INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber



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Elliot BenjaminElliot Benjamin is a philosopher, mathematician, musician, counselor, writer, with Ph.Ds in mathematics and psychology and the author of over 150 published articles in the fields of humanistic and transpersonal psychology, pure mathematics, mathematics education, spirituality & the awareness of cult dangers, art & mental disturbance, and progressive politics. He has also written a number of self-published books, such as: The Creative Artist, Mental Disturbance, and Mental Health. See also: www.benjamin-philosopher.com.

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Gurus and Ivory Towers

Adi Da Full Spectrum

Elliot Benjamin

My literary appreciation or non-appreciation of Adi Da's writings is not the issue I am presenting here.

When I read Brad Reynolds' recent Integral World essay [1] about the influence of Adi Da on the early books of Ken Wilber, I must say that I was quite shocked to see absolutely no allusion to any of the narcissistic, abusive, and dysfunctional behaviors of Adi Da (alias Franklin Jones, Da Free John, etc.) toward his followers that a number of authors have written about, including Integral World authors David Lane, Andrew Smith, and Geoffrey Falk [2]. Now I understand the focus of Reynolds' article was on the literary associations that Wilber, in his early books, took from Adi Da, and I certainly commend Reynolds for an impressive academic literary analysis in this context. However, Reynolds goes further than just an academic literary analysis, as can be seen from his following statements (cf. [1]).

But where Wilber fails to provide adequate methods other than years of integral life practice and meditation, I would like to assert that only an authentic relationship with an Enlightened Siddha- Guru freely offers this Awakening Grace. Just by coming into the Company of the Avatar-Adept or Sat-Guru you can connect with Adi Da's Enlightened Transmission so you may know God directly, for real….Only Satsang as God-Realization Here-Now is always already Free to reveal the truth of our Divine Condition. It's available for everybody-all-at-once, if we turn to our Divine Help given in the form of Sat-Guru Adi Da Samraj (or another appropriate Enlightened Master)….Grace leans in the direction of Enlightenment pointing us towards the original source of the always already Enlightened Teaching and Transmission of the Heart. “The scholar-pandit, in other words, is just the finger pointing to the moon; the Guru is the moon, or better, the light reflected on the moon.”
Adi Da
Adi Da

Now in all fairness to Reynolds, he does refer to writing another Integral World essay regarding Wilber's “later modified recants” from “the unmitigated praise Wilber lavishes upon Adi Da and his published works” (cf. [1]). However, Reynolds' subsequent Integral World essay [3] continues with even more praise for Adi Da, as Reynolds promotes gaining spiritual elevation from becoming familiar with our “divine library” by our “wisest representatives.” And who is it that Reynolds singles out as being in this much esteemed category of enlightened sages? He names Swami Vivekanda, Ramana Maharshi, Paramahansa Yoganda, “and of course, my favorite Adi Da Samraj,” complete with their featured photos. Hopefully Reynolds will soon write another follow-up Integral World essay in which he does discuss some of Adi Da's well-known narcissistic, abusive, and dysfunctional behaviors towards his followers that led Wilber to modify his previous “unmitigated praise” of Adi Da.

Clearly Reynolds has great respect and admiration for Adi Da as an authentic guru/spiritual teacher, and my intention here is not to argue this point one way or the other. Rather my concern is that when bestowing the kind of praise on a very controversial and disturbing (to many) spiritual figure the way Reynolds has done, I think it is important to also make more mention of the problematic aspects of this spiritual figure than Reynolds has done in his brief reference to Wilber's “modified recanting.” For otherwise we are giving our partial literary analysis of the guru's writings, supplemented by our personal admiration of the guru him/herself, in what appears to me to be an “ivory tower.”

As I have mentioned, the criticisms and concerns about Adi Da's narcissistic, abusive, dysfunctional behaviors toward his followers have been well-documented (cf. [2]). To give a brief summary of some of these concerns, the following passages may be informative [4].

The evidence is clear that through the years there was some VERY problematic behavior on Da's part, and this merits critique as a “public service” for those who have little training to discern functional from dysfunctional forms of leadership. Furthermore, for over three decades Da tried to posit a sophisticated but spiritually subversive and monstrously egocentric model of himself and his work as being uniquely far superior to all the sages of our sacred traditions—and this authoritarian claim, patently false, simply cannot be allowed to stand….all evidence indicates that Franklin Jones/Da Free John fell deeply and dangerously into monstrous ego-inflation, abusively toxic relationships towards his disciples and wife/wives, and heavy addictions to personal power, sexual debauchery, drugs, and extravagant material possessions.

I will also mention here, that although debating the actual merits of Adi Da's literary works is not what this essay is focused upon, I am at a loss to understand the immense praise in 1985 that Wilber bestowed upon Adi Da's book The Dawn Horse Testament, part of which appeared in the front matter of the original text [5]. Wilber's full statement is as follows [6].

This is not merely my personal opinion; this is a perfectly obvious fact, available to anyone of intelligence, sensitivity, and integrity: THE DAWN HORSE TESTAMENT is the most ecstatic, most profound, most complete, most radical, and most comprehensive single spiritual text ever to be penned and confessed by the Human Transcendental Spirit. That seems an objective fact; here is my own personal and humbler opinion. I am honored (even awed) to be allowed in its Presence, to listen to and Hear the Potent Message of the Heart-Master Da. How can the soul not bow down to such a Message? What other is the appropriate response? How can I not say what I am saying? How, in the face of such a Testament, can we possibly justify neglect?
At the very least, it is perfectly obvious that there is now no excuse whatsoever for any intelligent and spiritually-minded person, of whatever persuasion, not to be at least a student (or one who simply studies the Written Teachings) of Master Da Free John. The days of denial are over; this nonsense cannot continue, with any rational reason. I ask my friends, my students, my readers, even my casual acquaintances, to see and recognize and, above all, confess the Realization that Master Da is.
I do not understand why so many thousands of people—who have heartily expressed to me the opinion that my own written works express great clarity, judgment, and understanding—balk and look in disbelief when I speak ecstatically of the Heart Master Da. It is as if my friends believe everything I say except that Master Da is a genuine Adept, Free at the Heart, Confessed in Radiance, Transcendent to it all. How has my judgment suddenly lapsed in regard to this Man? I am as certain of this Man as I am of anything I have written—in fact, as certain as I am of my own hand (which apparently claps by itself in solitude when it comes to this Great Issue). So I make only one request; if you do only one thing to test my judgment in this matter, please read this DAWN HORSE TESTAMENT cover to cover (and I mean cover to cover), and then I will be glad to argue with you if you still wish—but not before. And, I think, we will then see who the Master of the Heart really is. Is that not fair? Read this Man, Listen to this Man, Hear this Man, then See Him. And them, I think, you will stand Smiling.
What else do you really want? What else can I say?”
— Ken [front matter of The Dawn Horse Testament, 2005]
The Dawn Horse Testament

I have a personal experience of this praise for The Dawn Horse Testament from Wilber from my 2 hour personal meeting with him in 2004 in his Denver apartment, as I described in my very first Integral World essay in 2006 [7]. Based upon Wilber's strong recommendation to me, I tried reading this book, and I must say that this is one of the few books in my lifetime that I have started reading and could not finish. What I remember is that on almost every page, this author continuously referred to himself as God and I felt repulsed to the point that after reading a few hundred pages (which was about half the book) I could read no more. I received virtually nothing of spiritual value from the book, although I acknowledge Andrew Smith's discussion that at least “some” of this grand God-reference apparently was literary and should not be taken literally (cf. [2]). However, Smith also expressed concerns about Adi Da/Da Free John's narcissistic qualities for the God references that apparently were not just “literary” (cf. [2]).

I had a less negative reaction from reading one of Adi Da's other books: Scientific Proof of the Existence of God Will Soon be Announced by the White House! [8], but still nothing that particularly moved me. Perhaps at some future time I will try again to see if I might resonate more with Adi Da's writings by reading Adi Da's book The Knee of Listening [9], which Reynolds conveys was immensely impactful to Wilber (cf. [1]).

However, my literary appreciation or non-appreciation of Adi Da's writings is not the issue I am presenting here. Rather, the issue is that I believe it is important to not bestow the kind of praise that Reynolds bestows on Adi Da without much more seriously acknowledging the deeply disturbing aspects of this guru. Literary analysis is one thing—ivory tower praise of a controversial guru with numerous well-documented disturbing aspects is another thing. As Frank Visser acknowledged Andrew

Cohen for his “apology” in comparison with the relative lack of remorse shown by Mark Gafni [10], the situation appears much the same to me in comparison with Adi Da, although I believe Cohen has had far more destructive effects on far more people then either Gafni or Adi Da. In spite of the debatable merits of how sincere or extensive or personalized Cohen's apology truly was [11], at least Cohen has made some efforts in this regard—although I agree with David Lane [12] that his impetus for doing so, at least initially, must be attributed to his senior students. But where is Adi Da's “apology”? Is the fault primarily with the lack of impetus from Adi Da's students to stimulate Adi Da to go into a personal solitary retreat and “apologize”? These are questions that I will leave to historians of Adi Da's movement to address if they are so inclined, but I believe this whole issue should be part and parcel of any praise of Adi Da that is attached to a partial literary analysis of his works.

Notes/References

1) See Brad Reynolds (2016), The Pandit: Standing on the Shoulders of the Sat-Guru: The Influence of Adi Da Samraj on the First Books of Ken Wilber. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net

2) See Scott Lowe & David Lane (1995, 2015), The Strange Case of Franklin Jones. MSAC Philosophy Group. Walnut, CA; Andrew Smith (2001), Is God in the Garbage? A Critical Appraisal of Adi Da's Philosopy. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net; Geoffrey Falk (2009), Stripping the Gurus: Sex, Violence, Abuse and Enlightenment. Available at www.amazon.com

3) See Brad Reynolds (2016), The Key is Always Already Here: To Unlocking Your True Human Potential. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net

4) See Timothy Conway (2007), Adi Da and His Voracious, Abusive Personality Cult. Retrieved from www.enlightened-spirituality.org/Da_and_his_cult.html

5) See Da Free John (1985), The Dawn Horse Testament. Middletown, CA; the Dawn Horse Press.

6) See the website www.beezone.com/Wilber/ken_wilbur_praise.html

7) See Elliot Benjamin (2006). On Ken Wilber's Integral Institute: An Experiential Analysis. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net

8) See Da Free John (1980), Scientific Proof of the Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the white House! Middletown, CA: The Dawn Horse Press.

9) See Adi Da (1995), The Knee of Listening: The Early-Life Ordeal and the Radical Spiritual Realization of the Divine World-Teacher. Middletown, CA: The Dawn Horse Press.

10) See Frank Visser (2015), What's Love Got To Do With It: Love Guru Marc Gafni Under Attack After New York Times Publications. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net

11) See Elliot Benjamin (2015), Andrew Cohen's “Apology”: Truly Sincere, Manipulative, or “Other”? and Elliot Benjamin (2016), Andrew Cohen's Apology: Ex-student/Author Marlowe Sand Responds. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net

12) See David Lane (2015), The Liberation of Andrew Cohen: How Devoted Disciples Can Enlighten Their Guru. Retrieved from www.integralworld.net






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