Thursday, March 24, 2005

Shame, Guilt and the Guru’s Blood

Breaking The Code Of Silence--Part III
by Hal

May all beings be happy!
May the truth, no matter how difficult it is to hear, set all beings free.

I have previously written on this blog of incidents of slapping and physical assault against students by Andrew Cohen and at his direction. I told the story of the assault of Donna with buckets of paint, and the emotional assault on her teenage daughter. Stas (Ernest) has shared his story on this blog, and you have had the chance to read some stories from some other former students. But it is difficult to convey, from these various particular stories and incidents, the pervasive atmosphere of guilt, shame and fear created by Andrew in his community, which refugees from the community have communicated to me.

When I left the Andrew Cohen community in late 1996, before its move to Lenox, Massachusetts, Andrew had already begun to speak openly of his fondness for guilt. It went along, in his mind, with his emphasis on conscience and “doing the right thing.” I remember Andrew saying at a special retreat of close students in Mill Valley, California that I attended that while other teachers talked of unconditional love, self-acceptance and forgiveness, he did not agree with such talk. “I’m not into unconditional love or forgiveness,” he said. “I’m into conditional love and guilt.” Andrew would say that while it was not his preference, if that is what it took to force change, using guilt and shame was perfectly alright.

Over the years, Andrew instilled a sense of guilt and shame in various ways, as he deemed necessary. He would often highlight student’s weak points by giving them an embarrassing or insulting name. A student who received such a name could only use that name in the community, and community members were required to use that name when addressing or referring to that person, until Andrew said it could stop. Some examples of these names include Vacance, Mad Dog, Raging Bull, Furious, Dizzy, Casual, Unreal, Mephisto, Q the Clown, Sherma the Tank, Tamasa and His Greatness or “HG.” The shaving of heads was also used to mark someone who was in trouble. While it was sometimes a voluntary act symbolizing renunciation, shaving one’s head became more and more something that you were required to do when Andrew was unhappy with you. These devices of inducing shame were already in force before the move to Foxhollow. But after the move to Foxhollow, the use of guilt and shame as a teaching device seemed to increase dramatically. At Foxhollow, Andrew also began to speak openly of what he called “healthy shame.”

Incidents involving writing messages in fake blood on the walls of Foxhollow residents’ rooms or offices have been already described on this blog. One such incident was obliquely alluded to in the 10th anniversary issue of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, published in the Fall of 2001, and Craig Hamilton referred to this incident in one of his contributions to this blog. When Andrew would receive a letter from a student or students that offended him, he would sometimes have it blown up, splattered with fake blood and posted publicly. Everyone knew that this fake blood, or red paint, represented “the guru’s blood.” Andrew made it clear that he felt that when a student questioned, disobeyed or offended him, they were spilling his blood. Fake blood was used liberally to induce shame and guilt in students, or his entire student body, when he was unhappy with them. For a time he converted the basement spa at Foxhollow into a space for practice and penitence, where the walls were liberally smeared with this “blood,” his “blood.” There was a men’s side and a women’s side. Both were copiously stained with Andrew’s “blood.”

One very dedicated long-time student of Andrew’s, a physician named Michele, who was a leader in the community at the time, committed the unthinkable crime of contradicting Andrew. When Andrew criticized her about something she had done, she countered that Andrew had told her to do it. Andrew said that she was trying to make him doubt himself, and that was the worst possible crime and sin. For her perceived betrayal of him, her office was moved into the basement under the kitchen in the main building at Foxhollow. She was forced to work in an unfinished room, where the heating pipes were exposed. All four walls, the ceiling and the floor were painted in red paint, representing the guru’s blood. One witness recalls there was a large cartoon put up there, representing Michele as a vampire. Another recalls that the word “traitor” was painted on the walls, as well. Michele was required to stay in that room for hours a day.

The period in 2001 preceding the publication of the 10th anniversary issue of What Is Enlightenment? was a particularly difficult time for the men at Foxhollow. As described earlier on this blog, when that issue of the community’s magazine was published, most of the editorial staff had been banned from the center. But all of the formal male students had been under extreme pressure and had been recipients of Andrew’s displeasure and wrath for some time before then. It seemed that Andrew’s shift in emphasis from individual enlightenment to collective evolution translated into group experiments with his male and female students, involving pressure, shame and guilt.

It was understood, at one point, that Andrew was “taking on” all of the formal male students. The women had already been under great pressure for at least several years before then. Now Andrew’s attention had shifted to the men. He wanted a “collective shift” to occur in them. At a certain point, frustrated with their lack of movement, he had all of the formal men stand in a circle, surrounding his house, in the winter in the Berkshires, for two to three days. The group has been estimated at 15-18 men. They were permitted to sleep for a few hours a day and were brought sandwiches a couple of times a day, but otherwise they were not permitted to move. Some of them urinated in their pants. An eyewitness to these events reports having seen Andrew emerge from his home and laugh at the men from time to time. During the extended period of intense pressure on the men, approximately 8-10 formal men could not stand it, and left the community.

