A punishing New York Times profile of Marc Gafni, an ex-rabbi turned Whole Foods co-founder and New Age spiritual leader, speaks not only of his success as the founder of the Center for Integral Wisdom, who has built a New Age brand around the trademark concepts of the “unique self and outrageous love,” but lays out the sexual assault allegations against him in detail.
The allegations include assault, statutory rape, emotional abuse, and exploiting his students within the counselor-student dynamic. The most serious allegation, repeated nonconsensual sexual contact with a middle school girl when he was 19 and 20, a girl Gafni has described as “14 going on 35,” happened years before his most recent actions came to light.
Oppenheimer’s profile exposes Gafni as a sexual predator, but also challenges the powerful people and business and spiritual communities that continue to enable him.
Gafni is not short on powerful friends. His connections include both Arianna Huffington and a significant partnership with John Mackey, the co-CEO and founder of Whole Foods Market. Mackey not only chairs the executive board of Gafni’s Center for Integral Wisdom, but until last week Gafni was featured in a series of videos on the Whole Foods website as well as in Mackey’s 2013 co-authored book, Conscious Capitalism.
Marc Gafni cancels California workshop following protests https://t.co/BCGqzcdPJZ
— JTA | Jewish news (@JTAnews) January 15, 2016
While Whole Foods is not to blame for Gafni’s decades worth of alleged crimes, the New Age mindset which attempts to reframe the business world as “one of the great cathedrals of the spirit” while promoting the pseudo-spiritual importance of their own successes, are what allows him to remain a spiritual leader despite his abuses.
In the book Conscious Capitalism, businesses such as Whole Foods Market, Amazon, Southwest Airlines, and Starbucks are all touted as examples of conscious businesses that are “leavened with authentic caring,” despite all of these businesses benefiting from an imbalanced global system of commerce. Amazon specifically is known for both underpaying and mistreating their employees. Strangely enough, Gafni’s book which spiritualizes business and claims it is the pathway to enlightenment, ignores ethical concerns entirely.
"I began to see hypocrisy and absurdity in a world that I once innocently felt was home. I was no longer anchored." https://t.co/NvQ5iLVq6U
— Bethany S. Mandel (@bethanyshondark) January 13, 2016
This brand of New Age thinking, which tries to divorce individuals entirely from the circumstances surrounding them and likens entrepreneurs to enlightened shamans, is popular amongst this set. In fact, many of Gafni’s followers and powerful friends try to explain away his history of assault by claiming that he “is sometimes overwhelmed by his own sexual energy”and has “a lot of Shakti.”
The popularity of this ideology, built on specious spiritual attainment through business, but devoid of ethical concerns, continues to enable Marc Gafni to do harm.
Featured image via Flickr