Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Real Teachers Are As Scarce As Hens' Teeth

A Letter Of Appreciation For Andrew Cohen
By Roberta Anderson

Dear Friends,

I’ve been following this blog with a lot of interest—often fascinated, often confused, often feeling a little sick, and often alternating between wanting to defend Andrew, damn him, and then again defend him.

I stayed in the community for nearly twelve years and participated in everything that’s been written about. Even though much of it was intense beyond belief and often even “brutal”, I stayed because early on in this life I knew that I wanted to find something that few on this planet, apparently, have discovered. I had a strong sense that my particular destiny was to give my damndest to attempt to awaken in this very life. I familiarized myself with all the masses of available literature from all the traditions, and I knew that of all the endeavors one can aspire to, this particular matter was apparently difficult beyond anything I could begin to imagine, and that slaying the ego was definitely not for wimps or naïve new-agers. Reading everything from all the warnings in the Tibetan literature about why it’s so very difficult to even get past the “lions at the gate” to Irina Tweedie’s “Chasm of Fire” gave me at least an intellectual understanding that the ego will never simply roll over and die of its own accord, and that it will very probably have to endure massive, intense, and ongoing humiliation to finally be willing to even begin to loose its hold.

I came to Andrew after already having done a fair amount of “spiritual work” because I somehow knew immediately when I met him that he was one of the few true teachers who was actually willing to do battle with the ego down in the muck of the trenches, and that he was indeed the man for the job. He did not disappoint me in his willingness to keep his part of the bargain. Little did I know what I was actually in for, how immensely stubborn and recalcitrant the human ego actually is, the massive and ongoing onslaught against it that is actually required to begin to even make a dent in this fortress, and the intensity of the suffering one must be actively willing to bear in order for real transformation to occur.

Andrew’s students quickly get to know a lot about what Gurdjieff called “conscious suffering”. When one is deep into this process the meaning of Jesus’ words about how “many are called but few are chosen”, “straight is the way and narrow is the gate” etc. becomes quite clear indeed. The first of the countless undesirable aspects of my ego that was exposed in spades was the indomitable strength of my own “spiritual ego”, and my lifelong strategy to do everything imaginable to try to make myself superior to all other human beings so that I would be able to always feel separate, safe, and protected from “them” at all times, places, and spaces. All of my attempts to perpetuate this familiar strategy were dashed and hatcheted, time and time again. Never once did I get to “look good”. From a traditional psychological perspective this sounds pretty horrible, since the whole idea of this approach is to learn more about “honoring and loving yourself” etc. But this is a different game, and always will be.

I think that I have hesitated to throw my voice into this mix until now because I somehow felt that I should be expected to be some kind of grand “enlightened one” to even try to explain my own experience, and to try to shed some light on why I think Andrew is the kind of teacher he is. Instead I’m just a really ordinary human being. But coming from where I started with all of my grandiose notions about myself this is actually rather radical! I do know that with no doubt I am profoundly different from that person that came to Andrew in 1989. I had my butt kicked to kingdom come, was “drawn and quartered”, often felt like I was being boiled in oil, and weirdly enough (and I know that nearly everyone will find this to be pretty crazy), when it comes down to the most fundamental truth of it all, I feel basically nothing but deep gratitude to Andrew for having the guts and integrity and passion for awakening to be willing to do battle with me for so many years.

This is messy, nasty work, and very few understandably will even have any interest in it—both teachers and students. I knew I needed a very tough teacher and I got one. Andrew showed me how to plunge into life and to live it fully with zest, passion, and deep love—the real kind of love that comes from knowing with no doubt that you are not even an iota separate from any other soul on the planet, and because of this we all have a deep imperative to really love each other like crazy, no matter what. He showed me the importance of how precious this human life actually is, and how all of us despite whatever our many perceived weaknesses may be, have a sacred responsibility to be agents for evolution wherever we are and whoever we are with no matter what we feel like doing. He also taught me that I don’t actually have a clue what’s really going on and that I don’t have to be afraid or insecure because of this—that this is in fact what makes life such an ongoingly rich, mysterious, and thrilling adventure.

By no means do I feel that Andrew is “perfect”. As has been more than adequately pointed out on this blog, he has and will no doubt continue to make numerous mistakes. Like all of us, he is a mere human being despite his quite deep realization. There are parts of him like those parts in all us that clearly need ripening. The zen teachers often carry on about how this process actually never ends. There are numerous areas that I question or disagree with him. The work that he has committed his life to is the most vicious insult to the ego that one can ever begin to conceive of, and it is most understandable that such a huge number of ex-students are affronted, “wounded”, pissed off, vengeful, etc. etc. I have also felt all of this quite a lot and pretty consistently myself over the years. But ultimately (and apparently I am in the extreme minority in this respect!) I can only say that I got what I asked for, and way, way, way more than I could ever imagine. And I am frankly amazed that such a teacher as Andrew actually exists on this planet. The real deal is rare and the real teachers are scarce as hens’ teeth. They will probably always be vilified because of the extreme and excruciatingly painful nature of the real spiritual process.

Sending much love to any and all of my old friends who may read this—

Roberta Anderson


Anonymous Stuart said...

The real deal is rare and the real teachers are scarce as hens’ teeth.

I'd say precisely the opposite, that nothing could be less scarce than a real teacher. Since all things are teaching you at all times, it's not possible to avoid a real teacher, even if you wanted to.

It's perfectly fine that the two of us have opposite views of this. It's just worth noting that this idea that "Real teachers" are scarce is nothing but a belief, an opinion. It'd be a mistake to treat it like a fact.

They will probably always be vilified because of the extreme and excruciatingly painful nature of the real spiritual process.

Similarly: I know of no "real spiritual process" outside of life itself, moment to moment. And we all know that life is NOT excruciatingly painful; in fact, it's sometimes painful, sometimes pleasurable, sometimes something else.

So one can CHOOSE to hold ideas of a "real spiritual process," and one can CHOOSE to make this process, and life itself, excruciatingly painful most of the time, or all of the time. But what could be the harm in recognizing that all this is made by thinking, rather than speaking as if it were fact?

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roberta, I do understand your point about Andrew being a tough teacher willing to go down in the muck of the trenches and battle the ego. But for myself, someone who was involved with the teachings, though not part of the Foxhollow community, I am very interested in specifics. In particular, regarding the face slapping. Why is that kind of physical assault necessary to slay the ego?

Another poster, Tabitha, wrote that people shouldn’t allow this blog to scare them, but to find out for themselves. That makes no sense to me! This is serious business involving great vulnerability and it is crucial to trust the teacher. Yet I don’t see how I could possibly trust someone who thinks it’s acceptable to slap people in the face. (Craig Hamilton admitted that the face slapping does indeed occur.)

I have felt compelled to back away from the teachings after reading this blog. Mainly because of the reports of the face slappings. (The other allegations, some of which are just as disturbing, have not been admitted to.)

Roberta, Tabitha or anyone else who supports Andrew’s position, feel free to convince me otherwise (specifically regarding the face slapping).

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

Roberta, have you ever considered that your belief that you have found a teacher as scarce as hen's teeth is yet another way for you to be superior and separate from "them" (all those others you are disrespecting by insinuating they are new agers who don't have a clue, or spiritually ignorant because they are not followers of Andrew)...that you have endured excruciating humiliation and years of ego-assaults by Andrew and yet cannot claim that your ego has actually been destroyed? Could this battle of all battles be a projection of the ultimate self-aggrandizement possible? Perhaps the carrot that dangles before you, forever just out of reach, is leading you in a circular path around a myth. Meanwhile all the "others" that you claim to be one with, are kept at a safe distance, in the big bad world outside of this little painful orbit you are committed to.
Roberta, you are a beautiful expression of the One Life, no better, no worse than all the myriad manifestations of Consciousness.
You are One with All Now. Suffering is an effective teacher but once Consciousness awakens within, you need not hang onto the old teacher any longer.
We continue to suffer as long as we choose. Haven't you suffered enough?

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please pray for Andrew Cohen.

Please intercede for him to God in prayer, for Andrew cannot do this for himself it would seem.

Somehow, there has to be a way for Andrew to get help from the narcissistic nightmare.

Prayer is "The Golden Key";
for any person, problem, difficulty, or situation, think only about God instead.

-Emmett Fox, Unity Church

Please turn the golden key on behalf of Andrew, who at this point is unable and/or unwilling to surrender to God; despite the fact that it is exactly the very thing that can set him free, BUT, he has to want it himself and then to take his own action.

Please pray for justice, healing, and for Andrew to grow up.

Santosh Basu

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roberta you mention in your love post for Andrew that being in the community with Andrew you also participated in all that was written here by the former students and stated that much of it was intense beyond belief and often even BRUTAL. That is not love, nor does it lead to enlightenment.

