Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Why Is Marc Gafni Featured in 3 Sessions at the 2010 Integral Theory Conference? #itc2010 [Comments Reopened]

[8-8-2010 - comments are now reopened - Additional thoughts added at the bottom]

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[UPDATE 2:
The conference organizers have asked that this thread be closed at this point. They do so from the perspective that representatives from both sides of a controversial issue have been able to express their views, which they feel is important. And from the perspective that there are more appropriate places for these perspectives to continue to air their differences. This request was made by them out of a commitment to keep the energy of the conference focused on the development of academic discourse.]

I agree and am cool with this - we can take it up at later date in a less adversarial forum.

[UPDATE: I have been asked by conference organizers to remove the link to and quotes from Marc's paper - it was never intended for publication or public use. Marc owns copyright and without his permission, posting it is a violation of trust.
I apologize for not checking with organizers about this before resharing the link. I have also been asked to include the letter of support from Sally Kempton and Ken Wilber - it is in the comments.

MY STANCE: I do not want the conference to be overshadowed by this issue. I stand by my criticisms, but there are many wonderful presenters and people at this conference. Let's have fun and enjoy the learning.

Following the conference, we can take this topic up again, and perhaps do so in a more compassionate way - I was wrong to make this the first post on the conference.

I would to like to return our focus to sharing and learning. Thank you for your passion about this, and your understanding.]


As many readers may already know, I am the official blogger for the 2010 Integral Theory Conference this weekend at JFK University. Although the conference does not begin officially until Friday, I am beginning my blogging efforts today.

Having looked at the schedule pretty closely to see what I will be missing as I blog the events Mark and Sean want to highlight, I noticed that Marc Gafni will be speaking in three separate sessions (one of his own), but there was no paper posted in the list of presenters. I figured he may not have submitted a paper, or it had not been received yet.

What I didn't figure was that he had submitted a paper, and that it is horribly written (not the slightest bit of editing), and that far from academic, it is little more than a self-justification (in his own mind) for his history of sexually inappropriate relationships with students.

An anonymous reader of this blog left a comment on an earlier post about the conference and provided me a link to the article (which has subsequently been removed from the ITC site - and with good reason).

Here is the comment that was left, with the original PDF link to Gafni's article (removed) (because this was left as a public comment on the blog and not sent as a personal email, I am assuming I can repost it here) - nothing ever disappears completely in cyberspace:
I’m curious if you’ve had a chance to read the paper Marc Gafni submitted for the conference, entitled “Spiritually Incorrect: Sex, Ethics and Injury.” Rather than a clear, academic presentation of Integral theory, it’s 32 pages of rambling self-justification for his sexually abusive behaviors, attacks on the women who spoke up against him, distortions of Kabbalistic teachings presented as means to defend himself, and quotes by so-called “power feminists” aligned with his perspective. Also included is the suspiciously repetitive insistence that now that he’s partnered with Mariana Caplan, he’s completely monogamous.

His writing reveals that, if nothing else, this is a man who is using his teaching platform to promote his own self-serving and warped agenda.

According to the posted schedule, Gafni will be presenting three times at the conference.

You’ve been so good about raising public concern about questionable spiritual teachers; there are many of us who are profoundly grateful for your articulate voice of integrity! So I thought you might want to be alerted to this recent example of the inappropriateness of this brilliant yet disturbed and dangerous man being presented as a leader in the Integral world.

For some reason Gafni’s name and paper no longer appear with the list of presenters on the ITC website (hmmm, curious), but here’s a link to the paper if you’re interested:

I downloaded the article and have read it (well, skimmed it after the first several pages - it was too garbled to read closely).
I read the article all the way through - painfully.

At one point, Gafni "critiques" the work of Glen Gabbard and Peter Rutter - explicated in Rutter's book, Sex in the Forbidden Zone: When Men in Power - Therapists, Doctors, Clergy, Teachers, and Others - Betray Women's Trust. He suggests that this book is filled with "absolutist language" about relationships with clients - “absolutely never,” “Never at all,” and “There are no exceptions whatsoever” (p. 12).

With his history (The Awareness Center has been tracking his sexual misconduct for years, although the main page they had on him is now missing), one might guess he would not enjoy that book at all. On the other hand, I have not read the book, so maybe it sucks.

Yet, ALL of the ethics boards for therapists condemn and prohibit sexual relationships with clients, including the APA, ACA, ISPA (school psychologists), NBCC, and nearly every other ethics body - including the American Association of Pastoral Counselors.

