Andrew Cohen (spiritual teacher)

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Andrew Cohen
Andrew Cohen teaching in Paris, Spring 2012.jpg
Andrew Cohen teaching in Paris, 2012
Born (1955-10-23) October 23, 1955 (age 59)
New York City, United States
Occupation Spiritual teacher, author, musician

Andrew Cohen (born October 23, 1955) is an American guru, spiritual teacher, magazine editor, author, and musician who has developed what he characterizes as a unique path of spiritual transformation called "Evolutionary Enlightenment."

Cohen has conducted retreats,[1] given talks, participated in conferences and collaborated with others. He was awarded a silver medal from ForeWord magazine's 2011 Book-of-the-Year award[2] for his book Evolutionary Enlightenment.[3] In 2012, Mind Body Spirit magazine[4] listed him at Number 28 on their 2012 top 100 most spiritually influential people alive today.[5]

On June 26, 2013, Cohen announced on his blog that he would be taking "a sabbatical for an extended period of time," after confrontational exchanges with his closest students, who helped Cohen to realize, as he put it, that "in spite of the depth of my awakening, my ego is still alive and well."[6]


Cohen was born in New York City in 1955 in an upper-middle class secular Jewish household.[7] Cohen recounts that his life was changed by a spontaneous experience of "cosmic consciousness" at the age of sixteen.[7] He eventually met the Advaita Vedanta master H. W. L. Poonja in 1986. After spending three weeks with Poonja, Cohen began to teach. Within a few years, philosophical and personal disagreements created a split between the two. Cohen began teaching his spiritual philosophy, which he refers to as "Evolutionary Enlightenment," in 1986.

Philosophy and teaching[edit]

Traditional versus evolutionary enlightenment[edit]

Cohen credits his teacher, H.W.L. Poonja, with guiding him to this realization. Cohen asserts that attaining this liberated state of consciousness has traditionally been considered by mystics as the pinnacle of human achievement. Echoing basic Vedantic philosophy, Cohen says that this is the realization of the transcendental aspect of God, and it often goes hand-in-hand with the realization that the world is an illusion.

Cohen says that he has discovered a different form of "enlightened awareness", which he claims to be unique. He first called this "impersonal enlightenment", to reflect that fact that it was a realization shared between people rather than an individual attainment. He later changed the name to Evolutionary Enlightenment, to reflect his belief that it reflects the next stage of evolution of enlightenment.[8]

Ego, narcissism, and the authentic self[edit]

A fundamental aspect of Cohen's Evolutionary Enlightenment is the distinction between what he sees as two fundamental, yet opposing, aspects of the human psyche: the "ego" and the "authentic self",[9] In his teaching, ego is defined as "the deeply ingrained, compulsive need to remain separate and superior at all times, in all places, under all circumstances."[10] The authentic self, on the other hand, is defined as "the urge to become more conscious".

Public speaking and dialogues[edit]

Cohen lectures nationally and internationally, sometimes in public dialogues with other spiritual figures, philosophers, scientists, cultural critics and theologians. These include writer, teacher and physician Deepak Chopra;[11] Trappist monk Father Thomas Keating; Rabbi Marc Gopin; Integral philosopher and author Steve McIntosh; social critic, scientist, Muslim scholar and Nobel Prize nominee Munawar Anees;[12] spiritual teacher Eckhart Tolle; spiritual leader Sri Sri Ravi Shankar;[13] author Howard Bloom, scientist Rupert Sheldrake;[14] evolutionary biologist Elisabet Sahtouris; and others. Many of these dialogues have been published in his magazine and/or in various online forums.[15]

Cohen often works with writer Ken Wilber. They call their public dialogues “The Guru and the Pandit.”[16] Cohen credits Wilber (along with other integral thinkers, such as Brian Swimme and Don Beck) with helping him formulate the theoretical framework within which his teaching has formed and developed.[17] Cohen is a Founding Member of Integral Spirituality, which is part of Wilber's Integral Institute. Cohen's most recent book, Evolutionary Spirituality, is dedicated to Wilber.

Cohen’s public appearances have included the International Transpersonal Association Annual Conference,[18] the California Institute of Integral Studies, IBM Netherlands, the Parliament of the World's Religions,[19] and others. Since 2008 he has been a member of the Evolutionary Leaders[20] group, and has at times spoken at their public events.


Since the early 1990s, Cohen has been offering intensive retreats of various length (from one to three weeks) a few times a year in various parts of the world. Since 2006 he has named his retreats "Being and Becoming".[21][22]


Cohen has published 11 books (see Bibliography below).

EnlightenNext magazine[edit]

In 1991, he founded EnlightenNext magazine (under its former title, What Is Enlightenment?).

In 2004, EnlightenNext magazine partnered with the Graduate Institute[23] in Connecticut to offer a master's program in conscious evolution. From 2004 to 2007, Cohen served as a core faculty of that institute.[24]

The magazine stopped publishing in 2011.

