Friday, October 07, 2011

Ken Wilber Says a Whole Lot of Nothing about the Latest Gafni "Debacle"

At least he go the debacle part right.

Here is the most ass-backward statement he makes, in a statement that says nothing of any value or substance - and most of us really did not expect him to speak any truth about Gafni, who is his good friend.
many people in the blogosphere have conflated current relationship issues with past issues instead of, as I just suggested, each relationship being explored in its own right and its own time.
This is so wrong it borders on negligence - if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, 99.99% of the time it is a duck. But as usual, Wilber mistakes the situation to be about consensual relationships - and he fails to take into account a 30+ year history of similar manipulative and damaging relationships. It's not about sex or relationships - it's about power and control. And it's not only the women who get hurt, it's also any organization that Gafni works with. 

For Wilber, of all people, not to get that says more about Wilber than it does about this situation.

I know that at least two of the women Gafni has had relationships with, including the one who has remained private about the pain she went through in this particular episode, spoke to Wilber either by phone or email. And yet he still fails to say anything of substance.

But then, we have to consider Wilber's past with Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, Marc Gafni, Genpo Roshi, and Don Beck - he has a history of associating himself with men who act out their power in harmful ways.

I am absolutely no faith that Wilber and his crew will do anything of value around integral ethics. If you want to read about integral ethics, check out Roger Walsh's talk from the 2010 Integral Theory Conference.

This is Wilber's "The Emperor is wearing no clothes" moment. Sad, that. 

"The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.


GD said...

Dear William,

With all due respect my friend, and with full respect to your capacity for calling a spade a spade, I would like to ask why it is that 'we' believe that Ken should give us his opinion on matters pertaining to the behavior of his friends?

Is the value of his work truly diminished because he and those he associates with are human beings with personality challenges (just like the rest of us)?

Do we really need to get involved in 'politics' in the name of ethical judgement on a bunch of people who have risen to 'superhero' status because of the adulation of those who need such a figure to guide their learning process?

I am in no way denigrating your insights and opinions William, just wondering if there is a more spacious and gracious lens that we could use to analyse situations like these?

Warm regards


Anonymous said...

"The emperor has no clothes" indeed! I have lost all respect for Ken Wilber. He is doing irreversible damage to his reputation and integrity with this wishy-washy "make up your own minds; I'm still on the fence" statement.

There are plenty of people out there who know the truth about GafnI's character and history (as opposed to the lies he's spinning through his puppet Joe Perez), and if they haven't already left Integral due to its propping up of questionable teachers, they more likely will now.

Fortunately the damage to Gafni's credibility has already been done, thanks to so many others speaking up. Anyone blind enough to support him at this point will earn little sympathy for the pain and disillusionment they will face ahead.

Anonymous said...

Can't imagine that such a statement on the part of the pope in support of a miscreant preist wouldn't be recognized by all as lacking all integrity.

Yes, sadly the emperor is without clothes.

Scott said...

Why is everyone (that would be William and Anonymous) getting their knickers in a knot? Have you read the whole thing? This isn't a final statement by Wilber. He is clearly just saying that he is going to take 90 days to make a decision. So give him that time, for heaven's sake. He may very well come out then in 90 days and say he too is done with the gafni character as Hamilton and Robb Smith have stated. I used to read and support William very much, but am frankly just tired of the self-righteousness. Good luck!

adastra said...

Overall I liked Ken Wilber's post. As Scott points out, he is taking 90 days to reflect, and will likely have more to say at that point. (I find this to be a very refreshing change from his Wyatt Earpy period.)

It seems to me there's way too much self-righteous indignation going around in these debates. I don't think it's helpful.

Gloria said...

I think Ken is glossing over a lot of considerations. The first and most obvious is Mariana. Ken makes quite a point of wanting to "recognize and honor" the two girlfriends involved but no mention of the wife* and her pain. Does Ken have no interest in recognizing and honoring her? My bet is that Gafni has persuaded everyone to avoid any mention of Mariana in any of this in order to somehow "protect" her and the baby. But really all that does is traumatize her a second time because now she is not even being acknowledged in any of this. Let's just pretend her right out of this picture - she's not even a "risk factor" in any of this.

Really, Gafni is just trying to divert the focus away from the fact that he was sleeping around while his wife was pregnant/recently gave birth - a really low-life thing to do. Ask any woman what she thinks about a guy who does something like that. Women will have affairs with married men but not usually in those circumstances. I think both of Gafni's lovers are decent women and would never do something like that to another woman (especially one they love - I'm sure they both have great respect for Mariana) under normal circumstances. He must have really given them some master manipulator story to convince them that this was an acceptable thing to do.

Another missing point: the friendships and professional relationships involved. It's not just about the sex. Gafni has shown little regard for his friends or their trust in him. He has lied to all of them and now they have to recover their reputations, having been compromised by their association with him. Tami Simon did the right thing.

And lastly is this idea of "risk factors". Speechless on this one. While all potential relationships have considerations, the fact that Ken approaches them with such trepidation that he refers to them as "risk factors" is not an indication of a healthy approach to relationships. If these relationships were "mutual and loving" as claimed, they would be some happiness involved in the decision to undertake them. If you are not approaching a potential lover with some happiness and anticipation but rather as an assessment of "risk factors", that might be the first indication that something is wrong here.

