Integral World: Exploring Theories of Everything
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Brad ReynoldsBrad Reynolds did graduate work at the California Institute of Integral Studies (CIIS) before leaving to study under Ken Wilber for a decade, and published two books reviewing Wilber's work: Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber (Tarcher, 2004), Where's Wilber At?: Ken Wilber's Integral Vision in the New Millennium (Paragon House, 2006) and God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (Bright Alliance, 2021). Visit:


The Pandit: Standing on the Shoulders of the Sat-Guru

The Influence of Adi Da Samraj
on the First Books of Ken Wilber

Brad Reynolds

Both men were pointing to Divine Enlightenment, to nondual awareness, to God-Realization, by whatever name.

The integral pandit Ken Wilber listed Sat-Guru Adi Da Samraj's first three books (published in 1972, 1973, 1974) in his first book The Spectrum of Consciousness (published in 1977).[1] Along with his second book, this phase is now what scholars and students know as Wilber/Phase-1 or Phase-1 writings, so-named because they still make the “pre/trans fallacy,” one of Wilber's later great insights.[2] In Wilber's second book, No Boundary: Eastern and Western Approaches to Personal Growth (published in 1979), also a Phase-1 book, he referenced Adi Da's Conscious Exercise and the Transcendental Sun (first edition published in 1974), as well as the Sat-Guru's magnum opus aptly titled The Enlightenment of the Whole Body (published in 1978). On the last page of this popular second book (still in print), a favorite among psychologists to give their patients, the pandit simply declared:

“The works of Bubba Free John [Adi Da] are unsurpassed…. May you be graced to find a spiritual master in this life and enlightenment in the moment.”[3]

It's a justified endorsement coming from the new voice (at that time) in transpersonal psychology who had seamlessly integrated the types of psychologies and therapies from both Western and Eastern sources—from psychoanalysis to Zen, Gestalt to TM, existentialism to tantra.

No Boundary culminated with a chapter titled “The Ultimate State of Consciousness,” while The Spectrum of Consciousness ended with a chapter named “That Which Is Always Already,” both being about Enlightenment or God-Realization as seen from the Western (scientific, i.e., psychological) and Eastern (mystical) perspectives.

This clear recognition and sincere acknowledgement by the integral pandit of the stature of the Sat-Guru as being “unsurpassed” is what I believe helps give Ken Wilber's early writings (including his following Phase-2 and Phase-3 books) some of their unique enlightening power—and, in a certain sense, possibly makes them even more profound and enlightened in their overall message than his later AQAL (Phase-4) writings. For the pandit also, when reflecting back years later on his early books, has said,

“That 'always already' is so forcefully stated in this first work is still somewhat amazing to me; but then, not really.”

It's not really so surprising since Wilber was deeply attracted to the enlightening wisdom of Adi Da Samraj's first books, which used the revelation and phrase of “always already” or “always already the case” to refer to the Divine Reality (of Real God); it is one of the Sat-Guru's principal communications of the Enlightened State. Adi Da wrote about his first clear recognition of this natural awareness (or Enlightened State) while attending Columbia University in the early 1960s (importantly, this awakening was not related to the drug use of the Sixties):

In that great moment of awakening I knew the truth was not a matter of seeking. There were no “reasons” for joy and freedom…. In this state beyond all contradiction I also saw that freedom and joy is not attained, that it is not dependent on any form, object, idea, progress or experience. I saw that we are, at any moment, always and already free. I knew that I was not lacking anything I needed yet to find, nor had I ever been without such a thing. The problem was seeking itself, which created and enforced contradiction, conflict and absence within. Then the idea arose that I am always already free.[5]

