Thursday, December 21, 2006

Andrew Cohen and Donations Under Duress

By Jane O’Neil

[Editors' Note: This is Jane O'Neil's second feature article on the What Enlightenment??! blog. Her first article was "Andrew Cohen and the Corruption of Power."]

The article, "A Revolution in Finance," is a brilliant and articulate analysis of Andrew Cohen's financial wrongdoing, and a call to action that I sincerely hope Andrew and his students will take to heart. In response, I feel compelled to reveal some more of the details surrounding my donations to Andrew and his organization.

But first, regarding "A Revolution in Finance", I was unaware and surprised to hear of the teacher training courses that Jeff Carreira is leading. I knew Jeff well while I lived at Foxhollow; he has a heart of gold and I know that left to his own devices he would have tremendous integrity. That said, and having myself been one of Andrew’s personal assistants for more than a year, I can testify that those close to Andrew employ tactics against fellow students in the name of evolution and ego-death that are potentially very damaging. Tough love? The techniques used under Andrew’s direction would not pass the smell test of your average intelligent person in the street, to whom they would appear as damaging as boot camp under the command of a pathological CO. In a similar way, I am sure that those responsible for the tactics used at Guantanamo Bay considered themselves comrades in a fight against evil, trained to use any and all means necessary to destroy it.

On the subject of Andrew returning donations solicited under duress, I obviously would be profoundly grateful if he would return the $2 million dollars that I gave him toward the purchase of Foxhollow. I have certainly asked, but so far have heard nothing.

Andrew always tried to maintain a cloak of secrecy around his securing of donations from students. Andrew’s desire for secrecy regarding his strategies to secure donations from students is related to the most critical issue surrounding them: whether the student, under immediate duress or otherwise, has the awareness and the objectivity to say no. In my case, there were tremendous secretive machinations behind Andrew’s solicitation of the largest of my donations (the $2 million for Foxhollow). The worst aspect of the situation was the fact that my communication about this decision was severely restricted in terms of the number of people I was in a position to discuss it with.

When I met Andrew in 1993, I had been seeing a psychotherapist four times a week for eight years. Andrew and many others in his community knew this. It’s clear to me in retrospect that in making my $2 Million and other donations to Andrew I was acting out some of the self-destructive issues that I had long been in therapy in to deal with. When I told my therapist about meeting Andrew, she warned me I that was vulnerable to potential brainwashing. In contrast, when I revealed to Andrew the insecurity and anxiety I felt about the prospect of joining his community, he told me how intelligent and bright I was, and how fully capable I was of making a mature decision on my own. Who was I going to listen to—someone who told me I was weak (my therapist), or someone who told me I was strong (Andrew)? At the time, the choice seemed clear, however misguided, and I left my therapist and fell deeply into the vortex of Andrew’s community—the amazing people, the happiness, the feeling of belonging.

Early on in my life as his student, Andrew benefited from my endless and ridiculous need to prove my love for him through gifts, both personal and to his Moksha Foundation. Before the end of my first four months as his student, I had ‘donated’ my house in Mill Valley, California, then worth over $300,000, to his community (after which I felt so sick that I promptly threw up at the Marin County Civic Center). I feared I would not be able to sustain the feelings of happiness I had discovered and remain in my ordinary life. I believed I had to give it all up for his world. During my first two years in his community I showered him with exquisite Tibetan rugs, furniture and clothes (Loro Piani, Armani, any beautiful and expensive Italian clothes that I thought would suit him), none of which he refused or seemed to regard as anything less than his due. I also bought a $4000 display system for trade exhibits of his books and a computer for his Marketing Department. Calculating the receipts over the years, these purchases amounted to well over $150,000 in gifts to Andrew and his Foundation.

While I cannot hold Andrew responsible for this behavior, I do believe it is reasonable to ask whether a truly enlightened person would have failed to question—rather than perpetuate—the illusion that being showered with extraordinarily expensive gifts was about love and devotion rather than (as would have been obvious to any normal, sensitive human being) a symptom of a personal problem that needed to be addressed. The sad truth is that Andrew didn’t care one iota for my wellbeing, my ambivalence, or the general state of my mental health at the time. He cared for one thing and one thing only: to take advantage of an obvious weakness of mine and a clearly twisted situation. Why address these issues if it might ultimately mean gaining less than every possible advantage from the loyalty of a wealthy and gullible student? Thus the stage was set for the reeling in of the big bucks.

After learning from his close student Michelle Hemingway, in whom I had confided, of the imminent potential of a large family trust being dissolved and distributed to me five years earlier than scheduled, Andrew quickly communicated through her that he wanted these assets. Michelle, who at that time I regarded as a trusted friend and colleague, knew me well—my doubts, my aspirations, my plentiful neuroses and weaknesses, including my profound fear of being valued, by friends who knew of my wealth, for my money alone. Michelle was well aware of my fear that Andrew, too, valued me more for my money than for anything else. Acting on his orders, she sat me down in an office at the community’s headquarters and, vacillating between a nervous giggle and a serious tone, told me that Andrew needed this money for the purchase of a property in Massachusetts to establish a worldwide center for his teachings. I remember feeling sick again. She told me that she knew this pricked my deepest fears about Andrew ‘wanting me’ only for my money, but that I must ‘trust his vision,’ because it was for ‘the greatest good.’

By this time I had been a student of Andrew’s for three years and was now a formal student, a status in the community characterized by unconditional commitment and devotion. My life was completely consumed by Andrew and his teaching. His community represented my work, my friendships, my living situation, my inner life and my sense of self-worth. Without the real freedom to deny his request, I was suddenly and profoundly at risk of losing everything that, at that point in my life, I really cared about. Even I knew that Andrew had now gone too far. It was perfectly clear that there was no chance I could stay with him if I were to refuse. I was tormented; I didn’t believe for a second that I could say no and remain his student.

As I wrestled with this dilemma, the only people authorized by Andrew to speak with me about it were Michelle and Mimi Katz, and I was instructed not to discuss it with anyone else. Mimi was a close friend of mine as well as a Moksha Foundation board member co-responsible for its accounting office. After learning from Andrew that he had had Michelle solicit the donation, Mimi had advised Andrew that he had to be willing to accept no for an answer. I talked through the predicament I was in with Mimi many times. This ultimately led to her receiving a severe dressing-down from Michelle, who believed (along with Andrew) that in these conversations Mimi had given me ‘too much rope’ to indulge my doubts about donating the money. They must have feared that I was close to saying no and, not wanting to risk this, now closely choreographed who got involved. I was coached daily by Michelle, a few others, and on a few occasions Andrew himself, about how to proceed with the manipulation of my uncle, via my sister, to convince them of my urgent need for this money. At that point, the trust had not yet been dissolved; I didn’t have the money, nor had I yet consented to donate it. But the pressure was on because a suitable property, Foxhollow, had been found.

I couldn’t sleep. I was a mess. The formal students went on a retreat for a weekend in Marin County and I sat in my bed in the middle of the day, crying hysterically. I ran from meetings, unable to complete a thought or find my way. I was desperate. I didn’t know what to do or how I would survive the loss of this life that I’d found, which had brought me my first experience of real happiness, but suddenly none of my community friends seemed even to care enough to ask me how I was doing or why I was so obviously upset. I felt abandoned by them. I learned only this week—ten years later—that everyone had been told to steer clear of me, to refrain from speaking with me about this mysterious ‘personal problem’ I was having. God forbid that someone might actually reinforce my doubts and insecurities, or strengthen my inclination to say no.

Obviously, I did, in the end, say yes. By the conclusion of the retreat, no longer able to bear the separation and isolation to which I’d been subjected, and feeling so alienated from everyone that I simply wanted to be welcomed back into the arms of the community, I finally consented to the ‘donation’ of my inheritance—which, in case I haven’t made it clear already, had never been my idea in the first place. The condition I made with Andrew, communicated through Michelle and Steve Brett was that it remained anonymous (Andrew, the board of directors and the few responsible for securing the property were the only ones to know). I did not want my peers treating me differently. Andrew personally apologized for having told two editors of his magazine by the time he learned this and promised no one else would know.

After I consented I was welcomed back with an overwhelming sense of acceptance. And now Andrew himself and a few others carefully coached me in my dealings with my uncle. As the Foxhollow purchase documents were to be signed within weeks, the daily pressure to get the funds released was immense. They were pushing so hard for the liquidation of the trust that my uncle and sister became suspicious and there appeared at one point to be a ‘risk’ that he might change his mind. Once the trust’s assets were released to me, under continuing pressure, I was subsequently forced to sell the underlying assets at a considerable loss, incurring a huge tax liability that fell on my shoulders. Once the Foxhollow purchase had been finalized, Andrew then decided that it would be best for me to move to the London community! Why? So as not to raise suspicion among my family members that the timing of the community’s relocation to a new $3 million property in Massachusetts was in any way connected with the release of my inheritance.

Despite an overwhelming sense of approval from Andrew and all the thrill that comes with proximity to him, I felt utterly traumatized. I left the community the day after the purchase was complete, until I was manipulated into returning for what turned out to be another two years of community life. A great deal more transpired subsequently in my life with Andrew, much of it no less outrageous, which I intend to document in some other forum. During this time, Andrew continued his careful orchestration of appearances, doing everything he could to prevent my family from discovering his despicable conduct and taking legal action. Details of these efforts will also be fully documented elsewhere. But more to the point of this discussion is the fact that during the remainder of my time in the community I was to witness countless additional demands for money, no longer from me personally (my well having pretty much dried up, providing only what I needed to pay my Foxhollow room and board, student dues and the like) but from groups of students collectively after each alleged ‘screw-up’ that Andrew accused them of.

Andrew’s words, ‘put your money where your mouth is,’ accurately characterize the venal pattern of manipulation that permeates the culture of his community. Whether to prove one’s love and devotion, or to make up for some individual or collective infraction of the code of guru worship, the injunction is always to ‘pay up’—pay whatever you can, as much and as often as you can—and it has taken me years to see through this. If you are currently in Andrew’s community, then I entreat you to watch out, because it really can take years for the fog to clear.

And in the meantime Andrew has his arsenal waiting. Whether it is a gag order or multiple copies of devotional letters stored in several places as ‘proof’ of consent, Andrew has covered his bases. Further, he will ensure that his legal counsel (one of whom advocated on behalf of Japanese cult criminal Aum Shinrikyo) also have such letters on file to ‘prove’ in the event of litigation that your donations were given rather than extorted. Because of the devotion expressed in my ambivalent parting letter, written before I fled Foxhollow for the last time, Andrew is known to have had it photocopied and secured at several secret locations as insurance against a lawsuit.

