Thursday, December 30, 2004

Four Steps to Freedom

Chances are, if you are reading this now, you have already taken a few courageous steps of discrimination. As Andrew used to teach, thoughts are not a problem. Neither is inquiring into the nature of what lies beyond the community or that you might come to know that there is a life, a real life, with real challenges, outside Andrew’s community!

If you have left you have to understand that we all go through very specific phases, or stages, upon coming out! This, too, is impersonal ….and it might seem horrible, but actually it is very refreshing!

So here are the four different phases:

Phase one: the isolation phase.
This phase can last from a few days to a long long time, even years and years. The problem is that the longer this phase lasts the more screwed up you are. Really. You are in what Tibetans call the Bardo realm and Catholics call Limbo: Neither here nor there. You know very clearly how the community and Andrew sees you: an egomaniac, full of anger, resentment, pride. Also you know, that the world outside is not only crawling with ignorant people that are wasting their lives away, but also (and that is way more dangerous), with us, the shadow sangha…and we are real bad news…and Andrew over the years has made sure you know how really bad we are!

So, there you are, in the isolation phase, confused about a lot of things, but very certain about one: you do not want to see anybody! Neither the community (if you are one of the lucky ones) nor anybody belonging to the ex community! You have heard we make phone calls trying to reach you disguised as friends….-and maybe are a bit surprised that nobody has called you yet - Well, we have a life….

But back to you. Fair enough, you need time to sort things out, and depending on how long you have been in there and the abuse (yes! abuse) you have gone through, you might really need some time. It would be good if you can find a friend in this phase, or if not a friend (there are no real friends in the community) someone that has left more or less at the same time you have. YOU NEED TO VENT! Really, it is your human right, and it is also very HEALING!

So, the best thing you can do is get out of phase one as fast as you can and start pouring your heart out to someone you trust! That will move you on to phase two.

Phase two: contact.
So now you are daring, you are starting to go beyond what you “knew” were the safe parameters. And maybe that is why you are even checking this site out. The internet is a safe bet. Nobody sees you, and only you know…but now you have to find out that actually other people have gone through the same things you have. Start to branch out, look for e-mail addresses, reach old friends that maybe have left a few years ago. The more you branch out the more you will see many others share your experience of doubt and disillusionment. The more daring you are the more you will contact people that are viewed as real perverse in the community, the hard core “negatives”. Because as much as phase two is the beginning of liberation, you will find out, you can get stuck there too.

You can get stuck in choosing who is good and who is bad, still according to what is Andrew’s view. Really, really bad is someone that says Andrew is an egomaniac, someone that does not take any responsibility at all for the fact that they have asked to be free in the first place. Someone less bad is someone that has left, but is admitting that it is their ego’s fault and they are sinners! So, these people are the ones that will admit they had to suffer in order to be redeemed and freed from their egos. They had to do prostrations in the cold freezing water, they had to be humiliated publicly on cartoons….because they are so narcissistic and self-centered that they deserved that! Really!

So here we go, the degree to which you will move on, is the degree to which you will inquire and dare, and so, to that degree you will be called bad! How ironic!

Phase three: discrimination
This is when you start to see that there are many different views out there of where Andrew is at. And it might be interesting to find out that people you understood to be so negative are not! Actually they might have had, at the time of leaving the community, some very valid points!
So in the big world out here, here we are all navigating and trying to understand!
Some of us have even been able to leave behind the whole Andrew thing, and view it as just part of our experience in life and the world, and move on…

Phase four: there are no safety nets out here!
The world and our spiritual explorations are wide open, there are no safety nets, if you blow it you pay. There are no guidelines and nobody is telling you what is right and what is wrong. You are the one that needs to learn to navigate both in the mundane world and the spiritual world. Some things are brought to you and some things you have to look for.

In A’s community you have learned to endure, now it is up to you to move forward!

(contributed by an anonymous reader)

Responses to Four Steps to Freedom

Happy New Year Everyone!

We're kicking the year off on the right note, which is to say lots of discussion and input! Thank you to all the commentors!

Four Steps to Freedom has ignited a flurry of replies and responses, which is a sure sign that this blog is being participated in - and that's good. We all don't agree - another sign of health.

For the record, WHAT enlightenment?! has as its theme "an uncensored look at self-styled "guru" Andrew Cohen" and we realize that by posting Four Steps, we were straying a bit from that and looking into the ex-student and how he/she navigates the world after AC.

We will be returning to our original theme in subsequent posts.

Here are the comments we've received on Four Steps:

Comment 1:
Even though it is a very interesting analysis, who ever posted this last post seems to be more upset by the people who have left Andrew and are not in touch with "the so called shadow sangha", then Andrew himself.... go figure!

