But (Peter) Washington perceptively glimpses an affinity between Gurdjieffian cruelty and the ethos of purgative primitivism that led D.H. Lawrence among others—and the later Yeats could have been mentioned in the same connection—to flirt with proto-fascist authoritarianism as an alternative to bourgeois soul-death*.
Nor should we ever be surprised when occultism does link arms with reactionary ideologies. Sooner or later, the gnostic habit of thought battens upon vitalism, the belief in a life force that cries out to be unshackled from convention.
And fascist doctrine stands ready to give vitalism a nationalistic and nostalgic twist: we must inhale the spirit of our warrior ancestors, who knew no democratic legalism and harbored no pity for the unfit and the foreign.
spite of some fuzziness regarding the difference between various historical forms of fascism, I think it is possible to outline a list of features that are typical of what I would like to call Ur-Fascism, or Eternal Fascism. These features cannot be organized into a system; many of them contradict each other, and are also typical of other kinds of despotism or fanaticism. But it is enough that one of them be present to allow fascism to coagulate around it.
* * *
1. The first feature of Ur-Fascism is the cult of tradition.
Traditionalism is of course much older than fascism. Not only was it typical of counterrevolutionary Catholic thought after the French revolution, but is was born in the late Hellenistic era, as a reaction to classical Greek rationalism. In the Mediterranean basin, people of different religions (most of the faiths indulgently accepted by the Roman pantheon) started dreaming of a revelation received at the dawn of human history. This revelation, according to the traditionalist mystique, had remained for a long time concealed under the veil of forgotten languages -- in Egyptian hieroglyphs, in the Celtic runes, in the scrolls of the little-known religions of Asia.
This new culture had to be syncretistic. Syncretism is not only, as the dictionary says, "the combination of different forms of belief or practice;" such a combination must tolerate contradictions. Each of the original messages contains a sliver of wisdom, and although they seem to say different or incompatible things, they all are nevertheless alluding, allegorically, to the same primeval truth.
As a consequence, there can be no advancement of learning. Truth already has been spelled out once and for all, and we can only keep interpreting its obscure message.
If you browse in the shelves that, in American bookstores, are labeled New Age, you can find there even Saint Augustine, who, as far as I know, was not a fascist. But combining Saint Augustine and Stonehenge -- that is a symptom of Ur-Fascism.
2. Traditionalism implies the rejection of modernism.
Both Fascists and Nazis worshipped technology, while traditionalist thinkers usually reject it as a negation of traditional spiritual values. However, even though Nazism was proud of its industrial achievements, its praise of modernism was only the surface of an ideology based upon blood and earth (Blut und Boden). The rejection of the modern world was disguised as a rebuttal of the capitalistic way of life. The Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, is seen as the beginning of modern depravity. In this sense Ur-Fascism can be defined as irrationalism.
3. Irrationalism also depends on the cult of action for action's sake.
Action being beautiful in itself, it must be taken before, or without, reflection. Thinking is a form of emasculation. Therefore culture is suspect insofar as it is identified with critical attitudes. Distrust of the intellectual world has always been a symptom of Ur-Fascism, from Hermann Goering's fondness for a phrase from a Hanns Johst play ("When I hear the word 'culture' I reach for my gun") to the frequent use of such expressions as "degenerate intellectuals," "eggheads," "effete snobs," and "universities are nests of reds." The official Fascist intellectuals were mainly engaged in attacking modern culture and the liberal intelligentsia for having betrayed traditional values.
4. The critical spirit makes distinctions, and to distinguish is a sign of modernism.
In modern culture the scientific community praises disagreement as a way to improve knowledge. For Ur-Fascism, disagreement is treason.
5. Besides, disagreement is a sign of diversity.
Ur-Fascism grows up and seeks consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. The first appeal of a fascist or prematurely fascist movement is an appeal against the intruders. Thus Ur-Fascism is racist by definition.
6. Ur-Fascism derives from individual or social frustration.
That is why one of the most typical features of the historical fascism was the appeal to a frustrated middle class, a class suffering from an economic crisis or feelings of political humiliation, and frightened by the pressure of lower social groups. In our time, when the old "proletarians" are becoming petty bourgeois (and the lumpen are largely excluded from the political scene), the fascism of tomorrow will find its audience in this new majority.
