Thursday, March 24, 2005

Shame, Guilt and the Guru’s Blood

Breaking The Code Of Silence--Part III
by Hal

May all beings be happy!
May the truth, no matter how difficult it is to hear, set all beings free.

I have previously written on this blog of incidents of slapping and physical assault against students by Andrew Cohen and at his direction. I told the story of the assault of Donna with buckets of paint, and the emotional assault on her teenage daughter. Stas (Ernest) has shared his story on this blog, and you have had the chance to read some stories from some other former students. But it is difficult to convey, from these various particular stories and incidents, the pervasive atmosphere of guilt, shame and fear created by Andrew in his community, which refugees from the community have communicated to me.

When I left the Andrew Cohen community in late 1996, before its move to Lenox, Massachusetts, Andrew had already begun to speak openly of his fondness for guilt. It went along, in his mind, with his emphasis on conscience and “doing the right thing.” I remember Andrew saying at a special retreat of close students in Mill Valley, California that I attended that while other teachers talked of unconditional love, self-acceptance and forgiveness, he did not agree with such talk. “I’m not into unconditional love or forgiveness,” he said. “I’m into conditional love and guilt.” Andrew would say that while it was not his preference, if that is what it took to force change, using guilt and shame was perfectly alright.

Over the years, Andrew instilled a sense of guilt and shame in various ways, as he deemed necessary. He would often highlight student’s weak points by giving them an embarrassing or insulting name. A student who received such a name could only use that name in the community, and community members were required to use that name when addressing or referring to that person, until Andrew said it could stop. Some examples of these names include Vacance, Mad Dog, Raging Bull, Furious, Dizzy, Casual, Unreal, Mephisto, Q the Clown, Sherma the Tank, Tamasa and His Greatness or “HG.” The shaving of heads was also used to mark someone who was in trouble. While it was sometimes a voluntary act symbolizing renunciation, shaving one’s head became more and more something that you were required to do when Andrew was unhappy with you. These devices of inducing shame were already in force before the move to Foxhollow. But after the move to Foxhollow, the use of guilt and shame as a teaching device seemed to increase dramatically. At Foxhollow, Andrew also began to speak openly of what he called “healthy shame.”

Incidents involving writing messages in fake blood on the walls of Foxhollow residents’ rooms or offices have been already described on this blog. One such incident was obliquely alluded to in the 10th anniversary issue of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, published in the Fall of 2001, and Craig Hamilton referred to this incident in one of his contributions to this blog. When Andrew would receive a letter from a student or students that offended him, he would sometimes have it blown up, splattered with fake blood and posted publicly. Everyone knew that this fake blood, or red paint, represented “the guru’s blood.” Andrew made it clear that he felt that when a student questioned, disobeyed or offended him, they were spilling his blood. Fake blood was used liberally to induce shame and guilt in students, or his entire student body, when he was unhappy with them. For a time he converted the basement spa at Foxhollow into a space for practice and penitence, where the walls were liberally smeared with this “blood,” his “blood.” There was a men’s side and a women’s side. Both were copiously stained with Andrew’s “blood.”

One very dedicated long-time student of Andrew’s, a physician named Michele, who was a leader in the community at the time, committed the unthinkable crime of contradicting Andrew. When Andrew criticized her about something she had done, she countered that Andrew had told her to do it. Andrew said that she was trying to make him doubt himself, and that was the worst possible crime and sin. For her perceived betrayal of him, her office was moved into the basement under the kitchen in the main building at Foxhollow. She was forced to work in an unfinished room, where the heating pipes were exposed. All four walls, the ceiling and the floor were painted in red paint, representing the guru’s blood. One witness recalls there was a large cartoon put up there, representing Michele as a vampire. Another recalls that the word “traitor” was painted on the walls, as well. Michele was required to stay in that room for hours a day.

The period in 2001 preceding the publication of the 10th anniversary issue of What Is Enlightenment? was a particularly difficult time for the men at Foxhollow. As described earlier on this blog, when that issue of the community’s magazine was published, most of the editorial staff had been banned from the center. But all of the formal male students had been under extreme pressure and had been recipients of Andrew’s displeasure and wrath for some time before then. It seemed that Andrew’s shift in emphasis from individual enlightenment to collective evolution translated into group experiments with his male and female students, involving pressure, shame and guilt.

