This item was first posted on Integral Life September 22, 2011 and can be found at the following link:
This is a post that I wrote about 3 days ago, concerning Marc Gafni and the latest debacle. As a courtesy, I sent this post to Marc, saying that I am posting this and quoted the biblical reference Proverbs 27:6: Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. I immediately received a call from Marc, in which he threatened me with legal action and an internet campaign to discredit my character based on all of the personal information that he has found out about me during our years of friendship. To which I say good luck on the legal action and stay posted for the character assassination, which is either going to be very boring or very creative.
In the last few days I have consulted with many friends and colleagues over the nature of this post, to include Ken Wilber and Sally Kempton, and I have decided that I will not be silenced. Ultimately, what influenced my decision to post this was the realization that came out during a conversation with Sally Kempton, myself and my wife, Pam – and that is, I think I owe this to the younger generations of our world-wide Integral community. As this latest sexual scandal emerged with Marc, I have heard from many people who are very hurt by Marc’s actions and generally feeling very disillusioned with our Integral spiritual teachers and role models. Based on that, I am posting this. I do this after much reflection and prayer, with sadness and clarity. I still hold out the hand of friendship to Marc but as a real friend, and not as an enabler. And let me be clear, it is not we who are speaking about this who are causing this problem, it is Marc’s behaviors and choices that has brought this on. As I teach to my recovery students, the truth hurts, but it doesn’t kill, and ultimately, lies kill. So with much love to Marc and all those concerned, and to our worldwide Integral family.
Well, I guess it’s time for me to weigh in on this latest spiritual teacher debacle that has hit our Integral community and family. This one hits very close to home, as I have known Marc Gafni and been a friend for approximately 3 years.
Early on in my Integral awakening, when I was just beginning my own Integral Life Practice (I had subscribed to Integral Naked and was busy reading all of Ken’s books and listening to all of the MP3 files and the videos that integralnaked.org made available), I was very moved and blown away by much of what was being generated by Ken and his associates. One of the people I was especially moved by was Rabbi Marc Gafni. He would sit toe-to-toe with Ken and there would be brilliant dialogues, and I so appreciated how Marc brought God into the Integral milieu, coming from a mystical Jewish transmission. I was and am a God-centric mystic, in other words, my experiences of the divine seem to be best described using the G word. So, when Marc fell from grace in Israel and was no longer part of the Integral scene, I was sad and thought, well, damn, another one bites the dust, meaning another spiritual teacher had been brought low because of sexual improprieties or accusations.
Later on, I heard that Marc had landed in Salt Lake City, and through our mutual friend Diane Hamilton, we had dinner together in a restaurant in Wayne County, where I live. At that time, Marc felt very broken and sad. I well know that place of brokenness and sadness, so there was an immediate heart connection with Marc on that level. Also, Marc reminded me of my brother, Rick, who was also extremely charismatic and brilliant, and in many ways physically resembled Marc. My brother struggled with depression, which eventually led to his suicide. So, Marc and I began our relationship there. Shortly thereafter, my wife Pam and I hosted a workshop in our home, with about 18 participants, where Marc and Diane Hamilton were the principal teachers. Before the workshop, in the interest of appropriate disclosure, we told our community members, who were interested in the workshop, that there had been some sexual issues and problems in Marc’s background. Interestingly enough, and rather humorously, this seemed to titillate and interest our community members rather than the reverse. I guess sex sells!
I continued my friendship with Marc over the next few years and was happy to see him return to the Integral fold and that his gifts were being manifested in the world. I remember, early on during this period, having a conversation with Marc, at a coffee house in Salt Lake City, in which I said something to the effect of, Marc you’ve been given another chance—however, you are on extremely thin ice and if there is even a hint of sexual impropriety, you’re done. Marc agreed with me and assured me that it would not happen again. Well, it has happened again.
It appears to be all part of a single pattern, starting long before Israel, and continuing into the present. As I have struggled with this latest debacle and scandal, I have experienced myriad emotions, from being heartsick, feeling helpless, to being righteously pissed. As I write this, I feel sadness, as I am very loyal to my family and friends. But I believe that Marc has behaved in a way that is unworthy of the position of leadership and authority that he has been granted in our Integral circles. His behaviors, his absolute incapacity to own anything, and his incredible ability to manipulate and play the victim, are simply beyond the pale and unacceptable. I believe Marc is in panic mode right now and his behaviors have caused catastrophic events in his life: losing a major publishing deal, losing his connection as a major personality and teacher at Integral Life, and the questioning by people around the world about his fitness to be a leader in the world spirituality arena. Yet Marc continues to play the victim and spin new angles and even new dharmas to justify his very unwise and dysfunctional behaviors.
