Wednesday, July 3, 2013
Andrew Cohen Apologises and Steps Down
Andrew Cohen has apologised and stepped down from his role as guru to hundreds of disciples in his EnlightenNext organisation. In his blog post, he writes, "Over the last several years, some of my closest students have tried to make it apparent to me that in spite of the depth of my awakening, my ego is still alive and well." Full credit must go to his "disciples" who pushed him into facing this reality. It is quite rare for any status quo to be challenged by insiders. Thus, this event shows that Cohen's organisation cultivated some deep integrity in some of its adherents even though it was a cult. One wonders how his vocal defenders, e.g. www.guru-talk.com, will deal with this situation.
Furthermore, Cohen writes, "I’m aware that many of my students over the years have also been affected by my lack of awareness of this part of myself. And for those of you who are reading this, I apologize." Full credit to Cohen who is publically humbling himself in this way. I would say that the wording of his apology was a perfect balance of apology and genuineness while not incriminating himself. It was very well crafted. I encourage people to read it: http://andrewcohen.org/blog/apology.
However, Cohen writes, "During this hiatus, I will be stepping down from the leadership of my organization… My intention is to become a better teacher…" So it seems that he still wants to be a "teacher" and that his stepping down might only be temporary. To be a teacher, you must be confident that your understanding of life is right. Hopefully, he will engage with smart people who disagree with him on some fundamental points. If he can win the debate, or if he loses the debate and adopts a new understanding that is in tune with reality, then he can be a teacher. But if he uses his own beliefs as his standard and only listens to the feedback of his nearest and dearest, then I fear his exploration will be cocooned within an overly safe status quo, and any change will be superficial.
Regardless, he will now have some time to manifest his other potentials. I am excited to see what those will be. In the early days, he seemed to have a great talent for triggering altered states of consciousness using advaitic enquiry. After his hiatus, perhaps he could continue having public meetings to pursue that talent. I think he could serve as a catalyst for spreading new perspectives on life in increasing numbers of people. In other words, instead of playing a narrow purity game, he can now play a numbers game. He can trigger many people into experiencing a new perspective through straightforward advaitic enquiry, and then it can spread naturally. He can work to raise standards once enough people are on the same page regarding "spiritual realisation". The future can be a refreshing open inclusive exploration into our potential and the meaning of life rather than being a heroic moralistic straightjacket.
I have noticed people on the net are debating how people can be well-developed in some ways but undeveloped in other ways, e.g. they say a person can be spiritually enlightened yet morally corrupt. This is true and shows that the old fantasy of spiritual enlightenment being a panacea is deluded. A common approach to dealing with underdeveloped areas is to push people to improve those areas. This is the approach pushed by Andrew Cohen, as well as by Ken Wilber who endorses Cohen. Of course, this works for some people to some extent. However, it is built on the illusion that we are individually responsible for the potentials that we manifest. In reality, the potentials that manifest are triggered and nurtured by the environment, the culture. And the potentials that are not manifested are suppressed by the environment. So I think we need to create a culture that triggers and supports our best potentials, and avoids triggering our worst potentials. We are all in this boat together and we need to work on it together.
Clearly, we need a true understanding of life to contextualise this endeavour; otherwise, we will each have our own invented paradigms, which will conflict. My suggestion is that the meaning of life is happiness and that we need the enduring happiness of being (timelessness/spirituality) before manifesting our fleeting potentials of worldly happiness (time/materiality). Then we can see that people like Cohen can trigger the enduring happiness of being and then work on worldly happiness from there. Once we have the happiness of being, the desperation for worldly happiness will be diminished and we can help each other to develop more effectively.
Throughout most of his career, Cohen has been railing against ego. However, the ego has a valid function, which is to protect life. So if he can respect the ego's terrain while triggering the happiness of being, then many unnecessary fights and conflicts can end.
Anyway, it will be interesting to see how things develop from here. Hopefully, Cohen and Wilber will not cling to their old beliefs. Instead, they can use Cohen's change of heart as an opportunity for a fresh inclusive open exploration. I do fear that they are getting old and too attached to their cherished beliefs. I mean, it would be hard for someone like Cohen to stop railing against the ego when he has built a 27-year career on attacking it. Indeed, in his apology he writes, "Enlightenment has always been and always will be about transcending the ego." And he is surrounded by people who agree with him. So it looks like he will resist facing the possibility that he is wrong about the ego. But it is precisely by questioning your most cherished beliefs that profound progress is made. Cohen put up an enormous fight to defend his position. All those years of resistance have now been revealed as a huge waste of time. I hope he doesn't waste this new opportunity. After all, when you fight reality, you can only lose.
Posted by Martin Gifford at 2:56 PM