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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:


Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

The Authenticity of
Adi Da Samraj

Spiritual Choices, Part 1

Brad Reynolds

Ken Wilber's book Spiritual Choices: The Problem of Recognizing Authentic Spiritual Paths to Inner Transformation (1987), edited with Dick Anthony and Bruce Ecker, outlined what is called “Anthony's typology,” an integral metric or measuring system based on research conducted at the Center for the Study of New Religious Movements (directed by Jacob Needleman) in conjunction with the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California. It also relied on Wilber's essay “Legitimacy, Authenticity, and Authority in the New Religions,” which first appeared in Eye to Eye (1983) outlining a method for adjudicating legitimate and authentic spiritual paths and teachers. This work helped initiate a reevaluation in the rise of new religious movements from the 1960s and 1970s, and the deficient exposure of several Gurus and Spiritual Teachers during the 1980s and 1990s (and beyond). It continues to be relevant in today's new millennium as spiritual traditions from the mystical East and Asia are integrated into Western sensibilities by bringing the practices of yoga, meditation, tantra, and Guru Yoga to the modern world.

I have chosen to use this integral method of analysis to review the authenticity of the American-born Siddha-Guru Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008) because it recognizes and integrates the entire “spectrum of consciousness”—from the prepersonal to the personal to the transpersonal structures (or state-stages)—across “four quadrants” of human experience—i.e., the interiors of the individual mind and collective cultural worldviews plus the exteriors of our behaviors and social systems (as outlined in Wilber's integral theories). A controversial figure to some, but to others, Adi Da is a spiritual genius of the highest degree and an exemplar of the unbounded freedom of “Crazy Wisdom” or the transcendence of cultural norms in service to Enlightenment or God-Realization. Today, however, Wilber has become critical of the man he had highly praised for many years.

I maintain the truth is Avatar Adi Da's authenticity arises from his function as a Siddha-Guru providing Satsang—or Guru Yoga (to use Eastern terms)—which is the spiritual (or transpersonal) practice of cultivating a living relationship with a Transmission-Master. This is an option that's still possible even today after the Adept's physical passing. Guru (in Sanskrit) means either a “weighty” or “heavy” person (as in full of purpose) who is also a “dispeller” (ru) of “darkness” (gu) meaning one who shows us God's Light and Wisdom. A Sat-Guru (Sadguru) is a “Guru of Truth” who teaches through Satsang, or the sacred relationship between Guru and student-devotee, meaning “gathering together for the truth” or, more simply, “being with the truth.” Truth is what is real, what exists. Truth is Real God (not the myth). Science reveals relative truths; Satsang reveals Absolute Truth.

Much of the criticism of Adi Da arises from critics who did not experience a close proximity to this amazing Siddha-Guru. He was, by all accounts, at times unrelenting—or better, heroic—in his demands for self-transcending sadhana and dedication done in the traditional manner of Guru devotion as practiced for thousands of years of human religious history. If you study the “Great Tradition of Global Wisdom,” our global wisdom-inheritance across all cultures and centuries, history will prove that Adi Da's methods are not unusual but are an authentic form of Guru Yoga-Satsang.[1] Real Guru Yoga is not cultic at all, but just the opposite; it has generated some of the most Enlightened people to ever walk the planet, women and men alike. Ego-transcendence, or evolving beyond the limited perspectives and worldviews of the separate self-sense, is a highly demanding practice as all the great Adept-Realizers, from Buddha to Jesus Christ to Tsong Khapa to Ramana Maharshi, et al., universally demonstrate.

Therefore, for the modern mind, grounded in science, materialism, consumerism, and self-improvement, often doubting whether there is even a God (or an Absolute Reality) at all, this particular Sat-Guru (or “true guru”), who started teaching in the 1970s, is at times undeniably hard to integrate and digest. Yet, this paradox is precisely how it needs to be in order to help initiate real spiritual growth via ego-transcendence. As a genuine Siddha-Guru, Adi Da's Teaching-Word, and his still active Divine Presence or Spirit-Transmission, can potentially guide a person into the farthest depths of Spiritual Awakening to realize Divine Enlightenment. Yet, this sacred process has to be experienced in person, “in His Company” (or at his empowered Sanctuaries), not just gleaned from the printed page or from videos posted on the Internet. To set the stage, let me summarize the profound difficulty and pure bliss of living in Satsang with a genuine Guru with this quote from a devotee of Adi Da. He was present with his Guru years ago, in person, and was gratefully transformed by what he experienced “in His Company”:

Adi Da Samraj in his breakfast nook at Kauai, Hawaii, 1982

I lived in a small room with Adi Da for many months [in 1982 at Adi Da's Hawaiian Sanctuary on Kauai] and I saw and experienced His Brutal Simplicity and Service. It took me months and years to begin to understand His Fire and Ferocity. The time between my initial, immature reaction and the wave of unending gratitude, a thousand points of view could be seized upon. Only afterwards were the lessons understood. What had been seen as so difficult was transformed into real freedom and deep, radiant joy.

