Friday, February 5, 2010

Untangling the Guru-Disciple Relationship with Andrew Cohen

Andrew Cohen is an American guru who has a magazine called EnlightenNext (previously called What is Enlightenment?). He strongly advocates for the guru-disciple relationship, and he is hailed by Ken Wilber as a great example of a “rude guru”.

However, Andrew has many detractors who have written books and articles criticising him for slapping disciples, dunking disciples in cold lakes, putting disciples through humiliation rituals, etc. The detractors’ books are American Guru by William Yenner and Enlightenment Blues by Andre van der Braak, and the detractors’ articles are on this website: http://www.whatenlightenment.net.

In response to these books and articles, Cohen’s supporters have written many articles of their own to defend him, and these are located at Guru Talk, and in the Reviews section of Yenner’s book at Amazon. The writers of these articles admit to the slappings, etc., but they claim that the context justified Cohen’s actions.

What I find most interesting is that a revealing pattern has emerged in the guru-talk.com articles. These articles describe the writers’ own experiences with Cohen in an attempt to convey the profundity of the context so that the reader will accept that the slappings, etc., were justified. Here are the common steps in their stories followed by my comments:

1. The writer begins by stating that they have done much spiritual seeking.

This is fine.

2. The writer goes on to explain how they came to attend an Andrew Cohen meeting.

This is also fine.

3. Next, the writer has a big spiritual experience during the meeting.

This is great!

4. Then, the writer suddenly KNOWS that Andrew is basically perfect and is their destined guru.

This is a classic spiritual beginner’s mistake and it’s very dangerous. Thoughts we have during spiritual experiences do not translate into the world of relativity. For example, in the throes of a spiritual experience many people have thought that they are God, yet they haven’t created any universes since then, which proves the thought “I am God” needs a few provisos attached, at least. Jumping to conclusions is a common and natural mistake due to the overwhelming intensity of such experiences. The onus is on the facilitator of these experiences to point out to the seeker that while the spiritual experience is real, the thoughts they had during and after the experience are not true. Thoughts are small and so they can never describe reality. As Andrew himself says, people shouldn’t become addicted to intensity.

5. Next, Andrew, says something like, “It’s your ability to respond that counts.”

So, by implication, Andrew agrees with the writer’s conclusions about him and their spiritual experience. The problem is clear. Since they now believe Andrew is a perfect person, his self-image, worldview, and instructions must also be perfect, and so blind obedience to him becomes necessary. This obedience is reinforced whenever his speeches and instructions relate to their ideals and to the other thoughts they had during their spiritual experience.

6. Next, the writer submits to Andrew’s “absolute rule” (Rick Asherson’s phrase at guru-talk.com), hoping that discipleship will complete her or his enlightenment and/or begin a new leap in human consciousness, which is Andrew’s stated main goal.

Once you submit to someone’s “absolute rule” you are automatically in the position of an unenlightened person. You cannot act in an enlightened way from that position. So everything you do will fall short. Even if the guru tells you to be yourself or be a light unto yourself, you will still be obeying. All human progress comes from understanding, which is lacking in this particular situation. It seems to me that Andrew is taking advantage of their vulnerability (even if his intentions are good), rather than aiding their understanding by pointing out their mistaken assumptions, which is the essence of the guru’s job description.

7. Next, Andrew puts the writer through all kinds of ordeals - including slappings, cold lake dunkings, and humiliation rituals - in order to defeat their “evil” ego. In the article, both Andrew and the writer are presented as heroes and the stakes are presented as “unimaginably high” (Debbie Wilson’s phrase at guru-talk.com).

