Saturday, January 09, 2016

Marc Gafni - Beneath and Behind the Denials

[NOTE: I have been actively involved in the newest Marc Gafni situation for the last two weeks, posting a lot of material on Twitter and Facebook. This post has been in process since Christmas day. I had originally written 34 pages of text, outlining each and every manipulation, episode of lying, and sexual abuse allegation. That is too much. This is likely only part one of several articles in the coming weeks.]

[See also: Why So Few of Marc Gafni's Survivors Have Come Forward]

On December 25, 2015, The New York Times posted an article (in print, Dec. 26) called A Spiritual Leader Gains Stature, Trailed by a Troubled Past, by Mark Oppenheimer (with additional reporting from Jerusalem by Irit Pasner Garshowitz).

One of the many things missing in the NYT article, and most of the ones that have followed, is a recognition that Gafni's pathology is not only emotional and sexual manipulation and other forms of abuse, it is also a sociopathic personality that almost hides the malignant narcissist within.  

Marc Gafni (Screenshot from YouTube)

The NYT article exposed some of the controversies surrounding Gafni (which has led to the current outrage in the Jewish community and in the integral community, but in each instance allowed him to refute the allegations with no further exploration of the facts or statements by the victims. What could have been an important document revealing Gafni's 35-year pattern of abuses--interpersonal, sexual, and control--became little more than a PR piece for him and his "think tank."

I expressed those feelings to Mr. Oppenheimer in a Twitter post, and he did not refute it -- he re-Tweeted it.
and Retweeted you
20h: I read the Marc Gafni article w/ hope, then sadness - you allowed this sociopathic sexual predator to make the article a PR piece
I know Oppenheimer spoke to a lot of Gafni's victims, as well as the expert on cults and mind control, Steven Hassan - I know this because they told me. Based on Oppenheimer's response to my Tweet, I can only hope he too wanted a more accurate article (he has since published two additional installments at Tablet - see below).

One of the many unfortunate things in that article was Ken Wilber's defense of Gafni. Wilber allowed Gafni to convince of his innocence and since founded a think tank with him. Not surprisingly, most people in the integral community stopped paying attention to those Wilber endorses, with other egregious examples including Andrew Cohen, Dennis Merzel (Genpo Roshi), and even the notorious sexual predator Adi Da.
Ken Wilber, considered the modern founder of integral theory, started the think tank with Mr. Gafni. Mr. Wilber said that before forming a partnership with Mr. Gafni, he personally researched the rumors about him and commissioned an employee to investigate. In the end, Mr. Wilber concluded that Mr. Gafni was, at worst, “insensitive as a boyfriend.”

“Marc has a lot of Shakti,” Mr. Wilber said, using a Sanskrit word for energy. “I don’t think he understood the impact it had on people.”
"Insensitive as a boyfriend"? Is that what we call emotional, psychological, and sexual manipulation these days?

As will be noted below, the employee mentioned by Wilber was Clint Fuhs, a supporter of Gafni's return in 2008. By the way, the referenced documents are a fraud. For more on Gafni and Wilber, see Geoffrey D. Falk's Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment.

[It is worth noting that, at the time (late spring/early summer 2008), both Gafni and one of Wilber's senior students, Clint Fuhs, as well as Jeff Bell, contacted me by email and telephone, wanting me to remove my posts about Gafni from this blog (I had defined him as an Abusive Guru). I complied initially but re-posted them a few days later, after digging into the actual facts - and listening to my own gut-sense about Gafni. Jeff Bell co-wrote, with Greta de Jong, the glowing Catalyst article on Gafni, depicting him as a modern-day spiritual hero, mentioned below {Gafni is alleged to have seduced de Jong to get the article published}. In reality, Gafni wrote much of the article, or at least dictated the perspectives.]

Throughout all of this, and even before the NYT article ran, Judy Mitzner Rogers has been talking about Gafni's rape of her as a 16-year-old girl - at her blog, The Ass of  Death. For now, she is the brave face standing up for all survivors.

I urge anyone who has not already signed the petition encouraging Gafni's supporters to withdraw that support (including John Mackey of Whole Foods, Ken Wilber of integral fame, and the board of the Center for Integral Wisdom), created by rabbi David Ingber, to go and sign it now.

At the bottom of the page there is an updated list of the articles having shown up on-line since Christmas Day, with more appearing each day.