It was understood, at one point, that Andrew was “taking on” all of the formal male students. The women had already been under great pressure for at least several years before then. Now Andrew’s attention had shifted to the men. He wanted a “collective shift” to occur in them. At a certain point, frustrated with their lack of movement, he had all of the formal men stand in a circle, surrounding his house, in the winter in the Berkshires, for two to three days. The group has been estimated at 15-18 men. They were permitted to sleep for a few hours a day and were brought sandwiches a couple of times a day, but otherwise they were not permitted to move. Some of them urinated in their pants. An eyewitness to these events reports having seen Andrew emerge from his home and laugh at the men from time to time. During the extended period of intense pressure on the men, approximately 8-10 formal men could not stand it, and left the community.

At various times, it was the women’s turn to “collectively shift.” The women’s side of the Foxhollow basement spa was turned into a multi-media space, where 20-30 women would be required to squeeze into a small space and watch the movie “To Die For” or listen to Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” over and over again. The women had to take shifts, including in the middle of the night, and keep these media playing non-stop, 24 hours a day. One woman described the area where this occurred as 80-90 square meters (about 240-270 square feet) of wall-to-wall blown up comments, letters, cartoons and caricatures, red paint and multi-media. Andrew used a very talented caricaturist who was in the community, and he spent an enormous amount of time making very large, dramatic cartoons for Andrew. Many of the caricatures depicted specific students as devils or demons. Some showed these women eviscerating Andrew, literally tearing his intestines out with their bare hands. Others showed students dancing demonically around a fire, throwing Andrew’s dharma books into the flames. Another depicted a female student as a dominatrix, performing sexually predatory acts. At times, all or most of the women had to sleep down there. This went on, even though most of the women had to work all day at outside jobs, as well as perform labor for Andrew’s organization, the Impersonal Enlightenment Fellowship. For much of this period the women in relationships were prohibited from having sexual relations. They were not allowed to speak about personal matters, feelings or concerns with each other. They were especially prohibited from expressing any doubt, fear or confusion to anyone. The term “code of silence” was explicitly used for these rules. In general, the men ignored the women, because this was encouraged. At times the women were required to spend 3-4 hours a day in a group, confessing and writing in a document every way in which they had “betrayed the revolution.” This document was eventually typed up and presented to Andrew.

At one point, the women as a group got into serious trouble because some women answered back to some men who told them they were not doing their spiritual practice properly. Andrew heard about this and let it be known that their disagreement was “outrageous.” The women went into a panic when they heard this. They decided they must do something extreme to prove their penitence. Kathy Bayer came up with the idea that they should all perform prostrations in the freezing waters of Laurel Lake, the lake on the Foxhollow property. Memories vary as to exactly what month the prostrations occurred. Witnesses have reported dates from mid-October to late November. Most agree November. There wasn’t ice on the lake yet, but all agree that it was bitterly cold.

Andrew learned of the plan for the lake prostrations group penitence, and approved it. Some people had performed prostrations in the lake before, but not in such cold weather. For example, Craig Hamilton at one point performed prostrations as penitence in the same lake, shouting “I am an asshole” at each prostration. His sadhana had been interrupted, however, when some local construction workers became disturbed by what he was doing and threatened to beat him up if he didn’t stop.

The women entered the lake and walked to where the water was about waist deep, or a little higher. They held their hands above their head, shouted “Face everything and avoid nothing,” and plunged down, completely submerging themselves. Then they got up and did it again. Their goal was to do it over and over again, for an hour.

Andrew’s wife, Alka, was excused from the practice because she had a bad chest cold. But another woman had suffered a concussion and brain injury the year before. Andrew knew this, because she had undergone a lengthy convalescence at Foxhollow. She was not excused. She passed out in the lake’s cold waters after about 50 minutes. She was carried out of the lake, unconscious. She came to in a warm shower, with two other women holding her up. Another woman described making it through the hour. She and some others who did so turned blue. They shivered so hard afterwards that they could not stop shaking enough to undo their zippers or buttons so they could take off their clothes. They went in groups into hot showers, where they stood for 45 minutes at a time until they had finally stopped shivering enough to undress. One woman wound up in the hospital with a serious kidney infection, requiring an I.V. drip, about 1 ½ months later. She attributes this to her exposure in the lake.

