Thursday, August 24, 2006

Some Reflections on Abuse and Uncompleted or “Intermediate” Gurus

“The Intermediate Zone, in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, refers to a dangerous and misleading transitional spiritual and pseudo-spiritual region between the ordinary consciousness of the outer being and true spiritual realisation.

...the way that the Intermediate zone works is through a sort of psychological contagion. Thus not just the sadhak or yogi or pop guru themselves, but those around them, also experience this, and it is like a drug, a buzz, a high, a thrill, a rush; it is attractive, it draws them in, and together with the misleading information regarding "breaking down the walls of ego", they are able to justify and rationalise any abuse as "for their own good" and "a sign of the Master's fiery love and compassion"
from Alan Kazlev’s article:
Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral, Part 2: The Wilberian Paradigm: A Fourfold Critique, July 2006
http://www.integralworld.net/index.html?kazlev2.html

Whatever one might think of Alan Kazlev’s ongoing critiques of Ken Wilber, he does have some very thought provoking reflections on abusive gurus and what is termed the “Intermediate Zone” problem. He gives an interesting perspective for trying to understand the roots of the kind of student abuse that Andrew Cohen and other supposedly “enlightened” teachers like him engage in. He argues that teachers like Andrew fall into an “intermediate zone” of partial realization, which is problematic when such teachers believe and act as if their enlightenment is complete. The inevitable result is some form of spiritual abuse of those who ge
t involved with these gurus.

Toward the end of his book,
Enlightenment Blues, after describing how hard it was to get free from Andrew's community, Andre van der Braak states that “...Andrew gave me very real and convincing spiritual experiences...”(pg.224).

Yet if Andrew's capacity to give such "experiences" came not from full enlightenment, but from a mixed-bag state that despite its apparent power and bliss-bestowing qualities actually falls short of complete realization -- the Intermediate Zone hypothesis might offer a freeing perspective to those persons who otherwise feel obligated to stay loyal to these spiritual experiences created by the same person who harmed them. It might help those who, though knowing in their hearts and bodies that something went very, very wrong, still believe that staying loyal to those memories is the price of remaining “spiritual”.

Too often, to heal from an I-Zone guru, the suffering seeker can only get respect for their suffering by submitting to pressure from secular-minded friends and therapists to disown the genuine spiritual experiences that accompanied the abuse, and dismiss these breakthroughs as mere trance or crowd delusion. If the suffering person wants to stay loyal to the spiritual dimension, he or she risks being accused of lingering gullibility or some form of the Stockholm syndrome. These secular-minded advisors mean well; with rare exceptions, they are stuck using frameworks that are too narrow to account for the complexities of intermediate zone spirituality/abuse. This leaves the wounded seeker in a very difficult predicament -- If he or she tries to stay true to the complexity and insists that the abuse was accompanied by genuine spiritual breakthroughs he or she risks being accused of remaining duped by the guru.

If the person seeks to recognize and process the abuse (which is real) and does so by using one of many secular therapeutic frameworks which misses the spiritual dimension, the person will get grounded, but often at the price of having to disown and perhaps devalue the spiritual dimension that would offer the deepest form of healing.

Others may pressure us to only honor the spiritual dimension, implying that feeling abused means we are ungrateful, unworthy and disloyal. This too misses the point, and leaves the wounded seeker with no relief.

What is needed is a perspective that enables the wounded seeker to recognize that the same teacher can be both abusive and revelatory -- and may even have paranormal abilities that are emancipatory for some aspects of our lives, yet have a deeply degrading and enslaving effect on us elsewhere -- and that a real and integral spirituality would have to be large enough to acknowledge all of this simultaneously!

That real sweetness and goodness can at the same time be entangled with ghastly abuse, and that both are real and can come from the same source is a profound spiritual mystery, and one that most therapeutic frameworks cannot yet accommodate.

One take-home lesson is that we need to allow room for the varied and often opposing experiences people have of their guru. One lucky experiencer may be going through a phase of being the guru's favorite. Another who winds up being one of his or her many scapegoats will have quite a different set of experiences. Hopefully we can remain altruistic and ask whether one's fellow aspirants are also thriving. We cannot be said to benefit from a guru if we remain cruelly indifferent to the way that guru is harming others. Such an attitude of just-my-bliss-matters is no different from an addict's focus on the next fix and brutal indifference to how friends and family are being harmed in the quest for that next fix.

