Thursday, April 07, 2005

Reflections Of An Early Student

A Letter From Brook Stone

Dear What Enlightenment Blog,

I’d like to begin by saying how grateful and appreciative I am that this blog has come into being. My story is an old one so I will keep this relatively brief. So much has been said so well and my experience and thoughts match most of what has been written here.

I was a very involved student of Andrew's for 5 years from 1988-1993. Many people have understandably asked in their comments why people didn’t speak up, or why it has taken so long for people to be able to get over their experience. I’ve asked myself that question as well. Reading this blog in detail has revived many memories and thoughts about my experience. Though I feel that Andrew is a tainted teacher and I feel highly motivated to speak up in this forum, I nonetheless had one of the most profound experiences of my life during my time with him. It took me, and I think many people, quite a lot of time and courage to sort out the depths of love and idealism that Andrew inspires from the very twisted and dysfunctional use he makes of them.

Giving oneself so fully and feeling the power of that kind of surrender and commitment makes it very hard to untwist. If one hasn’t been involved, I think it’s difficult to imagine the depths of the pull that this kind of spiritual opening and connection exerts. One then feels a powerful need to protect the beauty of one’s experience and deny the trouble. And the experience gets so deeply entwined with the teacher who helps make this possible. This too makes it harder to untangle. This is a central part of the seduction. Though I have remained deeply involved in spiritual life, sit regular retreats and work with different non-dual teachers, I am still clarifying where my authentic spiritual yearning and direction lies.

I finally left when I felt I could no longer support what seemed to me the very personal needs of the leader in the name of the Truth. In my case, it was deciding to listen to my doubts rather than rationalize them away, that was the turning point. For a long while, I believed that my doubts were my ego speaking. And certainly to some extent they were. But by the end, the doubts I had overwhelmed the benefits and insight that had been worth the journey up until that point. Leaving was terribly difficult. It meant giving up everything I had devoted my life to. Perhaps what’s hardest for those not involved to understand is how one feels one has given oneself to the highest purpose possible. To see that purpose contaminated and then crumble is a profound disillusionment. Hopefully, for many of us, this marks the beginning of a more mature and honest spirituality.

Andrew is living example of how a mind no doubt transformed by profound experience can nonetheless carry a personality that is deeply flawed. Andrew is not able or willing to apply his deep insights to himself. It was one of the things that kept his community so compellingly confusing. He seemed to name the dynamics in other groups and teachers that were going on in his own. How could he be doing the very thing he named as dysfunctional in other groups? He'd joke and tell us to call the group a cult “and be done with it.” It was a truly clever diversion that served to hide some very twisted motives.

Now that Andrew has made it into communities of repute, I feel especially compelled to speak out. One needs a very critical eye to understand that what you see is not what you get. He's a master of sorts, no doubt. But he is not benign nor is his community.

Andrew’s community is shame-based. When I left, it was small potatoes compared to what’s happening now, though the seeds were all there. I was shunned when I left, shamed and told to my face that though I may think that leaving was took courage, I was weak and a coward. End of five years of commitment. But I was not physically attacked and pursuit ended quickly when I returned hostile letters to the sender unopened. Now he hits people, or has them hit, and condones other practices that by any measure constitute abuse. His need for power and recognition trump all else.

I want to say to those of you in the academic community, to Ken Wilber and the others, please, do not be fooled or seduced. In the current cultural context, where truth is constructed to suit the image desired, it seems especially important that in progressive communities, we have open dialogue, the ability to think critically and the freedom to question leaders. Idealism should not lead to blindness. We humans are a very mixed bunch, capable of the highest ideals yet all carrying some kind of shadow. Andrew is no exception to that. If he could own his shadow as others in these pages have suggested, maybe a true transformation could take place. Then we’d have not a perfect person, but a complex and compelling human being with something to offer for those who are drawn. But for now, to sanction abuse, to rationalize it away or trivialize what is happening, is inexcusable. It perpetuates a stance of denial. This does not, nor can it ever, set us free.

Brook M. Stone, MSW, LCSW


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I appreciated your thoughtful posting Brook. FWIW, I came soon after you left and stayed a similar length of time.

I'd just like to respond to the idea that you and many others have expressed here on the blog about establishing a more open dialogue. Hopefully I'm wrong, but from my experience with Andrew and the teachings, the idea seems a bit naive. Why? Because of the absolutism which is at the core of this path.

I'm admittedly a bit rusty, but I'd suggest that among many other things, essential aspects of Andrew's path include:
1. facing everything/avoiding nothing
2. truth is singular – there are no shades of gray in truth
3. truth is only viewed from an absolute and impersonal perspective
4. and lastly, a de facto given - Andrew and his senior students are the arbiters of that perspective

For an (unenlightened) student confronted with personal limitation, this absolutism of Andrew's is held out as the way to call a spade a spade in a most uncompromising manner. It is not a paradigm that really lends itself to open dialogue and questioning of leaders. This path depends totally on the power structure and the authority invested in passing judgement on the actions (positive or negative) of the students. It does not lend itself to questioning of any sort on a relative, human level.

