Whatever else might be said about Andrew Cohen there is one fact that makes him probably unique in the annals of religious/spiritual leaders/charlatans. His own mother disowned and derided his claims to being a spiritual master in a book brilliantly, if ironically, titled "The Mother of God."
Cohen had a wealthy Bohemian New York Jewish upbringing (psychoanalysis at 5 years old). He claimed to have a spontaneous spiritual awakening at 16 and traveled around the spiritual retreat circuit in Europe and India for years but was disillusioned by the discrepancies between the teaching and the behaviour of those he met. On meeting Poonjaji he began a series of self-proclaimed revelations and wrote in his autobiography that Poonja declared that Cohen was his spiritual heir and should take responsibility for the "teaching."
The news that Cohen was providing instant enlightenment created a large pool of followers and considerable finances but Cohen began to realise that his enlightened followers just weren't enlightened enough and began to change his methods until he'd become a particularly nasty sadistic, spiritual dictator of whomever was prepared to be victimised. Unfortunately Cohen couldn't see the imperfections in his own enlightenment but as public denunciations began Cohen responded with further vitriol and a series of apologies (put together by a spin team) and changes to his teachings and the names thereof. Cohen had begun looking for followers in England and then moved to The East Coast of the USA and then the Bay Area of California and then in 1995 Cohen was able to purchase "Foxhollow," a 220 acre estate in Massachusetts, that once belonged to the Vanderbilts. This was made possible by a $2 million donation fron one, Jane O'Neill, who in 2006 requested her money returned. Fat chance of that. There can't be too many people whose short stint following a phony guru cost them $1 million per year.
The Foxhollow property had come on the market because Yogi Amrit Desai, the married celibate founder and spiritual leader of Kripalu Yoga Center who demanded strict celibacy from his students, owed $3 million to settle some legal claims made against him due to his sexual exploitation of some of his female students. Some things never change.
Cohen then demanded an entrance fee to living at Foxhollow of $1000 for each year a student had already been obeying him. Once he had the group in an enclosed community he began to expand his control of their lives and to begin punishments at whim. Gurus usually excuse their behaviour as being part of the "skilful means" by which they facilitate awakening / realisation / enlightenment in their followers. There was nobody "awakened" by Cohen so we can safely assume he was just being thoroughly nasty and capricious. The number of despicable and bizarre acts by Cohen is too large to post here with but they are published in the books referred to below and on the internet.
Face slapping and name-calling, while they were uncalled for and may have been damaging, were mild in comparison to other questionable manifestations of “crazy wisdom" that occurred at Foxhollow. One such incident involved a student (Mikaela) who was responsible for the marketing of Andrew's publications and who had fallen out of favor by reminding him that something he had criticized her for doing had been his idea in the first place. He decried her as evil and ordered that the walls, floor and ceiling of her office (which had been relocated to an unfinished basement room) be painted red to signify the spilled blood of her guru. - American Guru, William Yenner
Cohen became half of the Ken Wilber-Andrew Cohen Integral Bromance Society and settled on a more Westernised evolutionary and "Integral" spirituality with Himself as the most evolved person of us all. Cohen and Wilber's behaviour is typical of New Age Gurus who a part of the I'll-say-you're-enlightened-if-you-say-I'm-enlightened-club. This intellectual cloud dissolved when those followers who had remained loyal had enough and his spiritual empire just vanished in 2015. Cohen has justly criticised many of his fellow phony and evil gurus (it's easy to do) but it's uncertain if he ever achieved any insight into himself.
The modern spiritual world has been plagued by countless shocking revelations of that vital discrepancy between word and deed. This has created an air of cynicism and a crisis of trust. It should cause the independent thinker to question the ultimate validity of the attainment of those in whom these discrepancies have become painfully obvious. Yet I have been intrigued by the general lack of serious inquiry into this important question. - An Unconditional Relationship to Life: The Odyssey of an American Spiritual Teacher, Lenox, MA: What Is Enlightenment? Press, 1995 – Andrew Cohen
- Autobiography of an Awakening - Andrew Cohen
- Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru - Andre van der Braak
Enlightenment Blues is Andre van der Braak's compelling first hand account of his relationship with a prominent spiritual teacher. It chronicles both the author's spiritual journey and disenchantment as well the development of a missionary and controversial community around the teacher. It powerfully exposes the problems and necessities of disentanglement from a spiritual path.
- American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out - William Yenner
American Guru is a multifaceted account of life in the contemporary spiritual community known as EnlightenNext, and the controversial "teaching methods" of its New York-born founder, self-proclaimed "guru" Andrew Cohen. With contributions from several of Cohen's former students, William Yenner recalls the thirteen-year trajectory of his career as a leader and manager in Cohen's community--his early days as an idealistic "seeker," his years of service on EnlightenNext's Board of Directors, his ultimate disillusionment and departure,and his efforts to make sense of his experiences as a once-devoted follower of a "Teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment." With wit and insight, Yenner and his colleagues have produced a riveting cautionary tale on the dangers of authoritarian spirituality, and an insider'scase study on the promises and pitfalls of postmodern discipleship
The Mother of God - Luna Tarlo. This is a mother's account of her experience as a disciple of her own son - Andrew Cohen, a well-known American guru - and of her struggle to free herself from his control. What had been a close, affectionate relationship slowly becomes a nightmare of domination. The story begins quietly in India and unfolds with growing intensity as Andrew, his mother, and a few people who have gathered around him, travel to England, Holland, Israel, and finally the United States, but which time Andrew has attracted hundreds of devotees to his "meetings." The abuse of power, incessant fear, and the pyschology of obsession are all explored here from an intimate perspective. Since brainwashing cults and their grandiose gurus are proliferating - in this country and all over the world - this book is not only a mother's lament, but also a finger pointing to the growing appeal everywhere of authoritarianism and absolutism.
- Homegrown Gurus: From Hinduism in America to American Hinduism - Ann Gleig & Lola Williamson
- What Enlightenment??! website provides much information about Cohen from former followers
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