In fact, one implication of moving beyond this indifference may be recognizing the importance of speaking out against such harm and abuse of fellow students at the hands of one's teacher. This is, in effect, one of the primary purposes of this blog.
(...Note: We've heard from a former student resident of Andrew's Foxhollow headquarters who recently left, that to her knowlege since this blog has started, Andrew hasn't been employing his usual physically harsh “disciplining” methods on students -- which often includes slapping them or having them slapped by others. This was good news, and suggested that this blog may be having some moderating effect on Andrew's behavior with students.)


Offered below are some of Kazlev’s reflections on abusive gurus in general, which were published in a recent online article he wrote about Ken Wilber. We have excerpted specific sections in which he discusses Cohen (and comparisons to Adi Da), and references to cases of his abusiveness documented in this blog.

The What Enlightenment?! Editors
*******************************************************

The Problem of Abusive Gurus
from Alan Kazlev’s article:
Towards a Larger Definition of the Integral, Part 2: The Wilberian Paradigm: A Fourfold Critique, July 2006

For whatever reason...[Ken Wilber] cannot recognise that the most obvious sign of any integral transformation is precisely that the Teacher is never abusive! In fact, Wilber falls into the common trap of seeing abuse at the hands of a guru as somehow necessary for enlightenment. This idea goes back at least as far Medieval Tibetan Buddhism; Naropa, one of the great sages of the Tibetan tradition, suffered greatly at the hands of his guru, Tilopa...Wilber's friend and colleague, self-styled guru Andrew Cohen seems -- if the the harrowing accounts of their experiences by his ex-disciples is anything to go by -- to show very similar behaviour to that of [contemporary Western Guru] Adi Da, and is every bit as abusive towards his followers.

With this in mind, let's make a brief checklist of warning that indicate a guru, even a nonduality "enlightened" one, that is an abuser. The following is in no way meant as a complete checklist, but just lists a few common flaws. Note that not all abusive gurus will have all of these flaws, but an abusive guru will at the very least have two or three:

• Sexually abusive behaviour

• Demanding or requesting large "donations" (to fund an unnecessarily opulent or wealthy lifestyle)

• Acting or teaching one way in public and another in private (e.g. celibate gurus justifying sex with female disciples as "Tantric Initiation")

• Narcissistic behaviour

• Using insulting words or other abusive behaviour to "break down your ego".

• Physical abuse, usually by telling devotees to assault other devotees

• Taking advantage of the disciples trust; controlling or forcing them to do something they don't want to

• Emotionally sadistic (and in extreme cases physically sadistic)

• Vindictive attitude towards ex-devotees

• Responding to critics with anger, bitterness, hatred, or mockery rather than love

And so on. You get the idea. Note also that not having any of the above, or any of the other common pop guru flaws, does not mean a Guru or Teacher is genuine. It simply means it may be okay to be involved with them. Another indicator – uneasy feeling or small voice that says "this is wrong" may not be reliable, as it requires a well-developed spiritual consciousness on the part of the seeker. And feeling drained after some time in the abusive guru's presence is also unreliable; not everyone is emotionally parasitised.

Sometimes, as in Da Free John / Adi Da's case, gurus justify their behaviour by saying it represents "crazy wisdom" (another Tibetan theme). So-called "crazy wisdom" gurus, in addition to being abusive, may partake of alcohol or drugs, have lots of (willing) sexual partners, and so on. Chogyam Trungpa is a typical example of a Crazy Wisdom guru, but he does not seem to have been as specifically abusive.

But the most common indeed, the standard, excuse abusive gurus use to justify their behaviour is that it is necessary that the disciple be abused and humiliated in order for them to overcome ego and attain enlightenment (although at the same time, no abusive guru ever acknowledges that any of their students have ever attained enlightenment) It is this, more subtle argument, that one finds associated with the Wilberian Integral movement as a whole. According to Andrew Cohen, teachers need to break down one's ego, and this can be a psychologically and emotionally excruciating process. Wilber fully supports this approach. In the Foreword to one of Cohen's books, he says:
"When it comes to spiritual teachers, there are those who are safe, gentle, consoling, soothing, caring; and there are the outlaws, the living terrors, the Rude Boys and Nasty Girls of God realization, the men and women who are in your face, disturbing you, terrifying you, until you radically awaken to who and what you really are....