* * * *

During the years I have been reporting on Gafni and trying to raise awareness of his pathological behaviors, I have spoken with several of his survivors, and I have read written accounts from others. I have held space for the women as they told their stories, filled with pain, and often shame.

Also during those years I went back to school to get my second master's degree, an MS in counseling psychology. Since 2011 I have worked with adult survivors of sexual trauma.
  • I know the experience of survivors because I sit with them every day.
  • I know the patterns of the perpetrator because I hear about them every day.
I have never assessed Gafni in person, which is the only way to know who he feels himself to be at his core. However, the stories of his victims, ranging over more than 35 years, are so consistent, with so few of them knowing about the others when they made their statements, that they present a very vivid behavioral portrait of how Gafni conducts himself with students, employees, financial backers, and co-workers, which also is extremely consistent over those many years.

What follows is not meant to be an "official" diagnosis. Based solely on behaviors described by others (often survivors, but also supporters), this is a behavioral model of who Gafni appears to be from the outside.

It is vitally important to keep in mind as you read through this that in recent years Gafni has managed to control his story and frame these controversies as being about sex with students, which--when he’s not denying it altogether--allows him to create all kinds of complex philosophical rationalizations as to why it’s okay that he does this and that his relationships are "highly evolved," or "post-conventional."

It is also important to understand that Gafni works hard to make these issues about pseudo-consensual sex because the reality is much darker. His survivors ARE sexually manipulated, and there are consistent reports of debasing sexuality (woman as whore), but the sexual relationships are simply the seduction that brings women into his circle of influence.

Once he seduces someone, then he begins the process of mind control, shaping their thoughts and experiences so that they come to see things his way. Using Steven Hassan's BITE model of mind control as a frame, Gafni seeks to Behavior Control, Information ControlThought ControlEmotional Control. It's worth looking at the details for each type of control. (See Freedom of Mind: Helping Loved Ones Leave Controlling People, Cults and Beliefs, 2012, and Combatting Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-selling Guide to Protection, Rescue, and Recovery from Destructive Cults: 25th Anniversary Edition, 2015).

Gafni gives the appearance, to those not in the inner circle (which includes Mariana Caplan, Sally Kempton, Lori Galperin, and whoever he is sleeping with now--noticeably all women), of being caring and accepting. However, if you become part of the inner circle, then you see many of the types of control Steve Hassan outlines. 

* * * *

What we are seeing in his current defense strategies, which are the same strategies he has used over the last few decades, can be described as Deny, Attack, Reverse Victim and Offender (DARVO). This is the perpetrator model developed by Jennifer J. Freyd at the University of Oregon. Freyd notes in Violations of Power, Adaptive Blindness and Betrayal Trauma Theory (Feminism & Psychology; 1997, Feb: 7(1): 22-32).
My proposal, currently very speculative, is that a frequent reaction of an abuser to being held accountable is the `DARVO' response. `DARVO' stands for 'Deny, Attack and Reverse Victim and Offender'. It is important to distinguish types of denial, for an innocent person will probably deny a false accusation. Thus denial is not evidence of guilt. However, I propose that a certain kind of indignant self-righteous, and overly stated, denial may in fact relate to guilt. I hypothesize that if an accusation is true, and the accused person is abusive, the denial is more indignant, self-righteous and manipulative, as compared with denial in other cases. Similarly, I have observed that actual abusers threaten, bully and make a nightmare for anyone who holds them accountable or asks them to change their abusive behavior. This attack, intended to chill and terrify, typically includes threats of law suits, overt and covert attacks on the whistle-blower's credibility, and so on. The attack will often take the form of focusing on ridiculing the person who attempts to hold the offender account­able. The attack will also likely focus on ad hominem or ad feminam instead of intellectual/evidential issues. Finally, I propose that the offender rapidly creates the impression that the abuser is the wronged one, while the victim or concerned observer is the offender. Figure and ground are completely reversed. The more the offender is held accountable, the more wronged the offender claims to be. The offender accuses those who hold him accountable of perpetrating acts of defama­tion, false accusations, smearing, etc. The offender is on the offense and the person attempting to hold the offender accountable is put on the defense. (Freyd 1997, 29)
Freyd has an empirical paper in press: Harsey, S. & Freyd, J.J. (in press). “It Never Happened, You're a Liar, and I'm the Victim”: An Exploration of DARVO. I look forward to reading this paper. [I also highly recommend her book, Blind to Betrayal: Why We Fool Ourselves We Aren't Being Fooled (2013), which offers a more in-depth understanding of DARVO.]

