April 10, 2008 at 8:12 am #28133
Note: if you didn’t follow this earlier, it is a sobering lesson about how easy it is for intelligent people to fall into the trap of surrendering their personal power to a spiritual teacher. If the lesson is not clear to you, please send me a check for $1000. and I will explain it to you in more detail. 🙂 – Michael
A FAREWELL WITH DEEP GRATITUDE
By Hal Blacker
April 16, 2007
More than two years ago I decided to write publicly about what I felt had
gone seriously wrong with Andrew Cohen’s teaching methods and his community.
I had received disturbing reports from other former students that eventually
compelled me to speak out. I wrote then:
“A few years ago I began to learn of things that caused me great concern.
An old friend who I worked with on What Is Enlightenment? magazine called
and told me she had left the community. I told her a little about my
thoughts about it — how I had come to see how oppressive life in the
community was, how wrong it was that there was no personal freedom or
autonomy permitted, how abusive the confrontational methods used to enforce
conformity now seemed, how frequently we lived in fear, and how criticism
was always forcibly squelched. She interrupted me and said, ‘Hal, things
have gotten a whole lot weirder since you left.’ I asked her what she meant,
and she told me stories involving the use of physical force and abuse
against students. She spoke of being ordered by Andrew to deliver ‘messages’
to fellow students consisting of slapping the student in the face as hard as
she could. She told me she had been ordered by Andrew to paint messages in
blood-red paint on the walls of a student¹s room at Foxhollow. She described
to me the conversion of the spa at Foxhollow into a kind of psychological
“As the years passed I spoke to many other former students who confirmed
these stories, elaborated upon them, and told me many more. I learned of
students having large ‘contributions’ psychologically extorted from them. I
heard how a student was required to sign a ‘gag order’ agreement prohibiting
him from publicly criticizing Andrew as a condition of having his
‘contribution’ returned. I was told the story of community women prostrating
in a freezing cold lake in the winter, some suffering dangerous exposure, as
a symbol of their devotion and repentance for ‘women¹s conditioning.’ I
learned of a student being forced — against his will and his moral
compunction — to engage in daily visits to prostitutes in Amsterdam for
weeks on end as a kind of penance for past sexual indiscretions. I was told
by a student how he was ordered to reveal to his estranged teenage daughter
her mother¹s infidelity that occurred many years in the past, in order to
teach the daughter not to hold her mother, now a critical former student, in
such high esteem. I heard these stories and many, many more. As the weight
of the awful truth about what Andrew and his community had become
accumulated, I began to feel that something must finally be said. People
must be warned. At the very least, any prospective student should know what
they are signing themselves up for when they join Andrew Cohen¹s community.”
In the more than two years since I personally “broke the code of silence,”
all of these disturbing events, and many more, were documented and
corroborated on this blog, over and over again. Three former editors of What
Is Enlightenment? magazine, including myself, spoke out strongly here about
the abuses in Andrew Cohen’s community. Other close students have also put
their names on the line to attest to what went wrong with the community’s
beautiful dream of creating heaven on earth. The woman who financed Cohen’s
Foxhollow EnlightenNext world center wrote about how he unfairly took
advantage of her vulnerability and largesse. Numerous other students have
also contributed here, both named and anonymous, shedding light on the
authoritarian abuses around Cohen, their causes and their harmful effects.
In contrast, not one specific or credible factual denial has emerged from
Andrew or anyone associated with him about what has been reported here in
great detail and depth. Instead, we have only heard the refrain that we have
failed to include the “context,” as if any overarching purpose could justify
the abuses described here and the pain they caused. No cry of “context”
could obscure the devastating truth that the participants in this blog have
had the courage to reveal.
I hope it will not be regarded as overly dramatic if I say that I look back
over what has occurred on this blog with awe, gratitude and humility. This
blog’s truly collaborative, interactive and collective nature makes it,
perhaps, unique in the blogosphere, on the Internet, and, perhaps beyond. I
haven’t seen anything really parallel. I believe that, beyond the
collaborative nature of the editorial work here, the collective
intelligence, truthfulness and vulnerability of the contributions,
responses, arguments and discussions have made this effort at healing and
truth-telling unprecedented. I don’t think that so many have spoken out
before with such rawness and honesty in an attempt to warn the unwary,
comfort the injured and understand humbly how something they believed in so
totally could go so wrong. For this effort and honesty, on behalf of all of
the editors of this blog, I bow to everyone who has participated here,
whether anonymously or named, and whether former student, interested
observer or friend.
While what has happened here will always remain, this seems like a good
juncture at which to conclude this particular project of honesty and love.
So, on behalf of the editors and administrators of this blog, I have been
asked to write a kind of farewell. The discussion here could go on
endlessly, or as long as authoritarianism hides behind masks of evolution,
enlightenment or other ideals. This is not cynicism. I am not saying that
evolution or enlightenment do not exist, or are unworthy of a life’s
dedication. But the capacity for deception is endless, and opportunists and
the self-deluded who use and abuse high ideals, whether consciously or
unconsciously, will probably always be with us. For this reason, I hope the
discussion engaged in here will persist in one form or another.
But I think that this particular forum has run its natural course. The
essence of what needed to be expressed has been said. Most of the former
students I know have moved on, or are in the process of doing so — they
have regrouped or are regrouping, they value what they learned, both good
and bad, and they have ventured into productive new lives. Those lives now
may be less filled with drama, buzz and high romanticism, perhaps, than
their lives with Andrew Cohen. But they seem, to me, to be lives that are
far more genuine, lives that are making, or have the potential to make,
greater contributions to this world. The former students I know are, by and
large wiser, softer, humbler and happier than they were when in the thrall
of the community discussed here. They are professionals, artists, parents,
workers in the non-profit sector, and many are actively engaged in working
for their own and others’ spiritual liberation. I think the healing that
was, in part, the purpose of this blog has occurred to a great extent and
will continue. And what has been written here will stand as a warning, a
cautionary tale for the benefit of those who may consider taking a similar
path to the one that went astray, as described here.
I feel confident that everyone whose life has been touched by this
discussion has benefited in some fashion. Even those readers who chose to
become involved with Cohen or to continue their involvement with him cannot
help but be a bit smarter about it — or at least have an awareness of this
resource for helping them pick up the pieces when reality shatters their
dream. And we have heard that some of the more extreme abuses of community
members have been stopped or moderated in the wake of their being revealed
on this blog.
There is only one person for whom I still have great concern. I fear that he
is perhaps the only one who has not been able to learn something of value
here and who may be irretrievably committed to a painful and destructive
path. That person is Andrew Cohen. I sincerely hope — and I think most
ex-students will join me here — that some day our former teacher will find
the humility to revise his own idea of himself; that he will demonstrate the
vulnerability and lack of pride that he taught us but failed to live; and
that he can find a way to recover his balance if and when his bubble
implodes. We were mistaken in our assessment of him, but we did recognize
his potential, and I think we all would like nothing more than to see that
potential fulfilled in truth and humility. But that would require a
difficult self-reckoning for him, one for which it is hard to find genuine
reason for hope.
Still, against all reason perhaps, I believe in basic goodness. I have faith
in the happy ending. No ending would make Andrew’s former students happier
than to see him change. And nothing is completely beyond possibility in a
world where the courage and honesty demonstrated by all who participated
here can manifest.
For now, WHAT Enlightenment??! is signing off. We may create a web site in
the future, for the sake of posterity, with some of the articles on this
blog. This blog will remain as a resource, but in a few days comment posting
will be turned off.
On behalf of the blog editors, I want to express deep gratitude to everyone
who has participated in and contributed to this journey of healing and
truth. Best wishes to you all on your path.
May all beings be happy!
PREVIOUS NHNE NEWS LIST ARTICLES:
PART 1: ANDREW COHEN: A HISTORY OF ABUSE (11/13/2006)
PART 2: ANDREW COHEN: A HISTORY OF ABUSE (11/14/2006)
http://essentialwhatenlightenment.blogspot.com/April 10, 2008 at 4:44 pm #28134
I heard many same story’s like this before. I know a lady who paid $373,000 dollars to a guru teacher to get healed & to get the Qi… and lost her house and all. She now is a practicing Daoist and realizes the power is within. What troublesome to me is that someone as smart as Ken Wilber; has been promoting this guy (andrew Cohen) and tying it into the Integral Insitute…I guess it will have to be buyer beware!
SLApril 11, 2008 at 2:48 am #28136
I’m just kidding, LOL!
A sad commentary on cult mentality.
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