The amount of documentation on AC is extensive.
Yes, Andre van der Braak published his very informative memoir Enlightenment Blues, after 11 years of being tossed around and abused by AC. Andre was also the first editor of Cohen’s publication, What Is Enlightenment? magazine. A v B’st time with Cohen covered the period from 1987 to 1998.
But prior to that time, there is another account, written by Cohen’s mother, Luna Tarlo, entitled The Mother of God. Tarlo was a disciple of her son’s for about two to three years 1986-1989 and gives a fascinating description of how her son was before he encountered the guru in India who allegedly enlightened him, provided Cohen with a story line useful for getting prospective listeners to sit down and listen to him.
Following Luna Tarlos’ book, there was just one description of life within Cohen’s group/s:
Details mentioned in both the Tarlo and van der Braak accounts a ndthe one on the Freedomofmind.com site hang together quite well–there is a high degree of what a statistician would term ‘inter-rater reliability.’
However, from her vantage point as Cohen’s mother and former follower, Tarlo gave some remarkable information:Andrew always, according tohis mother, had craved fame. He had explored a variety of spiritual options before going to India. And…within a month or so of Cohen’s alleged enlightenment at Poonja’s hands, he was both charismatic — and cruel.
Following the two books by Tarlo (1997) and van der Braak (2004), a blog was authored by Hal Blacker, a former Cohen devotee and also a former editor of Cohen’s magazine.
This blog contains a staggering amount of information for the years after 1998, years during which Wilber became associated with Andrew Cohen–and has continued to associate with him.
During the time that Wilber has associated with Cohen, Cohen’s magazine, What Is Enlightenment? has morphed into a house-organ for Wilber’s philosophy and has become increasingly abstract and jargon ridden. It is quite interesting to look at back of WIE issues and see how high the editor turnover has been.
HWL Poonja, known as ‘Papaji’ told Cohen to go out and teach–after just 2.5 weeks of dialog. This guru, HWL Poonja later rather claimed he had never enlightened anyone.
(There are scattered reports that many former followers of Ranjneesh left bereft and disoriented after their disgrace and death, took up with Poonja)
Go here and read the July 7, 2008 entry entitled “Concerning Maharshi, Poonja (aka Papaji), Gangaji, and the Seekers Scene. Poonja apparently told quite a few people they were enlightened and sent ‘em out to teach. One man, Karl tells how Poonja sent him forth to teach shortly after telling this same thing to Andrew. However, Karl had the humility to take stock of himself and decided not to be a guru. It is a most interesting description of a path not taken
However, the one thing Tarlo does not tell us is exactly the full menu of spiriutal options her son might have explored before he went to India. Right after being ‘enlightened’ by HWL Poonja, Cohen reportedly demonstrated a formidable talent for crushing opponents in debate–quite brutally.
One cannot learn that out of the thin blue sky. It may be that Cohen somehwere took lessons on salesmanship and verbal judo, possibly through some kind of heavy duty encounter group or one of those marathon weekends where you get your head pounded on and are not permitted bathroom breaks.
Perhaps Andrew may have learned some verbal aikido/judo methods via this route before going off to India. Then later, under cover of receiving some vague enlightenment from a guru, may have utilized verbal judo he had learned through boring American human potential encounter groups and attributing it to a romantic Indian source.
Again, we can only guess. But we can be sure that most seekers never think to fact check. Gurdjieff claimed he found his stuff in a conveniently untraceable monastery. All one needs is the right cover story and one can get people into a room and activate what psychoanalyst Ornstein has termed the ‘curative fantasy’–something that is partly conscious and partly unconscious. If you can embody a person’s ‘curative fantasy’ you can seem utterly magical, because you will attract and then carry a charge that jumps from that person’s unconscious–and that carries their deepest hope for healing, transformation, even salvation.