At various times, it was the women’s turn to “collectively shift.” The women’s side of the Foxhollow basement spa was turned into a multi-media space, where 20-30 women would be required to squeeze into a small space and watch the movie “To Die For” or listen to Bob Dylan’s “Just Like A Woman” over and over again. The women had to take shifts, including in the middle of the night, and keep these media playing non-stop, 24 hours a day. One woman described the area where this occurred as 80-90 square meters (about 240-270 square feet) of wall-to-wall blown up comments, letters, cartoons and caricatures, red paint and multi-media. Andrew used a very talented caricaturist who was in the community, and he spent an enormous amount of time making very large, dramatic cartoons for Andrew. Many of the caricatures depicted specific students as devils or demons. Some showed these women eviscerating Andrew, literally tearing his intestines out with their bare hands. Others showed students dancing demonically around a fire, throwing Andrew’s dharma books into the flames. Another depicted a female student as a dominatrix, performing sexually predatory acts. At times, all or most of the women had to sleep down there. This went on, even though most of the women had to work all day at outside jobs, as well as perform labor for Andrew’s organization, the Impersonal Enlightenment Fellowship. For much of this period the women in relationships were prohibited from having sexual relations. They were not allowed to speak about personal matters, feelings or concerns with each other. They were especially prohibited from expressing any doubt, fear or confusion to anyone. The term “code of silence” was explicitly used for these rules. In general, the men ignored the women, because this was encouraged. At times the women were required to spend 3-4 hours a day in a group, confessing and writing in a document every way in which they had “betrayed the revolution.” This document was eventually typed up and presented to Andrew.

At one point, the women as a group got into serious trouble because some women answered back to some men who told them they were not doing their spiritual practice properly. Andrew heard about this and let it be known that their disagreement was “outrageous.” The women went into a panic when they heard this. They decided they must do something extreme to prove their penitence. Kathy Bayer came up with the idea that they should all perform prostrations in the freezing waters of Laurel Lake, the lake on the Foxhollow property. Memories vary as to exactly what month the prostrations occurred. Witnesses have reported dates from mid-October to late November. Most agree November. There wasn’t ice on the lake yet, but all agree that it was bitterly cold.

Andrew learned of the plan for the lake prostrations group penitence, and approved it. Some people had performed prostrations in the lake before, but not in such cold weather. For example, Craig Hamilton at one point performed prostrations as penitence in the same lake, shouting “I am an asshole” at each prostration. His sadhana had been interrupted, however, when some local construction workers became disturbed by what he was doing and threatened to beat him up if he didn’t stop.

The women entered the lake and walked to where the water was about waist deep, or a little higher. They held their hands above their head, shouted “Face everything and avoid nothing,” and plunged down, completely submerging themselves. Then they got up and did it again. Their goal was to do it over and over again, for an hour.

Andrew’s wife, Alka, was excused from the practice because she had a bad chest cold. But another woman had suffered a concussion and brain injury the year before. Andrew knew this, because she had undergone a lengthy convalescence at Foxhollow. She was not excused. She passed out in the lake’s cold waters after about 50 minutes. She was carried out of the lake, unconscious. She came to in a warm shower, with two other women holding her up. Another woman described making it through the hour. She and some others who did so turned blue. They shivered so hard afterwards that they could not stop shaking enough to undo their zippers or buttons so they could take off their clothes. They went in groups into hot showers, where they stood for 45 minutes at a time until they had finally stopped shivering enough to undress. One woman wound up in the hospital with a serious kidney infection, requiring an I.V. drip, about 1 ½ months later. She attributes this to her exposure in the lake.

Some women did not make it through the practice. The women as a group got a message from Andrew that those who did not finish had to go back again and complete it. Some women had to return to the lake and try two or three times before they could do so.

The sense of guilt and shame, and the feeling that one was constantly “betraying one’s Master” could inspire the willingness to make sacrifices that seem extreme and irrational from the outside. Andrew seems to encourage this behavior, even relish it. Some years ago at Foxhollow, a student named Jeff, a very good writer, was having a great deal of trouble with a writing project he had been assigned to do. He was supposed to write an introduction to a book Andrew was publishing, but he was having no success. Feeling terrible guilt about this, he wrote in a desperate letter to Andrew that “if I don’t come through, I will cut my finger off.” Andrew seemed to like this idea. When Jeff still did not succeed at his writing, Andrew called for Michele, the physician, to come see him. My informant was present when Andrew instructed Michele what to do. Andrew told Michele to go to see Jeff, and to bring her medical kit. She was instructed to tell Jeff that Andrew was taking him up on his offer to sacrifice a finger. She should take out her scalpel, her mask, her gloves, a sponge—everything she would need for such an operation—and lay them all out. She was told to carry through the charade up to the very last minute, and then stop.

When Michele visited Jeff, he had barely slept in about a week. He was in a desperate state. Nobody was there but Michele, who is still a student of Andrew, and Jeff, who I do not know how to contact. But Michele confirmed to another informant of mine that she had followed Andrew’s instructions precisely. Jeff was severely and obviously shaken by the incident. He left Andrew and Foxhollow a few weeks later.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

When I was in a work group at Foxhollow during those frenetic days before the official opening of Foxhollow, my mind would wander to thoughts of remembrance of Nazi work camps. In my mind came the words, "Arbeit macht frei!". The formal students stood over me like stick figures, carrying out the wishes of the Fuhrer, Andrew. They were immaculately dressed. At times they ran together in a cadence, one two, eins, twei; as they did laps around Foxhollow. They scared me. My Jewish mind remembered pictures of the intimidation in the Nazi death camps. I was frightened. I had to leave. I tried to talk to people, but I found they were too scared themselves to listen to me. All talk went back to Andrew. I slipped away one day after a three year association with the Sangha. I had gone to India twice, Switzerland twice, and many other retreats. Andrew asked if I wanted to be a serious student. I answered in a machine gun rat tat tat; yes, then no, then yes, then no. I couldn't take the plunge. Deep inside I felt Andrew was dark hearted and a cult leader.
After I left I never heard from anyone. Certainly not from Andrew. Not a card or call. No- thank you's or miss- you's.

