Where Spiritual Giants Duke It Out
Cohen has currently "retired" from teaching as described by some descriptions, been shown "the exit door" by others. No small number of individuals have described "abuses" leading to Cohen's "retirement."
Cohen states in following in the Spring/Summer 1996 issue of "What Is Enlightenment?" Volume 5, Number 1:
". . . I have gained a reputation of being controversial. Unwavering in my insistence that any individual who dares to show the way for others be willing to live up to the highest expression of human potential, I often find myself alone in what seems like a ridiculous predicament. Many misinterpret my motives in speaking about the failings of other teachers, concluding that my intention is simply to find fault. I have found it necessary to do so only because I feel it essential at this time to try and demystify the aura and mystique of enlightenment . . . And therefore, it is only by scrutinizing those who have penetrated deeply into the spiritual dimension, that the common denominator that reveals the important differences and essential similarities of those individuals can be brought to light."
Professor James R. Lewis makes a similar comment:
". . . I was having difficulty putting my finger on exactly what it was that made Cohen such a controversial figure . . . I had been familiarizing myself with the groups teachings and with some of the attacks that had been made against Cohen. My initial evaluation was that this conflict flowed out of some of the same factors that had affected a broad variety of different groups. In the case of the Impersonal Enlightenment Fellowship, Cohen and his movement were suffering at the hands of an irresponsible mass media more interested in exploiting sensationalism than in the less-than-titillating truth.
". . . I began to see that the attention of the mainstream media had obscured the basic source of the controversy. Long after the Los Angeles Times and the Boston Globe will have forgotten about Andrew Cohen, the spiritual establishment will continue to attack him. This 'establishment' might be nothing more than an informal network of people who know people who know yet other people. In whatever way it is organized, however, it is clear that it has closed ranks against Cohen and is actively trying to discredit him."
- from the Introduction to In Defense Of the Guru Principle by Andrew Cohen, Moksha Press, 1999.
"Scandals" and other reports:
Another criticism comes from the report of some family disagreements that have gone public:
"My now-estranged mother, who had been my student on and off for three years early in my teaching career, proudly told me over dinner that she was putting the finishing touches on the manuscript of her new book - a book which portrays me as a dangerously deluded and frighteningly pathological figure whose insatiable thirst for absolute power over pathetic and weak-minded individuals is couched within the pretense of a passionate interest in the spiritual Enlightenment of humanity. 'I've changed some of the facts for dramatic purposes,' she said casually. Little did I know that even the conversation we were having at that very moment woul ditself become, in her book, so distorted as to have no resemblance whatsoever to what was actually occurring between us."
An account from a former student: Enlightenment Blues: My Years With An American Guru
Aziz Kristof: "The Dangers of Pseudo-Advaita"
John Horgan (science writer): "The Myth of the Totally Enlightened Guru"
Hal Blacker, former student of Cohen, former editor of What Is Enlightenment? magazine, current publisher of "What Enlightenment?" blog
Satyam Nadeen (Philosophical difference):
(Editor's Note: Nadeen does not refer to Cohen or his teaching directly, and thus, we run the risk of quoting Nadeen out of context. Nonetheless, Nadeen comments on an aspect that could be interpreted towards the teaching of Cohen. This aspect is the first of Cohen's "Five Fundamental Tenets," "Clarity Of Intention," essentially, "come to the point where we want only one thing . . . the way to that attainment can be found simply through ceasing to want many things and wanting only one thing.")
In From Seekers To Finders, Nadeen states the following:
There is a ". . . movement that practices trying to intensify this longing even more in a futile attempt to make "it" (enlightenment) happen sooner."
"Not even the longing for God can be manipulated by humans, whether the goal is to increase it or shut it down completely. Your destiny determines if and when. Period!"
"You cross that line the day you realize that after a lifetime of wanting to know the thoughts of God more than a drowning man wants air, you could suddenly care less if you ever wake up or get enlightened."
- and more general comments on the aspects of teachers, gurus:
"Reality: There Are No Gurus, Teachers, or Special Techniques That Can Speed Up Your Personal Shift."
". . . What I am driving at is that whenever we had an awakened teacher or avatar come along, it was always the exception to the rule and never the normal result of following a guru and his recommended practices."
(Editor's Note: Again, Cohen makes the following statement not in direct response to Nadeen's above comments, but rather, appear to provide an answer to the above statement)
"In the presence of that rare human being who has attained extraordinary spiritual Enlightenment, a tangible sense of expansion of Self can be felt . . .
In such a meeting, unanticipated experiences involving rare insight and/or exhilarating feelings may occur. An event such as this can shake the very foundation of one's belief system The effect of this meeting can be so powerful that the individual may suddenly find him- or herself entering into what seems like the most profound relationship that one human being could ever have with another."
"When someone chooses to become involved with a spiritual teacher, a process of osmosis begins to occur within that individual at a very deep psychological and emotional level. This osmosis takes place both consciously and unconsciously, an dits effect is much greater than most people tend to be aware of.
When an individual becomes seriously involved with a spiritual teacher, every aspect of the teacher's personality - gross and subtle - is absorbed at the deepest levels of the student's psyche. Indeed, it is a largely unknown fact that it is not the depth and breadth of the teacher's teaching, but the actual condition of the teacher as a human being that in the end has the most significant influence on the student."
- Excerpts from In Defense Of the Guru Principle by Andrew Cohen