Thursday, December 30, 2004

Four Steps to Freedom

Chances are, if you are reading this now, you have already taken a few courageous steps of discrimination. As Andrew used to teach, thoughts are not a problem. Neither is inquiring into the nature of what lies beyond the community or that you might come to know that there is a life, a real life, with real challenges, outside Andrew’s community!

If you have left you have to understand that we all go through very specific phases, or stages, upon coming out! This, too, is impersonal ….and it might seem horrible, but actually it is very refreshing!

So here are the four different phases:

Phase one: the isolation phase.
This phase can last from a few days to a long long time, even years and years. The problem is that the longer this phase lasts the more screwed up you are. Really. You are in what Tibetans call the Bardo realm and Catholics call Limbo: Neither here nor there. You know very clearly how the community and Andrew sees you: an egomaniac, full of anger, resentment, pride. Also you know, that the world outside is not only crawling with ignorant people that are wasting their lives away, but also (and that is way more dangerous), with us, the shadow sangha…and we are real bad news…and Andrew over the years has made sure you know how really bad we are!

So, there you are, in the isolation phase, confused about a lot of things, but very certain about one: you do not want to see anybody! Neither the community (if you are one of the lucky ones) nor anybody belonging to the ex community! You have heard we make phone calls trying to reach you disguised as friends….-and maybe are a bit surprised that nobody has called you yet - Well, we have a life….

But back to you. Fair enough, you need time to sort things out, and depending on how long you have been in there and the abuse (yes! abuse) you have gone through, you might really need some time. It would be good if you can find a friend in this phase, or if not a friend (there are no real friends in the community) someone that has left more or less at the same time you have. YOU NEED TO VENT! Really, it is your human right, and it is also very HEALING!

So, the best thing you can do is get out of phase one as fast as you can and start pouring your heart out to someone you trust! That will move you on to phase two.

Phase two: contact.
So now you are daring, you are starting to go beyond what you “knew” were the safe parameters. And maybe that is why you are even checking this site out. The internet is a safe bet. Nobody sees you, and only you know…but now you have to find out that actually other people have gone through the same things you have. Start to branch out, look for e-mail addresses, reach old friends that maybe have left a few years ago. The more you branch out the more you will see many others share your experience of doubt and disillusionment. The more daring you are the more you will contact people that are viewed as real perverse in the community, the hard core “negatives”. Because as much as phase two is the beginning of liberation, you will find out, you can get stuck there too.

You can get stuck in choosing who is good and who is bad, still according to what is Andrew’s view. Really, really bad is someone that says Andrew is an egomaniac, someone that does not take any responsibility at all for the fact that they have asked to be free in the first place. Someone less bad is someone that has left, but is admitting that it is their ego’s fault and they are sinners! So, these people are the ones that will admit they had to suffer in order to be redeemed and freed from their egos. They had to do prostrations in the cold freezing water, they had to be humiliated publicly on cartoons….because they are so narcissistic and self-centered that they deserved that! Really!

So here we go, the degree to which you will move on, is the degree to which you will inquire and dare, and so, to that degree you will be called bad! How ironic!

Phase three: discrimination
This is when you start to see that there are many different views out there of where Andrew is at. And it might be interesting to find out that people you understood to be so negative are not! Actually they might have had, at the time of leaving the community, some very valid points!
So in the big world out here, here we are all navigating and trying to understand!
Some of us have even been able to leave behind the whole Andrew thing, and view it as just part of our experience in life and the world, and move on…

Phase four: there are no safety nets out here!
The world and our spiritual explorations are wide open, there are no safety nets, if you blow it you pay. There are no guidelines and nobody is telling you what is right and what is wrong. You are the one that needs to learn to navigate both in the mundane world and the spiritual world. Some things are brought to you and some things you have to look for.

In A’s community you have learned to endure, now it is up to you to move forward!

(contributed by an anonymous reader)

Responses to Four Steps to Freedom

Happy New Year Everyone!

We're kicking the year off on the right note, which is to say lots of discussion and input! Thank you to all the commentors!

Four Steps to Freedom has ignited a flurry of replies and responses, which is a sure sign that this blog is being participated in - and that's good. We all don't agree - another sign of health.

For the record, WHAT enlightenment?! has as its theme "an uncensored look at self-styled "guru" Andrew Cohen" and we realize that by posting Four Steps, we were straying a bit from that and looking into the ex-student and how he/she navigates the world after AC.

