Sunday, January 30, 2005

Now I Don't Know Whether to Trust Cohen


I read your comment about Andrew Cohen with interest. I’ve been on one of his retreats and have found him to be a compelling teacher. Reading about his former students’ bad experiences has left me confused and wondering what to do. I feel in my heart that I can learn a great deal from Andrew Cohen. But now I don’t know whether or not to trust him.

I just did a google search and found an article you wrote for WIE about gurus and the abuse of power and a conversation you had with the authors of “The Guru Papers.” I’m wondering how you feel about this topic now, especially the part about “oneness idealogies.” In the story, you wrote that, according to these authors, “oneness and selflessness are given precedence over separateness and individuality, and thereby authoritarianism is born.”

I can see for myself being lured into the authoritarianism of the guru (Andrew) since the goal of enlightenment is to forgo the separate self/ego and submit to the higher self. But since the higher self is elusive, and the guru represents the higher self, then it would seem prudent (if a person wants to evolve) to follow the authority of the guru.

I do get a real sense that Andrew is established in the enlightened state. So how is it that he can be so blind to the abuses he’s subjecting people to? I’m guessing he would say that he’s trying to “kill the ego.” But slapping people in the face and making someone visit prostitutes and so forth is overkill by anyone’s standards!

Also in your WIE story, the authors of “The Guru Papers” said that these philosophies of oneness draw conclusions about human nature and the nature of existence from the experience of oneness, and this is where the trouble begins.

Is that what’s going on... Andrew’s “perfect responses” are sometimes false conclusions?

Do you feel, in retrospect, that he has something to offer as a teacher, so long as a person doesn’t get involved in his community? Or would you recommend that a person look elsewhere altogether? The problem is, how many truly enlightened teachers are there who aren’t corrupt in some way?

I also wonder if you or someone else can explain Andrew and his community in terms of Spiral Dynamics. It seems that he’s at Coral or beyond, memes we don’t know much about. According to Don Beck, the higher level memes have similarities to the lower, but are up an octave. I’m guessing that Andrew is at whatever meme would correspond to Blue. But since it’s evolutionary, it can’t be perfect--still a work-in-progress that can fall into dysfunction. I don’t know enough about Andrew’s community to speculate too far...
An interested reader

Response to "An Interested Reader"

Thank you for your thoughtful response to my posting. I wouldn't presume to tell you whether you should continue to study with Andrew Cohen. The most important thing, it seems to me, is that whatever you do, you do it with your eyes open. Please continue to check this blog. I think more detailed accounts of Andrew's methods and actions will be posted soon. After you read them, you'll be in a better position to know what to do.

The guru issue is one of the trickiest. When you have a glimpse of reality with a guru, it is very difficult to avoid confusing that with the person with whom that glimpse occurred. And I believe that every person--guru or not--has flaws. If you meet someone who claims they have none, if I were you I'd take one of two actions--laugh in their face or run the other way as fast as possible. Which action you take depends on you, the other person, and the circumstances.

I agree with most of what the authors of the Guru Papers wrote. I think they have real insight on this subject. Their analysis of authoritarianism in spirituality is profound, and I think it applies very well to what has happened and is happening around Andrew Cohen. But I do not share their wholesale rejection of the guru as an innately flawed concept and institution. I think there are some trustworthy teachers out there. They can be hard to find. But I do believe in the old adage, "When the student is ready, the teacher will appear." The only problem is that the teacher you get often mirrors your own unresolved issues, including unresolved desires for a Mommy or Daddy who will solve everything and tell you what to do.

A real teacher won't allow himself or herself to become a participant in such a psychodrama. A real teacher may be tough, but will never take away your autonomy. Most of all, a real teacher will never claim to be anything but a flawed and imperfect human being. In fact, throughout history, most of the greatest saints seemed to believe--and have no hesitation saying--that they were the greatest sinners.

Historically, most gurus have been part of a tradition that tended to provide some kind of checks and balances. They had their own guru who would oversee them. Andrew rejected his. They would have peers who could guide or rebuke them when necessary. Andrew acknowledges no peers of that kind. They would be within a tradition where certain norms, usually set forth in scripture, were generally known and acknowledged by teacher and students alike. A self-proclaimed post-modernist guru like Andrew holds himself outside of any norms or tradition. Yet even with such traditional checks and balances of the sort mentioned here, the guru system often became corrupt.

