Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cohen Leaves Lenox For A Less Spoiled Pasture

File under: Gurubusting and The Siddhi of PR

Apparently, some folks in Lenox, MA are pissed off that Andrew Cohen is shipping out with his EnlightenNext org, and they've got fingers pointed at American Guru author William Yenner. But based on Yenner's 13-year sojourn as an inner-circle member, Cohen has no business teaching nondual realization at all:
During my 13 years with Andrew Cohen, as a member of his inner circle of students, manager of Foxhollow, and a member of the Board of Directors, I was witness to countless instances of abusive behavior toward students on a regular basis. The strategy at EnlightenNext has always been to "destroy the ego", believing it to be the main obstacle to spiritual "evolution". Andrew's tactics are largely based on ever increasing levels of demands and psychological pressure on the "ego", which is often how the abuse results. I have witnessed such treatment escalate in some cases to emotional, financial and even physical abuse. In far too many cases students were coerced to behave in ways that violated their own dignity, privacy and good sense, all in the belief that only a self-limiting ego would resist their guru's instruction.
Can you say ego-fixation? And that whole idea of destroying the ego is so 2000 and late.

Not that it's going to stop everyone from going. Cohen has rendered himself a star, and there will always be folks who want to catch some of that "shine." His being an asshole isn't likely to hobble his appeal to that reflex. In fact, it's just as likely to enhance it with some folks.

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At 2/26/2010 7:04 AM, Anonymous Judith Orloff said...

Even though your info may be totally and absolutely accurate, why describe motivation or character to behavior. Is it possible that energy cannot be separate? In my work, I see that when I experience "affliction or negative" points of view or positive, enlightening points of view, it is always and ever also about my identity as well. Aren't we connected? I am curious.

At 2/27/2010 10:43 AM, Blogger yomamma said...

well you could just report the facts and that would be incriminating enough, but it wouldn't be Guruphiliac without opinions, and aren't we one despite what we think, feel, or are going through?

At 2/27/2010 1:47 PM, Anonymous Bruce Morgen said...

The "info" in Jodyji's current post is hardly all that is known of Mr. Cohen's "motivation or character," Judith -- there is a long standing and rather public context in that regard. None of this implies any absence of connection whatsoever, as surely the ashram (or satsang or seminar or granfalloon) is the world.

At 3/03/2010 5:29 PM, Blogger Martin Gifford said...

Cohen’s supporters have written many articles to defend him at http://www.guru-talk.com. They admit to the slappings, etc., but say that the context justified Cohen’s actions.

A pattern has emerged in these articles, which I have written about on my website: http://worldwidehappiness.blogspot.com/2010/02/untangling-guru-disciple-relationship.html

Here are the common steps in their stories, which I critique in greater detail in my article:

1. The writer begins by stating that they have done much spiritual seeking.

This is fine.

2. The writer goes on to explain how they came to attend an Andrew Cohen meeting.

This is fine.

3. Next, the writer has a big spiritual experience during the meeting.

This is great!

4. Then, the writer suddenly KNOWS that Andrew is basically perfect and is their destined guru.

This is a classic spiritual beginner’s mistake and it’s very dangerous. Thoughts we have during spiritual experiences do not translate into the world of relativity.

5. Next, Andrew, says something like, “It’s your ability to respond that counts.”

So, by implication, Andrew agrees with the writer’s conclusions about him and their spiritual experience. Since they now believe Andrew is a perfect person, his self-image, worldview, and instructions must also be perfect, and so blind obedience to him becomes necessary.

6. Next, the writer submits to Andrew’s “absolute rule” (Rick Asherson’s phrase at guru-talk.com), hoping that discipleship will complete her or his enlightenment and/or begin a new leap in human consciousness, which is Andrew’s stated main goal.

Once you submit to someone’s “absolute rule” you are automatically in the position of an unenlightened person. You cannot act in an enlightened way from that position. So everything you do will fall short.

7. Next, Andrew puts the writer through ordeals - including slappings, cold lake dunkings, and humiliation rituals - to defeat their “evil” ego. Both Andrew and the writer are presented as heroes and the stakes are presented as “unimaginably high” (Debbie Wilson’s phrase at Guru-Talk).

Firstly, having an ego is necessary unless you live in a cave. Secondly, creating these ordeals appears to be a manifestation of Andrew’s punitive perfectionist ego. It seems to me that Andrew wants to erase all traces of his disciples’ behaviour that don’t fit his personal egoic ideals. This causes a defensive response in the disciples, whereupon Andrew begins punishing.

8. Next, the writer describes how he or she learnt a lot of things and may have even experienced “intersubjective enlightenment”. (Intersubjective enlightenment is where groups of people experience oneness and love.)

This is great!

9. After 10-15 years, the writer quits their discipleship with Andrew because they think they aren’t ready or cut out for final enlightenment.

This shows the person is trapped in seeing themselves in terms of Andrew Cohen’s worldview rather than seeing themselves in relationship to whole naked reality. After all, how far away from reality are you? No distance.

10. Next, the writer expresses gratitude to Andrew and unquestioningly reaffirms their faith in his perfection or near perfection.

This is good in that it shows humility and goodwill, but it is bad in that it shows a stubborn attachment to their beliefs about Andrew.

11. Next, the writer judges Andrew’s detractors as losers, liars, etc.

This is a redoubled effort of the writer to prop up unnecessary and false beliefs about Andrew and his worldview. While it is true that the detractors left out details, they did so in order to focus on the faults in Andrew that he and his disciples stubbornly refuse to face.

12. Lastly, the writer affirms that he or she is still a seeker.

Here the writers are failing to acknowledge Andrew’s methods didn’t work and that they have accepted much counterproductive baggage about gurus, disciples, spiritual experiences, goals, etc, in the process. In other words, along with taking forward steps, they took backward steps.


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