7. To people who feel deprived of a clear social identity, Ur-Fascism says that their only privilege is the most common one, to be born in the same country.
This is the origin of nationalism. Besides, the only ones who can provide an identity to the nation are its enemies. Thus at the root of the Ur-Fascist psychology there is the obsession with a plot, possibly an international one. The followers must feel besieged. The easiest way to solve the plot is the appeal to xenophobia. But the plot must also come from the inside: Jews are usually the best target because they have the advantage of being at the same time inside and outside. In the United States, a prominent instance of the plot obsession is to be found in Pat Robertson's The New World Order, but, as we have recently seen, there are many others.
8. The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies.
When I was a boy I was taught to think of Englishmen as the five-meal people. They ate more frequently than the poor but sober Italians. Jews are rich and help each other through a secret web of mutual assistance. However, the followers of Ur-Fascism must also be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.
9. For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle.
Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such "final solutions" implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.
10. Elitism is a typical aspect of any reactionary ideology, insofar as it is fundamentally aristocratic, and aristocratic and militaristic elitism cruelly implies contempt for the weak.
Ur-Fascism can only advocate a popular elitism. Every citizen belongs to the best people in the world, the members or the party are the best among the citizens, every citizen can (or ought to) become a member of the party. But there cannot be patricians without plebeians. In fact, the Leader, knowing that his power was not delegated to him democratically but was conquered by force, also knows that his force is based upon the weakness of the masses; they are so weak as to need and deserve a ruler.
11. In such a perspective everybody is educated to become a hero.
In every mythology the hero is an exceptional being, but in Ur-Fascist ideology heroism is the norm. This cult of heroism is strictly linked with the cult of death. It is not by chance that a motto of the Spanish Falangists was Viva la Muerte ("Long Live Death!"). In nonfascist societies, the lay public is told that death is unpleasant but must be faced with dignity; believers are told that it is the painful way to reach a supernatural happiness. By contrast, the Ur-Fascist hero craves heroic death, advertised as the best reward for a heroic life. The Ur-Fascist hero is impatient to die. In his impatience, he more frequently sends other people to death.
12. Since both permanent war and heroism are difficult games to play, the Ur-Fascist transfers his will to power to sexual matters.
This is the origin of machismo (which implies both disdain for women and intolerance and condemnation of nonstandard sexual habits, from chastity to homosexuality). Since even sex is a difficult game to play, the Ur-Fascist hero tends to play with weapons -- doing so becomes an ersatz phallic exercise.
13. Ur-Fascism is based upon a selective populism, a qualitative populism, one might say.
In a democracy, the citizens have individual rights, but the citizens in their entirety have a political impact only from a quantitative point of view -- one follows the decisions of the majority. For Ur-Fascism, however, individuals as individuals have no rights, and the People is conceived as a quality, a monolithic entity expressing the Common Will. Since no large quantity of human beings can have a common will, the Leader pretends to be their interpreter. Having lost their power of delegation, citizens do not act; they are only called on to play the role of the People. Thus the People is only a theatrical fiction. There is in our future a TV or Internet populism, in which the emotional response of a selected group of citizens can be presented and accepted as the Voice of the People.
Because of its qualitative populism, Ur-Fascism must be against "rotten" parliamentary governments. Wherever a politician casts doubt on the legitimacy of a parliament because it no longer represents the Voice of the People, we can smell Ur-Fascism.
14. Ur-Fascism speaks Newspeak.
Newspeak was invented by Orwell, in Nineteen Eighty-Four, as the official language of what he called Ingsoc, English Socialism. But elements of Ur-Fascism are common to different forms of dictatorship. All the Nazi or Fascist schoolbooks made use of an impoverished vocabulary, and an elementary syntax, in order to limit the instruments for complex and critical reasoning. But we must be ready to identify other kinds of Newspeak, even if they take the apparently innocent form of a popular talk show.
* * *
Ur-Fascism is still around us, sometimes in plainclothes. It would be so much easier for us if there appeared on the world scene somebody saying, "I want to reopen Auschwitz, I want the Blackshirts to parade again in the Italian squares." Life is not that simple. Ur-Fascism can come back under the most innocent of disguises. Our duty is to uncover it and to point our finger at any of its new instances — every day, in every part of the world. Franklin Roosevelt's words of November 4, 1938, are worth recalling: "If American democracy ceases to move forward as a living force, seeking day and night by peaceful means to better the lot of our citizens, fascism will grow in strength in our land." Freedom and liberation are an unending task.
