Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XII

5 Elemental Challenges — Earth (part 2)

SBNR has established real intellectual and experimental centres, cultural and living centres, centres of investigation. IONS is doing real research. Esalen and Findhorn still exist and have been through many changes of outlook. The Lindisfarne Fellows still exist. The Monroe Institute exists along with its even bigger Brazilian rival, the International Academy of Consciousness. These are serious organisations, although doubtless they are not without their flaws, and there are many others less well known too — hundreds.

Some of them have survived a good long while. People forget tangentially relevant places like Saybrook University are still going. Their multiplicity of approach mirrors that of SBNR itself. But such organisations can still get captured by a regressive monomythic approach, and the same flaws again show all too clearly. I’ve talked before on the ‘Box about Andrew Cohen, albeit briefly. His abuse of position parallels that of any other narcissist guru. It’s an extensive example centred more on bullying than on sex (so far as I know). Even his own mother has joined in the chorus of protest against him.

His operations have been substantially funded by bilking “students” out of enormous sums of money, and psychologically speaking he is running a cult. His magazine, EnlightenNext, must be paid for by activity of that kind to some extent, which makes its multimything look a little less fresh to say the least. His friend, the unimpressive philosopher Ken Wilber, abets him and other narcissist gurus like Adi Da, not least via groups of his own, like the Integral Institute.

This is where the advantage of many separate places becomes clear. We have here a fairly standard Western manifest destiny-tunnel, trying to gather all the multimythed SBNR lines into one thing. Brian Hines has suggested this is in fact simply an attempt at religion now, with people like Wilber and Cohen as figureheads. Certainly it has become an unquestionable ideocracy… can psychosis be far away? And certainly Cohen is seen as a world saviour by many of his students. But the capturing can never happen, the eliding of many ways into one — even when they all interact closely, each maintains its own focus.

Which is lucky. Something about living a monomythic “destiny” in a polymythic milieu seems to allow people to forget the basics of how you treat other human beings, even though that’s part of what you’re supposed to be learning. The person’s soul curdles into grasping for glory. The end justifies the meanness.


2 responses to “Spiritual But Not Religious in 2012 – XII

  • martingifford

    One interesting thing about Andrew Cohen is that he is extremely ambitious. I don’t know if you are into the Enneagram, but he is a type 1 – perfectionist. So he has a superego (which he thinks is God) pushing him towards what he thinks is perfection. To get a sense of his driven-ness, Check out his quotes of the week. Just the titles are exhausting. Here’s the most recent six:

    A State of Constant Resolution
    An Inner Contract
    God’s Choice
    A Ceaseless Creative Striving
    Creating the Future Unceasingly
    No End


    I guess you might not mind the driven-ness because I get the sense that you have a similar karma yoga drive?

    But you can see how such an attitude can make Cohen pushy, aggressive, restless, idealistic, dismissive of individual concerns, etc. The idea is that his ideals are so big and so important, that caring about small personal issues automatically makes you an immoral, self-absorbed, weakling.

    • Jason Wingate

      I don’t know what a “karma yoga drive” is really, but yes, it is the self-importance arising from that attitude that has caused the regression in Cohen I think, or one could see it this way. Hiding under that is the idea that society ought to go in a certain direction — mine. Etc.

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