Marc Gafni’s Sexual Impropriety Re-Emerges

Marc Gafni’s Sexual Impropriety Re-Emerges

Sep 18


For extensive background information on this situation, go here.


By William Harryman
Integral Options Cafe
September 12, 2011

Original Link

There have been two recent developments regarding Marc Gafni, already a controversial, polarizing figure following a very public sex scandal five years ago. While many organizations and teachers would have nothing to do with him, the Integral world did seem to believe his version of events and took him back.

What’s new:

• Integral life has removed Gafni as a contributor to their website and as MC of the Integral Spiritual Experience 3 Conference.

• Sounds True has cancelled publication of his upcoming book and severed ties with his Center for World Spirituality.

In an effort to discover what might be behind these developments, I have been in conversation with both Robb Smith, CEO of Integral Life, and Tami Simon, owner and publisher of Sounds True. Robb and I have not had a chance to speak personally, but Tami kindly sent me the following response (posted with her permission):

“When I first started working with Marc a couple of years ago, Marc and I spoke openly about his history and what he claimed were false accusations against him related to alleged sexual improprieties. Several influential people spoke up in his defense and equally several people warned me not to trust Marc. I came to believe that whatever had happened in the past, Marc was beginning a new chapter in his life. Marc explicitly stated to me that he was not going to be involved in sexual relationships with students, that even if he deemed such relationships to be consensual, he did not believe that engaging in relationships with students would support his efforts to be an effective teacher. In considering publishing Marc’s work, the most important thing to me was the actual quality of the written work. When he submitted “Your Unique Self” in its edited form, I appreciated the content and message of the book. The quality of the book combined with the force of his conviction regarding how he would conduct himself as a teacher moving forward convinced me to take a risk on publishing his work.

“In the past several weeks, new and incontrovertible information came to light that made me aware that Marc was involved in a sexual relationship with a student and that the relationship was shrouded in secrecy. There was an obvious lack of alignment between Marc’s words to me and his actions. I learned about Marc’s sexual relationship with a student from another woman who was having a sexual relationship with Marc. This woman was also asked by Marc to keep her relationship with him a secret. In talking with this woman, I learned how emotionally damaging this secrecy was for her, how it cut her off from emotional support and connection. I also learned quite a bit about how she felt manipulated by Marc, about how often she witnessed Marc telling lies to cover his tracks, and how upset she was to find herself caught in such a web of lies.

“Discovering this new information, it became clear to me that it was not in integrity for me personally or for Sounds True as a company to publish Marc’s books or to support him as a spiritual teacher in the world. I do not trust Marc Gafni. I do not trust what he says, and I do not trust that he acts in the best interests of his students or his professional alliances.”

~ Tami Simon, Sounds True

Just to be clear here, Gafni was sleeping with two women, both of whom were in a power differential to Gafni — one was a private student.

However, the other woman was receiving marriage counseling (as was her husband, separately) as her marriage was ending. To my knowledge, Gafni is not licensed to provide counseling in Colorado (Colorado Mental Health Practice Act – pdf), and if he is, sleeping with a client is grounds for censure or the removal of his license.

Both women wish to remain anonymous for a variety of reasons.

All of this was happening while he was “partnered” with Mariana Caplan, who is the mother of his child, and who risked her own reputation to write a chapter in her book, The Guru Question, arguing for his supposed innocence regarding the Israel incident in 2006; even Publisher’s Weekly questioned that final chapter.

That a very intelligent woman who has written a book on discernment around spiritual teachers was taken in by one is ironic, but it is also testament to Gafni’s ability to seduce otherwise intelligent people. Her fate serves as a stark warning to others who think they are immune from his seduction.

As is his pattern, Gafni has sworn both women to silence (as Tami described above) — and, according to sources in contact with the victims, in this case one of the women came forward and “failed to hold that space.” If you look back through the record of allegations against Gafni (this article contains statements by his early victims), it is always the women who come forward who are to blame for not being able to maintain his bohemian, “post-conventional” lifestyle.

In a long and rambling article responding to the Integrales Forum position paper on Integral Teachers and ethics, Gafni essentially offered a defense of his right as an “enlightened” teacher to have sexual relations with students. This is the defense he is currently offering for his affairs: he was involved in post-conventional relationships and the women failed to hold that space.

I have not had a chance to speak with Robb Smith directly, so the following information is based on reports from various people with access to the inner workings of Integral Life.

As mentioned above, it seems that Gafni has been removed by Integral Life from his usual leadership role of ISE3. Apparently, he will still be a presenter, but he won’t be the MC and won’t be running the event as he has for the previous two events (Jeff Salzman, Diane Hamilton, and Terry Patten will be leading this year’s event).

Robb Smith was very displeased that I implied Gafni’s material (articles, interviews, and so on) had been removed from the Integral Life site in secret. Yet, they removed the content of one of their most visible, most promoted, and most prolific teachers with not a word of explanation and that is “post-conventional governance”?

Robb and I have been playing phone tag since that Facebook conversation at the end of August. I hope he makes a public statement — and if he wants to alleviate suffering, he will join me in proposing and working to ensure that no student ever engages with Marc Gafni in ignorance of his past behavior.