Firstly, having an ego is necessary unless you live in a cave or are surrounded by bodyguards. Secondly, creating these ordeals appears to be a manifestation of Andrew’s punitive perfectionist ego. It seems to me that Andrew wants to erase all traces of his disciples’ behaviour that don’t fit his personal egoic ideals. Of course, this causes a defensive response in the disciples, whereupon Andrew begins punishing. In other words, Andrew creates the whole drama in the belief that it is necessary for human evolution, but really it’s only to satisfy Andrew’s unexamined psychological needs. (For more information about Andrew Cohen’s perfectionist ego, see: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/TypeOne.asp. Alternatively, you can listen to this audio clip, which is only 5 minutes long: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/books/audio/audio.asp?audiofile=file1)

8. Next, the writer describes how he or she learnt a lot of things over the years and may have even experienced “intersubjective enlightenment”. (Intersubjective enlightenment is where groups of people experience oneness and love.)

This is great!

9. After 10-15 years, the writer quits their discipleship with Andrew because they think they aren’t cut out for final enlightenment or they aren’t ready for it yet.

This shows the person is trapped in seeing themselves in terms of Andrew Cohen’s worldview rather than seeing themselves in relationship to whole naked reality. After all, how far away from reality are you? No distance. The choice is between looking at reality or looking at illusion. Why would anyone knowingly choose to focus on illusion?

10. Next, the writer expresses gratitude to Andrew and unquestioningly reaffirms their faith in his perfection or near perfection.

This is good in that it shows humility and goodwill, but it is bad in that it shows a stubborn attachment to their beliefs about Andrew.

11. Next, the writer judges Andrew’s detractors as losers, liars, etc.

This is a redoubled effort of the writer to prop up his or her unnecessary and false beliefs about Andrew and his worldview. While it is true that the detractors left out details, they did so in order to focus on the faults in Andrew that he and his disciples stubbornly refuse to face.

12. Lastly, the writer affirms that he or she is still a seeker.

Here we see the writers are failing to acknowledge that Andrew’s methods didn’t work and that they have accepted much counterproductive baggage about gurus, disciples, spiritual experiences, goals, etc, in the process. In other words, along with taking forward steps, they took backward steps.

So do the numerous negatives I point out above mean that the guru-disciple relationship is always bad? No. Actually, I believe others are normally needed for us to progress, and that even having someone you formally call your guru can accelerate our progress. However, there is a problem when the disciple believes the guru is perfect and then becomes afraid to see the guru’s imperfection, and that problem is exacerbated when the guru stubbornly resists feedback regarding his or her imperfection since he or she has become an authority figure for the disciple.

What’s the solution in this particular case? All that needs to happen is for both Andrew and his supporters to fully acknowledge his ego, and therefore his shadow. It’s a simple, obvious, and necessary step for progress to be made. However, for some strange reason, Andrew and his supporters are attached to the belief that he is perfect or nearly perfect. It’s blind love. If instead Andrew acknowledged his faults, and his supporters acknowledged their errors, then the illusions that caused the negatives mentioned above would all dissolve, and so the negatives themselves would all dissolve because their foundations would be gone. At some point the guru needs to learn something about himself from the disciples. It can’t always be a one-way street.



Note: I have emailed the guru-talk.com people and Andrew Cohen inviting them to respond in the comments section. (They do not publish posts like this in the comments sections of their websites.) I hope they do respond here. I think it would help to move this issue, and human evolution, forward.

27 comments:

  1. Martin,
    I found your post informative and accurate in its analysis. The sticking point for me, however, was your hope that Cohen could somehow reverse the momentum of a lifetime and begin to learn of his own fallibility from his disciples.

    Whilst such a hope is commendable, my reading is that both Cohen and his disciples are equally invested in seeing his worldview as perfect and righteous, and equally loathe to learn any different.
    Cohen has been trading as 'the enlightened one' for a while now, more than 30 years. There have been numerous defections from the ranks of believers, that means that numerous devotees have spotted flaws in the Cohen gospel of perfection. None of these defections have so far caused Cohen to modify his stance as absolute ruler or have shaken his belief in his own superiority or his right to have such complete control minds and lives of others.

    At some point we have to give up hope and admit that the man is just another malignant narcissist, unwilling and unable to learn from the consequences of his own behaviour and the reality of what is happening around him.

