Friday, November 12, 2004

Readers' Comments

What Enlightenment?! has received many reader’s comments. We’re happy to receive these responses, and would encourage more of the same! Here’s a sampling of our mailbag:

A reader’s comment on “The Narcissist Claims Infallibility:”

I must say I found your first entry, with the dialogue between Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilbur at the café in the south of France, a real riot. No kidding, I laughed out loud reading it, as did a few of my friends. No one more richly deserves to be satirized than those whose self-importance and grandiosity has reached epic, even mythic, proportions. Especially when two people come together and use each other to promote themselves in such a cloyingly self-satisfied way, then represent it to the naïve general public as dharma. One does not have to be an ex-student of Andrew’s to be irritated and annoyed at such unbecoming misbehavior in two grown men who claim to be enlightened.

However, reading WHAT enlightenment?! I could not help but reflect on how there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. Too much of anything becomes its opposite—not just a bad thing, but, in this case, in poor taste and unconscious of its own pain and aggression. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it, because those are exactly the charges that can be levied (among others) quite fairly against Andrew Cohen.

Those who have known and observed Andrew Cohen for the past ten years have watched, with some sadness, as he has aggressively pursued world domination of the spiritual scene. Andrew started out as a brilliant, inspiring individual of extraordinary dharmic rhetorical power and clarity; he clearly had the potential to offer something of profound value to serious practitioners on the spiritual path. What a heartbreak to see him fall so far from grace! He has left a trail of “bloody bodies,” so to speak, among his students, with serious allegations—that did not appear in Andre’s book, by the way, where the issues were watered down or left unexamined—of serious physical, emotional and spiritual abuse. Anyone who is vitally tuned into the western spiritual scene is aware of the pain of many, many ex-students of Andrew Cohen who have been bombarded with coercion and who feel deeply, deeply betrayed by the man they considered to be their guru. And for the record: it’s not only Don Beck and Ken Wilbur whose ideas Andrew has usurped and made his own—and here we can include both dharmic ideas and actual phrases that are either universally known principles of the spiritual path and the specific language and experience of other contemporary western schools, which he has claimed for his own.

However, for your purposes, in order to strike at the root of the problem in a way that actually serves a higher purpose—rather than merely the immediate ego gratification of trashing someone who hurt you deeply—you could take a long, strong look at yourselves and assess what might be the most effective skillful means at hand. There is such a thing as satire and humor that is free of aggression, although, granted, it is a very difficult thing to achieve. Nonetheless, when you can free yourself of hatred and aggression toward Andrew, you will be more effective in achieving your goal, which might be to provide some real sanity and clarity for people who are lost in the swamp of Andrew’s unexamined shadow. Perhaps that is where the real possibility of WHAT enlightenment?! can be found.


Great response and very helpful and balanced. I have a lot of trouble struggling with these polarities. Between feeling righteous anger at Andrew and his ruthless methods to achieve his lofty goals. Realization after realization that his motivation was not totally pure, despite being totally immersed in a system that did not in any way allow legitimate questioning....which of course dulled my own inherent ability to discriminate....rationalizations just ended up warping and blunting my own god given intuition. And still.........! What was good and wholesome in the impulse to follow someone like Andrew has to be given some space too.

A comment posted in reply to “SPECIAL ELECTION ISSUE:”

I was at Heathrow airport, summer 2002, one of two dozen London students come to see the master off on his return to the US. AC, holding court in a coffee lounge, was attacking one student for her "green meme" (aka bleeding heart liberal) views on the impending war. "We shoulda finished Saddam off last time", growls AC. The implication was clear: Bush Snr had also been a bleeding heart liberal.Two things struck me at the time. One, and it genuinely surprised me as I'd considered him a bright guy, was how simplistic AC's assessment was.