In the paper quoted above, she goes on to detail how the perpetrator uses our general ignorance to claim innocence.
The offender takes advantage of the confusion we have in our culture over the relationship between public provability and reality (and a legal system that has a certain history in this regard) in redefining this reality. Future research may test the hypothesis that the offender may well come to believe in his innocence via this logic: if no one can be sure he is guilty then logically he is not guilty no matter what really occurred. The reality is that defined by public proof, not by personal lived experience. As a consequence of this strategy, along with the biases in our legal system and culture, claims of being victim to false accusations may be more speakable than claims of being victim to sexual and domestic offenses. (Freyd 1997, 30)
Gafni does take "advantage of the confusion we have in our culture over the relationship between public provability and reality," and always tries to frame his sexual misconduct as a he-said/she-said misunderstanding. Short of legal action (the two cases that obviously rise to this level are WAY beyond the statute of limitations), there is no way to "prove" in public that the survivors are telling the truth. 

As one might expect, Gafni continues to claim his innocence, however, it is alleged that he continues to have sex with students, as well as with other people where there isn’t such an obvious power differential, including board members, employees, editors, co-teachers, financial backers, and so on--and they practically all end up traumatized in some way. He gets away with it, so it must not have happened. So he can continue doing whatever he wants.

The women who currently surround and stand up for Gafni will, one day (a couple of years from now), be the survivors who lodge new complaints, if they are not intimidated into silence. And they will be denied, attacked, and made out by Gafni to be the perpetrators, while he is simply the humble victim.

Concerning Gafni's identification as the victim, Terry Patten offers a very revealing story in his blog post of January 5th, offering his take on the current efforts to expose Gafni's behavior:
When he was publicly accused in Israel in 2006, I presumed there were two sides to the story, and extended my hand in friendship. I tried to put an arm on his shoulder and accompany him through the process of exploring how he had somehow participated in creating hurt for others, and how now that was perhaps unjustly coming back around to hurt him. I wanted to compassionately help him learn whatever he needed to learn and do his own deep work. He could reckon with his shadow, learn how to love better and be redeemed. I liked him. I could feel his pain. I could see that there was much animus directed toward him, and I thought he deserved care. I didn’t want him to be alone. 

But he wasn’t up for that kind of friendship, or that kind of work. He never showed any curiosity about those questions, or his psychological dynamics and shadows, or any sincere interest in gleaning the moral lessons of his life. Those were the conversations I tried to have, again and again, for years, but they were never forthcoming. He redirected every discussion back to the injustice of the accusations against him. The story was always about his victimization, and he was always only defensive. He was not receptive but active, recruiting me to see it all his way.
[Emphasis added.]

When Gafni re-emerged in 2008, his attitude was exactly the same. He orchestrated an interview and feature article in Catalyst Magazine in July 2008 (which he allegedly helped write, and allegedly also slept with the editor to get it published), which depicted him as "the hero of a spiritual epic."

The following quote contains one of Gafni's favorite phrases, attributed to Allen Dershowitz, who most certainly was talking about Gafni's situation when coined that phrase, but it fits with Gafni's NEED to make the expression of his sociopathy exclusively about sexual mores.
a gifted teacher with an anti-establishment bent and a bohemian lifestyle can find his private life subjected to what legal scholar Allen Dershowitz called “sexual McCarthyism.”
In this recent NYT article, Gafni used the same basic strategy, to blame 35 years worth of accusations on "pseudofeminist witch hunts" and "sexual McCarthyism."
He said that old claims against him were all exaggerated, the result of professional resentment, and that he had been the victim of pseudofeminist witch hunts. (He handed this columnist a copy of “Sexual McCarthyism,” by Alan M. Dershowitz.)
New year, but the same old lame defenses that fool no one.

* * * *

Over these years, I have frequently referred to Gafni as a sociopath. I make this assessment based on behaviors and patterns of behavior over the 35 years in which he has been active as a rabbi or a teacher/guru. Having heard and read the accounts of survivors, I feel confident in the consistency of his patterns.

