Saturday, July 12, 2008

Marc Gafni Update & A Confession/Apology

For those of you who may have come here looking for my recent post on the current situation with Marc Gafni, which I had found at another blog, it is temporarily pulled from public viewing.

I received a phone call from Gafni today, asking for the opportunity to speak with me about the allegations so that I might willingly pull that post, in which I labeled him an abusive guru, and feel that I have done so with integrity.

I am more than willing to grant his request. However, I asked to do it via email so that there is a written record of the conversation (I lack the know-how or the tools to do it via phone even I wanted to). I am awaiting his reply.

Since receiving the phone call, I have read the recent material in his defense -- Trial by Internet -- posted at The Catalyst. I have also read the newest public statement at his blog. Let's just say that I remain skeptical.

However, I was talking with my closest friend about this situation. What I have realized is that based on some things that happened to my sister when she was young, and to some friends in college, I ALWAYS side with the victim in sexual misconduct/abuse cases. I have little sympathy for the accused, and barring obvious evidence to the contrary, am often all too ready to condemn.

In this case, Gafni confessed at the time. Adding credence to the confession was Ken Wilber's statement at the time (which I believe has been pulled from Wilber's blog). Gafni now says he confessed while in a state of shock:

My initial response emerged from a place of radical shock, confusion, trauma, and fear. All products of the mind’s illusion, yet painfully real at the time.

Though at the time I was not thinking clearly about this, in retrospect I realize that the decision to write the letter was driven by several factors.

I felt that as “Captain of the Ship” I needed to take responsibility for any sickness that appeared in a system that I had created. I also recognized that my bohemian personal life had made me vulnerable to attack. Though I had sincerely believed that I had a right to a private life, it seemed clear that the unconventional nature of my personal relationships could not be held ’safely’ even in the alternative spiritual culture of the movement I headed, and that they had put my work at risk.

I also found the notion of engaging in a sensationalist conflict in the public realm so abhorrent and defiling to my spirit, and the experience of personal betrayal so painful and devastating, that I preferred to fall on my own sword. I believed that writing the letter would, in some measure, end the attacks, and give me time to heal and think things through.

Finally, I had simply been blind-sided by the speed and incomprehensibility of these events.

Sounds reasonable, but this also comes two years after the fact. After fleeing Israel and keeping a very low profile.

I want to give this man a chance to defend himself, but my bullshit detector is going off.

Anyway, so yes, I assumed him guilty as charged based on the confession and other information at the time.

However, I am a pretty damned flawed human being -- what right do I have to pass judgment? And by repeating those allegations here I am indeed passing judgment. Gafni (in his phone message) said that my post was coming up second on Google searches for his name, ahead of his own blog, and that this was causing him and his family considerable hardship and grief.

Part of me wants to say, "Damn right asshole."

But where is the compassion in that? As a Buddhist, I sometimes think, WWBD? (What Would Buddha Do?) For that matter what would Jesus do? Neither man would condemn another person, but neither man would tolerate self-deception nor passing off sexual abuse as the "unconventional nature of my personal relationships," or a "bohemian personal life."

I currently don't know what the truth is. If Gafni agrees to an on-the-record exchange with me, and in doing so I will be as fair as humanly possible, then I will report it here.


Hokai said...

This isn't only about Gafni or even about what happened, but also about the nature of information available on Internet. This is also about Vicki Polin, the self-proclaimed guru-buster, and Luke Ford, a porn industry gossip blogger, as the sidebar to the article in the Catalyst, entitled "On the 'net: Lies Live Forever" by Jeff Bell makes the case. Now, what you and I have written (both two years ago and now) is based mostly or solely on what we found on the net. Even without being biased to the alleged victim, and against the alleged abuser, and unwilling to ask about the details of the alleged events and the nature of relationships in which they took place, still the information came from terrible sources. And some of those are still high up in google searches on Gafni. Will they remain there forever? Has an accusation become sufficient to ruin someone's reputation, just like that, and create a lasting prejudice?

william harryman said...

Hey Hokai,

I get the ethical issues involved in this, but Gafni is cultivating a public image again through his blog and PR offensive against those who post anything about the allegations. He is inviting comment and criticism.

In my review of the info available, both from the initial offense and the recent resurfacing of this guy, I think there is sufficient cause to believe he is a manipulator who takes advantage of his intellect and charm in inappropriate ways. His explanation of why he confessed doesn't hold water -- it's typical behavior of an abuser who gets caught then figures a way to weasel out of it.