I have left a long time ago and now peacefully living with my wife and kids, not thinking back a whole lot of my times with Andrew (still in Marin County). I dont know much of the more intense forms of abuse, but they sound NOT GOOD!

Still, I do feel that the confusing facts of the profound depth of Andrew's realization AND all his abusive stuff needs a lot more careful thought than just angry bitching... you know what i mean? there doesn't seem to be much of a balanced view here.

There was a post on your forum a while back beautifully refering to this as well, challenging to have a bigger heart about the whole situation. I found that very helpful.

Anyway, I doubt you will post this to the blog, but for what it's worth, here it is.... namaste!

Comment 2:
This is a comment on the commentator who believes that the author of Four Steps To Freedom is more interested in taking to task those not in touch with the "shadow sangha" than Andrew himself.I think this misses the point completely. It seems to me that, unfortunately, the commentator himself may be stuck in "phase one" and perhaps, therefore, the description of this phase struck too close to home for him.

The author of 4 Steps neither insists that contacting former members of the community who are critical of Andrew (the so-called "shadow sangha")is necessary, nor does the author find any fault in anyone who chooses not to contact these folks. (Although, to tell the truth, it seems to me that if you want to start investigating what happened, why you left and what that means, it would seem to make sense to speak with others similarly situated about it).

The author of "4 Steps" only recommends that you find someone you trust to "pour your heart out to." And if you do this honestly, you'll start to find a lot of anger and hurt that needs to be acknowledged before you can move on to the next step toward finding your wings and flying free.

One thing that's sure--sweeping it under the rug in the name of being "fair anad balanced" doesn't help.

On the other hand, dear commentator, if you do have something to say about Andrew that you think will make things here more balanced, I'm sure everyone would love to hear it.

Comment 3:
JEEEEEEEZ!!!!I read the first "comment on the commentator" earlier today and found it very refreshing. I left Andrew Cohen a few years ago and also feel that my life is on a pretty even keel. No massive amounts of unresolved anger but a willingness to sincerly question some core aspects of Andrew's teaching methods that were deeply suspect and possibly abusive.

I was sent the link to this blog anonomously and have found some of the information very helpful and it's given me a lot of food for thought and a real way to find my way through the confusion. This latest "four step" post I found, to be honest, patronizing, unpleasant, extremely polarizing and arrogant. It made me experience the feeling I often had in the community of being painted into a corner and not being the given the respect to find my own way. Most dangerously and oppressively of all being labelled in some self-invented step system I feel is particularly arrogant and lacking in any kind of grasp of the enormous complexity of the situation we all find ourselves in. I felt really angry that the person who responded (pretty openly I thought) to the "four step" manifesto was basically just put down. Reminded me of being in the community....very FASCISTIC!!!!

PLEASE let this blog be an open and fair place that people can meet to find out more about their experience. Not a place to be put down, patronized and subjected to a two dimensional and primitive pyschoanalysis!!

Comment 4:
Ramesh Balkaser says this. I may believe that the whole universe is a dream, but so long as one remains outside of the dream and sees it as something seen by him as something seen by him as a seperate entity he cannot be any nearer to liberation or self realisation.Liberation is nothing other than the liberation from the idea of a seperate entity doing the seeing.

Wilbur and Cohen are both very much seperate if not superior entities seeing others as still trapped in the dream. Poor fools instead of transending their ego's they have simply driven it under cover so that rather than being able to witness its workings they act so totally from it that they have become useless to themselves and a danger to others. Still its all part of the game. Goodies and baddies etc

Comment 5:
Some folks are very sensitive around here.I'm sure no offense or harm was intended by the post or the comment.May all beings be happy.

Om shanti shanti shanti.

Comment 6:
It looks like the Steps to Freedom post, and the "comment on the commentator" has set off a bit of a tiff.


I suppose some readers feel it criticizes them, and would prefer that criticism be kept to Andrew.

I think people are being a bit over-sensitive. It seems that 4 Steps was meant to help and was supposed to be provocative but fun.It does touch on a difference in strategy and approach among people who left AC. Apparently this is a hot button topic.

Maybe it's best thing is for WHAT enlightenment?! to keep the focus more on AC and back away from focusing on those who have left.

Comment 7:

Four Steps - But Only if the Shoe Fits!

In a way I can see why there is the difference in viewpoint between the "4 steps" article and some of the comments.

Basically, the people who were somewwhat less involved—like the one commenter who we know was able to avoid total immersion because otherwise he never would’ve left with his relationship and family intact-- are now probably feeling a subtle pressure from "4 Steps" to be part of a sort of a "sangha", albeit a “shadow” one, which they never wanted to get involved with in the first place.