In the U.S., the term "sociopath" is considered short-hand for Antisocial Personality Disorder, the only accepted DSM diagnosis for people who seem to lack a conscience and any remorse. Here the DSM-IV-TR criteria for an APD diagnosis (must have 3 or more of these symptoms):

A) A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others, occurring since age 15 years, as indicated by three or more of the following:
  1. failure to conform to social norms with respect to lawful behaviors as indicated by repeatedly performing acts that are grounds for arrest;
  2. deception, as indicated by repeatedly lying, use of aliases, or conning others for personal profit or pleasure;
  3. impulsivity or failure to plan ahead;
  4. irritability and aggressiveness, as indicated by repeated physical fights or assaults;
  5. reckless disregard for safety of self or others;
  6. consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to sustain consistent work behavior or honor financial obligations;
  7. lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.
B) The individual is at least age 18 years.
C) There is evidence of conduct disorder with onset before age 15 years.
D) The occurrence of antisocial behavior is not exclusively during the course of schizophrenia or a manic episode.
APD is part of the Cluster B (dramatic/erratic) personality disorders, which also includes the Borderline, Histrionic, and Narcissistic personality disorders. Occasionally, two of these can overlap in their symptomatology, and it appears Gafni has some of the APD characteristics as well as some of narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) characteristics.

Looking at the list above, Gafni fits several criteria: (1) he rejected accepted social norms as a rabbi and as a spiritual teacher - one of which is "do not sleep with students," (2) Gafni has repeatedly lied about his abuses of women, students, and employees, and he has written defenses of his behaviors and put other peoples names on them, as he has done with Ken Wilber, (4) former employees/students and survivors of his abuse have spoken about his rage issues when he is frustrated or threatened, (5) his sexual abuses of students and co-workers does not take into account the damage his actions will have for any organization he works for or in, and (7) Gafni has never taken responsibility or shown remorse for the damage he has caused so many people over the last 35 years.

It is essential that we understand that personality disorders are "egosyntonic," meaning that their experience is aligned with their sense of self. Basically, the person with a personality disorder feels nothing is wrong with them, but everyone else is seriously crazy. Most mental illnesses are "egodystonic," meaning that their experience is not aligned with their sense of self.