Gafni's argument in opposition to this collective body of wisdom is this (by the way, this is one of the clearer passages) (quote deleted): the codes are amber fundamentalism, little more than dogma. And he concludes that even Jung transgressed these codes. Further, the authors he cites believe a therapist needs little more than 1-2 years of rehabilitation before returning to practice/

It is not coincidental that Gafni spent two years doing "therapy and inner work," at least according to him, after his "incident" in Israel.

If we ignore his use of the psychoanalytic model to explain transference (this is not accurate for most other models of therapy, including contemporary versions of psychoanalysis), we can focus on his real objection - the book is not based in integral theory. Yet he latches onto the one element of the book, one might assume, that justifies his continued role as a teacher - that one who transgresses can be rehabilitated.

When he first returned to public life after his "rehabilitation," Gafni tried to convince members of the integral community, including me, that if one takes an integral view on his behavior, he did nothing wrong - I am convinced he sincerely believes this to be true. But claiming an integral context does not make it right - nor does claiming an unconventional lifestyle.

Here is the real crux of his argument, however - it's the women's fault he had sex with them. (quote deleted) Their shadow use of power is equally to blame for what happened.

So far, we have two main points - (1) you have to be integral to understand his sexual relationships with students, and ethics code forbidding such relationships are simply dogmatic, and (2) his relationships are outside the conventional paradigm for what is acceptable, and blaming them on his "masculine" shadow while ignoring the feminine shadow is more dogma.

I have no doubt that the women played a substantial role in what happened - these were not rapes, they were inappropriate relationships with students. In this situation, it is the teacher who is SUPPOSED TO KNOW BETTER and do the right thing. He has failed many times in this regard.

This next passage could almost be a quote from Warren Farrell, another friend of Wilber, except that Farrell would likely not be citing feminists of any kind (deleted) - he references some feminists who have critiqued the tendency toward women filing false rape/assault charges against men. In general, they are solid writers and thinkers, but I wonder how they might like be referenced by Gafni in this context.

The interesting thing about Gafni is that some of what he says has merit - some women do have sexual relationships with men and then try to hurt them with claims of abuse and harassment when it ends, and men do use their power to coerce women into having sex with them sometimes. Both of these are shadow material acted out in real time.

If one does not read this stuff with a critical ear, it's easy to get snowed by his arguments in defense of his own actions, which is all this "paper" amounts to. He has submitted a 32 page paper in defense of being sexually inappropriate with students - AND he gets to present this at the Integral Theory Conference.

I know some people involved with the conference raised their objections to his presence - and I also know that Gafni and Wilber have been friends for many years, not to mention that Sally Kempton and Diane Hamilton both support him for some strange reason I cannot conceive.

I'm sure this will not win me any friends among conference organizers, but now you know what Gafni will speaking about and you can read the paper in advance - so use that time to go see someone else.

For example, Dustin DiPerna will be speaking about spiritual development from an integral perspective, Marilyn Hamilton will be speaking on integral meshworking for resilient environments, and Dan O'Conner will be speaking about integral praxiology, an integral science of human action (I'll be blogging this one).

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UPDATE: 8/8/2010 - Comments Reopened

In the time since this post went up, I have received a LOT of email from people sharing their perspectives on all of this - some of whom have been among Gafni's "partners."

I have been warned that the reason other sites have removed their posts on Gafni's sexual history and allegations of coercion is that his method is to dig up dirt on people and then "convince" them to pull the posts/articles. His other approach, as he has done with The Awareness Center and with Luke Ford is to discredit them very publicly with material from their past (like chasing like, I suppose) - I guess I have that to look forward to if I continue to raise ethical issues.

For the record: I did a LOT of drugs and alcohol in my past - I was promiscuous, though not while in relationships - I did some "time" as a teenager for growing my own weed, vandalism, minor in possession, and a few other petty crimes - I was once a {shudder} a Republican (briefly), and for a couple of years I was a Communist - I have written some really terrible poetry - oh yeah, and this will be news to some people and not to others, I am bisexual.

OK, then - have at it.

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I did not get to attend any of Marc's presentations - Sean and Mark kept me as far away as possible. I did hear from those who attended Mar's solo session that there was no question and answer period after his sermon - his was the ONLY session where this was the case.

So much for open inquiry in the integral community.


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