes on the way to developing our maturity, esp. in relationship to sexuality, boundaries, relationship etc., the IMPORTANT observation, is not that Marc or any one of us, have made mistakes, but whether Marc/we have learned anything, for our immature ignorant behavior. Has something truly changed, has our self-centered ego perspective shifted. Intrinsic to the ‘veils’ of the ego view, is the inability to truly see the other. Ego cannot see/feel the reality of the other, esp. the impact on the other. Being willing to ‘feel’ our missteps, can be the very opportunity for the ego shell to crack open via the power of remorse, humility etc. Marc, no matter how smart he is, how charismatic he is, seems to be lacking in the heart full ability to feel regret, to have the capacity to see the other, let alone ‘feel’ true sorrow for the harm arising out of ego ignorance …
Love this, Terry.
Brilliantly articulated. Thank you, Terry.
Eivind Figenschau Skjellum says
Thanks Terry for your unveiling of the truth
Loved reading your words here my friend. I never trusted Marc and from the first time I laid eyes on him, I felt very uncomfortable with him. I could feel his manipulative powers and his shadow magic. The reality distortion field you describe resonates.
How did it go so far? I have some thoughts on that. One of the big weaknesses I see in the integral movement is how archetypes have been turned into a footnote. I admit I haven’t read integral texts extensively, but in what I’ve read and heard, I’ve never seen them addressed in a satisfying way.
That Andrew Cohen and Marc Gafni rose to such power inside the community IMO speaks of a wholly lacking respect for and insight into how powerful shadow complexes can become.
I believe that part of the reason why Marc could get this far is that the integral community seems to have little capacity to recognize archetypal possessions.
To me it’s clear that Gafni is caught in a very powerful shadow Magician complex.
He casts spells as you say, and I can only imagine that his need to manipulate others and to use human shields and alibis is because he has no stable sense of self.
He has a strong rising Eros – powers of the Lover – but somehow his internal King structure seems in shambles, and though I don’t know him personally, it seems also his inner warriors are completely broken.
If I should speculate, I imagine it’s related to the holocaust trauma.
If a community is archetypally ignorant, which the integral community for the most part seems to be (you’re clearly an exception) then archetypal shadow will always loom as a threat.
Let’s hope that changes now.
Thanks for your vulnerability, love and truth-telling Terry. It touched me.
Hope to speak soon
Unveiling the ugly truth about integral prince Masters
Evind wrote: >>That Andrew Cohen and Marc Gafni rose to such power inside the community IMO speaks of a wholly lacking respect for and insight into how powerful shadow complexes can become.<< Not only Cohen and Gafni had a career of abuse for 30+ years - elevated by the integral leaders and their promotion machine in the latter part. what Terry Patten and his fellow integral leaders and Stephen Dinan (Shift) have not acknowledged yet in public is that they have fostered Robert Augustus Masters' third round as a guru / cult leader. RAM may be next to be questioned in public. http://de.spiritualwiki.org/Wiki/RobertAugustusMasters#toc12
Archetypes is one way to diagnose Mr. Gafni. Another is that he has Narcissistic Personality Disorder.
I feel fortunate not to have ever encountered M.Gafni, but I have known someone in the past with similar power and charm, coupled with the complete lack of ability to understand the point of view of anyone else. I know someone now in our small town who is a pastor, and equally blind to his powerful shadow. These two men are always right. It is impossible for them to even imagine any fault could lie with them. They blame, and they punish. They are not to be trusted.
I wonder, is this curable, or is this a genetic expression like autism is? I wonder if Marc and others like him are evolutionary throwbacks to hundreds of thousands of years ago when genes that made you completely selfish were helpful in survival. When we started to form bands and tribes the survival of the group became a factor, and such ‘narcissistic’ genes were less successful. But they are still around!
I grieve for people hurt by him. I also grieve for the Integral community and hope it can survive a severely damaged reputation. Integral Spirituality still has so much to give.
Thank you Terry for your brave and honest writing. Interesting that almost no women have posted here isn’t it?
Love to you,
Jill Uchiyama says
reflections on Empathic culture
Thank you Terri, for your response to all that is happening and has happened around Marc Gafni. Being an ex student in Andrew Cohen’s community, I had spent a weekend around Marc around 10 years ago in western Massachusetts. I have thought about that time as he did a dialogue with Andrew, told stories, sang, and drank wine in front of our community- particularly in light of these newer articles.
I have held the integral community as well as so many of the evolutionary enlightenment teachers in high regard, but I feel that there is a huge crack in the very woodwork of our belief systems as more people uncover their relationships with Marc, such as you have done here. There is such an insistence on seeing this whole inquiry as “complex”, and yet I wonder, is it really? I realize the dangers of falling into cynicism, and knee jerk reactions but there are also other dangers at stake.