Umberto Eco (c) 1995
Via Carol Hortonon Dec 29, 2011Wet, Hot, Wild & Surprisingly Deep: An Interview with Shyam Dodge
oundaries. In my mind, Western psychology is very good at defining and categorizing developmental stages in personal and cultural growth. Asian contemplative traditions, on the other hand, are very good at implementing rituals and practices that induce altered states of consciousness. Both traditions have remained largely ignorant of each other until very recently. And there is good reason for this.
The altered states achieved in meditation are not dependent upon developmental maturity in order to be experienced. And, developmental growth is not necessarily dependent upon achieving altered states of consciousness. But, I think, that both traditions ignore one another at their own peril.
To speak from personal experience, many long-term practitioners and teachers of meditation, while very accomplished in contemplative practice, are often developmentally stunted in their psychological maturity.
It’s also true, however, that a lot of profound psychological growth can happen due to and in light of experiencing altered states of consciousness.
In my own life, I know how much certain meditation practices enabled me to further dissociate from difficult emotional and psychological material, which only served to stunt my growth as a person.
At the same time, many profound experiences in meditation have given me further insight into my own psychology that has aided my developmental growth.
So, they can be complimentary systems if properly integrated.
My entire identity and self-understanding was based upon being a spiritual authority. If you spend nearly twenty years, since you were five years old (as I was), actively pursuing enlightenment and submitting to an intensely orthodox Hindu tradition, as well as finding consistent validation from the community you are a part of, it is extremely difficult to conceive of, let alone construct, an identity outside of the role of “spiritual master.”
After leaving my tradition I continued to teach workshops and meditation intensives in the larger world of American and European yoga.
Needless to say, I persisted in carrying many of the teaching methods of the guru tradition, as it was the basis of my religious education, into this post-guru phase.
In particular, I taught a six week intensive in the Midwest, about a year after I first left being a monk, which made me confront the ethics of my teaching methods.
Through dharma talks, one-on-one sessions with students, and other forms of yogic/Vedic ritual I found that I was merely perpetuating the very same dysfunctions of the guru tradition that I had left and was now trying to reform. This was an incredibly heavy realization to come to. Not only was I continuing to hold my students’ idealizations of “the enlightened spiritual prodigy” but I, as a teacher, had not constructed or learned a healthier alternative teacher-student dynamic.
In essence, I was continuing to psychologically enslave my students in a relationship where they were dependent upon me as both conduit for divine grace and as a kind of spiritual autocrat who had control over their internal lives. This is the basis for the guru tradition. Gurus are the spiritual authorities gifted not only with privileged mystical insight but are also the gatekeepers for the divine. Essentially, the representatives for the divine on earth, who act as intermediaries for the rest of humanity. While, I was not overtly practicing this educational model it was implicit within my teaching methods.
I engaged with my students as if I had some special insight into their innermost being, which I alone had access to. Not only that, but I could somehow divinely intervene in their spiritual development by rapidly processing and pushing past their interior boundaries through the power of my unique personality. I was presenting myself as a kind of potent catalyst for spiritual change and evolution. I was forceful. I was charismatic. I was highly trained.
And I could hold another person’s gaze longer than was humanly natural.
My students, in the Midwest, described me as “walking love.”
My advertisements for workshops, at that time, were of me with long guru-hair, smiling with supernatural love and “knowingness.” I basically looked like Paramahansa Yogananda.
I ended the six week intensive in the Midwest two weeks before it was scheduled to finish both due to a family emergency (which is briefly discussed in the book) and because of my own dawning revelation that I was not holding appropriate space for my students precisely because I had yet to process my own experience in the guru tradition.
I was simply perpetuating the very same sickness I was seeking to heal.
