Andrew Cohen: Will he rise again?

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Short answer: Yes, Andrew Cohen has arisen.  I never had much interest in Andrew Cohen. I thumbed through some of andrew cohen spiritual teacherhis books, read about the controversy over his relationship with Poonjaji, and occasionally found a good read in his What Is Enlightenment? magazine. When I had the opportunity to see him at a Whole Life Expo many years ago, though, I knew I should take advantage of it.

Andrew Cohen did not seem too thrilled to be speaking at a Whole Life Expo. He knew it was not the audience to hear him criticize the self-acceptance and feel-good way to enlightenment of pop spirituality. Although he seemed a little cautious at first, by the end of his talk, he probably offended two-thirds of the people in the room

His bluntness in addressing the human condition was by far his most notable feature. As he said, “When you really get to know people, you realize they’re all crazy.” He said most people are afraid of enlightenment when they realize it is really about the death of the ego and not about self-acceptance. Cohen mockingly ridiculed those who would rather keep their pathetic, fear-ridden selves, than step into the unknown of ego-death. He even criticized that holy cow of modern spirituality: the romantic relationship. He said the longing for liberation was in opposition to the “promise of perfection in romance,” and virtually everyone chooses the later.

Andrew Cohen obviously felt that he was talking about true enlightenment and viewed himself as a preserver of truth in a time of spiritual mediocrity. I enjoyed his talk, since I too felt there was much to criticize in the spiritual scene. Still, I wondered if there was anything to Cohen other than talk.

In the years since that Whole Life Expo, my opinion of Andrew Cohen sank. He plunged into a doctrine called evolutionary enlightenment which was “redefining spirituality for an evolving world.” He stressed impersonal enlightenment and the critical need to raise the consciousness of the world. Our purpose, he said, was to “contribute wholeheartedly to this explosion of motion.” “We have a responsibility for the evolution of the race.” “The essence of life itself is good.”

Yet his emphasis on our important role in enlightenment seemed a classic ego trap. Now, rather than having the ego of being a spiritual seeker, we have a collective ego of world saviors. As one of his magazine readers pointed out, “evolution will take care of itself.” His new message was surely more popular however, and had parallels in the socially conscious Buddhist movements.

Cohen also teamed up with Ken Wilber. Wilber’s amazing intelligence spins entrancing cosmological visions that hypnotize many an intellectual into believing their truth. He’s not a dishonest man, just one deeply in love with his own mind — “a Big Mind,” as he says. In a series of interviews in What is Enlightenment magazine, Cohen and Wilber seemed to endlessly enjoy chuckling over how brilliant and revolutionary ideas.

Cohen’s magazine and a school called The Graduate Institute teamed up to offer a master’s degree in Conscious Evolution. I considered this the height of absurdity.

By the mid-2000s, a growing chorus of criticism of Andrew Cohen took to the internet.  Even his mom turned against him.  A reader sent the following two websites that contain a wealth of opinion regarding Cohen; most of it from former and current students:

The short of it is that nobody in his organization was finding enlightenment and Andrew Cohen kept ratcheting up the pressure to try and break students’ egos. As one writer said, Cohen’s approach was ham-handed. While seemingly still interested in helping his students, the organization (known as EnlightenNext, Inc.) kept enlarging, netting $2.1 million of profit in 2003.

In 2013, Andrew Cohen issued a public apology. He said, “Enlightenment has always been and always will be about transcending the ego. Over the last several years, some of my closest students have tried to make it apparent to me that in spite of the depth of my awakening, my ego is still alive and well.” Apparently, he did not see the contradiction in his statement: he claimed to be a teacher of enlightenment, yet he wasn’t enlightened because he still had an ego. Cohen went on to say he was stepping down from leadership of his organization and taking a sabbatical to do some self-development.

If you want to see how far Cohen and his organization strayed from any true teaching, read this leaked email which describes the PR strategy for the “situation” with Andrew and points to a pathetic framing of the events as a “Post-Mythic-Guru” evolution.

