Andrew Cohen, Evolutionary Enlightenment and EnlightenNext
September, 2016: Cult leader Andrew Cohen (Evolutionary Enlightenment, EnlightenNext) is back after a three year ‘sabbatical.’ He has announced his intention to return to formal teaching.
In this retreat, in the shared field of meditation and inquiry, together we will explore the fundamental principles of Evolutionary Enlightenment: Nonduality, Evolution, Being and Becoming, and we will do so in the context of everything I’ve learned and continue to learn since my fall from grace.
– Source: Andrew Cohen’s website 1
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Here’s what you should know.
EnlightenNext was an organization, founded by self-styled guru Andrew Cohen, that aimed to facilitate spiritual awakening. Cohen’s most devoted students meditated for hours–at times, months–on 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.
Andrew Cohen (born 23 October 1955 in New York City) is an American guru, spiritual teacher, magazine editor, author, and musician who has developed what he characterizes as a unique path of spiritual transformation, called Evolutionary Enlightenment.
He sees himself as working in conjunction with others to bring about a new stage of human consciousness and culture. Towards this end, Cohen and his students frequently engage with a variety of spiritual teachers, philosophers, activists, and cultural figures. Many of these encounters, as well as Cohen’s writings, are featured in EnlightenNext magazine, which is published quarterly by the international nonprofit organization he founded, EnlightenNext, Inc.
– Source: Wikipedia Last accessed Sunday, March 21, 2010 – 2:26 PM CET
EnlightenNext was previously known as the Impersonal Enlightenment Fellowship (IEF), from 1999-2005, and Moksha Foundation, 1988-1999.
EnlightenNext is dedicated to catalyzing evolution in consciousness and culture. We strive to be leaders, examples, and pathfinders in the emerging field of integral and evolutionary spirituality, and to stand for the ultimate relevance of spiritual enlightenment in our time.
Founded by spiritual leader and cultural visionary Andrew Cohen in 1988, EnlightenNext is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Based in Lenox, Massachusetts, and with centers in New York, Boston, London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, and Copenhagen, we are a global organization with a network of members spanning twenty countries. Our flagship publication, EnlightenNext magazine, was first published in 1992, and today it is an award-winning quarterly with a readership of 75,000 and editions in English, German, French, Dutch, and Spanish. In 2009, we launched the EnlightenNext Discovery Cycle, an ongoing program of events including a month-long retreat and an international conference (forthcoming) that enable individuals to directly participate in both personal and cultural evolution.
EnlightenNext is inspired and guided by the principles of Andrew Cohen’s spiritual teaching of Evolutionary Enlightenment. Connecting individual transformation with a deep sense of responsibility for our collective future, this twenty-first-century spiritual philosophy is the lifeblood of EnlightenNext’s organizational culture and all of its events, programs, and publications.
– Source: About EnlightenNext Last accessed Sunday, March 21, 2010 – 3:45 PM CET
- A Darker Side to EnlightenNext [Contra] by William Yenner.
Recently it has been announced that Andrew Cohen and his organization, EnlightenNext, are selling their ashram in Lenox MA and moving. This has brought about news articles and discussion, which include some recent and very heated comments to local newspapers and online forums. I wanted to respond since as author of a recently published book about Andrew Cohen I have often been the focus of much of the ire expressed. Some of these comments also infer that I am completely discounting any value at all to any aspects of this organization. I am making no such claim, and to my knowledge none of Andrew Cohen’s critics are either. To suggest this only appears as an attempt to deflect from the main issue.
My point in speaking out against EnlightenNext has been only to call attention to the numerous abusive practices that have been used on EnlightenNext students at Mr. Cohen’s direction. I feel it is important for the local community and potential students to have this exposed and addressed, so that they can make more informed decisions. And, for the many past students who have left under emotional duress and trauma, the hope is that this will help us to begin healing from Andrew’s harmful and unhealthy approach to spiritual growth.
- Integral Abuse: Andrew Cohen and the Culture of Evolutionary Enlightenment Be Scofield
I want to be clear that this article is not an attack on integral theory or the nature of the teachings that many of the people here offer. I am a fan of integral theory in general – not of the Wilber sort, but the principle behind it. One can recognize that many of these teachers have said wise things while simultaneously being aware of their shortcomings.
Is it wrong to call out Cohen’s enablers? Is it wrong to expect them to break the silence on Cohen’s legacy of abuse, manipulation and cultish behaviors? In the face of the sadistic acts of Cohen isn’t it problematic when Wilber says “Cohen is here to tear you into a thousand pieces?” What about accountability? Responsibility? Ethics?
- The Liberation of Andrew Cohen [Contra] by David Lane. “How Devoted Disciples Can Enlighten Their Guru.”
Andrew Cohen’s students gave him the boot and called him out of his silly charade and in so doing provided him with a most wonderful gift: his freedom. Andrew Cohen wasn’t the enlightened guru he pretended to be. His students were. […]
The key now for Andrew is to fully appreciate this most wonderful gift and not return to the guru world. […]
Andrew Cohen needs to stay retired and work on himself, not indulge in his delusional fantasy that he can awaken the world.
