According to Terry Patten, to hear Marc Gafni tell the story of the turmoil in which he is currently embroiled, “he’s the victim.”

Patten suggests that in Mr. Gafni’s mind the accusations against him arise only from,

personal and professional resentment, envy and malice. Even the accusations from nearly forty years ago are gross exaggerations. He feels confident that those who know him will stand with him. His reputation is certainly badly damaged, but he will just keep doing his good work, and those with discernment will appreciate the insights, the evolutionary inspiration, the group celebrations, the shared love and ecstasy. And he will continue.

In response to the charges brought against him, Patten says, Mr Gafni,

has remained tightly wound, utterly committed to defending himself, feeling under attack.

It is always tempting for power-people to play the victim card, convinced in their own minds that they are the ones who have been wronged. It is in this context that Patten makes a chilling observation about the potential power of a persuasive and charismatic teacher who is under attack. They are difficult to talk to:

if I were to talk with Marc, I imagine that he would be enormously persuasive, and I would begin to wonder if perhaps he is not entirely right.

Part of the insidious power of the compelling leader is their ability to cause almost anyone to doubt their own perceptions. A powerful teacher is so convinced and so convincing that, in their presence most of us will find ourselves beginning to question our own version of reality. The give and take of normal conversation between peers requires that both participants are willing to be questioned.

It is almost impossible for the person who refuses to look in the mirror and face honestly the possibility that they may be wrong, to be in authentic mutual relationship with another person.

Terry Patten points the only way forward for anyone who has retreated into a defensive posture and is refusing to accept that they may need correction. Patten suggests that what he needs to see from Marc Gafni is

his heartfelt grappling with moral and spiritual issues, to see him bowing to a higher principle, truly surrendering to God or goodness or care or to a process of ongoing learning and growth.   

Sadly, from his personal experience with Gafni, Patten does not anticipate that such a response will be forthcoming. He tells the story of his own encounter with Mr. Gafni:

When he was publicly accused in Israel in 2006, I presumed there were two sides to the story, and extended my hand in friendship. I tried to put an arm on his shoulder and accompany him through the process of exploring how he had somehow participated in creating hurt for others, and how now that was perhaps unjustly coming back around to hurt him. I wanted to compassionately help him learn whatever he needed to learn and do his own deep work. He could reckon with his shadow, learn how to love better and be redeemed. I liked him. I could feel his pain. I could see that there was much animus directed toward him, and I thought he deserved care. I didn’t want him to be alone. 

But he wasn’t up for that kind of friendship, or that kind of work. He never showed any curiosity about those questions, or his psychological dynamics and shadows, or any sincere interest in gleaning the moral lessons of his life. Those were the conversations I tried to have, again and again, for years, but they were never forthcoming. He redirected every discussion back to the injustice of the accusations against him. The story was always about his victimization, and he was always only defensive. He was not receptive but active, recruiting me to see it all his way. 

It is conceivable that Terry Patten is nothing more than one of those frustrated spiritual teachers who, in the face of Mr. Gafni’s spectacular abilities suffers from “personal and professional resentment, envy and malice.” I do not know Mr. Patten any more than I know Mr. Gafni. What I do know is that Mr. Patten’s analysis has the ring of truth and his call to Marc Gafni is one that applies to all people, but particularly to those who fill the role of spiritual teacher. Patten urges,

This wasn’t an analytical mental process. It was a process of heart discernment. Even though Marc can be incredibly loving, sweet, affectionate, thoughtful, generous, fun, playful, witty, warm, creative, insightful, and magnetic… I couldn’t locate him as a fellow devotee of a higher truth. I couldn’t trust him. He seemed to have chosen a kind of dark refusal.

To be a “devotee of a higher truth” means being willing to submit to the wisdom, challenge and correction of people to whom I am accountable. It means being willing to say those four most important words on the spiritual journey – “I may be wrong.” The problem is that being accountable means staying still in one place long enough to be truly known.

The kind of restless spiritual energy that apparently drives Marc Gafni makes accountability almost impossible. Anyone who has the power to hide behind his scintillating gifts, is unlikely to ever stand still long enough in one place to truly open to the “heart discernment” that comes only with genuine honesty, transparency and mutuality.