For a human being to be “always already free,” contradicts the widespread but mistaken spiritual idea that you need to seek for God, to submit to arduous tasks of ascetic (and yogic) disciplines to know the truth of the Divine Reality (or the Godhead). As Adi Da realized, “You are what is always, already in relationship to whatever arises.”[6] Therefore, he continued, “The man who understands, who is always already free, is never touched by the divisions of the mind.”[7] It's a perfect integration of the oneness or prior unity of interiors and exteriors, of the mind and body, heart and truth, of Spirit and reality, of God and the world, of Nirvana and samsara. From the start, Wilber recognized this unique quality in Adi Da's writings, for the root of his attraction (indeed, the root of the Sat-Guru's Teaching altogether) seemed to be in how effortlessly the young “Franklin Jones” (Adi Da's name at the time, and ten years Wilber's senior) could express this profound paradox. When someone realizes this Enlightened State, they usually end up speaking in the language of mystics, as did Adi Da but with an eloquence and beauty rarely equaled: “I am the one who always and already exists, enjoying his own form as all conditions and states.”[8] The young pandit was deeply impressed and immediately took notice, as have many other people serious about genuine spirituality when they read the remarkable writings of the Avataric Sage Adi Da Samraj.

However, it's also important to note that by the time Wilber had written out The Spectrum of Consciousness in the winter of 1973, the pandit's reliance on the Teachings of the Sat-Guru was still minimal, but nevertheless profound and enlightening. Mostly he had gained his insights for his groundbreaking “spectrum psychology” from his extensive research and reading across all the available literature of East and West. I'm suggesting, therefore, that the works of the Sat-Guru helped bring together in a unifying fashion the pandit's entire enterprise with a focus he might not have otherwise attained, especially with the important emphasis on Enlightenment as being “always already the case.” Yet, without doubt, the “spectrum of consciousness” model was purely the innovation of Ken Wilber alone, although many philosophical and psychological giants influenced him along the way, from Western geniuses to Eastern mystics. By the time Wilber began “writing” his first book in his head during the winter of '72, it had only been a few months since the Sat-Guru had published his first book, The Knee of Listening (in August), so the pandit had yet to discover it and incorporate its teachings and radical message. But it would not be long before Adi Da's influence would make its mark.

The Three Pillars of Zen

Apparently, Wilber saw The Knee of Listening for the first time after he had visited his first living Zen Master, Roshi Philip Kapleau (author of The Three Pillars of Zen) at a health spa in Mexico in the early Seventies. Wilber tells the humorous leela of “The Scorpion and the Zen Master” in his Biography Project, Life Footnotes, Volume One, about how a dangerous scorpion entered the room where several students were sitting in zazen meditation, yet no one knew what to do as the poisonous arthropod scooted across the floor. The Roshi, however, didn't hesitate for a moment when with one whack of his sandal he killed the scorpion dead in its tracks — perfect Zen action of no-mind. However, what he doesn't tell in the Biography Project interview (but shared with me once during a phone conversation) is that on his way home he swung through San Francisco to visit some friends in the Castro District. While sitting in a hot tub with two gay friends, they told him about this amazing new teacher they had discovered, and thus introduced him to The Knee of Listening. Accordingly, Ken told me, he had “never read anything that spoke so true.”[9] Forty years later, in an interview with Terry Patten, Wilber conceded the same feeling-response:

When I read The Knee of Listening I just fell apart. It was stunning. Probably had as big an impact on me as any single book… along with, of course, everybody's most influential beloved guy, Ramana Maharshi. But the original version of The Knee of Listening was stunning, I mean, it changed me profoundly.[10]

By the winter of 1973, when Wilber finally wrote out The Spectrum in longhand, about half a year after Adi Da had released his second book, The Method of the Siddhas (published in July), the pandit had already formulated his basic concepts for the “levels” in “the spectrum of consciousness.” In other words, Adi Da's Teaching had been a minimal influence on Wilber's overall spectrum psychological theories at that time, yet he did emphasize the Sat-Guru's radical message about the self-contraction. Although buried in a footnote, recognizing the self-contraction has remained a fundamental premise in all of Wilber's subsequent writings (such as with his current “primordial avoidance”):

We should note here that the Existential Level, as the embodiment of the Primary and Secondary dualisms, is very much a cramp or perturbation, the cramp or perturbation, lying at the root of man's “self”-identity. Further, it is this cramp, which Benoit calls a spasm and Franklin Jones [Adi Da] calls a contraction, that is the fundamental motor of all man's activities. And the fuel for this motor is one type only: the desire to return to the Garden, to reunite with God, which is, of course, God's desire to find himself.[11]
Franklin Jones

