October 18, 2006A Declaration of Integrity
An open letter from Andrew Cohen to his friends and foes
About seven years ago, (the essay is dated 2006, so the presumed date of the incident would be 1998/1999. At that time discussion about Andrew was sparse on the internet adn the only sources of outside information were Luna Tarlos book, Mother of God, and a article on Steve Hassans Freedom of Mind Website (Corboy
I was giving a talk at a bookstore in Seattle.
Afterwards, while signingbooks, I was taken aback when an unassuming young man came up to me, shook my hand, andsaid, quite unselfconsciously, with a smile on his face: “Andrew, it’s really nice to finally have thechance to meet you. I’d always been told that you were the devil.”
There’s something uniquely disconcerting about the dawning realization that countless people you have never met are holding an image of you that doesn’t even remotely resemblereality.
It’s a strange predicament that I’ve lived with almost from the day I became a teacherof enlightenment, but in recent years it has become more extreme, due in large part to thededicated efforts of a group of former students who seem to have made it their life mission tocreate and spread a negative picture of who I am, in a couple of books and in online forums.
(CorboyThe couple of books being Andre van der Braak's Enlightement Blues, closely followed by What Enlightenment blogspot)
I know many people have wondered why I have not responded sooner to all of this.
Tobe honest, I simply didn’t know how to even start. Everything I was being accused of was soabsurdly misrepresented and taken so far out of context, so obviously designed only to malignme and my work and cause doubt about my integrity, that I was reduced to a two-dimensionalcaricature of a cultural stereotype: the “charismatic and corrupt guru.”
The motives of mydetractors appeared so transparent that I thought they would be obvious to others, and I naivelyconcluded that there was no point in responding. Besides, it just felt beneath my dignity to doso. I was wrong.
I have now, obviously belatedly, come to understand that my lack of responseis being considered by some as an admission of guilt or wrongdoing, or even worse, as alack of integrity in itself. Respected friends had advised me: “Let your work speak for itself
.”I had hoped that anybody with the eyes to see would easily recognize that the ever-evolvingcreativity, rationality, and open-mindedness of my teaching and my magazine, together with theconfidence, joie de vivre
, and open-heartedness expressed by my students consistently over a longperiod of time, just didn’t jibe with the bizarre picture my detractors were trying to paint.
But itseems that the time has come for me to speak out more directly and set the record straight.zzzAlmost from the very beginning of my teaching career, over twenty years ago, people haveresponded to me in extreme ways. I have been perceived by some to be a dangerous character,possessed of unusual charisma and spiritual energy that could seduce the weak-minded andinnocent seeker to abandon all common sense, objectivity, autonomy, and self-respect andbecome one of his helpless minions—soul-ravaged and mind-controlled.
I’ve been brandeda pathological narcissist who never recovered from his childhood traumas and unhealthyrelationship with his mother and as a result was using his power position as spiritually
2enlightened guru to dominate and control others in order to compensate for his lack of self-esteem.
On the other hand, there have been those (some of whom are now, ironically, my worstdetractors) who hailed me as a spiritual hero, a 21st century Buddha, a true revolutionary andspiritual activist whose unwillingness to compromise the standards of his own teaching, evenin his most intimate and important relationships, was an expression of an unusual degree ofcourage and a rare commitment to the highest.I guess it goes with the territory: to be a guru in a postmodern context one has to beeither crazy or very courageous—neither of which are characteristics I find it easy to relate to.
More than anything else, I’ve always aspired to be an authentic human being, and that’s whythe nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, as far as I’m concerned, was a few years ago, aftera teaching in North Carolina, when the gentleman who had driven me to the airport told me:“Andrew, you are a real mensch. Even if you weren’t enlightened, I’d still want to be your friend.”
In fact, it has been my unwavering commitment to authenticity, transparency, andintegrity that has been both the thing that has attracted so many to me, and that which othersfind the most threatening.
It has always bewildered me that I have been accused of lackingintegrity, when in fact it is my integrity that makes me such a challenging teacher.
learned long ago that most people understand “enlightenment” to simply mean the attainmentof higher states of consciousness and the capacity to transmit those states to others.
