Saturday, February 19, 2005

What Enlightenment??! - another view.

From Jeremy Lyell

Dear Friends,

As a former Formal Student of Andrew's, I too was sent the link to What Enlightenment ??! and it does indeed make interesting reading. Generally very well-written by intelligent, articulate people.

However, with all due respect I think it should be pointed out that most of these blogs amount to little more than victimised self-pity, however eloquent and however true in terms of detail. Doubtless there is some therapeutic value for those 'recuperating' from their experiences, but how about taking responsibility for your life (some of the articles refer to taking responsibility for one's actions and 'gratitude', but that is only lip service if it is but a small part of a long tirade - it's simply not for real) ?

And what's all this anonymous posting chickensh*t !? I know, you're frightened of receiving emotionally strenuous emails from your former brothers & sisters in the community - for God's sake, pull yourself together and if you do receive something unsavoury, post it on this blog.

I no longer recommend Andrew's teaching with the enthusiasm I held in the late '90s (ie.after I left in '96) because I am not in touch with the direction of his teaching and find the community journal WIE? uninteresting, but that doesn't mean that some seekers would not be very well-served by investigating it fully. The context in which all these "terrible" events occurred is not made clear - within a group of long-term students who had willingly committed to living Andrew's teachings together and responding to Andrew's demands to transcend the ego. We lived a life that, although exhausting, was for the most part an incredibly joyful adventure with some truly great people and an awesome master.

As for Craig Hamilton's post.... well. he's taken quite a bashing, but really he's an extremely sincere fellow who's defending his teacher and the community - what do you expect, dear Angry Ones ? But, Craig, I would like to have a go myself where you refer to Andrew's "revolution in consciousness".... since I first met Andrew in '90/91, his students have always spoken in what I can only describe as "community ravespeak", at the centre of which is almost daily reference to this revolution. "It's really happening this time..." is the constant refrain, year in, year out ... if & when "it" does happen, you won't need to tell anyone, so perhaps the less said the better, right, Craig ?

Please note I am not suggesting that the events described in the various blogs did not occur - I witnessed some of them myself - nor that Andrew's behaviour does not appear to be megalomania on occasion - but that's not the point. If you were there and chose to leave, get over it and move on : step into the Light, which is always there. And if you're not interested in paying the price and/or taking the risk of going further, admit it and don't blame Andrew.

One well-known definition of liberation is freedom from the illusion of self ; paradoxically, it's only those who take total responsibility for the actions of that small self that ever seem to truly understand this in a lasting way.

Thank-you very much for the opportunity to post to this blog !

Jeremy Lyell

PS. Dave/freewilly : are you the Dave who was living on Long Island and plays golf - if so, please email me ?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've never been a student of Andrew Cohen and I'm posting anyonymously because who I am is not relevant to what I have to say. If my anonymity makes me chickenshit in anyone's eyes, try Visine.

Jeremy says:

"One well-known definition of liberation is freedom from the illusion of self ; paradoxically, it's only those who take total responsibility for the actions of that small self that ever seem to truly understand this in a lasting way."

Let's hope Andrew Cohen is listening.

Jeremy says that the posts at this blog are "Generally very well-written by intelligent, articulate people."

"However" he says, "I think it should be pointed out that most of these blogs amount to little more than victimised self-pity, however eloquent and however true in terms of detail."

Is this an objective fact that "should be pointed out," or Jeremy's opinion? My opinion is that a number of posts here are well-written, intelligent, articulate, eloquent, free of bitterness toward Cohen, and free of anything resembling self-pity or the cliched "victim-mentality."

But don't people who are free of self-pity and a sense of victimization pull themselves together, take responsibility for their lives, "get over it and move on," and "step into the Light" as Jeremy suggests?

Too much "Light" is part of the problem here, and I'll come back to that.

Jeremy says that "if you're not interested in paying the price and/or taking the risk of going further," you should "admit it and don't blame Andrew."

The implication here is that if you do as Jeremy suggests, and get over it and move on ("into the Light") and take responsibility for your life, then you are fine and of course you would never "blame Andrew." But if you "blame Andrew," this means that your're full of self-pity and a sense of victimization, you are not getting over it or moving on or taking responsibility for yourself, and you are not interested in "paying the price" or risking "going further."

It would seem that there's not much room for a middle ground here, where someone could be moving on, taking responsibility for their life, going further, and feeling a sense of duty to themselves and others to speak out - not "blame" - about a situation that more than a few people have come to see as quite problematic and toxic.

As for the "Light," as I said, that's part of the problem here. As Susan's heartfelt post ("A Legacy of Scorched Earth") indicates, since leaving Cohen and following a new path she has "experienced a lot of pain and grief and sadness, but also a lot of gratitude about my whole experience with Andrew."

