Monday, April 16, 2007

A Farewell With Deep Gratitude

by Hal

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

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

In the more than two years since I personally "broke the code of silence," all of these disturbing events, and many more, were documented and corroborated on this blog, over and over again. Three former editors of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, including myself, spoke out strongly here about the abuses in Andrew Cohen's community. Other close students have also put their names on the line to attest to what went wrong with the community's beautiful dream of creating heaven on earth. The woman who financed Cohen's Foxhollow EnlightenNext world center wrote about how he unfairly took advantage of her vulnerability and largesse. Numerous other students have also contributed here, both named and anonymous, shedding light on the authoritarian abuses around Cohen, their causes and their harmful effects. In contrast, not one specific or credible factual denial has emerged from Andrew or anyone associated with him about what has been reported here in great detail and depth. Instead, we have only heard the refrain that we have failed to include the "context," as if any overarching purpose could justify the abuses described here and the pain they caused. No cry of "context" could obscure the devastating truth that the participants in this blog have had the courage to reveal.

I hope it will not be regarded as overly dramatic if I say that I look back over what has occurred on this blog with awe, gratitude and humility. This blog's truly collaborative, interactive and collective nature makes it, perhaps, unique in the blogosphere, on the Internet, and, perhaps beyond. I haven't seen anything really parallel. I believe that, beyond the collaborative nature of the editorial work here, the collective intelligence, truthfulness and vulnerability of the contributions, responses, arguments and discussions have made this effort at healing and truth-telling unprecedented. I don't think that so many have spoken out before with such rawness and honesty in an attempt to warn the unwary, comfort the injured and understand humbly how something they believed in so totally could go so wrong. For this effort and honesty, on behalf of all of the editors of this blog, I bow to everyone who has participated here, whether anonymously or named, and whether former student, interested observer or friend.

While what has happened here will always remain, this seems like a good juncture at which to conclude this particular project of honesty and love. So, on behalf of the editors and administrators of this blog, I have been asked to write a kind of farewell. The discussion here could go on endlessly, or as long as authoritarianism hides behind masks of evolution, enlightenment or other ideals. This is not cynicism. I am not saying that evolution or enlightenment do not exist, or are unworthy of a life's dedication. But the capacity for deception is endless, and opportunists and the self-deluded who use and abuse high ideals, whether consciously or unconsciously, will probably always be with us. For this reason, I hope the discussion engaged in here will persist in one form or another.

But I think that this particular forum has run its natural course. The essence of what needed to be expressed has been said. Most of the former students I know have moved on, or are in the process of doing so—they have regrouped or are regrouping, they value what they learned, both good and bad, and they have ventured into productive new lives. Those lives now may be less filled with drama, buzz and high romanticism, perhaps, than their lives with Andrew Cohen. But they seem, to me, to be lives that are far more genuine, lives that are making, or have the potential to make, greater contributions to this world. The former students I know are, by and large wiser, softer, humbler and happier than they were when in the thrall of the community discussed here. They are professionals, artists, parents, workers in the non-profit sector, and many are actively engaged in working for their own and others' spiritual liberation. I think the healing that was, in part, the purpose of this blog has occurred to a great extent and will continue. And what has been written here will stand as a warning, a cautionary tale for the benefit of those who may consider taking a similar path to the one that went astray, as described here.

I feel confident that everyone whose life has been touched by this discussion has benefited in some fashion. Even those readers who chose to become involved with Cohen or to continue their involvement with him cannot help but be a bit smarter about it—or at least have an awareness of this resource for helping them pick up the pieces when reality shatters their dream. And we have heard that some of the more extreme abuses of community members have been stopped or moderated in the wake of their being revealed on this blog.

