As has been posted in this forum previously, Andrew will be teaching at an event along with five other spiritual luminaries. The announcement for this is here:
Needless to say, many of us, his former students, are appalled at this development.
So a number of us have decided to write a letter to the other five teachers attending the event, to inform them of the history of the teacher who will be joining them. I volunteered to write the letter, and to collect signatures from people who wish to be associated with it.
Anyone who has had a relationship with Andrew as a teacher and who agrees with the view of this letter that it is inappropriate for someone with the history of abuse Andrew has to teach is welcome to sign it.
If you wish to do so, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Include the following:
1. Your name, as it should appear in the signature (mine is Roderic Taylor for example)
2. Your e-mail address where you can be contacted about any matters concerning the letter. This will not be included in the list of signatures.
3. A line or two about your association with Andrew. So for example, mine would read “A student of Andrew from 1988 to 2001.” You might wish to add an additional line if at some point you were a committed or senior student during that time, or if there is other information you feel is relevant. But please keep it to a line or two.
I will accept submissions from people who want their signature to be “Anonymous.”
Depending on how things go, we expect to send this out on [week of Sept 12, 2016].
Thank you all for your interest.
Dear . . .. :
I’m writing on behalf of (insert number here) former students of Andrew Cohen. It has come to our attention that he has been invited to speak at an event you will also be participating in, the International Forum for the Evolution of consciousness on October 8, 2016. As Andrew’s former students, we feel it is important you be aware of the history and character of this man you will be sharing a stage with.
Andrew has a remarkable gift for giving people powerful experiences, and for speaking passionately and movingly about spirituality. He has used this gift to inspire many spiritual seekers to become his students. In public, he comes across as an earnest seeker after truth. But behind the scenes, he used his gifts and his role as a spiritual teacher to surround himself with students to fulfill his need to be virtually worshipped by others. And when he believed these students failed to treat him appropriately for his stature, or did not live up to his standards, he would lash out viciously.
He was especially cruel towards his female students. On several occasions, he had women in Massachusetts do prostrations in a lake in October for an hour when the water was icy cold, to show they were serious about taking on women’s conditioning. Typically, the women would not finish this practice, as they would turn blue, lose control of their bodies, lose color vision, even pass in and out of consciousness, and the exercise would have to be stopped. Sometimes he had women do this practice together, other times alone. On at least one occasion, a woman who’d been sent to do the practice unsupervised was later found alone, unable to stand, clinging to the pier, blue, shaking, and barely conscious. Years later, she described what happened to a doctor who told her she’d had symptoms of medium to severe hypothermia. Women who did this practice, either in groups or individually, would receive no observation or treatment from a medically trained individual. They would recover by taking a hot bath or a hot shower, which can actually be dangerous. The Mayo web-site describes hypothermia as a “medical emergency,” recommends calling 911 or a local emergency number when you see someone with hypothermia, and states, “Left untreated, hypothermia can eventually lead to complete failure of your heart and respiratory system and to death.” We are lucky that never happened for us.
There are many more horror stories. One student was emotionally traumatized when he underwent a mock operation to have his finger amputated. Andrew directed that the mock operation be made to seem as authentic as possible, only ending just before the actual amputation would have begun.
Students who were doing badly were frequently pressured into donating very large sums of money, in some cases even their life savings, even promising to donate future inheritances. Andrew said this was to cut off their exit; that is, to eliminate their financial resources, so they would be dependent upon the cult. To this day, there are students who are financially strapped due their involvement with Andrew.
The stories go on and on. A list of major abuses called the A-list has been compiled, and the resources at the end of this letter give a link. But no such list can fully convey the long-term emotional damage Andrew inflicted on his students. Especially with women, over years Andrew methodically destroyed his students’ self worth. With few exceptions, students left convinced that they had betrayed the highest possibility. For many of us it has taken years to realize the fault was not primarily in ourselves, and more years of introspection and analysis to repair the damage.
Andrew’s defenders have sometimes argued the abuses were limited to a particular period, but this is not true. While they have varied in intensity and frequency, reports of Andrew’s abuses span his teaching career from beginning to end. Furthermore, while Andrew has made some public attempts to refurbish his public image, including an apology about a year ago on his Facebook page, it is the view of us signing this letter that over the last three years, he has not even begun to seriously face into the motivations that lead him to abuse so many, nor has he taken responsibility that might help mend some of the damage he has caused, nor has he taken significant steps to repair relationships with the vast majority of the students he abused.
So, as you can imagine, we are concerned to have very recently discovered that Andrew is intending to return to teaching life. Given his history, we believe it is to place Andrew in a position where he’s portrayed as some spiritual authority, where he may seek out new idealistic seekers to prey upon. We further believe that in the long run, promoting teachers with a history like his will only serve to perpetuate cynicism about the spiritual world.
Of course what you do with this information is up to you, and we will respect your decision. We regret that this letter comes to you so near to the event. While we have been in contact with a few people from EvolutionNext in France, and while they knew of Andrew’s history of abuse and that we would object to his return, they did not inform us this would be happening until we discovered it ourselves on their Facebook page, where they describe Andrew’s history as a teacher in glowing terms and describe this as Andrew’s return to public life.
We would ask that you at least consider if you want to give credibility to a former cult leader with a history of extreme abuse.
Resources on Andrew
Paradise and Promises: Chronicles of My Life with a Self-Declared, Modern-Day Buddha, by Marlow Sand
American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out, by William Yenner
Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Gure, by Andre Van Der Braak
Mother of God, by Luna Tarlo
(A forum, formed in 2004 as a resource for former students to publicize their experience with Andrew. The A-list is here.)
Thoughts, by Rick Taylor
(My descriptions of my own experience with and thoughts about Andrew Cohen and his organization)
(A site for updates and articles on Andrew Cohen and EnlightenNext)
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