When the Most Awake Among Us Fall Asleep: Marc Gafni, His Supporters and Wetiko

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Sleeping Buddha

In early 2016 a controversy swirling around a charismatic spiritual teacher with a long history of abuse allegations grabbed my attention due to its over-the-top craziness. The more deeply I investigated the situation the more my mind was blown. The teacher’s name is Marc Gafni and he has attracted a remarkable number of renowned leaders defending him as well as many major figures condemning him. A recent spate of publicity, including a 2015 Christmas day article in the New York Times, has brought this situation, to evoke the Academy Award winning movie, into the “spotlight.”

Marc Gafni is a spiritual self-help author and former rabbi who has spent the last several decades attracting enamored followers in various groups and then being repeatedly forced out due to numerous scandals involving abuses of sex, power and money. The most well-known allegations include being accused of sexually abusing a 13-year old girl when he was a rabbinical student, and a 16-year old girl when he was a rabbi and her youth group leader. He was forced to flee Israel in 2006 when several women there went to the police, and his revitalized career spectacularly blew up again in 2011 due to a sex scandal involving a student. There have been countless other allegations of abuse that are less well-known, and based on in-depth research it appears that Gafni has left behind a trail of trauma and destruction, doing damage to many organizations and individuals along the way.

Marc Gafni

Any of these scandals would have ended the career of most people, and yet miraculously, Gafni has managed to reinvent himself time after time; he continues to deny all allegations, portraying himself as an innocent victim wrongly accused. Rising like a phoenix from each of his previous falls, he has continually attracted support from prominent spiritual teachers and business leaders. Currently Gafni runs a “think tank” in California and is also teaching workshops on sacred sexuality, which is quite ironic and troubling for someone who has a long history of sexual abuse allegations (for close to $6,000 you, too, could study “prayer sexing” with Marc Gafni and learn how to be “fucked open to God.” Editors note: Shortly after the publication of this article, this phrase was removed from his website).

What has particularly grabbed my attention is that many of the players involved in the Gafni situation are larger than life archetypal figures, including Ken Wilber – “the Einstein of consciousness,” Barbara Marx Hubbard – “the grande dame of conscious evolution,” and John Mackey – founder and co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, called the “prophet of conscious capitalism.” The fact that some of the allegedly most brilliant and spiritually awake among us are themselves supporting Gafni is showing us the challenge of what we are dealing with. Not merely a personal situation, it is as if central casting has sent the perfect figures to embody the deeper archetypal process that is getting acted out.

What is striking is that the crazy-making dynamic swirling around Gafni precisely maps onto a deeper archetypal process that I have witnessed many times, both in my personal life and in the world at large. It is this deeper pattern, where intelligent, highly accomplished people with the best of intentions “protect the abuser”—that I’d like to illumine. A deeper archetypal pattern appearing like this is an incredible opportunity, a sign that a deeper level of the unconscious—both personal and collective—is available for potential integration if we recognize what is being revealed.

I should make it clear that I have never personally met Marc Gafni. When I first began writing this article, I assumed a position of trying to be neutral, feeling that this would make it easier for the deeper process that I’m pointing at to be seen and received. As my inquiry continued down the Marc Gafni rabbit hole, however, I began to realize how inauthentic—and impossible—this was becoming, as I can’t pretend not to have a point of view. Not only do I find the accounts of Gafni’s accusers highly credible and having the ring of truth, but the counterarguments by Gafni and his supporters are so filled with holes that they are impossible to be believed or taken seriously.

Gafni himself has admitted that he is “sick” … that is, before he recanted in a way that has to be seen to be believed, announcing that he didn’t really mean it. Ken Wilber, founder of the Integral movement and a close friend and supporter of Gafni, has in past writings referred to Gafni’s “pathology,” “emotional illness” and “grave wrongdoing,” pointing out that his “very bright light has cast a very dark shadow.” From all appearances it seems that Gafni has had an entrancing effect on the people who support him, who seem to be so blinded by his light that they don’t see his shadow.

For example, Mariana Caplan, a supposed expert on the subject of discernment around spiritual teachers, wrote an epilogue in one of her books asserting that the complaints against Gafni were false (note: Gafni is the father of her child, and various people “in-the-know” assert that the epilogue was actually written by Gafni himself, not Caplan). The fact that an alleged expert on not getting hoodwinked by spiritual teachers may herself be hoodwinked by a spiritual teacher would be amusing if it weren’t so tragic, and is a powerful indicator of the bewitching nature of the spell cast when we are dealing with the timeless archetypal process of protecting the abuser.

Other people rationalize Gafni’s behavior—for example, Wilber has said publicly that “at worst” Gafni was an “insensitive boyfriend,” with “a lot of shakti” (a Sanskrit word for energy). John Mackey has stated that out of loyalty to his friend he presumes Gafni’s innocence simply because Gafni has told him that he is innocent. Both Wilber and Mackey, although over time distancing themselves from being publicly associated with Gafni, have yet to openly come out and condemn his actions, exhibiting what seems to be a real lack of insight and courage. As if suffering from a form of blindness, Gafni’s followers seem to not (at least publicly) recognize the depth—or danger—of his sickness.

WETIKO

The Native American people have a term—wetiko—for a psycho-spiritual disease of the soul that precisely describes the collective blindness that is playing out around Gafni and his supporters. Wetiko—whose origin is within the human psyche—induces a psychological blindness such that those who have fallen under its spell not only think of themselves as sighted, but arrogantly believe they are more sighted than those who are clear-sighted. Instead of inducing people to see hallucinations that are not there, in what can be thought of as a “negative hallucination” the wetiko bug makes people unable to see what is there. Wetiko (I could—and did—write a book about it called Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil) can be thought of as a mind-virus that covertly operates through the blind-spots of the unconscious in such a way that those under its spell become its unwitting instruments to act it out—destructively—in the world while, at the same time, this virus of the mind surreptitiously hides itself from being seen.