I suppose that the 4 steps paradigm really only applies to those who were actually deep in the original and current sangha...really involved, to the point of completely giving up their independence for a number of years.

There are all shades, but people who weren’t longtime enough to really get hooked into the belief system and Andrew’s co-dependent guru-disciple bond might not necessarily have to go through the same lengthy and arduous steps of "de-compression" as those who were.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Ken Wilber's Shaky History of Endorsements

Andrew Cohen enjoys the endorsements of very few but one he does have is that of Ken Wilber, and Wilber is certainly no slouch. People are no doubt drawn to Cohen upon hearing of this support.

Wilber’s endorsement is most prominently on display in the forward to Cohen’s book Living Enlightenment:

“Andrew Cohen is a Rude Boy. He is not here to offer comfort; he is here to tear you into approximately a thousand pieces, so that Freedom can replace imprisonment. It will, in fact, be hell, and only Rude Boys are rude enough to tell you that, and to show you that—if you can stand the rudeness, stay in the fire, burn clean as Infinity and radiate as the stars…if you can stand the heat... Andrew's magazine What Is Enlightenment? is the only magazine asking the hard questions, slaughtering the sacred cows, and dealing with the Truth no matter what the consequences.”

No matter what the consequences….hummm??!!

Four times a year Cohen and Wilber appear together in dialogue in What is Enlightenment? magazine, discussing the important spiritual topics of the day. They publicly couldn’t be more embracing. (For a WHAT enlightenment?! parady of one of these Cohen/Wilber dialogues, see our post What is Narcissism, Oct 19 below.)

However, Wilber’s endorsements have run into serious trouble in the past. An endorsement Wilber made which turned very sour was this one of spiritual teacher Adi Da in 1985:

“This is not merely my personal opinion; this is a perfectly obvious fact, available to anyone of intelligence, sensitivity, and integrity: THE DAWN HORSE TESTAMENT is the most ecstatic, most profound, most complete, most radical, and most comprehensive single spiritual text ever to be penned and confessed by the Human Transcendental Spirit. That seems an objective fact; here is my own personal and humbler opinion. I am honored (even awed) to be allowed in its Presence, to listen to and Hear the Potent Message of the Heart-Master Da. How can the soul not bow down to such a Message? What other is the appropriate response? How can I not say what I am saying? How, in the face of such a Testament, can we possible justify neglect?

At the very least, it is perfectly obvious that there is now no excuse whatsoever for any intelligent and spiritually-minded person, of whatever persuasion, not to be at least a student (or one who simply studies the Written Teachings) of Master Da Free John. The days of denial are over; this nonsense of neglect cannot continue, with any rational reason. I ask my friends, my students, my readers, even my casual acquaintances, to see and recognize and, above all, confess the Realization that Master Da is.

I do not understand why so many thousands of people--who have heartily expressed to me the opinion that my own written works express great clarity, judgment, and understanding--balk and look in disbelief when I speak ecstatically of the Heart Master Da. It is as if my friends believe everything I say except that Master Da is a genuine Adept, Free at the Heart, Confessed in Radiance, Transcendent to it all. How has my judgment suddenly lapsed in regard to this Man? I am as certain of this Man as I am of anything I have written--in fact, as certain as I am of my own hand (which apparently claps by itself in solitude when it comes to this Great Issue). So I make only one request: if you do only one thing to test my judgment in this matter, please read this DAWN HORSE TESTAMENT cover to cover (and I mean cover to cover), an then I will be glad to argue with you if you still wish--but not before. And, I think, we will then see who the Master of the Heart really is. Is that not fair? Read this Man, Listen to this Man, Hear this Man, then See Him. And then, I think, you will stand Smiling.

What else do you really want? What else can I say?”

Uhh…well, there was more that Wilber could say, and he waited another 10 years to say it. On October 11, 1996 Wilber made his now famous retraction of the endorsement he’d given to Da:

“THE LAST POSITIVE STATEMENT I made about Da's work was in 1985, when I wrote a very strong endorsement for his major book, The Dawn Horse Testament. This is one of the very greatest spiritual treatises, comparable in scope and depth to any of the truly classic religious texts. I still believe that, and I challenge anybody to argue that specific assessment.

The teaching is one thing, the teacher, quite another. By this time (around 1985), things were starting to become very problematic for Da, his personal life, his community, and his teaching in the world. In ways that we are just beginning to understand, some types of spiritual development can run way ahead of moral, social, interpersonal, and wisdom development in general. Da is capable of some truly exquisite insights, but in other areas, he has fared less well, and this has increasingly verged on the catastrophic.

