– This Statement was written by Marc Gafni in February 2016 at the Height of the Smear Campaign. It is now published for the first time on this website. –
The outpouring of vilification being directed at me in the Jewish press and other forums has made it necessary for me to make a statement. I have been advised that to try to fully set the record straight during a hate-storm of this magnitude simply asks for more abuse, so I won’t go into all the details here. I will share more detail at the appropriate time. However, I have already addressed and rebutted nearly all of the recycled stories and false or distorted claims that are appearing in the press and on blogs. I have tried to do this in a way that is productive and fair to all parties concerned. This material, including articles and statements by me and others has long been available in the Facts section of my personal website.
Let me say at the outset, however, that the core claims of sexual harassment—including the personal narratives about two youthful relationships that are currently being disseminated on the Internet–are untrue. The attacks on my character, the claims of plagiarism, etc., are also untrue.
That said, I take full responsibility for any genuine mistakes I may have made in my relationships and professional associations. I continue to do radical teshuvah for all my mistakes, which in the Jewish tradition means something akin to constant transformation and appropriate personal responsibility, as must any human being. I am open to every kind of feedback from friends and even insightful strangers. However, I cannot and will not take responsibility for the accusations that vilify me for things that I have simply not done.**
As some people have observed, this public discourse is being conducted in an atmosphere resembling a witch trial, or one of the Stalinist ‘show trials’ of the Soviet era. Everyone who is associated with me has been pressured to denounce me or disassociate from me. This includes family members, friends, professional associates, and anyone who has a good word to say about me. Their employers have been called. Family members have been harassed. Letters have gone out to warn them that their association with me is damaging their reputations. The clear intent of all this is to make the price of association with me too steep. The purpose is to isolate me, both socially and professionally, to ensure that I am never again permitted to teach, make pubic appearances, collaborate or even make a living.
I am incredibly moved by the fierce integrity of the people in my close circles of work and friendship virtually all of who have remained steadfast in their commitment to our friendships and to our shared vision. The think tank, its core circle of leadership and support, of study, our core projects, have not been weakened. Instead they have grown stronger and more committed. The outrage at the vitriol, the commitment to integrity and justice, and the shared vision and love that binds us is stronger then ever. I am moved and grateful for this beyond words.
Beyond the core group of organizers of this defamation campaign, much of the negativity comes from well-intentioned people with incomplete information, who fear being tarred by association if they fail to sign a petition or join a denunciation. Old stories, most of them shown to be false years ago, continue to be recycled without fact checking, open communication, appropriate information gathering or acceptable due process.
To cite but one example of many: One of the most painful—and often repeated lies—is that I am involved in sex with thirteen or fourteen year-old girls. Dozens of people on the internet have written that I ‘molest’ or ‘have sex with’ or even ‘rape’ young girls or even children. This, to anyone who knows me, is self-evidently absurd. It stems from a horribly distorted report of one relationship I had in my late teens. I am now 55 years old. The reports distort the relationship beyond recognition – in fact no sexual relations occurred at all. My physical contact with Sarah was ‘above the waist’. One month after the relationship ended she wrote me a letter affirming the fully positive and loving nature of the relationship, stating that we were each other’s one true love and her wish (which I shared then) that we could be together forever. This letter is now lost (I have moved so often since age 19 that it is impossible to locate papers of this kind) but a polygraph test by a leading polygraph expert, whose testimony is used in court cases, supports the truthfulness of my account of the letter and hence our shared experience of the positive mutuality of the relationship at the time. This is, of course, entirely different then Sarah’s current narrative of the relationship which I only became aware of twenty years after the relationship ended. This is not the first time that this story has been told. Sarah has told her version of this story many times, in the press and online since 2004. How Sarah developed this memory, years after the relationship ended, is not for me to conjecture in the context of this statement.
Even more seriously, the current ‘reports’ are often couched so as to imply that the relationship took place recently (instead of 36 years ago, when I was 19). In short, it is made to look as if I, as an adult in my 40s and 50s, was sexually involved with a teenager. Worse still, many writers on this topic falsely assert that “Marc Gafni admits to having sex with 14 year-old girls.” That the organizers of this attack are shameless about deploying such smear tactics speaks volumes about their underlying motivations.