There is only one person for whom I still have great concern. I fear that he is perhaps the only one who has not been able to learn something of value here and who may be irretrievably committed to a painful and destructive path. That person is Andrew Cohen. I sincerely hope—and I think most ex-students will join me here—that some day our former teacher will find the humility to revise his own idea of himself; that he will demonstrate the vulnerability and lack of pride that he taught us but failed to live; and that he can find a way to recover his balance if and when his bubble implodes. We were mistaken in our assessment of him, but we did recognize his potential, and I think we all would like nothing more than to see that potential fulfilled in truth and humility. But that would require a difficult self-reckoning for him, one for which it is hard to find genuine reason for hope.

Still, against all reason perhaps, I believe in basic goodness. I have faith in the happy ending. No ending would make Andrew's former students happier than to see him change. And nothing is completely beyond possibility in a world where the courage and honesty demonstrated by all who participated here can manifest.

For now, WHAT Enlightenment??! is signing off. We may create a web site in the future, for the sake of posterity, with some of the articles on this blog. This blog will remain as a resource, but in a few days comment posting will be turned off.

On behalf of the blog editors, I want to express deep gratitude to everyone who has participated in and contributed to this journey of healing and truth. Best wishes to you all on your path.

May all beings be happy!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Hal,
Right timing. Beautiful. We all have to move on and in the light of the dharma letting go of our expectations is what we can do and give the 'other' room to move too.
As I may quote my teacher in forgiveness, Edith Stauffer Ph. D., "Forgiveness is a willingness to hold a certain attitude. It is a willingness to move forward. It is a willingness to be more comfortable and suffer less. It is a willingness to take responsability for oneself and to allow others to take responsability for themselves. Forgiveness is a decision not to punish ourselves for the wrongs of others or other circumstances. It is a decision to re-enter the flow of love and life"*
In terms of the five tenets you can see that the first three tenets are the guidelines to act on forgiveness. When one is totally committed to love,truth and freedom - and one is willing to take full responsability for his/her answer to what is done to him/her, and is willing to face everyhting and avoid nothing -then we eventually will be able to stand alone in the truth. No matter what.
And in the process you have been doing the necessary thing to do, that is to express yourselves.

There is no need to be concerned about Andrew Cohen. That is not your / our responsability. If we are willing to trust, deeply, we will give support and energy to whatever might happen for the sake of the Whole.
Namasté in bliss.

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As one who only have been in the perifery of A.C., but have seen some of my friends join his groups, I would like to thank you for your work with the blog, and for your honesty in telling the world what you have been through. It must have been difficult at times.

Couldn´t you just keep the blog there, so people can be warned before they step into something they don´t know about?

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Blogger the Editors said...

We do plan to keep the blog posted indefinitely as a resource and a warning.

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Hal, and everyone who has read or participated in this blog.

I do have a parting concern that I would like to post here. This blog has been a tremendous resource for those struggling with confusion, fear, or doubt in the midst of their experience as a student or acquaintance of Andrew Cohen. I'm wondering if some form of less moderated interactive blog might be important for those still in the thick of these struggles.

Hal and company have certainly put their time and effort into this wonderful forum and I wouldn't expect the creation of a new forum to be their burden or responsibility, as some moderation of these spheres is always necessary.

I did however wish to voice this idea to those who may be receptive to or interested in the creation of such a space, especially important for the people still lost in the midst of a dichotomous experience with Andrew Cohen.

I wish all those who grace these pages good fortune in Life, Love, and Happiness. May you all be a blessing onto this world of ours!


Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, it is time for us all to move on.

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Hal, Stas, Jane, Wendyl, Susan B, all:

You did a public service. My one regret is that in all this time, not one major media source (eg NY Times) saw fit to cover this story.

Two, it is regrettable that not one of the illustrious spiritual celebrities who wrote articles or gave interviews for WIE (thus tacitly endorsing Andrew and giving him collateral publicity) has ever responded to the two years of disclosures on WE? by stating, retrospectively, 'Had I known what would later happen at Foxhollow, I would have never consented to be interviewed.'

In the two years I have read the WE? blog, I have noticed an interesting and troubling feature. It is something that would have left the editors vulnerable to over-work.

With the relatively few exceptions, many of the survivors seemed to wait for someone to take a leadership role. This may be a reflection of the severe trauma incurred. But it would leave the editors vulnerable to fatigue---you might even find yourselves at risk of being inducted into a leadership/guru role that you'd not want.

There was also an interesting pattern of curiosity in areas where it is futile and lack of curiosity in relation to power issues and social context--topics where curiosity could be emancipatory.

Many comments indicated tremendous curiosity about abstract issues--the Nature of Reality or Conscious Evolution--stuff that can't ultimately be solved, anyway. Yet people could talk about that in the comments section all night long. I confess I threw my hands up when it became evident that Free Evo is attracting attention
with his or her newly packaged conscious evolution. one wants to examine power or face human vulnerability.

For in two years, with the exception of the editors and a very few survivors, there seemed little curiosity about the nitty gritty of how Cohen's group operated, the social scene that has empowered him, how recruitment is done,and what features in people's personal historys make Cohen seem appealing.

I saw him lecture in 2003 and was so put off by his sarcasm that I wondered how anyone could tolerate being in the same room with him. I remember looking around, wondering if this was all a big joke orchestrated by some psychology students who had arranged to rent a room and have someone behave like a barbarian, call himself a guru, and see if how many would be silly enough to pay $15 and sit through it.

What was very strange was that despite Cohen seeming angry and tense, pacing like a tense, restless cat, none of the devotees seemed put off or even anxious. I kept wondering how on earth they'd put up with it.

Could it be that many persons currently recruited into Cohens group have been in early childhood relationships where power was abused and in which they learned to tune out and dissociate from their fear and anxiety?

Another way to cope with early childhood trauma is to go unconscious and refuse to see how power is used --and misused by ones family

This can leave a blindspot and naivete concerning power and power abuse that persist long after one has reached adulthood. An abusive teacher can fit comfortably in to such a mindset. If a person learns to dissociate from anxiety so as to cope with a charming, sarcastic parent, one can unconsciously re-enact with a charming, sarcastic guru.

It took a couple of years of viewing WE? but I noticed something else that was interesting--a pattern of omission.

In the discussions of Adi Da on Lightmind forum, many of the correspondents would bring in quotes from material that gave outside perspectives--some from social psychology, others would describe the dynamics that go on in other cults. Yet others became experts on Sanskrit scholarship and would discuss how their former guru had egregiously distorted the tradition in self serving ways, and could cite Sanskrit texts to prove it.

What I saw happening on Lightmind, a survivor's site for former devotees of Maharaji, on the Leaving Siddha Yoga site, and the rickross message boards was how avidly many survivors self activated and took initiative.

They became students. A wide range of people brought reading material from many different sources and said 'Guys, look what I found. It ties right in with what we have been through.'

* But relatively few Cohen survivors did this. The editors supplied a small and very good list of URLs for outside reading, but no one ever seemed to use those articles or refer to them in comments.

Its as though for many survivors, the Cohen encounter remains psychologically segregated, set apart, something that can't be compared to anything else.

I remember being puzzled that almost no one saw fit to discuss any material from the Intermediate Zone article after it was published. The article seemed to fit the needs of the survivor's community like the proverbial glove. But..few seemed to notice any link between that very meaty article and what they'd lived through.

For example, I brought in a quote from an article on how pecking order works within the Mormon church. It sounded just like survivor descriptions of life in Cohen's inner circle. No one commented on it--which seemed strange.

Earlier, Hal wrote an article on why it is so hard to leave Foxhollow and he cited Stanley Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment. Not one of the many readers took fire from that article and directly described tie ins between what reportedly goes on at Foxhollow and the dynamics of the Prison Experiment.

Could it be that many survivors, even those who know they were right to leave, experience the encounter with Cohen as something special, something set apart, with no context from which it can be examined?

The tenor of the comments section makes it seem that most survivors cant seem to see their experience with Cohen as having a context,as any other human relationship would.

**This inabilty to get curious and make comparisons would keep people trapped, even if they have physically left Foxhollow. If the Cohen relationship cannot be seen in context, one can't see how it would tie in to material from outside sources--social psychology, the Stanford Prison Experiment, methods used in other groups, etc.

The very few like Hal, Dragan, Stas, who can step back and look objectively and analytically at the situation may have become worn out because they were constantly having to take initiative, constantly offering ways to examine Cohen from a larger perspective, but many survivors were unable to self activate and apply these same problem solving skills to what they'd been through.

This may have contributed to the the editor's fatigue.

This may relate to the severe level of trauma many people report from their time with Andrew--I have heard that people whose minds and emotions are cramped by trauma often have great difficulty applying objectivity, curiosity and an objective, analytical stance to their situation.

For students more recently recruited, submission to Andrew may be an unconscious re-enactment of what they went through with the adult caregivers who abused their power and betrayed them. The scolding tone and tension reportedly cultivated by Andrew, his sudden switches from charm to slashing sarcasm may be a re-enactment of what many lived through, day after day, as tiny children. Caring for Andrew in his bad moods may re-enact how as tiny children, his entourage members learned to soothe and mollify the tempremental adults they depended on for survival. If as children they learned to split off any awareness of terror, indignation or betrayal, that would be like disabling a smoke alarm--those emotions would not be there to help them leave a guru at the first sign of abuse.

When someone finally leaves Foxhollow, they may not only have to recover from their experiences there, but to be complete, they may then have to access how vulnerable they were as tiny children, how their vulnerability was mishandled and betrayed--and what made Andrew's abusive spirituality seem appealing. And--they'd have to discover where they disabled their own boundaries and find ways to regain those boundaries.

This is a very hard thing to do because the one leitmotif I sense is that in this entire social scene most seekers and their teachers cant bear to face human vulnerability and are, through transcendence, trying to reject it.

IF you have a group in which a high proportion of persons who have been 'pre-formated' by having served time in abusive families and are not aware of it, this shared 'pre-formatting can create a powerful unconscious undertow that can feel like an exalted state of evolutionary consciousness.

Andrew may be quite unaware that he attracts this constituency, but if he does, it may account for why so many have difficulty leaving, and depart with such severe levels of trauma and have such difficulty speaking up about it--and why you as editors, had to do so much prodding. It should be noted that unlike Andrew, Ken and their pals, you were not supported by entourages, you had to keep your day jobs, work at relationships, and were not buffered from the vicissitudes of day to day living. You worked your butts off and deserve a break.

What Stas did was especially remarkable. He was brave enough to describe what it is to be become a victim perpetrator. All too often abusive leaders escape accountabilty and do so by manuvering entourage members to
become apprentice abusers. Resentment is directed at the victim perpetrators, enabling the victims to continue defensively idealizing the guru, who has covertly orchetrated the entire thing. Victim abusers are responsible, but pen-ultimately so. Ultimate responsiblity remains with the leader, who has orchestrated the set up. For Stas to step forward as he did was an important and brave thing to do.

What you did as editors, would have taxed the stamina of a gifted psychotherapist. I hope others in survivor's community will find ways to self activate and carry the torch further ahead.

Many bows

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Blogger ~C4Chaos said...

thanks for all your efforts in creating this blog. this is a very touching and enlightening farewell.

here's to moving on with peace, love, happiness, and Divine discontent.


Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Blogger Barry said...

A big thank you to Hal and all the past contributors, especially those who posted non-anonymously. This has been a great journey of clarification and shared understanding and the timing is perfect.

I've often thought that two needs were going unfulfilled for those who got involved with the community over the years. The first was a full disclosure of what might be expected of them as students down the road, and the blog has served as an exceptional vehicle to provide this information. The second is that a student needs the freedom to choose to step back at any time without becoming the target of extreme pressure, scorn and ridicule.

If there are former students out there who wish to continue the conversations and network with other former students via the internet, many of us are doing so.

bodhi svaha,

(gross.barry at

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It took vast courage for people to post under their own names.

Still, we cannot de value those who have chosen to post anonymously.

Reportedly, Andrew has kept copies of love letters and other intimate disclosures made by people when in extreme stress.

Someone who has suffered many shaming assaults or who lives with the pain of knowing he or she has left behind letters or perhaps has been captured on film in states of shattering emotional meltdown, in tears, hair dishevelled, who has disclosed their most intimate, shame ridden secrets may still to this day live with the terror that these
disclosures could be used against them if they posted under their own names.

Andrew demands surrender. We cannot be sure has changed for the better until he makes amends to former students by surrendering their files, films, etc and promising, in writing, never to use this against them--and that from this time on, provide confidentiality forms for all current students to ensure that their intimate disclosures are protected.

This is standard practice in all professions.

Tuesday, 17 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks everybody for this blog. My special thanks to
Stas,who I got to know first when he was standing in a group with Chris and Andrew and he was the only one of the three who really radiated. So of course I was very interested in what he had to say about his leaving.
Some minor incidents in meetings with Andrew Cohen confirmed the general description of him on this blog- so I left as
well - losing contact with
a few people I liked very much.
To a previous writer who
analyzed very well how the
hurt child copes with a traumatic situation I would like to say that what he speaks about is one sided.
One has to see the bait itself. The spiritual experience of being in total bliss. I experienced
this with Osho, with Paul
Lowe, Michael Barnett, to
a very little degree with Andrew Cohen.I saw him more
as a theoricien.
I always thought "Anybody can say anything- so the experience of bliss is the criteria whether you are with somebody enlightened or not. But after 25 years
of experience with various
"enlightened" people I must
say that this is not so.
Andrew Cohen at one moment
got that low on radiation
that he did´t generate any bliss anymore- then of course he started to saying -How many more bliss experiences do you need- you are hooked on bliss.
This also a way of playing
Love to all.

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Hal,

Your farewell letter touched me deeply. Your Spirit and courage has open a blog in which I felt safe and at home to experience myself and my old burried feelings. I enjoyed the mostly balanced and truthful contributions here. I wish you, all editors and readers peace and a joyful new life.

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dearest editors,

Thank you all for all you have done, enormous support to us all.

I hope I will see you some time.

On the last note, big greetings to all and a huge prayer for an enlightened world, a world where people live looking out for each other, stretching hands and opening hearts. A world of respect, a world where love triumphs over fear.

Like most of us here Andrew has done similar thing, turned his back on his teacher and spoken against him. I think deep down he understands what is this all about.

No matter what happens, in teacher-student relationship, love and gratitude are always there and they go in both directions and ultimately come from the same heart.

The question is, what has really come in between Andrew and his ex-students/critics? Only shadows I think.

My other prayer from the bottom of my heart is to bypass the shadows, reach deep into our shining heart and see that undying love and gratitude are still alive and kicking… and then make the same become manifest in our lives. The world will be a better place for it.

Love to us all, Dragan

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear all,

After 5 years of being a student of Andrew's, I was sent the link to this blog, kind of out of nowhere. It was the eve of my moving up a big notch in the Cohen hierarchy. My friends and I would do it all together. But I read the blog, in its entirety, and the next day began my move out. My attempts at discussion were only met with anger, aggressiveness, accusations of being lost in my ego, and many painful rationalizations. My doubt and disillusionment grew by the minute to proportions great enough to cause my permanent exit from the community.

I want to thank those of you brave enough to post here. Thanks Hal!
Love to all, and for those of you like me who feel still more puzzled than clear, may we find our way out of the superfluous cynicism, hanging resentment, or grief with light, bravery, and honesty.

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for the blog to the editors and also to some of the great contributions made by the readers.
 Of notice, I have to say I do appreciate the long anonymous posting in this last one and I do think he/she points out something very relevant for all of us: the lack of collaboration with each other and how isolated we have been from each other and still are.

No doubt for all of us to meet Andrew has been a pivotal point in our lives. It has reached deep into our being, and for a lot of us it has changed our lives. I think a lot of us have felt upon meeting Andrew that there was a change in the molecular structure of our being. Which I believe was and is real. This has made us feel very committed to our teacher and also has fostered, with the help of Andrew’s teaching a sense of loyalty that I think is has overridden our own sense of discrimination.

It has been frustrating and interesting for me too, to notice how over the years we had a hard time even just re-connecting to each other and how long it takes for us to do it.

I think the reason why that happens is because, it takes time to break through the barriers that have been created by Andrew’s teaching towards each other.There is a saying in Latin: “dividi et impera” which means reign through division. Andrew creates that division right from the start. If you are in with him you are special and is the appeal to that special part that makes it hard to completely let go and put in a new focus this ‘ultimate relationship’. No doubt that some of the loyalty has also been fostered by the intense sense of exploration, of being on the edge of something new and exiting. In our lives all of a sudden we felt in the ‘center’, where things were really happening. Hard to give that one up, even when one walks out of the community!

The other important discovery was that the sense of division that I had felt toward other students was also projected toward other spiritual disciplines. Somehow, because having been with Andrew, I felt superior to other people on other paths, hence relating to them was impossible. My experience was not their experience. That is why, going back to the anonymous posting I think there is not much of an interaction amongst us and also just curiosity to see how we compare to other spiritual paths.

I also think that the insightful comments made by the anonymous blogger are valid for the women. Being a women I know the amount of pressure we were put under in the community. For sure there have been some sporadic comments and posting about that pressure, but I think that the amount of posting are inversely proportional to the amount of duress the women have been put under. Which was, and I do not know if still is, extreme! I think the stories that have come out are only the tip of the iceberg!

I believe a lot of us have stopped being able to discriminate and ended up adopting a distorted view of what it is to be a woman. We have explored a very real ‘women’s conditioning’ but, it seems to me that we have stopped there and have not been looking at other aspects of our psyche.

    So that would make the comments of the blogger ad hoc: the more abuse, the harder it is to liberate oneself from the sense of isolation disconnect and re-vamp a real sense of curiosity and sisterhood!

I’ve left more than 10 yrs ago now, so it has been interesting for me to notice how prevalent is the sense of division in our community. I have not seen that in people that have left other communities, or at least not that rooted. In a way I think that this too reflects on Andrew’s teachings. How come so much division? How come we, that were so together in the community, are now so distant from each other? How come it’s so hard for us to be public in our opinions of what is going on? How come so few women have commented on what has been going on for them in the community? I think to answer some of those questions would be very helpful….

Anyway, i just wanted to get my last word in, before the closure of this great forum that has given space to our psyche to get back into shape!

Thank you very much editors, contributors and friends!
hope our paths will cross many more times and we can celebrate life together!


karen m

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Anon (who left),

Congratulations on your intelligent, courageous and immediate response to the undeniable truth you found here. It's heartening to know you were reached.

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello, could someone please post a link to the Intermediate Zone article mentioned above? Thank you!

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Blogger the Editors said...

Here is the article that was referred to:

Intermediate Zone Gurus

Wednesday, 18 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Karen M wrote of the survivor's sangha:

"I think there is not much of an interaction amongst us and also just curiosity to see how we compare to other spiritual paths."

Here is something for current and former sangha members to assess.

Can you play? For--its only possible to be playful when unafraid, when able to be curious, able to explore and when basic survival is assured.

Play is often the first thing lost when a relationship goes sour--whether its a basic, two-person relationship, a family, or a spiriutal project.

Frightened, hypervigilent people in a state of mental, emotional, physical constriction, with excess production of adrenaline and cortisol -- there can feelings of brilliant lucid intensity, but you cant PLAY.

Play is a mysterious thing. It isn't immediately productive. Its effects cannot be predicted. It's hard to draw a linear, bottom line cost effective analysis of what play accomplishes.

Authoritarian,control-oriented leaders dislike play because they are locked into goals--and
often resent anything that takes attention away from them and from thier projects.

When people are scared, whether as tiny children or as adults, play is compromised. Hypervigilent, shame-ridden people can't loosen up long enough to tumble around and play.

All genuine art and spiritual practice is a form of play. Dogen Zenji said that the worth one person sitting zazen could not be calculated -- it fit no catagory that could be grasped by thought.

That's play. So is intimacy -- It's no accident that authoritarian groups try to control relationships and recreation.

Training for marathons, push up competions, etc. are not play.

Take a look at the role of laughter in assessing the health of a community. Is laughter relaxed, coming from
a relaxed belly--or harsh, mechanical and robotic?

Can all persons in a group laugh freely, even persons low on the pecking order? Or can only the leader be the one to laugh first, with the others cautiously laughing only after that leader has laughed?

That's not restorative, playful laughter.

To assess the health of any relationship or group, note the patterns and energy of its laughter and use of

In recovery from abuse, whether from a family or high demand group, it can be vital to restore play instinct--and the challenge is....not turning that into a project!

Thursday, 19 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To assist in evaluating whether any spiritual or human potential program or relationship is assisting us, there is a checklist known to Buddhists as the 'Brahmaviharas'-- Abodes-of-Wisdom'.

If a program supports and strengthens these qualities, its like a diet with all nutrients needed to support health.

The Brahmaviharas
The Pali and a brief English translation/description.

Metta: Loving kindness, good-will, unconditional positive regard.

(*Teaching that kindness is for weak and inferior persons, inculcating fear and contempt for human vulnerablity and teaching that only strength, mastery and power are worthwhile will cancel out Metta)

Karuna: Compassion, empathy, to feel with someone instead of for someone

(*Reducing people to color codes or shaming them, laughing at them, scapegoating them cancels out Compassion.)

Mudita: Sympathetic joy spontaneous joy in response to others success

(*This is negated by contempt or sarcasm)

Upekkha: equanimity even-mindedness based on insight into the nature of things

(*Equanimity cannot be maintained when one is frightened or hypervigilent or in other states of mental and physical constriction--including those produced by histories of past or present trauma.)

If a program or relationship undermines these qualities in us, its like a diet that lacks necessary nutrients or has toxins that subvert health.

A set up that gives bliss but that does not support the Brahmavihara's is like a diet full of poison that tastes delicious and yet undermines our health.

The petfoods being pulled off the shelves tasted good enough that our dogs and cats ate them--and were harmed.

Unfortuanately its easier to agree when pet food is toxic and needs to be recalled than when spiritual programs seem tasty but are poisonous and need to be recalled.

Friday, 20 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were people who thought the Buddha was poison. Even plotted against him.

Friday, 20 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Hal for your touching farewell message. What really stood out for me was:
"The former students I know are, by and large wiser, softer, humbler and happier than they were when in the thrall of the community discussed here. They are professionals, artists, parents, workers in the non-profit sector, and many are actively engaged in working for their own and others' spiritual liberation."
With all the talk in Andrew's community of changing the world, cutting themselves off and isolating from "the world", disables their ability to accomplish this goal. Surely we need to walk in the world to change it.
The eloquent and sensitive wisdom expressed on this blog is real. I see those of you who have found the courage to break free of the isolation as beautiful blossoms of truth. You are free and you have found exactly what you were looking for. Thank you for sharing your experience and light with the world via this blog. And thank you for returning to the world to uplift and influence as "normal" every day human beings.
We need you to be in our midst, to stand beside you in the market, to encounter you on a walk by the sea, to sit beside you at the school be touched by your wisdom while surfing the internet.
Thank you and bless you.

Friday, 20 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dear Hal,

Many thanks for starting this important, groundbreaking forum and for putting such superb effort into it over the last couple of years. It’s been a great journey of truth, reconnection and healing for many of us who have followed it and participated in it over this time. I’d also like to say thank you to all the editors for their fine work and generous support of the blog.

It is essential to understand of just how much important, vital material about the dark side of Andrew Cohen has come to light in this forum. I particularly value the fact that the forum has empowered former Cohen’s students by inviting them to speak out openly and freely about what had often gone on underneath Cohen’s slick and carefully managed public persona. It is obvious from many extensive accounts here that this man has caused so much pain and suffering through frankly an incredible amount of never-owned-up-to mental and physical abuse. He is a small but nevertheless a dangerous figure, a destructive self made God of sort who is zealously engaged in material and psychic vampirism of his disciples. I hope and trust that this blog will stop other people joining the Cohen cult in the years to come and that it will serve as a clear reminder of how twisted this man actually is.

I agree with Karen that it would have been great to have heard more accounts of women ex-students here but this time it was not to be. Some people have observed less obvious tendencies of Cohen that clashed with his projected image (such as drinking for example) that would have been fascinating to explore here. There are also other past and present events and situations not mentioned in this forum but the matters that have been discussed here truly speak for themselves - powerfully, clearly and in a way that will enlighten any true seeker in search of a fuller and more comprehensive picture of Andrew Cohen. God willing it may one day be something that even Cohen himself will be able to learn from - when impersonal enlightenment, evolutionary enlightenment, next enlightenment and all his other grandiose enlightenments finally run out of steam. Only then he might see that alongside his mother and guru, the ex students on this blog - by pointing out in their wonderful disobedience much of what is false, immature and damaged in him - were indeed some of the best teachers he’s ever had.

I hope dear friends that you won’t mind me adding a simple poem from a few years back at the end of my comment. I wish you all much happiness and love in your lives and hope that our paths will cross again in the future.



You can double the number of centres
Sign up ten thousand students
You can write stacks of books
(You can maintain your good looks)

With hordes of your men of rank
And many millions in the bank
And it will all still be like sand
Lost between your fingers

You can charm spiritual figures
Have soldiers (easy on triggers)
Poodles, boxers, retrievers

But you won’t have true believers

Because you have installed fears
Over so many previous years
And if it all ends up in tears
I trust you’ll be man enough

Modest, not falsely tough

Admit all of you that is false
Embrace meekness, remorse
Forever bury your knife
As no one then live your life

We’ll meet again over a chai
Your guru, your mum, you and I
Repented, our faults are not a shame
Divided, we’ll all be the same

Friday, 20 April, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Andrew Cohen was not the only spiritual teacher who ran amok. Dozens of them went off the deep end in the 80's, and spiraled down in a free fall in the 90's. All of the students harmed share very common experiences: the inner circle of the teacher was madness, deep unhappiness at the loss of genuine individuality, paralyzing fear of leaving the group, as though turning your back on the group was the same as turning your back on God...Many of us tortured ourselves for decades with the latter fear before gathering the strength to leave. Maybe it is a cliche, but, bottom line is 'absolute power corrupts absolutely.' What I have come to believe, is, no person with with even an ounce of genuine 'enlightenment' would self-promote or consider themselves "enlightened" or lock themselves into a 'teacher' position (dead giveaway, look out, crap ahead) far as I am concerned, being 'full of light ' must be to virtually be invisible to the spiritual community. Thanks for the de-bunking, you are not alone, and andrew has a lot of company among egomaniacal self professed spiritual teachers. Now, I believe, trust no one who wears their spirituality on their sleeve, as their bullshit will be proportionate to their self-aggrandizement.

Monday, 11 November, 2013  

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