Some women did not make it through the practice. The women as a group got a message from Andrew that those who did not finish had to go back again and complete it. Some women had to return to the lake and try two or three times before they could do so.

The sense of guilt and shame, and the feeling that one was constantly “betraying one’s Master” could inspire the willingness to make sacrifices that seem extreme and irrational from the outside. Andrew seems to encourage this behavior, even relish it. Some years ago at Foxhollow, a student named Jeff, a very good writer, was having a great deal of trouble with a writing project he had been assigned to do. He was supposed to write an introduction to a book Andrew was publishing, but he was having no success. Feeling terrible guilt about this, he wrote in a desperate letter to Andrew that “if I don’t come through, I will cut my finger off.” Andrew seemed to like this idea. When Jeff still did not succeed at his writing, Andrew called for Michele, the physician, to come see him. My informant was present when Andrew instructed Michele what to do. Andrew told Michele to go to see Jeff, and to bring her medical kit. She was instructed to tell Jeff that Andrew was taking him up on his offer to sacrifice a finger. She should take out her scalpel, her mask, her gloves, a sponge—everything she would need for such an operation—and lay them all out. She was told to carry through the charade up to the very last minute, and then stop.

When Michele visited Jeff, he had barely slept in about a week. He was in a desperate state. Nobody was there but Michele, who is still a student of Andrew, and Jeff, who I do not know how to contact. But Michele confirmed to another informant of mine that she had followed Andrew’s instructions precisely. Jeff was severely and obviously shaken by the incident. He left Andrew and Foxhollow a few weeks later.

Sunday, March 20, 2005

A Reflection from Christopher Titmuss

Dear What Enlightenment Bloggers,

I received from you details of your website and had a careful read through it.  I knew Andrew in the early 1980's as a serious student of mine until he met Poonja-ji and I know some of the senior students referred to in your website. I recall from Andrew's autobiography that, as a student, he became disillusioned with his past teachers, including his yoga teacher, myself over a misunderstanding on a retreat in India, and he had a complete falling out with Poonja-ji. An increasing number of Andrew's students are disillusioned with Andrew as a teacher. Is there a certain karmic justice here that we can all learn from?

After reading it through, I do feel that your website has struck a balance between the search for mutual understanding, such as the article 'To Heal One is to Heal All,' and direct criticism.  Not easy. Teachers tend to fall from grace. Our immortality becomes mortal, whether it's power, money or, as in my case and others, the amorous and loving encounter. As years go by, students develop two inner strengths, namely wisdom and confidence. If students are seeing clearly, then their clarity will reveal both past and present, and have the confidence to express what they experience and know. The student finds her or his voice that invites one expression of the embrace of the Non-Dual (namely teacher and student). One hopes as a teacher and servant of the Dharma, that students will learn from both the wisdom and
foolishness of the teacher, the kindness and reactivity of the teacher.

We, who are in the privileged position of teaching, must never forget that the clear and the unclear within are merely a thought apart. Your website provides a service since it makes those of us who live in the rarefied realms, called a spiritual teacher, accountable to those we serve. I know very well. I've attended a few meetings with students and co-teachers, some of whom I made teachers. At times, they pulled me over the hot coals because of a romantic event years ago or some things I have written or spoken about. Unfortunately, inner pain and fear hide beneath aggression and that makes it harder for you to find reconciliation with Andrew who, judging from your reports, still seems to have an unconscious need to belittle people.

All credit to those of you who speak up. In a certain way, it is a kind of backhanded compliment to Andrew that his students do speak up. Isn't that an emphasis in his teaching? He should be proud of you all! Some may contribute to your website from outside the story; others are still inside of it. If one has moved outside the story totally, then you express an authentic freedom of the Non-Dual (realising the dependent arising of so-called 'self 'and 'other'), and a seeing through the fictional mind set that give substance to the ultimately insubstantial; and that surely is the heart of any worthwhile teaching.

If students who have left Andrew write from a place of reaction, faultfinding, and blame, then consciousness is still embroiled in the story and still hooked emotionally into Andrew's inner world. Such students will be revealing echoes within themselves of the very criticism levelled at Andrew - namely negative and apparently dehumanising treatment. Those who point the accusing finger at another should remember they have three fingers pointed at themselves. Hopefully your contributors, whether anonymous or not, remember to look within themselves, even if your former teacher cannot.

