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Reposted from (June 21, 2013) at the request of the author.

Read also: "The "A" List of Andrew Cohen: A Catalog of Trauma and Abuse", Hal Blacker
Hal BlackerHal Blacker is a former editor-in-chief of What Is Enlightenment? magazine and a former student of Andrew Cohen. He is a founding editor of What Enlightenment??!, a blog critical of Cohen and his organization. Hal is also an authorized lineage holder in a Nyingma lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and a teacher of Advaita Vedanta at Real Dharma, a study and meditation group.


Hal Blacker

Controversial spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen will be stepping down from his role as guru and leader of the organization he founded, called EnlightenNext.

Controversial spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen will be stepping down from his role as guru and leader of the organization he founded, EnlightenNext. In a startling turn of events, Cohen has also begun apologizing to some former and current students for misdeeds and abuses of the past. Core students in the leadership of EnlightenNext have left the organization and apparently struck out on their own. But a recent "PR and Communications Plan" message, widely circulated to EnlightenNext students, leaves both the scope of future change in the organization and the depth of Andrew Cohen's remorse over his abuse of students in the past unclear.

Andrew Cohen
Andrew Cohen

We at What Enlightenment??! first got wind that significant changes for Cohen and EnlightenNext were happening several weeks ago. We heard rumors that core members of Andrew Cohen's EnlightenNext organization had been calling Cohen to task for some time, attempting to get him to change an autocratic and authoritarian style of leadership. We also heard that some members of the EnlightenNext leadership—Carter Phipps, Jeff Careirra and others—had recently left the organization. There were rumors that large numbers of students had followed suit. But all of this was difficult to confirm as no one concerned had made any public statement of schism or disaffection.

So, in awe and wonder, we began to investigate. Sources close to EnlightenNext have since told us that criticism of Cohen began in the upper echelons over four years ago. Sometime over a year ago, some of these senior students were ordered by Cohen to meet together in London, apparently to attempt to purge themselves of their rebelliousness. Instead, at their meetings their questioning of Cohen's authoritarian style of leadership deepened. They eventually stopped sending Cohen notes of their meetings, as expected and required. Soon they were joined in their dissent by other EnlightenNext leadership. A united front formed. As if this were not shocking enough, we heard that things had recently come to a head in a meeting between senior students and Cohen in Europe. A line was drawn in the sand, it was said. Not being satisfied with Cohen's response, a number of leaders left the community. Many other members followed suit.

"...As of this summer we will not continue
as 'EnlightenNext Netherlands'.
We will keep working with our
own individual programs..."

Yet nothing was publicly disclosed of this rift. We waited to see how things would develop and if any public statement would be forthcoming. Recently, we noticed a public web announcement that the Netherlands EnlightenNext Center would no longer be associated with Cohen's organization as of this summer. But the bombshell fell when we received from an anonymous source the 'PR and Communications Plan' sent out to EnlightenNext members on June 15, 2013. This fascinating yet puzzling document is reproduced below.

It remains to be seen what this all means, or how it will play itself out. We have heard from several former close students of Andrew Cohen that he has contacted them personally to apologize for past misdeeds. Yet these students have also reported that Cohen seemed 'cut off,' even 'robotic' in his communication. Cohen has also personally contacted some current EnlightenNext students, presumably to apologize for past misdeeds to them. The news of apologies was unexpected and somewhat encouraging. Yet the 'PR and Communications Plan' reproduced below makes one wonder whether all of this is part of a well-orchestrated public relations campaign, rather than the sign of a genuine turn to humility by enlightenment's infamous 'Rude Boy,' as Cohen's friend Ken Wilber called him.

EnlightenNext appears to be attempting to explain the changes as part of a natural evolution away from the authoritarian-mythic 'blue meme' guru model, using terminology originated by Don Beck and Chris Cowan in their Spiral Dynamics model of human development, a model which has been widely adopted by Integral Theory teachers and thinkers, such as Ken Wilber. The PR Plan also identifies the need to address 'Founder's Syndrome,' a situation where the founder of an organization impedes its development. These theoretical explanations, with no mention of the harm Cohen and his organization have done to students and with no inkling of empathy for the suffering those students endured, make one wonder whether EnlightenNext's culture of authoritarianism and abuse will really change.

And what to make of the silence of those in the leadership who reportedly parted from Cohen? Although supposedly disaffected with Cohen, Jeff Careirra taught an on-line EnlightenNext program as recently as last weekend. Carter Phipps, who has been living in the Bay Area of California for almost a year, promoting his book 'Evolutionaries' and participating in Integral community-related activities, has not publicly disclosed his split from Cohen or his future plans. Other students and EnlightenNext leaders have publicly remained similarly silent.

Craig Hamilton:
"I figured out how
to monetize it."

We wonder whether the senior students who left Cohen will attempt to follow the course of former student, What Is Enlightenment? magazine editor and Integral Enlightenment founder Craig Hamilton. Readers of What Enlightenment??! will remember Hamilton from years past as a vitriolic and insulting defender of Cohen on this blog. Later, Hamilton secretly fled Cohen's Lenox, Massachusetts Foxhollow compound like so many other abused and damaged students, and was severely disparaged and ridiculed by Cohen, again like so many others who fled Cohen's abuse. Yet little more than a year later, Hamilton re-created himself as a successful "graduate" of Cohen's community, and the founder of his own "enlightenment" school, Integral Enlightenment, offering webinars and on-line courses on his philosophy, a close cousin (some might say almost a carbon copy) of the integral-oriented "evolutionary enlightenment" teaching created by Cohen.

Hamilton has been financially successful at this enterprise, far more successful than Cohen's EnlightenNext, which has been plagued by financial difficulties. Indeed, when once asked by a former Cohen student what value he had added to Cohen's "evolutionary enlightenment" teaching, Hamilton is reported to have answered, "I figured out how to monetize it." This seems to be the case. We cannot help but wonder if the silence of senior students who have left Cohen indicates their possible plans to re-create themselves and start lucrative "evolutionary" oriented "enlightenment" businesses like Hamilton's.

Finally, what will become of Andrew Cohen? Can we really believe that his role as the "Mythic Guru" is over, as stated in the "PR & Communications plan for Andrew" reproduced below? Can Cohen's purported self-examination and newfound remorse for the harm he has caused scores of past and present students be believed? Or is this just all part of a public relations stunt?

Only time will tell. But judging from the June 15 "PR & Communications plan for Andrew" and reports from those close to the organization, big changes for EnlightenNext and Andrew Cohen seem to be afoot. And these changes will almost certainly profoundly affect both current students and the scores of former students who saw through the "Mythic Guru" and left him.

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