When I wrote the book (a year after the Midwest revelations) I had come to the conclusion that I never wanted to be a guru again, even a “post-guru Guru.” I had come to realize how dis-empowering that educational structure was for the students I was teaching and how isolating it was for me. By continuing to be a kind of guru, I was taking the power necessary for real spiritual growth away from my students by enabling them to project their idealization needs upon me, while erasing my own humanity by continuing to hold those “spiritual” projections.
professor of law Deborah Merritt summarized the Dr. Fox Effect as it was observed in the first experiments, in which American actor Michael Fox gave a lecture to a group of ten under the guise of "Dr. Myron L. Fox":
"The experimenters created a meaningless lecture on 'Mathematical Game Theory as Applied to Physician Education,' and coached the actor to deliver it 'with an excessive use of double talk, neologisms, non sequiturs, and contradictory statements.'
At the same time, the researchers encouraged the actor to adopt a lively demeanor, convey warmth toward his audience, and intersperse his nonsensical comments with humor. ... The actor fooled not just one, but three separate audiences of professional and graduate students.
**Despite the emptiness of his lecture, fifty-five psychiatrists, psychologists, educators, graduate students, and other professionals produced evaluations of Dr. Fox that were overwhelmingly positive. ... The disturbing feature of the Dr. Fox study, as the experimenters noted, is that Fox’s nonverbal behaviors so completely masked a meaningless, jargon-filled, and confused presentation."**4]
Ken Barlow's son and the humiliation sect: The extraordinary saga of how the Coronation Street star's actor son is helping run a very troubling 'cult'
Mail, UK/December 14, 2012
By Paul Brachhi and Tom Leonard
The British headquarters of the 'Enlightenment' organisation are based in a modern five-storey building behind wrought iron gates in Islington, North London.
The reception, on the ground floor, is manned by a middle-aged man with an American accent. Visitors seeking more information about the group, which draws on Tibetan Buddhism and Hindu mysticism for inspiration, are handed a leaflet entitled 'Meditation and Evolution'.
These are the buzz words of the Enlightenment movement - or EnlightenNext, as it is officially known - which claims to have thousands of followers and a 'membership base spanning 20 countries', including actor Linus Roache, son of veteran Coronation Street actor, Bill.
It emerged this week that 48-year-old Roache has made the extraordinary decision to move to the U.S. to become managing director of the group's New York office. His wife, Rosalind Bennett, is PR for EnlightenNext.
'I realised success as an actor alone wouldn't make me happy,' explained Roache in a recent interview. 'I needed to explore my spiritual side in more depth.'
So far, Roache, who made his name in the U.S. police series Law & Order and appeared in Julian Fellowes's ITV drama Titanic in March, has donated at least $75,000 (£46,000) to EnlightenNext in 2010 and 2011. His name is listed in the 'Donor Honor Roll' in the biennial report of the spiritual network.
It transpires that Roache joined EnlightenNext back in 1994, along with Jerome Flynn, who starred in the popular Nineties TV series Soldier Soldier. The late Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop empire, was also a convert.
The endorsement of such celebrities as Roache, a much-admired actor, who also appeared in the acclaimed 1997 film The Wings Of The Dove with Helena Bonham Carter, has undoubtedly added credibility to the organisation and increased its appeal here in Britain.
But critics have accused EnlightenNext of being little more than a cult. Certainly, its methods have attracted controversy and criticism.
So what does its leader Andrew Cohen encourage his followers to believe? It is almost impossible to say because his philosophy, such that it is, is couched in near impenetrable gobbledegook. But 'enlightenment through meditation' is probably the simplest way of putting it.
Even former followers find it hard to describe it more clearly, but some believe it has damaged lives. Take the British woman we spoke to this week, who claims her 16-year marriage ended after her husband became a follower of Cohen, who describes himself as a spiritual teacher and 'cultural visionary'.
'It was like losing my husband Mike to another woman,' said Helen McLellan from Stoke-on-Trent.
Others have handed over huge sums of money to 57-year-old Cohen's movement. They did so willingly, it should be stressed, but some have nevertheless come to bitterly regret their decision.
In the past, at least, Cohen's most committed 'students', as they call themselves, have ended up living at the group's American base, even if they're British. Former members have made allegations about the psychological abuse and bullying they suffered at the centre, set in more than 200 acres in Massachusetts.
This includes bizarre and humiliating punishments, such as having buckets of red paint poured over you or having your face slapped for failing to measure up, in one way or another, to the group's expectations. It's alleged that those under Cohen's tutelage have had to prostrate themselves before pictures of him.
