Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The Truth Will Set You Free


In June of last year, the editors of this blog were contacted by Yonatan Levy, a contributor to the Israeli online journal
NRG-Ma’ariv, for an article he intended to produce on Andrew Cohen and Cohen’s organization, EnlightenNext. Levy had sought an interview with Cohen himself, specifically in order to seek a balanced perspective on the allegations against Cohen previously published on this blog. While the interview he’d requested was never granted, Levy did receive from EnlightenNext’s “Communications Director,” Amy Edelstein, a series of official written responses to questions he had submitted in advance of the proposed interview. He also received an intimidating letter from Cohen’s lawyer, dated the same day, advising him of NRG-Ma’ariv’s potential legal liability in the event of the article’s publication. These documents are available here:

Under the circumstances, NRG-Ma’ariv’s legal department encouraged Levy to seek firsthand confirmation of any allegations against Cohen or EnlightenNext that he intended to outline in his article. It was for this reason that Levy contacted us with the answers he’d received from Edelstein—in which she declared that most of the information published by former students of Cohen on this site is simply false.

Almost a year later, Levy’s article has still not seen the light of day, and it now appears that it may never be published. However, EnlightenNext’s responses to Levy’s questions represent an historic event of sorts, as they constitute its first official denial of the events described on this blog. Although previously Cohen and his defenders had publicly taken refuge in the notion that the incidents reported here have been taken “out of context” by “a few disgruntled former students,” they have never—until now—gone on the record with official declarations that the reported incidents never actually took place.

Although it seems clear from the correspondence reproduced above that EnlightenNext’s representatives believed coordinated legal intimidation would be sufficient to keep their denials below the public radar,
What Enlightenment??! has decided—in the interests of a free, transparent and open exchange—to publish them here. Doing so will accomplish two objectives. First, it will give EnlightenNext a platform from which to “go public” with its reportedly common response to the queries it receives from current and potential students about the contents of this blog, i.e., that they are mere fabrications. Secondly, it will give former students who have direct experience of the reported incidents an opportunity to respond specifically to EnlightenNext’s denials.

It is worth reiterating that the publication of these documents represents an historic moment in the public dialog that this blog was created to facilitate but could never fully accomplish without the full participation of both sides. This is why we have decided, at least for a limited period, to re-open it. It is our sincere hope that potential responses, from current and former students alike, can now begin to focus specifically on the
truth and accuracy of our recollections, as it is only by these means that we can arrive at any meaningful reconciliation—or, in Andrew Cohen’s well-chosen words, “come together in the truth.”

Searching for the truth about Andrew Cohen:
A journalist's odyssey

My name is Yonatan Levy. For the last few years I’ve been a writer and editor for the spirituality section of NRG-Ma’ariv, a major Israeli media site. Nine years ago I attended a weekend intensive led by Andrew Cohen in Israel. It was my first encounter with a living spiritual teacher and my impression was positive. I was impressed by Cohen’s simple and clear meditation instructions and by his powerful personality. Soon afterward, I attended a meeting of a group of his followers, but found the atmosphere awkward and unnatural. Yet I still found the rhetoric of Cohen’s writings moving and inspiring. I was thus surprised and bewildered to discover dozens of accounts in the What Enlightenment??! blog depicting Cohen as a capricious, dishonest tyrant—especially in light of his emphasis on ethics and integrity as a crucial aspect of true spiritual evolution.

Before Cohen’s next visit to Israel, I asked to interview him, with the intention of asking about the allegations. In response, I was told that the interview would be granted on the condition that I would not ask about anything in the WE??! blog, because Cohen had not yet responded publicly to the issue as a whole, and was planning to do so on his own blog; after this, I was assured, I could ask about anything I wanted to. I was willing to wait, but all of my interview requests following Cohen’s post (“A Declaration of Integrity”) were declined. Finally, I decided to write the article without an interview. Yet I did send Cohen a list of questions concerning the issues and accounts that had been presented by the What Enlightenment??! blog, adding that if the allegations proved untrue I would call the article off.

The answers to my questions, formulated by Amy Edelstein, perhaps with the aid of Attorney Barry Fischer, are the first detailed public response by Andrew Cohen’s organization, EnlightenNext, to the accounts of Cohen’s ex-followers. Some of the answers use juridical language, taking advantage of inaccuracies in the phrasing of the questions to evade the matter. Others seem to be blatantly counterfactual, or are so easily refuted that there is little doubt they were primarily given in order to convince me not to write the article—which ultimately did not appear on NRG-Ma’ariv for fear of a long and costly lawsuit.

As part of my research, I sought reactions and statements of verification from former contributors to the WE??! blog, whose accounts of abuse on Cohen’s part had raised the issue in the first place. Some of these appear below. In several cases, I was able to speak with individuals directly involved in incidents described on the blog, who also confirmed the accuracy of accounts that have been denied or disputed by EnlightenNext.

Here then (above), for the benefit and judgment of those who are interested in Andrew Cohen’s standards of integrity, openness, honesty and “soul strength,” are the questions I asked and the answers I received from his organization, EnlightenNext.

Yonatan Levy ~ Tel Aviv, Israel


Selected responses to EnlightenNext's statements

from former students of Andrew Cohen:

Student #1 Student #2 Student #3 Student #4

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