In the Dharma,
Christopher Titmuss

Saturday, March 12, 2005

To Heal One is To Heal All

by anonymous

I extend my respects, and my ever-breaking heart, to the contributors of this blog. To those who are suffering, to those who are healing and thriving. . .and to Andrew, and to his serious and dedicated students who pour out their hearts’ sincerity and the depth of longing into what they hope to be the greatest possibility for their lifetime. None of us is so different from each other, blind but sincere voyagers on this Ship of Fools.

I am not a student of Andrew, but have followed his work for many years, and have received teachings from him on more than one occasion that were of valuable help to my sadhana. I would like to share a precious teaching lesson Andrew once offered me, and with open hands and heart offer it back to him in return.

Many years ago, as a young practitioner on the path, I visited Andrew. At the time I was like many of us, totally ambitious, totally naïve, believing that my wish for Truth was greater than the others, that I was destined for spiritual greatness, that I was, somehow, special. Surely many of us can admit to such a feeling, if only in the privacy of our hearts? That is why Hafiz wrote, “But still God is delighted and amused, you once tried to be a saint.”

Though I believed nothing could come between myself and the most radical and uncompromised truth, I was struggling with a broken practice, with resistance.
I shyly raised me hand, “Andrew, how do I work with the great NO inside of me? How do I overcome this tremendous resistance to practice that keeps me from Truth?”

“Give me an example, Andrew flashed back, playful suspicion in his eyes. “Tell me how this great NO shows up in practical terms.”

I told him of my fall from grace earlier that day, which amounted to a breach of practice so minor as to be perceptible only to myself.

“Oh my God!” Andrew theatrically jumped in, laughing, instantly disarming my self-seriousness and grandiosity. “Did you hear that?” he turned to his students.

“Listen, sweetie,” he turned to me with the piercing swords of discernment, the mood instantly changed. “You’re young, you’re serious and you are just beginning. On this path you are going to make a LOT of mistakes, and some of those mistakes are going to be BIG ones. Everybody does. It is guaranteed. Save your energy and remorse for the big mistakes because you are going to make them and you are going to need your energy to get through them. Got it?”

I think we all got it in that moment, the inevitability of a fall I could not imagine, the humanness of it, the humility of it, and the need to show up as a true spiritual warrior when the time would come.

It is 10 years later. Andrew has made some big mistakes. Some of the ones he said we would all make. The accrual of casualties in terms of the abuse of money, power, and emotional manipulatin, just to name a few of the “crimes of unconsciousness,” are undeniable.

It is a precious moment. What appears to be a devastating shock can become a healing crisis if it is related to with deep courage. A doorway is open that may not stay open for too long. It is a moment in which Andrew can use the fruits of his sadhana, the energy that he still has accumulated, to gracefully work his way through his present predicament. This is the moment in his own life that he was telling me about, one of the BIG mistakes, in which we cash in some of our hard-earned accumulation of energy in order to create a significant healing and transformation.

People can be tremendously resilient and forgiving. When approached from the humility of true remorse and heartbreak, and the admission of human error, hearts open and karma is undone.

Those hurt by Andrew were, of course, mutually complicit in the drama they were a part of. Our neurotic wounds and needs unconsciously kidnap the teachings in service of themselves, and so both neurosis of teacher and student were feeding off each other. This is an inevitable symptom of the times we are in, times of great possibility and a time in which our collective psychological wounding has penetrated to such a collective and epidemic level that none us, including teachers, are immune from its influence. The question is, “Can we work our way out of it?” If we really believe in evolution, this is the humble domain in which it is learned and lived.

Many years ago, Claudio Naranjo, after being fully enlightened for three years, running a thriving spiritual community, came to the stark realization and admission that his enlightenment was not complete. In spite of protests from his students, he dismantled his organization and dethroned himself as guru. He later explained that his own enlightenment had to be sacrificed in order to illuminate that which was still dark within him.

A friend of mine was a very close student of Yogi Amrit Desai. In fact, she was one of those who sued him for his sex scandals (enacted on her) and won the lawsuit. Much later, they did mediation together. Eventually, therapy. Many years later she returned to him as his student, and they now have a mature, thriving, adult relationship as guru and disciple. Corruption and transmission can coexist! Change is possible. Forgiveness is possible.