Days with Him [usually with a dozen or so devotees] would begin with the consideration of Truth and Practice, then with brilliant humor or passionate consideration He revealed those present to themselves, like a Priest in a Puja, setting fire upon each altar. Then He would reveal Himself and baptize all in waves of Joy and Love-Bliss. Consideration—self-understanding—Baptism. He would let your withdrawal from love be seen in His Sweet Fire of Love. His ruthless pursuance of your obstructions to joy could take milliseconds or decades to comprehend; He really didn't care if it took you years or even lifetimes. He gave everyone everything. Everything is a lot. More than anyone could digest. But my observation was that Heart-Servant Adi Da always was only gracious, even at His most forceful bluntness. I never saw Him unloving. I never saw Him unfree. I spent twelve hours a day most days for five months in His House; I never saw Him in any way that was not absolute and complete service, not a fraction of anything outside of loving brilliance. Brilliance too bright for self-possessed individuals, this is true.[2]

This essay is an excerpt from a book I'm working on—In God's Company: Transcending the Fear of Guru-Cults in the Integral Age (forthcoming)—from several chapters reviewing an integral methodology used for adjudicating genuine transpersonal Spiritual Masters from prepersonal (or cultic) totem-masters. It relies on Wilber's Integral Theory, as it appeared in Spiritual Choices years ago, nevertheless, this approach is still fully valid. Some things never change over time, especially with the timeless wisdom that a genuine Guru showers upon us all.

I maintain the truth is Avatar Adi Da's authenticity arises from his function as a Siddha-Guru providing Satsang—or Guru Yoga (to use Eastern terms)—which is the spiritual (or transpersonal) practice of cultivating a living relationship with a Transmission-Master.

The Anthony Typology: Discriminating Real Gurus from the Fakes

L et's begin by reviewing some of the integral metrics used for determining (or measuring) the authenticity of a Spiritual Adept or genuine Guru and their attending religious paths and movements.[3] Next [in Parts 2-4], I will review the principal subject of this book (and my other books): Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008), who has been given the title “Avatar” since he is a “Divine Incarnation” of the Transcendental Conscious Light that is Real God born for the sake of all beings.[4] I agree that Adi Da is in fact an Agency of the Divine, believe it or not, for this is my experience (and point of view) that I would like to share with you, the reader.

To begin our brief review, the chart below summarizes some of the principal terms used in “the Anthony typology,” which is “a conceptual framework designed to assist in assessing the spiritual validity and helpfulness as well as the harmfulness of a broad range of groups and leaders who claim to offer higher consciousness, enlightenment, salvation, or transformation.”[5] It was created by Dick Anthony, a forensic psychologist researching the validity of brainwashing (often testifying in court cases), and his colleague Thomas Robbins, who collaborated on the book In Gods We Trust: New Patterns of Religious Pluralism in America (1981, 1996).[6] The chart below correlates their methodology with Ken Wilber's primary divisions in the spectrum of consciousness: the prepersonal to personal to transpersonal stages or “basic structures” (or “state-stages”) of human experience, as summarized in Spiritual Choices (1987):

The following chart outlines the progressive developmental sequence in human consciousness evolution, based on Wilber's “Spectrum of Consciousness” model that emphasizes the prepersonal to personal to transpersonal stages of growth (or awareness), basically correlated with Adi Da's “Seven Stages of Life”:

In Spiritual Choices, Anthony's integral typology was correlated with Wilber's stage-by-stage developmental processes covering the entire “spectrum” or range of human consciousness. This is the strength of Wilber's integral approach and was his major contribution in adjudicating wise spiritual choices. Without going into detail, Wilber's “basic structures” (or stages) of consciousness grow from the [prepersonal] archaic (infrared) to magic (magenta) to magic-mythic (red) stages to the [personal] mythic (amber) to mythic-rational (amber-orange) to rational (orange) to pluralistic (green) to integral (teal-turquoise) stages to the [transpersonal] psychic (indigo) to yogic (violet) to sagely (ultraviolet) to Enlightened (clear light) state-stages of awareness [see chart above]. It is now possible for any religious path or spiritual teacher to be categorized into different levels of effectiveness (or legitimacy) and authenticity (or transformative capacity). As I have noted elsewhere, Wilber's spectrum model corresponds almost perfectly with Adi Da's “Seven Stages of Life”[8] model since they both are reflecting universal and cross-cultural developmental patterns in human growth, even including the domain of mystical experiences (thus modeling a “spectrum of religious experiences” or “spectrum of mysticism”[9] that outlines the higher state-stages of consciousness evolution).

