How Marc Gafni Helped Semi-Destroy the Integral Movement

The following is a repost of an article by Mark Forman first published on on January 18, 2017.

Marc Gafni, more than any other single person, helped to semi-destroy the Integral movement to which I and others have devoted our lives and our work. A movement to which I believe he has contributed nothing of essential import. But really, it’s his temerity — or rather, his incredible self-centeredness — to rebrand his organization the Center for Integral Wisdom and his continual attempt to hoist that flag with himself as the leader that adds insult to these previous injuries.

The reason Gafni got unprecedented pushback after the NYT article is because he re-emerged and tried to insert himself again as an “Integral” leader — yet again, at an even more public level, after years of salacious reports, breeches of trust, obfuscation and blaming of others, after many compassionate confrontations from his friends and peers, after many other pushbacks against him as an unqualified and ethically challenged leader. Everything had been tried by the best people to support and reign him in (see Wilber’s original writing or Terry Patten’s writing or John Dupuy’s, for example). The NYT positioning of Gafni as an Integral leader was therefore already several times too many for those of us who had seen the damage done to our community. I was not alone in that sentiment or in the sense of having the responsibility to say something (again).

As for this piece, it unfortunately insults the intelligence of those who have watched this unfold methodically from 2006 onwards from within the larger community (for example, from inside the JFK graduate program where Gafni and I both taught, or from within the Integral Theory Conference community where he regularly attended, along with pretty much everyone else). Much of the unfolding has been curated by William Harryman, who has an axe to grind for sure but who also often cuts true.

The reality is that there are many who were very slow to judge, condemn, and proactively sought information and dialogue with Gafni on these very topics. I heard from many who know Marc well, and have spoken to Marc, once individually and once in what I can only call a joint apologetics session with Sally Kempton. Both talks involved sophistry on these issues, with childish whining from Gafni and the blaming of others for his victimization while taking no responsibility himself. Even if some of the more serious allegations are unclear, others of an unethical nature are well documented, and the sheer numbers of them and the repetition compulsion they demonstrate can’t be denied.

None of this was knee-jerk either, it was no conspiracy. There were years of good will within Integral and then uncertainty while people tried to separate out whether this person was at all trustworthy and if his purported gifts justified his level of chaos as a person in the community. But what actually happened? One by one, John Dupuy, Robb Smith, Diane Hamilton, Terry Patten, Corey Devos, and many others — solid, mature persons all, persons who knew Gafni intimately, and had every reason and self-interest to support him til the bitter end because of their close personal and business ties — eventually disowned him in detail. Because why? Because of some kind of mass conspiracy? Because Gafni is some kind of revolutionary threat to the established order? Or because Gafni himself actually burned those bridges through credible reports from people he hurt and through breeches of trust and failures to be positively influenced by peers?

So here is how it looks to me an informal way:

Gafni is a man who teaches an intellectually-ornate form of Kaballah, warmed-over with Stranger-in-a-Strange-Land-free-love as a way to gain sexual access to women who want something of their own psycho-spiritual-sexual nature mirrored back as “special” through what he represents to them. Much more than simply being a man with a sexual appetite — which is more than fine by me, with many safe avenues for that expression — he painfully blurs the delicate ethical lines of student-teacher relations, over-and-over again. Further, he has an underappreciated ability to spot very gifted but psychologically vulnerable men (and sometimes women) looking for a type of quasi-therapeutic-paternal support, to which he will tell them what they need to hear to feel better or offer them something so that their considerable talents can be recruited for his ongoing defense.

In the meantime, he burns his bridges through breeches of trust in ways large and small, has no capacity to take responsibility, shows himself incapable of wielding power safely, and apparently cannot learn from his mistakes. He is also someone willing to cloak himself in otherwise important issues — men’s issues, the problems of victim culture, libertarian concerns around sexuality and adult choice — and then unironically paint himself as a victim (Please, consider this irony, that Gafni is the victim while giving a critique of victim culture; it’s not a trivial irony). He can’t even restrain himself from teaching others directly about the things that he clearly has serious issues with (e.g., sexuality). The last piece alone would at least be some demonstration of self-awareness.

Gafni needs to put down this paranoid conspiratorial thinking, own some of his stuff like an adult, take a sabbatical from his manic quest, and try to resituate himself in a safer arrangement for all (if one could be found). And please stop calling himself Integral, for God’s sake. If he — or Clint or whoever else — continue to put forth paranoid theories that call out those who don’t reject all the credible victim reports — or who can’t unexperience all the breeches and obfuscations we have personally witnessed ourselves and heard from those close to us — they are not going to win any sympathy.

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