130. Andrew Cohen

Andrew CohenAndrew Cohen is an internationally respected spiritual teacher, cultural visionary, and founder of the global nonprofit EnlightenNext and its award-winning publication EnlightenNext magazine. Since 1986, Cohen has been traveling the world giving public lectures and leading intensive retreats. Through his writings, teachings, and ongoing dialogues with leading philosophers, scientists, and mystics, he has become known as one of the defining voices of the new evolutionary spirituality.

Born in New York City in 1955 and raised in a secular Jewish family, Cohen had his passion for spirit unexpectedly ignited at the age of sixteen, when a spontaneous revelation of  “cosmic consciousness” opened his eyes to a new dimension of life. Some years later, as a result of that experience, he gave up aspirations to become a musician and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to its rediscovery. After several years of intensive spiritual pursuit in the United States, including the study of martial arts, Kriya Yoga, and Buddhist meditation, Cohen followed the footsteps of a generation of Western seekers to India. It was there, in the land of the sages, that he met his last teacher H.W.L. Poonja, a disciple of the revered Ramana Maharshi, in 1986. In just a few short weeks, Cohen experienced a life-changing awakening, the story of which was told in his first book, My Master Is My Self. Shortly afterwards, with his teacher’s blessing, Cohen began to teach.

Always an independent thinker, Cohen soon diverged from the traditional Eastern approach that had catalyzed his own awakening, with its emphasis on transcendence and the illusory nature of the phenomenal world. Grappling with questions and challenges that arose as he sought to bring the revelation of enlightenment to a contemporary Western audience, he gradually forged his own original spiritual teaching, Evolutionary Enlightenment. A modern-day equivalent of the ancient wisdom teachings, Cohen’s work is no footnote to tradition, but a distinct and innovative synthesis. He has brought the timeless depth of enlightened wisdom into the twenty-first century and significantly redirected its purpose and promise—calling not for transcendence of worldly attachment, or even for compassionate care and service, but for a deep and heroic responsibility for theevolution of the world. In this, he finds more in common with the great evolutionary visionaries of the last century, such as Sri Aurobindo and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, than he does with the ancient Eastern enlightenment tradition in which his own awakening occurred. To both these streams of thought he adds a further element: a rich and nuanced understanding of the practical dynamics of individual and cultural transformation at our particular moment in history.

Cohen’s interest in cultural evolution is much more than theoretical. For more than two decades he has been intensively engaged with committed individuals and groups from around the world who are striving to put his teachings into practice. This engagement has, in turn, informed his thinking, creating a dynamic and fertile interplay between vision and practice, ideal and reality. Among the many fruits of this work, perhaps the most significant has been a series of breakthroughs into collective or intersubjective higher states of consciousness, and the active translation of these insights into new values, perspectives, and principles that are enabling individuals to lay the foundations for a new cultural paradigm. The results of this living inquiry are embraced and shared by a growing global movement of “Evolutionaries.”

In addition to his work as a teacher, Cohen is also dedicated to changing the cultural conversation about the purpose and significance of spiritual enlightenment in our time. This is best seen in the magazine he founded in 1991, EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment?), which has become the premier forum for serious discussion at the intersection of spirituality and culture. In its pages, and the live forums that have grown out of them, Cohen and his team of collaborators have engaged spiritual, religious, cultural, and scientific thought leaders in a dynamic inquiry about the nature of inner and outer evolution. Cohen’s unusual perspective and commitment to dialogue have led to invitations to speak at numerous forums over the years, including the Parliament of the World’s Religions (2004, 2009), LOHAS International Conference, International Transpersonal Conference, Integral Leadership in Action, and the International Conference on the Frontiers of Yoga and Consciousness Research, as well as universities, spiritual centers, and business settings around the world.

EnlightenNext has centers worldwide, and members in more than twenty countries. Cohen lives at the organization’s world headquarters in Lenox, Massachusetts, and spends several months of the year traveling, teaching, and leading retreats around the world.

Cohen’s new book Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path for Spiritual Awakening was released by Select Books Fall 2011. For more information about Andrew Cohen’s work and his upcoming teachings and retreats, visit www.andrewcohen.org.

Books by Andrew Cohen:

Interview conducted 7/14/2012

Video and audio below. Audio also available as a Podcast.

181 thoughts on “130. Andrew Cohen

  1. “They, (gurus), don’t prepare the ground – they reveal the groundless Truth”…HS

    I’m astounded by your increasing clarity and understanding my friend…Final Truth as we’ve often said is not for everyone, but those who are ripe will hear it, so keep speaking..and hey – soon we may need to put you on the interviewee list..

    Sending love…and am curious, are you still hanging with Neelam?

  2. Mom (I mean Jill) :)

    Always nice to hear from you.
    Thx for the support.
    I’ve been continuing with Neelam, and the other day we had a good exchange and inquiry and after she reached out and offered to work one on one with me.
    So I’m very grateful for this, and feel like you really guided me to her.
    So thank you.
    Such Grace!

  3. Hi all.

    I hear you HS. Perhaps it’s having been through more years of belonging to a movement than you that leads me to that statement. For most of my life, spiritual practice was what we did in the context of a somewhat closed spiritual community. Then I loosened up the cords a bit and let some new ideas in…and a few old ones out. A spark from a true teacher ignited my soul and that’s it.

    So it was, for me, many years of preparation and then a very simple shift. For others it is more dramatic and for some much more direct. I just consider it the flow of the times in which I was embedded.

    Many wander, as if in a thick fog, for many years, not knowing truth from delusion. Many partial truths are investigated before the crystalline light is found. The influence of the right teacher is the Grace that lifts us out of the fog and into the clear light of day.

    This interview with Cohen somehow reminded me of those langsam days when people were searching anywhere and everywhere for relief from the pointlessness. My thoughts are influenced not only by this interview, which was very pleasant and full of truths, but by the accounts of some of Cohen and the Integral’s antics in the “tough love” style of teaching. I also read that book about wild gurus of the seventies and eighties.

    These guys certainly aren’t saints. Hopefully their sageliness has been growing into more sainltliness…but I wouldn’t send my daughter to study with them.

    The whole integral movement sounds nice, but fills my brain to overflowing an about thirty seconds. I feel that a bridge between the intersubjective reality we are plumbing and the material-based scientific thought structures that dominate global society now is sorely needed. Integral is a nice attempt.

    What makes relativity so popular is not just its relative truth but also its simplicity. e=mc2. Integral theory has so many layers and dimensions that it belies the simplicity of the Reality. So, in befuddling the mind, it lays a trap for the longing seeker and ensnares them in concepts that can take many years to disentangle…Though it might help to entangle some of the rationalists who would otherwise discount true spirituality as hogwash.

    I guess, I’m somewhat surprised that this teaching emerged from one of Papaji’s direct students. Most of the Ramana teachers have a more intuitive and simplified approach. My thought is that the real transformation takes place by direct influence – as it did for Andrew sitting with Papaji, so why should he come up with such a complicated, evidence-based system?

    Certainly all is as it should be, but if I were in his shoes, I’d entertain the act of settling into the Thoughtless as deeply as possible and let the radiance therein enhance my transformational ability.

    HS, consider yourself very blessed to be under such good guidance at an early stage in life.

    Peace. Love.

  4. HS – sincere hearts always find sincere teachers…I’m so happy for you..

    Erick -very true what you say here – the teachers from Papaji keep it simple…that was what he asked everyone to do if they awakened in his Presence – to go and carry Ramana’s Grace to the world…not to put their own spin on things..to keep the purity of the Self to Self transmission…Andrew apparently had different ideas…and Papaji turned his back on him….