Outside the DSM there is an accepted definition of psychopath, which is often used interchangeably with sociopath in common usage, and even in clinical work. Dr. Robert Hare, Emeritus Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia, has developed the Hare Psychopathy Checklist - Revised, now in a 2nd Edition. Here are the characteristics of a psychopath according to the checklist:
The Hare Psychopathy Checklist – Revised 
  1. GLIB and SUPERFICIAL CHARM — The tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything.  A psychopath never gets tongue-tied. They have freed themselves from the social conventions about taking turns in talking, for example.
  2. GRANDIOSE SELF-WORTH — A grossly inflated view of one’s abilities and self-worth, self-assured, opinionated, cocky, a braggart. Psychopaths are arrogant people who believe they are superior human beings.
  3. NEED FOR STIMULATION or PRONENESS TO BOREDOM — An excessive need for novel, thrilling, and exciting stimulation; taking chances and doing things that are risky. Psychopaths often have low self-discipline in carrying tasks through to completion because they get bored easily. They fail to work at the same job for any length of time, for example, or to finish tasks that they consider dull or routine.
  4. PATHOLOGICAL LYING — Can be moderate or high; in moderate form, they will be shrewd, crafty, cunning, sly, and clever; in extreme form, they will be deceptive, deceitful, underhanded, unscrupulous, manipulative, and dishonest.
  5. CONNING AND MANIPULATIVENESS — The use of deceit and deception to cheat, con, or defraud others for personal gain; distinguished from Item #4 in the degree to which exploitation and callous ruthlessness is present, as reflected in a lack of concern for the feelings and suffering of one’s victims.
  6. LACK OF REMORSE OR GUILT — A lack of feelings or concern for the losses, pain, and suffering of victims; a tendency to be unconcerned, dispassionate, cold-hearted, and non-empathic. This item is usually demonstrated by a disdain for one’s victims.
  7. SHALLOW AFFECT — Emotional poverty or a limited range or depth of feelings; interpersonal coldness in spite of signs of open gregariousness.
  8. CALLOUSNESS and LACK OF EMPATHY — A lack of feelings toward people in general; cold, contemptuous, inconsiderate, and tactless.
  9. PARASITIC LIFESTYLE — An intentional, manipulative, selfish, and exploitative financial dependence on others as reflected in a lack of motivation, low self-discipline, and inability to begin or complete responsibilities.
  10. POOR BEHAVIORAL CONTROLS — Expressions of irritability, annoyance, impatience, threats, aggression, and verbal abuse; inadequate control of anger and temper; acting hastily.
  11. PROMISCUOUS SEXUAL BEHAVIOR — A variety of brief, superficial relations, numerous affairs, and an indiscriminate selection of sexual partners; the maintenance of several relationships at the same time; a history of attempts to sexually coerce others into sexual activity or taking great pride at discussing sexual exploits or conquests.
  12. EARLY BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS — A variety of behaviors prior to age 13, including lying, theft, cheating, vandalism, bullying, sexual activity, fire-setting, glue-sniffing, alcohol use, and running away from home.
  13. LACK OF REALISTIC, LONG-TERM GOALS — An inability or persistent failure to develop and execute long-term plans and goals; a nomadic existence, aimless, lacking direction in life.
  14. IMPULSIVITY — The occurrence of behaviors that are unpremeditated and lack reflection or planning; inability to resist temptation, frustrations, and urges; a lack of deliberation without considering the consequences; foolhardy, rash, unpredictable, erratic, and reckless.
  15. IRRESPONSIBILITY — Repeated failure to fulfill or honor obligations and commitments; such as not paying bills, defaulting on loans, performing sloppy work, being absent or late to work, failing to honor contractual agreements.
  16. FAILURE TO ACCEPT RESPONSIBILITY FOR OWN ACTIONS — A failure to accept responsibility for one’s actions reflected in low conscientiousness, an absence of dutifulness, antagonistic manipulation, denial of responsibility, and an effort to manipulate others through this denial.
  17. MANY SHORT-TERM MARITAL RELATIONSHIPS — A lack of commitment to a long-term relationship reflected in inconsistent, undependable, and unreliable commitments in life, including marital.
  18. JUVENILE DELINQUENCY — Behavior problems between the ages of 13-18; mostly behaviors that are crimes or clearly involve aspects of antagonism, exploitation, aggression, manipulation, or a callous, ruthless tough-mindedness.
  19. REVOCATION OF CONDITION RELEASE — A revocation of probation or other conditional releases due to technical violations, such as carelessness, low deliberation, or failing to appear.
  20. CRIMINAL VERSATILITY — A diversity of types of criminal offenses, regardless if the person has been arrested or convicted for them; taking great pride at getting away with crimes.The word psychopath can be replaced with the word sociopath throughout this page. The meaning is very similar, if not the same.
Item 1 on this list is very telling - and for those who don't understand how women who might enter into a consensual sexual relationship with Gafni then can later feel victimized, it's all right there: "The tendency to be smooth, engaging, charming, slick, and verbally facile. Psychopathic charm is not in the least shy, self-conscious, or afraid to say anything.  A psychopath never gets tongue-tied." Sociopaths (or psychopaths - more on the difference below) can be VERY charming and seductive, and if you'll notice in some of the online statements, even those who have distanced themselves from Gafni marvel at his charisma. It is the charisma that lures women, and it also lures in supporters (financial) and defenders (students).

Once they are seduced, especially the women, Gafni's mask will begin to slip. These women discover the porn addiction, the rage, the manipulation of others, the lack of remorse, the debasing sexuality, and the inability to tell the truth. Understandably, they are frightened of him, and when they escape, they remain trapped in silence out of fear or reprisal - because if they do speak out, he will call them liars, or say they are mentally unstable, and on an on.

If necessary, he will forge documents that exonerate him, such as the letter supposedly written by Ken Wilber and Sally Kempton. It's clear to most that Wilber had nothing to do with it - it's not his languaging, it's Gafni's. Likewise with the "official" Integral Institute Report on Marc Gafni, which is clearly a forgery, likely written by Gafni and/or Kempton, and Clint Fuhs (the employee Wilber commissioned to investigate, as noted without attribution in the NYT article). People who have read the document and are familiar with Gafni's writing are convinced he wrote it (and this includes his former supporter, Joe Perez).