    Much as I admire the idealism of the christian doctrine that exhorts us to love and forgive all our fellow men, self-protection from predators such as Cohen tells me that expecting anything else but a continuance of such predatory behaviour is foolishness.

    I've never been a follower of Cohen but I did inadvertantly attend a talk of his 30 years ago. It was clear then that he considered himself something of a messiah and tolerated nothing and nobody unwilling to go along with that belief. In the intervening years I can see no evidence that he is advancing toward acknowledging his own human fallibity.

    Whilst the wish to see all humans as intrinsically good is admirable, this rather overlooks the realities of human nature. Cohen has had many years to make different choices, many years to rectify his own assessment of himself as a superior being. He avoids doing that for as long as he can get his narcissistic supply of adulation from his followers.
    His power game is working for him and he is unlikely to willingly give it up.

    Like rabid dogs, some people are best just avoided.

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  2. Hi Ellen,

    I'm glad you liked my analysis.

    I think "rabid dog" is a bit unfair. And I think his "predatory behaviour" is for ideals rather than for self gain.

    Can Andrew and his supporters progress? Where there's life, there's hope! Maybe Andrew needs someone he respects to lay it out for him. Someone like Ken Wilber.

    Maybe Cohen is trapped in a mental loop like, "I hold big ideals. People who hold big ideals are good. Therefore, I am good. Those who criticise people who hold big ideals are bad, lazy, and cynical, and they must be willing to let human misery continue. Therefore, people who criticise me are bad and should be ignored."

    I think I see where he's coming from. Imagine his situation. Giving up his ideals, judgements, or worldview would feel like surrendering to evil and illusion and accepting continued human misery. (His favourite movie is "The Last Temptation of Christ", which has a similar theme.) Then imagine all the positive results and feedback he has received over the years. You can see how it all starts to reinforce his views. It seems to all fit together!

    The other issue is that people only let go of their views if something unambiguously better comes along. But Cohen thinks he is helping God to evolve on Earth, so it's hard to get better than that!

    But I have faith that reality beats illusion in the end. And the experiences that Cohen has and facilitates are definitely real - I wish he would focus on that. The only error is in his interpretations of those experiences. Andrew must learn to trust intellectual truth over ideals and romantic interpretations of spiritual experiences.

    By the way, he's only been guruing since about 1985, so you couldn't have seen him 30 years ago. Maybe it was 25 years ago.
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  3. I saw him on one of his earliest talks in London, you may well be right that it was less than 30 years ago.

    I think there is hope for his followers, who might eventually tire of deferring to his absolute authority but I doubt Wilbur, suffering as he does from a similar delusion, has the wherewithal to influence Cohen in any way. I doubt Cohen or Wilbur have any real respect for each other; the relationship seems to be more of a mutual stroking or a joint-venture marketing deal than a real meeting of minds. Such deals are often very competitive and end in acrimony.

    I think Cohen is very much a predator, he is preying on the spiritual aspirations of very ordinary and decent people and using those aspirations for his own glorification, lifestyle maintenance and to increase his profile as a special, god-annointed being.

    You say that his experiences are real but you cannot know what his experiences are, only he can know that. Any experience is subjective by its very nature and I will wager that the followers interpretations of his experience are little more than a projection of their own desires for such experiences for themselves.

    His abilities to produce particular feelings in others, the guru 'shaktipat,' is reproducible by anyone with a knowledge of human psychology and the wish to dazzle uncritical minds.

    Using such an ability, even in the service of an ideal--which is anyway Cohen's personal ideal--to the detriment of the uncritical minds that trust him to be honest and responsible for their ongoing welfare in his care, is predatory behaviour.

    The rabid dog analogy is perhaps unfair to the dog who has been afflicted by a biological disease and is beyond behavioural self-control. I would still give the dog a wide berth however, regardless of the understanding I had for his condition as his bite, even his saliva on broken skin, is fatal.

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  4. Ellen,

    Okay, you have no hope for Cohen or Wilber. However, regarding Cohen's followers, you wrote:

    "I think there is hope for his followers, who might eventually tire of deferring to his absolute authority..."

