Marc Gafni

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Doctor

Marc Gafni
Marc Gafni
Born
Marc Winiarz

1960 (age 63–64)
Other namesMordechai Gafni, Mark Gafni, Mordechai Winiarz, Mordechai Winyarz
OccupationPhilosopher & Teacher
ChildrenZion;[1] three others from prior marriage[2]
Academic background
EducationQueens College, Oxford University
Alma materOxford University
ThesisThe Theology of Acosmic Humanism : Mordechai Lainer of Izbica (2006)
Academic work
DisciplineTheology & Religious Studies
Sub-disciplineNew Age Spirituality
InstitutionsCenter for Integral Wisdom
Websitehttps://www.marcgafni.com/

Marc Gafni (born Marc Winiarz; 1960) is an American philosopher, author, and rabbi who became a New Age spiritual teacher with a focus on Integral Theory, Eros, and "outrageous love".[2][3][4][5][6][7] He is the president of the Center for the Integral Wisdom, which he co-founded with Ken Wilber and he is the president of the Office for the Future.[3][8][9][10] He is the author of twelve books including the USA Book News Award for [11] Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment and Radical Kabbalah [12][13] He hosted a National television show in Israel called Tachat Gafno from 1999 to 2002.[5][14]

Gafni has been the subject of multiple allegations of sexual misconduct over many years, which he has denied.[4][5][6][7][15][16][17][18][19][20]

Biography[edit]

Gafni was born in 1960[5] to Holocaust survivors in Pittsfield, Massachusetts.[2] Gafni was educated at Modern-Orthodox yeshivas in the New York City area. In the 1980s, while attending Yeshiva University,[2] Gafni worked with Jewish Public School Youth (JPSY), an organization providing Jewish social clubs in public schools.[21] In 1988, Gafni also worked as a rabbi in Boca Raton, Florida.[4] After making aliyah, Gafni served as rabbi of the West Bank settlement of Tzofim.[22] When Gafni moved to Israel in 1988,[23] he Hebraicized his name. "Winiarz", Polish for "vintner", is related to the Hebrew word gefen (גפן), which means "grape"—thus the name "Gafni". Gafni has three children from previous marriages.[2][24][25]

Higher education[edit]

Secular education[edit]

Gafni majored in philosophy as an undergraduate at Queens College and earned his Doctorate in Philosophy from Wolfson College at Oxford University.[2][8][26] His doctoral thesis was entitled, "The Theology of Acosmic Humanism: Mordechai Lainer of Izbica."[27]

Religious Ordination[edit]

Gafni states that he currently holds ordination from non-denominational Rabbi Gershon Winkler, received in 2008.[28] Gafni had received Orthodox semikhah from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Renewal semikhah from Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.[4][7] However, as a result of the various allegations against Gafni, Gafni returned his rabbinical ordination from Rabbi Shlomo Riskin to spare his former teacher "any further embarrassment" after Riskin expressed he wanted to revoke Gafni's ordination on the grounds that Gafni's theology had extended "beyond the bounds of Orthodoxy".[4] His other rabbinical ordination by Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi was revoked in 2006.[7] In 2006, The Alliance for Jewish Renewal has condemned Gafni's behavior stated, "Marc Gafni is not a rabbi or spiritual leader recognized by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal."[7]

Teachings[edit]

Gafni's teachings are described as integral or world spirituality, incorporating traditional religious studies with contemporary themes, and are aimed at spirituality for people who do not identify with one specific religion.[2][29] Gafni describes himself and his students as "dual citizens" of both their native traditional religion and the broader themes of "world spirituality".[2][30] He advocates a new set of teachings around eros, sexuality, and relationships in his book Mystery of Love and CD set Erotic and the Holy.[31][32] At the core of his message is what Gafni refers to as the Unique Self.[33] Gafni believes that "the sexual is the ultimate Spiritual Master" and has written "I was convinced from an early age that religion had lost what I believed must have been its original erotic vitality. I knew that the sexual, if liberated and ethically expressed, must somehow hold the mystery of return to the much larger-than-sexual Eros."[34]

Integral Theory[edit]

In 2011, Gafni, Mariana Caplan,[24] Sally Kempton, and Lori Galperin founded the Center for World Spirituality, which later evolved into the Center for Integral Wisdom.[1] At the Center, Gafni and Ken Wilber founded a Wisdom Council to envision a spirituality based on Integral Principles.[35] The Wisdom Council, which is no longer active[citation needed], included members such as Gafni, Wilber, Tony Robbins, Warren Farrell, Lori Galperin, Sally Kempton.[36] The co-chair of Center for World Spirituality was Whole Foods CEO John Mackey.[37]

Gafni was a Scholar in Residence at the Integral Institute and the Director of the Integral Spiritual Experience but was asked to leave after the 2011 allegations of his sexual misconduct.[38]

Television[edit]

While in Israel, Gafni hosted Tahat Gafno (Hebrew: תחת גפנו, lit.'under his vine'), a television program broadcast on Israel's Channel 2.[2] Gafni also did a series of weekly television spots with Israeli comedian Gil Kopatch on biblical wisdom for everyday life.[39]

Writings[edit]

As of 2021, Gafni is the author of twelve books on spirituality and religion.[12] He wrote Radical Kabbalah, a two-volume work published by Integral Publishers in 2012. Dr. Zak Stein wrote a review of Radical Kabbalah in the peer reviewed Integral Review journal calling it "a work that comes along once in a generation”[40][41][13] In 2012, he published Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment with a foreword written by Wilber,[42] which won a 2012 USA Best Book Awards in Spirituality: General category.[11]

In 2017, he published A Return to Eros: The Radical Experience of Being Fully Alive, co-authored with Dr. Kristina Kincaid.[43]

In 2020, A Return to Eros was narrated by actress and producer Gabrielle Anwar.

Dr. Zak Stein wrote an academic review of A Return to Eros, published under the title "Love in a Time Between Worlds: On the Metamodern 'Return' to a Metaphysics of Eros" in the peer review journal Integral Review.[44]

Stein writes: "At the heart of A Return to Eros is a new metaphysical narrative about love and sex."

In 2024, Dr. Marc Gafni and Dr. Zak Stein, in collaboration with Ken Wilber, have introduced the inaugural volume of a groundbreaking series on CosmoErotic Humanism titled "First Principles and First Values: Forty-Two Propositions on CosmoErotic Humanism, the Meta-Crisis, and the World to Come." This book is structured around forty-two propositions, presenting innovative perspectives on navigating the meta-crisis humanity faces. Articulated in a distinctive bullet-point style, the book outlines the challenges posed by the meta-crisis, offers a roadmap for addressing them, and envisions "a New Human and a New Humanity." Drawing parallels between the current state of humanity and the Renaissance, the authors emphasize the necessity of articulating a new narrative rooted in timeless yet evolving "First Principles and First Values," "A New Story of Value" which they term "CosmoErotic Humanism," to guide humanity towards a more equitable and sustainable future.[45]

Oral Essays[edit]

In 2024, Gafni releases a collection of interconnected "Oral Essays," derived from teachings at the annual week-long “Eros Mystery School,” co-created with Dr. Marc Gafni.

These Oral Essays, edited for direct transmission, analyze cultural texts, films, and songs. They incorporate prayers, meditations, and contemplative practices, aiming to foster personal and collective transformations necessary to address the meta-crisis and existential risks.

The first Oral Essay book called "Mythologize, Don't Pathologize: Living Your Sacred Autobiography: Your Story Is Chapter and Verse in the Universe: a Love Story" highlights the urgent need for a new narrative of intrinsic value, an “Outrageous Love Story,” in response to the meta-crisis threatening humanity's existence. Through transformative practices such as writing “Outrageous Love Letters” and writing a “Sacred Autobiography,” readers are guided toward becoming agents of change, contributing to the vibrant “Unique Self Symphony” for the sake of Reality itself. These oral essays are based on talks delivered by Marc at the Eros Mystery School, Netherlands, August 2018.[46]

