Integral World: Exploring Therories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
How Well-Meaning, Intelligent People
End Up in a Cult
Jaclyn Skurie and Nicolas Pollock
“EnlightenNext was an organization, founded by self-styled guru Andrew Cohen, that aimed to facilitate spiritual awakening. Cohen‘s most devoted students meditated for hoursat times, monthson end, were often celibate, and lived together. However, what started as an idealistic venture quickly turned into a complicated, often-sinister world that revolved around Cohen. The story of EnlightenNext‘s rise and fall begs a deeper question: How do otherwise well-intentioned and rational people end up in a cult? In this documentary, The Atlantic talks to former members, as well as Cohen himself, about their stories in order to uncover the life span of a new religious movement that, after 27 years, collapsed nearly overnight.” (The Atlantic, Sep 26, 2016)
This video about Andrew Cohen was released recently and will be interesting for those readers on Integral World who follow this (former) spiritual teacher and his movement with a critical, if fascinated, eye, so I have reposted it here.
The title of this Atlantic video might be misunderstood as to suggest that there are well-meaning people on the one hand, and bad "cults" on the other, and some of these well-meaning people, for reasons to be explored, end up in these cults. Of course, the phenomenon is much more complicated. Cults, even that of Jim Jones, often have a benign and even inspiring beginning. Both the movement, and its leader, tend to deterioriate over time into the opposite of a liberating effort. To be sure, members of these movements have a strong need to believe into the guru's promises, so there's a strong co-dependency here. Where would a guru be without his followers?
Integral World has published many views on the guru-phenomenon, using Andrew Cohen and EnlightenNext as a case study, which can be found in the Reading Room. See essays by Benjamin (5 essays), Blacker (2 essays), Erdmann (2 essays), Falk, Goehausen, Hines, Mavrides, Lane (2 essays), Levy, Persico (2 essays), Scofield, Visser (2 essays), and Yenner (4 essays). For a defense of Cohen see (ex-student) Bampton. For a Cohen parody, see McGuinness. (FV)
Another video release is worth mentioning: the 6-part series of videos called "How I Created A Cult: The Story of Andrew Cohen and EnlightenNext" (created by Conscious2, an online platform for mindfulness, yoga and conscious living), the official trailer of which is also available on Integral World.