Andrew Cohen is an American spiritual teacher, bestselling author, and founder of the global nonprofit EnlightenNext and its award-winning publication, EnlightenNext magazine. His original teaching of Evolutionary Enlightenment redefines spiritual awakening within the context of cosmic evolution and highlights a new understanding of God or Spirit as the creative impulse toward change in both self and culture.
His bestselling book, Evolutionary Enlightenment: A New Path to Spiritual Awakening is the product of his 26 years of work and has garnered praise from some of today’s leading spiritual and cultural figures as one of the most important spiritual works of our time. Andrew lives and works at the EnlightenNext headquarters in Western Massachusetts and spends much of his time travelling around the world giving retreats, seminars, and public talks about Evolutionary Enlightenment.
Question: How would a cultural revolution manifest itself?
Andrew Cohen: Well, I think to put this in the most simple developmental model we can look at individual and cultural evolution as a leap from egocentric, which would be the perspective of a small baby, right, egocentric, which only I exist, egocentric to ethnocentric. Ethnocentric is when we are only identified with our own blood line, our own family, our own tribe; everyone else is other. So there’s egocentric to ethnocentric.
Then to world centric. But before we get to world centric there’s two subcategories and one would be mythocentric because when we take the leap from egocentric to ethnocentric, from ethnocentric there’s a leap to when we begin to share the same creation myth. All the great traditions share their own creation story. So when we begin to share the same creation stories, creation myths, with other individuals our sense of being connected suddenly leaps from just our own blood line, to everyone else that shares our particular religious world view. So that would be a mythocentric.
And there’s another subcategory which would be nation centric, which is when we have a strong sense of national identity, for example I’m an American.
So it’d be egocentric to ethnocentric to mythocentric, nation centric, finally to world centric.
And world centric it is the level I’m sure that most of the people that would be listening to this talk today, which is when the individual realizes that, first and foremost, he or she is a human being, a member of the human species and a citizen of the planet earth.
While I also am a member of a citizen of a particular nation, a member of a particular ethnic group, have a particular personal egoic experience, I see all those things in the context of being a human being, a member of the human family, a citizen of the planet earth first and foremost. So I think that the most important I think revolution that has to happen is this leap from ethnocentric- in terms of the world predicament we’re in is the leap from ethnocentric and nation centric- and mythocentric and nation centric to world centric because when we all realize that we’re all human beings who are basically equal as citizens of this one planet it’s going to become much easier for us to come together and solve our collective problems.
But there is a leap from world centric to cosmocentric and cosmocentric is when we begin to see, as I’ve been saying, our own capacity for consciousness and cognition as a product of this deep time developmental process. Then we begin to see everything that is happening, including everything that’s happening on a global scale, from the perspective of the evolving cosmos itself. So the bigger our perspective, the more inclusive our way of thinking is going to be and less exclusive, and of course the more human beings who have a capacity to think in more inclusive ways, we’re going to be thinking about our problems as not just the problems of a particular group of people or a particular culture but we’re going to see everything that’s happening more in a global context.
Question: What are the challenges of making these leaps and who is making them?
Andrew Cohen: Well, I think a lot of people are beginning to take- to move towards this kind of leap now I think for several reasons, I think because more and more people realize that we’re all facing a global crisis right now, especially in relationship to global warming for example.
And that simple fact is compelling many people to transcend ethnocentric differences and also nation centric distinctions because from the perspective of the global warming we’re all basically in the same mess even though some of us are obviously going to be suffering more than others. It’s that plus the leap in our capacity to communicate because we can communicate at such a speed and such a rate. I think those two factors very specifically are making it unavoidably apparent that we’re all really part- that we’re all part of one world system, one world process.
And I also feel that many individuals who are products of this postmodern secular cultural environment with values that are basically based on materialism and narcissism do yearn for a deeper context, yearn for a deeper sense of connection, a sense of connection that’s inherently spiritual, in order to find a source of strength, a sense of connectedness, but- and a source of power, a source of empowerment, in which to be able to live this life with courage and passion.
Recorded on: April 28, 2008.