click on title to see my review from 1998:
Subtitle: "A mother's account of her experience as a disciple of her son, a well-known American guru, and of her struggle to free herself from his control"
22 Feb 2017
Yesterday, I heard from someone who appreciated my review of Mother of God by Luna Tarlo. The writer informed me that the topic of Tarlo's book, her son Andrew Cohen, was making a comeback after purportedly humbling himself by serving the poor in India. (Give me a break: Is this what he is going to brag about now on stage or in a memoir?, but I hope he learned something). But a comeback? Not surprising and even predictable. Cohen's success at attracting the anxious seeker may be his only viable talent. What else is a cosmic narcissist to do? The Cohen sales pitch in his earlier guru coming out party was the claim that he was suddenly enlightened by a mystical guru transmission of "spiritual" energy in India. I mean, how else can one suddenly become a "spiritual" teacher? Well, I suppose you can sit on a bench for years with a secret smile on your mug like Eckhart Tolle did and just talk to people who might experience a contact high.
Contagious enlightenment is a theme in consciousness-raising circles, and much of this activity came from modern India's guru celebrities. For example, Swami Muktananda (1908-1982) was known for giving "shaktipat" or energizing the kundalini of a devotee during a ceremony. The devotee would wait in line for Baba's magic touch or at times the guru's mere glance sent a devotee spinning into a cosmic orgasm. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, and a Beatle did that to young women. Context is everything when you go ecstatic over anything.
Context dictates your subsequent behavior after ecstasy. It is called ecstasy (to stand outside of) because enlightenment feels like you are transcending normal bounds of self. If it is over the scent of a perfume, you buy the perfume. If from the action or in the presence of a guru, you buy the guru. This influence trick results in the irrational bond that we see in cult members with their leader or target of devotion. They are sold, so to speak, on a cosmic connection through that source, thus will build shrines or move to circle that flame or guru that heats their inspiration, sometimes at the cost of suffering loss of money, health, friends, ego identity, and even life itself.
Andrew Cohen's entire guru career has been based on this enlightenment contagion. Thousands of spiritual teachers, life coaches, and self-help gurus have used this technique based on charismatic relationships. Millions of seekers have fallen into that rabbit hole where mad queens of the heart like Mr. Cohen thrive because that is where they can rule over anxious egos. Call this skillful means or crazy wisdom, terms co-opted from some odd Buddhist teachers.
My contact yesterday reported that Mr. Cohen is at it again, forming a new following after his fall from the guru pedestal some years ago. And why not: If all you ever taught your pony was one trick, that's all you got to show. Maybe the Cohen pony is out of the barn again.
As late as 2015, Cohen appeared to have faded into obscurity according to writer Jeremy D. Johnson (disinfo.com), who holds onto the possibility of a real and healthy spiritual group relationship:
"Andrew’s organization and subsequent fallout is a powerful lesson in the history of American counter-cultures (from Esalen to Foxhollow and beyond). It’s certainly one that we shouldn’t simply ignore, but instead more deeply come to understand what exactly went on. Especially if there are folks out there, like myself, interested in studying and participating in spiritual counter-cultures."
(For his article, Johnson quotes Eliezer Sobel at The Daily Beast: “What Happens When Your Guru Disappears?”)
Yes, by all means "more deeply come to understand what exactly went on."
But be careful that you are not yet deep in the rabbit hole when you do. There is only one side to the mushroom down there: the guru's.
And, i reviewed a misguided book on mushrooms and the Christ story here
A Critique of Perenniallism by Gary Stogsdill (Feb 2017) goes a long way to represent my long held position regarding the enlightenment game seekers fall into after entering the spiritual amusement park. It all can begin with a simple yoga class or reading a book (Tolle anyone?) recommended by Oprah.
Gary Stogsdill has been a faculty member at Prescott College where he currently teaches courses in humanistic mathematics, science appreciation, and wisdom studies. http://www.integralworld.net/stogsdill1.html