The Guru and The Shadow

Reflections on my conversation with Andrew Cohen

Andrew Sweeny

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Most Gurus wouldn’t admit to having started a cult. Imagine Osho apologising for creating his cult in Oregon, where his students practised actual bio-terrorism! Impossible to conceive of!

But Andrew Cohen is different — a humbled and repentant Guru, which may seem like a contradiction in terms. In any case, Cohen’s harrowing story of meeting the shadow of the Guru is compelling. And in our merciless world of cancel culture, I think it deserves to be told.

Cohen has written a new book entitled “The Shadow and the Bodhisattva” — it could have been called The shadow and the Guru. While he clearly admits his failures and blind spots, he also defends his achievements and the Guru principle in general. A word without great spiritual masters — and access to a vertical dimension — is a postmodern flatland. And Cohen asks the question: what does the Guru look like in the post-post-modern age?

A Guru is, to modern sensibilities, a sociopath, a sexual or emotional predator, a marketing genius and/or a demonic arch-manipulator. And today, the amount of fallen Gurus, especially due to sex and power abuse, is as numerous as grains of sand on the bottom of the Ganges. However, Cohen’s sins, unlike most disgraced Gurus, are not sexual but in a perceived ‘purity’.

Cohen tells us he ‘believed he had no shadow’; he had absolute confidence in his own revolutionary purity — he could do no wrong. Cohen created a worldwide enlightenment organisation and a new style of religiosity, which was the cutting-edge spiritual clique, ten years ago. But, to make a long story short, his community went down in flames, and so did he. His recent return has been a painful and hard-won process — a journey to hell and back — of becoming humble and acknowledging his mistakes.

In defence of the tradition where Cohen me his own guru, the traditional Indian Guru is no different from the Taoist sage, the Zen Roshi, the Jewish Tzadik, the Orthodox Starets, the Sufi Tariqa, the list goes on and on — these were the embodied spiritual leaders of various religious communities. They are characterised by their spiritual genius…

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Andrew Sweeny

Compressed scraps of angel melody, stories, essays, rants against reductionism, commands from the deep.