(This essay is a hunch, a speculative hunch, about the power dynamics wielded by Andrew Cohen upon his disciples.
Cohen gave himself credit for not abusing sexuality, contrasting himself with the many other gurus who had been caught with their pants down.
Corboy suggests that Cohen's preferred
métier was in an area far more taboo than conventional sexuality.
Corboy suggests, from an outsider's perspective, that Andrew Cohen conducted much of his power scenarios via financial, rather than erotic battery.
Cohen seems to have had a immense interest in money as the medium of power.
(It is worth noting that when Cohen did interfere in one student's sexual life, he did so by commanding that student to visit prostitutes daily.
IMO, in this episode, Cohen did abuse sexuality through use of a student as a surrogate.
The student had to find and pay a prostitute in order to execute this command - in effect the student had to pay money for his own humiliation in order to please Andrew Cohen. In this scenario, Cohen used this student as though that student was an action figure to be manipulated upon command to act out Cohen's personal hang-ups.)
Former members of Andrew Cohen's group might find some interesting material in this article.
"Fifty Shades of Green: Exploring Financial Domination
"(Text-only Google cache copy of same article -fewer pop ups)
My perspective, based on descriptions of Cohen's behavior via What Enlightenment? blogspot and American Guru
is that Andrew Cohen sought domination of disciples -- and that Cohen used students' money as a medium through which to dominate and torment them, to own them.
I would suggest calling this fiscal BDSM.
Money and fears about losing money can bind us as tightly as beryllium steel handcuffs.
An adroit BDSM power junkie does not need to dress in black leather or latex, and does not need to own or rent a sound proofed brick and mortar dungeon.
He or she can create that dungeon within the subject's mind and body -- create a dungeon that is invisible but no less binding, and create the leashes, collars, whips and other tools as well.
That guru can do it through the medium of MONEY and puncture/penetration
of a person's financial privacy.
The first step to building that dungeon is to inspire curiosity, and elicit excitement, hope, trust, love in a potential recruit.
Next, persuade that recruit to remain friends with only the persons already associated with the guru.
Persuade the recruit to drop outside friends and family, then move in with the friends who share devotion to the guru.
At this point the invisible dungeon has been constructed. You forget there is a worthwhile outside world you can return to. You have been taught to regard that world as inferior, perhaps evil.
You have had the most astounding experiences in your life, experiences that feel beyond .your earlier limits.
You and your friends are convinced you are, with your guru, on the cutting edge of the world's evolution.
Your mind, heart and entire body participate in this shared discovery.
But you have forgotten there is a worthwhile life and a world of friends and family outside of all this.
But, you're actually in a dungeon and do not yet know it. Mentally and emotionally, the collar is around your neck and it is locked. Attached to that collar is a long leash.
You do not know this yet, because the guru has not yet yanked that leash.
The leash is your money and your financial privacy.
Any minute now, that leash will be yanked and that collar will give you an electric shock.
When that happens to you and you scream and freak out, your friends will pressure you to engage in full financial surrender. They've already done so.
Your shred of remaining autonomy and privacy is a reproach to them. They want you to give your financial surrender to the guru. And you have come to love and rely on those same friends.
You are in chaos. The neurobiology that supports your critical thinking
is disrupted by mega stress and utter shock.
You are so fried that you cannot sleep. You're in torment due to terror, shame, conflicted loyalties.
You forget there is a world outside of this. And if you do remember, you
know that you'll prove yourself a worm if you run away.
You're in chaos and primitive. You need something to hold onto for stability. The only source of stability is the guru who has orchestrated your torment. The guru who has crafted the entire social context that makes you scream.
You've been turned into a suffering animal with a few shreds of verbal awareness
clinging to the turmoil.
You don't have access to your full adult mind or to your outside friends and family. After all, you moved in with this guru -- who was flattering and welcoming when you were still autonomous and had a life of your own.
But you cant remember when you had a worthwhile life without that guru. You cannot remember because you are a stressed out wreck.
Let us look at Cohen's financial Dungeon Master status. He got more power than the IRS. Amazed at this assertion? Look more closely.
In the meat-space world, the only entity empowered to demand access to all aspects of our cash flow is the Internal Revenue Service.
If the IRS wants to audit us, we do not face that audit alone. We can arrange to be accompanied and represented by a CPA and if need be, an attorney
. When audited by the IRS, we can go to our own homes at night and see our families and friends.
Look at Cohen's status.
His students were not accompanied by a CPA or attorney of their own choosing when they were ordered to give access to their financial assets.(How else could Cohen have known that Jane O'Neill had two million dollars? That Bill Yenner had eighty thousand dollars?)