On the issue of Andrew's promise of confidentiality, as I and others on this blog have described, Andrew spoke publicly of my contribution two days after I left the community for the second and final time. This betrayal of confidentiality burned. But not nearly as painfully as learning from an ex-formal student who told me he had known about the donation within a year of the Foxhollow purchase when Andrew told a large group of men in the sauna at Foxhollow. It was his understanding that all the men had known. Andrew claims in his "Declaration of Integrity" that he has never lied to his students. Really? I consider this a lie; a violation of a clear, perhaps legal, agreement; and generally something a "mensch" would NEVER do. He lied to me and he had a dozen or more men lie to me for many many months.

When I consider how behavior of this sort appears to the average person, I now have surprisingly little trouble arriving at the conclusion that Andrew is simply clueless as to what this all looks like in the real world, and how staggering, according to any standard other than his own, his compromises of integrity actually are. And I am quite certain that sheer momentum will keep him successfully peddling his teaching to individuals who don’t bother to concern themselves with these issues. A lot of folks can ignore the blatant character flaws of a messenger and listen only to his message, but I for one can not do so.

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71 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane, your courage is inspiring. I feel for all that you have lost, but you have found the pearl without price. Your ability to rise after being crushed spiritually, financially and physically, (we all know that there are physical repurcussions from enduring such horrendous abuse and stress) is a testament to your Inner treasure, which no one can ever steal from you.
Thank you for adding more details to the account of your ordeal so that others may recognize clearly the motivations involved behind the false facade.
Shame on Andrew Cohen for extracting funds immorally from those open and vulnerable hearts that his students so willingly put on the line for him. Do the right thing Andrew....give Jane her money back!

Thursday, 21 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How many of the current generation of Foxhollowites have any idea that their spiritual adventure was underwritten by Andrew Cohen’s heroic gambit against the ‘essence of evil,’ Jane O’Neil, in humble service to ‘the greatest good’? Haven’t they been told that heaven on earth, aka Foxhollow, the global epicenter of multiple historic surges of consciousness, had such auspicious cosmological origins? It’s a lot to face, but there can be little doubt that the moment they are able to fully let in the enormity of Andrew’s struggle with the devil herself to reclaim this patch of prime real estate from the clutches of egoic darkness, they will be instantly enlightened.

Thursday, 21 December, 2006  
Anonymous Martin Gifford said...

Jane, thanks for this instalment. It’s very clearly written. The “fog” is clearing in your case!

You wrote: “I was desperate. I didn’t know what to do or how I would survive the loss of this life that I’d found, which had brought me my first experience of real happiness…”

Perhaps you’re learning the hard way that neither the outer world nor the inner world is a reliable source of happiness. Happiness is your nature. However, Cohen and his disciples are attached to his hope for future happiness sourced from the inner world of meditation and the outer world of action through self-sacrifice. It’s futile idealism based on the failure to understand that changeful worlds cannot deliver enduring happiness. The whole new-age movement is based on getting a few highs now, then talking about the wonders to come.

“When I consider how behaviour of this sort appears to the average person, I now have surprisingly little trouble arriving at the conclusion that Andrew is simply clueless as to what this all looks like in the real world, and how staggering, according to any standard other than his own, his compromises of integrity actually are.”

He keeps saying that you’ve got to make sacrifices for the sake of the whole, but “the whole” should include you! It’s really about making sacrifices for his fantasies of perfection and morality, and for his self-image. Perfection and morality are very respectable ideals for most people so his talk, hype, endorsements, pseudo-macho bluster, and designer clothes help keep his actions undetected.

He will remain clueless until he gets steady solid feedback perhaps in the form of lawsuits or media exposure. At the moment, he’s getting too much positive reinforcement from Wilber and other gurus and from his own disciples. From his days with Papaji, he has structured his world with many close supporters to prop up his illusions and self-image. He’s now immune to criticism or questioning. I’ve raised many good questions with him on his blog and he hasn’t answered any of them. And I’ve raised many good questions of his disciples at the www.zaadz.com “What Is Enlightenment?” pod, but his disciples quit quickly. They’re always in a rush - Cohen keeps them busy. Of course, many good questions have been asked on this blog, and they have all remained unanswered.

As you said, Cohen does lie, which is contrary to his blog statements on the subject. I saw him lie in Bodhgaya in 1995 (or 1996). With a sneer, Cohen told a gay man that he was better off without his boyfriend, then Cohen denied it when confronted. Perhaps he is so clueless that he doesn’t even see his own behaviour - he sees his ideals instead, just like his disciples do. Perhaps he thinks, “I stand for ideals, therefore I’m good.” He keeps implying that he’s the “stainless mirror”, and he even has disciples doing prostrations to his picture.

Thursday, 21 December, 2006  
Anonymous Dave Ginnane said...

Jane, thank you so much for the post. It’s articulate, clear and deeply disturbing. Although I knew of your donation at the time I’m pretty shocked to hear the details of how Andrew coerced it from you.

What you’ve described so well is the whole corrupt donation/gift culture that we were in the midst of. Though I don’t know exact details I am aware of other senior and formal students (as well as Stas on this blog) who were also pressured and manipulated to donate significant sums of money as a sign of their renewed commitment to Andrew after some perceived failure.

I myself left the community in early 2001 after being with Andrew for five years. The emotional intensity of making the decision to leave is something I’ll never forget, but by doing so I claimed my life back. I’m so glad that you are doing the same in a way that is meaningful to you. I’m with you all the way.

Friday, 22 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jane, thank you so much for your post! Very courageous. The facts are deeply disturbing. The details of the corruption are so shocking that one would almost not believe that Andrew did this.
Please Jane, even though you might hesitate, go with this story to the newspapers, to the radio and most of all to the t.v. stations (talkshows) to let the truth come out. It is healing for everyone! that Andrew is not getting away with all of this and that finally justice will be done.

Saturday, 23 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I second the above comment, let the press know about this story!

EXPOSE! EXPOSE! EXPOSE!

TRUTH = FREEDOM

Saturday, 23 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also left Andrew, but not for similar reasons. The thing is that he made it very clear to us that if we wanted to be Free (as he understood and taught it) we had to be willing to give up everything -- and he literally meant everything. I don't think we knew that, when it came right down to it.

How often did we tell him that we were willing to do whatever it took to be Free - to give up everything. Everything meant Everything. We had to be prepared to give up all of our security, all of the ideas that we held about ourselves and life as a whole, our sense of honor - all of it. Why? Because we believed that Andrew was Free and wanted us to be Free to. We said we wanted that, so when there was a 'glitch' (i.e. us wanting to keep whatever it was - an idea, our money, our sense of honor, our wish for justice, whatever it was - why wouldn't he challenge us? We were standing in the way of what he said he was teaching and what we said we wanted.

I remember a guy who had once been with Rajneesh who went to hear Andrew. He asked Andrew about the guru-disciple relationship. Andrew said the guru doesn't owe the disciple anything - the disciple owes the guru everything. The guy bolted. He knew what was being asked. Smart fellow. He didn't pretend that he wanted to go along with that.

I don't see Jane or others being particularly courageous. I think most of us got in way over our heads. We had our minds and hearts spread wide open, then found that Andrew's teaching was about more than that....thinking we wanted what he was teaching, then finding out that we couldn't stand it. How many times did he tell us about how Krishnamurti used to say, if you knew what I was teaching, you wouldn't touch it with a ten foot pole. In fact, many of us ended up resenting Andrew and the Teaching.

There are many ways of looking at this.

Saturday, 23 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A few comments in response to "I don't see Jane or others being particularly courageous." If I was a corrupt guru, I'd love to have a sangha of followers like you. Did you even read Jane's postings? How can you possibly conclude that Andrew's interest in securing Jane's money had anything to do with her freedom? Andrew challenged Jane because her money was in the way of her enlightenment? You've got to be kidding. I'd like to hear one example of a student who was coerced into giving a large sum of money that derived any spiritual benefit from doing so.

Sunday, 24 December, 2006  
Blogger Mimi Katz said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

Sunday, 24 December, 2006  
Anonymous Dragan Matijevic said...

Hello, merry seasons to everyone!

I’ve been following recent postings with interest and thank you all for sharing your experiences and musings.

In response to one of the recent comments - when deciding our life paths, it all very much depends on beliefs.

Andrew Cohen set up a belief system in his community on the premise he was the only one who was allowed to temper with it.

I think basic human weakness is readiness to believe without questioning.

We believed AC was right and that he was infallible (so is the Pope!). He managed to convince us of this. And so we went along with him even when he moved the goal posts, when he introduced new rules and new beliefs that just did not make any sense.

Under scrutiny AC’s system of beliefs falls apart, like any other I guess. Under scrutiny AC’s claims of absolute integrity fall apart too.

Yes, inside his system people have to dance to his tune. Those who find the tune discordant move on, those who love it, stay on.

But, whether staying or going it is still important to question validity of any belief or rule.

All the best to you, Dragan

PS – In connection with some other comments, I find it strange from people who are writing anonymously to be encouraging Jane to go public in order to take Andrew to the cleaners.

Sunday, 24 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a reply to the previous poster (“I don’t see Jane or others being particularly courageous”), I offer some thoughts on the movie Sophie Scholl:The Final Days, about a young woman’s resistance to Nazi Germany that cost her her life.

Read this excerpt from a review of that movie, and make a couple of substitutions, in (parentheses), and see if you don’t agree that it sheds light:

“Just when you thought there was nothing about (the Revolution) that could shock you, along comes this sad but true story. Sophie and her brother Hans are arrested for clandestinely leaving fliers at a university, and within days they are interrogated, tried and executed for this act of treason. I was captivated by Sophie's defense of her actions which are hardly treasonous except in a society that fears any form of dissent. Sophie is resolute and brave, even as the judge blusters and rants that her propaganda aids the enemy and puts (the Revolution) at risk.

At her "trial", the judge screams and raves about the people's desire for Total War which will result in victory over (the ego) & becomes enraged when Sophie and her brother insist the war cannot be won, only prolonged. When they suggest others in the court agree with the war's futility, only the judge cannot see it in their faces.

Sophie's words about staying true to one's conscience in the face of evil resonate in our own American climate of war, in which our elected leaders swear this battle will be won, that forcing democracy at gun-point is not futile, that anyone not with us is against us, and that revealing incidents of torture, humiliation, and abuse at our hands offers comfort to the enemy.

The ideological battle between Sophie and her captor rings so true today here, in a democratic land where free speech is so valued, and she reminds us that in pre-(Andrew), it was valued too, and look how quickly it was taken away. This is not an action movie, but it certainly will stir up your emotions just with the simple power of words. Words for which a 21 year old woman was executed.”

From a review of “Sophie Scholl” on Netflix.com

Sunday, 24 December, 2006  
Anonymous sadhvi said...