    So it seems you have some hope for the followers. Personally, I was hoping that it would be easier than waiting for them to tire of it. That seems to take 10 - 20 years! Don't you think they are reachable by reason?

    Sure, I know in my own life that it can take ages to learn some really basic "life lesson". However, if someone had have sat me down and explained the lesson to me in a simple, clear, straightforward way - like I hope I have done here in this article - then I would have been very grateful, even if it hurt, and I would have accepted the lesson.

    Human beings get stuck because of their brains, but they also progress because of their brains.

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  5. The hold that Cohen has over his followers is an emotional one, formed from the genuine desire on the part of his followers for something 'better'. Cohen is promising that something better without specifying what he is promising. Each follower will have a different description of that longed for 'better'--Cohen's 'better' is unspecified in order to serve each followers fantasy. Cohen is fully occupied in keeping that 'better' out of reach of his students in order to keep them subservient and yearning after what he says he has.

    This is an emotional game, reason has no chance against it until the follower exhausts the emotional pull of the yearning after something so nebulous.

    On balance, I'd probably prefer to take my chances with the dog.

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  6. To Ellen:

    I see what you're saying. In his blog post, “A New Year’s Address for 2010” Andrew writes:

    “So when you begin to recognize that your own presence here in this world is part of something infinitely bigger than yourself, you feel a sense of obligation awakening within you—a spiritually inspired obligation to be the very best you can be for the sake of the process itself.”

    This is romantic and dramatic, and it's the biggest goal one could aspire too. Sure enough it attracts rapturous responses in the comments section of his blog.

    For his followers to give up The Biggest Possible Vision feels like giving up the Meaning of Life and giving up any purpose for living.

    That's a strong "emotional pull". as you put it. I actually think Cohen is invested in it too. It's from the superego in us all that says, "You should be the best you can be, but nothing will ever be good enough." And it connects to the part of our brains that thinks big.

    Maybe the solution is to realise that we are already there. We are already all that we can be. The universe is already magnificent and we are part of it. Andrew would agree with that, but he'd emphasise the self-improvement aspect. My view is that self-improvement or the flowering of our creative potential is icing on the cake of Being. We have to experience the primary happiness of being first and foremost, otherwise we will always be struggling to find happiness in form and in action, which is always fleeting.
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  7. 'Andrew would agree with that, but he'd emphasise the self-improvement aspect.'

    Cohen doesn't allow his students the freedom to discover this themselves, he keeps them so busy striving for a replica of his experience--which as his subjective experience they can never attain--- that they are unable to see their own process.

    Who is the ultimate arbiter of any experiences related in his community? Who verifies them as real and authentic? Who keeps moving the goal posts? Who has stated that he has no enlightened students? Who invents ever new mountains for his students to climb?
    Cohen has his students on a hamster wheel and I think he is very heavily invested in keeping things that way.

    A half-way decent teacher works to compassionately aid his students to free themselves from such delusion, not to lock them ever deeper into delusion.

    A good comparison is Cohen's own teacher, Poonja, who gave him the key to freedom from delusion after only a few weeks. Cohen has been at this guru business ever since, collecting students and revenue and has yet to pass on what Poonja gave to him at no cost whatever.

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  8. To: Ellen,

    It feels to me like you are saying Andrew Cohen is deliberately manipulating people, as if you see him as Dr Evil with this great plan to control, abuse, and manipulate to make money. I’ve read all his stuff, and it seems to me he is passionate about evolution. I agree with the goal of evolution. I just think his methods are wrong and his unexamined ego and shadow are spoiling it.

    “Cohen doesn't allow his students the freedom to discover this themselves, he keeps them so busy striving for a replica of his experience--which as his subjective experience they can never attain--- that they are unable to see their own process.”

