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Book: "American Guru" exposes spiritual authoritarianism and exploitation of Andrew Cohen

David Lane reviews a very important book.

Via Frank Visser's Integral World site, http://www.integralworld.net/lane9.html

William Yenner, American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out, Epigraph Publishing, 2009.

My first encounter with an Andrew Cohen devotee occurred several years ago when one of the editors of their slick magazine, What is Enlightenment? (now called, EnlightenNext), wrote me a personal letter asking for my appraisement of her guru. She had read a book I had co-authored with Professor Scott Lowe (University of Wisconsin) entitled "DA: The Strange Case of Franklin Jones" (Walnut, MSAC: 1995), which harshly criticized the late American guru. She clearly saw problems with Da Free John and I got the impression that she felt that Andrew Cohen was different and perhaps a genuine spiritual master.

I hesitated in writing back because I had read enough about Andrew Cohen to almost immediately realize that he, like Da Free John, suffered from an acute case of adolescent narcissism. In other words, both of these so-called spiritual teachers had yet to grow-up and act like mature adults. When they don't get their way and cannot control the behavior of their fawning devotees (which happens a bit more frequently than one might at first suspect), they have hissy fits. Da Free John would invariably go into one of his spiritual sulks or lash out in an indignant rage if he felt that his disciples didn't "get" his teachings.

In Yenner's explosively revealing book, American Guru, we learn that Andrew Cohen displays all sorts of loutish behavior when his disciples don't kowtow to his every neurotic whim. Women devotees especially receive harsh treatment from Andrew Cohen, including his own mother who eventually left him and exposed her son in her ironically titled book, The Mother of God.

What an outsider might find both unbelievable and astounding is how so many very bright and men and women can be so hoodwinked by a guru like Andrew Cohen who has never impressed me (unlike Da Free John, for instance) as being particularly intelligent or insightful. He reminds me of someone I knew in high school who got picked on and perhaps roughed up a bit by other students (for maybe not being athletic enough in gym or sharp enough in algebra class), and who vowed early on to someday get his revenge.

Andrew Cohen doesn't at all act like an enlightened guru passing on valuable gems of wisdom. Rather, he acts like a spoiled brat who suffers from a chronic case of high school insecurity and has finally discovered a way to get even.

And who does he get even with? Those spiritual seekers who are naïve enough to transfer over to Andrew Cohen their deep-seated yearnings, their love, and, finally, their wallets and purses. Even Andrew Cohen's obvious infatuation with Ken Wilber is indicative of Cohen's chronic intellectual insecurity. Cohen's and Wilber's tete-a-tete is grounded in their own self-interests, but the fact that Ken Wilber has aligned himself once again with an abusive self-proclaimed guru, such as Andrew Cohen, speaks volumes about Wilber's so-called "integrity".

Ken Wilber has never fully admitted how mistaken he was about Da Free John and his nefarious actions (lamely back-peddling, albeit slightly, only after the New York born guru was exposed in the national media). It is all too clear that Wilber hasn't a clue about the gurus he associates with or endorses. Or, to put it in a darker light, it seems as if Ken Wilber will chummy up with any guru provided he or she will give him a featured section in their monthly journal.

I have read a large number of books that have exposed modern spiritual leaders and their organizations, including The Bare-Face Messiah (L. Ron Hubbard), Monkey on a Stick (the Hare Krishna movement, Life 102: What To Do When Your Guru Sues You (John-Roger Hinkins), etc. I think that American Guru is a valuable addition to the growing literature devoted to exposing fraudulent gurus.

American Guru is not a mean-spirited book. It is, rather, a refreshingly honest one. I think American Guru should be required reading for all of Andrew Cohen's past and present students. Hopefully, it will be read by every spiritual seeker before they make a choice of becoming a student of this so-called master who cannot even reconcile with his own mother.

I personally think Andrew Cohen is in deep need of long term therapy. The first step in his recovery process should be for him to sit down and read American Guru closely line by line. After doing such, he should apologize first to his mother and then to every student he has ever taken under his wing. Hopefully, he will then refund whatever money he has manipulatively gathered in his name.

I don't think any of this is likely, but I do have confidence that anyone who reads American Guru will be properly forewarned not to buy into any of Andrew Cohen's childish antics.

If you are on the fence about Andrew Cohen and his methods, American Guru will help you get off it and provide you with enough telling detail (and, hopefully, some confidence) to walk away from this spiritual poser. His mother did and so should we all.

William Yenner, American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out, Epigraph Publishing, 2009.

Views: 207

Comment by Pete Bampton on September 30, 2009 at 23:22
American Guru: The Whole Truth

This book is one of half-truth and distortion. Half-truth because of the very relevant information that the author and contributors choose to leave out of their stories, and distortion because of their overriding motivation to discredit their former Guru, and hence collage a picture from various disconnected events that fits their aim.

It can be ironic how karmic patterns tend to repeat themselves. William Yenner´s anger and resentment towards those whom he regards as having wronged him can be extreme. This is borne out by the fact that he has pursued two personal vendettas in the public domain. The first, entitled “The Tangled Web” (www.kazooweb.net), sought to publicly discredit his own siblings, whom he felt had cheated him out of his father’s inheritance. And now this book seeks to discredit his former Guru, Andrew Cohen. What is interesting is that the two are very much connected in a very tangled web indeed!

William wrote the former while he was a close student. Andrew felt that he was overreacting to the issue and was also operating out of greed in relationship to his inheritance. He began putting pressure on William to face into this, but was only met with resistance. Eventually, after a protracted “struggle”, William chose to give his inheritance of $80,000 to EnlightenNext as a gesture of “letting go”. Sometime later after having “fallen from grace”, William decided to leave his Guru and then asked for his donation back. EnlightenNext consulted with their lawyer as to their legal obligation to return it. They were told that it is almost completely unheard of for a non-profit to return a donation. Hence EnlightenNext was under NO obligation at all to return the funds. But EnlightenNext did decide to return the money on condition that William sign a 5 year contract prohibiting him from public discourse regarding Andrew Cohen and EnlightenNext. There has never been a “gag order” (as William calls it). That would imply that there was some kind of pressure on him that resulted in the necessity for an order to be issued by judge or jury, but that was never the case. Why did Andrew and EnlightenNext see fit to do this? Because they knew full well that he would take the money and seek a very public and nasty revenge, just as he had done with his siblings. Unfortunately five years wasn’t long enough for him to cool down, and so he has now finally taken his revenge…eight years later!

William went to great efforts to rally former disgruntled students to the cause of publicly discrediting his former Guru by soliciting them to write for his book. In the end only a few of them agreed. Although they were negatively disposed toward Andrew, and some strongly so, I know for a fact that many of those solicited refused because they did not trust his motivation. This is why a large portion of the book is made up of already published material. A former student forbade him to include his story and William ignored his request, they have fallen out. Many of the stories told here are grossly distorted and the people featured would tell you a very different version of events. Legitimate criticism of Andrew Cohen and EnlightenNext is fair enough, but this book contains very little of it. Rather it is a “sad story” of a wounded ego, and as any true Guru will tell us; “If you play with fire you will get burned”. Don’t waste your money or time reading especially if you genuinely care about higher matters.

Check out www.guru-talk.com for perspectives from former students that are radically different.
Comment by Michel Bauwens on October 1, 2009 at 4:21
Dear p2p readers,

please be aware that the followers of Cohen have started a systematic campaign against the book. The testimony of the author is just one from many former students who have corrobated the main experiences with many different and similar reports.

for cult members like Pete, there can only be one reason that someone would critique their guru: they must have mental problems ...

If you are genuinely motivated by higher matters, don't go near abusive movements and leaders,

Comment by Pete Bampton on October 1, 2009 at 15:59
Sorry but you are wrong. First I am not a "cult" member I live in Portugal and left over 4 years ago. However, like many of my former student friends (www.guru-talk) who have also moved on we are deeply grateful for all we experienced. What we are writing is from our own passion and inspiration and is entirely independent from Andrew or his organization. I do not regard Andrew Cohen as being beyond legitimate criticism, but those who claim "abuse" are for the most part responding from wounded pride. True awakened pioneers always have arrows in their back. Play with fire and you will get burned.

Comment by Michel Bauwens on October 2, 2009 at 7:52
yes, of course, all those that criticise a guru must by definition speak from failed ego's and wounded pride ... Sorry, but I can't take an approach that tackles criticism by attacking the personality of the author, as legitimate ... If the author were alone, that would be one thing, but the stories from many former devotees are quite consistent, and in line with similar developments in other movements ... Of course, feel free to disagree, what matters is that the information is out there, and that people can judge for themselves ...
Comment by Pete Bampton on October 9, 2009 at 18:29
Yes I appreciate what matters is that all the information is out there, that is why http://www.guru-talk.com is so important, because up til now all we have had publicly from former students has been negative and now we are redressing the balance. Just because some former students have reached consistent conclusions doesnt mean their interpretations are true. Also we dont feel that Andrew is beyond legintimate criticism, that is fair enough, but distorting the context in which controversial events occurred is another thing altogether. And finally I wasnt attacking the personality of Mr Yenner but simply laying out the facts. You or anyone else doesnt have to believe me, but there we are!
Comment by William Yenner on December 31, 2009 at 20:37
I am very happy that P2P Foundation has selected American Guru as one of the 10 Best Non-Fiction Books of the year.
Happy New Year Everyone!
Comment by William Yenner on January 23, 2010 at 11:52
2 New and Important Developments in the EnlightenNext Saga:

Andrew Cohen and EnlightenNext have put the Foxhollow property up for sale. The asking price is $6,950,000 which represents a handsome profit made with all of our donations, and our free labor, over many years. (It was bought for $2.8 million in 1996.) I am looking for a lawyer to investigate whether it is possible for those who gave to Foxhollow to get a refund given that Foxhollow will no longer be used.

The property listing is here:
The broker who is listing the property has said that EnlightenNext is interested in relocating to the Pioneer Valley, which means the Northampton, Amherst area of Massachusetts. They apparently are looking for a new, smaller campus with housing and offices.

Another important recent development is that several former contributors to EnlightenNext magazine have made statements expressing their thoughts and concerns about the revelations of abuses contained in American Guru. These statements can be found on the American Guru site.
William Yenner

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