"Andrew said the guru doesn't owe the disciple anything;the disciple owes the guru everything.
To me, this is just another example of freely "harvesting" an attitude from the extreme end of the guru-disciple tradition without the context of the entire tradition serving as a "protection".It would be one thing to have Nisargadatta Maharaj say this to you (though I doubt he would have) and quite another to have Cohen or Rajneesh say it! This seems to be a peculiarly Western approach to spiritual practice, maybe to do with our illusion of being "independent" and "tough-minded" (lol)...go for the most advanced, extreme attitudes because 'we can take it' and we don't have the time or patience to work our way through the sometimes boring process that might protect us from people like Cohen..a kind of John Wayne approach to spiritual practice...Witness the many people who, after a weekend "intensive" with Neo-Advaita "gurus" proclaim themselves "enlightened" and begin to offer their own "intensives". Anyone who enters into a "guru-disciple" relationship without reading, for example, "Kula-Arnava-Tantra" or "Shiva Samhita" is in for a rough ride. Contrary to what Cohen proclaims, the guru-disciple relationship is one of mutual "obligation". Cohen's use of the word "owe" should raise some red flags. Maybe the former Rashneeshi "bolted" because he had already gone through the false guru experience once and didn't need another go round.
It's challenging enough having the veils and layers peeled off, "losing all the roles and images that we have formerly hidden behind" etc. without being preyed on by our spiritual teacher and our fellow practitioners.
sadhvi

Sunday, 24 December, 2006  
Blogger Mimi Katz said...

"Yes, it’s true that Andrew always said that he demanded everything. There was however the assumption that the person to whom we were giving everything was trustworthy. When you find out that in fact that’s not true, that he has betrayed confidences, broken promises and yes lied it is among the most shattering experiences of one’s life. Perhaps it's debatable that "slapping people" and all the other events that have been written about are in fact justifiable ways of helping someone to be free and a part of "giving everything" but what is not debatable and to me the crux of the matter is the expectation that one's Guru should be trustworthy. So I disagree - Jane and many others who have told their stories openly on this blog have been courageous – we all know that “facing everything and avoiding nothing” is not an easy matter."

Sunday, 24 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think in many ways that Mimi has pointed to the most important aspect of the issue - that is the issue of the trustworthiness of Andrew Cohen or lack thereof.

To the question of why intelligent people get so deeply involved with cults, there is something called "progressive indoctrination", and it was actually covered in a post on 12/13/2004 on this blog. Basically what progressive indoctrination means is that changes that happen are in small increments, so that one never realizes in the early stages that what is going on could untimately lead to physical violence or donations under duress for example. Thus people are never able to make an informed opinion and decision based on the totality of what is in store for them. We never knew going in that this could lead to being ordered to go to prostitutes for example. We only agree on the step that appears next, and never see where it is all leading.

Through forums like this blog it is possible for us to begin to see and understand how manipulation and abuse are used and yet presented in a very slick and deceptive package.

Sunday, 24 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"We never knew going in" really rings true. One important function of this blog is to disclose to potential students what might be expected of them down the road - something we never knew. The other missing ingredient that prospective students should demand before getting involved is a guarantee that they can step back at any point in the future, should they choose to do so, without undo psychological pressure brought to bear on them.

Monday, 25 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous who wrote: If I was a corrupt guru, I'd love to have a sangha of followers like you.

I don't appreciate the 'insult'. We're all in this together, trying to find our ways through it.

Monday, 25 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It sounds good...that there should be a guarantee that one can step back at any point, should one choose to do so, but it's more complex than that. What you're suggesting would mean that we always have a back door, and in Andrew's teaching we can never be Free as long as we're keeping a back door open as a possibility. In that paradigm, it means that we could never be Free. Your suggestion would prevent it from happening. Hmmm.

I do hear that for several years Andrew has had different levels of membership to try and work with this issue. In the old days, one could dive right in. Now, I hear that he encourages people to go more slowly and find out if it's what they really want...presumably, this would mean one would be very sure before diving in to the 'inner circles', but then again - after that, there are no guarantees. It's complex.

Monday, 25 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

We are never going to see a live James Brown concert again.

Monday, 25 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for putting things in perspective!

Monday, 25 December, 2006  
Anonymous sadhvi said...

Anonymous said, "in Andrew's teaching, we can never be free as long as we're keeping a back door open as a possibility". Again, here is the problem in a nutshell....on the Absolute level, what Cohen says is true...and EVERY guru/teacher (corrupt or sincere) uses the same words and the same examples (i.e.how many times and from how many teachers have you heard the "dig your well in one place" admonition? Everyone from the Dalai Lama to the worst charlatan uses this same cautionary tale of the necessity of staying with one teacher...in most cases, the teacher is the one giving the warning...the implication being, "stay with ME or you are not a serious practitioner" and will never reach "enlightenment"). So, once again, we are faced with the ethics and sincerity of the guru/teacher. The ideas may be "true"; the teachings may be "true"; the necessity of "total surrender" may be "true" but, in the hands of the wrong teacher, one who does not meet his/her own criteria for "enlightenment", they can be the worst sort of weapons, causing a tremendous amount of suffering. It's frequently very difficult to have finely tuned discrimination regarding charismatic teachers during the "honeymoon period" of spiritual practice. This might expain why a "testing period" of 12 years or more has been traditionally required before the student is asked to "close the doors" and surrender EVERYTHING to the teacher. With no checks and balances, the "guru system" is a disaster waiting to happen, in my experience.
sadhvi

Tuesday, 26 December, 2006  
Anonymous Martin Gifford said...

“…if we wanted to be Free… we had to be willing to give up everything -- and he literally meant everything.”

* $2,000,000? (Jane O’Neil.)
* Self-esteem? (Letting a team of Cohen loonies slap you.)
* Your life? (Carolyn Franklin.)
* Your critical thinking ability? (Brainwashing via multiple prostrations to Cohen’s photo.)
* Your spirit? (Jeff Carreira wrote: "...the only thing that will allow anyone to be able to convey the vast mystery and implication of this teaching is the degree to which the teaching itself has usurped their own spirit and guides their own lives.")

If someone playing the role of guru said to you, “I want $2,000,000, I want you to make yourself available for slapping, I want you to risk your life, I want you to perform multiple prostrations daily to my photo, I want you to have my teaching usurp your spirit, and I will lock the doors so that you can’t escape,” you would run a mile.

It’s insane.

It's a pity Papaji didn't make Cohen give up everything e.g. Cohen’s idealism, fantasies, self-image of surpassing Papaji, etc.

“Andrew said the guru doesn't owe the disciple anything - the disciple owes the guru everything.”

That was a turn-off for me too. It's a handy set-up for domination. When the Sydney group started a centre, Cohen said something like, “I’ve proven myself, now you have to prove yourself.” He never proved himself to me. What made him think he had? I asked him about 4 questions and he didn’t answer any of them to my satisfaction. He seems to exaggerate the significance of positive responses - starting a group was about improving the world, yet he seemed to think it was about him. He’s a narcissist.

The guru owes the disciple liberation. Personally, whenever I give someone any kind of help, I don’t want anything in return, except maybe “Thank you.”

"We only agree on the step that appears next, and never see where it is all leading."

Why is there such a drama around liberation? Why do we assume that great sacrifices are necessary? The hero going on the big spiritual quest is a societal exaggeration. After all…

How far are we from ourselves?

How far are we from reality?

Tuesday, 26 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What "convinces "me of Cohen´s
integrity is that Jane O`Neil´s desire for financial security had to be destroyed excactly at that moment when Cohen wanted to buy a property.
I know of a simular story
in Rajneesh´s campus-where
a guy having given an enormous amount of money,
went through all sort of
emotional upheavel- came out
laughing about it all- he was given his money back , but had to promise not to tell anybody- so the trick
could be used again.

Thursday, 28 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, let's not compare Andrew cohen with Rajneesh. I think that is too much of a compliment for Andrew. I do not think he comes near to what Rajneesh has given to the world in his time and age.

Saturday, 30 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From various reports on this blog, it appears that Andrew sees women as especially resistant to ego surrender and prescribes harsher exercises for them.

Yet..without women, where would he be today?

Luna Tarlo, in The Mother of God wrote on page 17:

"He (AC) took a few odd jobs to get by and then his grandmother died and left him a small inheritance, so for a time he could postpone any decision about a career. When he told me he was going to India, I did not interfere.'

((It was in India that Andrew had his fateful encounter with HWL Poonja, who was his first source of legitimacy and set him on the guru track--with no training in that or how to supervise a community.))

Jane O'Neil wrote:

"I obviously would be profoundly grateful if he would return the $2 million dollars that I gave him toward the purchase of Foxhollow."

For it does seem by these reports, that it was from women (his grandmother, his mother, Jane O'Neil) that Andrew received economic support at the crucial points of his career.

IMO, it might help for Andrew to prescribe himself a sadhana: To honor the Anima and feel grateful to the women in his life.

One empire builder seems to have done this and the story may be instructive. This was a fashion guru, not an enlightenment teacher: Christian Dior.

In his memoir Paris in the Fifties, Stanley Karnow has a chapter entitled The Glass of Fashion. It has a lively description of Christian Dior, whom Karno met and interviewed. He gives detailed descriptions of Diors creative process - valuable reading for anyone in the arts.

What Dior told Karnow was that he got his first encouragement when, still a young man, he consulted a woman fortune teller. She told Dior:

'Women will assure your success.'

Later, Dior felt afraid of the economic risks of opening an independent salon in postwar Paris.

Once again he consulted a woman who was a fortune teller and she told him to go do it.

Dior told Karnow that he generated hundreds of drawings for each collection, but then only made a final selection after consulting with several women whose judgement he respected.

Women had indeed given Dior his success--and he always spoke of his female co-workers and his customers with respect and appreciation.

Women had brought Dior his success. He never forgot it never ceased to be grateful. He honored the Feminine and then marketed his clothes using masculine business skills. It was a happy marriage of Anima and Animus, and created an empire built on Right Livelihood.

Dior invited Karnow to his mansion and made a point of telling the journalist to poke around and roam--as an artist Doir knew that his interviewer needed space and freedom to get the creative impulse flowing, and didnt feel any need to micro-manage the interview.

Dior was a fashion guru and even sought to achieve a revolution. He knew how to work with the press, but Karnow found that Dior was essentially private--he cherished a circle of friends but needed solitude when creating new designs for a collection.

Saturday, 30 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting Dior story, if for no other reason it got me thinking. I'm trying HARD to remember a single instance of Andrew expressing gratitude to another human being in the years I was around him. And I mean gratitude, not praise.

Gratitude seemed to flow unceasingly toward him but not much flowed out. This is an amazing reflection on not only Andrew but also me for not noticing it before.

Saturday, 30 December, 2006  
Blogger Bjorn said...