Recently, in my own life, I found myself personally involved with a narcissist and fell into the trappings of some of the same feelings and experience you have expressed in your article, including the disbelief that someone that could express real joy, intellect, genius even, and could uplift so many people- could be pathological beyond hope at his core. The 3 year relationship led me to an eye opening investigation into the understanding of NPD- narcissistic personality disorder- and what I discovered is that very few people, me included, really understand what this means. In fact, many therapists and professionals I have dealt with had no idea how to educate me on narcissism, let alone help me as a victim at the hands of so much manipulation. Luckily there are some powerful on-line communities that have cracked the narcissistic code and are helping people finally heal from such abuse.
For empaths and highly spiritual people, such as yourself, it is even worse. Narcissists feed off of empaths, their very existence is sustained by them. What strikes me about your thoughts on Marc and the decades of confusion around what seems, pretty straightforward abuse, is how you never give up trying to find salvation for him. Even when you have bravely concluded that you cannot associate or support Marc after having tried to help him, you cannot completely write him off or stop yourself from coming up with more ways he could move forward.
As a personality disorder, narcissism is almost never rectified, changed, or rehabilitated in a person and this is a hard fact to swallow for empaths. Certainly not someone at the level of Marc’s public face. Empaths refuse to admit this and will even see this closing of a door as cynical. As Ken Wilber references in one of his on-line videos, “love until it hurts” we want so badly to believe we can live in unity with complete monsters. We feel that if we can channel the Mother Teresa in ourselves, we will save the planet from ruin. But we do this at the expense of the victims, which we pay very little attention to in the end. Yet, the victims of narcissistic abuse suffer tremendously because most of the time, their lives are minimized in the face of a great narcissist. Their abuse gets glossed over because they loved the narcissist. Some even lose their lives to the psychological damage they undergo. Others’ voices get muffled as everyone (again) rallies around the narcissist to help them, by trying to understand their story, their head, their heart.With a case like Marc Gafni, it is far more interesting to delve into who he is, then to focus on some random women. I would like to hear their stories and have those gather far more attention than anyone else’s. But I doubt this will happen.
This is the true victimization: the ability for a narcissist to damage people, damage the very theoretical structure and philosophy people worship, and then turn the people into empaths that only hope for the survival and redemption of that narcissist.
My heart goes out to the victims of narcissists, because they are real people. Because they were manipulated, used, abused, and then their very realities were turned upside down- not only by narcissists but by empaths.
In the whole event of celebrating a known sexual abuser for decades,such as Marc, we all need to take responsibility for the holes in our own beliefs. It strikes me that we give chance after chance to a well known, public religious figure, such as Marc, the ability to prove himself after such horrendous acts have been created (as you mentioned you did when no new allegations surfaced since 2011). It is a wake up call. It is so much bigger than Marc Gafni.
As a fellow empath who was also manipulated by a narcissist, I believe it is time we reexamine our own belief system and stop denying what we already know. We, in the integral community, are not unfamiliar with psychology, and certainly narcissism should be something we know about best given all of the teachers, including mine, that fell from their post due to their shadow selves and selfishness. For all of our collective “smarts” it comes off as naive. Our first step, I believe, it to acknowledge our own naivete and blatant denial of reality. I’m glad you are taking those steps and appreciate your response.
As for Marc Gafni, I couldn’t care less -and I say that with love.
John Scheunhage says
this is such an important missing perspective
Jill, I just wanted to say a huge thanks for your comments. I couldn’t agree more with what you said, and the way you described the dynamics at work with narcissism/NPD. it’s a voice and perspective that needs to be heard more. I think the clarity and vulnerability you shared about what’s been going on with Marc, and how a community enables him, has been missing in the larger conversation. it’s a gaping hole in our cultural and therapeutic traditions to really understand and grock the depth and deep structure of the narcissistically defended personality and the havoc its capable of creating (and I am a therapist who know how much we as therapists don’t really “get it”). I feel I have only just started to get this with a few personal events/relationship and those of dear friends. the naiviety you speak of, enabled by the empathic desire for mutuality and resonance and hope, is absolutely what we have to focus on. thanks for speaking it so eloguently. It’s hard to know that until you really “get” at a deep vulnerable level how we are are taken in (as Terry so eloguently admitted) it’s hard to really unearth and hold in awareness the danger of this type of person. again, thanks for what I think has been a missing or not fully expressed perspective.
