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. “Just be aware of your awareness.”

    Yes, another name for Self Inquiry – Awareness, being another name for Self.

    The question, “Who am I?”, is simply a reminder which points the subject (“I”) in the right direction. (In case there was ever any confusion or misunderstanding about the purpose of that question.) And Ramana was well aware of what happens to the question (and the questioner) once it’s purpose is served:

    “…the thought ‘who am I?’ [that is, the effort we make to attend to our essential being], having destroyed all other thoughts, will itself in the end be destroyed like a corpse-burning stick [that is, a stick that is used to stir a funeral pyre to ensure that the corpse is burnt entirely].”

  2. I like this from Francis Lucille. It’s direct dialog, so please excuse the grammer.
    “Advaita is not the piling up of additional belief on top of pre existing belief, but it is rather the removal of all existing belief so that the truth be naked and get revealed.”
    “To live in unknowing is sweet. Try it.”

  3. Hi Chuckee – the energy coming through your posts is different now – much more settled….Have you been hanging out with Francis? He’s so wonderfully clear isn’t he? It would be nice if Rick could interview him…

  4. i liked Andrew’s interview a lot… he brought up interesting issues … that are important toward what & how… we do… in the manifested world…
    toward the end of interview… Rick requested that comments be restricted to the topics discussed in interview… seems this profound video touches on the topics discussed…

    The Collective Evolution FULL

  5. here’s more support for Andrew’s evolutionary spirituality & better behavior…

    matt kahn says that non-duality is only … roughly… only 1/10 of overall spiritual development… not sure he mentioned this during batgap interview… but he did mention this in our session with him…

    so there are several teachers… whose views are more holistic… but i can still appreciate teachers like…

    Mooji… who comes closest to role Papaji played… “aggressively (but lovingly) pushing people toward the edge” … and Mooji has a strong devotional side… in his presence one can feel the LOVE… now there is some chanting/bhajans at end of satsang… and he is getting involved in some charity projects… slowly… it’s very easy to fall in love with Mooji…

    Adya… who perhaps is clearest in explaining the widespread stuckness phenomenon… he is not aggressively pushing people to awaken… rather he seems to attract people who ARE awakening… in whatever fashion… and he just reassures them … that everything is fine… just recent satsang in Philly… he was simply reassuring a few who were experiencing things falling away… and had concerns about the void… doing nothing… paying the rent… he simply was reassuring… that the void etc was not the final resting place…

    Leonard Jacobson… has a very simple systematic effective process… great for beginners… and for people who are not “automatically” awakening… just by hanging out with Adya, Mooji etc … also his books provide very simple but thorough knowledge… about the nature of ego, mind, Self…

    and here’s a good article along these lines … from Gloria Byrom Agrelius’s FB ~ “I admire and respect Jeff Foster for his humble recognition of the arrogance that comes with awakening at the mental level. So many of us have awakened at this level and call ourselves done.”
    (rest of article) :
    Ignoring the world is where we deny ourselves the opportunity to vibrate at the higher frequency of self awareness. The world is reflecting our true inner state of the heart in every moment.

    If we are awakened, yet not able to embody self awareness at the level of our emotions, we’re a walking contradiction to that awakening. Christ said you can’t put new wine in old wineskins. The wine of our awakening will spoil in the wineskin of our unmet conditioning.

    Jeff Foster and other spiritual teachers are awakening back into life, and admit that awakening has no real destination point. They offer the wisdom of awakening and deepening into life – not away from it. We can live in this world and embody the grace of enlightenment fully.

    I admire and respect Jeff Foster for his humble recognition of the arrogance that comes with awakening at the mental level. So many of us have awakened at this level and call ourselves done.

    There are very few teachers offering post enlightenment advise for living awareness and embodying this frequency at every level; mental, emotional and physical.

    Adyashanti has been the voice for this for several years. Most gurus are still trying to get people to wake up. They can’t believe so many are truly awakened, because folks are not meeting their particular criteria for enlightenment.

    So many have moved beyond the mental realm of awakening and are no longer fascinated by it. This mental attitude of writing off the world does not resonate with those whose hearts have awakened back into life…deeply into life.

    The fresh voices for living our awakening call to us from a place that is beyond the denial of this world. The awakened heart is here to love. They’re in the market place, and they’ve found nirvana right here through giving of themselves to others.

    We know ourselves as love by giving love. It’s in the givingness of self that we experience the depths of all that we are. We are no longer hiding from life, nor are we trying to escape life through higher states of consciousness.There is nothing wrong with higher states of consciousness and the experiences they bring. It’s realised that they are part of awakening and the danger happens when we become mesmorized by them. It can become another form of hiding for the ego.

    Many have traversed these higher states and grace brought them back into life. They are not sitting in an enlightened superior state waiting for everyone else to wake up. Like Jeff Foster, they’ve seen the arrogance of it.

    The world is reflecting our state of consciousness back to us. What we experience through relationship shows us our unmet conditioning and where we are less than enlightened. Relating with others exactly where they are can reveal to us exactly where we are.

    If we are wise, we will not waste this precious time in form. We will raise our frequency to that of love. An awakened mind must be in harmony with an awakened heart. Our actions in this physical plane should reflect the transparency of our authenticity and integrity.

    This has nothing to do with fixing ourselves or anyone else. This is about living truth at every level of our existence. As we feel and know ourselves as pure love, no longer fragmented within our emotionsal state, we exude the purity of the love that we are. We are pumping our frequency of love back into the universe.

    True teachers are humbled by life. They are humbled by you. You reflect themselves back to themselves. Observe how loving and kind they are. Observe how they feel when they are less than loving and kind. A pure teaching will always point you toward the truth inherent to who you are. There is nothing to know. Trust yourself.

    by Gloria Agrelius…

  6. Thanks for your thoughts, Anatol. I haven’t watched the videos you posted yet…… but will.

  7. If we try to save the world, before we save ourselves, we don’t accomplish much of anything…movements come and movements go..A suffering man cannot truly help another man..

    It’s a natural outgrowth of the ‘embodied’ awakened state to love and support the apparent ‘other’ in their suffering…and help lift them out of it…That’s true charity in my book..and the kind that has lasting effects..

    Happily, when we are no longer focused on our own wants and needs – fully dissolved in the ego area -we quite naturally live for the awakening of the planet..

    It’s been said that there can be no real Love unless there’s nobody there to love; no real Compassion unless there’s nobody there to be compassionate; and no real Humility, unless there’s nobody there to be humble…

    As we’ve seen, all previous attempts throughout time of trying to achieve the ‘Virtues’ or the ideal society, fall short, because they are coming from ego and not true self-less-ness.. First ye seek the kingdom of God…so there is some profound basis for the change we want to see..

    It makes sense here, to give all our attention and devotion to the Self – to waking up – and THEN see what the Divine Will has in store for us to do, instead of imposing our ‘idea’ of love and kumbaya on the neighbors..

  8. spiritual development before awakening…
    spiritual development during awakening…
    spiritual development after awakening…

    we do not wait for the waves of the ocean to subside before we take a dip…

  9. @Anatol “True teachers are humbled by life.”

    I feel torn between two forces. On one hand, is the Truth of Self, which Jill expresses, and I cannot deny. On the other hand, having “arms and legs” (Brenda), is an everyday in your face truth, which I also cannot deny. (Note, these are not necessarily in conflict.)

    We talk so eloquently about “enlightenment”, “no-mind”, “no-concepts”, “awareness of awareness”, … Yet behind these words, we are trying to convey *something*. Behind the words is a whole superstructure, a whole set of assumptions (“concepts”) whereby the conversation is possible. This includes the concept of “no-concept”. Stones do not wonder about “no-concept”, “awareness of awareness”, etc. This seems a uniquely human problematic, us brilliant human beings capable of symbolic manipulation, but also as a result, slightly lost and screwed up. From this, I also appreciate the point that Evolutionists make about the evolution of human consciousness, the evolution of “culture” (which is our collective consciousness), why the particulars of the assumptions are so important, because we cannot evolve without seeing through them first. That which we presume to be Universal or Final, may actually be a hidden cultural assumption, a Grand Illusion. (Neelam also draws from nueroscience in her work. I wonder if neuroscience were to someday show consciousness as an epiphenomenon of the brain, would we accept it? We’ve been fooled many times before, no matter how convincing the experience. We may be utterly convinced by the Truth of the Self in our experience, but if this conviction turns out to be an illusion, would we accept the verdict? Would we accept even the death of even This to something even more Unknowable? For various technical and philosophical reasons, I don’t think neuroscience is likely get there, but who knows.)

    One can choose the “lens” of the Self through which everything else is seen. One can also choose the lens of Evolution through which to explain everything else. I don’t know which is primary, and can prove neither. The impulse towards Self feels more restful, simpler (in fact, radically simple), obvious, spacious, calm, freeing, inward receding, all encompassing, and finally the Home we’ve all been searching for, the place where all tension is dissolved and one can finally come to rest. On the other hand, the impulse of Evolution feels exciting, engaging, growth oriented, complex, fascinating, fun, challenging, playful (Lila), outwardly oriented.

    I don’t know which is true, which is primary. They may be both true and there is no “primary”. Our brains just cannot grasp the larger reality. In some ways, on the issue of “Ultimate”, I’m am agnostic. All I know is what is in front of me, right now. So it’s one step at a time. As a corollary to my “agnostism” (translate “mind does not know”), the door is always open to “surrendering to the Mystery” and “devotion to God” :-)

  10. Anatol my friend..
    What are we developing but an illusion that will have to be seen through… Most of us have spent lifetimes developing ourselves and many are running out of time…don’t put off – One awake Light in the world is worth more than a thousand do-gooders…Focus incessantly on the Self and see what happens..

    The teachers that I know like Pamela and Adya and Neelam and Gangaji and Mooji are not out doing charity work – They ARE the charity…they are devoting their lives to lift people out of suffering..The only ones who don’t awaken with them are those who have some other agenda..We have to be naked when we go before a final teacher…resting in the unknown – can’t bring anything with us..that’s the surrender…

    We can’t earn our way into Heaven with one more day of practice or one more good deed – Heaven is here now if only we could look past our conception of it..
    Go and claim your birthright..you’ve done the work..

  11. Ernest –
    I understand your dilemma but if you listen to the teachers carefully you’ll note that there is no conflict between being and becoming…they are not separate..
    It seems they are at odds after awakening cause the paradox has not been resolved…
    Once it is – we no longer are a house divided…all questions are answered in wholeness – and soon there are no questions – just Life Itself being lived through us…seamlessly..spontaneously – the burden of having to figure out what to do and how to be -what is our role – is lifted…God’s Will prevails not ours…that’s the deeper surrender..

  12. “All I know is what is in front of me, right now.”

    It took you a lot of words to get to that line, Ernest, but that’s as far as you need to go.

  13. “I don’t know which is true, which is primary. They may be both true and there is no “primary”.” I say yes to this, Ernest. They are both true. Sometimes I am in one or the other and sometimes they blend perfectly. When I try to pursue one or the other intentionally and exclusively, I get mucked up. ha!

  14. One other comment before I go out dancing…I appreciate what all of you have to say. It is so wonderful, for me, to read and “hear” what everyone has to say and share. I am grateful that Rick has created this space for us.

  15. Hi Everyone,

    I am enjoying the discussions on BatGap. There is a lot of gentleness towards each other and a movement towards a need for clarity

    It seems to me that there is only One, ( How could there be two ? )

    There is often an amusement as why there are discussions about being and becoming as there is only One.
    And in this and as this everything plays out.
    Meaning everything, meaning everything we might call being and becoming, after all they are just words.

    Do we first have to demarcate a difference between being and becoming and come up with all kinds of ideas and concepts about them
    and then say that This includes both?

    Is that not obvious?
    Since there is only One?

    Nothing is ever excluded.
    How could it be?

    But then of course debates about being and becoming, or come
    to that, about personal and impersonal are also playing out in This and as This.

    Awareness mirroring itself in a billion ways. ;-)

  16. I’ve said it before in this thread, but I’m not sure where these notions of contemporary non-dual teachers comes from? The Moojis and Adyas and Neelams and Pamela’s and going back, Papaji and even Ramana. Where is the denial of world, love, charity, devotion, heart, etc? Time after time, posts that either infer, suggest, or flat out claim that these non-dual teachings espouse that.

    And as far as evolution, I would repeat what was said earlier. Read the books, become an expert, get a kick out of it. All I say is we can’t know the future for sure anyway, and what use is another construction for one who is focused on awakening and having everything deconstruct? Another distraction for the mind as far as I’m concerned. One aspect I definitely do not agree with, is the notion that Realisation must look a certain way. That if you are awake, you must also be a saint (or whatever image they decide that looks like) Sure, one is bound to be compassionate, caring, etc, but within some basic characteristics, don’t try nail down exactly how it will manifest from one sage to the next.

    Finally, I’m not sure what Foster teaches, but this notion of awakening at the mental level, is certainly not what today’s respected non-dual teachers are talking about. Nor is it where they’re coming from themselves. Not are they sitting on a throne in some exalted removed state waiting for others to awaken. Sounds like a cynical and inaccurate take on the scene today. There is plenty of heart, plenty of world, the whole package is welcome. No, it won’t generally be therapy. Nor will it be energy work or massage circles. It won’t entertain the story for very long, but it still honors the story. It is a path that cuts through to the crux of the matter. Its simple, direct, and profound. It welcomes the entire package, but if given the chance, will tear up the wrapping paper to reveal the empty box, and the true Witness.

  17. What’s in front of you right now is always your own Self. There is no other.

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