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Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 29, 2012 12:35AM

Andrew Cohen's Public Image -- Extreme Makeover

(Corboy note: to get live URL links and full access to comments go here)


It costs money to hire a PR consultant.

Always remember where that money came from.


WHAT enlightenment??!
an uncensored look at self-styled American guru Andrew Cohen

Tuesday, January 24, 2012
From Rude Boy to Nice Guy?
Dear Readers,

There appears to be a curious online trend occurring with Andrew Cohen and his cohorts at EnlightenNext. Here at WhatEnlightenment??! we have observed with interest the following events:

First, Andrew’s infamous "Declaration of Integrity" (reposted here), his bombastic and scathing blog rant from 2006 against his critical ex-students has quietly disappeared from his own blog.

Simultaneously, the gushing student-run Cohen-apologists’ blog, has likewise been taken down in its entirety without so much as a peep.

(Corboy note--This means that all the hours and effort people put into their online 'devotional enabling' and all their effors as Wilberian Hopeful Chorus members has been removed. Your voice can be taken from you at any time if you are guru property in Wilber World)

(See a reposted entry here) And even more, around the same time, someone going by the user name “Kosmocentric” attempted to remove the entire “Criticisms” section from Andrew Cohen’s Wikipedia page. (It has since been restored by someone else).

So what is going on here, folks?

Dare we infer that there is a slippery and concerted effort on the part of Cohen and his students to remake the "rude boy" guru’s online image?

Stas Mavrides’ recent article, I Love Him, I Hate Him, I Love Him Again suggested that Andrew did a pubic about-face on his critical, angry stance toward his former teacher, in part per his PR consultant’s advice that he needed to make some specific image changes in order to help his fundraising efforts. (There are indications that Cohen’s group is in difficult financial straits – In 2011 it officially ended publication of its magazine “EnlightenNext”, and listed its Foxhollow property for sale, selling off a portion of the estate to a development company.)

We believe that Andrew’s disingenuous re-creation of himself as a "kinder, gentler" guru described in that article is continuing with the above-mentioned "disappearing" of his angry and arrogant "Declaration", the silent takedown of his students’ apologetics website "Guru Talk", as well as the attempted removal of the "Criticism" section of his Wikipedia bio.

We also believe these numerous actions have a common theme, which is to defang his “rude boy” guru image, as well as to hide cultic public displays of student adoration in an attempt to appear more compassionate, less pompous and even humble to potential new students and donors.

These days Andrew speaks to large Integral audiences like the “Integral Spiritual Experience” convocation held in California earlier in January.

His “abusive-guru” baggage, if discovered, would most likely be a liability in trying to reach these new, discriminating Integral students.

There are many in the Integral world who are disturbed by the endorsements given to Cohen by various Integral teachers, especially Ken Wilber.

Given that, it would seem by removing earlier internet testaments from himself and fawning students it might help him forge his new image as a likable ‘Integral-friendly’ leader; an image that belies the character of an abrasive, even abusively autocratic guru, a man to whom his inner circle of students have surrendered control of their lives, yet secretly fear displeasing.

And so we say, “Beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing!”

Comments thus far:


Martin Gifford said...
Instead of admitting mistakes and writing an article explaining the lessons he has learned, Andrew Cohen and his friends are just erasing the evidence! I guess he would call that "uncompromising integrity".

Why is AC now ashamed of his "Declaration of Integrity"? At the time, his devotees lauded him on its insightful perfection.

Just goes to show how deluded they are - they saw that article as a magnificent coup de grace, while everyone else saw it as perfect evidence for how screwed up he is. It was like an x-ray of his twisted mind. It was like watching The Office on TV - a cringefest, like an extended blooper!

BTW, I just checked the guru-talk website, and my anti-virus pops up with a trojan virus warning.

Thursday, 26 January, 2012
themeanderingmushroomman said...
one more = AC is more like a sheep in wolves clothing ~ or put in the more common vernacular of our times = an empty suit.

Friday, 27 January, 2012
themeanderingmushroomman said...
eye kudda sworn that was a typo in the 3rd paragraph: concerted should read as conceited?

also eye thawt the colonoscopy hit the spot as a metaphor more irecisely than the x-ray ~ but hey, who am eye 2 quibble?

good article.

Friday, 27 January, 2012
Jason said...

Always interesting to watch this "teacher" squirming away from the truth about himself. I applaud the work this blog does in keeping track of him.

Readers may be interested in my latest blog post which references serious psychological research related to cults. Andrew Cohen hits every single button. I was warned off people like him at the beginning of spiritual training. My post includes the guidelines on how you can tell these "teachers" apart from the ones who will actually do you some good. The guru business can get pretty ugly.

Saturday, 28 January, 2012

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 29, 2012 01:34AM

Quoted from below--Andrew Cohen Declaration of Integrity

For persons who want to read Andrew Cohen's Declaration of Integrity, posted in 2006, here is the text from Monkfish -- publishers of the memoir Enlightenment Blues written by Andre van der Braak, who left Cohen in 1999, just before Cohen became involved with Ken Wilber.

