Sunday, August 08, 2010

Comments Reopened on the #ITC2010 Marc Gafni Post

I have reopened the comments on the pre-conference post I put up on Marc Gafni - knowing full well that I am making myself a target for his retribution (I have been informed of his tactics) and that I am winning no friends in the higher realms of integral land.

I will have more to post on this topic in the future - I am in communication with some people who have never been spoken to by the Integral elites who defend Marc and believe he is innocent. They have very different stories to tell.

For now, let's try to hold a wider perspective on all of this - it's about more than the sexual relationships he has had with students and coworkers.

Please consider this section from his evaluations (Kevin Udis, Ph.D. and Thomas Meehan, L.C.S.W., B.C.D.):
Marc’s review of his family, which includes two brothers and divorced parents, is laden with early tragedy and horrific abuse in his parents’ early life related to the Holocaust and numerous examples of a fractured family life, of sadistic abuse and emotional neglect. In many ways, the evaluators view Marc Gafni as an emotional survivor who immersed himself in the study of Judaism which would eventually be a central underpinning in his adult identity. There are some obvious repetitions in Marc’s adult life that reflect the lack of closeness and intimacy in his life as a child and young man and a propensity to find and engage conflict. Sadly, this frequently results in a familiar experience of loneliness and a lack of security and protection.
And this:
As he gains perspective on himself and these experiences, he displays an ability to see his responsibility in engaging people who may not have had his best interest in mind. These blind spots have admittedly existed since his adolescence when he prematurely emancipated from his family and attended Yeshiva. His increasing awareness of this unconscious repetition may very well assure him of growth and support from others in his future rather than a repetition of crises and harmful drama to him. During this assessment, Marc appeared more accepting that his adolescent-like style of opposing normal rules and perceived authority figures can take on a self-destructive path for him.
I have read a LOT of psych evaluations, and this one does not in any fit the standard format - it is what one writes when trying to reveal as little as possible about a client, a style used most often in legal proceedings, which would be my guess as to why these were written.

This one also was not done by an independent third party, but by therapists "recommended in this regard by his regular psychotherapist." Not objective, not valid.

The letter from Dr. Cindy Lou Golin, PhD is not a third-party, objective psychological review, but a letter of support that makes the same points Marc has himself made, as well as echoing the Kempton/Wilber letter.

The otherwise useless "evaluation" from Dr. Joseph H. Berke does contain at least important point:
It should also be noted that he has a major obstacle to overcome in his life, the fact that he is a second generation Holocaust survivor, the child of parents who were terribly traumatised by the Nazi genocide. These traumas tend to live in their offspring. Hopefully Mordechai will eventually open the lid of these experiences in himself and gain greater freedom, a deeper ‘tikkkun’ or repair of his self and his soul.
Again, this man was recommended by Marc's friends (Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi in a communication with Jean Houston), neither of whom, to my knowledge, are practicing therapists themselves. No objectivity, no validity. The piece reads like fan mail.

Paul J. Goodberg, MA, wrote another fan letter, which to those not familiar with psych evals looks like it might actually mean something, but just read this passage:

Rabbi Gafni has been an unexpected delight. Not only is he a scholar, he is also a wit.

Most important, he is an intensely moral man!

Currently, he is continuing to struggle with intense feelings of self recrimination. As you might expect with a young, brilliant and charismatic rabbi, he has been guilty of excess hubris. He impulsively fell on his own sword when he issued a written apology for any hurt he might have caused even though he was the one, who, according to public reports, was being falsely accused. What hubris! What excess! This was a highly exaggerated attempt to cleanse and atone for the embarrassment he felt he had brought on his office, his teachings and his family.

By now, I am convinced that Rabbi Gafni never abusively hurt or exploited anyone.

He is completely reputable.

For those who do not know how psych evals work, they do not generally include statements about people he has never met, "What hubris! What excess!" - that alone discredits this "therapist."

There is a pattern emerging here (from what little actual information was gathered) of inter-generational trauma, extreme physical (emotional?) abuse by his parents, and a profound effort of spiritual bypass in an attempt to heal the wounding.

Here is Dr, Charles Tart on spiritual bypass - from a Q&A with students:

Student: How would somebody go about doing that? Using spirituality to bypass. I can’t even imagine having to do that.

CTT: One example that came up quite prominently during the hippie era – you folks are probably too young to remember hippies, but…


CTT: Most of them, well I can’t say most, a lot of them lived by basically sponging off other people and didn’t feel in the least guilty about it because they were pursuing love and enlightenment. They weren’t going to get trapped in earning a living, which would support a corrupt society anyway. And hey, in one way that’s true, but it’s also a wonderful rationalization for just sponging off people instead of taking responsibility for yourself.

