Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
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Response to Levy
Dear Mr Levy,
Thank you for your thoughtful response [A Comment on "American Guru Andrew Cohen"]. As I said in the article [American Guru Andrew Cohen & Allegations of Abuse] I do not have first hand knowledge of what actually occurred so I cannot speak to all the details you raise. That said, I will respond to some of your points (by number in the order you raise them). However it must be understood that I am not speaking for Cohen or EnlightenNext, but from my own perspective of having been a close student.
1. Most of the answers to the questions are true according to my experience and some I don't personally know the answers to. Some would be deemed to be not true if one was already given to a certain interpretation i.e. students had to “confess sins”. Some are apparently false but I would say they are true according to “common definition”. In other words if EnlightenNext were to say that it were true that students were pressured to give money, that would not be true according to “common definition” because, as I outlined in the article, the “pressure” was also issuing from the individual's desire to reengage their chosen path etc. The giving of money was only strongly suggested on a few rare occasions, and there was a whole context as to why that was deemed appropriate. Anyone who thought this was inappropriate could have refused and also have left at the time if they wanted.
2. I knew about this and think it is understandable Cohen would make that request regarding the proposed interview you describe given that those who make these “allegations” omit the context in which they occurred, and that your article was intended to be “negative” etc.
3. My intention is not to discredit you but rather the motivation of William Yenner and friends who leapt upon the opportunity to use this “interview” as proof of lack of integrity etc. EnlightenNext didn't lie “outrageously” in my view. Yes some of the responses could be deemed as "clumsy" or even “unintelligent” but EnlightenNext was also put in a very difficult position because one would need to write an essay (like mine!) to even begin to reveal the deeper and higher context in which the "allegations" occurred. And suffice to say many are not very receptive to this context.
4. I think it understandable that EnlightenNext had reason to doubt this statement based on what I have heard about your connection to former students who are on a negative campaign against Cohen.
5. This may appear an extreme response but I think was understandable in light of the perceived intent of your article, and also the fact that EnlightenNext has been subject to sensationalist smears in the past.
6. Firstly, no confusion or disrespect is intended on my part. I have simply endeavoured to be as clear as I could based on the information I have received and the “surrounding context” that I know about from first-hand experience. Regarding “exposing more about Andrew Cohen and his values”, well this is the whole “rub” that the controversy revolves around, as I hope I have illuminated. Are some of the “allegations” true? Yes, definitely, as I have outlined in my article. Do they equate to “abuse”? I say no. If one doesn't know any of the surrounding contexts, and has not had first-hand experience of Andrew Cohen as a student, then many, especially in our post-modern culture, would say “yes” or understandably be concerned.
“Of course, in flatland post-modern culture, the Master/Teacher/Guru principle is not allowed, so it is a brave group that attempts to introduce depth in the midst of this wasteland”.
Yenner and company were once such “brave” men and women. Legitimate criticism is fair enough, but when that criticism is issuing from a motive that wants to destroy or deny that “depth” then it is another thing altogether.