Maybe he has committed no crimes (though if he returned to Israel I think he would be arrested), but he should not be teaching or working with females in any way.

I've offered him a chance to convince me otherwise, but I have my doubts that he will do it. If I had agreed to the phone conversation, he might have been able to charm me into seeing his view -- not so easy via email.

We'll see what happens.


Anonymous said...

I find it inappropriate for this guy to have contacted you at home. Fortunately (or unfortunately Ganfi my feel), we have freedom of speech on the net. I have worked with some well known individuals who have confessed to inappropriate sexual relationships and I witnessed how hurtful untrue comments on the internet can be. However, the individuals I worked with were taking responsibility for their actions. Mr Gafni can say his side on his own blog or leave a comment on yours.

His behavior suggests criminal thinking and appears to be quite manipulative. He admits to having relationships that were unconventional and then when it blows up on him he can't take responsibility for his part in it. Instead he wants to play the victim here and his therapist blames the women involved for their victim mentality. As a therapist is it inappropriate for her to comment on the victims, unless she has worked with them. I wonder what her experience is with sex offenders and criminals in general. Having worked with this population, there are many, many ways therapists can be manipulated unless they are specifically trained. I am suspect of the whole thing. Plus, it seems to be Mr. Gafni creating more drama, not just in his life, but in yours.


Anonymous said...

I think it would be interesting for everyone to read the following article that came out last week by JTA and was just published in a Jewish newspaper.

Anonymous said...

Please do not let Gafni charm and manipulate you as he’s been able to do to so many others. I am close to four of the women he was involved with, and have spoken extensively to many others who have been in his inside circle; I can guarantee that the public accusations against him are the tip of the iceberg of the serious trauma and abuse he has created and continues to perpetuate.

The one thing Gafni’s current supporters share is that not one has spoken first-hand with those who are aware of what really happened; all have been hoodwinked by his self-serving lies and manipulations. Those who do know the inside story realize that he is a narcissistic con artist who habitually exploits people for his own ends, but then uses his agile mind and charm to convince others of his supposed innocence. He has been doing this for decades, scandal after scandal after scandal…and there have been many more than have been reported on the Internet.

Because the women he abused and exploited (far more than the three who went to the police in Israel) have, for the sake of their own healing, decided to move on with their lives and not publicly share their (appalling) experiences – which, by the way, have nothing to do with romantic hurt and jealousy as Gafni would like people to believe – he is feeling free to fill the gap with his distorted version of events. But the truth will catch up to him, as it always has.

Plus, I believe that any teacher who distorts spiritual teachings as a means of defending his own lack of integrity – just check out the writings on his ridiculous website – is going to be hit by some pretty serious karmic payback. You don't mess with the Divine Feminine! May he experience the gift of TRUE, not pseudo humility, and may the world be protected from his predations.

william harryman said...

Thanks for sharing that Heather -- I learned my lesson this past weekend.

I have moved on from the situation, but if you and others have something to say, I hope you will get your story out.

May all involved find healing.


Anonymous said...

A No-Spin Perspective on Marc (Mordechai) Gafni?

The reappearance and self-defense of Marc Gafni in Salt Lake City, Utah and on his website, after two years from the controversy and his ouster from Bayit Chadash in Israel presents the spiritual public with the question as how to evaluate the appropriateness of a spiritual teacher. I think if we stick to a minimalist definition of the available facts and exercise a further minimalist definition of wisdom the answer will present itself.

What are the minimally relevant facts available about Marc Gafni?

1. He acknowledges that he has been divorced 3x
2. He acknowledges that at the age of 19 he had a physical relationship with a girl of 14 which is illegal.
3. He has acknowledged recently being involved in sexual relationships with his students and staff and has further acknowledged that this was ultimately harmful, unethical and misguided.
4. His spiritual teachings place a significant emphasis on Eros, Sexuality, Paganism and the Divine Feminine.
5. He has a well developed intellect, is articulate, prolific, accomplished, charismatic, spiritually committed and has spiritually inspired thousands of people.
6. He has been ostracized as a teacher from both the Orthodox community from which he developed to the Jewish Renewal community which in Israel he was a leading member.
7. There are a lot of unanswered questions that will likely remain unanswered with any credible degree of veracity via a court of law secular or rabbinic.
8. There are a sizeable amount of negative rumors as to what transpired sexually over the last 20 some years which will never be proven as fact or fiction.

In keeping to what is undisputed fact I have tried to steer away from what is called perspective or in modern parlance spin. Obviously, the above facts can be spun in a way to see Marc Gafni in the most positive light possible and likewise they can be spun to see him in the worst darkeness. Let us suspend our spin faculty, those of his enemies as well as those of his defenders as we are all not in a position to determine whether either of these spins are in fact true, false or somewhere in between. What are we left with?

I think that with the above fact profile the following assessment can be made without resorting to spin:

1. Marc Gafni has an established inability to maintain a marriage
2. Marc Gafni from a relatively early age has expressed in one incident a disregard for law religious or secular when sexuality was involved.
3. Marc Gafni engaged more recently in unwise, self and other-destructive sexual behavior with persons profesionally close to him.
4. Marc Gafni has expressed a radical shift in regards to his spiritual and sexual path changing from an Orthodox (Married) Rabbi to a Jewish Renewalist (Self- Proclaimed Bohemian.)
5. In the context of the above issues in relation to sexuality and marriage that Marc Gafni’s has demonstrated over his lifetime, emphasis on these sexual, feminine and pagan aspects of spirituality and in areas of Judaism like Kabbalah are of significant concern as they in the wrong minds can easily be misinterpreted and distorted in a way that supports and justifies a person’s neurotic character and self- deceptions.
6. None of the wisdom and spirituality however profound and insightful contained within any of the several books, articles, workshops, retreats, PBS special etc… has prevented Marc Gafni from destroying his life and career if judged by the ability to engage in fulfilling committed familial relationships, having sustained success in a career and be considered an upstanding and psychologically healthy member of societies of which he has chosen to be a part of.

The appropriateness of Marc Gafni as a spiritual teacher will not be fought in the institutions of Orthodox or Jewish Renewal communities where he is a matter of fact a pariah but rather in the hearts and minds of individuals and smaller teaching environments where his background is either not known or is presented with his portrayal of events taken as fact. The above communities and many individuals when taking a look at such a profile let alone what is out there rightfully or wrongfully on the internet and given that the most recent episode was only two years ago would generally be cautious.

However there is a legitimate question which is that, “Given, that we understand that we are dealing with a highly complicated and seriously flawed individual and we are aware of how his issues have expressed themselves, is it still not possible to learn from him and just be mindful of what we need to be mindful of?” On the surface, the answer to that question is yes, in particular the more developed and knowledgeable one is. There is as well a Talmudic precedent for that as well in Rabbi Meir’s attempted discipleship from Elisha Ben Abuyah where he.” Ate the fruit and discarded the shell”.

However, given that this would involve both a correct and a fairly high estimation of one’s own spiritual and intellectual development and knowledge and as well a precise evaluation of the exact arenas and magnitude of Marc Gafni’s distortions perhaps it would be wise to be more conservative and take a lesson from a quality that Marc Gafni has yet to embody or teach which is caution and care for one’s self.

I would also add that the whole premise that one can separate who a teacher is as a personality and character from their teaching on higher levels of spirituality is completely false as the entire function of spiritual teaching is the transformation of self. This unless you believe that you can be at once enlightened and yet self- destructive in the extreme and hurtful of others. Personally I have no ability or desire to fathom this.

It is lastly necessary to point out that Marc Gafni is far from unique in his issues and that whether it be within the Orthodox Rabbinate, The Jewish Renewal Rabbinate and the Eastern paths there are all too many examples of Rabbis and Gurus with fallen personalities with at times elevated and wise souls and the stories all sound more or less similar to what we are hearing with Marc Gafni.

One of the unfortunate aspects of this genre of a teacher is that there is a tragic combination of a teacher’s perception of needing to make a living through his teaching, the teachers neurosis being wrapped up in his teaching, the perception that his teaching fills a great need and often the inspired and empathic students who encourage him on and often rally to enable him or in their view support him. I have never heard one happy ending to such a set and setting when the teacher had such a background as that of Marc Gafni and he resurfaced after two years of his most recent expression of self- destruction. For in my book each of the failed marriages is at least to an extent a reflection of his flawed and failed personality as well. If he resurfaced after 10 years maybe, this with a rock sold marriage, reconciliation with those who have been hurt, strict teaching boundaries that take into account past errors and a thorough psychological evaluation backed up with 5-7 years of therapy or the equivalent.

We however live in a free world and March Gafni does not have to answer to any spiritual authority especially in Utah or in the Blogosphere and thus he is free to pursue his teaching and make what he can of his life as a teacher without submitting to the boundaries, perspective and the wisdom of the communities he has been a part of for the last 47 years he simply can find other self selected communities which is what he appears to be doing.

I want to conclude by wishing Mordechai Gafni a complete physical and psychological healing and a life of blessing, sincere repentance, transformation and courage. May he merit to be refined in such a way that his teaching as well as his being are truly: responsible, wise, pure, holy, true and filled with authentic and mature love.

Anonymous said...

I am writing both to build on the great insights already expressed in these blogs, and also to offer my own comments on Gafni's own blog on his website. I find this discussion interesting both from the perspective of a psychologist who works with sex offenders and other criminals in a prison setting, and also from the perspective of my own personal history, which included several very painful relationships with women in which I felt exploited and manipulated. From the perspective of my work with sex offenders, I have had experience with two very different types of people. Firstly, those who humbly admit their error, and, with a focus on the well-being of the victim rather than defending their own actions or their own hurt ego, admit complete responsibility for their actions and take whatever steps possible to make amends. When talking with these people, I actually feel honored to be a witness to their process of acknowledging fault, and, in so
doing,actually increasing their respect in my eyes and in the eyes of others. These men seem to exude a sense of peace and grounded-ness as well as an emotional presence that has moved me to tears on several occasions.

The other type of person I have spoken with, those who are reluctant to admit their responsibility in the matter, tend to focus on the wrong that was done to them rather than empathy for the victim, often emphasize their conviction that they themselves were seduced by the victim and therefore cannot be held completely responsible, and seem to be constantly spinning their minds in the many different "perspectives" by which to see the event in question, and put a great deal of energy into elaborating and defending these perspectives.

Although what he did may not be a criminal act, Marc Gafni appears to be in the latter category when it comes to taking responsibility for his actions, and with his intellect appears masterful at spinning the rationalizations. I saw Gafni speak in San Francisco this spring, in what he claimed was his first public appearance in two years. At least in the portion of the lecture that I attended, Gafni carefully tiptoed around the subject of the scandal, referring to it very indirectly. His purpose for holding this event in San Francisco seemed to be to somehow present himself in a positive light, because he had Sally Kempton introduce him as a "man of integrity". It was strange because the scandal itself seemed to be the "elephant in the room" because it was never directly mentioned but palpable in the room, in between the lines of much of what both Sally and Marc said of the mysterious "2 year absence".

Now a little about my own personal history: Until about 2 years ago, I had an enduring pattern of becoming involved with women who, although involved with other men, gave me the impression that I was their "true" love, and that I should therefore suffer the frequent abandonments and sudden changes of heart to prove my love for them. My first reaction to these circumstances was to blame these women, but eventually I recognized that my own unconsciousness was an essential ingredient. Though I tried therapy to try to break the cycle, it was only my introduction to, and participation in, "sex and love addicts anonymous" that actually gave me the strength and insight to break the cycle. I bring this up for two reasons: first, to acknowledge that the "victim" sometimes, at least in non-criminal situations, does have some responsibility, as I learned. Secondly, to express my observation that Gafni's behaviors are typical of many people who have identified
themselves as "sex and love addicts" and who have gotten help to break the cycle through 12 step work. In my own case, after a lifetime of obsession with unavailable and "dangerous" women, in a relatively short amount of time after beginning the 12 step work, I was able to establish an enduring relationship with an available and stable woman that continues to this day. I do not believe that this 12 step group is the only way to overcome such problems, but it did work for me.

It strikes me that a truly narcissistic person may actually believe that he or she has been wronged when, from the viewpoint of a third person, their behavior was clearly "in the wrong" (hurtful or exploitative). That is because the narcissistic person believes that he or she needs, and is entitled to, special treatment and "exceptions" by others, and may feel hurt if others object to their behavior. Gafni seems to be struggling to feel empathy for the women he hurt, but hampered by his own preoccupation with his own needs and claims on others. His tears seem to be the tears of self-pity more than the healing tears of genuine sadness and remorse. He seems to feel that both his own pain, and other people feeling pain as a result of his actions is a manifestation of the impersonal "pain of eros" rather than something that could actually be corrected. Here, I believe he is in error, as I myself discovered through my own recovery from "sex and love addiction".

I wish to join the last blogger in voicing my hope that Gafni does eventually have the opportunity to make amends to these women, so that he may live in peace and relax his mind from this preoccupation with all the many "perspectives" by which to see the event. May his heart come to rest and come home to himself, and also rejoin his fellow humans, and receive their forgiveness and acceptance.

Anonymous said...

Gafni is bad news, as is clear to anyone who has spent time with him. He's all ego and grandiosity masquerading behind a mask of fake humility.
If some naive student chooses to hang out with him despite the abundance of clear warning signs, well, it's their karmic lesson to learn. But I feel sorry for what they'll have to go through. At the core he is pretty crazy!

Moshe said...

Here is a pretty good description of Gafni's qualities:
I studied with him in Israel many years ago, and wish I had had more clarity then about how he operates.
Based on all the people I've talked to who know him well, the description of narcissistic abusers on that link is more accurate now than ever.
Pathetic dude -- stay away.

Tanya said...

I highly recommend that anyone who is still not convinced about this person's ability to manipulate others to support his lies (as he is doing very successfully with leaders in the Integral world and beyond), read the deposition of his 3rd ex-wife:

Be assured that her dramatic accusations have been been repeatedly corroborated by many people who have know him.

Marc Gafni's continued public emergence is a train wreck waiting to happen. I only pray there are not too many casualties this time.

Anonymous said...

Here's the correct link to Gafni's ex-wife's deposition, well worth reading (compelling evidence of lies, adultery, abuse, manipulation, molestation of minors, blackmail, narcissism, socipathology, etc.)

Why he's still allowed to teach in any circles is beyond comprehension.

william harryman said...

Thanks for the comments and links, everyone.

I am saddened that Gafni has been re-admitted into the integral community - including teaching at JFKU - and I am more saddened that he is teaching on issues of sexuality and shadow work. He is SO unqualified to be teaching, especially on issues of sexuality.

I do not associate with with iEvolve site (and others) because he is one of the main teachers.

IntegralGirl said...

It is very sad that Gafni's been re-admitted to the Integral community.
This week is the Integral Spiritual Experience, which he is heading up. Fortunately the wise elders of past Integral Spiritual events --Fr. Thomas Keating, Rabbi Zalman Schachter, Genpo Roshi, and Br. David Steindl-Rast--are all staying away this time due to Gafni's involvement. Ken Wilber won't even show up in person.
Too bad the other teachers attending haven't yet woken up to the risks to their reputations by association with him.

Anonymous said...

there are some really, really intelligent contributions in this blog, so thankyou

Having just arrived back from Integral's Unique Self conference new year 2009/2010 i am left more distrustful of Marc and the Integal core staff than less.

Marc's style of teaching is about pushing himself on the audience,
similar to evagelical preachers at least 1/3 of the people I spoke to really were disturbed by this alone, most not knowing the history of the abuse allegations,

However,Integral staff members kept representing the sitution, as everyone at the conference just loving Marc, which simply wasn't true. Maybe if they wanted to explore their limited perceptions they would have found that out.

I saw no reason not to believe that this man could, at the very least, be capable of pushing himself on someone, and not even realise that he was doing it

since that i have done a lot of looking into the case, or what is available on the internet and have come to the following conclusions

there is no way you can substantiate who exactly is telling the truth, or exaggerating. Unfortunatley,this is the case in most such cases


1) integral have chosen to represent marc's statements as facts 'kelly sosan bearer - "marc is categorically not an abuser" - Integral life

and ignore the statements of at least 8 different women to the contrary, including his third wife

saying that they collectively may have misremembered events (cindy lou) through the prism of the 'false' accusations

there is no such suggestion that marc himself may have done so

they also represent themselves as experts (kelly sosan bearer - i myself am a psychotherapist and zen priest- (i know psychotherapists with very little self knowledge,it is no guarantee at all of expertise) without understanding there are many other experts on the other side that have come to very disimilar conclusions to themselves

while i tend to believe that the teachers at integral do believe that marc is innocent, their tendency to label themselves as the experts, is very typical of the arrogance often seen in this community

i really would be very wary of Marc
and his supporters

what i think is very important about this conversation is that it clearly focuses on abuser and victim relationships, and how the outside world involves themselves in such scenarios

bit scary though

Monkey said...

Wow... I came across the Center for World Spirituality last week, but as soon as I saw a few videos of Marc I knew something wasn't right with him. My bullshit meter was going off straight away. The evangelical style, the technical language, the emphasis on paying for courses - it's everything I left the Church. A google search quickly revealed what I suspected. Very disappointing. But great to know the other Integral teachers won't associate with him.