Andre van der Braak had been an 11 year subject in Cohen's domain, and first editor of What Enlightement? (later changed to EnlightenNext)

(Note the PDF as copied from Monkfish introduces a strange zz pattern here and there. All paragraphs were run on, so Corboy has broken the text into paragraphs to assist readability)


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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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.
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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.
Page 9
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
Page 11
11most people.

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[]

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 29, 2012 01:42AM

From What Enlightenment blog

Response to Cohens Declaration of Integrity Part One


Some comments following that article


Anonymous said...
I just read Andrew’s ‘Declaration of Integrity.’

I feel that he didn’t address the fundamental issue raised on this WhatEnlightenment weblog.

The main thrust of his message was that he is an honest man and enlightenment takes all a person’s got and he is committed to helping people evolve and become enlightened.

I’ve been reading this weblog a while and I don’t recall anyone questioning Andrew’s honesty.

What they’ve been questioning is his trustworthiness.

Honesty and trustworthiness are two entirely different things.

Personally, I could never trust a person, let alone a guru, who believes it’s okay to slap other adults in the face, pour a bucket of paint onto them, pressure them out of money, or take passports away when they attempt to leave.

I wish Andrew had addressed these issues head on. I would like to know if the allegations are true or false.

For instance, the post by the person, Stas, ‘Letter from a Senior Student,’ was heart-breaking. Of course, it’s one side of the story.

Because Andrew didn’t address the alleged abuses, I’m left believing that they are true.

Andrew himself wrote that he walked away from his guru Poonja because he felt the guru lacked integrity. I.e., told lies.

But it’s the same thing, as I see it, why students have walked away from Andrew. Not for lying, but for being untrustworthy.

Based on what I’ve read on this weblog, I don’t think it’s because their egos couldn’t take being “pushed hard” by Andrew. I believe that a fundamental sense of trust was broken.

I wasn’t there. I don’t know for certain. I would like to know because I believe Andrew truly had an awakening and he is an excellent communicator.

I just recall him saying that if a spiritual teacher does something the average person would never consider doing; then walk away.

The main thing I’ve learned from all of this, however, is that enlightenment doesn’t mean a person automatically has 100 percent integrity--or any integrity at all.

It does put a “seeker” in a double-bind when the “path” is to surrender whole-heartedly to the guru.

I can imagine if Andrew read this, he’d think to himself --of course I’m untrustworthy to the ego!!!

So anyway, best to just let it go, move on.

Also, he’d probably think I’m a wimp for posting anonymously here, rather than on his comments page where you’re required to reveal your email and name. (Not trusting him, I decline.)

Monday, 23 October, 2006
Anonymous said...
Since Andrew in his "Declaration" has not denied any of the allegations of physical violence towards his students by himself or by others at his direction, and since none of the many witnesses who have posted on this or any other blog has ever refuted the basic facts of there being physical violence, one wonders if the local police at Lenox MA are aware of a simmering threat to community peace and safety, and taking any measures to protect the participants of Cohen's program at Foxhollow.

Tuesday, 24 October, 2006


Anonymous said...
I wonder how the story of Andrew Cohen’s original enlightenment experience with H.W.L. Poonja would read, had he encountered the teaching model he presently offers his own students.

In his account of the encounter with H.W.L. Poonja, Autobiography of an Awakening, Andrew states in Chapter 6,

“After we had exchanged greetings, I boldly declared to him (Poonjaji) that I had no expectations from this meeting. He replied just as boldly, ‘That’s very good.’ I immediately felt at ease because it seemed to me at the time that this man wanted absolutely nothing from me. He then said to me very distinctly and very softly, ‘You don’t have to make any effort to be Free.’ ....

If Andrew were to compare his experience of awakening to the experience of his own students’ encounters with himself, I would suggest the story would be a very different kettle of fish.

In the first place, it would take a very long time to get as close to Andrew as he was able to be with Poonjaji on his very first encounter.

There would be months of being groomed by others in the hierarchy before he would ever get anywhere near enough to spend the quality time described by Andrew, such as eating together, going for walks together, visiting mornings and evenings or staying with him until just before he went to sleep (I doubt these experiences would be available to many if any).

In the second place, students are encouraged to have very high expectations of any meeting with Andrew….very high.

In the third place, students are told that very much is expected from them, in fact everything!

In the fourth place, habit of making effort is definitely required and the pressure to increase one’s capacity to make effort is unrelenting.

In the fifth place, one is certainly never going to be told, “That’s it!”, rather; one will hear over and over again, “That’s not it!” According to the revelations of students, one will even be slapped into accepting that they have fallen short of “it”.

In the sixth place, it is very obvious that Andrew judges himself to be superior and certainly does not recognize his own face in the faces of his students.

I suggest in Andrew’s context, there is a fundamental reversing of the components that he describes in his own words of how he came to “Awakening”. I would also suggest that Andrew has not put himself in his students’ shoes and has no idea of their perspective and the suffering they endure in their attempt to measure up to the ever out of reach goal of Evolutionary Enlightenment. After all, if the goal is constantly evolving beyond the present moment into the future, attainment is never going to be possible. Poonja did not point Andrew’s gaze away into the future, but rather, awakened Andrew to himself in the “NOW” of the present moment.