The notion of wetiko can be enormously helpful in contextualizing the deeper process that has gotten activated around Gafni so as to help us to develop the eyes to see this psychic blindness. The antidote/cure for wetiko is to see how it covertly operates through the underlying field as well as within our own minds. Certain situations in life—such as the firestorm that has ignited around Gafni—so embody, and hence reveal this sickness of the soul that these situations can become a looking-glass into its inner workings. Just as any fragment of a hologram contains the whole hologram, the shadow that is manifesting in and through the Gafni situation is reflecting a shadow that exists deep within the collective unconscious of our species, which is to say, inside each one of us.

The process constellated around Gafni is an iteration of a fractal that repeatedly plays out in countless families as well as groups and organizations in our world. Notable examples abound – to name but a few: Bill Cosby, Jerry Sandusky of Penn State, the Catholic Church sex scandals, and most recently, Roger Ailes of Fox News. The process of abuse getting acted out within a group and subsequently getting covered up is a deep unconscious archetypal pattern that in-forms much of what gets enacted in the greater body politic of our world. A repeating pattern in different areas of our life—just like a recurring dream—can oftentimes be an attempt at getting our attention about heretofore unconscious parts of ourselves.

It is particularly interesting when this process gets played out in spiritual communities, with many well-intentioned, brilliant and seemingly awake people unwittingly playing roles to hide the very darkness they are supposedly in the business of illuminating. The Gafni situation is not an isolated incident in the spiritual world, but tragically, happens all too often, even in the most enlightened spiritual communities. Gaining insight into this deeper process as it in-forms and gives shape to what is playing out around Gafni can help us to see and eventually come to terms with this deeper process as it plays out within ourselves, in other areas of our lives, and in the world at large.

RED FLAGS FROM THE UNCONSCIOUS

One of the chief features that happens when abuse enters a family or community (in this case, whether the abuse is coming through Gafni’s exploitive behaviors or, as he would suggest, via his critics with their “false accusations”) is that a dissociative field—a reality-distortion field—constellates around the abuse, which usually creates endless misunderstandings and polarizes its members. The evil of abuse is a dis-integrating energy, which is to say that, in fracturing the intrinsic wholeness of the community, it creates a dis-connect among its members. The reality of what has—and is—playing out becomes obfuscated, which is to say that the truth of what is actually happening becomes very hard to discern.

Part of what makes the whole truth so hard to figure out is that so few of Gafni’s alleged victims have gone public with their stories; this makes it easier for Gafni to minimize the extent of his transgressions. And of course, the nature of most abuse is that it happens in private, making it even more difficult for outsiders to know for certain what really happened. This confusion and blindness becomes a self-reinforcing feedback loop that simply feeds into and supports the further propagation of the abuse.

Though much of the alleged abuse was sexual in nature, in one sense the fundamental abuse that is getting acted out around Gafni has more to do with issues of power and control. The primary channel through which abuse operates is the medium of the psyche, which is to say that, in its essence, it is psychological in nature. In fact, men have also publicly accused Gafni of abusing his power over them in ways that were quite detrimental. Enacted under the cover of the unconscious, the abuse is practically invisible and therefore hard to see.

A key way of illumining and getting a handle on the abuse, as if stalking a wild animal, is to follow its footprints as it covertly operates through the unconscious psyche – be it of an individual, a group or within our own minds. When the unconscious becomes visible, if followed with awareness, it reveals itself to be a doorway, potentially leading us back to ourselves.

We can follow the unconscious manifestations of the abuse by noticing the various red flags that signify that we are encountering the energy of wetiko. For instance, many of Gafni’s students, friends and colleagues, responding to the multiple accusations of abuse, have written positively glowing statements in support of him. They talk about how loving, warm, generous, well-intentioned, brilliant and filled with integrity he is. And yet—raising a glaring red flag—none of the people writing these supportive statements are seriously investigating or hearing what the accusers are saying. If Gafni’s supporters listened to and actually responded to the accusations, it would add a level of credibility to their defenses of Gafni that is heretofore lacking. Instead, they are simply making blanket statements about how wonderful Gafni is, all the while subtly (or not so subtly) inferring that the accusers are making “false claims” against Gafni. It is not simply that Gafni’s supporters are not hearing the accusers’ voices (a passive act), but on the contrary, they are actively putting down, invalidating and in some cases actually attacking the very voices to which they are not listening.

The indisputable fact is that the people who are writing these wonderful endorsements of Gafni have no idea what actually happened – they weren’t there during the experiences and never spoke with those directly involved. Yet, they are writing “as if” they not only have an authority to comment on the accusers’ claims, but represent themselves as if they have more authority than those who had the actual experiences with Gafni. This bears repeating: Gafni’s supporters—who are in no position to know what happened—are telling people who are in a position to know what happened, what happened! This is a red flag signifying the unconscious, announcing to all who have eyes to see that the darkness of the unconscious is playing itself out so as to—potentially—come to light.

Wetiko works through the projective tendencies of the mind such that we become entranced—bewitched—by our own projections. When Gafni’s supporters refer to the false accusations made by his accusers—as if it is an irrefutable, objective fact that these claims could not possibly be true—his supporters are actually doing the very thing that they are accusing Gafni’s accusers of doing! By accusing Gafni’s victims of making false accusations, his supporters are themselves making false accusations, for his supporters are in no position whatsoever to know the truth of what they are talking about.

Some of Gafni’s supporters have even suggested that the reason accusers are attacking Gafni is because shadow forces in their psyches have been triggered by and are reacting against “the forces of light and love” that Gafni is bringing into the world! Prominent meditation teacher and long-time supporter Sally Kempton has accused Gafni’s critics of projecting their shadow onto Gafni, which is exactly what his supporters are doing via their accusations. This shadow projection suggests once again that the unconscious is playing itself out in the most maddening of ways. Accusing others of doing what we ourselves are doing—as if we’re looking in a mirror and responding to our own reflection as if it is other than ourselves—is wetiko in a nutshell.

