“I have a Conde guitar, which was made in Spain” Leonard Cohen – Conde Guitar Shop On Gravina Street, Madrid

condeshopLeonard Cohen’s allusions to his Conde guitar in his masterful 2011 Prince of Asturias Awards Speech resulted in an increased awareness of and interest in the tradition and craftsmanship associated with such instruments. A recently published story, Welcome to Madrid’s Conde workshop, guitar maker to the stars by Joe Duggan (The Olive Press: 7 Jan, 2017), speaks to the reaction of the Conde family to Leonard Cohen’s speech:

Following Leonard Cohen’s death in November, the celebrated international artist’s moving speech at the Prince Of Asturias Awards was widely circulated on social media, revealing an astonishing secret not even the Conde family knew. Cohen had played a Conde guitar for 40 years. The speech was an extraordinary, poetic homage to Spain, to flamenco and to Conde craftsmanship, with Cohen acknowledging the debt he owed … It came as a complete surprise to the Conde clan that one of the world’s most famous musicians had one of their guitars and actually attributed it to his success.

“When he bought the guitar from my grandfather, Leonard Cohen wasn’t famous, he was really young,” says Felipe Jr. My grandfather liked classical guitar and flamenco music… When they gave Cohen the Prince of Asturias prize he spoke and we were like, ‘Wow, he has one of our guitars’. We didn’t know. You don’t hear very often any words of gratitude from the artists that play your guitars.”


Related Post:

Now In English: El duende español de Leonard Cohen – The Spanish Duende of Leonard Cohen

Credit Due Department: Photos by Gema Alonso

Going Clear: Leonard Cohen & Scientology

church_of_scientology_building_in_los_angeles_fountain_avenueYes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

From Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen had a brief connection with Scientology, an artifact of which is his use of a single Scientology reference (“go clear”) in a single song, Famous Blue Raincoat. This post summarizes information about Leonard Cohen’s experience with Scientology and the use of “go clear” in Famous Blue Raincoat.

Going Clear

Question: Some of the articles about you over the years have indicated that you’ve dabbled or more than dabbled in various kinds of spiritual paths. Is the line, “Did you ever go clear?” from Famous Blue Raincoat a Scientology reference?

Leonard Cohen: It was a Scientology reference.1 I looked into a lot of things. Scientology was one of them. It did not last very long. But it is very interesting, as I continue my studies in these matters, to see how really good Scientology was from the point of view of their data, their information, their actual knowledge, their wisdom writings, so to speak. It wasn’t bad at all. It is scorned, and I don’t know what the organization is like today, but it seems to have all the political residue of any large and growing organization. Yes, I did look into that and other things. from the Communist Party to the Republican Party, from Scientology to delusions of myself as the High Priest rebuilding the Temple.2

About that “going clear” thing …

Question: With Scientology, did you ever ‘go clear’?

Leonard Cohen: Probably.

Question: Officially?

Leonard Cohen: No.3


A photo of Leonard Cohen attending a Scientology Dianetics Course at the New York Org can be viewed at WhyWeProtest.

From The Biographies

Cohen’s dislocated situation in New York led him to exploring different sexual, spiritual and pharmaceutical pathways, and one was Scientology. In 1968, as he was driving down Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood, with Joni Mitchell, she spotted a building with a number of women wearing saris and handing out material. Above the door a large sign which read “Scientology”. “What is Scientology?” she asked Cohen. “Oh, some crackpot religion,” he replied. A few weeks later, he called form New York to say that he’d joined them and that they were going to rule the world. But a few months later, Cohen told Mitchell he was disenchanted and that he’d had some difficulty extricating himself from it. Initially, Scientology offered the goal of a ”clear path”, (“Did you ever go clear?” he asks in “Famous Blue Raincoat”). Cohen had also heard that it was a good place to meet women. On June 17th, 1968, Cohen received a Scientology certificate awarding him “Grade IV – release.”4

More specifically, Cohen’s certificate confirmed him as a “Senior Dianetic, Grade IV Release.”  In addition to Cohen’s general disenchantment with Scientology, he was also angry that “the organization had begun to exploit his name.”5

It Turns Out The Scientology Center Was A Place To Meet Women

Suzanne Elrod, who is the mother of Leonard Cohen’s children, Adam and Lorca, gives this account of their meeting:

It was early Spring 1969. We both seemed to have signed up for a Scientology class the same day. He was getting into the elevator at the Scientology Center as I was coming out of it and our eyes locked. Some days later, we both took seats near each other. Although I had another person I was living with, I left that relationship immediately for Leonard and moved into the Chelsea with him.6

Cohen Talks About The Mysterious “Clear”

In this 2007 interview with Mark Lawson, Leonard Cohen talks about Scientology (beginning at 11:11):

Scientology As One More Exploration

“I was always going off the deep end” – Leonard Cohen

Question: Your last album, The Future, was successful and you had a fiancee, Rebecca de Mornay — and you left to live in a monastery?

Leonard Cohen: Well, I was always going off the deep end, so it was no radical departure. When I finished my tour in ‘93 I was approaching the age of 60 and my old friend and teacher Roshi was approaching the age of 90, and I thought it would be the right moment to spend some more time with him. So I entered a monastery 6,500 feet up on Mount Baldy and I stayed there for six years as his cook, among my many duties. I’d always been associated with Roshi and his community — for 30 years. He’s 94, in radiant health. He’ll probably outlive most of his students.

Question: What were you looking for?

Leonard Cohen: I wasn’t looking for a new religion or another list of dogma.

Question: Since the ’60s you have often appeared to be enjoying the hunt — I Ching, Scientology…

Leonard Cohen: Yes, I participated in all those investigations. I even danced and sang with the Hare Krishnas. No robe — I didn’t join them! But of course I was interested in all these matters that engaged the imagination of my generation at the time.7

So, Leonard Cohen, the descendant of a long line of rabbis, a frequent attendee at his nanny’s Catholic church, an ordained Buddhist monk who spent five years in a Buddhist monastery, a student of Hinduism with a guru in India, a chanter of the Hare Krisna mantra, and a reader of the Bible and the Bhagavad-gita, was briefly involved with Scientology.8,9 As the man says, “It was no radical departure.”


Credit Due Department: Photo atop post by PictorialEvidence – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons

Note: Originally posted Jun 27, 2014 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. From Wikipedia-Clear: “Clear” is the condition in which Scientologists say a person is free of the influence of unwanted emotions and memories of trauma. Source: Dianetics: The Modern Science of Mental Health by L Ron Hubbard (1950) []
  2. Jewish Book News Interview With Leonard Cohen by Arthur Kurzweil And Pamela Roth: 1994. []
  3. Felonious Monk by Sylvie Simmons. MOJO: November 2001. []
  4. Various Positions by Ira Nadel. New York: Pantheon, 1996. P 60 []
  5. I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012 []
  6. I’m Your Man by Sylvie Simmons. Ecco: 2012 []
  7. Felonious Monk by Sylvie Simmons. MOJO: November 2001. []
  8. Given that Leonard Cohen seems to have never met a cult he didn’t like, I believe that if he had spent some time in my native Ozarks, there might be an album or two with references to Serpent Handling. Heck, that odd chanting he does in his stage performances of “Darkness” sound a lot like speaking in tongues to me. []
  9. Of course, Mr Cohen has been accused of heading his own cult. See Oh My Cohen! They’re Calling Us A Cult []

Interpretations of “Jikan,” The Name Given Leonard Cohen As A Zen Monk By Roshi


The meaning of “Jikan,” the name Roshi gave Leonard Cohen when the Canadian singer-songwriter was ordained a Zen monk, has arisen numerous times since Leonard’s death. While not an exhaustive survey, the information below is revealing:

Silent One

On August 9, 1996, Leonard Cohen was ordained a Zen Buddhist monk  at the Mount Baldy Zen Center. A contemporaneous Montreal Mirror article, The Ordination Of The Artist Formerly Known As Leonard Cohen by Ann Diamond, reported

From now on he’ll be known as “Jikan”, a dharma name meaning “Silent One”. 1

Noble Silence

In Ode to Leonard Cohen, From a Fellow Zen Monk by Shozan Jack Haubner (New York Times: Dec. 6, 2016), we read

His monk’s name, Jikan, means “noble silence”

Ordinary Silence, Normal Silence, Just Ok Everything Don’t Sweat It Silence

In Feb 22, 2005, Jarkko Arjatsalo posted Leonard Cohen’s message to him on the subject at LeonardCohenForum:

I never suggested that Jikan meant ‘The Silent One’
that somehow got into the air
and was taken up by journalists –
whenever I’ve been asked
I’ve given Roshi’s bad English translation
which is something like:
“ordinary silence, normal silence, just ok
everything don’t sweat it silence”

Roshi always got pissed off when people wanted to explore the deep meanings of the names he’d given them – new versions of their self-importance he wasn’t trying to honour you with some poetic revelation of your adorable nature that he had discerned he was just trying to give you a name that he could remember and he has his own private associational method I won’t go into the matter, but Jikan was someone in his own life that he knew very well.

Normal Silence

In The silence between two thoughts, Sylvie Simmons reports this conversation with Leonard Cohen:

SS: Roshi gave you a new name?

LC: Roshi has given me a few names. When I was ordained as a zen monk, Roshi gave me the name Jikan.

SS: Is that the one that’s been variously translated as Silent One and Solitary Cliff?

LC: No, the other one was ‘Solitary Cliff’. But you know, Roshi doesn’t speak English very well so you don’t really know what he means by the names he gives you and he prefers it that way because he doesn’t want people to indulge themselves in the poetic quality of these traditional monks’ names.

SS: That’s cruel – I’d want to throw myself into the deep end of their poetic qualities.

LC: Yes, that’s the trouble. I have asked him what Jikan meant many times, at the appropriate moment over a drink, and he says ‘Normal silence’ or ‘Ordinary Silence’ or ‘The silence between two thoughts’.

SS: Dangerously poetic.

LC: Yes.

SS: So you became Ordinary Silence after Solitary Cliff?

LC: I was Solitary Cliff for a while. You can just call me Cliff!

Spacious Spontaneity

Most redently, Remembering Leonard Cohen by Shinzen Young (shinzen.org: December 28, 2016) offers these thoughts on “Jikan:”

There’s a bit of discussion on the internet about the meaning of Leonard’s Buddhist name, Jikan (自閑). In East Asia dharma names consists of two Chinese characters read in the local pronunciation (Sino-Japanese, Sino-Korean, Sino-Vietnamese, or Chinese itself). The first character in Leonard’s Buddhist name, 自 (read ji- in Sino-Japanese), means natural or spontaneous. The second character, 閑(read –kan in Sino-Japanese), is a little harder to translate. It implies the temporal analog of spaciousness—an effortless, unhurried mode of being. So a loose translation might be something like Spacious Spontaneity. The name is apt. You sense it when you listen to him sing.


  1. Source: LeonardCohenFiles []

Tad Kubler of Hold Steady on Leonard Cohen: “He was very, very, very nice”


Q: How was the Leonard Cohen shoot?

I literally got however long it takes to shoot three rolls of film. You know, that was about the time I had with him. So it was pretty quick. But he was generous. He was really great. He was very, very, very nice. He couldn’t have been cooler.quotedown2

Tad Kubler


Tad Kubler (of Hold Steady) on photographing Leonard Cohen. From Tad Kubler of The Hold Steady talks with Marvel.com . Credit Due Department: Photo by Hey yo dflo – Photo taken on December 31, 2012 using a smartphone at Wellmont Theatre in Montclair, NJ., CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia. Note: Originally posted November 13, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“Well, what can you say except that [the Leonard Cohen Columbus show] was one of the greatest concerts I have ever experienced”


Well, what can you say except that it was one of the greatest concerts I have ever experienced, let alone the best of the year: Leonard Cohen at the Palace Theatre this past October. First, the sound quality. Amazing. Every syllable, every lyrical nuance, everything was nearly as perfect as could be. Or maybe, just maybe, the show really was perfect. This Cohen fellow, he’s in real life some sort of registered, karma-toting, certified Zen monk, so perhaps we saw actual perfection—something that, say, the Eagles could never hope to achieve. As a cosmic Jew, Cohen has more soul and charisma than any 10 Tin Pan Alley-types and more than quadruple what that other cosmic Jew, Bob Dylanquotedown2


MAJOR MINOR: Did the year’s best concert attain perfection? By John Petric, The Other Paper, Columbus, Ohio. Update: Article no longer online. Credit Due Department: Photo by M—–l Note: Originally posted December 30, 2009 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric