Spiritually Incorrect: Some Remarks on the Teacher-Student Relationship by Dr. Marc Gafni

– in Response to an Invitation of the German “Integrales Forum” in 2011

Thank you for your kind invitation to comment on the Integrales Forum position paper in regard to teacher-student relations. First let me congratulate you on this paper, which serves to initiate this important conversation. This topic is a worthy one in need of urgent address on many levels. Let me also commend your excellent deployment of the Integral framework in discussing these issues. It is the use of the Integral framework that allows for this discussion to hold the necessary complexity, multiples perspectives, and nuance that it deserves.

In broad terms, I agree with your conclusions in terms of the need for some essential standards in regard to spiritual teachers. Clearly we are all aware of the most horrific abuses that take place in the context of some pre-personal cults, as well as of some of the more subtle forms of psychological manipulation, financial dishonesty and sexual abuse that take place in these same contexts under the fig leaf of the teacher-student relationship for the sake of the dharma. To protect the potential victim and shield the powerless from the whims of the powerful is a core obligation of any community.

At the same time, as you indicate in your paper, much discernment is needed in this conversation to assure that the teacher-student function is upheld. For indeed, without this teacher-student function, both the transmission of wisdom as well as the personal and collective enlightenment of the interior face of the cosmos would be severely impaired. The teacher-student function is essential for these evolutionary goals.

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Integrity, Spiritual Teachers, and a School for Integral Spirituality

A position paper by Integrales Forum


The Integral Forum has set itself the goal to discuss and apply the integral approach within the German speaking community as it has been developed by Ken Wilber and others. In doing so co-operations and partnerships have been developed and are being developed with organizations and individuals including spiritual teachers. These teachers are themselves subjects of public discussion that range from approval to very critical. Against this backdrop, the Integral Forum Board of Members has often been asked again and again and recently even more increasingly how we view our relationship to spiritual teachers and how we deal with the criticism of these teachers.

Based on this background and applying an integral approach we have prepared the two following articles.

Their purpose is:

  • to clarify and outline our position on this subject
  • to set a standard for our own (also spiritual) work
  • to promote discussion and exchange with spiritual teachers
  • to serve as a starting point for discussion with an interested public
  • to help bridge the gap between humanistic disciplines, their applications and spirituality
  • to be an example for an applied integral spirituality.

With the first article, Towards a School and Science of an Integral Evolutionary Spirituality, a philosophical framework is provided within which the discussion can take place. It particularly highlights theoretical questions in which different positions in theory can also have different ethical implications. For example a theoretical disregard of the Relative as related to the Absolute can practically lead to an ignorance and presumptuousness in a practice of the Absolute ignoring the practice towards humanity itself and finally result in spiritual arrogance. The second article, Enlightened Spirituality – A Checklist for Spiritual Teachers with Respect to Competence, Integrity, Responsibility and Transparency, then offers concrete criteria with which spiritual teachers but also their critics can be evaluated.

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