If you want encouragement, soft smiles, ego stroking, gentle caresses of your self-contracting ways, pats on the back and sweet words of solace, find yourself a Nice Guy or Good Girl, and hold their hand on the sweet path of stress reduction and egoic comfort. But if you want Enlightenment, if you want to wake up, if you want to get fried in the fire of passionate Infinity, then, I promise you: find yourself a Rude Boy or a Nasty Girl, the ones who make you uncomfortable in their presence, who scare you witless, who will turn on you in a second and hold you up for ridicule, who will make you wish you were never born, who will offer you not sweet comfort but abject terror, not saccharin solace but scorching angst, for then, just then, you might very well be on the path to your own Original Face".

from Living Enlightenment by Andrew Cohen

Wilber applauds Cohen as a "rude boy", and offers him (and abusive gurus in general) as the alternative to a ridiculous caricature that does not match the description of any spiritual teacher. He says that the "rude boy" will "hold you up for ridicule" and "will make you wish you were never born". Yes, all out of his boundless love and compassion that you may yourself attain Enlightenment! But let us look at the reality, the mind games and psychological conditioning and abuse; things that Wilber, who has never been a disciple at Cohen's Foxhollow community, has not had to experience.
Here is one example (from Enlighten Nixt blog)
At one point, the women as a group got into serious trouble because some women answered back to some men who told them they were not doing their spiritual practice properly. Andrew heard about this and let it be known that their disagreement was "outrageous." The women went into a panic when they heard this. They decided they must do something extreme to prove their penitence.
The tragic nature of this example is shown by the fact that it is the disciples themselves suggested this, as a means of punishment, in order to win Cohen's favour (other methods included giving him huge sums of money, such as twenty-thousand dollars, or even the entire life savings) I will return to this point a little later. In this particular instance, it was decided that they would do prostrations in the freezing cold water of a lake on the property, standing waist deep in water and submerging themselves completely, again and again, for an entire hour.
Andrew's wife, Alka, was excused from the practice because she had a bad chest cold. But another woman had suffered a concussion and brain injury the year before. Andrew knew this, because she had undergone a lengthy convalescence at Foxhollow. She was not excused. She passed out in the lake's cold waters after about 50 minutes. She was carried out of the lake, unconscious. She came to in a warm shower, with two other women holding her up. Another woman described making it through the hour. She and some others who did so turned blue. They shivered so hard afterwards that they could not stop shaking enough to undo their zippers or buttons so they could take off their clothes. They went in groups into hot showers, where they stood for 45 minutes at a time until they had finally stopped shivering enough to undress. One woman wound up in the hospital some months later with a serious kidney infection, requiring an I.V. drip. She attributes this to her exposure in the lake.

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

The What Enlightenment? and EnlightenNixt blogs are full of cases of unhealthy psychological manipulation like this. On the one hand, one is disgusted by Cohen's willing participation in all this, on the other hand, amazed that these people through lack of self-esteem and ability to claim their own power would put themselves into such a situation in the first place.

Of course it goes on and on. The following poignant message is from a post by an 82-year old war veteran to the ex-Cohenist blog What Enlightenment?, regarding his granddaughter:
My grand daughter spent 5 years with Andrew and she never spoke a word to me during that time....Andrew took a beautiful women and turned her into a fearful depressed person, it's like he sucked the spirit out of her and left only a confused shell...
I appreciate all of your contributions I have read them all it makes me sad to see what's happened to my grand daughter, really sad that a life has been so destroyed by someone she chose to put trust in. I hope one day someone finds a way of stopping him.

...My grand daughter was continuously asked for money, she gave over some $28,000 in the last 2 years.
This story is by no means unique (in fact it was selected here a random because it happened to be the lead story when I was researching What Enlightenment? for the current essay); and is typical of the sort of emotional, physical, and financial abuse, the human wreckage that these people leave in their wake. One wonders why Wilber himself has not investigated these claims; as -- his ranting against any criticism of his work aside -- he seems, from his ambivalence regarding Adi Da, to be a decent sort of person. Moreover, when a case of sexual abuse by a spiritual teacher in his own Integral Institute movement recently came up, he did act, albeit reluctantly, and with the usual "green bashing".

I have dedicated some time to criticising Andrew Cohen, not because he is any worse than other such gurus and cult-leaders (indeed, he may be mild compared to some), but because he is considered by Wilber to be an enlightened being, albeit not as great a realiser as Adi Da. This shows a serious lack of spiritual, but even common sense discrimination among Wilber and those of his followers who also support people like this. It is important to emphasize however that not all Wilberites do go along with this; some at least would seem to be critical of Wilber's association with abusive gurus.

