Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Robb Smith's Response to the Marc Gafni Situation


Robb Smith is the CEO of Integral Life, he was one of the small group of people who chose to believe Marc Gafni's retelling of the events that occurred in Israel in 2006 (along with Diane Hamilton, Sally Kempton, and Clint Fuhs) - and in Gafni's version he was the victim, not the students and co-workers with whom he had been having simultaneous affairs.

At the time, I was the lone integral blogger arguing against Gafni being welcomed back - or if he was to return, that he not be allowed to teach in public or take private students. No one listened. Last summer I called him out on the plagiarism issue (here and here), and he weaseled his way out of that one, leaving Diane Hamilton to take the blame that squarely fell on him.

Now, as I detailed yesterday, Gafni has once again proven himself to be the man all his ex-wives (three, read this from the third wife), ex-lovers, and the eight or more organizations that have fired him have always argued him to be.

I called on Robb, as one of the people responsible for bringing Gafni back into the public realm to make a public statement, and he has - not as strong as it could be, in my opinion, but more than I expected. Gratitude for that.

He began with this at his Facebook page:
Today we have been called to listen and can hear wounds calling out for healing. Please don’t be afraid. Where our deepest dreams and self-held aspirations meet our most profound yearning for communion lives an awesome opportunity for awakening to our true nature. May all my friends, and any who see me as an enemy, experience the ecstatic embrace of our only one Self. All who weep in sorrow, I stand with you, I gently hold your hand that divine bliss can heal your heavy heart. Where there is suffering let us face it together. Let us be here now. And let us answer the suffering by listening ever more loudly. Let us sing together in joy. Let us infuse our hearts with the joy that fuels compassion. Let us be the only Joy that heals all wounds. Rama bolo, rama bolo, bolo ram.
That's nice, and fluffy, and, well, nice. But at Integral Life, where it matters since he is the CEO, he was a little more serious.
Where I Stand
Posted September 13th, 2011 by Robb Smith


Dear friends:


I found out about Bill Harryman’s allegations against Marc Gafni about 3 weeks ago. Though I was surprised that, like those of 5 years ago, they involved the intersection of sex and manipulation, at Integral Life we have for the past year been separating our activities from those of Marc. Our separation over the past year obviously did not derive from this recent scandal; long ago it became clear to us that we moved through the world in very different ways. Integral Life and Integral Institute have discontinued support of Center for World Spirituality and almost a year ago we decided to make ISE 3 our last year as a partnership with I-Evolve.


After talking directly to Tami Simon about the recent situation, it was clear to me that Integral Life was a bystander to the recent allegations and couldn’t make a preemptive or unilateral statement involving a situation in which we weren’t involved. But, as I described to Tami, I am tired of running to the scene of a fire and finding a spiritual teacher holding matches. I will not stand by and let Integral Life’s community (and integral theory’s reputation in the world) die of smoke inhalation. I just will not let our organizations be associated with this kind of reckless controversy. We aren’t big on wielding power unnecessarily but we will keep fire starters away from our home.


In a conversation with Diane Hamilton yesterday she pointed out that perspectives are limitless but that action is singular and concrete. So although the Integral Life team has taken many perspectives on this situation, we stand by our actions. They include the following.
  • By mutual agreement with I-Evolve, Integral Life has assumed full control and responsibility for ISE 3 as of last week. We’ve already established an awesome new event leadership team and will be announcing the new design in coming weeks. (Suffice it to say that everyone on the team is ecstatic that the event will refocus on Ken Wilber’s unique architecture of creativity as a living praxis in our lives.)
  • We have removed Marc’s contributor pages on Integral Life as we prepare to migrate the site to its new design in coming months.
  • I have asked that a formal “Policy of Ethics” be put in place for all contributors to Integral Life by end of Q1 2012.
When I wrote on Facebook this morning that I appreciate Bill Harryman’s contribution to this community I really meant it. I think Bill is right to call me to account for my rationale of inviting Marc Gafni back into the community 3 years ago. I see his point and believe that I understand it. As of right now I don’t hold tightly the idea that it was the right call. But I think it was. Just as the justice system is designed to let ten guilty men go free rather than allow one innocent man go wrongly sentenced, I insist on first-hand experience that I can stand by in my judgment of someone's character. I have it, and have acted on it.
Read the whole statement.

I appreciate that Robb has made a public statement - and if anyone had been talking to the victims in the first place and taking their perspectives into account, people may have gone to Robb with the information that I ended up posting.

BUT, no one trusts integral leadership to the right thing when one of their own is involved.