We will be returning to our original theme in subsequent posts.

Here are the comments we've received on Four Steps:

Comment 1:
Even though it is a very interesting analysis, who ever posted this last post seems to be more upset by the people who have left Andrew and are not in touch with "the so called shadow sangha", then Andrew himself.... go figure!

I have left a long time ago and now peacefully living with my wife and kids, not thinking back a whole lot of my times with Andrew (still in Marin County). I dont know much of the more intense forms of abuse, but they sound NOT GOOD!

Still, I do feel that the confusing facts of the profound depth of Andrew's realization AND all his abusive stuff needs a lot more careful thought than just angry bitching... you know what i mean? there doesn't seem to be much of a balanced view here.

There was a post on your forum a while back beautifully refering to this as well, challenging to have a bigger heart about the whole situation. I found that very helpful.

Anyway, I doubt you will post this to the blog, but for what it's worth, here it is.... namaste!

Comment 2:
This is a comment on the commentator who believes that the author of Four Steps To Freedom is more interested in taking to task those not in touch with the "shadow sangha" than Andrew himself.I think this misses the point completely. It seems to me that, unfortunately, the commentator himself may be stuck in "phase one" and perhaps, therefore, the description of this phase struck too close to home for him.

The author of 4 Steps neither insists that contacting former members of the community who are critical of Andrew (the so-called "shadow sangha")is necessary, nor does the author find any fault in anyone who chooses not to contact these folks. (Although, to tell the truth, it seems to me that if you want to start investigating what happened, why you left and what that means, it would seem to make sense to speak with others similarly situated about it).

The author of "4 Steps" only recommends that you find someone you trust to "pour your heart out to." And if you do this honestly, you'll start to find a lot of anger and hurt that needs to be acknowledged before you can move on to the next step toward finding your wings and flying free.

One thing that's sure--sweeping it under the rug in the name of being "fair anad balanced" doesn't help.

On the other hand, dear commentator, if you do have something to say about Andrew that you think will make things here more balanced, I'm sure everyone would love to hear it.

Comment 3:
JEEEEEEEZ!!!!I read the first "comment on the commentator" earlier today and found it very refreshing. I left Andrew Cohen a few years ago and also feel that my life is on a pretty even keel. No massive amounts of unresolved anger but a willingness to sincerly question some core aspects of Andrew's teaching methods that were deeply suspect and possibly abusive.

I was sent the link to this blog anonomously and have found some of the information very helpful and it's given me a lot of food for thought and a real way to find my way through the confusion. This latest "four step" post I found, to be honest, patronizing, unpleasant, extremely polarizing and arrogant. It made me experience the feeling I often had in the community of being painted into a corner and not being the given the respect to find my own way. Most dangerously and oppressively of all being labelled in some self-invented step system I feel is particularly arrogant and lacking in any kind of grasp of the enormous complexity of the situation we all find ourselves in. I felt really angry that the person who responded (pretty openly I thought) to the "four step" manifesto was basically just put down. Reminded me of being in the community....very FASCISTIC!!!!

PLEASE let this blog be an open and fair place that people can meet to find out more about their experience. Not a place to be put down, patronized and subjected to a two dimensional and primitive pyschoanalysis!!

Comment 4:
Ramesh Balkaser says this. I may believe that the whole universe is a dream, but so long as one remains outside of the dream and sees it as something seen by him as something seen by him as a seperate entity he cannot be any nearer to liberation or self realisation.Liberation is nothing other than the liberation from the idea of a seperate entity doing the seeing.

Wilbur and Cohen are both very much seperate if not superior entities seeing others as still trapped in the dream. Poor fools instead of transending their ego's they have simply driven it under cover so that rather than being able to witness its workings they act so totally from it that they have become useless to themselves and a danger to others. Still its all part of the game. Goodies and baddies etc

Comment 5:
Some folks are very sensitive around here.I'm sure no offense or harm was intended by the post or the comment.May all beings be happy.

Om shanti shanti shanti.

Comment 6:
It looks like the Steps to Freedom post, and the "comment on the commentator" has set off a bit of a tiff.

Interesting.

I suppose some readers feel it criticizes them, and would prefer that criticism be kept to Andrew.

I think people are being a bit over-sensitive. It seems that 4 Steps was meant to help and was supposed to be provocative but fun.It does touch on a difference in strategy and approach among people who left AC. Apparently this is a hot button topic.

