Monday, February 07, 2005

Letter From A Senior Student

I am one of the many longtime students of Andrew Cohen who you don’t see around or hear about anymore. My name is Anastasi (or “Stas”). Those of you who’ve been (or are) in Andrew Cohen’s community have known me as “Ernest”. But for those readers who don’t know me, I was a student of Andrew for fifteen years before I left (read: ran away) in May of 2003. In later years, I was one of his ”senior” students leading centers for him in Tel Aviv, Stockholm and London, as well as being in a leadership role while we were all in California, then later in Massachusetts. I was also his so-called ‘close friend’, and even played music with him in his band.

Some posts on this blog suggest that things are “better than ever” in Andrew’s community. They always are aren’t they?…always evolving, changing, expanding, ”transcending and including.” Who would want to deny that? Yet, simultaneously there seems to be a kind of selective and collective exclusion of a shadowy side of things, of the past, which if constantly denied or minimized, in due course rears it’s ugly and angry head. Lke a “crazy” family member who, unable to openly voice perceived hypocrisy and emotional pain in the family becomes an uncomfortable embarrassment. How about some of those “disgruntled” and “whining” voices that just won’t shut up and go away, and let us be our squeaky clean, fantastic, ever-evolving, better-than-ever enlightened selves?

Like Hal and others, I feel strongly that it’s time that a fuller picture of Andrew Cohen, the teacher, be revealed and spoken about, a picture that includes some of the pitfalls and even dysfunctionality that are often encountered by his closer students. In saying this, I am not meaning to imply that Andrew isn’t a profoundly awakened individual, and a passionate and inspiring teacher with much to offer students and, for that matter, the larger “spiritual” world. Over my years with him, I’ve had such appreciation and unbelievable love for him, as he was one of the catalysts for my own awakening process —otherwise, why would I have gotten so close to him as a student and stayed for so long? For years, I considered him to be my spiritual “father.” But it took me quite some time to realize that ”daddy” has some fundamental issues of his own. Side by side with all of his gifts is an unquestioned narcissism, that, unacknowledged and unchecked by anyone, has led him to make some pretty serious mistakes with students. Because Andrew has a supporting cast of people around him (like me) who daily reaffirm his self-image as a “living Buddha”, or Perfected One, his personality traits, wounds and proclivities have somehow been “absolutized,” and viewed as an expression of the goal of perfection, or perfect response. We are all imperfect beings on a human level –Andrew, as well —yet there is a lot to protect if you’ve already closed the book on questioning your own motivations just because you’re “enlightened” (whatever that mean), and infinitely more so if you’re a teacher with no lineage or tradition to answer to. I communicated this point directly to Andrew in a letter 5 months after parting company with him. This is an excerpt from that letter:

“…Andrew, one problem I have is that you answer to no one. Even the holiest of the Orthodox Christian fathers and saints had elders and ‘brothers’ before whom they humbled themselves and sought spiritual guidance and correction if needed. You humble yourself before no one, and have no peers -- not really. Anytime you’ve seemingly “questioned yourself” before your closer students (the usual lip service is: ’Am I doing something wrong?’) of course no one dares suggest that you might be on a wrong course of action or that you’re reacting out of outrage or indignation rather than making an objectively appropriate call in the face of the transgressions of a student. At such times you frequently alienate people from you, and so from their conscience, and their own heart, further activating their ego rage. Please understand that I anticipate your usual response along the lines of how much you always have acted only out of care for the freedom/evolution of myself or whoever it happens to be. I don’t doubt this. However, my point is not to question your good-hearted intentions or motive, but to question your judgment, as borne out numerous times with respect to others and to myself…

…On the matter of humility, something has stayed with me – a little thing – but it’s just that you never gave any weight whatsoever to the reflection, given in semi-jest from your so-called ’brother and peer,’ Ken Wilber, when he suggested that you have some uninspected ’boomeritis’ of your own. You didn’t seem the slightest bit curious if there was maybe something to it. You just chuckled that one off. Perhaps your narcissism is on a messianic level -- but whatever the case, its effect is real, and has left the bodies and souls of some of your closest students strewn needlessly all over the world…

Now, I guess I run the risk here (like Hal and Susan Bridle) of having my weaknesses and flaws thrown up at me because I am daring to raise questions about the guru. Craig Hamilton's letter really felt like a personal ”slap” from Andrew to potential student-critics to get back in their place, spiritual peons that they are. He went right for the jugular with Susan, questioning where her confidence is coming from. Yet, I wonder how much sustained confidence Andrew would have in his position if he weren’t constantly supported and reaffirmed by everyone around him. This is not to let myself off the hook here. I never had the guts to break the “code of silence”, as Hal puts it, while I was his student. As one example -- I didn’t question or hesitate to carry out Andrew’s numerous orders for me to slap people for him, although it strongly went against my nature to do so. And I have also been on the receiving end of a number of these “messages” from him. (Contrary to what was implied in one of Craig’s posts, “slapping” and other forms of physical abuse were frequently used against many students over the years. Andrew explicitly ordered or directly committed these assaults himself.) So it’s pretty clear what a “wimp”-- one of Andrew’s favorite words -- I am.

My story isn’t really unique, yet often people inside the community don’t really know what goes down when a close longtime student or a leader leaves. They usually hear some variation of the vague party line that he or she “refused to live the teachings”, a two-dimensional picture with zero compassion or empathy, except to say how much Andrew has suffered because of this person. Then every effort is made to erase this ”mess” from all the ”new and amazing evolutionary things that are happening now.” Yet somewhere people must harbor feelings of uncertainty of how they will fare if they ever get close enough to their guru, Andrew, and hit that invisible and unchallengeable wall around his ”perfect responses.” I know I did.

