Rabbi Marc Gafni & Sexual Improprieties
RABBI MARC GAFNI & SEXUAL IMPROPRIETIES
By Ken Wilber
May 15, 2006
On Tuesday, May 9th, 2006, three women from Bayit Chadash, a spiritual community in Israel headed by Rabbi Marc Gafni, filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Gafni with the police. Upon reviewing relevant testimony, the steering committee of Bayit Chadash decided to remove Marc Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. (See below for the formal announcement.)
Subsequently, rumors have been rife. After long conversations with many of the concerned parties, I have come to the following conclusions. At this time, these are my personal opinions, and are open to immediate revision in light of any further evidence. Marc Gafni is a close friend of mine, but in circumstances like this, friendship decidedly takes a backseat to ethics and justice. In my opinion, the viewpoint that takes the most number of perspectives into account is the more likely to be the better moral judgment, with the Basic Moral Intuition the ultimate guide.
These are my conclusions at this time:
1. There is substantial truth to some of these allegations.
2. This has caused something of a feeding frenzy for the mean green meme, which is understandable but I believe inexcusable. Frankly, some of these have reached pathetic portions.
3. Nonetheless, there is some truth to these allegations because of grave wrongdoing on Marc’s part, and I believe this wrongdoing is due not just to bad judgment on Marc’s part, but to a pathology or dysfunction affecting Marc.
4. Marc, in a letter to Bayit Chadash, agreed that some of his actions indeed stemmed from a pathology or, as he termed it, a “sickness.”
5. I do not believe that somebody with an acknowledged emotional illness or sexual pathology is competent to be a public spiritual teacher. Therefore, at this time, Marc will not be involved in public teaching or presentations of any sort at Integral Institute.
6. With Marc’s agreement, I have asked Frances Vaughan to begin a consultation with Marc focused specifically on his dysfunction.
7. I have other suggestions for therapeutic work that I believe would be helpful to Marc, and I believe he is sincere in pursuing them. He will be stopping in Boulder/Denver periodically to consult with me and with Rabbi Zalman as to these directions.
[Correction: Since having written this, I have spoken with Rabbi Zalman. Zalman has decided that it is best neither to meet nor speak with Mordechai until further notice.]
8. I realize that some people doubt Marc’s sincerity. This is understandable. My strong recommendation has therefore been to create a board of advisors to oversee Marc’s therapeutic work. I have not specifically talked with individuals about this board, but what I have in mind is something like Frances Vaughan, Rabbi Tirzah Firestone (who is in Boulder), and Diane Hamilton forming a board that would biannually review Marc’s progress, and make specific recommendations at each juncture. This board would have to be composed of individuals completely acceptable to both sides (i.e., to Bayit Chadash and to Marc Gafni).
9. I have stated my conclusion, after reviewing the evidence and as many perspectives as I can, that there is truth to some of these allegations and that this is due in part to Marc’s illness, and that as long as this dysfunction is not addressed, I do not believe that Marc should be teaching. But I want to point out that emotional illness can be treated and in many cases cured. Marc may or may not be sincere, and his therapy may or may not be effective — but that is exactly the purpose of the therapeutic board: namely, to make that decision, and not to let either of the partial sides do so. I do not know if this solution will work, but to date it is the only rational, compassionate, and fair one that I have heard, and therefore the only one which serves justice.
10. Whatever is decided on that issue, my understanding is that there is no objection to Marc pursuing his writing. We all recognize the brilliance of his contributions in this area. If we are accepting a “levels and lines” argument, then allowing Marc to pursue this line seems reasonable to me, and is something I would certainly recommend.
This is an extraordinary difficult period for all parties concerned. Bayit Chadash has been hurt. Integral Institute has been hurt. Mordechai has been hurt by his own actions. And most of all, the parties directly involved have been hurt.
But I beg all of you — all of us — not to inflame the situation further by demanding more pain, more suffering, more agony. Inflicting more pain on Marc will not take away the pain that all of us are already suffering. Let us not have an eye for an eye, but justice and mercy in equal proportions. Please don’t let hatred into your soul, I beg you; that serves nobody, least of all those who offer hatred a home.