But perhaps his harshest critic has been his own mother. She was once one of his students and that experience formed the basis of a book she wrote in 2009 which she called, with heavy irony, Mother Of God.
In it, she revealed how she used to address her son as 'Master' and accused him in the book of becoming egomaniacal and manipulative. The two have since been reconciled.
The book was among a number of alleged 'exposes' of Cohen in America over the past few years, but there has been almost no critical things written about him in this country, where it is a registered charity.
According to documents filed at the Charity Commission, one of the organisation's objectives is to 'advance moral or spiritual welfare or improvement for the benefit of the public?…?by promoting education concerning spiritual enlightenment'.
It is the group's 'advancement of spiritual welfare' that makes EnlightenNext eligible for charitable status. Charities, of course, enjoy beneficial tax arrangements.
The UK arm of EnlightenNext, which also covers its activities in Europe, had an income of nearly £600,000 and assets of £3.2?million, according to the accounts for the year to December 2011.
In the U.S., it had a turnover of $3.1?million (£1.9?million) in 2010, the most recent financial information available reveals. Around one third of that money comes from 'donor investors' and the rest from 'revenue-generating' operations, such as the sale of books and videos. A ten-day retreat in Tuscany, Italy, being advertised at the Islington HQ, costs more than £1,000.
EnlightenNext is a non-profit organisation - a phrase which is mentioned repeatedly in its publicity material - meaning that any financial surplus is used to further its aims.
Anyone who visits the group's website is encouraged to give at every opportunity: 'Donate now' ('support a revolution in consciousness and culture') … 'Donate Now' ('Help change the world from the inside out') … 'Please click here to make a donation' …
Home for Mr Cohen, 57, when he is not travelling the major cities of the world (he will be in London to give a talk in February), is the group's sprawling HQ in Lenox, Massachusetts, although his people have described where he lives as simply a two-bedroom flat in the grounds.
People who have met Cohen, born into a middle-class Jewish family in New York, say he possesses an 'alluring intensity' and that watching him speak is 'like a tunnel vision experience where you feel he's only talking to you'.
Cohen says he gave up early aspirations to be a musician and embarked on his chosen path after experiencing a moment of 'cosmic consciousness' when he was just 16.
In 1986, he began teaching his own blend of mysticism, which he called 'evolutionary enlightenment' - the story of which is told in his tome of the same name, price $16.47 (£10.20) - and two years later set up a global network of followers, which eventually became EnlightenNext.
In the early Nineties, it was known as FACE (Friends of Andrew Cohen Everywhere). Mostly comprising professional people under 40, it included teachers, lawyers and computer experts as well as actors like Linus Roache and Jerome Flynn, who lived together with other British followers in eight rented flats in a converted dairy in Belsize Park, North London.
Each morning and evening, students would meet for an hour of silent meditation. All self-centred thoughts had to be renounced. It was rumoured in the neighbourhood that some shaved their heads as a sign they had taken a vow of celibacy. A number of them are said to have pledged at least £40 a month to the cause, and in some cases, it is thought to have been more.
It was reported at the time that worried families had contacted the Cult Information Centre, a body dedicated to exposing abuse and brainwashing in pseudo-religious groups.
The CIC's spokesman was quoted as saying the families had described their loved ones as 'going through the changes in personality that you would expect from those involved in any of the groups we're concerned about', including an alleged loss of critical ability.
Yesterday, when contacted by the Mail, the CIC confirmed that it had received a number of complaints over the years about Cohen's Belsize Park community. But, it seems, there were said to be far more bizarre things taking place inside Cohen's communes around the world, not least in Massachusetts, which became the global headquarters of the enlightenment network in 1998.
One man who knows Cohen well is William Yenner, who was Cohen's business manager for 25 years. He become disillusioned with Cohen's methods, but had already handed over a cheque to EnlightenNext for $80,000 (£49,000).
'It was at my lowest point,' said Mr Yenner, speaking from his home in Greenfield, Massachusetts. He was given his money back, he says, when he left in 2003, but only on condition he signed a confidentiality agreement that prevented him from disclosing details about EnlightenNext for five years. The agreement expired in 2008 and, shortly afterwards, Yenner's book about Cohen was published, entitled American Guru: A story Of Love, Betrayal And Healing - former students of Andrew Cohen speak out.