Speaking of Sally Kempton (one of Gafni's most enduring supporters), she is the co-narccisist to Gafni's narcissistic sociopath. Kempton held the same role for Swami Muktananda in the 1970s and 80s. When the horny swami was exposed for sleeping with his female students, she continued to defend him, even after he had died. Here are two passages from "O Guru, Guru, Guru," which originally appeared in The New Yorker, November 14, 1994 (it's pay-walled). The first is a statement by her former editor at the Village Voice, and the second is Kempton/Durgananda's denials of the sexual abuse allegations. Note: Durgananda was Kempton's name in the SYDA organization.
Ross Wetzsteon, a former editor of hers at the Voice, told me that he believes that her immersion in Siddha Yoga diminished her. "Sally was a wonderfully gifted writer, and when she got involved with that place she lost all her wit, all her irony, and all her perceptiveness," he said. "It was as if her brain had gone completely soft. There was a vacancy. She seemed hollow. People use the word 'brainwashed'-I know that doesn't really apply, but it was as if her center had disappeared, not got stronger."
* * * *
Durgananda called the accusations "laughable" and "ridiculous." Had they been true, she said, Muktananda would not have been able to go on giving shaktipat and the organization would not have continued to be as healthy as it was. Recently, however, I spoke with two longtime SYDA meditation teachers with well established academic and professional careers as psychotherapists, who say that Durgananda sounded a different note with them. They told me that last winter they had investigated some of the allegations, had sadly concluded that they were true, and, in May of this year, confronted Durgananda and another swami, demanding to know why the truth had been kept from them for so many years. The confrontation occurred away from the ashram, and this time, according to the therapists, Durgananda did not say that the allegations were false. Durgananda told the therapists that she knew a number of the women quite well and was convinced that whatever had happened had been beneficial to them, but that the swamis had never talked about it, because they thought it would be more appropriate to be "discreet." The therapists have now left SYDA. When I phoned Durgananda and told her what they had said to me, she said, "My memory is that I did deny it to them," and she added that, whether the allegations were "true or not, it doesn't really change our understanding of Baba."
Kempton has been enabling Gafni's sociopathic behaviors for a decade or more.

On the hopeful side, Kempton had the good sense to tell the NYT that young female students should stay away from Gafni.
One Gafni supporter, Sally Kempton, who is a teacher and writer of meditation and Eastern philosophy and a member of his think tank, said he was “a wonderful teacher for mature students” and not someone “young, susceptible women should take as their teacher.”
 It's heartening to see that maybe she is getting a clue.

* * * *

A few people (I am one) make a distinction between a psychopath and sociopath. In this distinction, psychopaths are born (strong genetic influence) but sociopaths are made (stong environmental influence).

I suspect that Gafni was "made."

Marc Gafni (originally Mordechai Winiarz, but also Mordechai Winyarz and Mordechai Gafni) was born in 1960 to an Orthodox family of Holocaust survivors who lived an ultra-Orthodox lifestyle.

In one of the highly suspicious psychological assessments (these are more letters of recommendation--there is not any psychological assessment in them) that Gafni offered as evidence of his fitness to return to teaching after the 2006 incident in Israel, the following information was reported by 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. ... 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.
In a long email statement given to Luke Ford by the original 13-year-old survivor, she mentioned Gafni telling her that his mother had stuck his head in an oven.

I remember on one of the nights that he came into my room, woke me up and was trying to molest me, he told me that he and his brother were abused by their mother, who was a holocaust survivor. He told me that she stuck their heads in the kitchen oven. There was a very clear message that because of what had happened to him, he couldn't help but doing what he was doing to me, and he pleaded with me to understand that, have compassion with him, and comply.

If these reports are true, much of Gafni's dysfunction can be attributed to his own developmental trauma--a form of transgenerational trauma alarmingly common in families of Holocaust survivors, especially in the 2nd generation (see these recent articles: The Guardian, Scientific American, BMC Psychiatry).

Years later, in an interview with Luke Ford, Gafni denied the story completely.

In this case, the survivor has no reason to make up a detail like that, one that might make Gafni a more sympathetic character. And there is ample evidence that Gafni portrays himself, frequently, as a victim, whether it's of his past, his desires, or the beauty of the female he is grooming/seducing.

Maybe I am making him more sympathetic by including this information. I will take that risk.

By understanding some of Gafni's history (and this is just my speculation based on the pseudo-psych evaluations and comments from survivors of his abuse), he was likely terribly abused as a child, reportedly left home as a young teen to attend a Jewish high school, and probably has never adequately dealt with his childhood pain. This explains a lot of his behavior, but it does NOT justify it.

I'm guessing that the above wounding is what I saw in his body when I saw him at the 2010 Integral Theory Conference. He has the physical presence of a person carrying a lot of toxic shame.