    Andrew only spent a few weeks with Papaji before he went out to teach…not enough time…If we awaken and go our own way before the Silence has had chance to burn all the vasanas, before the ego is completely seen through and we realize that what comes through us is not of us – we can easily go off course…

    No matter what era we find ourselves in, the age old truth doesn’t need embellishment or complication….

  5. I agree 100% with Andrew that ‘awakening’ or in my words: becoming a simple human being (other than a CGA) that does not freak out in front of a tax return, should be measurable in terms of behaviour.

    One thing I like about Pema Chodron is that she is not afraid to disclose some stuff about herself. She did mention that after taking care or her grand kids for a full week, she realized that she still had some work to do. I like that honesty. To steal Jon Bernies’ phrase. When we are really triggered let’s say by the traffic or at work when our boss tells us we should leave with an empty voice-mail… when there are 55 at the end of day, some 2 weeks old, precisely because that same boss does not want to hire, and we get that victim story staring to pull our attention and our guts starts to contract, etc. How is our Houdini doing… can we come back on track within a couple of minutes just by looking outside or Googling a mountain top image or going for a short walk. Or do we come back home eaten by the situation before waking up in the middle of the night due to stress… I am not even getting into addiction territory here… If our Houdini works faster and we leave the garbage at work and can smell the flowers on the way home, then it’s a good sign to me. No idea at all where that puts someone on the ‘awakening scale’ but it’s really cool to see that we can make some massive progress in those area. The cat and the dog at home finds it pretty cool as well…

  6. Integral theory gives me a headache. From a purely theory construction point of view, it seems like a kludge that bolts lots of disparate parts together. It is *a theory* (not truth) of human evolution and development, a weaving together the many threads from academic knowledge. (Ken does try to be comprehensive.)

    If your main goal is to touch, taste, be the Truth, it is not the best way to go, maybe a misleading way to go in that one is pursuing an ideal based on an intellectual image. Here I resonate with the posts already made here.

    But before I join this echo chamber in so consistently dumping on Cohen and Integral theory, I’d like to take the position of the other side and look at its contributions.

    One very important point is that development along one line *does not guarantee* development along other lines. (And I include falling into the Heart in this caution.) Spiritual development does not guarantee a comparable development in say the intellectual, moral, and emotional/psychological lines. They are really distinct lines. Perhaps this has been already partially recognized in the Sage/Saint discussions. Perhaps this does not matter for most people here in their orientation is solely towards the Truth (Sage). But for others, it does matter (e.g., Mariana Caplan). There’s still this stuff of life (money, sex, work, family, relationships, politics, gurus, no guru’s, communities, projections …), i.e., “all this crap”. Yeah, it’s an illusion in the unassailable Context of the Reality of the Self, but the illusion persists, bites, and even hurts. Hence, the theory construction to try to make sense of it all, and provide some kind of academic road map to guide us through this *human* life. And we all sense that our human life probably has some intrinsic value, illusion or not. (And the “map is not the territory”, so take it with a grain of salt. Use it if it’s useful. Drop it if it’s not.)

    Another valuable point from Integral Theory is the “pre-trans” fallacy. Certain proclamations about No-Mind, drop dissolves into the ocean, oceanic bliss, Oneness may sound superficially the same, but their realities may be quite different. For me, to really appreciate Non-Duality, both the realization and the philosophy actually requires a *tremendous* amount of discrimination and discernment. It requires a certain level of development and subtlety of the mind to see through it’s own tendency to divide, and see through the world of it’s own construction, and Beyond. To appreciate Non-Duality, one has to be in some sense already versed in Duality and is ready to move on. It is not the No-Mind of an idiot, but that of the Sage. I would argue at the spirit and heart of Non-Dualism actually is discernment, not a blank mind, not Unity, not Bliss, but an unrelenting drive to penetrate Reality and find a resting place in full awareness and appreciation of the things all going on in Duality. It does not negate it. It sees through it.

