Friday, October 1, 2010

Two ways to enlightenment?

Does the ego need to be pressured or destroyed for you to become enlightened? Following is my take on the matter:

Marc Beneteau wrote the following comment to Terry Patten regarding Terry's post about Andrew Cohen:

"Given human beings infinite capacity for self-deception, when you say things like "it takes a nearly superhuman force to break free of the gravity of the ego and common worldly human society and to achieve 'escape velocity' to go into the orbit of sustainable higher spiritual realization of transpersonal states and stages of consciousness" (in your response to the Integrales forum)... well, maybe yes and maybe no."
To which I replied:

I think there are two ways to enlightenment:

1. Gradually let the mind/ego (a natural defense and creativity mechanism) relax by taking the pressure off. Then you slip back to baseline being.

2. Apply pressure (e.g. Andrew Cohen's face slapping and humiliation rituals) to a person and thereby create a crisis that helps them focus on what the mind/ego is doing.

The first approach is obviously ideal. It starts with the premise that mind/ego is good and that baseline being is just another way of existing. The second approach - as used by Andrew Cohen - starts with the premise that the ego is evil and needs to be destroyed. This makes the person feel like they are being crushed to death. Indeed, Andrew Cohen said you need to get your inner child and wring its neck.

The first approach is evolved because it starts with understanding of the facts. The second approach is society's old unevolved black and white, good vs evil ignorance that keeps the whole human situation stuck. While ever we think human beings are fundamentally evil, we will continue to create suffering and divisions and will fear looking honestly at the situation in order to understand what's happening so as to evolve. We should not be afraid of the truth. Ultimately, everybody is perfectly innocent. When they behave badly, they are really just defending themselves and therefore are protecting life, which is good. It's just that the ego's approach is only for emergencies, and shouldn't become our everyday lifestyle.

Note that Andrew Cohen's enlightenment consisted of Papaji saying a few words and being supportive over a few weeks. That's the first approach of understanding that you return to reality. Papaji didn't use the second approach, which maintains the illusion that you rise up to reality.

Anyway, here's a warning to prospective Cohenites: Andrew Cohen gradually makes you believe that he is the embodiment of your highest ideals and that "responding" to him is the most important thing you can do. This works because you are influenced by his charisma and you might be having a spiritual experience that makes you open and defenseless. Then when you leave him, you feel you have given up your highest ideals because, in your mind, he has become the embodiment of your highest ideals. As an example, here's a quote from Debbie at attacking Andrew's critics:

"I feel a deep sense of outrage that people I not only knew so well, but with whom I shared intimately in some of the most sacred and delicate times of our own lives, have become such distortions of themselves, expressing such a transparently one-dimensional view. To see their descent from a subtlety of understanding and expression of the highest dharma which they have experienced deeply to tabloid press-like smear tactics is painful. However, it’s not too hard to understand, as this is the easy way out. It is a simple, clear example of how gross ego is, and how its function is to destroy anything that reveals a higher standard or view where ego has no place and can no longer exist. It is as if they have forgotten their own intention to reach for something higher, and are denying their own deepest understanding in order to justify their own failure."
See how she condemns them? Leaving Andrew Cohen and criticizing him means becoming a "distortion" of yourself and destroying your higher standards and forgetting your own intention for higher things. And she is supposedly more enlightened than average spiritual seekers who don't meet the "real deal" Andrew Cohen.


  1. Hi Martin,

    I believe the ego protects us from enlightenment. What if we strive for it and there is nothing there? what then? The ego is too strong and will never allow itself to be destroyed, weakened maybe, but never destroyed.

    Peter H

  2. Hi Peter,

    Do you think anyone has a "destroyed" ego?

    I agree that the ego protects us from enlightenment, but only when it is activated. If you have been relaxing the ego, then it isn't activated, and so enlightenment can happen. It can sneak up on you, or you can slip into it.

    All spiritual guides say to surrender, which means relaxing the ego. I think that happens naturally when the ego understands that its efforts are futile.

    The problem with Andrew Cohen's approach is that he builds up the ego, then he attacks the ego. He wants the part of the ego he likes and attacks the part he doesn't like. And all that is based on a lack of understanding. He's a half-cooked type, which is common in the West. They get some insight then cash in straight away.