Jill wrote, “As a fellow empath who was also manipulated by a narcissist, I believe it is time we reexamine our own belief system and stop denying what we already know. We, in the integral community, are not unfamiliar with psychology, and certainly narcissism should be something we know about best given all of the teachers, including mine, that fell from their post due to their shadow selves and selfishness. For all of our collective “smarts” it comes off as naive. Our first step, I believe, it to acknowledge our own naivete and blatant denial of reality.”
Touche’, Jill! You have more practical wisdom in your pinky finger than all the community leaders combined! I found your comments shared a perspective that is stronger, deeper, and wiser than any other’s previously. Gafni, and others of his ilk, are ‘squeeky wheels’ that merit justice, not more grease. Those many lives left strewn about in the wake of these predators are who deserve the most of our attention, support, care and concern, rather than these lone, irredeemable predators.
Geoff Fitch says
I’ll echo John and Laurie in saying thank you for this. This is such an important perspective to bring forth and one I think we need to consider deeply. As another empath who has given too much to personalities like this, I have learned this lesson, in addition to my own studies of the clinical perspectives on this.
A blind spot in integral is that because everything is included, there’s a tendency to think it’s been fully included and generally the integral world suffers from the danger of a little bit of information about many things. In this case, we tend to see psychology through the lens of ‘shadow work’ and human potential roots of the broader evolutionary perspective. There’s too little appreciation of what happens when there is deeper dysfunctions and how to respond to them.
Simon Mundy says
Excellent points Jill.
Well said Jill. The presence and nature of personality disorders is a large gap in what’s left of Integral Psychology.
I’m ruefully amused that it’s STILL all about MG!
M. Garni disorder
Jill – thank you! Just a few posts before yours I responded to someone who felt we should bring more knowledge of archetypes to our discussion and my comment was Marc’s diagnosis should be narcissistic personality disorder. Yes!
I thank you for your thoughtful, but very clear proposal that we stop pussyfooting around and see abuse, and dangerous people for who they are.
Tenaya Asan says
Classic Spirit Matter Split
Marc is a classic example of the Spirit/Matter split the Saniel Bonder (Founder of Waking Down in Mutuality) speaks and writes about. We are both Divine (Absolute/Love/Consciousness/One/etc) and human and it appears to me at this time on our planet and in our evolution that we are being called to bring our Divinity/Love “down” into our humanity. It takes courage, humility, surrender and honesty to both open to Love and to face the unlove of the guard and protection we often live as humans.
I appreciate folks like Terry and Saniel Bonder who are dedicated to doing this hard work. As we evolve, those like Marc will not and can not stay in leadership. I think of Adi Da and my root teacher (a direct descendent of Adi Da) whose Heart Expression was/is so exquisitely Love and yet the human love had/has so much unexamined shadow.
Thank you Terry for having the courage to speak so honestly and with discrimination. Thank you for your dedication to Loving “down” into our humanity.
Lawrence Gold says
Balance and Discernment
So, Marc Gafni is a victimizer. That’s the flavor of the writing, despite the equivocation.
I don’t know Marc beyond a distant acquaintance, have no direct experience of the situations described, and the rest consists of the reactions of others. So I hold my opinion of how, and how much, a victimizer, in abeyance.
Attention (fame) is a great intensifier.
Shadow gets magnified. Who among us is without Shadow?
Virtues get magnified.
The combination of magnified traits may seem to some to be diabolical, the bearer of them, dangerous. It tests the integrity of those in its sphere. That’s where the larger “teachable moment” is — for those whose integrity is being tested. I like the comments from Wout-Jan Koridon and Judd Maltin, above.
Terry wrote, “I wanted to compassionately help him learn whatever he needed to learn and do his own deep work.” Well, that may have been what you wanted, Terry, but unless he asked for your help or you had earned his trust, I can understand why he remained closed to you — particularly in this kind of charged situation.
Same thing about giving him a back massage after the first scandal broke. The “eerie” tension — yes, that’s what happens when a person feels under attack. It’s called, “Startle Reflex.” It’s an involuntary fear response, a neuromuscular tension response, not a sign of “eerie” character. You can’t massage away an ongoing response.
I taste a fervent urge to distance oneself from scandal — scandal seeming to me to be the primary consideration, here — not even the damage to individuals or Marc’s Shadow material. The presumption seems to me to be that Marc’s defensiveness is a sign of entrenched and recalcitrant personality defect. Watch out for that; it may or may not be so. It may be that your views are true — but partial.
