Living Enlightenment: A Call for Evolution Beyond Ego (PB) | By Andrew Cohen (Author) | MLBD Publications
About the author
Andrew Cohen is a spiritual teacher, cultural visionary, and founder of the global non-profit Enlighten Next and its award-winning publication Enlighten Next magazine. Since 1986, Cohen has been traveling the world, giving public lectures and leading intensive retreats. Through his writings, teachings, and ongoing dialogues with leading philosophers, scientists, and mystics, he has become known as one of the defining voices of the new evolutionary spirituality.
Born in New York City, in 1955 and raised in a secular Jewish family, Cohen had his passion for spirit unexpectedly ignited at the age of sixteen, when a spontaneous revelation of “cosmic consciousness” opened his eyes to a new dimension of life. Some years later, as a result of that experience, he gave up aspirations to become a musician and dedicated himself wholeheartedly to its rediscovery. After several years of intensive spiritual pursuit in the United States, including the study of martial arts, Kriya Yoga, and Buddhist meditation, Cohen followed the footsteps of a generation of Western seekers to India. It was there, in the land of the sages, that he met his last teacher H.W.L. Poonja, a disciple of the revered Ramana Maharshi, in 1986. In just a few short weeks, Cohen experienced a life-changing awakening, the story of which was told in his first book, My Master Is My Self. Shortly afterwards, with his teacher’s blessing, Cohen began to teach.
Always an independent thinker, Cohen soon diverged from the traditional Eastern approach that had catalyzed his own awakening, with its emphasis on transcendence and the illusory nature of the phenomenal world. Grappling with questions and challenges that arose as he sought to bring the revelation of enlightenment to a contemporary Western audience, he gradually forged his own original spiritual teaching, Evolutionary Enlightenment. A modern-day equivalent of the ancient wisdom teachings, Cohen’s work is no footnote to tradition, but a distinct and innovative synthesis. He has brought the timeless depth of enlightened wisdom into the twenty-first century and significantly redirected its purpose and promise – calling not for transcendence of worldly attachment, or even for compassionate care and service, but for a deep and heroic responsibility for the evolution of the world. In this, he finds more in common with the great evolutionary visionaries of the last century, such as Sri Aurobindo and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, than he does with the ancient Eastern enlightenment tradition in which his own awakening occurred. But also more recent thought leaders played a formative role in his evolutionary philosophy, most notably Ken Wilber, founding father of the Integral Vision, and systems thinker Don Beck, who is the co-author of the Spiral Dynamics theory – an extension of the human development model of his mentor Clare W. Graves. To these streams of thought, Cohen adds a further element: a rich and nuanced understanding of the practical dynamics of individual and cultural transformation at our particular moment in history.
Cohen’s interest in cultural evolution is much more than theoretical. For more than three decades he has been intensively engaged with committed individuals and groups from around the world who are striving to put his teachings into practice. This engagement has, in turn, informed his thinking, creating a dynamic and fertile interplay between vision and practice, ideal and reality. Among the many fruits of this work, perhaps the most significant has been a series of breakthroughs into collective or intersubjective higher states of consciousness, and the active translation of these insights into new values, perspectives, and principles that are enabling individuals to lay the foundations for a new cultural paradigm. The results of this living inquiry have been embraced and shared by a growing global movement of “Evolutionaries.”
In addition to his work as a teacher, Cohen is also dedicated to changing the cultural conversation about the purpose and significance of spiritual enlightenment in our time. This is best seen in Enlighten Next magazine (formerly What Is Enlightenment?), which was founded in 1991, and which soon thereafter became the premier forum for serious discussion at the intersection of spirituality and culture. In its pages, and the live forums that grew out of them, Cohen and his team of collaborators have engaged spiritual, religious, cultural and scientific thought leaders in a dynamic inquiry about the nature of inner and outer evolution. Cohen’s unusual perspective and commitment to dialogue have led to invitations to speak at numerous forums over the years, including the Parliament of the World’s Religions (2004, 2009), LOHAS International Conference, International Transpersonal Conference, Integral Leadership in Action, and the International Conference on the Frontiers of Yoga and Consciousness Research, as well as universities, spiritual centers, and business settings around the world.
In 2013 – right at the height of its flourishing, when Enlighten Next had centers worldwide and members in more than twenty countries, a multifaceted crisis erupted, bringing down the entire organization almost overnight. Cohen stepped down as the leader of the organization and embarked upon an extended sabbatical, spending his time in intense soul-searching and deep reflective inquiry. At the end of 2016, he felt his sabbatical had come to its natural completion, and returned to public teaching.
In 2020, he and a group of collaborators launched Manifest Nirvana – a virtual meeting place where people gather and engage in transformational spiritual practice together. As Cohen describes it: “a place where sovereign souls, radical spirits and integral pioneers will find their home.” One of the signature contributions of the spiritual work done at Manifest Nirvana is the creation of thriving collaborative “Higher We” spaces, where people learn to communicate with one another beyond ego and the games it plays. This advanced capacity is the capstone of the deep and broad-ranging spiritual training taught at Manifest Nirvana.
In the “Higher We” states entered into in these groups, enlightened awareness expresses itself in the space between participants, and thereby effectively becomes the intersubjective experience of the whole group. This is why Cohen refers to this phenomenon as Intersubjective Nonduality. In this rarified state, the mysterious collective intelligence that lives between and among the participants, but is not specific to any of them, comes alive – and this allows them to relate to one another from a non-egoic place. This spiritual skill – Cohen emphasizes – is indispensable in this world in crisis. It allows people to better communicate across different perspectives and find original solutions to old problems. Mastering it has the potential to bring back sanity to our polarized public discourse and heal the seemingly unbridgeable cultural divides in our broken societies. The skill of “enlightened communication” is therefore one of the capacities we now most urgently need if we want to create the vibrant evolutionary environment, necessary to appropriately address the wicked problems we all face today.
And so, Manifest Nirvana is both a sanctuary for 21st century spiritual explorers, and a future vision for the evolution of humanity – a utopian ideal for those still bold enough to dream big.