Thursday, 24 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A brilliant well written article Hal !

A small comment on "what enlightenment uncensored" since I get such a mention on the new the parody site I have an obligation to set things right.

I support the right and the rational for "what enlightenment" to have an editorial policy. Having ethics and standards makes sense in most circumstances in life and they make sense here. For those of you who seek rational inquiry I suggest you never visit the uncensored site past your first look.

Count how many times he uses my name while complaining about the way "what enlightenment" used my name without permission, well buddy you didn’t get permission off me either…………. and for the record I have no argument with “what enlightenment” over censorship or removal of posts, earlier posting from the integral naked site, or any of the other issues you mention in my name, you speak without any facts and without my authority. The guy (Shalon Monk) is mad, very very very funny by the way , but mad, he thinks its about him getting censored ?, its all about Shalon POST repression !, NO and NO again, its about Andrew Cohen , his philosophy and the experiences of the people in his community past and present, even though I think his intent might be honorable, his words are so caustic, his analogies so extreme , it takes away from rational inquiry, like I said he is very funny , he’s got a talent for parody. But it is off topic and comes across more than a little self obsessive. I could provide more specific critical comment but I won’t lets get back to Hals last post. Sufficient to say there are spoilers out there which a good editorial policy helps to manage, the intensity of the work effort needed to produce the "uncensored” site worries me, its either Sholin has too much time on his hands or it’s an attempt to subvert the natural flow of things.

The folk here are making their best effort in a new media, no the they haven’t run a blog before, so let’s cut them some slack and if they don’t always get it right lets not take our focus away from the core point of this site, they do have a moral authority that comes from the production of the site and by the fact they are talking about events they actually experienced.

Now lets get back to Hals heartfelt thoughtful post, beautifully written, his words describe events that speak for themselves.

Craig T

Thursday, 24 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Finding someone who is truly realized is enormously difficult for the obvoius reason that such persons are perfectly content with obscurity. But discerning the many charlatans, Andrew included, is easy: magazines, minions and money (not to mention expensive retreats and publishing houses) are sure signs that a "satguru" is nowhere in sight. If a "spiritual guide" is easy to find or has a website, chances are extremely good that you are barking up the wrong tree. Here is the skinny from one who has made every mistake: drop your dependency and look within.

Thursday, 24 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Hal Blacker,

Six days ago I saw a reference to a blog on a discussion list I'm on. Immediately I clicked on the link and, feeling responsible to keep my eyes open concerning everything around Andrew Cohen, I took two hours that day to read the entire blog. What an unpleasant but strengthening experience that has been. I now understand why Andrew wrote a book called "In defence of the Guru Principle" and not just a book called "The Guru Principle".

Sometimes we each have to stand up and defend what's right.

Do you remember me, Hal? Do you remember you were the first one to show me how to use a computer mouse in an office in Mill Valley in California well over a decade ago? I remember and also know well almost all the people you mentioned in your letters.

Having read the entire blog, I feel compelled to stand up in defence of Andrew and in defence of the guru principle. For the record, I live in a country where there is no centre devoted to Andrew's teachings and I am married to someone who, at the time of our wedding, had no connection whatsoever to Andrew or his organisation. No one could describe me now as part of Andrew's "inner circle", whatever that might possibly mean. For the record, no one has asked me to write this letter, nor have I discussed it with anyone.

As you might well remember, Hal, I met Andrew during his first year of teaching over eighteen years ago. Within weeks, it became irrevocably clear to me that Andrew is a genuine teacher and he is also my teacher. This recognition has endured over the ensuing years, whether physically close to Andrew living in a house with him and other students, or far away on the other side of the planet.

You're a lawyer by profession, Hal, so I'll present some legal facts, of the type where a person can stand up in court and declare to the whole world,
"These things I have seen with my own eyes!"
"These things I know from my own direct experience!"

In my eighteen years of relationship and communication with Andrew, we have had very many interactions and communications. When necessary, he has used every creative means possible to keep me true to my own deepest intention to be free.

Over all these years he has NEVER made one mistake, not even one time, in his many communications with me. His advice to me, for my own evolution, has always been PERFECT, and I do mean perfect. Perfect means impeccable. Perfect means also that, try as I might, I could not attribute personal motivation to his advice. Very often I've looked back to what he told me and only later, sometimes many years later, have I understood how perfect his advice has been.

Those reading this testimony might well believe that no human being could possibly live with such integrity. My own mind still finds it hard to comprehend but these are the facts.
But facts are facts and I present them to the court of world opinion.

Every one has to decide for themselves about who Andrew is, and what he teaches.
Everyone has to find their own way from their own experience.
No one should ever just believe someone else's words.
But I will say to anyone at anytime; this is my own *tested* experience over many years.

But there's more, Hal.
It's all about how any of us interpret these reported possible events.

Cast your mind back to a moment in your life in which, perhaps when making your very first steps on the spiritual path and perhaps bursting with transcendent inspiration, you felt willing to face the hottest fires of Hell, just to see one time the screaming fact of non-separation.
Weren't you ready to do whatever it takes, to face whatever, just to discover this glory?

After reading your litany of puny accusations, and in my opinion they are very puny, I came to realise how thrilled I would be if ALL of it is true and accurate!
I have no direct evidence that *any* of it is true but, if it was, isn't this truly the GOOD NEWS? *If* all that you say is true, we would then have evidence of a teacher willing to do whatever it takes to develop his students. Those, endeavouring to be true to our noblest motivations but also grappling with all in ourselves that wants to wallow in the swamp, can then have confidence in a teacher who is so committed to our evolution that he is willing to go that far.

Your puny accusations are such very good news, Hal !
DON'T YOU GET IT, Hal ?????

So I've now given you some facts, personal testimony that could be accepted in any court.
I've also told you how I interpret your puny accusations.
Finally I'll give you my own opinion.
And, yes, it is my own judgement (God forbid!) on what you and others (some without even having the courage of using their name!!) are doing here with this blog.
I find what you are doing here only destructive ― there is so much to be done globally at this critical time in human history and you are wasting your life with this miserable thing?

I concur with Don Beck in what he called you.

I simply have neither the time nor any interest to read this blog further.
I am not anonymous, I do have a name, I use it when I criticise, and I can be reached - so here's my email address
Mo Riddiford

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone very closely connected to Andrew Cohen told me a year ago that Andrew with his own two bare hands took her straight to hell. Hal's posting surely describes hell with Andrew.

To Shao-lin Monk:
Re your posting dated March 02, 2005

Stop dangling a carrot. Tell us what you perceive is the cause of the fall from grace of Andrew's power. The Papaji-Andrew alchemy. See if we agree.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To Mo Riddiford
How many murderers, rapists and evil beings, including Hitler, have admirers who testify to their integrity just as you come forward to glorify Andrew Cohen. Is is not amazing as to how the mind works.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pity you Mr. Riddiford. You must be a weakling and a coward. If Andrew is so great you have no excuse for staying in the periphery of his community for so many years. It's easy for Andrew to appear to be so noble when you stand far away. But when you live with Andrew, daily, you'll write the same tale of woe and abuse that Hal described in his last written piece. It's the same tale I experienced while living in the community.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How unfortunate that student of Andrew, a very long term one at that, cannot express his opinion without being insulted in return.

Since Mo Riddiford had the courage to post here with his full name and email address, and perhaps knowing that he would attract such venom I would contend that calling him "a weakling and a coward" is not only untrue but pointless.

It is then no surprise that "anonymous" is forced to compare Andrew to even more lurid characters such as "murderers, rapists and evil beings, including Hitler". Where will it ever end - with Satan himself?

Would there be any point in my suggesting that students of Andrew and Andrew himself be spared the demonization?

I found Mo's suggestion valid, i.e.
"*If* all that you say is true, we would then have evidence of a teacher willing to do whatever it takes to develop his students."

I also agree with Mo: " It's all about how any of us interpret these reported possible events."

This is not to say that the events have been misrepresented but that we cannot be sure that they have not. In order, to discover the truth we need to hear both sides.

Hostile reactions will not encourage others to present alternative viewpoints, and lead to a stuffy, fetid atmosphere.

Andrew's students do not have to post here and most are unlikely to if they perceive great unfairness to their views.

If this blog wants to say in its own insular world for whatever purpose then fine. But that is not how Hal Blacker, at least, has painted it.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


It’s kind of ironic what you write. You were on the fringes of the community for years, coming back and forth, never able to ‘plunge in the fire’. And now Andrew finds in you a knight willing to hold a sword in his defense. Maybe that is because you have never really been ‘burnt’?
But going more to the point: the fact that you don’t know, it does not mean that it did not happen. And what is all this b.s. about “it’s a good thing that a guru is willing to do this kind of things?” That is not healthy. Any human being can be changed and will be changed if put under stress and duress. But the point is: is that real change? I do believe that we can learn a lot through suffering, but is a suffering that has been contrived by the ‘guru’ in this manner, something one can really learn from? I’m not sure, in my opinion one only really learns when one wants to learn, wants to hear, wants to see from deep inside, and forcing and coercing to the degree described here, may cause some change, but is that the deep change in consciousness that Andrew would like, or is that only profound behavior modification? I think that when one spends a lot of time with the same group of people, and needs to live with them and ‘survive’ he/she will end up ‘conforming’ just because it’s necessary…So that brings me to the next question: is peer pressure a real teaching tool, or something that in a community one should be very careful of, as it asks and sometimes demands, a deep conformity to ‘a system’?
These are questions, I think, worth asking. Anybody will find their own answers, and maybe for some people the answer will be yes…like you are advocating. Personally I have my doubts, because I do believe that, while some pressure might be necessary at times, the kind of pressure it’s described here seems to be very close to abuse, whether physical or psychological, and yes, that can bring change, but for some reason it seems very hard to believe that can ‘liberate form the ego’ the people that have been submitted to it.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Blenk said: "This is not to say that the events have been misrepresented but that we cannot be sure that they have not. In order to discover the truth we need to hear both sides."

I agree that we need to hear both sides.

When Maezumi Roshi, founder of the Zen Center of LA, was confronted by students about his sleeping with students and his drinking, he listened. He listened, he took in their feedback, and he responded to them. One of the ways he responded was by entering an alcohol treatment program.

Imagine if he had instead maintained an aloof silence in the face of critical feedback from his students, or had explained - through intermediaries - that his behavior was a form of "crazy wisdom" (which on Andrew Cohen's behalf Ken Wilber has characterized as "Rude Boy" behavior) which his students, being "unenlightened," were incapable of understanding.

Imagine if Maezumi Roshi maintained silence in the face of critical feedback from some of his students criticized the students who questioned his womanizing and drinking as "whiners" who can't "handle" the tough Zen life.

Maezumi Roshi was hardly what Cohen and Wilber might call a "boomeritis Buddhist." He was no "spiritual milquetoast," to use another Wilberism. He was not a "spiritual friend" in some weak sense of the term (Wilber uses that term to criticize "boomeritis Buddhists," yet "spiritual friend" is exactly what Chogyam Trungpa, who Wilber supposedly admired, called himself).

What does Andrew Cohen have to lose by making a public statement somewhere - such as his own website - in response to the high quality critiques he's received here from Hal, Susan, Craig, and several others? What does he have to lose other than the appearance of being an untouchable authoritarian cult leader?

Silence is communication. Cohen's silence in the face of all the critical feedback that's been directed toward him speaks volumes.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peace and Love for everyone. My prayers are for all former students, Andrew and community, and all posters. Let us look within for there resides the Satguru God. Freedom in and through God who leads us from the unreal to the real.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

All of you guys really need to get some perspective. Yes, Andrew seems by some accounts to be an abusive wierdo with a grossly inflated ego. So what? Not long ago, 100,000 people were killed and countless others orphaned or left homeless by a tsunami. Did you guys wince with this level of chagrin about that? Bad things happen all the time, and always will in this particular universe. You don't get to have the high notes without the low, as Heraclitus observed. Do youselves a favor: forget about this idiot and focus your energies on looking within.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In response so the anon who on Friday, 25 March posted that bad things like the tsunami happen all the time and that we should forget about Cohen and focus our energies on looking within, I would say that I find it bizarre that anyone would find fault with people who are trying to warn others to avoid a teacher who the anon characterizes as an abusive weirdo with a grossly inflated ego and an idiot.

Unless of course this anon thinks that the people who produce Consumer Reports should forget about telling people that some appliances and cars and mutual funds are poor investments and should instead focus their energies on looking within.

Responsible human beings let other human beings know about things that are not worth investing in, and it's apparent to many that Cohen is now one of those things.

Maybe the anon should focus his or her energies on gazing up from his or her navel once and a while.

Friday, 25 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your point is well taken, but there has been plenty of warning out there for some time: a book, articles, cult buster profiles. You are fighting a battle that, for the most part, you have already won.

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mo, Thank you very much for your post. As a former student of many years I completely understand where you are coming from right now. BUT maybe if you let the facts sink in a bit without responding to the strong and conditioned implule to rationalize them and defend Andrew as being perfect, a bigger picture of humanity might be seen and felt -- one of compassion and love for ALL of us, including Andrew, and most of all yourself.

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more thing: Life in the Andrew Cohen community sounds a lot like the life of a marine. Did anyone ever see the Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket? The first half of the movie is a depiction of marines in basic training. Many of them are given nicknames by the drill sergeant! They receive humilitating punishments when they screw up. One of the guys keeps screwing up and eventually his peers gang up on him. Sound familiar???
Posted by Zenman.

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My name is Keith, I was very happily part of Andrew's community for five years in the early 1990's and like Mo Riddiford, met Andrew during his first year of teaching. Also, like Mo, I managed to stay pretty much on the periphery and never really became part of the "inner circle." I loved the people and loved Andrew with a passion.
It became clear to me in mid 1995 that Andrew was not my teacher. My last talk with him graciously let me know that there was no room for my doubt, as to his imposition of form on these incredible teachings, to be aired. I left and missed the community terribly. But the relationship was over.
I believed I no longer had energy on all this, happily on fire in my present spiritual practice. Then Craig Hamilton's letters stirred something, something stuck in my craw. It was arrogant, acrimonious and lacked compassion. Now Mo's letter..... I presume from New Zealand.... a safe distance from the fire, with its blind devotion laced with an unnecessary nastiness.
It was my great fortune to meet Andrew, and my great fortune to leave without the wounds that now emerge on this blog. It has saddened me to see what has happened; the corruption of heirarchy where doubts and feelings cannot be fully aired. How these can bury themselves in the fabric of our being to fester and project themselves onto those, those who we truly love.
It has not been easy writing this, nor reading this blog; the lenghthy diatribes of those who had nothing to do with Andrew, the pain of some of those who did. Wounds need air. Air to dry the residue of hurt and anger so it can slough off into the dustbin of history and we can get on with this amazing opportunity to evolve and understand the true nature of our being.
With respect. Sincerely Keith Mutter

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am shocked by how quickly and ferociously this blog is degenerating into an exchange that includes personal attacks, insults, and even (how ironic) abuses when people, such as Mo (and others)speak clearly and vulnerably (without remaining anonymous) from their own experience. It is obvious that there is no room, on this blog, for support of Andrew Cohen, so let's not pretend it's a place of discussion. It is a place of something very different than that. If all that is said is true, fine - but, there is no alternative being presented here - nothing that is uplifting, that is full of the love and light that so many are attacking Andrew for lacking. So, it is a downward spiral into hell,and, ironically, the antitheses of what Andrew Cohen's teaching is about. Something is really wrong, here.

And, at the center, is Mr. Hal Blacker - is it Judas Blacker vs. Andrew Christ, or vice-versa? Is Mr. Blacker now the Revealer, the 'knower' of Truth? I ask you, Hal, to please let us know what you want? What are you looking for? Where do you want this to lead? Also, I can't help but wonder - did you also actively point out all that went wrong with your previous Guru, and his trail of drunkenness and debauchery? If not, why not? I want to know what you want. I also want to know what you are presenting as an alternative? Because, the way this is going is not taking humanity to a new place - it is not bringing people together in 'light and love'. It may be revealing certain facts, even dreadful ones, but that's not enough for this beleagured human race to rise up into something that is wonderful and worthy of celebartion.

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is said that God commanded Abraham to bind his son, Isaac, to the altar and offer him as a sacrifice (to God). Abraham was prepared to do it - his love of God was stronger than that of his own son - it was only at the very last moment, as he was ready to light the fire that God stopped him. Stories like the cut finger, as horrible as they sound, do have historical precedence in the traditions that place God, Truth above (literally) everything else.

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former student of Andrew I am grateful for this blog. I'm wondering what we on this blog can do to limit Andrew's capacity to abuse any more people? As responsible individuals we owe this to the human community. When someone goes beyond what is acceptable behavior and continues to 'miscreate', it is the responsibility of those that are saner at the time, to stop him.

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

An anonymous poster (like me) wrote: "Your point is well taken, but there has been plenty of warning out there for some time: a book, articles, cult buster profiles. You are fighting a battle that, for the most part, you have already won."

I read Enlightenment Blues and I'm aware of Luna Tarlo's book. I'm aware of the Rick Ross site. I'm aware of David Deida's harmless article about Cohen as "Mr. Wedgie." But I'm not aware of any other articles about Cohen as a problematic spiritual teacher.

I hardly see the battle as won when the most influential writer in the "spiritual" genre, Ken Wilber, has openly endorsed Cohen as someone who "acts with uncompromising integity" (foreword to Cohen's Living Enlightenment), who has provided Cohen with a convenient rationale for any kind of behavior (ibid. - Wilber's term "Rude Boy" is the equivalent of "crazy wisdom master," which effectively places all the teacher's behavior beyond evaluation by ordinary mortals), and Wilber appears in issue after issue of WIE in "Guru and the Pandit Dialogues," thus lending his considerable cachet to Cohen.

This, plus the fact that advertisers and subscribers support WIE and thus Cohen's entire enterprise, and because I assume Cohen manages to attract new students via WIE, his books, seminars, and retreats, suggests that the "battle" has just begun, or at least that this matter has yet to reach a "tipping point."

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another anonymous wrote "I'm not aware of any other articles about Cohen as a problematic spiritual teacher."

I am sure that there are, and I know of several, spiritual teachers who have either written or spoken about this. However, I should point out that they did not do it to take the moral high ground, but delivered some pragmatic realism or expressed differences of methods. Their words would not fit with the demonic view given by a poster on this blog who, surreally and unhelpfully, would place Andrew in the same prison as "murderers, rapists and evil beings, including Hitler".

[To briefly reply to an earlier poster: I would not put Andrew in the same category as the person who allegedly was "womanizing and drinking". That does not fit Andrew's profile at all.]

To see Hal Blacker's call for reconciliation as part of a "battle" is evil itself. Do we need to remind ourselves that there never any no winners in any battle but only wounded losers?

How many "books, articles, cult buster profiles" do you need to feel that the battle has been won? Do you want Foxhollow to be besieged and raised to the ground with fire and mortar?

Since this blog allows "anonymous" posters its readers should be aware of agent provocateurs who care neither about ex-students, current students, the teachings or Andrew. Otherwise they will find that they are being used as unwitting pawns in some kind of religious Armageddon.

Saturday, 26 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been reading this blog off and on for several months and I find it incredibly disturbing. The choice that is being made by a few ex-students to grossly distort what they have experienced with Andrew or what they have heard since leaving is awful to read and creates an inaccurate picture of what the experience of being a student of Andrew actually is.

But what I find much more disturbing is the way these ex-students have chosen to distort themselves – distort and deny their own deepest knowledge of what is true. I find this so disturbing because I was there with you. I know you and I know what you know about Andrew. I know what your relationship with Andrew was. I know what we all had together. I know how much Andrew gave each of us. I know what can never die between us. I remember the joy, love, fellowship and unbelievable possibilities that we all discovered as Andrew’s students. And I just can’t believe that you would choose to deny it all.

Undeniably being Andrew’s student is anything but easy. But we all know why this is true. I think none of us ever thought we’d have to go through so much – how could we know this? Needless to say Andrew did always warn us of what it meant to live the spiritual life. Not all of us made it and very few of us can forget – but I want to ask you how you can do this now?

Please don’t use the fact that I’ve not signed this as a reason to discount my post.

Sunday, 27 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The stories presented by the former students and some of the posters were evil. They have nothing to do with a spiritual life nor any spiritual teaching. It is all about power and control. Take a look at these stories and wake up people. Have some of you been brainwashed into seeing these abuses as necessary teaching tools?. We have supporters of Andrew seeing him as a saint, and others as a sinner. What shall it be?, both?. From your feedback that is how I see it.

People post anonymously for different reasons. To attack these posters is wrong. Some may also have been abused by Andrew and community, have worked through the pain, need not rehash these experiences and are here for the support of others.

I see an infiltration of some new posters who are working feverishly to discredit the stories of Hal, Stas, Susan, etc. Everyone has a right to express their views and how things are seen and remembered, but are we not after truth, and nothing but the truth?. If so, we must continue in our quest to do so.

Some of you were unfair with the poster who stated that murderers, Hitler, etc. also have admirers who support their wickedness and causes. As I see it, the poster was not lumping Andrew with these beings, but saying that wickedness has supporters.

Sunday, 27 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it very telling that not one person critical of this blog has contested even one fact stated by the former students of Andrew here. Mo gives "testimony" of the "facts" of Andrew's "perfection" and "impeccability" without one supporting specific fact. (Contrary to what Mo said, such statements are by definition opinions, not facts). He does not contest any actual specific facts or stories told by Susan, Hal or Stas or others. A previous commenter here says their posts are "distortions" but, again, does not even challenge the truth of even one of the stories told, or even one fact stated in them. Another poster implies Hal is Judas, but, again, does not contradict one fact in his articles. If what is being told here are the uncontradicted facts, than why is anyone upset? If any of the facts stated are untrue, supporters of Andrew should take take the opportunity to correct them. If they are true, however, as it seems is so because of Andrew's supporters' failure to correct them, then Andrew and his students should not be upset, but should be happy to have the facts known, and should be willing to let people interpret them for themselves.

Sunday, 27 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

From the postings I gather that Hal is an attorney. If true, as an attorney he will not present any false information knowing he could be held liable for slander. I believe Hal and the other former students because their informants have verified all information. Hal mentions this quite often. In other words he has proof and can testify in a Court of Law as to these stories being true with reliable witnesses.

The opponents testimonies are without supportive proof and heresays.

I support you Hal, Susan, Stas and all former students.

I believe Andrew Cohen is dangerous and any student submitting to his teachings, will do so at their own risk.

Monday, 28 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At Friday, 25 March, 2005, Anonymous said...
> Finding someone who is truly
> realized is enormously
> difficult [snip]
> Here is the skinny from one who
> has made every mistake: drop
> your dependency and look within.

I can relate to the 2nd statement noted above; I don't argue with "look within" if that means that one is free to apply effort & inquiry for oneself, rather than becoming a follower.

In light of that, I don't understand the point of the 1st statement. Why create confusion by making & holding the thought that this or that person is or isn't "truly realized"?

> forget about this idiot and
> focus your energies on looking
> within.

This is OK in my view too... although I see no need to forget anything until I forget it naturally. Someone once told me, "Pay no attention to your critics. Don't even ignore them."

> At Saturday, 26 March, 2005,
> Anonymous said...
> One more thing: Life in the
> Andrew Cohen community sounds a
> lot like the life of a marine.

Right. The life of a marine would on its surface be crazy, absurd, if it weren't motivated by the intention to help others (i.e., to serve the country).

Where is the clear intention to justify the craziness in the Cohen community? A commitment to "evolution" can hardly be a justification. Evolution has been happening on its own since life first appears, & I never heard it ask for our help.

> At Saturday, 26 March, 2005,
> Anonymous said...
> It is obvious that there is no
> room, on this blog, for support
> of Andrew Cohen, so let's not
> pretend it's a place of
> discussion.

Though obviously not in the majority, I've seen a number of posts that *do* support & defend Cohen. So it's absurd that Anonymous should pretend this isn't true.

> If all that is said is true,
> fine - but, there is no
> alternative being presented
> here - nothing that is
> uplifting, that is full of the
> love and light that so many are
> attacking Andrew for lacking.

Maybe wanting something uplifting is a problem, maybe wanting love & light is a problem. Isn't simple, ordinary truth enough? It's not for nothing that Zen masters say, "The sky is blue, the grass is green."

> Saturday, 26 March, 2005,
> Anonymous said...
> It is said that God commanded
> Abraham to bind his son, Isaac,
> to the altar and offer him as a
> sacrifice (to God). [snip]
> Stories like the cut finger, as
> horrible as they sound, do have
> historical precedence in the
> traditions that place God,
> Truth above (literally)
> everything else.

Let's be clear that the use of the word "historical" is only accurate if we mean that this STORY of Abraham exists. As for as any actual occurance, let's be clear that referencing the Bible is an appeal to myth, not fact.

Myths & stories have their place... but when so much verified truth is available to us, I'm not sure why we'd want to abandon that to contemplate mere stories, such as Abraham or Milarepa or whomever.

> mike said...
> I find it difficult to see
> where this blog is going.

I personally find it impossible to see where anything is going (this blog, life, the world, etc).

What I do see is that the blog is a collection of different voices with different perspectives & opinions. This is my attempt to add my own perspective to it. I have no need or desire to control or define the blog, but I'm happy to have the chance to add my own voice to those of everyone else here, & see what develops on its own.


Monday, 28 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Stuart, Well done that was an excellent post. Craig T

Tuesday, 29 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Clarity, presence...a breath of fresh air.
Thank you Stuart for your reflection and for taking the time to put into words what you have observed here.

Tuesday, 29 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Why are the defenders of Andrew Cohen unable to recognize spiritual abuses in conjunction with other abuses. They are part of the norm in todays society with members inside and outside of spiritual communities, groups, societies, Churches, etc. This norm is called dysfunction and denial. Hal, Stas, Susan together with other former students and several posters have awakened from this lull of spiritual sleep. and like Mr. Titmuss stated, are actually giving Andrew a backhanded compliment with their testimonies of these abuses. They care enough and love Andrew more then the students who are in denial.

The defenders of Andrew continue with their abuses upon the brave individuals who have the courage and conviction to speak the truth. The defenders attack and minimize these abuses and proclaim that the former students are the problem and not the teacher.

I also awoke from this spiritual sleep and now recognize all abuses without any excuses and with confidence confront abusers. It is called being healthy and no longer enslaved by dysfunction and denial. Freedom.

Wednesday, 30 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Zenman said:

“Life in the Cohen community sounds a lot like the life of a marine (Full Metal Jacket).
basic training.
humilitating punishments
screwing up earns the rath of your peers”

Zenman also said

“why does Andrew use all these weird tactics
he himself didn't go through
Andrew had advaita teachers,
read krishnamurti etc
and finally Poonja.
Why does he now be humiliate”

”t's like a Zen teacher getting enlightened after doing zazen for 20 years and then going out and teaching people TM.”

It is a question that bothers me as well, right across his teachings and practices there lacks any expereniencial forensic thread to anything that he has encountered !

We would not put our trust in a lawyer who decided to be a surgeon, or a policeman a pilot…etc, etc It is a universal law that knowledge for both the individual and the collective is built incrementally through its development through stages, we stand on the shoulders of our forefathers it’s a foundation of evolution as well.

So where does Andrew get his knowledge ?. Where is his foundation to base these practices?

My hypothisis is that he appropriates knowledge and practices from many different streams and brands them his teachings but lacks the understanding. If you read his work closely they refelct a total lack of understanding of many of the traditons teachings.

The indocriantion process for a marine is designed to produce blind obedience. There is not room for doubt or discussion on a battlefield . A soldier must obey his commander without hesitation or thought for himself. Andrew appears to be using this process to produce similar results.

The posting profile of the Andrew apologists seems to reflect the brainwashing that has taken place. As many have already noted before me there is little refution of the facts that Hal and others have documented. Instead many of them seem full of hatred and anger, the posts littered with Cohen speak, put downs and insults, those who question are ungrateful cowards and leechs who couldn’t stand the fire. What fire? Where is this fire ?

This is a call to all the Cohen apologists give us your best. Tell us how his teachings will evolve humantiy. Tell us of your profound awakening and its impact on your ability to flourish as a human being !. Tell us how his teachings have made your relationships , your families, your absolute relationship to life, more cohesive, enlightened and loving! Try and make posts that don’t abuse or demean but address the accusations that have been made ! Tell us how you justify these practices to yourself ! Tell us how you have achieved absolute freedom ! Tell us something we can truly consider and inquire into ! Tell us the truth, your truth!

The wise sages of the ages brand him an imposter, dig deep and tell us, convince us that this is not so!

The sage is like water.
Water is good, nourishes all things,
and does not compete with them.
It dwells in humble places that others disdain,
hence it is close to the Tao.
In his dwelling, the sage loves the earth.
In his mind, he loves what is profound.
In his associations, he is kind and gentle.
In his speech, he is sincere.
In his ruling, he is just.
In business, he is proficient.
In his action, he is timely.
Because he does not compete,
he does not find fault in others.
— Lao Tzu

Craig T

Wednesday, 30 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent posts Freebird and Craig T

Jewish Proverb:
A disciple asked a learned Rabbi why is it that God used to speak directly to his people, yet he never does so today. The wise man replied,"Man cannot bend low enough now to hear what God says."
Rabbi Ginsberg visiting from Israel

Wednesday, 30 March, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

drum roll please!

Friday, 01 April, 2005  
Blogger Barry said...

I just learned of the site, and thanks for all your efforts Hal. It took me the better part of the morning to ingest the archives. I was very taken by Susan's and Ernie's postings, and much appreciation goes out to them for sharing here. Thanks to all who post unanonymously.

Evidently some are still willing to consider the extreme practices (abuses) described here as skillful means. They're certainly effective tools in bringing enormous, overwhelming psychological pressure to bear on the individual. Can anyone cite evidence that these practices have effectively aided individual (or collective) evolution to a significant degree, and in a sustained manner?

Barry Gross

Sunday, 03 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Amazing link posted above.
Everyone who reads/contributes to this site MUST read it!!
From the horses mouth!

Sunday, 03 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello there:

I just want to say that I really appreciate what you are doing here. I think shame-based spiritual striving is a big part of the problem here. When we have wounds of shame, we can get caught into these patterns of dysfunctional teacher/student relationships. I grew up in a spiritual community that my parents belonged to. When the "shit hit the fan", many people including myself at age 23, went through a painful process of re-orientation to life that involved, among other things, healing deep feelings of shame. This task continues.

I nearly went to a Cohen retreat a ear or two ago, but fortunately my antenna" from overcoming my earlier years kicked in enough to stop me. Then, I attended a local Cohen/Integral group for meetings, but became aware of interpersonal/group process problems rather quickly. This group
subsequently folded.

There is such a thing as healthy shame: "red" acts should bring shame upon our heads, to keep that energy in control. If even half the events described by contributors to your blog are true, then Cohen really ought to be ashamed of himself. Shame on you, Andrew!

Warmest regards,
Durwin Foster, M.A.
Doctoral Student (Counselling Psychology)
Department of Educational and Counselling Psychology, and Special Education
University of British Columbia

Monday, 04 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello Durwin. I too live in British Columbia and am wondering if the group you mention was based in West Vancouver. I checked one out there, but a lot of warning signs came up for me as well. Once one has been burned by giving up control to a "spiritual teacher and heirarchical group dynamics" we are blessed with a safety alarm and can recognize the telltale signs of abuse when we encounter them. The Cohen related group I checked into had an educational program for children. I am hoping that this is the group that folded as teaching children "how to think" as they proposed sounded more like mind-control to me.

Monday, 04 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There is no Andrew, there is only one...if more than one is seen, there is conflict...conflict from the one who is seeing.
There is no Andrew!

Monday, 04 April, 2005  

Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home