The following is a repost of an article first published on Integral Options on August 8, 2010.
I have reopened the comments on the pre-conference post I put up on Marc Gafni – knowing full well that I am making myself a target for his retribution (I have been informed of his tactics) and that I am winning no friends in the higher realms of integral land.
I will have more to post on this topic in the future – I am in communication with some people who have never been spoken to by the Integral elites who defend Marc and believe he is innocent. They have very different stories to tell.
For now, let’s try to hold a wider perspective on all of this – it’s about more than the sexual relationships he has had with students and coworkers.
Please consider this section from his evaluations (Kevin Udis, Ph.D. and Thomas Meehan, L.C.S.W., B.C.D.):
Marc’s review of his family, which includes two brothers and divorced parents, is laden with early tragedy and horrific abuse in his parents’ early life related to the Holocaust and numerous examples of a fractured family life, of sadistic abuse and emotional neglect. In many ways, the evaluators view Marc Gafni as an emotional survivor who immersed himself in the study of Judaism which would eventually be a central underpinning in his adult identity. There are some obvious repetitions in Marc’s adult life that reflect the lack of closeness and intimacy in his life as a child and young man and a propensity to find and engage conflict. Sadly, this frequently results in a familiar experience of loneliness and a lack of security and protection.
As he gains perspective on himself and these experiences, he displays an ability to see his responsibility in engaging people who may not have had his best interest in mind. These blind spots have admittedly existed since his adolescence when he prematurely emancipated from his family and attended Yeshiva. His increasing awareness of this unconscious repetition may very well assure him of growth and support from others in his future rather than a repetition of crises and harmful drama to him. During this assessment, Marc appeared more accepting that his adolescent-like style of opposing normal rules and perceived authority figures can take on a self-destructive path for him.
I have read a LOT of psych evaluations, and this one does not in any fit the standard format – it is what one writes when trying to reveal as little as possible about a client, a style used most often in legal proceedings, which would be my guess as to why these were written.
This one also was not done by an independent third party, but by therapists “recommended in this regard by his regular psychotherapist.” Not objective, not valid.
The letter from Dr. Cindy Lou Golin, PhD is not a third-party, objective psychological review, but a letter of support that makes the same points Marc has himself made, as well as echoing the Kempton/Wilber letter.
The otherwise useless “evaluation” from Dr. Joseph H. Berke does contain at least important point:
It should also be noted that he has a major obstacle to overcome in his life, the fact that he is a second generation Holocaust survivor, the child of parents who were terribly traumatised by the Nazi genocide. These traumas tend to live in their offspring. Hopefully Mordechai will eventually open the lid of these experiences in himself and gain greater freedom, a deeper ‘tikkkun’ or repair of his self and his soul.
Again, this man was recommended by Marc’s friends (Reb Zalman Schachter Shalomi in a communication with Jean Houston), neither of whom, to my knowledge, are practicing therapists themselves. No objectivity, no validity. The piece reads like fan mail.
Paul J. Goodberg, MA, wrote another fan letter, which to those not familiar with psych evals looks like it might actually mean something, but just read this passage:
Rabbi Gafni has been an unexpected delight. Not only is he a scholar, he is also a wit.
Most important, he is an intensely moral man!
Currently, he is continuing to struggle with intense feelings of self recrimination. As you might expect with a young, brilliant and charismatic rabbi, he has been guilty of excess hubris. He impulsively fell on his own sword when he issued a written apology for any hurt he might have caused even though he was the one, who, according to public reports, was being falsely accused. What hubris! What excess! This was a highly exaggerated attempt to cleanse and atone for the embarrassment he felt he had brought on his office, his teachings and his family.
By now, I am convinced that Rabbi Gafni never abusively hurt or exploited anyone.
He is completely reputable.
For those who do not know how psych evals work, they do not generally include statements about people he has never met, “What hubris! What excess!” – that alone discredits this “therapist.”
There is a pattern emerging here (from what little actual information was gathered) of inter-generational trauma, extreme physical (emotional?) abuse by his parents, and a profound effort of spiritual bypass in an attempt to heal the wounding.
Here is Dr, Charles Tart on spiritual bypass – from a Q&A with students:
Student: How would somebody go about doing that? Using spirituality to bypass. I can’t even imagine having to do that.
CTT: One example that came up quite prominently during the hippie era – you folks are probably too young to remember hippies, but…
CTT: Most of them, well I can’t say most, a lot of them lived by basically sponging off other people and didn’t feel in the least guilty about it because they were pursuing love and enlightenment. They weren’t going to get trapped in earning a living, which would support a corrupt society anyway. And hey, in one way that’s true, but it’s also a wonderful rationalization for just sponging off people instead of taking responsibility for yourself.
