Why I Study and Work with Dr. Marc Gafni
Since I decided to study and work closely with Dr. Marc Gafni in 2011, I have been asked time and time again:
Why are you working with someone who seems so controversial when you look him up on the web?
And why have a teacher anyways? Why don't you just write and teach about your own experiences?
Others go straight to attacking - and from attacking him to attacking me.
All of this led me in the past to withdraw more and more from all kinds of movements and communities in Germany. I had no desire to expose myself to these attacks. They simply took too much of my energy. And in my experience, these attackers were generally unable or unwilling to really hear and absorb new information or my point of view anyway. They drew from sources they found on the web without discerning information from propaganda and smear campaigns.
As I have recently begun to make myself a bit more visible again, and especially as I am planning a kind of community project - a German branch of the Center for World Philosophy and Religion (= the new name of The Center for Integral Wisdom founded by Dr. Marc Gafni, together with Ken Wilber, and Sally Kempton, and co-lead now by Dr. Marc Gafni as president, Dr. Zak Stein as co-president, and a whole team of gorgeous people, in which I have the honor and the pleasure to participate in), as it were - it seems important that I address these questions. My experiences over the past few years give me many unique perspectives on this whole set of issues. And my choice to work with Marc and to have him as my teacher for these past twelve years is more deeply grounded than ever.
However, before I begin, I would like to ask you - the reader of these lines - for something:
Try to read with an open heart and an open mind.
Put your preconceived ideas aside and let yourself be touched.
If you have any questions afterwards, I will be happy to answer them.
If, on the other hand, you just want to confirm your preconceived notions....
If you want to attack me or Marc...
If you see yourself as a savior or rescuer for some assumed victims without questioning your own assumptions....
And if you want to comment, from this attitude...
...then, please leave it, because I am not interested in such a non-conversation.
And if you do it anyway, I will delete your comments without warning - as a form of self-protection, because this kind of non-communication simply takes too much of my energy, hurts me, and, most importantly, doesn’t generally help any of the sides.
For all others, please continue here:
When I met Dr. Marc Gafni in 2011 at a conference of the Integrales Forum in Nuremberg and was fortunate enough to organize a workshop with him at the Integral Salon Karlsruhe, I had already heard that Marc was quite controversial. At the same time, I had already seen videos of him from the Integral Spiritual Experience 2, which had touched me deeply.
I had sent him a Facebook friend request to introduce myself as the organizer of the workshop in Karlsruhe.
And he had responded to that with a few words on my timeline:
Looking forward to meeting
These six words were really no reason to get excited. And so I was amazed at their effect. My heart seemed to do a double flip, and my whole energy and hormonal system started working overtime. I felt like I had just fallen madly in love with someone I had never met before, and I couldn't sleep for several nights.
I asked myself: What is going on here???
And this question has been with me for a long time since...
What had happened here?
And: How could this be?
When I finally met him, a few weeks later, at the conference, this initial feeling had faded away and, although I liked his presentations, I was no longer as excited.
After the evening workshop in Karlsruhe, we went to dinner together, and I told him the story of my life in about 10 minutes. Afterwards, he asked me if I could imagine studying with him and contributing to the newly founded Center for World Spirituality (which was later renamed Center for Integral Wisdom and now Center for World Philosophy and Religion). And, to my own surprise, I heard myself say Yes. He told me to take my time and not to decide for a few days. I said yes to that, too.
I had just finished my studentship with my previous spiritual teacher a week before, and I had thought it was now time to stand on my own two feet. I had absolutely not been looking for a new teacher. And yet, I was more excited than perhaps I had ever been in my life.
I remembered a video with Ken Wilber, who was asked how to recognize your spiritual teacher. His answer: You fall in love with him....
I thought: Bingo!
(And no, that doesn’t refer to the wish to start a romantic relationship.)
I spontaneously decided to attend Marc's seminar the next weekend in Berlin to be even more sure.
As if I still needed that....
In addition, I began to absorb all the so-called information on the internet about him. And I have to confess that, sometimes, reading that made me really nauseous....
It was not that the information was true. But the quality of the discourse was often so degraded, as it so often happens in these contexts, that it was deeply painful to engage.
This was clearly not a description of the person I knew; and yet how could something like this happen? What (or who) was behind it for real? What was really driving it? Was I missing something here?
And how could I deal with it?
These questions would stay with me over the next few years....
And honestly, every time I reached a difficult phase in my relationship with him (and such phases are of course normal in all forms of relationships), I wondered if there wasn't something to it... Even if I myself had never experienced anything abusive from him, quite the opposite, daily collaboration (like with every other person, too) can be challenging at times.
So, how could I deal with all this?