Thank you Jane, and Simeon for sharing your stories. They really open up my eyes towards Andrews methods. I met Andrew in 1991 and joined the community in Marine in 1994 only to leave twice before finally being able to "surrender my life to him" in year 2000. I have never had any money so there never was a question of giving it to him. For me, it had always been a question of surrender, of my life, without conditions. This led me after ten years of learning to finally being able to do it, with fantastic results (see my blog "final freedom"). There had always been a finacial strain living in the community and we were all pushed to "pay up" to keep all things going. This, among other reasons, led me to leave the London community in 2003. It is sad to see this infatuation with finances, especially since one of the things I really enjoyed in the beginning with Andrew was the fact that all the satsangs in Bodhgaya were free of charge.
Alas, surrender is essential, but how easy to corrupt it. Thank you for exposing whats needs exposing.
Look at Jesus for example:
Mark 4:21-23

21 Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be set on a lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. 23 If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.”

and;

16 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?”
17 So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.”
18 He said to Him, “Which ones?”
Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ 19 ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”
22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
With God All Things Are Possible

23 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “Assuredly, I say to you that it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”
26 But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

This is a teacher that stands to scrutiny indeed

much love and
Happy New Year,

Sunday, 31 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Giving praise is quite different from gratitude.

Giving praise often is a way to preserve a power hierarchy. The powerholder doles out praise, the underlings are desperate to recieve praise, because receiving the leader's praise means you remain in good standing and keep your status in the hierarchy.

A leader confirms his or her power & stays on top doling out praise.

But the capacity to feel grateful
is only possible for a person who knows and has accepted that he or she is NOT self-sufficient, but needs care and resources from others--from other persons, from the universe, from social institutions.

To feel gratitude is a combination of humility and spaceous awareness. It means admitting you're not set apart and all powerful, but that you cannot exist, or thrive without others.

Where there is a sense of entitlement, gratitude, the sense of life and relationship as gifts, not givens---when one feels entitled, not grateful, one has lost access to the deepest form of pleasure.

Gratitude means recognizing that you're interconnected with free beings who can choose whether or not to support your projects.

When they do support your projects and have freely chosen to do so, such support has been given to you as a gift.

And the greatest leaders know that - and feel cared for by those who have thus freely chosen to support them.

Its worth asking which parts of the seeker's circuit honor gratitude, kindness and also recognize human vulnerabilty.

It is when we understand we are vulnerable ('woundable') that we can be grateful for the many forms of support, invisible and visible that keep us alive each moment.

I could not type these words had it not been for a physician who figured out the level of oxgen needed to keep premature babies alive without damaging their eyes.

I would not be alive had it not been for a pediatrician who stayed up all night in the neonatal ward (there were no monitoring devices in those days)--and who gave me CPR several times that night, using just one forefinger.

We are all here by a series of gifts.

We cut ourselves of the deepest most lingering pleasure when we think we do not have to feel grateful.

Another dimension to examine in assessing the health of a community is its laughter.

There is laughter that flows easily and deeply from full lungs and a relaxed belly, that is sweet, acknowledges common humanity, binds all together, and excludes no one, and no thing.

There is another kind of laughter that is hard and harsh, where you're compelled to laugh with the leader or in-group. If you dont laugh, you're excluded.

Laughter at the expense of others or that conceals a barb--these are the signs one is in a hurtful family or group.

if we have grown up on hurtful laughter at home, we may see this as normal and acceptable, and fail to recognize that we have ventured into a group whose laughter is cruel.

Sunday, 31 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Given the fact that all of us who were with Andrew for any significant amount of time knew exactly what the stakes were and the context was for the "experiment" we were involved in - and furthermore that many of those posting here were leaders in one form or another during their time in the community - it seems to me that its far too convenient to participate in this endless rant against andrew in the name of "protecting others" and "healing ourselves" when very few are willing to come clean about their own flaws that caused them to fail or bail (whichever of the two it was for them).

Are we essentially saying that we all were willing to give ourselves fully to the "ego death" and furthermore "evolution of conciousness" that Andrew was speaking about constantly, if only "x" or "y" or "z" would have occurred? I don't think so. For myself, I know that fear and desire and self protection of all sorts caused me to pull back and ultimately leave. I wanted something more than I wanted to burn in that fire - like it or not, and against my own depth of understanding and experience - and that in and of itself is why I left.

That is not an easy thing to live with, nor do I think it should be. But, one thing I'm sure of is it would be a lot easier were I able to blame Andrew in one form or another for that. Admittedly, I was never slapped or "forced" to pay anything (in fact the opposite, Andrew gave me money towards a plane ticket to India - yes there was a "catch," but the catch was a note with some kind of encouragement to be strong - whatever it was, it was inspiring), those events generally occurred after I left the community.

About the "worst" that I was exposed to was when Andrew let the men have it as a group - one after the other blasting each of us verbally for our various flaws or weaknesses - or more accurately, for how we were still wallowing and/or acting out of them without self discipline. This is tame compared to some of the other descriptions of things that have occurred, but at the time it was quite dramatic, and from my point of view, right on the money. The fact is, we were being a bunch of wimpy losers at that point. I knew it myself, others I spoke to knew it in themselves too. In the context of what we were trying to do we were behaving pathetically, and Andrew's verbal assault of us was entirely justified (again, at least I'm sure it was for me).

Now, I don't know what kind of secret harboring disagreement individuals may have had with things Andrew said or the way he said it, but at this point it seems clear that many must have since the events that occurred subsequently were only further manifestations (albeit apparently more intense in certain ways) of the same intensity I just described.

When I first read of the extreme outrage people were expressing about things like cartoons being drawn about them, people being slapped, being forced to work in a room with walls painted blood red, and the like - I thought that in the context of our stated commitment to ourselves and to Andrew that this outrage was laughable at best. Listening to endless whining about cartoons was probably my favorite, while the slapping COULD be different - but again considering that I feel I could've used a good slap I guess I just don't see it as all that awful (again, in context).

All of the above being said, I can't say there is NOTHING here that may not speak of legitimate criticism of Andrew. I also don't know for sure that Andrew may not also agree in retrospect with EVERYTHING he did or was done. What I do know is that if most of the postings on this blog (that don't seem to recall or respect that context in any way) really DO have a context behind them that backs up what they are saying, then certainly its not being communicated. Considering how extraordinary most of the individuals writing here ARE at communicating, I must say it leaves everything said here HIGHLY suspect.

Finally, is anyone (if only due to idle curiosity) paying any attention to the content and quality of what is emanating from Andrew's teachings, students and website these days? I know there is a new mission here, but our eyes can't be so dim and hearts so closed as to miss the new developments occurring around the "madman" being portrayed here?

I know this posting will not be well received if its posted, but can anyone adequately explain this or do I have a point? I truly don't mean to sound righteous towards so many that I've considered good friends, since I am quite certain that those posting here are my peers in every way - but that aside, I feel SOMEONE needs to say this.

Dave Reid

PS: One other thing bears mentioning as part of the culture and mindset expressed here. Much is often made about Andrew's students being forced into submission to the guru's word, not being able to express opinion, not being able to question, etc. This gives such a false impression its just amazing. I agree that it may be difficult to speak out when there is a general mindset and agreement about what is right and what is good (and furthermore while our stated aim was to know what was absolutely true beyond opinion), but to say that it was not allowed or suggest that it would have been thwarted or rebuked is is just plain not true.

Sunday, 31 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Reading these accounts makes me shiver. And it makes me grateful -- grateful that I never met Andrew Cohen and now, never will. I and many others were taken advantage of in similar ways by "Sri Sri" Ravi Shankar of Bangalore India. It amazes me to see just how similiar the tactics are with these people! The lambasting of the "inner circle", threatening de facto demotions because of lack of spritual progress. But even SSRS didn't demand thousands of prostrations! LOL That is sick and funny at the same time. I was only present one time when he demanded that each teacher bow to his feet. When I refused, he became red, but contained his verbal anger. He unleashed a kind of cold, sickening condemnation on me at that time. I was subsequently labeled "Judas" by the other teachers (I don't know if he told them to do that or not, when I left the session in disgust.)

It also amazes me how otherwise intelligent, talented, worthy people, allow themselves to be reduced to such levels by people like Andrew Cohen and Ravi Shankar. What starts out as trust and admiration of an "enlightened" one is quickly turned into servitude and self-doubt.

I am truly impressed at the lack of fear with which Jane and others express their hurt and anger openly. I, personally, to this day, really fear reprisals from SSRS and his organization (larger and possibly crueler than Andrew's) and so only speak out anonymously, that too, only recently and only with partial stories, to evade my identity being found out.

I found your blog linked to guruphiliac.org which I find extremely amusing and which I view as a help to all seekers who have been burned in various ways by false gurus.

Thank you all for being here and for being brave enough to confront someone like Andrew Cohen.

Wednesday, 03 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What starts out as trust and admiration of an "enlightened" one is quickly turned into servitude and self-doubt.

I know a few of Andrew's current students, and I do not find this to be the case. I find them to be intelligent, caring, humbly confident people. It sounds like you're projecting your experiences (and those of others) onto a whole situation that you don't have first-hand experience of. Strongly criticizing and condemning people you have never even met. That doesn't seem very fair or very nice. If you did have that first hand experience, I would be more able to hear you.

Wednesday, 03 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's quite simple. Those are all diagnostic signs of a sociopath in action.
- No conscience.
- No friends, just victims and people that are useful to attain goals. A sociopath may appear to have many people around that are friends. But if one looks carefully, those "friends" are not really friends; they are manipulated instruments of the sociopath. People without friends that are not lonely - that is a major diagnostic sign.
- They are utterly, totally self centered. To them, nothing else matters except them and their own wants, whims and "needs."
- They get worse with therapy, or exposure to any psychological method. Sociopaths cannot be "cured". They can only be contained by educational recognition of what they are by those around them. The more they participate in anything resembling "therapy" the more sophisticated and contemptuous they get, and the more capable they become of manipulating others. It is quite typical that they will try to become "the man" within a system. However, since it is difficult for a true sociopath to get through a psychology license, or to become anointed properly by a religious tradition, they strike out on their own and self-declare.
- Socipaths are almost always charming, except to victims that have no possible power of them - ever. They have an excellent ability to size people up and manipulate them through their weaknesses. This is a "natural gift" they have. (Thus, honing it through any system of understanding of mind makes them better at it.)
- Able to display emotional expression based on intellectual decisions. Brain research shows that such people process emotions differently. It's a different circuit.

Andrew is not the only "spiritual" leader with all those signs.(I won't use "guru" because "guru" has a respected meaning within the Hindu tradition.) There are many such people. Some become dictators, some become con-men, some become CEOs. Some become university professors, lawyers, stockbrokers, what have you. The worst become truly evil perpetrators of meaningless horror - because it amuses them and they are entitled. Idi Amin and Foday Sankoh were of this latter kind.