That doesn't mean one should not study with a teacher. These days many disagree, but I think it is very difficult to go far without one. Still, I believe that the teacher's primary function is only to show you your own true self. I think Andrew is capable of giving such a glimpse. If that has happened to you, then the main job is done. You can trust yourself to find another teacher now to take you further, if that's what you decide to do.

How a teacher who has realization goes off track is a mystery. But there is no doubt it occurs. Andrew himself has written extensively on this. He wrote about how ego and impurity can actually be empowered by realization, and how, in the brilliance of realization, the shadows of impurity may not even be seen by most observers or even the realizer himself. These are some of Andrew's most original and profound teachings, I think. How ironic (and sad) to discover how useful they are to explain him!

Personally, what has helped me find other teachers who are trustworthy and have humility and compassion is learning to value humility, trustworthiness and compassion over excitement, charisma, apparent perfection or any kind of "big bang" experience. Humility and genuineness are so much more valuable. They are usually found outside of the limelight, and away from the masses.

Whether you decide to look elsewhere for a teacher with those qualities, or take your chances with Andrew, I wish you luck. Even if you stay with Andrew, if you at least read some of the things on this blog--and some of the things that will be posted soon--I think you will be better prepared to recognize pitfalls and take the right action when necessary.

May you and all beings be happy!

Thursday, January 27, 2005


May all beings be happy!!!

I am certainly happy because I have been granted the privilege of non-anonymously breaking the Cohen Silence Code on our What Enlightenment?! blog. And it feels real good. Don’t be shy and don’t be the last one on your block or on this blog to join in. Come on in, the water’s fine!

My name is Hal. As many readers here may recall, I was the editor in chief of What Is Enlightenment? magazine from 1994 until late 1996—the period during which Andrew Cohen’s periodical made the transition from being a small in-house newsletter to an international spiritual publication.

I left Andrew’s community in early 1997. Since that time I have experienced a gradual unfolding of understanding about what happened during my time there and what went wrong. My own personal story is not that important. In many ways, I think, I personally suffered less than many. I was one of the few who left with Andrew’s blessing (although against his wishes), and with the door (initially) left open should I wish to return.

In the past, I have not wanted to speak publicly in any way that might be seen as negative about Andrew, his community or his teachings. I was hesitant to do this at first because, despite misgivings, I felt some loyalty to Andrew. I was concerned that due to my renown as the former editor of and frequent contributor to his magazine, anything I said that might sound critical would receive undue attention, and possibly cause him harm. I was also not sure how to sort out events and their meaning. I felt that before I said anything critical, I wanted to be certain that I was not motivated by personal hurt or animosity. I wanted to wait before speaking out until I was no longer subject to anger that might skew my perspective. Finally, I felt it was more important for me to move on with my life, and continue my own spiritual path. I did not feel it was healthy to shovel energy into a bottomless hole of resentment or recrimination. So, except for personal conversations with friends who were also in the community and who had left, I remained largely silent.

But a few years ago I began to learn of things that caused me great concern. An old friend who I worked with on What Is Enlightenment? magazine called and told me she had left the community. I told her a little about my thoughts about it—how I had come to see how oppressive life in the community was, how wrong it was that there was no personal freedom or autonomy permitted, how abusive the confrontational methods used to enforce conformity now seemed, how frequently we lived in fear, and how criticism was always forcibly squelched. She interrupted me and said, “Hal, things have gotten a whole lot weirder since you left.” I asked her what she meant, and she told me stories involving the use of physical force and abuse against students. She spoke of being ordered by Andrew to deliver “messages” to fellow students consisting of slapping the student in the face as hard as she could. She told me she had been ordered by Andrew to paint messages in blood-red paint on the walls of a student’s room at Foxhollow. She described to me the conversion of the spa at Foxhollow into a kind of psychological torture chamber.