His students could not go home to their families and friends at night - because by the time Cohen was pressuring them for money, they'd already burned their bridges and given full emotional and social investment to Andrew Cohen and his community. Their friends were in that same community! Jane's friends were told to avoid her, so Jane had no one to confide in while being pressured for that two million.
The IRS does not cut you off from your friends and family who are outside the IRS. The IRS focuses on your tax returns, not on who your friends and family are.
The IRS doesn't demand that you surrender ties to your friends and families. So, if the IRS puts you under the stress of an audit, you're not alone.
In Cohen's fiscal BDSM space , his students were under more pressure than even the IRS could inflict.
What I would dare call "monetary" bondage/sadism, Domination/submission
was enacted many times in Cohen's fiefdom.
Cohen was preoccupied with obtaining liquid money from the beginning.
Many students gave Cohen gifts freely and from love. Here is what Cohen did with some of that swag.
This person ("Disculta")described how, in the 1980s, Cohen secretly exchanged student gifts for cash.
He used to operate around here - used to hold his satsang in my old yoga school in fact, and I know several ex-followers. He is a big sleaze. My ex-husband used to work in a fancy men's clothing store. All his devotees used to come in to buy him presents. Then he would come in with some guys he hung out with (and my ex-hub said they definitely seemed to be gay, but this could be his imagination) and they would exchange these sacred gifts for cold, hard cash.
His mother wrote a book about him - I believe it's called Mother of God, or God's Mother, or some such thing. Apparently it's a pretty funny expose.
The thing is, he's clever. He manages to seem intellectual and spiritual and get people like Ken Wilber to respect him.
Later, however, Cohen displayed a much more troubling behavior pattern -
he orchestrated not one but a number of incidents in which students gave him money amidst suffering. Students were forced to affirm Cohen's dominion
of them by enagaging in acts of financial self mutilation - I dare say financial abasement, financial masochism..
* Demanding that disgraced students give painfully large sums of money
so as to be forgiven
* Subjecting students to immense emotional suffering whilst demanding money from them. (Jane O'Neill)
Andrew Cohen and Donations - his secrecy
* Demanding that a student vandalize a valuable and cherished automobile.
(The Volvo Incident)
What Corboy finds most interesting is that a Google search reveals
that former Cohen students who wanted Cohen to return their money were required to sign gag orders
as a condition of regaining their money.
In exchange for having money you gave under duress returned to you, submit to a different version of duress: a gag order forbidding you to stay publicly silent about your time with Cohen for X number of years.
In exchange for regaining your control over this money, you agree that Andrew Cohen owns your tongue for the next few years!
In consensual and safe kinkery, prior to the scene, the participants negotiate gestures that the gagged person can use to signal that the dominant partner stop, remove the gag, and so they can discuss whether the submissive person wishes to end the scene or request a change.
"Unpaid emotional labor" is another powerful concept provided by the Fifty Shades of Green
Look at the vast amount of emotional nurture Andrew Cohen demanded from his students. He demanded their gratitude, demanded it repeatedly Students had to attend to Cohen's emotional well being 24-7.
It went further. Students paid huge sums of money to give emotional nurture to Andrew Cohen.
Was there reciprocation?
In the comments section of this article, a former student mused:
.... I'm trying HARD to remember a single instance of Andrew expressing gratitude to another human being in the years I was around him. And I mean gratitude, not praise.
Gratitude seemed to flow unceasingly toward him but not much flowed out. This is an amazing reflection on not only Andrew but also me for not noticing it before.
In Cohen's world, the energy donors (emotional energy, fiscal energy) give it all away to Cohen, and got contempt in return.
Bill Yenner wrote:
Andrew let it be understood that his good favor could also be had for a price, establishing a practice that was morally reprehensible, legally questionable and indicative of a degree of corruption that had warped his ideals and would eventually stain the fabric of his entire organization. It is a testament to the faith that so many of us had in Andrew that, despite the questionable nature of these new financial arrangements, we complied – some of us taking on enormous and ill-advised debt. Though it may be difficult for outsiders to comprehend, our desire to please our guru was so great that we were prepared to mortgage our futures in order to do so.
Worse, so very many "spiritual" celebrities have countenanced Cohen and associated with him.
The most dangerous thing of all is that human beings can adjust to any situation, no matter how dire, and forget they can leave.
Because under stress, we regress.
Under stress, we regress.
That is why is important to remove oneself as quickly as one can from
any situation that makes you feel "icky". So what if someone calls you
First Tier, close minded, or ego ridden.
We forget there is a life outside of the scenario.
Just remember Philip Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment. People were told they could leave, but all of them forgot that they could leave.
Edited 7 time(s). Last edit at 07/16/2016 11:20PM by corboy.