Sunday, 07 January, 2007  
Anonymous jane said...

To the last anonymous poster from Jane O'Neil.

I am quite sure if you had met me at the time I was a student and even up until the very days before leaving you would have described me in the same way you describe current students. The self doubt and servitude is well masked. As students of Andrew doubt was unacceptable and any appearance of self-doubt or weakness was also not okay. Andrew does attract amazing, intelligent sensitive individuals and many who have left also hid their doubts and questions and served Andrew until the end of their time, particularly the many who fled in the night. The intelligence, humility, love and connectedness of individual and groups of students is not mutually exclusive of the very well documented corruption of Andrews own unexamined shadow side.

Monday, 08 January, 2007  
Anonymous jane said...

To Dave Reid From Jane O'Neil

I have much respect for you and can understand some of what you are saying. I did not see your post when I posted my last comment and would very much like to respond to you. I am curious, in light of your comment being posted in reaction to my article, whether you question if there is something not legitimate in my experience. I have spoken with HALF of the board of directors at the time and there is no question about the points I have made. I do not believe the context that you describe can address the real factual details I experienced. I also am unclear why you find clear expression and articulate challenges to be "highly suspect." I welcome any dialoge you choose to have about this or any other matter. I was happy to be reminded of you, I remember you and hope you are well.

Jane
oneil.jane@gmail.com

Monday, 08 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said Jane! I totally agree with you. (I've been a long time formal student) Even though many of the current students are really nice people, they are definately not allowed to speak up against Andrew or share their doubts about anything that doesn't seem right. Let alone they would bring up the very serious mistakes Andrew made. In spite of all the "great things" happening in the community, they have to continuously deny all of this and hide their own doubts unless they can"t bare it anymore and leave.

Monday, 08 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Jane, My reaction was not to your article per se that's just where I was when I decided to post. I was
prompted by one response to what Rick A. had written in another section of the blog. Reading it made me
need to say something again. I would be interested to hear more about your own story. Disturbing as
it is though, I still point out that most if not all posts here fail to include any true mention of the depth
of ego we all (I thought) clearly saw revealed in ourselves and in our actions at one time or another.

Reading this blog one would think those who left and now have turned vehemently against Andrew were not
even slightly complicit in their own "failure" at the endeavor we were all undertaking - that all were victims
of an unscrupulous person at best or madman at worst. It's this that I object to, and that I feel is "highly suspect."

I wish you all the best!

Dave

Tuesday, 09 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, I assume you read the story about Caroline. I would appreciate your response to that story . . and Jane's story . . . and the story of Andrew witholding Vimala's misgivings from the women - these are just a few that come to mind.

How can you read everything presented here and still be SO sure that it's all about the failings of the students?

Nobody writing here has denied their own "failings". But aren't you missing the bigger picture, that there was a lot more at play that most of us weren't aware of while in the community, certainly not in a collective sense?

Tuesday, 09 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An Hypothesis:

Guru as Human/Guru as Magic Mirror

We may have two quite different ways of seeing a guru here.

The perspective used will affect whether someone is able to see the bigger picture:

In perspective A the guru is seen as a person.
The relationship is conscious and will not seem magical.

In perspective B the guru is a mirrored surface onto which devotees project their own highest hopes.

The relationship is unconscious and thus will feel magical.


Perspective A: Seeing the guru as a person, as a human being who is vulnerable like ourselves to sickness, old age and death, capable of making mistakes, someone who does happen to have spiritual insight and leadership, and who also has responsibility for using that power constructively.

In perspective A the relationship between guru and student is conscious on all sides. Being able to see the guru and guru behavior objectively will enhance the relationship, not disrupt it.

Perspective B: Not seeing the guru as a person but relating to the guru as a mirror-object. In this, we project onto the mirror of the guru's public persona our deepest hopes for ourselves. We see what is best in ourselves in the mirror.

To defend the guru is to defend ourselves. How the guru actually behaves is ignored, invisible or irrelevant.

In perspective B the relationship between devotee and guru is unconscious because the link is through unconscious projection of the student's idealized self onto the guru's mirror.

In perspective B, objectively assessing a guru and community shatters the mirror--it 'spoils the mood' by making things conscious.

When a group of devotees collectively project their unonscioious aspirational energy onto a single such 'mirror-guru' the cumulative projected energy is stunning. Because it is unconscious, it feels
'magical'.

Ordinary human living can feel insipid by comparison. Those savoring the bliss will dread losing it and do anything to hang onto it. Initially this can spur great creativity in such a group. But if this group-bliss becomes addictive it can lead to difficulties further down the road.

In Perspective A the guru is seen as a person, as a human being. His or her embodied behavior toward other persons is *psychologically visible.* The guru's behavior as a person and in relationship with other persons can be seen and assessed as helpful or harmful. (‘the bigger picture’).

But in the dazzle of mirrored projections, the guru as a person and the guru’s actual behavior as a person vanish into the dazzle. If glimpsed, a guru's troubling behavior is dismissed as irrelevant. The price paid by other students is irrelevant. If someone insists on mentioning that other students are suffering this news causes great annoyance because it 'fogs the mirror'

So a guru is viewed objectively in perspective A and viewed selectively in Perspective B. In perspective A, one does not have to engage in denial to have a relationship with the guru. Self censorship is not necessary. The relationship serves reality.

In B, whatever a guru does that enhances the magic mirror function will be seen and celebrated. Whatever a guru does that threatens to shatter that idealizing mirror will be ignored--or the blame will be put onto the guru's students for 'colluding' or'giving their power away' 'letting themselves be victims.'

Clinging to the mirror overrides reality.

If a guru happens to behave badly, that behavior is lost in the mirror dazzle, or if glimpsed is often promptly idealized, using the crazy wise gambit. Invoking the crazy wise gambit enables the devotee to preserve the guru as magic mirror.

Likewise, we cannot see the movie screen while the movie itself is playing. If an audience is enthralled by a good movie, there will be great fury if someone’s cell phone rings out.

Thus those who see the guru as a person and not as a mirror in which to find themselves will be seeing different stuff than the persons adoring their own brilliance disowned and projected outward onto the guru.

Devotees who have become lost in the mirror may feel feel they love the guru, but what they are actually doing is adoring what is best in themselves, projected out onto the guru’s public persona. The guru’s human and vulnerable self goes unseen, vanishing into the projected dazzle.

The guru’s human behavior is not seen at all, and its human costs and consequences are not seen at all.

To defend the guru and blame his students for any trouble a way to cling to the magic mirror-guru without which one cannot related to what is best in oneself--and what we fear we will lose if we cease to adore the mirror.

Persons who cant relate to their idealized selves except by using the guru as mirror defend the guru to defend access to what is best in themselves.

A wise guru discourages people from using him or her as a mirror.
He or she does more than just tell us not to do this. A well functioning guru works hard to structure social interactions to put limits on such mirroring, educates students on how mirroring is delusional, and assists students to gain insight into this state and then outgrow it.

A dysfunctional guru prefers us to use him/her as a mirror. Favoritism is structured accordingly.




In Perspective A it makes perfect sense to relate to the guru as a human being. Seeing that a guru has responsibilities to students is not experienced as a catastrophic threat to the student’s spiritual life.

In Perspective B—unconscious use of the guru as magic mirror in which to find what is best in oneself—the devotee cannot imagine any other way to 'be spiritual.'

It may be that entire large social scenes have, as common denominator, the shared consensus to relate to gurus as magic mirrors, not as human beings.

If you see gurus as people with responsibilities for using their power responsibly, you are not a member of the tribe that insists on using gurus as magic mirrors. A mirror has no responsibilities!

To suggest that the guru is human and has human responsibilities shatters the mirror and will make the devotee feel anxious, even threatened. In such case if a guru is in trouble, the common strategy is to hold the guru blameless and put the onus on the guru’s other students, especially those issuing the harm reports.

Their harm reports ‘fog the mirror’ and devotees panic because when the mirror fogs up they lose contact with what is best in themselves.

Persons who prefer to relate with gurus as humans and refuse to use them as magic mirrors will often be accused of cynicism by those convinced the only way to use a guru is as a magic mirror.

Many who start out using a guru as a mirror find the mirror shattered if a guru's behavior becomes too extreme.

The breaking point is different for everyone.

Wednesday, 10 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it very interesting to see the process of "deflection" that is showing up here. How can the blame be thrown back on the students who have been abused? There must be a basic belief that ego deserves to be emotionally, physically and financially assaulted. As Dr. Phil would say, "How's that working for you?" Projecting blame onto the students while absolutely ignoring the responsibility and accountability for the actions of the teacher...what is going on here? Even the playing field and at least address both sides of the equation here. Where is the equality, the integrity, and the clarity?
When light of truth shines on this issue, one cannot successfully cast shadows to play the deflection and deception game. It is just a lame and silly reaction that testifies to how deluded one can become when cut off from their own common sense. Ignorance is based on ignoring facts and when Consciousness expands, all power machinations become clearly obvious and impotant. The age of hierarchy, power "over" others and material greed is finished. Welcome to the new age of ethics and watch as the forms and structures of power and greed all crumble beneath our feet.

Wednesday, 10 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Seeing both sides of the game:The one who betrays and the on who is betrayed-one must never forget that in most cases the disciple has very little experience of a master,but the last one has much experience dealing with disciples.

Wednesday, 10 January, 2007  
Anonymous Simon said...

Jane

Your account of how you came to give $2,000,000 is pretty shocking.

I wonder what current members of Andrew's Community make of it all?

As I have said before on this blog, for those who have really been moved by Andrew i.e. those who became his students, it can be very hard to reconcile the spiritual experience and transformation around Andrew, with the possibility that he himself is flawed.

Someone mentioned Vimala Thakar. I left Andrew's Community some time after visiting her in 1998. Although she was not explicit, I felt leaving was her suggestion. Strangely though, when I visited her recently, she seemed to be approving of Andrew. So it’s rather confusing.

I have found Andrew's exposure of wonderful people like Vimala to be of great help to me personally.

I feel that the real condition of a 'Guru' is revealed by what happens around them. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what they say. All they really have to give is WHO THEY ACTUALLY ARE. This seems to me like a physical law. Ramana is an outstanding example. He didn’t say much for years and doesn’t appear to have encouraged people to leave their lives to be with him. Mahatma Gandhi provided a peerless role model on how to live. “Be the change you want to see in the world”. Neither wore fancy clothes!

My teacher now has done nothing to encourage me to be with him. I don’t understand a word he says. He leaves me only with a deepening sense of myself. Being at his ashram is mysterious and delightful and often challenging. I trust him in a way that I have never trusted anyone before. This trust is Grace.