Grim realpolitik - the hope that a chastened Saddam could still have a role to play in regional stability and balance of power - is a far more likely cause of Bush Snr's cold-hearted (and for tens of thousands of Kurds and Shias, fatal) halting of the drive to Baghdad in 1991 than any rush of liberal pacifism.I hear Wilbur gets up to the same kind of trick - equating opposition to the mess in Iraq with green meme thinking.

I'm no pacifist. But I saw the WMD thing as bogus, and I was right; and I saw the equating of Saddam's appalling (formerly US backed) regime with Al Quaeda as ludicrous, and I was right.

It would be nice to report that, in that impromptu coffee lounge meeting at the airport, I spoke my mind against AC's uninformed posturing. But anyone ever involved in this cult will know such a thing would have been unthinkable. The Master had spoken.

A comment to “All Absolute Power Demoralizes Its Possessor:”

"Qui veut faire l'ange, fait la bête." ("Those who play at being angels, end up as animals.")--Blaise Pascal

A reader comments on “David Deida muses on Guru Andrew Cohen:”

How refreshing! Kind of a more sophisticated version of imagining someone you're intimidated by on the toilet. I think Deida hits the nail on the head when describing Andrew's lack of depth, not so sure about his endearingness :) Andrew reminds me of Bush...that kind of moral conviction that can be very powerful, and the lack of depth and willingness to deal with ambiguity that can be very dangerous.

This comment came in response to the Parabola Magazine review of Enlightenment Blues, posted on October 25:

Andre’s book has made a very large contribution to understanding what happens in the presence of a powerful and charismatic spiritual authority like Cohen. I was in the Cohen group (or cult, pick your word) for many, many years. It was quite a struggle to leave, complete with much personal reprobation, but finally I did get out. I was warned that if I ever left that my soul would rot, that the world “out there” was a desert, that no one ever finds true happiness once leaving the community.

However, almost immediately upon my departure I had an explosive experience of freedom, joy and an unboundedness that was not about anything in particular other than that I was now the captain of my own ship, I was once again free to fully explore without the rigid dictates of any system. I felt free in a way that surprised and amazed me. I looked down the street, and it was just a street, yet this joy! In my mind there had been the possibility of feeling guilty for leaving the organization I had given so many years to, but when this sunshine began to shine on me I knew that there was nothing at all wrong, that on the contrary there was a hell of a lot to be very grateful for.

Over those years in the community the horizon had become slowly, imperceptibly, closed and dark. It didn’t begin that way, but somehow it really had become that way.

But now, within hours of departure, I found my horizon beginning to clear up. To quote Nietzsche, “At long last our ship may venture out again, venture out to face any danger; all the daring of the lover of knowledge is permitted again; the sea, our sea, lies open again: perhaps there has never been such an ‘open sea.’ I literally had my life back, and that recognition continues to be more precious than anything I had ever imagined.

A comment posted Oct 23 in reply to “So Just What IS a Real Sage?”:

Interesting stuff. There is no doubt in my mind, after 12 years of close contact with Andrew, that he is at the very least a bad teacher, one who uses his final goal as justification for severe abuse of his students. I think some justification could be made that he is a sadistic bully who takes pleasure in any pain experienced by anyone not on his current list of most loyal subjects. This of course includes any ex-students, but also any current students exhibiting a desire to truly question their experience. An experience that may include severe doubts about the running of the "revolution" they find themselves in.......

This comment received on October 22:

Enjoyed your blog - a welcome release for some.

As to Big Brother What Is Enlightenment’s continued existence - from my experience of 10 years+ as a student- Andrew Cohen wanted to be the evolutionary revolutionary leader and we wanted him to be as it seemed to fulfill something in us at the time.

It's only when you find the guts to leave - usually under a cloud - that maturity dawns. Those of us who now meet as friends find that we have moved on, found our autonomy and a perspective on our lives.

Evolution has no long term goal, it occurs because , in successive generations, there are slight differences in embryonic development therefore claims by any organisation to be "on the cutting edge of evolution" - is arrogant nonsense.


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