Toxic shame (or internal shame) is quite different from external shame. The latter is "based on an unpleasant but just about tolerable feeling that other people look down on you and make bad judgements about you." Toxic shame, however, is "about feeling undesirable and unlovable," feeling  not good enough, or simply worthless (quotes are from Paul Gilbert, Professor of Psychology at the University of Derby, in The Guardian, Feb. 16, 2003).

In extreme cases (a lot of the clients I work with), toxic shame results from sexual or physical abuse and/or emotional neglect of young children. When the child is three or younger, the brain is being shaped and wired based on experience and can alter neural development (once believed to be irreparable).  Even older children can be affected by abuse and neglect, but because the first three years of life are when the brain's right hemisphere is developing based on interactions with care-givers, the relational, intersubjective, and affect regulating skills are deficient or non-existent.

More likely, however, childhood experiences of repeated and traumatic shame, including stern care-taking and little or no showing of affection, or when when responses by parents are harsh and critical more often than affectionate or loving, leads to shame becoming a primary affective experience for the child. The outcome of this is "shame-proneness," a tendency to experience shame and of making sense of negative experiences as proof of personal worthlessness.

Many researchers believe that toxic shame is the root of borderline personality disorder (BPD) and narcissistic personality disorder (NPD). Randi Kreger, author of Stop Walking on Eggshells: Taking Your Life Back When Someone You Care About Has Borderline Personality Disorder, writes on her Psychology Today blog:
One of the prime ways people with BPD or NPD is to dump their shame on others through blame, criticism, name-calling, and projection. This confuses them, wears away their self-esteem, and causes them to doubt themselves.
Shame may also be behind the BPD/NPD need for control, because people with power feel less vulnerable to being shamed.
And this:
BPs and NPs can't afford to open themselves up (if indeed, they could) because rejection would be unthinkably wounding. It may surprise you to know that people who become involved with borderlines and narcissists also experience shame. Both people may need to work on their own shame before these shame-based relationships can become healthy. 
Gafni's sociopathy is an acting out of his childhood wounding and toxic shame, 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), to hide his lack of 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.

Again, this does not justify or excuse his behavior, it only serves to explain some of it.

* * * *

Here is a listing of all known (at this time) articles about Marc Gafni that have appeared since the December 25th New York Times article.

December 27th:
December 29th:
  • Soon followed a second article from Oppenheimer at Tablet Magazine, part 2 of the NYT article.
  • Also on the 29th, the Jewish Telegraph posted 4 quotes by ex-Orthodox rabbi Marc Gafni not in The NY Times article.
  • Matthew Gindin posted Some Thoughts On Marc Gafni at his blog, Seeking Her Voice.
  • Joe Perez "leaked" the supposedly "official" Integral Institute Report on Marc Gafni: Summary and Conclusions (circa 2008) , then deleted it. It became fully available online on Dec. 30th. To its discredit, there are several issues with this document, not least of which is the inclusion of material post-2008, with an addendum noting that it had been updated in 2011 and 2014. An "official" document of this nature is not updated, unless of of course it's NOT official. There is also the issue that those who know Gafni and his writing see his language and perspectives all over the text, again confirming it as unofficial, and in fact, pro-Gafni propaganda. What this DOES show is the lengths to which Gafni will go to cover his ass - forgery, lies, manipulation. 
December 30th:
Also on December 30th:
NOTE: In all fairness, Robb Smith and Corey DeVos made Integral Life a Gafni-free place in 2011, a decision that had been in the works for a year or more, but coincided with Gafni's affairs that cost him his book contract with Sounds True, as well as damaging two wonderful women I had the privilege of speaking with and getting to know.

December 31st: 
January 1st:
January 2nd:
January 3rd:
January 4th:
January 5th:
January 6th:
January 7th:
January 8th: 
January 9th:
  • The post you are reading appeared. As of 1.20.2016, it has more than 1,800 views.
    January 10th:

    January 12th:
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    January 14th:
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    January 18th:
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    January 20th:

    As readers of this blog are well-aware, I have been tracking and reporting on Gafni and his predatory behaviors since May of 2006, when three women (Gafni was 46, they were in their 20s) in his Israeli Jewish community came forward about him having affairs with each of them and swearing them to secrecy. [Other reports placed the number at five women, three of whom filed complaints with the police, as well as others from the community and from Jerusalem who came forward when the story broke.]

    Here are some old posts from this blog: