Am 16.10.2016 erscheint eine 6-Teilige Dokumentation über den spirituellen Lehrer Andrew Cohen und seine umstrittene Bewegung EnlightenNext. Darin wird das turbulente Geschehen seiner Bewegung gezeigt, welche eine sehr ambivalente Wirkung auf die Mitglieder hatte – von starken Erleuchtungserlebnissen und Bewunderung bishin zu existenziellen Krisen und zerrütteten Familien. Andrew Cohen setzte sich dabei immer für ein Auflösen des eigenen Egos ein und musste schließlich einsehen, dass auch er nicht von seinem Ego loskam.
Wer ist Andrew Cohen?
Andrew Cohen wurde 1955 in New York geboren und berichtete schon mit 16 über erste spirituelle Erwachungsmomente. Mit 22 traf er seinen ersten Lehrer Poonja, welcher die Auffassung vertrat, dass man zum eigenen Erwachen keine Anstrengungen beitragen kann, weil man selbst bereits vollkommen ist. Cohen bemerkte, dass er selbst frei ist und betrachtete sich deshalb auch als befreit vom Karma. Poonja erklärte ihn daraufhin zu seinem Erben und Cohen scharte erste kleine Gruppen um sich. Mit der Zeit veränderte sich seine Art zu lehren und er erwartete immer stärkere Hingabe von seinen Schülern um das „Ego zu transzendieren“. Diese Änderung führte zu einigen Brüchen, unter anderem mit Poonja. Auch inhaltlich gab es Differenzen zu der Auffassung von Poonja – während Poonja die Meinung vertrat, dass es keine vollständige Transzendenz des Egos gibt, sondern man nur eine distanziertere Haltung gegenüber der dualistischen Identität annehmen kann, assoziierte Cohen Erleuchtung mit einem makellosen Verhalten.Paradoxerweise hat seine Auffassung, dass das persönliche Transzendiert werden muss zu einem rüden Verhalten geführt – er griff Schüler verbal und sogar physisch an und setzte sie psychisch enorm unter Druck. Diese Entwicklungen führten zu einem Anstieg an Beschwerden seiner Schüler an denen sich selbst seine eigene Mutter beteiligte. Nach einer intensiven Auseinandersetzung mit seinen Schülern im Jahre 2013 zog er sich schließlich zu einem Sabbatical zurück und bekannte, dass trotz seiner tiefen Erwachung sein Ego noch in ihm wirkt – er veröffentlichte eine erste Entschuldigung. Im Jahr 2015, nach 2 Jahren des Rückzugs und der Selbstreflexion veröffentlichte er einen weiteren Brief an seine ehemaligen Schülerinnen und Schüler, in welchem er seine Art zu unterrichten bedauert und sich dafür entschuldigt.
It has been almost 2 years since the structures of our shared Utopian experiment collapsed so violently and so completely. It’s also been almost that long that I have dropped out of sight. As most of you already know, I was asked to step down, which I reluctantly agreed to. Ever since that moment, I have wanted to find out what happened. I have understandably been desperate to find out why this has all occurred. Why did this terrible destruction have to happen?
To be honest, for a long time I have simply not been able to take in the unbearable truth that I somehow actually caused this collapse to occur. How could this be the case? I have dedicated the last 28 years of my life to the Spiritual upliftment of humanity, to the evolution of consciousness and culture. For so many years I thought of little else. So with all of this in place, how could I have caused this collapse to occur? As I have let this in, I have had to embrace both the truth and beauty of where we all went together and my own participation in the downfall that occurred two years ago.
During those years just the notion of higher development, the extraordinary possibility of emergence, would make my heart beat a little faster. It really WAS possible… and I could always feel the immanence of the miraculous always just around the corner. Over the years I took many risks so that great leaps forward could actually happen. I also whole-heartedly encouraged others, my students, to do the same. It was all so amazing because it was so tangible. My gift was my capacity to inspire others to believe that it was possible… and to be willing to take great risks so that miracles could really happen. As the years went by I gradually began to define the meaning of the spiritual life lived in earnest in our post modern era as the willingness to be someone who would care so passionately about what appeared to be humanity’s next step at the leading edge, that they would be willing to make any sacrifice and take any risk, so that that future could emerge here and now in the present between us, as our very own selves. And it actually happened. More than once. These perceived and intuited potentials did reveal themselves again and again and so many of my students saw and felt the power and potential of what we had all given so much for. It was so exciting and such a grand spiritual adventure the likes of which most people never experience or even imagine.
At the same time as all this was happening, slowly but surely cracks appeared in the shared fabric of our new world. Some people left. This had been happening from the very beginning when it all started back in 1986. The existential challenge of what we were trying to do together was simply enormous. In some cases the challenge was just too much and people also suffered, at times unnecessarily.
Over the previous 15 years I had become an evolutionary through and through. I had experienced a profound awakening to aprocess perspective and to be honest, have now understood that in that light, I had come to see my students as means to an end, hopefully a higher end, but not as ends in themselves. I gradually lost sight of people’s humanity, including my own, and only saw all of us as the living Self Aware consciousness that, in an evolutionary context, was going somewhere. And that was all that I believed was important or really mattered. I even stated this clearly and unequivocally at times when I was teaching. As I was losing touch with my own simple humanity and everyone else’s, I also was simultaneously not paying attention to the gradual growing of my spiritual ambition, of my spiritual ego. I believe that my intense longing for the evolution of consciousness in my students was real, but I have begun to see more and more clearly how over time my pride and my desire for fame and recognition slowly but surely began to blur and corrupt my vision. The worst part of it is that I was oblivious to the many different ways some of my students were being pushed too hard and at times too relentlessly to make breakthroughs and too often breaking down as a result. It’s hard even now for me to grasp how I could not see this happening right in front of my eyes. The very human, frail, fallible and vulnerable dimensions of myself that I was denying, I was simultaneously denying in those who had come to me for liberation. I was blind and ambitious and yet sincere in my spiritual aspirations as a teacher and as a thought leader. The left hand didn’t know what the right hand was doing much of the time…I became more and more a living paradox.
Most often when I would teach, I would experience the grace of my Guru, the gift of enlightened awareness, which would engulf my being in the most glorious way. The amazing part of it all is that in the midst of the growing problems I have been describing, I was simultaneously continuing to evolve and develop as a teacher and as a thinker. I was moving and was still often creative in finding ever-new ways to express the inexpressible. And I was still curious. Even after 28 years of being a guide and a guru and a public thinker, I was still reaching and stretching to understand more and more about Life, Reality and the meaning/purpose of it all. It was really because of this that I wrongly felt that I was ok and in good shape and on the right track. This fact of my still evolving and developing as a teacher made it that much easier for me to avoid and deny that slowly the world that I had given so much to give rise to over so many years, was beginning to crumble from the inside. My closest and most devoted senior students were beginning to see through my façade, could see that I was out of control, and see that I didn’t even know it. What made matters much worse is that I ignored the evidence; I ignored their respectful pleas for me to slow down and listen to them. For over six months during this period I literally couldn’t sleep, and night after night I convinced myself that I had no idea why this was the case. My self became more and more divided. I was still an inspired teacher and speaker, but I adamantly remained steadfastly and obstinately oblivious to the growing storm I was creating.
It was only a matter of time before the entire edifice came tumbling down and it has taken me the better part of these last 2 years to begin to come to terms with all that has happened and all that I have done. I realize that much harm has occurred, and that I am to blame. I justified my at times ruthless attacks on my students’ egos as being akin to the revered Tibetan Master Marpa’s ruthless treatment of his famous disciple Milarepa. And at times this indeed was the case. There were times when with individuals or groups of individuals my arrow of discriminating wisdom hit the bulls eye and magic happened…dramatic and meaningful Liberating Clarity and Love Beyond Description emerged…and new potentials and miraculous possibilities that had been previously unimaginable and unseen were collectively experienced. In those historic moments it all seemed worth it. But there were and have been too many moments where I simply have been wrong. Not only did my arrow miss the target but it caused unnecessary pain and suffering to too many people. For this I am deeply and terribly sorry. Too much suffering has resulted from my at times misguided efforts to create breakthroughs. I should have known better.
Slowly over time I have come to see the parts of myself that were broken, that I have been in such ferocious denial of. In that denial I became at times untrustworthy. I see that now. So many of you trusted me with your souls and I proved myself at certain pivotal moments unworthy of that trust. Again I am sorry.
What I feel dreadful about is that the very idealism that I inspired and released in so many of you, I have wounded in the worst way possible. It’s difficult to bear that this is the case, but it just is. I would do literally anything to turn back the clock…but I can’t.