First of all, at the outset:
I have, of course, looked into all the allegations against him and can say that
From my own first-person experience with Marc, I have never experienced even the slightest bit of abuse. Quite the opposite.
All my colleagues with whom I am in regular exchange (from my 2nd-person perspective) have never experienced even the slightest bit of abuse. Quite the opposite.
From my third-person research, there are so many hard facts and evidence to support Marc's position, which I have already discussed in an earlier four-part article entitled "Injustice via the Internet: Myths, Facts, & Smear Campaigns in the Marc Gafni Story." I will not repeat myself here.
What I want to elaborate on here is twofold:
How can these occurrences be understood or even explained on a different - perhaps even mystical - level?
What did I personally have to learn from all this? And which realizations did I have along the way?
Why are my work and study with Marc so important for me?
Who Is Marc Gafni?
Much has already been written and said about who is Marc Gafni. Yes, I myself have already written about it in the above-mentioned article. And I don't want to repeat any of that.
Instead, I want to describe Marc from my own experience with him....
First of all, Marc is, of course, a totally normal person: a person with strengths and weaknesses, lights and shadows, things he is overwhelmingly good at and things he is utterly not... a person who learns... a person who deserves our compassion... and an extremely strong personality with a lot of genuine charisma (an interesting word that originally meant a special spiritual gift from God, which could be either the gift of healing or the gift of teaching)... And this gift often, in Marc Gafni’s case, causes some people to be strongly attracted to him and others to be equally strongly afraid of him... All of this is true. And a lot could be written about it.
On the other hand, Marc is NOT normal at all. He stood out early on, attracting both supporters and enviers as early as the age of 18. Without considering this special aura around him, his life story cannot really be understood…
When I look at world history, at all times, there have been people who were somehow special... people who seemed to have come here with a special purpose... people who changed history in a particular way... Martin Luther King.... Mahatma Gandhi... Leonardo Da Vinci... Galileo Galilei... Albert Einstein... but also people who came here with a clear spiritual gift (charisma)... people who have been called avatars in the various traditions... or prophets... or gurus... or messianic figures....
What all of these people have in common is not only their larger-than-life mission, of which they were aware early on, their ability to change history and culture, their spiritual ability to transmit states of love and truth, to see and formulate contexts in new ways, and to have an impact in unforeseen ways, but also the extreme difficulties they faced along the way, the personal life challenges they had to solve (and not all of them were able to do so), up to and including an all-too-often violent death. Quite a few of these characters were murdered, or at least character assassination was attempted against them.
If you have read this far and felt some resistance arising in you during the last two paragraphs, in anticipation of what I am likely to say hereafter, let me tell you that you are in good company. I, too, have long resisted writing... or even thinking... these above lines - and what is yet to come....
You might think:
Perhaps there have been such figures in history... who knows?
Or maybe there are some of these figures also today in influential political, economic, or scientific positions... but these are not people with whom we - as normal people - interact or even work together.
And spiritual figures, who call themselves avatars, masters, or gurus, turned out to be mostly fake in our time, or at least, they didn't fulfill our expectations of them…
Yes, all of that was also in me for a long time…
Especially since, in my daily collaboration with Marc, I was, of course, also confronted with his totally human side…
So, how does all this fit together?
On the one hand, when I started to look into the lives and gifts of all these special figures mentioned above, I discovered two things:
While some of these figures are indeed fake, there were and are some real ones out there. Their gifts are real, their impact on culture great and net-positive…
All of them are a unique blend of totally human personalities, with human strengths and weaknesses, and very special gifts and charisma, as well as the ability to impact culture and even to downright usher in a new era.
On the other hand, Marc is indeed a completely new phenomenon for me, even though he is, at the same time, grounded in millennia-old traditions. He really has something of the ancient prophets or avatars, so strong is his ability to spiritually transmit subtle, causal, and nondual states of love, power, truth...
[Even his enemies acknowledge this and interpret it as downright demonic powers, which is one of the ways they avoid having to really deal with him, by dehumanizing him. As Marc has pointed out, that is exactly one of the litmus tests to discern between a valid critique of someone and the attempt to destroy someone, e.g. through a smear campaign.]
Marc has, at the same time, something of the great activists of our history, who changed our culture and turned the wheel of history forward... And again, at the same time, he is completely touchable. He allows great closeness, can admit weakness, and is always open to accepting feedback, learning, and growing....
He really is all of those things.
And while he is completely willing to take leadership, he is, at the same time, always emphasizing that he cannot do alone what he is so clearly committed to doing. He speaks of the Democratization of Enlightenment, of the Unique Self Symphony, through which alone the next step of humanity can be initiated, the New Human can be born, which he calls Homo amor, and whose awakening in us holds our only chance as humanity to survive the existential risks of our time.