By integrating Wilber's psychological model of development, Anthony's typology offers a viable methodology for subdividing any “New Religious Movement” (NRM) into these basic categories, each with dual subdivisions, as summarized below:

  1. Dualistic Religious Views vs. Monistic Religious Views
    1. Dualistic Religious Paths (mostly Western)—preach that only a “select group” (or “believers”) can achieve the exalted status of inclusion (usually acquired by accepting a certain set of teachings); this involves faith and belief (not direct experience); as a general rule: dualistic groups tend to be more problematic for they exclude those who do not accept their set of beliefs, and thus they tend to be less tolerant of other religious systems (and people).
    2. Monistic Religious Paths (mostly Eastern)—believe that all individuals (and all objects) are ultimately one with the Godhead (or the prior unity of Real God), thus no one (or nothing) is excluded although growth in consciousness reveal that relative differences (surface features) do not disrupt the universal patterns (deep structures) of human evolution; as a general rule: monistic groups tend to be less problematic for they exclude no one, thus they are more tolerant of other religious systems (and people).
  2. Single-Level Translation vs. Multi-level Transformative Paths
    1. Single-Level Religious Paths[10] (known, in Wilber's terms, as horizontal translations that confer a degree of legitimacy[11])—these approaches focus on the present level of existence (in “this world”) as being the primary arena for salvation; thus they express legitimate horizontal translations at one certain stage (or state) of development (not vertical transformations from one stage to the next); this approach often emphasizes mundane concerns or idealistic yearnings for utopias (or ideals) based on social order and compliance, thus they often interpret language and texts literally, not symbolically; Adi Da generally terms this approach an “Omega” orientation to religion expressing the “Western” or more outward-looking perspective;[12] as a general rule: single-level groups tend to be more problematic (for they are biased to their particular level of development).
    2. Multi-Level Religious Paths (known, in Wilber's terms, as vertical transformation that confer a degree of authenticity)—these approaches focus on liberation (or true freedom) exhibiting a transpersonal (or “other worldly”) existence; thus they are involved with authentic vertical transformations from lower stages to more inclusive stages higher up the spectrum (not horizontal translations at one certain stage or level); these paths often transcend-and-include “this world,” for they usually see Spirit (or the Divine Ground) as being Transcendental-Immanent (or all-pervading), thus they often interpret language and texts symbolically (and metaphorically), not literally (as single-level interpretations tend to do); Adi Da generally terms this approach an “Alpha” orientation to religion expressed as the “Eastern” or more inward-looking perspective; as a general rule: multi-level groups tend to be less problematic (for they are more tolerant of other groups and perspectives).
  3. Technical Religious Paths vs. Charismatic Leaders
    1. Technical Religious Paths—focus more on “impersonal” techniques and practices as usually presented within a traditional religious context (such as with yoga or meditation); as a general rule: technical groups tend to be less problematic (yet they are less powerful and effective without a genuine teacher-guru).
    2. Charismatic Religious Paths—focus more on the personality and charisma of the group leader, or one who has (most often) personally traversed various stages of development for himself or herself (thus they are able to instruct others adequately); they are generally the originator of religious teachings or have descended as a lineage-master from a historical religious tradition; obviously Guru Yoga (and Satsang) fall within this category; as a general rule: charismatic groups tend to be more problematic (although they are more powerful and effective when correctly engaged).