In any case, this sort of situation is almost pandemic among a great many pop gurus and teachers. From his magazine, and the talks on his website, I get a decent enough vibe from Andrew Cohen. I certainly think he does do a lot of good work; it is just a question of this other, more negative side to his nature.

...The problem is that the current Guru institution, as it has been adopted in the West, is deeply flawed, indeed, it is quite medieval. It may be that these traditional cultures like India, Tibet, and the Far East have their own checks and balances, and since these have been removed in the West, what is left is the abusiveness. Or perhaps the same problems also have occurred and do occur in traditional cultures, and great Gurus and Teachers were great not because of this institution, but in spite of it (in the same manner as with religious institutions everywhere). I certainly am not qualified to say which of these alternatives are correct; perhaps it might be a bit of both.

My explanation of how abusiveness works is simple. It has nothing to do with noble motives of helping the disciple work through their ego, progress more swiftly to enlightenment, and all the rest. That is just the rationalization that is at the heart of the pop guru institution, and the reason why this institution is flawed. In other words, the abusive guru is just basically your average emotionally immature and selfish imperfect human being, except that he or she also happens to have some opening to inner and subtle states and powers, up to and including self-realisation. As Wilber himself puts it, these individuals are characterised by "One Taste sufficiency that leaves schmucks as it finds them". Psychologist and participative spirituality advocate John Heron criticises Wilber's conception of spiritual development on that count, but I think what Wilber says is true, although I would strongly disagree with Wilber's assessment that these abusive gurus actually are authentically enlightened (see sect. 2-v). In this instance (and perhaps in all such instances) what Wilber calls "One Taste sufficiency" is simply a lesser experience, not even a spiritual experience. In any case, the argument that "this is good for you, it will help you attain enlightenment" is simply a ploy that the abusive guru uses, a way of manipulating his or her victims, and which he or she can use, precisely because it is part of the whole pop guru mindset. Quite likely the abusive guru genuinely believes his or her own words, because he or she is likewise conditioned by this mindset, just as much as his or her followers are.

But it goes beyond just that. Note the story of Cohen's female disciples who themselves offered to submit themselves to "water torture". What it all comes down to is the sadomasochistic co-dependency between abusive guru and dysfunctional disciple. For every sadist there is a victim, who wants to be tortured and hurt, perhaps out of deep self-loathing, or repressed memories of childhood abuse, in order to earn the love of their abuser (who, being an abuser, will never be satisfied, and will always continue to abuse). I tend to see the current pop guru phenomenon as very much like the battered wife attitude; with their followers so used to be abused, and they know nothing else, that they think it is "their fault" and all this is done for "their benefit". And the more abusive the guru is, the more the disciple rationalises the abuse! A classic case, but only one among probably many thousands of such cases, is what happened to Georg Feurestein and his wife at the hands of Da Free John.

All this is due to the fact that without doubt the largest number of pop Gurus do not have what I would call an integral awakening (more on this a little later). And because the theme that "being abused is necessary if you want to attain enlightenment" is perpetuated by people like Wilber who are seen as reputable authorities in the New Consciousness movement (e.g. Wilber's recommendation above that the seeker should choose "the Rude Boys and Nasty Girls of God realization"), susceptible and vulnerable seekers in the "spiritual supermarket", who only know what they read and hear, fall into this whole sadomasochistic relationship and hence serve as a supply of new victims. But as ex-devotees can now use the Internet to expose abusive gurus, John Heron may well be right when he says that the age of authoritarian guru is coming to an end. (there will always be these sorts of gurus, but i think in future they won't have such an easy time of it)

The Intermediate Zone

How are spiritually realised abusive gurus even possible? Clearly many of the pop gurus have genuine, even profound experiences. Up to and including nondual experiences. How can they be so narcissistic and insensitive to the needs of others, if they have realised non-duality, and that there is no separation between themselves and others?

We need here to distinguish genuine Spirituality, and genuine Gurus and Teachers, from those who, while possessing a greater or lesser degree of non-dual realisation, even total self-realisation on the mental or consciousness level, nevertheless retain ego, and can often have a destructive and abusive effect on their disciples and devotees. To understand how this can be so, we need to look at the Intermediate Zone. The Intermediate Zone, in Sri Aurobindo's philosophy, refers to a dangerous and misleading transitional spiritual and pseudo-spiritual region between the ordinary consciousness of the outer being and true spiritual realisation.

