Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Marc Gafni:A Spiritual Leader Gains Stature, Trailed by a Troubled Past

In his home office overlooking Monterey Bay, Marc Gafni is trying to remake American spirituality. He reads, he writes, and he works to bring a little-known philosophy called integral theory into the mainstream of New Age.

Integral theory “is based on the understanding that evolution itself is an expression of a spiritual universal force of creation embodied in each one of us as us, as unique selves,” said the futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard, who described Mr. Gafni as a leader of the movement.[...]

“We take the best of all the major disciplines of wisdom from the premodern period, the modern period and postmodern period,” Mr. Gafni said. “And we integrate them in a kind of renaissance project.”[...]

But the growing prominence of Mr. Gafni, 55, and his think tank has alarmed many Jewish leaders who know him as a former rabbi who was accused of sexually exploiting a high school freshman and who then moved to Israel to start a mystical community, only to lose it after having affairs with multiple followers.

Mr. Gafni, who talked about his past during several interviews, and his supporters say he has put all of that behind him. He said that old claims against him were all exaggerated, the result of professional resentment, and that he had been the victim of pseudofeminist witch hunts. (He handed this columnist a copy of “Sexual McCarthyism,” by Alan M. Dershowitz.)[...]

Mr. Gafni was born Mordechai Winiarz to an Orthodox family in Pittsfield, Mass., in 1960. His family moved to Ohio, and he attended an Orthodox Jewish high school in New York City. “He was one of the most brilliant students I have ever taught,” said Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, who ordained Mr. Gafni but later rescinded the ordination. [...]

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