Wake up Roberta!. Don't let your love for Andrew cloud your perceptions of reality and the truth. You all were spiritually, emotionally, financially,mentally and physically abused. over and over again, big time. I recognize denial when I see it. We women have a greater hardship with it and seem to minimize things especially when we love.

Hopefully your life is blessed with no further abuses and much love.
A caring sister

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Your post is interesting, yet disturbing and confusing. As a former student who admittedly personally "participated in everything that's been written about" on this blog, you corroborate everything Stas, Susan and Hal have said. So you are another voice attesting to the slapping and other physical abuse, the lake prostration incident where a student passed out and almost drowned, the use of shame and humiliation such as in the basement "spa of penance," the assault with paint on Donna, the pervasive painting of the ashram with the "guru's blood," the demanding and extraction of money from people when they are vulnerable and confused, the terrorizing threat to chop off a student's finger, and so on. Yet in the end you praise Andrew as a teacher who is real and "rare as hens' teeth."

Based on the facts, I doubt he is real in the sense you mean it. If he's rare as hen's teeth, I think we should all be very grateful for that--if only it were true. The world doesn't need any more manipulative power-mongering brutes--it has plenty already.

And, Roberta, you leave some very important questions unanswered. What are those things you mention that you disagree with about Andrew? You're vague about that. And if he is so "real" and such a force for evolution--which you inexplicably claim despite admitting massive wrongdoing--why the heck did you leave?

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Firstly thank you for you very open and authentic post. If everyone could encourage these courageous thoughtful posts by showing absolute respect we are more likely to get further engagement from those who support Andrew . Roberta has spoken her truth in her name for all to witness whether you agree or not lets acknowledge the courage implicit in her posts.

You mention that you witnessed and participated in allot of what I assume to be the events that have recorded in this blog. You also mention you have allot of disagreements with him on a bunch of non specific issues.

We have heard about where you are to date with him as a teacher and that should be accepted . As someone that’s been so immersed in this environment , what is your observation of its impacts on the greater world, his community and individuals?. Are the facts true as per this blog true ? One of the continued threads within this blog is that the silence of the Cohen supporters is collaborating by default the accusations, the longer this continues the safer it is to assume that the accusations are factually correct.

The acceptance or rejection of these “crazy” practices as either skillful or unskillful means will in the end be decided on an individual basis , so there are those of us who simply just want to know what happened and if the contexts of posts on this blog represent an accurate depictions of the circumstances described ?.

Even those who condone these methods for themselves must be questioning their relevance to the collective and most individuals, if you are passionately support evolutionary pantheism who among you will speak up in support of broad adoption of these practices throughout humanity, where in the evolutionary DNA does it sit ?.

History tells us that these methods can get out of control very quickly , even if the Cohen community decide to accept them in the end the greater collective would have be very very careful .

And for those of you reading this from within the Cohen community read this blog again and again , discern the truth yourself, evaluate the expression, authenticity and merits of the individual posts, you can participate anonymously , you can say anything you want without any pressure whatsoever . Just don’t identify yourself, keep the traceable references vague and have your say.

Roberta, What touched me about your note was the cheerio at the end to all your friends.

Many of the people reading and writing on this blog participated in community and communion, you were friends , colleagues, confidants and in some cases partners this is holy and sacred to all of you. In one posters case this friendship goes back to the age of seven. Your intent individually and collectively was altogether noble and of high spiritual aspiration if not always in deed.

One of the common threads in a lot of posts is a concession on both sides that Andrew “has his faults” or “ego issues” , Titmus made a good observation about this blog showing your love for Andrew.

Even some have suggested that if Andrew could transcend this he might reach a higher level himself. So this is a call to all those of you that have communed with each other in community to throw off the shackles and seek reconciliation with each other .

You all loved each other at one time or another , some of you have been friends since childhood and currently don’t speak to each other. If Cohen and ex Cohen cant agree what hope is their for your sacred imperative , evolution!. It might be excruciating for some of you to confront these issues personally and as a group, but as Roberta put it spiritual progress is sometimes (not always) this way.

I am suggesting you come together as a group then in the most loving way possible bring about change for evolutions sake within Andrew.

If you can do this Andrew will be forced respond and you will have provided him with an awesome platform for further realization that is massive in its implications. If you are committed to evolution you must be committed to the evolution of all , that means , Andrew as well, the greater Cohen clan past and present, humanity.

You who are still live in the community and those active members of FACE must show the greatest courage and discernment as you have the most to consider. For those of you that have left embrace their struggle with the compassion that comes from sharing a similar path, a common heritage. You have walked this path and understand that realization comes a little at a time and even your own continues to evolve.

If we all expect Roberta to answer the numerous questions that have been posted since her post you need to absolutely respect her replies .

Intuitively the sense I got was that you more matured than became enlightened through the process with Andrew . It made me think of the lessons about ego I have taken from life (Stuarts point I think). Eg like bringing up 4 kids as a single parent or being in homicide for three years. Assuming you would have matured allot in any case in 12 years how do you differentiate Andrew from just the normal maturation process ?.

One suggestion for anonymous posters it would be helpful if you could sign your posts with a nickname so we can follow the thread of your thought and still hide your identity.

Craig T

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craigs, point is valid, many of you worked and lived together for long periods of time, many of you previously held very similiar views to Roberta that you have since come to reject. Hal's call for reconciliation with Andrew might be naive but a call to his community past and present might be possible and very useful for the healing that needs to take place.

Barbara C Smith MD

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Roberta,
I am thankful for the time you spent writing what you did. However, in view of what so many people have elucidated here I find your writing disturbing. Andrew talks about slaying the ego when he himself IS the ego. What he says is at best boring rehash and at worst plagarism. His community is spy vs spy with Orwellian talk of love, etc. It is dangerous to take anything he says as more than propoganda for himself.

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My gratitude to Hal and all former students who have come forward to face everything and avoid nothing. It takes tremendous courage to come out with the allegations of severe abuses that have also been admitted to by the other students who sing praises to Andrew.

It is no easy task to face your former friends with these stories of abuse that bring them such pain and sorrow, yet so far everyone is in full agreement that these abuses truly happened.

Much compassion for the admirers of Andrew who really wished Hal and the other students would have kept silent and maybe all would just disappear, but all truth must surface and we must bravely continue in our quest of this truth

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


When you read the Amazon reviews of his books they are nearly all 4-5 stars all written by Foxhollow community members. In view of the views expressed here some of you might want also comment via the Amazon book review forum so that people are aware of the mixed views of his teachings. I have only read one but Ive posted my review on that one and also posted this URL.

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Roberta responds:

First of all, I don’t think it’s very fruitful for the evolution of this investigation to respond to the personal attacks a few people made in response to my letter. What I often perceive as the rather vengeful and “mud-slinging” tone of this blog doesn’t invite any kind of vulnerability which is rare enough anyway, and essential for truly finding a deep meeting with anyone. So thanks, Craig, for trying to elevate the tone! Although I have discussed and will continue to sort out and examine the areas where I disagree with Andrew with many old friends I’ve known intimately for years in the community, I don’t feel comfortable talking about any of this with people who don’t know Andrew, don’t know the context, and who often just appear to be hell-bent on “getting Andrew”. It should be obvious to anyone who’s been following this blog that he has already been well and thoroughly trashed and thrashed! My particular interest is in trying to provide a bigger context for what spiritual life is actually about and what I have understood from my time with Andrew. If any old friends want to go into this me more I’d be delighted to chat with you on e-mail ( or in person.

A couple people seemed upset that after going through this rather intense sadhana with Andrew that I “couldn’t claim that my ego was destroyed”. Making this kind of claim actually doesn’t make any real sense in the light of what many of us have experienced in our time with Andrew. In real and radical transformation you can’t actually even locate the person “who had an ego that was destroyed”. There isn’t anyone at all remaining who gets to feel or be special or “great”. You are in fact left only with the austerity of undifferentiated life and on ongoing deep knowing of emptiness/fullness. Something or other just keeps arising out of your final resting place of “nothingness” which is still amazingly alive, and where you have finally learned to live. I am talking about something which is way beyond and categorically different from “maturation” in which there is still a separate entity that is becoming wiser, smarter, deeper, or whatever. . As I mentioned in another letter which hasn’t been posted yet, I have seen this kind of transformation once in a friend who suffered an extreme life shock of the tragic and brutal death of a child and yet managed to find the love and dignity to keep on keeping on and engaging life fully with a heart that has been shattered. But I doubt that raising four kids as a single parent or being in homicide for three years, challenging and noble as all of these pursuits are, can effect this type of radical change. Despite what appears to be nearly unanimous disagreement, I will continue to insist that a relationship with an awakened teacher is nearly always the only way that this can occur. This is only about getting our very hard hearts broken, and this is no easy matter and it is definitely not child’s play. I have tried to explain this more fully in another letter.