I hit that wall for the last time almost two years ago in May of 2003. That’s when, feeling beaten down under the psychological and sometimes physical pressure to conform to what Andrew wanted from me, and unable to deal with or raise my own doubts about the situation, I packed my car without telling anyone, and drove away from Foxhollow, the headquarters of the Impersonal Enlightenment Fellowship in Lenox, Massachusetts, and headed south for New York City. Not a very dignified exit, I know, but sneaking away like this was really the only effective way one could leave after years of close association with Andrew Cohen. This is because close students have seen the extreme lengths to which he’ll go to prevent his longtime people from even thinking about leaving -- and now he was hot on my trail trying to track me down to get me to return. He had other students calling my family members trying to reach me. In the first month, I communicated with him via email, and knew that he was extremely upset that I had left. He had told me that my departure was making him look bad: what was he supposed to say to everyone who looked to me as his representative and close student?

In these first few months, I was an emotional wreck, feeling guilty, confused, alone, financially broke, trying to reckon with the fact that my guru was writing to me calling me a “coward,” but still knowing somewhere I didn’t want to go back – I knew it was over. Yet, perhaps sensing some unsureness, Andrew was now frantically pulling out all the stops. He even wrote me a bizarre email from his dog, pleading for me to “come home” (sounds weird, but I’m not kidding). I asked him to please not involve my family in this; that I needed some time on my own away from his constant badgering to return. Still, he persisted having people call my parents, my ex-wife, and my daughter. I knew I had to make a clear break, and so I wrote him the letter (excerpted above), which I’ve decided not to post in full. (In this letter, I describe a situation with some of the children in the community that I felt Andrew severely and completely mishandled. I’ve left this out because I want to write more fully at a later time about Andrew’s dysfunctional relationship through the years to the children in the community. This issue deserves special attention.)

A year later, after much soul searching and trying to understand more clearly everything I went through with Andrew – the awakening, the help, and the horror show – I wrote the following letter. In it I particularly address the extremely unethical way he extracts sizable monetary ”donations” from close students at times when they are struggling and under extreme emotional stress. I also tried to get him to do the right thing, and return the money he got from me under precisely such conditions. I received no response from Andrew to this letter, except indirectly, as reproduced below it.

October 7, 2004
Dear Andrew,

I wanted to let you know that in the months since my departure from you and IEF back in June of 2003, I’ve been trying to understand more clearly, the multi-dimensional, mixed bag of my fifteen-year relationship with you as my mentor and teacher. And, I’ve realized with unsettling clarity the staggering degree of emotional manipulation and abuse that I and so many others “close” to you have been unhappy recipients of. It’s been quite unnerving, but freeing, to finally recognize that despite your claims to the contrary, there is a strong subtext of narcissism that is deeply woven into your particular brand of guru-disciple relationship, which often seems to compel you to make inappropriate demands from your closer students. In this letter I want to elaborate in factual detail on this point, which continues to have an adverse affect on so many of your students, past and present. And, above all, I personally want to redress the unethical means that you used to get me to donate all the money that I did to you. The money I handed over to you was not in any way freely given, but was given as a result of intense emotional and psychological blackmail. And, I am writing to tell you that I would like it back now.

Andrew, for me, our relationship began with the ecstatic realization of my deepest Self and heart in meeting you, spending time and, in gratitude, working closely together for noble and lofty aims. During and after the blush of my awakening to a deep, transcendent Love, I felt very close to you in a fatherly way (even though I was older than you), and took you to be my guru, as you seemed to be the catalyst for my profound awakening. But, in time, I gradually found myself being beholden to you personally above anything or anyone else, including family, friends and even my physical, psychological and financial well-being, which I dared not question for fear of threatening my relationship to the self-proclaimed ‘Source’ of that love – you. In fact, what I have realized is that you treat all your closest students (male and female alike) as in a co-dependant romantic relationship with you – with all the hooks and emotional stickiness one finds in such a relationship. Guilt, betrayal, feelings of specialness, self-unworthiness, etc. all abound, as we hopelessly try with all our hearts to please you. Remember, I was there when you pulled Mary and Debbie back into this relationship with you after kicking them out months earlier, calling them “fucking bitches” and other demeaning epithets. I watched you court and manipulate them, trying to get them back in your fold with your most seductive “you’re mine” heart appeals. I sat with you in your car as you played Body and Soul, a song of romantic longing to Mary over the phone, relishing it as she started sobbing. After I had run away from Foxhollow to escape the overwhelming pressure, and regain, some sense of sanity, I got your warm, fuzzy and bizarrely repulsive letter to me from your puppy, Kensho, pleading to me to “come home”. I ask, what’s spiritual about all this? Is this “impersonal” Love? It’s sickness.

It strikes me that whenever one of your close students, God forbid, wants to or does part company with you, you always seem to hysterically re-enact your break-up with the first real love of your life, Donnatella. That’s exactly how we all feel on the other end. Is this supposed to show us what a real relationship to an enlightened master is all about? Relating your Donnatella story in one of your videos, in true narcissistic form, you’ve actually made the part where she “destroys the best thing that ever happened to her” – i.e., her relationship to you – a definition of what ego is. Wow! Maybe, she just didn’t want to be your girlfriend anymore, Andrew. Maybe she wanted to move on. I know it’s a hard one to swallow.

I, in fact, came to you for spiritual liberation, yet the added gift of a friendship with my teacher was something I was grateful for and cherished deeply. Still, I never really wanted to be in a position of making a binding commitment for life to you personally or to your organization. Through the years, I was constantly at odds in myself with my contradictory feelings of loyalty to you and to my own autonomy. And, instead of being given the freedom to choose, reassess and possibly change relationship to you or to my practical involvement with IEF over time, I was always made to feel that I was never giving enough in an ever-escalating level of commitment -- either as a community leader on your behalf or as a manager in the Audio Visual department. And when I didn’t meet these expectations, I was made to feel guilty for betraying you personally, for having no sense of obligation to you in return for everything you’ve given me. Yet, my real fault was my inability to be honest with you about all of this, to attempt to break the spell of this binding, ‘love’ relationship with you.

At your request, and out of loyalty to you, I led your communities fulltime for years, running your centers in Israel, Sweden and the UK. As a matter of record, although my rent was covered, I was never paid a cent. I did this out of love and dedication to you, and at great personal sacrifice, including the compromise of my relationship with my daughter, who, due to your demands, I could only manage to see for short visits once or twice a year for nearly four years. All this was during critical years of her development while she was growing up. Both she and I can never regain what we lost due to my total immersion in my work for you during those years. But this wasn't enough for you. On top of that, you insisted that I run the AV department long distance from Stockholm, then London by phone, a ridiculous idea that could never work. Anyway, since, as always, there was no disagreeing with you about this (or anything), when it didn't work, I was chastised by you for my ‘disobedience’, and made to feel like I had betrayed you.

When the same situation recurred while I was in London, you became outraged, and sent me packing to Sydney, Australia for a couple of weeks at my expense to be brow-beaten and counseled daily by Mary and Debbie, who were there for similar reasons, for the “betrayal of my master”. When I was sufficiently repentant, I was allowed to come to Lenox, stay in a motel room, again at my expense, until I proved to Bob, through endless meetings with him in my room that I was really “with you”, and ready to surrender to what you felt was best for me, which was to begin to make up for my defiant ways and “take on” the AV department.

You then allowed me to come to Foxhollow to do a half-time retreat in the morning, while burning my ‘bad karma’ by working the rest of the time in AV. Initially, you offered to loan me money to live on while I worked in AV, although you never actually made good on this offer. And, at no time was there ever the thought of paying me anything for my production work for IEF, which I felt resentful about. But, I never dared say anything, as it was considered a privilege to be able to work for you for nothing. After all, you already had “given me everything”, so I owed you everything. And so, the following downward spiral would occur on more than one occasion: (1) First, was your unreasonable demand on my time and dwindling resources, followed by (2) my unexpressed resentment, and ultimate “failure to produce”, leading to (3) your overly intense expression of outrage toward me for the personal betrayal of you, for which I was put under enormous pressure by you and my fellow students to feel remorse about, while making some gesture of contrition to you. As you well know, this psychological pressure and manipulation from you and others would even extend to being physically slapped in the face repeatedly, and verbally insulted and humiliated (often by women) until I could be “trusted” to turn over a new leaf. But at no time was I able to question you or your methods because I knew that at anytime if I didn’t comply, I could be out on my ear, ostracized and even shunned by all my friends of 15 years. (And you made it clear to me and others on numerous occasions that if I would decide to leave and make a go of it on my own, that would be equivalent to “spiritual suicide” (your words) and exile to the lowest realms of hell.) I have seen this sort of banishment happen to many others, and knew the anger and even hatred you harbored for those older students who left the community and/or according to you, didn't give you all their time, attention, respect, obedience and at times even their money.

Under the psychological intensity and despair of one of these early cycles with you, I was struggling to prove to you that I cared enough, and so took the course that had by then become the prescribed means of getting out of hot water with you, showing remorse and proving how much one cared – offering you money.

In desperation I wrote you a check for $3,000, I think it was. I remember distinctly when you received my offer, you stormed into my room, angrily throwing the check to the floor and shouting at me dramatically, “Do you think you can buy me off for a lousy three grand?” I was flabbergasted. Could it be that there was an amount that I was expected to give that would show the necessary amount of intention and resolve to change? The right amount of care for you? I had remembered a time when buying you flowers was a symbol for this; but times had changed, and now the currency of forgiveness and intention apparently was cash.

As you well know, I was around to watch as many others who “bottomed out”, and wanting to prove their sincerity felt pressured by you to buy their way back into your good graces. In fact, any longtime student in the community knew that sooner or later a “donation” would be required as the only way to resolve matters if they ever got into real trouble with you. Extracting “donations” from your students generally took place at a time when they felt victimized, emotionally overwrought, guilty, and trying to gain back your love, trust and affection. You actually even said to me and a few others at one time that when a ‘committed’ or a ‘senior’ student “blows it”, it’ll cost them $20,000 in karmic retribution. And all this, of course, normally happened without the slightest regard on your part for the student’s actual financial situation. As appallingly manipulative and abusive as I now see your attitude to be, I know that this was still the accepted way that things operated around you up until the time I left.

So, despite grave reservations about being able to do what your “rules” dictated in this situation, I dug deep, cleared out my bank account, borrowing the rest, and offered you what I thought would surely show my heart was in the right place – a check for $20,000. It was accepted and deposited by you. (This was followed by another pledge of $10,000. made to you a bit later when I was in London after having failed once again to meet all that you were demanding of me. I paid you $500. toward this at that time.)

I now find it all quite twisted and sickening. The benefit of leaving has afforded me the clarity I never had while in your world, and under the constant duress of enforced compliance to your wishes (being told this was for my liberation). So, now I am making a different and sane choice on my own behalf:

Without further elaboration of past events, I simply and directly ask you to return my money to me now in full -- $20,500. -- without conditions. This money can by no stretch of the imagination be considered a good faith donation to a nonprofit group, having been extracted from me under some of the most intense and extreme psychological stress imaginable.


Nearly a month later, this is the email response I received from Andrew’s assistant:

From: "Cathy Snow"
Date: Sun, 7 Nov 2004 19:41:03 -0500
To: "Ernest"
Subject: from Cathy Snow

Dear Ernest,

We have reviewed your request and have decided to decline it. We wish you all the best.

Thank you,

Cathy Snow

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anastasi, your post in particular has really touched me. Thank you.

Monday, 07 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Anastasi,you have pulled back the curtain and the light is shining brightly on all that has been seething in the darkness. This is a great gift to all, including and most especially Andrew. Freedom abounds and the Truth is clear.

Monday, 07 February, 2005  
Blogger Simon Moore said...

Dear Ernest

i have always known you as Ernest.....

Someone just drew my attention to this site, and i havent had a chance to read much yet. i was a student of Andrews for about 4 years or so, in California, Fox Hollow and London, where i am from. Anyway, i will probably write about that soon....

Just wanted to thank you for what you have written and wish you well. i have always been impressed by those who showed so much Heart in giving so much to Andrew and his 'Community'. Some of these people were really consistently beautiful,and it was upsetting when they left. One aspect of the Community is that people really loved each other like comrades on the battle field ! That love seems to be alive and well outside Andrew's Community, so its not all bad !

Anyway its good to find out what happened and make up our own minds.

Mainly i just wanted to say hello and pay my respects...

Love Simon

Tuesday, 08 February, 2005  
Blogger mike said...