And yet, he has something more in common with his famous predecessors: the difficult fate or karma... It is as if all these people (or incarnations of the Divine - which is what we all are, in the end, even though there are clearly differences in the degrees of realization) must, in a special way, clarify and transform within themselves what they have come to transform in the world....
For Marc, there are two issues in particular:
A new view on who we are and how much specialness we allow ourselves to show, beyond ego and narcissism, in what he called Unique Self.
A new view of Eros and intimacy as the strongest and most fundamental forces in the Kosmos.
And both themes he seems to have to experience and transform completely in his own life, his self, and his surroundings.... And, to be very clear, as Dr. Marc Gafni has said so often: “The sexual models the erotic. It doesn’t exhaust the erotic. There have been billions of years of Eros in the Kosmos before sex.”
And particularly from the very subject of Eros, he has, several times, tried to turn away in order to fit more into the mainstream. That was the case, for example, in 2014, when we, from the Center, organized and created the Success 3.0 Summit. And exactly in its wake, there was the next smear campaign against him, which drew him and us more inward again. And in the wake of that, the next levels of the principles of Eros revealed themselves… As if, on his path, karma and dharma come together to keep him (and us) on the path…
And this seems just typical for the above-mentioned extraordinary people....
Did he make mistakes on this path of his? Surely… Just like all of us!
And that's where his completely human side really comes to the fore…
Did he - unintentionally - hurt some people on his way… For sure… Just like all of us!
What was the saying again about those who are without sin???
Did he abuse anyone in the process?
No! That is just not who he is.
And for that, I am really ready to stake my life on, now…
My Path with Marc Gafni
To emphasize this once again:
There is a large amount of objective facts and evidence supporting this view of mine. These are available here, for example....
And yet, somewhere, there is a moment, especially when it comes to old stories that have obviously not been documented objectively without gaps (especially in pre-internet-times), where the question arises: Who do you trust?
And here, I must say that my trust has deepened over the many years with Marc. And that, in itself, is already extraordinary. Because real trust only comes about, as Marc so often says, when we have met someone's shadow. And that all-too-often leads precisely to a breakdown of trust.
When trust grows, it is usually because both sides were and are willing to do the work of working through their respective shadow issues. And we really did that. And to be honest, I, especially, had to do that. Because as much as I would have liked to shift those shadows onto him at times, I finally had to realize that they really belonged to me. And that is exactly what triggered the greatest shift, the greatest transformation, and the greatest healing in my life.
Especially when I fell into my burnout in 2020, or into what can be called the second great crisis of my life (more about that here), the thought was once again that this must be somehow Marc's fault after all... that he must have forced me to work too much... that he must have not seen and appreciated, or even protected, me enough...
Of course, I had tried to tell him that it was all getting too much for me... and that, despite working overtime, I still all-too-often felt that it (or I) wasn't enough... [And while I already understood that this was a childhood issue of mine, I wasn't completely ready for it, at that time, to take full responsibility, and so I usually spoke to him with an accusatory tone, which he (of course, as I can see today) dismissed.]
And of course, there were immediately supportive voices from the outside for this part that didn't want to take responsibility: people who hardly knew Marc saying to me that Marc was a workaholic... that he only saw himself... that he was only using me and all people for his own purposes.. etc.
I noticed in myself a slight temptation to go in that direction and drop everything. After all, I could have gotten rid of the responsibility of having gotten myself into this situation. From that point of view, I can at least somewhat understand people today who have taken this path instead of doing their own work on themselves.
At the same time, I knew that I would have taken away my own chance to grow through this challenge. And I would have given up something immensely precious in my life: my relationship with Marc and our community, as well as the ability to be a contributor to the purpose of our Center, which I deeply believe is important, and finally, the possibility to express and live my own Evolutionary Unique Self in the way I do now.
And so, I finally did what I should have done all along (but probably was not able to do, yet): I stepped back from everything for a while, handed over all my responsibilities to our team, and took care of my healing and consciousness. I learned a lot about myself... things that I had already begun to realize, but hadn't fully transformed and was able to implement in my day-to-day life, yet… So, while I knew a lot, in critical situations or difficult conversations, I still fell back into old childhood patterns.
I understood how I still didn't really have my own boundaries straight, often couldn't feel them, and therefore couldn't establish them. I learned, step by step, how this could work, and also how to take care of myself. I began to implement that, worked through some complex early childhood trauma, and began to open up again, but this time while communicating my boundaries.
And, miraculously, Marc didn't seem to have any problems with that at all. On the contrary, when I was coming from this new position of clarity and strength, he honored and met me in every way and rejoiced in my development.