The self-contraction, the image of egoic activity that the Sat-Guru calls “Narcissus” (symbolically represented by the clinched fist), became embedded in all of the pandit's work from then on. This gives Wilber's work a radical profundity that exceeds all other psychological models (which themselves don't understand they too are seeking for wholeness instead of realizing it). Attempting to express the level of nondual Enlightenment (symbolically represented by an open hand), the last chapter of The Spectrum of Consciousness is titled “That Which Is Always Already” (after Adi Da's phrase). This clearly shows that the Sat-Guru offered an enlightened confirmation to what Wilber's initial approach in integrating Eastern mysticism and Western science was bringing to fruition. In his first groundbreaking book, the pandit simply referenced The Knee of Listening by explaining,

“'It is always already the case' is a phrase used extensively by Franklin Jones [Adi Da Samraj].”[12]

The pandit, in other words, from the very beginning always noted that Adi Da was already Enlightened and was one of the spiritual giants upon whom his own work would stand.

Therefore, it seems irrefutable that Wilber relied on the radical clarification being provided by Adi Da's Realization and Teaching to buttress his final chapters in both of his first two books. These concluding chapters were intended to be transcendental summaries of the preceding ones that covered the “lower” levels of human development (that of psychology and the mind). This is because in many of Wilber's books he tends to address the lower conscious and subconscious/unconscious levels of human development first, covered so well by Western psychology, and then “adds on” the “higher” transpersonal levels so adeptly covered by Eastern mysticism (and esoteric spirituality in general, East or West, North or South).

The Eye of Spirit

Wilber took this approach in his later phases as well. For instance, both books Sex, Ecology, Spirituality and A Brief History of Everything (published in 1995 and 1996, respectively) ended with a nondual reminder eloquently rendered as beautiful mystical musings. The Eye of Spirit (published in 1997), a wonderful collection of integral essays, would close with a chapter again titled “Always Already: The Brilliant Clarity of Ever-Present Awareness.” Thus, beginning with Phase-1 of his career, the Western-educated pandit set a template where he first cleverly integrates the potentials of human development along a unified “spectrum of consciousness” (or AQAL Matrix) with each bandwidth (or “altitude”) addressing a different “level” or “structure” or stage (or state) of human possibility. But then he usually ends his books with a free expression of the enlightened state of awareness that “transcends but includes” all previous levels as the nondual expression of One Consciousness. It's a powerful approach, grounded in the pandit's own spiritual awakening and intellectual brilliance.

But what is “It” that is “always already the case”? It is Reality Itself — which for Adi Da is “the Heart” taking the form of “Amrita Nadi,” the immortal current of Divine Love-Bliss that is the ineffable Absolute Light (or the “Bright”) of all existence (and all possible universes), circulating from the heart (on the right side) to the Light above the head. It is an esoteric matter of the highest yoga, the secret essence of all religions and the deepest insight of all Spiritual Sages; it's ineffable but can be realized as “the Feeling of Being” (another phrase of Adi Da's used by Ken Wilber). But it is also a truth that everyone intuits in his or her own heart, for, after all, it is always already the case, it is the Truth of God, it is Reality. Thus it cannot be gained or acquired, but only realized, for it's always already true, always already real. This tacit understanding — knowing your “own true nature” (as Zen says) — is realized by what Adi Da calls the Man or Woman of Radical Understanding. The Sat-Guru brilliantly affirmed these revelations in less than three hundred pages in his first published work, The Knee of Listening (1972, 2004), which also confirmed what Sri Ramana Maharishi had been teaching earlier in the twentieth-century about Amrita Nadi, as these several passages show:

The Heart is the Guru. The Amrita Nadi [or Atma Nadi] is his Form. The bliss of unqualified enjoyment is his Teaching. The knowledge of all this is liberation and freedom. The enjoyment of all this is Reality. The existence of all this is Truth. The activity of all of this is Understanding, And understanding is real life.[13]
To know what arises in truth is simply to be in relationship to what arises. To be in relationship to what arises is the simple, unqualified action and nature of the Heart. Thus, Understanding is simply to be in relationship to what arises, and not to be confused in what arises by process of identification, differentiation, or desire.[14]
There is only unqualified relationship realized in enquiry to be already the case. This realization is simply consciousness as the Amrita Nadi, the form of reality, and it is experienced as the “Bright,” the unconditional bliss of presence, of Perfect Knowledge, whose source is the heart, reality itself. Therefore, the “Bright” is the form of that reality which is consciousness. It is true and real, the birthright of all existence.[15]

This is the Heart-Master's Call, the Sat-Guru's Declaration, which has touched tens of thousands (or more) so far, including the famous integral pandit. As a consequence, Wilber titled his first book's last chapter as a deep bow of respect to the radical clarification given by Adi Da at the beginning of both their publishing careers. In this concluding chapter, the twenty-something Wilber summarized with a scholarly acumen rarely matched in reviewing the Enlightenment Tradition of humankind, arising from both Eastern and Western sources, as these several passage demonstrate:

Now precisely because Mind [i.e., Consciousness] is everywhere and everywhen, because it is always already the case, there is no possibility or even meaning in “trying to find It” or in “trying to reach It,” for that would imply a movement from a place where [Consciousness] is absent to a place where it is present—but there is no place where is it absent.[16]

Brahman [Real God] is not a particular experience, level of consciousness or state of soul—rather it is precisely whatever level you happen to have now, and realizing this confers upon one a profound center of peace that underlies and persists throughout the worst depressions, anxieties, and fears.[17]

Put simply, that in you right now which knows, which sees, which reads this page—that is the Godhead, Mind, Brahman, and it cannot be seen or known as an object, just as an eye cannot see it itself.[18]

In other words, it is the [nondual] mode of knowing, knowing all without separation from any. And one instant of this pure awareness is itself [Consciousness]. Whether we realize it or not, it is always already the case [here Wilber footnotes The Knee of Listening].[19]

Both men were pointing to Divine Enlightenment, to nondual awareness, to God-Realization, by whatever name. But one of them was to become a channel of psychological philosophy laced with more adequate (and integral) translations, the other set out to transform the world, one devotee at a time. Together they became like-minded souls sent by God to bring light into the staggering darkness of an unenlightened humanity by first recognizing that understanding the ego-I as an activity of self-contraction is the true “method” to undo the search for God, to release the dilemma of seeking and avoiding the always already God-in-the-Moment that humankind incessantly suffers from. As the pandit perfectly ended his first book:

To completely awaken to the Now, to awaken from the nightmare of history, is to suffer the death of the future-less Present… this Great Death, this total dying to the future by seeing Now-only… Yet every moment is this moment, for there is no other, and hence in this moment we are always already suffering “instant death” and thus we are always already awakening to that which has no future… and hence to that which is Unborn, and therefore to that which is Undying. Always already suffering death Now, we are always already living eternally. The search is always already over.[20]

This seems, in essence, to echo the brilliance found on the last pages of the Sat-Guru's first book as well:

The Man of Understanding is not entranced. He is not elsewhere. He is not having an experience. He is not passionless and inoffensive. He is awake. He is present. He knows no obstruction in the form of mind, identity, differentiation and desire. He is passionate. His quality is an offense to those who are entranced, elsewhere, contained in the mechanics of experience, asleep, living as various forms of identity, separation and dependence. He is acceptable only to those who understand.
Thus, the Man of Understanding is constantly happy with you. He is overwhelmed with happiness. He says to you: See how there is only this world of perfect enjoyment, where everyone is happy, and everything is blissful. His heart is always tearful with the endless happiness of the world.... He smiles at you. You notice it. Everything has already died. This is the other world.[21]
The Knee of Listening

My reading-scholarship suggests it is the middle section in The Knee of Listening called “The Wisdom of Understanding” that must have reinforced the last chapter of Wilber's first book, for this is where Adi Da extensively used the phrase “always already” in relation to radical understanding. Wilber would take this message to heart, and within a few more years his own satori or awakening in the late 1970s (at a Zen meditation retreat) proved its profound authenticity and helped resolve an intellectually unsolvable paradox for the pandit (that became known as the “pre-trans fallacy”). In this section of his first book, the Sat-Guru beautifully describes the wisdom he gained from a radical understanding of the contracting activity of the separate self, the avoidance of relationship and the self's refusal to love. This radical (meaning “root” or “most fundamental”) understanding, in turn, allows for the transcendence of all forms of seeking (or the common dilemma in all people). This is the principle “Argument” of the Sat-Guru:

We are never at any moment in the dilemma we fear ourselves to be. Only this radical understanding in the heart of life is the ground of real peace and joy. All else is seeking and strife and fear. Therefore, it is not a matter that concerns us exclusively, apart from anything else. It is not an alternative to any experience. It is always already the case. This radical understanding is the only real liberation, and it alone is the truth and realization of this moment.[22]

In Wilber's second book, as another example, the last chapter of No Boundary (1979) titled “The Ultimate State of Consciousness” credits both Roshi Suzuki's popular book Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind (1970) and The Knee of Listening (1972) as being its basic inspiration.[23] On the last page of No Boundary, the pandit recommends (along with other spiritual teachers) the Sat-Guru's book The Enlightenment of the Whole Body (1978), where he, as already mentioned, concedes without qualification:

“The works of Bubba Free John [Adi Da Samraj] are unsurpassed.”[24]

By the time of EWB, this had become practically irrefutable (among those familiar with Adi Da's literature), leading the pandit to pen several strong endorsements over the coming years. Indeed, in the last sentence of his second book, the pandit prayerfully confesses:

“May you be graced to find a spiritual master in this life and enlightenment in the moment.”[25]

Wilber was always from the very beginning of his career, in other words, motivated to move from theoria (theory) to praxis (practice), as he summarizes:

“Spiritual practice is not one activity among other human activities; it is the ground of all human activities, their source and their validation.”[26]

This clear understanding was, no doubt, stimulated in part by the Sat-Guru's insistence on sadhana or genuine spiritual life and devotion in order to engage the transcendence of the self-contraction (or the ego-I), in addition to the pandit's own Zen training and deep appreciation of the world's wisdom traditions.

Most simply (and obviously), one is a brilliant intellectual pandit, the other a radiantly bright Sat-Guru.

Without question, as we'll continue to see, the Sat-Guru Adi Da Samraj has been a major influence on the pandit Ken Wilber from the start of his career, although they both had different agendas regarding the purpose of their work. One was a Sat-Guru, the other a pandit. This means, for one, the Sat-Guru is more concerned with a transformation that radically transcends evolution in the spectrum of consciousness, while the pandit is more concerned with an integral or authentic translation or stabilization in a particular stage or “altitude” along the spectrum (e.g., the integral-centaur stage or “turquoise” level). This difference in approach has occurred for justified reasons, as I hope to show in my forthcoming book The Sat-Guru & The Pandit. Most simply (and obviously), one is a brilliant intellectual pandit, the other a radiantly bright Sat-Guru.

Adi Da Samraj

Showing that his own wisdom (and integral model) went beyond the goals of modern psychology, Wilber long ago recognized that “we need to understand the process which gives rise to conceptualization so we can cut it off at its root source.”[27] But how do “we” or “I” actually do that? How do we get there (enlightenment) from here (ego)? The answer is clear: we need to understand or re-cognize (or “know again”) our own activity of self-contraction, our narcissistic tendency to be self-involved, to have our identity with the ego-I dominate our experience of the world. In Adi Da's terms, this is “Hearing” his Teaching Argument in the Way of Radical Understanding. Thus, as the pandit too realizes: “Strictly speaking, we cannot enter Eternity, since Eternity is ever-present,” or that “we will find It Now, or we will find It not at all.”[28] But how do “we” actually do that (i.e., “find It”) since “we” (or “I”) is what is always obstructing this Realization (of Eternity) in the first place by the activity of self-contraction? As the Sat-Guru already explained, “freedom and joy is not attained” — so then how is it realized? The pandit, in his first book, does offer some suggestions, such as with Benoit's “inner gesture of vigilant awareness,” or advice from Krishnamurti; today Wilber proposes an “integral life practice.”[29]

Now, of course, in the opening decades of the 21st-century the pandit has created an entire integral movement addressing this concern. However, none of these methods will really work, even with the sophisticated versions of AQAL, for, in the end, they're still methods of seeking, techniques of self-improvement (or egoic-enhancement), not self-surrender (or egoic-transcendence). Hence, Wilber noted this paradoxical difficulty from his first book:

“We must disperse (or rather see through) the fictitious primary dualism [Narcissus] and thus awaken the second mode of knowing, our nondual and non-conceptual awareness, for that and that alone will reveal Reality, which is always already the case.”[30]

Absolutely correct; according to both Sat-Guru and pandit.

However, none of these methods will really work, even with the sophisticated versions of AQAL, for, in the end, they're still methods of seeking

Although he never committed himself to Satsang in the Sat-Guru's Company, the pandit had undoubtedly “heard” the radical truth and teaching of Adi Da Samraj. Throughout his entire career Wilber would continue to justify and explain the process of Radical Understanding with his own intellectual acumen and integral terms, the proper profession for any genuine pandit. He has not wavered in his dedication to build a bridge to enlightened understanding for the world of unenlightened humanity, which itself operates on lesser levels (or stages and states) of consciousness development. “Integral” has become the pandit's method, while the Sat-Guru remains true to Satsang and Enlightenment Only (or the “seventh stage of life”). Nonetheless, both men are among the world's most brilliant expositors of esoteric spirituality based on an awakened heart founded within a direct and personal Realization of God (or Ultimate Reality). To them both we, as spiritual practitioners, shall remain eternally grateful, while also recognizing they each offer different approaches. Yet, in many ways, they are both intimately intertwined and philosophically linked since both their teachings emerged during the last decades of the recent millennium and the opening years of the new one.

But the question for the Ages still remains: how do “we” or “I” actually awaken to our ever-present awareness that is always already the case? Since Wilber is wise enough to know that philosophical “maps” alone will not do this (including his current AQAL model) — for “the map is not the territory” — we can only agree. 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. But first you must give him your attention; listen to his teaching; look into what he has to offer you. This is the “method” of Satsang or that which awakens a person to the Truth that is always already the case via the energy transmission of an Awakened Adept (even now after his death this is possible). Then sadhana or spiritual practice becomes a possibility in response to this awakening, yet done without seeking and as a living relationship with the Divine Love-Bliss (or “Conscious Light”) that is indeed “always already the case.”

This is how Truth is revealed without seeking: being in the Company of the Sat-Guru, the Awakened Adept, and this has always been the esoteric “secret” hidden in all the world's religious traditions (for they too all originate with a primary Spiritual Master). It's not realized by reading books, making sophisticated maps and models, becoming integral (or a “centaur” or “turquoise”), or by becoming more evolved or knowledgeable, or even becoming “Superhuman” (a recent promotion of Wilber's). Simply being an enlightened human being, happy and awake, will do perfectly well. Thus it's by coming into the company of the wise, sitting at the feet of an Enlightened Sage, that we help ourselves the most, as all the scriptures universally declare. 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).

As stated, Adi Da's influence helped give Wilber's integral work some of its incredible enlightening power and potency, from the very beginning, providing radical insight into the activity of the self and its “self-contraction,” as I just explained. Many have indeed wondered how such a young man (who was less than thirty years old) could be so adequate to such an all-encompassing enlightened understanding. But Ken Wilber was being served by all the enlightened Masters of the planet's past through translations and sacred texts, as well as by those living in his day, such as with his Zen roshis and via Adi Da Samraj, in particular. Thus, truly, both geniuses — the Sat Guru and the Pandit — were shining brightly in their own fields of expertise at the end of the second millennium opening into a new era of enlightened understanding. We owe them both a great debt of gratitude and praise for their enlightening insights beyond the modern mind of scientific materialism and philosophical reductionism.

Nevertheless, I suggest it's no mere coincidence that by the mid-1970s, before his first book was even published, Ken Wilber had already read each of Adi Da's unprecedented first three books, some of the most powerful spiritual treatises ever written. He even took correspondence classes with the Sat-Guru's Ashram, already showing an adequate adeptness in his understanding beyond the ordinary student.[31] Thus the American Adept's Teachings radiated an underlying and unifying force behind the integrity of Wilber's written work when he debuted his spectrum of consciousness model in the mid-1970s (and into the future). Yet, since Wilber does not quote Adi Da directly, but only mentions him and lists his books in the bibliography, it's better to see the Sat-Guru's influence as an enlightening force of support, not the sole guiding light.

As explained, I freely acknowledge that Ken Wilber did not exclusively rely on the Sat-Guru's Teachings to generate his integral East-West synthesis. Far from it; Wilber's integral model was a natural product of his own genius based upon the integration of hundreds of researchers, East and West, all of whom he read extensively and quoted with a savant-like memory (Wilber's IQ is supposedly off the scales). Wilber, like any genuine genius, was standing on the shoulders of many previous giants in humanity's wisdom tradition. In his first few books (and articles published in esteemed professional psychology journals), the pandit mostly addressed the integration of the Western schools of psychology embraced by his own intuitive insight into the underlying “Unity Consciousness” (in his words), which was revealed to him by his own experiential practices of meditation, and specifically, by his Zen training. Yet, the free heart of expression given by Adi Da's brilliant writings, from the very beginning, inspired and informed Wilber's own genius. That seems irrefutable, especially when considering the unmitigated praise Wilber lavishes upon Adi Da and his published works during the next decade. (His later modified recants are the subject for another essay).

Overall, to be clear, Adi Da's free expression of God-Realization mostly appears to have confirmed Wilber's integral synthesis from the perspective of an Enlightened Realizer, an accomplishment that exceeds even Wilber's own high level of development. Plus, as Wilber has always said, he himself is merely “a pandit, not a guru,” whereas Adi Da Samraj is only a guru, a Sat-Guru, a Mahasiddha, an Enlightened Realizer who not only transforms individuals but who has also begun to change the course of religious history on this planet.

Nevertheless, as inspired as the pandit seemed to be by the Sat-Guru's radical truth that we're always already free, he still did not seem to fully “hear” the message that to undermine the tendency to seek for truth a person must establish a living relationship with a Sat-Guru (or Awakened Adept) in Satsang. This is an important requirement long-held by the world's wisdom traditions, and one that should not be overlooked, even in the modern (and postmodern) era. Since for Adi Da the Way of Radical Understanding “is not a synthesis of the ways of seeking,”[32] but a way of living the truth of ever-present God-Realization by transcending the self-contraction and fulfilling one's divine destiny. Adi Da is quite clear this intellectual tendency to make maps or models, to generate philosophy and methods of salvation (even evolutionary and progressive ones), must be thoroughly transcended in the heart of Real God-Realization. He has made this clear from his very first book:

The trend to “synthesis” is only a synthesis of the kinds of seeking. It adapts the various separate activities of the great search to an inclusive philosophy and technique. But it remains a form of seeking….
The Way of Understanding, as it developed in my case, is not a synthesis of the ways of seeking. It is a single, direct and radical approach to life. And that approach is itself, from the beginning, entirely free from dilemma and search. It has nothing to do with the various motivations of the great search. From the beginning, it rests in the primary enjoyment and truth that all seeking pursues.[33]

This is not surprising. The pandit is obviously a brilliant philosopher, an integral synthesizer, and this is an important function, but Wilber is not an enlightened Guru calling people into a transformative relationship of spiritual awakening. The pandit's work will not set you free — for you are always already free — thus it too creates its own set of illusions and complexities by being less than Divine Enlightenment. The Integral Vision, in other words, for all it has to recommend it (which is much) is still just another form of seeking, one of map-making and “figuring it all out” that still needs to be transcended (and included) in the all-embracing wisdom of Divine Communion. It's fine to have “maps” and “methods” to better understand the relative facts of the universe (such as with science), and even to use “myths” and religions to give us moral support in proper social behavior, for instance. But to know the truth of Absolute Reality, Real God, the Supreme Self (or Divine Person) is the only true way to liberation and Enlightenment, to real love practiced as an all-embracing compassion. We must begin there, for it's always already here.

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. One (the pandit) transmits education; the other (the Sat-Guru) transmits Holy Spirit. One pursues the immanent; the other embodies the transcendent. Thus, this is where the two part company: one translates, the other transforms; the pandit encourages better horizontal adaptation and integration; the Sat-Guru initiates vertical transcendence as ever-present God-Communion in Satsang, respectively. While we can embrace both for their specific function and service to humankind, for both men are unmatched in human history, it's still up to each of us to recognize their differences in order to decide what path or “method” offers us the richer opportunity for actually discovering, waking up to, and then growing up within That Divine Reality which is in fact “always already the case.” I suspect both men will be extremely useful for anyone and everyone for a long time to come. But Grace leans in the direction of Enlightenment pointing us towards the original source of the always already Enlightened Teaching and Transmission of the Heart.

Ken WilberAdi Da Samraj
“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.”


  1. Adi Da's first three books were The Knee of Listening (1972), The Method of the Siddhas (1973), first published as Franklin Jones, and then Garbage and the Goddess (1974), published as Bubba Free John; Ken Wilber's first two Phase-1 books were The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977) and No Boundary (1979).
  2. See my book reviewing Wilber's writings and “phases”: Embracing Reality: The Integral Vision of Ken Wilber: A Historical Survey and Chapter-by-Chapter Guide to Wilber's Major Works (2004, Tarcher/Penguin; 2012, Paragon House e-book) by Brad Reynolds.
  3. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979), p. 160 (last page).
  4. Ken Wilber, “Introduction to Volume One,” The Collected Works of Ken Wilber, Volume One (1999), p. xi.
  5. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 15.
  6. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 200.
  7. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 226.
  8. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 266.
  9. Ken Wilber, personal communication to author, August 30, 1995.
  10. Ken Wilber recorded interview, Bay Area Integral (BAI) with Terry Patten and Dustin DiPerna, January 2015, 19:53.
  11. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), p. 157, 37n.
  12. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), p. 343, 36n.
  13. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 197.
  14. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 204.
  15. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 193 [italics added].
  16. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), last chapter “That Which Is Always Already,” p. 299 [italics added]; Wilber uses “Mind,” which is really Consciousness, in the context of Buddhist translations from that period in history.
  17. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), last chapter “That Which Is Always Already,” p. 298.
  18. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), last chapter “That Which Is Always Already,” p. 305.
  19. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), last chapter “That Which Is Always Already,” p. 315 [italics added].
  20. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), p. 339.
  21. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), “The Epilogue,” p. 271.
  22. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), pp. 224-225.
  23. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications), Preface, p. iii.
  24. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications), p. 160.
  25. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications), p. 160.
  26. Ken Wilber, No Boundary (1979, Boulder, CO: Shambhala Publications), p. 160.
  27. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), p. 310.
  28. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), p. 307 [italic added].
  29. See: Ken Wilber, Terry Patten, et al, Integral Life Practice: A 21st-Century Blueprint for Physical Health, Emotional Balance, Mental Clarity, and Spiritual Awakening (2008, Boston & London: Integral Books).
  30. Ken Wilber, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977), p. 317.
  31. See: Ken Wilber recorded interview, Bay Area Integral (BAI) with Terry Patten and Dustin DiPerna, January 2015, where they speak about Wilber's correspondence classes with instructor William Tsiknas (one of Adi Da's senior devotees).
  32. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 166.
  33. Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening (1972), p. 166.

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