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on November 20, 2017
This short book is a collection of essays by former followers of spiritual teacher Andrew Cohen, whose EnlightenNext movement collapsed several years after publication. While the book -- essentially an indictment of Cohen -- does a good job of displaying his excesses and abuses, it is less successful in explaining what drew the followers to Cohen in the first place, and only touches on Cohen's teachings. (His methods are discussed, but the substance is not.) Given that Cohen has now taken some responsibility for his failings, it would be interesting to read an updated version.
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on July 12, 2012
It has been suggested by anonymous sources, otherwise fearful, to me as a critic of various guru figures, to make public a request that Andrew Cohen step down from his position as 'guru' in the context of his EnlightenNext initiative.
The account in this excellent work is so depressingly clear on the issue of guru abuse that I think some kind of outside intervention or declaration is needed.
The legacy of confusion here has gone on for a whole generation and includes the figures, Da Free John, E.J.Gold, Lee Lozowick and Andrew Cohen. The whole sequence here has been haywire from the beginning.
The account here is of a baffling display of pathological behavior masked by a misleading endorsement of Cohen's reputed enlightenment. The original source of this endorsement is itself entirely suspect and has empowered a very a questionable career of authoritarian behavior.
One of the larger problems here is the lack of any traditional context made clear. What is the canon of the guru? What religion is in the background, Hinduism, Buddhism, ...? The lack of any clear context for a teaching has produced a completely vacuous teaching made up 'as you go along'.
The quest for enlightenment beyond ego is not achieved by (egoic) ego-bashing of 'disciples' by a teacher. Ego cannot be destroyed by castigation and attempts to destroy a person's psyche. It is a misunderstanding to think you can destroy ego, and the task is that of self-enlightening transcendence of ego, by the individual in question, and in the final analysis the guru figure is at best a witness to what the disciple must do. The kind of shenanigans depicted in this book show someone out of control, with no grasp of what is needed.

The Buddhist declaration of the entry to the Path of Enlightenment makes no reference as such to gurus or guruism. The fetish of the guru as absolute authority is a late distortion of the original primordial tradition. Real seekers might well seek the counsel of a wise figure on the way to self-enlightenment. But the decadence of the yogic tradition into the guru royalty phenomenon has no place in a democratic age, and is not needed. In fact it is often a front for reactionary politics masquerading as spiritual practice. The art of being a guru is a hard one, and at best that of a witness to the self-action of those who enter the path.

On the basis of the information given by this book it should be clear that the authority of this impostor is void, and without any basis.
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on December 2, 2017
I loved it...was glued to it. I am no guru.... I just liked Linus Roaches looks. I am Judeo-Christian and this cunning libra took advantange of likable souls. Great book William. I loved reading every word
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on December 27, 2016
Not as interesting as I thought it wouId be...IittIe boring too....
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on July 14, 2010
It's hard being a guru these days, it would seem. I think Andrew Cohen probably has had good intentions, but just can't deliver the goods. This book serves to confirm my understanding of who he is....or rather, who he is not.
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on May 30, 2016
An interesting commentary of responses from followers of Andrew Cohen. I found reading Andrew's books the most revealing and an amazing study of what happens when one undergoes an enlightenment experience without keeping his head on and his wits about him. William Yenner's book "American Guru" tells the awful tales of those hurt by one who becomes an absolutist following an enlightenment experience.
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on December 12, 2012
Yenner does an outstanding job answering questions I've had about why intelligent, thoughtful people feel the need to follow people like Andrew Cohen. Yenner exposes Andrew's organization not as an evil empire, nor does he call Andrew a monster. He simply tells how, little by little, Andrew went from spiritual guide to master manipulator, and how his students (including Yenner) became willing partners in the game.

I previously knew enough about Andrew's group to know that Yenner is telling the truth in this book. Highly recommended.
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on November 10, 2015
A must read for anyone who ever had doubts about moving on from a guru. Well written , a healing read.
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on October 25, 2009
Congratulations and thanks to William Yenner and all the contributors to this exceptionally clear, important book, American Guru.

It is an open secret that followers of Andrew Cohen are subjected to abuse and exploitation that has nothing to do with spirituality, and everything to do with the pathological narcissism of Andrew Cohen. Former followers have spoken out, in this volume, with great courage and honesty.

It would be wonderful to see such honesty and courage demonstrated by other leaders of the New Age movement. Instead of rationalizing and minimizing the extent of these abuses, instead of ignoring and dismissing the experiences of former followers, wouldn't it be wonderful if people like Ken Wilber, Genpo Roshi, Rupert Sheldrake, Deepak Chopra, Bernie Glassman, etc, could have the courage and the integrity to pay attention, to take up the cause of Cohen's former members, and confront Cohen publicly?

If such celebrities of the New Age do not have this kind of courage and integrity, at least William Yenner and the authors of this book do - and their work will be of enormous benefit to those who have been cruelly violated and betrayed by Andrew Cohen, in the name of spirituality.

Daniel Shaw, L.C.S.W., author of Traumatic Abuse in Cults: A Psychoanalytic Perspective
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on October 30, 2009
As someone who spent little more than a year in Andrew Cohen's community (1988-89), I have mostly kept myself apart from the online rumble. However, reading Bill Yenner's "American Guru" was a fine refresher in the reasons I left relatively quickly.

I will only briefly echo the praise this book has rightfully received. It's honest, humble, and complete without dragging the reader through every horrifying abuse that Cohen has perpetrated (and which is available on the What Enlightenment blog expose for those with the stomach for it.)

If I am equally honest with myself, I have to admit that I saw the cult dynamics at work from the very beginning. I saw otherwise mature people acting slavish and infantilized to meet Cohen's tacit expectation of devotion. A fellow student shared with me her letter to Andrew in which she so thoroughly demonized herself for (fill in the blank: arrogance, ego, selfishness) that it took all the denial I could muster not to see it as the introjection of Cohen's own shadow. When, after a few months, I was offered the plum assignment of editing the transcripts of Andrew's talks, it was just as quickly taken away when I did not drop everything, run to his house with an armful of flowers, and throw myself at his feet in gratitude (all part of the unwritten rulebook).

The final straw for me was attending a series of brutal, 70s-style men's group encounters where the designated scapegoat would be psychically flayed by the community members he had entrusted his spiritual well-being to. When I dared to raise a question about whether this was an effective way of working with the wayward student (leaving aside such wimpy notions as compassion), I drew the collective ire of the group upon myself. I was berated for days, until my own good sense caught up with me and gave me permission to leave.

The point? Whatever stupendous and transcendent experiences I had (and we all had them), the corruption was there from the start. Cohen's own demons were not vanquished upon meeting Poonja-ji. To the lasting sorrow of all who have thrown away their autonomy for him, those demons were given free rein and given the name "Master".
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