I left the community about a year and a half ago for a number of reasons. Because of the nature of who Andrew is, life around him will always be a pressure cooker. Before meeting Andrew I had actually lived in ashrams with other teachers doing other forms of fairly intense spiritual practice for about ten years. This kind of life is incredibly and ongoingly challenging—this is just the nature of a true evolutionary context. At some point after nearly 22 years of monastic life I felt I no longer wanted to live with so much constant pressure and got interested in finding out what life might be like outside of the pressure cooker, in who I might be in the “marketplace” in a new and completely unknown situation, what I might be able to contribute, what it is that I actually have learned etc.. The grand adventure of plunging into something very unknown started to become more and more interesting to me and I left.

I also feel that there is often expressed on this blog some rather fixed ideas about what real “love” is, such as that it must have to do with encouraging people, being “nice” to them, patting them on the back, telling them you love them and they are wonderful and/or always already perfect and divine etc. This may be very nice and assuredly feels great to the ego, but it ain’t gonna bring about the kind of change that is radical. Anyone who has investigated the Great Tradition of spirituality has read the stories of zen teachers whacking students with sticks, throwing them off porches, and yes, even occasionally slapping them. Tibetan lore,(granted much of it is mythological but a metaphor for the actual thing), has teachers feeding their students to tigers or chopping them students into small bits with swords (granted they always put them back together again afterwards!) This is a big topic and addressed more fully in the letter I wrote about my understanding of the ego.

And re someone’s concern about the advisability of the “broad adoption of these “crazy practices” for the masses. Wow—no way! We definitely don’t have to worry about this! Those crazy people who actually become deeply interested in “ego death” are and always will be very rare. From a rational viewpoint it seems a bit insane than anyone would be interested in this. And yet a few people for some unknown reason will always feel compelled to try to do this despite the fact that much of them (the ego) has no interest whatsoever in doing it. For some reason the life of the world that seems to satisfy most people doesn’t do it for them, and they are drawn beyond themselves to find a way to be changed in a very big way. And as I’ve already stated, any teacher who’s actually willing to enter into this process deeply and fully with their students-- to not only get in there and mess with their egos but actually actively dismantle them—well, I’ve spent much of my life visiting and scrutinizing and investigating all the promising teachers both dead and alive that I could find, and there are understandably very, very few who are up for this very often utterly unrewarding and frequently rather disgusting work!

And I think another person wanted to know about the “impact on the greater world of Andrew’s students”. This remains to be seen. It’s all a grand experiment and none of us know the outcome. I think that any and all of the many people I find frequently who genuinely care in an enormous way not only about their particular arena and friends and family, but about the continuation and evolution of life itself on this planet---are all doing terrifically valuable work. The thing I notice about Andrew’s students since I’ve left is that there is an unusual vulnerability, realness, integrity, and genuine passion and care for life in all of us who’ve spent any time together in this life. I couldn’t actually even see this while I was in the community, but not it seems striking when I spend time with old friends. I have spoken with a few friends about how I miss what I can now see is the really unusual intimacy we shared together which is what I think all of us humans really deeply long for. In just trying to consistently be “myself” whatever that may be, I find that I am learning to create this kind of intimacy in new relationships, but it is rather slow going still. It’s actually pretty rare to be willing to THAT vulnerable with another person that you will just let down all of your habitual barriers, and yet that is probably what I treasure most about my friends from the community.

I don’t know if I’ve responded to everyone’s responses but already feel that this is a bit too long! I appreciate the genuinely sincere interest that so many people are expressing and how carefully most people seem to read what others are saying. It is my great hope that mutual understanding and respect and (actually!) real unity and oneness may come out of these discussions.


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

Roberta, I thank you for the courage to be so authentic in your writings. Reading both of your blogs has made me stop and think where I am in the human race. I am surprised how quickly I can jump into something when I am emotional about what has been said or done. After really reading all that has been written on this blog;I can come to the conclusion that there is always a bigger picture, framing this story caled,"life"

As you know, I also was with Andrew, but did not let myself go deep into what might destroy my thoughts of who I was professing to be. That in its self gives me no credibility to make a fair comment on what each student has gone through. All I can say is that this blog as given me permission in myself to look deeply at what brutally that I might be causing in this thing called life....

I also want to add, that I am a different person since I have left Andrew's community. I would not have change being there for anything. I still react from emotions and get caught in my feelings etc. but I can say that there is an awareness that has changed in me. I really see, that I can't blame anyone for what is in front of me. What ever Andrew has done or not done, I still have to take a look and see where I might have a part in this thing called facing the truth, what ever that may look like. So, I thank you again for your enormous courage to write what was in your soul and not start slinging mud at what you didn't like.

I also want to thank Hal for the courage to start this blog, because I think it has given people a great way to really look at what takes place in every moment whether they are in agreement or against what is being said....
Love, Daeneon

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

Thank you for your second post Roberta. I did not mean my questions to appear as an attack on you. I sincerely wanted to have answers to them. In fact, you have touched my life Roberta. I have met you and been inspired by the dedication and love I saw in you. Your comments about how you are living life now, also inspire me and I thank you for what I feel coming through your words.
I can see by re-reading my previous post that it could seem like an attack but I honestly did not mean it to be. These questions about Spiritual ego and separation really echo my own discovery of previous motivations regarding spiritual attainment and involvement with exclusionary groups in the past.
I apologize for any comments that offended you. I have thought of you often over the years, and always with loving gratitude that at one time our paths did cross.

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

Dear Roberta,
After reading your post this morning I prayed for you and each and every poster hoping all would be aware of your pain and respond with sensitivity.

Much compassion to you Roberta. Your 1 1/2 year return into society from leaving the community is a time of reflection, confusion, loss and grief, therefore, you need help with a strong support system within your family and friends. Are you also seeking counselling for yourself and are you part of a guided support group?.

We all have a right to share in expressing our views, and we are open to yours as well even if we all do not agree.

You need time to sort things out and may see everything in a clearer light as time passes and healing takes place.

God bless you,

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

Wow, what a nice response from both Daeneon and that last person who dared to show so much humility. I actually felt my heart melting when I read both of these posts. This whole matter could not be more emotionally charged and we are all struggling to discover what is bottomline really true! This is so hard to do,and it's really scary to just pop onto this blog and try to find the guts to say what you have discovered through your own struggle to be true in your deepest heart. I wrote to someone recently that my physical sensation every time I push that "login and publish" button is that I'm jumping out of an airplane with no parachute anywhere in view! I really feel that when it comes down to the nitty gritty that this is what we all very deeply want. Despite our great suffering,fear,and cynicism we want to know that real love, true intimacy and endless passion for life really just might be possible--for little old us in this very life itself--despite what a mess everything appears to be! So thank you both very much--


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

Dear Blogger Friends—

I decided to write this description about the process of what actually happens when one enters into relationship with a real teacher because I think there is a lot of confusion and misunderstanding about what it’s really about. Also about what this thing called “ego” is, as it seems it’s pretty difficult to get a handle on it unless you’ve come face to face for a goodly length of time with the many forms of this beast in your very own self.

A number of people writing on this blog seem to feel that perhaps “ego” may even be a mere concept while others wonder if it even really exists at all. If you’ve never seen it in yourself it’s because it is actually very, very difficult to see. It survives in fact by never being seen, lurking in the darkness and covered over with a thick pastiche of self-concept, fundamentally about what actually really nice, sweet, and loving people we are. It is incredibly wily and cunning, and will do absolutely anything to avoid being seen clearly. Its only purpose is to survive, and it lives on through the ages wreaking havoc everywhere on everyone, rarely if ever being exposed into the light of day. If you ever get a rare glimpse of it sideways in yourself you will see something very cold, dark, and dense which on a fundamental level doesn’t give a damn about anything or anyone but you, despite your grand protestations to the contrary. It is part of the structure of the human psyche, and everyone has one whether they like it or not. It is the reason that there is such incredible conflict in our relationships with each other on both individual and global levels. It is ultimately the source of all forms of conflict, domination, and aggression within and without. It is the very essence of “us versus them”, “me first”, “America first”, “fear of the other” etc. etc.

