Daring to Bear Witness.

Via Andrew Cohen
on Mar 8, 2011
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It’s a big challenge being a spiritual teacher in a secular culture.

What could be more disconcerting than being a religious authority in a world where there is no consensus about whether God actually exists! In traditional cultures at least, there was some agreement as to who God was and where He lived and how He could be reached. But for those of us who live in a post-traditional worldspace, the Creator has long since disappeared from the sky above, and with Him has vanished any sense of that which is higher than, or transcendent to, our earthly existence. The “rational” values of the culture that we live in may have freed us from the myths of the past, but unfortunately they have also undermined our capacity to have any faith in the unseen metaphysical domains of our innermost interiors. So any individuals who are bold enough or crazy (or sane?) enough to assume the position of being representatives of that which is transcendent, within this culture of secular relativism and scientific materialism, are putting themselves in a very difficult position indeed.

I remember soon after I became a committed seeker in my early twenties being asked by a casual acquaintance what I “did.” After briefly describing to him my day job, I then proceeded to explain what I was really up to and what I was trying to attain. His puzzled look seemed to go on forever. Then there was the beautiful blonde I’d been flirting with at around that same time. All was going well until we went out to dinner one fateful evening and I inevitably shared my passion for enlightenment and higher consciousness and spoke of how fascinated and compelled I was by all the Eastern masters I was meeting and spending time with. That was the last time I ever saw her.

Awakened men and women are those who have recognized spiritual domains as being more real and true than anything else. But if our shared culture doesn’t have the eyes to see what they see and know what they know, such men and women usually end up being perceived as irrational, self-deceived, and deluded—as representatives of the false. Indeed, authentic holders of timeless spiritual truths are often thought to be hucksters and con artists because they boldly dare to bear witness to the unseen.

In the ancient premodern world, that ultimate context was validated by shared myths and religious beliefs and was empowered by the supercharged energy of awakened consciousness in inspired prophets and seers. Today we no longer have myths to rely on to validate our spiritual illumination. Together we need to create a post-traditional consensus about the great significance and place of Spirit in the human experience, and this has to be generated by those of us who have seen beyond the veil of appearances and have experienced those deeper metaphysical domains to such a profound degree that we’re willing to bear witness in public. But to be taken seriously, we must do so in a way that points us not only beyond the myth and superstition of the ancients but also beyond the naïve idealism predominant in so much of New Age thinking. We must be ruthless in our rationality in order to authentically transmit the light of the trans-rational God in the twenty-first century. This is an enormous task, but our willingness to take it on will slowly but surely make a profound difference.


Join Andrew Cohen and 25 religious and cultural visionaries on Saturday, March 26th for a free 8-hour audio webcast celebrating the transformative power of the teacher-student relationship. Register to hear this series of deeply inspiring stories of lumination under the guidance of some of the greatest historic and contemporary spiritual masters, and receive a free mp3 recording of the entire event.



About Andrew Cohen

Andrew Cohen is an American spiritual teacher and visionary thinker widely recognized for his original contribution to the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality. Through his talks, retreats, publications, and ongoing dialogues with the leading philosophers, mystics, and activists of our time, he is becoming a defining voice in an international alliance of individuals and organizations that are committed to the transformation of human consciousness and culture. The founder and editor in chief of the international, award-winning EnlightenNext magazine, formerly What Is Enlightenment?, Cohen is dedicated to creating “nothing less than a revolution in consciousness and culture.” Since 1991, Cohen and his small team of editors have met with mystics and materialists, physicists and philosophers, activists and athletes in an effort to create a popular forum for dialogue and inquiry regarding the meaning of human life in the postmodern era. You can follow him on his Facebook page. Download a free chapter of Andrew's book, Evolutionary Enlightenment, by clicking here. You can also join him for a series of free monthly broadcasts by registering here.


8 Responses to “Daring to Bear Witness.”

  1. Morgan says:

    If you haven't checked out the fabulous web cast that Enlightennext is hosting, I suggest everyone do so at http://www.enlightennext.org/webcasts. There is also a very cool contest associated with the event called, "Who is your spiritual hero?" You can register for the contest at: http://www.facebook.com/andrewzcohen?sk=app_95936….

  2. Joel Pitney says:

    This is such an incredibly brave stand for spirit in a world that often undervalues this central aspect of human life!!! Thank you Andrew for taking this stand and making it public.