As the years passed I spoke to many other former students who confirmed these stories, elaborated upon them, and told me many more. I learned of students having large “contributions” psychologically extorted from them. I heard how a student was required to sign a “gag order” agreement prohibiting him from publicly criticizing Andrew as a condition of having his “contribution” returned. I was told the story of community women prostrating in a freezing cold lake in the winter, some suffering dangerous exposure, as a symbol of their devotion and repentance for “women’s conditioning.” I learned of a student being forced—against his will and his moral compunction—to engage in daily visits to prostitutes in Amsterdam for weeks on end as a kind of penance for past sexual indiscretions. I was told by a student how he was ordered to reveal to his estranged teenage daughter her mother’s infidelity that occurred many years in the past, in order to teach the daughter not to hold her mother, now a critical former student, in such high esteem. I heard these stories and many, many more. As the weight of the awful truth about what Andrew and his community had become accumulated, I began to feel that something must finally be said. People must be warned. At the very least, any prospective student should know what they are signing themselves up for when they join Andrew Cohen’s community.

As a result, I’ve decided to begin to write publicly about these things. I’m throwing off the cloak of anonymity. I hope to write as frankly and revealingly about what I’ve learned as I can. I plan to contribute my own opinions about Andrew’s methods and his teachings, but in the end, each of us must decide for ourselves what it all means. I hope that others will join in with their own stories, comments and contributions, anonymously or not.

Please join in. May this discussion be of benefit.

May all beings enjoy happiness and the root of happiness; be free from suffering and the root of suffering; and dwell in the great equanimity that is free from passion aggression and prejudice!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Ivana's Story

Yes – a very common manipulative strategy! (See post below: "Common Manipulative Strategy") What you are talking about was Cohen’s m.o. He perfected it to a masterful degree. The way he used it was nearly impossible to detect while you were there as a student. His attacks on us students seemed so accurate – due as you say to the “leader’s exquisite social perception.” Wow, that’s Cohen, perceptive and undermining like all hell. He was quite proud of his ability to get under someone’s skin and cause them great fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I often overheard him discuss with a relish the holes in people’s façades, and how he had “gotten them.” He once famously sent $3000 worth of flowers with “thank you” notes as a dig to a publisher who had turned him down.

But he refined this technique by adding another powerful element: flattery. That was the other side to a perfect one-two punch. Here’s how it works: First the aspiring student comes to some lectures, and gets impressed by Cohen’s presence and the powerful way in which he can get a grip on a crowd. Some would call it shaktipad, in hind sight I call it a good con man at work. Anyway, suitably impressed, the beginning student spends more time around the group, comes to the centre, asks to participate in more functions. Eventually that results in Cohen taking personal note of the aspirant, and some small contact begins...fueling the aspirant’s thirst for more (or for the luckier ones, it sends a warning message and they don’t return.)

As you come more and more into Cohen’s orbit, he will begin paying more attention, and he will find some way to flatter you. He will ask about your life. Show interest. “Wow, he cares about me, he’s interested in my life, sees my talents!”

So the game begins, and you can feel built up and recognized in a very powerful way. In his own teaching he describes how at this point the new student can feel a vast intimacy and trust for the first time ever. Once this hook is set, you are along for the ride. For me it lasted ten years.

Over this long haul, I witnessed and experienced personally countless episodes of both building up –flattery; and the awful other side – manipulation and undermining. A smart and creative woman might get to serve meals to the teacher, or she might be invited to write or edit for his magazine. A strong athletic male would get compliments on his physique, get invited to watch boxing videos with the teacher and hang out with teacher and other close male intimates… But no one, once deeply involved, was spared the abuse – not even his closest and most favorite. Once displeased, Cohen’s wrath could send a student to live on another continent, could unleash a terrible tongue lashing, could bring out embarrassing references to one’s sexual history in front of other students, could get one’s face slapped by another student -compliments of Cohen, could result in one being branded as deviant or in being given a new name designed to continually embarrass and remind one of the guru’s ultimate power over one’s life.