- American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out [Contra] By William Yenner and Contributors
American Guru is the story of EnlightenNext, an experiment in spiritual community under the direction of self-proclaimed spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, as seen through the eyes of several of his former followers.
For thirteen years, William Yenner was the ultimate insider in Andrew Cohen’s world, helping to build Cohen’s organization and playing key roles on its business development team.
In American Guru, Yenner and his colleagues share their insights into the origins and trajectory of this controversial group and its leader, documenting a history of abuses that Cohen and many of his current devotees have gone to great lengths to conceal.
The phenomenon of the guru is one response to the human longing for authentic spiritual experience, but gurus are not all the same. Some help their followers, and others exploit them–a distinction that became apparent only gradually to many of those who renounced their former lives to follow Andrew Cohen when he first began teaching some twenty years ago. Far from being a sensationalized expose, however, American Guru is a case study on authoritarian systems and the powerful effects they produce in contemporary new religious movements.
It includes essays on the guru/disciple relationship, spiritual longing and disillusionment, departure from the abusive guru, and the subsequent processes of healing and fulfillment.
– Source: About the book
William Yenner’s true, uncensored-and finally ungagged-moving personal story, in combination with the powerful reflections, recollections and contributions of other former community members, makes American Guru an essential source document for the study and understanding of authoritarian spiritual sects.
– Source: Hal Blacker, former editor of EnlightenNext magazine, as quoted at Amazon.com
William Yenner’s courageous exposé, American Guru, is a powerful reminder that all of our tendencies toward idealization of dharma teachers must be carefully examined.
– Source: William Morgan, Psy.D., member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy, co-author of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy, as quoted at Amazon.com
- Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru Andre van der Braak
Enlightenment Blues is Andre van der Braak’s compelling account of his relationship with a prominent spiritual teacher. It chronicles both the author’s spiritual journey and disenchantment as well the development of a missionary and controversial community around the teacher. It powerfully exposes the problems and necessities of disentanglement from a spiritual path.
Andre van der Braak lived in Andrew Cohen’s spiritual community for eleven years, and was an editor for its magazine What Is Enlightenment? Currently, he lives in Amsterdam, where he teaches philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and at Luzac College in Alkmaar.
– Source: As cited at Amazon.com
- The Mother of God by Luna Tarlo, Andrew Cohen’s mother
This is a mother’s account of her experience as a disciple of her own son – Andrew Cohen, a well-known American guru – and of her struggle to free herself from his control.
What had been a close, affectionate relationship slowly becomes a nightmare of domination.
The story begins quietly in India and unfolds with growing intensity as Andrew, his mother, and a few people who have gathered around him, travel to England, Holland, Israel, and finally the United States, but which time Andrew has attracted hundreds of devotees to his “meetings.” The abuse of power, incessant fear, and the psychology of obsession are all explored here from an intimate perspective.
Since brainwashing cults and their grandiose gurus are proliferating – in this country and all over the world – this book is not only a mother’s lament, but also a finger pointing to the growing appeal everywhere of authoritarianism and absolutism.
– Source: Book description quoted at Amazon.com
- American Guru [Contra] Website in support of the book American Guru by William Yenner
A look behind the scenes at “EnlightenNext,” a global nonprofit devoted to “the evolution of consciousness and culture,” American Guru reveals what happens when hundreds of contemporary idealists devote their lives to the teachings of a charismatic leader who demands the unconditional surrender of their “egos.”
I was a member of the “inner circle” of Cohen’s students; in fact, I lived in his personal residence for several years, was a member of the EnlightenNext Board of Directors, and was the real estate scout who located and helped arrange the purchase of the 220 acre, nearly three-million-dollar, EnlightenNext “World Headquarters” at Foxhollow, as well as the EnlightenNext Centre in London. I was a student for a total of thirteen-and-a-half years, leaving in 2001.
– Source: William Yenner, author of American Guru, Ungagged: Ex-student Breaks Five Year Enforced Silence What Enlightenment? blog
- Andrew Cohen [Official Site] Andrew Cohen: “Twenty-first-century spiritual teacher and pioneer of Evolutionary Enlightenment”
- EnlightenNext [Official Site] Non-profit organization founded by Andrew Cohen
EnlightenNext is dedicated to catalyzing evolution in consciousness and culture. We strive to be leaders, examples, and pathfinders in the emerging field of integral and evolutionary spirituality, and to stand for the ultimate relevance of spiritual enlightenment in our time. Through our integrated annual cycle of programs and events and our award-winning publications, we are awakening, connecting, and cultivating a global movement of “evolutionaries”–individuals who feel personally responsible for creating the future.
– Source: About EnlightenNext Last accessed Sunday, March 21, 2010 – 2:46 PM CET
- Guru Talk [Pro] “American Guru Andrew Cohen: Former Close Students Speak Out”. See William Yenner’s comments regarding Guru Talk.
- What Enlightenment? [Contra] “an uncensored look at self-styled American guru Andrew Cohen” The blog has been updated only sporadically since April 2007 (here’s why), but it provides a good archive of research information on Andrew Cohen and EnligthenNext.
If you’re short on time, see Enlightennixt “The Essential WHAT Enlightenment ??! blog articles– What Andrew Cohen really doesn’t want you to know!”