Sunday, July 07, 2013


What follows is an account of my attendance at a half-day “Evolutionary Enlightenment” seminar given by Andrew Cohen in Toronto on 22 June, 2013, and a private meeting that I had with him afterward. The seminar was entitled “Living at the Edge of Everything.” As the afternoon progressed, it became increasingly clear to me that my impressions might be of value to those interested in a power struggle that had occurred recently in Cohen's universe: He had been forced into some sort of reckoning with his conduct as a “guru,” and pressured by his “senior students” into vacating his leadership position at the organization he had founded, “EnlightenNext.”

It must be borne in mind that these are my personal impressions, and that anyone else in my position—as well as Cohen himself—might have come away with something different. That being said, I'm surprised at how well I've been able to recollect the sequence of our interaction; the conversation presented here is quite close to a verbatim transcript. I find it harder to tell whether my approach was either too aggressive or too indulgent. I do believe that the questions I raised with Cohen are relevant and valid given his role and his record.
I attended Cohen's seminar reluctantly, as I felt that it ought to have been possible to arrange a simple meeting with him on the strength of our past relationship. (I am a former “student” who worked closely with Cohen for five years.) At the time, it was common knowledge among some disaffected ex-followers of Cohen's that he had recently begun engaging by telephone with some of the many individuals who had become alienated from him as a result of his manipulative and abusive behavior. But it had also come to light that he had been instructed to do this by his organization's PR strategist as part of a more comprehensive campaign to refurbish his reputation.
I had initiated contact by means of a friendly email a few weeks earlier, and Cohen had responded in kind, agreeing to a meeting and requesting that I contact him closer to the date of the event. I did so, but had heard nothing by the night before the seminar, so I decided to purchase a ticket. I sat in the first row on the far right facing the stage, and when Cohen came out to be introduced he was standing directly in front of me. I waved to let him know I was there, and he acknowledged my presence.
A bit of research had alerted me to the fact that Cohen had developed a sizable following in Toronto, including a dedicated core group that meets regularly to discuss his publications and videos and registers for his online courses and virtual seminars. According to EnlightenNext's 2010/11 “Biennial Report,” some members of this group (“EnlightenNext Toronto”) had donated thousands of dollars to the organization, and it was clear that they had effectively publicized this event and made sure that many of their friends were in attendance. The assembly gave Cohen a big round of applause as he mounted the stage, prompting him to wonder why, “with a reception like that,” he hadn't visited the city sooner. 
For the most part I found Cohen's lecture extremely boring, although some of the things he said struck me rather differently than they would have several years ago. In particular, I was aware that the “enlightened condition” that he was describing as authentic and revelatory seemed more like a dissociated state essentially devoid of human emotion. Cohen's sermon on morality, which hinged on an examination of the differences between Adolf Hitler and Martin Luther King, struck me as a subtle strategic disavowal of any possible similarities between Hitler's actions and his own. (Obviously, I'm not referring here to scale of devastation but to unacknowledged unsavory motivations.) And in his instruction to his listeners to take his words “with a grain of salt, but not too big a grain”—so as not to miss something of potentially crucial importance to their lives—I recognized a stratagem for short-circuiting critical thinking and encouraging suspension of disbelief. An apparently new direction in Cohen's teaching was his observation that some Christian organizations, along with “the greatest gurus in India,” have created facilities for helping to ease the suffering of the poor. He went on to suggest that “relieving people's suffering” is an important aspect of enlightened spirituality, but this talking point seemed out of place, as if it had been implanted in his brain somewhat recently and had not yet been fully integrated. Finally, I found that I was hearing Cohen's descriptions of his mental state during his formative years differently than I once had; they elicited compassion while offering some measure of insight into his present condition.
During the bathroom break, I had interactions with a few of Cohen's current longstanding students. The odd impression I took away from each of these conversations was that these students seemed relieved (and possibly even overjoyed) to be able to talk disparagingly about Cohen and his travails. Smiles would appear on their faces as they said daringly disrespectful things—but they were still Cohen's students, were still working for him, and without exception shared the conviction that his “teachings” remained valid and legitimate. Some had traveled great distances to be there.
One of these—a “Senior Teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment” who had served for several years as Cohen's personal assistant—had capitalized on his status in Cohen's organization to form a business arrangement with another (more financially successful) organization while continuing to function as EnlightenNext's “Director of Education.” When I asked him if this meant that he was now more “out” of Cohen's group than “in,” he said “out,” but I had to wonder how this held up logically against his presence in Toronto as a facilitator for this event. (He had relocated to Philadelphia from Foxhollow, Cohen's Berkshire ashram, only two months earlier, having worked closely with Cohen for the previous seventeen years.) This “Senior Teacher” explained to me that the “virtual holon” he belonged to, which included five of his male colleagues in the U.S. and Europe, was the mutinous vanguard that had stood up to Cohen, forced him to take a good look at himself, and relieved him of his authority. Despite this development, however, each of the individuals he mentioned remained, like him, closely involved with Cohen and EnlightenNext.
A second longtime student I spoke with, when I asked him what he thought Cohen would be “looking into” during his forced sabbatical, glanced carefully over each shoulder before smiling slyly and confiding, “Pathology.” This was definitely unusual; in the past, I had seen references by students to Cohen's shortcomings inspire him to heights of punitive creativity.