Anonymous said...
In Terms of Andrew’s Declaration of Integrity, and his claim that the critics are only a small cabal of losers, let’s look at the record. First, way back in 1989 when Andrew and his tribe landed in California there were about 140 of us in the “community.” Recently I’ve done some research to find that of those 140, about 85% have since left the community. So who is the loser here? Seems that Andrew is, he’s lost 85% of his students.

And second, that the critics are only a small group of the disgruntled, again doing the research, and looking over the past two years of postings on WHAT enlightenment?!! I come up with 36 former students of Andrew’s who have posted articles or comments here by their own names. Most support the general tone of the blog, while a few disagree – but none has disputed the basic information about physical and emotional abuses, and the extraction of large cash donations from individuals under intense psychological pressure.

Wouldn't it be difficult for 36 people to coordinate a conspiracy to "bring Andrew down"? More likely these 36 are just honestly expressing themselves on a subject that they are only too familiar with.

Nice try Andrew, but the public record speaks for itself.

Sunday, 05 November, 2006

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 29, 2012 01:51AM

Part Two What Enlightment? blog spot Response to Declaration of Integrity



Part 2 – A Response To Andrew Cohen's "Declaration of Integrity"
Some Personal Recollections
by Simeon Alev

[Former What Is Enlightement? magazine editor Simeon Alev provides further reflections in response to Andrew Cohen's recent attempt on his blog to explain his conduct which has been the subject of widespread criticism.]

I’d like to add a little personal background to my previous post so that readers can understand the kind of perplexity produced in sincere students by some of the situations described in this blog.

I remember clearly the first time I saw Andrew Cohen instruct one student to hit another. We were seated in a circle talking with him on a beach by the Ganges in Rishikesh. A male student made a remark to which Andrew took exception, and he instructed a female student sitting next to the speaker to punch him in the shoulder. Judging by both the sound produced and the pained expression on the victim’s face, it was clearly a powerful blow. However, the student accepted this ‘gesture’ without protest, and the conversation continued as if nothing had happened. At the time, this did not strike me as so outlandish as to require rationalization, and taking my cues from the group, I allowed myself to accept it. The “contextual” presumption was clearly that the student had benefited from this skillful response to a remark that, in Andrew’s perception, was a manifestation of “ego.”

I recently recalled this ‘early’ incident while mulling over a couple of later ones that I have always found far more troubling, and the interesting thing about it is that I vividly remember both a) the negative effect it produced in me and b) my willingness to ignore it. Energetically and philosophically, the atmosphere around Andrew is dynamic and charged, and in such an atmosphere it is a given that many accepted conventions of thought and behavior are suspended. Indeed, it is doubtful that many of us would have been with Andrew had this not been the case. Under such circumstances, incidents such as this one evoked in me—simultaneously—contradictory ‘levels’ of internal response, from cognitive dissonance (‘something is wrong here’) to business-as-usual (‘everything here is perfect’).

A few years later, I was in an evening men’s meeting at Foxhollow at which everyone was supposedly “together” with the exception of one student who was expressing what was consensually interpreted as “doubt.” Andrew’s informer for that evening, having left the room to tell him what was happening in the meeting, returned to ask us if, with the exception of that student, we were all “really together.” We answered yes, then waited while our emissary went back to Andrew for further instructions. These were not long in coming: We were to gather outside, where enough vehicles would arrive to take us all down to the lake. There, we were each to punch the doubter in the right shoulder, after which he was to submerge himself several times in the cold water while shouting “Freedom has no history!”

As I was riding down to the lake in the moonlight surrounded by my ‘brothers-in-arms’ in the back of a pick-up truck, I asked myself what was really going on here. Was this what I’d signed on for when I’d become a formal student—organized group violence, torture and humiliation? Whatever they were calling it—tough love, purification—my alarm bells were going off and it was suddenly clear to me that I was in the midst of a situation that would probably precipitate my departure from the community. Under the circumstances, (hopefully) needless to say, these were sentiments that produced tremendous confusion and inner conflict given my genuine devotion to the stated principles and aspirations of our communal life. Was I then a hypocrite? And if so, which was the greater hypocrisy: the toleration of violence against a brother, or of my own doubts as to Andrew’s wisdom and purity of motivation? I recognized in this moment that as a so-called ‘spiritual commando’ I was likely to prove utterly inadequate. Should I be more ashamed of this, or of my craven unwillingness to admit it then and there and accept the probable physical consequences? In the end I participated in this ritual without comment. One of the final shoulder blows was so effectively administered by a military-trained member of Andrew’s security team (also a holistic healer!) that it produced a nauseating pop I can still hear and a wince I can still see. After his ordeal was over, however, the student thanked us for helping him to overcome his doubt, and remains (to his credit?) a longstanding member of Andrew’s community.
On another occasion it fell to me to report to Andrew on the progress of a similar ritual recounted elsewhere in this blog, that of an editorial colleague (since departed) who’d been required to submerge himself in the frozen lake one hundred times while yelling repeatedly, “I am an asshole!” Entering his office I encountered Andrew with several of his committed students, who laughed derisively at my secondhand account of this student’s ordeal (e.g., having to relocate to less conspicuous waterfront and start over), congratulating Andrew when he asserted proudly that “things like this happen only around me,” and enthusiastically affirming his insistence that no other contemporary teacher had the “outrageous integrity” to prescribe such ruthless austerities.