Let us remember that none of us are beyond falling. Most of us have not been given enough power, authority and fame to fully appreciate the subtlety and pulls of its temptations. We actually cannot know that we would not do as Andrew has done, given the complexity of historical and karmic factors he faces. Most of us have not penetrated the subtleties of dharmic wisdom deeply enough to fully appreciate the degree to which the still unconscious aspects of ego can co-opt Truth into a sterling silver layer of armor and defense, all flawlessly justifiable in the language of Truth itself. Most of us are not beyond falling into the traps that Andrew has fallen into.

However, as a world teacher and model, Andrew is now in an incredible position to offer us an extremely potent teaching lesson about how an authentic teacher can allow himself to become dismantled and dethroned in order to assume the true throne of Disciple of Truth, of Love, of Life. Through his own umcompromised practice, Andrew could, through an essential and brave gesture, undergo the greatest teaching lesson of his own life - turning toward EVERYTHING that is within him, including deep psychological wounds and their consequences, humility, hurt, blindness, in order to demonstrate to all of us that a true visionary will stop short of nothing in his journey to Truth, even the dethroning of his own empire. I envision that the humility of such an action would invoke the forgiveness and support of all of those who, in their heart of hearts, still love him. Things that may still be to come, lawsuits, more difficult books, this blog, could be dropped, forgiven, erased, and even transformed into the fruition of a still greater truth.

I am sure the Gods would sing. The great gurus would arise from their cremated ashes and bestow blessings, forgiveness, the undoing of karma, and true praise for an act of such human bravery. The hearts of present and former disciples would be disarmed in the beauty of Andrew’s humility, and something deep within them could forgive, let go, and all of us could learn something painfully deep and humanly real about the teaching that “there is no other.”

Andrew, you offered me that precious lesson long ago: “Save yourself for the big mistakes because you are going to make them and you are going to need your energy to get through them.” Now demonstrate to all of us how it is done, so when our time comes we will have the courage to do the same.

With All Respects

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Cruelty, Vengeance And Crazy Wisdom

Breaking The Code Of Silence--Part II
by Hal

May all beings be happy!

It is now more than ten days since I wrote Andrew Cohen an “Invitation To Truth And Reconciliation." So far, there has been no response.

This is a disappointment. Andrew’s utter silence now, after previous hostile posts made here by his representatives, seems to signify a complete unwillingness to face the harm he has caused. So now I am compelled to continue this journey into Andrew Cohen’s heart of darkness. Because this is bitter medicine, it will be served in small doses.

Let no one think that the few specific instances of slapping described previously here were the only ones. There were many others. The slapping of several What Is Enlightenment? staff members by another staff member, on Andrew’s orders, has been chronicled earlier on this blog. A former senior student reports slapping other students on Andrew’s orders, including former and present students such as Steve Brett, Harry Dijkshorn, Bob Voss, and others. He saw Andrew personally strike Calvin Phipps, Arjan Kindermans, Mike Dutka and several other men. A former female student reports that women were slapped at Andrew’s direction even more often than the men.

In addition to slapping, groups of male students were ordered by Andrew to assault other students. In 1997, while the community was still in Marin County, California (shortly before I left it), a group of men roughed up former student Ingo. He had recently been “promoted” and was living in Andrew’s household along with other closer students. I did not find out about this until years later. I was incredulous at first, thinking it must have just been “rough-housing.” with obviously no harmful intent. Ingo stressed that this was not the case. He was very frightened by the incident. He was not seriously hurt, but while it was occurring he feared that he might be. He fled the community soon after, never to return. Around this time Stas (Ernest) was also jumped and “beaten up” a number of times by a group of fellow students. He also was extremely frightened and panic-stricken by the attacks. Again, he was not seriously harmed physically, but felt emotionally traumatized from the events. These kinds of physical assaults were rationalized by Andrew, however, as a way to get certain men in touch with their inner rage.

Some forms of physical abuse did not involve direct assaults on the person. For instance, at the Foxhollow World Center, Andrew once ordered that a large plastic bag of garbage, containing food waste and other trash, be obtained from the center’s kitchen. He had a student empty its entire contents on the bed of a student living there named Mary Acton-Adams.

Andrew also appears to be capable of engaging in a sustained effort, lasting over years, to demoralize a student with whom he is particularly angry. This seems to have been the case with Donna, Stas' (Ernest's) former wife.

