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.

15 Comments:

Blogger shaolin_monk said...

Aargh! I cannot stand it anymore. I must write. I did not want to. This whole blog represents a sad day for enlightenment (there is hope but that will have to wait for another day).

If WIE ("What is Enlightenment?" magazine) is the spiritual "Statue of Liberty" then she has fallen into the New York Harbour.

If the "What Enlightenment" blog is her successor then certain checks and balances must be in place to ensure that the same mess does happen again because it could. However, the blog cannot be completely effective because, evolutionarily speaking, it is in the plodding dinosaur stage (Ken Wilber please do not claim these concepts as your own). Worse, a great ice-age is coming where the waters will freeze over and all dialogue will be capped off.

To avoid this happening the air must be cleared. All Cohen ex-camp comandants who are hiding among the ranks of the newly free an stirred but still shaken should confess their crimes. Otherwise their repressed guilt will rise up gain like Satan cast into Hell and they will do mayhem again. There is no use in throwing stones at Cohen. Hitler did not work alone but was assisted by Goring, Goebbels and Mengele. (Hal, Stas and Jerry might have to put your hands up here.) This is in no way to suggest that Cohen is like Hitler. Though when a Jewish boy runs a group of shaven-headed, black-shirted men and women to enforce his will one does wonder what on earth is happening – surely it is not heaven!

Andrew's students have created a lot of hell on earth.

The rot goes on. Andrew got Adi Da (the so called "Heart Master") traumatised cast-offs – refugees and refuseniks from Da's drunken spanking chains and also Ken Wilber into the bargain (shiny-headed Ken makes a good trophy bust). "In Cohen we trust" they prayed. Ken promised that fire-breathings Old Testament-style Prophet Andrew (standing in for Charlton Heston as Moses) would lead them out of the Flatlands. However the Adidamists still worshipped the Golden Calf and dabbled in a bit of guru toe sucking which even sexual-sin free Andrew could not resist. Unable to give up their abused slave tendencies they deliberately made mistakes to elicit their gurus ire, which in the fullness of time they got in the form of evolutionary punishments like neo-zen face slappings, freezing river immersions and prostitute samplings.

Cohen, hungry for fame and fortune in those fledging days, unable to seperate the true from the false, faced the same problem as the America when Castro emptied his prisons and put them on boats – who is truly worthy? Unfortunately, Cohen's tests of worthiness are mini-mock-ups of Guantanamo Bay.

Andrew was not ready to start a community. Bereft of children he lacks the pastoral skills of a father.

However, screaming villagers baying for blood outside Doctor Frankenstein's castle could bring about an end as tragic as Waco. Cohen and co. will not want to come out to face a lynch mob.

Cohen is in place because of his Revolutionary Guard. It is their paranoid fears and passive-aggressive power-grabbing that creates the hard shell around Andrew's heart. Ex-members of that guard, decent guys like "Jerry the bodyguard" who boasted "Andrew is the best Aikido master" need to come forward and dismantle the egoic machine that keeps these knuckle-heads from stepping beyond fear. Otherwise, these master-less ronin samurai will reap the fruits of their bad karma.

Andrew always claimed to be independently wealthy. He should walk-away from the money, the land and the commune. HWL Poonja his teacher avoided creating a group. In the end though, the "Osho never died" Rajneesh sannyasins created a circus around him.

Exploring the whole Papaji-Andrew alchemy is crucial for enlightenment students who wish to fully understand Andrew's power and fall from grace. It has been hidden from view. Maybe I will write about it another day when I can no longer stand keeping silent.

Wednesday, 02 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ward Churchill of the University of Colorado, professor of Ethnic Studies, described those technocrats whose jobs support the USA imperialistic policy abroad (in his article 'Some People Push Back') as 'Little Eichmanns.' Andrew's students that abused other students are 'Little Eichmanns' too. They should stand up and take responsibility for the pain they caused me and others.

Wednesday, 02 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the Anonymous who quotes Ward Churchill about 'Little Eichmanns"--I'm very curious to hear exactly what happened to you. It sounds like you were really hurt. What is your story? I think if your story is told it might help those involved understand, stand up and take responsibility for how they hurt you and others.

Wednesday, 02 March, 2005  
Anonymous Sarah Vincent said...