...the way that the Intermediate Zone works is through a sort of psychological contagion. Thus not just the sadhak or yogi or pop guru themselves, but those around them, also experience this, and it is like a drug, a buzz, a high, a thrill, a rush; it is attractive, it draws them in, and together with the misleading information regarding "breaking down the walls of ego", they are able to justify and rationalise any abuse as "for their own good" and "a sign of the Master's fiery love and compassion".

Note also that the Intermediate Zone does not mean that you are not enlightened. If that is was the case it would present much less danger, because the Teachers who are stuck at that level would be more easily seen to be fakes. No, it is quite possible, even very common, for the abusive gurus stuck here to be Enlightened, and indeed not only themselves Enlightened, but through their own realisation to transformation others, or rather those lucky few who for whatever reason, perhaps a certain grossness or resilience of nature, are able to ride out the waves of emotional parasitism and sadistic abuse that is tied in with and inseparable from the love and compassion. For it is all part of the ambiguity of the Intermediate Zone that some people can be totally destroyed by its negative energies, and others transformed.

And here is where the cultic justification comes in: because ...[if] one person [is] benefited, he assumes that everyone will, if only they will stick at the process. But this conveniently ignores the extent of human wreckage these abusive gurus leave in their wake. The contradiction between the two realities -- that of the devotees who are come through stronger, and of the larger number who are crushed – cannot be surmounted by the rational mind; the situation is fluid; there are no dogmatic answers. But is it really a sensible thing to put your life in the hands of someone who adopts a sadomasochistic attitude towards his or her followers? ( a "rude boy" and "nasty girl" as Wilber euphemistically puts it)

The paradox is all the greater when we consider that many of these gurus and teachers genuinely do many good things, alongside the negative things. Thus there seem to be, in addition to the narcissistic and abusive elements, a number of more positive characteristics by which Intermediate zone gurus and teachers, or those that have even a partial development, may be recognised:


• A profound manner of writing or speaking, by which one can sense of the Light and consciousness in the words.

• A feeling of force or shakti in their presence, which is perceptible to and can even bring about an elevation of consciousness in sensitive observers (even if they are otherwise spiritually undeveloped)

• By their own account, they have gone beyond the outer personality and realised a transcendent state of being or reality

... If Intermediate Zone gurus were totally of ...[a negative] nature there would be no problem; they would be seen for the ugly pettiness of their egos, and no-one (except psychologically disturbed people and masochists) would be compelled to follow them. But the whole idea of the Intermediate zone is that it is immensely alluring, immensely attractive and powerful and potent.

It takes a rare seeker not to be impressed or awed by the powerful charismatic spiritual qualities of Intermediate Zone individuals, and for this reason, if they are naive or susceptible, rationalise the abusive elements, as we have seen...

The presence of blogs like "What Enlightenment?" which contain numerous allegations of abusive behaviour by Cohen towards his devotees, indicate that perhaps he does indeed think in that way. This is not to deny that he has had genuine experiences, as has Wilber, as described in his journals in One Taste, but there is absolutely no shortage of such experiences that can be had in the Intermediate Zone.

15 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the Intermediate zone guru phenomenon. Also so good to hear that Cohen's slapping people around is being curbed. Good for everybody including Andrew.

Sunday, 27 August, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alan Kazlev says:
" I tend to see the current pop guru phenomenon as very much like the battered wife attitude; with their followers so used to be abused, and they know nothing else, that they think it is "their fault" and all this is done for "their benefit". And the more abusive the guru is, the more the disciple rationalises the abuse!"

I was in Andrew's community about six years ago and I would agree with this. I think it''s a pretty accurate description of why I and so many others rationalized and covered up for the many cruel and bizarre "messages" we got from him.

Monday, 28 August, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That sweetness and goodness can at the same time be entangled with ghastly abuse….

This comment made me wonder again, what gives rise to this complex, difficult and destructive phenomenon – the partial guru? How so much light and also so much darkness?

I was reading about the war in Iraq on Juancole.com and came across a quote I’d like to share, because it so reminds me of Andrew Cohen. (see the 8/22/06 on juancole.com) Though this was written about Bush, it reveals a lot in our current discussion here on WHAT enlightenment?!!

“Bush’s Arab Dream Palace
Is it Narcissistic?

Juan Cole makes a point of how Bush’s performance has all the marks of someone with the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, and here he quotes the text:

1. An exaggerated sense of self-importance (e.g., exaggerates achievements and talents, expects to be recognized as superior without commensurate achievements).

2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love.

