Spiritual club up for sale

by Derek Gentile, Berkshire Eagle Staff

Wednesday, Feb. 03, 2010 LENOX — The EnlightenNext World Center, located on the former Foxhollow campus, is on the market for $7 million. Stone House Properties in West Stockbridge is handling the transaction. The 220-acre estate was purchased by noted author and spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, of New York City, in 1996 for $2.8 million. Cohen, 54, is the founder of EnlightenNext, a nonprofit educational and spiritual organization that has been focusing on creating a more globalized culture.

The organization has public facilities in New York City, Boston, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris, Copenhagen and Rishikesh, India. The Lenox site has been the organization’s world headquarters for more than a decade, according to Eagle archives. The site also houses the editorial offices of EnlightenNext magazine.

Cohen could not be reached for comment on Tuesday, but EnlightenNext is reportedly looking for a smaller venue in the Northampton/Hampshire County area. The organization is known locally for hosting a critically acclaimed lecture series, as well as offering well-received jazz concerts, documentary films and local benefits at its Lenox headquarters. In 2005, Mike Stern, a three-time Grammy Award nominee, performed at EnlightenNext as part of a benefit for a host of local nonprofit environmental groups. Cohen himself is a jazz drummer whose group “Unfulfilled Desires” has released three CDs.

Although EnlightenNext has a relatively benign reputation in the Berkshires, founder Cohen has generated some criticism over the years from many of his followers and former employees, including his mother, Lana Tarlo. Tarlo has written a book, “The Mother of God,” about her experiences as a disciple of Cohen. The book, according to reviews, details Tarlo’s accusations. She accuses her son of cruelty, self-glorification and mistreatment of his followers, including her.

A second book, “American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing,” by William Yenner, a former member of Cohen’s Board of Directors and several of Cohen’s former students, also accuse him of financial manipulation and mental cruelty. That book is available at The Bookstore in Lenox.

A blog, “What Enlightenment?”, contains similar accounts and accusations by Cohen’s ex-students as well as former employees. Although Cohen did not speak directly to The Eagle, he explains on his Web site that he is controversial because “I’m trying to create something new. Those who step out ahead in pursuit of a vision … often meet the most resistance.”

(c) 2010 The Berkshire Eagle. All rights reserved. Reproduced with the permission of Media NewsGroup, Inc. by NewsBank, Inc.