*I now they are not technically married, but the relationship is the same.

Ian Goldsmid said...

To associate Adi Da with those other folks shows a surprising lack of discrimination - so for me your article likely says more about your own prejudices than anything factual, real or useful in the people you write about ... So i would suggest you be should try being more responsible (for your understanding yourself) before you critique other's ...

Anonymous said...

Wilber quotes a proverb: “One dog barks at a shadow, and a thousand dogs take it for reality.”

This is true. And sometimes, one dog licks a poison-laced dog treat, and a thousand dogs follow suit.

Steven Nickeson said...

Bill, I think it is useless to expect anything more than this from Mister Wilber. He is after all the founder of this particular brand of Integral and his comments are perfectly, absolutely perfectly Integral, solid and four-square into the philosophy. The fact that the comments are essentially meaningless and the rhetoric flaccid should bring to the readers' attentions that once a topic is all wrapped up this is the result that an Integral application produces.

Some might say that this could be the spongy, dim underbelly of Integral, but I would contend that it is the entire body. It certainly isn't the shadow--character must be present before a shadow can be generated.

Anonymous said...

“I am recommending that each person ought to make up their own mind, using their own conscience and intuition.” Unfortunately, history tells us that this is a terrible advice. Of course, we all wish we would be matured and clear beings whose actions are perfectly aligned with their (good) intentions. Or that we could trust our intuitions. Sadly, it is generally not the case. And it is not clear that we should expect it from a highly hierarchic community, like the faction of the integral movement associated with Wilber (fortunately, integral is more than Wilber) where the mass is primarily defined by its search for spiritual and psychological guidance. Magical and wishful thinking about something “this demands the very best of each of us—we must reach for our own very highest capacity for spiritual discernment, judgment, compassion, mercy, insight, and awareness” does not make it so.

Furthermore, even if it would be the case, we would still need a good amount of public information for ‘all of us’ to make wise assessments about the situation. Intuitions are not enough. The question then becomes: can we expect that such information will be sufficiently diffused in the public domain? What the past has taught us, and as confirmed by Ken himself, is that it won’t. For instance, when Wilber and co. welcomed Marc a few years ago, the leaders of Wilber's integral niche never released much info that would have allowed people to make better assessments but instead asked their followers to believe them. They relied on their authority. Their report and investigation apparently refuted past accusations and the community was tacitly asked to take their evaluations (opinions) as truth.

On the one hand, we are asked to form an opinion and do so only when we have sufficient information. On the other hand, getting this sufficient information is a distant ideal (“All information on this situation will never be available to the public. There is simply no way to know fully.”). It would be ludicrous to expect every member to start an investigation of their own. It would absurd for all engaged members of the community to try to contact the alleged victims to get their side of the story. I don’t know if Wilber is being disingenuous or stupidly sloppy. Maybe both. Does he really expect for ‘conscience and intuition’ to be enough? Somehow Wilber advices something but then acts in ways that hinder and makes claims that are inconsistent with the fulfillment of what he asks us to do. In many ways, by relying on his authority back then, Wilber failed, according to his own standards, his community. One possible take on Wilber’s remarks is that of men and leader who refuses to take responsibility: “I will take all the perks of being a leader but shy away from the responsibilities ...” (to be cont.)

Anonymous said...

Should they have released all the info? I don’t know and in all likelihood not. What I know is that the kind of actions Marc has been accused of involve many conflicting interests (even within the same individual: a victim will be tremendously conflicted about what to do about certain things...) and in many cases there is an understandable self-preserving inclination (either for the accused or the alleged victim) not to share the info. Moreover, in many cases, they are in no obligation to make that information public as it could in many different ways hurt them (and people around them).

I agree with Ken that these actions, and the situations they implied, are highly complex and challenging to deal with. But that should not become an excuse. As opposed to Ken, I am not the leader of a movement and community. More should be expected from him than from me, and most importantly the bland observations he has to offer. If someone can’t look at Ken for wisdom about dealing with these challenging and CONCRETE situations then what is he good for? I guess it is all fun to give public talk, profit from them, and share his wisdom about almost everything from politics to sexuality in controlled settings but whenever concrete and real shit happens that wisdom and inclinations to share answers suddenly vanish ... Come on ...