It is always sad to see such promise run aground on the rocks of personality problems. As this was becoming increasingly obvious to even his most appreciative students, including me, I did an interview with Yoga Journal (September/Octobers 1987). In that interview, I made my very last public statement about Da. For the next decade, I would publicly say nothing about him whatsoever (until now).

Da makes a lot of mistakes. These are immediately reinterpreted as great teaching events, which is silly. And then he gets mad and frustrated and goes into sort of a divine pout . Because of these and other difficulties, he has holed up in Fiji, become very isolated and cut off, which I think could be disastrous, for him and for the community. The entire situation has become very problematic. It's real hard to get happy about what's going on.

Problematic was the euphemism that sociologists at that time were using for Jonestown. Although few think Da will slide that far, nonetheless, his entire teaching work has indeed become problematic. The great difficulty is that, no matter how "enlightened" you might be, it take s a certain amount of practical wisdom to gauge the effects of your teaching work on the world at large. Crazy wisdom might (or might not) be fine for a few very close and longtime devotees. But it is disastrous when done as a large scale social experiment, which Da did, especially during the Garbage and the Goddess period. Anybody who could not see how that experiment would be perceived by the world is simply a damn fool. And an enlightened damn fool is even more culpable.

Those events sealed Da's fate in today's world. His teaching work is effectively ended for all but a small handful. And he will never be able to teach in this country, or virtually anywhere else, either, because his past will follow him. It is altogether sad, then, to see him continue to announce that he is the World Teacher. He won't even venture out in to the world! He hides in Fiji, away from the glare, away from the world, away from the truth at large. And he calls us to his little island kingdom, there to save the world. This verges on the grotesque.

Is there any chance that Da can rehabilitate himself? His claim, of course, is that he is the most enlightened person in the history of the planet. Just for argument, let us agree. But then what would the most enlightened World Teacher in history actually do in the world? Hide? Avoid? Run? Or would that teacher engage the world, step into the arena of dialogue, meet with other religious teachers and adepts, attempt to start a universal dialogue that would test his truths in the fire of the circle of those who could usefully challenge him. At the very least, a person who claims to be the World Teacher needs to get out in the world, no?

This doesn't mean Da would have to attend every conference, give hundreds of lectures, hit the talk-show circuit, etc. It simply means he would at the very least find ways to directly engage or at least meet!--some of the prominent leaders in the fields of religion, politics, science, and administration. As it is, he won't even meet with other leaders, such as the Dalai Lama, unless they become practicing members of his church! Hello?

To step out in that fashion requires moral courage. It requires a willingness to engage and respond. It demands a brave heart to stand forth and shine, not just to a few hundred in Fiji, but to an unbelieving world.

Until this happens, I can recommend to no one that they take up the isolationist practices of the Daist community. At the same time, this should not prevent us from taking advantage of that part of Da which isn't broken, namely, his clear (if isolated) spiritual writings and insights. If nothing else, his written texts are still an extraordinary source of material. Even if you do nothing but disagree with them, you will at least see a stunning number of ideas and insights and methods, which you can check for yourself and see if they actually work or not. Nor should his personal problems negate these insights. Even if Einstein was a complete psychotic, E still equals mc2. Let us not deny the latter because of the former.

We await, then, the day that the World Teacher consents to enter the World. Until that time, it is perhaps best to watch from a safe distance, while availing yourself of those written texts that still manage to shine with a light of their own.”

Two points need to be made about this retraction. First is notice how Wilber clearly states how mistaken it was for Da to use techniques of Crazy wisdom (often irrational, provocative and confrontational challenges to ones sensibilities). “Crazy wisdom might (or might not) be fine for a few very close and longtime devotees. But it is disastrous when done as a large scale social experiment…” But it is exactly Cohen’s employment of “rudeness” – ie crazy wisdom – on a wholesale level, that Wilber so heartily endorses. Now, use of this sort of harsh and even dangerous approach presupposes a master with the most delicate of insight into each individual student’s needs. Wilber apparently feels Cohen has the right stuff, is sensitive and therefore ready and equipped to use the shock tactics. WHAT enlightenment?! blog is an ongoing catalog of examples of Cohen’s total lack of the right stuff.