2019 update: Fast forward to 2019, and Andrew Cohen has reemerged.  The 17-minute video below (just click the blue button and it will play) is worth watching.  Andrew apologizes for his lack of heart, says “the teaching” (not his teaching) is unchanged, and claims a dose of humility.  Though he still refers to himself as a radical and “powerful” teacher, perhaps there is hope he can be of service.  Time will tell.  If he retreats to his former guru bubble, surrounded by students who take care of his needs, I doubt he will truly break free of his past.

2020 Update: The official Andrew Cohen webpage is: And Andrew is back in full-blown “teacher of teacher” mode with

An in-depth criticism of Andrew Cohen appears in American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing by William Yenner. Yenner was on the board of directors for EnlightenNext and presents an insider’s view of his thirteen years with Cohen as well as the experiences of other former students.  Yenner maintains a large website of Cohen-related criticisms at American

Lastly, as a thank you for visiting, enjoy free shipping and get a signed copy of my book Subtraction: The Simple Math of Enlightenment for only $13.95.  I think you’ll find it refreshing after reading about Andrew.

44 thoughts on “Andrew Cohen: Will he rise again?”

  1. It’s a little weird. I found this site almost at random, but I’m impressed with the honesty and direct quality of the material. The weird part is I’m a couple hours into my readings here and I think “I wonder what every happened to Andrew Cohen.” Low and behold I found your page on him a moment later.

    Cohen was quite active in Marin County when I first moved here about 15 (?) years ago. I was hooking up with various teachers here trying to find a place to settle into for an extended, focused practice. I sat with Andrew a few times, and while I felt some authenticity, and much liked some of his philosophy, I also thought he was a pretentious idiot. (Love what you had to say about Ken Wilber by the way, and Ken was another one I was wondering about the last couple days. Synchronicity!) In any case while being a bit alarmed Cohen is becoming active again I am interested in seeing where this all goes.

      1. This guy doesn’t understand that you can’t jump from individuality to awareness. Awareness is our always available self but we need to understand the field which is run by Isvara what Vedanta calls God, the cause and intelligence, the subtle and gross matter of the universe. This is ego death because it reveals that the whole “does itself” automatically. Then, and only then can we let go of the delusion that we – as apparent individuals – think, feel, perceive or indeed do anything whatsoever. This understanding gets rid of our inner turmoil completely and then we can easily understand that we are the action-free, whole and complete self or essence of everything. We are the knowing principle the God or good in human form. We do NOT evolve. We are the fullness of existence shining as consciousness-awareness. This has always been known millions of seers shared this incredible wisdom and are alive and kicking to-day. My advice? Seek to live your life honestly and if you truly want to free yourself then go for a valid tradition!!!

    1. We can assume Cohen did have his moments of “authenticity” as you are probably accurately characterizing, but he likely was also not aware enough of some of his own personality’s less desirable sides and interpreted them wrongly which led him to steer this course set to failure, fueled by the long-time delusion that he was “all set” to be a spiritual teacher… the result has been very painful for him as we can see in his statement (published on his site). Let’s hope he has seen the light (I don’t know his personally BTW and don’t want to be too judgmental as, as is well known, “to err is human”).

  2. Every ten or fifteen years another egomaniac rises up and takes a few thousand people with them into their spiritual nightmare. Andrew Cohen is just one in a long line of mentally ill sociopaths to do this. Nothing new here.

  3. Your words betray you, expose the same defects of character you blame on the man you criticize. This is a law: We see what we ourselves are. I wanted more questions, less slender.

    1. Hi Oliver,

      Thanks for the comment. It’s that whole “mote in the eye” thing, right? I’m sure I am guilty, but then again it’s a good thing to point out a fire if we see one, rather than sitting there and saying it’s all in the mind. It would be fun to interview Andrew for the podcast. Maybe he would agree?

  4. I met with this cosmic brat’s mother after I reviewed her book Mother of God in 1998. If he’s truly enlightened he would be working anonymously at a Starbucks and doing his job happily, but.

