The point of this blog has been to educate the readers about (among other things) what constitutes a healthy religious experience, and to that end, this article is splendid:
The talk of the town last week was about a New York Times profile of an (accused) rapist/serial womanizer/wife-abuser ex-rabbi who essentially got kicked out of the Jewish world and has successfully resurrected himself as a new-age guru. His name is Marc Gafni, and I actually know/know-people-who-know women whom he messed with. I heard about him years ago at a Shabbos table — some people who had left his sphere of influence were discussing his move to Boulder and said, “I don’t know why he keeps trying to work in the Jewish world. He should go to the new age — they don’t care about sexual propriety.” Apparently he had the same idea.
The list of red flags in this piece, How to Spot a Spiritual Sexual Predator, reminds us that MM was simple a run-of-the-mill spiritual pervert who fit a standard profile, which includes:
The Spiritual Man Who Thinks You’re Special: You are a light in the darkness to him. He is your teacher, and he sees soooooo much brilliance and potential in you. You are what he needs, and he is what you need — spiritually, of course. Or he wants to personally help you. You, more than anyone, are worth his precious spiritual energy and time.
The Spiritual Man Who Pierces You With His Eyes: His gaze is unbelievably powerful. When he looks at you, you swear he can see right to your soul. Why do they always pierce you with their eyes? It’s a move of control and dominance. I once had a creepy swami try to pierce me with his eyes, and I left his ashram within 10 minutes.
The Humble Man Who Talks About Himself — A Lot: I’ve met way too many of these guys. All conversations lead back to him. He is so humble that he doesn’t even have his own possessions or home — instead, he’s going to mooch off of you and other women. Counter something he says, and he’s going to throw the humble card at you: If you don’t agree with him (or you don’t flatter him), you’re arrogant. Since he is so humble, you are assaulting him by disagreeing with him.
It is these characteristics that may or may not be sexual teases, but still have the capacity to rattle a marriage and cross the boundaries of propriety. Even with "chaste" priests -- who draw women into their web of influence by being extra understanding, or supportive in difficult times, or encouraging of distinct gifts. Beware always, and again I say, beware. I am not entirely convinced that the Legion has learned to separate its fund-raising and recruitment techniques from those that border on a sort of perverse seduction. I would love to be proven wrong ...
There's more, and the list is very good. To be clear, to call MM a "run-of-the-mill spiritual pervert" is not to say that the damage in his wake isn't horrifically grave and deeply personal -- just that from now on, we should see that there is a series of characteristics that should give us pause. It's like understanding what a cult is -- plenty of astute people fall into them, and these charlatans are ubiquitous. Keep these items in mind, share with your friends, and teach your children. Ours was only one chapter in a long and sordid book.