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A reply to Andrew Cohen's "Declaration of Integrity"

Introduction

The following opinion piece is edited from an email by a friend, a devotee of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, in response to Andrew Cohen's latest narcissistic statement. I feel that there is a great deal here that my friend says that is highly relevent, not only as a critique of Cohen but as advice on the spiritual path in general. A number of personal statements and references have been removed to ensure confidentiality, although while necessary, this is also a shame, because these involve heart-level statements of great power and insight. Thus this essay is a bit more intellectual in tone than the origional email. I have insreted a couple of comments in [square brackets] but that's about all - MAK

The Email

Alan,

Here is Andrew Cohen's latest "declaration of integrity": blog http://www.andrewcohen.org/blog/index.php?/blog/post/declaration-of-integrity/

The entire declaration is so full of "me, me, me" that it's not even funny. I can't believe that Ken Wilber supports him. [MAK: birds of a feather...? - blog Here's an update on the latest Wilber meltdown ]. He has the audacity to use the phrase "my brand of enlightenment". He refers to his acts of violence as "outrageous acts of integrity". He compares his spiritual community to Navy SEALs. He talks about the Hollywood stars, the celebrities and what-not who are supporting him. He has a jazz-fusion band. What's next? A football team? This smacks of an overly head-centered machismo.

Compare this to a real avatar, a real teacher. Mirra says of people who aren't receptive to her:

". . . my whole action is like this: a PRESSURE on them to make them abdicate their little person. Until it abdicates, the work CANNOT get done . . . since not all of them are quite ready, I do what the Consciousness does: I apply the Pressure and say nothing I wait!"

Now that's what true spirituality does. Just manifest the Divine consciousness, create the phenomenological reality of Divine Love. Yes, some people need shock tactics and abusive situations to be shaken out of their slumber. I know I needed it, and I am grateful for what happened. But it is not the guru's responsibility to take things into their own hands and manipulate the universe. There are enough manipulative astral and other occult forces out there, not to mention human beings themselves. Leave it to the Supreme. Life is the teacher; if an abusive situation is what is needed, life will create it. Cohen is very much in "doing" mode, he thinks he has to consciously "break down" people's egos, not realizing that what he's doing is manipulative and far from opening people up to the Divine Light, it makes them vulnerable.

Such shock therapy type approaches seek to shake people loose from their inauthentic certainties any way they can with the idea in mind that somehow the guru or teacher can subsequently help them see where the real certainty lies, which of course if the certainty of the Reality that Mirra is describing is what is meant, is fine. But all too often, the teacher himself becomes the certainty that replaces the previous one, thus replacing one deception with another. Thus this approach is, at best, risky both to student and teacher.

It's no wonder so many of Cohen's students have had schizophrenic breakdowns. If you can't keep your students safe from that sort of stuff, you have no business calling yourself a guru.

The demands of Love are total. I already know this. It's obvious that Mirra was also a demanding teacher. Satprem found himself terrified of her love and kept running away. [MAK: it's the ego's recoil from the state of unconditional love; it's happened to me too; the ego clings to its old ways]. We are all terrified of the awesome power of Divine Love at times. No wonder it is said, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." The Divine retreats out of mercy when we shield ourselves from the Light. And so Mirra never stops Satprem from running away. And yet Satprem, like the rest of us, keeps going back. So, equally, it's obvious that Mirra was as devoted to her students as they were to her -- much more, in fact. She's not a strict disciplinarian running a military boot camp, but rather someone who listens to every single student, keeps them all in her consciousness and care constantly, and responds to them with precisely what they need. When they are not receptive, she stays silent and just applies the Divine pressure. It is no wonder she has gone down in history as the Sweet Mother of Pondicherry.

