In response, I was told that the interview would be granted on the condition that I would not ask about anything in the WE??! Finally, I decided to write the article without an interview. Yet I did send Cohen a list of questions concerning the issues and accounts that had been presented by the What Enlightenment??! Some of the answers use juridical language, taking advantage of inaccuracies in the phrasing of the questions to evade the matter.
As part of my research, I sought reactions and statements of verification from former contributors to the WE??! Some of these appear below. In several cases, I was able to speak with individuals directly involved in incidents described on the blog, who also confirmed the accuracy of accounts that have been denied or disputed by EnlightenNext. Student 1 Susan Bridle pdf. Student 2 Mimi Katz pdf. Student 3 Stas Mavrides pdf. Student 4 Simeon Alev pdf. Original Link. I was a student for a total of thirteen-and-a-half years, leaving in Like most long-term students, after years of dodging bullets, I finally incurred the wrath of my teacher Cohen in a form that I could not internalize and work with, and in I had my own personal version of falling out of his favor, with all its attendant humiliations and debasements.
Giving sizeable donations at a time of spiritual and personal crisis was, after all, the solution I had witnessed countless other students resort to; and I had also witnessed how reliably this course of action brought others back into the fold after they had been similarly cast out by their teacher. Some weeks after making my offer to Cohen, I got a call from his assistant telling me to send it in, which I did.
My discipline, confidence and goodwill were now compromised beyond repair, though at the time I was barely aware of this as I tried to hold on to the life I had committed myself to. There is a lot more to this story, including much that I personally witnessed and also took part in, which I will go into in greater detail elsewhere. Subsequent to leaving EnlightenNext, I discovered that I had a great deal of painful and extremely confusing history to deal with, and began the process of pulling myself back together and putting together a new life — one not based on blind obedience, humiliation and abuse.
I realized that taking money from me when I was really broken was just wrong, and so I wrote to Cohen in the spring of to demand its return. To my surprise, he did agree to this, but with the stipulation that I sign an agreement not to make any public statements about him or EnlightenNext for five years. It must be emphasized that this kind of silencing is the norm at EnlightenNext; no current student would ever venture a public critique, or dare even to utter one privately in the presence of Cohen or a fellow student.
There is no right of free speech even for close students of Cohen. And as is demonstrated by my case, he will try mightily to silence even former students. This also I intend describe in greater detail elsewhere. I have posted my own personal story here in support of all those who have come forward before me to help reveal the corruption that is, sadly, the norm in the world of Andrew Cohen. Further to this discussion and investigation, I have been working on a book, along with several contributors, which will go into much greater depth and detail and which will be published soon.
It was a journey that began in love and beauty, during which deep friendships were forged and profound spiritual meaning was discovered by many. Gradually, their abandonment of the familiar for the guidance of a charismatic guru came to feel less like a life freely chosen than forced enlistment in the service of an individual bent on total control. How did it all go wrong? What are the lessons to be learned? What comes next for the many seekers, on a wide variety of contemporary spiritual paths, who become disillusioned with iconoclastic authority figures who have opened their minds and hearts to previously unimagined possibilities?
And how can an understanding of the authoritarian dynamic inoculate others against abuse at the hands of such powerfully charismatic individuals? Buy the book on Amazon. There is also a great deal of anecdotal evidence to suggest this kind of phenomenon happens a lot around Cohen. This piece is not aimed at Cohen personally, but at his teaching, how it inaccurately describes enlightenment and how that misunderstanding may have come into being; I believe our collective understanding of enlightenment is more important than what we personally think of any man professing ideas about the phenomenon.
Cohen describes his teaching as Impersonal Enlightenment. However, enlightenment is not the realisation of impersonality, which is just the other half of the personal where one is, you will most assuredly find the other. Enlightenment is the inclusive transcendence of everything that has gone before, both the personal and impersonal alike.
And the emphasis I want to make here is that the event is inclusive, not destructive, dismissive or repressive. What is recognised at enlightenment I like to call Original Nature, and the personal viewpoint is just as much Original Nature as the Buddha, George W. Bush or the Number 73 bus to Islington. The realisation of enlightenment is that only Original Nature is; and so the personal is just as much Original Nature as anything else. The movement of spiritual awakening is part and parcel of the cosmic process of development, and the purpose of enlightenment is ultimately to bring the light of awakened consciousness to the process itself.