  3. Aterah Nusrat says:

    I think this webcast is going to be a very interesting display of the different types of teacher-student relationships that well known spiritual leaders and consciousness experts of our times – from across a wide range of backgrounds and religions-have benefited from. I was checking out some of the people who will be speaking on the day, and, as an ex-pat Brit 🙂 I'm looking forward to hearing biologist and consciousness researcher, Rupert Sheldrake speak about his teacher, Father Bede Griffiths – 'the monk with the universal heart'. You can check out who else will be speaking.. and who they will be speaking about on the EnlightenNext Editors' Blog here: http://magazine.enlightennext.org/category/editor… (There's also some cool stuff on there about Women's International Day, and the hundreds of women who marched in Tahrir Square in Egypt recently).

  4. Meg Cater says:

    I find this post to be quite a testament of what it takes to stand for a spiritual life outside of the traditional religions. Most of us who are educated postmoderns and are interested in spirituality keep it very internal, maybe only sharing our passion with a few close acquaintances whom we know are supportive. It is generrally out of the public eye, where it can't be challenged by cynicism or doubt about deeper realities. Once we step out and make a stand for Spiritual truth such as Andrew Cohen is doing so fully, and especially if it is one that is not backed away from even when we are faced with personal criticism, then it becomes something radical for the world. It allows other people to take their our own spiritual longings seriously, and we begin to understand the trials that great women and men who have chosen to take such a stand throughout history have had to endure. It is such a gift to begin to understand all this! Thank you Andrew!

  5. Jody Paterson says:

    This is so true to my experience of being deeply passionate about spirit, but living in a culture (especially here in the super secular UK) where spirit isn't recognized. I actually live very close to a church that has been made into apartments. Not that it is a bad thing but shows how much our culture today has let go of spirit. But it's exciting to take a stand and say Spirit is Higher (because it is 🙂 and also look to making it culturally relevant again – how cool would that be!

  6. Steve says:

    Does anyone know what he is actually saying with all the load terms and concepts in this article?? Sure, it sounds great and elevated, inspirational and spiritual, but does it actualy make any sense and does he even know what he's talking about? If we look more closely the article is filled with erroneous beliefs and statements are passed off as true solely because of the credibility of the "teacher". Take the following statement from the text and ask yourself this question, Is this true: ____ "Awakened men and women are those who have recognized spiritual domains as being more real and true than anything else."____Is it true that spiritual domains are more REAL or more TRUE than ANYTHING else ? (I think he means everything else) Before making such a statement the writer would have had to establish what "real" means and what "Truth" is.

  7. Holly says:

    This is such a powerful post. I myself, here in NYC, have often felt like a "closet spiritual seeker" but not fully understanding why, when we seem to live in the city that exemplifies freedom of everything. But understanding, with the help of people like Cohen, Ken Wilber, and Don Beck, I have learned that it has to do with the values of post modernism itself. When I went to India my one and only time, I felt like I could stand on any street corner and shout "I am spiritual! I dedicate my life to the spiritual path!" and I'd fit right in. Until then, the closest I'd get to that is telling people "I do yoga"…which gave enough space if the person I was talking to was uncomfortable with the idea of spirituality. And there is good reason, like Cohen here touches upon. I remember growing up in the mid-west as a very little kid hearing about Jim Jones, Patty Heart and the Manson murders. It seemed to have a deep effect on consciousness at the time – I remember my mother and her friends talking about it endlessly, being deeply skeptical of "spirituality" as an option, one that lacks rationality and freedom of choice. And this skepticism has lasted a long time in not just people like my Mom. It's everywhere. That's why I love this line in this post:
    "We must be ruthless in our rationality in order to authentically transmit the light of the trans-rational God in the twenty-first century. This is an enormous task, but our willingness to take it on will slowly but surely make a profound difference." Thank you for this!

  8. Dan says:

    Steve. In you post you seem to be implying that there is something "more real" than ego. If that's the case then you seem to know very well that some things are "more real" than others. The only way one can find verification of Andrew's statement that spiritual domains are more real and true than that which we ordinarily perceive would be to do the experiment and discover whether or not this is true oneself. As Ken Wilber would say, you have to perform the injunctions of the mystical path in order to discover what the great mystics and sages discovered. And they pretty much all report back that what they found was something more real and true than anything else they'd experienced in life. It's hard to dismiss hundreds, maybe thousands of cross-cultural, cross traditional first hand reports of this kind of realization. Have you looked for yourself? I mean really looked? As Andrew says, we have to have the eyes to see these truths. Otherwise is sounds like so much nonsense. But if we really look – with sincerity and commitment and a lack of cynicism, we might find something truly extraordinary which the great masters have been trying to point us towards throughout the ages.