“Andrew, I've been reading your PR plan, and I have to tell you that chalking this up to 'Eros versus Agape' isn't going to cut it. Chalking it up to 'Founder's Syndrome' isn't going to cut it. Chalking it up to some 'Mythic Guru' nonsense isn't going to cut it. None of that is going to cut it—do you know why? Because this isn't philosophical, it's human. What you did to these people wasn't philosophical. You caused real harm, and some of the harm you caused was simply incredible. How are you going to justify that with some philosophical explanation? And Andrew, this is going to sound especially strange since you were once my teacher, but you can't allow yourself to go in that direction at all, because if you even get near it, the temptation to be philosophical about this is going to become so strong that you'll never be able to pry yourself away from it, and nothing will ever change. Do you know what I mean? I'm really sorry to be talking to you this way, but we both know that that's how it is.”
“Look,” said Cohen, “as I said, I know I've made mistakes, and because of the mistakes I made, something that is very beautiful is not as beautiful as it could have been, and I feel terrible about that, because if I hadn't made those mistakes, those people wouldn't have left. And that's why I'm trying to make amends with the people I hurt—so that the potential of this beautiful teaching can be realized.”
“Andrew,” I said, “how can you say that something is beautiful when it's bound up with so much incredible damage and destruction? It doesn't make any sense. Don't you think you might at least have to ask yourself a few questions about everything that's happened? Don't you think there might be some flaw in the whole thing that you might have overlooked?”
“I have no doubt that I brought something beautiful into the world,” said Cohen, “something that wasn't here before and that is significant for the evolution of humanity.... When did you leave?”
“When did I leave? What do you mean?”
“When did you leave us? What year?”
“So you weren't there for what happened on July 30th, 2001.”
“July 30th, 2001.” [I forget what he called it—please excuse my ignorance, but someone reading this is bound to know; apparently a monument was erected to commemorate the event referred to.] “You left too soon,” Cohen went on. “Everyone who was still there at that time saw the beauty and potential of this teaching become manifest in a way that left no room for doubt, and it's because of what happened on that day that I have no doubt that I brought something beautiful into this world, and that because of that, nothing will ever be the same. But without having the context of that experience, you can't possibly understand what I'm talking about.”
I was visibly touched by this, and Cohen seemed more than ready to attribute the moisture in my eyes to the incontestable logic of his cosmology. Actually, it was the condescension and desperate grandiosity of his declaration that amazed me. I was awed, stunned and humbled. How I could ever hope to be Cohen's “peer” when I lacked this vastly superior context?
This list is by no means exhaustive. Many other reprehensible acts, both subtle and gross, have been documented and, as former students are finding their power and their voices, more are emerging every day. This list is only a summary reference. It fairly represents the kind of abuses that frequently occurred in the EnlightenNext community, often justified under the rubric of acts of “crazy wisdom” designed to destroy “ego.” It is hoped that this list will aide former students in coming to terms with their history and trauma, and that it will serve as a warning and wake-up call to those who are currently engaged with Andrew Cohen, EnlightenNext, “Evolutionary Enlightenment” or its teachers, spin-offs and associates (e.g. Craig Hamilton, Jeff Carreira, Carter Phipps, Elizabeth Debold, Mary Adams, Chris Parish, Ken Wilber, the Integral community and others(Corboy italics)), and those who are considering engaging with them in the future.
It is also hoped that it may provide food for contemplation for Andrew Cohen himself and inspiration for his reform and remediation.
Violation of Sexual and Reproductive Rights and Privacy, and Interference with Family and Personal Relationships
Requiring a student to visit prostitutes repeatedly over a several week period and to provide detailed faxed reports on these visits to Cohen, despite the student strongly expressing his strong disgust and emotional trauma over having to do this and daily begging Cohen to . Witnesses saw Cohen reading and listening to the reports of the prostitute visits with great interest, enjoying and laughing at them.