The second point concerns Wilber’s criticism of Da for hiding out in Fiji. Fair enough, it does sound like hiding out. But need we say that Cohen, while he broadcasts his message in his magazine, and teaches publicly, has never and probably will never, truly meet and face any sort of reflection from fellow teachers who are his peers, “testing his truths in the fire of the circle of those who could usefully challenge him” nor has he opened himself to the growing voices of descent and grievance amongst the also ever-growing group of ex-students, many of whom were intimate household members for periods of years. This is an even more fundamental hiding out, and eventually it will need to be faced if he is ever going to make things right.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

What Does Andrew Cohen Know About Enlightenment?

by Charles Carreon

Quite a lot, if you take his magazine, What is Enlightenment?, at face value. The title of the magazine of course begs the question of whether there IS enlightenment, which is a skillful marketing device. As a teacher once pointed out to me, Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors in order to overcome the first question -- whether to eat ice cream at all? By rushing right past "Is there enlightenment?" and speeding ahead to tell us what it is, Cohen is just doing what most New Agers do, which is to take "the great spiritual traditions of mankind" as an implied backdrop for the strivings of modern day miracle men like himself.

If Descartes was being overly modest when he claimed he saw farther because he "stood on the shoulders of giants," Cohen suffers from no such restraint when placing himself in the pantheon of the world's spiritual heroes. And if you think about it, why should he?

The Ascended Masters, widely advertised, but never seen, could hardly hold a candle to Cohen's magnificence, blaring from a thousand newsstands. Jesus died unknown in Jerusalem, barely displacing a pebble in the world capital of Rome. Mohammed probably never got the sand out of his bed, no matter how many infidels he'd put to the sword, and new converts he took to wife. Buddha made a splash in his day, but nothing Cohen hasn't replicated already with his bright, incisive, up-to-date version of the wisdom of the ages.

Let's just look at it in terms of sheer numbers. You may not be a Christian or mark time on Nostradamus' calendar, but you've got to agree there's a hell of a lot of us crammed on this planet and enough weapons to make us all quiet for a long time. It is at times like these that a great leader arises, one capable of holding up the sky with muscles of brass, one who will comfort and shelter within his vast arms, the lonely, terrified multitudes. The mission is so vast.

Since the big question is resolved first -- there is enlightenment! -- we can move right on to the fun stuff, defusing the bomb of ordinary consciousness that seeks its own destruction in mindless, materialistic self-annihilation. Who of noble heart would not be drawn to this venture, who would not lengthen their footsteps, lift their chin, feeling strength returning to their heart as they close the distance between themselves and this great man? Who would not say, "Where do I join? How can I serve? What is this enlightenment of which you speak? Give it to me, that I may conquer evil, within and without, put my heel on the head of the snake of egotism, lift my sword in heroism to still the threatening sky."

So you see, it's like Funky Winker Bean said, "Should I deny myself a delicious hot pepperoni pizza? No!" It's all a matter of asking the right question.

- from American Buddhist Online Library, which has an interesting section on "Power, Authority and Authoritarianism"

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

A Former Student Speaks Out

"I've been surprised too at this "code of silence." I was mostly surprised in reading Andre's book at the mildness of the supposedly intense and shocking events.

Andre left before the men's and women's saunas were turned into rooms designed to humiliate students. With huge blow ups of private letters to Andrew displayed, with his scathing comments attached. And debased caricatures of students, sometimes life size or more, depicting students as sexual dominatrixes or devils.

Every student had to spend an hour a day in there in comtemplation of their evil natures,.....this part of the up to 6 hours of compulsory spiritual practice (prostrations, meditation, chanting etc) which did not include mens and women's meetings. Most students working a full time job and giving to their other duties, leaving around 4-5 hours for sleep.

To say nothing of the practices or punishments (such as) submerging in the nearby lake in the winter for up to an hour chanting until lips were so blue and bodies so frozen that it would take up to an hour in a hot shower to get back to a normal temperature. "

Monday, December 13, 2004

Progressive Indoctrination and the Shadow Sangha

Here at WHAT enlightenment?! we are having a discussion about freedom, indoctrination, and the meaning of true sangha. What follows is some of our in-house email about the subject:

Hello ______
I thought you might find this interview with Rick Ross interesting. It is from a magazine put out by that Christian evangelist buster Ole Anthony who was featured in the New Yorker.

Here's a quote from that interview that I like, about the progressive indoctrination in cults:

"Once people become involved, it is a process of increments that I would liken to boiling a frog in a pot on a gas stove-increasing the temperature gradually so the frog won't jump out. The changes that occur with people are very often a long process or fairly long process, step by step, spoonful by spoonful. People are not allowed to make an informed decision about the totality of what the group wants them to believe or accept or do from the very beginning."