When Cohen's seminar was over at 4:00 pm, the leader of his local fan club let me know that Cohen intended to spend some “quiet time” with me at a bar once he had finished signing copies of his “international bestseller,” Evolutionary Enlightenment. Would I be willing to wait for Cohen at the bar until 5:30? Glancing over at the book-signing table, I noticed that Cohen was quite busy, so I gave his representative my number and asked him to call me when he thought Cohen would be ready to meet.
I didn't receive the call until 6:00 pm, at which time I was told that I should get myself to the bar immediately, as Cohen had just arrived there and ordered a drink. I said that I couldn't get there immediately, but would need a few minutes. Cohen's representative said “Okay” and hung up. Five minutes later he called again to ask where I was. I said I needed a just a little more time. He said that Cohen only had until 6:30, when he was due for dinner with his local acolytes. I indicated that since in that case we would only have fifteen minutes together at the most, it might be better to ask Cohen if we could meet after his dinner. He said he would ask and hung up. Thirty seconds later, he called back to say that if I wanted to meet with Cohen I had to “make it happen now,” otherwise I should just forget it. He added that Cohen was willing to postpone his dinner an extra ten minutes if I came right away. I told him (having anticipated most of this) that I was already en route. (The vibe I got from this intermediary—who otherwise seemed like a nice enough fellow—was that if Cohen had instructed him to waylay me in an alley and shoot me, he would gladly have done so.)
When I arrived, Cohen was sitting at the bar with his drink, and he motioned his companions to leave so that I could sit down on the barstool next to him. I extended my hand in greeting, but Cohen said, “Don't I get a hug?” I obliged him, but I felt extremely uncomfortable doing so, and given the circumstances it seemed to me that things were getting intimate between us rather too quickly. I felt that while Cohen was genuinely happy to see me, he was trying to pull me in by sheer force of will. We had not seen each other in fourteen years, and our parting had not been amicable.
I asked Cohen how he felt his presentation had gone. He said it had seemed to go well, then asked what I had been doing lately. He wanted to know about my academic and creative activities, how old I was now, and whether I was married. He was also interested in exploring my familiarity with certain philosophers, as he had been in the past. But I felt that all these inquiries, though innocent, were leading stubbornly in the direction of a premature camaraderie and an illusory commonality of interests. After responding to several of them, I said, “And what's been happening with you, Andrew?”
Cohen stopped cold and said, looking at me intensely, “Well, that's a pretty vague question, don't you think? Maybe if you could tell me more specifically what you're asking about, I could give you a better answer.” His eyes met mine somewhat warily. He blinked, but just once or twice.
“I hear you've been dealing with some difficulties lately,” I said.
“Oh, that,” he replied—of course he knew exactly what I was talking about.
“Yes, that,” I said. “What about that, Andrew?”
Cohen immediately went into a somewhat robotic speech about looking at himself in ways he never had before, taking six months off to deal with these new issues that had come up, and implementing measures intended to facilitate “healing” with former students who still had longstanding grievances against him.
“And after that?” I asked.
“I don't know. We'll see what happens. It's all unknown.”
“Do you plan to teach again?”
“We'll see.”
“Are you planning to explain to people why you're doing this?”
“Do you really think six months is enough?” I persisted. “If I were in your position, I'd think six years would be more like it.”
I asked Cohen what he thought his former students were angry about, and he launched into a philosophical explanation about how, in his role as a “guru,” he had “overemphasized Eros at the expense of Agape,” with the result that he hadn't been as “kind” and “sympathetic” toward these students as he should have been.
Having read Cohen's infamous “PR plan,” I had certainly been expecting this, but something about actually hearing him say these things unnerved me, and I began to feel uncomfortable and a bit clumsy. I found that I couldn't bear to look at him—a feeling that had already been developing for a short while, since he had been staring at me pretty consistently without blinking. I couldn't figure out what to say next. My mouth was dry, and I asked the bartender for some water.
Cohen quickly pounced. “The reason you're having trouble,” he said, “is because you're thinking too much.”
I found it thoroughly annoying that he thought he was still my teacher.
“Andrew,” I said, “this isn't about me. It's about you.”
“Well that's a new one,” Cohen rejoined with a wry smile. “Most of what I've been hearing lately is that it's not about me, that I should be paying more attention to them and how they feel.”
“Andrew,” I said, “it's not that they want you to pay attention to them. They want you to pay attention to what you did to them that made them feel the way they do. You did some pretty awful things, Andrew. You. You did those things.”
“I know.”
“And they want you to consider what it means about you as a person that you were capable of such actions. What do you think it means?”
“I know I've made some mistakes,” Cohen admitted.
“You're giving me such a strange feeling!” I said.
“What is it?” he asked.
I couldn't quite get a handle on what it was. “What's the word? Impervious. Impenetrable. I feel like I can't get through to you.”
He was staring at me with such detached intensity that I felt I had to wave my hand in front of his eyes to get his attention. I actually tried this. It had no effect whatsoever.
I decided to be more direct.
“I was talking about you with one of your students this afternoon, and do you know what he said? He used the word pathology. That's a word that would've been verboten in my time.”
Cohen's gaze went slightly vacant.
“Andrew,” I said, “I'm sorry, but believe it or not, I'm here to support you in getting clear about this, because in spite of everything, I care about you and I would like to help you if I can.”
Cohen had rallied. “Thank you,” he answered, “I appreciate that. Sincerely.”
“Andrew,” I said, “I have to ask you something.”
“Are we speaking as equals here?”
Cohen looked me in the eye. “Yes,” he said, and then, after a pregnant pause, “as peers.”
This struck me as an odd choice of words. It seemed to imply that he was inviting me up to his level, instead of coming down to mine or just abandoning altogether the notion of some implicit hierarchy. I felt that I didn't want to be his peer, I simply wanted to create the conditions necessary for a modicum of uncomplicated honesty between us.