Manyfalsely assume that the attainment of those higher states means that the enlightened individualis morally evolved and has reached a high level of personal integrity, even though endless talesof corruption and abuse of power by apparently enlightened individuals over the last thirtyyears has proved that that is definitely not necessarily the case.
It is well known by anyonewho has followed my adventures in the spiritual world that the first ten years of my teachingcareer were spent in large part dealing with and endlessly scrutinizing this issue, in my publicdiscourses and dialogues, in the pages of the magazine I created for this very reason, as well asin discussions with my students and most intimate friends.
My own teacher, guru, and spiritual master Sri H.W.L. Poonja made the humancomplexity of spiritual attainment all too clear to me. Like few others, he could directly transmitthe boundless freedom and nondual bliss and radiance of the ground of all being with a mereglance. And at the same time, he could look you straight in the eye and tell you a bald-faced lie without even a flicker of conscience.
Our eventual parting of the ways was one of a seriesof extremely painful, emotionally shattering breakups that I’ve experienced because of myunwillingness to compromise my own integrity.
I think, in the end, it’s been that unwillingnessto compromise that has, over time, led to the myth created by several former students, includingeven my own mother, that I am some kind of strange aberration—a two-dimensional caricaturewho somehow inexplicably attracts people to him like a magnet and at the same time, for noapparent reason, sadistically torments them.
I think the reason they have succeeded, to somedegree, in tarnishing my reputation is that they have deliberately evoked a stereotype thatis such easy emotional bait in a cultural climate that is hypersensitive to and suspicious ofhierarchy in any form. I have always been very public about the fact that I am a guru in the true sense of theword, at a time when, ironically, that title can be used respectably in just about any field except
As far as I’m concerned, any spiritual teacher worth his or her salt, any true guru, is someone who is sincerely endeavoring to pull people not only to a higher state of consciousnessbut also to a higher stage of development—to literally raise their center of gravity up the spiralof human evolution.
But in our postmodern culture, the notion of anything “higher” than theindividual and his or her sensitive self is treated with suspicion or contempt.
As a matter of fact,especially in spiritual circles, pluralism is revered and seen as the very expression of spiritualdevelopment: “All is one and in the eyes of God, we are all equal and perfect just as we are….”
Any challenge to the inherent perfection of the narcissistic self sense is seen as the ultimatethreat to the biggest illusion in town. And it is!
And therefore, so am I….My spiritual fire, my passion for God, love, and truth, has always been, from the verybeginning, not only a call to let go of the mind and time in order to experience the inherentfullness and perfection of the ground of all being, but also, and even more importantly, ithas been a call for a real spiritual revolution—a call to rise up, to transform, to give oneselfwholeheartedly to the ecstatic compulsion to evolve for the sake of life itself.
That revolutionarycall to go all the way has been, I think, what has attracted people to me and what has definedmy brand of enlightenment for a very long time. I also think it’s what’s gotten all but the mostserious and committed into deeper water than they were prepared to swim in.zzzI have always been very upfront about the demanding nature of the path that I teach. As amatter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever given a teaching, to a small or large gathering, in publicor in private, where I have not implicitly or explicitly repeated this mantra, over and over again:“If you really want to do this, it’s going to take everything you’ve got, and more…”
Why do Isay this? Because I know it’s true. That’s what it has taken and continues to take for me, everysingle day, to live this extraordinary life. And I believe that for anyone who is truly serious aboutthe evolution of consciousness and making a real difference in this world, it will take the same.
It’s neither a game nor a part-time endeavor.
That’s why the first tenet of my teaching, whichlays the foundation for absolutely everything else, is called Clarity of Intention, and it states thatin order to succeed, the desire to evolve has to become more important than anything else. To some, this may sound extreme. But it’s simply the nature of what I teach and whoI am.
And to those who see themselves as being truly serious about the spiritual endeavor, it’sexactly what is so compelling about me as a teacher and the path that I teach. It’s definitely notfor everybody—that’s been true from the very beginning and it’s also never been a secret.
Thepath that I call Radical Transformative Impersonal Evolutionary Enlightenment or, simply,Evolutionary Enlightenment, is a complete path, in that it offers a total engagement with thespiritual life in a postmodern context. That’s not to say that there aren’t many ways for people toengage with and benefit from this teaching in the context of the lives they are already living—indeed, I have a whole international network of students who are doing just that.