This typology (and approach) of adjudication for evaluating religious paths and spiritual teachers is briefly summarized in the table below:

Following this model, the integral researchers (in Spiritual Choices) basically conclude that as a general rule: technical religions—based on repeatable practices and techniques (used across many different religions)—tend to be less problematic since they are more phase-specific or temporary; whereas charismatic groups—based on certain leaders or spiritual authorities—tend to be more problematic (even if more powerful). Negative or problematic groups also tend to be single-level—based on one worldview or stage of growth since they are focused more on horizontal translations that confer legitimacy (as Wilber defines it) for that particular stage-level of development, not in transformative engagements.[13] Conversely, positive groups tend to be multi-level—based on the full spectrum of consciousness (from prepersonal to personal to transpersonal)—thus they are focused more on vertical transformations that confer authenticity (in Wilber's terms) advancing the further evolution of consciousness. At the same time, dualistic groups—focused more on the fight between good vs. evil, believers vs. infidels, or the separation of God and Man, etc.—tend to be more problematic than monistic groups—based on the single and prior unity of all beings and Nature (or the Kosmos) as being the manifestations of One Divine Reality.[14]

This leads Wilber to recognize that “the worst possible combination for a 'new religion' [is a] single-level-charismatic-dualistic [path and leader]; second worse is single-level-charismatic-monistic.”[15] Note that, overall, the most dangerous and potentially problematic groups tend to involve horizontal (single-level) translations headed by unenlightened charismatic leaders or the “cult-clan and totem-master” who uses charisma (or personality), not vertical transformative skills, to attract followers.[16] In this case, the attention of the disciples (or converts) are focused mostly on the charismatic totem-master (man or woman), basically doing exactly what he or she says, not engaging in transformations of consciousness to higher state-stages of freedom and liberation. Wilber addresses these divergent developments, and their corresponding pathologies, further in Transformations of Consciousness: Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development (1986) and in Integral Psychology: Consciousness, Spirit, Psychology, Therapy (2000), among his other books.

As a consequence, each NRM can be labeled as being either a “Monistic” or “Dualistic” Religious Path, which can be further subdivided into a “Charismatic” or “Technical” Religion, and then they are determined whether they're “Single-Level” (translative) or “Multi-Level” (transformative) engagements. Wilber presented some examples of several new religious paths and teachers in Eye to Eye (1983) based on Anthony's typology (still useful for our discussion) shown in the table below:[17]

From this categorization outline it's possible to see how genuine transpersonal historical traditions, such as Vedanta, Buddhism, Sufism, etc., provide a counterbalance to the possible “idiosyncratic whims of any potentially totem-master”[18] that arise in any historical time frame. As Wilber importantly points out: “Lineage is one of the greatest safe-guards against fraudulent legitimacy [or inaccurate horizontal translations],”[19] yet, nevertheless, it is “charismatic” leadership (or actual Guru-Adepts) who provide the most authentically profound and thus transformative Spirit-Transmission capable of unlocking the highest potentials for genuine spiritual development (as a multi-level growth in consciousness). This important factor—Spirit-Transmission—should not be overlooked or minimized in our evaluations, which the Anthony typology, admittedly, tends to do (though it does recognize it).

Consequently, the most powerful and effective religious paths in history tend to be multi-level vertical transformative occasions that involve charismatic Gurus offering technical practices (such as disciplined sadhana and meditation). These Gurus usually occur within a yogic and meditative religious tradition, most often in cooperative communities, such as in monasteries, sanghas, and ashrams (set-apart from conventional society). This privacy and a concentrated disciplined setting allows the Guru's Shaktipat-Transmission (or psychic-energy emanation) to initiate higher states of awareness (usually determined by the level attained by the Guru or Teacher). Yet, they almost always have a very positive relationship with the outside community-at-large.

For example, during the last century such yogic transmitters would include Swami Baba Muktananda from India, and the Westerner Adi Da Samraj (both of the Siddha Yoga lineage); though technically Baba can be seen as a Fifth Stage Yogi (since he emphasized kundalini yoga), thus was not fully Enlightened; whereas Adi Da presents himself as a Seventh Stage Avatar magnifying the Nondual Mystical experience of Divine Enlightenment itself when properly received by the rightly-prepared student or devotee. Such determinations, however, are a matter of degree rather than black and white distinctions. This is why a sliding scale like a spectrum—or the Seven Stages of Life—can be so useful as states and stages tend to overlap and blend into one another (hence the term “state-stages” used by Wilber). Importantly, the map is never the territory.

Other examples of Guru-transmitters during the last century (appearing in the West) include the Sant Mat Gurus of Shabd Yoga who initiate people with light and sound (mantras) in activating the inner brain core via shaktipat (thus they are mostly Fifth Stage Masters, a very advanced achievement). They effectively generate higher-stage developments that help transform consciousness to their particular yogic level of attainment (at best). Yet, as the Great Tradition proves, the most advanced Masters emphasize techniques directed to the heart (in addition to the channels of kundalini)—the home of Atman (or our True Self)—such as demonstrated with the Vajrayana Rinpoches, the Upanishadic Advaita-Vedanta Gurus from ancient times to Ramana Maharshi and Meher Baba in 20th-century India, among others, as well as the American-born Adi Da Samraj (1939-2008).

Other examples are numerous, from recent Indian gurus Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902) and Paramahansa Yogananda (1893-1952), who both taught Yoga as a “science” (based on verifiable phenomena), to the aforementioned Sri Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950) and Avatar Meher Baba (1894-1969) to the esteemed Neem Karoli Baba (d. 1973), the great Guru of the 1960's hippies, plus many more; also included are numerous traditional Tibetan Buddhist Masters, such as Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche (1939-1987) to Kalu Rinpoche (1905-1989), or modern Zen Masters, such as Shunryu Suzuki (1904-1971) to Thich Nhat Hanh (1926-2022), among many others. These all provide a wide variety of legitimate translative capacities and authentic transformative capabilities that should be honored and accessed by any interested individual.

Consequently, it is important to learn how to distinguish (or discriminate) their differing degrees of attainment along the transpersonal “spectrum of mysticism” in order to find who is right for you and your level of understanding. It's possible, therefore, to metaphorically see them all as the god Vishnu (as the Hindus would say) manifesting endless incarnations to serve everyone's Enlightenment depending on each person's needs and karmas (or egoic patterns). But fake they are not.

Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age

W hen the traditional ethics of Guru Yoga in India, such as with Siddha Yoga (which includes Swami Muktananda, the tradition from which Adi Da Samraj emerged), entered the West and was globalized, including with the Zen and Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhists (and other Eastern religions), it was soon discovered that the traditional hierarchical social structures practiced in Asia needed to be modified (or upgraded) for Western sensibilities. Westerners in the modern world live in less hierarchically-ordered social structures (that emphasize individualism), thus, for example, it has become important to integrate women equally into the highest levels of these traditional religious organizations. For instance, Adi Da's religious community does just this, for it is currently headed by two of his most advanced women devotees.

Instead of the Guru's word being final, today in most traditional communities in the West there are now more discussions and debates within their organizational structures (composed mostly of students).[20] Even in Adi Da's case, for instance, practical matters were usually handled by designated leaders (advanced devotees), which Adi Da would then review and approve or make no comment (although admittedly, his word was final). Naturally, these organizational structures vary widely depending on circumstances and the particular religious tradition, whether Eastern or Western. Adi Da, it must be noted, was establishing his own tradition, so it was his Enlightened State and his relationship with his devotees that his ashram was built to serve.

In summary, nonproblematic groups most likely will tend to be transpersonal and monistic-multi-level-technical because they rely on disciplines and practices that involve various methods and techniques (such as mantras and yoga), even if taught by a charismatic Guru or advanced practitioner. They have been generated from centuries of traditional religious doctrine that encourages vertical transformation of consciousness (thus they're multi-level engagements). This is the case with the wide variety of yogas and meditation methods imported from the mystical East (thus they are technical), which usually assume that everyone is already divine (monist). Yet, these religious systems from the East are most often taught by charismatic (meaning realized) teachers and authentic Masters or Gurus (not scholars and pandits) because they themselves have fulfilled the required injunctions (i.e., they did the yoga).

On the other hand, problematic groups tend to emphasize prepersonal stages, or those that use magical and mythic practices, often involving rituals, ceremonies, and strict belief systems. Thus, they tend to be childish, dualistic, and dependent orientations—dualistic-single-level-charismatic—usually involving a permanent (not phase-specific) leader who generates a clan-cult by following a totem-master (thus they involve charisma). These groups usually demonstrate dependency as if a parent (or leader) were leading them to salvation (thus they are single-level and dualistic). An authentic transpersonal or Spiritual Master, on the other hand, is monist and multi-level (thus initiating the further evolution of consciousness). Therefore, if a religious group is headed by a charismatic leader they tend to fair better if they are multi-level (i.e., encouraging vertical transformation) and monistic (i.e., seeing everyone as divine). Such endeavors are monist-multi-level-charismatic—not single-level and dualistic, which tend to generate cultic dependency and an us-versus-them mentality. These distinctions are fairly easy to spot once we learn to apply these advanced integral metrics. Thus, in this way, we may determine the real from the false, the transpersonal from the prepersonal, the authentic from the fake—an important integral tool for adjudicating genuine spiritual organizations.

