Monday, March 05, 2007

Andrew's Ever-Changing FACE*

We received this submission from an anonymous former student of Andrew Cohen, who, having recently left Andrew's tutelage, goes by the name of freeEvolutionary. He seems to have his finger on the pulse of current changes being made in Andrew Cohen's organization and public presentation:

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 aggressively 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 Evolutionary Enlightenment beyond Andrew to post to my blog.

We thank freeEvolutionary for this recent insider news flash. The point being raised here about the shifting public persona of Andrew Cohen and his sangha is a good one. It seems as if, when the Impersonal Enlightenment Fellowship changed its name to EnlightenNext®, along with its new branding came the attempt to present a new and improved guru -- One without the nasty teeth that Andrew had used to bite so many of his students in his constant efforts to maintain complete sway over every aspect of their lives. (One can read on this blog in detail about the lengths he’s gone to in this regard, such as slapping and other physical abuse, and numerous other psychologically manipulative boot-camp type tactics). Once proud of his so-called “crazy-wisdom” practices, Andrew now avoids any honest and specific accounting of his actions, sticking instead to a spin of generalities and angry attacks on those critical ex-students (“failures,” he calls them) who have committed the apparent sacrilege of leaving him. (See his recent Declaration of Integrity, for example). It seems the former “rude boy” guru is now the “who me?” guru. And his current student-defenders seem to use the same avoidance-by-obfuscation and vicious attacks on critics as their teacher does. This sad trend can clearly be seen on a recent Zaadz Integral pod thread (more on this troubling phenomenon at a later time)

Andrew is now attempting to paint a new picture of his students, too. His more deeply involved devotees are no longer called “formal” or “committed students” -- they are now “Evolutionaries”. These individuals are clearly intelligent, sincere, and dedicated. But the new attempt to create a public impression of them (particularly, his newly-trained "Evolutionary Enlightenment instructors") as autonomous, free thinking, self-directing and in independent control of their lives appears to be more spin than fact. Recent insider reports from Foxhollow confirm that Andrew is still very much in charge of everything, and that longer-time resident “evolutionaries” still require the approval from Andrew for major life decisions. Cohen has partially adopted and adapted the thinking of people like Ken Wilber (AQAL) and Don Beck (SD), but as freeEvolutionary has indicated, behind the face of the forward-looking, collectively-conscious WIE magazine is the antiquated and problem-ridden model of one man at the top. Ask any ex-“committed student” and they will likely tell you that life inside Cohen’s community is more like Jesus Camp than an Integral think-tank.

Despite shifting appearances to the contrary, EnlightenNext seems to still be the authoritarian power-locked regime of an old-style autocratic guru with no external or internal checks on his governance save a growing presence of vocal ex-students. In this light, one can't help but worry about what Cohen’s latest proclaimed interest in providing objectively verifiable criteria for enlightened behavior will mean for those under his thumb.

But there does seem to be one silver lining here. Recent former insiders report that, since the public disclosures of questionable and abusive conduct emerged on this blog and elsewhere, Andrew seems to have moderated his more aggressive behavior toward his students. And this is a testimony to the value and grass-roots power of the internet, when used by people brave enough to speak out, to expose and bring to awareness the actual non-public practices of misguided spiritual leaders like Andrew Cohen.

The WHAT enlightenment??! Editors


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