Gafni’s Defenders

When Gafni first emerged from his two-year absence to resume his teaching (in 2008), his principle supporters were Robb Smith, Sally Kempton, Clint Fuhs, and Diane Hamilton. Robb offered an eloquent defense of Gafni and welcomed him back. I wonder if he now regrets those words, which Gafni has used as confirmation of his innocence and the legitimacyof his teaching.

Sally Kempton and Ken Wilber offered a long defense of Gafni and asserted that the women in Israel had lied (the letter was posted in the comments on this blog in response to my questioning of Gafni’s presence at the 2010 Integral conference). Of those mentioned in the letter, Robb Smith, Rocky Anderson, and Diane Hamilton have all moved away from Gafni.

Gafni posted a good deal of defense on his blog when he first returned to teaching. Most of it is questionable at best — especially the psyche evaluations. I documented that in a post last summer — in that same post I offered a bit of a speculative psychological explanation for Gafni’s behavior, which is not to be seen as an excuse.

Gafni has had many opportunities to confront his own patterns and seek help, but he seems unwilling to do so as long as he has supporters like Sally Kempton and Mariana Caplan who enable his behaviors and find ways to rationalize them.

Going Forward – My Personal Views

Robb seems to think — this is the message he has given to the staff at Integral Life in asking them not to speak with me — that I am “on a mission.” Yes, I most certainly am, but not the one he thinks.

My mission is to help prevent any other women from being victimized by Marc Gafni.

It is my hope that this post will offer a place for all of Gafni’s victims (many of whom have never come forward publicly because of the fear of abuse and harassment they are likely to receive from him and his enablers) to tell their stories.

It is also my hope that other leaders, especially in the integral community, will follow the fine example set by Tami Simon and make a public stand against Gafni’s lies and manipulations.

Allowing Gafni back into the Integral community — and defending him — has provided him with a platform to teach and begin his own organization – which has allowed him to bring chaos into the lives of two more women (that we know of – there may be others who are still silent). This need not have happened.

With his own organization now established at The Center for World Spirituality, it will be much tougher to discover or monitor his abuses than it would have been if he had never been allowed back into the integral community in the first place. When he is in charge, who monitors him? Who protects his students and employees?

I hold his enablers partly responsible — they willingly disregarded the experience of the women in Israel, the statements of his third ex-wife (much of what she says has been confirmed to me by other women who have been with him — for example, the “debasing sexuality” has been reported to me by other women who have been involved with him), and the statements of other organizations who had removed him from leadership positions.

However, the women willingly entered into these relationships – but would they have done so if there was a more public record of Integral leadership exposing his abuses?

So far, Tami Simon stands as the only leader willing to take a public stand on Marc Gafni. She should be applauded, but it is a sad testament to Integral post-conventional leadership that no one from that world has done the same.


By Robb Smith
Integral Life
September 13, 2011

Original Link

Dear friends:

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

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

In a conversation with Diane Hamilton yesterday she pointed out that perspectives are limitless but that action is singular and concrete. So although the Integral Life team has taken many perspectives on this situation, we stand by our actions. They include the following.

• By mutual agreement with I-Evolve, Integral Life has assumed full control and responsibility for ISE 3 as of last week. We’ve already established an awesome new event leadership team and will be announcing the new design in coming weeks. (Suffice it to say that everyone on the team is ecstatic that the event will refocus on Ken Wilber’s unique architecture of creativity as a living praxis in our lives.)

• We have removed Marc’s contributor pages on Integral Life as we prepare to migrate the site to its new design in coming months.

• I have asked that a formal “Policy of Ethics” be put in place for all contributors to Integral Life by end of Q1 2012.

When I wrote on Facebook this morning that I appreciate Bill Harryman’s contribution to this community I really meant it. I think Bill is right to call me to account for my rationale of inviting Marc Gafni back into the community 3 years ago. I see his point and believe that I understand it. As of right now I don’t hold tightly the idea that it was the right call. But I think it was. Just as the justice system is designed to let ten guilty men go free rather than allow one innocent man go wrongly sentenced, I insist on first-hand experience that I can stand by in my judgment of someone’s character. I have it, and have acted on it.

What I appreciate about these situations, as painful as they might be for some to go through, is that they allow us as a community to engage in a process of learning and making an object of whatever lessons are to be learned. Unlike some I don’t think these issues, for the most part, are shadow for the integral community. On the contrary, I’m impressed that we see them in a relatively clear way and can talk about them as freely and with as much ethical nuance as they probably deserve. That’s a big deal. And as many have pointed out, these issues are not confined to the integral community, they occur absolutely everywhere. But I think we can rise to the challenge and do an exemplary job of exploring them in a transparent way. It is in this vein that I have asked the Integral Life team to identify a panel of expert contributors who can lead a recorded public discussion to be published on Integral Life next year about sex and spirituality.

I’ll close by stating that my intention is not now, nor ever has been, to cause more suffering for Marc Gafni or the women involved. He is possessed of a brilliant mind and a powerful capacity for 2nd person transmission. I have enjoyed him as a person and have called him a friend. But I have told him directly that I do not support him in a leadership capacity and will not associate Integral Life or Integral Institute with any organization that does. Nevertheless, it remains my hope that he find what will serve him most deeply.

Loving regards,

Robb Smith


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.