3. Believes he is "special" and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people (or institutions)

4. Requires excessive admiration.

5. Has a sense of entitlement.

6. Selfishly takes advantage of others to achieve his own ends.

7. Lacks empathy.

8. Is often envious of others or believes that others are envious of him

9. Shows arrogant, haughty, patronizing, or contemptuous behaviors or attitudes.”


Having lived at Foxhollow a few years, I can recall at least one episode of Cohen’s behavior to illustrate each of the points above. Yuck.

Monday, 28 August, 2006  
Blogger Stuart said...

> Yet if Andrew's capacity to give
> such "experiences" came not from
> full enlightenment...

I think it'd be useful to maintain a bit of doubt re the idea that Andrew "gave" the experience. This is a very very common bit of fuzzy thinking. Someone gets an experience, it's direct, it's undeniable. Then, everyone around them says that the experience was "given" by Andrew. (God forbid that one might consider that it was an experience of one's own true self, not dependent on something or someone external.)

The point is that there's the experience, and then there's the IDEA about where it came from. People are always muddling these two distinct things. Andrew as the "giver" isn't the experience, it's an idea superimposed on the exprience.

> staying loyal to those memories
> is the price of
> remaining “spiritual”.

And maybe that's the crux of the matter. If someone is attached to thinking of himself as special ("spiritual"), then it's like any other attachment: it's this wanting that makes vunerable to being duped, trapped, loss of freedom.

> If the suffering person wants to
> stay loyal to the spiritual
> dimension, he or she risks being
> accused of lingering gullibility

This is really worth looking at with care, not passed over lightly. People create this duality: a ordinary dimension and a "spiritual" dimension. Why do that? Why not stay loyal to one's own decision to investigate truth, to investigate What am I? To investigating how best to live and help others? Why instead be loyal to mere ideas (of "spirituality")?

Memories of this or that special experience are just that. There's no need to deny memories, but why cling to them? And why go even further by clinging to IDEAS ABOUT the experience, rather than just seeing it just as it is?

Making all this speculation about where an experience comes from, about what "enlightened" is, about whether Andrew has 100% of this fuzzy undefined "enlightenment" or only 50%... it's all unnecessary if one justs takes as the foundation his own experience, moment-to-moment, rather than to ideas about the experience, ideas about Andrew, ideas about "spiritual."

Stuart
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/mypage.htm

Saturday, 02 September, 2006  
Blogger vjohnbaker said...

I might be able to offer some interesting perspectives........There is a really interesting new publication out by Georg Fuerstein called Holy Madness (an almost entirely new update of his original) that I am nearly finished with. In it he covers a lot of contemporary "crazy-wise" teachers, Andrew not included. I would highly recommend it to put a very parodoxical spin on what all of you are discussing.

Personally I have been up to Foxhollow recently, have close friends involved with Andrew, have a foster father whose friend John Austin had issues with Andrew, have been to Andrew's retreats, have other friends that love him, have other friends that hate him.......

I am also close to the Waking Down in Mutuality community whose founder Saniel Bonder left Adi Da and had his own awakening. He speaks to a lot of these issues you are discussing. Through this accociation I fell into my own awakened condition.

There are alot of interesting dynamics at work here. Everything is not always as it seems and it may be wise to allow room for paradox and not always jumping to conclusions.

May you all find yourself with the Secret Intention.

Saturday, 02 September, 2006  
Blogger Stuart said...

anonymous said:
> That sweetness and goodness can
> at the same time be entangled
> with ghastly abuse….

Isn't this a pretty basic lesson that most of use learn in kindergarten? A person can be nice sometimes, and mean at other times. It's really not that new or surprising.

It's actually even simpler than that. I mean, if Andrew were sweet and good sometimes, and abusive other times, we could chalk it up to the fact that everyone is moody, everyone has their good and bad days.

But I don't think that anyone claims that Andrew is particularly sweet and good most of the time. I think what people are claiming is that Andrew sometimes speaks words that they find interesting or stimulating, or says or does things that facilitate big amazing experiences for them.

So it's more like... you go to an art museum and see a Picasso painting, and it transports you into a wonderful state. Or you go to a Springsteen concert and go into absolute bliss. Does this mean that Picasso and Springsteen are necessarily nice people all the time. OF COURSE NOT. They're people with a particular talent that others may connect with. That's all.

> This comment made me wonder
> again, what gives rise to this
> complex, difficult and
> destructive phenomenon – the
> partial guru? How so much light
> and also so much darkness?