  7. *Brenda* about Seth..I have read some of his books and it is all true that we (our beliefs) create our reality (Adya, Rupert Spira, Eckhart Tolle talk about that too) but what enlightenment is all about is seeing through that virtual reality..that is the difference..I don’t think Seth talks about it at all. I will post a couple of videos from Adya a bit later where he talks about this beautifully..as he usually does :)

  8. Ernest – your thoughts are very interesting. I often think about the question of integrating Oneness into modern day to day life.

    Hypothetical scenarios present themselves: How would Ramana Maharshi function as a high school principle in Harlem if his karms has placed him there. What would it be like for Anandamayi Ma to be a waitress at a roadside diner in South Florida, if she had found herself there.

    This is pure speculation, but the sense I get is that they would have served the same high purpose, but in a different way. They would have been “hidden Saints.” Are there hidden Saints and sages among us? It is quite likely, since not every pure Being necessarily winds up sitting on a dais with flowers all around and incense burning, with eager students seated at their feet…

  9. Thanks Night lily………looking forward to the videos. Jane Roberts did have many trancedence experiences when not channeling Seth….and some with.
    We can transcend this reality but it is no accident that we are in this relative reality, at this time either.
    I think we go back and forth and as I stated before…..we are the unmanifest experienceing the manifest. As a child, I had spontaneous “awakenings”, and a few as a young adult. I don’t want to discuss with anyone here about whether it happened or not or whether it was a true awakening…….it definitely occured. And then I got totally immersed again in the relative reality with raising children, etc. and tried to inhibit those experiences. Now I miss them! And so…..I’m learning to be still again.

  10. Ernst, I second Brenda, nicely put. As Adya’s teacher said to him ,we come to nirvana trough ways of sansara..

  11. Here Adya also touches upon finger pointing in spirituality which applies to a lot of conversations here imho.

  12. Enlightenment is not an experience…experiences come and go..They can be lost and found..but rather it is Reality Itself..It is not transcendent of this reality, but includes it..it includes everything, or it wouldn’t be Reality..It is found in the child’s cry or the dirty laundry as well as in the ecstasy of a lovers kiss or when sitting at the feet of masters..no difference…It is who we really are sans all our concepts and conditioning – so it can never be lost…only our attention can wander..but once known..it doesn’t fluctuate or go anywhere..where would it go? It is always here now -omnipresent Love.. but clouded by our non acceptance of the perceived unacceptable… If we’re chasing something grand – trying to get to where the good spiritual stuff is, based on memory or expectation, we miss it..Most of all, it is entirely free of the mind’s interpretation of it..

  13. Night lily, when I go to your link 3 or 4 videos pop up with Adya. Which one are you talking about or is it all three? One is about the “secret”, another about shift of perception, and one about taking the step. I will watch all 3 but wondered which one you were referring to. And your second comment said he is talking about finger pointing but there is no link. Thanks again!

  14. From Adya’s video above: in spirituality there is so much finger pointing, so much who is right, who us wrong, who is this,who is that..let us just realise it is about waking up, it is about oneness, it’s about realization of the unity of existance and ourselves and each other and then the rest..you are a free being, you follow your own karmic way with all the rest, with the way you move through life, that’s when people like me we can’t tell anybody how to do that, we just tend to get in the way when we start to pretend to know how everyone should move.. It is just the oneness thing and then you are on your own” …be it Ramana expression , Pamela or Andrew expression…let it be, thanks, Rick for being so open to all expressions ))

  15. Night lily……found it! The one about the secret. I so agree with him. Have a lovely day!

  16. Being aware of being aware (or awareness of awareness)…

    while you (the subject) are aware of each and every form (the object) that appears and dis-appears before you…

    is integration of the ocean with its manifested waves.

    No new or different objects need to appear before you. Nor do you have to change or modify the subject who is aware of the objects.

    Just be aware of your awareness… as you become aware of the forms that appear and dis-appear.

    Just be aware of your awareness.

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