Donna and Stas became students of Andrew’s in the late 1980’s. By the time the community moved from the East Coast to Marin County, California, they were among his closest. When I joined the community in Marin in 1990, I lived briefly with Donna, Stas and their young daughter, Sophia. Donna and Stas achieved the rank of “senior students” (the highest level in the student hierarchy, for a time) and were leaders of the community for years. For years, they were also one of the only—perhaps the only—married couple in the community that Andrew did not break apart. By the time the community moved back to the East Coast to its new home in Foxhollow, however, Donna had fallen from grace, been separated from Stas, and Andrew was very unhappy with her.

In approximately 1999, Donna was a lay student, living off the Foxhollow campus. Although she had fallen into disfavor with Andrew, she tried to keep some connection with him and the community. The community was involved with extensive re-modeling of the Foxhollow Center, and Donna volunteered to help. One day, she was working at the center with others, painting, and during a lunch break, close student Bob Voss approached her. He asked her if she could “come downstairs” into the basement. She was met there by four close female students, including Andrew’s wife, Alka. They guided her to a plastic sheet that was on the floor. Alka approached Donna and told her she had a message from Andrew. Saying “Thanks a lot” (or words to this effect) in a sarcastic voice, Alka poured a full bucket of paint over Donna’s head. The other students proceeded to do the same, pouring a total of 4 buckets of paint over Donna.

Donna recalls being completely devastated. She remembers standing covered with paint and crying. One student helped her to a shower, where she disrobed and stood under the water for 45 minutes, broken and sobbing. She was given coveralls to change into before she left. She tried as hard as she could to hold herself together emotionally long enough to leave the premises without breaking down and making a scene. She had trouble keeping control. Later, a fellow student telephoned Donna and called her a “coward.” After the incident, and perhaps because of its emotional trauma, Donna became very ill with a bad flu.

Donna never returned to Foxhollow. She drifted away from the community, although she maintained contact with Stas, in part because of their daughter Sophia. But this was not the end of Donna’s humiliation at Andrew’s hands. Andrew seemed to feel the need to cause Donna more pain. He would eventually accomplish this through emotional abuse and manipulation involving her daughter Sophia.

As Stas described in his letter posted on this blog, he often had little time for his daughter Sophia due to Andrew’s demands on him. Sophia, naturally, came to resent this. Several years after Donna was assaulted with paint in the basement of Foxhollow, Sophia, then 15 years old, and her mother were living together separately from Stas. Sophia was angry with Stas for his neglect, and wanted little to do with him. She was, however, very close to Donna and held her in high esteem. Andrew became aware of this, and felt that something should be done.

Some years earlier, Andrew had learned about infidelity by Donna that had occurred in the distant past, years before Sophia was born. Over time, Andrew had used this against Stas and Donna on a number of occasions. He revealed this embarrassing information to many people in the community. When Andrew heard that Sophia wanted little to do with Stas, while holding Donna in high regard, he decided Sophia’s love and respect for her mother should be undermined by telling Sophia of her mother’s past infidelity. Andrew was outraged that Sophia would dare to be disrespectful of her father because he had given his life, his time and his priorities to Andrew, rather than her. Through the years, Andrew had often told the parents that they should not hide from the children that their dedication to him comes first, even before them. He also said he felt that it would somehow be of personal benefit for Sophia to “know the truth” about her mother and that it would help Stas’s relationship with Sophia. Andrew discussed this idea with Stas and other close students numerous times.

Andrew kept pressing Stas to tell Sophia directly of her mother’s past infidelity. As a result, when Stas was visiting with Sophia, he told her how her mother had been unfaithful before she was born. Upon hearing this, Sophia cried. But Stas felt that telling her might have had the desired effect. He called Andrew and told him this. Andrew, pleased with himself, said jokingly, “OK. So, now you owe me another $20,000.”

After Stas left, however, Sophia became physically ill and threw up. She called her mother, upset by everything she had been told. When Donna heard what had happened, she became furious. She rightfully suspected Andrew’s involvement in the affair, knowing that Stas would do nothing without Andrew’s direct instruction. But before she had a chance to speak at length with Stas about it, Alka called him and told him, “Andrew says, to leave him out of this.” Andrew had not only Stas but others told to engage in a “cover-up” for him. Later, when Stas spoke to Donna and was questioned by her, he denied any involvement by Andrew. Shanti (Mary), another long-time student and close friend of Donna’s, vehemently denied Andrew’s involvement in the affair.

Donna, Stas and their daughter Sophia have all felt the brunt of Andrew’s wrath, in cruelly novel and unexpected ways. They are not the only ones. Donna recalls Andrew once comparing himself to the controversial and scandal-plagued guru Adi Da (Da Free John), saying, “In terms of crazy wisdom, I’m the craziest.” Crazy wisdom, something Andrew once vociferously condemned in his teaching, had become a matter of pride for Andrew. The thing about crazy wisdom is, it has no limits. Let us hope—against the evidence—that Andrew’s cruelty and vengeance does.

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Wednesday, March 02, 2005

On WIE--A Dialogue

At Thursday, 24 February, 2005, Anonymous said...

Is it just me or is the new issue of WIE just not as interesting as it used to be?

Maybe it’s because, as I’m reading along, a thought keeps flashing in my mind: 'He slaps his students around! He manipulates large sums of money out of them!'

I was reading Andrew’s editorial about Authentic Leadership in which he wrote about a group in Australia who seemed fearful and disinterested during one of his talks. Instead of thinking: they just can’t comprehend his enlightened mind. Now I’m thinking: 'How is it that authentic leadership involves slapping adults hard in the face? And manipulating people into giving 10,000 dollar “donations”?'

This issue’s Andrew and Ken dialogue seems to be a rehashed version of ‘my enlightenment is better than anybody else’s because it’s cutting edge and evolutionary.’ Or maybe it’s because I’m thinking: 'Guru, are you dysfunctional, and Pandit, are you looking the other way?'

And Don Beck, how does a face-slapping and money-grabbing leadership style fit in with your Politeness, Openness, Autocracy (P-O-A) principle as described in Spiral Dynamics?

At Thursday, 24 February, 2005, freewilly said...

Well Hal, you got what you wanted! I don't know if you meant this all to become so laughably - i don't even know what the word is - transparent maybe? In any case, just so this craziness does not go unremarked on:

One of your posters said: "Is it just me or is the new issue of WIE just not as interesting as it used to be?

Maybe it’s because, as I’m reading along, a thought keeps flashing in my mind: 'He slaps his students around! He manipulates large sums of money out of them!"

Dear poster, have you considered flipping your worldview upside down and thinking about the evolutionary ideas presented in WIE and then seeing the slaps and the alleged "extortion" from that point of view? Meaning, hmmm I wonder if there is ANY more to the story at all?

I've noticed that WIE is so challenging and groundbreaking that its very easy to write it off quickly as having become "heady" or "juiceless." However, if you switch into the mindset - just for fun see if you can - that those who write the magazine and those who are featured in it are actually doing and are serious about the kind of Global Human Change that is constantly pointed at, its very possible to "get it" in a very different way.

Good luck trying that experiment without getting at least a mild brain expansion!

At Thursday, 24 February, 2005, Anonymous said...

The Bullshit Never Ends.

One poster writes:

"Is it just me or is the new issue of WIE just not as interesting as it used to be?
Maybe it’s because, as I’m reading along, a thought keeps flashing in my mind: 'He slaps his students around! He manipulates large sums of money out of them!"

Another poster (freewilly) responds:

"Dear poster, have you considered flipping your worldview upside down and thinking about the evolutionary ideas presented in WIE and then seeing the slaps and the alleged 'extortion' from that point of view? Meaning, hmmm I wonder if there is ANY more to the story at all?"

Does anyone see the word "extortion" in the first poster's comments? How did "manipulates" become the much stronger and legally connotative "extortion"?

Does anyone notice a pattern here? Andre, Susan, Hal, Anastasi, et al write balanced reports about experiences which not one of them has described as "terrible" or as a "life-destroying police state," and none of them have described Andrew Cohen as a "menace to society," and yet Cohen's defenders have blanketly characterized "this blog" in toto as presenting an extreme, one-sided picture of Cohen and his community.

This is a tactic familiar to anyone who has ever watched shows like the O'Reilly Factor on the Fox TV news network. Regardless of how one may feel about O'Reilly, it's undeniable that he consistently exaggerates his opponents' actual positions in order to make their positions easier to attack.

Such argumentation tactics are a sign of weakness (as well as weak-mindedness.)

What I have consistently seen in posts by Cohen's defenders are a refusal to acknowledge a middle position between advocacy for Cohen and abject condemnation of him.

There is a name for that approach to argumentation; it's called sophistry, after the Sophists, who in Plato's Euthydemus are shown trying to convince a young man to agree that he was either "wise" or "ignorant," offering no middle ground when there should be.

Of course it's possible that those who do not see that Andre, et al, occupy a middle ground position that does not fall into an extreme do not see this because they have yet to "evolve" to the point that they can see beyond black/white, either/or, us/them, for/against modes of thinking. That may be why they need a "Rude Boy" teacher who uses sophisticated, mature teaching methods like having students slapped and writing messages on walls with fake blood. (I'm sorry folks, it's sounds like a really boring version of Lord of the Flies. When are the adults gonna show up?)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Emperor's New Clothes?

A Letter from Ed McDougal

I lived in Andrew's community for almost ten years, first in Cambridge and Marin county, then, more recently at Foxhollow. This blog has helped me compare the ups and downs of my experiences with those of others who were also there.

After an absence of five years, I wrote Andrew that I had overcome certain reservations I had previously expressed to him about his teachings. The upshot was that he eventually decided I could move to Foxhollow. I was very glad. Like many others, I had glimpsed the impersonal enlightened perspective as a result of contact with Andrew. It now seemed particularly in reach because of an enlightenment experience that had taken place a year or so after I left Marin that impressed me deeply. I wanted to live permanently in and from that perspective.

I was not successful. No doubt this is owing in part to reasons having to do with my personal makeup. But I also believe no small part was played by the way I handled a particular situation that arose with Andrew after my arrival at Foxhollow. I wanted to speak to him about the spontaneous experience that occurred some years earlier, when suddenly for several hours I didn’t know who or where I was, yet managed to accomplish several physically and mentally demanding tasks, even while being completely distracted by the unfamiliarity of familiar surroundings.

When I tried to discuss this with Andrew, I was given to understand that it would be inappropriate and unnecessary to do so. I did not insist, reasoning that the enlightened perspective, as Andrew teaches, is a matter of freedom in relation to all experience, even enlightened experience, and that dwelling on the past is counter-productive.

I now think that I was mistaken. I ought to have insisted on speaking about this, and in failing to do so, I failed myself. If I had received confirmation that I was on the right track, and had been given more than just a taste of the real thing, it might have gone far toward establishing the base of self-confidence so necessary in the kind of solitary struggle with the ego in which we were all engaged. I was aware that Andrew's own remarkable increase in self-confidence after he met his teacher coincided with just such a communication. As Andrew wrote to his mother and brother:

"When I told him [H.W.L.Poonja] in detail about the spontaneous awakening I had when I was sixteen he told me that at that moment I had experienced all there was to experience, and he said that if I had had a teacher or someone whom I could have talked to about it, a man of knowledge—then my work would have been over then. Much of what I understood then has [since] returned." (My Master Is Myself, p.39)

Since then, of course, Andrew's interests have taken a different direction. Which brings me to a third factor in the mix, crucial during the time I was at Foxhollow—what I think of as Andrew’s “one size fits all” approach to enlightenment. This may well be the result of the increasing emphasis in his teachings on the biggest possible picture of reality, involving an expanding universe, a noosphere, memes, and the inter-subjectivity of consciousness. Impersonal enlightenment has clearly become less important to Andrew than what he now regards as an evolutionary step beyond that, toward the collective discovery and generation of a kind of emerging group intelligence that can be applied to the cultural, social and political problems of our times.

Obviously some of these problems are extremely urgent. But I have seen little evidence that collective intelligence generated by groups at Foxhollow or elsewhere is having an actual effect on the problems it is meant to address, or even, secondarily, that the lives of individuals who are making group efforts have changed so as to make the impersonal perspective more permanent among them.

Andrew once told me and a group of fellow retreatants at Foxhollow that I was "completely oblivious to what’s going on here." Perhaps he is right. And perhaps more time is needed to tell if what is admittedly an experiment is bearing fruit. It would be worse than disappointing to conclude that what we have here is a case of emperor's new clothes.