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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org; he looks forward to your reflections.