Simon

Thursday, 11 January, 2007  
Anonymous Pat Adducci said...

The analysis of guru as human and guru as magic mirror set off a leap in my own thinking. If Andrew wants to see evolution in action, he should read this blog!
My guru, Trungpa Rinpoche, was very much a magic mirror for myself and my friends. We were bound to make mistakes. We make mistakes in all areas of human endeavor. We don't need a magic mirror to see that. The mistake I, and I think others, made was to give the guru all of the power and none of the responsibility. If something good was happening, it was because of our brilliant guru. If something bad was happening, it was those unenlightened students. I think other people here have said this same thing - it bears repeating.
The guru as magic mirror, however, does not only reflect our unconscious desires for power and perfection. What makes a guru a guru is the fact that he or she reflects the reality of spirit, as it is right here, right now. When that reflection is distorted by the human desire for power and perfection, we get what most of us here have been through.
What I want to say now is that we can remember the truth of that reflection of spirit, as well as the abuses of power. Or shall we stick to the realm where good is clearly good and evil is clearly evil? Spirit is not 'good' in our human sense of the word. Spirit is all-encompassing.
I've had about 20 years to heal. (Not that numbers mean anything in this process.) Facing my own rage was hugely important. Even though rage carries its own irrational dangers. Rage can pass; peace WITHOUT forgiveness is possible. All is resolved in silence.
If some people want to go strictly with humanism, they will do that. If other people can see spirit quite well with no guru, they will do that. Those of us who rediscover guru as magic mirror will be grateful for wisdom won through hard experience.

Saturday, 13 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was watching WIE on cable TV the other day – it is on once a week here, and I occasionally check in to watch for a bit, I must admit, essentially to see how fast I can find the manifest flaws or omissions in AC’s logic, that ultimately lead to the corruption that is so well documented on this blog. I did not have to watch for more than two minutes before he started explaining (and then repeating himself - as he often does - using slight different wording, ad nauseum!) that when one is finally able to allow the spiritual evolutionary process to begin and to shed the desires of the ego, one is by necessity, changed so that it would only be a deliberate, ego-driven choice to return to the Samsarac world of ego gratification and fear-avoidance that is antithetical to the collective evolutionary process. Therefore, if one does not make that deliberate ego-driven choice, one can’t help but be part of the progressive flow of evolution of the spirit.

What he completely ignores is the fact that, because of the unique position he has attained - in serving his mission to deliver this and his other insights constantly to a presumably widening group of followers - he himself gains access to an extremely powerful, possibly irresistible world of ego gratification, such as

• Almost total power over others,
• The complete adulation of hundreds of devoted followers, who hang on his every word, thought and deed,
• A seemingly unlimited revenue stream, provided at times by individuals willing to virtually bankrupt themselves for his benefit,
• Dozens of footmen whose greatest pleasure is to serve him in every way, from providing his refreshments to carrying his bags, editing his books and magazine, doing his secretarial work, running his organization, even setting up his drums before his band’s concert gigs.
• Absolute re-confirmation of his righteousness, brilliance, and charisma, at all times.

If usual day-to-day ego gratification can be likened to taking several cups of strong coffee per day, these ego rewards are on the level of constant crack smoking! It seems to me, that with this much ego-narcotic power flowing 24/7, it would behoove almost ANY human psyche, no matter how invested it consciously thought it was in the pursuit of ego-less enlightenment, to brilliantly devise methods to completely delude itself into a false sense of righteousness, moral and intellectual superiority, even in the face of its own rampant abuse of power, once the process had fully and very effectively begun.

Monday, 15 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I occasionally check in to watch for a bit, I must admit, essentially to see how fast I can find the manifest flaws or omissions in AC’s logic, that ultimately lead to the corruption that is so well documented on this blog."

That's sick. I've never felt that about anyone's contribution to this site, before. Don't you have anything better to do with your life. Can't you figure out a way of contributing more positively to life? How about turning the finger on yourself before assuming that you know another's motives.

Monday, 15 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well said, wow what a hoot. Yes, hard to imagine, but probably like smoking crack 24/7. Yes, no one could touch you then!

I know of only two living examples of such righteousness and moral superiority. One of them, G.W.Bush, said that he was determined to stick with the Iraq war even if his wife and his dog were the only ones left at his side.
Andrew Cohen has said as much about his "revolution" - ie that his dog is the only one who has not betrayed him!

I guess that makes him even more rare than Bush, who at least claims the company of a wife in his lonliness and isolation.

Monday, 15 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting insight into Andrew's world.

In the years I was with him, students endlessly showered him with gifts, scrubbed his floors, furnished his apartments, cooked his food, accepted all his judgements without question, and served him to the hilt in every way imaginable. I didn't once see Andrew, in even a single gesture of humility, refuse this treatment in the slightest way.

Monday, 15 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t think that there is anything sick about trying to observe threads or caveats in AC’s lectures that might eventually be part of contributing to the formation of a basis of almost totally un-self-examined corruption. (And obviously there are many other things I do with my life aside from this, thank you). At one time I thought AC was the very model of integrity, in a world populated largely by new age charlatan gurus. Clearly this is not the case. I think he is so deluded by power that he does not realize or accept his fundamental dishonesty in any meaningful, or truthful way. So what have we got left, but to look to his lectures, to see if there are perhaps clues about his self-enabling personality, that may already be apparent in his talks? It seems to me that if all (myself included), had been a bit more skeptical at an early stage, it is at least possible that many of the conditions for the abuse we have read about here might not have had a chance to take such firm root. Perhaps there would have been no way to detect, and such observation would have made no difference at all. But I don’t think it is out of place to re visit some of his lectures on occasion, with all of this in mind.

Tuesday, 16 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Got all kinds of thoughts buzzin around in my head...perhaps the students dedication to scrubbing and serving was a good way to divest themselves of self-concern. Could be AC was providing a vehicle for such selfless service for the benefit of the students. When I visited I was impressed with and experienced to some degree the passion of expressing a divine love in such circumstances.
This does not however explain the incidents described on this blog which I can in no way accept as being helpful to anyone.
I'm also intrigued with the fact that I sense there would be tremendous fear and hesitation in coming forth with the truth of these experiences on the part of the student and somehow it appears that it is harder to reveal being victimized than it was for the abuser to actually deliver the abuse. I am trying to understand why the shame is experienced by the victim rather than the perpetrator. It is strange, no? There have been several slaps to the contributors who have overcome great resistance to share their experiences here and those who scold them have nothing to say about the perpetrator. I wonder why this would be? That the mind would choose to focus on the ones who were hurt or robbed etc and completely ignore the one who so clearly abused a position of power is an interesting phenomenon. I just don't get it.

Tuesday, 16 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be one thing if, as a result of watching Andrew you concluded that there were 'holes' and 'flaws' and you speak from that and about that. Quite another thing to be watching with the specific intent to find flaws and support what you have already concluded. That's 'sick' to me, not to mention kind of weird.

Tuesday, 16 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This gives a description of techniques used in a group training that triggered intense emotion and fostered obedience to the trainer.

http://rickross.com/reference/lifespring/lifespring4.html

One problem is that entering the spiritual seeker's community often means becoming part of a large social scene in which a capacity for objectivity is aggessively devalued.

One can slip into this state of mind long before crossing paths with a guru or group.

Tuesday, 16 January, 2007  
Anonymous Po Po said...

One or two recent comments seem to shade slightly into mocking Andrew--just slightly, in a fairly innocent or just over-exuberant way; my interest is not to take issue with them--but what they make me realize, gratefully, is what a serious and humane tone this blog has sustained. I feel the invitation to Andrew has thereby remained open, however slim the chances currently seem that he'll ever humbly engage his critics. There's been lots of deep hurt registered here, to be sure, but quite often accompanied by that humane tone. --Even LOVE for Andrew, not at all infrequently. Sadly, actually, this might be further evidence of sociopathy in Andrew, mightn't it...?: The fact that he can shrilly caricature such by-and-large humane and occasionally affectionate critics, label them as too irrational or vengeful to engage.

(FWIW I have no personal experience with Andrew or his community. Heard him speak once).

Wednesday, 17 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Po Po...

Those who have tried to present a different perspective on the 'abuses', that included the agreed upon context in which we were involved with Andrew and the conscious expression of a willingness to do anything Andrew asked of us in order to be free...have been 'poo-poo'ed'.

I don't mean to be disrespectful by playing with your name like this...hopefully, the 'cosmic clown' has a place in this discussion, but it has been frustrating to read the amount of denial, finger-pointing at Andrew (often without first hand experience and information), and lack of looking at oneself and one's relationship to what we said we wanted and understood. Doing so would put a whole different spin on the matter...

Wednesday, 17 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to "it has been frustrating to read the amount of denial, finger-pointing at Andrew (often without first hand experience and information), and lack of looking at oneself and one's relationship to what we said we wanted and understood."

Without first hand experience? Have you been reading what I've been reading? Is there any chance at all that the denial here might be on your part, perhaps?

Friday, 19 January, 2007  
Anonymous Po Po said...

It's a good play on my name; please be my guest. I assure you I'd be amused even if it were my real name. I'm afraid it's just a hidey-hole though.

It's a point well taken, and one I hadn't clearly seen before--that this blog could do with more soul-searching. I'd love to see accounts of someone's time with Andrew where the focus is consistently inward: what motivated me, what did I collude in, what ideals did Andrew embody for me, which of those ideals do I still hold and which of them did I blind myself by holding...

This need NOT conflict with seeing Andrew objectively, critically. (Critically--but with total human understanding, no blame). An indiscriminate transparency is the only possible transparency. You simply won't see Andrew rightly until you see how your whole romance and trauma with him arose directly and entirely from your own inner formations.

"Sociopathy" is really too strong a word from someone who doesn't know Andrew personally, and I apologize. I really meant it as a question: Andrew is an enigma to me. My interest in him is sympathetic. (Though also unambiguously horrified, I must say). You see, most of his writings strike me as baseless rhetoric, not very investigative, yet he's said a few very valuable and little-heard things. For instance? Well what we recited when I visited an IEF center, that was very nicely put, I'm sure you know it well--I approximately recall: "meditation is a metaphor for enlightenment, sitting still is a metaphor for wanting to be free more than anything else, paying attention is a metaphor for having no relationship to the arising of thought or the presence of feeling...". And also that point he drives home so tirelessly: that my divided aspirations can be starkly and lucidly assessed; which clarifies my intent; from which life energy flows marvellously in a single channel for the first time.

And such an energetic community life as he developed, based on this principle, seems unique to me, and abidingly fascinating. (In its ideal form--there's no doubt in my mind that it's largely dysfunctional in practice).