“Andrew,” I said, “what I'm offering you, if you're interested, is dialogue—whether it's now or in the future. I'm not too bad at it, you know, even though it might not seem that way at the moment.”
Cohen smiled.
“Anyway,” I said, “I'm glad to know that we're speaking as equals, because otherwise I'd feel uncomfortable saying what I have to say here. Even knowing that you were once my teacher is going to make what I'm about to say feel kind of strange. May I say it?”
“Okay, I'm listening.”
“Andrew, I've been reading your PR plan, and I have to tell you that chalking this up to 'Eros versus Agape' isn't going to cut it. Chalking it up to 'Founder's Syndrome' isn't going to cut it. Chalking it up to some 'Mythic Guru' nonsense isn't going to cut it. None of that is going to cut it—do you know why? Because this isn't philosophical, it's human. What you did to these people wasn't philosophical. You caused real harm, and some of the harm you caused was simply incredible. How are you going to justify that with some philosophical explanation? And Andrew, this is going to sound especially strange since you were once my teacher, but you can't allow yourself to go in that direction at all, because if you even get near it, the temptation to be philosophical about this is going to become so strong that you'll never be able to pry yourself away from it, and nothing will ever change. Do you know what I mean? I'm really sorry to be talking to you this way, but we both know that that's how it is.”
“Look,” said Cohen, “as I said, I know I've made mistakes, and because of the mistakes I made, something that is very beautiful is not as beautiful as it could have been, and I feel terrible about that, because if I hadn't made those mistakes, those people wouldn't have left. And that's why I'm trying to make amends with the people I hurt—so that the potential of this beautiful teaching can be realized.”
“Andrew,” I said, “how can you say that something is beautiful when it's bound up with so much incredible damage and destruction? It doesn't make any sense. Don't you think you might at least have to ask yourself a few questions about everything that's happened? Don't you think there might be some flaw in the whole thing that you might have overlooked?”
“I have no doubt that I brought something beautiful into the world,” said Cohen, “something that wasn't here before and that is significant for the evolution of humanity.... When did you leave?”
“When did I leave? What do you mean?”
“When did you leave us? What year?”
“So you weren't there for what happened on July 30th, 2001.”
“July what?”
“July 30th, 2001.” [I forget what he called it—please excuse my ignorance, but someone reading this is bound to know; apparently a monument was erected to commemorate the event referred to.] “You left too soon,” Cohen went on. “Everyone who was still there at that time saw the beauty and potential of this teaching become manifest in a way that left no room for doubt, and it's because of what happened on that day that I have no doubt that I brought something beautiful into this world, and that because of that, nothing will ever be the same. But without having the context of that experience, you can't possibly understand what I'm talking about.”
I was visibly touched by this, and Cohen seemed more than ready to attribute the moisture in my eyes to the incontestable logic of his cosmology. Actually, it was the condescension and desperate grandiosity of his declaration that amazed me. I was awed, stunned and humbled. How I could ever hope to be Cohen's “peer” when I lacked this vastly superior context?
“Well, Andrew,” I said with some sadness, “I guess that's my loss.”
And I really did feel at a loss. The power of Cohen's conviction was so strong that I'd begun to realize I would never get through to him—I was by now certain of this. But I was also realizing how lost I would have been had I remained in his orbit long enough to witness the “miracle” (of July 30th, 2001) that his faith in himself was now eternally tethered to. I was overwhelmed with gratitude that I had not remained in his community a moment longer than I had.
“Listen,” Cohen said, leaning in toward me as he took my hand in his and rested his other hand on my knee, “I know I let you down. I'm sorry.”
How could he have let me down, I asked myself, when he had never had anything real to offer me in the first place? The idea that I had needed something from this man, and that because he had failed to provide it I had missed out on one of the most significant events in the history of the universe, struck me as ludicrous and vaguely insulting. But I somehow continued to feel entranced, as if I'd been manipulated against my will into an alternate reality. I felt that I was in the presence of an individual with such tremendous willpower that I had to be constantly vigilant in order not to abandon the most basic premises of my own experience. Even more strangely, I suddenly had the profound intuition that he was utterly devoid of conscience, that he lacked any authentic ability to care for or about another human being. It was clear that his deluded agenda took absolute precedence over everything. He was perfectly singleminded. Feeling his hand on my knee suddenly made my skin crawl.
“Andrew,” I said as I pulled away from him, “don't you realize how much anger people feel toward you? Don't you ever wonder what that's about?”
“Are you angry?” Cohen inquired, leaning in again. “Why don't you tell me a couple of things that I did to you, so that I can apologize?”
This felt very weird to me, and though I may be paranoid, when Cohen made this request I had the distinct impression that he was anticipating with a kind of perverse pleasure the opportunity of hearing a specific example of how he had caused me to suffer, and everything in me resisted the possibility of allowing him this gratification.
“Andrew,” I said, “I'm fine. It's you I'm worried about. I feel for you and for what you're going through. From a certain point of view, when I think about what lies ahead of you, I feel that it would have been easier for you if you had managed to die this way.”
Our eyes locked momentarily.
“Well, as you know,” he said matter-of-factly, “I believe in the continuity of consciousness, so if I don't deal with it now, I'll just have to deal with it later. So I might as well do it now.”
I looked at my watch. It was 6:30. “Looks like you've got to go,” I offered, but Cohen said that he could stay a bit longer. I had a message from a former colleague on my laptop that I wanted him to read, and I took the brief opportunity to disengage that reaching for my knapsack afforded me. I opened up my computer on the counter. Cohen put on his reading glasses and we read the message together in silence. Then I handed him a message from another former colleague in a sealed envelope, and told him who it was from.
