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Andrew Cohen, buddha or shmuck?

October 5th, 2007 · 5 Comments

Enlightenment Blues: My Years With an American Guru (Paperback)
by Andre Van Der Braak “>Enlightenment Blues: My Years With an American Guru (Paperback)
by Andre Van Der Braak
In relation to previous post,
Now why would Andrew Cohen hate me?,
I should note that I have also just finished reading (finally) Enlightenment Blues, the fascinating account of a ‘disciple’ who broke with Cohen. I don’t have too much to say about this, since I have never had anything to do with Cohen (his venom came unsought) except to wonder why Andre Van Der Braak put up so long with this treatment from Cohen.

Eleven years down the drain, a life wasted, and Cohen’s technique as a teach is so inept, completely cliched and mediocre. Eleven years!

I am sure I could do better. Everyone stands around and takes someone else’s statement that he is ‘enlightened’ and therefore anything he does is a crazy wisdom teaching. That’s nonsense, dangerous nonsense, and this book shows the indifferent contempt of Cohen in action. Noone who had a stake in really helping anyone would act that way. The result is a damaged person, crippled in his endeavor at realization.
It’s time the whole game stopped. It has gone on too long, and it doesn’t work in modern society. Someone tell Mr. Cohen we are not living in medieval India, and that the destruction of the autonomy of the modern individual is any ugly game.
NEVER surrender your autonomy to this kind of ersatz guru. Just don’t do it. You hurt others in the process, not only yourself.
Everything that gurus do could be put in writing and given to a path of non-surrender for autonomous individuals working alone. This approach has its problems, but the prejudice against such a necessity for our times, based on notions about ego, miss the point. There is no other possibility, and a close look shows the exploitation. Look at Rajneesh who quietly noted once that he had NEVER had a guru. Yet there he was in the end playing guru to a horde of suggestible people. The implicit contempt for their own disciples ought to be chillingly noted.

Enlightenment Blues is Andre van der Braak’s compelling first hand account of his relationship with a prominent spiritual teacher. It chronicles both the author’s spiritual journey and disenchantment as well the development of a missionary and controversial community around the teacher. It powerfully exposes the problems and necessities of disentanglement from a spiritual path.

“Enlightenment Blues is the account of a young man’s sincere and protracted struggle to transform his life according to the teachings of the American guru Andrew Cohen. Ruthlessly honest and unsettling, Andre van der Braak gives a vivid first-hand account of an uncompromising experiment in establishing Indian spirituality in a modern Western setting. This story is essential reading for anyone seeking to understand the allure and pitfalls of surrendering one’s authority in the hope of spiritually transforming the world” Stephen Batchelor, Author Buddhism without Beliefs

“Narrated with the psychological subtlety and drama of a good novel, Enlightenment Blues is a precise, profound dissection of the guru-devotee relationship. It should be required reading for all who are currently engaged in or considering studying under a spiritual teacher.” John Horgan, author of Rational Mysticism

“A profound contribution. The maturity and balance of this book place it at the front rank of works on contemporary spirituality. All the major themes of the spiritual quest are here – reason versus emotion, the problem of the ego, the guru, self-doubt, the place of altered states. Andre van der Braak has the creative gift of being able to hold opposing ideas in his mind without moving towards premature closure. Hence this heartfelt account of his eleven years in the Cohen movement is a beautiful testament to one man’s quest to discover his own reality. Enlightenment Blues deserves the widest readership.” Len Oakes, Prophetic Charisma

“Enlightenment Blues is the personal story of one man’s eleven year journey into and out of a group of seekers of enlightenment with a charismatic leader who claims to be an exemplar of perfection. What distinguishes this book are the writer’s insights and honesty in portraying the workings of an authoritarian belief system that operates under the guise of spiritual revelations. Anyone who has ever belonged to such a group, or knows anyone who has, or who wants to understand what the appeals and dangers of surrendering to a guru consist of, would benefit from reading this book.” Joel Kramer, author, The Guru Papers

“Andre van der Braak’s story is our own story. We walked the ‘yellow brick road’ whether it was Zen or Yoga or Advaita. We desperately wished for or found a Guru who could help us find our way home and we wholly gave ourselves. Andre’s talk of it is fresh and innocent. He takes us by the hand through a hazardous trail. Neither bitter nor estranged, nor having lost his passion for the way, he remembers with us what really happened, and why.” Orit Sen-Gupta, Author, Dancing the Body of Light – The Future of Yoga

Andre van der Braak lived in Andrew Cohen’s spiritual community for 11 years, an involvement initiated shortly after Cohen had begun teaching. He was one of the original editors for “What is Enlightenment Magazine”. He was also an editor for Cohen’s first teaching text, Enlightenment is a Secret, which entailed reading over 4,000 pages of transcribed talks, and editing them into book form.

Today, he lives in Amsterdam where he teaches philosophy at the University of Amsterdam and at Luzac College in Alkmaar.


Tags: New Age

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Stephen P. Smith // Oct 6, 2007 at 4:29 pm

    The fact remains that these human systems are unable to rise above their own self imposed corruption. The infections goes so far as to corrupt thinking across broad humanity representing the extremes of scientism and religiosity, and we see the emergence of Darwinism and other example of narrow mindedness. No doubt that New Age systems are struggling with the infection too, and Wilber does refer to “bommeritis”. However, it is important to understand the reality that we are faced with, the infections will continue until something extra is permitted it existence. Denials of the starkly real will get us no where, and so it is necessary to look at the kernel of truth emerging from all these conflicted systems. Keep looking, and I am sure you will also recognize what is now birthing.

  • 2 James // Oct 7, 2007 at 1:11 am

    “No doubt that New Age systems are struggling with the infection too, and Wilber does refer to “bommeritis”.”

    I don’t think the problem will be resolved until these spiritual seekers try to understand the history of this arena and rid themselves of their idealistic notions of guruism. It’s sad, but the New Age systems simply never had a chance to succeed; from the beginning, these people were simply feeding off of the leftovers from what were the already severely degenerated spiritual psychologies of the Indian medieval period. Combine this with the fact that these degenerated psychologies were introduced into Western culture surrounded by the anti-intellectualism of the Romantics and you have a recipe for disaster.

  • 3 Stephen P. Smith // Oct 7, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    Edmund Husserl called for a transcendental science and he if hardly New Ager, neither is Wilber.

  • 4 nemo // Oct 7, 2007 at 8:18 pm

    The term ‘transcendental’ is shifting its meanings here, and it is misleading to use it out of conext. Wilber is extravagant in his metaphysical gestures, and to say he isn’t New Age seems to me a bit odd.

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