In this absolute context, you are either with Andrew or you're not. If you ARE with Andrew, there's no excuse for not immediately dealing with any reflection of personal limitation nor is there any questioning of the reflection received from the authority structure. Equivocation is dealt with harshly, as often related in this blog.

The idea of course is that this provides the means to overcome the limitations and snares of the ego in the context of the sangha of dedicated students. Unfortunately the experience of many of the posters here is that this has caused a lot more suffering than transcendence.

And if you're NOT with Andrew, there's no dealing with y-o-u period from the perspective of his community. It's all black or white, one or the other. And you have chosen the other.

Barry Gross

Thursday, 07 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The postings on this blog by former students of Andrew Cohen reflect humility, honesty and courage. In a mysterious twist of fate, Andrew is a vehicle for enlightenment to all those who surrender to him, become dis-illusioned and then find the strength to listen to their own inner wisdom, evolving out of his control to stand alone.
Cosmic irony abounds as those who "can't prevail" actually do, those who are shunned have their hearts opened and those called "cowards" are the bravest of them all.
Thank you to all who have become conscious and now help others to "see" by sharing so eloquently your hearts and experiences here.
As for those who still do not see, forgive them for they know not what they do. (They are not yet conscious, but we know that Consciousness is Who They Are.) May every heart open and may every knee bend to the Truth of Being, which knows no favorites and casts none aside.

Thursday, 07 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As I see it, based on the retreat I attended with Andrew last year, Barry you are correct about this absolute context.

It is taken as a given (by his students) that Andrew is always standing in the absolute/authentic context. So any disagreement with him is seen as ego, ego, ego. There is no gray area. (I presume that if a person objected to Andrew’s orders to slap someone in the face, that would be understood as the ego acting out.)

The worse part is that Andrew believes that his “authentic” responses come shooting down clean and 100% pure from the absolute. (Which makes no sense given his focus on evolution.)

For Andrew to come forward and apologize would mean admitting that his absolute context isn’t perfect. The castle of sand he’s standing on would have to come tumbling down. That isn’t likely to happen.

Friday, 08 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No, I disagree. Andrew may not concede to every grain and tearing, and dramatic dysfunctionality, but as for the "karma" (or cause and effect relationships) Andrew's sand castle will become simply is only a matter of time, and when? and how? will it happen...

I believe in a creative principle of integrity and honesty (the golden mean) that is self-evident and self revealing whether whomever likes it or not.

This blog is clear evidence of that!

Andrew's lack of character and impeccability are spiritual poison that he is drinking in and of itself.

He's soaking in a tub of deceit, lest he drown himself playing the same old ego games in the name of enlightenment.

Think about the long term perspective...

No one gets away with anything, not ultimately at all!

Andrew will one day sooner or later be unable to cover-up, avoid, lie about, and shame others...

what a day that will be.

You see, as far as Andrew's evolution..and his own evil and dark shadow side, it's like the story of Brer fox and the tarbaby...

Andrew is stuck in his own stickiness and unable to extricate himself!

The day is at the threshold here and now.

In the end, where will Andrew stand?

Who has the courage to stand alone in the truth???

Apparently not Andrew Cohen.

"with warm regards,"

Santosh Basu

Friday, 08 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And, what if...just consider, what if that which Andrew is espousing and even the means he has sometimes used (mostly with students who have a 'contract' with him, based on telling him they will do whatever it takes to be Free) is/are actually True and skillful, in a particular context (what did they think when Christ did things like overturning the money lender's tables)? Where does what you are suggesting fit in, then?

Sunday, 10 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah ....Another proponent of Cohen having some magical skillful means that smashes his students ego and sends them hurtling toward enlightenment. If those 'What if's' were true and he was the real thing then the evidence would overwhelmingly support this position, you would have post after post from grateful realized students, instead witness what truly is, gaze across the landscape of his life. Not one supporter has really spoken about the premanent transformation that he made in their life. He ask's for total obedience to do a job, his followers enter into the contract you mention in the belief that he will help them achieve a more enlightened perspective, somekind of spiritual growth. Andrew was a misfit teenager, who experienced learning difficulties as a teenager, that is he found concpets that were taught to him hard to grasp compared to his peers, after a small time following different paths he pronounced his own enlightenment, thats when the trouble started, his guru, his mother and a multitude of others have since been warning us that he is a con artist.

Sunday, 10 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please don't assume that the few students writing on these pages are an example of how Andrew's students - including most of his "ex-students" feel about him and his teachings. The trouble with a blog like this is that it gives an extremely false impression because it can appear that there are many people involved when this is not the case. This blog gives the opinion of a small number of discontented students.

I find it very revealing that the posts that are given a featured role are all the ones that are negative. There have been many postitive posts that express a deep appreciation for Andrew but they posts are not given a feature place. In fact there have been posts that are from students and ex-students in which they totally disagree with the view of the few here - these posts are either ignored or the person is attacked. What does this say about the intentions of this blog?

Sunday, 10 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The previous commentor said: "This blog gives the opinion of a small number of discontented students."

There are in fact a lot of signed comments from former students, plus many who have written anonymously. I don't have time to go all the way back to count, but there's lots. What, commentor, would you call a "large number of discontented students?"

And there have been several posts in defense of Cohen.

I feel this blog is accurate. Yes, it airs a lot of complaints, but maybe that is a reflection of the truth. The picture may actually not be pretty.

Why do Cohen defenders so often complain about the tenor of the criticism, without considering whether the specific allegations have merit and accuracy? Isn't this what is important? Don't we want to know what the truth is, whether Cohen does in fact behave in the ways he is alleged to have behaved?

Sunday, 10 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think there has been fault on both sides with respect to attacking the messenger . Looking past these attacks into the heart and soul of the posters content there seems to be allot of cult like speak at the core of the Cohen apologists. I might be wrong but I havn’t really seen anything that deals with the major issues bought up by ex Cohen group. Its hard to see past the apparently factual accounts of the abuse that has taken place.

Mo’s post for example seemed to read very passionately in its advocacy of Andrew and was obviously a post of great support but it lacked any factual or rational fabric to his claims. I am sorry to say it seemed more than a little obsessive, similarly with Craig from WIE. I would have loved to here the other side of the story but these posters took the opportunity to set things right and wasted it with name calling and disparaging comments about the ex students posts.

None of the posters have dealt with the issues instead they divert back to the obsessive crazy talk found in cults. I don’t doubt for one second Mo or Craig were speaking from their truth but my concern is that seems to be a blind subservient truth based on the assumption of Andrews absolute enlightenment , there seems to be shock and more than a little anger about these issues being raised in any forum.

I have seen first hand the absolute damage that Andrew has inflicted on people I am close too. I have really inquired into all aspects of Andrews teachings and the outcomes they produce , I have attended intensives with him so that I could make up my own mind rather than believe other people, even those close to me, as an outsider I have to say I came to his teachings with a clear mind, what I have found self serving rhetoric and cruelty, the previous postings on Narcissistic Personality Disorder seem to have allot of validity when you reflect on his alleged behavior.

There seems to be allot of valid questions to answer and no body is willing to front up and take these on in his defense. During this process the evidence has really stacked up against him in my mind. I measure his truth against past spiritual teachings, I measure his so called ‘skillful mean’ against the masters of the past and the outcomes he is producing. I don’t think this website needs to have an intent, all it needs to do is give authentic voice to his ex students and current disciples, everyone else will make their own mind up in the end.

If there are Cohen advocates out there who can rationally reflect on a different perspective of Andrew then I think many of us would love to hear from them. As a previous poster has suggested lets hear from the advocates of Cohen who have been transformed, who’s live’s have been enriched , who can re count great acts of Andrews love, anything really , if these stories and facts do exist then maybe you can help balance what is written to date. But lets leave out the Cohen speak about revolutions, evolution, the spiritual cutting edge, absolute or impersonal enlightenment or the petty personal criticism between the ex members . Anyone can write about enlightenment’s end state it’s the path and the road to get their that makes a someone an authentic realized teacher. This is merely rhetoric with out consequence to people lives or decisions. If Andrew’s way is authentic then it will emerge as authentic if it isn’t the laws of same life karma will take effect . His teachings and himself with either will either perish or grow through this process. Just trust in letting go and telling your truth and even if the Cohen folks do tear it apart it will stand by itself. This site is also maturing the insights even in the last 7 posts reflect and much deeper inquiry and reflection. These are the type of posts that I think would be welcomed on the site , ones that make us think, make us inquirer into the truth, we can only go on what we have read if we are making a mistake , if a few malcontents are projecting a darkness across Andrew’s world that is unbalanced then correct this with thoughtful words and stories. I share the previous posters observation that Andrew’s teachings and practices reflect severe defects in his personal and spiritual direction.

Sunday, 10 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There must be someone out there who can making a loving logical positive post on the man and his teachings. Is there someone who can provide rational meaningful explanation of the facts as they have been presented ? To start with someone should address BarryG's comments about the flaws in Andrews approach. Craig T

Sunday, 10 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just to clarify that it wasn't my intent to point out "flaws in Andrew's approach", but to (1)differentiate the insular nature of the perspective on the teachings held within his community from the viewpoint expressed by many blog posters "out here". This was a response to the recent calls for dialog. Two other points:

2. questioning of authority by an individual within the community is held as antithetical to the goal of unseating the ego; this is not a system with checks & balances - the ends are seen as justifying any means. For any hope of success, you must be totally loyal/committed and this is an absolute condition to being accepted as a student.

3. the germane debate is whether individual evolution is actually occurring, i.e., where are the ends that justify the means? Are the means creating more harm than good?

Barry Gross

Tuesday, 12 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whilst I feel grateful to Andrew for enabling an initial blast of Self- awareness it wasn’t until I left the community some years ago that it becomes clearer how unhelpful Andrew’s teaching methods were. Humiliation, fear and drastic practices (such as 1000 prostrations a day to his portrait and chanting tracts of his writings twice a day) have not as far as I can see produced liberation in his current students nor genuine compassion. When I occasionally meet them now, they are mostly charming but full of cult-speak, raving about the “cutting edge of evolution” whatever that is.

Because Andrew teaches that the Ego is such an obstacle to awakening, the focus of all of us who are in/were in the community was how to transcend “it”, how to “overcome “it” etc. We were worried sick about it! Even when there were “awakenings” among his students Andrew quickly drew attention to the “remaining” Ego. OK so he was anxious that no one zoomed off to become a teacher when half-cooked but surely it would have been more helpful to encourage a deepening of the experience maybe leading to liberation, whereas it only caused confusion and self doubt and belittling of what had happened. The Ego never goes anywhere and is NOT an obstacle to liberation, the more you worry about it the bigger it gets. THAT which we really are is awake and always has been.

Tuesday, 12 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here here! to the last poster. The struggle against ego is fought by???? You guessed it, EGO. The student goes from ego - a personal sense of self, to EGO - a personal sense of self divided against itself. Divide and conquer is the name of this game. The teacher is feeding off of the students who provide the power to form organizations, publish works, gain an income, buy lavish headquarters etc. etc.
From the very first contact, the prospective student is encouraged by the troops to ask a question of the teacher. This sets up the proper relationship - the questioner does not know and needs the teacher to "enlighten" him. From there he can be groomed to join the ranks and submit completely to orders that come from on high. An integral factor is that the student's motivation is a genuine desire to find a noble purpose, to give everything for the sake of the Whole. There is no accountability for the treatment of the student, no respect for the individual and any action is considered appropriate if it serves the grand design of the "evolutionary perspective". No accountability whatsoever from the top down, and no limit to the irrational demands that are placed on the students.
Accountability is definitely the issue here. Where is it? Why should anyone be unnaccountable for his/her actions? Why should the teacher be above reproach? Where is the heart in all this? This is an example of the mind gone mad, the head ruling the heart and the anti-thesis to enlightenment.

Tuesday, 12 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone wrote:
questioning of authority by an individual within the community is held as antithetical to the goal of unseating the ego

Doesn't insight always come from questioning deeply on all levels? If, for instance, a community starts with the assumption that believing the Bible is the highest good, then that unexamined assumption would limit their inquiry and thus their insight. Even if everything afterwards were flawless, that initial, unexamined assumption is an obstacle. One ought to ask: WHY believe in the Bible? For what? For who?

If the authority of anyone or anything in the community remains unquestioned, that's not condusive to insight. If the goal of "unseating the ego" isn't questioned and examined, that's an obstacle to insight too.

If someone claims that "unseating the ego" is the goal, shouldn't we naturally question: What is this "ego," and why do you want to "unseat" it? For what? For who?

"Ego" is another word for "I." In traditional Buddhist teaching, the "I" has no substance, so the idea that it needs to be "unseated" is dubious.

"I" is a word, an idea that people use. Anyone who chooses to enquire into it can see the "I"-thought appearing and disappear in his thinking, and see for himself the relationship between this thought and suffering.

That's one way to look at it, anyway. Maybe there are other ways or better ways. But simply accepting with fundamentalist blind faith that there exists an "ego" which needs to be "unseated"... that seems to be the first possible mistake.

Let alone accepting that an unquestioned Master knows the correct way to unseat it.

Tuesday, 12 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I read the reflections today, and agree with those who are calling for Andrew or supporters to address the substance of the challenges -- specific behaviors and incidents. It is really at this level that we can touch authenticity ... or remain in the dark.

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was lucky enough to be a formal student of Andrew’s for 4 years. In the five years I was involved with him and his teaching, I learnt more of value about myself, Life and what’s important than from anything in my life up until that point, it was 4 years ago that I left, and it remains an un-erasable and precious reference point in my heart now. Nothing bar death itself can cause this knowing to be not known in me, and for this I am so profoundly grateful.

In a world so full of doubt and cyncism, it is not difficult to find support for suspicion, in authority, integrity of action and wholeness, and very rare to find people willing to have the courage and faith to find out and live what that might mean at this very confusing time in the story of the world.

Andrew always warned us of the difficulty of the path to Enlightenment, he has always said it is not for everyone, he never forced anyone to be involved in his teachings and making the choice to be his student was never taken lightly. But all of us did make that choice, and this is key.

I know for myself that the joy in awakening to another context, and feelings associated with realising that something else really is possible caused an almost drunken relationship to everything whereby I filtered what I wanted to hear – things Andrew said that acknowledged my interest in Enlightenment, filtering out any other more grounding elements that might conflict, so that I could stay intoxicated. I wasn’t the only one.

It is very easy to do this, even now, to hear what you want to hear, to remember what you want to remember, and forget what is convenient, to affirm the way that we want to live our lives now. The Context for the life we lived in the Community cannot be compared to a more regular life lived by most of us in the world, and it is misleading to reference events out of this context. The media - as an example – often do this, not to give a fair representation, but to meet their own ends.

I have found peace in facing the fact that I am not the warrior for freedom that I wanted to believe, that as much as I may have recognised the perfection of the goal of Enlightenment, I am not up for the kind of surrender that it takes. I am responsible for what I do and the choices I make, - I always have been.

This forum has been set apparently to warn people against Andrew, but isn’t it a bit patronising to assume that people are not capable of discriminating for themselves? The context being built through the teachings is precious, throwing mud at it so it doesn’t shine for others is as destructive to ourselves as it is to the possibility of Freedom. Should people not be allowed the freedom – without the fear you are generating - to make up their own minds? It is an ugly battle being fought here, and in your hearts you must know that this is not an even playing field.

I agree that the truth matters, which is why I feel compelled to respond. I don’t expect anything I’ve said here to make any difference to the initiators of this blog, but to anyone else reading – if you do draw conclusions, let it at least be free from fear.

Thank you Andrew, and deepest respect to his students.

Tabitha Cooper

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To previous poster:
You stated that you were not the warrior for freedom that you wanted to believe. Could it be that you realized that it was not attainable through another human being but only through the Light of God within.

Absolute perfection is in fact humanly impossible to attain, there is no amount of devotion or effort that can ever be sufficient to attain what the guru supposedly is said to have. The student therefore always comes up short in this situation, no matter how hard he tries, because the game of enlightenment is rigged. The guru dangles the carrot of supposed perfection, but gives only the painful blows of the stick, the student always falls short of this supposed diamond of the perfection of the guru.

Majority of the former students have truly been blessed with a new found freedom and the search for truth. Unfortunately there are some former students who have been thrown in total darkness by their experiences with Andrew Cohen, the extent of their trauma will never surface and they will disappear without being able to be helped.

Many former students have come forward to share that being back in society is not a bad thing. Some are regaining their self-esteem and are bravely looking at all experiences with Andrew and are avoiding nothing. They are realizing that God resides within each and every human being and are allowing their Light to shine forth. We are all gods in the making and like Christ says:"You will see me as I am because you will be like me".

Continue with all your courageous search for truth and instead of sacrificing yourselves on the altar of unattainable perfection, pursue love, transformation, wisdom and God within.

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Freebird said:
Absolute perfection is in fact humanly impossible to attain

I won't argue with the above... but note that "absolute perfection" is an idea, an opinion. So it IS humanly possible to recognize "perfection" as just an idea, and to let go of it. What more could anyone want?

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Someone wrote:
isn’t it a bit patronising to assume that people are not capable of discriminating for themselves?

If this were true, it'd be a profound arguement against what Andrew is doing. Since people are capable of discriminating for themselves, anyone who teaches anything is being patronizing.

But in fact, people learn from everything, from each other, so it's fine for people to share different perspectives and experiences with each other.

Someone wrote:
Should people not be allowed the freedom – without the fear you are generating - to make up their own minds?

Again, the above is an argument for no one ever teaching anything. But it's nonsense. Everyone ought to express their views and experiences clearly and honestly to each other.

It's FORCING one's views on others that's a problem. Merely STATING one's views, as is done on this blog, is no problem at all.

Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful post, Tabitha.
Hope you're well.



Wednesday, 13 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tabitha you're post was a welcome diamond in the rough. You astutely point out the profound calamity that those behind this blog are seeking to wreak.

The calamity is that WHAT they are actually out to destroy is the greater evolutionary context of enlightened communion and knowledge that is being revealed and explored by Andrew, his community and others participating in that with them. They are making this about soiling Andrew's reputation, but really its about tearing apart something even more precious which is the context I quote here in Tabitha's post: "The context being built through the teachings is precious, throwing mud at it so it doesn’t shine for others is as destructive to ourselves as it is to the possibility of Freedom."

These people's ego's got hurt seeking enlightenment from a real teacher, and rather than be man or woman enough to accept that, they instead seek to destroy the profound context that is undeniably being revealed around Andrew. EVEN if you think he's a farce, or a mean guru who hurts people, its still hard to deny the miraculous discoveries he, his community, his retreat participants, fellow teachers and pundits are touching upon as seen in and

I'm sure the efforts of this blog will fail overall, but its still sad and pathetic to see how willing so many are to jump on the bandwagon of assuming that Andrew is as much of a monster as he's made out to be in this blog. Too all those people - prove you are not weak minded and at least look deeply into all this before accepting that this is "just another cult."

Dave Reid

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dave, you're clearly passionate in your support for Andrew and his teachings but I take issue with your characterization of the intentions of many of the blog posters here. Many of these folks were certainly more deeply involved than you, continued to be involved later than you (when things got more intensely crazy), probably spent a lot more time in the frying pan, and I'd venture to say gave a lot more of themselves to the "cause." Coming out the other side, reflecting on their experience, they felt strongly they were subjected to methods that markedly crossed the line as harmful and abusive. They were compelled to break the code of silence and go public here with what they experienced as students of the inner circle.

So I guess the real question is - should they keep silent? No one seems to dispute that they are telling the truth about the methods used. By telling their accounts, you color them as hurt egos portraying Andrew as a monster and seeking "to destroy the profound context that is undeniably being revealed around Andrew." (BTW, I don't have a clue what that last phrase means.) I think to a man and to a woman, all these "detractors" have sung the praises of Andrew's teachings. On balance, your arguments in attempting to discredit them and devalue their experiences don't make much sense to me.

Thursday, 14 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous, one of two things is true about your post. Either you were in the community too and you should not speak as if you were not, or you don't have much basis to stand on because you were not there.

If you don't know what I mean by the context being revealed around Andrew, read or listen to his website. Check out the new video presentations on his homepage, see what you think. I would be shocked if any sincere spiritual seeker was not powerfully compelled to look a little deeper at what is being spoken about there. It's pretty impressive, objectively. If you're not willing at least to stretch a bit to understand THAT, then there is no way you'll get my gist anyway.

Regarding your other points:

1. The "code of silence" is a joke. No one was ever anything but ENCOURAGED to speak their minds, to take risks, to take responsibility. Not infrequently such ventures out on a limb revealed deep flaws in our characters, but even then such attempts were most often universally respected and appreciated.

2. Should they keep silent? Yes, I think they've said plenty. Of course if they have more SHOCKING instances of slapping and mean pictures in the name of freeing the human race, by all means let us know.

3. What I'd really like to see from them is a FULL and ACCURATE perspective presented to their readers. Tell your readers how you could not bear to realize that you don't want to be free more than anything else, even though you know that doing so is passing through the eye of the needle (what you claim you want), and that you are quite angry about that revelation and the loss of your spiritual identity.

They are all pointing at Andrew's ego as they see it, but none bother to mention their own shocking resistance to true freedom. Truly if they WERE to do so, this blog could be more like a sacred collective "bow" at the feet of Andrew and his students who ARE willing to do what others of us were not. It could actually serve to inspire in many ways (with a name change to something far less dark and cynical of course).

That will never happen though, and that's just the nature of the beast.

Dave Reid

Friday, 15 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Earth to Dave, earth to Dave, come back to reality Dave!

I know re-entry to the world of us mere mortals is very frightening, but it's gotta happen sooner or later--if not in this life, than in the next!

I'm not sure who you think you're talking to when you imply we need to "stretch" to understand what you're saying. Most of the folks around here spent a lot longer in Andrew's trenches than you could stomach. And, unlike you, have been able to move on from where they were when they left him years ago. They ain't stuck playing the same old broken record like you seem to be. So a little humility is in order, Dave.

Funny how those like you and Mo who couldn't stand the heat in the kitchen (Mo barely got through the kitchen door and you fled screaming before the second course) seem to author the most angry and condescending posts here. What does that tell you?

Talk about re-writing history. No code of silence? Disagreement encouraged? Come on! You know very well that you couldn't even disagree with Andrew about the merits of the lastest cineplex movie feature without being raked over the coals and told your opinion reeked of "ego." You know that you couldn't be in or out of a relationhship, decide whether you wanted to be celibate or not, or decide who you wanted to live with or where you wanted to live without Andrew's approval. And any disagreement was grounds for endless roastings at endless confrontational "men's meetings," "house meetings," and dreaded invitations to coffee conversations from friends determined to set you straight. If you're memory wasn't being employed so fully to serve your spiritual identity, you'd recall that the lip service to "investigating everything" revealed it's true ugly face the moment you dared to disagree with Andrew and the group's wholesale adoption of his unquestionable decrees.

It seems like you'd like the revelation of the _real_ context around Andrew--not the slick spirit-schpiel and dog and pony show of his website, but the actual physical and psychological abuse, the guilt, fear and intimidation, the financial manipulation, the utter authoritarianism--to stop. But it's not gonna happen. The cat's out of the bag and it ain't going back in.

Oh, and the reason that Andrew's ego is the big topic of discussion here (aside from it's overwhelming "elephant in the living room" dimensions) is because it is Andrew who has put himself in the position of being the purportedly egoless guru, where he can do so much harm. Contributors to this blog don't lord their spiritual authority over others. They are just calling it like they see it and warning the unwary.

But really, Dave, you do us all a real service. You show us all more than you realize how out of touch those who worship the ground Andrew walks on really can be.

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

Gosh--Sounds like Dave touched a bit of a raw nerve! Clearly hell hath no fury like an ego scorned. Such a virulent,unncecessarily sarcastic, and personal attack on
Dave's obviously well-intentioned efforts to provide a wider view only reveals your own lack of balance and unwillingness to keep looking more deeply and more broadly instead of just lashing out in such a knee-jerk style!

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

To groundcontrol
Great post with true grit!. We stand tall and shall not be intimitated. Thank you.

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

Here we go again…. someone, in this case Dave Reid (but the same applies to Roberta, Tabitha, Mo and others’ posts), dares to speak out in support of Andrew… and surprise, surprise, immediately there’s another bout of angry, anonymous mud slinging. Interesting how most of these mud slingers post anonymously, whereas those on the pro side post almost invariably with their own names. This anonymous posting is cowardly, invulnerable and oh so safe.

There have been calls to hear from those either still in the community or at least willing to write in Andrew’s support. When some current students wrote, they were fairly viciously put down, so don’t expect any of them to show their faces here. But at least they identified themselves. After I posted several weeks back, I received several positive emails from other former students, none of whom wanted to be involved with a blog in which so much negativity is being expressed.

I wonder how an impartial reader, someone new to Andrew’s teachings without an agenda to jump into the feeding frenzy, would really view the various posts ? Who sounds like they are seething with rage – those that express enormous, lasting gratitude for the time they spent with Andrew, or those who are still furious all these years on ?

What I find so sad is that so many former dharma brothers and sisters, many of whom left before me nearly TEN YEARS AGO, are still stuck in the past, trying to justify their actions on this blog in the name of serving the spiritual community….. well I know too many of you to believe that is your true motive and in my opinion, Dave has really hit the spot where he writes “Tell your readers how you could not bear to realise that you don’t want to be free more than anything else…… and that you are quite angry about that revelation and the loss of your spiritual identity”. I understand that this is a very hard thing for any individual to face, but until it is faced, I’d say it will be almost impossible to move on. I’m left wondering if some of you guys truly want to move on ? There is so much more to life than being a student of Andrew’s, however valuable that may be at the time – so why stay hung up about it for so long ?

It’s also interesting to note that although we have heard stories about face slapping, paint throwing etc etc, we have heard these stories primarily from people who weren’t even in the community when these events took place. Roberta for example was there, prostrating herself in the freezing lake etc – she doesn’t sound so very bitter, does she ?

I remember hearing Krishnamurti responding many years ago to a question about what could one do for society. K replied that society does not actually exist, individual people exist and that the best thing one can do for the Whole is to find true freedom for oneself. So I ask those former students who are giving so much energy to the Andrew bashing – can you honestly say this is constructive to your own spiritual development ?

If you feel like you were misled and wasted years of your life with Andrew, I urge you to take responsibility both for putting yourself at his feet and then for choosing to leave. But victimhood can be a tragically attractive place in which to dwell, especially as a group, and that’s what I see happening here.

I’d like to add that I have nothing whatsoever to do with Andrew’s community, nor have I had since shortly after I left. I nevertheless remain eternally grateful to Andrew for the invaluable time I spent there, which was truly transformational.

Jeremy Lyell.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Healing from Spiritual Abuse: One Suggested Framework.

(From 'Relating to a Spiritual Teacher' by Alexander Berzin, Snow Lion Publications, 2000. Berzin traces many complex psychological issues and pitfalls that have come up for Western practitioners of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism. If you're in early stage recovery, his book may be confusing and seem invalidating, but after you've reclaimed your boundaries and are curious to analyse the situation, his book is likely to provide food for thought, even if you disagree with some of it.)

'In (his book) 'Invisible Loyalties' Boszormenyi-Nagy, the Hungarian founder of contextual therapy, suggested sensitive ways to heal the psychological injuries of victims of physical or sexual abuse. The methods he outlined parallel in many ways the approach taken in sutra level guru meditation. His analysis may augment our understanding of how the meditation may help to heal the wounds of students deeply hurt by abusive spiritual teachers.

'Boszormenyi-Nagy explained that the first step in the healing process is for abuse victims to acknowledge their pain and that they are entitled to feel bad. They have in fact been violated and for them to deny the truth will only add fuel to suppressed anger or feelings of guilt. Similarly, if we have been personally abused by our spiritual mentors or have learned from reliable sources that our teachers have maligned other students, we too need to acknowledge our pain and our "entitlement" to feel bad. We were in fact wronged or let down...

'Contextual therapy calls next for trying to understand the context in which the abuse arose from both the perpetrators' and the victims' sides. This does not mean one should rationalize the faulty behavior or mistakes in judgment on the perpetrator's parts, nor that the victims should take the entire blame and feel guilty...

'Victims of abuse also need to acknowledge that they are entitled to a better deal in life. In Buddhist terms entitlement to happiness comes by virtue of having an innate network of positive potentials as part of (one's) Buddha nature. Nevertheless abuse victims need to earn that happiness by acting decently. For example, war refugees are entitled simply as human beings to homes and a livelihood in host countries. Yet they need to earn good treatment by following the law and leading upright lives...

'Many victims of abuse have negative self-images. Either consciously or unconsciously, they blame themselves for what happened and may feel they do not deserve better treatment. Even if they feel entitled to better treatment they may resign themselves to further abuse.

'A similar pattern often emerges with victims who are told and feel that they are special. (eg when an unethical guru tells you that you're enlightened and must now start a revolution amongst the young, or if an abusive teacher singles you out to be his or her favorite and you find yourself following orders to tyrannize over others--my note, not Berzin's) During the abusive relationship, an inflated sense of self worth may make them unaware of being victims of abuse. They often deny the abuse or defend their perpetrators, even if confronted with the facts. Then, when their abusers find other "chosen ones" they feel humiliated, experience sudden deflation of their self images and become deeply hurt or completely outraged.

'In all such cases, the victims need to dispel their identification with their negative self images in order to regain emotional long as they identify with being unworthy, they continue to open themselves to possible manipulation and abuse.

'The next step in the healing process in contextual therapy is determining clearheadedly the legacy that the abuse victims may take from their relationship with their perpetrators. Is it just outrage, bitterness, and an inability to trust anyone in the future, or can the victims take something positive with them? (At this stage, only after legitimate pain and anger have been thoroughly acknowledged--see previous steps--my note, not Berzins) 'The therapy encourages focusing on the positive factors gained from the relationship and enables the victims to be loyal to the positive aspects and to incorporate them into their lives.

'This process also helps the victims to avoid acting with misplaced unconscious loyalty to the abuser's negative aspects. Such loyalties may result in victims being inconsiderate of themselves, and due to feelings of guilt, denying their rights to have healthy relationships--conforming to the subtle message conveyed by the abuse. Consequently, victims of abuse frequently experience mental blocks about emotional and physical intimacy and may not feel entitled to get married or become parents...Dharma students traumatized by abusive teachers often become so disillusioned that they are unable to continue on the spiritual path.'

(From 'Relating to a Spiritual Teacher' by Alexander Berzin, pp 143-146)

Note: In the Dharma and New Age worlds, there appears to be a taboo against legitimate, appropriate anger even when one has been horrendously abused. It is sad to see tormented students trying to bear witness and anxiously declaring 'But I am not angry!'

It doesn’t help that abusive teachers and their minions are quick to pounce if someone show signs of anger and use that to invalidate them and shame them.

But this recovery framework makes clear that legitimate anger is an essential ingredient in the early stages of recovery from any kind of abuse.

Its useful to see recovery from abuse as analogous to a multi-stage rocket, the kind used to propel the Apollo moon expedition.

When the rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral, the initial power thrust was supplied by the first stage of the rocket. (eg the vital anger stage of early recovery).

After the fuel burned out from Stage One, that portion would un-couple from the rocket and fall away. The engines from the second stage then fired up.

After the rocket was free from the earth's gravity and the second stage fell away, a smaller set of engines, guided by precision instruments fired up and the expedition continued its trajectory to the moon.

What assists in early recovery can become disabling in later recovery. Compassion toward one's perpetrator, something vitally important in advanced recovery, can hamper early recovery.

Unskillful use of non dual analysis (aka 'Advaita Shuffle') can also be used by the victim or well intentioned but unskillful helpers in such a way as to derail recovery. Of course the perpetrator can also use this trick to stop recovery, which means the victim’s independence from the dictates of the perpetrator.

Sunday, 17 April, 2005  

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