My heart goes out to the women involved — I am so deeply, deeply sad at the pain and turmoil they have suffered; and my heart goes out to the men and women who have been affected by these tragic events. My heart goes out as well to Mordechai, a dear friend whose very bright light has cast a very sharp shadow, and in a way that has inadvertently caused such harm. I do believe, however, that emotional illness can be cured; I believe that reasonable restitution can be made; I believe that forgiveness and compassion are stronger than any evil in this world; and I know that the outreach of our own tender mercies and loving kindness will ultimately carry the day.
Sending all of you much Love, Light, and Life,
Here is the formal announcement sent out by Bayit Chadash:
We must share with you that on Tuesday, May 9, 2006, three women from our community filed complaints of sexual misconduct against Mordechai Gafni with the police. We were aware of this situation because on Monday, May 8, 2006, we had previously read the depositions that these women had declared to an attorney. We also personally heard the testimonies of these women, as well as that of another woman from an institution where Rabbi Gafni previously worked. We shared our findings and recommendations with Shantam Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and leader; and with Or Zohar, a Bayit Chadash teacher and our CEO.
Our colleagues agreed with us that in the present situation, we should recommend to the Bayit Chadash steering committee that Mordechai Gafni’s tenure in Bayit Chadash be ended immediately, or alternatively, we would collectively resign. After the members of the steering committee read some of the depositions, they decided to remove Mordechai Gafni from the Bayit Chadash staff. The decision of the steering committee was further reinforced in light of the complaints filed with the police.
Were this was a matter solely related to Mordechai Gafni’s private life, it would be of some concern to us and to the community. The problem is greatly exaggerated by the fact that this involves women from our community, staff members and students. It is our position that there is no place for relations like this between a rabbi and his students or between an employer and his employees, whether consensual or not. It would seem that this is also the opinion of Mordechai, since he swore all the women involved to eternal and absolute silence.
Some women, however, decided to speak. We have no doubt that they speak truth, and willingly risk our personal credibility and integrity in support of their testimony.
As to the criminal aspect of his actions, that is up to the police and the courts to decide. Beyond that, judgment is in the hands of the Judge of all the world.
The sense of disappointment is very great, for us personally as well. Mordechai always treated us with friendship and respect. At times like this our sages say that one should scrutinize one’s own actions, and meditate upon why one is part of such a story. Certainly there is much to learn from such a difficult and painful experience.
May we all see, fear and tremble, may healing to our shared soul come swiftly, and may this healing encompass all involved and all who are witness, in this and all worlds.
Letter from Mordechai Gafni to Aleph regarding the recent allegations of sexual assault.
May 15, 2006
To my holiest friends,
I want to say I understand I have made grave mistakes. I made choices that clearly hurt people I love. I am infinitely saddened and profoundly sorry for the pain I have caused.
I take full responsibility for all the pain I have inflicted. Clearly all of this and more indicates that in these regards I am sick. I need to acknowledge that sickness and to get help for it. That is what I am doing in this letter.
I want to state clearly and unequivocally that I now recognize that I am sick in these ways and I am committed with all of my energy to check myself into the appropriate programs that will get me healing on this. I have already turned to a leading figure to guide my treatment program and am entering treatment immediately. want to enter into the most appropirate healing process with both myself and where appropirate with the others involved.
I promise you from the bottom of my heart and in the name of everything that is holy, I am taking this crisis with utmost seriousness. I am making healing the number one priority of my life. I must act now to discover what led to me to make these damaging choices that hurt people I care about, hurt my community, and hurt the people who have supported me for years in building Bayit Chadash.
In light of all that has happened I am leaving all of my rabbinic teaching capacities. I am looking now, together with a professional team, for in-house treatment centers where I can go and learn about what led me here, where I can grieve for all the pain that I have caused, and where I can
heal so that this never happens again. I apologize with all of my heart and soul to everyone.
With love and pain beyond words,
Marc Gafni Public Statement
Many people have asked me to respond to the reported complaints of sexual harassment that were leveled against me two years ago in Israel. Until recently, I chose to remain silent. The time has come for me to speak.
Here is my response to these complaints as they have been reported in several public forums and media outlets. Since I have never seen or received notice of the complaints themselves, I can only respond to what has been reported in media forums and internet posts.
My purpose is to set out some basic truths, and to label some basic falsehoods, about the situation.
WHAT IS SIMPLY NOT TRUE
The complaints against me, as they have been reported in various public forums, contain direct falsehoods. In response to these, I specifically state that:
* I did not sexually harass anyone; all of my relationships were mutual and consensual.
* I did not in any way engage in deception, such as making false promises to marry in order to gain sexual engagement or favor.
* I did not in any way deploy my authority as an employer to gain sexual favors.
* I have not violated any law, and I am also not, at this time, pursuing any civil or criminal legal action against any persons or groups.
Each of the above statements is substantiated by extensive documentary material including, but not limited to, records of my e-mail and instant message correspondence.
With the help of a data recovery company, I have successfully recovered material that had, apparently intentionally, and against my written instructions, been deleted from my hard drive. This included e-mail correspondence, instant messages, and other forms of communication regarding ALL of my relationships in the past several years.
This material makes it clear that my relationships with the complainants were affectionate, caring, and mutual, with open and honest communication about my intentions. Any claims to the contrary are contradicted by hundreds of written communications between the parties and myself.
There is more than enough clear and compelling material to fully protect myself, my children, and my close friends against potential damage from any false complaints, should that ever be required.
I have also taken and passed a detailed polygraph examination on each of these matters. The examination was administered by an internationally respected expert who has trained many of the polygraph experts in Israel and around the world.
WHAT IS SIMPLY TRUE
I am a teacher and a human being on the growing edge. As a spiritual and social artist, a lover of life, and a natural bohemian, my personal life has at times been at variance with conventional models of relationship.
Sometimes I got it right.
Sometimes I did not get it right and broke boundaries of conventional relationship when they might better have remained in place. More than once, I chose what I thought to be the integrity of authentic loving over the integrity of classic loyalties. In retrospect, I believe that almost every one of those choices, in those particular contexts, was wrong. I will not repeat them. Unintentionally, and to my great regret, I, like all of us, have sometimes caused emotional pain to people whom I love.
Where it has been appropriate and possible, I have asked forgiveness.
In Israel, over a period of several years, I had a series of mutual and consensual engagements with powerful adult women in my circle. Each was unique and based on affection.
Other than one relationship with a woman, who was and remains one of my closest friends, none of these connections emerged from the matrix of a formal teacher-student relationship.
In each of these relationships, as is usually the case between men and women, there were complex power dynamics in which each side had power and vulnerability.
While I never promised exclusivity to any, in retrospect I see I did fail to recognize two things. First, that my non-exclusivity might in itself be experienced as hurtful.
Secondly, that these involvements themselves, and particularly the lack of transparency around them, might be experienced as painful or problematic. I never “swore anyone to eternal silence” as some distorted reports suggested. I merely asked for confidentiality in relationship to allow myself a private personal life separate from my public life.
I also did not understand that these private relationships, which I enjoyed, trusted, and valued, might wind up hurting people who supported me, or that they might undermine the community and the work which I cared for so passionately.
For these, as well as for any other ways in which my actions, in this or any other arena of my life, may have been unskillful or motivated by ignorance or self-seeking, I express profound regret.
If I can make spiritual amends to anyone, I will be happy to do so. To anyone who feels that I have hurt them in relationship, I apologize with all my heart and soul.
However, at no time did my behavior in any of these relationships remotely resemble the false allegations that were reported in some media articles and on the internet two years ago. There was no sexual harassment or sexual abuse in any way, shape or form.
Love and Suffering: Dr. Marc Gafni Reemerges
By Robb Smith in Integral Life
November 3rd, 2008
We recently began preparations for a new annual event called “Integral Spiritual Experience” in collaboration with integral spiritual leaders Swami Sally Kempton, Diane Musho Hamilton, Sensei and Dr. Marc Gafni. Ken Wilber and I both felt it was important to transparently investigate and address the current state of affairs as it relates to the alleged sexual misbehavior of Dr. Gafni from a few years ago. Indeed, in Ken’s letter to the community of a few years ago he made a commitment that any new information would be examined.
In the past few months there has been an unveiling of what actually transpired among Dr. Gafni and his former partners. So as not to influence the discernment necessary in ethical matters of this kind, I won’t detail the findings here, but instead point interested readers to look at what has more recently surfaced at www.marcgafni.com. The conclusions drawn on the website by the evaluators, rabbis, spiritual teachers and others are based on ample documentary material. Collectively, at various stages over a period of more than two years, all parties have been heard from directly and through their representatives and now through extensive first person documentation.
From the information that we reviewed, it seems clear that what was previously construed as illegal sexual misconduct was among other things a cauldron of badly-handled relationships and communication amongst adults. To be clear, we know it is not our place to judge a very complex set of perspectives, emotions, and intersubjective commitments. Dr. Gafni has taken ownership of his part of the poor judgment that contributed to the conditions surrounding the events, and we feel deep empathy for those involved and don’t presume to fully account for what happened. But, put simply, the evidence is clear that nothing illegal occurred, and by the end there was real pain all around. So how do we move forward?
Integral living is, if anything else, about finding the transcending path through the pain and promise of human life. I have not been a practicing Christian for over 20 years, but as Integral Life began preparing its new documentary film “The Future of Christianity” for delivery this Christmas season, I was delighted to have an opportunity to read some of Father Thomas Keating’s work. In his small tome Transformation of Suffering he describes one of the greatest and most miraculous equations ever described: transformation = suffering + love. The greatest value that we at Integral Life hold, and practice, is love. As we considered the path forward, it was made clear by our commitment to practicing love, which in the end seeks to include, forgive and heal.
As Dr. Gafni reemerges into the integral world, after two years of a significant life review that included personal introspection, therapy and spiritual work, he will be included, as applicable, in future integral events that we sponsor. He is a talented scholar with a unique contribution to make to the unfolding human story. I believe that in this particular story of suffering of which he is a central player, love is the widest path to transformation.
This is why I have asked Dr. Gafni to begin preparing a program on integral love (which will be published on IntegralLIfe.com). I believe that because of his experiences he has a unique perspective to share, and that because his very presence will cause mixed reactions, this program will be among the best kind of integral engagements: one that invites us to become deeply aware of our own relationship to love, pain, suffering, judgment, forgiveness, and transformation. I have asked him to engage in this project in a personal and transparent way. I offer no promises about what the outcome will be. I am confident that greater freedom and fullness lie at the other end of suffering, and I am committed to fostering that in our community.
I think that this affair is a calling to love more fully and more deeply. That love has the profound power to transform our human frailties into unity that transcends our small stories and overcomes our deepest wounds is the greatest lesson life can teach. Free to be fully human is more than just a tagline for Integral Life. It is a pointing-out instruction, a gentle reminder that this greatest lesson lives within each of us, all of us as sinners, and all of us redeemed.
With deep respect,
Read many more, mostly supportive comments, concerning this difficult story here.
Spiritual Teachers Letter
From Sally Kempton, Gabriel Cousens, M.D., and John Kesler
To Whom it May Concern,
This is to serve as a letter of recommendation in regard to Rabbi Marc Gafni.
We are part of a group of friends, colleagues and teachers, each of whom has been involved in Marc’s process during the period of time following the closure of his community in Israel, Bayit Chadash. We have helped to hold a container around Marc at different times during these past two years. Until now, (honoring his own wishes), we and others have refrained from speaking publicly about these events.
Without going into extensive detail in this letter, we attest that we have spent hundreds of hours considering this matter from many perspectives. We have reviewed a significant body of unpublished written material from all parties involved. We have read correspondence and other documents which attest to the atmosphere of friendship, mutuality and affection within which Marc’s relationships took place. The documentation leaves no room for doubt on this score.
We are also familiar with the materials published in various forums on the Internet, and recognize that the voices behind some of the most vociferous of these forums are neither reliable or reputable.
We have drawn several clear conclusions, and as spiritual elders are prepared to stand behind these conclusions.
Here are some points we’d like to emphasize:
First, that a great injustice was perpetrated in the way these events played out in the public sphere, and in the way they have been reported. It is our conclusion that Marc did not sexually harass the women with whom he associated in Israel, nor did he make false promises in order to gain sexual relationships.
Second, that the attempt to give credence to these complaints by linking them to relationships from Marc’s youth is equally misleading. Most of what has been published on the web regarding two youthful relationships is either false, or has been seriously distorted in tone and substance. Marc has taken detailed polygraph tests, administered by Dr. Gordon Barland, an internationally recognized polygraph expert. These tests confirmed that Marc’s account to us and on his website, of his role in these relationships, in both the distant and recent past, is truthful.