Is the personal not a part of this process too? Usually, spiritual development facilitates this moral development, which is why the Axial Age traditions all profess universal compassion as the bedrock of authentic spirituality. Just as enlightenment is inclusively transcendent of what went before, so too is each stage of moral development, with ethnocentrism transcending but including egocentrism, and worldcentrism transcending but including ethnocentrism, and so on. This almost sounds like genuine spiritual practice, in the sense that compassion, openness and awareness is brought to bear on any phenomena that may be encountered, especially the often buried psychological and emotional material that informs current behaviour.
In order to overcome the ego, the student would have to apologise in earnest, promise to change, and — if the reports of his ex-students including three former editors of EnlightenNext magazine are to be believed — donate a large sum of money to make amends. Ignorant, greedy, and hateful behaviour has its roots in the belief in a subject, and the often unconscious, non-verbal and unquestioned beliefs about the self and reality that have been adopted from very early on in life.
American Guru : A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of | eBay
It takes a great deal of personal exploration and care to discover these hidden beliefs about the self and reality — even after enlightenment — and a great deal more patience, time and compassion before our behaviour changes to a personal expression of the perspective of enlightenment: open, free, compassionate and curious. Judgements about the subject only further enforce the idea of the subject, and do nothing to mitigate the already existing judgements buried deep within the psyche.
Compassion — first and foremost for the self — is genuine spiritual practice; enforcing judgement upon your students can only be the result of an inability to bring compassion to your own ego first. For Cohen, romance is a major obstacle on the road to enlightenment, and his teaching has evolved from enforced celibacy on his students, to enforced sexual relationships where any romantic attachment must be suppressed. Of course, celibacy has been a common practice amongst dedicated seekers for millennia, as an aid in reducing distraction from the spiritual life.
I think this approach is fundamentally flawed and misguided, which is a topic for a whole other post. As I have already touched on above, the personal domain is a healthy and necessary part of the greater kosmocentric vision; and it is completely possible to experience enlightenment and remain habitually attached to all manner of worldy things at a personal level consider the great number of gurus who certainly appeared fully realised, but who have had affairs with students, abused drugs and alcohol and revelled in messianic fantasy.
My own personal experience is testament to this: I fell head over heels in love with my wife a year before my enlightenment, and our relationship played a major role in my spiritual development.
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It is again ironic that Ken Wilber also testifies in Grace and Grit to the fundamental role his deeply romantic relationship to his wife played in his spiritual progress. For 14 billion years the universe has managed to get along just fine without human consciousness; and furthermore, as humans we are part and parcel of the process of the universe, not separate from it, and this includes the desire for enlightenment and our spiritual development. Everything is Original Nature, from the Big Bang to the dinosaurs to the ignorant ape who has never heard of enlightenment to the actual event of enlightenment and the resulting fully realised human being.
At what point is Original Nature not unfolding as Original Nature? At what point is Original Nature missing from the universe, requiring our personal intervention in order to help the universe along? Cohen prescribes the adherence to five tenets in order to experience enlightenment, and he believes the same five tenets describe the state of enlightenment itself. In other words, Cohen believes that enlightenment spells the end of personal, spiritual practice and development.
If you were told that you were perfected, without ego and ready to teach — in the midst of the profound, life-changing event of enlightenment — by someone you believe is also perfect, and then great numbers of the best and the brightest of the spiritual scene begin to treat you as if you were indeed perfected and without ego, hanging on your every word and showering you with gifts, how likely is it that you would attribute any of your thoughts, beliefs or actions to something you and everyone else is certain no longer exists? There appears to be a curious online trend occurring with Andrew Cohen and his cohorts at EnlightenNext.
Here at WhatEnlightenment??! It has since been restored by someone else. So what is going on here, folks? There are many in the Integral world who are disturbed by the endorsements given to Cohen by various Integral teachers, especially Ken Wilber. Who knows? Nevertheless, we welcome back online our WhatEnlightenment??!
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Posted by David Sunfellow 0. Andrew Cohen born 23 October is an American spiritual teacher , regarded by some as a cult leader. Cohen was born in New York City in in an upper-middle class secular Jewish household. Poonja in , a self-styled teacher who taught that no effort is needed to attain enlightenment "because it is merely the realisation of what one already is". Within a few years, Cohen noticed that the ecstatic experiences his students had in his presence were limited. According to Cohen, "Poonja insisted that the realization of the Self had nothing to do with worldly behavior, and he did not believe fully transcending the ego was possible.
