Applications are now being accepted for a year-long course on New Age tantric sex, which include instruction on “total body orgasms,” “Prayer Sexing” and “Pleasure Dharma.” Classes begin in October and applicants who enroll before August 15 receive a generous discount.
One of the course’s teachers? Controversial one-time rabbi Marc Gafni.
Gafni, a New Age guru and former rabbi accused of abuses of power through his career, including molestation of a teenage girl, has another venture — as “wisdom teacher in residence” at the Institute for Integral Evolutionary Tantra.
“We need to be willing to stand with each other in sexuality,” Gafni wrote in an introductory message on the organization’s website. “We need to learn what that means with all of its complexity, with all of its shadows.”
“The sexual is the ultimate Spiritual Master,” Gafni wrote.
A one-year course at the school, starting this fall and held over six weekends in New York City, with 16 bi-weekly online workshops, costs $5,750. There are nine “total body orgasm” sessions and students are also allowed two “interactive online sessions.”
Applicants may chose to enroll in a “two-year transformational program and a four-year practitioner program” after which they will be a “Certified Outrageous Eros Relationship & Sexuality Practitioner.” Applicants must send in a completed application form, wth a letter of recommendation, and go through an interview process before being accepted into the program.
The Institute for Integral Evolutionary Tantra is affiliated with the Center for Integral Wisom, Gafni’s think tank. The program incorporates “Integral and Evolutionary Theory,” New Age concepts that Gafni has helped shape. The institute is led by Kristina Kincaid, a member of Center for Integral Wisdom. Gafni has been involved with the institute since at least 2013, when he co-taught a weekend workshop including guidance on “how to move though the abuse of the sexual to sexual integrity.”
Gafni has had many other incarnations over the course of his career, including an emerging leader in New York Orthodox circles and a celebrated, then derided, spiritual leader in the Jewish Renewal movement.
Reports of sexual impropriety have dogged Gafni for years.
In 2004, the New York Jewish Week spoke with a then-anonymous woman who said a 19-year-old Gafni had “repeatedly sexually assaulted” her beginning in 1980. “She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her,” Gafni said in an interview with that paper.
That woman, Sara Kabakov, came forward publicly for the first time in this newspaper last year and says that Gafni molested her.
“When I was 23 — the age past which, according to New York state law , a person who suffers abuse as a minor loses the ability to press charges — I was still trying to get away,” Kabakov wrote. “I was unable to think about what had happened to me.”
Under New York law, child sex abuse victims must file civil suits against those they hold accountable by the time they are 23. However, experts say that it can take decades for someone who has been abused as a child to come forward.
No charges were ever filed and Gafni said that this was a consensual relationship.
Gafni was also accused of having relations with a 16-year-old female student from a youth group he led in 1986.
Gafni rose to prominence in Israel as the founder of an experimental spiritual community called Bayit Chadash around 2000. But in 2006, several female members of Gafni’s Israeli community came forward to say that Gafni had being having affairs with each of them.
The community in Israel splintered apart and Gafni disappeared from the Jewish world.
He moved to Utah. In 2010, he formed his “activist think tank,” The Center for Integral Wisdom. John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, formerly belonged to the center and has been a vocal supporter of Gafni’s.
The spiritual side of sex and intimacy have long been central to Gafni’s teaching. His books include titles like “The Erotic and the Holy,” and “Mystery of Love” and deal with topics like “the exile of the erotic into the sexual.”
Gafni’s defenders, who have stuck beside him despited the controversy, say that Gafni has what they call an overwhelmingly magnetic physical presence, which some call Eros.
“Marc himself is a powerful receiver [of Eros] and transmitter of it,” Adam Bellow, who is advising the Center for Integral Wisdom, told Tablet last year. “I also have no trouble believing that in his early life he had little understanding or control over this powerful gift.”
Kinkaid praised Gafni’s teaching on Eros in a 2015 public letter. “I had the profound honor and wild pleasure of … supporting Marc as the Living, Breathing, Alive, Aflame, Awakened, Dharma as he liberated Eros,” Kinkaid wrote. “Deepest Bow Ever to our Beloved Teacher for all he is, all he gives and all he lives! Amen!”
Gafni’s latest title then, as a teacher-in-residence at a institute offering courses in “Mystic Sexing,” fits well into this pattern.
“I was convinced from an early age that religion had lost what I believed must have been its original erotic vitality,” Gafni reflected in one of his books. “I knew that the sexual, if liberated and ethically expressed, must somehow hold the mystery of return to the much larger-than-sexual Eros.”
Sam Kestenbaum is a contributing editor and former staff writer for the Forward. Before this, he worked for The New York Times and newsrooms in Sana, Ramallah and Beijing. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @skestenbaum and on Instagram at @skestenbaum.