Cults Leaders, Abuse and Apologetics

August 13, 2016

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”).

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.

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