current suggested assesment
back to alphabetical listing
|Gurus/Teachers||Rudi, Muktananda, Scientology|
|Important Disciples and Devotees||Sanuel Bonder, Ken Wilber.|
|Critics (includes ex-devotees and others)||The Daism Seminar, Derek Bishop, Geoff Falk, Georg Feuerstein, Andrew P. Smith, Ken Wilber ( daist response)|
|Abuses|| Sexual - High
Financial - Extreme
Emotional - High
Thought - High, uses 3 Cards Trick
Antagonism - Da: None; followers: Mild to Moderate
Information (organisation) - Extreme
External - None
Cultism - Moderate?
|Assesment||An exceptional figure, the classic ambiguous Intermediate zone guru, helping many, harming others; not a narcissist, but an inflationist. Highly intelligent, with a voluminous literary output and an extraordinary powerful and striking style of presentation. I have argued that Ken Wilber's developmental "integral psychology" (and hence Integral theory as a whole) derives ultimately from Da. Especially touching, but little known, is Da's consideration for animals; Ramana Maharshi was the same. Nevertheless many negative attributes in Da's manner of teaching, and the number of traumatised people he has left in his wake, makes Da a highly problematic figure|
My blog comment on Da Free John / Adi Da, following his recent death
Da is not an easy person to write about. But I try to present as honest and objective a picture of this interesting figure as possible.
Da Free John, known by his devotees as Adi Da (I am calling him "Da Free John" because this is one of the names he used before his current Adidam Revelation stage) is an American who comes from an Eastern (Tantric-Vedantic-Mahayanist) perspective, although his teachings and his own accounts of the Realised state of consciousness are unique. His devotees refer to him as Adi Da or Adi Da Samraj, never just Da. Originally called Franklin Jones, he was a follower for a while of Swami Muktananda. Muktananda gave him the name "Dhyanananda" which means "he whose bliss comes through meditation." Muktananda authorized him to teach then, but Da did not do so because he felt that his enlightenment was incomplete.
Da Free John's enlightenment event took place in the Vedanta Society temple in Los Angeles in September 1970. It was only several years later that he changed his name to Bubba Free John, then Da Free John, which is the name I still think of him as, owing to the fact that when I read his stuff he still went under that name. Then, the name Love-Ananda was given to him by Muktananda (but not the Da part (as is sometimes reported), just Love-Ananda. This has been documented in a letter that Amma translated for Muktananda to Adi Da which one devotee, Lisa Haydon, informs me she has seen herself.) After that it was Da Kalki, after the 10th or Kalki avatar of Hindu mythology. As a justification for this the fact that the horse is the symbol of Da Free John's 7th stage enlightenment, and the Kalki avatar is supposed to ride on a white horse, has been proferred. Traditionally the Kalki avatar is an apocalyptic figure who will usher in the end of the world (and the start of a new one). However in Da Free John's teachings, Kalki does not usher in or in any way cause the apocalypse. He comes at the end of the Kaliyuga or dark time in order to usher in the new era. He is the slayer of the darkness or egoity which has grasped the world so tight it can lo longer breath. There is no negative connotation to this person. In any case, that name is no longer used. Nowadays Da Free John is known as "the Ruchira Avatar, Adi Da Love-Ananda Samraj"
Over the years Da Free John has come in for a lot of criticism. He is in fact one of the most controversial guru figures around. My original explanation of Da's strange behaviour, his controversial workshops, his claim to avatarhood, and frequent change of name (the names becoming ever grander) is due to the fact that the experience of the dissolution of ego-boundaries and the experience of the Absolute Reality is so overwhelming to the finite vehicle that complete identification with the totality of the Godhead is often the result. Actually there is nothing new here. Consider the great Sufi Mansur Al-Hallaj's utterance "I am the Truth". And according to monistic philosophy , (and Vedantic terminology) the principle of the Self (Atman) is the same as the principle of the Absolute Reality (Brahman). Yet it is one thing to realise the identity with the Witness Consciousness principle - The Atman - the ground of Being - which seems to be what the Enlightenment experience is all about - but quite another to assert identification with the dynamic manifest Avataric expression of that Absolute.