    I agree. But I don’t think it’s deliberate. He’s just impatient. His superego pushes him to make big breakthroughs, so he pushes his disciples. He’s not cunning or devious at all. He’s the opposite. He’s irritable, impatient, and clumsy, like every unconscious compulsive perfectionist. I’d say about half of what Andrew says comes from his enneagram program (i.e. ego). The perfectionist half of his speech is just obsessiveness, but the disciples think it’s gold from God. That’s because we all have superegos, so it resonates within and the disciples get fired up. When the superego is stimulated by a charismatic (i.e. confident) person or as part of a spiritual experience, it feels like the voice of God, so there’s strong pressure to obey. So they get busy and Andrew pushes them. Your life becomes all about The Cause.

    “Who is the ultimate arbiter of any experiences related in his community? Who verifies them as real and authentic? Who keeps moving the goal posts? Who has stated that he has no enlightened students? Who invents ever new mountains for his students to climb? Cohen has his students on a hamster wheel and I think he is very heavily invested in keeping things that way.”

    I agree that he wants to always be at the top i.e. The One. He says that if the Buddha were alive today, you’d never leave him - implying that he’s equal to the Buddha and that the disciples will always be lower. But again, it’s his shadow, not a deliberate plan to manipulate. Anything less than being The One would mean he has let his superego down. That’s the perfectionist’s problem - they can never be perfect enough to satisfy the superego. But they can always believe they are more perfect than others, and that’s Andrew’s unconscious shadow goal. If you think your ideals are universal truths, and you live up to them, then you will always think you are doing well. No one else will seem to be doing well enough. That’s because they don’t have exactly the same ideals, and often they are not perfectionists, so they aren’t compulsive enough to live up to the ideals.

    “A half-way decent teacher works to compassionately aid his students to free themselves from such delusion, not to lock them ever deeper into delusion.”

    Yes. Andrew thinks he’s aiding his students by implementing a “tough love” regime. Of course, it’s easy for the guru’s anger and frustration to hide in that “crazy wisdom” method. Then ordinary angry venting, or compulsive punitive perfectionism, is interpreted as heroic integrity and risking your reputation for the sake of human evolution. That’s why the guru and disciples should be fully aware of the guru’s ego type (enneagram type) and shadow. It gives you x-ray vision to sort the darkness from the light. Currently he and his disciple think he only has 1% or less darkness, when the reality is that it’s about 50/50. Since he and his disciples think he’s 99% perfect, that’s the first delusion they need to be freed from.

    [Continued in next post]>>>
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  9. To Ellen (continued)

    “A good comparison is Cohen's own teacher, Poonja, who gave him the key to freedom from delusion after only a few weeks. Cohen has been at this guru business ever since, collecting students and revenue and has yet to pass on what Poonja gave to him at no cost whatever.”

    Well, the disciples say they have had some big spiritual experiences with Andrew. And they had big intersubjective spiritual states where they all simultaneously experience themselves as oneness and love. So that’s pretty good, don’t you think? I believe them because their descriptions of it ring true. Also, I don’t believe Cohen does this for money. He was a trust fund kid already, and he could’ve easily made money doing the usual satsang circuit. He really wants evolution. But, yes, it is odd that his enlightenment consisted of a 5 minute conversation with Poonja, yet Andrew’s disciples are going through a 10-20 year ordeal without getting enlightened. I guess you can’t get better than the 21st century Buddha. And since they all believe in hierarchy, someone must be at the top. But it’s all innocent. We’re all born vulnerable and lacking an instruction manual, so we’re making it up as we go along in this ignorant society.
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  10. You have me wondering now why you are making excuses for Cohen's behaviour.
    Manipulating someone, or many students 'unconsciously' does not make that any less of a manipulation. The 'unconscious' part does not in any way absolve an adult from the consequences of his actions.

    Cohen seems to display a conscious greed for power and money when one of his students has an inheritance that Cohen has his eye on. Read how he got the money to buy Foxhollow, read some of the testimonies of his ex-students and tell me that there is no pattern of consciously manipulative behaviour.

    Read his mothers account of her discipleship with the '21st century Buddha' and tell me that is a spiritual man.

    Read up on the characteristics of malignant narcissism--there is a far simpler explanation for Cohen than the crazy wisdom he would have the world accept.