Spiritual teacher Barbara Marx Hubbard is still openly and actively supporting Gafni, claiming she is “certain” that he is innocent of the charges against him. After a lifetime of doing great work, I find it sad that Hubbard is tarnishing her legacy by her misguided support of Gafni. In her recent statement supporting Gafni, Hubbard accuses his critics of “not being interested in facts.” A more clear example of projection is hard to imagine. Who is the one, Barbara, who is not interested in facts?

Let’s deconstruct Hubbard’s argument for a moment. She mentions that there is “extensive material that refuted these [abuse] claims.” The extensive material she is referring to primarily consists of statements and reports that, according to many insiders, were compiled and written by Gafni himself, including an “Integral Institute Report” that is often touted by Gafni as vindicating him. This report has been discredited by Joe Perez, once one of Gafni’s most vociferous defenders before he began to snap out of Gafni’s spell. Commenting on this report, Perez writes, “it was deeply flawed and did not address some of the most serious allegations against him … [in one particular section] every single sentence contained a falsehood or half-truth! … It reeked of cover up, not exoneration.” To reiterate, a document that “reeked of cover up” is one of the primary sources that Barbara Marx Hubbard is using not only to refute the accuser’s claims, but to accuse them of not being interested in facts. It’s truly mind-warping!

SPELL

Wetiko is a deceiving spirit; those who are unconsciously taken over by it—as Gafni certainly appears to be—can manifest as seeming masters of deception. To quote Gafni’s third ex-wife, “He was so efficient and convincing a liar that I view all of his supporters…as victims of his pathology.” According to numerous reports of his victims, Gafni would swear them to secrecy—thereby keeping the whole community in the dark about what was actually happening. This compartmentalization is an externalized reflection of the inner state of fragmentation of the psyche when abuse is involved. In a case where the micro reflects the macro, keeping parts of a whole system separate and dis-associated from each other is how the centralization of power and control gets institutionalized in the body politic of our world.

From all of the evidence, it appears that Gafni is so dissociated from the darkness he’s acted out that he has fallen into a state of lying to both himself and others and then believing his own lies. Once we sufficiently pull the wool over our own eyes like this, however, our consciousness, as philosopher Herbert Marcuse put it, then becomes inured to its own falsity. As if in the throes of an addiction, we then become compulsively driven to sustain our lie by whatever means necessary, lest we snap out of our self-generated cycle of denial and self-deception, which would unravel our false sense of self, as well as our psyche.

Lying is one of the roots of wetiko disease. Lying to ourselves and then convincing ourselves that we are not doing so is a classic version of doublethink, a process in which—putting ourselves under a spell—we literally brainwash and hypnotize ourselves. Becoming convinced of our own lies is a state in which we can develop a certain charisma and become very convincing to others. There is little that is more convincing than an evil we have self-righteously committed that, through self-deception, we convince ourselves is actually beneficent.

By all accounts having a magnetic personality, Gafni is very talented at enchanting and “charming” people into his view of things—his world-view—as he has enchanted himself to a degree that is infectious and catching. Due to his charisma, he has practically a preternatural ability to motivate people to support him and a cause greater than themselves. This ability to motivate others is an incredible gift, but if channeled through one’s unprocessed shadow with its craving for power, it can have all-around destructive effects.

Some supporters have mentioned that, having known of the accusations when they first met Gafni, they simply asked him about them, and, according to their accounts, he then went out of his way to explain what was really going on. The part of Gafni that has fallen for his own lies evokes the corresponding suggestible and potentially bedeviled part of others’ psyches and hooks them, spellbinding and entraining them into his spin. People then believe—hook, line and sinker—Gafni’s version of what happened, forgetting that there are at least two sides to every story. As part of his spin, Gafni reportedly does all he can to discredit his accusers as liars who are not to be trusted; for once people snap out of the spell he’s cast and he can no longer control what they think or say about him, he tries to control what others think about them. His supporters’ critical faculty disabled, they don’t do their due diligence nor any further research to see if what Gafni is saying is actually true or not; they simply believe him. This is an outer example of how wetiko works within our psyches. The wetiko virus can’t steal our soul; rather, it tricks us into giving it away ourselves.

In understanding the role that Gafni is playing and the effect he is having on others, it is important to not just psychoanalyze him, only trying to understand Gafni’s psychology from the personal, reductive point of view. From all appearances, it seems that Gafni has fallen into and been taken over by the unconscious such that he has been seized by, surrendered to—and has become an instrument for—the mesmerizing power of the archetypal realm to act itself out through him. The very great power of the collective unconscious can be used for the highest good—helping people to awaken—or, if acted out unconsciously, can be channeled destructively in a way that disempowers other people. When someone is unconsciously taken over by the living power of the archetypal dimension, they can access these very powerful transpersonal energies to play upon, enchant and manipulate the souls of people like so many strings of a musical instrument, and—just like we see in the situation getting conjured up around Gafni—entrain and entrance others to do their bidding.

Here is an example of the inverted, upside-down, mind-melting, crazy-making reality-distortion field that has gotten conjured up around Gafni. Adam Bellow, a prominent right-wing editor whose books include memoirs of Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin, as well as an attempted discredit of Anita Hill’s claims of sexual harassment, is a supporter of Gafni who, based on his public comments, seems to have fallen under his spell. Bellow, commenting on how some of Gafni’s accusers say that his supporters are “under some weird kind of spell” writes that Gafni “has no such magical power of enchantment. If he does, I’m certainly immune to it.”

But is he really immune? Bellow has written that he has seen “how he [Gafni] conducts his relationships … I have been consistently impressed by the love, respect, and loyalty he inspires in all who know him.” [italics mine] The cognitive dissonance in Bellow’s statement is obvious, as he is implying that Gafni’s accusers don’t know him, which is exactly the opposite of what is true. Most of Gafni’s accusers are actually the ones who know him best and who saw him in all manner of situations, including sexual – they were his lovers, wives, teaching partners, closest friends and members of his inner circle. They thus likely knew Gafni far better than Bellow ever will. This makes me think of the psychological dynamic that happens when someone points out the unconscious shadow in the field; they are typically viewed by people who aren’t seeing the shadow as being blind. I would point out that Bellow seems to have gotten entranced by Gafni’s outward appearance; the one who doesn’t seem to know Gafni is Bellow himself.