Most people come to spiritual life as a last resort, because despite everything they’ve tried (which is usually a great deal) there remains a fundamental sense that there is still something deeply wrong. And this is even though you are still insisting that you are a very nice, “compassionate”, caring soul who is fundamentally doing your best. Or conversely you may be stuck on how you’ve been deeply mistreated, misunderstood, victimized and/or a “bad person”—another kind of deeply fixed identity. The teacher’s extremely unpleasant job is to get you to see this thing called the ego. Very early on you begin to wriggle and struggle and squirm and protest, because you will do fundamentally anything to have your finely honed and mostly cherished notions of yourself shattered. If you discover that you are most unfortunately ruled out for “sainthood” you will probably get obsessed with how “bad” you are. Anything to be somebody, no matter who this somebody is. Because the teacher knows the game he is always one step ahead of you no matter how quickly you scurry about to keep all of the fortresses defended. He is a slowly and inexorably removing the bricks. The more you fight and resist, the more the heat is turned up. We don’t feel like we can go back to where we started because we can remember pretty clearly what that was like, but also we are terrified to continue or go forward. We wonder why we ever got into “spiritual life” in the first place as we don’t feel a bit like what we expected “spiritual people” should feel like! Usually we still continue to fight and resist both the teacher and our friends. Because the whole process is really extremely intense, most people leave the kitchen before the ultimate roasting and the final checkmate occurs. This usually seems to take many years given our massive resistance to the whole process. If and when the “checkmate” occurs, all the exits have all finally been effectively blocked. There’s no place to go. You’re just stuck with where you are, and you can’t even squirm even a little bit any more or trot out even one little teeny illusion. When you actually see the thing itself fully as it is you feel pretty sick. But finding the willingness to just stay with the rather horrific truth of all of it allows a truly mysterious thing to occur. Cracking the shell of the ego is the same as allowing your hard heart to be broken. When it occurs you don’t get to be anyone special at all. In fact there isn’t even a sense of “you” caring about “others” anymore. There remains only the unbroken and undifferentiated flow of life, the very nature of which is love. This “love” isn’t anything you get to own or claim for yourself at all—it is simply profoundly obvious that you are and always were the same as everyone and everything, that you in fact are this mysterious “love” whatever it is, and that your only job is to be and express this at all times and in all circumstances.

This process is extremely ancient and esoteric, and it seems to have been known throughout much of human history. For this real transformation I’m trying to describe it seems that most people need a teacher. We simply can’t, don’t want to, and will never be able to see what is actually true otherwise. Most of us will resist until we drop dead. The teacher, whenever he or she appears, actually seems to be some kind of function in the evolutionary process. The real teachers get absolutely nothing out of this work except mostly a huge amount of headaches and heartaches. But they have been given this work and they recognize this and accept it choicelessly. They are utterly willing to accept the torrents of abuse that will of course be heaped on them for their “outrageous behavior”, because they have already surrendered to something else on such a deep level and know that they must and will do what they have been given the rather painful and thankless task of doing, because it simply and utterly must be done for the sake of our dear human race which, God bless it, we pray will survive in these extremely frightening times. I have on occasion seen that this transformation can occur in people without a teacher, although it is rare. As I mentioned in an earlier post, one of my friends had a child who was brutally killed some years ago, and in her courageous choice to accept and live with what to most people would be unbearable I can see that she also has a “broken heart”. There is a quality of vulnerability, realness, and a genuine release of all of our familiar and painful attempts to present ourselves as someone we never were and never will be that is unmistakable--as well as an ongoing willingness and passion for giving fully to life in whatever form shows up.

I don’t know if any of this is helpful or not, but it is given in the spirit of a genuine attempt to sort through so much of this confusion in this matter which is greatly misunderstood and so heavily loaded emotionally. I hope also that it will give some insight into my eternal gratitude which I don’t know if I can ever really fully pay back or even express to Andrew. Thank you Andrew for fighting me and beating me down into some semblance of a Human Being for so many years!

With great love,

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

Dear Freebird,

I have to say that your "compassion" actually feels more like aggression and condescension(if this is a word!) I appreciate your praying for everyone to respond with sensitivity, but I must say in all honesty that I am not actually aware of this "pain" you are referring to. I have somehow most fortunately been blessed with a lot of dear friends many of whom (believe it or not) actually find in the real love we share together that there is an endless fount of wonderful "healing". Thanks--

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

Dear Roberta,
That was very nice.
You were saying that a true teacher gets nothing in reward,e.g. Andrew. Andrew gets lots in rewards. He gets everyone's money, their adulation, their indentured slavery to his mansion and grounds. He gets a free magazine staff to put out WIE. I'll stop here. But the list goes on and on.
This is not to say that Andrew can be helpful at times. Everyone can be helpful at times. I'm glad he was of help to you. And he was of some help to me too when I was his student for 3 years. But he's a mixed bag of help and abuse. And he does a lot of people a lot of harm.

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

Dear Roberta,
My sentiments were heartfelt. What a surprise that you found my expression of seeing pain in your posts and my kind compassion for you as being agressive and condescending. My intent was sincere and needs no apology.

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

A lot of Roberta said about the ego in her last long comment I find to be ridiculous, especially this part about the ego, "Its only purpose is to survive, and it lives on through the ages wreaking havoc everywhere on everyone, rarely if ever being exposed into the light of day."

Huh? This is the personal ego you are talking about, not some extreme deadly virus? I'm sorry I couldn't tell.

Most of the people who post in favor of Andrew who do not contest many of the actions take to explaining it away by transfering the nastiness of what Andrew takes part in to "the ego". The ego was never vilified and demonized in this way by Maharshi, there was no need for him to call the ego all these names to his devotees. Because unlike Cohen, Maharshi wasn't transfering anything describable to his devotees about the ego, only the way that points out the Self to them.
Much of what Cohen emphasises seems to be the opposite of this. Instead of pointing out the way/the method to realizing the Self, Cohen is pointing out to his devotees what their ego must be intially conditioned to react to his way of teaching, and then calling that, "incredibly wily and cunning, and will do absolutely anything to avoid being seen clearly." Sounds like Andrew describing his real intentions to me.


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

I don't know if it's just me, but I feel like I'm being lectured to. Roberta's posts all sound good, but really, any of the rest of us who spent a significant amount of time with Andrew (or Da Free John, for that matter) could equally eloquently rehash the same kind of spirit-speak in order to rationalize anything the guru may do in "defense of the guru principle." Sure just call ego "The Great Satan" in so many words, and anything you do to ego looks justified. Unfortunately, what you call ego lives in a flesh and blood human being. No matter how much you make it abstract, there are real people being abused in Andrew's community, and no high-sounding philosophy is going to hide that--at least not now, now that the word is out.

To be honest, in the _real_ context (there's that word again!) of what has been reported on this blog--physical assault, financial extortion, psychological torture all in the name of "evolution"--all this fine-sounding lecturing sounds pretty Orwellian to me.

It's hard to see how saying slapping, pouring paint on someone's head--and many more other things that have not yet been reported here, like taking folks' passports and car keys so they can't leave the ashram, threatening them with bodily harm if they leave the community, and more--can be called "love" however the heck you define that word. Let's get real here! Is it love to let your friends get slapped hard, or to do it to them because your guru told you to? Is it love to let your friends suffer exposure, pass out and almost drown while prostrating to the guru in a freezing cold lake? And if you think these kinds of breaches of the most fundamental ethics are ok because of the "context" how are you any different than the most die-hard advaita shuffler?

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

Roberta, I hope you don't let the aggressive posts regarding what you have shared about your view of the ego discourage you from continuing to share. I really appreciate your openness and willingness to give us your reflection on the subject. I think there are many ways to look at this. In my current view I see ego as the separate sense of self which is thought-based and purely delusional. There is Presence which is the Essence of Being, and then there is the thought-based ideas we hold about who we are and what we are doing. When the shift happens and we experience seeing from Presence or call it Space-Consciousness, we are able to allow everything to be as it is. We can even allow thoughts and reactions to be as they are. The difference is we can "see" them as thoughts and reactions and do not misinterpret them as "me". There is no struggle involved in this. No amount of ego bashing will bring us to the state of Presence and in my experience, any resistance or struggle against ego only strengthens it and focuses the attention onto the separate sense of self again. This separate sense of self is not who or what we are. It just is not. Its like a puffed up monster, scary and disgusting, ferocious even, until seen through the light of Presence. It is not made up of light, it is shadow cast by turning attention away from the light and creating an image through thought. It is as real and horrendous as we believe it to be. We cannot storm the gates by personal will or sacrifice or even through good works. Grace is the only word to describe the arising of Presence.
Our ideas affect how we experience life. That is why we want to be very clear about what is actually going on in Andrew's community. What is really happening to people there? "We want to know what is true, more than anything else."
I appreciate this blog and the format it has created for all the posters to speak their truth and maybe we can learn from each other and even from seeing our own words appearing here. When I re-read my post to you earlier I was amazed at how it came across. I think there is a lot of emotion that we feel about what has been reported here as far as the abuses go, and that is what illicits a hostile tone. I really appreciate you speaking from both sides of the issue and being honest about your love for Andrew and your belief that what you suffered was necessary and made you a better human being. I have to say however, that I thought you were a wonderful human being when I met you and that was before many more years of suffering you endured. I don't think you should have been treated with any disrespect and I was angry at the fact that you had gone through so much and in my heart I honestly believe you were abused.
We have a wonderful opportunity to explore the issue and to share together here and I am grateful to be able to have contact with you again. We have often thought of you over the years, always with love and fond remembrances.
Keep jumping out that airplane without a parachute! Your experience can illuminate the issues for us all.

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

While I appreciate very much your points and your sentiment, I don't think that the posters who are making some hard-hitting points are being aggressive. After all, we're talking with someone who feels that PHYSICAL assaults in the name of truth are OK. I think they ought to be able to handle some no holds barred verbal expressions of truth. Sometimes a spade just has to be called a spade, and rationalization has to just be called rationalization. Telling truth isn't always pretty, but that doesn't mean it's "aggressive."

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

I hear you, but feel that a spade can be called a spade without insulting the one who's view we are questioning. The facts speak for themselves. My point was really a reflection on the realization of my own aggressive tone in an earlier post. I wasn't feeling any aggression towards Roberta when I wrote it, in fact just the opposite, but could see that it came across as an afront to her. I want to speak directly to the heart of the person I am addressing and in that connection convey the facts more clearly.
Gee, if we folks could learn how to communicate clearly and directly we would really be getting somewhere. Its tricky! If we were discussing science or mathmatics there wouldn't be any problem but this territory is sacred ground and for some this has been a battleground. There has been terrible suffering and there are open wounds. I want to tread gently and let the facts stand on their own merrit. Truth be told, I wish that I could gather up all those who have been through so much and hold them to my heart in a healing embrace.

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The interesting thing here is that when people use normal talk everything is understandable. But when they fall into Andrewspeak and guruspeak, everything sounds Orwellian.

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog is about the experiences and abuses of former students by Andrew Cohen and community. So far all revelations have been validated and agreed upon by all students pro and con Cohen. We agreed to continue in our search of the truth.

Along comes Roberta with her long, boring ramblings to lecture us on ego. It is a manipulative attempt to stall our pursuits of the truth and a distraction.

Let us return to the purpose of this blog. Anyone interested in the mind set of Andrew Cohen and desirous of a lecture on the ego can contact Roberta via email.

Let us move forward and present further revelations of the devastation inflicted upon the former students.

Seeker of truth

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Roberta said...

Dear Friends,

First of all, I finally got off my butt and entered this forum because I felt it had become horribly unbalanced. Not only had the baby gotten long ago thrown out with the bathwater, but the “baby” has been pretty much utterly forgotten except for a few bright moments. So this has left pretty much nothing but a lot of extremely dirty bathwater. Mainly people wanting to continually and endlessly and eternally “bash” Andrew even more and worse than they felt they were “bashed” by him. I’m really sorry that some people felt my attempts to give an overview from my own experience were “long, boring, rambling, lectures”! –I actually just wanted to try to give a bigger picture that seemed mostly forgotten. And without this there is nothing that is really that interesting.
The fact is that despite everyone’s various and sundry “wounds”, “pains”, “hurts”, etc. I know with no doubt that all of you who are still wanting to go on with this were changed very deeply through your meeting with Andrew, and there’s something wrong and weird about not allowing this to be a bit part of the picture as well and instead just going on…and on….and on…and on….and on…about the same old stuff. Frankly I find that all of this is pretty “long,rambling, and boring”!

I actually DO feel that some of Andrew’s “methods” are too extreme and fundamentally helpful—I often felt that they only tended to make my already resistant ego even more resistant. But I didn’t and don’t want to go into this on this forum because I feel that there has already been more than enough said about it, and have already spoken quite a bit about it with numerous friends. Also I hope that I will never lose sight of all I was given and learned because of knowing Andrew—there is just something very fundamentally and cosmically wrong in this.

All of us are in truth strong, resilient, vibrant, smart, and actually very loving people at this point. There is a big and wide world with a jillion ways to give and participate and share everything you know, which is a hell of a lot. We need to turn all of our massive energy in a direction that is fruitful and positive instead of endlessly beating what is by now a thoroughly dead (and even rotting!) corpse.


Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Roberta,
It doesn't sound like you care about the current and future students that will be abused by Andrew. This blog is to help them. And help you if you're willing to listen.

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’d be interested to hear how Roberta’s leaving the community was viewed from within it. She is clearly a wise, mature individual who, although somewhat brainwashed (which of us isn’t in some ways) has benefited from Andrew’s training. She left to pursue her interest in seeing where that training fitted in with the worldview – a fair enough reason. From the community point of view I bet she was probably vilified as a hopeless case.

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The baby was not thrown out, even if you missed her. Look around you, she’s there. And the water – I find it very clean and refreshing. I don’t see any dirty water, only a lot of clearing out of lies, hidden facts, group think, etc. Yum, this water is delicious!

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon commented "I’d be interested to hear how Roberta’s leaving the community was viewed from within it . . . from the community point of view I bet she was probably vilified as a hopeless case."

This might be a dumb naive question, but why would someone who felt so positive about Andrew Cohen and his community, and who made such an embracing statement as "all of us are in truth strong, resilient, vibrant, smart, and actually very loving people at this point", be vilified by the community?

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In answer to the above poster's question. Cult members and their leaders never want other members to leave. They may take other friends with them. It's bad publicity for the cult when people who have left tell their 'story' to people on the outside. They want everyone to stay and continue the enslavement. When someone leaves there is dissonance in those who stay. They begin to ask themselves questions about the authenticity of the group and the group leader. When someone leaves others see it and it opens their eyes to the abuse/enslavement. They may have moments of lucidity and leave the cult too. And the process can continue, with one person after the other leaving. The leader loses his constituency. To prevent this the leader ridicules the person who wants to leave hoping that he can manipulate them into staying; thereby keeping his grip on them and the rest of the group who are watching. It's a sad state of affair.

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’d like to add to the last anon poster’s comments on leaving a spiritual community.

There can be such enormous value in joining a spiritual community – living, seeking & questioning together with supportive, like-minded people under the guidance of one’s chosen teacher, protected from and relatively undistracted by the world at large. In the inevitable times of doubt, darkness and bewilderment, there is fantastic, loving support to stay true to one’s deepest yearning for liberation. Many of us on this blog experienced this support within Andrew’s community.

But there is indeed a razor’s edge between positive, constructive support and falling off that edge into trying to prevent people from leaving against their will – one of the great negative aspects of any cult (not that a cult in & of itself is necessarily negative). I have lived in two such communities, one of them being Andrew’s, and through close friends I have heard of the goings on in many others, across all kinds of ‘denominations’. I regret I have not heard of a single example where the positive balance has been totally maintained – a sad state of affairs indeed.

I think this is for a number of reasons, different in each case, ranging from a genuine, heartfelt wish to keep one’s friends on board, all the way to not wanting to admit that maybe to leave is the sensible thing to do – that would mean having to admit there might be something less than savoury about the actions of one’s beloved teacher, for whom one has expressed never ending love and devotion, or about one’s own true commitment – very difficult indeed. And those who stay often do vilify their recently departed former brothers and sisters to help bolster their own commitment to stay. This reflects the human need of wanting to be right and is not at all isolated to Andrew’s community. I hope they grow beyond this – there have a been a number of posts from recently-departed former community members saying how they were treated with love & respect when they left, by Andrew and fellow students alike. Perhaps this has something to do with the way in which they left, perhaps something to do with the way in which the community is evolving for the better.

Jeremy Lyell.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jeremy, I’m confused. In your comment immediately above you speak about sometimes people will try to prevent a friend from leaving a group against their will … “I think this is for a number of reasons, different in each case, ranging from a genuine, heartfelt wish to keep one’s friends on board, all the way to not wanting to admit that maybe to leave is the sensible thing to do – that would mean having to admit there might be something less than savoury about the actions of one’s beloved teacher, for whom one has expressed never ending love and devotion, or about one’s own true commitment – very difficult indeed. ..those who stay often do vilify their recently departed former brothers and sisters to help bolster their own commitment to stay.”

However, in your post earlier (below Brook’s letter) you say that “victimhood can be a tragically attractive place in which to dwell” implying that those who leave and express criticism of the practices they experienced in the group are not taking responsibility. You call anonymous posters “cowardly.” You characterize the discussion on this blog as a “feeding frenzy.” You label critics of Andrew’s as “stuck in the past.”

Further you say ‘Dave has really hit the spot where he writes “Tell your readers how you could not bear to realise that you don’t want to be free more than anything else…… and that you are quite angry about that revelation and the loss of your spiritual identity”’.

So which is it Jeremy, do we who have spent many many more years than you under the control of Andrew Cohen, and lived and traveled in his inner circle, and since left have a legitimate basis for our criticisms, or are we only being the victim? Are those who leave always unwilling to bear the awful truth that they don’t want to be free more than anythying else, or is there really villification of people who leave the group (cult in your words)?