I have to admit, my experience with Da Free John was mostly pretty positive. I first heard about him when I was at La Trobe University, in the early 1980s. I have gone to a few meetings (although not recently) and seen some videos, spoken to devotees, and read some of his material. I was very impressed with the energy and presence he gave out, and he had a powerful way with words. I found him a much powerful figure, even in the video, than, say, Swami Krishna who I knew at the time (although maybe he has become powerfulsince)or then Osho, who I neverreally resonated with. (However, others may have different \experiences)
For some time I considered Da to be a bodhisattva, a being who was born enlightened, but lost it and then regained it (as he describes in his book The Knee of Listening). Sure, his understanding of someone like Sri Aurobindo is pretty limited, but an imperfect mental understanding is not a slur on one's Enlightenment (the great monist Shankara for example really seemed to have had no idea what Buddhism was all about - if he had he would not have been so opposed to it). And in every other respect Da's teachings are (or rather were) excellent, even if his especially later written style is somewhat hard to read (a common failing among many esoteric teachers). There is no denying Da Free John's writings indicate a strong and profound intellect and a precise and clearly experiential insight into the transcendental state of consciousness. There is a real force and certainty that comes from his words and intonation in his videos, which is impressive. His teachings emphasise the nature of consciousness and ultimate awareness. He also provides an intriguing map of the development of consciousness in terms of "Seven Stages of Life". I found his early book The Enlightenment of the Whole Body to be well written and very apt in its critique of society, religion, etc. His later, voluminous The Dawn Horse Testament (given rave reviews by Ken Wilber (who later published his famous criticism of Da on his web site), which is intended as a study guide on meditation and the spiritual path (it is marked in chunks, so one reads that much each day, then meditates upon it) is rather more dense stylistically, and is intriguing in that almost every word except those associated with the ego and the individual self. This book and others are, as one disciple tells me "'cookbooks' to mystic awareness for the skilled meditator." I myself found The Dawn Horse Testament to be very heavy reading, as it requires you to really get into Da's headspace in order to get anything out of it, and the effect for me personally was rather mild, nowhere equivalent to the pooiwerful presence I feel when reading Ramana Maharshi or Sri Aurobindo and The Mother. Perhaps equivalent to the feeling I get from Muktananda (except with Muktananda tehre is not that overwhelming psychological inflation). But he still has a presence even so.
For me personally, the most impressive and touching of Da's teachings and activities is his Fear-No-More Zoo, set up as home for home for a growing variety of animals, each of which, according to the info on their web site, "are treated as living, feeling beings, rather than as mere stock, or exhibits". (See also the interview by Stuart Camps, the "director " (for want of a better word) of Fear-No-More Zoo.) I have long felt that the true mark of spiritual status is not how a human treats other humans, for it is easy to be good in that context (e.g. because of social expectations, threat of punishment for wrong doing, emotional motivations etc). The really mark of a spiritual being is how they treat both non-human and human beings, i.e. all sentient beings (hence, the biocentric, rather than the merely anthropocentric, position).
I find Da's attempt at a grand synthesis of mystical traditions very interesting, not because of his classification itself (which I consider to be simplistic and certainly overly biased to the Advaitin-Mahayanist conceptions of Enlightenment) as to the sheer granduer of the attempt to even attempt such a thing; something I find inspiring. In this regard he is very like his devotee (or not?) Ken Wilber. Here's the table of contents of all three editions of the Basket of Tolerance, Da's great work of classification and synthesis. I guess you could say it is the original "integral" synthesis of spiritual teachings, coming out a decade before Wilber established his Integral Institute, inspired by a very similar aim of bringing everything together in a grand vision of titality, in which one's own spiritual tecahing is at the top of the pyramid. However now that Da considers himself the only 7th Stage adept past and future he would most likely no longer hold the above system.
Part of Da's polemic for the superiority of his own spiritual credentials is to reinterpret attainments in previous teachings as earlier or lesser stages that he himself has superceded (see comments by Kela on this page (scroll down, also here is the same post on Open integral). This is actually a common Indian yogic ploy, and does indicate some egotism or attempot at one-upmanship, which means that the person saying this cannot be a sadguru. I have seen the some thing in Radhasoami for example.