Cohen has a way of reminding you that he knows your secret, and that he will not hesitate to exploit it when needed. For example, he would sometimes overpower a student with mention of the person’s past misdeeds, indiscretions or embarrassing facets of their sex life. That person would be made to feel utterly adrift, humiliated in front of others, standing on nothing more than quicksand while trying desperately to regain equilibrium. He frequently dispatched some of his more confident students to meet with and further confront the frightened, confused, and very upset individual – and thereby making others of us complicit in the crimes. This often took place in the “men’s and women’s meetings” – which he has referred to as a “noble forum.” The place we had come to in life which had seemed most safe and most “enlightening” had gradually or suddenly turned into the most frightening and least safe place imaginable. But by now one was totally involved and couldn’t imagine a life without Cohen and his community. Thus began the often very lengthy and wrenching process of doubt and departure.

In the days, weeks, months, or even years ensuing this mistreatment and undermining, the person was often confronted with how poorly they were doing, and accused of “letting Andrew down.” Sadly, for those I observed, they were ultimately defeated by the humiliation, and left in a state of either total confusion or else with the conviction that they didn’t have what it took to live the “demanding holy life.” No one ever left with a healthy sense of self trust intact. And more sadly yet, a small number of these departees still have not found their self respect and the sense of personal independence and freedom. That’s how severe were the undermining and confusion instilled during those years.

Thank you for doing this blog – It is a courageous effort to bring out the facts, and to help all of us who’ve left the Cohen cult get some perspective, and to begin the healing.

Friday, January 21, 2005

A Common Manipulative Strategy

"A common manipulative strategy used by the leaders in this study [Len Oakes' "Prophetic Charisma"] was an argumentative style that was calculated to subtly shift the ground of any discussion from whatever matter was being talked about toward some area of an opponent's [read here: "student's"] personal insecurity. In this technique, the leader observed the process of an opponent's conversation and identified some point of hesitancy or uncertainty. This was not always a flaw of logic or an error of fact; the conversation may have been on some topic about which the leader knew little and would have been unable to detect such a mistake.

Rather, it was more likely to be some personal unsureness on the part of the opponent that the leader's exquisite social perception targeted. In some way, often by metacommenting, the meaning of whatever the insecurity involved was exposed. Typically, what was said was an observation that the opponent seemed "a bit steamed-up about this" [read, e.g.: "you have a charge"] or was "finding it hard to say what this is all about" [read: "you're not being clear"].

In this way the opponent was invited, sympathetically and seductively, to expand upon the very point of weakness. ...This usually led to a further exposure, and then another, until the opponent stumbled over his words and began to look uncomfortable.

At this point a well-timed dismissive glance from the leader was all that was needed to intimidate, the other person being glad to have the subject changed to how he might redeem his soul or whatever."
[Or, in Andrew's case, more often it led to ridicule, condemnation, and, ultimately, extreme hair loss and another grueling sadhana.]

--------------quoted from Prophetic Charisma by Len Oakes, pages 89-90 (Syracuse University Press 1997).

-with thanks to laffnowl for this quote

-QUESTION: How many former (& current) students of Cohen recognize this strategy???

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Cohen Ain't No Marpa

Review of Enlightenment Blues
by laffnowl

One of the most dangerous trends in modern spirituality is the misguided submission to a supposedly enlightened authority's use and abuse, in the belief that this serves one's spiritual progress. This has been documented before but not by a long-term and intimate insider with the sensitivity, thoughtfulness and laudable balance of "Enlightenment Blues," a moving memoir of Andre Van der Braak’s years with American guru Andrew Cohen.

The book is far from a stereotypical expose of a cult leader. If that was its intent, the author could have made hay of far worse documented examples of abuse of power than he experienced, which have occurred in the years since he left Cohen. (This reviewer, another disenchanted former student of Cohen's, has read and heard from other "survivors" more recent stories of levels of weirdness and cruelty far surpassing anything recounted in "Enlightenment Blues.")