  5. Andrew and all of his off-shoot teachers
    (especially Craig ‘Monetize it’ Hamilton)
    and ALL spiritual teachers (sorry but it’s true)
    are ALL absolute and total fakes.

    For Andrew to come back at this point is…of course expected but
    he and all of the rest of them are like selfish statues of ignorance.

    I just can’t believe these sluts are still selling and apparently some people are still buying.

    It’s time to put an end to all of the charades of this world. It is beginning to happen. If you’re not real, you’re gonna get caught. There is no escape. This includes all ‘science’ and academia’ all forms of deception…which of course. NO ‘guru’ ever mentions because they are deception incorporated.

    If you’re still wondering Andrew…


    You were not on the ‘cutting edge of enlightenment’
    but the cutting room floor of reality and that crap
    about ‘evolutionary enlightenment’ is bursting at
    the seams laughable.
    You do realize that ‘evolution’ is a total joke right?

    Humanity is resilient and INDOMITABLE.

    I pity any pretenders going forward, they are
    in for a VERY rude awakening.

    To all ‘spiritual teachers’
    SUCK IT!

    1. Humanity’s most resilient and INDOMITABLE feature is its profound ignorance of real truth. For this reason alone there will always be a need for gurus. Almost no one can find the truth on their own; it’s very counterintuitive. Most of those who think they have found it by themselves are simply wrong…or have simply found another falsehood masquerading as the ultimate truth.

    2. In response to “You Are Asleep”: (If trolls return to see the reaction to their bluster) it needs saying that little is more resilient and INDOMITABLE than humanity’s ignorance of real truth. Of course your assessment of Andrew Cohen is most likely absolutely correct, but one cannot judge all spiritual teachers by one tarnished example. Spiritual truth is a very subtle thing and our instruments of knowledge are almost always too gross to discern it; like looking for atoms or viruses through a hand-held magnifier. To confidently declare that “ALL spiritual teachers…are ALL absolute and total fakes” is like declaring that atoms and viruses don’t exist because you can’t see them through your hand-held magnifier.
      Andrew Cohen’s flaw is his inability to find his way clear of being enamoured of Andrew Cohen. Though I can never claim any authority, I will suggest with some confidence that there is nothing new under the spiritual sun and anyone who claims to have “discovered” and “named” something new, i.e., Evolutionary Enlightenment, is either a charlatan or still under the thrall of the world.
      But I’m led to wonder where you source your own authority since you condemn “all ‘science’ and academia’ all forms of deception…” Where do you acquire your own wisdom? I find it suspect because, again, truth is so subtle that it requires a gentle and subtle unfoldment; not all caps declarations of outrage and condemnation with absolutely no explanation of what you mean by,”It is beginning to happen. If you’re not real you’re gonna get caught. There is no escape…pity any pretenders going forward, they are in for a VERY rude awakening.”

      The wise do not delude the ignorant.

    3. Some of your comments are very to the points, but you should be careful with wanting to “put an end to all the charades of this world”. History shows attempts of this sort invariably have resulted in much, much tragedy, worse than what they were purporting to remedy.

    4. @You Are Asleep:
      Most trolls are illiterate or semi-literate, usually limiting their sarcasm to either a wordless laughy-face emoji, or a single parroted word, or to a likewise mimicked meme or very few words carelessly stuck together in the trollster’s hopes of approximating a coherent sentence.
      In you, however, we witness an oh-so-slightly more evolved, more prolix, more literacy enabled type of troll. (Though, the greater likelihood is that you received a lot of help in composing your near brainless rant.)
      Perhaps some day you, too, will evolve to the point of recognizing that “We do not see things as they are; rather, we see things as we are.” You pretend that you have anything relevant to say about spiritual teachers…yet in actuality, you thereby succeed only at revealing your own lack of spiritual evolvement.
      Only persons who have been graced with the benefits of inner spiritual experience have any real basis or foundation from which to evaluate the spiritual experience or awareness of others. As long as you remain so egregiously unevolved/unawakened yourself, the words you express are nothing more than than the projections of your own unevolved self-reflection.

