"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Andrew Cohen Speaks Out on Huffington Post

For those not acquainted with the teachings of Andrew Cohen, of the teaching he has dubbed "Evolutionary Enlightenment" - an enlightenment methodology discussed here in a previous post - Cohen discusses his approach to spiritual awakening in an article on the highly visible and influential Huffington Post. The piece is undoubtedly a follow-up to his recent panel with Deepak Chopra at the Urban Zen Institute, which was moderated by Arianna Huffington (and is available on Fora.tv).

In describing his personal spiritual awakening, Cohen attributes credit to the non-dualist Advaida Vedanta lineage of his teacher (H.W.L. Poonja), which stretches back to the great self-realized Hindu sage, Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950). While his personal enlightenment experience is the continuance of an unbroken line of liberation (or moksha) that stretches back to the mists of time in the Indian subcontinent, Cohen has taken his own experience and teaches a variant of cutting edge spiritual awakening that is at once urgent, universal and immediately relevant to our times, and which embraces rather than challenges the scientific understandings that have revolutionized our modern and wired-in world. (Cohen lists Liebniz, Schelling, Hegel, Schopenauer, Emerson and the Jesuit paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin, amongst the list of  forerunners to this emerging transcendental epiphenomena.)

Ramana Maharshi                         
"Traditional enlightenment is what I learned from my teacher," Cohen explains, "but Evolutionary Enlightenment is what I have discovered and created in my own work over the last almost quarter of a century." Cohen and his co-creators explore the depths of the world's varied wisdom traditions and the potential of humankind's ongoing and transformative noetic evolution in the pages and on the website of EnlightenNext.

"It was only after many years of deep introspection, dialogue with masters and thinkers from all traditions and committed work with thousands of spiritual seekers throughout the world," Cohen writes, "that I began to understand what this new enlightenment is all about, why it is so different from what has come before, and why, as I believe, it holds the key not only to our personal development but to our cultural evolution."

 In his latest article on the Huffington Post (his other posts are here, here and here) he differentiates traditional notions of enightenment - that the world is an illurory realm, or maya, and that is sufficient to overcome the world by the self-realization of transcendental liberation, or moksha - with a perspective informed by a scientific and evolutionary world view. "(E)nlightenment is evolving," Cohen notes. "It is no longer found only in the bliss of timeless Being; it is found also in the ecstatic urgency of evolutionary Becoming."

Cohen stresses that in this age, where we may have reached the edge of our physical evolution, there is an urgent imperative for humanity to further the limits of its consciousness in order for the evolutionary impulse to continue its 14 billion-odd years of unfolding. In a cry from the metaphysical barricades, he writes:
"Traditional enlightenment points us beyond the world, beyond time and space, toward what has been, at least until now, the perennial source of spiritual freedom and mystical liberation: the Ground of Being. But those of us in the 21st century who are looking toward the future urgently need a mystical spirituality and source of soul liberation that points us not away from the world but to that big next step we need to take in our world. That next step will not emerge by itself -- it must be consciously created by human beings who have awakened to the same impulse that is driving the process. As we awaken to this vast perspective, an overwhelming and profound truth becomes clear: At this point in evolution, the process is dependent upon us. The evolutionary process desperately needs our conscious and committed participation."

This is heady stuff. There is a real moral imperative, largely unstressed in traditional enlightenment, for individuals to commit themselves to their own personal transcendence "for the sake of the Whole." His message is that, if we wish to continue to live and evolve on our increasingly interconnected planet, we must become the equivalent of 21st-century bodhisattvas, and his experience is that this is possible.

"This liberating spiritual perspective on the human experience is contemporary and inherently creative," he stresses. "It's a spiritual teaching for our own time because its central tenet is that a more enlightened future for our world depends on one thing and one thing alone -- our higher development."

"The world around us changes for the better as much as we are willing to change ourselves, he concludes. "The world we occupy and cocreate begins to transform as we do. The old model of enlightenment was one in which the individual was liberated but the world remained the same. In the new enlightenment, the point is no longer merely the liberation of the individual; it's the evolution of self, culture and cosmos through the individual. That's Evolutionary Enlightenment."

To read more about the "essential elements" of  Cohen's "Evolutionary Enlightenment" teachings, and to understand his "five tenets" of leading an awakened life, visit his website at www.andrewcohen.org. Alternatively, purchase a copy of, or subscribe to EnlightenNext magazine and its companion website.

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