“Where did you get this?” he asked. He had an expression on his face that made me think he might have had a soft spot for this former student and missed her. I told him that she had emailed it to me and that I had printed it out for him.
“Oh,” Cohen said, “they knew you were going to see me.”
“Of course, Andrew,” I said. “I know that you've talked to a few people on the phone, but I'm the first one who's had a chance to speak with you in person, so of course people are going to be curious to hear what happened.” Though it seemed highly unlikely, I felt an obligation to give Cohen a chance to say something that might reassure his disaffected ex-students, that would give them some faith in the possibility of a genuine expression of remorse on his part. “Andrew,” I said, feeling somewhat helpless, “what am I going to tell them?”
“I can't tell you what to say,” Cohen answered curtly.
We could have spoken longer, but I suddenly felt a strong desire to leave. “I don't have anything else,” I said. “I'm going to go.”
“Okay,” said Cohen.
We embraced again, and I asked him to give my love to his wife. I reminded him that he was welcome to contact me whenever he liked. Then I was out the door.
* * *
While it may strike some observers as overly generous, I've concluded since the above encounter that it is pointless to hold Andrew Cohen responsible for the considerable devastation he has left in his wake. The reason for this is the “pathology” now alluded to even among those of Cohen's students who, despite his destructive behavior, still remain loyal to him. Though many of Cohen's past actions cannot fail to strike all but his most indoctrinated followers as perverse if not evil, it seems clear that his psychological condition is such that he cannot will himself to behave differently. In light of this, it goes without saying that his functionality as a “spiritual teacher” is essentially a non-issue, and that it would be to everyone's benefit if his general reputation, rather than being manipulated by consultants, came to reflect his fundamental incompetence.
As adept as they may have become at rationalizing it, Cohen's students have always been at least dimly aware of a Jekyll-and-Hyde quality to the disjuncture between Cohen's “highly evolved spirituality” and his extremely predatory conduct. Looked at from a perspective that privileges Cohen's self-proclaimed “enlightenment,” this incongruence tends to be pretty confusing, whereas when examined in a context that includes the possibility of narcissistic personality disorder (“NPD”), one finds that it makes perfect sense. But this is a hard won insight, and as I discovered during his seminar, perceiving Andrew Cohen in this light requires a willingness to squint, to listen critically, and to read between the lines. Then one begins to recognize in his “teaching” not just an evolutionary spiritual doctrine but a well-developed technique for inspiring the reverence he requires from others in order to affirm his own tenuous sense of self. Accordingly, what a “teacher” like Cohen banks on is the effectiveness of his Orwellian strategies (“The Bondage of Liberation,” “The Epidemic of Narcissism”) for preempting or circumventing the critical capacities of his listeners.
Whatever genuine spiritual progress they may also have achieved through dedicated spiritual practice, all of Andrew Cohen's students have at one time or another found themselves infected by this viral “transmission.” They discover the core tenets of Cohen's formulations rolling off their own tongues in a hypnotic and intoxicating way, and are gratified by the magical consensus they are able to generate through the articulation of some mind-blowing “transformational truth.” Cohen's currently expanding galaxy of alumni spin-offs consists of those “stars” most successful at cultivating—perhaps less compulsively than the master—the underlying manipulation and opportunism of his technique. Some were predisposed in this direction from the beginning, while others have been corrupted through prolonged exposure without (one hopes) fully realizing what they have become. And some of these “leaders” appear to be facing a confusing dilemma in the aftermath of their guru's abdication: How does Cohen's “teaching” stand up once its narcissistic roots have begun to show? Are they, as individuals, sufficiently charismatic to aspire to guruhood themselves, or are they merely residual spokespeople for a newly secularized spiritual ideology?
No doubt such questions will also figure in Cohen's own forecasted dialogues with Ken Wilber on “the death of a mythic guru,” which are clearly intended to pave the way for Cohen's expedient reinvention of himself as Wilber's fellow “pandit.” (Or were; at the time of this writing, the first of these broadcasts had just been cancelled or postponed.) From the point of view of accountability, Cohen almost certainly now regards “pandit” as a safer role than “guru” to the extent that it reduces the likelihood of his having to face aspects of himself which, in all probability, he simply can't afford to look at. (Anyway, that's what he seems to be shooting for at the moment.)
Len Oakes's book, Prophetic Charisma, provides a useful template for understanding the phenomena considered here. Also, for a detailed and revealing description of NPD, the content to be found in Sam Vaknin's book, Malignant Self Love, is extremely helpful. Those who have spent time in Cohen's intimate company will recognize the dynamics forthrightly depicted there by one who (refreshingly) actually acknowledges suffering from this condition.
The communal social structure that Cohen has surrounded himself with for the past twenty-five years was built on such skewed “intersubjective” dynamics, and Cohen's students, even when they have wished to do so, have found these understandably difficult to see through and resist. This is even less their fault than it is Cohen's: When you have on one hand a prospective follower who is idealistic, credulous, and perhaps a little too hungry for guidance, and on the other an established communal social order organized around a spiritual ideology that has been bent to the needs of a sociopath, you have all the ingredients necessary for a perfect storm. With any luck, those seeking clarity will now have an opportunity to come to terms with their past experiences and move on. For those just getting involved, caution remains in order. Failure to recognize the truth about Andrew Cohen can still leave the credulous seeker defenseless against a mediated spiritual “brand” of compulsive predation and vampirism. If you have any doubt, read American Guru or the archives of this blog, which have been around for a while now.