Transcend-and-Include the Rational Mind

T he reason a multi-level engagement is preferred (over a single-level) is because it includes all stages that make up the innate and universal potentials of human beings. In this way, the rational mind is not only transcended but also included in a transcend-and-include manner (as Wilber points out). This inclusion of the discriminative mind and free will—exhibited by a strong and well-developed ego-I—is essential for the further unfolding of the transpersonal stages. This is how the separate self-sense or ego-I is ultimately transcended and liberated from the shackles of ignorance and hatred.

Adi Da has always championed (and still demands) this type of approach. Our task is to “first become human” in order to be truly spiritual, as the Avatar explained in The Enlightenment of the Whole Body (1978): “The individual must pass through functional disciplines in the common dimensions of life—physical, emotional, and mental. And it is only when that rudimentary human foundation is established that the esoteric or higher development of [a person] may begin.” The maturity of ego development is necessary for stable equanimity to lay the foundation that enables Spirit-Transmission to be properly assimilated and conducted throughout the entire body-mind-soul. Prepersonal clan-cults, on the other hand, tend to discourage rational investigation (and inclusion) preferring to emphasize faith and belief, magic and superstition, and so forth.

Therefore, spiritual maturity most often prohibits drugs and drinking (except in celebratory occasions or sacred rituals), promiscuous sex, and self-indulgence, and always shuns violence, greed, and lying. Instead, by necessity true spirituality promotes right diet and conscious exercises, serious study and daily work—what is called “Right Life” (or right, healthy, and moral-ethical living). In addition, it's necessary for the “shadow” (or hidden unconscious elements) and Oedipal patterns (involving emotional-sexual issues) to be acknowledged and consciously integrated for healthy psychic maturity. Wilber, too, is quite clear: “In my strongest opinion, before a truly yogic transformation can occur, rational-individual society will first have to reach its full potential [as rational and psychologically healthy individuals] and provide the phase-specific truths, values, and substructures for which it is designed and upon which future [transpersonal] transformations will depend.”[22] In other words, we must become rational before we can become trans-rational. Or as Harvard psychiatrist Jack Engler accurately quipped: “You have to be somebody before you can be nobody.”[23] Once more Wilber articulates this often overlooked yet extremely important point:

My point is that religious scholars have often seen the trend toward rationalization and concluded that it is an anti-religious trend, whereas [for the integral approach] it is a pro-authentic-religious trend by virtue of being trans-mythic or post-mythic and on its way to yogic and higher levels of structural adaptation. If indeed rationality is the great divide between subconscient magic and myth and superconscient subtle and causal, then its major purpose in the overall scheme of evolution might be to strip Spirit [or Satsang with a genuine Guru] of its infantile and childish associations, parental fixations, wish fulfillments, dependency yearnings, and symbiotic gratifications [such as found in prepersonal cults].[24]

In this case, Wilber suggests that a positive or authentic religious group needs to strive to be transpersonal not prepersonal, mature not immature, devotional not childishly dependent (nor involved in adolescent-like rebelliousness). This is because true spirituality and human maturity involves processes of vertical transformation (not just horizontal translations). Thus, such transpersonal endeavors are often best served when they anchor their legitimacy/authenticity in a multi-level esoteric spiritual tradition (proven by historical examples), yet one that's still guided by an authentic spiritually-realized authority. Although Adi Da created his own “tradition”—the Reality-Way of Adidam—it too grew out of historical precedents (as well as from his Enlightened State), such as with Siddha Yoga and Advaita Vedanta. In this case, he encourages all of his devotees to study the “Great Tradition” of humankind—our global religious inheritance—to learn how to use the function of the Adept-Guru properly.[25] Therefore, real transpersonal Masters are considered “great teachers, not big daddies,”[26] as Wilber has concluded.

Nevertheless, such logical (and rationally-based) assessments alone may not be fully appropriate or adequate when judging truly Enlightened Adept-Gurus. This is because their Wisdom-Teachings often transcend the prevailing religious traditions within which they appear (such as with Buddha, Christ, Guru Nanak, Tsong Khapa, Meher Baba, or Adi Da Samraj). Indeed, many times a Great Guru appears to purify and realign a traditional religious system that has grown stale and incompetent since it has been run by egoic leaders and priesthoods. Therefore, such profoundly powerful Avataric-Gurus, or unique historical incarnations, can still exert a positive influence on a person's consciousness transformation even though their human body has passed away. This is done by establishing a sacred relationship with their Spirit-Transmission in a variety of forms, including their Teaching (or at empowered holy sites often concentrated around their burial site). In this case, I believe, Avatar Adi Da Samraj, who only recently left his physical body (d. 2008), can still be a powerful and positive spiritual influence on our global health and evolution. His spiritual body (or Dharmakaya form)—his Divine Presence (or Heart-Transmission)—is still ever-present and extremely effective if a person gives him their attention and studies his Teaching.

