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Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Check out this overview of what Ken Wilber has written about Adi Da (with a response from the Adidam community) at www.adidawilber.com
David Christopher Lane
Professor of Philosophy, Mt. San Antonio College Lecturer in Religious Studies, California State University, Long Beach Author of Exposing Cults: When the Skeptical Mind Confronts the Mystical
(New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1994) and The Radhasoami Tradition: A Critical History of Guru Succession
(New York and London: Garland Publishers, 1992).
SEE MORE ESSAYS WRITTEN BY DAVID LANE
Prefatory Note & Prologue |
PART I |
PART II |
PART III |
Ken Wilber's Confused
Hype of Da Free John
Ken Wilber's Achilles' Heel, Part 1
It is strange for me to say this, but Wilber is quite naive. Naive in interpreting a guru's status; naive in thinking that writing is somehow reflective of one's inner attainment.
Let's start with Da, Adi Da, that is.
Ken Wilber says the following statement about the spiritual teacher Adi Da (a.k.a. Franklin Jones, Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Da Love Ananda, Da Avabhasa, Satguru Da, and just plain Da):
“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 possible 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 of neglect 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 The 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 then, I think, you will stand Smiling. What else do you really want? What else can I say?” [front matter of The Dawn Horse Testament, 2005]
Avatar Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008)
Well, Ken, you could say much more such as by what yardstick should we measure such masters? Herpes transmitter? Fat boy chronicles? Amyl nitrate addiction? Wife beating? Dildo predilection? Capitalization freak? Purveyor of other people's wives and girlfriends? Muktananda's letter successor? Crazy wisdom and let's smoke, drink, and party while my disciples fast? Porno production coordinator? Urine drinker? Get pissed when my new girlfriend leaves? Perpetually out of money, but hey donate to my name? Biography evolution—only the facts will be changed? Settle lawsuits out of court guru? mentally and physically and sexually humiliate female disciples? The pouting master—Geez, why doesn't anybody listen to me? Why don't they believe I am God?
My apologies if this laundry list of criticisms appears over-the-top, but sadly it merely touches the surface since every one of the previous statements I just slandered Da with has a documented source. The shadow of Adi Da is a large one that has yet to be fully uncovered.
Looking over Wilber's extravagant praise of Ad Da it is little wonder that Wilber has been accused of gross hyperbole when it comes to appraising questionable spiritual masters. But let's be systematic and let's see why Wilber's commentary is mostly silly puffery.
- Wilber says that The Dawn Horse Testament is, in essence, the greatest spiritual book of all time. Well, he does not know this. What he does know is that of all the thousands of books "he" has read in his lifetime (sorry, previous reading in previous lives doesn't count here), he is most impressed with this text by Da. That's an important difference, and not just some trivial pettiness on my part. Thus, Wilber would be more honest, more precise, and more believable if he simply stated, "Hey, this is the best book I have read."
- Just by way of contrast, having read The Dawn Horse Testament myself (cover to cover, as Wilber implores), I was just not that impressed. I like some of Da's books as well and for my money I think The Paradox of Instruction is a much better book: tighter, more focused, and a lot fewer irritating capital letters to distract the reader. Hence on even this score, since I have read almost every available Da book since 1973, Wilber's "ontological" statement about The Dawn Horse Testament being the greatest is ridiculously suspect. And I am reasonably certain that I am not alone in this regard. Why else would Wilber vent and protest so much about not being heard?
- Wilber continues in his praise and says that the book's greatness is a "perfectly obvious fact." No, actually, it seems like a perfectly subjective opinion and one that Wilber is naturally entitled to, but to then hype his opinion and skirt the issue of objectivity is arbitrary and sophomoric. If Da's writings are indeed so "amazingly true" then Wilber's endorsement adds nothing to the argument, since like gravity everyone should be able to witness and appreciate its “obviousness” and “truth.” Da's book is just one of thousands that has impressed people over time. There is no objective grid that indicates that The Dawn Horse Testament is somehow superior to any book prior to its late 20th century publication. The claims that Wilber makes about Da Free John have not been universally verified. To the contrary, the more we learn about his nefarious activities with his underlings it suggests he was anything but enlightened.
Instead of limiting his praise to the realm of “hey this is my opinion,” Wilber argues that he has somehow tapped into the spiritual attainments of this man. As I mentioned to Wilber in print and in person (I first wrote the "Paradox of Da Free John" back in 1985 as a direct response to Wilber's hype) just because one writes well does not mean by extension that he is an embodiment of the highest truth or realization. He could be quite the opposite. Wilber repeatedly confuses the message with the medium, believing that if someone writes well or beautifully or transcendentally that he/she is a Master by virtue of it. Writing well doesn't mean by extension that one is living well. It is a simple mistake, no doubt, but a devastating one as well.
- Wilber expresses wonder at how his numerous fans balk at his praises of Da Free John. I am not surprised. I don't even think Wilber is surprised. If Wilber really believes that Da is the greatest spiritual master of all time, then why did he refuse to write Da's official biography—a job that would have allowed Wilber direct access to Da for a long period of time? In private correspondence with me (and in person), Wilber has admitted, "Da is a fuck-up" (his words, not mine). Do I see any indication of that in Wilber's overly enthusiastic gushes? Yea, there it is, Da is the Supreme Avatar of all time, but he is also a major fuck-up. Talk about Paradox!
In more simple terms, if Wilber really believed what he was saying, then I would venture that he would want to "hang" with the Supreme one. But guess what? He has only occasionally seen the Da. In other words, if you are going to read this guru's books, and you are going to express your absolute awe at his being, then it is surprising that one would not take the next logical step and become his disciple. (Wilber told me he was a "friend" of the group—a non-committed involvement).
Now I am sure Wilber has lots of reasons, but I would suggest that those reasons should be broadcast loud and clear. Could it be, as Wilber has told me in conversation, that Da surrounds himself with a bunch of sycophants? Could it be that Wilber does not condone Da's continual sexual interplay with numerous female disciples? The great Da is reported to have had a least 100 sexual encounters since the 1970s with his female devotees; my source on this, lest I be accused of inflating figures is from a soon to be published essay by a former follower of Da. I have cut his figures in half, just to be conservative. Could it, in fact, be that Wilber sees in Da the egotistical just as much as the transcendental? Wilber has confessed that Da has a proclivity for pouting, for trying to legitimize, for trying to justify, and for trying to place blame on others when in truth much of the blame should be placed directly on his shoulders (I am tempted to say penis, but ah well).
It is strange for me to say this, but Wilber is quite naive. Naive in interpreting a guru's status; naive in thinking that writing is somehow reflective of one's inner attainment; naive in thinking that just because he knows lots of maps, has meditated, and has a good reputation, that he somehow "knows" and is "certain" of Da's ontological status in the grand schema of the universe. It is just plain silly. I don't know, in truth, anybody's ultimate spiritual status. To be sure, I have read lots of books and talked to lots of gurus, but I don't “know.”
And, Wilber doesn't either, and if you push him on it (I did when we met), he admits that there are many things about Da that are "funky." So why not just say, "Hey, I really get a lot out of his books." Who knows about the guy, but his books are cool. Or, if you really do like Da and the impression he gives you in public audiences, then say, "yea, I liked his vibe" (whatever that means). Yet, instead we get this not so disguised reprimand, as if we were the Pharisees who didn't recognize Christ as our Lord and Savior when he was alive.
Well, I know very little about who Jesus may or may not have been, but I can tell you this: I don't think he took amyl nitrates when he had sex with his female disciples; I don't think he forced his disciples to make a "porno" movie (or in his day, a “play”); I don't think he had his disciples sell his dildo collection in Berkeley; I don't think he beat his wife; I don't think he got sued for transmitting herpes to one of his female devotees.
GO TO PART II