Leonard Cohen talks about why he moved to the Mt Baldy Zen Center


I really like that life, it’s very regulated and it has some kind of a military crispness to it . And then, you’re doing it for a reason, it’s not to build up your muscles, it’s not just a macho exercise, it’s to kind of cook your mind so that you can hear what you’re saying, because you can’t hear what you’re saying if you’re full of yourself. … you know most of us are not open most of the time, we pretend that we are open, but mostly you’re running your own dramatic event of which you are the hero or the heroine. Usually that’s what we are doing most of the time.

So there you get so tired that you can’t pretend, and that’s all that a monastery is. They make you so tired that you give up pretending.

The youth stops being so important, you’ re too tired to maintain the hero that you think you are or the failure that you think you are, whatever the version of yourself that you bought into is … Those versions of yourself are not very useful. I mean, they’re useful when you’ve got to operate, but they’re not useful up there. We all need those versions of ourselves, and it’s perfectly alright. I mean – you’ve got to be an interviewer, I’ve got to be the guy who has written Suzanne or whatever it is – we have to be the things that we are, so that the enterprise can unfold appropriately. But when you’re up there, those versions of yourself they’re not useful. They make sure through lack of sleep, and hard work that, if you’re lucky you can let those things go and actually learn a thing or two. You just get a little more open.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From a 2005 interview with Kari Hesthamar for Norwegian radio

Credit Due Department: Photo by Cynthia Krause from Whittier, California – Flickr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikipedia Commons. Originally posted October 15, 2010 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen On His Legacy As A Jew

The point is that I don’t know what it is not to be Jewish so when people ask ‘do you define yourself in terms of Jewishness?’ such questions tend to have a fictional, irrelevant sound to them. I was brought up as a Jew just as I was brought up to believe I am a member of a hereditary priesthood and that I can give the ancient priestly benediction that binds the generations, one to another. That’s part of my legacy. And I was also brought up with a sense of time and of a people who have defined themselves as outside of time, to whom history has already happened.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From Read Leonard Cohen’s exclusive interview with Hot Press from 1988 by Joe Jackson (Hot Press: 11 Nov 2016)

Leonard Cohen On Jesus Christ

I don’t think in all of human history there has been a person who has so closely identified himself with the downtrodden, the outsiders, the victims; criminals, prostitutes… people talk about that, but that man he really spoke to them… he talked about the human predicament and about compassion…quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Interview With Leonard Cohen. France-Inter: October 6, 1997.Transcription of the radio program Synergie With Jean-Luc Esse And Leonard Cohen. Translated from French by Nick Halliwell, UK. Accessed at LeonardCohenFiles.

Also see

Leonard Cohen “There has always been a religious side to my work. Most of my songs have confused God and woman.”

There has always been a religious side to my work. Most of my songs have confused God and woman. In Dance Me To The End Of Love, I’m not trying to make it literal; I’m trying to make it sing.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen Work Finds A Place by Mary Campbell (AP – Kentucky New Era: June 29, 1985). Note: Originally posted Sep 13, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Explains Why “It’s a very bad idea to try to escape from time”

Cindy Buissaillon: I wonder how you respond to the idea of time and, from your zen point of view, perhaps, whether our linear idea of time has, in some way, caught up with us? And that there is a way to escape this notion of time, time no longer.

Well it’s a very bad idea to try to escape from time because you’ll be late for all your appointments and you won’t be able to get your kids to school on time. So, of course we have a dream and an appetite to dissolve time, and not feel it rushing at us or catching up on us. So it’s important to be able to hold both, to be able to experience both the absolute crushing urgency of them and to be able to dissolve it. Well, almost all the religions I know about provide the technology for experiencing this great affair without the conditioning factor of time. But you can’t live in that world either. So, the Book of Revelations, is a kind of manual. It’s wonderful poetry and it’s wonderful revelation and it certainly does fulfil that great characteristic of charged writing by pulling the rug out from under you, and you are in a new world, and there is a new Jerusalem, and you are ready to embrace the notion of newness and rebirth and of a new cosmos, and it invites you to unfold that reality in your own heart and in your own life, that dissolving of time.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen


Leonard Cohen, interviewed by Cindy Buissaillon for CBC Radio on August 25, 1995. Note: Originally posted April 12, 2011 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

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 []