- When books speak to you personally, you hear the author’s voice whispering, not just in your ear but to your deepest yearning. Andrew Cohen did that for me, making me believe something I long to be true: There has never been a better time to be enlightened. When I was a child, it was easy to feel left behind. I was born too late to shoot arrows beside Arjuna, meditate under the Bodhitree with the Buddha, or sit on an olive-covered hillside in Galilee hearing the Sermon on the Mount. There is a pervasive sense, even in advanced spiritual circles, that we are looking over our shoulders at the epochs when humans were closer to God or to their souls or to the promise of Moksha...
- So it's heartening to hear a teacher who insists, with passion and a clear voice, that we haven't been left behind. This is only one of the messages to be found in these pages. Andrew has the pulse of modern life at his fingertips. His diagnosis of the demands and distractions of our noisy, busy world shows the accuracy of a skilled diagnostician. But long ago, when I spent many hours a day diagnosing patients, I learned that none of them would take any advice until they understood, quite basically, what the first step to healing needed to be. That first step was always the same: “You're going to get better.” Reassurance is medicine, even if it can't be bottled, and in this book Andrew touched me with a deep sense of reassurance: Don't worry. There's a place for the seeker. The universe has collaborated to bring you here, to this moment, so that you can wake up.
- The famous adage is wrong: The journey of a thousand miles doesn't begin with the first step. It begins with the assurance that you can take the first step. Many people lack that assurance, for all kinds of reasons. Some feel unworthy to seek beyond the limited territory of the known; some feel trapped behind walls or inwardly blocked; some feel paralyzed by timidity, fear, doubt, and skepticism in all their dubious coloring. When Andrew asks, Why do some people develop a passion for spirituality while others don't?, the answer he gives agrees perfectly with my own perspective: they haven't awakened to the evolutionary impulse within.
There has been nothing less than an explosion of interest in the spiritual ideal of enlightenment in the Western world over the last ten years. In Spring 2009, for instance, more than twenty million people tuned in to listen to Eckhart Tolle and Oprah Winfrey's ten-week online course about enlightenment. Spiritual titles top bestseller lists, and what were once considered to be esoteric Eastern spiritual disciplines have become common pursuits.
What do these modern-day mystics tell us? Live in the moment. Let go of the past and the future. Discover the power of now. Sound familiar? It is. Today's teachers of enlightenment offer more or less the same message we heard in the sixties, and all the way back to the time of the Buddha. And it's still powerful.
But Andrew Cohen thinks that in our rapidly changing world, "being in the present moment" is no longer enough.
In Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening, Cohen redefines spirituality for our contemporary world–a world characterized by exponential change and an ever-expanding appreciation for the processes of evolution. Based on 25 years of groundbreaking work as a spiritual teacher and the editor-in-chief of the award-winning EnlightenNext magazine, Cohen has synthesized an original path, practice, and philosophy focused entirely on aligning yourself with what he calls "the evolutionary impulse."
His message is simple, yet profound: Life is evolution, and enlightenment is about waking up to this fundamentally creative impulse as your own deepest, most authentic self–so that you can play an active role in creating the future.
"Andrew Cohen has arrived at an insight that is crucial for our historical situation. Enlightenment is not a movement out of the everyday world but is instead a profound entrance into deep participation in the evolution of the universe. Rarely have I encountered such simple, searing wisdom connecting religious ideas about enlightenment with the scientific understanding of an evolutionary cosmos."
– Brian Swimme, PhD, author of The Universe Story
Change is a constant in today's world. Technology is accelerating, globalization is making the world more and more complex, and the pace of life seems to be speeding up every day. While many popular forms of contemporary spirituality offer ways to feel better in the face of overwhelming change–to discover greater equanimity, detachment, or compassion–Andrew Cohen says that change is not something to be avoided, or merely tolerated, but an essential aspect of reality that needs to be consciously embraced.
Through his five fundamental tenets for living an enlightened life, Cohen empowers you to wholeheartedly participate in the process of change as your own spiritual practice. In doing so, he not only makes deep sense of life today; he shows you how to play an active role in shaping the world of tomorrow.
"Andrew Cohen maps out a path to be the change we not only should want to see in the world but that we objectively and urgently need in the world. Whether we take his path or look to another, we should read what he has to say, for it is based on deep personal experience that has proven meaningful for thousands and thousands."
– Ervin Laszlo, author of Science and the Reenchantment of the Cosmos
Imagine what it would be like to witness the very moment of creation, when the first spark of light exploded out of the vast, empty void at the origin of the universe. Cohen starts by taking you on an experiential voyage "back to before the beginning of time." But unlike more traditional Enlightenment teachings, which rest in the profound stillness of that empty ground of Being, Cohen doesn't stop there. Instead, he guides you on a creative journey "inside the evolutionary process," and begins to reveal the principles of a new kind of enlightenment.
In part 2, Cohen turns your attention to the inner landscape of the evolving self. He describes the many different dimensions that make up who we are: our biological impulses, our cultural values, our egoic tendencies, and Cohen's original concept of the "authentic self," which is the individual embodiment of the evolutionary impulse. In doing so, he empowers you to identify these different dimensions of yourself and awakens your own power to choose who you want to be.
Part 3 shows you how to put Evolutionary Enlightenment into practice. Cohen presents a new context for the age-old practice of meditation, which he describes as "the art and science of stillness." He then dedicates a chapter to each of his five fundamental tenets, exploring the core challenges and potentials that individuals confront on the path of spiritual evolution. Profound yet practical, Cohen's five tenets begin with a deep reckoning with your fundamental clarity of intention, and lead you to the recognition that your own spiritual transformation is not for yourself but for the sake of the whole.
Unlike many spiritual paths, the goal of Evolutionary Enlightenment is not just personal liberation, but the creation of a new culture. In this section, Cohen illuminates what he calls the "intersubjective" or collective dynamics through which our values are shaped, and shows how we can begin to forge new ones by coming together in the mutual recognition of our essential role as conscious agents in the evolutionary process.
"If the fourteen-billion-year cosmic experiment that resulted in our lives is not to end in the next few centuries, it will require brave and brilliant steps in our spiritual evolution. With instruction at once tough and tender, Andrew Cohen gives us the inspiration and the means to accomplish the greatest of all endeavors for the human spirit. This is a spiritual masterpiece."
– Jean Houston, PhD, author of A Mythic Life
Andrew Cohen is an internationally respected spiritual teacher, cultural visionary, and founder of the global nonprofit EnlightenNext and its award-winning publication EnlightenNext 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 whole heartedly 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, at his teacher's request, 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.
"Andrew Cohen is a truly remarkable spiritual teacher on the cutting edge of evolutionary thinking and action. He and his students are playing an invaluable leadership role in the emergence of evolutionary spirituality: an integrity–based, deeply meaningful approach to life grounded in our best scientific understandings of cosmic, Earth, biological, and human history. Andrew's writings and teachings are destined to make a real difference in the world."
– Michael Dowd, author of Thank God for Evolution
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. To both these streams of thought he 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 two 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 are embraced and shared by a growing global movement of "Evolutionaries."
"Andrew Cohen is the most precise teacher of the essence of spiritual conscious evolution and its social contribution. He has identified the impulse of evolution as our own subjective yearning to create, and he has given us ways of cultivating that creativity as a spiritual path toward authentic selfhood. This is the growing edge of spiritual and social evolution, and he is on it. I believe that Evolutionary Enlightenment is one of the seminal books of our time."
– Barbara Marx Hubbard, author of Conscious Evolution
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 the magazine he founded in 1991, EnlightenNext (formerly What Is Enlightenment?), which 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 unique 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.