  6. Andrew Cohen is indeed scheduling teachings and retreats as can be seen from his website.

    There is also a new review of my 2015 memoir about my time with Andrew Cohen on this website: Paradise and Promises Chronicles of My Life With a Self-Declared, Modern-Day Buddha – International Cultic Studies Association (ICSA)

    Marlowe Sand

    1. Indeed, though perhaps in a case like this we can clearly see that what is often thought of as the ‘spiritual world’ is very much ‘the world’, whereas the truly spiritual world is rarely, if ever, to be found on either page or screen.

  7. I knew some of his students in the late 90s/early 00s. I was curious, and went to Foxhollow one time. I questioned something he said when I was around his students and they all clammed up and stared at me. Maybe that was what they were told to do when his authority was questioned. Anyway, we’ve all seen what happened, it’s a shame (and a sham) what happens when people accept “spiritual” authority.

  8. “Buddhahood is not attained by fabricated dharmas.
    Meditation made by the mind, fabricated by the intellect, is the deceiving enemy.
    Now, clinging to style and manner is destroyed with crazy abandon.
    Let this life be spent in the state of uninhibited naked ease!”
    “Although it is fairly easy to bring adverse circumstances into the path, doing the same for positive circumstances is very difficult. Even those who vainly assume themselves to be highly realized beings risk enslavement by the son of Mara and are distracted by devoting themselves to ways of becoming important in this life. Be very careful. Know that this marks the border line where you can go up or down, where the measure of great meditators is taken. Until you perfect the power of inner realization’s noble qualities, it is inappropriate to tell whomever you meet the stories of your spiritual experiences. Keep your mouth shut.”
    — Dudjom Rinpoche

  9. I met Andrew Cohen during the period 1992-1996 at Buddahgaya, India! I owned a Travel Agency at Buddahgaya! Andrew and people in his group used to come to my office almost every other day for their travel needs!
    I remember Andrew as a revered, respected by the people who had accompanied him!
    Soon, I had left Buddhagaya and settled in Kolkata and in the process had lost all contacts/information of Andrew Cohen!
    After so many years reading all ‘these’ about Andrew Cohen I feel totally disoriented!
    However I send my METTA to Andrew and all of You!

  10. This is the letter I just sent Andrew through his website. I wanted to post it here because as a concerned Jewish grandmother (for all the kids who grow up to be total shmucks. I am not his grandmother), he needs to be outed with humor.

    When I was a little girl, a long time ago now, growing up in Ukraine, my grandmother, a haughty old Jewish broad with swinging tits, called people out on everything. She had no shame. Completely unapologetic, she had the best insults for people, sometimes even to their face.
    My favorite insult, and one I didn’t really understand for a very long time was when she called a (illegal) traveling salesman (because the Soviets didn’t allow private enterprise), a “used condom.” She slammed the door in his face and went on to cook the family meal in the kitchen.
    My mother, shocked but laughing asked her why (she didn’t see him), and grandma said it simply: “the look on his face. He’s desperate to be liked, but he’s all used up! And honestly, nobody even likes a fresh condom anyway. They just get in the way of everything good.”
    Andrew, pull your lovely Jewish head out of your ass. Your writings are sophomoric. Your videos only expose you as someone desperate to be liked.
    Call your mother. Is she still alive?
    Get over yourself. I hoped you’d stop teaching years ago. I met some of your students. They were nuts. And you’re nuts to think all this bullshit isn’t adding up against your own karma. Yes, even an old broad like me, is sweet on the lingo.

    Awakening looks at the world with different eyes. Your eyes are still hungry. And very very insecure. Ive raised 4 kids. I know what I know.

    In short, don’t be a used condom.

    love and matzaball soup, Korina.