But what isinteresting is that this teaching has from the very beginning inspired some to leave behindtheir former lives so that they could wholeheartedly pursue the thrilling potential of the highervision that they had seen. As a matter of fact, in the early days I was often amazed to see howmany people seemed to feel compelled to take that step, even though way back then it was notsomething I had planned or expected.The inherently all-consuming nature of the spiritual/evolutionary impulse itself is oneof the things that has been grossly misrepresented by those who seek to undermine me and
4the potential of the bold experiment my students and I are engaged in.
It’s often portrayedas if a life of total engagement is somehow being forced upon individuals, rather than beinga freely chosen, truly higher aspiration.
But of course, from the very beginning, the radicaland revolutionary nature of my vision has been perceived as a threat to the status quo ofour postmodern, egalitarian, pluralistic culture where the passing whims and desires of theindividual, enlightened or not, are always held more sacred than any higher context, calling,or purpose.
One of the most powerful transformative experiences people have with this teaching is thediscovery of a profound sense of purpose. That deepest of revelations—that it means somethingto exist—frees us from the deadliest existential sickness of modernity and the postmodernrevolution: nihilism, the often not-so-conscious fear at the core of our being that existence ismeaningless. After all, what could give the alienated self a greater sense of purpose than beinga ve
hicle for the evolution of consciousness itself, which is what this teaching is all about? Butof course, to be in a position to authentically and consciously participate in the evolution ofconsciousness, in the creation of a spiritual revolution, an enormous price has to be paid.Being deeply inspired by the idea of creating a spiritual revolution is one thing.Being prepared to follow through on what that actually means is another thing altogether.
There’s something very romantic about the idea of being a revolutionary, and for postmodernnarcissists, which most of us are, it can be an irresistibly compelling self-image. But whetherthere is any substance behind that image is a different story.
Historically, when human beingshave created real revolutions, overthrowing the old in order to create the new, they have beenwilling to die for their ideals.
For one who is not a real revolutionary, however, but has becomeidentified with the idea of being one, the dawning recognition that one is not really prepared topay the price—which in this case means ego-transcendence—can be deeply shattering to one’simage of oneself as a strong and courageous individual who is devoted to a higher purpose.
Ican’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this happen. Ironically, it is the ultimate humiliationfor the ego to come face to face with its own unwillingness to transcend itself. It is this simplebut tragic predicament that has been at the core of some of my former students’ unabatedresentment and narcissistic rage.
The fundamental obstacle to any authentic teaching of enlightenment, past or present,is the ego, or the sense of an individual self that always sees itself as inherently separate fromall of life, from the very process that produced it. And the contemporary expression of thisperennial foe of radical transformation is more powerful and sophisticated than ever before.
As a result of the evolution of our own culture, the serious spiritual aspirant today must dobattle with the highly developed, super-individuated, cynical, extremely narcissistic, “nobody-tells-me-what-to-do” postmodern self-sense that is the product of the latter half of the twentiethcentury. And authentically evolving beyond the powerful grip of that false self is no joke!
Ithink too many of us may underestimate what it actually takes to transcend its allure to such adegree as to be able to manifest a meaningful, measurable, and authentic degree of freedom andautonomy in relationship to it.I know there are those who are convinced that seeing ego as a problem is an outdatedperspective that only adds fuel to the fire, and that simply “accepting” and “making space” forit is the more “enlightened” approach. But I beg to differ. It may sound good in theory, but
5the ability to recognize ego for what it is, in all its gross and often very subtle manifestations,to “accept” it and simultaneously not act out of it, requires a level of self-mastery that, to bebrutally honest, is attained by very few.
I have found that for most, transcending what wouldtraditionally be called our “lower impulses” may require the willingness to struggle as if our lifedepended on it. Because if we want to evolve beyond ego in a way that is truly going to make adifference, it literally does.
It is for this reason that I am not and never have been the kind of teacher who will tellpeople, “You’re wonderful just as you already are
,” because unless they have been born saints(after all, such things are possible), it simply isn’t likely to be the case, and there’s no doubtthat they, as we all do, have a long way to go.