According to Bellow’s way of thinking, the fact that Gafni manifested to him as being a loving person “proves” that what Gafni’s accusers are saying could not be true, which is a fallacious use of logic. Of course people who act out abuse often appear loving – they wouldn’t find victims otherwise! I call this maddening “ill”-logic wetiko-logic, which is both a symptom and cause of psychological illness; i.e., it is truly crazy-making for all involved. This false logic does everything it can to avoid getting to the crux of the matter, all the while thinking and protesting mightily that it is doing the opposite.

It is as if Gafni’s supporters think that just because he is accomplished in some areas of his life, he couldn’t possibly do something reprehensible in another, which is a very limited, naive and fragmented point of view that lacks a deep understanding of the multifaceted nature of the psyche and its enormous capability for self-deception. This unconscious, unexamined assumption is how people of some importance, such as clergy, doctors, teachers or “pillars of the community” frequently get away with sexual abuse, child abuse, violence, etc. The un-reflected upon and erroneous assumptions intrinsic to the perspective held by Gafni’s abettors is a crucial factor that supports and allows the abuse to continue to play out. Without these enablers, the abuse could never happen in the way it does.

Many of us suffer from an unconscious willingness to be fooled by appearances. Gafni’s supporters seem to be falling prey to a well-known psychological dynamic—when we see a genuine part of someone, we can easily assume this one aspect is the totality of the person, i.e., who the person is. When Gafni’s supporters see his genuinely good aspect—which is an authentic part (but only a part) of who he is—it is easy to assume that this is all of who he is. It is important to not solidify Gafni as either all-good or all-bad, for, like all of us, he is an amalgam of light and shadow. Many of us are unable to consciously suffer the ambivalence of holding the seeming contradiction which embraces the fact that another person—like ourselves—can have both dark and light elements at the same time.

VICTIMIZER DISGUISED AS THE VICTIM

Part of why it’s so hard for the supporters of someone who is acting out abuse to see what is actually happening is that they become attached to an overly positive image of who they think the abuser is that feeds into their comfortable, comforting—and tranquilizing—image of the world and themselves, which serves to keep them asleep. This can feed into people’s unconscious need to believe the person who they think of as representing a positive ideal. This need can further feed into people’s unconscious and simplistic desire to think they know exactly where good and evil reside in the external world, thereby shielding them from any serious inquiry regarding the darkness within themselves. Avoiding looking at the darker parts within fulfills an unconscious need to identify themselves as solely innocent and good. This marginalization of their own darker parts insures that the evil will always appear projected outside of themselves in the form of some “other.”

People such as Gafni are like magnets around which, and portals through which, the spell of wetiko becomes cast in the surrounding environment, polarizing the field in the process. Being unfamiliar with our own potential for darkness renders us susceptible to fall under the thrall of the will-to-power of the archetypal shadow as it enacts itself through someone like Gafni. The fact that Gafni is so brilliant and so easily able to co-opt the deepest insights and language of the spiritual wisdom traditions to justify the behavior of his shadow makes this particular situation especially fascinating, challenging and dangerous.

Without knowing it, people who are supporting Gafni have gotten drafted (or more accurately, by their own volition “enlisted”) into Gafni’s version of “the way things are.” As if subscribing to and becoming pawns in someone else’s dream, Gafni’s supporters have disabled their own discernment and given away their ability to have their own experience, all the while thinking they are doing just the opposite. When we give away our intrinsic ability to interpret our own experience, other people, particularly those attracted to power—such as Gafni—are more than happy to interpret things for us.

In a perverse (arche)typical pattern that oftentimes gets constellated in just such situations, in addition to denying the accusations and then attacking the accusers, Gafni then casts himself as the victim, claiming that, as a result of the accusations, he has felt “intense pain beyond imagination.” In his reactions, Gafni is playing the classic role of what I call the “victimizer disguised as the victim.” Reversing the roles of victim and perpetrator, Gafni claims that he, rather than his victims, is the victim of abuse. It should be pointed out that Gafni’s strategy of casting aspersions on the true victims is simply a camouflaged form of the very abuse that he is so dramatically denying.

Feeling betrayed and victimized by an alleged coordinated conspiracy against him—what he calls a smear campaign that he likens to a modern day witch-hunt—Gafni claims to be the victim of “attempted social murder.” He has stated that he feels “socially raped,” claiming that he is the victim of “social media rape.” These are strong and ironic words from someone who over decades has himself been accused of sexual abuse. Using very charged political terminology, he has compared his accusers’ behavior to a form of terrorism, accusing them of being engaged in a jihad against him, supposedly motivated by professional jealousy and resentment. He has also likened his ordeal to that of black men who were lynched! These over-the-top outrageous comparisons make me wonder if Gafni has no sense of shame whatsoever. The whole situation feels twisted beyond belief.

ILLUSION COLLUSION

When abuse is acted out and covered up in a system, the psychic blindness of wetiko—in which many members of the system turn a blind-eye to the abuse—propagates itself through the field via people’s unconscious reactions of looking away from both the abuse and what it is triggering within themselves. To spread itself throughout the field, wetiko needs a group of people to be its purveyors, which is why collective situations are breeding grounds for its destructive influence to flourish. A collective psychosis, wetiko is highly contagious, spreading through the channel of our shared unconsciousness—reciprocally reinforcing and feeding off and into each of our unconscious blind spots—rendering us oblivious, i.e., blind, to our own madness.

In subscribing to his version of the way things are, Gafni’s enablers are colluding with his illusions; etymologically, the word “collude” has to do with “the sharing of an illusion.” In a self-perpetuating circular feedback loop, by buying into and hence agreeing with Gafni’s illusions, his supporters are further validating and confirming the seeming reality of these delusions, thereby co-dependently reinforcing both his madness as well as their own. An impenetrable field, like a protective bubble, gets collectively conjured up around their shared unconsciousness that actively—and aggressively—resists both facts and self-reflection at all costs, thus perpetuating the spell-like trance of those in its thrall. Anyone reflecting back to them their state of unconsciousness—in our example, Gafni’s accusers—gets demonized and seen as a threat. This is how a collective psychosis keeps itself in business.

BAMBOOZLE

It is a rich contemplation to attempt to understand why good, well-intentioned and highly intelligent people allow themselves to be hoodwinked and bamboozled by the figure of the abuser and wind up protecting him. To quote scientist Carl Sagan, “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us.” When we have been taken—captured—by the bamboozle, at a certain point it is too painful to admit this to ourselves. Facts become meaningless; it is easier to reject evidence than to admit we’ve been wrong. To quote Mark Twain, “It is easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.”

One of the major factors that keeps us caught in the bamboozle is that it’s an unconscious way of avoiding and protecting ourselves against our own pain. Yet our unconscious reaction against looking at the fact that we have been duped or conned ultimately feeds, in a self-generated feedback loop, the very pain—and the unconscious guilt—that we seek to avoid. Our looking away, which is an avoidance of relationship with a part of ourselves, is the very blindness that is at the root—both the cause and effect—of wetiko. Combined with most people’s aversion to being wrong, this is how we are complicit in insuring that we stay asleep. Sometimes we just don’t want to know the darker truths.

One of the most destructive dynamics in the human psyche is when the darkness of the unconscious becomes visible and makes itself available for being made conscious—whether in our night dreams or waking life—and we choose to ignore it. We have then chosen, in Jung’s words, to remain “artificially unconscious,” which serves to further feed the deleterious effects of the unconscious in the field—thereby strengthening wetiko, both out in the world and inside of our minds. New Age, spiritual communities are notorious for their practically pathological inability to discuss—let alone deal with—what is referred to by the word “evil,” i.e., the potential destructive forces in both the human psyche and the cosmos at large.

There is a counter-incentive built into the very fabric of abuse that makes it hard to snap out of our denial and self-deception and see the darker truth of what is actually happening, as we have to be willing to have the courage to experience the traumatizing—and painful—nature of this realization. To see through and recognize the delusion of our overly positive image of who we thought the abuser was and realize that he has a darker aspect is shattering to our sense of the way things are. For example, the late Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal movement, referred to Gafni’s “brilliance that had a dark center,” and wrote that he was “devastated” when he realized that he had become “an unwitting accessory to his depredations.” Seeing the person’s dark side can so shake us up as to be traumatizing—inducing a form of PTSD—making us feel unsafe, as we see through the illusion that the world (and the people in it) are the way we thought it was. Many people simply make the easier, and less painful choice to stay asleep, blaming the victims for creating such a disturbance. If only the accusers would just shut up the problem would disappear!

Similar to stepping out of a cult, it takes courage to snap out of the groupthink of the collectively agreed-upon version of the way things are and see the potential abuse in which we have been colluding. There is no getting around the fact that snapping out of our spell entails self-reflecting, looking at and owning the darkness of our own unconscious shadow. This involves not only seeing through the false, overly-positive image we have of the abuser, but seeing through the false, overly-positive image we have of ourselves as well. Our consciousness—and self-identity—simultaneously expands to greater heights and deeper depths, as we embrace more of the possibilities—both good and bad—of which we are capable. This involves real courage, as is always the case when we see through our illusions and see things—and ourselves—as we really are.

It’s important to be aware that many of Gafni’s accusers were once his loyal supporters and defenders at the time of their involvement with him. This led to a painful awakening when they realized how deeply they’d been manipulated and lied to, and how they had betrayed their integrity to help cover up his previous abuses. An increasing number of Gafni’s former supporters in recent months and years have had the courage to admit they’d been duped and are warning the public not to trust him. One powerful example was at a live storytelling event I attended, where a woman bravely shared how she’d been seduced by Gafni, conned into covering up his previous abuse, and ultimately had her trust in him betrayed in a devastating way.

In addition, many prominent rabbis recently put out a petition denouncing Gafni, stating, “Some of those who sign here were severely misled and even once defenders of Gafni’s integrity only to see that we too had been deceived.” Author and spiritual teacher Andrew Harvey, who had originally dismissed the accusations against Gafni, spoke with several of his victims, who shared, to quote Harvey, “some of the most painful and devastating” stories of abuse he had ever heard. Much to his credit, Harvey had the courage and integrity to realize that he had been hoodwinked and strongly came out condemning Gafni’s behavior.

Reportedly, what has helped people snap out of the collective spell and connect with their own experience, and hence, themselves, is stepping away and no longer being in touch with Gafni—and therefore not being under the influence of him managing their perceptions. Situations like what is transpiring around Gafni typically get healed when a leverage point—a critical mass—has been reached and enough people see through the endless subterfuge and smokescreens, connect with each other through the creative power of their collectively shared lucidity, step out of their silence, and actively speak their true voice — a process that is, in fact, happening today. We are complicit in abuse if we have bought into the lie that we have no power to change it.

COMPASSION

The fact that some of the supposedly most awake among us—e.g., Ken Wilber, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Sally Kempton and John Mackey—are still supporting Gafni (be it through their actions or their deafening silence) is a powerful sign that we all have our blindspots and can potentially fall asleep at any moment. This realization can deepen our compassion – for both others as well as ourselves. Compassion is truly empowering; it levels the playing field, equalizing us as human beings, as we are all composites of light and shadow.

Wetiko is a collectively dreamed up phenomenon. We have all collaboratively dreamed up into materialization the Gafni situation, with the myriad roles of abuser(s), supporters of the abuse, victims and accusers reflecting a deeper unconscious archetypal process happening within the shadows of our own mind. All of these various interlocking roles in the field reciprocally co-arise together, which is to say that these roles don’t exist in isolation, but only exist and take on their meaning relative to each other as interdependent parts of a dynamically unfolding whole system. Seeing others as separate from ourselves and each other is simultaneously the cause and result of wetiko disease. Our intrinsic interconnectedness—the fact that we are not separate from each other but rather, inter-related—is itself the deeper process that is being revealed. The realization of our interdependence naturally gives birth to great compassion—the wetiko dissolver par excellence.