What makes it complex or difficult? I mean any more complex or difficult than dealing with ANY human being, as we all have our light days and our dark days? The fact that Andrew claims "guruhood," whatever he may mean by that... why would anyone think that that makes him immune to being an ordinary person, who can be nice in some ways, talented in some ways, but a bastard at times?

Sunday, 03 September, 2006  
Blogger Heather said...

I don't think the point is whether or not Andrew is a nice person. Its more about giving someone control over your life, your spiritual evolution, your finances, your soul. In the name of freedom, folks are surrendering their lives to Andrew and for me the issue is that after all these years of surrender and passionate commitment there are no success stories, rather we have folks coming forward to share their experiences of abuse, pain and suffering in the community. Its not about being nice, its about being true. Its about what is really going on in the name of freedom, evolutionary enlightenment and dedicating one's life for the sake of the whole. There is a dichotomy that needs to be openly examined so that we can know what is true.

Monday, 04 September, 2006  
Anonymous an ex-Andrew student said...

I'm sorry but it has to be said, Stuart -- you're amazement, and perhaps frustration at former students' confusion and difficulty getting clear about both sides of Andrew Cohen (and other such gurus in general) suggests that maybe you've never experienced the real care and love of a spiritual teacher. I feel the "sweetness and goodness" referred to in this essay's intro cannot be reduced to being "nice" sometimes and not at other times (as in your kindergarden example) or to giving students amazing experiences. It's more subtle and complex than that because of the unique dynamics at play in this relationship. And when the DENIED "dark" side of this all-to-human guru becomes mixed with and part of the dynamic, the abuse is much more twisted, much more mind and soul-fucking than your examples would indicate. It's more like abuse from a loved and trusted parent, but about a thousand times more intense because it's messing with a person's deeper spiritual urge.

Tuesday, 05 September, 2006  
Blogger Stuart said...

Heather said...
> In the name of freedom, folks
> are surrendering their lives to
> Andrew and for me the issue is
> that after all these years of
> surrender and passionate
> commitment there are no success
> stories, rather we have folks
> coming forward to share their
> experiences of abuse, pain and
> suffering in the community.

This is evidence that handing your life to someone who claims guruhood might not be such a great idea. Pretty strong, straight-forward evidence.

On the other hand, I can't say there are no success stories. I'd imagine there are plenty people out there who'd claim that surrendering to Andrew has been a good thing.

But buyer beware! With blogs like this sharing the information (of those people who regret their surrender), people thinking of following that path ought to examine their motives carefully.

an ex-Andrew student said...
> I feel the "sweetness and
> goodness" referred to in this
> essay's intro cannot be reduced
> to being "nice" sometimes and
> not at other times (as in your
> kindergarden example) or to
> giving students amazing
> experiences. It's more subtle
> and complex than that because of
> the unique dynamics at play in
> this relationship.

Metaphorically: a teen-ager falls in love, and wants to quit school and marry his sweet-heart. His parents tell him to not be so rash, that everyone has gone through such infatuation. The teen-ager says, "No, no! Our love is UNIQUE! No one in the world has ever been in love like us!"

Of course the kid feels like no one has every felt the way he does, and as long as he insists that his situation is unique, he can't learn anything from anyone else. But in fact, we're all human beings, so we go through similar experiences of love, attachment, betrayal. No matter how wonderful and horrible these experiences seems at the time, they're not unique.

A kid loves his parents, thinks they're supermen. But they're still human, so sometimes they act cruel. A wife loves a husband, thinks he's perfect. But he's human, so sometimes he gets drunk and violent.

Falling in love with a guru isn't an entire unique dynamic. It's on a continuum with the attachment of a kid for his parents, or spouses for each other, etc etc. Recognizing that, it's possible to take life lessons from relationships in general, and actually learn something that applies to other relationships.

But if someone insists that his attachment for a guru is unique, having nothing to do with other relationships, then of course he'll never learn anything helpful from life experience.

Stuart
http://home.comcast.net/~sresnick2/mypage.htm

Tuesday, 05 September, 2006  
Anonymous Charlie said...

Hey, I just wanted to say that I think it's great that you all put up this blog. I'm not sure how old it is or outdated but I was in a group somewhat similar to this, a very small group. I know it can take years and years to bounce back and thank god for the others on the 'outside' who you can talk to about it. It really is crazy to look back 'in' and see the people we knew so well still there-them thinking we have lost something because we left. My little community has completely broken up now, about 10 years ago. The teacher finally realized what was happening and essentially chose to quit teaching. I even just wrote a book about life after the community, what good stuff I took away from it, what I left behind-graciously. Good luck to you all, be right where you are supposed to be and everything will work out fine...already there you say? Great!