One chapter is named 'The Dark Side of Enlightenment' and includes a section on 'disciplinary face slapping'.
'In some cases, Andrew [Cohen] would direct one student to slap another,' wrote Mr Yenner. 'In others, he administered the slaps himself. I myself was slapped on two occasions, once by a woman and once by another man. I also remember having to do 1,000 protestations (bowing in reverence) in front of a picture of Andrew, which would take me two or three hours.'
A female student who displeased Cohen, he says, was summoned to a basement room where 'she was met by four fellow female students who, having guided her on to a plastic sheet on the floor, each poured a bucket of paint over her head as a “message of gratitude” from Andrew.'
There were strict rules around relationships. 'If Andrew didn't like how a relationship was going, he would encourage it to end,' said Mr Yenner. 'No one would consider a relationship with someone outside the “community”. Even couples who joined together were sometimes encouraged to separate. This happened even if they had children.'
Yenner claims it was also common for students to curry favour for perceived transgressions by buying Cohen gifts or making donations - dubbed 'the currency of forgiveness'.
Those who decided to leave the fold, he says, tended to flee in the night and Cohen would sometimes send other followers to find the 'escapees' and persuade them to return.
One student, it is alleged, who had a 'beautiful' Saab car, was persuaded to get rid of it because it was deemed to be a reminder of his materialistic lifestyle. He is said to have taken the vehicle to a scrapyard where it was placed in a crusher. To 'maximise the effect', the student himself was invited to press the button on the crushing machine.
Another bizarre custom was a 'push-up marathon' every Sunday. 'We'd do a series of 30, then rest our arms, then do another series of 30,' said a former member in a book he also wrote about his time with Cohen. 'You just had to keep going for as long as you could.'
Others quoted in Mr Yenner's book told of having to stand in a lake in the grounds of the Massachusetts HQ. Then there is the story of Helen McLellan from Staffordshire. She says her experience is testament to the way outside relationships are disapproved of by the group.
Mike and Helen McLellan were married for 16 years. They had a young son and Mr McLellan was head of music at a private school in Staffordshire. Then, one day in 1993, someone bought him some tapes of Andrew Cohen.
He soon became an ardent follower, culminating in him going on a 12-day retreat in Switzerland. He returned a changed man, says his wife.
'He was always taking our son to the park, and we used to talk for hours on end,' said the now 69-year-old Mrs McLellan, who lives in a semi-detached house in Stoke-on-Trent. 'Afterwards, he was unhappy and not interested in talking about things. He became completely absorbed in himself.'
Within a few years of her husband listening to Cohen's tapes, Helen and Mike separated. Her story later appeared in the local paper in 2000 under the headline: 'Ex-wife claims marriage ruined by religious cult.'
'Our son is still in contact with him,' says Mrs McLellan. 'He always makes sure to pass on his love to me, but I know nothing of what he is doing, although I believe he is in London.'
We also spoke to a family in the U.S. who tell a similar story to Mrs McLellan.
This week, after the Mail put these allegations to EnlightenNext, it issued the following statement:
: 'It is common for organisations such as ours to face criticism from time to time. In this case, the critics are a small minority who have not been involved with EnlightenNext for over a decade or more.
'As we're sure you can appreciate, EnlightenNext cannot comment directly on any one individual's experience, as it would violate both their and other individuals' rights to privacy. Andrew Cohen continues to have a positive impact on many hundreds of people around the world.'
Meanwhile, Linus Roache has spoken to Spirit And Destiny magazine about what his father - Coronation Street's Ken Barlow - thought about his involvement with Cohen. Roache Snr has often spoken about his belief in spiritualism and reincarnation. He briefly became a druid in the Sixties and celebrated the summer solstice at Stonehenge.
His son said: 'Dad has always been -and still is - a great influence on me. He has always stood up for spirit, staying true to his beliefs… and I like to do the same with regard to my own true beliefs, regardless of potential criticism or mockery.'
You can be sure, though, that the path to enlightenment for the much-admired actor is unlikely to involve face-slapping, being covered in red paint, or standing in a freezing lake.
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News Update: Former Foxhollow Patron Speaks Out
About the Book —
“Unfortunately, though the “teaching” Andrew Cohen
has cobbled together contains elements of perennial wisdom,
time has revealed that it rests on a foundation of dishonesty,
corruption and pernicious abuse of power that undermines whatever
positive effects it might otherwise have produced.”