  11. Strange how nasty many of the comments are here – what are you all doing on a website called I’m not sensing much spirituality. I used to sit with Andrew when he would come to New York in the early 90’s. I had a profound experience on one occasion. Andrew was an amazing teacher (some great talks of his on youtube now). While he has had his problems I feel that he is genuinely remorseful. But I wish instead of people kicking the man while he is down, listen to the things he has said – because he has some deep insights into the spiritual world. A serious seeker can learn a lot from him. Don’t throw out the baby with the bath water.

    1. He did some good but a lot of harm – the stories of making people stay up late at night in freezing water, and letting people die alone and rejected, are terrible.

      I think he had some real awakening experience and wanted to transmit it, but took a one-size-fits-all harsh approach when that’s not always the right way. It may be necessary in some instances, but many people in Western culture suffer from low self-esteem and low self-worth. If you’re trying to help awaken someone who already feels terrible about themselves (particularly for women about their body and for men about their career, for example) the worst thing you can do is berate them. That doesn’t liberate, it just creates a stronger sense of self clinging to a miserable ego. A miserable, self-pitying ego is worse than an arrogant ego.

      He could have been an amazing teacher if he had known how to apply the right medicine for the right sickness. Where there’s arrogance, compassionately puncture it. But where there’s self-hatred, soothe it so people can let go themselves.

  12. Hi Shawn. Hi All.

    I got the email that the Andrew Cohen page had changed, and decided to check it out. Didn’t really see the article updates, but I am interested in the fantastic array of “new” comments.

    My present journey ostensibly began about 7 years ago with the renewing of my relationship to inspired prayer, and the inklings of what could be called divine guidance. My last post was approximately half way through that journey. I continue to explore possibilities, and be very open to potential for change, yet something incredibly solid has formed among all of this. A kind of authentic practice and philosophy I simply don’t see most places I look.

    It still amazes me how practitioners with astounding privilege can be so ignorant of some of the basics of existence for the majority of us without privilege, or at least those of us with aspects of our lives where privilege has been severely curtailed.

    Let me just say that I’ve understood now the way out is both a collective AND individual process. Ego was mentioned a lot above. Ego needs to be both repaired and transcended, and both transcended and integrated. Certainly not abandoned however. Same with body, mind, place, soul, family, tribe, lovers, friends and all the rest.

    I can never deny that all authentic intention and activity must needs arise from the zero point within. The true self awareness in its essential nature both obvious, and undefinable. Axiomatic consciousness if you will.

    However once you “get that” as a solid, unshakeable reality on some fundamental level – it’s all about what arises – for want of a better term – AFTER that awakening. This is where the measure of your privilege, or lack of same; your ego, ego damage, ego healing; your authentic love current whether Agape or Eros or whatever; this is where the true measure of the authentic You is tested, and your true mettle is revealed.

    I’ll close with the idea that we all need far more peer support and feedback, and far more Philos love in our lives than we can yet imagine before we can live anything approaching an authentically “enlightened” life. IMO, Andrew Cohen is an example of someone going through this challenge. I don’t have a clue what he will look like on the other side of it, but I do admire that he’s trying, or has at least tried to pass through this Holy Fire.

    Love and blessings,


  13. I sat in one of Andrew’s talks back in the late 1990’s; then sat on retreat with him in 2000 or 2001 (can’t remember which). I left the 3 week retreat about one week in because of the absurdity of his teaching, and mostly because of his massive ego. I watched the recent video on Vimeo. The ego is still well entrenched. Andrew reminds me of the old saying, “Authenticity is the most important thing in relationships. And if you can fake that, you’ve got it made.”

    Andrew, for god’s sake, give it up. If you were half as earnest about being a genuine student of truth as you are about becoming a teacher again (can’t resist the limelight?), you might actually be able to pull your head out of your ass, spiritually speaking. I warned several people way before his big “fall from grace.” The signs were all there well before that happened. Anyway, for anyone who has ears to hear, please listen to this gentle warming. Andrew is dangerous. Period.