Cohen has written for The Huffington Post[25] and Big Think,[26] and Speaking Tree,.[27][28]



At the beginning of his teaching career, Cohen was mainly influenced by the Advaita Vedanta philosophy as taught by his teacher, H. W. L. Poonja, a disciple of Ramana Maharshi. He credits the ideas of cosmologist Brian Swimme, Christian theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin and the early 20th century Indian mystic Sri Aurobindo as helping him form his thinking about the evolutionary context of the human experience. He likewise credits the "integral philosopher" Ken Wilber, with whom he conducts frequent public discourses, with helping him form the theoretical framework of his teachings. He has also been influenced by the Spiral Dynamics theories put forward by Clare Graves.[32]

Cohen's emphasis on community and the collective dimension of spirituality can be traced to his encounter with Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society in India. Cohen was still a spiritual seeker when he was deeply moved by the swami's call, "In unity there is strength; come together, come together."[33]


In 2001, Cohen co-formed the jazz-funk-fusion band Unfulfilled Desires, in which he plays drums. The band plays original compositions and standards, and performs in Europe and the United States. They have released four CDs: Live at the Iron Horse (2002), Enlightened Dog (2004), Punk Funk (2008) and Plugged (2010).


Some of Cohen's former followers, including his mother, Luna Tarlo, have viewed him as a manipulative spiritual teacher. Tarlo wrote a critical book, called Mother of God, about her experience as one of his disciples.[34] In a Psychology Today, article, published in 1998 entitled "Crimes of the Soul", Tarlo recounted how she became a disciple of her son who told her "to give way to him or their relationship would end" and forbade her "to express an opinion on anything". Tarlo said she "knew if I seriously objected to anything, I'd be kicked out" and stated that her son, formerly the "sweetest, sensitive kid, had changed into an unrecognizable tyrant."[35]

André van der Braak's Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru alleges that Cohen demanded large sums of money and extreme and unquestioning devotion from his students.[36]

American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing, by William Yenner and other former Cohen student contributors (foreword by Stephen Batchelor), allege authoritarianism, financial manipulation, physical and psychological abuse in Cohen's community, and discusses the challenges of healing after leaving the community.[37]

There are indications that Cohen’s group is in difficult financial straits – In 2011 it officially ended publication of its magazine EnlightenNext.[38]

There have been numerous critics of Cohen. From books such as American Guru[39] and Mother of God[40] mentioned above, to well supported blogs such as What Enlighenment?[41] and EnlightenNixt.[42]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1][dead link]
  2. ^ a b "Search 2011 Finalists & Winners – Book of the Year Awards". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  3. ^ a b Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening – Andrew Cohen – Google Books. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  4. ^ [2][dead link]
  5. ^ "Watkins’ Spiritual 100 List for 2012 | Esoteric News". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  6. ^, An Apology.
  7. ^ a b "BG 235: A Visitation from the Unknown". Buddhist Geeks. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  8. ^ "Andrew Cohen: The New Enlightenment". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  9. ^ [3][dead link]
  10. ^ [4][dead link]
  11. ^ "Alison Rose Levy: Arianna Huffington, Deepak Chopra and Andrew Cohen Talk Creating a Spiritually Empowered Future (PHOTOS)". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  12. ^ "Biography: Munawar Anees". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  13. ^ "de beste bron van informatie over rtbot. Deze website is te koop!". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  14. ^ Amanda (April 9, 2009). "Rupert Sheldrake and Andrew Cohen – The Mediation Times". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  15. ^ [5][dead link]
  16. ^ "Andrew Cohen & Ken Wilber: Dialogues on Enlightenment and the Evolution of Consciousness". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  17. ^ Cohen, Andrew (2011). Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening. New York, NY: Select books, p. xvii, Acknowledgements
  18. ^ "Andrew Cohen". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  19. ^ "THE 2009 PARLIAMENT / Major Speakers | Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  20. ^ "In Service to Conscious Evolution | Evolutionary Leaders: In Service to Conscious Evolution". Evolutionary Leaders. July 26, 2008. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  21. ^ [6][dead link]
  22. ^ "The Posture of Freedom". elephant journal. November 25, 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  23. ^ "The Graduate Institute". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  24. ^ The Graduate Institute, Catalog of Program, Conscious Evolution Program, 2004–07
  25. ^ "Andrew Z. Cohen". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  26. ^ Cohen, Andrew. "Andrew Cohen | Founder, EnlightenNext". Big Think. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  27. ^ Cohen, Andrew. "Search | SpeakingTree". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  28. ^ Barnala, Rajiv. "India's first Spiritual Networking Website". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  29. ^ "John Douillard.qxd (Page 1)" (PDF). Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  30. ^ [7][dead link]
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Evolutionary Spirituality The Santa Barbara Independent". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  33. ^ "Andrew Cohen: Come Together". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  34. ^ Tarlo, Luna (1997). Mother of God. Autonomedia.
  35. ^ Neimark, Jill. "''Psychology Today'', 1998". Retrieved 2013-11-14. 
  36. ^ van der Braak, André (2003). Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru. Monkfish Book Publishing. ISBN 0-9726357-1-8
  37. ^ Yenner, William and contributors (2009). American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing. Epigraph Books. ISBN 0-9824530-5-1
  38. ^ "EnlightenNext Magazine Going Out of Print | New Consciousness Review Blog". September 17, 2011. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  39. ^ "American Guru: A Story of Love, Betrayal and Healing-former students of Andrew Cohen speak out: William Yenner: 9780982453056: Books". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  40. ^ "The Mother of God: Luna Tarlo: 9780982453063: Books". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  41. ^ "". Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  42. ^ "EnlightenNIXT". June 2, 2005. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 

External links[edit]