Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Our Readers Are the Bomb!

[Editors' Note: We just received this comment that we thought was so uplifting and fitting for the holiday season, that we thought we'd feature it. You folks are great and we want you to know you shine so bright that people everywhere can see it.]

The collective dignity of Cohen's students is indeed the most impressive thing that emerges from these pages like sunlight breaking from dark clouds.

Given the pressures reported by the many who have borne witness on this blog, let the record reflect that no one could live for years at a time under such reported pressures without having been an unusually strong person, and unless endowed with unusual physical and mental stamina.

Persons who get panic attacks when yelled at, who get quickly and seriously ill when suffering chronic anxiety and lack of sleep would not have been able to last longer than a few weeks, possibly a year at most, under the conditions reported on this blog.

Those who spent 5 years or more--you're strong, not weak. Your unusual physical and mental stamina probably enabled you stay as long as you did.

More sensitive, vata-predominent persons, who quickly generate high levels of adrenaline/cortisol (aka 'yin deficiency) when under ordinary stress--they would not have been able to remain for very long.

In hurtful organizations persons in the leader's inner circle may seem enviably privliged but may actualy incur levels of abuse much worse than anything visited upon peripheral members.

Those on the periphery are apt to get their bliss experiences and rarely think to ask whether those blis experiences have been purchased at the cost of other people's pain.

(In new age circles it is rare to question bliss itself.

These days, we are learning to select coffee and chocolate based on whether these have been grown by persons fairly paid and compensated, vs coffee and chocolate grown by persons tormented in slave labor or debt bondage.

Its time to educate the new age to ask if its bliss or transformative experiences originate from organizations that are honest and non-coercive)

Because peripheral members/bliss beneficiaries never directly witness the abuse meted out to inner circle members, they have no frame of reference when the full news is reported and they go into shock--and hasten to defend their bliss, because the alternative is painful disorientation.

Meanwhile abused inner circle members have often been persuaded that they were selected for such treatment because they are tough enough to take it. Americans have a horror of admitting to weakness, so few would say, 'I am too weak to put up with this horror--I'm outta here.'

Being sensitive, easily fatigued and requiring lots of sleep may actually be a blessing if it saves a person from being able to endure chronic abuse as an inner circle member.

This difference between the segregation of abuse between inner circle members who suffer the leader's shadow side and peripheral members who enjoy only the sunshine of the leader's sunny side is not confined to just one group.

A former Morman gave a twenty point list. Here are two:

19. Witness and Accept the Leaders' Faults

Once they reach the highest levels of the cult pyramid, members are privy to their leaders' darkest actions. Members must also come to terms with the abusive behavior of their leaders.

"Mormon missionaries also experience this cult phenomena first hand. True Believing Missionaries in the field think their assignments are inspired and the Mission President is a prophet.

"Those who end up working in the office learn the President has a dark side that is petty, arbitrary and cruel. Yet those exposed to this still propagate the myth that the President is divinely-inspired leader. This is also common in ward and stake leadership.

20. The Cult Leaders Are Perfection

"The final stage of cult indoctrination is to accept the leaders as the perfect center of the universe, from which all else derives. The "fully evolved" cult member thus understands all the pain and suffering as resistance to the cult leaders' divinity. The leader is the single point of entry for God and perfection in the otherwise imperfect universe.

....Thwarting one's natural tendency toward self-preservation becomes a pleasurable, almost fetishistic obsession. "

Amy Wallace's memoir of her life as a member of Carlos Castaneda's inner circle 'Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda.' gives a description of her experiences as a member of an abused inner circle who encountered utter incomprehension from those who had been on the periphery of the group.

What was good in the organization was your own goodness, in aggregate. There are events, such as the old California AIDS Ride, where that kind of collective goodness, centered on a clear goal, generated that same splendor.

Its yours. Its not as obvious when you're at home by yourself, but you each still have that inner pilot light. It is still there. No one can take it away from you. You can be distracted from it if suffering terror, or shame, but your original goodness is still there, waiting for the clouds to pass.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The couple of posts previous to this one made on A Revelation in Finance are also on track in this regard. A breath of fresh air!

