Andrew Cohen



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Fast Facts
andrew cohen.jpg
Function: 
Spiritual Teacher
Traditions: 
Evolutionary Enlightenment, EnlightenNext, Neo Advaita
Main Countries of Activity: 
USA
Date of Birth: 
October 23, 1955
Place of Birth: 
NYC, NY, USA
In His/Her Body ("alive"): 
Yes
Ancestor Gurus: 
Descendant Gurus: 
Other Related Gurus: 
Brian Swimme, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Deepak Chopra

Biography

Andrew Cohen 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".

Cohen has conducted retreats, given talks, participated in conferences and collaborated with others. He was awarded a silver medal from ForeWord magazine's 2011 Book-of-the-Year award for his book "Evolutionary Enlightenment".

At the beginning of his teaching career, Cohen was mainly influenced by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy as taught by his teacher, H. W. L. Poonja (Papaji), a disciple of Ramana Maharshi. He credits the ideas of cosmologist Brian Swimme, Christian theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the early 20th century Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo as helping him form his thinking about the evolutionary context of the human experience. He likewise credits the "integral philosopher" Ken Wilber, with whom he conducts frequent public discourses, with helping him form the theoretical framework of his teachings. He has also been influenced by the Spiral Dynamics theories put forward by Clare Graves.

Cohen's emphasis on community and the collective dimension of spirituality can be traced to his encounter with Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society in India. Cohen was still a spiritual seeker when he was deeply moved by the swami's call, "In unity there is strength; come together, come together."

He credits his teacher, H.W.L. Poonja (Papaji), with guiding him to his said realization. Cohen asserts that attaining this liberated state of consciousness has traditionally been considered by mystics as the pinnacle of human achievement. Echoing basic Vedantic philosophy, Cohen says that this is the realization of the transcendental aspect of God, and it often goes hand-in-hand with the realization that the world is an illusion.

Cohen says that he has discovered a different form of "enlightened awareness", which he claims to be unique. He first called this "impersonal enlightenment", to reflect that fact that it was a realization shared between people rather than an individual attainment. He later changed the name to Evolutionary Enlightenment, to reflect his belief that it reflects the next stage of evolution of enlightenment.

In 2012, Mind Body Spirit magazine listed him at Number 28 on their 2012 top 100 most spiritually influential people alive today.

Some of Cohen's former followers, including his mother, Luna Tarlo, have viewed him as a manipulative spiritual teacher. Tarlo wrote a critical book, called Mother of God, about her experience as one of his disciples. In a Psychology Today, article, published in 1998 entitled "Crimes of the Soul", Tarlo recounted how she became a disciple of her son who told her "to give way to him or their relationship would end" and forbade her "to express an opinion on anything". Tarlo said she "knew if I seriously objected to anything, I'd be kicked out" and stated that her son, formerly the "sweetest, sensitive kid, had changed into an unrecognizable tyrant."
André van der Braak's Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru alleges that Cohen demanded large sums of money and extreme and unquestioning devotion from his students.

There are indications that Cohen’s group is in difficult financial straits – In 2011 it officially ended publication of its magazine EnlightenNext.

In June 26, 2013, Andrew Cohen published an apology (http://andrewcohen.org/blog/apology)in which he stated that he has decided he needed to take some time off so he could make the effort to develop in many of the ways that he has asked other people to. He stated that he was planning to resign from his post as the head of the EnlightenNext organization and cease being a guru.

Teachings

Evolutionary Enlightenment is a philosophy that mixes teachings about enlightenment from eastern traditions with a western scientific understanding of evolution.

Evolutionary Enlightenment is inspired, on one hand, by the teachings of Ramana Maharshi and the Buddhist tradition. On the other hand, it also follows in the tradition of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Sri Aurobindo, Henri Bergson, Alfred North Whitehead, and the German Idealist philosophers.

In contemporary culture, it is associated with the work of Andrew Cohen, founder of EnlightenNext, and Ken Wilber, a leading figure in the Integral movement. The ideas of Evolutionary Enlightenment have been discussed and elucidated over the past five years by Cohen and Wilber in the pages of EnlightenNext magazine, as well as in Wilber's recent book Integral Spirituality.

An evolutionary approach to Enlightenment or self-realization is also outlined in the work of Beatrice Bruteau, a Teilhardian scholar and theologian, and mentioned in the recent bestseller A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.

According to the doctrine of Evolutionary Enlightenment, enlightenment is often defined as being "one with everything," and raises the question, "if evolution occurs, how can enlightenment have any meaning? … if everything is evolving, and I get enlightened today, then won't my enlightenment be partial with the sun's dawn?".
Evolutionary Enlightenment suggests redefining an evolutionary enlightenment to mean "the realization of oneness with all states and all stages that have evolved so far and that are in existence at any given time".

The idea of Evolutionary Enlightenment as a spiritual practice emphasizes the need for individuals to recognize that their own spiritual transformation is essential for cultural evolution. Building on this principle, Cohen offers a set of tenets that can be practiced by individuals to transcend egoism and express a deeper creativity and spiritual energy that Cohen calls the Authentic Self.

In this approach, the problem is resolved through redefining Enlightenment as being "One with the timeless Ground of all Being and with the evolutionary impulse that is driving the entire cosmos." Through identifying the evolutionary impulse as their own Authentic Self, individuals can transcend ego and find a deeper self-sense without needing to live a life of asceticism or solitude, as was often required in traditional enlightenment teachings.

Evolutionary Enlightenment as a spiritual practice also emphasizes the need for human beings to learn how to come together in a way that brings out the highest creativity in each individual and simultaneously releases their potential for collective intelligence.

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Books & Media

Recommended Books: 
Cover image

American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out

by William Yenner

(Paperback)

American Guru is a multifaceted account of life in the contemporary spiritual community known as EnlightenNext, and the controversial "teaching methods" of its New York-born founder, self-proclaimed "guru" Andrew Cohen. With contributions from several of Cohen's former students, William Yenner recalls the thirteen-year trajectory of his career as a leader and manager in Cohen's community--his early days as an idealistic "seeker," his years of service on EnlightenNext's Board of Directors, his ultimate disillusionment and departure,and his efforts to make sense of his experiences as a once-devoted follower of a "Teacher of Evolutionary Enlightenment." With wit and insight, Yenner and his colleagues have produced a riveting cautionary tale on the dangers of authoritarian spirituality, and an insider'scase study on the promises and pitfalls of postmodern discipleship. "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." -William Morgan, Psy.D., member of the Institute for Meditation and Psychotherapy,co-author of Mindfulness and Psychotherapy "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." -Hal Blacker, former editor of EnlightenNext magazine "American Guru is not a mean-spirited book. It is, rather, a refreshingly honest one." -David Christopher Lane, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Check out the book online at www.americanguru.net