Why am I reporting these incidents? For two reasons: First, I am tired of hearing it said that people should simply “get over” the effects of such experiences and carry on with their lives as if nothing had happened. Second and more importantly, both the confusion produced by such incidents, and their legitimacy as facilitators of spiritual development, are crucial topics for discussion. Why? Because they help to explain why so many people who had—and in many cases still have—feelings of incredible respect, gratitude and devotion for Andrew Cohen, have nevertheless felt compelled to move on. It is far less polarizing to approach the issue with this possibility in mind than simply to impugn the integrity of those who dare to speak out. And if a “context” and “practices” of this nature have prompted so many to leave who might otherwise have preferred to stay, it would be well for Andrew and his present community to be humbly aware of that and, as the saying goes, to face into it.

The imposing infrastructure now at Andrew’s disposal was co-created by him and many students who believed wholeheartedly in his realization and vision for humanity, and who in many cases still share that vision and acknowledge Andrew’s contribution to their development as cosmic citizens. It is high time that Andrew made his peace with these people by acknowledging and accepting their experiences as his students, and by encouraging his present students to do the same rather than inveigling them into a selective public relations campaign that serves his image rather than the whole truth.
Labels: abuse, American Guru, Amy Edelstein, Andrew Cohen, EnlightenNext, evolutionary enlightenment, gag order, Integral Institute

posted by the Editors at 8:29 PM

Anonymous said...
Really excellent post(s) Simeon, thank you.


Wednesday, 08 November, 2006
Bjorn said...
Dear Simeon, really excellent piece. Thank you for stating it so clearly. This is the kind of attitude and behaviour that always had put me off within Andrew's community. I had always considered it be behaviour common to certain people, whether "spiritual" or otherwise, and and that Andrew displayed this kind of "macho" attitude I usually put it down to his New York american personality, but really didn't like when students thought and felt they had free licence to adapt similar behaviour. It just stood out to be bullying and superiority. Many ambitious students willingly climbing over other students to score points with Andrew, or so they believed.
I watched with bemusement but knew sooner or later this would lead to my departure. But, there are also many warm hearted students who will not tarnish themselves with this kind of bullying behaviour that some use to "practice" their own "leadership" qualities.

Once again I am reminded of the enormous resposibility one have over ones actions if one have great authority over other people. They will leap over opportunities to "promote" themselves in the name of truth. Wanting to emulate the teachers personality. Dress or otherwise.



Anonymous said...
Reading your post is enlightening Simeon. The Inner Circle is a world unto itself and to find out what transpires in the name of Evolutionary Enlightenment certainly raises questions that will probably never be addressed by those responsible for abusive actions. Perhaps burning in the Light of Truth is too much to ask of those who demand it from others, but wouldn't it be thrilling to actually have a dialogue and investigation into these issues? All that ever appears in response to these serious concerns are slams against the victims and arrogant disregard of the facts of what happened. I keep checking back on this site in hopes that one day I will find a serious reckoning has occurred. Contrary to what Andrew's supporters probably feel, this is not a crucifiction that is going on here. It is simply an enquiry into what happened and why. It did happen and no "Declaration of Integrity" can change the facts. What is needed is an actual demonstration of Integrity in action. Anything less is empty posturing.

Wednesday, 08 November, 2006
Anonymous said...
What would be "an actual demonstration of Integrity in action". How would that look, and who decides - and on what grounds is that decision made?

Wednesday, 08 November, 2006
Anonymous said...
the previous poster asks: "What would be "an actual demonstration of Integrity in action". How would that look, and who decides - and on what grounds is that decision made?"

Well, for starters, I would say that instead of just generally claiming to have integrity, you actually address some specific charges or criticisms made against your actions. You take responsibility for them, and either state why you feel they were appropriate -- or if they were "mistakes", you admit that (instead of having one of your students, like Carter, come in on your behalf and say that you never said you were "perfect". This is not a demonstration of integrity. It's rather insulting to all concerned.) Shouldn't such demonstrated integrity be expected of anyone in any position of authority, let alone a spiritual teacher leading the way?

If one wants to create the appearance of being humble, and having integrity, you just say the words, as Andrew has done so far. If you want to demonstrate integrity, and really show that you don't believe you have always acted perfectly (a dangerous position), then you indicate specifically where you have gone wrong and own that, apologize or whatever. What past, present and future students don't need is a political-style spin of the issue. In all the allegations and criticisms it is his across the board avoidance of addressing specifics that frankly is what is so concerning about Andrew Cohen

Wednesday, 08 November, 2006
Anonymous said...
It might be very helpful to investigate whether there is a process of selective recruitment going on here.

Simeon wrote:

"Energetically and philosophically, the atmosphere around Andrew is dynamic and charged, and in such an atmosphere it is a given that many accepted conventions of thought and behavior are suspended.

"Indeed, it is doubtful that many of us would have been with Andrew had this not been the case. "

Is it possible that it is only those persons who crave intensity and who seek high risk and who demonstrate a willingness to obey orders to insult and harm others who are actually the ones selected for the inner circle?'

If this is the case, then it may be that AC prefers a specific type of person to form his entourage--and if you assemble a group composed only of persons who are indealistic, highly assertive, crave risk and challenge, but who have been persuaded that kindness is weakness and willingness to rationalize cruelty is a sign of spiritual maturity--this creates a social context in which behavior can rapidly spiral out of control.

And once people are persuaded to behave in ways that they are ashamed of, this instills shame. And if a person carries out cruelty on orders from a leader, that person becomes what has been termed a 'victim perpetrator'--you become complicit in the leader's violent behavior.

Violating one's own moral standards by harming others on orders from a charismatic leader often leads to shock and confusion and one feels all the more dependent on this same leader for guidance. Thus the trap is sprung.

One great hazard of being recruited into the inner circle of an abusive leader is that if you are persuaded to harm others, the victims will often make excuses for the leader, but will instead put all the blame on the members of the entourage who were turned into victim perpetrators.

Rajneesh is an example--he was merely deported from the US back to India, while members of his inner circle were the ones who served the jail time.

And if victim perpetrators find the courage to leave, they often bear a terrible burden of shame and it can take a long time to sort this out and then speak up.

Wednesday, 08 November, 2006

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: January 31, 2012 11:08PM

Martin Gifford write this comment following the What Enlightement? blog essay.


Martin Gifford said...
That is an excellent post on your blog, Jason.

I was thinking that maybe Andrew Cohen doesn't admit to mistakes because of legal reasons - he doesn't want to be sued. But that doesn't explain why he said his critics are miserable failures. Attacking his critics and puffing himself up in the "Declaration of Integrity", shows that he was taking it very personally. That is opposite to his tenet "The Truth of Impersonality":

"The fourth tenet states that every aspect of the human experience is a completely impersonal affair. It tells us that the illusion of uniqueness, the narcissistic self-sense that is ego, is created moment by moment through the compulsive and mechanical personalization of almost every thought, feeling, and experience we have."

According to that tenet, Andrew should have impersonally responded to the substance of the criticisms rather than attacking the messengers and puffing himself up as being "unique".

He clearly took the criticisms personally rather than seeing them as impersonal experiences of life, and he clearly sees himself as unique.

It is obvious that he can dish out intense criticisms and punishments to others but cannot take any criticism of himself.

Options: ReplyQuote
Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 07, 2012 07:50AM

Enslaved God -- Reducing People to Property


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Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: February 29, 2012 02:57AM

It never hurts to revisit some of the old classics.

This is one of the more specific reviews written on about Luna Tarlo's book, The Mother of God.

If more people had behaved this way at Cohen's early talks, this disaster might have been nipped in the bud.


of 2 people found the following review helpful:
5.0 out of 5 stars THANK GOD THAT THE `godfather' HAS A COURAGEOUS MOTHER., April 24, 2008
By (name omitted for privacy) (LOS ANGELES) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME) This review is from: The Mother of God (Paperback)

I had the misfortune of being around Cohen only once. Someone had urged me to go hear him talk.i walked out it was so was the 1990s.somweone else yelled `this smacks of waco texas ` as they walked out.
On another occasion a friend heard him talk. She openly questioned/doubted his silly analogy and she says "he worked the crowd like a hypnotist reading body language, demonizing her and attempting to polarize the audience'"!!!!

There is so much info on the web as to what a con AC well as a book about this `new age Godfather'. I THANK GOD THAT THE `godfather' HAS A COURAGEOUS MOTHER.!!!!!!
Alos it may have been painful for her to write the book but no doubt since it was even referred to in 'the Times' it will warn people about AC and his meglomania!!!!!

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Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: April 04, 2012 03:16AM

The Hazards of Using an Intense Experiment to Claim Ultimate Truth

Experiences can be manipulated. One can run a fever of 103 F yet experience oneself as freezing cold. All because the fever has caused biochemical changes that confuse the human brain's tempreture regulation centers.

Posted on Oct 30, 2010 11:00:09 AM PDT
Acropolis says:
As a former follower of a guru in the 70's and one who has continued to do spiritual "work," I think this is an important book. As others have said in various ways, Gurus are still human, can be monstrous, and monstrously narcissistic, even if they have one car that goes all the way to the top floor.

"Enlightenment" has become such an industry, full of slogans and unexamined ideas, and I'm taken by how far it has developed in the past three decades. One thing that hasn't changed is the desire or need to give up one's life and surrender to a teacher like Andrew Cohen, whose methods do appear abusive to this reader. In the willingness to rationalize anything the guru does or says as "spiritual" or "grist for the student's growth" is not devotion to the path but a refusal to be alone on that path AND a denial of the guru-parent's fallibility.

Seekers like to talk about how "difficult" the path is--"harder than anything else one will do"--but they don't talk about how "easy", and what a cop-out, it is to dismiss any doubt or dissenting inner voice as "ego" and thereby relegate all power to the guru. Letting go of the guru is just another step, and disillusionment with guru's fall from grace is for many a necessary, albeit painful, part of the process.

This discussion--and the book--also testifies to the powerful drive or desire of so many for the sacred in their lives. We're willing to pay big sums of money (big by the world's standards, big even by middle class standards) to participate in retreats, be members of spiritual schools, or even fly to an ashram in India or Thailand to have the "real" experience or to be zapped by the guru's presence. Sadly, there's an avoidance in that seeking: namely, avoiding one's simple, egoistic, alone reality; and avoiding one's inner truth, to use a cliche. The enlightenment industry is more than happy to provide the (expensive) validation that so many of us need or have needed. At some point, that has to be dropped, too. "Wanting" enlightenment is a kind of oxymoron because the goal avoids the now.

One contributor to the book wrote of how a single Sesshin experience accomplished the therapeutic job of melting away the years of resentment, betrayal, and exploitation he had experienced at the hands of Mr. Cohen. While I don't question the value of the Sesshin or even the sincerity of the writer, I do doubt that a single structured spiritual experience could do the job. If only my herbal allergy pills worked so swiftly! Usually it takes MANY returns to deep, complicated pain to dissolve it and transform the sufferer, but I think the enlightenment industry has made self-conscious consumers out of so many--I've done some work, have some awareness; now I've paid $850 for a commuter (sorry, no meals or lodging) retreat that promises samadhi, and so by retreat's end I HAVE obtained what I paid for, fait accompli. For this reason I tend to prefer those teachers who are not rock stars and don't have big egos and retain their humanity.

Speaking of ego, there also seems to be a duality in all these celebrations of non-duality: namely, the "ego" versus the "enlightenment" state. Where does it say that spiritual expansion can't coexist with, or even be expressed by, the personal ego? Where does it say that people who have tasted enlightenment (i.e. one or more of its aspects--let's not assume that it has one facet) don't have an ego?

Posters here and seekers in general also seem to assume that "enlightenment" is an ongoing, irreversible, steady state. Says whom? Or that it can't coexist with a rotten personality? Krishnamurti, anyone?

I agree with another poster that the ego is very clever in deceiving the follower into believing in that the guru's ends justify his means. The ego can subtly reify spiritual experience, when, like all experience, it has already passed. But that doesn't mean that the ego must be vanquished or that wounding the student is the best method. Too many people come to spiritual work with wounds they want to heal or wounds that make opening so difficult. What they don't need is a teacher who exploits that vulnerability in the name of a "sacred" contract of asymmetrical power: guru and disciple.

No, thank you.
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2010 12:16:39 PM PDT
Daniel H. Potter says:
well said ~ things of great value are never effectively reduced to formulaic approaches ~ doubt is an essential part of the path and must be completely explored. any teacher who prohibits its full and unedited expression cannot be considered a true teacher.
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 30, 2010 12:20:23 PM PDT
Prokopton says:
Good post Acropolis. I saw a brief interview with Cohen recently. Nothing controversial came into it -- it was a puff peace. But he kept mentioning how his group of students is transforming the world... he was asked twice, are they enlightened? (In the trad sense.) He dodged the question both times, saying it was less important than this new age-style revelation he's going for.

That, to me, is the bottom line. I hear all the talk about Marpa and so on, but this kind of treatment either gets results or it doesn't, and Cohen's doesn't. Cohen has a line to something spiritual, but not anywhere near the insight into himself or his fellow human beings that he would need to make a success of the kinds of methods he has chosen. As for the amazing good that his group is doing the world, I'm afraid I can't believe in it for one second.
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Posted on Oct 31, 2010 3:18:37 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2010 3:20:20 PM PDT
Martin Gifford says:
Prokopton wrote: "But he kept mentioning how his group of students is transforming the world... he was asked twice, are they enlightened?"

I saw a video on youtube where Cohen said he was creating utopia and a disciple said his meetings were utopia. But it seems to me that utopia should accommodate everyone. So where does that leave people who are repelled by Cohenism? No utopia for them? Or is it just their evil egos making them resist even utopia?

Regarding the enlightenment of his disciples, the disciple Pete Bampton says they have reached a permanent state of higher evolution. But Cohen slapping and humiliating disciples, and disciples viciously attacking Cohen's critics, do not look like evolution to me.
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2010 4:05:06 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Oct 31, 2010 4:08:19 PM PDT
Acropolis says:
Thank you Daniel and Prokopton. I don't have much to add to my lengthy post. Cohen's version of utopia (from Martin--thanks) reminds me of what Rajneeshees said and did. That kind of idealism combined with isolation, the belief that "we" are special, and a central charismatic figure are the hallmarks of a cult.

It's interesting how this stuff gets revised and recycled. When I visited an Ammachi celebration several years ago, I was struck by how the adults working in the kitchen had the docile, tired if happy quality that Rajneesh followers had, and struck also by how the stories of being "zapped" by her were almost word for word like those of Rajneeshees--she "found" me and "reeled me in"; my wife surrendered immediately, but I "resisted." Maybe that shouldn't be surprising if it's describing a certain kind of experience. I dunno.