In my estimation, Marc’s strong suit is eros. That’s what’s behind prodigious productivity, persuasiveness, charisma and sexuality. The three other “suits” — agape, agency, and communion — balance excesses and correct eros when they are comparably developed and integrated. It may be that what we have seen is an imbalance among the four. In the language of somatic education, those four are attention (communion), intention (agency), memory (agape) and imagination/emergence (eros). There exists rapidly effective means for balancing them, from within, if one is willing — in which both problems and the sense of make-wrong disappear. But — as I like to say, “Ya gotta wanna.” We’ll see.
David S says
This really resonates Lawrence, do you have a reference for the somatic education piece you write about? I’m interested to read more about the four awarenesses…
Lawrence Gold says
Link to the Somatic Education piece on the Four Faculties
The Four Faculties
“The Likenesses of Well-Known Transformational Teachings and The Gold Key Release (and Other TetraSeed Transformational Procedures)”
Effective self-transformational teachings have something in common with The TetraSeed Transformational Procedures. I briefly summarize what that is.
Shayla Wright says
Marc Gafni and your blog
I just want to thank you for what you have written regarding Marc Gafni.
Your perceptions are illuminating and touching. It reminds me of the 2 interviews you did with Tom Steininger, which were very helpful for me..
I do wonder about Ken Wilber, and how he is dealing with this? He has put a lot of energy into supporting people who turn out to have significant shadows. I have not yet heard him speak about this in public. Have I missed anything?
with love and appreciation,
Ed Hirsch says
reflections on all of this
I read your blog and liked its embracing of “both/and” with “either/or.” You can honor the complexities and nuances, while also being able to draw the line. Either one of these alone would be imbalanced.
I’ve been viewing some of Gafni’s talks on You Tube, and I get a sense of Imbalance–not just in his approach, but as at least a potential shadow in the Integral approach. Of course every teaching carries its shadow, so that is not a critique, but a liability.
Gafni seems to emphasize what I call the Via Positiva–dare to be great, dare to be your full self, wake up to your magnificence, and so on (these might not be direct quotes, but they give the same message). I think that your sage advice at the end of your blog was the point of balancing with the Via Negativa–basically, surrender to Higher Power. Before there can be a genuine rebirth, there has to first be a death. First wake up to one’s nothingness, then one can authentically wake up to one’s somethingness, uniqueness, etc. Otherwise it is a set-up for imbalance and worse. Gafni might just be the poster boy for this, as a lesson for us all.
It seems to me that Gafni has taken an imbalanced journey along the Via Positiva and has fallen in love with his own image, his own voice, his own brilliance, etc. So I feel that it is more than that he doesn’t walk his talk–I feel that his own teaching is imbalanced and doesn’t serve wholeness in the way that an Integral teaching should.
Jim Willems says
Thank you Terry
That you ask yourself the direct questions about your perspective in raising these issues is for me not “defensive” but just one more indication of your transparent relationship to vulnerability. There seems to be in these posts a demand for utter perfection. It doesn’t exist. The bottom line is are we hurting people in our teaching, creating groupies, or are we pointing towards their own liberation. My experience of you is the latter. I was able to let go of important material and move towards integrating my own liberation. Gafni does not live in this world. I am sorry for the damage he does. But this work we are doing, people, is dangerous. We are on the edge of innovation and conscious transformation, and some of us f*ck up. It’s that simple.
I am in Awe Terry of your work to keep clean and straight in this work, we are doing. Thank you.
Thank you for your sincere and well written comments. And your humility. You are a better man than I.
I do take issue, however, with your suggestion to Gafni that he find himself a real master or a true teacher. This will not help him. What he needs is a therapist. Gafni is not a brilliant teacher who has been overtaken by his shadow, he is a sociopath. He doesn’t need new age wisdom, he needs a mental health professional to help him deal with his disorder. Though I hold out no hope that a therapist can provide any reversal of his condition – the defining aspect of a sociopath is their lack of conscience and therapy cannot bring one into existence – but it can help him recognize his behavior, hopefully modify it and learn to take responsibility for his actions. Gafni needs people to call him out for what he is. I understand your desire to present your comments in a balanced and even loving way, but when dealing with a sociopath, couching criticism in between praise calling him brilliant and hailing him for his “contributions” is not really helpful. In a sense, it only encourages them. This can be seen throughout Gafni’s over 30 decades of predation and victimizing. As long as he has people praising him, he can rationalize away any criticism. He has no reason to confront himself; no reason to change anything.
crow, your above comment is
crow, your above comment is brilliant. i commend it.
the cure for a sociopath/psychopath is 3-4 rounds of public exposure. this maybe the soundboard he is willing/able to take in.
as far as i know Ken Wilber suggested for MG to see a therapist for his sex addiction in 2006 and again in 2013 or so. apparently MG even went there – yet to no avail.
he needs an exorcism administered by 7-12 stable exorcists.
Cui bono ?