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  11. To: Ellen,

    You have me wondering now why you are making excuses for Cohen's behaviour.

    You have to accurately describe something if you want to make a lasting positive impact. The accurate diagnosis of Cohen is “Punitive Controlling Perfectionist”, not Manipulator, and not Narcissist, although he does have a few manipulative and narcissistic tendencies. Besides, whenever we imagine evil motivations in others, we stop seeing them accurately and they stop listening and we just create a pointless war, and afterwards we wonder what happened.

    Manipulating someone, or many students 'unconsciously' does not make that any less of a manipulation. The 'unconscious' part does not in any way absolve an adult from the consequences of his actions.

    But there is a huge and important difference between “conscious manipulation for personal gain” and “unconscious manipulation for ideals”, even though the results might be similar.

    Cohen seems to display a conscious greed for power and money when one of his students has an inheritance that Cohen has his eye on. Read how he got the money to buy Foxhollow, read some of the testimonies of his ex-students and tell me that there is no pattern of consciously manipulative behaviour.

    Cohen said the 3 traps for gurus are money, sex, and power. I’d add a 4th: prestige. I think he has a need for power and prestige, but not money or sex. Yes, clearly it is dodgy to advise a disciple about how to get an inheritence then accepting that inheritance as a “thank you” from the disciple. Nevertheless, I still don’t think his behaviour is conscious manipulation. Read all his idealistic talk and tell me he’s not an idealist. He’s obsessive about it.

    Read his mothers account of her discipleship with the '21st century Buddha' and tell me that is a spiritual man.

    He clearly has a big innate spiritual interest and capacity. But I agree he’s not spiritual in the sense of being a wholesome guy. The few passages I’ve read of his mother’s book make me think she’s a bit neurotic. I mean, to call her book “Mother of God” is… Well, I’m lost for words!

    Read up on the characteristics of malignant narcissism--there is a far simpler explanation for Cohen than the crazy wisdom he would have the world accept.

    I think he shows some of the characteristics of narcissism, but nowhere near all of the characteristics. Read up on the characteristics of a Perfectionist. You’ll see it’s a bullseye regarding Andrew Cohen. He matches 95% of the characteristics. The enneagram is awesome, but people are surprisingly reluctant to find out about it. I think it’s because it is too true and therefore too confronting.

    Back to the point of my original post - Andrew and his disciples and supporters need to see:

    1. Andrew has a big active ego (as shown by the enneagram), and so his argument that “ego is evil” is contradictory, and

    2. Conclusions based on spiritual experiences are not true.

    Idealism in Andrew and his disciples and supporters is the root cause of both errors. Idealism is also the cause of their reluctance to engage with what I am saying, and it’s also the cause of their reluctance to communicate with the detractors.
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  12. "2. Conclusions based on spiritual experiences are not true."

    Conclusions based on spiritual experiences are subjective and can thus be neither true or untrue.
    Before discussing 'spiritual experiences' one would need to define what is meant by the word 'spiritual.'
    Con-men of Cohen's ilk trade heavily on their followers never questioning what is meant by the word 'spiritual' and this dynamic holds true across all denominations of religious con-men.

    I am not much interested in the ideals, perfectionism or spiritual beliefs of Cohen and his ilk, I am very concerned about the deleterous effects his brand of con has on his fellow man and on society as a whole when we make excuses for these malignant manipulators who wilfully distort the critical faculties and thinking processes of their naive followers for their own glorification.

    The dynamic of the manipulative charismatic leader holds true across the spectrum of belief systems. A fundamentalist christian example:

    http://www.thenetteam.net/how.html

    Cohen's rhetoric might differ but the dynamic is the same.

    Oddly, successful salesmen of any product use the same dynamic of manipulation.

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  13. To: Ellen,

    You wrote: "I am not much interested in the ideals, perfectionism or spiritual beliefs of Cohen and his ilk, I am very concerned about the deleterous effects..."

    Okay. I got it. So who are you trying to help or change? Andrew Cohen, his disciples, or prospective disciples?