I was also in Andrew Cohen’s community, but only for two years, and I never went far into the ‘inner circle’. I was shocked when I read Andre van der Braaks book ‘Enlightenment Blues’, I didn’t know of the abuse that he describes. My time in the community during those years was actually very positive, and I felt that I had progressed personally in many ways. I did feel though, that at times there was a sense of not being allowed total freedom of thought; there was a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ interpretation of things, and it could get tricky if you got it wrong!

This changed somewhat during my last two weeks in the community. It was a period of great spiritual growth for me; part of that growth was in seeing things more clearly, including what didn’t seem true or right in the way things were being done, another part of this growth was giving myself to the community and the spiritual endeavour that we were together in, in a much greater way than ever before. What was most thrilling to me was that I felt that I was more in balance, that I was experiencing a degree of autonomy that meant that I would say things because they felt right to me, rather than because it was the ‘right’ interpretation.

What I was experiencing was a greater sense of inner freedom, but rather than taking me away from the community I belonged to, this led me to want to give more to it. I could give more to it because the impetus was coming from within me, from a degree of independence. But it was amazing how quickly this got me into trouble with the senior student of the community at the time. He told me that I was ‘coming from my ego’, that I should forget about the insights I was having, they were ‘just an experience’ and that ‘only Andrew doesn’t get stuck in his ego’. This seemed a rather fixed perspective to me, so I wrote to Andrew asking if I could fly to America to see him. After this, the attitude of others in the community at this time also changed as it became known throughout the ranks that I was ‘in my ego’. People who had been open to me before now looked at me gravely, and asked if I had looked into what ego was recently!

I fought within myself to find what was the greatest truth in all of this, perhaps I was coming from ego? What struck me though, is that we have to be true to our own experience, what we can authentically put ourselves behind. It was tempting to give in and say ‘ok, you’re right, it’s my ego’, but I knew that I would not have been authentic in saying that, and would have felt like I was covering over the truth. I could have said things that would have saved my reputation and place in the community, and I have to admit that I was tempted to do so, but isn’t truth really beyond what I may want to see, or what others may want to see, but is just the truth? I expressed my doubts to everyone, it shocked me to think that I may have to leave after just having discovered a way to give myself more, but I awaited Andrew’s response, hoping that this would resolve things.

I got Andrew’s response a few days later, but it left no room for discussion or dialogue of any kind. He asked why he should see me as he had heard that I was thinking of leaving, he said I lacked humility, and without humility I would “fucking burn in hell”. I left because there was no discussion, no openness to find out, there was only obedience or non-obedience.

Having said all this, which happened over three years ago, and having reflected over it all and talked with many ex-students in the meantime, and also in reading this blog, there are some things that come to light for me. One is that nearly all Andrew’s ex-students still retain a respect for him, and in what they have discovered spiritually through him. Almost all say that he is powerful in bringing someone to an enlightenment experience. What I feel is being increasingly brought to light in these exchanges is the dark side of Andrew’s personality and how that has been manifest in his community. This does not deny Andrew’s spiritual power, but is saying there is also another side, that is not so wholesome. I think almost every human being would admit to having a dark side, the fact that they admit it means that they are more ready to acknowledge it and be ready to deal with it when it arises. In Andrew’s case there is no such acknowledgement. If there was his acknowledgement then I think there would be more balance and autonomy within the community, and less anger (or guilt) from those that have left the community.

Tuesday, 08 February, 2005  
Blogger David Jon Peckinpaugh said...

Hello Anastasi,

Thank you for sharing your experience. My heart truly goes out to you. I cannot imagine the feelings that must arise after giving someone so much--helping to manifest and materialize someone else's dream (even if it was/is shared by others) and then being treated so thoughtlessly and thanklessly.

The sharing of your experience compelled me to post a comment due to my understanding of a similar sort of situation as you experienced with Andrew now materializing with Ken Wilber and his beloved Integral Institute.

I think that most of us now that Ken and Andrew have become chums. They also seem to be sharing a proclivity for the instrumental use--and abuse it would seem!--of those who are drawn to them for any number of reasons. What I have become aware of with regards to this troubling tendency is for both Ken and Andrew to predatorially prey (now, whether this is a conscious process on their part or not is another question completely) upon genuinely sincere and interested persons. This is largely done through the use and abuse--as all truly capitalistic endeavours are--of the labour that is built up around them. In a word, it is the 'exploitative capitalization of the existence of another.'

If all we have is our time and our energy to give--just as I am doing now in writing this and you are in the reading--then the exploitation of that time and energy by a Ken Wilber or an Andrew Cohen is akin to being a vampirization of life itself.

According to my sources, Ken Wilber has been building up for some time a pool of young labourers (web designers, graphic artists, musicians, gophers) that are spending their own time and energy building up Ken's vision. They are largely doing this for free--pro bono. And if they are getting paid they are not receiving market-value for their labours.

And the thing I would like to mention here, is that these young people are willing to do this out of their own sense of innocent commitment to what they happen to believe in. On the other-side though, there is on the part of both Ken and Andrew a tendency to discard those persons who are no longer useful to them or their vision. People then, are to a certain degree both exploited and expendable. And this from those who are alleged to be granting us this new form of evolutionary spirituality.

Again, a heartfelt bow to you Anastasi. If even one person is spared the consequences of their own naivete--by entering boldly into a situation with a tremendous amount of shadow--then I suspect all of your/our trials have been worth it.

David Jon Peckinpaugh

Tuesday, 08 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Ernest (Stas)

Peter M here - Thanks you so much for sharing your heart so clearly. As you know I left 'the Revolution' a few months before you, having smashed headlong into the same wall. Its been a roller coaster ride in the last two years trying to make sense of the whole experience - the undoubted taste of real freedom and truth and the horror of finding the impossibility of meeting Andrew's constantly escalating demands on my loyalty to him - you have articulated the whole process so clearly - I'm not sure that this is ever a dilemma I will fully resolve, but having the space and freedom to finally be able to voice all those doubts and confusions that kept growing because they could never be explored within the 'community', is a taste of freedom itself. Surrender could never mean a total abandonment of one's own critical faculties (as was actually expected in respect to Andrew's actions and demands - so much for Autonomy!). i only hope that Andrew hears what is being said, because I have no doubt that he is an Awakened One but one in whom the whole process is far from complete.....

