Saturday, December 18, 2004

What Does Andrew Cohen Know About Enlightenment?

by Charles Carreon

Quite a lot, if you take his magazine, What is Enlightenment?, at face value. The title of the magazine of course begs the question of whether there IS enlightenment, which is a skillful marketing device. As a teacher once pointed out to me, Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors in order to overcome the first question -- whether to eat ice cream at all? By rushing right past "Is there enlightenment?" and speeding ahead to tell us what it is, Cohen is just doing what most New Agers do, which is to take "the great spiritual traditions of mankind" as an implied backdrop for the strivings of modern day miracle men like himself.

If Descartes was being overly modest when he claimed he saw farther because he "stood on the shoulders of giants," Cohen suffers from no such restraint when placing himself in the pantheon of the world's spiritual heroes. And if you think about it, why should he?

The Ascended Masters, widely advertised, but never seen, could hardly hold a candle to Cohen's magnificence, blaring from a thousand newsstands. Jesus died unknown in Jerusalem, barely displacing a pebble in the world capital of Rome. Mohammed probably never got the sand out of his bed, no matter how many infidels he'd put to the sword, and new converts he took to wife. Buddha made a splash in his day, but nothing Cohen hasn't replicated already with his bright, incisive, up-to-date version of the wisdom of the ages.

Let's just look at it in terms of sheer numbers. You may not be a Christian or mark time on Nostradamus' calendar, but you've got to agree there's a hell of a lot of us crammed on this planet and enough weapons to make us all quiet for a long time. It is at times like these that a great leader arises, one capable of holding up the sky with muscles of brass, one who will comfort and shelter within his vast arms, the lonely, terrified multitudes. The mission is so vast.

Since the big question is resolved first -- there is enlightenment! -- we can move right on to the fun stuff, defusing the bomb of ordinary consciousness that seeks its own destruction in mindless, materialistic self-annihilation. Who of noble heart would not be drawn to this venture, who would not lengthen their footsteps, lift their chin, feeling strength returning to their heart as they close the distance between themselves and this great man? Who would not say, "Where do I join? How can I serve? What is this enlightenment of which you speak? Give it to me, that I may conquer evil, within and without, put my heel on the head of the snake of egotism, lift my sword in heroism to still the threatening sky."

So you see, it's like Funky Winker Bean said, "Should I deny myself a delicious hot pepperoni pizza? No!" It's all a matter of asking the right question.

- from American Buddhist Online Library, which has an interesting section on "Power, Authority and Authoritarianism"


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