Another excerpt that I think is applicable to the illusory love and intimacy experienced in Cohen’s sangha:

"Certainly people that become involved in tight-knit groups find themselves in the midst of a community where they have a sense of belonging, a sense of acceptance. In destructive cults, the friendships they experience and the acceptance is highly conditional. There is no legitimate reason to leave. (In Cohen’s group leaving is SO illegitimate that one man had his bedroom door guarded to prevent his escape!) Those who leave become marked or estranged from the group. People are no longer friendly with them.
DOOR: Ostracized?
ROSS: They're called losers, backsliders, reprobates. They're rebellious against God-however the group terms it. The bottom line is the friendships they feel they've made and the sense of acceptance they feel the group offers is really not unconditional and instead quite the opposite. Most people could leave a church or a club or an organization and still have friends in that group and still communicate and still have a sense of history with that people and a continuing relationship-but that is most often not the case with the groups I deal with."

This quote made me think about Andrew Cohen's pejorative use of the term "shadow sangha" for those who have remained friends after leaving his community (IEF).

What is the meaning of "sangha?" I think it is friendship that is unconditionally supportive of the friends' path to spiritual freedom. But the IEF "sangha" is completely conditional. It is only supportive of agreement and conformity and submission to authority within the IEF community. If one disagrees, one falls from grace, and there is no longer any possibility of friendship.

In contrast, the friendships that exist among many of the people who left IEF support the friends' various paths, even when they differ or disagree.

So, then, which group of people is the true sangha, and which is the false, the pseudo- and negative reverse image of a real sangha? I think that any group of people, like IEF, where there is no tolerance of differences, and where all putative friendship is conditioned on conformity, agreement and submission to authority, is a false replica of real friendship, and a shadow, and the reverse image of a true sangha.

Dear _________
I liked your definition of a “true Sangha.” I agree. The term Cohen uses, “shadow Sangha,” he feels is apt because it is based on a “negative”, broken or non-relationship to “the Buddha,” namely himself.

We all met in “his light” so to speak, so since we’ve left him we now live and have relations only in his “shadow” it’s all in relation to himself as deified!

I suppose if he was truly a Buddha, a perfect compassionate-wise being/teacher, this could be true...why would we ever want to leave the light of perfection, no matter what is revealed?

However, he would genuinely have to be a pure and perfected being & teacher for the rest of the "triple jewel" (Buddha-Dharma-Sangha) to be authentic. And we know that this is definitely not the case. The man's wisdom truly lacks compassion, and so, I dare say, is not true wisdom at all. His lack of compassionate wisdom seems somehow tied up with an absence of humitity. He's scared to death, seems to me, to be seen as imperfect. (more about that another time)... And also, wouldn't his resulting Sangha (and Dharma) be inclusive, yet discriminating of all paths, which together make up the path as a whole...Isn't that what Chatrul Rimpoche and others were trying to get through to him??? the point seems to be that the “exclusivity” in IEF all flows from the primary exclusion of any and all information (and people) that for one reason or other questions his perfection and supremacy in dissemination of spiritual Truth for living.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Code of Silence

- A reader's question:

"I think a lot of this blog is very interesting and fills out a picture of Andrew and his community that is normally hidden. It does seem though that a lot of the behind the scenes news is quite old. Does anyone know what is happening there now?? "

- WHAT enlightenment? responds:

I think that the age of the behind the scene incidents discussed is indicative of the secretiveness of the community, and the control Andrew exercises over its members. The degree of control and the ingraining of a code of silence go so deep that their effects on an individual typically extend for a lengthy period of time after that person leaves the community. Most people are both too confused about what happened and too frightened of becoming a pariah to speak openly about their experiences in the community for at least a couple of years. Some, it seems, forever.

So there is usually a "lag time" of at least a year or two between a person leaving Andrew and that person's willingness to discuss or report the events in the community preceding their leaving. And these events are usually well-hidden from outsiders, those casually involved, and even lay students. The scrutiny of members is so intense, and the pressure to conform exercised by Andrew and the community is so high, that as soon as a person shows any significant doubt they are usually excluded, so the likelihood of having any insider reporting is next to nil.

Compounding this is the belief--ingrained over years--that any public voicing of criticism is tantamount to treason, and will condemn the speaker to suffer being cut off and cast out to live eternally in inauthenticity as the equivalent of an anguished shade in what is viewed as the Hades that is "the world"--or worse!

Of course, it is possible--though difficult--to shake off these imprisoning and destructive acquired beliefs sooner rather than later. The hope that this process can be encouraged and supported is part of what this blog is about. We invite anyone to contribute their comments on more current events, and will respect a choice for anonymity by anyone who decides to do so.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Student Leaves Cohen, Finds Freedom

I have just caught up with the site again and completely relate to the post:

'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....'

Also in the Cohen community for five years, shortly before jumping ship I had an experience of my Self that illuminated the futility of seeking freedom or enlightenment. I saw that nothing I might do, or not do, would have any influence whatsoever on whether that self-realization occurred or not, and in fact the very seeking kept me away from my own true self. It was very profound and put into question the life I was living following Cohen.

A week or so later I had the opportunity to question the Master on this. AC was giving a closed 'teaching' to his students and in it basically said that despite all his years of teaching nobody was getting it, and that he was naturally frustrated. He then outlined in a pretty impressive way his vision and to be honest I felt completely uplifted and drawn into the view that he was presenting. It was impressive, and for those readers who have been on a retreat with him know how well and how powerfully he does this.

He eventually asked for questions. Up shot my hand. My recent experience was still very fresh and I sincerely and genuinely needed to know where my own realization fitted into his grand plan. I told him of what had occurred to me and, in retrospect, effectively suggested that 'what's the point?' and that we should pack up all this nonsense and get on with our lives! He wasn't a happy guru. He then proceeded to completely rubbish everything I had said and lambasted and humiliated me. He didn't hold back!

Well, it didn't convince me and a week later I left. Although I related to some of what he said that day, my heart was no longer with him, my own experience was far more real and meaningful. The impetus to leave was deciding to take responsibility for my own future and find out for myself what was the truth - maybe I would burn in hell but at least the decision was in my own hands.

On leaving I was immediately overwhelmed by an incredible peace and sense of freedom. I spent the next six months in bliss. I felt I had come back to myself, to my own heart, and able to explore and relate to life without it needing to fit any kind of preconception. A huge burden had lifted. What a relief!

That lightness has continued to this day (four years later), life is pretty normal and without any sense of anything fundamentally missing. In looking back over the years I spent in the community I have no regrets, and also no regrets in having left. My heart led me into it, and my heart led me out of it. At the end of the day, that's all I can be true to.

-A reader’s comment December 6, 2004

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Continue Without Andrew?

well, i finally sat down long enough to read, at least a lot if not all, of your current blog. i skipped around. i've been a fan of the what is enlightenment? magazine, and admire don beck's and ken wilber's work immensely. how andrew cohen actually fits into the mix has been somewhat of a mystery to me. i've been receiving his email 'quotes' and have found that i have never read one in its entirety, even though they're just one paragraph long. after the first few lines, max, my brain glazes over and i hit 'delete.' i've been telling myself that i 'should probably' be able to read and understand this stuff, yet it always felt like a bunch of blather, leading nowhere. now, having read some of the entries here, i'm inclined to trust my gut intuitions even more, and to wish that the staff at wie? figure out a way to continue their excellent work without andrew. this all might explain why i've found him so unappealing. (i live in oregon and remember well bagwan shree rajneesh and sheela, and what a mess that all turned into, in spite of everyone's high hopes.)
- comments from a reader December 6, 2004

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

So Ghastly Familiar

Christ, it is all so ghastly familiar with Cohen; what else he would not do to further his ferocious ambition and power. I really feel for the lady donor who was blatantly manipulated and bullied here and it begs belief that he dared to speak about her in such dreadful and derogatory terms. Without her he would be nowhere and this is just another all too familiar "thank you" from Cohen to yet another one of his ex students. Just... this one happened to give him $2,000,000!!

But hold on dear reader, get the RIGHT VIEW on this before making your bound-to-be-personal conclusion. Looking more impersonally you will clearly see that the "Master" actually went out of his way here to help this narcissistic student to go beyond her self obsession. I mean, wouldn't you let go of your $2,000,000 (if you happened to have it) to be blessed by such an act of godly compassion?
- a reader on 12/5/2004

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

The Bible Speaks Story

From a reader:
Hello, I very much enjoy reading your blog, particularly your investigation of corruption and wrong doing.

Your posting the letter about Cohen’s public humiliation of the woman who gave him $2 million for his Lenox ashram in the post “A Corruption of Power” calls to mind another story of greed in holy places. During the 1980’s there was a church called The Bible Speaks, also located in Lenox MA. The Bible Speaks had a wealthy female donor. In her case she left Bible Speaks and demanded her money returned, resulting in a landmark legal decision. The outcome, after litigation, was that The Bible Speaks and its minister were ordered by the court to refund the woman’s donation.