And Jeremy, one could as easily say that posting with one’s name is grandstanding as one could say that posting anonymously is cowardly. But seeing the truth is the more important issue here, and so far no poster on any side of the issue has disputed the basic facts as brought out by many (mostly named) witnesses. To me “living in the past” meant blind, unquestioning loyalty to an authority figure (Andrew) and the reason this discussion is so refreshing is that it has left the prison of the past to allow us to discuss these issues NOW. What could be better?

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I would like to submit a recent exchange with Jeff on the previous post "Emporor's New Clothes" as I think it is relevant to the topic here.

At Friday, 15 April, 2005, 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!

At Saturday, 16 April, 2005, 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.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've noticed that when Andrew adherents post here (Jeff Feldman and Roberta) their posts are lengthy and are very similar. They all sound like Andrew. Their words are lifeless. They repeat the same rhetoric word for word. I think that's the problem. They believe Andrew's concepts of 'ego' and 'breaking the backbone of the ego' and all the rest of Andrew's contrived philosophy. I've come to realize this is nonsense. The ego's backbone doesn't get broken. It's cultspeak. Standing outside it's just one ego beating on another ego. What we wind up with is a situation of dominance. The beaten ego agrees to bend a knee and look different. But the ego's still there; in both Andrew and the student.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous poster who ends with: But the ego's still there in both Andrew and the student. I support your insight and wisdom re ego. You used such clarity and were able to express in few words. Thank you

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the above poster, thank you.
I think that the two positions represented on this blog are irreconcilable. Each is inconceivable to the other. But we can agree to disagree, and be friends.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

At Sunday, 13 March, 2005, 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, 17 April, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

I think the following is quite negative and cynical and doesn't leave us much hope for a real change in the human race. Too bad.

Anonymous said...
I've noticed that when Andrew adherents post here (Jeff Feldman and Roberta) their posts are lengthy and are very similar. They all sound like Andrew. Their words are lifeless. They repeat the same rhetoric word for word. I think that's the problem. They believe Andrew's concepts of 'ego' and 'breaking the backbone of the ego' and all the rest of Andrew's contrived philosophy. I've come to realize this is nonsense. The ego's backbone doesn't get broken. It's cultspeak. Standing outside it's just one ego beating on another ego. What we wind up with is a situation of dominance. The beaten ego agrees to bend a knee and look different. But the ego's still there; in both Andrew and the student

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Jeff Feldman and Cohen fans:

Jeff did you read anonymous's poster's reply to my support and agreement of his previous post? His new post ends with : But we can agree and disagree and be friends.

The supporters of Andrew appear to have no interest in our say and desire to put us down. I must stress again that this blog is about the experiences of former students with the revelations of severe abuses that is fully agreed upon by all. We offer help and support to them.

It is great that you Cohen fans are so loyal to him and may you all continue to do so, but we who disagree with your opinions have rights as well and we express our views as we understand and see them as truth.

I am a loyal supporter of this blog and am aware that since the Cohen fan influx upon us, many of you respond to us with hostility. Words of agression and condescending, power and control games were not part of this blog and introduced by you. There was dignity, honor and respect among all of us posters, if we agreed or disagreed. Now there are attacks one after another from the Cohen supporters. Let us stop being so unkind to one another.

All you loyal followers of Andrew why, tell me why, did you ever leave him and the community. Would you all have stayed, you all would have the feedback you so long for.

In ending, let us be civil to one another as human beings and give respect back to this blog.

Love to all and especially the long term posters.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Freefird. I'm the poster who Jeff thinks is '...negative and cynical with no hope for change in the human race.' Jeff, I was an active member of the community for 3 years. I know you well. You're a sweet man. Because I don't support Andrew anymore doesn't mean I'm negative. On the contrary I consider it positive because it's more sane. It doesn't support mis-thinking, cruelty and abuse. I have great hope for the human race, but not through Andrew.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Blogger Daeneon said...

Freebird, I was just wondering if you were with Andrew and if so, how long?

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Roberta said...

Through a Mirror Darkly—continuing to try to see clearly!

Dear Friends,

Trying to get clear about my time as a member of Andrew’s community has been and continues to be a challenging and extremely emotional process. In talking with an old friend from the community recently it occurred to me that it’s actually quite a bit like the grief process I went through when my mother died a number of years ago. I kept thinking it was “over” and that I had reached some kind of “resolution”, and then, lo and behold, yet another “wave” would hit me often when I least expected it. I want to say that I really appreciate this blog a lot, as it has provided a great forum for me and many of us to sift and resift through these incredibly intense years many of us shared together. Finally getting the courage to participage and throw in my two cents has been far more helpful than I’d expected. In beginning to shake up and examine and re-examine so much that I hadn’t seen clearly and probably still am not. I actually think that this, like the grief process, may well go on for a long time! Many experiences and incidents from this time with Andrew are continuing to burble up to the surface which I’d forgotten about or filed away “safely” because I really didn’t know what to make of them at the time.

For me the really hard part about all of this is to hold and acknowledge it ALL, in all of its craziness, ecstatic revelations, agonizing humiliation, intense joy, incredible fear, unbelievable ongoing pressure, etc. The mind continually insists on something very white or very black, and to try somehow to stay in that really uncomfortable middle place of discomfort and confusion where nothing is denied or left out and the whole actually wildly confusing thing is attempted to be seen all at once—well, I continue to find that this is really difficult!

I think that as Brook pointed out in her post, part of why it’s so challenging to see this all clearly is that undeniably so many of us had enormously powerful and ecstatic realizations of Self when we met Andrew that literally blew our minds. His charisma, confidence, brilliant grasp of the dharma, and willingness to be “on the edge” enchanted us all. Also, the fact that he was an “independent teacher” actually living and teaching from nothing but his OWN understanding instead of some “stodgy tradition” –the incredible aliveness and freshness of all of this really appealed to so many of us “dharma renegades”. Our teacher was a handsome New York Jew who wore Italian clothes and knew everything about jazz. He was hip! He had a great sense of humor, was an incredible mimic, had great timing, and everything he did and said seemed to delight us. He seemed to have an amazing gift for cutting through obscuration and making the dharma simple and accessible and clear. Everyone and everything seemed to “glow” when we were with him. The fact that everything really did seem terrifically new and “unknown” was incredibly exciting. We were explorers out there on the edge, investigating new and uncharted lands with our brave and beautiful teacher at the helm. We were definitely a special and chosen lot!

As things slowly began to change and become not only not very ecstatic, but actually quite scary, many of us including myself felt that finally we were really entering the “true spiritual life”. Although it became often painful and really uncomfortable more and more of the time, everything we’d read and studied from the traditions told us that this was The Way. Slowly and progressively things got harder and weirder. NOW we were definitely “doing it”! Throughout this time lots of new innovations came into play, many of which were in fact skillful and very useful for all of us. We had freqent “discussion groups” where we would go into and explicate subtle points of the teachings with each other, and all of us learned a great deal about how to actually listen to others, articulate our thoughts and ideas much more clearly, and try follow each other’s train of thought with some intelligence. I’ve already written a lot (some would say ad nauseum!) about how all of these years with Andrew really did have a powerfully transformative effect on me and on many of my friends. But now slowly, because I continue to stare into all of this and reflect and re-reflect from as many angles as I can find, I have to say that I am starting to fall off my high horse and to see that there was indeed a great deal that was just plain old weird, cruel, and abusive, and way over the top. It’s helped me to think about what “went wrong” in terms of looking at the fact that Andrew didn’t really have a real model of “how to teach”. He hadn’t really worked closely with a deeply realized teacher who was steeped in a time-tested tradition where many of the kinks had a chance to get ironed out through centuries of learning from lots of mistakes. He was actually making it all up as he went along, and while we first thought that this was great because he was only teaching purely from his own understanding (which was undeniably profound)--and this was indeed probably why the teachings had a truly "alive" quality, his main and really only strategy became to simply continue to “up the ante”, no matter what. The force and domination and control indeed became quite nazi like. No situation was tailored for individual students at particular times (although I still believe that “intensity” at the proper time and with a great deal of sensitivity and finesse can actually be helpful on occasion). Every month and every year the intensity and “abuses” (already fully documented here on this blog) appeared to escalate to a degree that was beyond extreme. I never really participated myself in being aggressive with others (I was in fact considered rather weak and “wimpy” in that I was always pretty bad at giving “strong feedback” –this seemed to be a sign that I really didn’t care about the freedom of others!) Truly weird as it was, I think that Andrew thought and probably still thinks that this extreme force was necessary for the “liberation” of his students. I really don’t think he knows any other way to teach, and will probably justify his “methods” to the end. A big part of the underlying setup, as many have described, was that once you accepted Andrew as your teacher that was it. He knew best (as he often said, “why would you come to a teacher if you already know better?”) and because of his rather incredible confidence, managed to set himself up as the unquestioned Authority on Everything! Because of this I think there must be some kind of underlying fear that the whole thing would fall apart if Andrew ever admitted to having made a mistake. This in itself is symptomatic perhaps of how and why it all got so crazy.

So I am finding it really helpful to just keep looking at all of this, trying to keep seeing the holes and blockages in my own understanding, my areas of denial, where I may be still protecting anything for whatever reasons, etc. As I’ve said before I am not bitter about all of the quite long time I spent in this situation, crazy as a lot of it was. For whatever reasons, mostly because I really wanted so much to believe in Andrew’s “vision”, I chose to stay and tough it out through a great deal of wild and crazy and quite painful stuff. I definitely learned a lot and changed deeply in ways I needed to. It was an unbelievably wild ride, and I must say that I both don’t regret it and I am also really glad I’m no longer in that situation! I know that there is still probably a great deal more for me to see about all of this, really appreciate the posts from everyone, and want to thank Hal for providing this much-needed forum.

With love and thanks to all,

P.S. Something I’m finding kind of interesting to think about is that early on with Andrew he had all us us ex-Da Free John students (there were six or seven of us) get together to get “de-programmed” and see and face clearly what a mad teacher he actually was. We all sat together for a number of hours going over and over our experiences. I remember actually feeling a bit “seasick” from just being forced to see and tell the truth. It’s just rather ironic and weird that now I am going through this again with Andrew! Wow.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the anonymous who responded to my recent posts.

A very predictable response, following a now recognisable pattern : start with a self-serving interpretation of what was written whilst putting down the original poster – in this case me – by asserting that you and your colleagues were in the community longer and “travelled in his inner circle”.

I would like to ask you directly what it is that you are trying to hide by not revealing your identity ? Whilst it is usual to use an effectively anonymous nickname on internet forums, this forum is mainly populated by former students of Andrew, some of whom know each other very well indeed.

Perhaps you really were in the inner circle, but that rather suggests that you were an accomplice in these alleged abuses, in which case will you apologise to us all for the role you played (although an anonymous apology is no apology at all) ?

Or perhaps you weren’t and, bearing in mind how much we all knew about each other personally in that very intimate environment, perhaps you failed to make the grade in a very well-known and obvious way ?

Or maybe, like Hal (assuming that you are not always Hal), you left before me all those years ago, which imho makes your campaign so many years after your personal ‘event’ a rather unfortunate reflection of your inability to face your own anger ?

I get the impression that there is in fact a very small core group of anonymous posters from whom the most virulent posts are coming. These bloggers appear to be unable to come to terms with the anger they experienced after they left the community, in some cases over 10 years ago. Nothing wrong with anger in and of itself, but when it’s being expressed as a masquerade for serving the spiritual world at large….. I just don’t buy it.

And Freebird, whilst I very much appreciate your call to civility, I do not agree with the oft repeated comment “…severe abuses that is fully agreed upon”. I am not an expert on abuse; nevertheless I have a Masters in NLP and spent several years working part-time as a voluntary counsellor with often severely abused and suicidal individuals. The so-called abuses revealed on this blog of typically well-educated seekers who chose of their own free will to submit to a spiritual master because they wanted something for themselves, just pales into insignificance compared to the appalling suffering of the truly underprivileged individuals with whom I worked. I think many bloggers, living in some of the most privileged areas of this often miserable planet, have simply lost their perspective. I mean you no ill will, ‘bird, just responding with what I see to be true.

Has Andrew often appeared to behave outrageously ? In my view, yes. Has he made many mistakes during the ongoing evolution of the community ? Same answer, but how could mistakes not be made ? Again, I’m not trying to justify Andrew’s behaviour, merely trying to give a different and in my opinion more realistic perspective on this whole issue.

I will be travelling for much of the coming week, so will be unable to respond further for the time being.

Good luck to all !

Jeremy Lyell.

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Roberta,
WOW!!! What an incredible read. Bravo! Amazing writing skills. Such aliveness! I'm a former poster who told you that your posts were lifeless Andrewspeak. This last post of yours was so vibrant that my whole body felt electrified. You're a wonderful person Roberta! Thank you for sharing your inner process here with all of us. Bless you!!! XXXX

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm shocked at your post. You are an abuse counsellor. I find your lack of compassion apalling. You have no right to downgrade a person's suffering by comparing it to another's, thereby dismissing them.

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Jeremy Lyell, my response to you

I am also a counsellor and a healing practitioner specializing in the terminally ill, abuse victims, marriage and I do exit counselling for cult members.

To excuse abuse under the guise of a spiritual life and the guru can do anything trick is denial. It's like saying; she is a little bit pregnant. Abuse is abuse. Within the community to have participated and tolerated severe abuses is sado-masochism. Thank God many students have awoken to this truth. I question your skills as a fellow counsellor to see this.

In defense of my friend whom I have spoken up for, shame on you Jeremy. People post anonymously for different reasons. They may have had painful traumatic experiences with Andrew and/or students. They will reveal themselves should they have the desire to do so. Let us honor them instead, for we do not know what is going on in their minds and hearts, no judging please.

Thank you for your compliment in my encouragement to all posters to be civil to one another should we agree or disagree with one another.

My nickname Freebird is a reality. I am free, totally free and, therefore, I recognize abuse of any kind no matter how subtle it appears.

Blessings to you Jeremy and best wishes.

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Blogger Jeff Feldman said...

In response to 'anonymous', my intention wasn't to put you down, or to imply that because you are not supporting Andrew, you are negative/cynical. My response was more a sense I had that you don't believe that it's possible to uproot, transcend, bypass (however one wants to put it) ego. perhaps I was reading too much between the lines, but that's how it came across to me, and if that is so, I find that idea tragic, because it means (to me) that we are bound to remain separate (and, therefore, superior to each other), which is problematic.

I enjoyed my exchange with 'One', and because he transferred my final response to him to this part of the site, I decided to transfer my first posting, so that others could read what I wrote that evoked his questions of me and the response that he transferred (the rest of our exchange is under 'Emperor's New Clothes'. It is clear that we disagree; I feel that it was a respectful and open exchange. My sense, in general, is that many of us are going to simply have to agree to disagree, as has been pointed out. I don't think we necessarily have to be 'friends', but the challenge is, knowing that many of us disagree (strongly), how do we come together, as human beings. That, I think, is the challenge facing us, as members of this beleagured planet.

One contributor said that the purpose of this site was to allow those who had been with Andrew to share and gain support. If I had thought the purpose of the site was solely this, I would not have contributed. I have also read requests for those with positive voices about Andrew to come forward. I simply came to the point where I had to contribute my experience, because I think it is important that everyone have as broad a picture as possible in order to come to wise conclusions.

With best wishes,

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the challenge IS to agree to disagree BUT parting as friends is very important. Because that means that love is there, despite our spiritual differences.

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Bill said...

To "Freebird - I do exit counselling for cult members":

Your anonymous posts are skewing the opinion polls of this blog. Cult counselling is itself a cult for profit.

Anyone else posting under this mindset should identify their agenda and start using a real name instead of poisoning the dialogue.

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To previous anonymous poster who mentions parting with love. Your post has touched me deeply. It shines like a beacon of Light. Thank you

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freedbird - the exit counsellor,

I sincerely invite you to tell us who have for so long sought true freedom how you have found it.

Being a serious seeker I am somehow sceptical of your claims to be free, especially since you are likely to charge handsomely for your services by the hour.

Monday, 18 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the above poster. Such accusations are unnecessary and detract from this blog.

Tuesday, 19 April, 2005  
Anonymous Clare said...

To the last Anonymous,

Your might also add then that Freebird's attempts to shame Jeremy Lyell would be considered unethical and destructive in the counselling profession.

Also unhelpful and aggressive was Freebird's condescension to Roberta.

An earlier poster asked if Freebird was in the community. This Freebird has ignored.


Tuesday, 19 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To previous posters:

Gee, I had no idea how much I was loved. Thank you posters for making my day, but seriously this blog has been great and very educational. I have gained much.

I had intentions of sharing my story of freedom, but decided against doing so for obvious reasons, lack of respect, love and support. Who knows you may have also learned from me as well.

I wish all of you my best and ,of course, Hal and former students for giving all the opportunity to share.

Peace and my prayers for you all.

To Santosh and my new anonymous spiritual friend, you both have brought light and love and I thank you.


Tuesday, 19 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I love most your posts but I sense there is an untold story of your own lurking back there. Maybe it just easier to have your say and let things be what they will be.

