Ken Wilber took time off to deliberate on the recent Marc Gafni sex scandal. Now he has given us his conclusions:
"I am not working with Marc despite this last blogosphere explosion but rather because of his reaction to it. What impressed me most about Marc’s response to this situation is that though he might well have felt justified in feeling angry or hurt about what happened, by and large he focused on asking for all feedback from every possible source on why this happened. He wanted to know, at a deeper level, how he might have contributed to it himself, and what he could do to help remedy the situation and any part he might have played in this. Most astonishingly, for a spiritual teacher, he included in this list—in order to make it truly comprehensive—a search for a great therapist that he might see. He made a serious and widespread search for a therapist, and finally found an incredibly competent and highly respected one—and signed up."It is common knowledge that those accused of sexual abuse blame the devil or run to church or run to a therapist. Wilber doesn't seem to be taking that common knowledge into account. Nevertheless, I think it is good that Gafni sees a therapist. That is one practical thing that needs to happen. However, after three months, he and his supporters do not seem to understand that he was supposed to be guiding these women's spiritual growth yet he contaminated that noble goal with his own sexual desires. What happened to his evolved status? What happened to his compassion and wisdom?
"This was not because he necessarily needed therapy, but simply that he told himself he was going to cover every base and make a truly comprehensive and inclusive search for any approach that might help address the situation. He was, in other words, doing whatever necessary to cover any shadow elements, should they be present. I know of extremely few spiritual teachers that would do this—that would be committed enough to their own integrity to include all possible angles, and then genuinely follow through on it. This, to me, is an indication of a genuine spiritual teacher, one dedicated to working on himself no matter how “embarrassing” it might appear to others. On this issue, even his critics will have few if any grounds for complaint at this point. Even they have acknowledged that he is, in many ways, a very gifted spiritual teacher, and this recent move simply makes him an even more gifted teacher, in my opinion."So running to a therapist and acting humble has led to a rise in Gafni's status. Now he is "an even more gifted teacher". That's an excellent payoff for Gafni, and it gives further evidence for Wilber to consider the possibility that Gafni could be doing this for less than noble reasons.
"In many spiritual traditions, forgiveness is a path to God, and I know Marc has worked hard to forgive any insults—real or imagined—that he recently received, and perhaps it is appropriate for others also to work to forgive any insults—real or imagined—received from Marc. In this atmosphere of loving-kindness, care, and forgiveness, we can all get back to this incredibly important work of Integral Spirituality."Marc forgives us - what a relief! And now we can get back to business as usual. However, looking forward is a common method to produce forgetfulness of the real issues. In reality, we only learn and grow by facing the past and learning from it.
The Center for World Spirituality's statement
The Center for World Spirituality has also given Gafni "unequivocal support":
"We, the undersigned, do without any reservation whatsoever, support Marc Gafni, D.Phil as a teacher and leader of the Center for World Spirituality. We find it unfortunate that the blogosphere has become a place where allegations are made, and where rumors, distortions and simple untruths are so easily spread, all without the benefit of finding of fact."So they seem to be claiming that Marc didn't have sex with students who were seeking the noblest spiritual goals, yet I don't even think Marc himself has denied that he had sex with those students. It seems that Gafni will continue to do these things because he knows he will get extraordinary levels of support.
"Further, each of us personally recommends Dr. Gafni to any organization, church, synagogue, spiritual or cultural center, or to any context which seeks to benefit from his teachings."So if you are a woman seeking spiritual liberation, the Center for World Spirituality recommends Marc Gafni as your teacher! Isn't that a startling result?
Dr. Warren Farrell also added his own personal statement to the Center's endorsement:
"Marc Gafni is one of the world’s change agents. Virtually all change agents, whether Martin Luther King or Gandhi, will be subjected to attempts at assassination–character assassination and sometimes literal assassination. Unfortunately, the internet has allowed such attempts to be magnified when aimed at a leader’s character. This propensity of people without vision to try to ruin the person rather than challenge the ideas has long been with us… Marc continues to make a commitment to lead; I for one, am making a commitment both to continue co-creating with him and to never allowing myself to be sidetracked by those whose feel it is easier to kill the messenger than create a more visionary and informed message."Marc Gafni is a martyr now! It reminds me of that poster for The People vs Larry Flynt! Furthermore, Farrell says "people without vision… try to ruin the person rather than challenge the ideas…" Isn't this an obvious case of projection? Farrell is trying to ruin the people who are criticising Gafni's behaviour (not his ideas) by calling them assassins, and Farrell is not challenging the ideas of the critics.