Interestingly, many supporters of Marc claim that anyone should refrain of any judgment because they don’t have all the information (or are not being compassionate enough). But is there such a thing as ‘all of (or sufficient) information’? Some integralists seeem to believe it but somehow their actions confirm that it might just be that, a belief in some distant ideal. Uncertainty and risk will always be a key dimension of our decision making process. And for that reason, and because the world never stops and unfolds in all of its complex splendor, abstaining from judgment can be as bad as making a call based on limited information. And assuming that everything will work out just fine is just being self-serving (‘At this point, we need to honor all the parties and let them get on with their lives. And we need to get on with our Integral work.’). If what Marc has been accused of is remotely accurate, ‘not doing anything’ or ‘moving to other things’ was integral to Marc repeating the same actions again and again. Abstaining from judgment is as consequential as evaluating and acting on limited information in an unfolding and dynamic universe. Somehow people assume ‘certainty’ as the default state (don’t judge until you are 100 percent sure) while at best it might be an ever distant counterfactual (what does 100 percent sure mean? Who is always 100 percent sure?). Rather, the default state is uncertainty. Once we accept that, many of the calls for compassion (i.e. inaction and abstaining from judgment) become unwise advices. Making decision under uncertainty is part of life and we can't avoid it but only assume it. Waiting to fill all four quadrants is both metaphysically and practically unreasonable; a form of wishful thinking often associated with unintended and disastrous consequences. (to be continued)

Anonymous said...

We also hear that what happens between Marc and his students should stay between them. I view this position has being extremely shallow and partial. When living in any social ecology and environment, responsibilities are shared and must be assumed as such. For instance, can there be instances where it would be mutually beneficial for a teacher and a student to engage in forms of intimate/romantic relationships that exist beyond the teacher-student context? Yes. Does that mean that they should then immediately act on it? In all likelihood. As teacher and student within a social context, their actions affect others and their responsibilities go beyond their particular interests. For example, the trail of accusations that has followed Marc for decades, whether true or not, has affected negatively and undermined the whole notion of teacher and student not just for himself but all other spiritual teachers and traditions. I must say that what I mostly find from reading Marc’s defense and explanations is a narcissistic individual who can’t think beyond ‘himself’. As far as I can tell, the guy can’t accept and act according to the norms and constraints that living in a social system entails and demands. He shows little consideration for any collective and greater good. By contrast, some ethical guidelines and codes, such as that of some insight meditation groups, forbid any sexual relationship between a teacher and his/her student, not on the assumption that such relationship is always and necessarily bad, but on communal grounds and inter-subjective considerations. To that affect, they have clauses and procedures that can be followed for such relationships to eventually blossom but only under and through a transparent process. Of course, the existence of these guidelines does not always prevent these sexual relationships to happen but at least they indicate a capacity and mutual willingness to think beyond the narrow boundaries of their little selves.

Finally, Ken always remains too generic and vague in his remarks. Vagueness can be an arm of deception. Neither does it help in anyway others to wisely make up their own minds. The whole piece can be read as a way for him to avoid dealing with the conflicting dimensions and sometimes irreconcilable aspects of the situations.

Anonymous said...

Oups! I inadvertently wrote "Does that mean that they should then immediately act on it? In all likelihood."

You should have read: "Does that mean that they should then immediately act on it? In all likelihood NO!"

Terry said...

Years ago I asked one of Wilber's editors to give me a specific example of a teacher, living or dead, who Wilber might have in mind when he writes about spiritual teachers who are "mild-mannered milquetoasts." I never did get an answer, and finally came to realize that Wilber falls into what some semanticists calls being stuck on high levels of the abstraction ladder. Someone so stuck can speak in abstractions and generalities ad nauseum, but has a difficult time coming down the ladder to speak in concrete language about specifics.

It's possible that in this case Wilber is trying to be diplomatic, but this would put him at strong odds with everything he's said about having the courage to "shout from the heart in a sharp scream." In One Taste he writes that, "authenticity always and absolutely carries a demand and duty: you must speak out, to the best of your ability, and shake the spiritual tree... And if you fail to do so, you are betraying your own authenticity. ... You don't want to upset others because you don't want to upset yourself. You are acting in bad faith..."

Bill and Tami are the ones who have acted in good faith in this situation.

william harryman said...

Thanks Terry - I appreciate your perspective on this.

william harryman said...

Steve N.

I hear you, and sadly I am in full agreement.


william harryman said...

To the Anonymous of the 3-part post,

I would like to know who you are, if you would like to email me directly (privately), the link is on the sidebar of this blog. I'm curious to know more about your perspective on this.


Federico said...

Hi. The 3 part comment is a master piece of sorts. I would like to know if I can somehow cross-post it in Integral Life's under Ken post. I think it has enormous value.



JP said...

Hi Frederico,

I am the anonymous who wrote the 3-part post--but how can I prove it!? Hopefully, William can confirm it by comparing the IP addresses. Thanks for your comment. I would not mind cross-posting the post. However, I would rather you post a revised version (I am not a native English speaker and I wrote the original post in one sitting: the writing is therefore in great need of editing and work). I am guessing you are Federico Parra !? In that case, I will, if you agree, email you (privately and shortly) a rewritten draft of the post that you could then post. What do you think?


Federico said...

Hi JP. I am Federico Parra, yes.
I encourage you to post it yourself as again, it is a very clear and intelligent post.
If you decide not to do it, I would do it in your name, please just send it to me in that case. All best.

Martin Gifford said...

It is interesting to contrast Ken’s full-throated endorsement of the violent Andrew Cohen against his weasle-worded obfuscation regarding Marc Gafni. It seems Ken has two rules:

1. Gurus and teachers may physically and psychologically violate disciples and students.

2. Disciples and students should be extremely gentle with gurus and teachers.