Susan speaks of experiencing pain, grief, and sadness in the midst of a Zen sesshin or intensive retreat, during which one "sits," and sits with whatever arises, "Light" or "dark."

There's a familiar story about a man who is seen on his hands and knees under a street lamp at night, as if searching for something.

"Did you lose something?" asks a passerby.

"I lost my keys," says the man.

"Did you lose them here, under the street lamp?" asks the passerby.

"No," the man says.

"Well why are you looking for them here?"

"Because this is where the light is."

In The Light Inside the Dark: Zen, Soul, and the Spiritual Life, John Tarrant Roshi writes:

"...where spirit is too dominant, we are greedy for pure things: clarity, certainty, and serenity. This may seem harmless at first, or even desirable, but since nothing is wholly pure it leads us to grow heartless with the natural unkemptness of existence, and to think we can make order by imposing rigid rules. Then, inevitably, a shadow grows, until all too often there is a fall into appetites swollen because so long suppressed--this is why we find scandals in the lives of so many religious figures."

Having an unexamined shadow may not be scandalous, but it is a problem when someone has as much spiritual rank and power over others as Cohen, and those who bear witness to this problem - which is a human problem, not just Andrew Cohen's problem - are doing the entire spiritual community a service.

Saturday, 19 February, 2005  
Blogger the Editors said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Monday, 21 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Anonymous,

I'd just like to clarify that when starting a sentence with "I think...", I do indeed mean to convey that I am expressing my personal opinion. Most of this blog is people expressing either their personal opinions or their interpretations of their experience; perhaps some more objectively than others. In terms of objectivity and its expression, Lao Tsu comes immediately to mind, "The Name that can be named is not the Eternal Name" (I love that quote).

It's true, I have deliberately not left much middle ground in my post, but that relates to the overall context of this blog, which is around the experiences and 'goings on' within Andrew's community, rather than the spiritual path as a whole. Hal (and probably Helene, which I assume is a pseudonym) and a number of other posters are good friends of mine, for whom I have very good feelings, even if we now live continents apart and share different views. If you were invited by friends, for whom you hold a great deal of respect and love, to check out a public blog about experiences that took place within a very specific and in fact private context, and then found that you disagreed entirely with the general view being expressed, what would you do - say nothing or speak out ? I chose to speak out. Just a personal choice.

Let me give you another example of the way I see it, taken from Stas's contribution - he makes reference to "Andrew’s dysfunctional relationship through the years to the children in the community". Now, I became a parent some years after leaving the community and what a wonderful blessing it is; however, looking back at the relationships of the majority of parents with their children from this perspective, I am totally appalled at what went on (and as Stas emphasised, there is NO suggestion WHATSOEVER of any kind of physical or sexual abuse here). The difference for me is this : if a parent was negligent in some ways towards his/her children because of their commitment to Andrew/the community, was that Andrew's responsibility or the parents' ? No doubt in my mind : it was the parents responsibility 100%. Again, just my opinion, but one I naturally want to express in response to what I have read on this blog.

Enough from me !

(Sent via e-mail)

Monday, 21 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jeremy (same anonymous as above here), you say:

"...if a parent was negligent in some ways towards his/her children because of their commitment to Andrew/the community, was that Andrew's responsibility or the parents'?"

In the case of the relationship between students and someone who professes to be fit to be their spiritual master, I'd say that this is not an either/or situation. I'm not familiar enough to know just what degree of "surrender" and submission to the "guru" Cohen expects of his students or indicates that students who are sincere in their desire and commitment to come into an "absolute relationship to life" must have, but that is a very important factor here.

Maybe someone who was with Cohen could say if Cohen implicitly or explicitly puts out the message that sincere, committed students, students who are committed to "absolute" transformation, will surrender and submit themselves to the teacher (meaning him, of course).

I will reserve judgment about Cohen until someone clarified if he does indeed put forth that kind of message.

But when that type of message is put forth by a spiritual teacher or master or guru, then the student is in effect being told that if she is sincere and committed to her own transformation, she must submit her will 100% to the teacher and surrender totally. Totally, not 99%, not 50%, but totally.

This is a double-binding situation, and I will post more on that in the future. For now suffice it to say that if I am the master and I say, "If you are absolutely committed to your own radical transformation, you must surrender everything, you must put down the ego absolute, and you must submit to the enlightened master, i.e., moi," and I then tell students that working 80 hours a week isn't enough and giving my organization all their money isn't enough (thus pressing them to go into debt), and they, having put all their faith in me, work more than 80 hours a week and neglect their kids, and go into debt (instead of saving for their children's higher education, etc.), it is facile to suggest that I bear no responsibility and that all the responsibility lies on the student's shoulders.

This is especially problematic when we consider that maybe it's just possible that Andrew Cohen is not a "Perfect Master" but a human being who is as prone to unconsciousness as anyone.