Joe Perez's statement
Another Integralist, Joe Perez writes:
"I’m glad that the Tami Simon/Bill Harryman-manufactured controversy is now coming to a close. The statements by Ken Wilber, Marc Gafni, Warren Farrell, and the Special Committee of the Board of the Center for World Spirituality sound true to me, and I am proud to be part of a spiritual movement in which many leaders are capable of looking at even the most complex ethical quagmires with a multi-perspectival, all quadrant, all levels lens. The world desperately needs more integral, evolutionary visions … and we cannot afford to be distracted with faux scandals perpetuated largely by First-Tier ideologies in action and Integralists who haven’t exercised very careful discernment and owned their own shadows."To summarise: the controversy is "manufactured" and the pro-Gafni Integralist responses all "sound true" and those who disagree "haven’t exercised very careful discernment and owned their own shadows". What a quagmire! While I agree with Perez that some of the statements about Gafni have been over the top, the fundamental issues still remain ignored.
Marc Gafni's own statement
Gafni himself has written for "closure" on the issue:
"That said, these events demonstrated to me that it is usually not a good idea for a public figure to hold his or her personal dating relationships privately. First, because, by definition, it necessitates a certain amount of dissembling. Second, because, as I have come to realize more deeply, sometimes even when the privacy is mutually and lovingly agreed upon, some people may still come to find it psychologically painful to hold. Third, holding privacy about a romantic relationship may create alienation in other relationships in both people’s circle of intimates."That's excellent!
"I want to be fully transparent at this point however that I am making no grand or sweeping declarations for transparency over privacy. They are both important values in many spheres of life and it would be bad heart and bad mind to dogmatically and simplistically value one above the other in any absolute sense. The one thing that I will promise is that, to the best of my ability, my public teaching and private action will be consistent with each other"This looks bad to me. It leaves too much wriggle room for Gafni. Also, given that he has charisma, he can sell anything in his public teaching. He could make sex with students part of his teaching and that would necessitate further sexual involvements. Instead of changing himself, he can just adjust his teaching to make it fit his sexual desires. His standard is conveniently his own teaching! By the way, note the implicit narcissism.
"Let me state formally that if in the future I enter into a monogamous commitment, then I will honor it and live in it to the fullest. If that is the right path for me then I will enter into it with full delight and even ecstasy. If I do not enter into that path, and choose to love from a different place, then I will enter into that path with full delight and even ecstasy. If that is the case then it is not impossible that at some point I will date women who are in my circle. If that feels uncomfortable to someone in principle that it might not be wise to join my circle of teaching… I had full right to date the people I dated and to hold the relationships privately, and I stand by this right and the essential ethics behind my actions."Uh-oh. He hasn't learnt the core lesson. It is not right to date your students. Period. They are seeking liberation from illusion - the noblest goal. That should be your priority if you truly have compassion. You should not risk that ever in any way. So if you want to have sex with students and cannot control your desire, then send them to another guru and begin the sexual relationship a few months later. "I had full right to date the people I dated" sounds like a jarring and twisted sense of sexual entitlement.
"At the same time, I have felt an obligation to ask how my own internal “stuff” might have contributed to the outcome… To this end, a major part of my internal response to this blogosphere explosion has been to seek feedback from colleagues and spiritual friends who I invite to challenge me and engage me in the process of inner work."He should seek the feedback of people who are NOT colleagues and NOT spiritual friends. Colleagues and spiritual friends will collude with him as they have done all along.
Two elephants in the room
There are two elephants in the room that these Integralists are not addressing:
1. What does Gafni's actions mean for Integralism? Note that all the pro-Gafni responses come with advice like we need to "get back to this incredibly important work of Integral Spirituality". So it looks to me like these Integralists are afraid that the truth will derail their idealistic goals. Thus, they don't trust the conversation and they don't trust life. They also seem to think they need Gafni, which demonstrates a lack of faith in the potential of other people. Furthermore, they are making a false dichotomy: either continue debating the Gafni issue or get on with Integral Spirituality. Isn't continuing the debate the same as getting on with Integral Spirituality? Also, I think the organisation is not dealing with this issue seriously because they know that it will open a can of worms regarding their own status and activities. Taking the issue seriously would expose the organisation as not being serious about spiritual liberation. They would have to stop being a bunch of hot-air philosophers playing at being compassionate enlightened beings. They would have to start getting real.
2. Is it right for a teacher to have sex with his students? The answer seems quite clear. The students are seeking liberation from illusion, which is the noblest goal. The teacher is supposedly compassionate and wants to see the students liberated. Therefore, neither party should risk contaminating the goal with sexual activity. Could it be any clearer? On a more mundane level, it is widely accepted outside of spirituality that therapists shouldn't have sex with clients, teachers shouldn't have sex with students, etc. This is mainly because there is obvious inequality in the relationship.
These Integralists are supposed be leading the world into a new spiritually evolved age, yet they cannot or will not straighten themselves out on these fundamental issues. What is needed is the objective views of outsiders. However, instead of integrating those views, they are attacking the outsiders (and insider critics) and are now calling for "closure". This is obviously a case of group self-defense rather than conscientious spiritual evolution. The group's elites are protecting themselves and their status and are guiding their followers into a group-think illusion of futuristic idealism while maintaining the pretense that it's about spiritual liberation. Therefore, these Integralist leaders are wrong.