The second Oral Essay, “The Intimate Cosmos”, invites readers into a profound vision of the Intimate Cosmos. It urges self-evolution, embodying the essence of the New Human, Homo amor, and catalyzing transformative shifts for humanity. Readers are empowered to birth the New Humanity within themselves and contribute to the emergence of a more elegant and intimate order amidst the meta-crisis. These oral essays are based on talks delivered by Marc at the Eros Mystery School, Netherlands, August 2019.[47]

The third Oral Essay "Glory to the Heroes: The First Four Weeks of the Russia-Ukraine War" offers Dr. Marc Gafni's an analysis of the conflict's early stages, as shared in live talks on the weekly One Mountain, Many Paths podcast. The book is complemented by Dr. Elena Maslova-Levin's chapter on the historical context of the conflict. Going beyond political rhetoric, the book explores intrinsic values and envisions potential for growth amidst tragedy. It poses the crucial question: how should we respond as a global community? Despite evolving circumstances, the book remains a relevant reflection on this pivotal moment in history.[48][49]

Allegations of sexual assault[edit]

Gafni has been accused of sexual assault multiple times dating back to the 1980s.[4][5][21][38]

Teenage allegations[edit]

In 2004, Gafni was accused by two women of sexual assaulting them during the 1980s when they were teenagers. In 2004, he acknowledged a nine-month relationship with a 14-year-old girl when he was 19.[4] He denied the relationship was abusive, describing it as consensual.[17][50][51]

In January 2016, Judy Mitzner said that she was one of two teenage girls whom Gafni allegedly molested in New York City in 1986.[52] She reiterated those assertions on the Dr. Phil show of January 19, 2018, in which Gafni appeared.[53] Mitzner was 16 and Gafni was 24 and he was her Jewish Youth Leader at the time.[54]

Also in January 2016, an unnamed woman wrote that she was married to Gafni from 1999 to 2004 in an opinion piece in The Times of Israel. The article was in response to a New York Times article about Gafni the preceding week.[5] She catalogued what she described as her story of abuse and wrote that she had gone public to "Protect some girl. Protect some woman. Some student. Some unsuspecting soul."[55]

Within two weeks of the publication of the piece in The Times of Israel, Sara Kabakov revealed in The Forward that she was the other formerly unnamed teenage girl who had been abused by Gafni in the early 1980s, beginning when she was thirteen years old.[56] Gafni commented, "she was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."[6] In a subsequent article, The Forward published Gafni's response together with the analysis of sexual abuse experts. Gafni states they were 14 and 19 year old teenagers and describes their relationship as "a mutual expression of teenage love." Afterwards, Kabakov responded to Gafni's comments and reiterated her claim that the relationship was not consensual.[57]

In February 2017, the National Coalition for Men published an article by Gafni in which he defended himself, calling the allegations "a long-standing smear campaign".[19]

In 2020, Kabakov and Mitzner filed suit against both Gafni and Yeshiva University under the recently passed New York Child Victims Act.[23][58][59]

Bayit Hadash allegations[edit]

In 2006, after he moved to Israel, Gafni was accused by five women who attended the Bayit Hadash (Hebrew: בית חדש, lit.'new home') spiritual center in Jaffa, which Gafni opened in the late 1990s.[60] Gafni acknowledged relationships with some of the women.[21] However, he characterized the relationships as consensual and supported his claim by posting polygraph results on his website.[61] Because of the allegations, and because Gafni fled the country to avoid prosecution,[22][29] he was dismissed from Bayit Hadash,[62] which closed within days.[63] The Bayit Hadash co-founders and other prominent leaders expressed that they felt betrayed by how deeply Gafni had misled them as well as regret for having supported him.[64] Back in the United States, Gafni sent a remorseful letter to his congregation saying he regretted his actions and added "Clearly all of this and more indicates that in these regards I am sick. I need to acknowledge that sickness and to get help for it."[21][60][62] Gafni later explained that he penned and signed the letter not as an admission of guilt, but in an attempt to cool the controversy.[65]

2011 allegations and 2016 repercussions[edit]

Due to additional abuse allegations in 2011, including Gafni's sexual involvement with a student, Integral Life, one of Gafni's promoters, deleted his contributions from its website and announced that it was distancing itself from him.[38] Tami Simon, CEO of Sounds True, canceled her planned publication of Gafni's book, Your Unique Self, and issued a statement denouncing him and the ways he had lied to her.[66] Your Unique Self was published in 2012 by Integral Publishers. [67] The board of directors of the Center for World Spirituality, an organization co-founded by Gafni and of which he is CEO, issued a statement of "unequivocal support" for Gafni.[68] Ken Wilber, after taking "a 90-day leave of absence",[69] published a formal statement saying that he will "rejoin the Wisdom Council of The Center for World Spirituality", describing Gafni as a "gifted teacher" and a "genuine spiritual leader".[70][71]

In 2016, a number of new-age spiritual leaders, who had previously worked with and endorsed Gafni, publicly withdrew their support and wrote a public statement disavowing themselves from him, including Deepak Chopra, Joan Borysenko, Andrew Harvey, author Jean Houston, and Stephen Dinan.[72] Also in 2016, triggered in part by an article in the NY Times, as well as by a petition from over 100 rabbis denouncing Gafni.[73] In response to the petition, a group of Gafni's close former students published a public letter disavowing him as a teacher, accusing him of multiple forms of abuse, deceptions, and betrayals, and explaining why they consider him to be dangerous.[74] Protesters also targeted Whole Foods due to the involvement of its CEO, John Mackey, with Gafni. Gafni wrote: "This group of protestors, led by many of my competing adversaries, is using Mackey as a platform to continue their smear campaign designed to destroy my reputation and career." Mackey issued a public statement, saying: "While combating sexual abuse or harassment is essential and something I fully support, so is providing a fair forum for those being wrongly accused. Publicly [sic] lashing out against someone based upon false or distorted information about sexual events is itself a form of abuse."[75] John Mackey rejected the demands that he should distance himself from Gafni with the following statement: "Loyalty and the presumption of innocence are important values to me, so I will not join those who are condemning him. I am, at once, presuming Marc's innocence and firmly standing against what he's accused of."[76][77] In April 2016 it was learned that John Mackey stepped down, as he had completed his role as chairman of the Center for Integral Wisdom board.[78]

Bibliography[edit]

  • 1999 A Certain Spirit {Vadai}: Re-Defining Certainty
  • 1999 Uncertainty {Safek}: Reclaiming the Spirituality of Uncertainty
  • 2002 Soul Prints: Your Path to Fulfillment ISBN 978-0743417006
  • 2002 Seelenmuster ISBN 978-3442216062
  • 2003 The Mystery of Love ISBN 978-0743442206
  • 2005 Who is Afraid of Lilith? Rereading the Kabbalah of the Feminine Shadow
  • 2006 The Erotic and the Holy ISBN 978-1591792895
  • 2012 Your Unique Self: The Radical Path to Personal Enlightenment ISBN 978-1467522779
  • 2012 Radical Kabbalah Volume 1 ISBN 978-1495159121
  • 2012 Radical Kabbalah Volume 2 ISBN 978-1495159138
  • 2014 Loving Your Way to Enlightenment ISBN 978-1502305145
  • 2014 Tears: Reclaiming Ritual, Integral Religion, and Rosh Hashanah ISBN 978-0989682749
  • 2014 Self in Integral Evolutionary Mysticism ISBN 978-0989682787
  • 2014 Your Unique Self: An Integral Path to Success 3.0 ISBN 978-0990441939
  • 2017 "A Return to Eros: The Radical Experience of Being Fully Alive" ISBN 9781944648183
  • 2022 "Glory to the Heroes: The First Four Weeks of the Russia Ukraine War : For the Sake of Value and the Arousal of the West Beyond Moral" ISBN 979-8-88834-001-1
  • 2024 "First Principles and First Values: Forty-Two Propositions on Cosmoerotic Humanism, the Meta-Crisis, and the World to Come" ISBN 979-8989588909
  • 2024 "Mythologize, Don't Pathologize: Living Your Sacred Autobiography: Your Story Is Chapter and Verse in the Universe: a Love Story. Becoming an Ontological Activist for the Sake of the Whole" ISBN 979-8888340035
  • 2024 "The Intimate Cosmos: Evolution = the Evolution of Intimacy: From Homo Sapiens to Homo Amor" ISBN 979-8888340059

References[edit]

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