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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
David Christopher Lane, Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession (New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992).
The Narcissist Rises from the Ashes
Removing the Baby from the Bathwater
A Critique of Andrew Cohen's Latest Incarnation
and a tiger cannot change its stripes,
a fraudulent guru cannot change his ways.”
Andrew Cohen's latest newsletter, which arrived today on April 28th, 2017, reconfirms what many critics and ex-students have long suspected would happen after his unceremonious fall from grace. The narcissistic guru has risen from the ashes and repackaged himself and his enlightenment for yet another chance in the spiritual marketplace of ideas. After a four year “sabbatical” from teaching, given how he bankrupted his organization and systematically abused many of his closest followers, Andrew Cohen is back with a newly honed message. As his newsletter intones,
“In recent months, Andrew has begun to rediscover the gift of awakened consciousness that touched so many people during the first 27 years of his teaching career. Simultaneously, he has woken up to his own flawed humanity, and the lens through which the teaching is expressed has been profoundly reshaped by his experiences and insights over the past four years.”
In the same missive, it even goes on to allege that one the catalysts for why Andrew Cohen eventually apologized was due to experiences he had when partaking of Ayahuasca, which gives one pause for why it would take a drug session for this so-called enlightened guru to wake up to how abusive he had been for decades. As the newsletter spins it,
“Andrew is painfully aware that the entire episode was badly handled, and that many were left in limbo. There was very little clarity, and virtually no sense of closure for anyone. For many students at the periphery of EnlightenNext, and for those who had a deep or growing interest in the teachings but perhaps less formal involvement, it was completely unexpected and shocking. Andrew, too, was in deep shock. He took a long break from public life, during which he went through a challenging personal ordeal. He discovered that while his awakening had been profound and authentic, at the same time there were disowned and unexamined psychological issues that had remained in play. Thus began some deep emotional and psychological work, and a series of revelations about his own condition and unconscious motives. To his horror, he realised that these issues had caused suffering to many of his students in ways he did not understand at the time. In 2015, following further revelatory experiences with the Amazonian plant medicine Ayahuasca, Andrew published an extensive apology, in which he took full responsibility for the hurt and suffering he had caused as a consequence of these unexamined motives.”
If a first grade instructor did just 1/10 of what Andrew Cohen did to his students, he or she would be forever banned from the profession.
Sadly, Cohen is still under the delusion that he is enlightened and that his previous actions should not prevent him from teaching in the future, despite the overwhelming evidence that he caused much more harm than good. Ironically, we have much higher ethical standards for grammar school teachers than we do for gurus of Cohen's stripe. If a first grade instructor did just 1/10 of what Andrew Cohen did to his students, he or she would be forever banned from the profession. But instead of a deep and sincere mea culpa (and recusing himself permanently from assuming such a position again), Andrew Cohen believes he still should be regarded as an enlightened master. Others, who felt the full brunt of his misconduct, argue that Cohen should be in jail and spend the rest of his life earning money to pay back his debt to those he emotionally and financially ripped off for years.
But Andrew Cohen is not interested in a real apology and a real transformation, where a fallen guru stays out of the limelight. He wants back in, even if he has to grovel a little here and there to do so. Yet, his narcissism remains firmly in tact, so much so that he can with a straight face publish a newsletter which proclaims, “Andrew's gift remains undimmed, and we feel his recent discoveries are a badly needed salve; in the light of his own dramatic fall from grace, it is his aim to illuminate the reasons why such catastrophic failures occur in so many spiritual communities. Most importantly, he has been grappling with the question of how we can evolve the teacher-student model for the future.”
As one heated critic has recently opined,
“Andrew, there is nothing to grapple with. You repeatedly harmed those most in need and you exploited them in the worst way possible by consistently acting as a dictatorial tyrant more bent on satisfying your own egotistical desires than in truly understanding what pain you were inflicting on those who looked up to you for guidance. Let others with much higher ethical standards work out how the teacher-model should evolve. Just as we wouldn't want an abusive school instructor coming back into the classroom, we don't need Andrew Cohen coming back as some sort of newly packaged 'illuminated' guide. The world doesn't need more Andrew Cohens. Stay retired, get a real job, pay back all the money you took from us, and perhaps then your apology might be viewed as genuine. Oh, but I see that is not your modus operandi.”
One of the more revealing passages in the newsletter, and one which displays in a nutshell how Andrew Cohen still doesn't truly understand the depth of his transgressions, is when it claims that “To date, the narrative has been shaped largely by critical voices, and our sense is that it has become increasingly distorted and one-sided as a result.” Distorted? One-sided? No, Andrew Cohen all by himself generated the very narrative that was truly distorted and one-sided. His critics haven't shaped the proceedings; Andrew Cohen's nefarious behavior did that.
The very fact that Andrew Cohen was in “deep shock” by the fallout he caused prima facie speaks volumes about his so-called “enlightenment.” Simply put, most normal and “unenlightened” people know when they emotionally injure another human being. That Cohen was so oblivious to how much hurt he inflicted on others clearly underlines why he should never have been a guru in the first place. Do we really need a second act from this egotistical poser?
Now he wants students to come join him for yet another round of high priced seminars on several stops in Europe—from Paris, France to Basel, Switzerland. Like an unrepentant snake oil salesman, Cohen is still selling his wares on his website, including 6 previously published books that contain no retractions or caveats or amendments whatsoever.
The more obvious path that Andrew could choose (but which he seems reticent to take) is for him to forego the entitled teacher position and the money he will garner from it and simply follow the path of silence. But apparently enlightenment is a bewitching mistress and instead of opting for staying in a confessional mode and making reparations as a neophyte, Andrew Cohen wants his cake and eat it too. His new incarnation should carry the apt book title Narcissism 102.
In trying to justify why Andrew Cohen has come out of hiding, his newsletter explains,
“For this reason, in the interests of embracing the complexity of the issues raised by the dramatic rise and fall of the community, we feel that a clearer and more nuanced perspective is needed. The lessons of failure are squandered if we become fixated and immobilised by the failure itself, and therefore our focus is to reach for a higher synthesis of understanding in which we can clearly distinguish the baby from the bathwater. For many critics of Andrew it seems it's all bathwater, and we feel the time is long overdue to move on from this polarised perspective.”
And, once again, Andrew and his minions have made a fundamental mistake in blaming his critics for thinking “it's all bathwater.”
No, many of Andrew Cohen's ex-students are perfectly fine with the “bathwater.” They just wanted to throw out the immature baby that spoiled it. That Cohen thinks otherwise is just another indication of how truly unenlightened he remains.
But fear not, because like the famous energizer bunny that percolated in our television advertisements in years past, Andrew Cohen will not be denied his due. He wants his guru status back, even if it means he has to eat a bit of crow to do so.