Tuesday, 08 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear friends, fellow kindreds on this blog-

Having been a past "unofficial student" of IEF I write this to you now...

I too experienced the egoic cruel side of Andrew as well on retreat with him.

On a Foxhollow retreat, the "enlightenment experience/egg" was shared with me to experience.

It was wonderful...but I never anticipated. -nor suspected, what happened next...

As I closed my eyes while sitting in the audience, just as I began to smile and enjoy it, I was spirtually acosted by Andrew sitting within reach of him as he ripped it from me in an instant!

It was like a spiritual thievery/swindling and akin to an energetic abuse of sorts.

(Psychic vampirism/animalism/parasitism)

When I later brought this to the attention to one of Andrew's entranced "inner circle" cult members (an upper-level student), I was literally told:

"so what? who cares if that happened?, that doesn't matter..."

My plea for validation was crushed by his apathy and programmed deferrance to Andrew.

There's the denial and the "turning away" from the truth (which I personally was told through Cohen's own teachings) to be ["the highest priority," -the integrity and ethics inherent in a genuine spiritual path to enlightenment.]

Yet, those were thrown out the window so to speak...because... the "infallible master acted out of perfect enlightenment," right?

Why couldn't I just realize that? -OR NOT.

It felt like a spiritual attack was made upon me by Andrew's ego.

It was/is like he was/is this "big kid" who demands that we all play by his rules or "he won't share his toys" with us.

Also during the retreat, Andrew also seemingly playfully invited a female student to sit up on the edge of his platform. She went up and took the microphone with her. As she joyfully began to feel the excitement of that perspective, Andrew grabbed her or pinched her enough so to make her shriek out loud in surprise or pain. She then immediately put her head down and went back to her seat visibly shaken.

This greatly upset me then, -but alas, amidst the "code of silence," nobody even said a word then or following that during our silent walk out of the meditation hall.

His rules were/are (in my experience) to never question his authority or the assumed "perfection of his enlightenment"

This is dangerous and clearly cultic in form and by description.

Now I see clearly that my own inner questions, skepticism, and doubts about him and that his absolute accountability to the "ethics and integrity," (-and lack thereof...) that arose in my own consciousness about him were and are valid and potently real.

Something really never was quite right about Andrew's life as to his unquestioned claim to full enlightenment.

After several years of dwindling contact with IEF I listened to my own intuition and I left the level of the community with IEF fully, totally, and sadly so.

I was beating myself up telling myself that I must have mistaken something somewhere and somehow, and what will happen if I am not going to be totally "taken in" by IEF and Andrew?

Will I actually ever become enlightened? Was this my "one and only chance?"

Now I see that I was right in my suspicions.

I wrote to Andrew several times in protest from various angles and I tried to share the truth with him in question of his own character.

I wonder if my letters were thrown in the trash by him...

I am not surprised that I never got any response from him.

"Thou shalt not question the master" -yeah right.

Since Poonjaji was called to the "spiritual carpet" by Andrew for his own flaws of unethical character, why not Andrew as well?

Andrew's own words and teachings seem to be what could be haunting him at this point, -and rightly so.

Fortunately, I was never put through what many of you have been through with him, because I "never made the grade" to be in his choice elect, -dare I say his New Age Roman Senate?

I wrote this post to continue to encourage each of you in your new lives, free from the real "tyranny" (to quote an "Andrew word") that you each be free from his grasps and attempts to further demean, discredit and exploit each of you.

Please remember the principle of cause and effect.

-Not only will Andrew be called fully to account for one form or another sooner or later,

-and that's "universal iron law"...

-but also each of your valiant efforts to became enlightened ever more so will also bear its own fruit.

In other words, each of your own valid heartful efforts to besome enlightened in an ethical way through your service to IEF and the world will continue to pay off!!!

You know yourself better than anyone else. The sincere and powerful efforts you each made in your paths and journey's both with and without Andrew will bear wonderful fruit!

Just be patient and bear everything out.

I applaud your courage!

Keep your integrity and take back your own power, and most importantly, keep networking together to enter into and sustain the healing process in a greater context.

Keep pushing the envelope in a new and revolutionary way!

It will get more clear as time goes stay strong, I believe in each of your own inherent goodness and in that of the Universe to bring you to "the divine radiant truth" again but in your own maturity and freedom from "worldly control."

Here's a suggestion out of what I see happening now (finally!)...

Get together in solidarity under and new spiritual banner per se...



"RACE" -"Recovery from Andrew Cohen Everywhere."

It would be humorous to see past students bringing lawsuits against Andrew for his delibarate and calculated exploitation of funds, and not only that, but TO WIN at doing so!

There simply must be some protection of law from what Andrew has done in terms of his coercion and manipulation to EXTORT monies from his students.

If enough of you band together in this, you will be making powerful new waves of freedom, and heck, who knows?..., it could all come back to each of you except in these new terms of real freedom from:

"the absolute power of Andrew that has rotted into poisonous fruits resulting in absolute corruption."

How ironic indeed that Andrew spoke out against these very things he himself has now become...

"The pathological, obsessive, compulsive, sociopathic, narcissistic self-enthroned dysfunctional Daddy."

I wish each of you eternally the jewel of enlightement for real as your own newly dicovering freedom!

And quite honestly, I wish Andrew freedom from his own corruption too.

Written by a distraught and embittered past student of Andrew Cohen and IEF.

With warm regards,


Tuesday, 08 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Stas,

Thank you so much for sharing. My heart was deeply touched by your sincerity and courage.

The center of our being is Love and there resides The One who can heal and tranform your tears of sorrow into tears of joy and freedom. Claim this truth!.

In time you will absorb the positive and negative experiences of the last 15 years with Andrew Cohen and community, heal and move on with your life. Most important!..........Forgive, let go and trust that after the storm, the rain follows and the sun will smile on you again. We are children of the Light!. Welcome within the heart of God.

Bless you, many prayers and much love,

Wednesday, 09 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I believe that the best we can do with all of this is to simply move into the Atonement and to forgive.