Pressuring women to have tubal ligations (have their “tubes tied”) so that they could not conceive children, and to abort pregnancies. Actively discouraging the having of children by women and couples. Requiring some women to commit to having no children as a condition of being a student of Cohen. As a result, many women refrained from having children, in some cases past the age to become pregnant, to their later regret. Encouraging men to have vasectomies.
Requiring some parents to live separately from their young children, sometimes in other countries and for long periods of time; actively discouraging parents from giving their children ordinary love, time, attention and priority in their lives or spending holidays and free time with them; sometimes advising parents to slap their young children.
Directly ordering the break up of numerous couples and families.
Exercising direct and complete control over students’ decisions regarding sexuality and relationships, including whether the student would be celibate or in a relationship, with whom the student could have a relationship, if and when students should end a relationship or marriage, and whether married couples or students currently in a relationship could have sex with their partner.
if !supportListsDenying and Discouraging Students’ Freedom to Leave the Community
Holding and withholding students’ passports, credit cards and car keys so that they could not leave community premises.
Posting guards outside a students’ bedroom so that he could not leave, forcing him to secretly exit through a window at night and flee.
Having a student who was trained in the Dutch equivalent of the military special or commando forces threaten another student with serious physical injury should he ever leave Andrew Cohen, telling the student that if he ever left Cohen, “no matter where you are on the planet, I will find you and break every bone in your body.”
Prophecy speaks deeply, darkly, grandly;while a follower of the Enlightenment speaks as simply as possible. Bertrand Russell is our great master. Even when one cannot agree with him, one must always admire him. He always speaks clearly, simply, and forcefully.
"Why does the Enlightenment value simplicity of language so highly? Because it wants to enlighten, not to sway. The genuine disciple of the Enlightenment, the true rationlist, dos not even want to persuade, nor even to convince. He remains always aware that he may err. Thus he esteems too highly the independance of the other person to try to sway him in important matters; rather he wants objections and criticisms. He wants to arouse and stimulate the cut and thrust of argument. This is what is valuable to him. Not only because we may approach truth better with the free exchange of opinion, but also because he values this process as such."
27 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sullied from the start, October 30, 2009
By Douglas I. Wallace - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME) This review is from: American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out (Paperback)
As someone who spent little more than a year in Andrew Cohen's community (1988-89), I have mostly kept myself apart from the online rumble. However, reading Bill Yenner's "American Guru" was a fine refresher in the reasons I left relatively quickly.
I will only briefly echo the praise this book has rightfully received. It's honest, humble, and complete without dragging the reader through every horrifying abuse that Cohen has perpetrated (and which is available on the What Enlightenment blog expose for those with the stomach for it.)
If I am equally honest with myself, I have to admit that I saw the cult dynamics at work from the very beginning. I saw otherwise mature people acting slavish and infantilized to meet Cohen's tacit expectation of devotion. A fellow student shared with me her letter to Andrew in which she so thoroughly demonized herself for (fill in the blank: arrogance, ego, selfishness) that it took all the denial I could muster not to see it as the introjection of Cohen's own shadow. When, after a few months, I was offered the plum assignment of editing the transcripts of Andrew's talks, it was just as quickly taken away when I did not drop everything, run to his house with an armful of flowers, and throw myself at his feet in gratitude (all part of the unwritten rulebook).
The final straw for me was attending a series of brutal, 70s-style men's group encounters where the designated scapegoat would be psychically flayed by the community members he had entrusted his spiritual well-being to. When I dared to raise a question about whether this was an effective way of working with the wayward student (leaving aside such wimpy notions as compassion), I drew the collective ire of the group upon myself. I was berated for days, until my own good sense caught up with me and gave me permission to leave.
The point? Whatever stupendous and transcendent experiences I had (and we all had them), the corruption was there from the start. Cohen's own demons were not vanquished upon meeting Poonja-ji. To the lasting sorrow of all who have thrown away their autonomy for him, those demons were given free rein and given the name "Master".