I can see Buddhism misapplied that way too. One way of looking at Buddhism is it’s the ultimate way of being cool, right? Nothing fazes me! Nobody can get to me! I don’t have any suffering! Well, that’s because you’ve stifled all the feelings that might arise within you. You’ve stifled them either by some kind of active suppression process or by a distraction process.

Let me elaborate that. I was thinking about that earlier today. If you’re in a situation that makes you unhappy and you want to be happy, what do you do? Well one thing you might do is to change the actual reality of the situation so it makes you happy. It’s too cold in the room. You turn the heater on. It gets warmer.

But a lot of times we’re in situations where we can’t really change the external situation. So the external situation is making us unhappy, it’s just going to go on for some long period of time. But we can do something about our reaction. Remember that equation, suffering equals pain multiplied by resistance? .

S = PxR

You can do something to reduce the suffering

One way is some sort of distraction technique. Here’s the pathological use of concentrative meditation. The situation bothers you. You concentrate so strongly on neutral sensations, like your breathing, you don’t notice the situation at all. So it doesn’t bother you.

Your life situation is poor, getting worse. You can’t get a job. You don’t have any friends. You don’t feel good about yourself. Concentrative meditation. Get into these abstracted states where you’re beyond any kind of suffering. Ahh!.

You come back out of a meditative state. All these things that make you suffer are still there. Damn! Pee quickly, have a bite to eat, and go back into meditation again. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you can spend your whole life meditating. Maybe you can join a monastery or a nunnery, or somebody else will take care of all the physical stuff and you get to spend all your time meditating; distracting yourself. So in that sense, meditation can be a distraction.

I think this is one of the reasons why the Buddha thought that concentrative meditation, for all that it was an incredible technique, wasn’t a complete technique for enlightenment. If you can distract yourself, you can simply take all your attention and put it somewhere else so there’s none left over to go into the suffering thing.

You need to have specific techniques for dealing with what bothers you, and this is where Western knowledge of psychopathology becomes valuable.

Remembering our arms and legs now. [for readers coming late to this series, the occasional reminder to students to remember their arms and legs is to remind them of the principle technique they have been taught to be more present, more here-and-now, and to practice that technique. Being more here and now helps keep these discussions more real, more concerned with reality, rather than just intellectual exercises]

All we know about classical defense mechanisms; repression, sublimation, rationalization, things like that; these are also ways of dealing with suffering. But again, they don’t solve the problems. They provide you with a temporary happiness, but they don’t solve the root problem, the core of the problem.

So this discussion started from pointing out that spiritual techniques like concentrative meditation can be an incredible accomplishment to get into these jhanas, concentrative states, to get into these incredibly abstracted states. But while you may rationalize that you’re working on your spiritual development, it may actually in fact be a kind of spiritual bypass, be a way of trying to not have to deal with the real life problems that you’re not very happy with.

Let's keep all of this in mind as we think about the Marc Gafni case.

Holding the broader context allows us to hold him in compassion even while we ask that he not be allowed to work directly with students.

* * * * *

Understanding some of Gafni's history (and this is just speculation based on the pseudo-psych evaluations posted at his own site) he was likely terribly abused as a child, reported left home in his early teens to join a Jewish spiritual community, and probably has never adequately dealt with his childhood pain explains a lot, but it does not justify it.

I'm guessing that this is the wounding I saw in his body when I saw him at the conference.

I don't think that Gafni is intentionally abusive or manipulative - he appears (again, this is my speculation based on his statements and those of others on his blog, among other sources) to be acting out childhood wounding, which likely manifests as a need to be loved and adored (and a profound inability to tolerate rejection), to feel in control (where he had no control over the abuse as a child), very low self-esteem (probably manifesting in narcissistic tendencies toward inflation/deflation of self-concept), and to have power over his fate (low internal locus of control, seeming to always be at the mercy of others, especially in terms of justice - the "fall" in Israel is only partly his fault, for trusting too much, it was more the women's shadow material). These are common patterns for abuse survivors.

* * * * *

As an aside, from everything I understand, Marc is a talented and charismatic teacher. Yet there is no clear reason why Integral Institute and the other integral organizations risk another of his "crash and burns" - by letting him work directly with women - that seem inevitable every five to ten years. He should be allowed to write, post blogs, do videos and audio teachings, but the risks of allowing him to work with students, especially females, is absurdly high.