In fact, an experienced observer will recognize that the write-ups in the Jewish press and on certain blogs are not a spontaneous outpouring but are part of a deliberately orchestrated campaign whose cadences have been carefully designed and fed. It follows a playbook that should be familiar to anyone who has studied the pattern of media ‘takedowns’ in the internet age. The leading actors disguise their agendas to make it look as if they are merely reacting to complaints or media stories. The truth is, however, that they themselves often enrolled the writers of the stories, which, in my case, recycle old tales from my youth to paint me as a ‘molester’ of underage girls, a serial plagiarist and even a sociopath. In highly persuasive and emotional language they have used these false recycled stories to paint my adult relationships with friends and lovers as ‘darkly manipulative,’ ‘cruel,’ and even ‘occult.’
Thus it is being falsely written “Marc takes pleasure in seducing people into his circle and destroying them.” “Marc abuses his kids.” “Marc never paid child support to any of his kids.” “Marc laughs about people who come for his counsel.” “Marc is all-powerful and casts people under his dark spell all for the sake of his own glory.” “Marc does ‘reprisals’ on people who criticize him.”
These are just a few of the false claims that have been repeated time and again by the same small group. The list goes on and on. In one of the documents being actively circulated there are at least forty blatantly false claims. If you are interested, please read the Center for Integral Wisdom Board of Directors Special Committee statement called Anatomy of a Smear (forthcoming), which gives deeper insight into the why, what and who that is behind this smear campaign as well as refutes some of the more egregious untruths that have shamelessly appeared on the web.
At the appropriate time and in a constructive context I will address these issues, not only to set the record straight, but to talk about why this level of regressive consciousness is so fundamentally dangerous to the core fabric of society.
I have been and continue to be willing to sit down with anyone, in a safe, facilitated context to mediate and resolve any conflict in a manner that allows full integrity and responsibility on everyone’s part. So far, the opposite has happened. Anyone who has called for fact-checking and accountability on both sides has been attacked and demonized on blogs and in personal conversations.
I am literally on my knees every day, praying that all this does not embitter me. I ask that, instead, it breaks open my heart to meet the pain of the world, of which my pain is just a small example. In this world of outrageous pain, it really is true that the only response is outrageous love.
Outrageous love, as I use the term, is not polyannish or saccharine. Outrageous love is strong and fierce even as it is tender and true. Of course, there are those who mock the idea of outrageous love, or who would distort, reduce, or degrade the term. Some have even mischaracterized it as a euphemism for sexual libertinism. They are simply wrong.
I know the deep truth of Outrageous Love. I know that the universe is not merely a fact, but as Thomas Berry reminded us, a story. Moreover, I know that it is not an ordinary story, but a love story. It is, in fact, an outrageous love story. Each of us, as many of you have heard me say many times, is an irreducibly unique expression of the love-intelligence and love-beauty at the heart of this universe, living in us, as us and through us. Each of us has outrageous acts of love to commit that can only be committed by each of us alone. That is always true, whether in times of joy or sorrow, pain or ecstasy.
It is also true, as evolutionary teacher Barbara Marx Hubbard so often writes, that crisis is an evolutionary driver. Crisis always heralds a new birth. I know that this crisis of love will be the harbinger of a creative new birth in the realm of culture, politics and spirit. I know that this crisis of love will birth deeper connection, deeper commitment and deeper courage. I know that this crisis of love will birth an evolution of consciousness which is an evolution of love that would have been impossible without it. It already has. This is the core work of the Center for Integral Wisdom.
My dream—which I believe is not an impossible dream–is that all of us in this story recover our memory. We need to recover the memory that we once loved each other. My dream is that we all forgive each other our human imperfections, give up trying to be ‘right’, climb down from our positional trees, and accept ourselves and each other with our unique beauty, even as we let go of hatred, obsession, and Jihad-like demonization.
Of course, we must stand against abuses of power, wherever they take place. Real abuses of power by religious or spiritual authorities have long been ignored by our societies. One of the great advances of our time is that victims of sexual abuse are beginning to break their silence and find their voices. I am fully committed, as I have always been, to the full protection of all who are vulnerable, be they women or men, girls or boys.