Wednesday, 20 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

True. Contrary to an impression articulated by some posters, Cohen’s ‘inner circle’ is a fluid entity whose members—despite their obvious devotion—are actually at greater risk of abuse and exile than other students. This is due to their proximity to and frequency of contact with the teacher, which increases their risk of exposing punishable egoic tendencies they are then ‘challenged’ to transcend in order to work their way back in. The more such challenges one has faced (or witnessed), the more difficult it is, psychologically and emotionally, to justify the idea of simply leaving.

For a look at the kind of balanced non-dualistic view now being promoted from within outward in the community, check out the October post at (In addition to denigrating ex-students, the author blithely provides a link to an article exposing the abuses of rival spiritual teachers, as if Mr. Cohen still had enough credit in his integrity-bank to be ridiculing his competitors.)

Wednesday, 20 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It should be emphasized that persons with sensitive high strung constitutions who are rejected for recruitment into the harsh routine of a leader's inner circle are not inferior or unworthy, compared with those who are robust, hardy, who photograph well, can endure stress and are selected for the painful privilige of inner circle life.

The two groups--sensitives and hardy warriors--are both equally worthy, just as Italian greyhounds are as fine dogs as Rottweilers.

The Italian grey requires more protection in cold weather and its frail joints make it more vulnerable to injury.

But cruel people who get off on dog fighting will not choose Italian greyhounds for thier purposes. They will look for the breeds of dogs with 'Tough Guy' reputations.

These dogs (Rottweilers, pitbulls) are often sweet tempered, loyal and utterly loving. But because they are strong, sturdy, and resilient attract the worst kind of human being, they are subjected to brutalizing influences and end up doing terrible things they would never do if they'd not been selected by persons with brutal agendas.

The seemingly frail Italian greys dont attract attention from dog fighters.

So brave, loyal, resilient persons who are idealistic and who want levels of risk and challenge that the culture does not usually provide--your very strength and loyalty, your ability to thrive under stress--can paradoxically make you attractive to persons with bad agendas.

A person whose face breaks out in disfiguring acne when under severe stress or who repeatedly lands in bed with disabling asthma or crippling bouts of stress triggered irritable bowel syndrome--that person would not be recruited.

They have found that persons who are most suitable for Special Forces training have a special biochemical response to stress. It may be those who could live for years in an abusive situation may have similar profile. But it is a liability if it causes us to stay too long in a situation that is degrading.


To understand what makes a better soldier, the Army has examined the stress levels of soldiers who have gone through the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) training course. In one study, the levels of cortisol, a hormone that prepares the body for stress, were measured. Researchers found that students taking the SERE course experienced significant changes in hormone levels, which the military described as some of the greatest ever documented in humans.

One of the most interesting findings by the Army was the difference found between Special Forces soldiers and other soldiers. Data from Army studies showed that Special Forces soldiers had higher levels of adrenaline during the SERE training than regular Army soldiers.

When adrenaline was measured 24 hours after the SERE stress was over, the adrenaline levels of Special Forces soldiers returned to normal levels. But adrenaline levels in non-Special Forces soldiers were depleted. The data suggests that Special Forces have a biological profile of people who are "cool under fire."

There's a chinese story of a farmer who felt himself unfortunate because his only son was born with a club foot.

One day the local warlord came by and took all the able bodied boys away to be warriors.

None of them survived.

The boy with the crippled foot was despised by the warlord.

The farmer who felt himself the most unfortunate of men ended up the only farmer in the area who had a son to help him on the farm--all the other families were left defenseless.

Its a story told to remind us that at times seeming to be 'weak' can be a blessing.

This being said, given what people have described on these pages, if you have not done so, all of you should check in with your physicians and obtain check ups for heart health and also see if your bodies are able to utilize glucose efficiently.

Wednesday, 20 December, 2006  
Anonymous jane o'neil said...