I am very amazed to witness a full grown witch hunt.
I do not know Marc Gafni. He clearly seems to polarize people and ignite strong reactions. He is accused of sexual abuse and mind-control. That may be true, I don’t know.
But why speak out about it publicly ? Why invite your following to chime in with the judgement ?
The gossip even.
You, as a spiritual teacher, as someone who is able to discern and act from love ?
“The egregious violations I saw firsthand were not primarily sexual. What in my experience has been most outrageously diabolical is his unique way of getting inside people’s heads and subtly casting a spell on them, and then using that influence to influence or manipulate others. ”
I would not have expected this reaction from a senior figure of the integral movement.
And I take a stand by saying: this does not feel right.
Rabbi Ori Har says
Thank you Terry for your comprehensive and honest collective and self-reflection on the MG issue.
A rift was created between the Jewish Renewal community and the Integral Community, mainly because of the lack of clear line drawing and condemnation of Marc’s involvement in the Integral circles, from Integral leaders.
As a member of both communities I, along with many others, was deeply saddened by this.
May Andrew Harvey’s letter and your blog be the beginning of a Tikkun and a healing that needs to take place between these communities.
Nathan Otto says
I super-appreciate this blog (confession, I only read half, I’ll read the rest later).
I also spoke against Marc Gafni privately — I warned my friends over and over not to be publicly associated with him or do joint projects with him. I failed in this; I wish I hadn’t.
I didn’t have the level of association with him which would lead me to feel I needed to make a choice to condemn him publicly or not — this is the first time, basically in agreement with pretty much everything you wrote here that I read.
My point: I hope that the evolving system of justice magnifies the gifts of someone like Marc, while minimizing his damage and providing a strong incentive to develop himself in his “retarded” line.
Shelly Smith says
Terry, While I greatly appreciate the level of nuance and self-revelation with which you grapple with Marc Gafni as phenomenon and as colleague, and say THANK YOU for adding another intelligent voice to the chorus of concern that is surrounding him, his actions, and his image, I am discouraged and dismayed by the laziness with which you dismiss legitimate concerns and experiences, nay traumas, that involve the abuse of power of a male spiritual leader over his female students. That you describe the necessary calling out of those leaders’ abuse of power as “witch hunts” reveals to me how little you have considered what witch hunts actually were, and how they might still ripple through our experience as spiritual women and men today. I’d encourage you to think about that more deeply, and perhaps even dare to touch the vulnerability in you that prefers to distance yourself from the experience and trauma of a young woman who surrenders herself, sexually, spiritually, emotionally, to a man with socio-spiritual stature or prestige, and who has no regard for the courage of her surrender, no reverence for her power, and no internal resources to meet her with Love. Similarly, describing the act of breaking through a curtain of silence, a curtain comprised both of personal conditioning and communal complicity, as “victimology” denies those women and men brave enough to do so the dignity and full agency of that act. You could give them that, and not lose anything, yourself, perhaps. I’d like to ask you to consider that there is more to learn and grapple with about the ways that spiritual men and women collude with structures of power based in greed, ego, and the fear of the feminine, and that nuance in this arena also, is our friend.
Corey deVos says
Terry invited me to share something I had previously posted on the Integral Global Facebook thread, as he thought it might be helpful for the overall discussion. I hope it is!
While I would never presume to speak for Ken, I can say that I find much of this anti-Wilber backlash a bit troubling — especially since Ken began distancing himself from Marc back in 2011 when all that stuff with Tami Simon was still going down. Since that time, Marc has had zero presence on any of Ken’s primary portals — Integral Life, Integral Institute (which also enforces a strict “no-Gafni” policy), KenWilber.com, or the KW Facebook group. Which means that Ken withdrew 95% of his support for Marc years ago, well before this New York Times article began to be circulated. In fact, until very recently, we were the only ones to completely exile Marc from our various projects, along with Sounds True, a full four years before these recent reports. Ken was involved with and supported all of those decisions to distance ourselves from Marc, and resisted all of Marc’s attempts to insert himself back into our part of the ecosystem — mostly, I believe, so he could expunge the black marks on his Wikipedia page.
Ken was also the first one to ban Marc from the Integral Project back in 2006. The only reason Marc got back into the door was because Ken was convinced by a number of people — Diane Hamilton, Sally Kempton, Clint Fuhs, and Robb Smith, if I recall correctly — who believed that Marc was rehabilitated and ready to be re-admitted. I know that several of those people have completely changed their minds about Marc in following years, but it’s important to remember that it was not Ken Wilber who initially decided to bring Marc back into the fold.