Here is a excerpt from one of many articles which ran in the Boston Globe. (The story was extensively covered by the press at the time including 60 Minutes, The Berkshire Eagle, The New England Monthly, and The Boston Globe.) The Globe articles appear in full at

Author: By Ray Richard, Boston Globe Staff
Date: 05/20/1987 Page: 1Section: METRO
Accusing the founder of The Bible Speaks church of deceit, greed and the ''astounding" manipulation of a loyal follower, US Bankruptcy Judge James F. Queenan Jr. ordered the church yesterday to return all of the $6.5 million donated to it by Lenox millionaire Elizabeth (Betsy) Dovydenas.

Rejecting the church's claim that the First Amendment forbids such intervention by a judge, Queenan said the conduct of Rev. Carl H. Stevens Jr. toward the woman in the two years she belonged to the church "reeks of undue influence."

His decision set the stage for the possible forced liquidation of the 70- acre headquarters in Lenox of the fundamentalist church with 1,200 parishioners.

She was unavailable for comment yesterday but is scheduled to discuss the decision at a news conference today in the Boston office of her attorney, Gordon Walker.

No comment was available from the church or from Stevens, 57, who founded the evangelical church in Maine and moved it to Lenox in 1976.

The Bible Speaks’ attorney Norman Grutman of New York had argued that the First Amendment prevents judges from ruling on religious beliefs. Walker argued, however, that the case did not concern the validity of religious beliefs but only the alleged excessive influence exerted by a minister over a trusting parishioner.

Dovydenas, the mother of two young children, donated the money during 2 1/2 years she and her husband, Jonas, belonged to the church. She left the church in December 1985, when, she testified, she saw the minister lie with his hand on a bible.

Walker said "wiping out the church is not our goal. The Bible Speaks was in existence for a long time before Betsy gave it $6.5 million. I know of no reason why it can't continue to exist afterward. Whether it stays in Lenox, I don't know."

Judge Queenan said in his 60-page decision that the testimony revealed "an astonishing saga of clerical deceit, avarice, and subjugation" by Stevens, who "has abused the trust of the claimant as well as the trust of many good and devout members of the church."

The judge described the woman as intelligent and trusting, but said the minister achieved "total dominion and control over her." Queenan said that Stevens' wife, Barbara, 34, and Kathleen Hill, a 34-year-old office worker at the church, teamed with the minister to persuade Dovydenas that she "was a special person anointed by God to promote good through gifts of her money to the church."

Queenan said Betsy and Jonas Dovydenas "were forthright and credible" witnesses. He said that the other three "were evasive and lacking in credibility" and that their testimony "conflicted with much undisputed, documented evidence."

The judge found that Betsy "sought and accepted advice from Stevens on every aspect of her life: spiritual, marital, family, social, personal and financial." He said Steven's influence over the woman was achieved in part ''by deceit and insincerity" and that the minister's "attempts to ruin the claimant's marriage were intentional and malicious."

Stevens was insincere, said Queenan, "when he constantly told her that she had the power to release God's judgment by bringing miracles through her gifts to the church, that her primary purpose in life was to give her wealth to the church, and that Jonas and others were controlled by demons."

Friday, December 03, 2004

A Cohen Teaching

Cohen's dress sense might be insightful; let me set the scene;-

He wore a mid brown velvet suit with long brown Velvet jacket in the style of Wyatt Earpe with fancy pockets lined to the lapel with orange silk very tightly fitted almost like a girdle. Strong padded shoulders with wide lapel and an orange silk business shirt. Red tie done with a thick knot.

1970's Starsky and Hutch hair and slightly flared brown velvet pants and a Mark Spitz moustache. He looks to have been prepared by the stylist on a Mike Myers film.

Almost a sense of 1970's stage magician about him, with his charts either side and a big book with lots and lots of place holders.

He entered through a side door when everyone was seated, he would always leave directly after a talk and retreat to a private room. He certainly didn’t seem to want to interact with anyone outside of the intensive other than his inner circle.

So a German lady asks : what about love in your teachings?

He asks aggressively back so what love do you mean? She says “universal love”, he says Do you mean the love of men and women?

He goes in into the persona of baritone male and turns across the stage “I love you my dear and we will live happily ever after”, he turns and hunches and in a Michael Jackson falsetto and says : “Oh my love, I love you so much we will make each other happy.”

Cohen stops and turns facing the German lady and sneers. "So is that what you mean by love?", and does that funny Prairie Dog laugh, and scans the audience as he speaks to the woman, “you mean the kind of love that causes all suffering?” That is not love it is attachment, do you mean that kind of love he demands!

The German lady forthright woman that she is, stands her ground. Well I meant love in all its manifestations, there are many.

“Well which one do you mean?” She says I have told you. He proclaims to the audience after much haggling with the German lady: All love of this kind is attachment that causes suffering and clouds truth. It is in fact lusting not love.

Next question please.

-from a post on Integral Naked