Maybe it's best thing is for WHAT enlightenment?! to keep the focus more on AC and back away from focusing on those who have left.

Comment 7:

Four Steps - But Only if the Shoe Fits!

In a way I can see why there is the difference in viewpoint between the "4 steps" article and some of the comments.

Basically, the people who were somewwhat less involved—like the one commenter who we know was able to avoid total immersion because otherwise he never would’ve left with his relationship and family intact-- are now probably feeling a subtle pressure from "4 Steps" to be part of a sort of a "sangha", albeit a “shadow” one, which they never wanted to get involved with in the first place.

I suppose that the 4 steps paradigm really only applies to those who were actually deep in the original and current sangha...really involved, to the point of completely giving up their independence for a number of years.

There are all shades, but people who weren’t longtime enough to really get hooked into the belief system and Andrew’s co-dependent guru-disciple bond might not necessarily have to go through the same lengthy and arduous steps of "de-compression" as those who were.



4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Even though it is a very interesting analysis, who ever posted this last post seems to be more upset by the people who have left Andrew and are not in touch with "the so called shadow sangha", then Andrew himself.... go figure!

I have left a long time ago and now peacefully living with my wife and kids, not thinking back a whole lot of my times with Andrew (still in Marin County). I dont know much of the more intense forms of abuse, but they sound NOT GOOD!

Still, I do feel that the confusing facts of the profound depth of Andrew's realization AND all his abusive stuff needs a lot more careful thought than just angry bitching... you know what i mean? there doesn't seem to be much of a balanced view here.

There was a post on your forum a while back beautifully refering to this as well, challenging to have a bigger heart about the whole situation. I found that very helpful.

Anyway, I doubt you will post this to the blog, but for what it's worth, here it is.... namaste!

Friday, 31 December, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is a comment on the commentator who believes that the author of Four Steps To Freedom is more interested in taking to task those not in touch with the "shadow sangha" than Andrew himself.

I think this misses the point completely. It seems to me that, unfortunately, the commentator himself may be stuck in "phase one" and perhaps, therefore, the description of this phase struck too close to home for him.

The author of 4 Steps neither insists that contacting former members of the community who are critical of Andrew (the so-called "shadow sangha")is necessary, nor does the author find any fault in anyone who chooses not to contact these folks. (Although, to tell the truth, it seems to me that if you want to start investigating what happened, why you left and what that means, it would seem to make sense to speak with others similarly situated about it). The author of "4 Steps" only recommends that you find someone you trust to "pour your heart out to." And if you do this honestly, you'll start to find a lot of anger and hurt that needs to be acknowledged before you can move on to the next step toward finding your wings and flying free.

One thing that's sure--sweeping it under the rug in the name of being "fair anad balanced" doesn't help.

On the other hand, dear commentator, if you do have something to say about Andrew that you think will make things here more balanced, I'm sure everyone would love to hear it.

Friday, 31 December, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

JEEEEEEEZ!!!!
I read the first "comment on the commentator" earlier today and found it very refreshing. I left Andrew Cohen a few years ago and also feel that my life is on a pretty even keel. No massive amounts of unresolved anger but a willingness to sincerly question some core aspects of Andrew's teaching methods that were deeply suspect and possibly abusive. I was sent the link to this blog anonomously and have found some of the information very helpful and it's given me a lot of food for thought and a real way to find my way through the confusion. This latest "four step" post I found, to be honest, patronizing, unpleasant, extremely polarizing and arrogant. It made me experience the feeling I often had in the community of being painted into a corner and not being the given the respect to find my own way. Most dangerously and oppressively of all being labelled in some self-invented step system I feel is particularly arrogant and lacking in any kind of grasp of the enormous complexity of the situation we all find ourselves in. I felt really angry that the person who responded (pretty openly I thought) to the "four step" manifesto was basically just put down. Reminded me of being in the community....very FASCISTIC!!!! PLEASE let this blog be an open and fair place that people can meet to find out more about their experience. Not a place to be put down, patronized and subjected to a two dimensional and primitive pyschoanalysis!!

Friday, 31 December, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some folks are very sensitive around here.

I'm sure no offense or harm was intended by the post or the comment.

May all beings be happy.
Om shanti shanti shanti.

Saturday, 01 January, 2005  

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