(You can argue about whether that was the right decision, of course — though I personally believe it was. If there is ever even a remote chance for healing and authentic redemption-through-transformation, I am generally in support of trying. As I’ve said, I am a sucker for a good redemption story, and will often give people the benefit of the doubt and allow them the opportunity to prove themselves. I look up to people like Jun Po Roshi as an incredible exemplar of how to confront my personal demons, clean the messes that I make, and allow my mistakes to bring healing to the people I have hurt while deepening my relationship with goodness, beauty, and truth. I like to believe this same trajectory is possible for any of us, regardless of the mistakes we make in life. That said, it is entirely possible I was being naive when it came to Marc, as I can definitely say there have been times that I have fallen under his “spell” — particularly in the early 2004 – 2005 days. After all, I could never be heartbroken if I hadn’t fallen in love in the first place.)
“But why is Ken still listed on the CIW website?” This is obviously a bit more tricky, and again, I cannot possibly speak to Ken’s reasoning here. But I do know that whatever is left of Ken’s relationship with Marc, it is completely dependent upon Marc’s ongoing therapy and hopes for “recovery”. Maybe Ken feels compelled to maintain some thread of a connection with Marc, as a way to track his movements and future malfeasance? Perhaps Ken feels like he is one of the only people Marc regards as an authority, and is therefore one of the only people who seems to be able to hold Marc accountable — and therefore Ken feels his relationship with Marc is actually PREVENTING future abuse? Maybe he is giving Marc just enough rope to hang himself? Or perhaps Ken has an actual personal friendship with Marc, despite Marc’s many fatal flaws, and is struggling to find a way to maintain some piece of that friendship without being overly stigmatized by “public relations” or “damaging the brand”? I don’t have a clear answer here.
I can say that, when it comes to his personal relationships, Ken ALWAYS tries to see the very best in people, and tries to do whatever he can to help them see that in themselves. This has been foundational to my own relationship with him over the last 15 years. It’s far and away one of Ken’s most endearing qualities. But it’s a quality that can also be taken advantage of, as I believe Marc has likely done over the years by feeding Ken a steady stream of propaganda about his personal and professional life. Maybe Ken does in fact have a blind spot in his heart (particularly after his seizures years ago, which certainly had a “softening” effect upon him) and Gafni has successfully colonized that hidden place. That would make some degree of sense to me, in terms of what I know about Marc’s “talents” and Ken’s vulnerabilities, and would seem to explain why Ken might retain whatever trickle of “support” for Marc that he does (along with the other possibilities I described above). But in no way does that make Ken responsible for Marc’s pathologies, at least from where I am sitting.
Jessica Britt says
regarding the Ken’s Apparent Quote in the Times article
I am not sure the source of Ken’s quote in the Times article …I have only a very distant connection to Ken and when I read the Time’s Article and Ken’s quote, I was beyond “belief” wondering the source of the quote .. the timing of the quote etc .. I wonder if Ken has been misquoted, or how he might have been taken out of context or if the quote had been dug up from a distant past.. to say that the quote _ as it stands now, does not reflect well Ken as a mature being speaks for itself … From my limited perspective it reflects poorly on Ken and Marc’s complex relationship – raising many questions, Is their relationship a friendship, a mentorship, a spiritual guide etc etc ??? Some how, I do feel, it would serve Ken and his community for him to take some responsibility for the quote, either by correcting it? explaining it?, the timing and context? .. maybe it would be well for Ken to write a letter to the Times editors placing his quote in some context .. from what I can tell, the quote is being received poorly in many corners of the consciousness field … no matter what the distancing moves have been made by ‘his’ organization, the quote stands in stark contrast to these organizational efforts.
Simon Mundy says
MG as Symptom of a process problem
Hi Terry. In my reply to Jill above I note that this is STILL about Gafni.
For me, this situation requires a broader view in which we consider the notion that a spiritual/intellectual approach which, for example, needs to regard itself as possessed of “some of the most advanced thinking” around, and to armour itself against criticism with a self-serving developmental hierarchy provides a supportive environment for Gafnis, Cohens and others.
Integral seems to me to be seduced by the word, the explanation, the model, the categories to the detriment of, if you like, the heart or the person. It ignores or avoids the necessary insight that a reliance on grandiose theorising is itself an expression of shadow. In itself, it seems to me to collectively relate to the rest of the world in ways analogous to personal narcissism.
You note that Gafni’s exaggerated flaws are, in lesser measure, part of our shared humanity. How do our theories (and the gaps therein) foster or moderate the expression of those flaws? This self-reflection is a process that integral, to the extent that it can be a reflective entity, needs to address. My personal view is that its current disembodied formulations of the complexities of human psychology/physiology/spirituality will probably make that difficult.
