Post modern Guruship

Dear all,

I would like to give an answer to this dialogue between Ken and Andrew.  Please find the dialog link here.

I will comment later on  the issue raised by Ken, about whether Science and Spirit are  integrated  or not at the present moment. My view is that it is not the case, and  that the real dialog between the actors of Science and the Spiritual teachers is just in infancy.

Here I want to address another issue which seems important to me. In this dialog Andrew and Ken seem to agree on the fact that the post modern ego will refuse  to submit to a teacher no matter what, and that the real crusade  towards post post modernism is to submit the ego of  the post modern self while not disempowering it.

Andrew has this sentence that he explains to Ken over  and over :

“ I tell my students submit and respond, submit and respond, and the strongest of my students have been doing just this”.

Just note that Ken doesn’t  answer directly to this sentence. He doesn’t say that he agrees; he doesn’t say that he disagrees with the method. He  doesn’t take position.

Now I would like to address this issue in a scientific framework.  First, it is not true  that post modern selfs don’t go for a teacher. I, for example, did and Andrew has  had many and many examples of  post modern students who came to him. Many of them left and some stayed. My first point is that one cannot reproach to the ones who left not to  have been  opened  and attracted to a teacher, not to have recognized his/her power and his/her greatness.   Although I have left, I  feel  I really recognized  (and still do) that Andrew has really something to teach and that he has a great gift of his own. In a  sense, only the people who have become students have  fully recognized the teacher. I mean something simple here : when one sees something great  in someone else, one goes and check by oneself.  One does engage. Students of a teacher like Andrew, all of them, including the ones who left, have shown more recognition  to the teacher than external people did, even his supporters. This is a paradox, I know.

Now at some, point , like all the people who left, I refused to submit. I refused to submit because I felt that  what the teacher had in mind was too simplistic, and didn’t address fully my own complexity. Now the teacher of course will claim that “ it is your ego resisting me”… with a big finger pointed on me which is to a certain point, very authoritarian and intimidating.  And of course at some point under pressure my ego entered the game, as a reaction of defense against intimidation, as both Andrew and Ken beautifully explained in their dialogue. Indeed the ego entered the game, but well,  did it have a point or not ? The famous ego, when it entered the game in defense reaction, was it right or not ?

It might be shocking for some to say that the ego might be right.  I have heard over and over again in spiritual circles that “ your ego is wrong, no mater what it says to you, don’t listen to “it”, just submit to the teacher etc…”. but I disagree with this. The ego of course can be right, the only difference is that the ego is always relatively right, never absolutely right. It is precisely where  the Scientific attitude enters.  The scientific minds ponders. It ponders over ideas  and in this ponderation it determines with certain probabilities what is scientifically right or not, and what is significant or not. Hence the scientific mind indeed works with the ego, and has all the good reasons to do so.

Now just imagine that you are a scientist, a good scientist, I mean, that you have mastered to a certain degree this ponderation mechanism. That you  have mastered it to a point that you know its limitations and its strengths, that you have scientifically  pondered the limitations and strengths of your own mechanism of though, in a purely scientific way. ( There is a certain perfection into this if you notice; it is  the true humble “bottom-up” way, the way of  humble wisdom)

I believe I am not a bad scientist and my command of this ponderation is quite good (there are better folks than me in the scientific community for sure).  Now suppose that you are face to face with  a teacher who tells you “ submit and respond” but deep down  all the scientific  lights are red for you. You feel that   what the teacher asks you is  not correct, that he  is  making a mistake, and not only for your own case, but that he is making a generic scientific mistake.  What do you do ? do you listen to your own mind, or do you trust the teacher ?

I feel everyone has to answer this question  for himself/herself. I am a scientist, so  if my mind tells me with 99%  chance that there is a problem, then I will follow my mind at the end of the day. I will follow my mind independently of the  passion I can have for the teacher, and independently on how right the teacher has been on other issues. A teacher who would push me to submit in this context would rape my freedom of Thought. And if I submitted in this context, without being convinced, I would prostitute my Soul.  It is as simples as this. Soul prostitution. And actually, even  if I had left myself been  intellectually raped, well, I believe the freedom of the human Soul is bigger than all this, and one day or another  I would have revolted and reclaim  the Truth.

If you are like me and if you would never submit to a teacher when your intellect tells you not to, then one must admit as a scientific truth that the technique that Andrew uses is not convincing.  At the very least it must be stated that it  cannot work for everybody, but only for a certain type of people who like to submit in all circumstances. There  will allays occur an occasion where the student  is right and the teacher is wrong. In this occasion  shall the student  submit ? with no discussion ? with no place left for  good old rationality to express itself ?