Saturday, 16 September, 2006  
Anonymous Tim said...

First let me just thank you for making this forum available.

Secondly, my experience is extremely minor compared to the abuse many have obviously endured but I still feel a sense of violation.

I attended an EnlightenNext presentation yesterday in Chicago and all seemed fine, until I left. I'm new to this spiritual path business but on my 3 hour drive home to Indianapolis, and as I listened to various Buddhist podcasts on the way home, doubts about the seminar started to creep in. The bizarre graphic representations of the ego and authentic self, no credentials or lineage of he or the presenters, and the freaky, pod people, group consciousness thing all started to not add up.

I thought I was just 'living out of my ego', being closed minded or the like until I found your site. My gut reaction is now confirmed, thanks.

With his ultra slick publication, and tie in with Ken Wilber (Mr. Big Head is perhaps a better moniker then Mr. Big Brain) the seminar SEEMED legitimate beforehand.

Unfortunately now I feel like a rube at the county fair. But luckily allthey got was $35 & five hours of my time.

Thank you again. I was actually considering going to Denver for 5 days to hear Ken Wilber blather on. Man, am I relieved.

Sunday, 17 September, 2006  
Anonymous David said...

To Charlie

I would love to read your book - I was also in a small group a number of years ago and am still in the process of realizing what was good/bad/my projection/their exploitation etc.
If the book is online, please post a link or can it be bought from Amazon etc.?

Many thanks

David

Monday, 18 September, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been keeping in touch with this blog for about a year and I am glad it is here. I too have experience with a "spiritual teacher" that left me reeling. I am currently on that continuum of understanding what happened and what I've learned from it. Some days are hard but mostly I feel much better, now that there has been some distance from it.

I've come to understand that spiritual teachers can indeed be highly evolved in some areas; they can be very intuitive and "say the right things," etc. But they can also simultaneously be greatly underevolved in others. Both are true. When the underevolved areas began to "weigh" more than the evolved ones, it was time for me to move on. That took a while and some crappy stuff happened, but I've moved on. One thing I learned is that I can absolutely RELY on my gut instinct. Not my ego, but my heart and my gut. There was something within me all along that just felt "off." Now I see clearly.

I have also come to believe that there is a vast, yet subtle difference between someone who truly has wisdom and someone who is just charismatic.

I believe that if a teacher proves to be greaty underevolved in certain areas, they should not teach. Period. They, like the rest of us, need to be willing to look within and see where there's room to grow. They must always be willing to be students.

I pray that those who were harmed by Andrew find peace and joy. I pray that Mr. Cohen does too.

Thursday, 28 September, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does anyone know why the Critical Mass conference was postponed?
There is no explanation on the web site or on WIE.

http://www.criticalmass2006.org/

Thursday, 28 September, 2006  
Anonymous Seer said...

Vjonbaker sez: "There is a really interesting new publication out by Georg Fuerstein called Holy Madness (an almost entirely new update of his original) that I am nearly finished with. In it he covers a lot of contemporary "crazy-wise" teachers, Andrew not included. I would highly recommend it to put a very parodoxical spin on what all of you are discussing...Everything is not always as it seems and it may be wise to allow room for paradox and not always jumping to conclusions."

I am familiar with the intermediate zone theory for incomplete charismatic gurus, which simply restates the ancient traditions about the pitfalls of premature assumptions of enlightnment just because powers and the desire to teach arises. It was first published by Aurobindo and expanded upon by Paul Brunton, someone who who Fuerstein once admired but failed to understand in this case. Brunton also explains in terms of subtle mechanics how the false guru can produce the effects they do through symbology and projection, something Fuerstein also ignores. The intermediate zone theory makes far more sense than Fuerstein's apologetic revision of his crazy wisdom theory justifying abusive gurus. Instead of recogonizing his own tendencies and obsession with tantra as being the highest path led him to an abusive Adi Da and need reconsideration, to salvage his ego, Fuerstein attempts to show how even if his ex-guru had issues, the teaching and path was correct. Sorry, but there is no paradox justifying Cohen or the others. There is only the paradox of the confused follower projecting unrealistic expectations on an incomplete teacher, and a conflicted intermediate zone teacher, who says many of the right things but is too egoic to carry them out.

Monday, 25 December, 2006  

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