American Guru is a multifaceted account of life in the contemporary spiritual community known as EnlightenNext, and the controversial “teaching methods” of its New York-born founder, self-proclaimed “guru” Andrew Cohen. With contributions from several of Cohen’s former students, William Yenner recalls the thirteen-year trajectory of his career as a leader and manager in Cohen’s community–his early days as an idealistic “seeker,” his years of service on EnlightenNext’s Board of Directors, his ultimate disillusionment and departure, and his efforts to make sense of his experiences as a once-devoted follower of a “Teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment.” With wit and insight, Yenner and his colleagues have produced a riveting cautionary tale on the dangers of authoritarian spirituality, and an insider’s case study on the promises and pitfalls of postmodern discipleship.
Yenner’s book is a depiction of abuse of power as it continues to play out in the lives of real people, the students of spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, at Cohen’s 220-acre Foxhollow ashram in western Massachusetts. A look behind the scenes at “EnlightenNext,” a global nonprofit devoted to “the evolution of consciousness and culture,” American Guru reveals what happens when hundreds of contemporary idealists devote their lives to the teachings of a charismatic leader who demands the unconditional surrender of their “egos.”
William Yenner and his fellow contributors, all former members of Cohen’s “EnlightenNext” community, describe their initial meetings with Andrew Cohen and their varied responses, over the twenty years that followed, to his promise to lead them to enlightenment. It was a journey that began in love and beauty, during which deep friendships were forged and profound spiritual meaning was discovered by many. Energized and fulfilled by their participation in Cohen’s projects, they derived purpose, satisfaction and hope from their years of discipleship, until darkness clouded the light that had illuminated the early years of their association with this powerful teacher. Gradually, their abandonment of the familiar for the guidance of a charismatic guru came to feel less like a life freely chosen than forced enlistment in the service of an individual bent on total control.
How did it all go wrong? What are the lessons to be learned? What comes next for the many seekers, on a wide variety of contemporary spiritual paths, who become disillusioned with iconoclastic authority figures who have opened their minds and hearts to previously unimagined possibilities? And how can an understanding of the authoritarian dynamic inoculate others against abuse at the hands of such powerfully charismatic individuals?
Read more About the Book.
Is it wrong to call out Cohen’s enablers? Is it wrong to expect them to break the silence on Cohen’s legacy of abuse, manipulation and cultish behaviors? In the face of the sadistic acts of Cohen isn’t it problematic when Wilber says “Cohen is here to tear you into a thousand pieces?” What about accountability? Responsibility? Ethics?
I would never appear on a program with Cohen, Wilber or Gafni let alone work with them. And if I was in a position of power as Cohen’s friends and supporters Ken Wilber, Craig Hamilton, Terry Patten, Marc Gafni, Genpo Roshi, Diane Hamilton are I would speak out against him. Do they deny the multiple, disturbing claims made by former disciples of Cohen? Or do they merely brush it aside as “Crazy Wisdom?”
How can someone like Craig Hamilton continue to praise Cohen given the overwhelming evidence against him? After spending fifteen years with Cohen I suspect that Hamilton is still in Cohen’s cult trance.
Can Cohen’s supporters be deemed legitimate if they are unable to call out his abusive, manipulative and sadistic behavior? There is really no excuse for the silence because it only enables Cohen further.
In a post-Jonestown and present day Catholic Church scandal era we simply cannot afford their silence. I doubt any accountability will be had because this particular integral community is a family of “evolutionary thinkers,” who has discovered a revolutionary truth and will defend it to the end. They simply employ a form of group think that rationalizes, justifies and spins the truth to meet their agreed upon conclusions about each other.
The ultimate irony is of course that these spiritual teachers are supposedly on the forefront of instructing us on how to confront the shadow. However, I won’t take their advice until they confront the very large shadow of Andrew Cohen.
Re: The Rise and Fall of Ken Wilber?
« Reply #6 on Sept 25, 2012, 11:41am »
On his defense, Ken is fundamentally an introvert and has been struggling with his health for years. The combination of these two factors probably leaves him exhausted after a group meeting. I was invited to a sit down with a group of 4 Integralists (is that a word?) at his loft in Denver about 9 years ago and he does these regularly.