In my work with addicts, over the years, I have become very used to seeing lives ruined by addictive acting out. It’s kind of par for the course in the disease of addiction. I have also seen many lives come back from the brink of death and complete dishonor. Not only have I seen lives come back, but I have seen them come back with renewed strength, compassion, devotion, and humility. But it ain’t easy and it takes a lot of work. The first step is to admit that you have a problem and take responsibility. I don’t see this with Marc. Marc is always the victim and always the martyr.
As I have sat with this, talked and emailed with my friends and colleagues in the Integral movement from around the world, I have realized a deep pattern of dysfunction, manipulation, and narcissism in Marc’s case. These are three words that, interestingly enough, characterize the disease of addiction. I had hoped against hope that Marc would learn from his past mistakes and sense of calling, as he brought forth his important teachings of the Unique Self and World Spirituality, and that this would keep his dysfunctional and apparently compulsive behaviors in check. That has obviously not happened. He has hurt his family, his friends, his supporters and our Integral community.
One of the key events in my coming to my present position came about when I was talking to a former student and friend, who happens to be an Israeli. He told me that his mother had been a member of Marc’s community in Israel and that when the accusations of sexual impropriety and sleeping with his students emerged and Marc ran, that people in Israel saw Marc’s running away as an act of cowardice and not being a mensch. This hit home for me, because when you make mistakes you have to own them. God knows, we all do. If you are falsely accused, you face your accusers. In our time together, I cannot remember Marc expressing any remorse about abandoning his followers in Israel, those who looked to him for leadership. In the final analysis, leadership is not about who has the most charisma, who has the largest mailing list, who gets top billing, or who hauls in the most cash, it’s about laying down your life for those you serve.
I, too, feel that I have an important calling to be a leader in the world of Integral Recovery and in helping to facilitate healing and spiritual awakening through iAwake Technologies and the Profound Meditation Program. I make it a point to try and conduct my life in ways that do not dishonor the position of authority that I have been granted. As a husband, a son, a father, and now a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, and a friend, I do not want to dishonor those who love me and respect me through unwise and inappropriate behaviors. At the same time, I realize that I am a man, and I am not immune from making mistakes. I hope, however, that if it does happen, and I have made plenty of mistakes in my past, that I will own them and do what I have to do to redeem myself and clean up the messes I make. I think this is Ethics, Morality, and Spirituality 101. It works and applies all the way up and down the spiral.
In the Old Testament story of David, King David was called a man after God’s own heart. In the story, David committed a horrible sin in assigning one of his faithful officers to a place in the front line of an attack, where he was almost assured of perishing in the fight, which he did. David then took this man’s wife as his own because he lusted after her. Yet, David was still accounted as a man after God’s own heart. Why is this? Because he repented. Some of the most beautiful spiritual literature in the world is contained in the Psalms of David, where he pours out his heart to God in remorse for his failings and his sins.
If Marc is ever to regain a position of trust in our Integral world, he will have to do the same. But it’s going to take a lot of work and a lot of time. Maybe you think this might be too much to ask, but it’s what I ask of my students all the time, every day, and consequently of myself as well.
It is my hope and prayer that we will hold together as a community and not be divided by this, and that we will emerge from this more humble, wiser, and stronger. And, yes, we really do need to figure out sexuality and this spiritual teacher stuff from a healthy Second Tier perspective. And, I really don’t think it is a good idea to sleep with your students. In the army, they used to tell us, Don’t fuck around the flagpole. I would ask Marc, How has this been working for you so far? And then I would say, Knock it off. I ask that all of us who are given the responsibility and calling of leadership to do so honorably and with great humility and self-sacrifice.
I offer this in the spirit of personal sadness as well as hope that Marc can repent and heal. And I hope that we all can grow up a little bit, though we may have been hurt and disillusioned by the behaviors of our role models and spiritual teachers in the past—that we will not use this as an opportunity to become cynical but that we will challenge ourselves to become those leaders that we had wished we had. God help us all.