And for extreme narcissists, facing this simplefact seems to be quite a challenge. As ridiculous as it sounds, for the postmodern seeker, themost shocking revelation is that they are not necessarily the inherently wonderful, decent,good, caring, well-intentioned soul (with maybe just a few minor flaws to shake off) that theyhad always secretly believed themselves to be.
In fact, the gap between where we’re actually atand where we should be aspiring to reach if we’re serious about evolving in a profound way isusually far wider than we would care to imagine. Authentically endeavoring to face that gapdirectly is where most people balk.
In traditional, Eastern, premodern enlightenment, the ego was an obstacle because as long as one was hypnotized by its endless fears and desires, it was impossible to let go of compulsiveidentification with the mind and time and experience the bliss of Being.
These days, themodern Western counterparts of those traditions, if they see the ego as a problem at all, doso only because it is the source of psychological pain and fear. But what I’m teaching is, dareI say it, a new kind of enlightenment, in which the goal is not only an individual attainment,but more importantly, a collective emergence that has tremendous evolutionary significancefor us all.
And therefore, I say the ego’s a problem for a much bigger reason: because thedegree to which we are identified with it is the degree to which we inhibit our own potentialto consciously participate in the evolutionary process.
When the goal is to create a new stageof development in time and through the mind, ego is no longer just a personal psychologicalproblem. It’s the one and only obstacle to the emergence of a new and glorious future. Thecreation of that future is what this teaching is dedicated to.The whole idea is the cultivation of a new world in which human beings are able to meeteach other in a shared, intersubjective, egoless field beyond fear and self-concern.
A field wherethe very ground of human relationship is union, or what is traditionally called nonduality—the Oneness inherent in all of life that is discovered in spiritual revelation. In that infinitelycompelling vision, one glimpses a completely new order of human potential, ecstaticallyexperienced as unbearable positivity and the inspired passion to create, in time, in relationship,the manifest expression of the very glory one is being overwhelmed by.
The creation of such a future is entirely dependant upon cultivating a network ofrelationships with other individuals who are also freely choosing to embrace such an awesometask. And therefore, in this evolutionary context, one’s relationship to ego would have to becomedeadly serious, awake, mindful, and heroic. Keeping one’s ego in check for the sake of such ahigh and noble endeavor is extremely demanding, to say the least. But what a payoff! If therewas ever any reason to transcend the fears and petty concerns of the narcissistic ego, this has
6surely got to be it—the utopian ideal of creating heaven on earth.
And for those who are trulyinspired and committed to the highest spiritual ideals, as outrageous as it sounds, why not atleast try?
The most inspired spiritual luminaries and their followers throughout history havealmost always, in one form or another, been trying to create heaven on earth.
Of course, I am also aware that some of the most deranged, deluded, and dangerous megalomaniacs in ourspiritual and social history have persuasively proclaimed utopian idealism and wreaked havocin its name. For every Buddha, there’s been a Jim Jones; for every Martin Luther King there hasbeen a Hitler; and I’m sure that will remain the case well into the distant future. But unlikeso many of my contemporaries, I never have used this as an excuse to dampen my spiritualfire and my passion for and commitment to what I know, against all odds, is actually possible.
I’m talking about a truly committed engagement with the fullest expression of the spiritualimpulse—taking the risk of reaching for the highest, alone and together, to see how far we cantake this.
This is the kind of inspired, spiritually charged environment or intersubjective field that isentered into and co-created by those who choose to become my students.
It’s easy to see howcompelling and attractive this is to the deepest part of our self, to the evolutionary impulse,which I call the authentic self within each and every one of us, that yearns only to be utterly freeand to be able to participate, creatively, wholeheartedly, and unselfconsciously in the life processfor the highest purpose.However, to whatever degree the authentic self is compelled to create the future, theego, to that same degree, experiences the ultimate threat to its survival.
As renowned Sufimaster and prominent psychologist Robert Frager once told What Is Enlightenment?
magazine:“The ego, or nafs, is scared of change, scared to death of deep mystical experience andtransformation, because from its point of view, that kind of change is death. ... It is the part ofall of us that wants to stay the same, a kind of inertial component … that says, ‘Don’t change
(Corboy note: Years later, Robert Frager wrote with great concern on American Guru
an expose site for Andrew Cohen
(Declaration of Integrity resumes)Any spiritual aspirant who even begins to respond seriously to the passion for liberation ismore than likely to come face to face with this part of the self. But this “inertial component”or resistance to change comes to the surface in a much more dramatic way in a high-stakes,spiritually charged intersubjective context where people are coming together for the sole purposeof ongoing, radical individual and collective transformation.
I believe that it is only in the creativefriction of such a focused environment that new structures in consciousness can actuallyemerge, and at the same time, I have found that it is that very environment that inevitably callsforth that part of the self that fiercely resists those new structures.Once again, the thrilling potential that is so tangible in an environment pregnantwith evolutionary tension is precisely what is so attractive to the best part of ourselves, andsimultaneously what threatens the ego more than anything else. That’s why, for most of theseyears, my life has been an experience of heaven and hell simultaneously.
I’ve lived awake toa glorious potential that most people have never even dreamed of, and simultaneously, haveongoingly experienced a ferocious resistance from the very people who have insisted they wantnothing other than to dedicate their lives to the fulfillment of that potential. I guess this is whatit’s like to live on the edge, and this is what it’s like to push the edge…It’s important to understand that the emergence of a new stage of human development
7at the level of consciousness doesn’t just happen by itself. Of course, initially, these new levelsspontaneously emerge as temporary states, the ecstatic expansion of perception, emotion, andcognition that mesmerizes and inspires the soul in the most profound way imaginable. It is theexperience of higher states that can convince even the most hardened cynic that in fact theyhave seen God.
But in order for that glory that has been glimpsed in higher states to becomethe foundation for an actual level or permanent stage of individual and collective development,an enormous price has to be paid.
More often than not, the mistake is made where simplybecause an individual has experienced a higher state they conclude that they have actually madethat leap or transition to a higher stage. And that is rarely the case.
Only with dedicated andconsistent practice and committed engagement with the enormity of the task at hand can anyindividual or group actually make this momentous transition.When one is authentically endeavoring to create a new stage, very deep emotional,psychological, and cultural structures have to be seen and overridden. For someone who is very serious and committed to such a bold endeavor, what could be moreexciting, what could be more compelling?
But there’s no doubt that what I’m describing isnothing less than the ultimate challenge for the self: to transcend old structures and to createnew ones at the leading edge. And anybody who proclaims that ego isn’t a big deal obviouslyhasn’t tried to do anything like this.
Acouple of years ago, I interviewed Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche, a brilliant youngmovie director, Tibetan lama, and tulku [reincarnation of a fully enlightened being.] The themeof our discussion was the challenge of being a guru in a postmodern Western context. I hadoriginally been captivated by his bold statement, in a documentary made about his work,that the guru who “crushes your pride and makes this worldly life completely miserable issomething that you ask for. He is the assassin … the man or woman whom you have hired tocompletely dismantle you
.” But I was taken aback when he admitted that with his own students,he wasn’t promising he could do the job. “I may be a teacher,” he told me with surprisingcandor, “but I don’t have that kind of courage because I love my reputation. Who wants to bereferred to as an abuser? I don’t.”
I asked him about the great Tibetan gurus, such as Marpa,who was known for being one of the fiercest. He replied, “Oh, yes… they could do it becausethey had no agenda. Their only agenda was to enlighten. They didn’t care what other peoplesaid or thought—I call it CCL: couldn’t-care-less-ness. That holds the biggest power. But whohas it today?
That’s when I realized that for better or for worse, “CCL” was a quality that I hadpossessed from the very day I started teaching. And I’ve certainly paid the price.
I’ve been accused of going to extremes in order to break the grip of ego in my students.Some feel I’ve taken things too far at times, and accuse me of using “crazy wisdom” techniquesfor questionable motives. “Crazy wisdom” is a Tibetan term for teachers behaving in outrageousand seemingly irrational ways in order to shock their disciples awake from ignorance.
Andthe unfortunate truth is, it has been used in recent times by Eastern and Western teachers tojustify behavior that has in fact been for personal gain or serving less-than-enlightened motives.But I certainly don’t refer to or think of myself as a crazy wisdom teacher.