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Blogger Matt Adams said...

As someone who became involved with Christopher Howard this year, I find this post extremely useful.

Christopher Howard was kicked out of his own company in a "hostile takeover" (as he put it), and after dealing with him in person, and seeing much of the same pathologies in him as you described hare about Andrew Cohen, I completely understand where you are coming from.

Fortunately for me, I only spent a week and a half directly involved with Christopher before having seen enough manipulation to warrant my leaving his.. for lack of a better term, "compound".

Unfortunately, not everyone who was there could see how they were being used and abused.

The damage that he's caused to me was financial as well as mental, and even caused major harm to my relationships. None of this matters to him, because he too is blinded by his own delusions of grandeur.

Thanks for writing this up, it's helping me put some closure on the whole incident.

Monday, 08 July, 2013  
Blogger Lea Morgan said...

This is a very thorough and excellent account of AC's pathology and his denial of it. Thank you for taking the time to meet with him and then to describe so fully the extent not only of his sociopathy but also his overt attempts to manipulate you towards his narcissitic views. This account of your meeting should be published in many websites, including news media and as another flier perhaps to be made available at any teachings and retreats in the future. At this point it seems like he will continue in some form to try and spread what he thinks as his sacred teachings, totally denying his own teachings at the same time of "it not what you think but what you do that matters". With such a shriveled or non-existent conscience, the beast should not be allowed to raise its ugly head and declare "I'm baaack"!

Tuesday, 09 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have experienced a similar process with a TM ( enlightened teacher).with whom I was intimately involved for five years. He certainly described his level of consciousness weekly or daily to me as well beyond the basic cosmic consciousness. In TM terms as advanced Brahman Consciousness, a condition where all perception is of unity was frequently shared in verbal instruction, on tape and in intense processing.
I was fooled in putting out a great deal of money out which is of course lost. Before reading this article I have come to accept his psychopathology. The key words of narcissist and psychopath describe him well and I have shared these words with others. Certainly his behavior has crossed the legal line into the criminal in how he has treated me financially. The painful part of this whole process has been my attempt to resolve this higher level of consciousness with pathological and criminal behavior in a teacher and friend. I have spent years now trying to reach him and the circle around him to get a change of behavior with just more lies and deceipt in their process with me.
My conclusion has been that all my efforts to communicate and resolve issues have just been viewed through the pathology and achieved no insight on his or his followers part. I wish to point out that I am not a kook. As a psychologist I have some authority behind my final assessment even though I was fooled.
It is in my current opinion impossible to have a stable high level of unified consciousness and treat another not as Self but as an object for use and abuse. I have come to conclude that whatever the state of consciousness of this teacher it is definitely not grounded in his personality or action. His action with me was predatory and of a similar original to the awareness of an alligator. Eat or eaten.
I have had the option of pursuing a legal path. However the money will not likely be recovered and spending five years with a criminal process is not where I want to spend more energy. There has already been to much time spent on this painful process of betrayal. I have extracted myself from any further financial harm returning my shares to a company he runs and cutting of all contact. What I have learned spiritually is to follow my own heart and not a teachers. I am at the beginning now of healing my soul. The truth of the failure of so many gurus is a flaw in the system of development of eastern teachings that bypasses psychological character development and the development of the heart in action.

Friday, 12 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Anonymous involved with a TM psychopathic teacher. That sounds horrible. Why don't name this guy and out him here? It could help to warn others from getting duped by him in the future.
Thank you.