From to , Cohen served as a core faculty of that institute. After the break with Poonja, Cohen's teachings were further developed into "Evolutionary Enlightenment", aiming at an impersonal enlightenment which transcends the personal. In , Cohen co-formed the jazz-funk-fusion band Unfulfilled Desires, in which he played drums.
The band played original compositions and standards, and performed in Europe and the United States. On June 26, , Cohen announced on his blog that he would be taking "a sabbatical for an extended period of time", after confrontational exchanges with some of his closest students, who helped Cohen to realize, as he put it, that "in spite of the depth of my awakening, my ego is still alive and well". On May 12, , Cohen posted an extensive apology letter to his former students on his blog, his first writing after emerging from a two-year sabbatical. In it he wrote about the need to embrace the spiritual principle of agape , as well as eros, and expressed regret for the ways in which his lack of the former in his teaching methods hurt and alienated many former students.
In September , after over three years absence from public life, Cohen unveiled a redesigned website. This included an announcement of his intention to return to formal teaching, beginning with a retreat planned for early When beginning to teach, Cohen was influenced by H.
Poonja , who offered a "deinstitutionalized and experiential Advaita,"  comparable to Ramana Maharshi 's teachings, which differ from the traditional Advaita Vedanta of Shankara. According to Cohen, "traditional" enlightenment is the realisation of the transcendental aspect of God, and it often goes hand in hand with the realization that the world is an illusion.
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Cohen says that he has discovered a different form of "enlightened awareness," which he claims to be unique. He first called this "impersonal enlightenment" to reflect the fact that it was a realization shared between people rather than an individual attainment. He later changed the name to Evolutionary Enlightenment, both to reflect his belief that it indicates the next stage of the evolution of enlightenment and to convey the creative, world-embracing vision of spiritual awakening as an unending process of individual and cultural development.
A fundamental aspect of Cohen's Evolutionary Enlightenment is the distinction between what he sees as two fundamental, yet opposing, aspects of the human psyche: the " ego " and the " authentic self ", [web 11] In his teaching, ego is defined as "the deeply ingrained, compulsive need to remain separate and superior at all times, in all places, under all circumstances. According to Cohen and Wilber, "enlightenment" does not refer to an unchanging state, but has to be in accord with an ongoing evolution of humanity, which is the "Authentic Self.
American Guru: A Story Of Love, Betrayal And Healing Former Students Of Andrew Cohen Speak Out
To achieve that, in Cohen's view, an individual should strive to realize his or her true self as being "one with the timeless Ground of all Being and with the evolutionary impulse that is driving the entire cosmos. According to Wilber, evolutionary enlightenment means "the realization of oneness with all states and all stages that have evolved so far and that are in existence at any given time. Cohen's ideas are co-inspired by Wilber's Integral Theory , offering an integral vision of the integral evolution of matter and consciousness.
HWL Poonja, also known as Papaji, the Indian Guru who Andrew claims called him his "heir" stated publicly that Andrew only spent 25 hours in satsang before proclaiming himself as enlightened.
Papaji describes Andrew's claims as the arrogance of his ego and never acknowledged Andrew as a master or heir, but rather described him as a messenger. Some of Cohen's former followers, including his mother, Luna Tarlo, have viewed him as a manipulative spiritual teacher. Tarlo wrote a critical book, called Mother of God , about her experience as one of his disciples. Tarlo said she "knew if I seriously objected to anything, I'd be kicked out" and stated that her son, formerly the "sweetest, sensitive kid, had changed into an unrecognizable tyrant.
American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing , by William Yenner and other former Cohen student contributors foreword by Stephen Batchelor , allege authoritarianism, financial manipulation, physical and psychological abuse in Cohen's community, and discusses the challenges of healing after leaving the community. One of the tragedies of Poonjaji's teaching ministry is that he either told, inferred, or allowed hundreds of individuals to believe they were fully enlightened simply because they'd had one, or many, powerful experiences of awakening.
These "enlightened" teachers then proceeded to enlighten their own students in a similar way, and thus was born what is known as the " neo-Advaita ", or "satsang" movement in western culture.
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