I thought you made a very important point in external link your essay on Integral World regarding how true spirituality doesn't need to create some silly 2% elite of people who "truly understand" what is going on. Truly spiritual people can live both in the world of mystery and the world of the ordinary, and shift between them with ease. As Charles Williams puts it in his twin declaration: "This is also Thou. Neither is this Thou." The beauty of Divine Love is that it has no limits, and both living in the world of mystery and the world of the ordinary can only be accomplished by Love. God loves fools just as much as God loves sages. The difference is only in our own perception. The Supramental equality that Mirra and Aurobindo had discovered is not ideological egalitarianism, but rather a state of awareness, seeing Reality as it is. This does not even mean that I am anti-hierarchy or "green" in Wilberian terms. It simply means that I think Truth is not quite that simplistic. I think that instead of a linear hierarchy there is a garland of overlapping hierarchies, and moreover that the hierarchies themselves are also evolving and shifting from moment to moment.

This is my problem with constantly holding on to a hierarchy, constantly getting stuck on who is higher or who is lower, who is Red or Blue or whatever. What is the point? It's in flux anyway. One moment I'm more evolved than most people around, and the next moment someone else has surpassed me, exceeded my expectations in ways I had never imagined or predicted. And yet I'm not jealous, because Light seeks greater Light, and all I feel is gratitude.

All this labelling is self-defeating. It's just a way to create prejudice -- pre-judge-ice -- a rationalization, an excuse to keep oneself from looking at the Other more closely. The truth is that there is Light in everyone and if we can't see it, it's our own ego that needs to be annulled, not theirs. Meanwhile, look at what a real sage (Aurobindo) has to say on the matter (emphasisi added):

Unity and universality, not separative division, would be the foundation of the consciousness of the race; love would be absolute; equality would be consistent with hierarchy and perfect in difference; absolute justice would be secured by the spontaneous action of the being in harmony with the truth of things and the truth of himself and others and therefore sure of true and right result; right reason, no longer mental but supramental, would be satisfied not by the observation of artificial standards but by the free automatic perception of right relations and their inevitable execution in the act. The quarrel between the individual and society or disastrous struggle between one community and another could not exist: the cosmic consciousness imbedded in embodied beings would assure a harmonious diversity in oneness.

In a universe where every speck of dust can become conscious, every particular thing, including me, is a holographic re-presentation of the whole. Worrying about being higher or lower all the time just doesn't make sense. Yes, there are a lot of times when I feel I'm more evolved than other people around me. Obviously I have some knowledge of the Divine now. Denying that is dishonesty. But on the other hand -- so what? Eckhart Tolle writes that for him being a spiritual teacher is just a function. It's not an identity. When his students leave him, he says his greatest joy is to be nobody. That is true humility.

In any event, the wise learn a lot even by listening to fools. I have learned so much from my crazy family just by being and just by listening to them. If I were a teacher in some way for some people, then I have to remember that my own journey is far from over and I am also simultaneously a student.

I find the metaphor of the hologram to be very powerful. Everything in particular is a holographic projection of the Divine. Any difference is merely a matter of resolution. This also says to me that the more pieces you get or the bigger a picture you see, the sharper into focus becomes the image of God.

The most supportive attitude, the best way to help someone, is just to be the Witness, listening carefully and attentively, and responding as best as you can. Not imposing your own models of reality onto someone else or interpreting their experiences through your own models. Certainly it is not the job of a spiritual friend to apply any kind of shock tactics to break people out of their ignorance if they are not awakened spiritually. To do that is just being abusive. Rather than being preachy and moralistic, you cultivate the patience and humility to listen, until the person becomes receptive to Divine Love. It will happen of its own accord because life is the teacher, and the Supreme is the one who is in charge.

Meanwhile someone like Andrew Cohen is stuck on the destination. He keeps saying spiritual growth leads to success or failure, and he says that all his ex-students are failures -- which is just another duality (and it shows he has a lot of ego). The most ignorant path in the world will also lead straight to the Divine. It's inevitable. This crazy wisdom stuff is not how the Divine has manifested in my life. In my life, negative things that happened to me were a result of my own ignorant choices, not an angry deity trying to "break down" my ego. I have never felt manipulated by God, never. All I have experienced is the Divine grace which has gently led me out of my ignorance.



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Intro by M.Alan Kazlev
page uploaded 4 December 2006