That’s why I think that the whole issue of  Guruship with post modernism is much more complex than what Andrew and Ken  insinuate.  Some post modern people interested in spirituality really want to learn. But they don’t want to loose their autonomous way of determining what is true, even if this way is relative, like Science is for example.

I strongly believe that one doesn’t have to go against ones convictions- and certainly not against  pure  systemic logics- in order to progress in Spirit, and that the future of mankind  passes through the emergence of human beings fully committed to truth, no matter what, no matter what  spiritual authority one has  in front of us. If I had the Buddha in front of me and he was saying something silly, I would not submit to his authority. I would  first listen, ponder, ponder again, listen again, and then if in my  mind I  feel that he is not right or that I don’t understand, I would refuse to submit.  I believe in the emergence of a human culture where one never submits when one is not convinced at a deep intellectual level. Never, never, never.  The human intellect has to be respected if science and spirituality have to come together. A stance like the one used by Andrew ( “submit and respond”) applied with very little discrimination is doomed , one day or another, to damage the capacity of people to  think independently.

It is a scientific fact that, out of so many  committed student that Andrew had, very many left and  a few stayed. I want to defend here the integrity of the students  who left. They didn’t leave simply because “ their monster ego refused to submit to the master” . They left because, as post modern complex persons they reclaimed their freedom to be right on some issues while the Guru was wrong.   And believe me, this happened, it happens many times.

I don’t know whether saying this is striping down the Guru. I personally believe that Andrew is a very Enlightened master, and that he has a great  and rare gift  to put light on things. Now as human being he is sometimes wrong, sometimes quite wrong, and sometimes completely wrong.  Nothing wrong with being wrong, it happens to all of us, and humility maybe starts with recognizing this. It could happen to me at the moment for example. But it is to everyone’s ego to  determine  where is the Truth. And to me the right spiritual attitude, when a teacher tells you something that you feel is wrong, is  to respond by “NOT  SUBMITTING”.

I  also think Andrew shall evolve to adapt to different type of students. The future is to  merging together in the truth.  Not to  impose submission on people’s critical sense. It maybe worked with what Andrew calls his “strongest students” although even for them I have a doubt. To my scientific taste they lack this  depth of freedom which claims that they will never submit to anyone even to their Guru if he is wrong. I  have the sensation that they have prostituted their Soul at least one time. At least one time they were sure that they were right and the Guru was wrong, and they chose to  submit to  the Guru’s authority no matter what their Soul was saying.

To integrate Science and Spirit, one needs to  be happy with criticism.  Can a  Guru do this ?



  1. Françoise

    Hi Catherine just read you last blog and I would like to add something which to me is very important to understand as part of our human development. All masters, gurus, spirituals “guides”, saints, are themselves included in a lineage and what they express is in way beyond themselves already, included in a long line of history. So is Andrew. It’s the emergence of the current of life coming out alive through and via each one of us and some only recognised it at a deeper level . Obeying in that sense is obyeing to something bigger, for the biggest possible reason, and it does entirely depend, as you say, on each one of us own ability to discern and understand what is right or not in every moment. There is no dead point, it’s always present, alive and will continue undefinitely. It is one process of development, unfolding in the universe, of evolution. It’s not a submission for no reason, it’s a submission to a higher order. And the Christian saints did the same, no less, no more. Just the same.

    • Françoise I agree with you, one always submit to what one finds higher. It is precisely what I did. I found that Andrew mass a very big mistake. I explained myself to him about it. Then I left. I wish really that I am wrong but so far there is no indication that I am. Maybe simply the practicality of teachings as they are are not for me and I just explained you why in the blog. In a sense there is no problem here.

  2. I know Andrew for many years and he always emphasizes autonomy. If you had been in Tuscany this year you would have heard a long talk about the difference between believers (in his teachings) and people who are researching the ideas for themselves. I know for a fact that Andrew also learns from his students (he learned from me about Eros), and he always says that he looks for partners and not for followers. Sometimes, when the Ego starts to dominate the scene – the best thing for me and you will be to submit and respond because the ego can also distorts our “scientific” minds and mix it with emotions and resistance to what we experienced as true. I think that this is what happened to you.
    I missed you in Paris

    • Ruth I have now a scientific reply for you. You say (and that is precisely for this type of intrusion that I left) that sometimes the ego distorts the scientific mind and mix it with emotions. Well, it is true, but then you simply have to wait a bit longer and ponder , ponder, ponder again to know what is the scientific truth to the best of your ability.There is always a solution, always. And finding this true solution is the only thing you are responsible for. To stay open and to ponder. It is the miracle and beauty of the scientific mind and it is the dignity of the human Spirit. There is a door to the infinite there, and this post stresses that this door is ultimately important in the post modern context.
      You cannot force people to learn against their will. You know that. So the answer to my question : “what do you do when the your feel that the Guru is wrong and that your scientific mind is right?” then of course you shall follow your Soul, of course. Some people might prefer to obey to the Guru even if they feel it is not right, some people simply cannot do this, and I am a good embodiment of this second type of sensitivity.

      I hope Andrew and other students understand this point and don’t take my remarks personally. It is just an application of the very same idea of autonomy shared by Andrew. A strict application of it, in the case of a post modern scientist. If a teacher is true to himself he will always prefer that a student prefers the Truth to “him” or “his ideas”.
      Simone Weil had this wonderful sentence : “ Christ likes that one prefers the Truth to Him, because before being “The Christ” he is “The Truth”.”

      Of course I might still be wrong, but to the best of my ability I did my job and decided for leaving because of a big problem I saw. I left with telling clearly to Andrew what is the problem I saw ( this took courage as well, and this can be counted as true Love on my side), and I hope that at some point the Truth will prevail.

      Love, Catherine

  3. In this post I wanted to illustrate the problem with the post modern ego. I used my own case as an example but in a sense it is irrelevant ( whether it is about little Catherine or someone else), what is relevant is the universality of the phenomenon. The sad thing is that I agree with most of the ideals of Andrew. I agree that one shall summit to what is higher for us, I agree that one shall be incredibly autonomous not only in thinking but also in what one transmits to the world.
    In a very strange way, with all the passion I have for this teacher I couldn’t be true to these ideals in his own Shanga. It is as if the structure itself is perverse so that the very ideals that one wants to defend get corrupted there.
    There are many other reasons for this situation, but this post tries to unveil one of the biggest issues. What do you do when you feel that the teacher is wrong on some important point and that you shall not obey? do you obey or not ?
    I chose not to.

    I advocate that in a more post modern version of leadership, maybe the teacher will be able to cope with this situation. Or maybe there are no teachers for people like me.
    I want to make very clear that in no case I lost the certainty that Spirit exists, that I am still under a very intense quest and that I am true to most of the very ideals defended by Andrew, which I share. So in a certain sense, maybe the most important one, I have never left.

  4. annie

    Catherine, If there were more people like you with a powerful and yet humble mind (highly capable to grasp complexity), a healthy ego (capable to step back and look at itself) and a generous and courageous heart (capable to mindfully embrace all emotions), no one would need to prostitue their soul to the ego of a “spiritual guru”.

  5. Doug Reinemann

    My Dear Friend;
    I would like to offer my perspective on this question. My deep reaction to the directive that the student must ‘submit’ in order to ‘kill’ or ‘abandon’ the ego is. NO, NO, NO, and … NO!!!

    My experience is that there are several paths to the attainment of higher states of consciousness. One of these, and the most traditional one, is to grab the ego by the neck and pound its head against a rock until it submits. This can and does produce states that go beyond ego awareness. One problem with this approach is that the ego cannot be ‘killed’.

    There is another path by which the ego is seen for what it is… this PRECIOUS INCARNATION, this beautiful gift, this magnificent tool (the product of 14 billion years of evolution) to navigate the manifest world.

    The time has come in the development of consciousness that we are able to transcend AND include (integral/Wilber language) the ego. It is time to stop the barbaric practice of killing some things in order to obtain other things.

  6. Another point I would express is the difference between individuation and ego. I can personally spot the difference by knowing when my ego is engaged … and it is sort of like if I have to check then I`m from my ego lol , because when I am from my being I know that it just is, there is passion but not attachment.

    I wonder how much of the perceived problem is Andrew Cohen confronting students and insisting they `let go and respond` – LIKE A COMMAND. And this is sometimes said from his ego and sometimes not. If it is said from his being then it will be heard in that way by the recipients spirit. If it is said from his ego then it will be heard from the recipients ego … we are hardwired for this to happen.

    It is part of the survival mechanism. Our survivAL MECHANISM IS PART OF WHAT IS AT THE EDGE OF OUR ENLIGHTENMENT AS INDIVIDUALS AND AS HUMANITY. (caps not meant).

    He talks about it being tougher now for babyboomers and offspring to let go their ego. I can see what he means but I do not agree. It is because babyboomers onward have a greater sense of individual self and expressing it that makes way for searching for an ultimate meaning outside of the agreed reality! So it is actually easier. When the ego `confronts` spirit it cannot win. And so the only way to get enlightened is to search from your spirit and the spirit recognises and hears and gets the greater consciousness connection.

    Over and over again the individuals EGO will step in again and look to claim the glory … but once you have conversed with spirit you know the essence is not in the ego, and so can sense your ego`s game and smile.

    So I might say YES let go EGO and let my spiritual individuation shine through to humanity and breath with it hand in hand with the evolutionary pull dropping off the baggage of the ego and shining the way for all humanity and the very being of us all – us all who are the one.

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