Forgiveness affords love to oneself and to the forgiven.

I find myself trying to think about Andrew and his suffering as well.

Some of his work has been truly evolutionary and very positive.

Some of his behavior isn't enlightened either.

How well I know for myself.

I have made some of the very same type of mistakes in my own life and through my own ego.

Yet, I forgive myself.

How can we help Andrew to become free of the corruption?

Can we pray for him?

Can we hold him to the light?

Please Holy Spirit do the miraculous work in Andrew's heart, that he will come to know and to own and atone for that which his own weaknesses has caused distress and unethical treatment of many students.

Andrew, I wish that you too become truly free, as soon as possible.

Andrew, please look at your own behavior and choices and own it all and correct and rectify whatever can be saved out of all of this.

Andrew, you are a child of God, just like the rest of us, and equal with the rest of us.

Please face into all of it Andrew and make it right.

I am grateful to you Andrew for the good you have done which I have benefitted from.

God Bless you Andrew.

Be happy, be well, and please meet with the students to make good on your words of the teachings.


Wednesday, 09 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This blog is an unfolding spiritual “Watergate Story.” Charges of crimes in high places and all the attendant denial and cover-up. It saddens me to read the sincere accounts of abuse experienced by past students of Andrew Cohen – and in the unfolding drama there is a story compelling enough that it’s the first thing I read every morning…

With Hal Blacker as Bob Woodward, and presidential enablers Kissinger, Colson and Dean now starring Craig and Carter.

But C&C’s strained cover-up attempts are childishly transparent. Why boast so vociferously about Cohen’s community if there weren’t some very dark abusive events hidden somewhere? “Heaven on Earth” –Come on gentlemen, I have to believe that or else I’m a cynic? Really, your polemics, if they weren’t so foolish, would be offensive.

“Visit us anytime”- for Christ’s sake, give me a break. Even the North Koreans invite you to visit. Madeline Albright did, and she saw only happy shiny faces. But she’s not stupid enough to believe she saw the real North Korea.

And nice try Craig, to come out front and admit to the whoring, just a little justifiable sadhana! Maybe in a movie or a novel I’d give the author the license for such a prank. But you’re dealing with real lives here. And real bad stuff can happen in the sex-for-money arena. It is revolting to think you (and therefore Cohen) can in any way justify this. You haven’t defused the horror of this issue one bit with your little explanation – in fact I’m all the more concerned about where you must be coming from.

What would be refreshing would be some openness coming from Cohen & Company and not a smear-the-critics campaign that frankly no one buys anyway.

Thank you for doing this blog and thank you especially to those of you who have bravely shared your personal stories. You are unfortunately being publicly reviled by Cohen’s editors. What a pity! And what that says about Andrew Cohen is truly awful. It is a real shame because at one time it seemed he had a very big gift in his ability as a spiritual teacher. Now he seems destined to go the way of Nixon.
- Roy

Thursday, 10 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. I had no idea that this corruption was so "political."

I guess it only makes perfect sense afterall, all things considered.

My urge to forgive does not by any means excuse the corruption, I simply want the very best for you students who left "Cohen's political party/agenda."

Best of all it releases YOU.

I have had my suspicions also about sexual misconduct of the Cohen community too. That has historically been "par for the course" as well with seemingly all cult leaders/and self-proclaimed gurus with worldly corrupt power.

I am torn between both gratitiude and contempt toward Andrew.

How could something so positively good turn so bad?

The seven deadly sins, is about it.

I also have wondered if marijuana, LSD-25, or any other psychoactive drugs were put in any of the foods ("authentic Indian cusine") at the retreats or otherwise to insure "spiritual experiences" for one and all.

Perhaps this reflects a personal paranoia, or perhaps not, nail on the head.

I hear your valid anger toward Andrew and the remaining community. Please keep this dialogue going...more will be revealed...

Carefully and patiently watching the unfolding dialogue...


Thursday, 10 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Stas
Thank you so much for your contribution to this blog and also to the administrators who have let it stand out this week. I was with Andrew Cohen for several years and Ernest's heart felt, articulate and moving letter puts the whole of my own experience in perspective. There's almost nothing more that can be said.

Thursday, 10 February, 2005  
Blogger David Jon Peckinpaugh said...

Hello to you all,

I just wanted to pipe in here a few comments about the future; specifically as to where does/can one go from here.

One possibility is to realize that that Cohen bait is still being dangeld out there before the un-informed, the innocent, the naive. I feel that there needs to be as fully an informed understanding of the 'Total Situation' as is possible. One certainly will not get this from the glossy ads pictured in the various 'spiritual mags and rags' made available for public consumption. Nor will one get the 'whole picture' from those toting the Cohen party-line.

I say all of this only due to an awareness of the 'Huge Expectation' that people have when they enter in those spiritual unions with a community and its (self)appointed leader. Of course, the community and its leader will tend to feed off and encourage these 'Huge Expectations' on the part of the newly invited and initiated participants. They want one to feel as if 'this is the greatest opportunity in all the world.'

Ironically, then, the proposed vehicle that is supposed to still the machinations of human desire can end up feeding that desire in the largest and most expectant manner possible! What a turn, eh?? ; o )

I would bet that there are those who can now reflect on their experience within the Cohen community and see how their expectations and desires surrounding 'enlightenment' and 'liberation' were both encouraged and capitalized on. For the Cohen community, and the propoganda commencing from therein, there always seems to be this 'monumental transformation' around the next-bend.

In the meantime, genuine and sincere persons continue to be exploited--both wittingly and unwittingly--as Andrew Cohen's new 'trust fund,' the community, bankrolls an ongoing voyage around the next bend... always around the next bend... forever around the next bend.

Propping up the expectations, through the power of suggestion: that is how you keep the game going Andrew.

Those who know better? Well, those who know better--those who have already seen what is around the next bend (more of the same) have a duty to raise suspicions around the 'Huge Expectations' that are used as a strateigc marketing tool. Remember, I am sure that there is a lot of money (perhaps some of Anastasi's well-earned cash) that goes into 'painting a picture' that is intended to lure and attract new converts. It can't be cheap to maintain a marketing machine, one intended to 'portray a specific image' that will be attractive to those on the hunt for a ' profound spiritual experience.'