At the same time, Marc has repeatedly acknowledged the lack of discernment evidenced in some of his personal choices. He recognizes that the private life of a spiritual teacher needs to be either conventional or transparent, and that his life at the time was neither.
He has undertaken (and continues to engage in) an ongoing process of self-examination and inner work, both psychological and spiritual.
This has been attested to by objective third party evaluations as well as by our own sustained first-hand knowledge of the processes, which he has engaged. All of these evaluations have independently reviewed relevant documentary material and collectively done extensive formal testing of many kinds.
They have all rejected the notion that Marc engaged in any form of sexual harassment in Israel, affirmed that Marc has learned valuable lessons from these experiences, and strongly encouraged Marc to fully re-engage his active life as a significant spiritual teacher.
He is committed to complete transparency in any teaching or community contexts in which he participates in the future. Marc especially regrets lack of full transparency to some of his past supporters. He also sincerely regrets some dimensions of his past relationships and engagements over the years. He acknowledges his mistakes in his regard.
However Marc stands by his refutation not only of the tone but also of the overwhelming majority of the substance of the web reports. This refutation is confirmed by the already mentioned polygraph report.
It is also important to note that the four independent evaluators all attest that Marc’s sexual behavior, while admittedly bohemian and in Marc’s retrospective view, sometimes mistaken, was well within the range of normal behavior. Suggestions to the contrary, as the evaluations state, are either ignorant or malicious.
Marc, in an early moment of intense pain, trauma and shock, wrote a highly exaggerated letter in which, he essentially fell on his sword. As several of the independent evaluators have also stated, this letter, which was written on advice, did not accurately reflect either his role in these relationships nor his motives in undertaking them.
The letter has, understandably but unfortunately, been treated by many as the final word on these events and used as justification for assuming that the accusations directed against Marc as reported in on the web and other public forums, were accurate. They are not.
To repeat, the malicious descriptions of Marc on the web, using terms such as perpetrator, sociopath, predator and child molester are completely and categorically false. Even to engage them by denying in some sense gives them to much legitimacy. These descriptions represent a malicious slanderous use of loaded psychiatric terms in the service of character assassination.
It is worth noting again, for those who prefer objective third-party evaluations, that Marc underwent, three polygraph tests in which he was questioned closely on these issues. Dr. Gordon Barland, an internationally recognized expert in the field, administered the test. The results of the test fully affirmed the truth of his recounting of events to us, both in the recent and very distant past.
Marc’s position has been to take full responsibility for his own contributions to the situation that allowed these events to unfold. From our point of view, the crisis in his life has been a catalyst that has helped Marc to make important inner shifts and to deepen and evolve as a human being, leader and teacher.
We have – together with a significant group of other teachers in the spiritual community, urged Rabbi Marc to return to active teaching. We unhesitatingly recommend Marc to any university, academic program, corporation or spiritual center, any of which stand to gain enormously from his teaching and presentation.
Said simply, Marc is one of the most gifted and insightful teachers of our generation, and has a tremendous amount to offer. There is no substantive reason for any institution not to retain his services.
Marc Gafni’s gifts of heart and mind are unique in this generation. We are prepared to teach with him, learn from him, guide him, and further support his evolution as a teacher, leader, and as a human being.
Where possible and appropriate Marc is willing to engage in a process with any of the people involved. This however can only come from a place where all sides acknowledge their power and part in either the contribution system that created these situations, or in the dynamics which has kept these issues alive for such a long time, or both.
As Spiritual elders we are prepared to help facilitate such a process of healing. If we cannot all give up our egoic positions, take responsibility and forgive each other in a way that does not seek the destruction or humiliation of other, then spirit is dead in inside of us.
Sally Kempton (Durgananda)
Nationally Recognized Spiritual Teacher and Elder, Early Feminist leader
Gabriel Cousens, M.D.
Internationally Recognized Spiritual Teacher and Elder, Psychiatrist, Holistic Physician, Author, Director of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center
Director of the Center for Engaging Community, Integral Philosopher, Attorney at Law
MARC GAFNI’S SEXUAL IMPROPRIETY RE-EMERGES – WILL INTEGRAL LEADERSHIP STEP UP THIS TIME?
By William Harryman
Integral Options Cafe
September 12, 2011
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.
• 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.
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.
WHERE I STAND
By Robb Smith
September 13, 2011
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.