I am working closely with him again, in my new, self-selected role as Editorial Director of the Great Library, maybe more closely and deeply than ever, and I am grateful for all that I have been able to learn and continue to learn every day....
I can see more and more of my own power - something Marc had been trying to teach me for a long time, but that I had to discover for myself, first. It was my own patterns that I was trapped in, and I had to free myself from that prison.
It was Marc who held the space for that. In his presence - as in the presence of any authentic teacher (in a similar way as it happens in every deep relationship) - all the issues that need to be resolved come to the surface. To a certain extent, the teacher may be able to give clues or be supportive here. But there comes a moment when the student must go into her own power, the power of her own Unique Self, and free herself from her own prison. And the authentic teacher could not be more delighted about that....
At least that's how I experienced it with Marc. And that has elevated my trust in him to whole new heights.
I am grateful for how much strength, energy, freedom, and love I have gained in this process.
I am grateful for the love that connects me with Marc and my colleagues and friends in our Unique Self Symphony, who are really my Evolutionary Family, and for our intense collaboration for the sake of humanity and the planet.
To return to the initial questions:
Why are you working with someone who seems so controversial when you look him up on the web?
And why have a teacher anyways? Why don't you just write and teach about your own experiences?
Today, I would answer these questions this way:
A person like him, with such a comprehensive consciousness and clear interior mission, no matter what you call that, is always going to polarize.
That is part of the nature of things, even if there is really nothing to the specific accusations against him.
And yes, even if, outwardly, the controversy seems to stand in the way of our mission, on a deeper plane, it is precisely about transforming what stands in the way… in us and around us…
But it is even more than that. The controversy is not a bug but rather a feature of the mission.
And in this day and age, it is not enough for one person to do it... no guru... no avatar... no messiah... no activist... no one can do it for us…
Which might answer another question I often get:
Why don't you write and teach about your own experiences? Why are you still a student? Haven't you learned enough by now and should teach yourself?
Certainly I have learned a lot, and I love to pass on my knowledge, insights, and realizations. But hopefully, I never stop learning at the same time. [By the way, Marc is also always continuing to learn, including from others, and sometimes maybe even from me. In addition, he honors his teachers and studies them thoroughly. And all of this keeps the Dharma Wheel turning].
In the process, I myself become more and more deeply aware of what really is at stake. And that touches me deeply.
Since mankind has escaped from the cradle of nature and the animal kingdom, it has begun to give itself principles. And while those principles have changed over time - on the surface - deep down it's always been about winning and losing - more specifically, zero-sum games where someone always has to lose so that someone else can win. It was about rivalrous conflicts between individuals and collectives. (And winning could mean many things over time: Survival, power, belonging, prestige, influence, money, etc.) In the process, increasingly complicated systems have emerged, in which - unlike the complex, self-organizing systems in nature - there is no allurement between the parts of which they are made, and therefore also no self-organization, self-healing, or self-transformation. And as Dr. Marc Gafni has shown in so many ways, these distorted first principles - and the resulting win/lose metrics, zero-sum games, extraction models, and complicated systems with no allurements between their parts - are what has brought us to our current state of the world and the existential crises we are facing.
For the first time in human history, we are able to recognize and demonstrate what are actually, what Marc is articulating as, the First Principles and First Values of the Kosmos all the way up and all the way down the evolutionary chain. And they have nothing at all to do with zero-sum games. For the real values of the Kosmos are always infinite and grow when they are shared.
And if we recognize this as humanity, we can develop whole new kinds of systems (in business, education, government, infrastructure, technology, etc.) that reflect these principles. This is why it is so important to articulate and share these principles and values embedded in a Story of Value. Yes, more than that... It is the only thing that can get us out of today's existential crisis.
If I really allow myself to feel this unique opportunity in which I have the chance - in which WE have the chance - to participate, I just want to fall on my knees. So audacious is this thought that it can only be answered with humility. The Whole is so much greater than me that I just want to bow down in utter devotion... in gratitude for being able to contribute to this.
And while I like to speak and write about my experiences, I do so precisely on the basis of these principles and values formulated by Marc. Marc, for me, is one of the people on whose shoulders we stand to be able to see ourselves as far as we can today. And the message he transmits is, in my opinion, so important for the whole of humanity that we must not ignore it.
Perhaps the greatest mastery for me in this lifetime is to be a student in the deepest and most comprehensive way possible… a student of various masters, teachings, and practices… a student of Marc especially… and ultimately a student of life itself…
Only if we work together to change the world, when we collectively and individually confront everything, love everything, and transform everything we encounter, from within and without, do we have a chance to do what we are here to do... To protect humanity and the Earth from the existential risks we ourselves have brought upon ourselves and the Earth....
I, for one, am in.
What about you?