I am committed to finding a way to honour all that was real and true that we stood for, for so many years. There is nothing else for me to do. There is nothing else I want to do.
I still believe in the fundamental principles that I taught and stood for all these years. I feel the Teaching is basically sound. Like someone said to me recently, the Teachings of Evolutionary Enlightenment are self-consistent. That is one of the reasons why so many of you stayed for so long. And that is why we spent so many hours learning how to look at reality through the extraordinary multidimensional lens that the Teachings provide. That being said, it has also become obvious that there have been important gaps in the Teachings from the very beginning. Even though I always said the Teachings were a work in progress, I certainly was not aware of the obvious and important holes that I had left in them. The most obvious and the most important has been the absence of Agape or Love as a FUNDAMENTAL principle that stands in contrast to and in support of the emphasis on Eros that I gave so much importance to over the last 10 to 15 years. Eros is the VERTICAL manifestation of the Absolute principle. Agape is the HORIZONTAL manifestation the Absolute principle. To say I neglected Agape is an understatement to be sure. Eros and Agape BOTH are essential ingredients of a truly Evolutionary Dharma. They BALANCE each other. They hold each other in a dynamic embrace of loving, creative and Integral tension. My over-emphasis on Eros with little respect for Agape created the circumstance where a collapse was inevitable. And that’s why it happened so fast…and for this I am to blame.
In order to open up to the deeply painful truth of my own central role in this great calamity, I have had to open my heart in ways I have denied to myself for most of my life. That’s what has made it possible for me to begin to truly let in the damage I have wrought and the harm I have caused to too many of you. I only wish I had been more awake to and in touch with my own flawed humanity from the very beginning. If I had been, so much of this would have never happened.
Over these 2 years I have struggled to awaken to my Shadow, to those unconscious forces and drives within us that will, as long as they remain hidden, continue to wreak havoc with our lives. This will remain the case even if in many other ways we are unusually conscious and aware, and as hard to believe as it may be, even if we may be lucky enough to have access to Enlightened awareness. I know this is hard to fathom, but it certainly has been true in my case, and has been true in many other cases where powerfully awakened Teachers have acted out in either destructive or self-destructive ways…or both. It’s been a significant part of the rocky legacy of eastern Enlightenment coming to the psychologically informed west. Ironically, I spent much of my early career speaking and writing about this very issue.
I often wonder how much of the outrageous evolutionary Fire could have awakened and been shared between us in the way that it was, without there being some kind of fall out, some measure of pain and suffering. And if that’s possible then how much would have been acceptable, and when would it all have become too much? At this point I really don’t know.
I do know that without the ultimate challenge this enormous calamity has given to me personally on a soul level, my own ego would never have backed down. It’s been extremely challenging on many levels to even begin to let in what has actually happened and why it has happened. And I know there is further to go.
I am beginning to become simply human after so many years of hiding out in transcendence. It’s like coming back to earth after almost a quarter of a century of flying above the clouds. As much as I spoke about the need to “embrace heaven and earth,” I was obviously still rejecting so much of what it means to be a fully human being.
In so many ways I thought I was awake when I was clearly not. In my rejection of Agape, I was also rejecting the feminine principle in myself and in others and most painfully in women as a whole. I am ashamed of how badly I blamed women for their evolutionary challenges. Instead of being truly encouraging, after some time I let my frustration with the enormity of the task at hand get the better of me. I blamed and condemned instead of encouraged and nurtured, which was after all, my job as mentor. Many people accuse me of hating women. This is not and has never been true. But I was in so many ways arrogant and insensitive and even cruel in my impatience at times. Uncovering deep (and outdated) developmental structures in our psyches takes time and long-term commitment. It takes a DEEP vision and LOVE of ourselves. Not blaming and condemning and ridiculing. I apologize to the women who were affected and am so very sorry for being so lacking in the real heart that was desperately needed. I failed many of you in the worst way and for this I really have no excuse. I became a caricature of the very behaviour and attitudes in men that I was so sure I had transcended. And the painful and ironic truth in all of this is that I did have a real passion and commitment for a very radical expression of women’s liberation. I had seen a truly miraculous potential and possibility. But, in the end, I proved to have neither the patience, nor the skill, nor the deep humility and care (agape) to create the conditions that would have made a stable breakthrough actually possible.
