I started writing stories shortly after I left Andrew Cohen’s spiritual community in 2001. At first those stories were an attempt to preserve the most profound and transformative experiences that I had as a student of this charismatic guru. Over time, writing became a way for me to also remember experiences that were so traumatic that I had blocked them out. After I had regained some of my confidence, I saw many of these stories from a new perspective – what had once seemed wonderful now looked terrifying.
This memoir represents the evolution of my understanding about why I joined the community, why I stayed, what I got out of it and the last straw that caused me to leave. This is a story about idealism abused and power used to control and manipulate. My story is not unique – most of us from this or other cults have similar stories, some with profoundly tragic results. Paradise and Promises – Chronicles of my life with a self-declared, modern-day Buddha is a testament to what we experienced, both up-lifting and damaging. While still valuing the precious nature of spirituality, it is my hope that this will serve as a warning to those considering following a spiritual teacher and help in the healing process for those that have escaped this life.
Marlowe Sand recollects 15 years pursuing spiritual freedom as a student of guru Andrew Cohen. For a wife and mother from the remote English countryside, meeting a modern-day, radical Buddha bore extreme consequences. Sand captures the interior experience of being drawn ever deeper into the cult of a charismatic and despotic guru. She invites the reader to share her journey from love and liberation to painful alienation and, finally, disillusionment. Sand doesn’t blame; instead she paints a picture of a complex, dangerous phenomenon. While she is unambiguous about the destructive nature of the community and each participant’s responsibility for its co-creation, Sand’s reckoning is ultimately with herself. Paradise and Promises is a spiritual memoir only by coincidence. More importantly, it is a reflection on choices, consequences and reconciliation.
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