I have had misgivings about Da Free John at times, through reading the negative literature and reports on him, and also being put off by the rather churchy attitude of his followers (when I went to videos I was surprised at their attitude, it reminded me a lot of the simple naive faith of exoteric Christianity), and his claim to be the avatar of the present age. More recently he has claimed to be the one and only seventh stage realiser, thus contradicting his earlier more tolerant writings. I have also heard some rather negative (but very believable) things from a former (and now disillusioned) student/devotee. Remarks about his chaotic energy and the way that his organisation is run certainly raise serious concerns. Clearly, Da Free John/Adi Da is not an easy person to write about. I have put this page through several revisions - and gotten some criticism from Da devotees - who are often very passionate regarding their guru - because of what I originally said. But I am trying to present as honest and objective a picture of this interesting figure as is possible.
Here are two accounts by former disciples, disillusioned by the activities of Da Free John; The Cult of Da? Conversations with a former devotee, and Problems with Adi Da - by another former devotee. A quick trawl of the web and appropriate newsgroups will reveal many more. The general position of these various ex-disciples, many of whom have been through the whole Da experience, seems to be that whilst Da may have experienced a partial awakening, he has not been able to let go of certain tendencies of ego and self-delusion.
At the same time there are others who have been through the same or similar experiences and remained firm in their devotion to Da Free John, asserting he has attained or embodies the highest state of Enlightenment. Replying to criticisms of abuse of wealth, mistreatment of devotees etc, Lisa Haydon says
"Adi Da is a legal renunciate. He does not own anything and we do not have "estates". We have ashrams. And the more Ashrams world-wide the better. But the institution owns the property and while it is for Adi Da's use it is also for our use. It also must be realized that what Adi Da uses it for is for his work with all of us. It also must be understood that such a realizer should be treated with respect and served greatly so that he will live a very long time. Prosperity is often seen as an evil to spirituality but that is just puritanical error."
My original intention here, and indeed the purpose of this section for some time, was neither to support or to criticise Da. I tried to be objective, and whilst I have my own experiences, felt it better to remain neutral, and leave it to the reader to make up their own mind regarding Da Free John / Adi Da.
But coming back to this webpage after a while, in the light of new experiences and insights, and in view of the fact that I am very opinionated elsewhere (after all, if one wants to write from a "neutral point of view" - assuming such a thing exists (and i don't think it does!) - there is always the wikipedia ) I felt I might as well present my own understanding here.
The following then is my current take on Da Free John / Adi Da / Franklin Jones. I am not saying this should be taken as dogma. It's just my views at present, and these may or may not change in the future
To begin with, while I consider that my original interpretation of the finite personality or outer being (the adhara in Sri Aurobindo's terminology), being so overwhelmed by the experience of the Absolute Reality as to fall into complete identification with the totality of the Godhead, has some merit, it is too simplistic,and fails to explain the abusive and paradoxical nature of gurus like Adi Da. So rather than the Absolute in its purity and totality, it may be that what Da reveals is the Absolute as experienced via, through, and as, what Sri Aurobindo refers to as the Intermediate zone. Moreover, Da is in no way unique in this regard, and most so-called gurus actually pertain to this state.
Note that to ordinary people, the Intermediate Zone is like the highest Godhead, the most supreme and perfect non-dual state, the most profound theistic experience of God, and more, according to the nature of the guru and the aspect of the Intermediate Zone that they bring forth. So it is not the case that this is just some partial and watered down state. No, it is very high indeed. And as far as Intermediate Zone gurus go, Da appears to be among the more potent, a heavyweight, not a trivial guru. So in providing this interpretation I am not saying atht he is nothing,a fake, a con-man, that his experiences amount to nothing. On the contrary, his experiences are very real, as are the experiences of his devotees.