That is a beautiful response and extremely helpful. Turning the focus around to recognize strength and not weakness in the students of Andrew is critical to the healing process. The most painful aspect of being a former student of Andrew's for me was witnessing the numerous other former students who held onto such a strong belief that they failed; Andrew, themselves, their hearts. It seems to be a near heroic feat for an individual to see the strength it took for them to flee the situation, and as well, as you say, the inner strength that kept them there all those years. I have spoken to individuals who were so profoundly depressed and lost and in a handful of cases suicidal, that they were unable to see how lucky they were to be gone. It is this profound disorientation and sense of loss that leads some to return over and over again because the pain feels unbearable. How great it would be for ex-students to embrace the strength of heart and character that led them to that very intense spiritual path and that also allowed them to flee. If there were real integrity in Andrew he would cherish and love his departed devotees and welcome their need to step back, when necessary. But this is not so.

Thank you for your beautiful post.

Jane O'Neil

Wednesday, 20 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Hasidic Jewish Tzaddik Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav said that the greatness of the True Tzaddik (teacher) can be seen by his students. Hmmm.

Wednesday, 20 December, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am I the only struck by the role reversal that seems to be evolving right before our eyes? Is the bigger perspective and a discourse representing more universal truth coming from within the walls of Foxhollow or from those who have left? Which group truly has the unfettered freedom to investigate what is true? Perhaps living a spiritual life and doing the right thing in this society today does not exclude a personal life, a family life, a career with financial security, and a lighter approach to "spiritual practice" and personal reflections.

(Anyone still within the walls should know in their hearts that there's plenty of support for you out here and you really can just walk away.)

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

And what if JOY is what we are? Not the euphoria of happiness with or for a cause, not the pleasure in achieving or acquiring...rather, JOY without cause. Not deserved, sacrificed for or abused into...just pure ESSENCE of BEING.
When it all falls away, we un-cover JOY, and from that moment on we can never be controlled or manipulated again.
To come to the end of suffering is the only freedom and those who have truly arrived will never cause suffering to another. No matter how lofty the goal or impressive the intellect assuming power, suffering is NEVER the way.
If your teacher is not guiding you to dis-cover the Joy of Being, he/she is leading you in the wrong direction. That's the purpose of feeling, to show us the course of our chosen direction so that we can turn and head towards our TRUE BEING, which is pure JOY.
When your teacher tells you it doesn't matter what you think or feel, but only what you do...beware. Ignoring your emotional guidance system, you will not know what you are doing and where you are heading. You will have given away your power and until you find the courage to turn around and walk away, you are doomed to suffer and cause suffering to others. After all, what do we call un-thinking, un-feeling do-ers? Automatons. We have seen the results of automatons under the control of a charismatic leader many times on the planet.
Pretty much what has been going on for humans for eons.
If we want to truly evolve, we must give it all up and find ourselves in JOY. There is no need for rules, practices, or control when humans live in JOY. Can you imagine a joyous person causing harm, doing wrong, or needing to be controlled? Love and joy are the missing ingredients in a false teaching. Why? Because joyous loving people are uncontrollable!

The former students who have contributed here are waking up and exercising their courage and power to stand on their own and walk forward. Thanks to you all for lighting the way and leaving your signposts on this forum to guide those who also want to turn around and head for home.
The dawn is breaking and it is getting clearer and clearer by the minute. Can you FEEL the JOY!!

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

For those who have left and now fear they have no way to transform the world:

There's something called micro-philanthropy. Lots of people are starting to do it.

This story describes how one fellow, Marc Gold applies the model.

He travels the world. He takes time too look around. One widow he met changed her family's circumstances as soon as she got a sewing maching, cloth, scissors and other basic sewing equipment.

Mr Gold isnt part of a group and doesnt lead a group. He does it himself and only convenes groups to tell people the recipe.

Then, they can go home and figure out for themselves how to use it.

Mr. Gold's comment is:

"Hey, if the world is going down the toilet, I just want to slow down the flush action."

Saturday, 23 December, 2006  

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