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Andrew Cohen's disciples
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 31, 2014 08:20AM

Corboy note: We need to follow this closely. Books by Wilber and missionary outreach by Phipps and others are attractive to many talented persons who are struggling to reconcile their upbringings in traditional closed societies and religions with scientific and technological coursework at university.

This struggle causes much anguish and can make Wilberian material seem attractive - and lead to a desperate use of Wilber's own public persona as a way to stabilize a stressed and burdened self.

But many in non Anglophone countries are unaware that Ken Wilber has a long and distressing history of rationalizing tyrannical abuse of power by elite gurus. Some talented activists who are working to challenge political and social tyranny in their societies are adherants of Wilber, yet unaware that he has endorsed a series of guru-tyrants - Adi Da, Andrew Cohen, Marc Gafni, and that the Wilberian Integral scene at heart worships mere power, nothing more.

I would urge all who feel attracted to Ken Wilber to read Wilber's own Wyatt Earpy tirade, "We Are What We See written in 2006, when his most loyal followers expressed concern.


That document is a violation of courtesy, and cannot be taken as a joke, unless one has childishly put trust in Wilber as personal savior.

And also read Be Scofield's essay, A Culture of Integral Abuse


"From this wider ("Integral") perspective, the strictly scientific view of evolution will readily been seen as "reductionistic", "dogmatic" or worse. But from a scientific point of view, all these various wider interpretations of the idea of evolution just don't belong to the field of scientific truth. They provide meaning and comfort to those who adhere to them, but that's a totally different ball game."

Frank Visser's review of Carter Phipps Carter Phipps'
Evolutionaries (2012)



The Evolution Religion: Making Sense of Evolution

The adjective "evolutionary" has become a buzz word in the integral world, "evolutionary spirituality" the household name to designate the approach to religion advocated by integral luminaries such as Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen. To this has been added the substantive "evolutionary" by Carter Phipps, follower of Cohen and author of the recent book by the same name: Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea.[1]

The idea is that those who adhere to these ideas, not just hold them as intellectual beliefs—as their academic cousins the "evolutionists" do—but are committed to them as an all encompassing worldview or life style. For all practical purposes, evolution has become their religion. Phipps' book can be seen as an attempt, not so much to argue for a scientifically viable theory of biological evolution, as to make philosophical and religious sense of it.

'The Real Evolution Debate'

Such an elaborate scheme immediately raises the question about the validity of each of these approaches to evolution.

Carter Phipps has been executive editor of the now defunct EnlightenNext magazine, formerly known as What is Enlightenment? (This magazine, founded by spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, featured the "Guru and Pandit" dialogues between Cohen and Ken Wilber, which have now continued online). In this role, Phipps did many interviews with leading authorities in the fields of science and spirituality. He also authored many essays, among which in 2007 an intriguing overview essay about the many meanings assigned to the term "evolution", called "The REAL Evolution Debate", in a special issue devoted to "The Mystery of Evolution".[2] Over the years, this essay grew into the book.

In this highly readable and informative essay, Phipps distinguished no less than twelve approaches to evolution. Some of their current or historic representatives are listed here, Phipps mentions many more, including their main works and historical influences:
1. The Neo-Darwinists (Dawkins, Gould, Dennet, E.O. Wilson)
2. The Progressive Darwinists (Carrol, Jablonka, Lamb)
3. The Collectivists (Bloom, Lynn Margulis, David Sloan Wilson)
4. The Complexity Theorists (Goodwin, Kaufman, Laszlo)
5. The Directionalists (Conway Morris, Gardner, Wright)
6. The Transhumanists (Ettinger, Gibson, Kurzweil)

7. The Intelligent Designers (Behe, Dembski, Johnson)
8. The Theistic Evolutionists (Miller, Peacocke, Polkinghorne)
9. The Esoteric Evolutionists (Blavatsky, Steiner, C. Wilson, Tarnas)
10. The Process Philosophers (Whitehead, Hartshorne, Griffin)
11. The Conscious Evolutionists (Teilhard de Chardin, Dowd, Marx Hubbard)
12. The Integralists (Aurobindo, Gebser, Wilber, Combs)

This is definitely a helpful list, that brings clarity to an otherwise impenetrable territory. It should have been included in the book—even if only as an appendix.

Usually only two or three reach the media spotlights (i.e. 1. neo-Darwinism and 7. Creationism, otherwise known as Intelligent Design), which severely limits the number of intellectual options available. (Though truth be told, perspectives 1-6 can be qualified as scientific; perspectives 7-12 are better seen as speculative, so Darwinism and Creationism are iconic for their respective fields).

Of course, such an elaborate scheme immediately raises the question about the validity of each of these approaches to evolution. Are all these authors equally qualified to speak out on this topic of biological evolution? Taking the idea of evolution from science and run with it is for sure not the same as illuminating its intricate workings. How many pay lip service to Darwin but continue to pursue their own philosophical or religious points of view?

Where the first five can be seen as legitimate schools of thought within evolutionary science, the last half a dozen are increasingly cases of speculative thought, based on some religious or philosophical point of view, culminating in integral philosophy, which claims to be able to "integrate" all of them—or at least to the extent they have truth on their side.

How many of these spiritualists have taken the idea of evolution—often ill-understood in the form of pop-evolution—to mean we are going onwards and upwards towards an ever brighter future? Have the spiritual authors in this catalog really understood the radicality of Darwin's message, that evolution is indeed possible and has happened without any Divine Plan or Driving Force?

This spectrum covers everything from science to religion to philosophy to even esotericism, including the "integral" point of views that tries to cover all the bases. At the very least we could see this as a catalog of the manifold ways the idea of evolution has been received by the different segments of society. But given the fact that in integral parlance "everyone is right" (to a certain degree, that is), we can anticipate Phipps finds merit in each of them.

From this wider perspective, the strictly scientific view of evolution will readily been seen as "reductionistic", "dogmatic" or worse. But from a scientific point of view, all these various wider interpretations of the idea of evolution just don't belong to the field of scientific truth. They provide meaning and comfort to those who adhere to them, but that's a totally different ball game.

And of course, seeing yourself as being part of a global (and even cosmic) evolutionary process, which will culminate in every higher states of consciousness and culture—this turns out to be Phipps' worldview, when you have finished reading his book—is uplifting indeed. Attuning yourself to the "Spirit of Evolution" (Wilber's favorite expression) is presented as a new and contemporary religious ideal, supported by science.

Evolution as Cultural Idea

Most scientists will say that these "spiritual" views of evolution are pre-Darwinian, i.e. they see evolution as an onward and upward process in nature and culture.

So has science legitimately restricted itself to points of view that can be demonstrated to be factually true, or has it erroneously focused, not to say fixated itself on a partial truth within this larger debate? Phipps' main point in the essay (and his book) is that evoluton, instead of being merely a scientific biological theory, is as much or even more a larger cultural idea which has inspired many fields of knowledge. It is these larger fields he has tried to explore with this book Evolutionaries:

Consider this: evolution was never merely a scientific idea. For that matter, it wasn't even Darwin's idea. Indeed, long before Darwin ever became fascinated by Galápagos finches, the notion of evolution was already at work in the culture of the nineteenth century, quietly subverting established categories of thought and changing religion, philosophy and science, in unexpected and remarkable ways. (Evolutionaries, p. 8)

To which Phipps hastens to add:

Please don't misunderstand me: I have the greatest respect for Darwin's seminal contribution. (p. 8)

It is clear from his book that Phipps is at home in this nineteenth century feeling of subversive excitement. But most scientists will say that these "spiritual" views of evolution are pre-Darwinian, i.e. they see evolution as an onward and upward process in nature and culture (even if meandering at times, and allowing for occasional setbacks), instead of the much more hazardous picture of science, in which the human species is seen as the "sole survivor" of many humanoid races now extinct, not to mention the many contingencies that have occurred in the remote past (the extinction of the dinosaurs being only one of them). However, some biologists, such as Directionalist Conway Morris, do maintain that the appearance of man, or something similar, was inevitable given the way evolution looks for "convergent" solutions to life's problems.

Incidentally, one would be surprised to know how many spiritual authors from Phipps' catalog claim to subscribe to Darwinism (e.g. Theist Kenneth Miller, in his Finding Darwin's God), but still manage to fit this into their own particular philosophical or religious views ("God has created natural selection!"). One of them, Michael Dowd, a Conscious Evolutionist and author of Thank God for Evolution, could even be called a "Darwin freak", for he has exchanged his strong belief in Jesus now for an equally strong, or as "convert" perhaps even stronger belief in Darwin—which he even preaches in his own church! Celebrating evolution! It's equally remarkable that the proponents of Intelligent Design (e.g. Michael Behe, in his Darwin's Black Box) use biochemical data to support their religious views—even if not very successfully so far. Be that as it may, the black-and-white debate presented in the media between scientists and creationists turns out to have a lot more shades of grey.

What is more, Phipps' catalog suggests that the integralist point of view culls the partial truths from these approaches and combines them into the Final Truth About Evolution, but one should be very careful here. Let's never forget that Ken Wilber—the prime representative of the Integralist approach—has blundered, not once, but repeatedly with his misrepresentations of evolutionary theory when dealing briefly with neo-Darwinism. The usual integral "logic" predictably goes like this: evolution does follow Darwinian principles when it comes to forms of life once they have arisen, but can't explain how these forms arose in the first place. To "explain" these new emergences, some other principle has to be invoked; in Wilber's case Eros or "the Spirit of Evolution". Darwinism supposedly cannot handle "novelty": the emergence of new species, or complex organs.

However, the very few empirical examples Wilber gave to support this claim (the human eye, the wings of birds, the human immune system) have all been refuted by online critics. When I decided to specialize in a field Ken Wilber has written about and chose evolutionary theory, to check the validity of his statements about this area, the results where not pretty (as you can read in "The 'Spirit of Evolution' Reconsidered", a paper presented at the 2010 Integral Theory Conference). Spiritualist authors often see "unsurmountable" problems requiring Divine intervention where scientists patiently continue to look for scientific solutions—which more often than not they do find in a couple of years time.

Phipps covers the fields of science, culture and spirituality, interspersing his philosophical musings with reports of interviews he had with various authors. This makes for lively and engaging reading.

We'll take these three fields of inquiry one by one, using Phipps' own section headings.

1. Reinterpreting Science

If Phipps was really interested in "the origin of novelty" and how scientific disciplines such as "evo-devo" currently conceptualize this, much of his feeling of mystification by this topic would subside.

In the Science section, Phipps zooms in on the "novelty" problem, in a chapter called "Novelty: The God Problem"—named after one of Howard Bloom's books of the same title:

We have explanations for how one thing transforms into another over the slow march of time. But evolution's greatest mystery still remains: How does something come from nothing? And ultimately, it's not just a question about the origins of things but about novelty of all kinds. How does anything new get created? How does something entirely novel come into existence? In this world of change and flux, what is the source of unexpected creativity? (p. 101)

In this quote perhaps too much is included to be dealt with at the same time. The origin of the universe is one thing, the source of personal creativity another, but evolutionary theory usually covers precisely the field Phipps claims we have explanations for: "how one thing transforms into another"—isn't that what is meant by "the origin of species"?

Is the appearance of winged birds a "new" thing in evolution? Or the appearance of camera lens eyes? Or the emergence of the heavy elements, for that matter? Page after page, the chapter marvels about complexity theory, transformations at the edge of chaos, still undiscovered laws of nature that should produce evolutionary novelty (quoting Bloom, Gardner, Kauffman, Wolfram), but one looks in vain to specific empirical examples that need to be explained. (Recall that Wilber recently suggested that even the origin of the heavy elements needs some transcendental explanation—at least, that's how he'd prefer to see it in his Kosmic philosophy. The same rhetoric is used by Brian Swimme: "We went from Hydrogen to human beings, what a Mystery!").

As my university methodology teacher taught me once: science doesn't start with stories or theories, it starts with a question: What is it exactly that you want to explain? What actually are your data?

In this chapter Phipps also deals with the concerns of Intelligent Design proponents who state that "current biological theory is insufficient to explain novelty in the emergence of life" (p. 104)—a statement Ken Wilber would fully agree with. To his credit, he immediately refutes the worn out argument from creationists that evolution supposedly is in conflict with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, in that order in the universe tends to decrease, and not increase, as we see in the evolution of life on Earth:

This argument is dead on arrival. Biological evolution gets around the implications of entropy because the Earth is not an isolated system. We are riding the light, so to speak, using the sun's energy to power our way along. The sun is losing energy, but we are the beneficiaries. (p. 120)

Creationists have turned to more "scientific" arguments to support their views, most notably Michael Behe in his Darwin's Black Box. Phipps notes that not only has this approach met with severe criticism from the scientific community, but also from more progressive religionists, who consider this exclusive focus on design a limitation of God's richer nature. Be that as it may, it's obvious that Phipps is more interested in these religious implications.

Instead of exposing the shallowness of creationists' reasoning, he lets them off the hook. Is this a no-go area given Wilber's less than fortunate statements on the subject? Instead, he closes the chapter with statements that border on the delusional (though he refers to them as "original" and "compelling speculations", based on the work of complexity theorist James Gardner, whom he interviewed in 2006 [3]):

Could our reflections on the evolutionary process itself be an essential element not only in fulfilling the next stage of our own development but in creating the next novel stage of cosmogenesis?

According to Phipps', and echoing Wilber/Cohen integral philosophy, the creativity in the Cosmos at large is no different from the creativity found in our deepest selves:

As our picture of the universe continues to expand and we grow more cognizant of the creative power of nature, it is simultaneously as if the creative capacity we once reserved entirely for God has seemed to flow out of heaven and into earth. And as a product of nature's creation, we share in that bounty. As our picture of evolution grows more creative, so does our picture of ourselves. God's omnipotence has become our own creative potential. (p. 122-123)

It is clear from the above that Phipps is less interested in finding a scientific explanation for creative processes, both in nature as in ourselves, than in celebrating a religious philosophy of life. Evolution has become his religion. If Phipps was really interested in "the origin of novelty" and how scientific disciplines such as "evo-devo" currently conceptualize this, much of his feeling of mystification by this topic would subside.

Check only a random Wikipedia entry on Evolutionary Developmental Biology, otherwise known as "evo-devo", and you will find yourself immersed in the recent scientific explorations concerning the origin of novelty:

A major question then, for evo-devo studies, is: If the morphological novelty we observe at the level of different clades is not always reflected in the genome, where does it come from? Apart from neo-Darwinian mechanisms such as mutation, translocation and duplication of genes, novelty may also arise by mutation-driven changes in gene regulation. The finding that much biodiversity is not due to differences in genes, but rather to alterations in gene regulation, has introduced an important new element into evolutionary theory.[4]

Or another one, an overview essay by Armin Moszek titled "On the Origin of Novelty in Development and Evolution", associate professor of biology at the Indiana University, on the biological explanation of novelty:

I argue that, in order to understand exactly where, and under what conditions, evolutionary innovation occurs, we need to search for exactly where preexisting variation ends. We may be surprised how much novelty and innovation may arise out of the already familiar, and may grow well within the confines of strict homology.[5]

Is it against Phipps' agenda to enter these territories? As far as I am concerned—and given Wilber's misbehavior in these matters—even the slightest hint from spiritually-inclined authors that science cannot explain novelty is suspect to me.

In the end, Phipps follows the same logic as Wilber: in our cultural and religious history, mythical religion has been succeeded by rational science, and the current evolution/creation debate is largely a clash between these two worldviews. But, so the argument goes, creationists do point out "real problems" in evolutionary theory, that science supposedly cannot solve. Therefore, a post-rational mystical spirituality is called for, that can "explain" these anomalies–the origin of novelty–without having to return to a literal interpretation of creation myths. Cultural evolution moves on.

So Phipps, like Wilber, aligns with science against pre-rational religion, but tries to trump science with the help of mysticism, in his case an "evolutionary spirituality". There was a time when I deeply liked this strategy: it allows one to be modern and scientific, and at the same time deeply religious. But this project breaks down when you get to specifics. What exactly is it that a spiritual Eros can explain? Does a mystical-integral view of evolution avoid the severe drawbacks of creationism? Until now, neither Wilber nor Phipps have created a solid case.[6]

2. Recontextualizing Culture

It is both ironic and tragic that major spokesmen of this conflict resolution model haven't been able to resolve their theoretical and personal differences.

True to his agenda of expanding the theory of evolution beyond the limits of natural science, Phipps turns now to human culture. Can we legitimately speak of "cultural evolution"? Even languages—and language is a key component of culture—are said to evolve, differentiate and go extinct. But in the more controversial sense of cultural progress? Few scientists would be willing to go that far. Long term trends, maybe, but qualitatively distinct stages? Not a chance.

Of course, part of this distaste of stage models is caused by the misuse that has been made by them in history. Phipps is well aware of these pitfalls, but tries to avoid these by pointing out that, just as individual development unfolds in successive structures of consciousness, so does collective or cultural development. However, cultural development is much more difficult to trace, since societies or cultures stretch out over many centuries. His guide in this endeavor is Jean Gebser, author of The Ever-Present Origin and a major inspiration for Ken Wilber's cultural model.

Wilber discovered Gebser, whose work hadn't been translated into English yet, through a summary article in Main Currents in Modern Thought published in the early seventies.[7] He fleshed out Gebser's stage model in a magnificent way in his book Up from Eden published in 1981. Gebser's stages matched perfectly with the stages Wilber had postulated himself in his earlier works, but were more catchy. Compare "archaic" to "uroboric" or "magical" to "typhonic" and you know what I mean. But Wilber does deserve credit for opening up this entire field.

How has Gebser been received outside of the integral world? Has there been any fruitful exchange between integralism and the various Gebser societies around the world? Has academic science paid any attention to his work at all?

According to the Wikipedia article on Jean Gebser:

Gebser cautioned against using terms like evolution, progression, or development to describe the changes in structures of consciousness that he described.

That sentence alone deserves a careful treatment. We are now forty years later, and it no longer suffices to repeat Gebser's stages over and over again.

The same can be said for another stage model Phipps covers in his book, the well known color-stages of Spiral Dynamics. Just as Ken Wilber did much to promote Gebser's work, the same can be said for the work of Don Beck, at least in their years of cooperation, which lead to the "Spiral Dynamics Integral" (SDi) approach. (But then again, if it wasn't for Beck and Cowan, nobody would have heard of Clare Graves, the founder of the original and back then color-less stage model. Graves was a contemporary of Maslow, and both models show how values and needs go hand in hand during development.) There was a time Wilber discussion groups were buzzing with SD colors, ad nauseam, as if any meaningful discussion could be decided in those terms.

As is well known by now, the cooperation between Wilber and Beck ended a few years ago, and Wilber changed his color scheme as published in Integral Spirituality (2005) without much ado. For the initiated: Blue became Amber, and Yellow became Teal, as if to mimic the color spectrum (remember Wilber's first book was called The Spectrum of Consciousness, 1977). Apparently, the spiraling nature of the Spiral, going from "warm" or me-individual to "cool" or we-collective stages was discarded in the process as irrelevant.

Personal animosities or male egos aside, one wonders if real theoretical differences are involved here—just as one wonders why Beck broke with his former colleague Cris Cowan—his co-author of the book Spiral Dynamics (1996). Both claim to have the true version of Spiral Dynamics. It is both ironic and tragic that major spokesmen of this conflict resolution model (Beck, Cowan, Wilber) haven't been able to resolve their theoretical and personal differences.

In this section the work of Ken Wilber is given a chapter as well. After the obligatory treatment of the four quadrants, and relating the legend around their discovery by a flash of insight, Phipps goes briefly into Wilber's (and Sheldrake's) contribution to our understanding of evolution. No hint is given about the criticism Wilber has faced in recent years because of his apparent mis-understanding of the basics of evolutionary theory. One wonders if Phipps is interested in these details at all. But if criticism is ignored, the outcome will be integral, or evolutionary, ideology—plain and simple.

The idea behind this Wilberian/Sheldrakean view of evolution is that the supposed laws of nature are in fact "habits" and new stages in evolution take time to "settle" into stable structures. What has always puzzled me is that the metaphor of habits presupposes a subject, which doesn't seem present in the human collective, let alone the Kosmos at large. For Wilber, "Kosmic habits" not necessarily refer to the material cosmos, for his notion of "Kosmos" implies the inner dimensions of consciousness. So the more pioneers advance into new domains of consciousness and experience, the easier it will be for others to follow. I believe there are easier explanations for the fact that cultural pioneers create followers.

3. Reenvisioning Spirit

There's a deep ambivalance—or should I say dishonesty?—in these integral or evolutionary statements about evolution, between what is actually claimed and what isn't.

In the third and last section of the book, Phipps enters the domain of spirit, where he seems to be most at home. In his opinion, religion, to survive at all in this modern world, would be best advised to embrace the idea of evolution. Creationism and atheism can best be seen as premodern and modern ways to makes sense of the world around us. Can we legitimately speak of post-modern (or even post-post-modern) views of reality as well? If evolution has become a divine process, it is this world that is its playground. This explains the world affirmation of Teilhard de Chardin and Sri Aurobindo, two of the greatest forerunners of the evolutionary worldview. It is also a responsible worldview, bent on making a difference in this world of ours.

This ties in to what Phipps has named "conscious evolutionism", a movement that has futurist Barbara Marx Hubbard, Michael Dowd and Brian Swimme as their major representatives. The idea is that in our modern world, we need modern creation stories to replace the myths of yesteryear. We have not only a new cosmology, but new crises and new capacities to face them—the current climate crisis being one that comes to mind. Our connection the physical cosmos is closer then most of us would expect, as Carl Sagan said "We are made of star stuff" (all the heavier elements in our bodies come from star explosions).

Of course, if the physical cosmos becomes a projection screen for all our religious needs, it is one small step to see the world as a field of vast creativity, that wants to express itself through us humans. Says Brian Swimme:

The Earth wants to come into a deeper way of reflecting on itself. The invention of the eye is an example. It's almost like the life process wants to deepen its awareness... It is as if the whole system of life was going to find a way to see one way or another. So what's the essence of life? Life wants a richer experience. Life wants to see. And we come out of that same process. We also want to see, we want to know, we want to understand deeply. That is a further development of this basic impulse itself. (p. 317)

One wonders if the Sun wants to shine, plants want to grow, and rain wants to fall... in this intentionality-laden worldview as well. But Phipps is well aware that intentionality, agency and consciousness evolved, and have taken a large span in time to enter the scene at all. At this moment in time, where we have reached self-consciousness, we have also reached our moment of global responsibility:

[T]he power of our human autonomy does make us special. It doesn't mean that we are God's gift to the Earth or that we're fundamentally separate and distinct from other species. But neither are we just another creature, one among millions. (p. 318)

I can resonate with this feeling that, though quantitatively we may be less than a speck of dust in the cosmos, qualitatively we are unique in the very fact of being aware of this. Still, one of my favorite metaphors for illustrating our humble position in time comes from physicist Robert Dijkgraaf, former president of the Dutch Royal Academy of Sciences, and currently director of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton—and I paraphrase from a newspaper column he once wrote—"if we compare life on earth to a book of about 400 pages, the written history of mankind covers the width of the period at the end of the last sentence..." We have appeared late, very late on the scene indeed.

This brings Phipps to his own guru, Andrew Cohen, and his brand of "evolutionary enlightenment". Where traditional religious believers claimed to know the mind of God, their evolutionary counterparts seem to know much about what the "evolutionary impulse" is or wants us to do. Writes Cohen:

The evolutionary impulse, he writes, is "the energy and intelligence that burst out of nothing, the driving impetus behind the evolutionary process, from the big bang to the emerging edge of the future." (p. 335)

This ties in nicely with Wilber's comments that without such an impulse or Eros, evolutionary phenomena can't be explained. But it is not at all clear that such an impulse exists, and certainly not as a necessary way to explain nature's phenomena, as we have tried to demonstrate in many essays on this website (take for example "What Good is Half a Wing?").

This outlook on life also has its theologians, who see change, process, movement and creativity as spiritual phenomena. Only such a view can keep up with the discoveries of science, they say. God's power has been replaced by the power of nature. But if life is so powerful, why has it appeared only on Earth as far as we know, and not on our neighboring planets, not to mention planets in other solar systems? And if the right conditions were so important, why aren't these conditions enough in and by itself, which would make the hypothesis of a creative Force redundant? There's enough reason to question this euphoric narrative of cosmic intention.

Phipps adds some correctives to the notion that our role in evolution has become all-important. We cannot just wish or visualize our problems away, as New Age religionists have it, since we have to take existence's lawfulness into account. But even then, there's always a potential for novelty, as the Whiteheadian expression goes. This has often been called "emergence", without explaining anything by that term alone, a reservation Phipps fortunately shares:

So while the idea of emergence should not be confused with an explanation of the novelty of nature, it does help identify actual truths about the evolutionary process that are critical to appreciate. It names the wonderful creativity of our cosmic story—radically new capacities and higher levels of being do emerge in this marvelous universe." (p. 357)

In my opinion, this mystification doesn't help us in understanding the processes of evolution. How can something that is not an explanation convey "actual truths" about evolution? If we look back at past evolutionary forms of life, there never has been a transcendental mystery involved in the evolutionary processes that lead to their existence. Wilber defended his amateurish comments on biological evolution with exactly the same "argument": what he actually wanted to point at was that "they are metaphors and examples for this extraordinary capacity of creative emergence that is intrinsic to the universe."

There's a deep ambivalence—or should I say dishonesty?—in these integral or evolutionary statements about evolution, between what is actually claimed and what isn't. On the one hand, there's the claim that science by itself can't explain evolution, and that other principles are needed—Eros, the evolutionary impulse, the Spirit of Evolution, creativity—but when pressed for details, all claims to offer explanations are abandoned and rephrased as metaphors. In the end, this is fact-free science, that can be used for whatever philosophical or religious purpose one wants. Phipps wrestles with this, at times, but is in the end too much a believer in the evolution religion to be convincing.


[1] C. Phipps, Evolutionaries: Unlocking the Spiritual and Cultural Potential of Science's Greatest Idea, Harper Collins, Harper Perennial, 2012.

[2] C. Phipps, "The REAL Evolution Debate", What is Enlightenment?, The Mystery of Evolution issue, Issue 35, January/March 2007.

[3] C. Phipps, "A New Dawn for Cosmology", interview with James Gardner, What is Enlightenment?, Issue 33, June/August 2006.

[4] "Evolutionary Developmental Biology", Wikipedia.

[5] Moczek, A.P., "On the Origin of Novelty in Development and Evolution", Bio Essays, 5: 432-447, 2008, and "The origins of novelty". Nature 473: 34-35 (invited commentary).

[6] To be sure, some evolutionaries, the "religious naturalists", have stopped calling on supernatural forces guiding evolution, but Phipps' inclinations seem clearly spiritual, given his alliance to Andrew Cohen's philosophy, when he writes of "the driving impetus behind the evolutionary process" and "an energetic drive at the core of the evolutionary process" (p. 335).

Wilber sometimes presents a naturalistic, sanitized version of his "Spirit of Evolution" theory where he says things like:

"You either postulate a supernatural source of which there are two types. One is a Platonic given and one is basically theological—a God or Intelligent Design—or you postulate Spirit as immanent—of course it's transcendent but also immanent—and it shows up as a self-organizing, self-transcending drive within evolution itself. And then evolution is Spirit's own unfolding. Not a super-natural, but an intra-natural, an immanently natural aspect. And that's basically the position I maintain." (audio file on, 2006)

However, this highly ambiguous position still presupposes an immanent, "intra-natural" (?) drive within evolution—which creates eyes, wings and immune systems? Fortunately, there are more straightforwardly naturalistic explanations for these phenomena than Ken Wilber has dreamt up in his integral philosophy.

[7] Gebser, Jean. (Jan.-Feb. 1974). "The Integral Consciousness", Main Currents in Modern Thought, 30:3, 107–9 and (Nov.-Dec. 1972), "The Foundations of the Aperspectival World", Main Currents in Modern Thought, 29:
:2, 85-90.

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From American Guru - January 2014 update
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 24, 2014 05:10AM

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Wilber appears to be offering his own program
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: April 23, 2014 11:40PM

As Wilber was a frequent guest of Andrew Cohen (see the many guru and pandit interviews in Coheh's now-defunct What is Enlightenment? magazine) Wilber could be considered tied to Andrew Cohen, though not Cohen's disciple in any formal sense.

So...Wilber, who has consistently endorsed Cohen and for many years, as well as endorsing other troubled gurus (Adi Da, Marc Gafni, Genpo Roshi) now is about to launch a transformational program of his very own.

This Super Human Operating System.


Frank Visser was Ken Wilber's friend and biographer. Wilber ended this relationship after Visser dared to offer some peer review of Wilber's work.

Wilber has been quite poor at tolerating any peer critique of his work -- despite longing to be taken seriously as a scholar.

Visser founded in 1997 (back then under the name of "The World of Ken Wilber"). He is the author of the first monograph on Ken Wilber and his work: " Ken Wilber: Thought as Passion " (SUNY Press, 2003), which has been translated into 7 languages, and of many essays on this website. He currently is Service Desk Manager at the Dutch division of the global online marketing agency DigitasLBi .



The Wolf of
Wilber Street
Integral Goes $uperhuman
Frank Visser

“Discover a Revolutionary New Technology For Your Mind
to Activate Your Super Human Potential and Become
the Greatest Possible Version of Yourself.”
This is integral marketing in overdrive, for sure. Integral goes $uperhuman.
A few days ago, the website " Your Superhuman Potential " went live offering the above promises, through an online course based on the work of Ken Wilber.

Behind this initative is a company called Sacred Media ("experts at launch conversions"), specialized in product launches and online affiliate marketing. Endorsements are shown from Tony Robbins, author of the best selling Unlimited Power (1987), who considers Wilber a supremely influential teacher and mentor in his life, and Marianne Williamson.

"People Who Are Just Like You"
On this website, we read the following:
Imagine for a moment that there were no limits…

That you could literally become the person you have always dreamed of being.

For the last 30 years, developmental scientists and researchers from around the world have discovered something truly profound.

A small percentage of people are breaking through to an entirely new level of human evolution , that has NEVER existed on our planet before. And that like ever major transformation in history, this group will be responsible for major transformations in government, economics, religion, science, and nearly every other domain.

According to some researchers, this new level of development is up to 10 times more empowered, actualized and effective than all earlier stages of evolution in human history.

People around the world, people who are just like you, are completely upgrading their lives, and living a life full of meaning and purpose. And as a result they are experiencing a life that is free of the problems most people experience on a day-to-day basis.

This emerging higher capacity has been called various names but one thing is certain, that anyone who reaches this groundbreaking stage of development is literally becoming superhuman compared to the rest of the planet.

This is an entirely new phase of evolution in humanity. We are building momentum towards a profound shift in consciousness both individually and collectively, and whether you know it or not this transformation depends on you!

Join the renowned author, teacher and living legend Ken Wilber as he shares his latest discoveries about what this superhuman potential means for you and the world, and how you can start to accelerate your own development to unleash the greatest possible version of yourself.

This sales pitch is meant to generate interest for a free online call with Ken Wilber in March 2014:

"Expect to Get Paid !"
After this call, however, a $997 10-week training is offered to the public, involving hours of interviews with Wilber and contributions by other luminaries ("Tony Robbins, Eben Pagan, Marianne Williamson, David Wolfe, Seane Corne, Tami Simon and many others.").

On the accompanying affiliate page we read further:

“Improve People's Lives,
Earn Great Commissions,
Change the world.”

Affiliates in this marketing campaign are offered 50% commision and a free pass to this training, when they bring in 500 participants. The text simply reads: "In terms of expectations, the partners of Sacred Media are experts at launch conversions, one of the reasons Ken Wilber chose to work with them... So expect to get paid."

To boost confidence in the effectiveness of the campaign organizers, they state: "The founding partners have generated over $20 Million combined in product launches and online sales to date."

With a few thousands of participants, the turnover of this campaign will indeed be counted by the millions of dollars.

The campaign product is called: the Superhuman Operating System: "a life changing series of tools, practices and perspectives based on the life’s work of living legend, and luminary philosopher, Ken Wilber".

The website continues—and some content editor needs to look at this:


Ken Wilber
Widely regarded as the “Einstein of consciousness” and the “Aristotle of our time” Ken Wilber is a truly living legend.

He was a 19 year old Masters student with when (sic) his journey to greatness began. Fed up with academia, he became obsessed with understanding the human condition and our highest potentials.

He wanted to know what was ultimately true, how everything fit together, and the real source of fulfillment for human life. He wasn’t getting answers from his college professors so he left grad school and set out on an epic journey to discover it for himself…

What he found in his research would change the world forever. When he was 23 [should be 28] years old he published his first book. The results of his 4 years of in-depth study, and he rocked the world of developmental psychology with an entirely new model of human potential. And that was just the beginning.

Over the past nearly 40 years he has published dozens of books, and has impacted nearly every field of human understanding. He has became (sic) a quiet giant. Growing from an idealistic college drop out, to someone who many consider to be “the smartest man alive” and “one of the greatest thinkers in history”.

No less. I thought Wilber was positioned as an alternative for Aristotle? Jack Crittenden: "“the twenty-first century literally has three choices: Aristotle, Nietzsche, or Ken Wilber.” Whatever—somebody famous... and dead.

Is this a cynical mix of The Master and The Wolf of Wall Street ? This is integral marketing in overdrive, for sure. Integral goes $uperhuman.

One doesn't know what to deplore most in this shameless marketing messaging.

The fact that marketing has finally taken over from intellectual integrity?
The promise of instant transformation, both of oneself and of the world?
Of becoming part of an elite that has access to "an entirely new level of human evolution, that has NEVER existed on our planet before"?
Of suggesting that scientists from around the world are supporting this idea?
Of becoming superhuman, not metaphorically but "literally"?
That one can find all the answers by bypassing academia?
The incredible, unfathomable narcissism of this whole project?
The immature idealization and idolization of Ken Wilber's contributions?
It's hard to tell if this is all serious... but if it's for real... it's a joke.

In my opinion, the point is not that this marketing message doesn't convey the essence of Wilber's visions—because it does—but that it blows away the last hope for a sober, dispassionate reflection on the Wilberian body of knowledge.

Many mirror sites are springing up (such as: [] ), with campaign related pep talk ("Each day we are getting closer and closer to the launch of Ken Wilber’s Superhuman Operating System….and I can not TELL you how exciting this is….." by J. - co-founder of Sacred Media Todd Jason?) mixed with dubious content: a Brazilian/Portuguese spoken YouTube video "Superhumanos" posted in 2012, subtitled: O verdadeiro atirador. The Real Shooter -- has Wyatt Earp returned?

Probably "Superhuman OS" is confused with "Super Humanos"? LOL.

Here's a nice parody -- even better than the original one:

And the give away: if you click on: [], you go to: Tutte!

However, Tutte denies all charges...

Stay tuned!


Options: ReplyQuote
Reflections by William Yenner 2010
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 07, 2014 11:07PM


(quote)Craig Hamilton, a newly self-proclaimed "pioneer in the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality" who, having "lived and worked in a dynamic living 'laboratory of evolution' under the direct guidance of EnlightenNext founder and spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen," and having played "a key role in the leadership of this thriving international spiritual community," looks back on the results as "extraordinary"; Elizabeth Debold, a Harvard-trained developmental psychologist who is now (in her supposedly unbiased position as Senior Editor of Cohen's EnlightenNext magazine) trying to create objective measures of "higher development" designed to substantiate her "hypothesis" that people who take Cohen's retreats will display such traits; Linus Roache, an internationally renowned actor, who directs EnlightenNext's New York center; Dave Gold and Michael Wombacher, published authors who have gone on record selectively extolling their teacher, Andrew Cohen; Amy Edelstein, a member of EnlightenNext's Board of Directors, who has lied extensively to a journalist on Cohen's behalf; and Carter Phipps, the current Executive Editor of EnlightenNext magazine, whose reprinted article on the Huffington Post ("What Ever Happened to Truth?") takes others to task for the sort of revisionist dishonesty and abuse of power he seems perfectly willing to overlook in his teacher and Editor-in-chief.

And what of Cohen's celebrity endorsers—Genpo Roshi, Ken Wilber, Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Bernie Glassman, to name only a few—who offer their implicit support by agreeing to participate in his forums? To what extent have they considered the possibility that the extensive allegations against Cohen exist for valid reasons—that where there is smoke there is every likelihood of fire? Are they poor judges of character? Are they as vulnerable to Cohen's manipulations as anyone else? Are they swayed by Cohen's humble-seeming profession of the Bodhisattva vow "to enlighten the world"? Or are they taking advantage of the strategic media opportunity that Andrew Cohen represents with no thought for the possible consequences? Does Genpo Roshi, for example, make any practical distinction—particularly with respect to the risk of abuse—between surrendering unconditionally to a manipulative cult leader and submitting to the guidance of a sanctioned teacher within the framework of an established tradition? Why not? However accurate it may be, Cohen's maverick reputation for questionable conduct is certainly no secret.

Further, what are the implications of these "high-level" interactions between "spiritual authorities" such as Cohen and Wilber for our understanding of spiritual life as a whole? Is there validity, for example, in Cohen's notions of "verticality" and "hierarchy," or in his (and Wilber's) use of the Spiral Dynamics conceptual model as a means of dismissing critics by characterizing their legitimate concerns as "narcissistic" postmodern expressions of "lower" developmental levels? Are these hierarchical principles applicable to followers in all situations, regardless of the behavior of the self-appointed spiritual authority figures that demand their "surrender" as a necessary precondition for the transcendence of egoic self-delusion? If not, why haven't the reservations of these respected figures (assuming they have any) been publicly articulated?

Recent EnlightenNext webcasts have stressed the importance of the second of Wilber's "Three Faces of God," i.e., the living manifestation of the divine in the form of the guru before whom the devotee must prostrate, as Cohen puts it, "on bended knee."

On one such webcast, Terry Patten, a former follower of the recently deceased American guru/cult-leader Adi Da (a.k.a. Da Free John)—whose "corruption" and "megalomania" Cohen himself once pointedly criticized—was interviewed enthusiastically by two of Cohen's students, Elizabeth Debold and Jeff Carreira.

Patten, a Wilber co-author who offers international workshops explaining the "The Three Faces of God," complimented Cohen's student body as a whole for its ready receptivity to the notion of surrender to the guru—neglecting, like Genpo Roshi, to acknowledge both the many instances in which "surrender" has turned out to be a code-word for misguided loyalty and the obvious dangers of surrendering to a "megalomaniac," whoever he (or she) might be.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Debold and Carreira, good disciples that they are, didn't raise these issues either.


Options: ReplyQuote
Full text of William Yenner article Integral World
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 07, 2014 11:10PM

Full text here with live links


(Quote)American Guru
Excerpts and an Update
William Yenner

Introduction - "a tragic situation for all concerned"

Excerpt from Chapter 3
The Dark Side of Enlightenment >>

Excerpt from Chapter 4
The Currency of Forgiveness >>

Excerpt from Chapter 11
A Misplaced Gratitude >>

Excerpt from Chapter 15
Connecting the Dots >>

Introduction - "a tragic situation for all concerned"
This is, after all, a tragic situation for all concerned, including Andrew Cohen himself.
In the weeks since American Guru was published, I have been amazed by the volume and intensity of the public outpouring of defenses and rationalizations of Andrew Cohen's actions by fellow former students who lived through exactly the same experiences that I did. The two principal forums for these responses have been and a website,, created by another former student, Pete Bampton, as part of a concerted effort to rebut the implications of what I and my co-authors have presented in our book. The narrative unvaryingly articulated in these responses is that none of the events described in American Guru can be properly understood outside of a "context" that I, William Yenner, once subscribed to but have now conveniently forgotten. And more typically than not, this argument has been accompanied by "informed" attacks on my character, presumably also sanctioned by this rarefied or "missing" context, and further justified by the "nastiness" and "distortion" of my presentation of the facts, for which it is apparent that I need to be shamed, shunned and ostracized—all the familiar pedagogical techniques of the EnlightenNext community—by people I once had the privilege of considering my closest friends.

At the same time, most of the offended writers do not hesitate to turn this vicious "context" loose on their own supposed failings or inadequacies as a means of explaining why they were forced to terminate their participation in Andrew Cohen's revolutionary experiment in "evolution beyond ego." It seems that even after a period of years outside of Cohen's physical orbit, his influence remains a powerful factor in their assessment of their own motivations and general unworthiness as spiritual practitioners, and though my sympathy is neither solicited nor appreciated, I can't help but extend it. This is, after all, a tragic situation for all concerned, including Andrew Cohen himself, and Cohen's hovering presence in the thought processes and the very language of his still-devoted ex-students is impossible to ignore. It seems to have occurred neither to Cohen nor to his defenders that their responses—from the earliest emergence of allegations of questionable practices in the EnlightenNext community to those aired more recently in my book—have never reflected the humble self-assurance or basic decency one expects to encounter in individuals who have supposedly ventured "beyond ego."

Clearly, what these responses reflect is something other than enlightened understanding, and it is precisely this "something other than" that American Guru, however clumsily or offensively, is an attempt to uncover. I ask: How is it that these people as a group have thoroughly internalized Cohen's vocabulary and conceptual framework without any apparent benefit to their own independence or self-esteem? Of what productive use is it to a human being to introject a paradigm according to which he or she has "failed," while the one who invented it can only claim "victory" by appealing to a "higher context" that justifies anything he does? Is it inadmissible to speculate that this kind of indoctrination may be a form of cultic manipulation? I know that according to these former disciples my articulation of such questions is supposed to be a reflection of my own ego-driven delusion, but still—the facts are the facts, and no one, however passionately they defend Cohen or attack me, has so far convincingly denied them. And now, more heartbreaking than even the facts themselves, comes this unselfconscious demonstration of what it really means to be a student of Andrew Cohen, and to have imbibed his version of "consciousness and culture": submit to his control long enough and you may never again be able to believe in your own goodness, integrity or intrinsic self-worth; even after leaving, the best you can hope for is to join the ranks of the "failures," and you may never truly recover your footing again. (Bampton is thus far the first and only of such former students to suggest that the "stigma of having 'failed'" is inapplicable to those who left after the historic "surge of consciousness" of July 30, 2001—a rationalization yet to be articulated by the other, far more self-critical ex-disciples posting on his site.)

Interestingly, however, in the same period during which Andrew Cohen's reputation has been so stoutly defended by's cadre of "fallen" or "unsuccessful" students, the integral community has also seen the emergence of another of Cohen's former disciples, Craig Hamilton, as a self-proclaimed "teacher" in his own right. As I implied in a footnote of American Guru, no one who knows Andrew Cohen is likely to believe he was pleased by Hamilton's surreptitious departure from Foxhollow, much less by Hamilton's own subsequent (and well-planned?) ascent to integral guruhood—but if imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Cohen ought to be feeling swell. As a "successful" former student, Hamilton has outdone his fellow alumni not only in his wholesale assimilation of Cohen's "teaching model" but in his astute—some might say opportunistic—emulation of his teacher's tried-and-true PR strategy of using public dialogues with famous "luminaries" as a means of enhancing his own reputation. That Hamilton was able to cultivate such relationships while selflessly "serving" as his guru's senior editor and ambassador to high-level interfaith conferences is yet another manifestation of that "something other than enlightenment" that seems to be Cohen's less than inspiring human legacy.

In fairness, it remains to be seen whether Hamilton's "Integral Enlightenment" is a "teaching" that lives up to the great expectations he has worked so hard to inspire, or whether the key question resolved by Hamilton's heady formula—so perfectly in sync with the latest advances in cyberspace voice transmission—is how to capitalize (literally) on the hungry idealism of his audience. Of course it doesn't hurt to be convinced of the depth of one's insight and the soundness of one's ideology; yet experience has repeatedly shown that, from a potential follower's point of view, such uninhibited confidence is all the more reason to be wary. Proclamations and endorsements of a teacher's exalted status, of the depths of his wisdom, of the emergence of his voice as one that "needs to be heard," all feed the idealistic temptation to regard him as one who embodies the "advances in consciousness" most essential to the resolution of the pressing crises of our time.

At such moments, it is worth remembering that the list of spiritual leaders who have "fallen on their faces"—often with catastrophic results for their followers—is a long one indeed. In his foreword to American Guru, Stephen Batchelor suggests that things might have turned out far differently if, at the time of Andrew Cohen's "emergence" as a teacher, those who felt they had reason to question his motivations or qualifications had spoken out more forcefully. This is all the more reason to scrutinize Hamilton's account of his many years "working side by side" with Andrew Cohen; yet despite his acknowledged involvement in "trying to guide and work with [Cohen's] global body of students," Hamilton remains curiously silent on the issue of the abuses that took place under his nose (and mine) at Cohen's Foxhollow ashram. As Daniel Shaw has observed, "It would be wonderful to see...honesty and courage demonstrated by...leaders of the New Age movement. Instead of rationalizing and minimizing the extent of [Cohen's] abuses, instead of ignoring and dismissing the experiences of former followers, wouldn't it be wonderful if people like Ken Wilber, Genpo Roshi, Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Bernie Glassman, etc., could have the courage and the integrity to pay attention, to take up the cause of Cohen's former members, and confront Cohen publicly?” As an up-and-coming "spiritual luminary"—not to mention one who was actually there! —Craig Hamilton certainly deserves to have his name added to that list. The dangers of a "free pass" based on charisma and inspiring intentions having been borne out by history, I feel it ought to be perceived as reasonable, rather than gratuitously destructive, to raise questions about anyone representing himself as a "pioneer" of a cutting-edge spiritual discipline.

While Hamilton evaluates himself rather differently than most of his fellow former students—insinuating references to his own "awakening" into his “free preview,” to a virtual audience of nearly 700 spiritual seekers, of a 9-week "teleseminar" for which he is charging each participant $285—he shares with's contributors the same abiding nostalgia for a community very different from the one I remember (a community in which abuses such as those documented in American Guru took place over a period of two decades) as well as their retrospectively rose-colored notions about the significance of what happened there. To hear Hamilton tell it: "I lived in this vibrant global spiritual community for thirteen years with the guidance of my spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, and spent a great deal of that time really working side by side with him in trying to sort of guide and work with this global body of students who were all giving one-hundred percent of their lives to trying to evolve consciousness. And in this laboratory, which like any laboratory is kind of a specialized environment [that] allows you to see things you would never see outside...I was afforded an opportunity to see some things about the human condition that are not normally apparent.... "In this evolutionary laboratory, we had a unique opportunity...because, honestly, the conditions could not have been better. Our life was entirely organized to support our individual and collective evolution.... We spent several hours every day engaging in vibrant, powerful spiritual practice. We had direct and extraordinary spiritual guidance coming into our personal lives on a regular basis.... There I was, producing a cutting-edge spiritual magazine and spiritual events, and my entire life was consumed in this, and all this was happening in a breathtakingly beautiful place, eating healthy gourmet vegetarian food, three meals a day. It's a bit of a spiritual utopian environment in a sense, and initially I want to acknowledge that it seemed to be everything that could possibly be required to catalyze everyone's radical evolution. And the inner life of everybody there was elevated to a profound level of well-being—I mean, in this environment everybody was living in a non-ordinary state of consciousness most of the time; there was a sort of enlightened Buddha-field...that permeated the place.... "For most of us, we would say, 'If I had all that, there would no longer be anything in my way.' And so what I want to share is what we found in this environment, because you see, when all the external obstacles to change have been removed, the stark truth reveals itself, which is that when it comes to our higher self-evolution, our authentic spiritual transformation, most of us don't want to change all that much.... We don't really want to change our deep habits of being, our deep habits of relating to life.... Very few of us honestly want to let go of the familiar ways of being and behaving that we are accustomed to. And why? Because we don't want to get outside our comfort zone. There is a deep, primitive, ingrained impulse toward stasis, toward preserving the status quo.... "I was perhaps a more extreme case...than most people," Hamilton continues, "because I came into this with an incredibly strong a deeply sincere, committed spiritual seeker.... I was a big spiritual ego, you could say.... My teacher told me early on...'Craig, you've developed a lot of capacities that have served you well in your life...but you're going to have to let go of all of that if you're going to really succeed in this work, in really waking up spiritually'...and I could feel how much I really didn't want to let go of everything I thought myself to be, and all the familiar ways of being that did allow me to navigate life.... It was years of hard work and intense soul-level trials, I would say, before things really started to break open...and this was universal for everybody in this environment, so I think what we really had to confront was that most of us self-proclaimed evolutionaries who really see ourselves as wanting to evolve consciousness through ourselves...deep down were still largely being run by some very ancient, not particularly evolutionary software.... "If we want to really engage in a process of spiritual awakening, if we want to be truly awakened human beings, there's something that we need to pay a lot more attention to than our personal conditioning, our personal psychic make-up, and that is our collective conditioning.... We have been playing a game of survival, a very primitive game in which self-preservation is really the primary drive, and we just have to get that that is all still deeply wired into us, and so changing it is a really big deal.... We have to get that it's really this deeper, primitive, survival-orientation that is what's really our obstacle...."

These are noble sentiments, all the more poignant in light of the events described in American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing, from which I have excerpted, below, sections of Chapters 3, 4, 11 and 15.

from Chapter 3 ~ The Dark Side of Enlightenment
Andrew was in a position to expand the degree of control he exercised in increments that went undetected.
With the gradual imposition of rules, taxes and spirit-breaking confrontational meetings, the climate in Andrew's community had changed significantly, and the man who had once seemed to me to embody perfection was slowly revealing another side of his character. As the community took root at Foxhollow, I began to witness transformations in Andrew's personality, methods and teachings that would take me years to fully comprehend. Some of the changes in our new environment were subtle, such as the institution of a daily exercise regime, and some, while they were closely guarded secrets occurring only behind closed doors, were not subtle at all, such as punishment in the form of physical abuse. From the most benign to the most damaging, these changes were indicative of the power that Andrew Cohen sought to exert on his followers' lives. They were also harbingers of even more egregious abuses to come.

Andrew was in a position to expand the degree of control he exercised in increments that went undetected—perhaps even by him, if one cares to give him the benefit of the doubt. Now, in addition to micromanaging the fitness regimes of each of his students, it was apparent that their sexual and romantic lives represented an arena equally subject to his influence. Andrew also began instituting punishments as well. The methods were often random, harsh, out of proportion to the alleged wrong, and questionable as educational or disciplinary “skillful means.” He referred to his updated version of “crazy wisdom”—a teaching modality with centuries-old roots in some Eastern spiritual traditions—as “Acts of Outrageous Integrity,” and it consisted of extreme “teaching methods” designed to cut through a student's ego and resistance in order to facilitate awakening.

Cohen himself has remarked that crazy wisdom seems to be an excuse for some teachers to engage irresponsibly in self-indulgent behavior (of course exempting himself from this characterization), and in meetings with students he outlined the following very sensible criteria for its application: The sole goal of the implementation of unconventional or seemingly inappropriate methods is the liberation of the student; there can be no suggestion of the teacher's personal benefit or pleasure; the sole criterion for success is the student's liberation—only then can crazy wisdom be considered authentic and effective. Yet Cohen's by now customary defense against allegations directed at himself personally—of abuse masquerading as crazy wisdom—consists of splitting hairs over definitions of terms, recourse to the larger controversy regarding the validity of crazy wisdom itself that has existed for some time in East-meets-West spiritual debate, and a disarmingly unreflective attempt to cast himself as someone who is unafraid to appear politically incorrect in his heroic effort to do what his job description demands of him. It is abundantly clear, however, that crazy wisdom as a tradition has a set of implicit guidelines by means of which to judge the actions of any teacher purporting to use it; there is thus no escape from the impressions and evaluations of others, no “free pass” just because someone is supposedly “enlightened,” or claims to have the best interests of others at heart and is willing to use extreme methods in order to “free them from ignorance.”

Regarding many examples of the extreme measures sometimes taken by Andrew Cohen at Foxhollow, students have since stated that far from being freed from their own ignorance, they had been subjected to a new and pernicious version of someone else's. Cohen's “acts of outrageous integrity” included disciplinary face slapping—usually in response to a student's performance of some task failing to measure up to his expectations—in which it was difficult to discern any particular “lesson” other than “Shape up!” This practice began soon after our arrival at Foxhollow. In some cases, Andrew would direct one student to slap another; in others, he administered the slaps himself. I myself was slapped on two occasions, once by a woman and once by another man.

These practices—which some might well regard as instances of physical and mental abuse—were symptoms of the unprecedented degree of control that eventually came to pervade the atmosphere of the Foxhollow community, and “groupthink” was certainly a consequence of this atmosphere of control. It is a well-known and troubling fact that group mentality has the potential to override individual morality. I experienced this firsthand as a member of Andrew Cohen's community—observing, participating in, rationalizing and excusing, at times, extremely harsh treatment of fellow members who had angered their teacher. When a student was slapped or evicted from a student household, I told myself that it was for that individual's own good, chalking it up to my teacher's passionate determination to free him or her from a confining limitation, or from the tyranny of the ego. I also sometimes rationalized such treatment as an appropriate consequence of failing to live up to Andrew's standards and teachings. I do not regard the fact that there was no forum in which to question such behavior as an excuse for my failure to have done so. Even when, later on, I found myself on the receiving end of abusive treatment, I “compartmentalized” these experiences in my own mind, suspending judgment—and my own humanity—in an effort to adhere to the party line.

Face slapping and name-calling, while they were uncalled for and may have been damaging, were mild in comparison to other questionable manifestations of “crazy wisdom” that occurred at Foxhollow. One such incident involved a student (Mikaela) who was responsible for the marketing of Andrew's publications and who had fallen out of favor by reminding him that something he had criticized her for doing had been his idea in the first place. He decried her as evil and ordered that the walls, floor and ceiling of her office (which had been relocated to an unfinished basement room) be painted red to signify the spilled blood of her guru. She was ordered to spend hours there contemplating the implications of her transgression, with the additional aid of a large cartoon on the wall depicting her as a vampire and the word “traitor” written in large letters next to it.

Andrew often employed red paint in this fashion to create environments designed to induce shame and guilt in students that he felt had questioned his judgment or disobeyed him. Another female student who had displeased Andrew and, after leaving the community, had returned to help out on a weekend painting project, was summoned to another basement room. There she was met by four female students who, having guided her onto a plastic sheet on the floor, each poured a bucket of paint over her head as a “message of gratitude” from Andrew. She left the property traumatized and fell ill in subsequent days (during which she was harassed by phone calls from another student who, at Cohen's instigation, repeatedly called her a “coward”) and never again returned to Foxhollow. “Crazy wisdom” is the most charitable possible explanation for these often traumatic and disturbing incidents, many of which have already been related on the blog. Several of these student accounts of Andrew Cohen's “acts of outrageous integrity,” employed to dubious or damaging effect, are reproduced below.

I was living at the Foxhollow center in 2001 when Stan Brady, at that time a leader at the London Center, was suddenly ordered to come to Foxhollow. Andrew told some of us that Stan had been “doing things his own way” for a while, and now had directly disobeyed him. Andrew was furious, and we all knew from past experience that Stan would be in for it when he got to Foxhollow. When he arrived, he was an emotional mess, expressing apologies to Andrew and feeling very guilty. The “horrible thing” that he had done was to give some advice to one of the formal students in London despite Andrew's instructions not to. First, Andrew had me and another student speak with Stan in an intensely confrontational way. As usual, we were then to report to Andrew on whether he was “coming through,” i.e., responding appropriately. Of course Stan, who was frightened and cut off from his own emotions, was as unresponsive as any normal human being would be under such circumstances; for Andrew and ourselves, however, habituated as we were to confrontational strategies for “meeting with someone,” Stan's failure to own up to his “competition” with Andrew meant that he was not “taking responsibility.” Then Andrew himself met with Stan, treating him coldly and condescendingly (even though Stan was literally bowing to him when he entered his room) because his profuse apologies struck Andrew as “unreal.” Next, we were instructed to call Stan back to Andrew's residence, where his wife Alka had been told not to “hold back” and to “really go for it with Stan.” I was just outside the house, and I could hear her screaming at Stan and punching him. It was a chilling experience to listen to him crying and moaning his apologies as Alka beat him while screaming loudly, “How dare you betray Andrew? How dare you?” Afterward, Andrew told me proudly, “Alka really went for it with Stan!” Subjected to such harsh discipline, people who were strong leaders in Andrew's community often became beaten down, weakened and humiliated. (This was the condition I ultimately left in as well.) As for Stan, shortly after the beating by Alka, Cohen demoted him and then kicked him out of the community. Stan stayed around for more than a year, living a strange existence on the fringes of Foxhollow and working as an orderly at a local hospital, occasionally sending flowers and apologies to Andrew—who during this period had me and others call Stan on the phone to “mess with his mind.” Listening to Stan on his speakerphone, Andrew would coach us on what to say or laugh silently, giving thumbs-up signs as all this was going on. I am sickened that I went along with these tormenting tactics, but we all did such things to each other under Andrew's direction. During this time, Andrew would say how much he hated Stan, calling him “the devil,” “Judas” and other such names. One night, he had me and [a] fellow student…go to Stan's residence and let the air out of all of his tires so that he couldn't get to work. He represented himself as trying to break down Stan's ego, but in retrospect it is obvious to me that Andrew was simply acting out his own vengeful anger at a perceived “betrayal.” This went on and on. At one point, Stan wrote to Andrew, saying that he would do anything to be allowed to come back…. In response to Stan's desperate letter, Andrew had him come to a remote part of Foxhollow with instructions to start digging a deep 6 x 8-foot trench in the woods using only a shovel. At that time Andrew was into making videos of students who weren't “doing well” in an effort to capture what he called “the smile of the ego.” (This is a whole story in itself; Andrew was convinced that when someone is under pressure to speak about what they're doing wrong, a “smile” emerges like that of “the devil himself.”) Andrew had me drive a golf cart carrying him, his dog and one of the EnlightenNext videographers…to the site of the huge trench where we found Stan, standing about five feet below us, hunched over his shovel and drenched in sweat. He seemed startled to actually see his teacher after such a long period of excommunication. As he paused from his digging, Stan looked up at Andrew with an expression of reverence and said hello—but he looked like a broken man, not at all the person I knew. It was a sad picture, the more horrifying because Andrew just stood there looking down at him, holding his little dog in his arms and telling us coldly, “There's the devil smiling at me,” and instructing [the videographer] to get the camera rolling. I remember him saying, “Look how cut off he is, happy to be down there digging. There's no love in his eyes.” Yet it was Andrew who seemed bereft of any love, compassion or humanity. In my mind—though now I see it differently—I still actually believed he was trying to help Stan.

Some years ago at Foxhollow, a student named Jeff, a very good writer, was having a great deal of trouble with a writing project he had been assigned to do. He was supposed to write an introduction to a book Andrew was publishing, but he was having no success. Feeling terrible guilt about this, he wrote in a desperate letter to Andrew, “If I don't come through, I will cut my finger off.” Andrew seemed to like this idea. When Jeff still did not succeed at his writing, Andrew called for Mikaela, [who was a] physician, to come see him…. Andrew told Mikaela to go to see Jeff, and to bring her medical kit. She was instructed to tell Jeff that Andrew was taking him up on his offer to sacrifice a finger. She should take out her scalpel, her mask, her gloves, a sponge—everything she would need for such an operation—and lay them all out. She was told to carry through the charade up to the very last minute, and then stop. When Mikaela visited Jeff, he had barely slept in about a week. He was in a desperate state…. Mikaela [later] confirmed…that she had followed Andrew's instructions precisely. Jeff was severely and obviously shaken by the incident. He left Andrew and Foxhollow a few weeks later.

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Part two William Yenner text on Integral World
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 07, 2014 11:13PM



The lake (on Cohen's property at Foxhollow) was not yet frozen but it was very, very cold. Fall and winter come quickly in the Berkshires. The women were “in trouble” for an indiscretion, and we were falling all over ourselves to come up with a gesture of apology and repentance to Andrew. One of the women suggested that we go en masse to do prostrations in the lake. A message was sent to Andrew that this was our intention. He accepted and then sent a couple of directives about it. So while he did not exactly order us to do it, once we had offered to do it he became quite involved. Women who did not complete the exercise were ordered to go back and do it again—supervised, to make sure that they remained in the lake the whole hour. At least one woman had to go back a third time. Because I was one of the few women who had already done this before [in warmer weather], I just gritted my teeth and tried to muscle through it. However, I was immediately shocked by how cold the water was. At that time in the community, when you received word that Andrew wanted you to go do “prostrations” in the lake, you went immediately in whatever you were wearing. I was wearing cotton pants and a cotton shirt, neither of which provided any warmth. I also had a shaved head. I believe that the women with shaved heads had a bit more difficulty with the cold. I just forced myself to continue even as I found it harder and harder to keep my balance and was becoming increasingly “blank.” I then have a very vague memory of being pushed into a car. The next thing I remember was regaining consciousness propped up in a shower stall with three other women, all of us standing under the hot water trying to regain enough feeling in our hands to unbutton our clothes and pull them off of us. I had lost consciousness at about 50 or 55 minutes, just shy of the full hour. I am told that one woman who was watching and didn't go in because she was recovering from a bad chest cold (Alka, Andrew's wife), and a couple of women who had said “Enough!” and had come out early (and therefore had to go back and repeat the exercise a couple of days later), noticed that I was losing consciousness and had me pulled out of the water.
from Chapter 4 ~ The Currency of Forgiveness
And if there had ever been any doubt prior to the community's relocation to Foxhollow, there was none thereafter: Money, not spirit, was the new coin of the realm.
The move to Foxhollow represented a new and unfamiliar undertaking for Andrew Cohen and his students. Moving from small rented offices and houses in Marin County to a new 220-acre facility with accommodations for up to a hundred, plus a main building of over 30,000 square feet, was a jump that was thrilling for us as participants, and also quite a lot to digest and take responsibility for. The new venue would require a far greater infusion of capital than we were accustomed to, and in response Andrew set about creating new sources of funding. EnlightenNext insists to this day that all of its funding has been generated through voluntary donations only; yet the accounts presented below tell a vastly different story. EnlightenNext also denies—contrary to the facts—that it was ever customary for Andrew Cohen's students to buy him valuable gifts, which in fact was common practice from the early days of the community, and may well continue as such to this day. During my tenure there, it was quite common for students to buy Andrew expensive gifts on almost any occasion, and especially common as a gesture of apology after having in some manner earned his disapproval. The student body as a whole purchased a new Volvo for Andrew in 1996, although he already had the use of a perfectly serviceable Honda Accord, and in 1998, on the occasion of my tenth anniversary as his student, I gave him a gift of $10,000 cash—which seemed to me at the time a perfectly appropriate gesture of gratitude to my spiritual teacher.

The practice of donating money to atone for mistakes had begun in Marin in the mid-1990s, and at that time had been accepted by all and never questioned or challenged. The first time I became aware of its having evolved into official policy was after the move to Foxhollow. Following Jane O'Neil's $2,000,000 “donation” and the Foxhollow “entrance fee” assessed from every individual formal student based on duration of prior community involvement, money held unprecedented sway within Andrew's community after its relocation east. Beyond the usual expenses of running a nonprofit organization, there were now new costs to be absorbed by students—arbitrary punitive penalties that defied categorization on any balance sheet.

In response to an inquiry by journalist Yonatan Levy about whether large donations from students were ever solicited under pressure, the official response of EnlightenNext's “Communications Director,” Amy Edelstein, was as follows: “No, students are absolutely not put under pressure to give large sums of money. That would go against everything that EnlightenNext and Andrew Cohen stand for. All donations are given freely, and the vast majority of our donations are small.” My own observation, as one privy to every detail of the Foxhollow purchase and its subsequent administration and management, was that while Andrew was very moved by the new opportunity that the property represented—because he believed it was going to “put him on the map”—he also felt that his students in particular were now obligated to support his ambitions financially. He may even feel inwardly sincere in his representation that no pressure was brought to bear to the extent that, from his point of view, it was his students' obligation, rather than any grosser form of third-party manipulation, that compelled their “generosity.”

But however Andrew Cohen may justify it to himself and his Board of Directors, what I witnessed, and what others have also reported, are clear indications of his recognition that he was going to have to venture beyond a purely voluntary basis for the collection of donations if his organization was to thrive. And if there had ever been any doubt prior to the community's relocation to Foxhollow, there was none thereafter: Money, not spirit, was the new coin of the realm. Beyond any concerns as mundane as operating overhead, money now became a key component of the spiritual path for Andrew's students. Just as the Catholic Church had once sold “indulgences” to sinners seeking absolution, so Andrew now began attaching price tags to his forgiveness for perceived wrongs.

Andrew let it be understood that his good favor could also be had for a price, establishing a practice that was morally reprehensible, legally questionable and indicative of a degree of corruption that had warped his ideals and would eventually stain the fabric of his entire organization. It is a testament to the faith that so many of us had in Andrew that, despite the questionable nature of these new financial arrangements, we complied—some of us taking on enormous and ill-advised debt. Though it may be difficult for outsiders to comprehend, our desire to please our guru was so great that we were prepared to mortgage our futures in order to do so.

Here again, the accounts on the blog reproduced below—the first of which is excerpted from a letter addressed directly to Andrew Cohen—paint a composite picture of financial exploitation that is both revealing and deeply disturbing.

The following downward spiral would occur on more than one occasion: (1) your unreasonable demand on my time and dwindling resources, followed by (2) my unexpressed resentment, and ultimate “failure to produce,” leading to (3) your overly intense expression of outrage toward me for the personal betrayal of you, for which I was put under enormous pressure by you and my fellow students to feel remorse, while making some gesture of contrition to you. As you well know, this psychological pressure and manipulation from you and others would even extend to being physically slapped in the face repeatedly, and verbally insulted and humiliated (often by women) until I could be “trusted” to turn over a new leaf. But at no time was I able to question you or your methods because I knew that at any time, if I didn't comply, I could be out on my ear, ostracized and even shunned by all my friends of fifteen years…. I have seen this sort of banishment happen to many others, and knew the anger and even hatred you harbored for those older students who left the community and/or, according to you, didn't give you all their time, attention, respect, obedience and at times even their money. Under the psychological intensity and despair of one of these early cycles with you, I was struggling to prove to you that I cared enough, and so took the course that had by then become the prescribed means of getting out of hot water with you, showing remorse and proving how much one cared—offering you money. In desperation I wrote you a check for $3,000…. I remember distinctly when you received my offer, you stormed into my room, angrily throwing the check to the floor and shouting at me dramatically, “Do you think you can buy me off for a lousy three grand?” I was flabbergasted. Could it be that there was an amount that I was expected to give that would show the necessary amount of intention and resolve to change? The right amount of care for you? I remembered a time when buying you flowers was a symbol for this; but times had changed, and now the currency of forgiveness and intention apparently was cash. As you well know, I was around to watch as many others who “bottomed out,” and wanting to prove their sincerity, felt pressured by you to buy their way back into your good graces. In fact, any longtime student in the community knew that sooner or later a “donation” would be required as the only way to resolve matters if they ever got into real trouble with you. Extracting “donations” from your students generally took place at a time when they felt victimized, emotionally overwrought, guilty, and trying to gain back your love, trust and affection. You actually even said to me and a few others at one time that when a 'committed' or a 'senior' student “blows it,” it'll cost them $20,000 in karmic retribution. And all this, of course, normally happened without the slightest regard on your part for the student's actual financial situation. As appallingly manipulative and abusive as I now see your attitude to be, I knew that this was still the accepted way that things operated around you up until the time I left. So, despite grave reservations about being able to do what your “rules” dictated in this situation, I dug deep, cleared out my bank account, borrowing the rest, and offered you what I thought would surely show my heart was in the right place—a check for $20,000. It was accepted and deposited by you. (This was followed by another pledge of $10,000 made to you a bit later when I was in London after having failed once again to meet all that you were demanding of me. I paid you $500 toward this at that time.) I now find it all quite twisted and sickening. The benefit of leaving has afforded me the clarity I never had while in your world, and under the constant duress of enforced compliance to your wishes (being told this was for my liberation). So, now I am making a different and sane choice on my own behalf: Without further elaboration of past events, I simply and directly ask you to return my money to me now in full—$20,500—without conditions. This money can by no stretch of the imagination be considered a good faith donation to a nonprofit group, having been extracted from me under some of the most intense and extreme psychological stress imaginable.

A friend of mine, a close student of Andrew's and a fellow leader in his community…[who] is presently one of the main officers in the EnlightenNext organization…“broke his vow” of celibacy, meaning in this case that he masturbated. Subsequently, he broke down and confessed this to Andrew, who was very upset and angry with him. My friend felt so guilty over this that he offered to give Andrew his inheritance to show how sorry he was. This offer was accepted, but the inheritance was not yet available. The last thing my friend told me at the time was that he was meeting with his family to request to borrow a sum of money as an advance on his inheritance. Can such a “donation” possibly be construed as “given freely”? Or was it encouraged and exploited as a sad and fearful plea for forgiveness? To me, the answer is obvious.

I cashed out a $60,000 IRA (Individual Retirement Account) and gave it to Andrew under severe pressure. These are the circumstances: In July of 2000 I left the community—snuck out and ran away. I rented a car and just started driving, in a pretty distraught state. I ended up in New Orleans. Andrew tracked me down (that's a long story in itself) and I was persuaded to return to Massachusetts. Still in a pretty volatile state, I was assigned to stay with two other women who were also “in trouble” off-campus (or “off the property”). We rented a room in a boarding house. Over the next weeks, with daily messages and input from Andrew and his representatives, I came to be persuaded that I had made a horrible mistake in trying to leave, and I came to believe that Andrew was showing unfathomable generosity in trying to “save me from myself.” I came to genuinely want to return to community life. We were living as pariahs in a kind of no-man's-land. I was told that in order to return, I had to give everything. I responded in various ways, offering what I thought was everything—spiritually, mentally, emotionally, physically. I offered some money, a few thousand dollars, thinking I would take it off my credit card. But I was told that it was not enough: “Everything means everything.” I had an IRA that my father had been putting money into over many years. It was in my name, but my father was in control of it. It was to be a retirement account—exactly what the name says—because my father knew I wasn't making or saving any money and wasn't likely to, given the life I had chosen. Andrew was aware that I had an IRA; he knew everything about us. I eventually realized that this was what Andrew was asking for. After some inner struggle, I finally offered it. It was accepted, but then there was another message: “Everything is everything.” It was then that I also offered any future inheritance I would receive from my family.
As I recount in greater detail elsewhere in this book, I also had the experience of buying forgiveness. In 1999, after eleven years of discipleship, I was judged to be "doing poorly," presumably because of my pride. I had been a leader in Andrew's community when, suddenly, I was exiled from Foxhollow. My isolation, which alternated for some time with "contact" in the form of vicious verbal attacks from other students, took such a severe toll on my mental state that I felt that I might break down completely. In desperation, I offered everything I had to Andrew: an inheritance of $80,000 that I had recently received following my father's death. As soon as I'd conveyed this offer to Andrew's office, I regretted having done so, and when no response was forthcoming I was silently relieved. A while later, however, I received a call instructing me to send the money.

This "donation" sat very badly with me, and two years after leaving Andrew's community, I demanded its return. After considerable legal wrangling, I did get my money back—an unprecedented event in Andrew Cohen's community. But there was a gag order attached; the return of my money was conditional on my willingness to sign an agreement not to publicly discuss Andrew Cohen for five years—until Independence Day, July 4th, 2008. Tuesday, November 10, 2009

from Chapter 11 ~ A Misplaced Gratitude
Who deserves the credit--the teacher, for spurring the student to action, or the student, for doing the work?
There are as many spiritual teachers as there are spiritual paths. At one end of the spectrum are teachers who mentor their students and share their knowledge and insight with them without making any demands of "surrender." And at the opposite end is the authoritarian guru who embraces a more confrontational approach, "taking the student on" and laying considerable claim to the individual's autonomy and day-to-day life. If the path, under the guidance an authoritarian guru, entails sacrificing one's autonomy, one might well ask: Why follow it? On the other hand, thousands the world over have submitted themselves in this way, and in some cultures surrender to a guru is considered the only true spiritual path. If it is presupposed that the seeker is by definition "lost in ego," it seems to follow naturally that he or she cannot be expected to arrive at Self-realization alone—justifying the conclusion that only a profoundly liberated spiritual authority can guide one to enlightenment.

Psychologist Len Oakes proposes an alternative rationale (which, as I have indicated elsewhere in this book, may or may not be applicable across the full spectrum of spiritual paths and practices). According to Oakes's model, the seeker who submits to an authoritarian guru is primarily motivated by the desire to engage in a "great work," a project that summons the student's inner resources and speaks to his or her most profound concerns about life. The teacher inspires the essential confidence that the student can—indeed, must—do this "great work," but it is the student who cultivates the commitment and integrity required to see it through.

If, in either case, the teacher inspires a desire for transformation in the student, and the student (to whatever degree) realizes this goal, one might ask: Who deserves the credit—the teacher, for spurring the student to action, or the student, for doing the work? As I have learned in conversations with many of Andrew Cohen's former students, the answer depends on the individual. Some have expressed the conviction that, despite having left Cohen's community, they owe Cohen a large debt of gratitude. I contend, on the other hand, that such gratitude is at least partly misplaced: I believe (using Oakes's model) that the gratitude of former students who have achieved some measure of their "great work" is more appropriately directed toward themselves and to those fellow community members who most fostered their progress.

Assessing one's past experience with a guru in terms of one's personal evolution can be a challenging task, and may entail a reassessment of one's basic assumptions regarding the spiritual path. In some cases, for example, it may prove necessary to examine anew one's faith in the notion that such a person as a "perfectly enlightened teacher" actually exists. Though there is, again, a spectrum of views on this subject, in most cases it is not difficult to discern a teacher's flaws. While some teachers forthrightly acknowledge their shortcomings, others, such as Andrew Cohen, not only deny the possibility of their own fallibility, but advance tacit or explicit claims to flawlessness. In his book An Unconditional Relationship to Life, Cohen implies that he has attained a condition that "perfectly reflects the Absolute." Similarly, in his "Declaration of Integrity"—a rebuttal to former students' charges of his responsibility for abuses inside his community—he implies that he possesses unblemished integrity, putting the onus on the observer to decide whether his conduct actually lives up to his insinuations or outright claims of perfection. In this book, I make the case that the answer to this question is no.

What does this imply for the student? How does the awareness of a guru's limitations and contradictions affect one's perception of his or her experiences with the guru? In my own case, I am reminded of the Buddha's famous enjoinder to "be a light unto yourself." Those of us who lived in Andrew Cohen's community for a number of years no doubt had experiences that were catalyzed by his power and presence. I believe, however—knowing what we now know about Andrew—that our gratitude for such experiences is due primarily to the community of friends with whom we shared them, rather than to him. What seemed to be an electric current of spiritual power emanating from Andrew and his confidence was not, after all, based on goodness or integrity. As Oakes puts it in Prophetic Charisma, "[T]he leader is not a great man; he is a great actor playing the role of a great man." In the final analysis, such seems to be the case with Andrew Cohen.

What, then, was the spark that ignited our individual and collective spiritual fire? If not Andrew Cohen's flawless nature—if not, as he would have it, his "perfect reflection of the Absolute"—then what? I conclude that it must have come from our goodness, from the open hearts of his disciples, and from our idealism. I do not say this out of vanity. We wanted very much for Andrew Cohen to be the man and the spiritual leader that he claimed to be, and we gave him wide margins for error because his failure to live up to his claims of perfection would be, in essence, our failure, too: If he was not the perfectly enlightened guru that he insisted he was, then why had we given up so much in our lives to follow him? Andrew Cohen has never strayed from his message that all that happened around him was, in effect, because of him. Ultimately, however, it does not seem possible to attribute the power and profundity of our experiences to "the guru's grace," because the corrosive effect of Andrew's flaws ultimately ate away at whatever "grace" might have existed. Andrew Cohen did not emanate perfection, nor is he the manifestation of an idealized evolutionary potential. That is the painful realization that only time has enabled me to grasp.

What is also true, and what must be stated in fairness to Andrew and to those who continue to believe in him, is that he did play a part in the transformation that took place among us, and in the love and communion that were shared. But it is important, I feel, not to go too far in granting him credit. After all, he continues to defend his most dubious conduct, and he continues to deny allegations of abuse. Thus, for many of his former students, gratitude is mixed with confusion, and with a nagging reminder of Andrew's lies, excesses and misguided teaching methods. We are the "shadow sangha," as he calls us, and his disparagement of us further dilutes what gratitude we might permit ourselves to feel and that he might deserve.

Andrew's reasoning goes like this: Those who criticize me are spiritual failures who cannot stand to see their own egos exposed. What rather seems to be the case, however, is that Andrew cannot bear to be seen as anything less than perfect. That is his pathology. It drives the guru/disciple dynamic within his community, it accounts for his vehement denials of abuse, and it underlies his fear of being exposed. I would argue that Andrew's notion of a "shadow sangha," and of what he calls the spiritual "failure" of his former students, is actually a projection: He fears his own failure and is in denial of his own shadow—a community of ex-followers who were once devoted to him and are now estranged from him, living full lives without him as their center, free from his gravitational pull.

In The Castle in the Forest, Norman Mailer writes, "A mediocre mind, once devoted entirely to one mystical idea, can obtain a mental confidence well beyond its normal potential." This is the dynamic at play in Andrew Cohen's community, where authoritarianism and an oversimplification of spiritual ideals transfer the individual autonomy of others into his hands. Unfortunately, it is difficult to see this when one is inside his community. All authoritarian ideologies represent themselves as revolutionary marches into history, and their success thus depends on the acquiescence of their followers. The individuals involved lose their moral bearings and discover that they are capable of doing things they would not otherwise do. It is exhilarating to feel "chosen"—and horrifying to realize in retrospect how blindly and misguidedly one followed.

Despite his claims to the contrary, Andrew Cohen is not invincible. No one is. That being the case, he compensates with grandiosity. He ignores his critics and refers to them as "spiritual failures." When his mother wrote a book that was critical of him, his rebuttal was a book of his own, In Defense of the Guru Principle, in which he asserts the indispensability of the guru for human spiritual progress. As Oakes writes: The prophet's credibility founders most over his failure to be truly human, that is, to reflect on his behavior, to doubt himself, to concede error, and to show genuine regret for hurt to others. This lack unnerves and embarrasses the followers. They bring with them enormous goodwill and loyalty, but when the leader shows not mere refusal but sheer inability to admit any insufficiency, when vain boasting and ranting, and na•ve invincibility alternate with bouts of self-pity and paranoid fantasies, and when the followers' sense that the leader's fantasies are more important to him than their welfare, their affections change.... Even the most loyal soon begin to question. To continue working for him then becomes a conspiracy to protect him from facing his own delusions. The leader defends his brittle strengths in an increasingly grotesque and inflexible way; the nearer he comes to the core of his pathology, the more catastrophic and extreme his reactions become.

It is painful to come to terms with one's experiences with a powerful but imperfect spiritual leader. I left Foxhollow in a state of uncertainty over what had occurred there and who I was as a result of it. What I knew for certain, though, and what sustains me to this day, is that something beautiful can happen when openhearted, trusting individuals come together to give themselves to a higher purpose. That those of us who devoted ourselves to Andrew Cohen were disappointed by him need not—and does not—diminish the power of our intention.

This book is not an invitation to cynicism. This story—the hard truth of it—deserves to be aired, but it should not be embraced as substantiation of the cynic's claim that spiritual enlightenment or an authentic spiritual approach to living cannot be achieved, or that spiritual communities cannot thrive. They can—just not under the kind of authoritarian conditions described in these pages.

My hope is that this book will inspire conversations about how spiritual communities founded in goodness can find their place in this world. There are so many fine teachers who have integrity and their students' best interests at heart. The path is open to all seekers. Authoritarians are not required to shepherd the seeker to spiritual awakening. My great discovery since leaving Andrew Cohen's community is that the path is wide open—and always has been.

from Chapter 15 ~ Connecting the Dots
Cohen's interpretation of the defining events and experiences of his own life is a comprehensive myth that weaves together elements of truth and wishful thinking.
In his "Declaration of Integrity," Andrew Cohen writes: "You can take any particular incident out of context, as my detractors have made an art form of doing, and of course it creates a confusing impression.... One thing that has never failed to mystify me is that some people just don't connect the dots: If I really were the sadistic, irrational megalomaniac that I have been portrayed as, why in God's name would anybody stick around for ten or more years before finally 'waking up'?" (By "waking up" Cohen here means not liberation but something on the order of recognizing that he is a fraud.)

This is, I believe, a fair question, the answer to which is for the reader to decide. Though I have done everything in my power to address it in a way that is faithful to my own experience, the events I have described in this book remain, it would seem, open to interpretation. Thus, at the end as at the beginning, there seem to be two distinctly different "realities" to be considered, each with its own unique set of implications, or "dots to connect."

Let us first consider the perspective advanced by Andrew Cohen, according to which he is a realized master whose transmission of an authentic, absolute, impersonal "evolutionary impulse" is the overarching "higher context" for his role and conduct as a genuine and legitimate spiritual authority figure. The most relevant implication of this view is that, along with the contributors to this book and numerous other of his former followers, I am a deluded individual who, because I proved unable or unwilling to face my imperfect reflection in the glorious light of "the Absolute," have compulsively turned my back on "the Highest." Fair enough. Certainly in the arc of my career as Andrew's student I have considered this possibility more times than I can count (not exactly a recipe for "liberation"!) and was often convinced that he must be right. And now, as part of a continuing strategy for hiding my "failure" from myself, I have produced a self-serving book that falsely denounces one of the great religious luminaries of our era—whereas the real truth about Andrew Cohen ("for those who have eyes to see") is that he is an Enlightened Being full of redemptory blessings for the world; his "revolution" is authentic; and those students humble enough to have remained with him through thick and thin are fulfilled, living expressions of unfolding human potential "at the leading edge."

I am not suggesting that this is a view to be easily or casually dismissed. As I have indicated elsewhere in this book, it is my own experience that Andrew Cohen presents a vast and credible perspective on human existence that is exciting, enlivening and inspiring, and that he produces an energetic transmission that moves people to connect or re-engage with the spiritual path. Further, his persuasively presented personal story seems to substantiate his claims. Many of Cohen's students, myself included, have been inspired to believe in his autobiography and to accept and defend his interpretation of its broad outlines: He was a dedicated seeker from an early age, had a spontaneous awakening experience that presaged his ultimate realization at thirty, was possessed of a rare purity of motivation that, at the time of his "final realization" and "perfect surrender" to his guru, helped to catalyze a total transformation that made it impossible thereafter for him to act out of ignorance such as to cause suffering to himself or others. At his teacher's request, he selflessly accepted as his mantle and destiny the responsibility of creating "a revolution among the young." These claims are advanced in several of his self-published books, and enough of his followers believe them that anyone so predisposed could easily feel comfortable doing the same.

At the same time, though, it seems to me that any attempt to "connect the dots" should also take into account numerous examples of abuse on Cohen's part that, in many cases, require greater "artfulness" for him to justify than for me to remove from their "proper context." To give one of many possible examples: Do those students who, following Cohen's orders, lured a fellow student to a basement room at Foxhollow and each poured a bucket of paint over her head, really imagine that their guru is above ordinary spite, vindictiveness or malice, or is incapable of causing suffering?

What, then, does such an act signify?

Cohen insists that "if you were made aware of the enormous amount of time, care, attention, and support that had been given to the individual; understood the complex psychological/spiritual dynamics at work; saw it in the context of a collective endeavor to create a higher ideal for the noblest of reasons; and didn't conveniently forget that it was a freely chosen path; what may have appeared unreasonable often starts to look very different." But to the extent that such incidents raise legitimate questions about Andrew Cohen's understanding of his own "attainment," their implications are at least as significant as those that follow from accepting at face value the version that he and his devotees would prefer the world to accept.

The most fundamental of these implications is that Cohen's interpretation of the defining events and experiences of his own life is a comprehensive myth that weaves together elements of truth and wishful thinking. And if Andrew Cohen believes some things about himself that are not true, then we are confronted, by definition, with the possibility that he is deluded. (God forbid that I should make something that sounds like a judgment about my former teacher!) Of course, many human beings are deluded to some extent, but some delusions are more harmful than others. Not to put too fine a point on it, the propagation of a glorious myth of personal sanctification and liberation, and the willingness of many others to accept it, is one definition of a potentially destructive cult.

While we may be inspired by such myths, organizing our lives around them is not necessarily advisable, and doing so has implications for the followers as well as for the leader. In a recent dialogue with Dennis Genpo Merzel Roshi, Cohen described his attitude toward his students as follows: "[My] love for them is not for them as an individual but for them as a potential vessel for that which is higher. That's very hard for the ego to take, but from a certain point of view we could say it's not possible to love anyone more than that, because you love them so much that you actually don't care about their ego at all." Yet to the extent that this explanation of Cohen's "teaching function" represents an unconscious rationalization for his manipulation of others in the service of a delusional myth, followers put themselves at considerable psychic risk by subjugating themselves to a "spiritual authority" who may actually be quite limited in his capacity for genuine love and compassion—and who may, in addition, feel an underlying contempt for them because of what they allow him to get away with at their own expense.

During the thirteen years of my career as a student, when I could be said to have been fully indoctrinated—to have "swallowed the myth," hook, line and sinker—I did not always do what I thought was right, but (like the members of the paint-bucket brigade) what seemed necessary to survive and thrive in a highly unconventional environment. To the extent that this characterization of my own experience is honest rather than merely "cynical," the situation of Cohen's current generation of devoted followers is unlikely to be much different. They, too, have given over their lives for the sake of an idealism predicated on what they may only later come to realize was a well-concealed lie. In some cases, their egos are stroked and gratified by their allotted roles, as mine was; and while they may fervently believe that they are doing good, the underlying hypocrisy of the situation as a whole ends up contributing, in the guise of Andrew Cohen's version of "goodness," to so much of what is already wrong with the world.

If this is so, it may be that the public work of a number of individuals associated with EnlightenNext is similarly compromised. Examples include Craig Hamilton, a newly self-proclaimed "pioneer in the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality" who, having "lived and worked in a dynamic living 'laboratory of evolution' under the direct guidance of EnlightenNext founder and spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen," and having played "a key role in the leadership of this thriving international spiritual community," looks back on the results as "extraordinary"; Elizabeth Debold, a Harvard-trained developmental psychologist who is now (in her supposedly unbiased position as Senior Editor of Cohen's EnlightenNext magazine) trying to create objective measures of "higher development" designed to substantiate her "hypothesis" that people who take Cohen's retreats will display such traits; Linus Roache, an internationally renowned actor, who directs EnlightenNext's New York center; Dave Gold and Michael Wombacher, published authors who have gone on record selectively extolling their teacher, Andrew Cohen; Amy Edelstein, a member of EnlightenNext's Board of Directors, who has lied extensively to a journalist on Cohen's behalf; and Carter Phipps, the current Executive Editor of EnlightenNext magazine, whose reprinted article on the Huffington Post ("What Ever Happened to Truth?") takes others to task for the sort of revisionist dishonesty and abuse of power he seems perfectly willing to overlook in his teacher and Editor-in-chief.

And what of Cohen's celebrity endorsers—Genpo Roshi, Ken Wilber, Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Bernie Glassman, to name only a few—who offer their implicit support by agreeing to participate in his forums? To what extent have they considered the possibility that the extensive allegations against Cohen exist for valid reasons—that where there is smoke there is every likelihood of fire? Are they poor judges of character? Are they as vulnerable to Cohen's manipulations as anyone else? Are they swayed by Cohen's humble-seeming profession of the Bodhisattva vow "to enlighten the world"? Or are they taking advantage of the strategic media opportunity that Andrew Cohen represents with no thought for the possible consequences? Does Genpo Roshi, for example, make any practical distinction—particularly with respect to the risk of abuse—between surrendering unconditionally to a manipulative cult leader and submitting to the guidance of a sanctioned teacher within the framework of an established tradition? Why not? However accurate it may be, Cohen's maverick reputation for questionable conduct is certainly no secret.

Further, what are the implications of these "high-level" interactions between "spiritual authorities" such as Cohen and Wilber for our understanding of spiritual life as a whole? Is there validity, for example, in Cohen's notions of "verticality" and "hierarchy," or in his (and Wilber's) use of the Spiral Dynamics conceptual model as a means of dismissing critics by characterizing their legitimate concerns as "narcissistic" postmodern expressions of "lower" developmental levels? Are these hierarchical principles applicable to followers in all situations, regardless of the behavior of the self-appointed spiritual authority figures that demand their "surrender" as a necessary precondition for the transcendence of egoic self-delusion? If not, why haven't the reservations of these respected figures (assuming they have any) been publicly articulated?

Recent EnlightenNext webcasts have stressed the importance of the second of Wilber's "Three Faces of God," i.e., the living manifestation of the divine in the form of the guru before whom the devotee must prostrate, as Cohen puts it, "on bended knee." On one such webcast, Terry Patten, a former follower of the recently deceased American guru/cult-leader Adi Da (a.k.a. Da Free John)—whose "corruption" and "megalomania" Cohen himself once pointedly criticized—was interviewed enthusiastically by two of Cohen's students, Elizabeth Debold and Jeff Carreira. Patten, a Wilber co-author who offers international workshops explaining the "The Three Faces of God," complimented Cohen's student body as a whole for its ready receptivity to the notion of surrender to the guru—neglecting, like Genpo Roshi, to acknowledge both the many instances in which "surrender" has turned out to be a code-word for misguided loyalty and the obvious dangers of surrendering to a "megalomaniac," whoever he (or she) might be. Perhaps not surprisingly, Debold and Carreira, good disciples that they are, didn't raise these issues either.

Adi Da's explanation of "Second Face of God" devotional practice, transcribed from a video on, reads thus: Having no rug to stand on, no separateness to define you in separation from me, surrendered in the perfect sense so that you are tacitly directly in the room with me, the room of my indivisible person, with your shoes at the door—in other words having stepped into the space of indivisibility—that's the perfect practice of devotion to me. If you don't know me enough to know that's the only right relationship to me then you don't recognize me, you're not feeling my actual state. Mistaking me for somebody else, for somebody like yourself, you're seeing in me your own reflection in some sense; you're being a narcissist when you're looking at me. So without recognition of me, and true turning to me, true devotion to me, you're actually seeing yourself, a projection of yourself, a superimposition of your own limitations on my form.

And asked by the journalist John Horgan to explain his assertion that his students should never leave him, Andrew Cohen offers this equally striking rationale for total, uncritical surrender: "Let's say the Buddha was alive today. Let's say someone that great, that enlightened, that pure, that perfect, with such a great teaching, was still alive. I mean, could someone be too attached to someone like that? The more attached you get to a person like that, the more free, literally, you become"—adding, however, that "anybody who wants to be free is going to have to bend his knee.... However that happens, it doesn't really matter, as long as it happens."

Is it any wonder, then, that in Cohen's community, "leaving" and "failure" are considered to be virtually synonymous, and that students tend to live in greater fear of giving in to the impulse to escape his control than of enduring the familiar compromises and discomforts of soldiering on? "As harsh as it may sound to some," Cohen writes, "the simple truth is that my most virulent critics are almost all former students who failed miserably." What exactly is the nature of Cohen's power over his devotees that they are willing not only to endure his abuses for extended periods but also to ignore or rationalize his behavior, and to lie to the public on his behalf when called upon to do so? Only a large group of people who have been uniformly indoctrinated could collectively believe—as they do about former members like myself—that we are all, consistently and almost without exception, "miserable failures." Is it possible that there is some mass form of Stockholm Syndrome being lived out at Foxhollow and EnlightenNext's centers around the world? If so, how does this authoritarian dynamic relate to the broader "revolution in consciousness and culture" that is the goal of EnlightenNext's feverish public outreach? Is Cohen's "revolution" authentically spiritual and cultural, or is it rather political—in the sense that the motivation underlying political rhetoric, when it is not the propagation of truth, is often the desire to convince, cajole, manipulate, hierarchize, dominate and humiliate?

One discovers, then, as a counterpoint to Cohen's dismissive assessment of the motives and failures of his critics, that "connecting the dots" leads to an equally viable (and far more disturbing) conclusion: that EnlightenNext's web of publications, centers, student groups, enlisted experts and strategic alliances comprises a sizeable myth-based social complex fueled—at this point principally via the internet—by a powerful mixture of genuine insight and disingenuous propaganda; and that it can be as true of a spiritual community as of the larger society it seeks to transform that the appeal of its prevailing ideology guarantees neither the wholesomeness of its underlying motivations nor the integrity of its leaders. In 1996, Andrew Cohen wrote, ...I feel it is so essential that those individuals, who have been fortunate enough to have fallen into the miracle of transcendent spiritual realization, be able to demonstrate an attainment that clearly and unambiguously expresses the evolutionary potential of the race. For as long as this demand is not made, and those who are showing the way for others are allowed to demonstrate the very same schizophrenic condition of contradictory impulses as everyone else, then the attainment of true simplicity and unequivocal victory over ignorance will remain a myth.

I applaud Cohen's good intentions, which I trusted enough to offer him thirteen years of my life. Unfortunately, though the "teaching" he has cobbled together contains elements of perennial wisdom, time has revealed that it rests on a foundation of dishonesty, corruption and pernicious abuse of power that undermines whatever positive effects it might otherwise have produced. Knowing what I know, if I were a parent whose children had elected to join Cohen's community, I would be fearful, upset and deeply concerned for their welfare, and resentful of the carelessness with which respected spiritual authorities advance Cohen's "mission" by endorsing it without any consideration for the abuses they may thereby be facilitating. Without realizing it, those who support Andrew Cohen from a safe distance—or worse, sanction his abuses—increase the potential of harm to the followers they help him to attract or retain. In the end, it is my concern for the individuals involved at the many levels of the EnlightenNext network that has inspired me to undertake and complete this project. Whether or not they feel they need it, I wish healing for them all.

UPDATE 01/24/10
Former Contributors to EnlightenNext magazine respond to revelations in American Guru

As a former member of Andrew Cohen's EnlightenNext “spiritual community,” I am aware of a dimension of his activities that is not known to many of the public figures whose contributions he solicits for publication in his EnlightenNext print and online forums. Because Cohen strategically uses the names and ideas of respected public figures to camouflage and legitimize behind-the-scenes abuses against his own students, the final chapter of my book, American Guru, includes a call to those who have been publicly associated with Cohen as an editor and publisher to weigh in on the potential dangers of personal involvement with Cohen as a teacher and spiritual authority figure. The statements of several former contributors to EnlightenNext magazine can be found here. (unquote)

Options: ReplyQuote
More proslytization
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 13, 2014 12:15AM


AnonymousMay 14, 2013 at 6:05 AM

"SO glad to see you call the Andrew Cohen cult exactly what it is -- a cult. A few years ago I took a course in chinese medicine from a cohen cult-member who used the course as a cover to proseletize the cult. It was very offensive, and several people left disgusted.

"This person is close to the inner circle, and used humiliation and demeaning remarks on anyone in the course who refused to come to a cohen meeting. That included me. His fundamentalist approach to spirituality, obvious lack of original thought and pressured speech were enough to tell me this was a cult he was involved in, and to stay away. Also had a HUGE ego, while telling us the ego was evil and had to be destroyed.

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2d comment from same article on World Wide Happiness
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: June 13, 2014 12:18AM


(Quote)AnonymousMarch 19, 2012 at 9:48 PM
I too just stumbled onto your blog. (World Wide Happiness by Martin Gifford)

"My wife has been involved for a couple of years in an on-line offshoot of Cohen's led by a Craig Hamilton. She has become distant from me, our kids, and isolated from friends. She's now wanting a divorce as she says she can't share her spiritual path with me. Looks like Hamilton has perfected Cohen's techniques of breaking up families and is now doing it on-line. People need to be warned of this - they are preying on vulnerable people. Very sick."

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Re: Andrew Cohen's disciples
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 07, 2014 08:22AM

An article by Terry Patten can be read here.


Some people chose to comment. Their comments are interesting.



more on the nut

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 13, 2011 - 4:02am.


If someone knows something, then he can speak about it coherently. I have never found an exception to this rule. Have you?

If you read the accounts of when Ramana spoke to his close devotees, they describe this ability he had to communicate Reality. They said he would start slowly and with pauses and that everyone was soon on his wavelength. Then he would build momentum and would even talk for hours at a stretch. There was never a single errant word. The communication was perfect and everyone said that it seemed to come directly from Reality itself.

Likewise, if you watch a video (any of them!) of Adi Da you will see the same phenomena. He is present perfectly. His eyes never waver; the communication is coming from the source and virtually anyone from any spectra of life can follow what he is saying. In fact, the vast majority of his first 40 or so books are compilations of his talks. Not a single word needed to be edited or changed (I have checked this by hearing the originals). Even when he had been drinking (and sometimes a lot) his talks are like Marlon Brando reading a teleprompter. The only words I ever found altered from his talks were the occasional swear word that was deleted.

Papjaji it seems was not by nature an especially verbal man, but still, he too speaks very coherently. Anyone can follow what he is saying. His words have a certain shakti, what I would call a heart-breaking sweetness. His speech was not elaborate or especially erudite, but it hit the mark, and it is great pleasure to listen to.

Even a person who has studied just a tad of NLP quickly picks up that Andrew is NOT present. His eyes indicate he is in his friggin head searching his verbal cortex. This would be okay perhaps, if he could in fact present the ideas in his head coherently, but he cannot. When he tries to discuss this evolutionary enlightenment thing, he goes whacko and it is a tremendous strain to listen to him and try and suss out what the hell he is saying. Just watch the poor schlep who is doing the interview! The guy is completely frustrated and hopelessly lost half the time. He is polite (overly so in my opinion) and does not really confront Andrew, but it is obvious he is really frustrated and finds Andrew a sort of mad hatter whom he does not know what to do with.

YOU SAY: “His way of talking is extremely logical, at a very high degree. It is precise and scientific.” Are you kidding me? Pleeease. I do not know what your scientific background is but mine was physics (where I graduated with honors) and I can assure that what he says is about as logical and scientific as Michelle Bachmann trying to give a lecture on differential equations. Virtually every other sentence he makes is filled with contradictions. Very little of his talk proceeds coherently or in a logical order. It contains huge assumptions (about which very few people would immediately agree or have any common reality with.) It is interesting that at one point I wondered if there was some way to get a transcript of these videos so that I could go through them and just dissect it with a little common sense and also with a some references to spiritual first principles, so to speak. But then I realized I had much better things to do with my time.

You say the problem is one of communication. I AGREE!! The man simply has no ability to communicate. It is flat-out amazing that no one has ever called him to task on this. I mean, ANYONE could tell him for a starter to slow down. That is like at the kindergarten level of speaking. He speaks like he has some sort of nervous disorder (I am serious). He is like a little Bucky Beaver, who is so pleased with his velocity and the dumb ideas he cherishes, that he cannot notice that the person sitting in front of him is completely lost.

This is one of the reasons that if Terry would take me up on my proposal and check Andrew with some tough questions about his spiritual state, then something revelatory might come out of it. Because if Andrew has awakened to the non-dual Reality (as he seems to claim he has), then ipso fact he ought to enjoy tremendous intuitive empathy with others, and there is simply no way on God’s earth he could talk to someone the way he does on the video and display such utter estrangement from the listener. He displays something quite different indeed: that he is so into himself he is like an island. He may be on the island chattering away on a bullhorn to the people rowing by, but he cannot notice that no one can understand what he is saying. And a good deal of the people want to row a little faster just to get away from him.

Look, normally I would not say anyone is a nut. Normally I would say I do not resonate with someone and leave it at that. But YOU asked me to watch these videos, and I know that I am not some guy who just fell off the stupid wagon. I am a professional writer and a good speaker and I have studied spirituality for years and years. People tell me that when I talk on a subject – just informally in a chai shop or on the roof of a guesthouse at night – that I can communicate very well. I feel I have some right to say it like it is about Andrew -- you know, in the spirit of truth is stronger than fiction. I would be in collusion with my unconscious if I did otherwise.

And Andrew is a nut. The objective evidence is incontrovertible. I could get 12 jurors to give a unanimous verdict in a heartbeat (assuming I could shoehorn them into actually watching the four videos I did without tearing their hair out).

Another thing: Yes, I have indicated that I have my favorites in the spiritual pantheon of things. A few guys and gals I will always cherish and be grateful for. So what? I have not said anyone is less than them. However, since you bring it up, I will say that I could bring any person to a lecture by any of them (this is just a thought experiment) and they would be able to follow them easily. Even if before they had very little common reality with the subject matter. In fact, I have done just that.

When I was in prison I brought a couple of friends to the chapel to listen to a video by Adi Da. My best friend, who was a gangster from the barrio, told me afterwards that it was a revelation to him; he had never encountered anyone who was so present and could speak so fluently. He told me that he did not understand the occasional technical (Hindu) term he used, but surprisingly he could still easily grasp what was being communicated. Another friend, who was the president of the prison Toastmaster club and an ex-actor, was completely floored. He told me had never encountered anyone (even in the theater) who had such presence and ability to communicate. He too said that there was the occasional word he did not understand, but it didn’t matter.

Okay, nuff said for now.

Except that I notice you did not make any comments on the mediocre (at best) praise Andre gave of his teacher. Yes, I have read Andrews first book and I too was affected by the pictures of him with Papaji. It was really good stuff. The book in general was good and had a lot of feeling in it. But I also read the next three books by Andrew and they went steadily downhill. He seemed to get increasingly katty and involved in trashing others. When he did talk about spirituality he was hardly a jnani or profound or even that coherent.


gurus and such

Submitted by truth (not verified) on November 7, 2011 - 1:33pm.

anyone who needs a guru or is a devotee of anyone is a loser.....
weak lost soul.......



Chris, actually I have no

Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on July 13, 2011 - 4:44am.


actually I have no clue why you say Andrew is not coherent. He looks very coherent to me. So obviously we differ on our appreciation of this simple fact. I agree that he is not an intellectual, but apart from this I don't se any lack of logics when he speak.

About his relation with Papaji, it is not my job to judge the *personal* relation between them. What I can see objectively is that Papaji was the one who set Andrew free. It is a fact that Andrew changed drastically after meeting Papaji, his last teacher. For this kind of change to happen there must have been a tremendous Love between them, a Love of the highest purity. If not the transmutation simply doesn't happen. This is for sure.
I also can see that all this notion of Evolution and Kinetics is alien to the Indian tradition [ please correct me if I am wrong here; it is my take of the moment] and as such I can get a feeling why Papaji thought that Andrew has become crazy with this new take on Enlightenement.
And maybe Andrew felt left alone because he loved his teacher and wanted to stay close to him ?
But all this is their personal relationship.

As an external person to this, what concerns me is the example their interaction gives to us. We have one example where one human being was able to induce a drastic change in another one. This is really what takes me.


Catherine, get real and bring it up a notch

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 13, 2011 - 8:22pm.

Dear Catherine,

At some point this thing on this blog has got to get to where push comes to shove. This is NOT some touchy-feely subject; this is a public forum and either you are going to get real and defend your teacher, in a precise logical way, or you should just leave and maintain your personal relationship with him in private. I did not start this blog, Terry did, but you went on it to defend Andrew, so the onus is on you. I have pointed out some very specific criticisms of him, all of which you have not addressed, period. I have pointed out his atrocious speaking and lack of ability to communicate, how his eyes indicate he is in his head, how the man who is there personally interviewing him is obviously completely lost and frustrated half the time. I have offered you the chance to compare Andrew with someone who is universally acknowledged as a genius of spirituality and a uniquely compelling communicator (Adi Da). What are you afraid of? I am as serious as a heart attack here. Just do the work and defend him or do not go on public forums like this and embarrass him by your sophomoric endorsements of him.

I have urged Terry to address Andrew with some powerful questions about his history with his teacher and obsession with the faults of others, as well as to check his spiritual state and also discuss how that state relates to the use of strong methods with students. I even offered Terry the chance to do it in an interesting (and basically unique and non-threatening) way by having a drink (more than one would be good) while they discuss these things. Why do you not endorse this proposal (as Martin has)? Are you afraid to have Andrew really challenged? I want you to know that I have run these questions by several friends of mine who have been on the spiritual path for decades and they told me the questions are terrific and the idea is spot on. They said that they were a fantastic way to get the thing real and put the rubber to the road, and they also thought that any teacher ought to be enthused about such a level of discussion.

My emails on this blog should have illustrated that I am not some guy just screaming criticisms of other people (from whatever side they are coming from). My emails always offer well supported arguments with references to well acknowledged source material. I am not some touchy-feely guy and I refuse to hide behind such a level of discussion. I consider these things a serious subject and they should be engaged in a serious way. If Andrew is a compelling teacher, then he ought to be able to demonstrate that publicly and to the satisfaction of intelligent thinkers and he should not shirk a good confrontation. If he refuses to do these things then he too should get off the public circuit and maintain a more private teaching.

And please do not mention Ken Wilbur (or even Terry). I have watched videos of Andrew with both of these men and, though perhaps well intentioned, the discussions are incredibly sophomoric. Neither of these men has ever posed a single tough question to Andrew. The discussions are a sort of a mutual love fest (in a creepy, Oprah-wannabe way). This has never been the way of great dharma considerations. In those considerations people were willing to put their ass on the line to get to the truth of things. Do you think Shankara went around India and sat down with the big-shot spiritual guys of his time and basically held their hands and said how much he appreciated what they were doing and we should all just get along and life is wonderful, blah blah blah? No, he took out the sword and conquered them all. And they were happy to conquered! -- because they wanted to get real and be free, and Shankara had demonstrated that he was free himself and understood the way to freedom.

That is the type of discussion we should aspire to and not this mealy-mouth mush that is going on here. You say Andrew likes to challenge people, well I don’t see any evidence that any of it has rubbed off on you. You display the opposite: the refusal to research, compare, really use your intelligence, and face things head on.

Nuff said for now


The leading edge of seriousness

Submitted by Martin Gifford (not verified) on July 13, 2011 - 11:53pm.

chris boys,

How are Andrew's speaking skills relevant? It's not like you become enlightened and suddenly you become Martin Luther King! Next you'll be saying he can't dance like Robert Nureyev.

However, I do agree there are huge problems with his arguments. For me, the main problem comes when he claims to be helping God evolve and that human beings are the leading edge of God's evolution. By that logic, prior to Homo Sapiens, God was a Neanderthal or something. It's as if God 500,000 years ago was huddled in the corner of His/Her cave saying:

"Ug. I'm so dumb. I don't know what to do. I can't wait till I evolve into Homo Sapiens. Ug. I can't wait till Andrew Cohen comes along to rescue me from my unevolved state. Ug."

It's just absurd on the face of it. God, who created time, space, matter, energy, giraffes, forests, galaxies, Andrew Cohen, etc. needs Andrew Cohen to help Her/Him/It to evolve? Laughable. Not even worth one minute's thought. And it's also unnecessary. Instead of claiming to be evolving God, Andrew can just say human consciousness is evolving and we should embrace that and do it in a more deliberate and focussed way. That's just as powerful a message and it stops him looking foolish.

To me, the basic idea of Andrew's message is obvious. Of course, we want to evolve. But I guess you are a conservative kind of guy and so wouldn't easily accept that. But don't you think we have evolved from where we were 100,000 years ago? Don't you think we will be more evolved in another 100,000 years? Don't you think we should direct that evolution?

I've also been considering your question about Andrew's relationship to amrita nadi, etc. It seems to me that if Andrew is interested in human evolution, he should work more on the visceral aspects of spirituality such as amrita nadi, kundalini, chakras, etc. That stuff should be very relevant to human evolution.

But Andrew is currently busy with mental development and the outer world. Hence, he is friends with Ken Wilber who is an intellectual type. But it seems to me that Andrew is more suited to the visceral aspects because he is naturally a karma yoga kind of guy - Navy Seals, etc. Actually, I think mental work is a weakness for him, and this explains why he doesn't question himself much. He says there's no time to question yourself because improving the world is so much more urgent. Definitely an action type rather than a mental type. Did you know he is into karate?

You wrote: " He may be on the island chattering away on a bullhorn to the people rowing by, but he cannot notice that no one can understand what he is saying."

Then how do you explain why some people clearly do resonate with Andrew? He must be communicating something. Using Freud, my theory is that Andrew amplifies people's superego. That's what makes it feel big - big feels "new". And that superego mixes with lifeforce and it feels like God in Motion. That's the "kinetic" aspect. What's your theory for how Andrew resonates with some people?

Yes, Adi Da had remarkable talents. That doesn't prove his enlightenment level. Actually, I reckon he missed his calling. He should have been a Hollywood film star. Instead, he became like the Colonel Kurtz character in Apocalypse Now - being the mad boss of an isolated community. I can easily see Adi Da playing Kurtz:

Willard: They told me that you had gone totally insane, and that your methods were unsound.
Kurtz: Are my methods unsound?
Willard: I don't see any method at all, sir.

Regarding challenging Andrew Cohen, I have never seen it happen. Normally when anyone disagrees (except a disciple), he lets them go their own ways. Also, when he is in discussion with spiritual "luminaries", he is in PR mode so he's nice (not a "Rude Boy"), so the "luminaries" reciprocate. Anyone who actually seriously confronts him is immediately greeted by him and his disciples with the question, "Where is it coming from?" In other words, is the criticism coming from true spiritual enquiry (i.e. belief in the basic tenets of Cohenism) or from evil ego - those are the two options in their minds, it seems to me.

But what about Adi Da and confrontation? It seems to me he hid out on an island surrounded by supporters. I wanted to go and see him at one stage and you had to pay $1,500 and had to go through all these tests and paperwork. Don't you think that's a bit weird? I reckon none of these guys like challenging. It's so much easier to be surrounded by people who agree with you.

By the way, isn't it interesting that you are defending the guru-disciple relationship, violence, and anti-ego aspect of Cohenism, and I'm defending the evolutionary and group experience aspect of Cohenism?! Both of us like some aspects of Cohen's activities. We are partially Cohen supporters!


Traditional Indian philosophy has Shakti as the active creative aspect of God, Siva is the destroyer, and Vishnu is the preserver (inactive aspect of God?). Andrew's "kinetic" aspect would correspond with Shakti, I guess.


Chris, I don't have lost of

Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on July 14, 2011 - 3:52am.


I don't have lost of time really, since I am a professional research quantum physicist [ quite the real stuff believe me, and quite hard core] and I am not retired like you. So getting involved in this blog was already taking lots of my working time, and I cannot afford going on like this.

I will answer two points which seem important to me.
First, I maintain that Andrew is highly logical at a degree which is not cerebral, at a degree which touches Intuition. I will go further and claim that he is an Intuitive genius. The video you dislike was fundamental for em, because it provoked an awakening. I can see paradoxes in what he says, but any modern thinker since Blaise Pascal, is using a high degree of paradoxes. I don't see any gap of logics, never any. In three years I have been working with him I have never noticed any gap of logics. Not a single one on important matters.
Moreover, Andrew passed my Dad's judgement as well on this issue and my Dad is also a hard core research scientist ( materialist). I can send you my CV if you don't believe me. What I feel is that the more advanced one is in any field, the more really open one becomes, and the more acute our judgement can be on people in other fields, who don't have the same way as expressing themselves as us.
I feel so confident as a logical person that well, I can completely swear that you just don 't get it there. Your thought seems to be to linear to catch Andrew's depth.

My feeling is that you simply don't like him [ which is your right] but then you project on him your dislike with some weird arguments, like ``it is obvious that he is a nut'' which to me are the kindergarden arguments. With this kind of argument you would also treat a genius of being a nut, because many geniuses indeed don't speak like professional actors in conferences, or just express their ideas the way they can at the beginning. Greatness is not as simple as you say and having an actor elocution is by no means a warrant of being great in any field. Having an actor elocution is just having an actor elocution. Period.

So I maintain that it is not dignified to say , as you did ``this guy is a nut''. You shall have left it as``I don't resonate with him'' as you claim you usually do.

The second point you ask me to comment on Andrew's appraisal of Papaji.
My take on this is that I am not concerned in their personal relationship. As an external person, what uplifts me is the consideration that one human being (Papaji) was able to induce a tremendous change in another one (Andrew). This is a fact, and for this transmutation to happen, a Love of the highest purity must have existed between them. The rest is history. They had philosophical disagreements, probably about Andrew's new take on Kinetic Enlightenment. Indian Masters don't resonate well with the idea of Evolution [ correct me if I am wrong, but this seems to be the case to me], and I have a feeling why Papaji might have thought that Andrew had become crazy with his New Enlightenment. But who am I to judge, and who are you really, to judge on this issue ?
The beauty that we shall remember is the great spiritual contact between them. Very few human beings meet at this level. It is what counts.

I wonder whether you ever had a Spiritual Teacher yourself in your life; I mean a Master whom you Love and who has the power to transform you. If not, how can you *scientifically* give so many advices ?

Now guys, I will leave, since I am completely ate on my work.
It's been a pleasure to discuss with you all, and a big Thanks!! to Terry for providing this wonderful context for a discussion.


for Martin

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 14, 2011 - 4:46am.

Dear Martin.

I am not defending the violence aspect. If you read my emails carefully, you will see that in fact I am somewhat cautious about it. I acknowledge that there is a tradition of tough methods in spirituality being used on certain recalcitrant egos. I seem to approve of its (rare) use by Papaji and Ramana Maharshi – at least in the stories I have heard that are of good validity. I am in doubt about its use by Western teachers, and especially if the teacher is not enlightened. That about sums it up. Thus, I thought that we ought to at a minimum do a little investigation into Andrew’s spiritual state.

The questions you raise about evolution open a very big subject. First, just to show that some of your assumptions may not be as rock-solid as you think: in 1973 Buckminster Fuller gave an interview with Playboy Magazine, in which he was asked about the theory of evolution. He replied that from a designer’s point of view he felt that it was impossible that it could explain the origin of man. The questioner then asked how he thought man had come about. Fuller replied that he thought man had come as a packet of holographic information from another dimension.

I have actually spent a lot of time considering the classical theory of evolution as explained by Darwin and developed further by subsequent scientists. For a layman I have a good understanding of that theory, and I have concluded that it is fairly easy to disprove it when it comes to the origin of man, though you do have to familiarity and sympathy with the spiritual possibilities inherent in man’s anatomy. It is tougher to do if you do not have any truck with that tradition of knowledge, though it is still possible to pose very tough questions for Darwinists to explain.

Anyway, I am of the strong view that the classical theory of evolution is not correct and in no way can explain the origin of man.

It is interesting that I never found any parallel understanding to mine, until I was reading a chapter in one of Adi Da’s books. I think it was THE TRANSMISSION OF DOUBT. It was one of his spontaneous talks, and in a rather short comment he stated that no anatomical structure from the heart up in man could be explained by the theory of evolution, for certain reasons. I was really humbled because it was obvious that this conclusion had just arose spontaneously in him and that he could say it so precisely and with such logic. I had spent hours and hours and hours in order to get to a similar understanding.

Isn’t it revelatory that a “scientist” like Catherine had to run for the hills when someone actually posed a few experiments to her that might help get to the bottom of things? What a wuss. If this is the type of navy seals that Andrew produces, then I would rather have a battalion of Woody Allens and Annie Halls defend me.


more for Martin

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 14, 2011 - 5:53pm.

Dear Martin,

I mentioned the speaking skills in a broad context. I said that if someone really knows a subject, then he can speak effectively about it and communicate it. I said that I had never found an exception to this rule. I asked Catherine if she knew of an exception (a question she did not respond to). This was just my life experience, for one thing. All my good teachers could speak well and communicate their subject (with one exception, a Chinese guy who taught complex analysis and was not a native speaker).

I also pointed to the examples of Ramana Mahrshi, Adi Da, and Papaji. I remember that J. Krishnamurthi was also a compelling speaker when I heard him in the Oak Grove in Ojai many years back. I personally would not put him on the level of the previous three, but he was good and sharp and knew his subject well. He could also COMMUNICATE. I had a very remarkable experience while I was listening to him during one of his talks, and it was because I was so locked into every word he said. Another time listening to him, I felt tired and just lay down under a tree and went into a sort of wonderful reverie listening to his words. The reverie ended the moment he said his last word.

Since you bring up Martin Luther King, he was a good speaker, wasn’t he? I also remember the remarkable spontaneous speech that Robert Kennedy gave the night he was killed. That speech touched me deeply, and apparently it was a big reason that the city he spoke it in did not have riots after the assassination of Dr. King.

People who know their stuff can communicate it, that is all. Just so, if a person is realized spirituality, and if chooses to teach publicly, then I expect him to be able to speak well about the subject. I don’t know of any realized Master who has contradicted this rule.

So, I was a bit floored listening to Andrew. He is a flagrant example of not being able to speak and communicate. I found it a terrible chore to listen to him. I already gave the evidence of this in the previous email to Catherine.

I will say that Catherine’s experiences with Andrew I do not doubt. Apparently these videos were a big revelation to her. That is good, real experience and normally I would never criticize or throw any doubt on it. In fact, the other day in a chai shop across from Ramanashram I was having a tea with a chap who had been with Andrew in India in the early days, and he was saying a lot of very positive things about him. The conversation was casual, but also warm and a good experience. I never said a single negative thing about Andrew. In fact, I found myself asking this guy to continue with what he was saying. He eventually got much more detail included, and I came out of the whole thing feeling as if I had touched something great In Andrew, and I was grateful.

It is just that this blog is a different forum, and It is fair that things be held to a different standard. Catherine asked me to watch the videos, I did so, and it is fair that I give an objective critique of them. I called it like I saw it: Andrew can’t speak worth a hoot.

I don’t know why people are attracted to Andrew. Maybe that video caught him on a bad day. Maybe usually he is Lawrence Olivier (I doubt it). I have heard some other audios of him in the past, and my reaction was not so bad. Who knows? These are personal things – the different reactions people have to teachers.

I laughed when you mention dancing like Nureyev. I remember one night in Santa Fe. It was winter time a good 25 years ago. Crane Kirkbride, a long time devotee of Adi Da, had come to give a talk on his Master and the latest book THE DREADED GOM BOO. I always used to like Crane when he would come each year and talk. Anyway, he was talking about the book and the teachings. There were only about 10 people in the bookstore that night listening to him. Eventually, after he had sort of completed the talk, I asked him if he could talk personally about what it was like to be with Adi Da. He paused and seemed to be considering whether he would talk about such things. Then he decided he would.

He talked about a certain night on Fiji. I won’t go into the details, other than to say I will never forget his words and the vivid, magical picture of what it is like to be with an enlightened being. It was very beautiful. There is one detail he mentioned: that Adi Da could dance like Nureyev! And apparently he could sing opera like Placido Domingo as well (and Crane was trained as an opera singer). Of course, I don’t include these types of criteria as tests for whether someone is enlightened. I just found it humorous that you mentioned Nureyev.

In one of your previous emails, you said I seem to be in awe of enlightened beings. Yup, I plead guilty to that count. In chai shops, often talks take a turn toward the lives of Masters and their teachings, and I just drink it in. Sometimes, I contribute my lot, and I find this part of me that seems so true when I praise them or tell stories I have heard about them. By nature I am a very heady person, very verbal, very straight and logical. The more bhakti part of me comes out around the lives of great spiritual figures.

So, I guess Catherine is right, got to admit it – the love between Andrew and Papaji was the real thing and that is what is important.

Fuck, these forums are always such a chore. I mean, why are we wasting our time criticizing each other and our different points of view? God, it seems like there must be a better way. We are like Fox News in drag. Okay, we are not quite as bad as those fools, but it is a long way from divine love bliss.

That is why I asked Terry to talk to Andrew and they both be drinking. It was my attempt at a new paradigm, so to speak. It ain’t right to let Andrew off the hook, but maybe if Terry does it that way we can still feel that everyone is in God, and that is the bottom line.


Terry, you WERE with Adi Da

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 14, 2011 - 7:32pm.

Dear Terry,

You have not responded to my request that you meet and confront Andrew with the questions I have posed, and do it in a new type of “forum.”

In my last email to Martin, while I was reminiscing about Crane’s picture of being with Adi Da, I remembered an incident in one of his books where he asks a couple of people to speak openly and ecstatically about God. Perhaps it was Paris Panico whom he put on the carpet on that one. It was a great moment. I also remembered in another talk how he said that the biggest taboo in the world is to be ecstatic and proclaim the Divine Reality.

This thing I am asking you to do seems similar. I mean, even while I was writing the idea, I could feel in myself all of the barriers to it, the big one being that even if you did it the thing could fall on its face and not work out at all. It could be embarrassing. But now I want to encourage you to do it even more. It seems that those barriers are just the ego and its fear to take a chance and maybe fail. It is very much like what Adi Da was calling into the open when he asked someone to speak openly and ecstatically.

So, in the spirit of taking a chance, and remembering the time you spent with Adi Da, do it man, just do it.


Illusions vs Illusions

Submitted by Martin Gifford (not verified) on July 15, 2011 - 5:01pm.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: Andrew Cohen's disciples
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: September 07, 2014 08:23AM

Part two



You say, "I don't see any gap of logics, never any." But Andrew Cohen says he is helping God evolve. How could you not see a gap in logic there? Are you being honest? It seems you are ignoring the gaps in his logic.

I agree that geniuses can appear to be nuts. But Andrew is claiming to be at the cutting edge of human evolution, yet the evidence shows that he is not. He is not intellectually, physically, spiritually, emotionally, morally, or creatively superior to others generally. Well, maybe he is spiritually superior to most people, but he's not the most spiritually superior person around.

My concern with Andrew and Papaji's relationship is that Andrew is now pretending to have ALWAYS been loving towards Papaji, and Andrew's disciples are colluding in that deception. Yes, he was loving in the beginning, but then he was very angry and judgemental of Papaji after that, and it seems that he has changed his tune recently only for PR reasons. I remember many of Andrew's close disciples calling Papaji "disgusting", which was one of the most popular Cohenite words back when I was interested. But this is the way religions are born. Negative stuff is swept under the carpet and positive stuff is amplified. Hence, you say, "The beauty that we shall remember is the great spiritual contact between them." And you are also pretending that Papaji was judging Andrew for being an evolutionary rather than acknowledging Andrew was angry, judging, and rejecting of Papaji for insulting him.


You say you are cautious about guru violence. Well, I think you should be even more cautious. The world is harsh enough without gurus demonstrating that there is no relief from violence - even in spirituality!

I wasn't really talking about physical evolution, although I suspect our brains shall develop; indeed, IQs have grown over the last 80 years. Whether Darwin's theory satisfactorily explains the origin of man or not depends on what you count as evidence. Based on evidence, Darwinists are in the lead - by a long way. However, the weirdness of the universe and consciousness makes me think the physical sciences are a bit limited in outlook. Any kind of "God" explanation is pretty weird too when you think about it. Imagine an eternal all powerful being who existed prior to the big bang! Weird! Where did He/She/It come from? Along with Leibnitz, it has always seemed to me that the existence of nothing should have been more likely than the existence of anything, let alone this complex universe. Then add God to the mix, and it's all very freaking weird! Darwinists and physicists don't explain it to my satisfaction, but neither do spiritual people.

Cohenites are Navy Seals when they are sure of their ground and when they are obeying Cohen, but the moment they are separated from the pack and questioned, they run. Or they go back and gang together and label you "disgusting" for questioning the wonderfulness of Andrew. Don't forget, Navy Seals are obedient sheep - tough sheep, but sheep nonetheless. Actually, as my social psychology professor often reiterated, most people are sheep. Many social psychology experiments have shown just how obedient we are. It's just that instead of following society like most people (Adi Da called that "the cult of the world"), spiritual people follow gurus. You could see in Catherine's responses that she wriggled the whole way, avoided the important issues, and in the end she made it seem like everything was smoothed over. We've got to find a way to evolve past this somehow. We've got to create a society of individuals who know themselves, respect themselves, follow themselves, and are in tune with life at large. I reckon the American Indians had it right when they sent teenagers out on vision quests to find their true selves independent of society. We need that desperately. Otherwise, we are left with a mere competition between illusions.

Yes, Ramana Maharshi, Adi Da, Papaji, Krishnamurti were good speakers. Have you heard the early Rajneesh talks? He had an amazing gift of the gab too. But I think Andrew Cohen operates on a different psychological level. Now I'm not comparing him to Hitler, but Hitler had a similar speaking style of rambling and false starts until he hit on some juice and the fire came. In other words, both of them wing it and ramble until inspiration comes. MLK was the greatest speaker ever, without a doubt. He made the hair on the back of your neck stand up. And consider the risks he was taking - he even said that he might be assassinated. That's heroism mixed with incredible talent. Amazing. Almost miraculous.

You say, "…if a person is realized spirituality, and if chooses to teach publicly, then I expect him to be able to speak well about the subject. I don’t know of any realized Master who has contradicted this rule." That's a fair argument, but not enough to definitely discount Andrew Cohen on its own. However, when you add your argument to other evidence like his absurd claim that he is evolving God, then he does start looking really incompetent.

You say, "I don’t know why people are attracted to Andrew." I think it's idealism, plus he provides a sense of huge purpose (evolving God), and he channels the collective superego so that your superego resonates inside you. So it's "kinetic" as Catherine says. It feels like God is inside you saying "You should do the right thing, the big thing, sacrifice everything for the greater good, it's never too much." Riefenstahl cried when Hitler died because he gave her purpose, hope, direction, and a sense of belonging to something bigger - all through resonating with her superego. Religions work the same way. In Voice Dialogue terms it's the pusher plus the critic plus the idealist in operation together. Add spiritual experiences and the other disciples treating Andrew like a VIP (social modelling) and it's easy to fall into it. And the human world is so barren that Cohenism looks better than anything else on offer. Indeed, some say we are in the age of darkness, the age of Kali Yuga. And Ken Wilber's approval gives Andrew intellectual credibility too. Then there's all the other spiritual luminaries giving him credence.

Regarding the coincidence of mentioning "dancing like Nureyev": I have had many similar coincidences regarding Adi Da. I also dreamed of him two nights ago. I reckon he has psychic powers that are still operational after his death. I think he weaved psychic power into his writing, for example, and that might account for Ken Wilber's exaggeration of Adi Da's spiritual genius. He probably read Adi Da and had some expansive experience from the words on the page. People are gullible when spiritual experiences sweep them away - they easily start to believe the guru is much greater than he or she really is.

I've heard from others that there are special videos of Adi Da going into spontaneous Indian dance movements like the kundalini has taken control of his body or something. I forget the word for it - spontaneous "kriyas" or something? Have you seen it? I've asked to see these videos but the disciples are too precious about it. I'm not devotional enough or wise enough to see them, it seems. I met one guy who saw one of those videos and his jaw literally fell open and his nose started running right to the floor and he gasped "That's me. That's who I really am." Trippy, huh?

Regarding other references to amrita nadi: I forgot to mention that the Hare Krishna's and the Bhagavad Gita say that the supersoul is in the heart. So there's another good confirmation of it.

I don't see why a person can't both "be in awe of enlightened beings" and call them on their corruption. Andrew Cohen and Adi Da are obviously cult leaders, even if you only go by the Oxford Dictionary definition: "a relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or as imposing excessive control over members". Simultaneously, those guys are inspiring and helpful and other good things, so just put the bad aspects down to the low state of human evolution generally. When you are in an unevolved world, it is hard to be evolved yourself, even if you are enlightened. I can get romantic regarding gurus too. But then I always face negative truths if the evidence is strong.

You ask: "why are we wasting our time criticizing each other and our different points of view? God, it seems like there must be a better way. We are like Fox News in drag. Okay, we are not quite as bad as those fools, but it is a long way from divine love bliss." You know what I reckon the solution is? Everyone must put truth or reality first. We need the solid ground of reality if we are to build something good and enduring. If we put romance, heroism, idealism, spiritual experiences, or anything else first, then we will protect those things and hence they will inevitably defend them with untruths, and so there will be conflict between the various untruths. And it is so unnecessary. If romance, heroism, idealism, spiritual experiences, etc., are true then we will find them again on the other side of the quest for truth or reality. If they are not true, then they are illusions and are not worth protecting. As Byron Katie says, "Who are you without the story?" As Ramana says, in the end jnana is the answer.

Will Terry take you up on your suggestion? My guess is no, unfortunately. No one wants to rock the boat anywhere in this world. Not seriously, not radically. That's just the reality of current human evolution. It's painful watching so much unnecessary waste, suffering, and illusion; but that's how it is. My experience with writing my book is that I have explained the whole human story and outlined the whole solution, but no dice, bucko - no one concedes even a single point unless I really blast them. People are married to illusion - the cult of the world. Social psychology also predicts that people won't change much. Makes being a cult leader very attractive, doesn't it? Can you imagine having disciples doing all the hard yards for you - editing, promoting, and defending your work and being grateful for the privilege? That would be so cool! Ah, that reminds me of yesterday's Adi Da dream:

Adi Da and I are walking over an sunny hilly treeless island. I say to him, "Hey, you should start up the cult again. You could give me all your left-over women." He says, "Hmph," as if that could be easily arranged. Then he says, "Why don't you cultivate the religious sensibility?" Then he walks ahead to his straying disciples, leaving me to walk on and consider that question. As I wake up, I go into a religious/spiritual reverie. I want to give up everything and go on the great romantic spiritual quest. And that state remains with me for the rest of the morning.

Cute, huh? He definitely had/has power, that guy.

It seems you're fully involved in the spiritual quest. And you are at the hub - Ramanashram. What's it like there? Is it magical? Everywhere in India is pretty magical. Do you have interesting meetings? What sort of people live there and pass through? The chai shop sounds cool. Is there anyone else there as enlightened as Ramana, in your opinion? You seem to be a writer, so maybe you could write a book or a blog about the day to day events there. I'd love to read such a thing, especially from someone who writes so frankly.


Guru violence

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 17, 2011 - 6:46am.


Have you ever read the book DAUGHTER OF FIRE by Irena Tweedie? I read it twice about twenty, fifteen years ago. If my memory serves me, there is this interesting story she recounted where a Guru in her Guru’s tradition was holding a satsang. A married couple, his devotees, had brought their son to satsang. Evidently the Guru spotted something in this boy and began to beat him, and then very violently. At one point he looked at the parents to check if he had permission to proceed, and they nodded, and then he took out some club and beat the boy to death. Almost separate his head from his body. Blood was everywhere. Then after he was done, he restored the boy to life, basically like new. This incident happened at the time Irena was with her Guru, and apparently it caused quite a shock to everyone.

Guru violence for sure, but with an interesting twist.

In the book PAPAJI, AMAZING GRACE, in the chapter SATHYA, there is the story of Papaji slugging this gal right in the chest (I know this woman, she lives here). She describes the change it brought about in here.

Of course, the classic story is of Milarepa and Marpa. No fun at all on the surface, very violent, but it did the trick.

What is your take on such things?


Santosha Tantra

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 17, 2011 - 6:39pm.

Martin (and Terry),

Somehow I was on youtube the other day and i watched a couple of videos of this gal Santosha Tantra. I mentioned to a friend about her, and he managed to get a pdf of her bography. Jeez, it is a terrific tale. She really pulls out the no-stops about how Adi Da helped her in her spirtual quest.

You ever hear of this gal?


Violent Gurus vs Enlightenment

Submitted by Martin Gifford (not verified) on July 18, 2011 - 2:52am.


I think the examples of guru violence you gave are appalling. A person benefiting from such an event is like someone having a transcendent experience in a war or a car accident. Not recommended!

Spirituality is supposed to give respite from suffering, and therefore violence, not validate it. Then there's the problem of side-effects. Don't you see how divisive it is?

Even as a practical PR matter, it's a bad move. For example, Andrew Cohen will be hounded for the rest of his life because of the violence he perpetrated, and his goals have been eroded and they will be forevermore. The only way he can fix that is if he confessed and apologised - if he is heroic enough.

I think Santosha Tantra might have cultivated some interesting state, but she's not enlightened. In the video I just looked at, she seemed to be parroting Ramana about returning attention to the self. She said enlightenment would take 2.5 - 3 years that way. This is all wrong. Why should it take so long to be yourself?

Spiritualistic goals are as bad as materialistic goals. Santosha lists all the benefits of her strategy, which is all about spiritual gain, which is the wrong motivation. Returning to the topic of Cohenism, he promotes idealistic and romantic goals, which are designed to trigger your desire for perfection, heroism, bigness, etc, yet Buddha pointed out that desire is based on illusion and causes suffering.

IMO, the following way, brilliantly recommended by Adi Da, would take 2.5 - 3 weeks (not years) if you are committed to understanding. You will melt like a salt doll in the ocean:

"The direct Way or sudden path of Enlightenment, the Way of God or the Way of Truth, has nothing whatever to do with the destinies of attention, the destinies of the ego or the separated consciousness. It is the Way of insight into the very gesture of attention itself, it is the Way of engaging in the natural process of God-Communion, which is surrender of attention. The sudden Way is not the manipulation of attention in gross or subtle levels of experience, but the surrender of attention itself at its root, which is in the heart. Once this process has been Realized perfectly, then the Heart itself is realized to be the Infinite, the Absolute, the Perfect Divine. In that Realization there is absolutely no necessity whatsoever to any experience. The present life or body-mind continues its term, and it is lived in the natural way that is appropriate for one who lives in Communion with God. But it does not contain within it the seed of its own repetition. Therefore, at death there is no migration. The body-mind is returned to the elements, high and low, and the consciousness is withdrawn from the realms of attention, just as the Life-Force is withdrawn at death from the physical body. Thus, the conscious being is absorbed in the Absolute."


to Martin again

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 18, 2011 - 7:53am.

Dear Martin,

Man, you got a mind like a bear trap, dude. Just check out what you have written and you will see that you are back to the big categorical statements. When are you going to take my advice and stop that crap? You be much smarter guy than to keep pontificating. Come on, take my advice (I am a professional writer) and cool it with the Michelle Bachmann attitude.

Let me ask you a question: Are you Self-Realized? I ain’t, that is for sure. So I tend to scout around the subject some; just getting the lay of the land, so to speak. I stay away from big conclusions about the relative and conditional aspects of the WAY (as distinguished from the actual TEACHING that everything is Brahman, where even unenlightened schleps like me can agree that the final teaching is categorical: non-separation). I figure, let’s just see what the historical record is. And the record, as far as I can see, is not so clear on certain things. It is a mixed bag.

If you are Self-Realized, then okay, I bow to your pontificating. But I got the sense you are not.

So, another question: What would you give to become Self-Realized? I like to imagine that I would give anything, even my life, if what I had to give was clear to me. This was certainly Papaji’s attitude. He walked into half the ashrams in India and just laid it on the line: show me God and I will give you anything, even my life, but do it and don’t beat around the bush.

Just so, if I was (probably am) seriously obstructed, then if the Guru had to pull out some strong methods and kick my ass, then that is okay by me. Fuck, I would give anything to become free.

YOU SAY: A person benefiting from such an event is like someone having a transcendent experience in a war or a car accident. Not recommended!

Are you going to tell me that you know better than Marpa what to do with a guy like Milarepa? Come on, man, get real. You don’t know shit. You ain’t no Guru, so admit it. The thing seems to me to be highly recommended because it did the trick. Marpa was the real deal and he knew what was needed.

I know this woman Sathya in the story in the book I recommended about Papaji. I can tell you that I (and virtually everyone else around here) is entirely in agreement she needed her ass kicked. In fact, she could do with a lot of serious ass kicking still. She is a real weirdo, and most people won’t get near her because she is an arrogant, deluded, energy vampire. She has been on the spiritual path for years and year, and she has no self-understanding. What to do about such people. I am serious – What would you do? Some people just need a serious ass kicking. There is no other way.

I can look back on my life and see a few moments where some people really laid into me. There were a couple that were well warranted and woke me up to what an arrogant fool I was. I am grateful for the shock therapy, and I recognize in retrospect that it was about the only thing would have done the trick.

Look, let me try a little virtual shock therapy with you. I think you need an ass kicking bad. I encountered you on another forum and you raised this thing you have about quick enlightenment and how Gurus are such incompetents because they can’t produce it.

Here is the response I gave you at that time (one you never responded to):

From Chris anonymous to Martin Gifford:

You talk about a Guru’s job being to liberate his students. Very true. Then you say, however, that the Guru should be given 2 months to do his job or else admit defeat and send the student off to another Guru. You also quote Papaji and his experience with Andrew Cohen.

I think a fact check is helpful at this point. I happen to be close friends with many former students of Papaji. I live in Tiruvannamalai; one of my friends was his personal servant in his house for 5 years. I did almost all of the editing and collating for the book Amazing Grace (a job of over 700 hours). I have read every book done on Papaji, some several times. I am a casual friend of David Godman.

From all I have been able to glean, Papaji often said that one of his students was liberated and then told them they should hit the road Jack. However, these proclamations were paradoxical. They seem to have been just the way Papaji spoke to those who had awakening experiences in his presence. He loved when these experiences happened and was profuse in his praise of them. He was also a very loving man (the great part of his life previous to liberation was as an extraordinary Krishna Bhakti). His love naturally informed his speech and he didn’t care to put any brakes on his love when it arose. But, when push came to shove, he invariably renounced every single claim that anyone had become realized (with the possible exception of a couple of his Indian devotees). I know of no exception for any Westerner.

Papaji completely renounced any claim as to Andrew Cohen, and apparently was very disappointed with Andrew, to the point that he became profuse in his criticism of Andrew.

The most definitive take on this subject goes to your statement about 2 months. Papaji was questioned (I believe in a magazine article in some European magazine) about those who were giving Satsang in his name. He said categorically that he did not authorize any of them to teach, and how could they teach when they had never even been with their Guru for the classically minimal required period of 12 continuous years.

The minimal period of 12 YEARS.

Another way to get a handle on what it actually takes to do the job as a Guru can be found in David Godman’s excellent three-volume set on Ramana Maharshi and some of his devotees: The Power of the Presence. I have read this set of books several times, and the thing that struck me was that almost without exception these devotees of Ramana (and they were all Indian, except for one Dutchman) were unbelievably “pure souls.” My God, when I compare them with myself I am really humbled. These men (and women), had totally non-complicated personas, with great attributes of devotion and intention to be realized. Yet, they all had to undergo long, continuous (and sometimes difficult) years with Ramana before Realization began to bear fruit in them.

There were two devotees (that we know of) who did become realized quickly in Ramana’s presence: Lakhsmana Swami and Papaji. Their accounts are well documented in Godman’s biographies of both of them. These men were not normal men! Have you read their biographies? If not, I would encourage you to do so. These men were super-extraordinary individuals. I mean, almost completely unfathomable to a Westerner. I have never met any Westerner even remotely comparable to them (Interestingly, the closest I have ever heard of is Adi Da, as recounted in his biography).

Again, the Guru can do his job in direct proportion to the state of maturity of his devotee. I just cannot see any way around this basic law of spiritual life.

Thus, I think that your statements on the subject are not well supported historically.

What is your fucking problem? Do you think that people can give you their juice (as I did above, in a very-well documented argument) and that you can ignore it and just go on spouting your crap. I gave you my fucking blood in the above. I tried to help you. But nooooo… Martin Gifford knows what is what and can just go on spouting his nonsense, irrespective of the vast irrefutable historical record.

If you were to encounter YOURSELF in a university class, what would you do? I mean, if you were trying to teach YOU in some class in physics and had to listen to you spout off the flat-earth stuff day after day, what would you do? I am serious. You would throw YOU out of the class or get the university cops to get you out, or if you had to, just let loose and clobber you and tell you to get the fuck out of your face.

Tell me if am wrong. Really, look at your attitude and tell me if I am wrong.


Chris sometimes I really Love

Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on July 18, 2011 - 10:31am.

Chris sometimes I really Love You !


Speaking of energy vampires....

Submitted by MG (not verified) on July 18, 2011 - 2:50pm.

I think what we have here is a rather successful energy vampire. He is getting some sort of jollies out of manipulating a conversation that has passed usefulness. He is counting points based on how many responses with how many words and how emotional....

If I could figure out how to stop getting emails about this dialogue I would have by now. (I know, this just proves how clueless I am about the technology; whatevs...)

I suggest you treat him like a spoiled child: put him in the corner and IGNORE HIM. It is his job to get his little barbs to activate you all over again.

And, what if it were in fact A. Cohen himself, waiting for you to wake up to the total awareness of what is going on in this conversation? How would it look then?


Do the work of demolishing your spiritual illusions

Submitted by Martin Gifford (not verified) on July 18, 2011 - 10:31pm.

Dear Chris,

I start getting "categorical" when people repeatedly ignore what I write and when I am trying to be concise. I wrote thousands of great words in reply to you, and you simply changed the subject. And on the subject you changed to, I had already spent probably another 4,000 words already. So it really is a bit rich for you to call me on not replying to you. I have written thousands of words here, smart words, and you haven't conceded a point. But you are not alone in that.

I am not self-realised in the sense of being constantly in some special state. I have enough experience to know that I could easily be permanently in the "self-realised" state if conditions suited me. But I'm busy dealing with deluded people.

You ask what I would give to be self-realised. I would give nothing to be self-realised. You seem to think there is something to gain from self-realisation. You gain nothing. There's nothing to be gained. Some of your bigger illusions will be erased, that's all.

You say you "would give anything, even my life…" Well, would you give up the desperation? The drama? The hundreds of stories you have around "spirituality"? Is there even anybody there reading this apart from a bundle of spiritual stories? Are you a real person or just a CD player replaying spiritual stories over and over?

Yes, I know better than Marpa. Marpa wasn't an educated person. Most of these guys are not educated. They are not particularly intelligent either. They just happened to be born a particular way or in suitable circumstances, etc. You must stop worshipping famous gurus, etc. After all, you said you would "give anything to become free". Give up your worshipping, for a start.

You say, "Some people just need a serious ass kicking. There is no other way." Well, we could create a society where people don't become ignorant in the first place. We could create a society where people didn't wallow in materialism or spiritualism. No kicking needed then.

You say, "I can look back on my life and see a few moments where some people really laid into me… and woke me up to what an arrogant fool I was." Are you telling me that you used to be even worse than you are now? That's like the Andrew Cohen disciples who claim to be evolved - where's the evidence of improvement or superiority?

You say that it takes a minimum of 12 years to become self-realised unless you are some kind of unique special person. I'll tell you what happens. People are born into an ignorant society that emphasises materialism. Then they lose interest in materialism and become interested in another illusion - spiritualism. And most people stay stuck there for the rest of their lives. But some people, for whatever reason, accept statements like:

"You don't need to make an effort to be free."

"You are that which you seek."

"Be as you are."

"Call off the search."

"You are the ultimate reality."

And thus their self-realisation is quick. Everyone else wallows in the illusion of materialism or spiritualism. So, what about you? Are you going to accept these ultimate teachings? Probably not because you don't get immediate fireworks and hence you think you aren't ready. Give up the attachment to spiritual fireworks, drama, fantasies of great gain, etc. Accept these timeless teachings.

Yes, people wrongfully claim authority from people like Papaji. From those self-realised persons' perspectives everyone is enlightened and so everyone is qualified to speak. Indeed, even ignorant words can seem have an element of truth or creativity to them. But people who (from the non-self-realised perspective) are wallowing in illusion will latch onto gurus saying "speak" as being a license to be a guru - the passing on of the robe, being the next in the lineage, etc. It just shows how absorbed in the spiritual story they are. They become lineages of spiritual illusion.

You say, "the Guru can do his job in direct proportion to the state of maturity of his devotee. I just cannot see any way around this basic law of spiritual life." Right. And what is maturity? It is having no stories, no illusions. So you should do Byron Katie's technique on your laundry list of spiritual stories. Here's a Zen story that has many variations: a seeker arrives and asks for the truth, and the master says, "You are that which you seek." The seeker says, "If that were true, then I would get it, but I don't get it." The master says, "Fair enough. You got me. Go wash the toilets for 5 years, then I'll tell you the REAL AND FINAL truth." The seeker cleans the toilet for 5 years and then visits the master, who simply repeats, "You are that which you seek." This time the seeker gets it. So, Chris, what's the moral of the story? You can interpret it according to the spiritual drama. Then it means that enlightenment requires great humility and hard work so I must clean the toilet for 5 years. Alternatively, you could interpret it as an example 5 years of foolish resistance to the simple truth. My suggestion is: don't be that guy. Don't waste the next 5 years of your life resisting the timeless truth that you are already that which you seek.

You claim the historical record reveals the truth. The historical record reveals human ignorance. We aren't very evolved, including gurus, don't you know? If we change the context, then things will get much easier. How far away are you from reality? How far away are you from yourself? It should not be hard at all. It is just that the world keeps advertising material and spiritual stories, which get in the way. Stop giving the stories attention, or start questioning them. Don't be the fool who loves hero-tales but fails to take the adventure into the unknown himself.

You say that you gave me your juice and blood. You did not. You just gave me your laundry list of spiritual opinions and stories. It was a deluge of spiritualism vomit. I suggest you give at least one fortnight to demolishing those illusions. Make that sacrifice, then you can say you gave something to be free.

You say, "Tell me if am wrong. Really, look at your attitude and tell me if I am wrong."

Chris Boys, you are wrong.

Chris Boys, you are wrong.

Chris Boys, you are wrong.


It only takes one person somewhere to concede a significant point, and the whole illusion can begin to unravel. Even if that doesn't happen, knocking on doors lets people know there might be another viewpoint outside.


My Martial Art

Submitted by Margo (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 7:17am.

All I know if that after my time with Andrew Cohen in India in 2001 I had the raging need to respond to this cool physical practice... Capoeira. I got 2 belts, the people I met remain dear to me, and the whole thing was a defining time in my life. I guess I felt the need to bust through a certain post modern sensibiity with wild song and radical physicality where we really moved... kicked... and punched... for hours!! It is beautiful!! It worked for Brazilian slaves and it worked for me!!




``You say, "I don't see any

Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on July 20, 2011 - 7:58am.

``You say, "I don't see any gap of logics, never any." But Andrew Cohen says he is helping God evolve. How could you not see a gap in logic there? Are you being honest? It seems you are ignoring the gaps in his logic.''

This is precisely what is the most exciting for me as a scientist and I am really completely convinced Andrew is a genius. HIs spiritual teachings, as far as I understand them, are post modern in the sense that they don't require a version of a static God watching us or even being around us. Andrew has understood the Absolute character of Evolution itself, and he has formulated it in a way that nobody did before.
It is a bit like a quantum version of God with one representation at rest- the Ground of Being- and one manifestation in motion - the Evolutionary Impulse-. Those two representations are mutually exclusive and equivalent. This looks precisely like the wave/particle duality in quantum mechanics, in the Copenhagen interpretation.
Ib the evolutive sense, the Process ( or God) is you and me, it belongs to us. This is really completely radical and new, and incredibly important.

Actually most of the geniuses I met in science look a bit unusual. MY Russian collaborator when I met him the first time made me think of a very frustrated bear. He was at the time a frustrate Russian genius, because he always complained he didn't get the recognition he deserves [ which was true]. I feel most of my job is to have given him this recognition unconditionally [ I mean just the recognition he deserves], and as a result our common work is completely booming. I met geniuses who look completely stupid first time you meet them. Even in Science. Sometimes you meet a great name, and he is asking 3 to 4 stupid questions at a seminar... the 5th one is not stupid at all ! I wouldn't say Andrew looks like a ``nut'' but he is a typical case of a genius, but he certainly doens't look for what his true value is ( or one needs the eyes to see, but altogether my judgement here is that Evolution is asking Andrew to improve communication) : not recognized at his true value. This is problematic, because a frustrate genius cannot give his/her full impact. You need to recognize them *first* and then one sees what it gives. Andrew will give his full impact when recognition will not be an issue anymore. Until then one cannot say much.

I feel recognition is our job and that's why it is so important that Terry, you and me and other simply recognize and understand what he has done. We live together culturally and geniuses need us as well. They are our gems but they need us.


Liberation is merely the beginning, not the end

Submitted by Martin Gifford (not verified) on July 22, 2011 - 3:07am.

Another point on guru violence: We need wisdom more than enlightenment. We need to understand what's going on in the world. So enlightenment obtained from violence isn't very useful. It doesn't develop understanding. It's just a shocking transcendent experience or state.

Regarding your enlightenment: You need to admit you have a problem. If you are still a seeker after a year or two, then you must admit to yourself you are doing something wrong. Seeking - material or spiritual - is a big waste of time! Liberation from illusion is merely the beginning of a worthwhile life, it's not an end. So seeking is preparation for the beginning of a worthwhile life! What a waste of time!


Are you sure you made the right career choice? I reckon you should have been a politician. Your ability to sidestep the essence of the question and to spin the topic into a pro-Cohen advertisement is remarkable. You're so fluid and graceful! It's a real talent! I mean it! And I can see how the mistake happened - politics and physics have spelling similarities:


Back to the point of my argument. God is supposedly:


So how are you and Andrew Cohen going to evolve God? Are you going to make God:

more omniscient,
more omnipotent,
more omnipresent?

Do you see the absurdity of Cohen's claim to be evolving God? You and Andrew are supposed to be more evolved than the average person, so use your evolved state to prove your case.

BTW, I reckon Andrew Cohen is focused on the biggest issues because he wanted to outdo Papaji and he wanted to satisfy his own demanding superego. Evolving God is the biggest thing you could possibly do, so now he feels validated, important, and immune from criticism. It's pretty hard to give that up. Adi Da pointed out that we seek power and immunity, and sure enough Cohen has got it. Do you remember him saying that he heard a voice when he was 16 say, "If you give everything to me you will have nothing to fear"?


I am so happy for you Martin!

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 22, 2011 - 7:01pm.

Breaking News with Gopala Walla!
Gopala Walla, our ace inside reporter, with this stunning development in Neo Advaita:

Martin Gifford and Sarah Palin to Give Satsang
“Our love shall change the world.” – Martin Gifford

GOPALA WALLA: I first learned that something was up in the Martin Gifford scene, when a week ago one of his inner circle emailed me that a wave of divine revelation was pouring forth from Martin. The devotee told me that Martin was now explaining the Real Truth of Advaita – he was confessing the absolute unity of Shiva and Shakti! The devotee told me that this revelation was not just philosophical, but that Martin had found his eternal consort, someone who was his partner in this revelation.

I was intrigued and I proposed that Martin allow an interview on what was obviously an important development in man’s quest for Truth. I was delighted when he responded personally. He emailed that he would give the interview; that yes, he had found his consort and that she too would participate in the interview. He would not reveal her name, but assured me she was the incarnation of non-dual Reality.

Two days later I was travelling to meet Martin at his castle in the Bavarian Alps. It was a beautiful day; the exquisite scenery only added to the anticipation of a profound discussion of Truth. I arrived at the castle. Martin greeted me with gregarious warmth; the force of his personality, his radiance and his brotherly invitation were impossible to resist. He invited me into his private study for the interview. There, for the first time, I met his consort. What followed was both surprising and provocative:


MARTIN: Sarah, this is Gopala Walla.

SARAH: Namaste.

[I had to blink. In front of me, dressed in a stunning rose-colored sari was Sarah Palin! She looked ravishing, I must admit. Her Rubinesque form was intoxicating. Her jet-black hair was done up in traditional Indian style, adorned with flowers. She had the red tilak on her forehead.]

GOPALA: My goodness, you’re Sarah Palin.

SARAH: Yes, I am with Martin now.

[Martin was beaming. His happiness filled the room like a young man in the throes of first love.]

MARTIN: Ah, Gopala, so what do you think? She is radiant, yes.

GOPALA: Yes, she is. But excuse me if I am taken aback. I hardly expected....

MARTIN: We thought we would make it our little surprise.

GOPALA: Well you’ve certainly succeeded. Sarah, I am delighted to meet you. I am a great admirer of Martin. I guess I should begin by asking how you both met.

MARTIN: It was destiny, a sacred story.

[Sarah then began to murmur, like a cat in the warm sun.]

SARAH: Giffy... Giffy...

MARTIN: I am hardly a recluse; I read and follow world events. It was when I watched the interview Sarah had with Katie Couric. I was gripped – yes I say, gripped – by Sarah’s discrimination, her verbal acuity, her sheer oral capacity. I suddenly intuited that I had finally found a woman who was my equal. Naturally, I contacted her. I emailed her with my admiration for her performance and proposed that we meet.

GOPALA: Sarah, this must have come as an unexpected communication.

SARAH: It did. I would not have given it much thought, but the name: “Gifford” ... and then I remembered the diminutive: “Giffy.” This is both an endearing and a sacred name in the Eskimo tradition.

GOPALA: It is?

SARAH: Oh yes. Every Eskimo woman knows “Giffy.” It means “A man who gives warmth on long winter nights.” And even more is the sacred translation. Giffy is an Avatar in the Eskimo tradition. He is the long-expected One: “The Great Slaughterer of seal puppies.” I was intrigued, and Giffy and I began to email each other.

GOPALA: What was that like? I mean, it seems you would not have a common reality.

SARAH: At the level of philosophy you are right, but from the start there was a visceral connection. He sent me his picture. He is such an impressive specimen, so virile, so confident. A real man. I was attracted.

MARTIN: And Sarah was runner-up in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant.

GOPALA: Sarah, did Martin explain Advaita? What about self-enquiry?

SARAH: Yes he did. I just love this question: Who am I? I have been asking this all my life. And others too like: Where am I? And: Why do I do these things? What is going on? When he told me he had the answer, well, I had to meet him. I wanted to test him too.

GOPALA: You did?

SARAH: Yes. We arranged to meet in the governor’s mansion. I had him admitted as a reporter researching German immigrants to Alaska. But really I wanted to cook him a meal. I prepared him a moose burger slathered in onions. This was a test. I cannot tolerate a prissy man. But Giffy ate the burger like a real Alaskan. Ripping into, ravishing it really. He didn’t use a napkin, just wiping the grease and ketchup on the sleeve of his shirt. He never took his eyes off me the whole time. I tell you, it sent a shiver up my leg.
And there was more, because I had to see him fire a gun and go hunting.

GOPALA: I must tell you that this talk of meat eating and guns is uncommon in Advaita. I don’t associate it with you, Martin.

MARTIN: Ah Gopala, but this is the point: Sarah reveals a new depth of non-duality, its ferocious non-compromising attribute. She has liberated me to face my shadows. And I do have these qualities. There is a history of meat eaters and warriors in my family. Even today, my cousin runs the best sausage shop in Bavaria. After this interview, we will order take out with good German beer. As for guns, my great uncle was a crewman on the Shwerer Gustav at the battle of Sebastopol.

GOPALA: The Shwerer Gustav?

MARTIN: The Shwerer Gustav was the biggest gun in World War II. It fired a five-ton shell 25 miles. Now that was a gun!
When I was young my father gave me a Beretta pellet gun with a telescopic sight – such precision. My family had a maid. Her name was Eva, and well, she was a real specimen. I used to shoot her in the ass while perched in my tree fort. I always added an extra pump or two to penetrate her girdle. She was startled of course, but then would let out a moan of pleasure. Even though I had not yet reached puberty, I sensed my power, that I would be a conqueror of women. But I had suppressed this until I met Sarah. Her yoni has freed my from illusions, from my story that I was somehow not worthy of passion and the hunt.

SARAH: Oh Giffy!

MARTIN: Sarah and I went moose hunting.

SARAH: We travelled to the remote tundra. This was another test. I had to see how he shot a gun. I had gifted him a Ruger assault rifle with telescopic sight and large capacity magazine. There was just the two of us. We tracked a large bull for two days. Then across the ice sheets, Giffy made his shot from a full 1000 yards. I have never seen a shot like that.

MARTIN: It was a clean hit through the right side of the heart. We approached the bull as it died in ecstasy. I held it in my arms and released it from the wheel of birth and death.

SARAH: That night, next to a roaring fire, with the starlight glistening off the ice sheets, surrounded by the blood of the moose, we made love. As we feasted on our passion, the aurora borealis appeared and lit up the horizon. I climaxed as if to give birth to the universe.
It was after this that I began to have visions of Giffy.

GOPALA: You did?

SARAH: Yes, but they are very private.

MARTIN: I understood that I had limited my realization. I’d become just a typical iconoclast – you know, with the standard language, assuring everyone that they are already the Self and just give up your illusions. And my obsession with non-violence – Ha! Sarah shattered this completely. Sarah is a real woman – Kali incarnate! She could never tolerate mediocrity. She showed me my potential; she demanded it of me. Now I come crashing down. I descend with her as the wrath of Truth. I shall rid the world of deluded people! People will be as they are or else!

GOPALA: I understand that your teaching has changed.

MARTIN: This Truth, the non-dual Self, is not some sort of supreme impotence. Now I am established in the power, the power of Truth. My loins are exploding with the torrid fluid of Realization. I want to impregnate the earth – with passion, with love. And it is all because of Sarah. Through her I know that our love shall change the world.

GOPALA: Martin and Sarah, this has been a remarkable interview. There is much for me to digest. I wonder, do you have any plans for the immediate future?

MARTIN: We are going to give Satsang in Russia. Russians will be receptive to this Radical Way. They are not a timid people. Sarah will be a great asset. She is in tune with Russian ways.

SARAH: Oh yes. After all, we Alaskans know Russia. On a clear day we can actually see it across the Bering Strait.

Hari Om – Gopala Walla

Click here to see the Shwerer Gustav: []


Chris , this is too tough on

Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on July 24, 2011 - 2:44am.

Chris ,

this is too tough on Martin.
I don't like when one makes fun like this about another human being.
It makes me feel really bad in the back of my heart, and I feel no human being deserves to be treated like this. This is lack of respect for sure.
Terry, I feel this last intervention is far beyond the scope of this blog. I may disagree with Martin as far as Andrew is concerned [ actually I have never seen Andrew lacking respect ], but one of my points is that the human tendency to create scapegoats is still very present and it is frightening.
I feel to create a scapegoat, as was just done with the last blog, is really a very old habit of the time where humans were at the stage of wandering around the planet, half monkeys and half humans.

We shall really stop this and at least evolve from this level, if we can, as a species.

By the way the whole philosophy of this very interesting guy René Girard, is about the scapegoat issue and the killing of the Kings and Gurus ( yes he is French adn we know about killing the King or wanting to kill the King !).
I advise him to anyone who doesn't know :


Lighten up and straghten up, Catherine

Submitted by chris boys (not verified) on July 24, 2011 - 7:02pm.


Stop pooping your diapers. I did a classical little, biting-humor thing, and now you are all upset. Jeez, why not at least see what Martin has to say. If he has any balls, he can produce something equally humorous about me (I am certainly fertile ground for taking digs at). By the way, my little ditty took a good deal of time. I even ran it by a couple of friends of mine before submitting it. They were pissing themselves. They said it was just good fun.

Another thing, do you know how to write and use a word processor program? You say you are a scientist. Is this the way you write in your field? – with spelling errors and formatting errors. Do you have any pride in the way you write?

I want you to note that I have actually taken time to consider your side of things. I have investigated the link you sent me. The other night I forced myself to watch the entire set of videos you recommended on Andrew. I then watched a few others.

I also decided to run a couple of them by a friend of mine. This guy has a degree in religious studies, has seriously studied the world’s great wisdom traditions (for over 40 years), has lived in an ashram, is an Ayurvedic physician, writes and speaks professionally, and is an astute judge of human behavior. He is also a very no-bullshit guy and likes to call em as he see em. I knew that if I was off base he would let me know right away. Within 10 minutes of watching, he told me that Andrew is mostly in his head, is making the shit up, is a very defensive person (this conclusion came from another interview Andrew did with Lee Lozowick that we watched, as well as one with Terry Patten), and has the interesting habit of not being able to hear anything anybody else says. “He can’t let anything even go a millimeter below the level of his skin before he has to respond with HIS opinion. What a clown.”

My friend encouraged me to really dig into Andrew and expose him (not from rumors of behavior etc, but from what he says and how he says it). So, I am still considering if I should have the videos transcribed and go through them and dissect them. It would be a chore, but perhaps.

Anyway, I think that I demonstrate that I am willing to do some work and investigation on the subject in this blog. I don’t see anything like that coming from you or Martin. You apparently have very little knowledge of the world’s wisdom traditions. Okay, that is not necessary to have a good personal relation from Andrew and to benefit from him and his teachings, but again, this is a public forum, where, if arguments are going to be made, there ought to be some meaningful reference to acknowledged authorities. You don’t have that knowledge and seemingly are not interested in acquiring it.

Martin apparently does have some familiarity with the Wisdom traditions. But he doesn’t care; everything is irrelevant to him but his dumb ideas and his Michelle Bachmann approach.

So what to do? I had to have a little fun just to maintain my sanity.

PS: Did you watch the video on YouTube of the Shwerer Gustav gun and the battle of Sebastopol? I had forgot to mention that this is actually Martin narrating some home movies from his family heirlooms.


``Stop pooping your diapers.

Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on July 24, 2011 - 11:13pm.

``Stop pooping your diapers. I did a classical little, biting-humor thing, and now you are all upset.''

I dont' really knwo what ``popping your diapers'' means, but I am not upset. I am just telling that I don't like the tone of your e-mail. It is extremely disrespectful.I think Terry shall stop this.

If he has any balls, he can produce something equally humorous about me (I am certainly fertile ground for taking digs at)''
Gosh you are being really horrible, Chris.
re -read this sentence please, this is quite terrible.

Is it supposed to be humor as well, this sentence. I don't think so. It is just plain scapegoating and disrespect. This to me starts to be really nasty. Believe me t is not humor, just pure nastiness. Please have a look at this.



``You apparently have very

Submitted by Catherine (not verified) on July 25, 2011 - 1:03am.

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