Surfing the net late at night I came across this site.  I have read most of the blogs and to be honest feel like I'm participating in a giant feeding frenzy.  I really think there should be a word of caution here (and I have my own feeding frenzy/lust for gory details to alert me to that) There is good and bad in everything and in all of us and I would caution those who have not spent time in Andrew's community to take all of this with a big grain of salt.
 
I was in the community off and on for about nine years and skillfully I think managed to avoid getting too close to the fire.  I met Andrew in 1991 and was totally bowled over by his presence and teachings.  I was also very impressed by his students' clarity, interest and kindness.  The years I was in the community were some of the happiest of my life and I do not regret one iota of the care, intimacy and joy (in darkness and light) that I experienced with my friends there.
 
However, I was always very uncomfortable with not being able or I should say willing to voice my questions about aspects of the community that I didn't understand.  This was probably a big lack of courage on my part, but the situation was also pretty endemic.  I think the most difficult part of it for me is that there was tremendous good and tremendous (I felt) wrong doing in the community at that time.  I know that some of the situations I was in were verbally and mentally abusive on  one level but I did believe that this was necessary for my own and others' good.  That's a very difficult thing to reconcile.
 
Anyway, I could go into a lot of details here about my personal experiences, but I think I won't (the Frenzy would just love to be fed more of that stuff I'm sure)
 
Here's the bottom line for me:
 
1.    Self respect and respect for the commitment of others who are still in the community.  No matter what went down for us personally, we all chose Andrew for a reason and we all deserve respect for that reason.
 
2.    What is Enlightenment? is a really good magazine.  For anyone who hasn't seen it yet, pick up a copy and judge for yourself if it was put together by cult loonies.
 
3.    For those of us who left the community, we should stop drivelling about it and move on.  Connect with each other and work it out with our shrinks if necessary, but stop using this public "expose" forum to feed the worst in ourselves and each other.  It's very undignified.
 
Sarah V
 
ps I will not be revisiting this blog site, but if you would like to contact me I'm at Vincent_781@verizon.net.

Thursday, 03 March, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

I have been reading many of the contributions to this ‘blog’, over the past few weeks, and while a
few contributors have written, based on their interpretation of their own experience with Andrew
(and/or from what they have been told, by others), I am shocked by the apparent ease with which
some contributors – with much less, or even no first-hand experience of him are ready to tear him
apart and write him off as another fallen guru. Who among you is the Pharisee? Who among you is
the Roman? It is now clear to me that this site is not about an exploration of Truth; it is about
discrediting and defaming Andrew Cohen. Even if there was something that needed to be
‘reconciled’, even if there was ‘justice to be served’, this is not a very inviting way of trying
to bring about such a result. Although my contribution will not fit in with this mood of trying to
‘bring Andrew to his knees’ and ‘admit his mistakes’, and although I will undoubtedly be accused
of being in avoidance, denial, not close enough to be ‘in the know’, etc. etc. I feel that I have
no choice but to write in defense of my Master.

My name is Jeff Feldman. I have been a student of Andrew’s since 1988. I do not live, formally, in
his community – I haven’t done so for ten years. I do live within a two hour drive from his main
center, Foxhollow, and I visit whenever I can. I am in touch with Andrew, and he with me, and I
have a wonderful relationship with many of his students. Some of you know me, and are aware that,
through the years that we were together, in the community, I had times of joy and ecstasy, and
times of extreme confusion and difficulty – times when I have been close to Andrew, on a personal
basis, and times when I haven’t. There have been times when I got along well with fellow students,
and times when there was tension between us. Ultimately, all I have ever been able to do is keep
coming back to my own deepest experience and understanding as an anchor and central reference
point, and I would like to describe this.

As some of you know, I have known Andrew for a long time. Initially, I met him in the early
1980’s, when we were both attending ‘vipassana’ meditation retreats. More than anyone I had met,
during my years of ‘seeking’, I was struck by Andrew’s unbridled interest in finding out and
experiencing what is True. It was clear to me that nothing was going to stop him, nothing could
stop him – it was his interest, and that was all there was to it. When the time came, and I heard
that he was teaching, I wasn’t surprised – if anyone I had met ‘deserved’ to be Enlightened, based
on interest in and devotion to knowing what is True, it was Andrew, and I got very excited about
the opportunity to meet him, again.

