Friday, February 04, 2005

WIE Editor Admits Slapping, Smeared "Blood" Incident

I nearly laughed out loud when I read Hal’s preamble to his “Breaking the Code of Silence” entry on this blog. How noble of you, Hal. You’re finally going to enlighten us all to what’s really going on around Andrew? What “code of silence” exactly are you referring to? As far as I can tell, so far the only code on this blog seems to be a code of kvetching. Let me try a new approach. I’ll call this entry “Breaking the Code of Victimization.”

My name is Craig Hamilton. I’m the managing editor of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, where I’ve worked full time since 1997. I’ve been a student of Andrew’s for nearly thirteen years, and have been a close friend and colleague for the past eight of those years. I’ve been watching this latest incarnation of the anti-Cohen cult with mild curiosity since its small handful of founders started repeatedly emailing announcements about it to all of the magazine’s advertisers and contributors. I never planned to respond, but at a certain point, the rhetoric of mischaracterization got to be too much to listen to.

So, for anyone who, upon reading the entries on this blog, finds themselves scratching their head at the bizarre, two-dimensional, and often surreal picture it paints; for anyone who finds it nearly impossible to reconcile the diabolical PowerLord depicted here with their own experience of Andrew Cohen (either through his writings, his magazine, his video dialogues on the web, or his public talks and retreats), I thought it would be worth offering a few words of explanation to help set the record straight.

First, a couple of questions:

(1) if the community around Cohen even remotely resembled the sort of life-destroying police-state this blog depicts, why would most of those writing on this blog have stayed with Cohen of their own free will for ten or more years? And why would so many others report it to be the most enriching, life-affirming, and genuinely evolutionary environment they have ever experienced?

(2) if Andrew Cohen really were the menace to society this blog describes, why would so many of today’s wisest and most respected spiritual and cultural authorities have expressed such strong support for his work? (A small sample of these can be found at:

For starters, just to be clear, yes Andrew Cohen is a demanding teacher. And if he accepts you as a student and you get close enough to him, he’ll likely challenge you in ways you have never been challenged. Sometimes warmly. Sometimes affectionately. Sometimes fiercely. But if you’ve been even a few steps down the path of transformation, and have begun to glimpse the usually obscured face of that dubious cluster of self-serving motivations traditionally known as ego, you’ve probably realized that, frankly, sometimes you need to be challenged. I know I had. In fact, a big part of the reason I came to Andrew for help was that, after years of meditation and therapy, I had managed to see myself just clearly enough that I was starting to become faintly disgusted by the self-aggrandizement, narcissism, and deep-rooted selfishness that was playing itself out in all my relationships. And it was clear that, despite my growing concern about it, I wasn’t in a hurry to give it up on my own. Andrew made it clear from the word go that he was in a hurry for me to give it up, and that it wouldn’t be easy, that I would at times resent him or worse for forcing me to confront and leave behind the self-image I had grown so fond of. But I was pretty convinced that without the kind of “evolutionary tension” a relationship with a teacher like Andrew promised, I would likely spend the better part of a lifetime in spiritual self-delusion, in love with my own image as a seeker.

In case there was any doubt, Andrew delivered. And then some. And he was right. There have been many times when I have resented him and worse for the sometimes stark or even severe reflection he has unfailingly provided. (I was the one mentioned in Hal’s letter who got slapped in the face and also had fake blood smeared on his wall—which, incidentally, we already wrote about in the magazine three years ago—so much for the “code of silence”). And if I had, at any one of those times, followed my bruised ego out the door, as a number of others have, I might well be joining the feeding frenzy along with them. The spiritual path has always been a high-stakes game. The mystical literature isn’t filled with metaphors like “Razor’s Edge” and “Chasm of Fire” simply for poetic effect. Indeed, before I met Andrew, I always wondered why the traditional stories were so replete with images of demons trying, and often succeeding, at tempting people from their own highest aspirations. For all of my meditation and therapy, I had encountered nothing in my own experience that could help explain their existence—metaphorical or otherwise. But in my thirteen years with Andrew, where the fires of transformation burn bright, I have seen in often painful living color just why the traditions made such a strong, if metaphorical, point of this. The sad and at times devastating truth is, not everybody makes it. And some barely make it to the starting line.

But for those who have remained steadfast through the struggles that come with the territory, something miraculous is unfolding. On an individual level, it manifests as a deep authenticity and vulnerability, a profound freedom of being, whose human face is care for others and for all of life. But the greater fruits of this sacred labor are revealing themselves on a collective level. Coming together beyond the fears and desires of ego, we are discovering a new way of being together, in which the autonomy of each individual is fueled and animated by the power and love of communion beyond difference. If you want to get a glimpse of what heaven on earth might look like, I strongly encourage you to pay us a visit. Our doors are always open, and many who have come through have commented that they’ve never experienced anything like what they tasted here.

Just to be clear, I’m not saying that Hal or any of the other writers on this blog shouldn’t have left. Nor am I suggesting that everyone who leaves this path does so because they have an ego tantrum. No path is for everyone, and least of all this one. But having known Hal for many years, I have no doubt that the reasons for his departure were as I described above. And that in light of that, we would do well to question his motives for writing what he has, and the accuracy of the picture he paints. (For the record, Hal served very briefly as the lead editor of What is Enlightenment? while it was making the transition from a two-color in-house newsletter to its first issue or two as a small, four-color magazine. Those of us who worked with him remember him as an emotionally unstable and often aggressive colleague. Indeed, it was his unwillingness to make any effort to control his fitful aggression that eventually compelled Andrew to give him the nickname “Raging Bull,” and which also ultimately led to his departure).

Finally, I think it needs to be said that this blog’s portrayal of Andrew as a self-proclaimed infallible authority who answers to no one is little more than a cheap shot. It ignores the fact that since he began teaching, Andrew has gone out of his way to seek out meetings with other teachers, traditional and non-traditional, with whom he shares not only his insights but his struggles and questions. It also leaves out the fact that Andrew regularly speaks about his own continued evolution as a teacher.

I was hesitant to write this letter. I recognize that, given the level of aggression we are confronting here, this small effort at explanation may well backfire, generating a yet greater wave of animosity, even if again only from that small minority whose axe will not be sufficiently ground until it is but a stub of a handle. But at some point, silence on such matters starts to look like consent. And if nothing else, perhaps this small statement will at least raise a question for anyone who might have been fooled by Hal and his gang. I guarantee that if you dig deep enough to find out for yourself, you’ll discover that the picture of Andrew Cohen portrayed on this blog is nothing more than a small-hearted rendition of loosely assembled half-truths, a coward’s caricature. Yes, there is another side to the story. It’s a side whose glory cannot be contained in the space of this letter. But one well worth investigating for anyone in whom the heart’s cry for freedom cannot be drowned in the clamor of cynicism.
Craig Hamilton


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You ask, "if Andrew Cohen really were the menace to society this blog describes, why would so many of today’s wisest and most respected spiritual and cultural authorities have expressed such strong support for his work?"

Does this blog describe Andrew Cohen as a “menace to society”? I certainly did not get that impression from Susan Bridle’s and Hal Blacker’s posts or from the few others I read here, but I have not studied the entire blog.

That aside, you ask why so many respected authorities have expressed such strong support of Andrew Cohen’s work, and you provide a link readers can follow to a "press room" at where a number of people whose names are undoubtedly familiar to many of us are listed, along with their praises of Andrew Cohen and his work.

Here are their names: Brian Swimme, Don E. Beck, John Roemischer, Andrei Codrescu, Ken Wilber, John White, Swami Chidananda, Wayne Teasdale, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, and Yvan Amar.

Ken Wilber, John White, and Barbara Marx Hubbard are on record as having at one time or another expressed strong support for the American self-styled Avatar/World-Teacher Adi Da and his "work." In a public announcement made in the late 1990’s, Ken Wilber said that he had come to see Adi Da as “problematic” and “pathological.”

Have any of the authorities listed on the pressroom page of ever lived as students over a period of time in Andrew Cohen's community? If not, they may be authorities on any number of things, but they are not authorities on what life as a student in Andrew Cohen's community is like.

You ask, "if the community around Cohen even remotely resembled the sort of life-destroying police-state this blog depicts, why would most of those writing on this blog have stayed with Cohen of their own free will for ten or more years? And why would so many others report it to be the most enriching, life-affirming, and genuinely evolutionary environment they have ever experienced?"

I missed the posts at this blog that depict Andrew Cohen's community as a life-destroying-police-state (and as I noted, I have not studied this blog), but if we put questions about Andrew Cohen aside, I think we can say that there is a great deal of evidence to the effect that many people have been known to stay in dysfunctional systems of their own free will, often for many years before they "wake up" and realize that the system they're in is indeed dysfunctional, while other people living within the same dysfunctional systems seem to thrive and might not see the system as dysfunctional. We might keep in mind that systems are not static, and that someone may stay for years in a system that becomes cumulatively dysfunctional or otherwise problematic over time.

You say that it is a cheap shot for anyone to suggest that Andrew Cohen sees himself as an infallible authority figure who answers to no one. As evidence you mention that he has gone out of his way to meet with other teachers and that he regularly speaks about his continuing evolution as a teacher. This begs the question if Andrew Cohen, in relationship not to other teachers but to his students, functions in the mode of an infallible authority figure (who is believed to be infallible because he is believed to be enlightened) and tells us nothing about how communication and feedback is processed within Andrew Cohen's community.

If it is a cheap shot for anyone to suggest that Andrew Cohen is an infallible authority figure who answers to no one, are we to assume that there are ways that Andrew Cohen’s students can bring grievances and critical feedback to him without fear of ostracism, exile, public humiliation, or other repercussions? Spiritual teachers do exist who disallow and disavow all critical feedback from students and who rationalize this by defining all of their students as unenlightened and "egoic" and therefore incapable of discerning when the teacher’s behavior is truly skillful, as in “skillful means,” and when the teacher may be acting out of unconsciousness. In communities presided over by such teachers, the benefit of the doubt always goes to the teacher and never to the students, and therefore there can be no such thing as legitimate grievances and critical feedback from students. Students who loyal to the teacher in such communities automatically see students who sometimes look critically at and question the teacher and/or who leave and then look critically at and question the teacher, as being caught up in unenlightened "egoic" reactivity. I would say that it is not a cheap shot to characterize such teachers as "self-proclaimed infallible authority" figures, but you are clearly indicating that Andrew Cohen does not fall into that mold or pattern (and that is good news).

Who then, other than other teachers, and beyond making general admissions that he continues to evolve as a teacher, does Andrew Cohen answer to?

Friday, 04 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig, how can you justify being slapped and having fake blood smeared on your wall? What could possibly be the point? Do you feel you deserved to be slapped? What issue of WIE did you talk about this?

Friday, 04 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Craig. Thanks for your response. I'm the first anonymous who posted you at 5:53PM, not the anonymous who asked you "how you can justify..." To identify myself in future posts I'll identify myself as "anonymous 1."

I did read your response to Susan, and I have some comments on that which I will make later.

- anonymous 1

Friday, 04 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig Hamilton’s response to Hal Blacker’s letter showed exactly the tactics consistent with life in Andrew Cohen’s community. A nasty attempt at character assassination under the guise of spiritual superiority. The language also reminded me of another cultic dynamic in our present time – the current US administration – with it’s rhetoric of freedom against the tyranny of evil doers, an administration that Andrew Cohen has vocally supported, for heaven’s sake!

To reduce all the points that Hal Blacker, Susan Bridle and others have brought up to be the clamor of cynicism reveals an arrogance and delusion that is a hallmark of Andrew Cohen’s community. When I left the community after 8 years, the turning point happened when I realized that there was no room for anybody to leave the community with Andrew’s blessing. There was no respect given to those who left and I realized that Andrew simply didn’t care. Initially that made me very sad, and then angry, and then I realized how bitter and deluded a teacher he must be when he can’t let people leave and wish them well and hope that each of them finds what they’re looking for in life. As far as he’s concerned, if you’ve gone, you’ve betrayed him and you’re going to rot in the hell of your own ego. I wrote to him saying that each person has to find their own way, that ultimately no other person can do that for another and we all have to walk our own path. Any teacher worth their salt would know this, but Andrew has been caught up in an expectation of betrayal from everybody he meets, his mother and teacher included, and so this is the prism of his own reality. Those that knew him and then left after many years just confirmed this expectation.

Craig Hamilton and Andrew’s community cannot reduce those behind this blog to being disaffected cowards, hyenas yapping at the ankles of Truth. That is too easy. One of the great things that happened in the community was the level of sincerity of those involved. That sincerity doesn’t leave when a person departs the community, contrary to the rationales given by Andrew to justify why people would leave him. Life is more subtle than Andrew Cohen would have us think. This is the trouble when someone attempts to live his life in such simplistic absolutes; everything and everybody who is not sitting in adoration of him is the enemy, a spiritual “axis of evil” to be battled with.

How many times in human history has this happened when one group of people think they have some kind of unique angle on Truth, and where those that disagree with them are viewed with suspicion, hatred and worse. This is what cults have always been about and whilst I joke that, yes, I was in a cult but it wasn’t as bad as many other cults, none the less it is still a cult and one day Craig may realize this. However, that will happen only after he leaves. Whilst in it, he will never be able to see what is really going on and can only resort to thinking that the very many people who committed many years to living in Andrew’s community and then left are nothing more than lost souls, unresolved individuals, whilst he, Andrew and others bask in the light of wisdom and truth. How noble of you Craig! However, it really is quite good out here with the rest of humanity - not perfect, but maybe perfection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, including our spiritual authorities.

Richard Pitt

Saturday, 05 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Where to start ! Craig Hamiliton’s mean spirited and unjustified personal comments about Hal Blacker and Susan Bridle’s very fair and balanced attempt to make sense of the mess around Andrew certainly vindicated this blogs previous decision to be anonymous! Craig, with Andrew’s help no doubt, sure does know how to cleverly initimidate and stifle dissent. Certainly gives me pause to poke my head out of the foxhole right now.

So...if Andrew has “evolved as a teacher” as Craig mentions...does this mean that prior to this moment he admits that some of the “cells in his body” (one of his means of referring to his students, past and present) suffered abuse because of his closed system of teaching. One that absolutely allows no questioning of the system you find yourself in.....certainly no questioning of the absolute authority himself.

For the record, Ken Wilber, one of Andrew’s most quoted supporters, as has been said above, also endorsed Adi Da (to his later embarrassment), and David Deida who wrote a hilarious piece called “Mr Wedgie” lampooning Andrew. A number of teachers and bright lights on Ken Wilber’s Integral Board are not fans of Andrew ! As for teachers such as Lee Lozowick, quoted in a response to Susan Bridle’s piece.....well perhaps it is better to find out his and others current opinion on Andrew as the piece quoted is very old and there has been a lot of water under the bridge since then.

It’s very interesting to me that Craig would choose to respond only now. This blog has been up a while now with some very interesting and provocative questions. Could it be that Susan and Hal’s gutsy willingness to try and shed some light, let in some air and genuinly open this whole thing up is actually deeply threatening to the Cohen regime?

Oh, and Craig’s points that Andrew suffers all this criticism without there being any major scandals about him involving sex or money. Well the woman, mentioned in Andre’s book who had over 1 million bucks coerced from her might disagree and those of us...more than a few, who have been told to make “donations” of $10,000 to $20,000 at a pop during our most anxious, fearful and confused times....well we might take some exception to that also. By the way, these “donations” were demanded with no thought for the students financial health, often of people who were out of work or in debt. The only option being was to go into deeper debt......As for sexual scandals Andrew is pretty clean. Although the man who was told, against his will and better judgement, visit a prostitute for 3 times a day for a week.....Well, despite Craig’s dimishment of this I think most folk, conservative or otherwise, would find this just plain twisted.

There is a whole lot more to say, both to points bought up by Hal and Susan and to Craig’s frankly ridiculous rebuttal but it’s late and I’m going to leave it here......

Saturday, 05 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Craig--Your words sound like those of an angry brainwashed person to me. I have nothing to do with Andrew's community and never have, but I know the sound of someone who is brainwashed when I hear it.

The first thing of course, is to attack the character of someone who is speaking the truth. We all have character flaws. It's just a cheap shot to do that.

One other interesting thing is that you point to Ma Jaya Sati Bhagavati, as endorsing Andrew. That woman is the biggest fraud going! Joya, or Joyce Green, (which is her real name), is a total scam artist. A scam artist endorsing a scam artist! Great!

Good luck to you Craig. May you find the help and support and friends that you need when you finally find your way out of the mental torture chamber you have put yourself in.

Saturday, 05 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Craig,

Since you mention that you are currently working on the next edition of WIE, and since you are so involved with this blog---
I am sure we can all safely assume that you will make certain that there is a prominent mention of this blog, complete with its URL in the next issue of WIE (and a link on the WIE web site), n'est-ce pas?

Another Interested Reader

Saturday, 05 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Instead of repeating yourself, dismissively disparaging contributions to this blog by calling them a "feeding frenzy," or trying to micro-manage how the blog articles are handled and with what prominence they are posted, why don't you answer the question--

you ARE going to prominently mention and post the URL and a link to this blog that you are so involved with in the next edition of WIE, and on its web site, yes?

Perhaps with your assurance you would be this fair, those who manage the blog would feel some inclination to consider your suggestions about how particular comments (that YOU happen to like) are posted.

Sunday, 06 February, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anyone know anything about a follower of Andrew Cohen called Kirstie Simson?

Sunday, 19 March, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I admit I was amazed at the things Hal claimed were going on.
I have heard Andrew Cohen speak, and have read one book. He impresses me, he says things which seem true. Yet I have never been quite comfortable with the aura of well-heeled health and wealth around him. I grew up in the Old Age, where spiritual people reached out to the poor the ill and the ugly too - not to mention the bad.
So I have felt uneasy about but interested in Andrew's teaching, which is why I looked at the blog.

Some of Craig's points about the chasms and fires of spiritual growth ring true, and indeed one of the most impressive things I ever heard Andrew say was about facing personal demons and asking whether a questioner wanted to be scared off or to grow. Very simple, very challenging, very direct.

And then Craig had to go and make personal comments about Hal. Really! How damned *un*enlightened. It's not that people can't take their own medicine, it's that it completely undermines the glorious spiritual path you've painted.

My impression now is that Andrew is deeply gifted and has a message that can benefit many people, but that this does not equal enlightenment. It is also my impression of his followers.

I suspect this will be taken as a slur, but it's quite the opposite, it merely is the state of being human. Is it possible that spiritual evolution can go backwards as well as forwards?

We are all fallible, we all sin. We can all repent and go and do better next time. There is no shame in it except being too proud to admit it, refusing to repent.

I hope the joys and consolations of the community as are as great as you say, Craig, and that wonderful things happen for many people, but it is madness to assume the judgement of one man is always correct, madness to not admit mistakes.

If this is the only error in the Cohen world, surely it's a smaller beast than some that you've alrady conquered to admit it?

Tuesday, 11 April, 2006  

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