At the same time, Idon’t hesitate to say that for the sake of individual or collective development, I definitely have attimes pushed my students very hard—not for personal gain and indeed, always at tremendouspersonal risk.
As a teacher who is not afraid to say he’s pushing the edge and endeavoring to realize apotential above and beyond the popularized form of personal enlightenment that has becomeso common these days, I tend to attract students who are compelled by the notion of doingsomething revolutionary, together with others.
Once again, I ceaselessly remind people thatwhat we’re doing transcends the California-style spiritual/therapeutic model and is, by its verynature, extremely demanding.
Almost without exception, everyone insists not only that theyunderstand what I’m saying, but that they are already fully prepared and equipped for themission. But I never let anyone get deeply involved unless they express and demonstrate a clearand unambiguous commitment over a long period of time, appear to really understand thenature of the circumstance that they are choosing to enter into, and are fully willing to acceptresponsibility for the choice they are making
.Contrary to what many of my detractors would like people to believe, once someonechooses to commit to this path, they are fully cognizant of what that means. Indeed, afoundational tenet of my teaching is the Law of Volitionality, the whole point of which isto become more conscious of the choices that we are making, and to take the ultimatelyempowering step of accepting unconditional responsibility for ourselves.
Everyone is given anenormous amount of help in order to learn how to do this.In spite of this, at times my students have and still do put me in an impossible position.In an evolutionary context, it is only the individual’s willingness to change that makes it possiblefor new potentials to emerge in the collective. In a unique and focused environment where theevolution of the whole depends upon the individuals involved to actually follow through on theircommitment to change, the stakes get very high indeed.
This is the scenario that has playeditself out countless times: A student has been given everything they need in order to change—repeated direct experiences of higher states of consciousness; endless hours of teachings;personal guidance, love, affirmation, and encouragement; crystal clear reflection of their ownparticular issues that need to be faced and come to terms with; a network of friendship andsupport; techniques and practices to facilitate the process; and, of course, the biggest reason inthe world to succeed!
And still, for whatever reason, they come up against a wall of resistance,and irrationally refuse to do what they need to do, making deeper and higher developmentimpossible and having detrimental effects on the whole that they are a part of.It’s in moments like these that I find myself in a double bind.
The individual insists,in spite of repeated demonstrations to the contrary, that they want to do it, and yet continues torefuse to take the simple steps necessary to succeed.
Sometimes this impasse can last for weeksor months on end, and I will eventually be obliged by the nature of my job description, whichis to facilitate the evolution of the whole, to try and force the issue. That means either having toask the individual to leave until they’re willing to play ball, or exerting even greater pressure thatwould compel them to actually do what they have insisted they want to do more than anythingelse—change!
What happens after this is one of only three possibilities:
1, the student is angryand resentful at being asked to leave;
2, they are angry and resentful for being pushed “toohard” and sometimes leave anyway;
3, the refusal breaks and a changed individual expressesgratitude beyond measure for what they now see as their guru’s perseverance, compassion, andlove for their own soul.
A good analogy for my strange predicament came to mind a few weeks ago, when I washanging out with a group of my students, watching a TV show about the training practices ofthe Navy SEALs.
One of my students remarked, “We’re like the Navy SEALs of the spiritualworld!”(Corboy note: A disgression on the SEALS.
First, SEALs are trained for stealth. Why do you need that in the spiritual world?
SEALs had their origin as the WWII 'Frogmen'.
SEAL training was developed rationally, by many pesonnel the past 60 plus years--its content is NOT changed at the whim of whoever is in charge. There is no one trainer in charge as a stand alone guru. SEALs who have graduated may return years later and become trainers. No one man remains as Single Head Honcho.
And..unlike Foxhollow, though washout rates are very high, due to the horrible stress of training, Coronado steadily produces SEALs. You dont hear trainers whining that no one understands them and they cant find anyone to succeed. They do. Somali pirates have found that out.
You dont qualify for SEAL training unless you already made it through Navy boot camp which is quite tough enough, especially if ya train in San Deigo. So an applicant will already be a Navy man who meets the very stringent requirements for SEAL BUDs training.
That means you already have health care, insurance for your family and have made a will. If you cannot complete BUDs training, you go back to being a Navy man. You are not hounded into the street.
And.. you get Navy pay. And a BUDs trainee or full on SEAL is given a salary, insurance. And in BUDS training, you're given every possibly inducement to quit. Washout rates are sky high. But.. one goes back to being a Navy man, one isnt jeered at and called a failure. In interviews SEAL BUD/s trainers will tell you They dont accuse em of being post modern narcissists.Best of the best.
Most differently from what former subjects report from their time at Foxhollow, anyone who finds that he wants out of SEAL training **has a recognized quit signal**. Not only He can go stand on a pair of frog footprints and ring the bell. One doenst leave SEAL training by climbing up out and over the fence in the middle of the night.
Two--SEAL trainees are put thorugh hell, but their wives and girl friends are not pulled into it. Their kids are not pulled into it, either.)
(Cohen text, regarding the "We are the Navy SEALs of the spiritual world")
Everybody burst out laughing. It may sound like a strange comparison to make, and I’msure some people would think it crazy. But it seemed oddly appropriate—not just because of thedemanding nature of their training process, but because the goal of the entire awe-inspiringordeal is to get the recruit to “evolve” to the point where he cares more about his “team” than hispersonal wellbeing or even his physical survival.
(Corboy)SEALS see themselves as quiet professionals, not as being 'evolved.' And unlike Cohen, they constantly analyse mistakes and learn from them.)
(Cohen).This is their definition of a “perfect warrior.”Later, I reflected more on this analogy: Imagine what it would be like to sign up for an eliteforce like the Navy SEALs, not make the grade, and quit, and then after leaving, turn aroundand complain that they’d pushed you “too hard” and you’d been humiliated, tortured, andabused… Give me a break!
As harsh as it may sound to some, the simple truth is that my most virulent critics arealmost all former students who failed miserably.
I know that to some this may sound like a“judgment” (god forbid!) and I also know that new age sensibilities may find it unacceptable, butthat doesn’t mean it’s not true.
As far as I’m concerned, the spiritual life is just like any otherendeavor—you can succeed or fail. And when the goal is actual evolution beyond ego in anintersubjective context, success or failure is plain for all to see.
The fact is that the students I have asked the most from, and continue to ask the mostfrom, are those who have been with me the longest, and are to varying degrees in positions ofauthority—publicly representing the teaching of evolutionary enlightenment and/or responsiblefor the emotional, psychological, and spiritual development of others.
It’s no secret that thefoundation of my whole teaching depends upon the cultivation of integrity, and that is whyI’ll take great personal risks to ensure that those who are representing it publicly make everyeffort to bridge the gap between word and deed in themselves.
Traditionally, one of the primaryfunctions of the true guru is to be a mirror, reflecting to students not only the inherentfreedom that already exists at the core of their own being, but also all the ways in which they areconsciously and unconsciously deceiving themselves and others. That is the mandate behindmy boldest demonstrations of this teaching function.
Ironically, some of my harshest criticsare a few former students who were once some of the strongest proponents of this at timesuncompromising approach and wouldn’t hesitate to hold others to a standard that they werelater outraged at being asked to live up to themselves.What a crazy and unbelievable life I lead!
So many admire and respect me for what oneformer student loved to call my “acts of outrageous integrity” (until I pushed him on his ownlack of that particular virtue and he walked out in a narcissistic rage…☺).
But it is this verysame quality that is constantly misrepresented.You can take any particular incident out of context, as my detractors have made an artform of doing, and of course it creates a confusing impression.
But in fact, if you were madeaware of the enormous amount of time, care, attention, and support that had been given tothe individual; understood the complex psychological/spiritual dynamics at work; saw it in thecontext of a collective endeavor to create a higher ideal for the noblest of reasons; and didn’tconveniently forget that it was a freely chosen path; what may have appeared unreasonable oftenstarts to look very different.Contrary to the picture often painted, the students I expect the most from are not individuals who just walked in off the street and were suddenly asked to demonstrate leaps oftrust or commitment that were unreasonable to the point of being absurd. I don’t work that wayand never have.
