– Marc Gafni’s supporters, colleagues and friends speak out about the Marc Gafni controversy, for the sake of restoring integrity. This response by Adam Bellow was first posted as a comment to the Center for Integral Wisdom statement on centerforintegralwisdom.org. You can either read the statement below or listen to the audio. –
I met Marc Gafni about two and a half years ago when a mutual friend asked me to advise him on his writing and publishing plans. The setting was a small dinner party on the Upper West Side of New York. I knew his reputation, having googled him beforehand. He seemed to be a classic ‘guru’ type – brilliant, charming, charismatic, and highly seductive. So I was appropriately on guard.
Instead, Marc struck me as both surprisingly modest and unusually warm and open. Hardly the sort of outsized and flamboyant personality I’d expected. In a quiet and respectful way, he engaged with each person in turn, then asked us to join him in chanting a brief invocation. Our little group of cynical New Yorkers somewhat grudgingly allowed him to lead us in a rising/falling singsong whose vibrations filled the room and subtly opened and connected us. Within minutes, as he always does, he had turned us from a group of total strangers into the makings of a spiritual community.
A few days later he gave me an overview of his plans to create a spiritual think tank and publish a long list of books, plans which seemed impossibly ambitious at the time. Despite my crowded schedule, I found myself wanting to help—the first of many surrenders I would make to this infectiously appealing, warm, upbeat and energetic man. Marc also went out of his way to explain the scandals in his past, and shared his concern that these old attacks might be renewed at any time, despite his many efforts to resolve them. We agreed that it was probably inevitable and I suggested he write a memoir describing his lifelong relationship with Eros and telling his side of the story.
When I attended Success 3.0 the following fall I was amazed by his rapid progress in launching the Center and convening such a brilliant and accomplished group of people. He had invited me to give a brief talk, but I approached this with some trepidation. After all, I am a conservative book editor. My views were presumably at odds with those of everyone else in the room. How would all these planet-saving New Age entrepreneurs and social activists react to me? But I followed Marc’s advice and spoke for 15 minutes from the heart about my journey from youthful mysticism, through the stark dualism of partisan political debate, towards the midlife goal of integration and wholeness. Afterwards dozens of people came up to tell me how touched they had been by my story. Being honest and open about my inner struggles had allowed them to see past the fear and prejudice that divides us and to grasp who I was in my essence. I also saw how I had been trapped by my own unconscious projection of fear and hostility on them. It was a valuable lesson.
Since then I have worked closely with Marc and his colleagues as the Center expanded and grew, gathering momentum and energy at an amazing rate. Time and again I have seen how Marc brings people forward, as he did with me, and helps them find and express their authentic voice and unique gifts.
Then, without warning, the renewed controversy about his past burst in a perfect storm of rage and bile.
First let me state that I am not Marc’s disciple or student. He is not my teacher or spiritual advisor. My initial interest in him was that of a publisher for a brilliant and original thinker and writer. But we have since become friends, and as someone who knows him intimately, I believe in his goodness and innocence. I have seen how he teaches, writes and thinks, how he inspires and leads, and above all, how he conducts his relationships. Like all of us, he is not above reproach. But I have never seen him harm a living soul. Instead I have been consistently impressed by the love, respect, and loyalty he inspires in all who know him.
In short, I simply cannot square my personal experience of Marc with the distorted, overheated and hysterical descriptions of him that I read online and in otherwise reputable publications. Incantatory words like “rapist,” “pedophile,” or “serial abuser” are flung around by people who don’t know him and refuse to meet or speak with him. To read these accounts is to enter a lurid netherworld of pornographic fantasy. If you believed half of what you read, you would think that Marc Gafni is a sorcerer, an evil witch, a Rasputin-like character who dazzles and seduces and enchants with hidden powers.
Some suggest that Marc’s friends are “in denial,” as though we are blind to the significance of these sorts of allegations or do not take them seriously. As the father of two daughters, I assure you that I do. Nor would the strong, confident, independent women I have met at the Center put up with that kind of abuse from Marc Gafni or anyone else.
Others claim that we are being manipulated by a highly skilled con artist. A charming sociopath who feels no pain and no remorse. A man without a heart, a soul, a conscience. That is not the Marc Gafni I and many others know. And to those who assume they know better, I ask: who would you believe – some self-appointed “expert” who has never met or spoken with Marc (let alone disgruntled ex-partners with an ax to grind), or the evidence of your own eyes, mind and heart? The question is hardly worth asking.
The passions on display here are truly medieval. They are the ancient, ugly, sacrificial passions of the witch hunt, the pogrom and the auto da fe. Marc may not be perfect—no one is. But nothing he is alleged to have done remotely justifies the hate-filled campaign of personal destruction that is being waged against him, his friends and colleagues, and the Center as a whole.
I do not pretend to know where such hateful passions come from. Whether from the internet, society at large, or someplace deep within our own tormented hearts. All I know is, decent people should have nothing to do with them.