If II and IL had stayed with Ken Wilber's original assessment (i.e., Marc's illness) and not been sucked in to Gafni's rationalizations and twisting of the truth, none of this would have happened, at least not in the integral world. 

7 comments:

Liz said...

It's good as far as it goes. I disagree that he made the right decision 3 years ago, or that we need to "let ten guilty men go" in order that one innocent one will go free. Teachers MUST adhere to higher standards. They are in positions of extraordinary power, and therefore the burden of proof is on them to prove they are worthy of that power.

Many women have suffered because of this man. This is no isolated incident, nor was it 3 years ago. Where is the apology from Robb? I see none. He is culpable, no matter how small his part in it. How hard is it to say, "I'm sorry"?

This is locking the barn door LONG after the horses were let out. Integral Life is not trustworthy, period.

Mark said...

Bill,

Why try to vindicate Wilber in all of this? Don't squander the integrity you've shown by going weak-kneed before a different guru.

Wilber claimed that he reviewed all the evidence, spoke to all the key players "directly or indirectly," and determined that all charges against Gafni were "categorically false," which means that every single woman who had testified against Gafni was lying in every detail. He even obliquely compared the accusers to neo-Nazis. Do you think that was "compassion" and "skillful speech"?

Wilber wasn't "a good king" deceived by his evil advisors. What he wrote was sloppy and grotesque, smearing Gafni's accusers in absolute terms in order to offer Gafni an absolute vindication. Wilber is responsible for his words. Given that he hasn't taken responsibility for his words in over a decade, it's unlikely that he will now, but he has that option. Like anyone, he's free to try and win back his lost respect. But make him earn it. Don't give it away for free.

MC JDub said...

Hi Bill, I know its a little lonely over here at integral-options. Thanks for your continued coverage - keep up your efforts. I know its divisive, and provokes strong reactions - but I really believe that our community needs journalism and you are filling that need right now. I know many will interpret your actions as hateful and spiteful, but I don't think they are. I think you are committed, like me, to seeing our community learn to cope with allegations and actions like this. I'm still a long way from knowing what the best way of coping is, but someone has to bring things up and research things to the extent possible. Keep it up.

Your friend,

John Wagnon.

WH said...

Thanks John and Liz - none of this happens without the support of friends such as yourselves, so I am appreciative!

Mark,

I don't exonerate Wilber, but I will bet that Kempton and Gafni wrote that letter (some of the phrases, like "fig leaf," are identical to some in the post Gafni left at Integrales last year) and Ken simply went along with it.
He bears that guilt for all of this, as well, for either allowing his name to be used or for turning a blind eye to the real evidence, rather than the nonsense Gafni and Kempton constructed.

Mark said...

Bill,

Thanks very much for you position on this.

I appreciate that you're alert to the rhetorical games that will be played and are determined not to back down.

Anonymous said...

it seems to me that if one cannot ascertain that he is a charlatan after a few minutes of contact with him-then he becomes your predator and you must live by law of the jungle.
IMO it does not require 'prophecy' to see who he is just look and listen.

Vicki Polin said...

Prior to Gafni’s abusive behavior at Bayit Chadash (back in the 1980s), Mordechai Winiartz (AKA: Marc Gafni, Mordechai Gafni), sexually assaulted two teenage girls. At the time, Judy who was one of the teenage girls ask for help. The response from modern orthodox community associated with Yeshiva University in which Gafni was involved, did what they thought was best -- and chased him out of town.

Back in 2004 the story of the teenage girls went public. The response by many was to shoot the messenger of the dangers of Marc Gafni. Rabbis Saul Berman, Joseph Telushkin and the rest of their gang went on a vicious attack against anyone associated with The Awareness Center. Berman’s gang member Rabbi Arthur Green, wrote the notorious letter to the editor of the Jewish Week (Abhorrent Column). Green called those of us who were attempting to protect others from being harmed a “rodef”. A person who meets the definition is subject to death.

“He has been relentlessly persecuted for those deeds by a small band of fanatically committed rodfim, in whom proper disapproval of those misdeeds combines with jealously, anger at his swerving from Orthodoxy, and a range of other emotions.)”



The denial of Berman, Telushkin, Green is no different then those at Bayit Chadash or those connected to the world of Diane Hamilton. The reality is that Gafni has been chased out of many different communities over the years -- and the odds are this sexual predator will not be stopped. His modus operandi is to seek out and sexually manipulate beautiful, brilliant woman. After he is caught he lays low for a few years, during which time he recreates himself and professes his innocence and tells his new community that he is wrongly being accused, even though in the past he confessed to clergy sexual abuse against two teenage girls and many adult women.