    If you ignore the good in Andrew and the good in his disciples' experience, then Andrew and his disciples will see you as biased and unfair, and so they will ignore you. In fact, you are admitting bias in the quote above.

    Presumably, you think Andrew and his disciples are lost causes, so you must be wanting to help prospective disciples by warning them. But even then, I think it would work better if you acknowledged the good in Andrew and co. That way, what you say will resonate with the positive motivations of the prospective seekers. Otherwise, you are just building up their fear. It's a fear campaign. But you don't want people to be afraid and give up hope in a better life, do you?

    Also, I think imperfect people are inevitably going to arise in this transitory phase of human evolution. (We are all imperfect!) So you've got to acknowledge the good along with the bad. In fact, we should probably nurture the good that we find.

    "Conclusions based on spiritual experiences are subjective and can thus be neither true or untrue."

    I think spiritual experiences are subjective, and the conclusions are false - partly because words cannot contain reality, but mainly because timelessness and time don't mix.

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  14. Martin,
    I can see why you feel it necessary to defend the good in Cohen, you are after all targeting the same demographic with your 'happiness' product that Cohen targets with his 'perfect evolutionary spirituality' product.

    I can see why you find it necessary to champion the 'unconscious' motives of Cohen--but your writing about them here shows a worrying consciousness of them on your part. It shows the certain calculation of the salesman.

    My motives for writing are to point out that this calculating behaviour is a double-edged sword, and we should be rightfully fearful of the consequences of believing that we are somehow exempt from the consequences of such calculation.

    Good luck with your product, I am far too long in the tooth to entertain the notion that I can sway you from your chosen course. But do yourself a favour and take a look at the downside of guruing and the selling of unattainable perfect states, you might learn something about the immutability of human nature, and something rather more helpful to you than the fact that there is a sucker born every second.

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  15. Martin,

    I appreciate that you have given Ellen the room to communicate (remarkably well) her perceptions of Andrew Cohen and even of yourself in the end. I would love to hear more from Ellen and think that her comprehensive clarity and wisdom have weight and might be taken up by many others. I am always interested and entertained when real integrity, intelligence and consciousness confronts nonsense and ill motives. I wish this discussion had more visibility.

    Thank you both.

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  17. To: Ellen,

    I’m targeting everyone with my book, not any particular demographic.

    I’m not like a calculating salesman. I put truth first. So if you make a simplistic statement that Andrew Cohen is just a “malignant narcissist” then I must point out that that is exactly the kind of simplistic worldview he himself promulgates i.e. good vs evil. If you ever trip over and he happens to be standing nearby and picks you up, you wouldn’t call him a “malignant narcissist” in that moment. Reality is whole. In the long term, you cannot defend yourself from the wholeness of reality through simplistic labeling.

    Of course, we should be aware of the faults of others. We shouldn’t be naive. But you acknowledged in your first comment that my article above points out Andrew’s faults and his disciples’ faults. So there’s no naivety here. There’s no selling of perfect states.

    Your main point seems to be that people are immutable. That is obviously not true. In each person, some characteristics change and some don’t. But human beings have progressed because of our ability to change and learn.

    However, the cause of our limited functioning is the context, i.e. society’s current format and the lack of knowledge. Instead of blaming people or “human nature” and dividing the world into good and evil, we should work at fixing the context through understanding and cooperation.

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  18. I have a new post on this topic here:

    http://worldwidehappiness.blogspot.com/2010/02/andrew-cohen-guru-talk-face-everything.html

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  19. Why Oh Why do we insist on following anybody ?? Are we so immature....so lost......so superficial that we need someone outside of us to put us on back on the right track ??? The moment you look outside for any spiritual authority you are setting yourself up for untold misery. There is nothing out there.....there is no such thing as enlightenment...you are chasing a projection of your own imagination....."you" are chasing an illusion.......and furthermore "you" are also part of that illusion....for "you" are the result of thought and memory which has built the whole illusion of "you".....the name.....the experiences.......the knowledge..the feelings.....the emotions....the projections....."you" are a result of all that......"you are that" see the truth of this ......if you dare to let it in.....then all search naturally comes to an and.....

