Andrew Cohen (spiritual teacher)

Andrew Cohen (b.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. He sees himself as working in conjunction with others to bring about a new stage of human consciousness and culture. Towards this end, Cohen and his students frequently engage with a variety of spiritual teachers, philosophers, activists, and cultural figures. Many of these encounters, as well as Cohen's writings, are featured in EnlightenNext magazine, which is published quarterly by the international nonprofit organization he founded, EnlightenNext, Inc.


Cohen was born in New York City in 1955. He has an elder brother, Joshua. Raised as a secular Jew, he recounts that his life was changed by a spontaneous experience of "cosmic consciousness" at the age of sixteen. Haunted by the memory of this event, Cohen abandoned his ambition to become a jazz drummer and began a quest to recapture this experience. Studying martial arts, then Kriya Yoga, then Buddhism from ages 22 to 30, Cohen eventually met the Advaita Vedanta master H. W. L. Poonja in 1986. After spending two weeks with Poonja, and having what he claimed was a deep spiritual awakening, Cohen began to teach, with the initial encouragement of Poonja, until a later personal disagreement created a split between the two.

In 1988, Cohen founded EnlightenNext, a nonprofit educational and spiritual network committed to creating a new global culture. In addition to small groups of students located in various parts of the world, EnlightenNext has public centers in New York, Boston, London, Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Zurich, Paris, Copenhagen, Tel Aviv, and Rishikesh, India. The main center for EnlightenNext is a 220-acre (890,000 m²) retreat venue in Lenox, Massachusetts, where Cohen and his largest body of students currently reside.

Shortly after he began teaching, Cohen began to meet with other spiritual teachers in order to share his experience and engage in dialogue about the nature of spiritual enlightenment. In 1991, he founded EnlightenNext magazine (under its former title, What Is Enlightenment?), in order to share and further this investigation. As editor in chief of EnlightenNext magazine, he believes that "it is on our shoulders to create the future," and sees the magazine and its associated programs as popular forums for dialogue and inquiry regarding the meaning of spiritual life in the postmodern era. EnlightenNext has developed an international speaker’s series called Voices from the Edge, an online multimedia forum known as WIE Unbound, and a partnership with the Graduate Institute (TGI) to offer a master’s program in Conscious Evolution. In 2006, and again in 2007, the website was honored by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences with the Webby People's Voice Award in the Religion and Spirituality category.

In 2000, Cohen became one of the founding members of Ken Wilber's Integral Institute. He was a featured speaker at the 2004 Parliament of the World's Religions, and, in 2006, was awarded the Kashi Humanitarian Award.


Cohen says that his original spiritual teaching, Evolutionary Enlightenment, is unique for placing the traditional realization of enlightenment in the context of cosmic evolution. By awakening to the timeless "Ground of Being," Cohen maintains, human beings can liberate themselves from selfish motives, or ego, and learn to manifest what he calls the "Authentic Self." This self beyond ego is said to represent humanity at its most wholesome: creative, compassionate, and motivated by an evolutionary impulse that is "one with the big bang itself." According to Cohen, when human beings choose to live as the Authentic Self, they can realize their inseparability from the universe and thereby discover a purpose for living that transcends egoism—that is, the uniquely human capacity to participate in the evolution of consciousness itself.

Cohen distinguishes Evolutionary Enlightenment from traditional "personal" enlightenment. In Evolutionary Enlightenment, he teaches, enlightenment is no longer the possession of the individual, but instead becomes the ground of relationship upon which a new culture is created. Cohen argues that the creation of this new consciousness and culture is essential for the survival of the race, and says that it is particularly incumbent upon those individuals who are at the leading edge of human development to take this next step.

To assist those who wish to evolve in this way, Cohen has developed a comprehensive teaching, the essential elements of which include "The Five Tenets" and "Six Principles" of Evolutionary Enlightenment. An interactive teaching model summarizes the perspective offered by these teachings.


In 2001, Cohen re-engaged his passion for drumming and formed the jazz-funk-fusion band Unfulfilled Desires. The band plays original compositions and standards, and performs in Europe and the United States. They have released two CDs: Enlightened Dog (2004) and Live at the Iron Horse (2002). Their third album, Punk Funk, was released in 2008.


Some of Cohen's former followers, including his mother, Luna Tarlo, view Cohen as a charismatic and manipulative spiritual teacher. Dr. André van der Braak's Enlightenment Blues: My Years with an American Guru alleges that Cohen demanded large sums of money and extreme, unquestioning devotion from his students.

Tarlo wrote a book called Mother of God about her experience as one of his disciples. She accuses Cohen of cruelty, self-aggrandizement and abuse of her and other disciples, and describes what she maintains was her struggle to free herself from his control. U. G. Krishnamurti asked Tarlo "How could you do this to your son?" after she had stopped being his disciple. Tarlo describes the conversation: "'But tell me, how can you do this to your son? You can't do this to your son, can you?' He was testing my conviction. 'Well--I've done it!' I said and laughed.

American journalist John Horgan questions the existence of "the totally enlightened guru," specifically in reference to Cohen and others.


  • My Master Is My Self (1989), ISBN 1-883929-07-5
  • Enlightenment Is a Secret (1991), ISBN 1-883929-08-3
  • Autobiography of An Awakening (1992), ISBN 0-9622678-4-8
  • An Unconditional Relationship to Life (1995), ISBN 1-883929-04-0
  • The Challenge of Enlightenment (1996), ISBN 1-883929-14-8
  • In Defense of the Guru Principle (1999), ISBN 1-883929-27-X
  • Freedom Has No History (1997), ISBN 1-883929-17-2
  • Who Am I? and How Shall I Live? (1998), ISBN 1-883929-24-5
  • Embracing Heaven & Earth (2000), ISBN 1-883929-29-6
  • Living Enlightenment: A Call for Evolution Beyond Ego (2002), ISBN 1-883929-30-X

Cohen online

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