Alex Rollin said...

Hi WH, Alex Rollin here. I worked at II for a bit in late 2004-early 2005. I did drugs, got married, divorced, was promiscuous, and I think getting blackmailed would probably give me a tingly sensation of some kind.

I really appreciate the work you are putting into publishing what is turning into the best effort at a "full hearing" I've heard in a long while.

The fan mail you are getting gives me the creeps. I'm not sure why anyone in the integral community goes through trying to support Marc. Is he really a victim? What kind of relativism is that? No offense, Marc, but I do believe you ought tell your friends to shut up with their speaking on your behalf. It is quite clear, I think, that the talk is not all about you, Marc, and not all on your behalf, at this point.

The right to "free association" still stands, for the most part. People can hang out with and defend themselves and whoever they like until the end of days, but, what does this really do but distract from the itch of the voices that are buried under testimonials?

I've recently had some trouble with someone broadcasting a complaint about me. I've noticed that this person has some difficulty with approaching me first with their issue before saying something inflammatory to the www. I respect his right to do it, and I let him know that it does tend to rub me the wrong way. What else can I do? It's fun being blackmailed, and I would not call that type of situation a "collaboration."

In what I see here with all this fluffy testimony I wonder who isn't being listened to. I have no way of knowing, and yet that's where I'm inclined to look. Anyone else?

PiALOGUE (Pi Dialogue) said...

Ultimately, does it not all resolve to the Integral concept of "Personal Responsibility"? Sure, people can offer their "personal" experience of Marc Gafni and other people can choose to listen to or work with Marc Gafni or not as the result of those expressions. In Marc Gafni's own words, paraphrased, "Even a narcissist has a Unique Self that should be looked at in the context of the overall Integral picture as but a single meme to be either transcended and/or included in one's own understanding of one's own Unique Self."

- pi -

PiALOGUE (Pi Dialogue) said...

Here is an audio of Marc Gafni speaking that might offer some insight into some of the questions being asked which has to do with the concept of Eros versus sex and how this can be confused in certain people who have not reached some level of "further" enlightenment and/or liberation:

Marc Gafni gave this "Enlightenment and Liberation, Teachings of the Kabbalah" talk in English in the spring of 2006 at a spirituality conference in Midtown Manhattan to an audience of several hundred people.

I edited the original audio so that it would be as close to one hour as possible. Some of the things that were edited out were Marc Gafni's continual acknowledgement of interruptions by the audience as well as certain phrases that he kept repeating.

Repetition for me feels like someone is beating me over the head with a baseball bat, like they are trying to program me without my permission. So, I removed all the parts where Marc Gafni says "oh my God" and "right" over and over again which in my opinion, for me, takes away from his message which I do appreciate overall. In the case of the word "right" he said it every five words or so. Plus, while some people may think that some jokes are essential to a good speech it is my opinion that self-deprecating or deprecation-of-ones-own-religion-type humor is not and only distracts from the story or wisdom itself and I saw no reason for it in the context that Marc Gafni was presenting in this talk. If you want to hear the full unedited version of this talk you can listen to it here:

So, if you are like me then I think that you will enjoy this edit of Marc Gafni's talk.

I do understand that some people may think that this is like attempting to improve upon one of Michealangelo's paintings, however, "if" someone is or thinks that they are 3rd Tier and actually "CAN" improve upon someone else's style then why not at least attempt to do so and see what other more knowledgeable people think about it?

Cherie Beck said...

Hi Bill--

I came back from the ITC yearning for the juice. In a jam packed weekend of presentations, where is it? Where were you? One of the only people I had wanted to connect with and didn’t. Here you are-- And you’ve got the juice!

I hear the cry, once again, for some kind of accounting through at least a conversation, by exposing of more points of view of this subject, to at least reflect on the process of how this community is monitoring it’s ethical standards.

I answer this time, for the same reason I came forth when the light shined upon Don Beck; the lack of a suitable container to workout these critically important issues. My yearning for the creation of an appropriate environment to meet the complexity of human sexuality, change and leadership grows within me. I can see that I have some role to play here, so I am called forth once again.

In this situation, the conditions are different, as is my relationship with the person at the center of the conflict, although both hold positions of perceived leadership in this infant web of connections that hear referred to as the Integral community. In the prior instance, I choose to create a boundary so that a toxic situation could be isolated and dealt with at least in the short term, in a manner with people more suited to the leader involved. In this instance, I find that your positioning of the circumstances involving Marc Gafni to be a seed through which a more public participation might help support the growth, development and emergence of the NEXT spiritual leaders, leaders more competent to handle the demands of this community as it struggles to form into something viable and valuable to the world as it is arises from that same world. My intent is anyway, to strengthen your container in which the seeds you are planting might thrive.

As humanity pushes out beyond the structures of a post modern worldview, into overwhelming challenges posed by global problems, the solutions, at this stage, are falling squarely on the the personal development challenges of the individuals on a trajectory toward such heights. And sexuality and leadership will be the hot bed of obstacles, insights, breakdowns and breakthroughs as the movement of transcending and including unfolds beneath our feet.

First, I want to make clear I am a stand for sexuality, and sexual practice as a compulsory catalyst for human transformation and social evolutionary change.


From this stand, I continue to look for 2nd tier approaches, lenses, and thinking to support the change that is wanting to happen, there is a huge load to unpack here. More than can accomplished in this one, lengthy comment.

Second, fresh from the ITC as presenter where I began to weave in the dynamics of generations as social holons and cycles of times as important patterns change as vitally relevant, and up to this point, missing component in comprehensive integral framing, I understand that the leaders, spiritual or otherwise, that have taken us to the point we are at, are not the ones to lead us forward. Those leaders still have a role play, even if it is continuing to create the conditions that the next leaders will emerge within. Therein, I see very appealing opening in this situation.

So as I relate to Marc Gafni, my first real exposure to him came from his participation as an panelist on an the ITC session titled Integral as a Mass Movement or Elitist Pursuit. In the audience, I sat in front of a pregnant woman whom during his introduction Marc pointed to her as (paraphrased) Mariana, the person to whom he is partnered and whom is with child.

Really? The impact of the introduction resonated in my being as ‘ oh, so that is his solution. Interesting.’

Cherie Beck said...

I walked away very uninspired from that panel session. Marc was only one of five men whom voiced a perspective on the topic- and I sat listening, attentive, as a perspective arose in me to a degree I couldn’t sit still. Yet, I found myself in a conversation where there was no space to move in. My perspective is that in order for integral to be a movement instead of an elitist pursuit (which is what the the session projected not from it’s words, but from it’s actions) the understanding of “movement” needs to be reframed. But that’s another story.

I offer in the forum you have created on a topic about Marc Gafni’s participation in this talked about “movement”, where my perspective does have space in which to move, a reframe.

I think the ethical question has been answered. Whatever indiscretions Marc Gafni indulged, he was evaluated as psychologically sound and competent by his peers. Personally, from where the ITC is operating today, that assessment makes sense to me. I think you’ll have a hard time changing it.

The question relevant now is: what is his impact, intended and unintended? Inside of this question I see a tight framing around the issue of integrity rather than ethics, a way of seeing which presents a path forward.

I find myself, very turned on looking into the frame of integrity. For I sense at this time, what is important for you as men, and what I yearn for as a woman in your sphere of influence, is for you to support and hold each other to a level of integrity we’ve not yet seen because the cognitive capacity of the men in this community is far beyond the practical skill set of the messengers. As a woman I can tell you my impression is that Marc is not in integrity and that the impact of such a gap is worth paying attention to. Yet pay attention to it not as a character flaw- but as a developmental challenge for him personally, and for the leadership roles within and without the community. Spiritual teachings are not easy to live in to, and Integral Spiritual teachings, while they help us find our way in the territory have also significantly upped the game. So this is a challenge by choice, not by peer pressure, nor by collective ethical/moral obligation.

Whomever steps forward to lead the Integral Community into and out the other side of integrity - I guarantee that we will be in the company of the NEXT spiritual leaders of our time. That lights me up and has me care about what is happening here and even ignites my own sexual desire in a way I’ve not experienced before.

Well, guess what. When you bring the juice, Bill, you bring it! I didn’t have to look far to see who the first candidate would be.

Cherie Beck said...

I got to Alex Rollin’s comments where he says he is looking for who’s voice isn’t being heard and and asks what else can be done, in a stream of information that included a public disclosure of his promiscuity. Yikes, I was left with yet another knife plunged deep into the center of my heart. By this time though, I am well practiced, for it’s not the first knife, nor even the worst heartbreak to come from the hands of this man. For I am the one he married, and I am the one he divorced and I am the one on the receiving end of his “just what I am doing now” behavior justifications. I am the one whom continues to dwell in the crucible that is our relationship. I stayed still and centered throughout the night opening to the burning pain in my heart and letting this publicized truth integrate through my being.

Shit this stuff hurts even though it is not as debilitating as it once was.

It lasted into the next day tearing away old thought patterns and sinking deep into my core where i was able to slowly release an energy bubble, which in earlier days would have a been a primal scream likely to have brought the house down.

In the midst of this clearing I awoke to a startling clarity. In this polarized spiraling spin of yin/yang connection Alex and I have been caught in for the last 5 years, it was the dearth of love in our relationship that triggered, not caused, but triggered his “promiscuity.”

Holy shit...literally. He has not acted alone in what I often found to be absolutely egregious actions.

All this energy in the system that is WE, has to go somewhere, and when it can’t go up, it goes down. Sometimes it has to go down before it can go up. As a Spiral Dynamics integralist, I understand that.

Yet in that same moment, I realized that while I may not have been able to love enough before, that is no longer true. In the depths of own heart I have a felt sense and need in my own experience of how important love is for the integral and evolutionary development of the human being and any container for such development must be filled with it. This is a love that demands we open to all the of things we abhor, fear and reject to a “being withness” that Gail Taylor named in this community and was promptly told didn’t fit. And yes, evolution is wanting us to face the past and clear away all the old programming no matter where it came from- childhood trauma and human karma be damned. Toward this end my friends, we will need a depth of being that has yet to emerge here.

So Alex, it’s is my voice that continues to want to be heard, if by no one else but you.

In answering your second question, Alex, of what else can be done, I turn to Bill and request him to direct his energy not toward Marc Gafni, but to you as one who carries the potential to be a next spiritual leader in this community and for him to hold you accountable to your own heart and to the truth and teachings you so readily access for others. Here in the forum of your choosing, of your stated life purpose of an open and free internet and of peer to peer engagement, at the time, through the declaration I see coming through in your comments- you have chosen to show up.

I make this request from a place of more than enough love, as the woman who carries the 3rd entity of the “WE” in my heart, mind and soul as though it was a baby developing inside me, that is not satisfied with nor will I settle for anything less than who you were born to be.

If you accept this challenge, I will stand by you as the woman who now loves, the woman who knows who she is, whom recognizes who you are, whom has learned who you are not, and whom is partnered with you in who you are becoming; and as the woman who moves through her world in the experience of deeply connected to how out of integrity you are living today.

Why? Because I care and it matters.

Alex Rollin said...

Hello Again,

Cherie, thanks for writing in and showing yourself in such a beautiful and spectacular way in public. Really amazing!

I'm doing a little bit. I found another "leader" who was saying to everyone that he was inviting people to "put all their chickens in the shared community" basket but it turns out he doesn't want to share the eggs back or acknowledge anyone who put in a chicken.

There's about 16 nasty threads, and lots of obfuscation and nastiness. In the end I was inspired by the dialogue here so I hopped in with a full personal critique of use of power. Now the leader wants to "divorce" me. His words.

When I put up the comment, the first one above, and asked about "what else could be listened to" I did not mean that any of us privileged folk should make more noise about how cool we are or why we are all alright and back ourselves up in that the truly good are that whether we label them that or not.

I was talking about little girls in Israel who got(?) tricked, for example, and perhaps want to share their side of the story. How about we start our own witch hunt office?

Some standing operation that is a way anyone can make accusations of anyone else, or question them. It would be like a standardized format for doing so, and an explanation of the format.

And it better not be called "integral witch hunt" either because that's bull. How about "permaculture witch hunt: for culture that lasts longer than man." Anthropocentrism is so 20th century, anyways.

Wait, crap this might make witches feel bad. Hmm...How about "permaculture energy hunt: culture that lasts longer than man." The process itself would give folks who feel like they are abused a forum and format and method for speaking truth to power.

As a drunken quasi-self-authoring fool I don't have a lot of problem with this and regularly lose my shirt speaking truth to power, but others are not so drunken or lucky to afford this extravagance. Those are the people we ought be listening to. I could give a crap about whether any current "integral" toady thinks Marc is this OR that because it is not part of a process that includes the non-hyper-enabled people's of the world.

Terrified? Good. And that, too, shall pass.

Rachel Castagne said...

Alex, i dont know you but i wonder why you publicly wonder 'who isn't being listened to. I have no way of knowing, and yet that's where I'm inclined to look. Anyone else?'
and then proceed to blatantly distract from what appears to my ears to be major personal disclosure and therefore vulnerability from someone who is clearly not being listened to.... by you at this point in time, at any rate
unless of course you are in a private communication in response to cheries post above...
if you ARE truly inclined to look, then please open your eyes and ears...