In my own life, I had come to a point where ‘vipassana’ (and other things I was trying out) wasn’t
‘doing it’ for me, anymore. I remember having a discussion with a friend, who was upset because I
was questioning the ‘tradition’. I told him, much to his chagrin, that my commitment was not to
Buddhism, or to any tradition, or lineage, but rather – to Truth itself. I had been steeped in the
idea of ‘being a light unto myself’. I had come to the point where I knew that I couldn’t do it on
my own, anymore. I knew that there were things about myself that I was just not able to see
clearly, and that I needed a Master to a) reflect these things to me, more clearly, and more
importantly, to b) reveal a dimension to me that I sensed and knew existed, but had not yet
‘tasted’ through my own experience. I met Andrew, again, this time in very different
circumstances, and I knew that I had met the one who would change my life. I also knew that I had
met my match. I knew that he just was not interested in the personal games that we play, and that
he wasn’t going to let me off the hook. And, that was what I had professed that I wanted.

Shortly after meeting Andrew, as a teacher, I had a dialogue with him. During this discussion, I
had a profound experience of no time, no space, no sense of individual self. It was deep, it was
sublime, it was meaningful. I realized that which is, prior to the arising of thought-forms. And,
it did not need any confirmation, affirmation, justification from my own, or anyone else’s mind. I
knew, without a shadow of a doubt that I had come to the end of my personal search, and I also
knew that this was just the beginning – the beginning of a life that would be founded on something
very different than previously. I remember writing a letter to Andrew, acknowledging that I had
come to him with questions that needed to be answered, and that in the experience which I just
described, every question I had ever had and ever could have had been answered - experientially. I
expressed infinite gratitude, because I knew that this new experience of existing beyond the
usual, deeply personal frame of reference had been ignited by him – it could only have happened
because of his realization, because of his own abidance/non-abidance in that same condition. I
then told him – and this is the critical point - that it was now up to me – up to me to be
responsible for what had happened, for what I had realized – up to me to live in accordance with
and to live up to what I had realized. He had done his job. He no longer owed me anything.

Based on what I just said, the question could be asked – if I had realized it was all in my hands,
why didn’t I leave, and go out on my own. It’s an extraordinary thing. As the experience deepened
and expanded, the gratitude that I referred to also deepened and expanded. Love welled up from
deep within – this included a profound love of Andrew, as the one in whose presence I had
experienced my own True Self, which was not separate from his True Self. I had never understood,
or been interested in devotion. In fact, as a Theravadin-style Buddhist, that was a ‘no-no’. It
meant that one was attached to feeling, and therefore, unfree. Now, I saw it differently. Pure
love and pure devotion arose because of the very fact of Freedom itself! The concept of
Buddha-Dharma-Sangha took on meaning, for the first time. I realized that the teacher and the
teaching cannot be separated. Then, what about the Sangha (the community of like-minded
followers). In a way that was totally natural and made complete sense, I wanted to be with
Andrew. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be with others who also wanted to be with him. I found that
being with Andrew had a blissful ease about it – I would come away from our time together (either
in group or individual meetings) uplifted, one-pointed, full of joy and free of doubt. My
interactions with some of his students, including a few who have contributed to this blog, were
not always so joyous. This caused difficulties – between me and others and between me and Andrew.
He was the one who challenged me most about this. He began to hold me responsible for how I was
living with others. He began to challenge my arrogance, my (unstated, but deeply held) conviction
that I was in a more spiritually established and truthful place than many of his other students -
and although I knew that he was right, I was unwilling to become at least an equal, if not a
‘nobody’. At a certain point, I decided to leave the community. After months of not having verbal
contact with Andrew, we talked, and he was amazingly sweet and supportive. He told me that if I
left with dignity, we would be friends, and I would always be welcome back, if I wanted to return.


During the year that I was away, I tried to forget about spiritual pursuits, and then, finding
that this was not possible, I investigated other teachers and teachings, but I kept coming back to
my own experience – I knew that I had, indeed, realized my own True Self, and I knew that the
equation would be the same, with any teacher or teaching – or if I stayed on my own – I had to
take myself on and live in alignment with what I knew to be true. There was nothing more that any
teacher or teaching could give me. And, as I contemplated all of this, my sense of what I knew to
be true expanded, and eventually led me to the realization that trust is essential – trust is
non-dual – that by trusting Andrew’s other students, I was trusting myself, my deepest
realization, Andrew – life itself. I ended up returning to the community.