Friday, 12 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

a distinction was made by Heinz Kohut between narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic behavior disorder.

In NPD, one experiences others as extensions of oneself and feels an emptiness. The difficulty here is in relating to other persons.

But in the graver condition of NBD the person cannot relate. He or she *uses* people to soothe and regulate his or her moods, and get a sense of self-repair. The person with Narcissistic Behavior Disorder could be said to use other people the way addicts and alcoholics seek and use drugs.

"Kohut addresses another issue of relevance concerning his very critical distinction between narcissistic personality disorder and narcissistic behavior disorder..

On the one hand, narcissistic personality disorder is rooted in a disturbance in relating to others as selfobjects..On the other hand narcissistic behavior disorder is determined by a difficulty in using other persons objects and things as self objects..."

An addict, suffering from NBD misuses and abuses others in quest for mood regulation and self soothing.

Ulman and Paul Narcissus in Wonderland: Self Psychology of Addiction

So..the guru or pandit or spiritual impresario role can be quite attractive to those who need a supply of people for self soothing purposes.

And a student has to know how to evaluate whether a teacher is teaching them as persons or using them as objects.

Friday, 12 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The truth of the failure of so many gurus is a flaw in the system of development of eastern teachings that bypasses psychological character development and the development of the heart in action. "

Another ingredient in this set up for failure is that these eastern systems of teacher student relations have an authoritarian social context.

Even a benevolent teacher does not change the overall authoritarian context--benevolent teachers legitimize it.

*Total power for the guru zero social accountability for guru error

If anythign goes wrong, blame the underlings

The Eastern system erroneously assumes that once enlightenment is reached one is inccoruptible, even incorruptible by the many tempttations of the guru role and the social context that lets gurus get away with anything

*Assumption that the guru is at so high a level of development that persons at a lower level of development cannot presume to question or resist the guru's actions, however strange or eccentric

*Mere experience is equated with knowledge or truth value. Experiences, sadly can be manipulated. THey dont prove anything, either.

Enlightenment or peak experience does not heal or change underlying character structure. If one is a nasty person prior to having a peak experience, one will be a nasty person afterwards. Becoming a kind person requires painful effort and making amends if one has harmed others.

*Enlightenment-speak jargon can be learned and acquired as a verbal costume.

*Too often, gurus have more students than they can work with, person to person making access to the teacher into a craved commodity

A sophisticated array of alibis that are trotted out to justify the teacher, no matter how foolish or greedy his or her behavior

An industry analogous to the entertainment industry which manufactures these teachers and massages expectations and cravings--eg the Enlightenment Industry

Anyone who is skeptical or wishes to do a social analysis or fact check is accused of "negativity".

Eveb a benevolent guru legitimizes this system. And a benevolent guru may be conned or seduced into appointing a crafty greedy successor.

Friday, 12 July, 2013  
Blogger Jason said...

A whole blog dedicated to examples guru-disciple abuse here:

Down the Crooked Path

Well worthing browsing through at length. There will be lots you hadn't heard of.

Saturday, 13 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The title of this blog entry reminds me of the movie "My Dinner with Andre," which made a real impact on me when I first saw it in a theater. I mostly remember Wallace Shawn say in effect that if you could really see reality, you wouldn't have to travel to Mount Everest or elsewhere. That if you could become fully aware of what existed in a cigar store on Seventh Avenue, it would blow your brains out. That there is just as much "reality" to be perceived in the cigar store as on Mount Everest. Andre Gregory then countered by saying that the problem is that people can't see the cigar store.

So for people who want to be enlightened, who want to "see the cigar store," they must live in a compound under the thumb of a guru who monitors their relationships, day-to-day activities, meal plan, etc. ect.?

To me that is the real question? Why the cult? Why is/was it necessary for Andrew to create this cult/compound of Foxhollow?

Have any of his followers really "seen the cigar store?"

Perhaps all of the people who allowed themselves to be controlled by Andrew, should just admit that they were wrong and foolish to allow this kind of control. I'm not saying Andrew is blameless, but the fact is they wanted something from Andrew.

Many of us want to "see the cigar store" but apparently giving over our power to another person, enlightened or not, just doesn't work out. There must be a better way.

Also, I would agree that Ken Wilber should be criticized for encouraging Andrew as a "guru," because he's obviously aware of the problems in the EnlightenNext community.

Monday, 15 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, another 'sting in the tail' comment.

(quote)Perhaps all of the people who allowed themselves to be controlled by Andrew, should just admit that they were wrong and foolish to allow this kind of control. I'm not saying Andrew is blameless, but the fact is they wanted something from Andrew.

Many of us want to "see the cigar store" but apparently giving over our power to another person, enlightened or not, just doesn't work out. There must be a better way.

The better way would be for everyone to pay attention to something Kenny Wilber knows about.

The Stanford Prison Simulation Experiment done by Professor Philip Zimbardo.