(name omitted for privacy)says:
A clear rebuttal to all Mr. Yenner's critics ~ you clearly were subject to some of the same hamhanded "ego busting" techiniques that Yenner recounts in this book. Opponents to your views appear to have only personal attacks on the messengers to offer as their uniform and sole response. Pitiful. Let the light shine in and reveal what is hiding in the shadows. Only then can the full truth be revealed.
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Posted on Feb 25, 2010 1:42:11 PM PST
(name omitted for privacy) says:
You showed some good judgment there from the sound of it. It's hard to stay connected to good sense (or compassion) in an environment led by machismo-informed transformation. Glad you god out so quickly and learned quickly. I spent a year in Landmark Education that was not quite as bad, but taught me to recognize the same deficit of real understanding.
5 of 5 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 K. Gleason (LOS ANGELES) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME) This review is from: The Mother of God (Paperback)
THANK GOD THAT THE `godfather' HAS A COURAGEOUS MOTHER.
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 bad.it 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 is...as 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!!!!! Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Annals of the ratpack of satsang gurus, September 15, 2004
By John C. Landon "nemonemini" (New York City) - See all my reviewsAmazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Mother of God (Paperback)
This work is unique and left me almsot non-plussed. Anyone who has endured attack from the current ratpat of satsang gurus needs to study the ground carefully and this work is interesting in showing what we usually don't see, the tactics of guru manufacture. I won't comment on Cohen, but one might note that considerable procession of duds appearing in the West--can't Maharsi get his act together?
But their demands for spiritual authority are at no point an obligation on anyone, despite the immense weight of tradition here.
The guru phenomenon in this form is an out of date hangover from the Hindu middle ages and counterproductive at this point. A new approach is needed. Help other customers find the most helpful reviews
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81 of 86 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars excellent, July 29, 2003
By rain cloud (USA) - See all my reviewsAmazon Verified Purchase(What's this?)
This review is from: The Mother of God (Paperback)
The world of eastern spirituality in the USA is a small world and, if you're a member, you really owe it to yourself to read this book. Whether you buy it new, used, or even interlibrary loan it, I humbly urge you to do so.
First of all it is very, very well written. It is also painfully self-revealing, almost agonizingly so. I'd like to point out that although this book deals with an aspect of eastern civilization, we have a tradition in western civilization, too, a tradition of written history and biography, going back thousands of years (e.g. Plutarch), a tradition that says we tell the truth--no matter where that truth leads--the unvarnished, unexaggerated truth. And the fine lady who wrote this book about her son has, by doing so, placed herself squarely in that tradition. If I ever met her, I would offer her a bouquet of flowers. There is absolutely no self-aggrandizement to be found here anywhere. It is a really fine piece of work.
I read the book in less than two days, I found it so interesting. It recounts the story of how her son, well known guru andrew cohen, was "enlightened" through eastern "holy man" h.w.l. poonja. (I'd heard about this by word of mouth years ago).
However, what I hadn't heard was that upon her son's return to america, like so many westerners who play guru, he became a power-mad tyrant, bully, and monster.
(The book this most reminded me of was "Mildred Pierce" by James M. Cain, another story about a woman whose child grew up to be a selfish monster).
As someone else pointed out, no one in this story looks good. To give you a taste of the goofiness at large here--poonja claimed that several other westerners were enlightened through him, INCLUDING THE WOMAN WHO WROTE THIS BOOK. Yes! He told her she, too, was enlightened and proceeded to try to convince her of it. Having some grain of sanity lodged firmly in her psyche (like the pearl inside the oyster), she rejected this madness but did, however, become her son's "disciple." That is, until his gargantuan ego, disgusting self-centeredness and cruelty finally forced her return to reality. (Actually, and ironically, it was her meeting with U.G. Krishnamurti who triggered a mass defection from the power-mad cohen of which she was a part). This is really a trip down the rabbit hole. Residing in andrew-cohen world is like having tea with the mad hatter. Don't miss it!
Surely, Cohen is the only guru at large with the questionable honor of having had his own mother write an expose' of him!
p.s. We have something important to learn from eastern spirituality, we just haven't figured out how to do it yet. Don't give up, we'll get there somehow.