This may, I hope, be an evolutionarily selectional moment for integral. Sooner or later the repetitions of this type of organisational disorder must spark a realisation that integral itself fosters them.
jim willems says
On Simon’s comment
Yes Simon Mundy. This is an acute reply and speaks to the problem of human hubris no matter what the level or line of development. When there is an utter lack of humility in expression I begin to be frightened and very careful. As one who experienced the abuse of a cult when I was a young man, I have learned to be cautious about claims of superior achievement. Thank you for your wisdom.
barbara joseph says
I am a friend of the Venwoude community in Holland.
I participated in all the the Summer Festivals of Love, that were organized there ,for the past 4 years.
This last festival I trully opened my heart to “the field”…
as I happened to meet Marc personally in an eye to eye contact, something remarkable happened to me,
time and place disappeared, there was a vision of me being reunited with my grandmother who
was gassed in Auschwitz, some overwhelming love poured from my eyes into his ,while I saw
that he knew what I knew…. .this being a healing expirience that is lasting till today..
You might say, that something draw it out of the shakti being available…
Yes, he has powers, it needs mature seekers to draw the best out of it. I learned a lot later from an expirence
that gave me a lesson in how to stay in touch with reality.
My community is a very mature group of friends that is working it out and integrates all the goodness that
Thank you for sharing your
Thank you for sharing your experience
There is so much talk about the Divine Feminine, the Shakti
And we do not realize that we fear it, are terrified of it.
Because it holds the power to forgive
It indeed needs a mature being to see it, feel it and be it.
VisitorEd Hirsch says
reply to Barbara Joseph
Thanks, Barbara, for your sharing. So there is a lot of shakti there, and perhaps you’re suggesting only mature seekers should get involved with him. But let us not say, “caveat emptor,” let the buyer beware, as if all responsibility falls to the approaching seeker. There also needs to be community awareness and responsibility, and then truth-telling on Marc’s part, both to himself and to others. All of these play a part.
barbara joseph says
A lot of waves occur on the surface of my community.
if it is so, that Marc should have a diabolic influence,as is written about, they sure will know
that from first hand expierience . here lies a great challenge to do “the work” on it..
Byron Kathy for example has a very deep awakened approach to it..
it leaves us facing our beliefs…
Marc might have a certain “stile” to him, that, to us Dutch folks is not very attractive,
however the number of people that got there “act” together and got focussed in their lives are fast..
I am curious how existence will work it out .. In the end is is about transformation .
May there rest a blessing on this whole story!
Terry Patten says
Arjuna Ardagh’s excellent blog post
Arjuna captures his experience of Marc’s charm especially well. It fills in important parts of the picture:
http://arjunaardagh.com/bittersweet/ password: needtoknow
Russell Graves says
I’m beginning to think that
I’m beginning to think that “Spiritual Teacher” is as much of an oxymoron as ‘Jumbo Shrimp”, and anyone who aspires to that role or labels themselves as such is immediately slightly suspect in my mind. I’ve become cynical about them on the whole, especially the ones that seek public recognition for their role, in sort of the same way I am about preachers and politicians – sure, they might be the real deal, but they’re starting out with one strike against them that the average Joe on the street doesn’t have.
It seems that many of the integral folks in particular enable and support abusers long after far too much information has come out for such support to be warranted, and then write thoughtful and “balanced” articles distancing themselves from said abusers after the fox is long gone from the hen-house and severe damage has been done. I suspect that part of the reason these celebrity teachers are last in line to stop enabling and to warn others about abusers in their midst is self protection, not because they are abusers themselves, I don’t think that, but because if too many other members of the spiritual ‘celebrity club’ get exposed as abusers of power, narcissistic frauds and borderline sociopaths then the whole house of cards might come tumbling down. That’s a pretty addictive gig those dudes have got going for themselves, shit, they might even have to get a real job if people stopped believing they have something we don’t (besides a ton of charisma and a serious need to be admired).
I’m not saying that there aren’t many wonderful people out there who are humbly offering something authentic – of course there are and I’m so very thankful for the ones that have graced my life. I also recognize that this whole thing pisses me off greatly, and that’s a red flag that most likely speaks to some still unresolved disappointment with those universal and original “gurus” with feet of clay – mom and dad – which is, of course, what much of all this student-teacher drama is really all about.
Such an offence will not
Such an offence will not allow any responsible person to work with Marc. But his contribution should not be neglected as he had done bad offense. Anyway hard luck for him.