I should also add that I liked Ammachi, enjoyed our hug, and like that they have built so many houses in India! But I still see the give-up-my-self-and-life-for-Her/Him as not terribly healthy or even necessary. I guess it depends on who one is surrendering to or serving. Why follow an abuser like Cohen when there are so many other, good teachers out there?

Anyway, thanks, you guys, for your replies.
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In reply to an earlier post on Oct 31, 2010 10:17:35 PM PDT
Daniel H. Potter says:
"... the disciple Pete Bampton says they have reached a permanent state of higher evolution. But Cohen slapping and humiliating disciples, and disciples viciously attacking Cohen's critics, do not look like evolution to me."

yup ~ that about sums it up Martin
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Posted on Nov 1, 2010 12:48:49 AM PDT
Martin Gifford says:
Acropolis wrote: "I was struck by how the adults working in the kitchen had the docile, tired if happy quality that Rajneesh followers had, and struck also by how the stories of being "zapped" by her were almost word for word like those of Rajneeshees..."

I've debated Cohenites plenty, and I have recently concluded that some people are just born followers. They all use the same arguments that are really just quotes from their gurus, they tune out when cornered, and they never seem to have an original thought.

I also appreciate the good things these gurus do, and the followers definitely have interesting experiences, etc. The problem comes with the intellectual traps of believing in the guru/disciple paradigm and interpreting experiences as the ultimate truth. When you believe in the guru/disciple paradigm and interpret your experience with a guru as being the ultimate truth, then leaving the guru becomes equated with turning your back on truth, reality, ideals, hope, and goodness. So you are stuck, passively waiting for enlightenment or working for the Great Cause of Utopia as defined by the Guru.
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In reply to an earlier post on Nov 1, 2010 7:40:42 AM PDT
Daniel H. Potter says:
" . . . interpreting experiences as the ultimate truth

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Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: corboy ()
Date: April 14, 2012 10:51PM

There's a lot in the literature on how leaders find ways to foster idealizing transferance bonding.

This article offers an attempt to examine how members of a group bond not only to the leader but with each other--and with the entire group.

A self psychological approach to the cult phenomenon

Clinical Social Work Journal. Vol. 20, No. 4, Winter 1992.
Doni P. Whitsett, Ph.D.

Very many who leave, knowing they made the right decision to leave, find themselves puzzled that despite their awarness, they still long for the group The group lingers in ways that non members find hard to understand.

Some may go from one high demand guru and intense "war buddy" group to another, and this may go on for years. Some who later became involved with Andrew Cohen had prior loyalties to Adi Da or Chogyam Trungpa or yet others who have not been named.

What often goes examined is its not only the kind of guru one gets bonded and merged with, but the extent to which one's own self, even one's body may merge with these kinds of very intense groups. Doni Whitsett notes that some have likened this to the bonding felt by soldiers in combat.

One area where this article can be expanded is to include later findings by Australian psychologist Len Oakes in his 1996 book, Prophetic Charisma. Oakes found that very many are not necessarily fragile or in transition at the the time of recruitment, but are serious and thoughtful persons who are longing for a way to do or be of service, to explore frontiers and who need the resources of a group. This motivation when well led, and not exploited, brings out the finest in us. When ill led, it brings us to what Aldous Huxley termed, 'downward self transcendance' (Devils of Loudon -- the book.)

Many of the finest, most intelligent and educated persons are longing to do some kind of service, to give of themselves, or explore unknown frontiers.

Here are excerpts from Whitsett's article--published in 1991


Our glory and our danger is that we are social creatures.


A self psychological approach to the cult phenomenon
Clinical Social Work Journal. Vol. 20, No. 4, Winter 1992.
Doni P. Whitsett, Ph.D.

"It is important to note here that people do not seek out cults." Whitsett writes. We are going through life transitions. We are feeling shaky and looking for social support and self support.

""Cushman has eloquently shown how the cult (in guise of offering normal human support) first induces "pathology" and then purports to cure it. Through various indoctrination techniques particularly an assault on the cultural frame of recruits, which includes their values, belief system, codes of behavior, and language, the cult induces a narcissistic crisis (psychologese for a wounding assault on the victim's core sense of self)

The self, thus besieged, fragments and looks for selfobjects (something/someone to hang onto so as to regroup and stablize We do this from year ONE when as tiny kids, we wake from a nightmare and cry out for our parents. Or run to the nearest parent when spooked by a scary situation. This is deep in who we are as human beings, no matter how intelligent and well educated we later become. Cults exploit this very thing. This is as instinctive as when someone who is drowning gasps for air and clings to the nearest rope)

"The charismatic leader and group step in and offer the warmth and reassurance, self confidence, and definitive answers necessary to soothe and cohese the fragmenting self (of the marked recruit). Yet, after the transferance is seductively developed, fragmentation (lets call it freakout or self doubt/self crisis-Corboy) occurs once again as the result of a cult induced narcissistic injury.

Whitsett describes how unlike true therapy, the toxic cult leader and assistanyd in an un named therapy cult turned the emotional support on and off - turning it off right when the victim showed signs of growing strength and autonomy -- which a true therapist would have validated, and thus enabled her to outgrow the process and leave.

But in the therapy cult, the very growth promised by the cult at time of recruitment was in practice, punished, leaving the victim disoriented, and all the more dependant and self shaming. Then she'd be validated -- all this doing the opposite of therapy, making her more dependent on the ones twitching the strings and doing this pseudo therapy.

"A young, divorced mother had been told over and over for the first year of her life in the cult that she was a bad mother. At first she did not believe this, because she had been raising the children on her own, was very attached to them, and seemed to be doing fine, except for a persistent depression due to the divorce.

'In the cult, she forced a strong, idealizing transferance to her therapist who would with draw the narcissistic supplies (validation) whenever she did not conform.

"With each narcissistic wound she became more and more fragile and fragmented, reacting with narcissistic rage, (Corboy note - she was panicking, feeling adrift, exactly as a small child does when overwhelmed with shame and rejected by a lbeloved parent), reacting with rage, throwing things, hitting her head yelling, punching windows.

"The therapist would then point to her irrational behavior (which the cult therapist had instigated in the first place-Corboy) as evidence of her "insanity" and her "inability to take care of herself, much lest her children."

"Emotionally exhausted and confused, she sent the children to live with their father for their own protection from her. (Corboy note. Whitsett, the author of this article does not say so, but by sending her children away, this poor lady was left all the more dependant on the leader and the cult. And, her children would have competed with the leader for her full loyalty. In her memoir Sorcerer's Apprentice: My Life With Carlos Castaneda, Amy Wallace tells how she was pressured to show commitment to the group by giving away her two beloved cats. )

"The cult validated her for her selflessness and concern for the children as long as they were gone.

"HOwever, whenever they would come to visit, she would be "busted" for not acting 'right' with them, for being phony, for not being a good mother.

"She would once again doubt her own experience of herself with the girls and see herself through the eyes of the cult.

"When she accepted their view, she was validated, when she resisted that view, she was emotionally abandoned.

"The recurring cycle of trauma-mirroring(validation)-trauma resulted in a fragmented self."

Whitsett p 366-367 A Self Psychological Approach to the Cult Phenomenon
Clinical Social Work Journal Vol 20. No. 4, Winter 1992

The entire cycle is repeated again, with cult leaders and other members calming the victim. Thus a cyclic process of vulnerability is established, whereby members search and find soothing followed by repeated injury.
p 366

Now..lets look at how you become bound with your group mates.

Recruits are "often people who have felt different as children, alien in some way. Or are just lonely due to being in a strange place, leaving home, bereaved, etc.

"The cult is often the first experience recruits have of "feeling like other people..these are people who feel a sense of differentness yet, like everyone else yearn for a sense of sameness. '(I'd say tie to humanity, kinship, brotherhood, sisterhood, a sense of 'tribe' or 'family'--corboy)

"While certain factors make people vulnerable to entering cults, other factors help keep them there. The development of a strong twinship transferance (that sense of finding one's "soul mate/s or one's "other half" -- Corboy) is one major contributing factor in maintaining people in restrictive groups. While the mirror and idealizing transferance explain, to a large degree, teh strong ties to the leader, the twinship transferance contributes a great deal to understanding the strong (one could call them 'magical- corboy) ties to the group.

"It particularly explains attachments in those cults where members have minimal direct contact with the idealized leader.

"The twinship transferance underlies the often expressed sentiment among former cult members that only other people who have come out of cults can truly understand their experience, a feeling akin to being "war buddies."

Whitsett, page 368

In groups with an idealized leader and a huge, huge membership, a very importan t binding factor that keeps people in, and makes it so very difficult to leave is intense merger and bonding one has with ones group-mates.

You feel as though you share one soul, one body.

And the ache of absence from all that makes it lonely to leave and so tempting to return.

There is an article that describes exactly how this works and I recommend all of you, especially those who ache and yearn for the group to get and read it. You may have to go to a medical school or city library and see if the librarian can run off a copy for you. It will be worth it.

You are not feeling this longing because you are weak. You are feeling this way because you are HUMAN and were massaged and manipulated in some very classic and identifiable ways.

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Re: International Enlightenment Fellowship/Andrew Cohen
Posted by: Martin Gifford ()
Date: April 16, 2012 04:53PM

"In groups with an idealized leader and a huge, huge membership, a very importan t binding factor that keeps people in, and makes it so very difficult to leave is intense merger and bonding one has with ones group-mates.

You feel as though you share one soul, one body.

And the ache of absence from all that makes it lonely to leave and so tempting to return."

Yep. That's why a true guru would emphasise your belonging to the cosmos. Then you are no longer dependent on beliefs, systems, people, groups, bodies, Earth, etc.

When you deeply feel fundamental belonging to the cosmos, then everything else is put in context. You feel like an elephant and all the clammering of the media, politicians, gurus, businesses, etc. is like so much yapping of puppies.

Without that profoundest belonging, you will search for substitutes, i.e. small fleeting forms of belonging that are really traps of illusion.

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