Instead, the author shows both the promise and the problems (both subtle and gross) of such a spiritual community, making it understandable how intelligent folks can be seduced to give their autonomy away in a harmful manner. What is more, the author, with heart-rending honesty and vulnerability, does not hide his own shortcomings and moments of weakness. Of course, some folks will always disagree, like an earlier reviewer, who compared Cohen to Marpa, saying “Perhaps Van der Braak should write an historical deconstruction discrediting Marpa, the Tibetan teacher of the great Milarepa, known for giving his student such a hard time. I wonder if Milarepa would agree.” Such individuals will always try to justify even the worst teachers with comparisons to legendary "tough love" givers like the 11th century Tibetan master Marpa the Translator. (Andrew Cohen has used this self-serving comparison about himself many times, and the earlier reviewer and former student here has apparently bought into it.)

But comparing Andrew Cohen to Marpa is like comparing George Bush to George Washington. Marpa's apparent cruelty to Milarepa was justified, in hindsight, by its result--Milarepa became one of the great saints of Tibet. Andrew has yet to produce anyone who can stand on his own as a teacher, far less an enlightened saint. (And Cohen has been at it for almost 20 years.) Marpa's treatment of Milarepa was unique, and based on the fact that Milarepa had murdered scores of people before coming to Marpa. Andrew humiliates his students across the board for the slightest perceived transgressions.

Finally, Marpa's tough treatment of Milarepa ended once he proved himself and was initiated into the teachings. Andrew's destructive wielding of power only really begins-and steadily worsens-once the student is firmly ensconced in the group. (See earlier post “Progressive Indoctrination”.)

Teachers like Cohen (and their students), who attempt to justify their misdeeds by misleading comparisons to great teachers of the past, rely on seekers' superficial knowledge and grasp of religious history and dynamics. Anyone who reads Van der Braak's book stands to be inoculated against such error, both with regard to Cohen and to other self-appointed saviors.

Friday, January 14, 2005

Persecution Complex

Having been around Andrew for a long time, I know how accurately this comment (see post "A Precariously Balanced Personality) reflects AC. He has often literaly expressed that he felt persecuted. By individuals as well as by particular groups of students. Groups of male students, groups of female students, the collective of editors of his magazine etc.

He used to say he felt like an Indian dog who's constantly being kicked (by those not behaving the way he deemed appropriate).

At one point in his community of formal students there was a deep investigation into the nature of "group-ego". AC was very emphatic that this "women-or-men-student-group-ego" was actively trying to destroy him and his teaching. And although there seemed to be much value to the discovery of this group mentality, the incredible personalization and demonization of this phenomenon was at least unhelpful!
- a reader

Thursday, January 13, 2005

This is a Great Blog!

Cohen's a cult leader. thank you for criticizing him.

all cohen's followers can do is issue ad hominem attacks.

the substance of your criticisms go unchallenged.

this is a great blog. thank you!

A Precariously Balanced Personality

from a reader:

There is a wealth of good literature about the Narcissistic Personality Disorder, or NPD.

Reading your posts concerning the exchange with Don Beck, it brought to mind one quote from the work of Dr. Sam Vaknin (

I find it quite interesting to peer into the personalities of leaders like Cohen and Beck, and congratulate your blog on its reporting of this issue.

"The narcissist's personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism and disagreement. Most narcissists are paranoid and suffer from ideas of reference (the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not). Thus, narcissists often regard themselves as "victims of persecution".

When (the narcissists) flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail - the narcissist is injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression.

This primitive defense mechanism is called "splitting". To the narcissist, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object."

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Replies to Curious

Several replies have been sent to "Curious to Hear More." We'll continue posting new comments on the bottom of this post as they come keep checking back.

First Comment:

Well....this is a recent quote from Andrew Cohen. If this is what is happening there now it would be pretty amazing. It was not my experience of living at Foxhollow over 2 years ago but things may have changed a great deal.

"I believe that for most of us, the only way to our own higher development lies in the context of human relationship, relationship based upon a breakthrough to a shared experience and recognition of consciousness beyond ego. Of course, consciousness beyond ego always means the state of enlightenment itself. So what I'm referring to is the shared experience and recognition of enlightened consciousness, where the shadow of ego or separate self-sense is entirely absent. In this experience of intersubjective consciousness beyond ego, a momentous leap occurs. It is a leap from I to We, from extreme individuation to a living context of intersubjective nonduality—a higher We consciousness in which all parties experience simultaneously their own individual and collective transparency while remaining fully and completely themselves."

Lets hope it is like that there now....would be an amazing thing.

Second comment:

In reply to the previous comment....dream on!

Of course Cohen is the silver tongue, he's been woowing devotees for nearly 20 years, but so has he been dishing out lots of crap and abuse. I lived there (Foxhollow) as well a few years ago and left with a broken heart and full of disillusionment...Here's a question to ask: Are residents of Foxhollow allowed to have a life, to come and go, to have a relationship not sanctioned by Cohen. Are Cohen's students allowed to take some time off, to travel on their own (wow, on one's own!) and reflect and gain insight without it being taken as a failure, as not "living up to the teachings?" That Cohen quote posted sounds very egalitarian, but in fact Cohen's approach is full of his superiority and separation from those he controls.

Third Comment:

To anyone who actually lived with Andrew Cohen's community for any number of years, suffered the loss of autonomy and emotional blackmail that entailed, and yet believes that that quote reflects some big new change of consciousness that mysteriously occurred recently and is now being lived--laffnowl can only say (with total sincerity and a complete lack of cynicism)

I got a nice bridge you might be interested in buying.

Saturday, January 08, 2005

Curious to Hear More

I am curious as well to hear more experiences from those who spent time with Andrew in the community. Also - for those of you who did - what is your view of the Teaching itself? (aside from the teacher) though it may not be possible to separate the two.

I have also heard that the teaching itself has changed quite a bit over the years and that things are now "much better and much different" from the old days. What are your thoughts on this?

- a reader

- answers to this question are most welcome!

Friday, January 07, 2005

What Color is Beck's Mean Meme?

We've heard of the "mean green meme."
What I wanna know is--what color is Beck's mean meme?
What would the spiral taxonomists say?
Is it a systems-oriented mean yellow?
If it was a bird would it be a "yellow-bellied mean meme"?
Or has his meanness broken through to second tier and emerged as a mean conscious turquoise?
Does Beck's letter prove there is a stage of development called "the terrible turquoises"?
Or is his version of turquoise just another shade of dogmatic blue?

Questions, questions, questions.

- by laffnowl

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Don Beck: "You're Bottom Dwellers!"

Recently WHAT enlightenment?! sent an email to our list concerning recent postings on the blog. We indicated in that email that anyone not wishing to receive more messages should send an “unsubscribe” message back to us. To our surprise, we got the following letter from Don Beck. WHAT enlightenment?!’s response follows Beck’s letter.

To WHAT enlightenment?!

I noticed that you have been sending this to both my personal address AND to the spiraldynamics website, without permission. I view this to be nothing but spam and an ethical violation of the use of the Internet. I'm tempted to inform various agencies of what you are doing. Please remove any further message from both of my email addresses. You should be more responsible yourself before you cast stones on others. I know Ken and Andrew both quite well; spend a lot of time in both of their environments; and it is refreshing to see the absence of cynicism in their worlds. They have both been very supportive, gracious, and open to my own thinking and have made major changes in their own worldviews based on my contributions. I've been working with these ideas for over 30 years and can detect fraud, and phonies, and exploitation a mile away. And, I know healthy people and movements when I see them.

Whenever you decide to do something positive for the welfare of this planet then I will welcome contact from you. People like you and your "cause" are a dime and a dozen, and I tend to find both as only bottom dwellers who have nothing to contribute on their own. If you don't know what that means I'll be glad to tell you.

Finally, since you lack the courage to use your own name and identity then I have very strong suspicions about your own motives....and value systems. Only cowards lurk in the shadows.

I suggest you take my cautions seriously.
Don Edward Beck, Ph. D. Spiral Dynamics Group

An Open Letter to Don Beck from WHAT enlightenment?!

Dear Don Beck,

We read your letter with alarm and regret. Alarm at the tone and regret that you are missing something that could be a healing process and begin to open up a discussion that could include yourself in it.

You seem to have gotten yourself sucked in by Cohen, much the same as we here at WHAT enlightenment?! ourselves were for a very big number of years. So for that, of course, we cannot blame you. "Don, we share your pain!"

You seem to have fallen for the whole Cohen party line, charmed apparently to believe that Cohen and outfit is uncynical, and that therefore there are no skeletons in the closet. You appear to have made no effort to investigate the real complaints of the dissidents, but assume that the complaints are not sincere. You get enraged about these complaints and their authors...and thus at the blog.

Cohen of course will allow only the best examples of his "teaching" to be around a distinguished visitor like yourself. But are you aware of how Cohen routinely hides other students who might embarrass him? Do you know that about 85% of Cohen's true believing flock (sangha) in 1988 have now fled, and those are the voices one now hears on the blog? Have you read any of those posts? Have you read the two anti-Andrew books? Do you read Integral Naked and see how much bad stuff is posted about Cohen, much of it personal experiences of people attending Cohen’s seminars?

"Bottom dwellers with nothing to contribute" - ouch! And that you have suspicions about our motives also ouch. And our value systems....that really hurts. But, heck, our blog actually makes our motivation quite clear, if controversial...we're trying to expose what we consider corruption and abuse in Cohen's world. You seem to be saying that any criticism is only bottom dwelling, and the only responsible thing is to be "postive" about Cohen.

There's more than one way to approach a our blog without names, there is also no ego involved by being the one who is right, who makes the best points, no "expert analyst." And the reasoning behind the decision to remain anonymous for now - has also been posted on the blog in the very first article "Who or What is WHAT enlightenment?!" and that reason, Don, is that critics get a lot of shit thrown at them, and we wanted to be free to open a discussion without that happening. A lot needs to get shared by many people, and we felt for now at least, this anonymous form is best. Also we note that your letter actually does not find fault with the accuracy of any statements about Cohen on the blog - just the fact that they are said in the first place. We do make every effort to vet out the accuracy of what we post - and have not posted wild and unsubstantiated charges against Cohen, which would be easy, cheap, and not where we want the discussion to go.

The email which we sent to you is not spam, which is by definition mass email, with deception as its basis and money as its motive. We got your two addresses because you have them posted on the web for people interested in contacting you to use. All our list is gotten by carefully looking for email addresses of individuals who might be interested in reading our postings. Of course we will honor your request and delete your email addresses from our list.

Finally, your message contains what to us sounds like a veiled threat, which is totally out of place. Is it because you yourself find our message so threatening that you must threaten us personally?

It's too bad that you won't consider the possibility that you may have misjudged Cohen. Sad that eventually when the truth all comes out - and it will all come out—you will not only feel foolish and betrayed, but you’ll lose some credibility among your peers.

Too bad that so many big name teachers close ranks with each other rather than being interested in hearing what the dissent is all about.

WHAT enlightenment?!

A Reader's Response:

There is a wealth of good literature about the Narcissist Personality Disorder, or NPD.

Reading your posts concerning the exchange with Don Beck, it brought to mind one quote from the work of Dr. Sam Vaknin (

I find it quite interesting to peer into the personalities of leaders like Cohen and Beck, and congratulate your blog on its reporting of this issue.

"The narcissist's personality is so precariously balanced that he cannot tolerate even a hint of criticism and disagreement. Most narcissists are paranoid and suffer from ideas of reference (the delusion that they are being mocked or discussed when they are not). Thus, narcissists often regard themselves as "victims of persecution".

When (the narcissists) flimsy attempts to patch a tattered personal mythology fail - the narcissist is injured. Narcissistic injury inevitably leads to narcissistic rage and to a terrifying display of unbridled aggression.

This primitive defense mechanism is called "splitting". To the narcissist, things and people are either entirely bad (evil) or entirely good. He projects onto others his own shortcomings and negative emotions, thus becoming a totally good object."

Monday, January 03, 2005

Philosophical Vaudeville Boomeritis Incarnate

(This post first appeared on the Integral Naked site)

Regarding Andrew Cohen...As an evolutionist he sucks - he would struggle to hold a debate with decent college grad on the subject.

On morality Ive never noted a word about it in anything I have heard or read.

It is his sheer lack of intellectual depth on any of these subjects that gobsmacks me .