In the middle years of my teaching career, at times I came up with and tried many outrageous stunts in order to once again catalyze big breakthroughs. Also to be honest I was many times actually in a state of desperation because I cared so much, and was trying to get my students to care as much as I did about what was possible, the very promise we had all given our lives for.
But as well-meaning as many of these attempts were on my part, some were certainly just too much…too outrageous and simply lacking in compassion and a deep appreciation of what is actually involved in change at the deepest level. More often than not what is needed is simply more love and encouragement, not more shocks, challenges and confrontations with one’s own division. There were times of course where strong challenges are called for and many former students have reminded me of many ways in which I did help them to reach breakthroughs through harsh tactics…but there is no doubt this happened too often, and more often than not it caused more harm than good. I apologize for this. I should have known better…but I was misled by the conviction that without such big pushes, most people would simply compromise their own inherent potential to evolve and grow in the deepest and most profound way. I was a revolutionary, and publicly declared myself as such…and that’s why many of you came to me. But that can no longer be an excuse for my own insensitivity and at times ruthless attempts to force deep changes to occur. Again I deeply apologize to any of you who suffered unnecessarily because of this. Elizabeth Sahtouris’ famous statement that “no evolution occurs without stress” became a justification for those times when I inappropriately pushed people too hard to let go and face themselves.
Over these two years away, I have come to appreciate with growing regret that the hierarchies that I had used as a teaching tool gradually over time become ossified and rigid, becoming for some not too different to being held in a straight jacket or a prison. Originally this was intended to humble my students’ culturally conditioned narcissism and often exaggerated sense of self-importance. And for many years it actually did help a lot of people to learn how to become humble, to learn how to keep their egos in check, to learn how to put Spirit first. In our time this is no small feat. But instead of helping people to grow spiritually, over time the hierarchies ended up putting people in boxes, actually inhibiting the very growth they were intended to nurture. I know some of my students who made very deep commitments to our work together have suffered very much as a result and, for good reason, are angry about this. I am very sorry that this happened and in particular, apologize to those previously known as the Resolute Core Students. With all of my interest in Integral Philosophy, I should have known better and seen the obvious error that I was making.
Finally what has been hardest for me has been facing and coming to terms with the fact that I have let down so deeply and betrayed my former students whom I was closest to, those former senior students who had entrusted me with their lives and souls and who gave so much to make it possible for the promise of Evolutionary Enlightenment to come alive in the world. And largely because of their commitment, it actually DID. So much that is Good, True and Beautiful has come into being as a result of the precious commitment of those who dared to be leaders. I know they also have made mistakes and at times caused much suffering, some of which is yet to be atoned for, but it must be said that most really did give from the deepest parts of themselves and did have the courage to care more than most. I know that when push came to shove when I, their teacher, seemed not to have the resources to live my own teachings, it was experienced as the ultimate betrayal. I who had demanded so much was, when my turn came, seemingly unable or unwilling to do the very thing I had asked from them. I am so ashamed about this and my public apology was really meant for them.
Almost 2 years after my fall from grace and the collapse of EnlightenNext, I still care as much as I ever did about most of what I taught and a lot of what I stood for. I am committed to giving the rest of my life to trying to make good on it all. What that will mean, of course, remains to be seen. Through this process of coming to terms with all that has happened, so many important questions have understandably arisen. As I make progress in my inquiry, I will be writing more about it here.
I still love you all very much and hope from the bottom of my heart that you will find it in yourselves to believe that even Gurus with big egos can find the courage and humility to change. I know in ‘Embracing Heaven and Earth,’ I boldly stated that once Enlightenment has occurred, an individual gets frozen in their development – that from then on their evolution actually comes to a halt forever.
I am committing the rest of my life to proving myself wrong.
With Deep Love,
Im Jahre 1991 veröffentlichte Cohen das EnlightenNext Magazin mit dem Untertitel „Was ist Erleuchtung?“, durch welches er sich selbst als wichtige zeitgenössische spirituelle Person stilisierte. Seine Arbeit trug Früchte und so kooperierte er 2004 mit dem Graduate Institute und lehrte bis 2007 Bewusstseinsevolution. Das EnlightenNext Magazin stellte seine Publikation im Jahr 2011 ein. Auch in Deutschland gab es die EnglithenNext Bewegung, welche nun unter dem Namen Emerge Bewusstseinskultur fortgesetzt wird.
Die abenteuerliche Geschichte wurde nun in einer 6 teiligen Doku verfilmt und startet am 16.10.2016 auf Conscious2.