Maybe a de-advertising campaign is in order? ; o ) Not a 'smear campaign,' just one that seeks to give the un-informed a more accurate picture of the 'Total Situation.' One that presents not just the 'light,' but the 'shadows' as well.

Your friend in this,
David Jon

Thursday, 10 February, 2005  
Blogger Craig Tindale said...


Now that you have posted the children and how they were treated comment, your honour bound to expand on these issues. I would add that any of you ex Cohen people who have witnessed any mis treatment of children should speak up immediately Craig

Friday, 11 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response to the comment above (from Craig Tindale) I want to clarify any possible wrong impressions about my mention of Andrew’s “dysfunctional” relationship with the children in the community. Just to say, that to my knowledge there has never been any physical or sexual abuse of children there whatsoever. What I am referring to is emotional abuse consisting, in part, of in a fundamental emotional exclusion of these kids from community life, and decisions Andrew has made concerning various children, which adversely affected them. I do intend to write more fully about this. Anastasi Mavrides

Friday, 11 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"I also have wondered if marijuana, LSD-25, or any other psychoactive drugs were put in any of the foods ("authentic Indian cusine") at the retreats or otherwise to insure "spiritual experiences" for one and all."

Not a chance. I have done all these things too many times. They would never be mistaken!

If it was a joke, I'm sorry. I still know they would NEVER be mistaken, except for reasonably higher doses, when the difference would be severly obvious!

Tuesday, 15 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Post Script to my previous post in response to Stas (Ernest). This was very much a response TO Ernest and the fact that it was posted on this blog site does not automatically mean that I endorse everything that is posted here, nor does it mean that I am aligned with the blog hosts in what they are attempting to do with the site, in the same way that attending talks at Andrews's London Centre does not suddenly mean that I am endorsing everything that Andrew stands for. As I said in my post I have questions that have arisen from my extra-ordinary time in Andrew's community. That doesn't take away from the depth, freedom and passion that was experienced there but I can no longer just avoid them or sweep them under the carpet. Nor does it signify that the fact I have questions means I am automatically Anti- Andrew - it means that I want to find answers. The real tragedy is that it seems difficult to address these questions without finger pointing from both sides.....
Peter M

Tuesday, 22 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A friend sent me a link to your post, Ernest. I appreciate your honesty, but some of the things you say about your experience don't make sense. I also looked at a few other posts.

I don't know much about the incidents written in these pages. None of them happened to me directly and I wasn't asked to participate in them against my own conscience.

I was a student-novice of Andrew's until the end of December. I left because I was confronted with my own division, and though I was asked to sort it out, it became clear to me that to move forward I would have to drop something very important to me; plain and simple, I didn't want to. So, I couldn't honestly hold the responsibilities of representing Andrew, and I choose to leave.

Andrew always was straight with me, which is what I asked him for. He showed me what is possible, in being an awakened human being. I learned to see clearly, and a deeper sense of my own conscience began to awaken thanks to him and his teachings. He gave me greater responsibility for my own transformation, and the transformation of others, as time went on. This is the only business he is in, as far as I can tell, and it is the business I wanted to help in.

I kept sensing, in reading through some of these posts, a crippling emotional theme. WE ARE RIPPED-OFF CHILDREN, who do not understand the extent of our suffering and predicament; and I think we also fall short with the really GOOD NEWS that we have the capacity for self-transcending change. THAT IS A GOOD NEWS MESSAGE. Many in these pages must now know this is true, in their deepest experience -- beyond hearing tales and reading books. There is a palpable absence of this knowledge in these posts. Why?

But most striking, to me, and I cannot fully place myself outside of this group, is that we honestly have no deeper understanding of GURU. We do not question ourselves, our motives, and our understanding that hinder our own sincerity and seriousness. Or if we do, we make much out of little. No one is speaking about the relationship to Guru, which is what we signed on for, which is what the traditions describe as a FIRE, and a kind of HELL. What do and did we really knew about this whole process? That requires honest self-inspection. Relationship to GURU IS FIRE. It is a kind of HELL. It is hell because we are mostly rooted as egos, first and foremost. Haven't we seen that much? We are very fond of being exactly as we are. Haven't we sent that too?

In the midst of our recognition of freedom, we say yes, please, make it so. And we ask the GURU TO RIP EGO TO SHREDS. Then when the heat goes up, each to our capacity, we say FUCK NO.

One of our problems is not having a beyond-the-intellect sense of spiritual hierarchy. We don't often walk into a room and recognize, in our bones, real spiritual authority. If I contemplate that liability in myself, I begin to sense my need for and lack of humility. Our culture threw away those hierarchical spiritual structures because of heinous abuse. But we have also lost our ability to recognize and respond to spiritual authority through our gross lack of individual and cultural exercise.

And, to my weakest of estimates, we have very little clue of what the Guru takes on when he or she says YES. We are just preoccupied with our own predicament, difficult as it may be. The picture is larger, though, and no one is asking about that. Why not? Most here are acting as though they were duped and are calling for the "dupers" to be put harnesses away, without asking about the part in ourselves that is "dupable". That part won't change one iota by hollering at or about the "duper". That part is where the action is. (And that part, I think, is the part we asked Andrew to help us deal with on the deepest levels possible).

Saying "Please!", then "Absolutely not!" is the way it has been, in my own experience. And that is the way it has always worked, as I understand it in my friends, and through reading about both those who stayed in the fire and leapt away. After we leap, we want to make much out of our reasons. Fine, maybe. But do they really weigh-in when we look to our experience of Truth?

And if we ever want to go BEYOND the places that we can take ourselves, where will we turn? The only place to turn is to the relationship to GURU. Maybe that sounds absolute; it does to me. BUT WHERE DO WE REALLY TURN?We'll have to turn ourselves to living-awakeness in one who holds it better than us, trust them truly, and quickly or slowly, die to them. That is the tradition, that is my experience, and I think it is a true structure in this universe. We awaken in the company of awakeness. It is only that relationship that creates more awakeness in others.