A common feature of IZ gurus is Inflation. That is, their petty, insignificant, human psychophysical personality and ego becomes identified with the vastness of an aspect of the Intermediate Zone, which they and we experience as the Absolute Reality or God or Avatar or whatever, but which in fact is something I call an attractor. More on this a little later
The other common feature is abusive behaviour. If power corrupts, the absolute power of bneing seen to be literally God by hundreds or even thousands of adoring devotees would obviously corrupt absolutely, if the spiritual maturity provided by the Divine Center isn't there. And the weight of evidence presented by Da Free John's critics does indeed seem to indicate that there is real cause for concern in this regard. Even a single case study, the experience of Georg Feuerstein (who has written books on Tantra, Yoga, etc), shows that there are serious problems here. Add to that the claim about the notorious Adidam Revelation, in which he denies all other teachings, even the most advanced, and all other teachers, as being truly enlightened (if I have this point wrong, can someone please write in and let me know? thanks ). Of course, not having been associated with the movement first hand, I can only report the observations of others, but those observations seem to be written from a place of real personal experience.
Back to the Attractor. This represents the key, the powergouse, the engine that drives the whole ambigious guru phenomenon. It is a Light, a Force, a Charisma, that can be and usually is mistaken for God or the Absolute. But what is it?
For a long time I considered that the Light that comes through Da was 100% genuine. I now, while acknowledging the numenous power of this Light, and its transcendent origins, see it as filtered through the Intermediate Zone. This gives it a paradoxical and highly ambiguous and dangerous quality, since it is of the nature of the Intermediate Zone Guru, I have discovered through my research, to harm and traumatise some while equally and at the same helping and uplifting others. The very same actions, the very same guestures, can heal and hurt, depending on the constitution of the individual devotee. I have coined the category Ambigious Guru to refer to this. It would be misleading to simply refer to Adi Da, or to others of similar nature such as Sai Baba, Osho, Trungpa, Andrew Cohen, etc as purely abusive, because there are many who do have positive and uplifting experiences through them, and have been led to a higher spiritual consciousness. At the same way, there is no way that such individuals can be considered completely enlightened either
What happens in the Intermediate Zone is that the Light becomes mixed with other forces, or these forces appropriate the Light for their own use. When one of these, totally transperosnal, totally trans-psychological, forces acts as a center of numenosity and magnetic power of spiritual and devotional attractoion, it can be referred to as an Attractor.
Of course, this is something of an uncomfortable truth for Da devotees, especially those who have benefited from Da's presence (ex-devotees who have suffered can probably on the other hand be more interested). Regarding this, I had a discussion with a Da devotee on Wikipedia. This person objected to the page I had co-authored on the Intermediate zone which mentioned Da. I would like to say that in my discussions with Adi Da devotees I have found them to date to be far more civil than Sai devotees/followers, or at least one Wilberian who for a while had something of a vendetta against me. Whether or not a guru can be judged by their devotees (and I think to some extent they can) this speaks very highly of Da over and against L Ron Hubbard, Sai Baba, PNB, or Ken Wilber.
"Scribe5", the Daist in question, requested that I include a few words from him on my site. I've done so here, because I think that this positive recommendation that he gives of Da so perfectly sums up the paradoxical nature of the intermediate zone guru. "Scribe5", and other Da devotees, and devotees of other ambiguous gurus, should not be thought of as dupes. Their experiences are just as valid as those of the ex-devotees, and vice versa. To uncritically reject is just as bad as to uncritically accept; an understanding of the intermediate zone means going beyond both extremes. Thus:
I think Adi Da’s lasting legacy ( amongst many other things ) will be his understanding and transmission to others ( of that understanding ) of “ egoity “ (note # in the precise manner he defines it ) As it is, there is a blanket dismissal by secular ( naturally ) and past based traditions of his sacrificial “Work” and even “Present” sacrificial existence Speaking from my own experience (and many others I know ) I have found that relationship (to Adi Da as Guru and Realiser ) to be exceptionally and genuinely liberating and En-lightening incomparable to any other meeting or idealistic notion from the past
Compare this with this correspondence from an ex-Daist, as well as the accounts by other former devotees.
Who is true? Both are true! That's the way the intermediate zone works!
In this regard, Da Free John can be distinguished from great individuals like Christ and Buddha, and more recently Ramana Maharshi, Nityananda, and Sri Aurobindo and the Mother in that they really are - even in their psychophysical personalities - great Realisers, who have integrally realised the Supreme, and serve as pure expressions and Incarnations (avatars) of the Supreme, whereas Da himself, although attaininga high state of realisation and enlightenment, at the same time retains his lower passions and addictions, and so (it would seem, but again I would emphasise I am only presenting one point of view, and otehrs are equally valid) never made the Psychic (evolutionary Higher Self) conversion. He is like a high voltage current flowing through a wire that isn't strong enough to contain it, and in the end the tiny little Franklin Jones, that insignificant speck (and in identifying with our egos we are all insignificant specks!!!) in the vast cosmos, claimed to be the one and only revelation, the Supreme Godhead. There is a useful word in psychology that describes this. It is "inflation". Inflation occurs whenever the tiny insignificant speck that is the ego identifies with a being or consciousness or force much greater than itself - an entity of the Intermediate Zone for example, or the Light of Spiritualisation (and there is a big overlap between these two latter in any case)
But Franklin Jones also has a real power, a power that flows through him. I refer to this power as the attractor. and it seems to be a characteristic of many charismatic gurus, something that is highly potent in, and perhaps indigenous to, the Intermediate zone. One finds it in Sai Baba, in Osho, Muktananda, Ken Wilber, it is a very common phenomenon. Even so, one needs to distinguish between the small human personality on the one hand, the intermediate zone attractor or occult charisma which is the source of the Spiritual Light that it itself distorts, on the other
Those who have met Da in person attest to his magnificent, magnetic presence. Even when he is drinking and smoking and screwing the wives of his male devotees, they still refer to that magnetic presence. This is the attractor. There are forces that seek to play with people or inflict suffering for their own amusement; there are foirces that lift up and inspire and help in spiritual development, and their are forces that, paradoxically, involve both contrary aspects, together, at the same time, without contradiction. And these latter are the most beguiling of all.
Here is the problem, the real danger, with the path of the Guru. It is the true path of bhakti, of absolute devotion. The guru takes the role of God, because the Guru - the True Guru - is God, as in the immortal tale of Krishna and Arjuna in the Gita. Thus the Guru is a gateway for the devotee to become one with the Supreme, the same Supreme, in the form of Light and Power and Infinite Love, that manifests through the Guru.
But when the Guru has not yet purified his or her personal nature, as is most often the case, the Light, even if genuine (as it often may be), is distorted through the Intermediate zone. Then things can be very dangerous, because the lower heavy passions and greeds bring in negative occult forces, and people - sincere devotees trusting and dedicating their all - are emotionally and even physically destroyed. The human wreckage in the trail of ambiguous gurus who try to appropriate this Light for themself (but are themselves enslaved by it), the so called crazy wisdom adepts with genuine powers and realisations but incomplete enlightenment and uncontrolled desires, attests to how dangerous it can be to get close to people like this.
As always in these matters, it is upto the seeker to listen with sincerity and humility to the still small voice within, and let themself be guided by that. Then they will know the true guru, and if they need an authentic guru they will be led to one. And if it is necessary for their spiritual development to have an IZ Guru, they will led to one, and will benefit from the positive and good things the Intermediate zone has to offer. But make sure that you don't listen to your ego or neuroses or superficuial pull of your surface nature towards the atrtractor behind an ambigious guru.
|Adi Da Links|
Adidam home page
Fear No More Zoo of Adi Dam
Adi Da and Adidam: Personal Perspectives - website by devotees that provides a large number of personal accounts about Adi Da and their experiences with him.
Adi Da's Art-Photography
The Adidam Revelation - online Adidam magazine
The Daism Seminar - a large amount of critical material. This site is unfortunately soon to be closed down
Adi Da Archives - a new site containing a large body of information and analysis, mostly from the Daism Seminar at lightmind com (above), and also including interesting posts from ex-devotees and quotes from Adi Da.
Is God in the Garbage? A Critical Appraisal of Adi Da's Philosophy - by Andrew P. Smith
Adi Da and His Voracious, Abusive Personality Cult - by Timothy Conway - includes material by Elias and others, also Conway's reply to a Daist who objected to his page.
Adi Da - wikipedia page
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