If he knows whereof he speaks when he says an enlightened person never moves again--how can he possibly have developed such raging blind spots? Does anyone who agrees with me that he has raging blind spots, also feel that he has (or had) access to a passion to speak truth with zero concern for ingratiation? I've seen a video where his impersonal response to each questioner--pretty or ugly, silver-tongued or nervous--was frightening. But then he'll have those dialogues with Wilber, or with teachers who (I gather) he privately denigrates, and it's all buddy-buddy and back-slapping, not one challenging question. And he's boastful-- actually he was boastful in the video too, he's invariably boastful and hyperbolic.

I mean, he really believes his myth, doesn't he...? How can he buy it so wholesale if he's ever known deep inward questioning? Certain of his powerful pronouncements seem to suggest he must have known it.

I'd love to hear a realistic and thoughtful reckoning of where his gifts (-or "gifts?"-) come from--from enlightenment? From a rare concentration of narcissistic ambition? I think a realistic appraisal can only come from someone who sees the whole sad saga, their own part and Andrew's part, without agenda. Without defense or blame of self or other.

Jane O'Neil's post does this nicely, actually.

"Without agenda" does NOT mean that Andrew's true ways shouldn't be aggressively publicized. What valuables he's contributed to the spiritual conversation must be freed from all his obfuscation before they'll have any power to energize that conversation--meanwhile they'll be disregarded, or taken along with his very bad medicine. This blog, at its best, has served that new movement: people taking what they've learned with Andrew and with the community around Andrew and moving forward with it in freedom, while rejecting the toxic. Any ideas of Andrew's perfection and apartness, for instance, are toxic, and not at all integral to a true human understanding of "clarity of intention." A community that asks its members to be their very best and truest is a rare gem. But it requires the most sensitive attention to one another, discrimination, and nothing but love and understanding. Stumbling, dark and terrified mortals won't do their best just because scary people yell at them to do their best. They don't know they have a best.

I mean, I don't know, did the high demands in Andrew's community reveal a best that people didn't know they had...? Like throwing you in the deep end to learn to swim? The students in his promotional videos don't have the look of people moving from their own strength. Their evolutionary excitement looks fevered, not like the wholesome enthusiasm of moving WITH our green world, WITH basic awareness. What is there to be so excited about if it's life's own nature, your own nature? When the good news really takes up residence in a life, doesn't it rather give that Buddha-statue, infinitely-even smile? Hecticness is a sign to me of non-resident inspiration. -Such as you'd get from looking fixedly to a capricious source for reassurance.

Friday, 19 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the agreed upon context in which we were involved with Andrew and the conscious expression of a willingness to do anything Andrew asked of us in order to be free"
This "agreed upon context" you refer to, are you here to tell us that when the students entered into this agreed upon context they were agreeing to such actions on Andrew's part such as slapping, compromising their health by freezing dips in the water, extortion to the tune of 2 million dollars etc etc? And what was Andrew going to deliver to the students who were agreeing to this crazy unspecified context? Where is the freedom promised? The only one who is free in this situation is Andrew Cohen. Everyone else is held captive in a very firm grip.
Beware anyone who offers freedom at the cost of everything! You'll get freedom alright, freedom from common sense, freedom from your money and freedom from your own autonomy. Reading all that is available on this blog will give a very clear description of what is at stake so anyone contemplating entering into any such crazy context take heed.

Saturday, 20 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the “This "agreed upon context" Anonymous above. I was very tempted to just let this go – to not “beat a dead horse”, as it were – but I feel I really I have to respond to the other earlier “Anonymous” who took issue with my viewing Andrew’s lectures, “conclusion-first,” as being a “sick” or “weird” response, as opposed to a “healthy” one.

I frankly think this whole problem starts with us, not in the wonderful things we were initially and still are striving for, but with what we are willing to blithely ignore to achieve them; and what we overlooked about AC and his world right from the very start. Knowing what I know now, I DO see that the way he answers non, or at least very early, student’s questions in his video broadcast lectures, DOES hold a lot of information into the dialectic methodology of power and control he sets in motion, that lead to what comes later. I don’t think he even realizes this is a deliberate process on his part, though that is merely my own personal belief, and is probably irrelevant anyway.

The bottom line is that once one understands where this all ends up for so many, it is very compelling to try and analyze, and then to discover, even the way he poses questions to his newbie audience questioners. I perceive that there is a constant framework of omission and subtle manipulation in the way he puts his counter questions that is very in keeping with the type of thing that an other 'anonymous' poster sites in the link http://rickross.com/reference/lifespring/lifespring4.html Take a look at the information to be found in the highly informative reference, and tell me that there is not significant bearing here on the arc of AC’s entire process of indoctrination and power assertion.

I am sorry, but change has to start with us, and the way we look at this whole issue – even if it impinges on a great deal positive, and still probably very valid, personal memory of progress we have felt in the past, and may be loathe to part with. But that is really not significant when compared to the really almost horrific abuse of power that is obviously being exerted over so many unwilling participants to this whole process.

Saturday, 20 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I am sorry, but change has to start with us."

This is a very important point, but where it leads will depend on whether we buy into one of two viewpoints.

It must be said that not one big name spiritual celebrity has said anything about the astounding situation that has been documented by Luna Tarlo, Andre van der Braak, and the WE? blog community.

It has been the 'little people' and the democracy of cyberspace that has made the difference.

IMO this calls the whole matter of spiritual elitism into question.

Still, we have to be careful about 'it starts with us.' There are ugly arguments based on false empowerment which tweak tne 'it starts with us' then deviously twist it into a line of argument that lets the powerholders totally off the hook and leaves the abused underlings taking all the blame and being told they're wallowing in victim mentality, when by speaking up they are actually ceasing to be victims and have become agents of reform.

There are two basic ways to see the human person.

1) That each of us is a single unit, autonomous, and supposed to be able to function independently no matter what kind of peer pressure and subtle social influence is put on us.

This 'I should be able to do it all by my self and be smart enough to out-think any situation'--is a kind of Superman/John Wayne view that slots right into American culture.

This viewpoint is not accurate, though it is very appealing. Facing our essential influenciblity/vulnerability hurts like hell. Many abusive spiritual projects start by fostering this illusion of personal autonomy, then we end up feeling isolated and totally at fault for a situation far larger than us--and where we lacked important information when doing our first decision making.

2) Viewpoint #2--that we are not autonomous, but are actually, by virtue of being human, social persons, susceptible to a wise range of influences, social, physical, and that empowerment comes not from denying our 'influencability' but by recognizing our 'influencability' and then by becoming very conscientious about our research, and become 'psychological gourmets'--taking as much care about mental and social influences as we do about the kind of food we put into our bodies.

IF we hang around for too long in the presence of people who consistently sneer that kindness and concern for others is weak, and that real seekers are supposed to be 'tough enough to take it' then we risk having our own hearts de-sensitized.

Part of the glory and danger of being human is that we are capable of adapting to anything, given enough time--whether that 'anything' is good or bad.

False empowerment denies human interconnectedness and human influenciblity/vulerability.

False empowerment makes us feel we can fly by persauding us to go into a state of denial about the existence of gravity and the law of physics.

Another thing many of us are not aware of when embarking on spiritual quests is that bliss can be triggered by mere technique, and that someone who is good at triggering bliss may be merely regarding us as objects with buttons to be pushed.

A very common error is to assume that someone who can send us into bliss sees us as persons. It can happen that a 'bliss technician' is merely diddling us as objects, elicting reactions that seem utterly profound and personal to us, but that are actually standardized--as is described in the Lifespring article.

Joseph Cambbell famously said,

'Follow your bliss'.

Its now time to add 'Enjoy your bliss but always question your bliss.'

1) Does the person who triggered that bliss actually see you as a person, and feel concerned for how you will function, or is the person seeing you as an object, interchangeable with others?

2) Can you only care about your bliss and refuse to concern yourself with how well others are being treated by the person or organization who elicit the bliss? Any bliss state that leads to addiction and to indifference to the welfare of others, is no different from the bliss produced by happy powder purchased from your local street pharmacist.

3) Bliss states should not cause the rest of one's life to feel meaningless and drained of vitality. If so, the bliss is being produced by some mechanism that is probably causing brief spikes in neurochemicals and causes states of depletion when the bliss state has passed.

Finally, the Bodhisattva Precept of Mahayana Buddhism advises us to beware of darkening mnd and body of self and other with intoxicants.

Crusades, ideas, diagrams and room set ups produced by social engineering (eg Lifespring and other such events), subtle energy, meditation, prostration, acupuncture, yoga can all be used to evade reality and suppress insights that threaten exploitative power structures.

In these cases, such methods do become intoxicants.

There is very little encouragement in the spiritual world to become wise and discerning consumers of bliss experience, and very little encouragement to question bliss experiences.

In many parts of the Western seekers community, one seems to actually be taught NOT to apply discernment to bliss experiences and are taught that its cynical and negative to even imagine doing any sort of background check on a teacher or group--yet its considered quite desirable to
do this sort of consumer research when looking for a new car or laptop.

So, its not just the seeker that's the source of the problem.

Many of us are given the worst possible preparation when we become seekers. Most of the magazines and media presentations provoke states of greed and intoxication by subtly linking enlightenment with fame, power, desirability and celebrity.

How often do we see interesting full length articles in major spiritual mags on 'Question Your Bliss' or 'Discernment is Empowerment' or 'Fact Checking for Pilgrims'??

Monday, 22 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very interesting points about the "set-up" of AC's context. Watching the video clip of his latest lecture regarding "Happy Endings - Personal reflections on sex, romance, and evolutionary idealism" on his blog shows exactly what the prev anon poster points out. His statements are very black and white and in order to follow along with him the observer is constantly accepting his spoken and unspoken declarations of the way things are, without the time or conscious space to evaluate what is being lost in the process. His descriptions of what sex and marriage are all about certainly do not in any way reflect my experience. He has never experienced a normal family life, knows nothing about raising children and literally throws the baby out with the bathwater. When we spent several years being drawn into the teachings we became unavailable to our children and without any conscious decision on our parts we cut ourselves off from them with tragic consequences. Fortunately since being freed from the whole AC thought controlled context, our lives have been restored and deep healing has occurred for us and our children. Life is rich with opportunities to share love, joy, surrender and peace...without abandoning anyone.
The dynamics pointed out by the previous poster are well worth watching for when viewing the AC videos. I also find his description of his marriage to be very disrespectful to Alka and very disturbing. Just count how many "I's" are in that article. It's all "I" and "she", with not much "she", other than when he is criticizing her for not measuring up. Of course the context does not allow for any personal recognition, so there is never any appreciation for any personal contribution or sacrifice made to the cause. But what the heck is the cause? Who benefits? If the answer is THE WHOLE, how does any measure of pain & suffering benefit THE WHOLE? It is coming to the end of suffering that allows something new to express.

