Persons who were in three different cults (International Church of Christ, Andrew Cohen's EnlightenNext and One Taste tell their stories. Andrew Cohen is Story #2)
What makes these so valuable is each person describes the complex mixture of good and bad that attracted them to the group, bonded them deeply to the group and its leaders, and led to considerable sunk costs before they realized they needed to leave.
THREE FORMER CULT MEMBERS ON WHAT IT TOOK FOR THEM TO FINALLY BREAK FREE
This person, interestingly, has no hard feelings toward Cohen and mentions nothing of the ghastly cruelties others endured from him. Yet Cohen's despotism began to grate.
A part of me that was being suppressed was starting to feel too suppressed. Any time Andrew’s authority was challenged, he’d turn people against those challenging him. He was really good at that. If anybody stood up to him he’d say, “That must be ego,” and he got people to turn on the person. This was all in the context of spiritual evolution, so we had to trust him fully.
How it ended was, there was a group of senior men — Andrew was coming down on one of them, and they all refused to turn on him. They held. This is actually one of the more significant things that’s happened with cults, because they were able to break through the ultimate cult dynamic, which is seeing the emperor has no clothes. I wouldn’t say Andrew is a charlatan or a fake — I’m still friends with him — but there’s an element of that. He didn’t want to give up power or release control. He was infantilizing them. But they held formation, and when they did that, it broke the cult dynamic. It was incredible.
The minute I found out about this standoff, there was something in me that thought, Oh my God, there’s a way to get out. It wasn’t a fully formed thought, but it was an impulse in me. There was this whole element to the group that I loved: Friendship, the practices. And there was this other element that was tired of putting up with shit, day in and day out. There was no future in it.
Until then, if anyone ever thought about leaving, the ultimate consequence was that you’d lose all your friends. Your entire support structure would turn on you overnight, and you’d be a lost sheep drifting around in the world. Most of us had turned our back on family and friends to some degree already, so you’d have nothing. But when the community fell apart, everyone realized that wouldn’t be a consequence, so what started as a trickle soon became a raging flood. The news of that conflict broke in May 2013, and by June, we were all out. A community that had been around for 22 years was gone in three weeks.
This man got involved through a pre-existing relationship with someone he loved and trusted:
We went on our honeymoon in India to meet my ex-wife’s guru. We lived in that ashram for two months, and right down the road, there was a center for Andrew Cohen. We’d study in the mornings, and in the afternoon go over to Andrew Cohen’s center and read magazines and watch videos. My ex-wife was a lot more serious than I was. If it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have opened myself to it, but I didn’t want to lose her. I trusted her, and eventually, it grew on me. After a couple years, we went all in and moved into the community in the Berkshires, called Foxhollow. I got a job working for the magazine, and we lived in the community for about eight years.
What it was like at first:
I think a lot of people are looking for something to give themselves to, and that was me. I always wanted to make my life count and give something to the world, and that’s what this gave me.
I had some unbelievable spiritual experiences. Whatever you believe a spiritual experience to be — some people believe it’s basically like taking LSD, or you’re connecting to a higher power, pulling back the veils of an individuating self and merging with God — I had a lot of those experiences and they were very powerful. They permanently broke something in me in a positive way. I always had an existential itch to scratch when I was young: I always wanted to know more, my place, and I don’t have that anymore. Those are very positive things that came out of it.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 01/12/2022 09:05PM by corboy.