Martin Gifford says
Glad that you said something about Gafni. There’s so much material here in need of response, but I will keep it to these quick points:
1. You claim that Gafni is abusing Integralism. I would say that Integralism has been using Gafni to win followers and to publicise integralism. Ken Wilber’s support of Gafni is just like previous popes’ support of pedophiles, i.e. not rocking the boat, using him for expanding the congregation, using doctrine to miraculously convert evil into good and to promote the cause (whereas the church launches the confession and forgiveness story, Ken said that Gafni did an integral inventory of himself and he grew which shows the power of integralism, etc).
2. Gafni is Integral’s shadow. Gafni is full of flowery complexities and expansions based on unproven assumptions and unjustifiable interpretations of experience. This activity is a distraction away from the real issues, which nobody on the world wants to focus on. So much easier to drift off into fascination with ideas, states, and idealism, with all the accompanying pretensions, than to look at where you are.
3. The reason integralism is partly a victim of Gafni is that integralism is ignorant of the basics and holds similar unquestioned assumptions. Having no grasp of the basics means that integralists have nothing outside of flowery ideas to anchor an alternative viewpoint. It’s a swamp of inclusivity.
4. You suggest that Marc should find a real teacher. This seems as impossible as you finding a real teacher. Neither of you even have that remotely on your radar. You are both immunised against reality. You both already think you are far advanced. My experience of people like Gafni is that their entire momentum is visionary and moving towards an imagined ideal future rather than first understanding the starting place. As Andrew Cohen would say, “No time for that!”
5. Ultimately, everybody is perfectly innocent, and that includes Gafni. The problem is that the whole world is deluded, and it takes a virtual miracle to extricate oneself from it. So even dramatically facing seemingly profound issues such as Gafni’s immorality is ultimately just another distraction.
Janet Lewis says
MG and integral grief
I only just read this post Terry. Thank you for such considered, deeply reflective, personally vulnerable communication. I am also wondering about Gafni as Integral’s shadow. Think about what is carried in the ‘ spirit ‘ of the Holocaust. Are we collectively failing to be engaged in processing it? What are the contours of integral grief? This feels connected to our ‘reckoning’ as you say with climate destabilization.
You were duped.
Marc is narcissist sociopath. Whet you described about your attempts to help with him introspection and his constant focus on his own victimhood, are all text book narcissism. Moreover, you description of is charisma and charm reaffirm this. Narcissists can be VERY charming. Narcissists only feel their own pain. He can only feel the pain of ‘narcissistic injury’; the humiliation of everyone knowing who he really is and the de-throning of his ‘leader’ status.
I don’t know you, but learning about you from this piece you wrote, you approached him with compassion and understanding. You are the exact type of person who narcissists prey on, and use as their narcissistic supply. Rather than using you ability to relate, empathize and sympathize with the real victims, you found compassion for the serial predator.
Knowing now that you are more susceptible to being manipulated by narcissists (because of your ability to empathize on a deeper level), watch out for yourself in the future. I hope you take the time to read about narcissism, so you never fall for another one again.
Best of luck,
Russell Graves says
Well said, Ila.
“Rather than using you ability to relate, empathize and sympathize with the real victims, you found compassion for the serial predator.”
Yes, yes, yes! It’s stunning how narcissistic predators often end up with more time and attention being spent on their behalf than their victims. It’s true that narcissistic predators like Marc are tragic figures who have a disease that is out of their control, and that they need and deserve help. But, if a narcissistic predator even somehow comes to seek help, leave that to qualified professionals and let out time, attention and compassionate aid flow to the many who have been harmed and are ready and waiting to receive it.
Ronald Bell -- Rev. PC(USA) says
ARTICLE LIKE INFECTED TONSILS
I just read this, along with many comments, a few minutes ago (9/3/17) and am aware than since it was written, scores of reputable folks and leaders have thoroughly looked into and investigated the matter and concluded that Marc Gafni WAS a victim of orchestrated malice and false-fact rumors and stories.
Terry’s essay is eloquent, in itself (not unlike Mark) and charming in its own right, but seeming without real established facts and therefore (whether intended or not) contributes to fuzziness and the unfortunate victimization and persecution of Marc Gafni.
Marc’s personality may include a higher dose of WRIT LARGENESS, energy and enjoyment of visibility than most, but the easy ascribing of shadow/sinfulness/unrepentance, etc. and DSM disorders to him may represent projection, envy and jealousy more than anything resembling real facts or reality.
Overall Terry’s article reminds me of infected tonsils, originally designed to be protective in nature, but which has become a carrier of the the disease itself.
Who was the old TV detective who kept saying: “Give me the facts, maam, just the facts.”
I’m not getting facts in this article, but they do exist, along with affirming testimonies on Marc’s behalf.
Folks need to take the time, research and become updated with the facts.