It's facile to suggest that on the one hand students should put all their faith in the master and thus surrender and submit totally to him, but on the other hand, when they see how fallible he is and how unworthy he may have been of the degree of surrender and submission he demanded, to turn this around and say they are 100% responsible for their actions.

What happens in Cohen's community to students who say, "I'm 100% responsibly for my actions, so even though you are demanding more, Andrew, I'm not going into debt and I'm not sacrificing quality time with my children just because you cry 'egoic resistance'"?

Does Cohen respect them, or somehow make it clear that this kind of taking responsibility for oneself is egoic resistance and will not be tolerated?

If that's the way he plays it, then he's playing the double-bind game, and we can't have it both ways.

If he plays the double-bind game, then no one can turn around and lay all responsibility on the student for buying into it. Sure, I'm responsible for my own actions if I buy the unnecessary "weather protective coating" from the car salesman in Fargo, but that does not let him off the hook.

And sure, the young Marines in A Few Good Men who obeyed the "Code Red" orders were responsible for their actions, but so was their "guru" Colonel Jessup (played by Jack Nicholson). In fact, that's a good film for people looking at the issues discussed here to look at with these issues in mind (note that Kiefer Sutherand's character, Lieutenant Kendrick, is the quintessential cult apologist). Another good film to look at through this same lens is Point Break, wherein Patrick Swayze plays a character called Bodhi ("the bodhisattva," his girlfriend says) who operates beyond "conventional" norms and who functions in certain ways like a "crazy wisdom" or "Rude Boy" guru. Watching how Keenu Reeves' character is drawn in by Bodhi is a good lesson.

Monday, 21 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this posting and others like this that have been submitted recently.
I really appreciate their depth and their thoughtfulness.
They make this blog worth reading - not only for what is brought to light about Andrew’s community- but also for their insights.

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Q: Why do you say that we must question everything in spiritual matters, instead of having faith and trust?

R: Because much of what is called faith is merely gullibility. Also, deceivers are clever in making stones resemble bread. You may acquire a taste for stones, and in time will be unable to distinguish between stones and bread. And in the final tragedy you will no longer want bread, and will even fight those offering it.

Vernon Howard
Pathways to Perfect Living

Wednesday, 23 February, 2005  
Blogger Tabitha Cooper said...

I was lucky enough to be a formal student of Andrew’s for 4 years. In the five years I was involved with him and his teaching, I learnt more of value about myself, Life and what’s important than from anything in my life up until that point, it was 4 years ago that I left, and it remains an un-erasable and precious reference point in my heart now. Nothing bar death itself can cause this knowing to be not known in me, and for this I am so profoundly grateful.

In a world so full of doubt and cyncism, it is not difficult to find support for suspicion, in authority, integrity of action and wholeness, and very rare to find people willing to have the courage and faith to find out and live what that might mean at this very confusing time in the story of the world.

Andrew always warned us of the difficulty of the path to Enlightenment, he has always said it is not for everyone, he never forced anyone to be involved in his teachings and making the choice to be his student was never taken lightly. But all of us did make that choice, and this is key.

I know for myself that the joy in awakening to another context, and feelings associated with realising that something else really is possible caused an almost drunken relationship to everything whereby I filtered what I wanted to hear – things Andrew said that acknowledged my interest in Enlightenment, filtering out any other more grounding elements that might conflict, so that I could stay intoxicated. I wasn’t the only one.

It is very easy to do this, even now, to hear what you want to hear, to remember what you want to remember, and forget what is convenient, to affirm the way that we want to live our lives now. The Context for the life we lived in the Community cannot be compared to a more regular life lived by most of us in the world, and it is misleading to reference events out of this context. The media - as an example – often do this, not to give a fair representation, but to meet their own ends.

I have found peace in facing the fact that I am not the warrior for freedom that I wanted to believe, that as much as I may have recognised the perfection of the goal of Enlightenment, I am not up for the kind of surrender that it takes. I am responsible for what I do and the choices I make, - I always have been.

This forum has been set apparently to warn people against Andrew, but isn’t it a bit patronising to assume that people are not capable of discriminating for themselves? The context being built through the teachings is precious, throwing mud at it so it doesn’t shine for others is as destructive to ourselves as it is to the possibility of Freedom. Should people not be allowed the freedom – without the fear you are generating - to make up their own minds? It is an ugly battle being fought here, and in your hearts you must know that this is not an even playing field.

I agree that the truth matters, which is why I feel compelled to respond. I don’t expect anything I’ve said here to make any difference to the initiators of this blog, but to anyone else reading – if you do draw conclusions, let it at least be free from fear.

Thank you Andrew, and deepest respect to his students.

Tabitha Cooper

Saturday, 09 April, 2005  

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