In the Spiritual Choices seminar convened by a much younger Ken Wilber in the 1980s, to address to problem of cult abuse in spiritaul paths, one of the participants in this gathering of scholars was Philip Zimbardo. He is mentioned in a footnote of a book "Spiritual Choices" that was edited by Wilber, Anthony and Eckler, in which much time and attention was given trying to create a "typology" to identify healthy ves abusive gurus and groups.

**Aside from the footnote listing Zimbardo among the invited scholars, nothing, nothing is said in the Spiritual Choices book about the Stanford Prison Experiment, which grimly demonstrated that people in groups that are socially isolated from outside influence REGRESS.

(end of part one)236 mardbas

Tuesday, 16 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(quote from Stripping the Gurus--Note: I own a copy of Spiritual Choices and have verified that this quoted statement is correct.
"Note: Dick Anthony himself was present at an alternative spirituality-based seminar in the mid-’80s with both Zimbardo and Wilber, along with numerous other highly placed transpersonal psychologists. The footnoted indication of Zimbardo’s attendance at that meeting, however—plus two inconsequential questions asked by him of an interviewee (Werner Erhard)—is the only mention of him in Anthony, Ecker and Wilber’s (1987) Spiritual Choices. That is, not a word is spoken of Zimbardo’s (or Milgram’s) groundbreaking professional work, while the other contributors to that misled volume occupy themselves with the valiant struggle of determining how to distinguish “safe” guru-figures and organizations (such as Trungpa’s and Muktananda’s) from reportedly “problematic” ones. Nor, amazingly, have Zimbardo’s classic observations even quietly made their way into the confident arguments given there, by people whose lives have been devoted to understanding those issues.

Sad. Very sad."

So why didnt Wilber use Zimbardo's insights to warn Andrew of the dangers of taking himself and his students into the socially isolated setting of Foxhollow, eh?

All participants in the Stanford Prison Experiment were told up front that they could leave.

No pretense that the group would give any future benefit such as enlightenment.

But.. the students forgot they could leave.

They were not submissive fools. They were Stanford university students, screened for mental health issues and randomly assigned roles of either guard or prisoner.

And the experiment was time limited to just a week.

Yet..Zimbardo had to call off the experiment EARLY.

Because the students in the guard roles became yet more brutal and the students assigned to be prisoners became yet more submissive.

They forgot they could leave!!

These adults regressed in a matter of days.

No one kept them from leaving (at Foxhollow there were reports of sutdents having their doors guarded if they were suspected of wanting to leave.

So the big question is__since Kenny wilber invited Philip Zimbardo to the Spiritual Choices seminar, why didnt he refer to Zimbardo's claim to fame--namely refer to the Stanford Prison Experiment?

Its cruel and misleading to blame the students in the Foxhollow Experiment.

That one went on for years. No time limit.

Why invite Zimbardo and fail to mention his work?

So...lets keep an eye on these sting in the tail posts.

Kenny knew enough about Zimbardo's work to invite him to that 1980s Spiritual Choices seminar.

So of all people Kenny should have known the dangers of Andrew moving his group to an isolated area.

"Quote)Zimbardo, for one, had the common sense and compassion to remove the prisoners who weren’t psychologically able to leave on their own, from his simulated prison. Religious apologists by contrast, in support of their insistence that brainwashing and mind control don’t exist, would more likely simply leave the poor bastards there to suffer. After all, everyone in the ashram/prison entered that totalitarian environment voluntarily, and other people manage to leave on occasion, so what is the problem?

Tuesday, 16 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why interfere with that “nontraditional” society, where no one is being physically constrained to stay?

In our view persons have a right to enter totalistic subcultures and have done so voluntarily for centuries (Robbins and Anthony, 1982).
Certainly, we each have the right to enter, and remain in, any subculture in which we wish to participate; that much is blindingly obvious. But it is not difficult to comprehend the dangers inherent in walking naïvely into environments where, if one has bought deeply into the teachings at any point, it is not easy to leave. There is thus at least an obligation to warn others as to what they may be getting themselves into, in voluntarily entering such contexts. To fight for the right to enter and “surrender completely” to one or another “holy fool,” without in any way comprehending the difficulties involved in leaving, is beyond acceptable human ignorance.

Tuesday, 16 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is also absolutely guaranteed to create more pain than it could ever alleviate.

Robbins and Anthony (1982) then give their grossly oversimplified perspective on the constraints binding people into closed communities:

The psychological and peer group pressures which are mobilized to inhibit leaving [so-called] cults should probably not be equated with armed guards and fences in their capacity to influence attitudes.
But: Tell that to Zimbardo’s prisoner #819—the “bad” prisoner who refused to leave the study—for whom those pressures were indeed just as constraining, and more psychologically destructive, than any mere “armed guards and fences” could have been. Indeed, whether the constraints take the form of peer pressures, literal fences, or concern about “pursuing furies,” they will all have the same effect. That is, they will all make it extremely difficult for one to leave such environments, even having entered them voluntarily to begin with.