I think it is VERY worthwhile to look into cultism, and the circle of enclosure that tends to develop in groups. There IS a decided lack of real and critical discourse that happens in these same circles. The two salient questions for me are: What is the source of that cultism, and, What is the teacher's relationship to it, teaching-wise and action-wise?

I think the source is us and our lack of development. Are we not tending to form the ghosty structure of a cult right now, seeing eye-to-eye, sympathizing around core ideals, wary of points-of-view that are "outside"? Human beings everywhere are INTO cultism. We live in a culture of cultists. And we distrust anyone and anything that really threatens the status quo. Anyone who simply points this out is at risk of condemnation. The larger "cult of humanity", works very hard to project something much more sophisticated about itself to itself. The usual response to more-objective reflection is deep and destructive scorn.

Maybe Andrew is good at criticism, maybe not. I really don't know. I didn't go to him to criticize him personally, I went to be critiqued and deconstructed; I went to exercise trust, after passing important milestones with him. This was all based on my own observations, and understanding, I didn't rush into this. The traditions also say to take care before leaping. Make sure the Guru you approach is for real. Make sure you understand yourself and the process. Make sure you intend to follow through. This is why I have trouble with the mood of responses some are making on these pages.

I don't believe that the people making these responses didn't consider and understand these things for themselves, at the time. If one has changed one's position, fine, but where is this part of the picture?

I think it is very important to NOT do things against our own conscience. If we felt pressured by others (which may have been), WHO responded to that pressure in the way we did? WHO choose not to say anything? WHO choose to continue onward? WHO refused to look square-on at the implications of that choice? That kind of self-betraying choice somehow seems "already cynical". Why not look into this?

I appreciate reading all of this, because it just underscores the entire process in and for myself. I see point-blank how little I really want this. And if I choose it anyway, because something in me also senses how RIGHT IT IS TO DO SO, then I have to bear all that comes with my own choice. I can see no other way.

What an unbearable predicament, the Truth. How to rest in all of IT and not choose cynicism, which denies something in ourselves? How to be free in the midst of all the rip-off, and not budge?

Andrew once said to a few of us, when I was his student, that the only way those who leave can face themselves is by destroying what they once loved. I know I am struggling hard to stay out of the muck in myself.

I also want to ask others to please be very careful to not destroy what we once, and STILL, love, in the midst of trying to understand all of it.

Andrew Dorfman

Sunday, 13 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew D.,

Thank you for bringing a new perspective to this forum. You raise some important issues here.

Thursday, 17 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Andrew. I agree with the previous post in praising you boldness, bravery, and honesty in being willing to express so clearly a view which will never be popular but which is the ultimate way to freedom. Thanks for you vulnerability and guts!

Saturday, 16 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Andrew, I think this really puts light on the motive behind what people on here are saying.

I am a student member of Andrew's, and this all sounds so bitter, I do not have the kind of experience that many close to Andrew have but reading this is clear it is so completely personal and just about them. Which is horrible and shocking considering what Andrew is trying to do, bring light into the world - and not just Andrew but us too.

Under all this abuse we are all one, and this unity is our saving grace, if we can come together autonomously with this objective then things can really change in this world, if we really want the world to change. Otherwise where are we all headed? in fact what is the point in living just to feed our synaptic impulses - animal desires for separate temporary release and pleasure.

I do not know that I can go all the way into the fire, but I am guided by the true Self that I choose to align with. Andrew represents that fire incarnate.

I am aware that I may be blind and unable to see, from both sides, but I have to trust something in this vast world and all has lead me to believe that I can trust Andrew Cohen. But under this the truth is my real drive and if I get lost it is because my desire for truth above everything else was not strong enough. I still find it insane that truth, or the way it actually is, is so hard to see and be, and how completely lost we can be with just abit of cynism and arrogance.

I hope all on here find the path again in whatever form it takes, and discover the deep everlasting love that we all already are.


Anatole Branch

Tuesday, 25 October, 2005  
Anonymous Ted A. said...


Thanks so much for your post. I very much appreciate your courage to speak out as only a few of Andrew's former students can i.e. with knowledge of the inner-workings of both Andrew and his community. I am sure it is both enlightening and healing for many.

With love,

Ted A.

Friday, 04 December, 2009  
Anonymous Rebecca Saxon said...

Thanks again, for another touching post, Anastasi.

In my experience, I saw that the pull of Andrew's attention was (despite his saying he was "killing" the ego) actually lifting UP THE EGO. He was MAKING PEOPLE SPECIAL, AND SPECIALNESS IS EGO.

Ego is what knocked people down when they were "wrong" and it propped them up when they were "right" in Andrew's eyes. When I reflect I see that I could have given up my life for him if he had stroked my ego more... (all under the guise of killing the ego).

He is doing the exact opposite of what he says he is doing. He is walking ego.

Wednesday, 11 August, 2010  
Blogger themeanderingmushroomman said...

the ironic thing is that the desire to destroy the ego can only arise from it. so the real spiritual suicide is only in trying to follow people like Cohen who sooner or later lead everyone off a cliff since that is the only logical conclusion to their methodology.

Saturday, 28 January, 2012  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew Dorfman
That's the biggest load of crap I've read here, written by someone that has no clue. You are the blind leading the blind and the other blind ones are thanking you for it, for justifying their programming. How can you justify the abuse spoken of with your 'spiritual ego' bullshit. Where's the compassion or balanced perspective? There can be none when you're operating from a 'spiritual ego' which is simply your program. You come here with your program trying shine 'on the lost,' people who have dissolved their program. They are the ones that can help you, not the other way around. Your program is out dated and in desperately in need of an upgrade.

This is from someone who's never been under Cohens spell. I've never read any of his books or seen him but I can clearly see the bs that you espouse. At the same time people coming forth to share their experiences as long as they're honest are real while your rant is all philosophical bs. So many 'gurus' abuse others because absolute power corrupts absolutely. In this day and time gurus offer nothing but abuse. The time has come for each to awaken to their inner teacher and not give their power away. If we give our power away to any spiritual teacher we set ourselves up to be abused, taken advantage of.

Thursday, 08 November, 2012  

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