How could such behavior possibly serve the larger purpose I am dedicated to,which depends upon individuals’ committed, autonomous, mature participation? It seems thatmore often than not, when students leave, there is an irresistible tendency to “rewrite history” insuch a way that would justify the fact that they were choosing to walk away from that which hadgiven their life a sense of profound meaning and purpose.
One thing that has never failed to mystify me is that so few people seem to connectthe dots: If I really were the two-dimensional, sadistic, irrational megalomaniac that I havebeen portrayed as being, why in God’s name would anybody stick around for ten or more yearsbefore finally “waking up”? (And if I were the person they portray me as being, anybody whodid stand by me that long would surely have to be a dubious character themselves, and whateverthey said should be taken with at least a few tablespoons of salt…)
If I really were such a greedy,manipulating, extravagant charlatan, would I be living in a two-bedroom apartment, happilymarried to my wife of twenty years, and driving a ten-year-old Volvo sedan? (If only I had lessintegrity, what fun I could be having! ☺)
If I really were such a domineering, irreproachableegomaniac, I’m sure I wouldn’t have any friends and would most probably be living a miserablelife surrounded by miserable people—and nothing could be further from the truth!zzzThe fact is, I live a challenging yet truly extraordinary life.
My experience is of always living onthe edge of the possible, and even at times falling over that edge! The profoundly creative natureof every aspect of this fully engaged, 24/7 immersion in a living experiment in the evolution ofconsciousness and culture is ever-new and always thrilling. There are never enough hours inthe day and there is so much more to do that holds so much promise. Life—being alive—meansso much when you are awake. And the discovery of the evolutionary impulse super-chargesevery human relationship.
This is the adventure that I share with everybody I come into contactwith—friends, students, and colleagues; visiting teachers, scholars, philosophers, gurus, andsages; members of my jazz-fusion band; power-yoga partners; (and of course, my constantcompanion, my Yorkshire terrier.)
More important than anything else, for me personally, is the fact that after twenty yearsof hard work, my bold experiment in the evolution of enlightenment is bearing fruit like neverbefore. I’ve often joked that what I’m trying to do is harder than splitting the atom, but in manyways I think it is actually true. Cultivating and creating with others an egoless field in whichautonomous individuals can come together to be and create a “new being” that transcendsand includes individuality is nothing short of a miracle.
But it is a miracle that is beginning tooccur around here on a daily basis. Not only is my student body ongoingly experiencing a surgeof consciousness in the form of a shared higher state, but many men and women have finallyreached that point in their own development where their conscious participation in the processis beginning to reveal new structures that up until recently had only been unmanifest potentialsseen in the eye of my own mind.I know it’s not politically correct these days to say that one is doing something “new,”but at the risk of offending a few more people, I really believe I am.
Perhaps it is just mynarcissism, but in the end, history will be my judge. I know that this will never become a massmovement, because for all the reasons I’ve explained, and more, it is just too demanding for
But nevertheless, I am convinced that our success in transcending the ego together,so that a truly enlightened consciousness and culture permanently emerges and becomes stable,is inherently of profound significance for our collective future.zzzSo this is my statement… long overdue, I know.
The time has definitely come for me to comeout and take a stand against those who are committed to destroying my reputation and creatingdoubt about my personal integrity, my students’ intelligence and common sense, and thesignificance of the work that we have devoted our lives to.
I am sure that much of what I havesaid here will be taken out of context and used to perpetuate the same distorted picture. I alsoknow that some will feel I am simply adding insult to injury.
But there’s nothing I can do about that.There are obviously a lot more details to go into, and some wild stories to tell, whichI intend to do in a book that I will start writing as soon as I finish the teaching book I amcurrently working on. In the meantime, the most authentic way I can respond to any inquiriesabout who I really am and the nature of the work I’m doing, is to say, don’t take anybody else’sword for it, but come and see for yourself! Come see me at a public teaching or join me for aretreat, or you’re welcome to visit my students any time at one of our many centers around the world.zzzI was having a conversation with a respected philosopher and very dear friend one day severalyears ago, and I confided in him that some of my students who had left were turning againstme. I remember being surprised and deeply moved when he replied, “I know, Andrew. But theyall know that you never lied to them….” And that’s the bottom line.Andrew Cohen[www.andrewcohen.org