If we could use this very compelling and painful melodrama to help us awaken to a deeper level of compassion, then Marc Gafni will indeed have served as a great teacher … just not in the way he imagines himself to be.

————–

A pioneer in the field of spiritual emergence, Paul Levy is a wounded healer in private practice, assisting others who are also awakening to the dreamlike nature of reality. He is the author of the newly released book Awakened by Darkness: When Evil Becomes Your Father (Awaken in the Dream Publishing, 2015), as well as Dispelling Wetiko: Breaking the Curse of Evil (North Atlantic Books, 2013), and The Madness of George W. Bush: A Reflection of Our Collective Psychosis (Authorhouse, 2006). He is the founder of the “Awakening in the Dream Community” in Portland, Oregon. An artist, he is deeply steeped in the work of C. G. Jung, and has been a Tibetan Buddhist practitioner for over thirty years. He is the coordinator for the Portland PadmaSambhava Buddhist Center. Please visit Paul’s website www.awakeninthedream.com. You can contact Paul at paul@awakeninthedream.com; he looks forward to your reflections.

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27 Responses to When the Most Awake Among Us Fall Asleep: Marc Gafni, His Supporters and Wetiko

  1. Thank you so much for this article. It doesn’t just resonate with me. I feel it may have rescued me.

  2. Lest my previous two comments sound somehow “holier than thous” allow me to add that I once had that kind of charismatic power in my hands, as a psychiatrist, particularly in group therapy sessions. Thankfully, about 20 years ago now, at the time of the end of my first marriage, while standing out on the back porch of a house I ended up renting for a while, I called out to….Whomever….”take it all, my health, my job, my status,–just don’t touch my kids–You can take anything else. Anything at all that stands in the way of me becoming the authentic Me.” I ended up leaving Psychiatry in 2009 after being assaulted by a colleague and ostracized as a whistleblower. To be honest, I don’t think I would have left otherwise. The power is intoxicating… and deadly for the soul. I will be eternally grateful to that colleague.

  3. The notion of “possession” is a critically important one which plays such a powerful role in these kind of group dynamics. For me, Jung’s essay on Hitler’s state of possession by Wutan (based on Jung’s observations of Hitler giving a speech in the late 30s–he remarked on Hitler’s facial grimacing and contorted mannerisms) is one of the most evocative pieces of writing I have ever encountered. When I read it, I shook from head to toe. After the death of Hitler, many of the high-ranking Nazis described themselves as coming out of a dream. To this day, I am flabbergasted that Hitler’s ascendancy to power is considered by so many in the world as either mostly inexplicable or secondary to identifiable socio-economic and political factors. Jung’s essay was a masterpiece of integration of superb rational and “irrational” intellectual function.

  4. I became acquainted with MG during the time he lived in the same neighborhood as me – Jaffa, in Israel. I am not educated or sophisticated but my background having grown up in Judaism enabled me see through a lot of the fanciful BS he was peddling – a cocktail of quaisi Judaism, new age fantasies, smart insights and knowing how to work the crowd. I contend that apart from the response to his charisma and talent for manipulation – His supporters are motivated by their own beliefs, vested interests and desires in whatever he happens to be peddling at the time – Jews with identity-angst looking for a solution to the increasing irrelevancy of archaic religious structures, as well as various figures in new age and integral circles – all at some point saw or continue to see him as their new hope. Some of them are so reluctant to give up on the new hope that they are prepared to make moral compromises and accommodate his dark aspects. What I’m saying is that the people that believe him do so because they want to believe him.

  5. Many good points made in this article. Having said that, I rather doubt that this dude or any of the other people you mention here were ever awake in the truest sense, at any point. I really don’t trust any of the affluent millionaire pop spiritualists and the people they hang with…not a single one. David Deida, Braden, Marianne..even Andrew Harvey..I just don’t. Some of them I’m really sure, because I can see and feel it instinctively (Deida especially listening or watching him gives me the creeps)..or in other cases, the totality of the core teaching being offered is fundamentally twisted (Marianne). I also have quite a bit of experience with a program that I tried out a few years ago, in the interest of better health and continued personal growth, laid out by David “Avocado” Wolfe and his crew, including the popular David Wilcock. DW is utterly brilliant in many ways. But do I truly trust him? No I don’t.

    As a singer myself (knowing of the strange and dark place where the voice of a true soul singer comes from) I like when somebody sings the unchained melody. Jim Morrison is still my personal God and all time favorite. Insanely genius and an eternal wise old soul. So now, we got Bono. What about Bono? Can he be trusted? My take on Bono though I have never met the man, follows.

    Bono may run some sketchy big business to keep his U2 outfit up and going, but the man is a genius and a truly mysterious soul. I’d love to meet the guy…and I know If we were ever to meet and he had a piece of advice to offer on anything at all, I would trust that the sunglassed dude is trying to help and not hurt. Innocence and Experience.

    Even as he, I and every other human being is flawed, fallible, we all do stupid stuff and make mistakes, and we have to deal with this heavy and twisted world and try to make something go and work. It ain’t easy for anybody. That’s life in this crazy place. I put Madonna in that category as well…one of the greats. I’m also a Shakira fan! Tori Amos also does it for me. There’s others too and some who are pretty much unknown to the public….just not a huge number of them. I’m a music man. Yes I love Sting too…of course!

    Thanks for all of your work Paul…very thought provoking and illuminating.

    Cheers! Paul Paulcito

  6. Speaking from being on the inside of the Integral community, there is no need to invoke as a phenomena as flimsy and new-agey as “wetiko.” The truth was much more basic… Gafni did a lot of his alleged perpetration pre-internet (leaving scattered evidence which was not easily compiled until much later) and there was otherwise not a very clear way to discern if he was just slightly damaged or a true victimizer. Gafni existed in this grey area and – like the narcissist that he is – benefited from playing the victim and putting up a wall of earnest denial. That made denouncing him for some time – based on mostly anonymous victim reports and warnings from distant Jewish communities – a dicey proposition.

    Also, without invoking “wetiko,” we just have to see that Gafni exploited a bunch of normal individuals who had trouble seeing and recognizing a personality disordered person in action. If there is anything to debunk here, it’s the idea that the leading lights of the Integral community you mention are actually psychologically astute persons beyond what other educated individuals are. They are most assuredly not. Sally Kempton is a very dull woman on that level. Wilber – who is otherwise brilliant as a theorist and is a nice fellow – has relatively weak interpersonal skills and has let several personality disordered teachers get past his radar (he seems to have a blind spot around narcissists). There’s nothing shocking about this and it doesn’t take a major statement to figure out how this happened. It happens all the time in every community and in every culture.

    Those of us who saw that Gafni was damaged – though I don’t think most of us knew quite how badly until later – were stuck amongst those who we personally knew and liked and who were swayed by Gafni. It just took time for Gafni to burn enough bridges so that the good will created by his charisma eroded, but it had been eroding in earnest since 2008.

  7. Good article.

    “It is a rich contemplation to attempt to understand why good, well-intentioned and highly intelligent people allow themselves to be hoodwinked and bamboozled by the figure of the abuser and wind up protecting him. To quote scientist Carl Sagan, “If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us.” When we have been taken—captured—by the bamboozle, at a certain point it is too painful to admit this to ourselves. Facts become meaningless; it is easier to reject evidence than to admit we’ve been wrong. To quote Mark Twain, “It is easier to fool people than to convince them they have been fooled.”

    Oh how true !

    Many of the insights expressed here can be applied to the political arena.

  8. Great article Paul. It does have a quality in it that i find fascinating. I really appreciate what Aoife had to say. Is it possible that a person can be a genuinely caring individual and at the same time be manipulative and an abuser? I think so. And there lies the rub. Your point of view has a flavor of wanting to label this person as “bad”, dangerous, etc.
    And i totally get it. I have been in the thralls of such people and it does feel like i do need to get away from them because of their manipulative ways of being.
    i guess my inquiry is Around how do we acknowledge that good and evil can exist in one person, and how as a society do we help such a person by naming their evil qualities and not allowing them to be acted out. Is it even possible.

  9. After some 5 years under the spell of a very charismatic person and organization…and sorting true healing practices from the exploitation…I say “thank you” again to yiu for illuminating shadow aspects grounded in the American culture. I featured your article on The Wounded Healer and aspects of weitiko, in an energy healing magazine for that charsmatic/exploitative community back in 2008. Only when I truly disconnected all the cordings did I realize how important your work was in my own healing from the PTSD like symptoms from the betrayal by and of myself. Now, in this presidential contest…the work for consciousness of these archetypal phenomenon continues…

  10. Great piece, deep questions. Caplan having written a whole book on the subject points up the impossibility of spiritual discernment by the ego-mind itself, so it’s unlikely we ordinary souls can arrive at the truth other than by accident. That said, it points up the intrinsic defects of BOTH the mind and also of just being around certain negative people.

  11. sexual abusers cannot be judged by their outward good character or kindness or professional standing.
    It is dark , and the abusers are acting out of an impulse they have little control over, they have to lie, firstly to themselves.
    Those who defend them are acting out of the same inability to peak into the dark depths .
    When children are the victims they take on the guilt and shame, slapped down by the “adults” who shame them for trying to reveal the truth.
    It seems a pattern for authority figures to abuse their standing to satisfy their evil impulse.
    Sexual abuse is abuse of power in the most raw ugly state.

  12. Wetiko = (more or less) Stockholm Syndrome. Thanks to the author for the elaboration and the implication that New Age gurus and leaders are so guilty of exploiting this psychosis. I also found it not surprising that it is largely people with Jewish roots who populate the international stage on which this Gafni drama is playing. Why is that? The shoot from the hip answer has in the past been that Jewish people are the most forward thinking and progressive on the planet. Could that in fact be when so many Jews have turned their backs on their traditions and are entranced by oriental spiritual systems? Just thinking.

  13. Thank you….I think that anyone who has been in the orbit of a charismatic personality has experienced a bit of this. The collective mind tends to gravitate around these nodes of expression and information transfer. A constant diagnostic algorithm should be required of any of us who presume to “know” what’s really going on.

  14. I have no knowledge of this particular individual Gafni. There are indeed many people masquerading as spiritual teachers who do great harm to people. On the other hand it is true that there is a battle going on with forces of darkness against forces of light and any authentic spiritual teacher will have people attempting to smear his / her reputation. Even the Buddha was accused of this.
    I would advise anyone reading of allegations against any spiritual teachers to investigate for themselves before coming to immediate conclusions. Otherwise we throw out the living treasures along with the garbage.

  15. So grateful for this absolutely brilliant article, wow. I experienced being devoted to a guru for 17 years before i woke up to the mind control, his sexual abuse of many students, and the coverups, the lying and power mongering. This will help thousands free themselves from trauma, I am sharing it and quoting from it extensively. In fact, may I quote heavlily and or reprint in my forthcoming book? thank you!

  16. This article brought to mind the Dharma Type of the priest/teacher and it’s shadow side of misusing power and sexuality.
    The Weitiko can infect all of the Dharma Types
    Thanks for your work.

  17. Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve seen this firsthand with an abusive man (and narcissist) who attracts people and lies to himself and others to keep attractive illusions going, and is extremely good at discounting and putting-down any challengers. Getting out of it was exactly like you describe: I had to realize that I had been wrong about my initial perception of him, and that he had much darker sides, but it took a long time, with internal spiritual guidance and it was hard. I’ve since watched friends following a guru I didn’t trust, Adi-Da, and when I read about his long-term story, with similar accusations against him, and relatives recommending not following him, it made me concerned for his followers. I grew up with a New Age mom who followed self-proclaimed gurus, and it was easy to see through them. But I never expected that I might meet less apparent practicers of wetiko! I love the last paragraph, also. I’m glad you wrote so much and brought in wetiko -it’s a subject where people blame each other and themselves without that understanding. And it’s hard not to blame ourselves when we are confused. So well-said. Thank you!

  18. If there is some value to people in reading this blogpost, and in understanding some aspects of their lives, then may that be for good. What I want to address is the more specific targeting of Marc, and Adam and other friends of Marc’s (a category in which I include myself) to a lesser degree. This post is complicated, and, in the complicatedness, humanity, nuance and maturity seem to be missing. I undertake responding not to ‘defend’ him because it is precisely this duality that is deeply exhausting. There needs to be an end to this grey murkiness all around.
    Set up an independent mediation, with independent facilitators, and address these issues in a transparent wholesome way with Marc – where all parties agree to be bound by the process. Bring it all out into the light.
    At one level, I want to suggest the observation of some madness at work.. What I believe has happened here, by all of this constant onslaught of analysis of someone with whom you aren’t in dialogue with, is the proliferation of polarization where the simple real humanity of people is getting distorted. For example, you make a very select ‘analysis’ of Adam’s relationship with Marc, by taking a couple of simple sentences from him, pointing out he is a conservative editor which in these circles immediately unconsciously makes us feel suspicious of him, and then somehow you feel justified to make some analysis about him. YOU DON’T KNOW HIM, have you ever chatted with him, known what it feels like to be in his life, etc… I don’t know Adam well, but my point is, can you accept that maybe Marc just genuinely has some friends who like and appreciate him – without being under some spell? Don’t we all just like some people because we do, even if we can fully acknowledge their imperfections? Is it not completely possible that Marc has enough good qualities to attract genuine friendships that are outside the realm of all the select analysis you present? It strikes me as crazy it is to imply that he has ‘charmed’ everyone who think well of him, put some shadowy ‘magical’ spell on them, etc.. as if adults have no agency.
    Genuinely, sincerely from my heart, I have compassion for all involved. I have personally also asked Marc directly about some of these issues – and no, he didn’t brainwash me into some conclusion. I don’t know what happened. I actually have heard from one such woman personally for whom I have a lot of compassion for, and simply put, just really enjoy her. I also have friends who know others. I genuinely believe the woman I refer to feels hurt by her experience with him. And, to be honest there was a point where she actually started weaving in issues from his experience in Israel more than 10 years ago into her own story, which I know to not directly be her experience. She has been sharing with more of his ‘victims’. There is some weird way in which stories are getting blended into each other, enhancing each other, and developing into a new narrative of experience. Which for me still doesn’t take away the kernel from anybody’s deeper experience – more just a curiosity how would it be to just bring this whole process out into the open, out of the select pieces of information that come through in all of the pieces written like this on the internet. I also heard a line of conversation of how he has sex with women to ‘implant demon seeds in them’, that a new movie that he was involved with earlier is a means to bring a darkness into the world, etc.. I mean, wow, crazy bananas.
    Everyone on all ‘sides’ involved might accept an invitation to look at their own shadow – (and no, this is not some trick spell Marc has played on me so I am projecting it out). Even though not involved directly, I took my own interest in all of this at the beginning of the year as an opportunity to query myself – do I own my own projections, expectations, desires, how do I negotiate power, am I narcissistic, etc.. To try it all on, and understand into the whole deeper purpose of this is. We are adults – there is a pole of maturity – a transformative process of emotional intelligence, love and connection to which we are all held to.

  19. In this moment, I literally feel saved by the content of this article! I have been trying to free myself from the spell of
    Wetiko playing out in my family, with me as victim. I’ve come to bits and pieces of ideas I read in this article, but the cohesion here made it all make sense. I feel freer than I have in a long time and once again, hope is restored. I’m not crazy! This phenomenon exists! In naming it, I feel empowered to heal the effects. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

  20. Wetiko seems to be avery strong parallel to the psychological phenomena of narcissistic personality disorder. I saw MG’s pathology up close. I saw how he showered attention on cripples and “weak” people, shedding his narcissistic radiance to them in a way that made loyal fans of them. I watched him hook people in and then berate them. I watched him curry favor with people “superior” to him and draw “inferior” people into his wake or abandon them. (I was an abandoned one, as I wanted no part of his attention). Many of the people who stand by him suffer (in my estimation) from similar attachments to fame and attention.

    I did what I could to work with him directly and to point out the manipulation I was perceiving to people who followed him. At one point, a life-long friend responded to me by saying “Oh, yeah, he told us the other (teachers) were jealous of him.” His web of attraction and pre-emptive image control trumped a 30 year friendship!

    The way to triumph over such a one is to notice and name the manipulation and step out of the shadow cast by it. Your freedom is the prize. You will never get the satisfaction of acknowledgment from the abuser, and probably so too for the folks still under his/her sway. But YOU will know. That is the reward.

  21. I’ve never heard of this guy, but I’m very familiar with the disease. Having observed this with the US Government/politicians, and my own family, friends, and acquaintances. And even in myself over the years.
    Amazing article!!!!! Thanks for this, from the bottom of my soul.

  22. . and Yes yes yes..
    it is painful to see all this drama everywhere and in our own life , relationships and spiritual journey .
    May this karma and awareness of it be healing, may it be clarified, for the benefit of all and the realization of Truth.

  23. Thank you !
    I remember reading Mariana Caplan.s book and being doubtful of some her dramatic
    narrative conclusions. And really wondering about the Epilogue about her boyfriend.
    It was obviously a case of .. me lady protesting too much.. All the mechanisms of denial .. went on and on.. the intellectualization, minimization, rationalization.
    IT is so “yuck”… sobering and alarming.. to see spiritual teachings and psychological analysis and theory continuing to be used in these ways…..even in the more ” open” and so called awakened circles. How early bright mines get caught into enabling as their own childhood still plays itself out with their codependancy
    we know it still goes on underground.. hidden in the culture. and somehow supported by it..
    and reported by victims who are fortunate enough to get away and find a voice.
    Thank you for this post. I thought I recognized the name Gafni.. then when you mentioned Caplan i was sure.

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