Personally he profiles a bit Sociopathic/ Psychopathic or maybe one of the Personality Disorders like Narcistic. There is something lurking there in that barely controlled temperament . I witnessed text book impulse control issues around stress and response, he lost lucidness and appeared to have difficulty managing his emotions (anger). On three occasions he berated 3 different volunteers to the 150 people in the intensive noting their lack of foresight and intelligence directly to the crowd. His effort to belittle several of the questioners was direct and indisputably unrelated to making some philosophically point. It wasn’t tough love it was demeaning mean spirit ness.

His physicality made several noteworthy changes when placed under pressure. When you do the research all kinds of people have witnessed these behaviors manifest themselves in diverse circumstances. Even his teacher and his mother (who wrote a book about him) made many remarks about some pathological aspects of his nature.

There is a Tsunami of negative stuff out there on this guy and most of it relates to his behavior. Even his writings have an obsessive repetitive quality and its just renamed or rehashed aspects of other peoples work. Give me any aspect of his work and I will tell you where he got it.

This guy is philosophical vaudeville Boomeritis incarnate.

It walks like a duck, quacks like a duck and swims like a duck maybe it’s a duck !

My training doesn’t qualify me to work up a full psychological profile but I would love to hear from anyone qualified to work one up from the stuff in the public domain.

My advise to Ken Wilber is to get someone he trusts to attend an intensive and report back.
- Craig

Sunday, January 02, 2005

In and Out of the Vortex

I enjoy this blog. I was on the fringe for about four years and didn't get close enough to see what was really going on at higher levels.

A few of us did move in together and I found that really interesting. My husband and I moved in with life-long friends who we thought we knew really well. What a surprise to find that we didn't really know each other or ourselves at all. The first few days so much came up for me because there were all these other "eyes" present when my husband and I interacted. This enabled me to see from another perspective and I was shocked at what we were doing as a couple. Also, having a couple of men and a couple of women discussing everything was very liberating. The men told us women things they had not felt strong enough to tell us individually and vice versa. Especially interesting were our discussions on sex. There was a lot of hidden stuff going on there.

We of course watched Andrew's videos, were doing some practices like chanting and meditating and really exploring living in our mini "unauthorised" community. Then one weekend we all attended sessions with Wayne Liquorman. After that everything just exploded. It was funny because none of us thought anything much had happened but the following Monday when we went upstairs to chant and meditate,the words sounded hollow and we didn't want to say them anymore. A couple of days later my friend came to me and asked if I had noticed things were different. There was a deep sense of freedom and suddenly all the AC terminology was meaningless to us.

We continued living together for a few months but without the framework of Andrew's teachings it just wasn't the same. Our friends moved to Mexico and we all felt happy to be living on our own again.We don't have any regrets or anger now but at the time our male friend was very angry in the letter he wrote to Andrew. We all wrote letters but never really heard anything back, except for a telephone call from our contact person telling us to be "very very careful about what we were doing".

Some time later we encountered Eckhart Tolle and in his presence we experienced a complete release and came to the end of our "search". We have been living in peace ever since. There is no outer connection and nothing to join with Eckhart and we are content to just live and be present with whatever arises in this moment.

When Andrew came back to our city we went to see him just to find out how it would be. As he spoke and brought the whole room under his spell we were surprised that we felt nothing. His words just passed through us and there was no response at all to what he was saying. We drove home knowing that it was definitely over. I would describe our view as that of seeing our experience as a past chapter in our lives. We had some incredible experiences and were able to let go of some very fixed ideas that I'm sure would not have dropped otherwise. It was like a thrilling romance. We loved Andrew and really let ourselves fall into the vortex of passion that was swirling about him. We had great trips to California and met incredible people. Two trips to India felt like full-blown acid trips to heaven and hell. It was quite the experience!

I feel lucky that we were spun off the ride before any of the abusive aspects touched us.

We read Enlightenment Blues with wide-eyed shock and very deep gratitude that we had escaped unhurt. We had previous experience with another spiritual teacher and had suffered the same kind of treatment so we recognise the scenario.

Thanks to all who post here. We are watching and send our love to you all.
- a reader