American Guru » Letter from Jared

Letter from Jared

The following letter was written in fall of 2009 yet remains as timely now as then, especially given that EnlightenNext seems to think that they have put all the scandals “in the past” and are now moving on.

Hi Bill,
My name is Jared. You may or may not remember me, but I was part of the [Andrew Cohen] community in the mid to late 90s, during the transition from Marin to Massachusetts. I’m the cousin of Calvin and Carter Phipps [current long time students of Cohen, Calvin Phipps is CEO of EnlightenNext and a member of the Board of Directors and Carter Phipps is Executive Editor of EnlightenNext magazine]. I was involved with Andrew for probably three years or so, and left in late 1998. At the time, you were one of the leaders in the community, and I very much admired and looked up to you.

Your book comes at an opportune time for me, because lately I’ve felt like something in me is forcing me to revisit that period in my life to reevaluate what happened there, and to try to make sense of Andrew, his community, and his message. Although my time in the community was brief, I was very deeply affected by my time there, both in positive and negative ways. Without a doubt, I had my first real taste of something beyond me, but also struggled with what I perceived as an underlying fear and hostility that I couldn’t make sense of at the time.

For perhaps 8 or 9 years after I left, I felt a lot of personal failure, that I had “failed” in some way, and I found myself always defending Andrew and his community despite any misgivings I had. I still looked up to the community as an embodiment of the highest ideals any spiritual seeker could hope to achieve.

About five years ago, I got involved with another spiritual community, the Ridwan School (also known as the Diamond Approach), led by a teacher named Hameed Ali (who goes by the pen name A. H. Almaas). Over the past few years, I’ve been following the developments on the whatenlightenment blog with much interest, and through the process of inquiry with my current group, much anger and resentment at how Andrew and his community has treated people has risen in me. After 12 years, I didn’t think I had much left to process, but I was wrong.

At this point, I have no doubt that what happened around Andrew to be abuse. I actually think it’s quite apparent to anyone who is being objective. It’s not particularly subtle. People have been undoubtedly mistreated, and it’s impossible for me to see how this was done for their benefit. What this means about Andrew’s attainment or how this reflects on his teaching and what his organization is trying to accomplish is less clear to me.

I have read your book cover-to-cover twice, and I want to personally thank you for both sharing your story, and for taking the risk of putting yourself on the line for the sake of the truth. Your personal story is both heartbreaking and inspiring.

I don’t know what effect this will have on Andrew and his community. At the very least, though, the truth has been documented, it’s in the public sphere, and people will now have the opportunity to judge for themselves based on all the evidence. That feels like a huge victory in itself.


– Jared