Monday, 22 January, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the last two posts, the one referring to the two personal viewpoints of self, (the one citing Joseph Campbell), and the following one, which analyses AC's actual phraseology, may be two of the most significant, though perhaps, not hugely dramatic, entries on this blog to date.

I personally do not believe that AC is a charlatan, at least not in the conventional, con-man sense, mainly because I am convinced that he cannot see that he is (though this is by no means an excuse) imparting essentially personally ego-driven, finely honed, missives, wrapped up as ultimate truths; but rather, I think that he is a fairly smart (but by no means brilliant) and informed person who has managed, starting early on with great earnestness and sincerity, to gradually but ultimately hear and respond to the voice of his own ego, believing unshakably that it was (still?) the voice of a higher, inner, and certainly spiritual-evolutionary, driven self, whose clarity (to him,) was all the proof of its purity and lack of corruption that he needed. It is significant that AC has always stressed the hard work and dedication (which I believe IS a truth) - void of any societal or new age guru-esqe, “magic” - that is absolutely required for anyone to truly attempt to follow this path. Yet, there is still a fine line between the two – considering how close and in line the ego’s goals may happen to be with those of the spirit -IF one happens to be the one striving with all his might and power, to be the conduit and purveyor of higher, eternal truth! A very heady goal, for even perhaps, the most pious seeker/teacher.

“MINE is the true and only voice who gives meaning to this monumental shift in collective consciousness.” As has long been said about absolute power…

well you know.

Friday, 02 February, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Speaking of big donors, or likely ones, does anyone know what's happened to Steve Brett, Chris Parish or Brad Roth?

Sunday, 04 February, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story is from a former inner circle member of a completely different group. Interested readers are invited to sit down with a notebook and count off the number of items that sound familiar.
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/exsat/message/16748

Wednesday, 07 February, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out the video by pasting the following link into your browser:

http://www.andrewcohen.org/media/video.asp?vm=menWomen

Listen carefully and watch the faces of the students, especially the women, as AC demeans and disrespects the female in his diatribe regarding the male/female relationship. I hear him saying that women hold a very strong conditioned belief that having a man means being "whole", while the men feel they will die if they do not "have" sex and are conditioned to feel diminished if they are not "getting it". He says of course in the past women did need men for protection because they are weaker. The pain reflected on the faces of the women, even his wife Alka at one point, clearly reveal the disrespect they are feeling as these simplistic pronouncements are being delivered upon them. I find this video very very disturbing.

Wednesday, 07 February, 2007  
Blogger Stuart said...

> I frankly think this whole
> problem starts with us, not in
> the wonderful things we were
> initially and still are striving
> for, but with what we are
> willing to blithely ignore to
> achieve them

What exactly are you referring to as things we were initially and still striving for, and what makes them "wonderful"?

Lots of us start out, for example, wanting to be spiritual, wanting to see or know God, wanting big special enlightenment experiences, etc. These lead us into a situation (like joining a spiritual group and following a teacher), and eventually we decide we don't like what happens in that situation.

For me, it's useful to question everything that got me there. If I started out with the desire to be spiritual, and ended up being part of a system I found destructive... then maybe that initial desire *isn't* as wonderful as I thought it was. Based on the results I got, maybe it *isn't* so wonderful to seek God, to focus my life on getting big elightenment experiences, etc.

It's a matter for reflection, but I do think that everything should be on the table. Sometimes people find themselves in a destructive group, and realize that something needs to change because they don't like what they've become or become a part of. Why not question *all* the things that went into the result? Just because it initally seemed so wonderful to be a godly, spiritual, enlightened being... doesn't mean that these desires themselves aren't bathwater.

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

Thursday, 15 February, 2007  
Anonymous Stella Benton said...

nhvgaegiDear Jane,
I read some of AC's books a good while ago. Luckily, I never felt inclined to become part of any group, being more of a loner, but I spent a massive amount on books; but at least books don't talk back to you!
If you really want pointers to truth, try some advaita or non-duality websites, such as Gilbert Schultz in Australia; Jeff Foster's in Oxford, UK; John Greven's book "Oneness" UK; these actually say very little, and the thinking mind tends to not like that! they point you back to You.

Best wishes,
Stella, Ireland

Friday, 16 February, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stuart wrote:

"It's a matter for reflection, but I do think that everything should be on the table. "

It is one thing to be told 'expect anything.' But the devil is always in the details. Intellectually, we can construct models, scenarios and think we are prepared, but the raw, gut level impact can hit us in ways that can never be anticipated, no matter how intelligent or imaginative one is.

What is interesting in Jane's account is her report that in her case it may be that not everything was on the table.

From what she wrote, it seems she reportedly was *not* told, up front, that persons she came to love and trust as friends in would act on orders to pressure her to do something that went against her gut instincts and that she has later regretted.

Nor was Jane told 'on the table' that others in the group would be told to stay away from her while she was under this kind of pressure, thus guaranteeing social isolation, disorientation
etc.

Nor does it appear that prospective members are told that there may be so much pressure not to leave that those who do, depart in secret, often at night, thus the name 'shadow sangha.'

(Note this article has some interseting material. Two items:

Manipulators do not immediately ask for agreement, they ask people to "try it" with an "open mind." Getting people to behave in a manner that is somewhat contrary to their current belief system will often result in changed attitudes (Deutsch & Krauss, 1965; Festinger & Carlsmith, 1968). That is, acting on requests to "try it before you reject it" and assurances that "you can disagree with what you are doing even as you do it" often leads to changes in belief systems, especially if the subject is not overtly rewarded (e.g., by being paid) for performing the new behavior.

§ Manipulators use group pressure. It is difficult, especially over long periods of time, to be the only one in a group to disagree (Jones & Gerard, 1967, pp. 331-386). It can be painful to feel rejected or different, and sometimes even more painful to think of oneself as someone who has trouble tolerating rejection. Hence, people conform but are not always willing to admit to themselves that they are conforming (i.e., responding to group pressure). People rationalize instead, and claim it was their "free choice" to change.

****Manipulators do not make things easy. People actually place more value on their actions if the task to be performed is somewhat unpleasant or difficult, even if it did not need to be unpleasant or difficult (Festinger, 1957). Corollary: making a task artificially "tough" typically makes it appear more meaningful and important than it may in fact be.


http://www.csj.org/infoserv_articles/eichel_steve_resistance_tactics.htm)

Another matter that may or may not be 'on the table' is that intimate letters people write when in states of great vulnerability are reportedly be kept on file, after they leave, a source of great embarrasment. When we begin a relationship with a therapist or health care provider, its customary to read, discuss and sign forms that govern patient confidentiality. These matters are also defined and regulated by state law, and thus are 'on the table.'

Finally, it would be interesting to know whether persons invited to join the inner circle will be told, up from and 'on the table' that they will end up functioning as parents and care providers in relation to thier leader, while all the while, being made to feel like shame ridden children who live in terror of a scolding.

Feeling shame ridden and childlike, while functioning in the parent/protector role for to someone who is supposed to be able to lead disciples to full adult potential, yet reportedly throws tantrums and requires constant new toys and praise...

Feeling like a scolded child while at the same time functioning as a careprovider, without any of the respect, autonomy or resources that make parenting both possible and enjoyable would be crazy making in the extreme.

So..it would be interesting to know if before getting involved, prospective students are clearly told, up front that this is also
'on the table.'

Saturday, 17 February, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The pain reflected on the faces of the women, even his wife Alka at one point, clearly reveal the disrespect they are feeling as these simplistic pronouncements are being delivered upon them.

This seems like an unreasonable assumption to make. I think we would have to ask them, including Alka what they think...

Saturday, 17 February, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"This seems like an unreasonable assumption to make. I think we would have to ask them, including Alka what they think...
"
How would these women who have surrendered their own power to think independantly, really have an opinion? If we put ourselves in their position, and look in their eyes, we can feel the conflict. We do not have to ignore our feelings because we are free, while they are told that what they think and what they feel is not important...only what they do. Human beings divorced from their own thoughts and feelings are not free to tell anyone what they think....not even themselves.

Saturday, 17 February, 2007  
Blogger Pissed Off Old Man said...

The priests are above the law ! Integral is worse than the Catholic church, everyman and woman for the themselves and the weak shall perish.

Seriously folks how in the hell is all this going to contribute one bit to the future of mankind?

Monday, 19 February, 2007  
Blogger freeEvolutionary said...

A large part of Andrew's appeal is that he is addressing some of the deepest concerns and yearnings of people today. There's enormous potential here but Andrew has centered it so much on himself and has created an authoritarian organization that directly contradicts his call to autonomy and freedom.
Jeff Carreira (Andrew's assistant and Director of Education) is out there creating new ways to push Evolutionary Enlightenment and get new people involved with EN. He's already trained dozens of people to deliver the EE course and hundreds have taken it around the world. After the retreat Andrew's currently giving they will be training many more people at Foxhollow and by teleconference to deliver a 2 hour intro to Evolutionary Enlightenment.
For the first time Andrew's students are starting to agressively go out there to push his message and get more people involved. There is a deliberate strategy to downplay Andrew's role as guru and master so as not to scare people until they are really involved. Did somebody say cult?
I would hate to see some of the incredible ideas that have been generated by WIE be destroyed by Andrew's need to control. I'd invite anyone who wants to open the discussion of Evoltionary Enlightenment beyond Andrew to post to my blog.

http://freeevolutionary.blogspot.com/

Thursday, 01 March, 2007  
Anonymous Melitta Greene said...

I have watched Andrew Cohen in a workshop I participated in the Dead Sea in Israel years ago.
I was with my two children already adults. In a brake I talked to him briefly to check him out. Something about his energy, his appearance,( his little moustache and the velvet vest) immediately just turn me off. I could see the big EGO behind. My son and daughter felt the same.
It was just a question of few hours watching him,to figure him out. I am amazed how people can be so blind and needy to a point of making someone like him a guru, spiritual teacher and on top give him family money to support his Big Ego. My heart and respect goes for the pure souls that searched for enlightment and higher consciouness in the wrong place.

Tuesday, 29 June, 2010  
Anonymous Holly Gold said...

Hi Jane ,

I just read you story and it happens that I know a very good lawyer specialized in busting cults, getting "spirituall leaders" like Andrew Cohen and defending people like you.
His name is Ford Greene and he is located in San Anselmo, California.

Wednesday, 30 June, 2010  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

" A lot of folks can ignore the blatant character flaws of a messenger and listen only to his message, but I for one can not do so."

actually the message is very flawed, thats the give-away !

check out kabir and ug krishnamurti!

enlightenment is a fiction !

Monday, 12 July, 2010  

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