Dont worry about the reception you might recieve it just has to be your truth in your words

Craig T

Tuesday, 19 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Shocked Anonymous (the first responder to my prior post above),

In the context of this blog, I see little real compassion in a view – however well-intentioned - that attempts to give support by casting blame on another, thereby greatly reducing the possibility of a bruised and suffering individual taking full responsibility for his or her actions. Until such responsibility is taken, there is little likelihood of release and progress out of darkness.

True compassion is not always so obvious and may appear unsympathetic.

Just my opinion based on my personal experience, both with others (some of whom were indeed experts on the subject of abuse) and within myself.

To Freebird – I have no problem with someone politely expressing a different opinion. Your view on abuse reminds me of lengthy conversations I once had with true experts (you may be an expert, I am not). The essence of the discussion was the difference between the need of a sufferer for immediate sympathy - something we can all relate to – and the appropriate level of ongoing support. It seems experts often disagree on this subject. I am making an assumption, hopefully at least in some cases correctly, that those who were once students of Andrew still want to be free. I describe in the first paragraph of this post why I think this blog will be harmful in this respect – despite the best intentions of Hal and his partner, both of whom I know to be warm and sensitive people.

I think there is a largely unconsious underlying motive based on deep inner frustration and anger - it's so much easier to blame Andrew than to take responsibility and address issues within oneself. But now I am beginning to sound like a stuck record…..

To Hal – this is my last contribution to this blog : thank-you for the opportunity to have posted here. I think the vitriolic flaming of those challenging this blog’s core view is regrettable – combined with anonymity, it destroys the possibility of the open discussion which many profess to want.

I still wonder why former dharma warriors need to hide their identities. Could it be that the proudly self-styled “inner circle” are actually ashamed to put their names to so many vociferous & negative posts (a rhetorical question at this point, at least as far as I am concerned) ?

I’ll leave you with an old Sufi proverb, the profound simplicity of which has perhaps at least a passing relevance to this blog :

“Take what you want from life….. and pay for it.”.

Good luck everybody.


Jeremy Lyell.

Wednesday, 20 April, 2005  
Anonymous One said...

Again we have the situation where rather than addressing the abuse issue, the poster above would rather criticize anonymity, analyze fellow contributors and walk away feeling self righteous. Flinging a final piece of advice as he heads out the door, Jeremy has certainly put us all in our place. No need for him to deal with this troubling subject any further.

Wednesday, 20 April, 2005  
Blogger E said...

What is spiritual authority? I work with this question daily. One answer seems to derive from the works of a spiritual teacher and group.

What have Andrew and his community accomplished? Is the world a better place than when they began? The healthiest communities I have been part of have been embedded in the surrounding community. They feed the hungry, tend to the sick, comfort the poor in spirit - that sort of thing.

Does Andrew do any of this? Are there any sick people in his community? Poor people? Disabled people? Or is his community made up of healthy, wealthy Caucasians?

You don't have to go anywhere to anyone to "get it." You don't have to go to Andrew or to India. It's all right here, right now, right where you are sitting.

Thursday, 12 May, 2005  
Blogger fish said...

Simple and sweet.
That's the way 'it' should be.
Many religions and doctrines, canons, cardinals, ministers, priest and pontifs throughout time immemorial have translated their revelational knowledge via sensory knowledge. To the degree and point of making the revelation take a back seat to the sensorial.
This is the problem with traditional religion and many dogmas and doctrines from east to west.
Using Christianity as an example ( it's a good one).
How many who have the authourity of the lecturn pronounce the symbolic and metaphoric life of Jesus?

Christ is a 'state' of mind (Gods Gift).

Jesus on the cross of calvery represents the crucifixcion of the self between the two thieves ego and alter-ego.

What we truly are is the 'Awareness'prior to the 'thinking mechanism' called consciousness.

Awareness mis-identifies ItSelf with the first 'thing' "Seeing" see's.

This mis-identification is the source of our suffering by the attachments we form to the 'objects' arising in consciousness.

When the small ego generated self and the higher alter-ego are hung on the cross consciousness is (as recognised self), crucified.

The witness of this is Awareness,
unaffected, and that pure Awareness, before thought, is our true 'essence'.

The tomb is the tomb of doubt(the mind) and the boulder rolled away for the ressurection represents fear.

When we get beyond the fear and doubt we are reborn, or born again,
ressurrected so to say.

Jesus said do as I have done.
Love one another as I have loved you. Here was a real 'Spiritually Awakened and Aware', flesh and blood man who taught us to conquer our demons and love one another as the solution to civilizations problems.
He talked the talk and walked the walk. A REAL Fisher of Men. A real MAN.
If we have eyes to see and ears to hear.
Similar problems today require the same medicine.

Blessings All

Wednesday, 01 June, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I'm new to this blog but wanted to make a few observations. The first one is that I find it interesting that those individuals who feel that they've been abused by Andrew Cohen feel amazingly free to heap their own abuse on those individuals who offer a different viewpoint, in particular Roberta and Jeff. Talk about groupthink!

It seems to me that all of you indeed signed up for the kind of relationship Andrew was offering and, rather than being open to different views of others also involved with Andrew, are simply out to destroy him because you feel that you've been hurt.

I have been to retreats with Andrew and I know a number of his senior students. The latter have amazed me, not because they are robots and zombies, but because their depth of humanity far surpasses that of most people I ever meet "in the world." If such human beings are the product of the kind of treatment that is described in this blog, well, then maybe there's something to the approach.

Elsewhere in this forum I have read of the things that Andrew says about people that leave. I can't speak directly to those allegations but I do remember a very poignant interaction with one of his senior students who informed us that we should have the utmost respect for the individuals that came before us because their dedication and sacrifice, even if they were no longer around, were making what was emerging between us now possible.

With respect to everything Andrew is said to get out of his being a teacher, I find that most questionable. I was once with him when he declared that he hated being a guru insofar as having to battle the ego was concerned and that he would prefer simply to teach retreats and be a pathfinder in consciousness. However, he can't do that because of a choiceless obligation to help those who want to go "all the way."

The truth is, the life he lives has cost him everything and gained him very little. In terms of material possessions, he could make a fortune and spare himself all headaches by simply giving people experiences of bliss and ecstasy and then tell them to "be as they are." Gangaji had done quite wel for herself with this approach. Ecstasy without pressure is a great formula for success.

In this vein, I have to wonder where all of the supposed wealth he's taken from his students has gone. He lives in an ordinary house and drives an ordinary car. Someone said, "he gets his magazine." Really? What exactly does he get out of it? I think I've gotten more out of it than he has and I'll bet there are at least a few thousand others out there who feel the same way. From what I understand, for EnlightenNext the magazine is a financial loser though being a winner on every other front.

The fact is, there are two sides to every story. If this is a blog only for former students of Andrew then perhaps it should be kept private. But since you have opened it up to the public it seems that those with differing views should at least be treated with the respect that you all claim to have deserved from Andrew. Otherwise, this forum could be said to be little more than a smear campaign whose sole purpose is vengeance rather than truth. No doubt I will have abuse heaped upon me for posting this, if it even gets posted. Or maybe not. Maybe the former students of Andrew Cohen would be willing to extend the humanity they feel they were deprived of to someone who takes issue, not with their facts, but with their conclusions.

Tuesday, 08 November, 2005  
Blogger 42 said...

what about your own empowerment? if you give all your power to a teacher, you can easily be manipulated. if you find a teacher, who truly walks the talk, then a commitment to the master is the same as a commitment to one's self. the teacher can show you the way and part of the way is becoming more of your self (becoming empowered).

abuse and control are signs of manipulation. ego-bashing only works occasionally, and only for select people. yes, people need to let go of the past, let go of beliefs and how they currently perceive the world, but how they do this is unique to every individual. manipulation and control are no signs of empowering the students to be who they truly are. where these things exist, there is no willingness from the master to bring the students to enlightenment and to a place beyond where the master is. it is also a sign that the master has stopped or paused his or her own enlightenment. once an awareness has been achieved, it is only the beginning. life is becoming, life is evolution. if you pause your own awareness, your enlightened experience will also become paused and stale. it is a trap many fall into. when a master realizes the pit he or she is now in, it may be an enlightened pit, but it is still a pit, the master will then re-present the same information over and over in different ways. eventually, the master gets lost himself or herself in the befuddled confusion that once was a profound awareness. at this point, the master clings to the original awareness, that may be years old by now. control and manipulation are signs of the master's unknowing that there is more, that there is another profound awareness waiting just around the corner for him or her to experience and it is much more powerful than the first experience. this lack of evolution creates an emptiness inside, as the master grasps at air, expecting it to be enlightenment, from within a system that has formed around him or her, all the while belittling the students, keeping them less than his or her own awareness. yes this is very dogmatic and there is no more awareness here than in a religion. the scenery is different, but the awareness of enlightenment has become the same.

Tuesday, 21 February, 2006  

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