I do not know how accurate or fair Terry Patten’s characterization of Marc Gafni might be.

I do know that the kind of people Patten describes do exist in the realm of spiritual teachers and that Patten offers an important caution for any student who commits to being guided by a spiritual teacher.

Patten describes Gafni saying,

I think he’s a ronin, “a samurai without a master.” He has great powers. But I cannot trust him because I do not see his devotion and surrender to a higher divinity, morality, set of values, true teacher, or even a group of friends and mentors. 

Marc can be disarmingly charming, incredibly warm and affectionate, and devotedly attentive to the people he chooses to lavish his attentions on (many of whom are among the important creative thinkers I most respect). But in my view he has used them, and everyone around him, to constellate a version of the authentic natural integral evolutionary cultural movement that places him at its very center. This is a terrible distortion—he was never at the very center of this movement. He was always an opportunist, exploiting the integral evolutionary ecosystem to gather power, credibility, and exciting new ideas to engage with to further his personal ambitions. He can make things happen, including high-energy events. But they are subtly changed by his way he shows up. The intelligence or love that they were supposed to be about are no longer at the dead-center. Subtly, they become all about him. 


The danger signs are:

  1. great power
  2. complete independence (no submission to any tangible authority above himself)
  3. warm, charming, attentive
  4. yet, ironically given #3, always the centre of attention
  5. opportunistic, exploitation of others
  6. high-energy mover and shaker
  7. but in the end, everything is all about the teacher

Patten admits that the foibles he discerns in Marc Gafni are universal and, to some degree inevitable. But he suggests that, in some spiritual teachers, these dark traits reach epic proportions and slip over into a realm where they become profoundly damaging. Patten explains that, in his view Marc Gafni,

loves attention, accolades, and the sound of his own voice. He wants to charm and persuade. So do I. So do many of us. But he stands out. He has an uncanny ability to think ahead strategically. He was always many chess moves ahead of me—and everyone else around him. And he has enormous personal energy and ambition, working hard every day, networking and reading and writing and teaching and executing each move in his greater strategic plan. Is that evil? No. No one is perfectly pure, and I’ve seen all of these egoic qualities in people I admire and respect. 

But Marc is more formidable than the ordinary ego. He uses his power of seduction and persuasion to gain associates, and then builds networks of loose and strong alliances from which bigger projects (that showcase him) can emerge. He can overwhelm the people close to him, energetically, psychologically, intellectually, and sexually. This is why his ability to “make stuff happen” is almost supernormal, even despite his damaged reputation. In Marc’s case, these formidable capacities seem to turbocharge his ordinary egoic impulses, and they become something far more dangerous than ordinary human foibles. 

Any student of spiritual practice who discerns similar traits in a spiritual teacher needs to proceed with extreme caution. The kind of strategic maneuvering Patten describes should cause alarm bells to ring in anyone’s mind. And when one finds oneself feeling “overwhelmed” by the force and power of the teacher, it is time to take a step back and seriously assess the situation.