During this time, I began to sense that what Andrew was teaching was much bigger, more collective
than I had imagined. The sense of ‘ego’, or separate self really, and literally, had to go, in
order for something new to emerge in consciousness – not ‘my’ consciousness, but consciousness as
a whole. And that the next stage in the evolution of human consciousness would take place when
more than one person would come together in such an ‘ego-less’ way. Even in those early days
(early to mid-90’s), Andrew had a vision of an Enlightened whole, and although I was beginning to
sense this, I still found it difficult to embrace, other than as a cognitive concept. I ended up
moving to Toronto, at Andrew’s suggestion, to help establish a center for his Teachings. During
that time, I went back into my career, as a school teacher, with Andrew’s ‘blessings’ – in fact,
it was his suggestion. I struggled in my ‘role’ as the founder of the Toronto center, finding it
difficult, once again, to live with my fellow students in a non-arrogant, equal and humble,
non-aggressive manner, and I wasn’t (deeply) exploring and uprooting it. I ended up being asked to
leave the formal community. The way that I was being was not in accordance with what the community
was intended to (striving to) be. I could have left, completely, at that time, but I didn’t. I
stayed in touch, albeit on a more casual basis. I continued to study the teachings, more on my
own, while ‘measuring’ how I was living my life, against them, against that original realization.
And, I knew that the real living of the Teachings had to be with other people, if it were to have
any real significance, in this world. Slowly, I began to regain confidence and found that through
some of the most difficult times of my life, the teachings provided perspective through which I
could make sense of what was happening within and around me. I realized that I was becoming more
rooted in the teachings and did not want to compromise this. The Toronto center had been closed
for several years, but a group of us continued to meet, and I increased the amount of contact with
Foxhollow and once again became active. The difference that I noticed within myself was that I was
being active, simply out of my own interest. Interest in the teachings, interest in others,
interest in finding a new way for us, as human beings, to live together. I began to understand
that in order for us to really live sanely, our motivation has to be one of pure interest, which
has nothing to do with wanting anything for oneself. I had heard Andrew talk about this for years,
and now I was actually beginning to understand what he had been saying.

It is really only in the past year, or two, that I (and from what I hear, other students of
Andrew’s) have begun to sense what this is really all about. I have found that this has taken
place, particularly through the ‘Enlightened Communication’ Discussion groups. In order for us to
move into the next stage in the evolution of consciousness (the Enlightened Whole), the degree of
trust between human beings has to be extraordinary – it has to be based on this purest of
motivation, there has to be an unequivocal interest in the same thing. This is uplifting to
consider, it is challenging, it is mind-boggling, and it is no longer up to me, as I previously
said I had proclaimed, early on – it is up to us! And, anytime more than one of us comes together
and is really doing it, change is taking place. For example, it is amazing to consider, during one
of the discussion groups, that a group of people from various backgrounds is actually meeting,
listening to each other, speaking openly with each other, and getting along with each other. What
could be better? What an example of what is possible in this crazy world of ours? And, in my
experience, Andrew is always at the center of the picture, pushing, prodding, questioning,
challenging – trying to lift us into this new and limitless perspective, the implications of which
are immense.

In my own experience, there have been times – too many to speak of, when I have forgotten (stepped
down from) that original realization and proclamation and what I have begun to sense and
experience, more recently. Andrew has always been right there to remind me of what I know.
Sometimes he has reminded me in ways that have been as sweet as the finest honey. At other times,
he has been tough, and although that has not always been easy to take, I have never experienced
him as being mean, I have never felt abused or invaded upon. In fact, it has rarely taken very
much consideration to realize that he was right – that I had returned to an egoic way of being,
when the agreement that I had made –with myself, with him, with Life itself, was that I was going
to stay true to the fact that I now know differently, know better, and am interested in something
new. The stakes have to be kept clear and high, if all of this is to have any real meaning, and
that is what Andrew does. He does not compromise, and I wouldn’t want him to. As he once said to
me, “you have to look through the eyes of a Buddha, otherwise all these other things will make
sense.” Whenever I find myself getting stuck, in the hamster-wheel of my own mind, and the
intensity of my own feelings, in relationship with others, with Life – I realize that through my
relationship with Andrew, through the eyes of that initial realization, through the Five Tenets of
his Teaching, I have a gem – which is perspective, and this enables things to change, to shift,
in subtle and not so subtle, even miraculous ways, and I wonder where I would be - without this
knowledge with which he has provided me – without this ability to see the way things work. I feel
even more grateful to him than I did, almost fourteen years ago.

I have a lot more to say about all of this, but think that’s enough for now. I hope that some of
you can catch the message that is written here – a message that has the power and ability to
destroy negativity, back-biting, defamation of character, and what has at times, through this
‘blog’ site come across as a certain glee in doing so. Time is short. If we are really going to
make a difference with our lives, let’s change the focus and look at what we, as a human race,
need to do to meet each other authentically, lovingly, and with trust. Beyond personal interest or
agenda. I realize that many of you don’t think that is happening, around Andrew, or that he is
capable of generating that. I beg to differ. To those of you who were in this, with me and others,
what would it have been like – between us, in our relationship with Andrew - if we had really
embraced the Teachings, if we had really lived up to the deepest and most profound impulse of the
Human Heart. What was our real interest? After realizing that we didn’t own Andrew anything more,
why did we continue to ask for more? As we insisted in our ignorance, our aggression, our
arrogance, what did we expect – that he give us lollipops and tell us that everything is fine?
Thanks God, as Andrew has always said, Freedom has no History, - we can start from where we are
and move forward. And to those of you who are drawing conclusions based on the horrific tales you
have been reading, all I ask is that you be willing to take a step back and consider that there
may be different ways of looking at this whole situation. Let’s embrace something more positive
and…Enlightened. Without Andrew, I don’t think I would have a clue about any of this. The main
thing is that we have to do it – why? For, as Andrew would say – the Sake of the Whole!

With best wishes,
Jeff Feldman

P.S. This has not been censored or edited by Andrew or any other student of his. I showed it to
one student, who told me, “it’s your letter”.

Sunday, 13 March, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

Jeff, having read your thoughtful and loving tribute to your experience with and view of Andrew's teachings, I want to ask you one question. Where in the light of what you describe is there room for slapping students, demanding the suffering of freezing waters, being doused with toxic paint, to mention a few of the reported abuses described on this blog? You are leaving things out of your composition. Surely in the light of Truth, nothing can be ignored or left out.
To focus on what you have related here about the glory of high ideals and spiritual experiences, it all sounds like "Andrew speak".
When we take the energy that we are and dedicate it to a lofty ideal for the noble purpose of evolving Consciousness, we create a fire and a passion. In this discovery of a purpose for living we feel lifted up and out of our ego-centric view. This escape from ego is exhiliarting and love-filled with the promise of freedom.
This is what we are all searching for...freedom from ego, divine purpose, a chance to change the world. When the leader of such an endeavor abuses this sacred yearning what does it truly reveal about that one? To look at the truth of what has actually transpired in the name of this most intimate and holy relationship takes courage. We can profess that we want to know what is true more than anything else, that we want to face everything and avoid nothing, that we are willing to give up everything for the sake of the Whole...but can we actually do it? Can we actually face into the whole truth, even if it means we have been deceived in the most sacred sanctuary of the soul of being?
I invite you to leave nothing out of your reflection of what has actually happened in the name of Enlightenment at Andrew's direction, and then stand fast and alone in that truth. Be willing to burn in that truth and you will find that you are free Now.

Saturday, 19 March, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

I am willing to respond, with questions, but first I invite you to come out from behind the curtain of anonymity. When one does so, the person brings a certain vulnerability into the 'conversation'. I have done that, without hesitation, and would like to know to whom I am speaking - even if it turns out that I don't know the person.

Monday, 21 March, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

Hi Jeff,
I am assuming that your original post was addressed to anyone who may be interested in this blog. Why the need for personalizing the conversation? I would have the same questions whether you chose to post as anonymous or by name. You do not know me and I do not know you. So named or not named, what does it matter? Who would I need to be in order for you to determine whether or not to answer?
If you would like to use my anonymity as an excuse to avoid answering the questions posed, that is up to you. I would sincerely like to hear your answers however, and I am hoping you will respond.

Monday, 21 March, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

Hi,

My 'request' for non-anonymity is not synonymous with 'personalizing' the conversation. As I said, I think it brings a greater sense of vulnerability into the dialogue. That's my experience, and it's what I think can help bring people together in a deeper way. If you don't want to use your name, that's fine. The bigger question, for me, was whether or not you are someone I know and have been perhaps involved with, in Andrew's community. If you had been, then I would have preferred to know this and to know who you were. It doesn't matter so much, now. I won't (and wasn't intending to) use anonymity as an 'excuse' to 'avoid' your questions and will respond when I have the chance to sit down and put my full consideration into the points you raise and ask about.

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

Thanks Jeff. I look forward to your reply. The question for me is how to look fully without ignoring anything. I cannot reconcile the two extremes described in this blog and would sincerely appreciate hearing from a point of view which can and does acknowledge both sides of the issue.

Tuesday, 22 March, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

I haven't forgotten you. I got well into a response, and was disconnected, which wiped out what I had written. Frustrating! I must go now, but will get back to you, soon.

Sunday, 27 March, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

Thanks again Jeff. I keep checking and look forward to your next post. I appreciate you taking the time to reflect and answer my questions.

Tuesday, 29 March, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

Your questions are good ones, and I don't mean that in a patronizing way. I was particularly struck by your sentence....'I cannot reconcile the two extremes described in this blog and would sincerely appreciate hearing from a point of view which can and does acknowledge both sides of the issue.' Since reading this and your original letter, I have put a lot of thought into the matter. Your questions run deep. They call into question, what is authentic spirituality, what is the ego, how do we take on the ego in a way that is really going to mean something and result in significant change, and, as a student of Andrew's, it goes to the heart of the relationship - do I trust him, if I do (as I do), should I question and doubt that trust, should I question and doubt him? These are very deep questions, that need to be looked at with intelligence, seriousness, and sensitivity. The stakes are high, because of what he is teaching, because of what I think are the implications of his teachings, because of my own realization and what I have proclaimed to know and to be missing, in my own life, in relationship to that realization - I went into this in my first posting. I appreciate your openness, in terms of wanting to reconcile two apparent extremes - it seems that you are aware of something profound about Andrew, and then there is the other...Of course, I can't reconcile this for you; I can only share my process...

Since reading your responses, I have allowed myself to wonder if Andrew was wrong in what he did, or had done. One of the things that I have recognized, since meeting Andrew is just how strong the ego is - oh, how we want to assert our sense of individual, separate (superior to everyone and everything else) self - it is relentless - even in those times when it seems like I am being open, generous, sensitive, responsive to others, etc. there it is - instantly claiming everything for itself. A couple of years ago, during a teaching, Andrew talked about the destruction of this powerful force, known as ego having to be metaphorically akin to smashing our backbone. It rang true. I sensed how intensely I hold onto the sense of separate self - just how strong that really is - to let go of that would really change the whole conditioned pattern of the human race - who really wants to do that? I like to think I do, but in reality, it's too much. And, when I have glimpses of it, of what it would be like, even though I sense the liberating quality, I find myself immediately wanting to rest - "ah, that's it - I've done it", right back into ego. Because of Andrew's claim that it is possible to Enlightened right here, right now, in this very birth, and his interest in having that happen - not just for one, but for the whole - everything that is in the way of that (ego) is revealed in all of its massive ugliness. Thank God! If it wasn't, there is a whole (and important to know about) side of the human condition that would remain hidden (which is what it, the ego, wants). Where would the freedom be, in that? Where would the possibility of being truly free be? So, a major part of Andrew's teaching is to realize the tenacious, disgusting nature of the ego - how big it really is, and how much it gets in the way of the True Love, Authenticity, and Freedom that can not be grasped, held onto, or located anywhere in time or space, yet can be expressed through we, mortal human beings.

So, with all of that in the picture, what is Andrew to do? I admit that in ordinary circumstances slapping people, pouring paint, and so on, is not appropriate, and I am not sure that I want to be close enough to the fire to risk having that happen to me. In the situations that have been described, through this blog, it is my understanding that everyone of the people involved had been very close to Andrew, that they had proclaimed their desire to be Free, more than anything else, right here, right now, in this very birth and that they had said they were willing to do whatever it took. On top of that, they had been close to Andrew for extended periods of time - they had been recognized by Andrew and by the rest of us as having been consisitent and steady over long periods of time in their ability to 'live the Teachings', and a few of them had even been put into positions of being representatives (in teaching positions) of Andrew's. The stakes were high. Because of all this, because of the 'agreement' that they had with Andrew, there is a context in which all of that took place, and they were conscious, willing participants, every step of the way. Similar stories have been told, throughout the ages (I used to practice za-zen and was (willingly) whacked over the back with a stick to 'wake me up'), and there are accounts of people being treated in what would seem like abusive ways and waking up to whole new dimensions of consciousness.

The long and the short of it, for me, is that I do trust Andrew - for all the reasons I have written in my rather lengthy postings, and he has still never given me any reason to doubt that he knows what he is talking about and what he is doing. As I wrote, before, I keep measuring and weighing his teachings against my own experience, which includes the deepest realization and my day to day experience through interactions with other people, and consistently, I am able to affirm that he knows what he is talking about and that what he is doing is valid, in the context of True Enlightenment.

I hope this helps and wish you all the best!



They ar not easy questions to answerin the light of what you describe is there room for slapping students, demanding the suffering of freezing waters, being doused with toxic paint, to mention a few of the reported abuses described on this blog?'



One said...
Jeff, having read your thoughtful and loving tribute to your experience with and view of Andrew's teachings, I want to ask you one question. You are leaving things out of your composition. Surely in the light of Truth, nothing can be ignored or left out.
To focus on what you have related here about the glory of high ideals and spiritual experiences, it all sounds like "Andrew speak".
When we take the energy that we are and dedicate it to a lofty ideal for the noble purpose of evolving Consciousness, we create a fire and a passion. In this discovery of a purpose for living we feel lifted up and out of our ego-centric view. This escape from ego is exhiliarting and love-filled with the promise of freedom.
This is what we are all searching for...freedom from ego, divine purpose, a chance to change the world. When the leader of such an endeavor abuses this sacred yearning what does it truly reveal about that one? To look at the truth of what has actually transpired in the name of this most intimate and holy relationship takes courage. We can profess that we want to know what is true more than anything else, that we want to face everything and avoid nothing, that we are willing to give up everything for the sake of the Whole...but can we actually do it? Can we actually face into the whole truth, even if it means we have been deceived in the most sacred sanctuary of the soul of being?
I invite you to leave nothing out of your reflection of what has actually happened in the name of Enlightenment at Andrew's direction, and then stand fast and alone in that truth. Be willing to burn in that truth and you will find that you are free Now.

Friday, 15 April, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

I forgot to write that I recommend reading Roberta Anderson's postings, which go even further into making a case for harsh measures to bring about the degree of humility needed for enlightenment to take root and flower.

Friday, 15 April, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

Thank you Jeff. I have been waiting for your response and truly appreciate you taking the time to reflect and share your experience. I have also read and responded to Roberta's postings on this blog.
If I am hearing you correctly, you are saying that in the context that the incidents described in this blog happened, being with a group of students very close to Andrew and conscious willing participants all the way, that this condones these actions. If one accepts the premise that enduring all this in the name of breaking the back of the ego for the sake of changing humanity, then that is the end of the matter.
This premise does not ring true to me. In fact, I do not want to live on premises, which are mind created structures. In my view, these are dangerous premises. They give you "time" and "process". They block you from waking up Now. And they keep you completely dependant on Andrew.
He has complete Authority over you.
This seems to me to be a fundamentally flawed set of circumstances. I know this situation can inspire incredible passion and deep love for Andrew as God. Thrilling prospects regarding changing humanity...who wouldn't be moved by that possibility? But if it takes such a tremendous amount of ego crucification for so many years for the students who are closest to Andrew, how is it going to change humanity? How are the billions of expressions of the One manifesting as humanity on this planet going to go through this ego death? Even you admit you are reluctant to get too close to the fire.
I do not see humanity changing from this kind of outward crushing of the false sense of self. I see humanity waking up to Presence which is arising from Within. I do not see human beings doing it. I see Presence doing it. When the mind stops, Presence Is Realized. No amount of face-slapping or paint-dousing is going to change humanity. Anyone who has raised children knows that is not the way to create healthy self-aware human beings. You cannot push the river.
Blessings to you on your journey Jeff and thanks again for responding with your heartfelt respect and love for Andrew. May that love and respect be returned to you in full measure.

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  

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