As I later tried to explain to people outside Scientology, I was like a two year old child. I was incapable of leaving home. They owned my soul. The ties binding me to the Org, though invisible, were more powerful than any physical bond could have been. I was in a trap more powerful than any cage with iron bars and a lock. Mentally I belonged to them (Wakefield, 1996; italics added).
[Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard] controlled our thoughts to such an extent that you couldn’t think of leaving without thinking there was something wrong with you (Gerry Armstrong, in [Miller, 1987]).
Without having done in-depth research (particularly in the pre-Internet days), however, such poor souls had no way of knowing what they were getting themselves into. Thus, they suffer endlessly, for no greater sin than having “surrendered completely” to one or another “god” in a voluntarily entered totalitarian environment. Meanwhile, our world’s unduly respected theoreticians congratulate themselves, and each other, on having composed “devastating critiques” which embody little reference indeed to the spectrum of relevant concerns.

One may further argue endlessly about what constitutes coercive “brainwashing” or relatively subtle “mind control,” and whether any given community is guilty of either or both of those. The answer does not really matter here, simply because there are people trapped in every such environment who cannot, psychologically, “just leave,” regardless of any “theories” which may say that they shouldn’t be thus constrained. Zimbardo demonstrated that with a mere dozen previously healthy individuals thirty years ago"

One can say, "Oh, thats just quoted material from Geoffrey Falk"

Nope. He is corrected about Zimbardo being marginalized and not one mention of the Stanford Prison Experiment--which foreshadowed the horrors at Foxhollow.

And Falk made a point of saying he had started out being impressed with the Spiritual Choices book.

Falk tells us

"...One’s jaw drops further to find that, as late as 2003, Wilber has still been recommending Spiritual Choices to others as a means of distinguishing “safe” groups from potentially “problematic” ones. That such recommendations are coming years after the central thesis (as documented above) of the text has been wholly discredited in practice, is astounding....I myself had endorsed Spiritual Choices at one point in a previous work
. Obviously, however, my opinion of that book and of its authors’ ideas has matured significantly since then. Indeed, by this point I very much regret that previous naïvete on my part..."

Tuesday, 16 July, 2013  
Anonymous Luke said...

This is the July 2001 'event' that was referred to. It's a major piece of mythology in the Cohen brand.

Saturday, 20 July, 2013  
Anonymous MP said...

It’s strange that you have consistently devoted much of your time over many years on this website that is dedicated to Andrew Cohen and his Teachings and not have a clue about the event on the 30th August 2001. That’s THE main event, but you didn’t know anything about it till you spoke with Andrew Cohen?

Thursday, 25 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The so-called main event supposedly happened on July 30 dummie!
What is really strange is that you or anyone else has the credulity to care!

Thursday, 25 July, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not been around Cohen or this wonderful site too much-the little i do know via 5 one day talks over the years and sitting next to him in an audience my own radar was skewed.

i also remembered Cohen and (who else) Wilber in interview and obviously there's a 1000 folks that have been close to him but one interview 8 years ago they spoke briefly about Cohen in therapy as a kid for years till he (ahem)decided he was too bold and brave and walked...

Knowing the little i do about his mother and upbringing i'd say(and i know this is obvious)that he was emotionally abused and(again,obviously)this is all the unravelling from his childhood..

i think his skill at deniying his painfull childhood and renderring it 'ego' and all the usual 'move on' 'let go' and,being the ultimate being as he thinks 'let go,lean to me,and join the club'...

Also,that dependancy trait his students have (ahem)developed over the years is also in part a denial of their own painfull childhood.

Iam a little tired today but i'd like to do the 'recommends' book reading and that's some Alice Miller...
Cohen should NOT be offered forgiveness on this issue

Wednesday, 14 August, 2013  
Anonymous Tobias said...


Wednesday, 21 August, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Both the author's past relationship with Mr. Cohen and what comes across as her own uneasy state of mind at the time of her recent meeting with him strongly bias her against an objective assessment of whatever efforts he has been making to make amends and to confront and reform himself. Mr. Cohen, has, objectively speaking, taken real concrete actions to move in a better, more positive direction. A different and less biased person perhaps would have perceived the related encounter and the facts at hand in a much more positive light, bringing substantially different language and framing to the description of the encounter and the facts at hand. This is not a defense, just something to keep in mind. When a person says, "I'm sorry," maybe he or she actually is sorry, and maybe it's hard to see the truth of this if the person doing the seeing is the one who has been harmed.

Sunday, 29 September, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re the comment above: I don't think the writer is biased. “Objective” attention to Cohen's responses to the questions he is asked reveals that he is still using the abusive strategies for which he has supposedly been apologizing. He is still holier and more enlightened than thou, and not even particularly apologetic. The unmistakable emphasis in his “apology” is on the preservation of his agenda rather than on the many injuries he has caused. He has trouble maintaining any admission of equality, never mind heartfelt contrition. And it is his own words, not any narrative framing, that convey the stubbornness of his condition. The kind of indulgence the commenter offers is exactly what a manipulator like Cohen counts on to bolster his sense of superiority when confronted with the unambiguous evidence of his record.

Monday, 30 September, 2013  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So what's going on with Andrew Cohen at this point?

Has he re-surfaced anywhere?

Is he teaching again?

Has he taken any steps to address the many grievances lodged against him?

Has he done anything to make amends - and particularly to make monetary reparations to people who were financially bullied and manipulated?

Saturday, 21 June, 2014  

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