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  20. Is this a site for crazies?

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  21. To Anonymous,

    Is this a site for crazies?

    Which site - Worldwide Happiness or Guru-Talk?

    Worldwide Happiness is a site for me to express my views on various topics related to spirituality, philosophy, happiness, and current affairs.

    Guru-Talk is a site for "opening up new and boundless vistas of inquiry and revelation" about Andrew Cohen and his worldview, although they criticise Andrew Cohen's detractors too.

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  22. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  23. in the throes of a spiritual experience many people have thought that they are God, yet they haven’t created any universes since then, which proves the thought “I am God” needs a few provisos attached, at least.

    Nice. :)

    And I think his "predatory behaviour" is for ideals rather than for self gain.

    Sure... ideals are self-aggrandising though. That is the problem. "I have to do this and save the world". That's where what he would call the 'egotism' begins.

    Common problem in human history. The French revolution for liberty and fraternity -- followed by the Terror. Russian -- same thing. With convincing consistency the more 'revolutionary and world saving' a vision is, the bigger the hell that results.

    Apply that to scientology, to falun gong, to Damanhur. The same stories are coming out of them and the same philosophy of 'we are the ones to save the planet' underlies them.

    My advice is to think twice about the 'saving the world' thing. It seems to me the world doesn't work that way. :)

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    1. Hi Jason,

      Yes, there is no bigger ego trip than "I have to save the world"!

      However, even though there are dangers, the world has had some improvements through idealism. So there must be a difference between the kind of idealism that produces negative results and the kind that produces positive results.

      Maybe the ideals that produce negative results are based on personal desires and so they degenerate into ideology, rules, and obedience. For example, Hitler had the desire to empower Germany, but his idea that Jews were to blame for everything bad was mere paranoia. It did not correspond with reality.

      On the other hand, the ideals that produce positive results are the ones that is aimed at honest truth and so they correspond with reality, empower individuals, and free people from authority. For example, Newton had the ideal of finding scientific truth, so his laws of physics corresponded with reality, empowered individuals, and freed people from authority. Martin Luther King had the ideal of equality, and his ideas resonated with universal truths, and so the results were positive and will be into the future.

      But you are right: we should be careful about "saving the world". We have to be careful of our motivation, inclusiveness, understanding, etc. Andrew Cohen has some useful attributes like courage and charisma, but he is seriously flawed in regards to motivation, inclusiveness, and understanding.

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  24. there are roumors of andrew cohens comunity coming to an end! And having confronted him on all he issues you have pointed out!
    It looks like some students of him are taking his teaching seriously and lifting the veil?!
    I thought you´d like to know.....

    i.t.

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    1. Hi i.t.,

      Thanks for that. Any more details? Anything on the net?

      Certainly, I think it would be healthy for the community to end. It would be good to see them engaging with people in a less aggressive/defensive way. Great progress all around can be made with just a few changes.

      Ideally, I'd like to see him go back to being an advaita satsang facilitator who pushes things a little deeper than other advaita satsang facilitators. Also, I think his group spiritual experience events are worthwhile experiments and should continue.

      The main thing is that the cultishness must end. I think that great fast progress could be made in the advaita scene if he uses his advaita talents with better inclusive communication.

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  25. Cohen plays a mean set of drums in a tight Jazz Fusion outfit called Unfulfilled Desires. Shame about the somewhat outsized ego.

    I went to a talk of his, and encountered a young woman who gazed into my eyes adoringly while telling me about Andrew, until I realised she was brainwashed. I even went back a second time myself just to get the sense of being temporarily hypnotized since I'm not very suggestible and it was an interesting experience. And the height of the meetings was the way this man could make a room of about 200 people sit in total silence for several minutes by asking them to meditate.

    In the end Impersonal Enlightenment isn't really my thing so I guess I'm just going to have to live with the unfulfilled desires.

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