However, another form of abuse cannot be ignored. It is this: some sexual or abuse complaints against former partners or professional associates are based on either unconsciously false or intentionally distorted stories, in which a sexual narrative is retold in a way that is factually and emotionally different from the way it actually happened. For generations, such claims were used by racists as excuses for lynching black men accused of having sexual relations with white women. But even when the vigilante justice is confined to rumors and media reports, it wrecks lives.
Often this form of abuse is facilitated by behind-the-scenes actors with hidden agendas. The fact that such false or imagined claims of abuse do occur has been exposed in recent episodes like the false accusations of rape by a student at Duke University. These allegations, which were reported irresponsibly in Rolling Stone magazine, had very destructive consequences. Yet once done, the damage is hard to undo.
Wrongful accusation, either by an individual or in the kind of trial-by-internet that is now so common in our society, represents a regressive movement of consciousness that is not too far removed from the ways in which those accused of religious or political heresy have been attacked and even killed by mobs fully convinced of their own righteousness. During the Salem witch trials, witness after witness came forward to swear under oath that they had seen the accused flying on broomsticks and cavorting with the devil—events which obviously could not have occurred. Once people were fingered as witches, their associates re-cast events to support the accusations. Many of the claims about me are on that level, with speculations about my ‘occult powers’ based entirely on imagination, not to mention much else that is false.
As many of you know, the key mission of CIW is to produce a library of books that evolve the source code of culture and consciousness. We are fully committed to that vision. Even during the last ten weeks that work has gone on unabated.
This set of attacks however has expanded our vision and our mission. We do not view them as a distraction from our core agenda. Rather, understanding how this kind of attack happens and its implications for society is essential to our mission, which is the evolution of culture and consciousness. We are planning a virtual conference in the spring with a number of major papers dealing with the dynamics that we have encountered. The tentative title of the symposium and the volume we expect to emerge from it is, Scapegoats, ‘Sociopaths’ and the Madness of Crowds.
We will also turn our focus towards examining some of the memes in culture, in the social media structure, and in our political, economic and spiritual structures that make such an eruption possible. One of the great demands of our time is that we learn to talk to each other face to face, without reverting to regressive memes—to trials by Internet, or self-righteous crusades that ignore facts and practice intimidation and coercion via blogs and social media. We will incorporate these challenges into the questions we ask as we gather, talk, research and write.
I fully expect new demonizing blog posts and other attacks, invited or instigated by the people running this orchestrated campaign. If this does happen, then at the right time, and in the right formal context, any and all distortions of fact or narrative will be strongly challenged and corrected. The same is true for any distorted fact or narrative that has been put into the public space during this attack.
Ultimately, we know that this moment will be a footnote to the work of the Center. We will continue to create value, to love, and to work in every way we can to evolve the source code of culture and consciousness in ways that truly matter.
I am humbled by the depth and leadership of my many partners on this path. I am grateful for your guidance, friendship and partnership.
These weeks have been very demanding. I am sorry if I have not reached out to you personally. If you would like to set up a phone call to talk about any of this or any of the larger issues and invitations of this period I would be delighted and honored to do so.
In humility, friendship and partnership,
**Ten years ago, after false complaints about me appeared in the Israeli press, I made the mistake of taking responsibility for behavior of which I was actually innocent. I did this because I was completely devastated and shattered to my core, by the false complaints. I believed that even though I was innocent, falling on my sword was my responsibility. I thought this because I had contributed to the conditions that allowed the false complaints to take place, and because I was the captain of the ship, the head of the organization. I also fell on my sword to give myself time to collect my soul and also to collect the data necessary to show that the complaints were false. I immediately regretted that decision– it came from a desire to stop the pain and to avoid a ‘lynching.’ Yet on some level it betrayed my friends, students and colleagues. That is why I later recanted the letter, even while I wrote taking full responsibility for any way I contributed to the conditions that allowed the false complaints to be made.
Ironically, my ‘falling on my sword’ only elicited a more brutal attack which has never fully relented. Many of the same actors from 2006 are major players in the current media attack. In fact, it seems that one of the factors motivating this campaign, for some of these people, is the desire to hide or justify their role in having catalyzed, organized or supported the original false complaints.