Thursday, June 02, 2005

An Invitation To Truth And Reconciliation

By Hal Blacker

May all beings be happy!

As a contributor to this blog, I want to say that I am extremely happy with how this blog is unfolding. I feel that it is a place that may be unique, or at the very least, extremely rare on the Internet. I think that, together, all of us —from each contributor to every person who has given it the gift of their attention—have created a sacred place where a miracle of truth, healing and purification is occurring. Every one who enters here enters this sacred cyberspace, whose circumference is nowhere and whose center is everywhere. You are all welcome and all appreciated.

I want to especially extend my appreciation to the courageous people like Stas and Susan and some anonymous contributors who were willing to expose their own vulnerability, their insight and their pain. I want to equally thank those brave souls like Craig, Carter, Dave, Jeremy, Anne and others who have been willing to enter this forum and express their doubts and criticisms about what is occurring here, and their support for Andrew Cohen. And all those from outside the community of former and present students of Andrew Cohen, who have lent their own unique insights and perspectives here, must be greatly appreciated and thanked as well.

This work is not easy for any of us. It is very hard to engage in this kind of dialogue without regressing to a mode of “attack or defend.” I—the writer formerly known as Raging Bull—personally find this very challenging. That’s why I start out saying “May all beings be happy!” I’m no bodhisattva, believe you me; it’s just that I need to remind myself of my intention every single time. I pray for help from all the bodhisattvas and divine beings in this work.

It is also hard to hear the difficult truths of people’s experiences and let them stir and touch our hearts. They re-evoke our own memories and experiences. It would be easier to turn our eyes away. It would be simpler, it seems at times, to retrench and plow on. But opening to the rain of mercy that is always here means exposing one’s raw nerves and heart. I am certain that it is only through telling and hearing truth that a greater respect, understanding and empathy—for ourselves, for Andrew, for all concerned—will be possible.

I hope it isn’t too presumptuous for me to share my vision of what is occurring here with you. I see a pure lotus beginning to bloom from the muck and mire of this dark age. I hope you can find it in you to give it water and nourishment with your attention, your good intentions, and your courageous participation.

At this time I wish to issue a special invitation to Andrew Cohen to directly join this forum. We have heard his voice through his representatives Craig and Carter. But we have not yet heard Andrew directly. I believe that if Andrew were willing to speak the truth here about the events described by former students, it could be of enormous benefit. And to hear Andrew speak frankly about what has occurred—mistakes and all—would be much better for all concerned, including him, than to hear it come only from those who were affected by his acts.

I would like to suggest something about the kind of participation that is being invited, however. The point of this blog is not to bash Andrew, and the participation invited is not self-defense or aggression. Craig has received much criticism for the defensiveness and hostility in his posts. I think it is understandable to become angry when you perceive your teacher being criticized, so I empathize with his response. But I don’t think that kind of response is helpful for the truth-telling and finding that should occur here. If that is the best he can do, so be it. It may very well be better than nothing, and, as I said earlier, Craig’s participation here is appreciated. But I think that it is better to engage with a greater degree of respect and fidelity to the truth.

For example, Craig misleadingly minimized some of the events that were mentioned here, such as physical abuse. I mentioned in my post “Breaking The Code Of Silence” learning of incidents of a student being ordered to deliver messages consisting of delivering slaps “as hard as she can” to other students. Craig wrote, “I was the one mentioned in Hal Blacker’s letter who got slapped in the face and also had fake blood smeared on his wall—which, incidentally, we already wrote about in the magazine three years ago—so much for the ‘code of silence.’” Craig implies he was the only person to receive a slap, or receive messages written in fake blood, and that this had already been publicly disclosed. That is not true. It is true that the Fall/Winter 2001 edition of What Is Enlightenment? (the 10th anniversary issue) mentioned on page 24 that words were “scrawled in red graffiti” across his office walls, and that the editors had been going through a very difficult time. But, contrary to Craig’s misleading statement, he was far from the only person to receive slaps or messages written in fake blood. In the very incident mentioned in WIE (according to a participant), Craig, Carter and Amy Edelstein all were given messages from Andrew consisting of physical assaults in this period—and definitely more than once. The fake blood writing also occurred more than one time and with more than one person. And, as described by Stas (Ernest) Mavrides in his letter here, and to me by many others, slapping, other physical abuse and the liberal use of fake blood—styled for purposes of guilt inducement as “the guru’s blood”—occurred numerous time in Andrew’s community.

One other example of a misleading “admission” by Craig. In his response to Susan Bridle’s posting, he admits but mischaracterizes an incident involving prostitutes that I had mentioned in an earlier posting. There is more to be said about this, but, given its sensitive nature and the feelings of those involved, I don't feel it is my place to go into all the details, at this time.

These are only examples meant to show how real frankness is needed, not obfuscation. There are many events that should be revealed and discussed, in truth and openness. They should not be hidden, minimized or misstated. Saying and hearing the truth isn’t easy. I know some would like to forget what happened. But I think that the only way to even begin to understand what has occurred around Andrew Cohen is to lay the facts out bare. That is why I am now issuing this heartfelt invitation to Andrew to participate in this process. I am sending a copy of this post by e-mail to Craig, Carter and Andrew at his Foxhollow World Center.

Please come into this forum, Andrew. Please be willing to truthfully admit your mistakes, and begin to help the process of truth and reconciliation. It will be much better for everyone—you, your community, your former students, and your friends—if you participate with humility and honesty in this ceremony of healing and purification. Whether you participate or not, however, the truth will come out. It must.

With love and respect,
Hal Blacker

Originally published February 20, 2005
Original post on WHAT Enlightenment??!, with comments: An Invitation To Truth And Reconciliation