  14. I am pretty familiar with the “old” Andrew Cohen. I do not think he is a complete fake and a charlatan, but I do think that the fact that his most long-standing and serious students turned against him because of his tendency to be abusive should be a warning to everyone. I would stay away from him. If you told me that someone found Michael in India as a humble mendicant seeking to tweak his own understanding, I would be very understanding. But, a new website? Teaching retreats, forget about it. I did like the magazine “This Is Enlightenment” and miss it.

  15. @Brian
    Actually, YOU would be the “dangerous” one if any were fool enough to pay attention to you.
    As it is so that “We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are,” all that you have claimed as “worthless” in another is the reflection/projection of your own dearth of self-awareness.
    That is, unless you’d care to share a teensy little shred of evidence that you actually are more spiritually awake, aware, and evolved than the person you are bad-mouthing.

  16. Andrew Cohen talks about how he has suffered and become humble. Actually if one is aware of one’s humility then unfortunately one is still ignorant. Enlightenment is much more than a deep awakening. Enlightenment is awakening from the dream i.e the world and the dreamer itself: the non-eternal jiva or ego. It is the anubhava or knowledge/experience that I am; non-dual, whole and complete, ever-present, associationless, unconcerned, limitless, formless, time and space~less, dimensionless, existence shining as consciousness-awareness and… The understanding that I am definitely not the doer, perceiver, thinker, feeling entity also it should neutralise all binding vasanas so that desire becomes completely optional. One of the greatest ever human beings to grace our wonder-full planet says it like this and this became the essence of the great grand tradition of Vedanta – the Sampradaya : Brahma Satyam, Jagan Mithya, Jivo Brahmaiva Napara-ha which translates into English; Myself-The Self is real. The world/ego/mind and senses are all apparently real and are as good as non-existent. I and The Self are one and the same being. This Self is the essence of all creatures from Ants up to blue whales. It can be put in this way also: what l know depends on me. I don’t depend on what I know. I can’t know anything unless I am conscious. I can’t be conscious unless consciousness exists. Consciousness cannot exist without existence and existence cannot exist without consciousness. Therefore Sat Chit Ananda. Existence Consciousness Limitlessness. Now to the heart of the matter; because I am existence consciousness and there is obviously only one existence because every object exists and therefore depends upon existence to “be”, including the person l believed l was then l can never die because I was never born, how can the one and only existence consciousness come from anywhere or go anywhere? Once this understanding is firm I am ALWAYS blissful hence Sat Chit Ananda~bliss.

  17. I’ve always enjoyed this website Shawn. However you seem not to know about Vedanta. Do you realise that there are many fully free great teachers alive today keeping our wonderful tradition going? The teachers like Ramana Maharshi who actually learned Vedanta after his enlightenment and Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj (who was taught by a great Vedanta Guru himself) are definitely or were enlightened however I’m wondering – and I have wanted to ask you this question for many years actually – why you fail to include some dare I say real teachers? And not simply people who may or may not be qualified to teach? Contrary to popular belief and opinion enlightenment does not a teacher make. This is because ignorance is universal-impersonal and a teaching desperately needs – if it wants to be successful – to be impersonal and huge in its scope so that it covers EVERYTHING. It needs a psychology, a theology, a biology even and it needs to show it’s students a way out of the dream step by step because as you probably know ignorance itself what we call Maya/Isvara (yes God is ignorance itself although God isn’t ignorant), is terribly persistent and hard wired. It is way beyond a human mind/ego. This is the real reason why true enlightenment eludes so many sincere people in the spiritual world. Actually if one has a pure enough mind and intellect, then enlightenment is a cake-walk. Otherwise it’s akin to a camel trying to pass through the eye of a needle. This is because as the biblical saying goes.. it is easier for a rich Wo/Man a mind that is attached to objects which Vedanta describes as EVERYTHING other than the knowing principle, the “supreme” or “stand~alone” subject~pure object-free existence shining as awareness. You probably know a lot of what I typed over here and I hope you don’t think that I am trying to teach you something as there is nothing worse than a spiritual know it all. However I just felt that I should get this off my apparent chest so to speak. Thank you for all your work in the form of this great website because it has taught me and many people I am guessing a great deal. Namasté.

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