I can see Buddhism misapplied that way too. One way of looking at Buddhism is it’s the ultimate way of being cool, right? Nothing fazes me! Nobody can get to me! I don’t have any suffering! Well, that’s because you’ve stifled all the feelings that might arise within you. You’ve stifled them either by some kind of active suppression process or by a distraction process.
Let me elaborate that. I was thinking about that earlier today. If you’re in a situation that makes you unhappy and you want to be happy, what do you do? Well one thing you might do is to change the actual reality of the situation so it makes you happy. It’s too cold in the room. You turn the heater on. It gets warmer.
But a lot of times we’re in situations where we can’t really change the external situation. So the external situation is making us unhappy, it’s just going to go on for some long period of time. But we can do something about our reaction. Remember that equation, suffering equals pain multiplied by resistance? .
S = PxR
You can do something to reduce the suffering
One way is some sort of distraction technique. Here’s the pathological use of concentrative meditation. The situation bothers you. You concentrate so strongly on neutral sensations, like your breathing, you don’t notice the situation at all. So it doesn’t bother you.
Your life situation is poor, getting worse. You can’t get a job. You don’t have any friends. You don’t feel good about yourself. Concentrative meditation. Get into these abstracted states where you’re beyond any kind of suffering. Ahh!.
You come back out of a meditative state. All these things that make you suffer are still there. Damn! Pee quickly, have a bite to eat, and go back into meditation again. And maybe, if you’re lucky, you can spend your whole life meditating. Maybe you can join a monastery or a nunnery, or somebody else will take care of all the physical stuff and you get to spend all your time meditating; distracting yourself. So in that sense, meditation can be a distraction.
I think this is one of the reasons why the Buddha thought that concentrative meditation, for all that it was an incredible technique, wasn’t a complete technique for enlightenment. If you can distract yourself, you can simply take all your attention and put it somewhere else so there’s none left over to go into the suffering thing.
You need to have specific techniques for dealing with what bothers you, and this is where Western knowledge of psychopathology becomes valuable.
Remembering our arms and legs now. [for readers coming late to this series, the occasional reminder to students to remember their arms and legs is to remind them of the principle technique they have been taught to be more present, more here-and-now, and to practice that technique. Being more here and now helps keep these discussions more real, more concerned with reality, rather than just intellectual exercises]
All we know about classical defense mechanisms; repression, sublimation, rationalization, things like that; these are also ways of dealing with suffering. But again, they don’t solve the problems. They provide you with a temporary happiness, but they don’t solve the root problem, the core of the problem.
So this discussion started from pointing out that spiritual techniques like concentrative meditation can be an incredible accomplishment to get into these jhanas, concentrative states, to get into these incredibly abstracted states. But while you may rationalize that you’re working on your spiritual development, it may actually in fact be a kind of spiritual bypass, be a way of trying to not have to deal with the real life problems that you’re not very happy with.
Let’s keep all of this in mind as we think about the Marc Gafni case.
Holding the broader context allows us to hold him in compassion even while we ask that he not be allowed to work directly with students.
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Understanding some of Gafni’s history (and this is just speculation based on the pseudo-psych evaluations posted at his own site) he was likely terribly abused as a child, reported left home in his early teens to join a Jewish spiritual community, and probably has never adequately dealt with his childhood pain explains a lot, but it does not justify it.
I’m guessing that this is the wounding I saw in his body when I saw him at the conference.
I don’t think that Gafni is intentionally abusive or manipulative – he appears (again, this is my speculation based on his statements and those of others on his blog, among other sources) to be acting out childhood wounding, which likely manifests as a need to be loved and adored (and a profound inability to tolerate rejection), to feel in control (where he had no control over the abuse as a child), very low self-esteem (probably manifesting in narcissistic tendencies toward inflation/deflation of self-concept), and to have power over his fate (low internal locus of control, seeming to always be at the mercy of others, especially in terms of justice – the “fall” in Israel is only partly his fault, for trusting too much, it was more the women’s shadow material). These are common patterns for abuse survivors.
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As an aside, from everything I understand, Marc is a talented and charismatic teacher. Yet there is no clear reason why Integral Institute and the other integral organizations risk another of his “crash and burns” – by letting him work directly with women – that seem inevitable every five to ten years. He should be allowed to write, post blogs, do videos and audio teachings, but the risks of allowing him to work with students, especially females, is absurdly high.