Adi Da Samraj, 2008

We are called, therefore, to recognize genuine Gurus in their Enlightened State—which is also our own Divine Consciousness—for only then do we make best use of their function as Guru-Adept or as an incarnated Agency of Real God. This way we will be able to accurately understand why they call us to “See” them as they are: Divinely Incarnate! Indeed, this recognition will inevitably lead us to realize that all of existence (from life to death and beyond) is in truth the Divine Domain, which is “always already the case” (as Adi Da states), where “nirvana and samsara are the same” (as the Mahayana Buddhists say). God is not Other, somewhere “in heaven” or beyond this world, but is ever-present as Consciousness or the transcendent Source-Condition (Shiva) arising in immanent form as Holy Spirit or Light-Energy (Shakti) creating the whole Kosmos in all its dimensions and domains (from subatomic particles to the vast expanse of galactic structures, from dense hellish experiences to heavenly subtle realms, from the Empty-Void to the plethora of all possible manifestation). Both truths, the Absolute and the relative (or Shiva and Shakti), are always already One Reality. In other words, we can't get there from here, for we are always already Here, Now. But this must be authentically realized, not merely believed.

Only with this type of Absolute Nondual Divine Realization—ultimately “Outshining” the Universe altogether in the Conscious Light that IS Real God—does the embodied Guru in human form become obsolete or transparent. Until then, in truth, we need their guidance as our Spiritual Teachers and Enlightened Masters. Then All is realized to be Only God, God Only… and the separate self (in life and in death) is transcended in Love-Bliss-Happiness, our true Freedom and Liberation found only in Divine Awareness or Consciousness Itself, right here and now (and forever hereafter).



See this YouTube video of Adi Da Samraj discussing evolution and the limits of knowledge:

Adi Da Samraj Discourse November 11, 2005 The Mountain Of Attention Sanctuary


  1. See my book: God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age—An Appreciation of Avatar Adi Da Samraj in Illuminating the Great Tradition of Humankind (2021, Bright Alliance) by Brad Reynolds.
  2. Frank Marrero, September 8, 1998, posted on; also see: A Monkey's Tale for the Divine Person: Leelas in Praise of Beloved Adi Da Samraj (2017) by Frank Marrero.
  3. See: Spiritual Choices: The Problem of Recognizing Authentic Paths to Inner Transformation (1987) edited by Dick Anthony, Bruce Ecker, and Ken Wilber.
  4. See: God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (2021, Bright Alliance) by Brad Reynolds; in the future, see: Meeting Adi Da: A Mandala of Approach to Avatar Adi Da Samraj (forthcoming), and The Avatar and The Pandit: The Relationship of Two Spiritual Giants at the Dawn of the Third Millennium (forthcoming) by Brad Reynolds.
  5. Dick Anthony and Bruce Ecker, “The Anthony Typology: A Framework for Assessing Spiritual and Consciousness Groups” in Spiritual Choices: The Problem of Recognizing Authentic Paths to Inner Transformation (1987) edited by Dick Anthony, Bruce Ecker, and Ken Wilber, p. 36.
  6. See: Dick Anthony and Thomas Robbins In Gods We Trust: New Patterns of Religious Pluralism in America (1981, 1996 4th edition, Transaction Publishers); also see: Thomas Robbins, Cults, Converts and Charisma: The Sociology of New Religious Movements (1988, SAGE Publications).
  7. See: Spiritual Choices (1987), p. 261.
  8. See: God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (2021) by Brad Reynolds; also see: Growing In God: Seven Stages of Life from Birth to Enlightenment—An Integral Interpretation (forthcoming, Paragon House) by Brad Reynolds.
  9. See: Ken Wilber, A Sociable God: Toward a New Understanding of Religion (1983, 2005); also see: Ken Wilber, The Religion of Tomorrow: A Vision for the Future of the Great Traditions—More Inclusive, More Comprehensive, More Complete (2018) by Ken Wilber.
  10. I have modified Anthony's “Unilevel” to “Single-Level,” and have split “Multilevel” to “Multi-Level” (throughout this book) to make it more readily comprehensible to a general audience.
  11. See: Ken Wilber, Chapter 4: “Translation, Transformation, Transcription” in A Sociable God: Toward a New Understanding of Religion (1983, 2005) where he defines “horizontal or translative growth [as] a process of transcribing, filling in, or 'fleshing out' the surface structures of a given level” (p. 48), whereas “transformation is a vertical shift [in deep structures], a revolutionary reorganization of past elements and emergence of new ones” (p. 48). Wilber hence summarizes: “Translation apparently has one major function: to integrate, stabilize, and equilibrate its given level; transformation apparently has one major function: to go beyond its given level. This dynamic of tensions seems to constitute much of the dynamic of development.” (p. 48) Wilber, therefore, notes “any religion (or worldview) can be judged in its degree of validity on two different, independently variable scales: its degree of legitimacy (horizontal scale; degree of translative smoothness and integrity, measured against the potential capacity of the given level itself) and its degree of authenticity (vertical scale; degree of transformative power, measured by the degree of hierarchical structuralization delivered by the transformation).” (pp. 61-62)
  12. See: Chapter 9: “East-West: Twain Shall Meet” in my book: God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age (2021) by Brad Reynolds for a review of Adi Da's definitions of the Western “Omega-mind” and the Eastern “Alpha-mind.”
  13. See: Ken Wilber, A Sociable God: Toward a New Understanding of Religion (1983, 2005), specifically Chapter 4: “Translation, Transformation, Transcription.”
  14. See: Ken Wilber, “Legitimacy, Authenticity, and Authority in the New Religions” in Eye To Eye (1983, 1990), p. 274.
  15. Ken Wilber, “Legitimacy, Authenticity, and Authority in the New Religions” in Eye To Eye (1983, 1990), p. 276.
  16. Some single-level charismatic leaders, of course, are positive, such as Tony Robbins, since he psychologically heals wounded people and inspires others (thus is at times multi-level and transformative, if unenlightened).
  17. This table is a combination of the graphic presented in Eye To Eye (1983) by Ken Wilber, and in Spiritual Choices (1987) edited by Ken Wilber, et al, and also modified by the author's views.
  18. Ken Wilber, “Legitimacy, Authenticity, and Authority in the New Religions” in Eye To Eye (1983, 1990), p. 276.
  19. Ken Wilber, “Legitimacy, Authenticity, and Authority in the New Religions” in Eye To Eye (1983, 1990), p. 278.
  20. See: “The Perfectibility of Perfection: Siddha Yoga as a Global Movement” by Lola Williamson in Gurus In America (2005) edited by Forsthoefel and Humes.
  21. Adi Da Samraj [Bubba Free John], The Enlightenment of the Whole Body (1978), p. 196.
  22. Ken Wilber, A Sociable God (1983), p. 98.
  23. Jack Engler, Chapter 1: “Therapeutic Aims in Psychotherapy and Meditation: Developmental Stages in the Representation of Self” in Transformations of Consciousness: Conventional and Contemplative Perspectives on Development (1986) by Ken Wilber, Jack Engler, and Daniel P. Brown, p. 49; also see: Ken Wilber, Sex, Ecology, Spirituality (1995), p. 707: “That is, it is necessary to form a stable, cohesive self before one can transcend (or deconstruct) that self in pure Emptiness. Condemning the ego for not being Emptiness is like condemning an acorn for not being an oak… one has to form a stable ego before one can stably go trans-ego…”
  24. Ken Wilber, A Sociable God (1983), p. 79.
  25. See my book: God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom: Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age—An Appreciation of Avatar Adi Da Samraj in Illuminating the Great Tradition of Humankind (2021, Bright Alliance) by Brad Reynolds.
  26. Ken Wilber, “Legitimacy, Authenticity, and Authority in the New Religions” in Eye To Eye (1983, 1990), p. 279.
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Brad Reynolds' new book:

God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom:
Guru Yoga-Satsang in the Integral Age —
An Appreciation of Avatar Adi Da Samraj in Illuminating The Great Tradition of Humankind

This book is NOW available on as a Color hardback or B&W paperback or eBook:

See Brad's YouTube channel — GodsGreatTradition

With an introductory video introduction by touring the Table Of Contents, please see: GODS GREAT TRADITION PROMO 2

This book defies many taboos. It unpacks the great tradition of spiritual transmission and the unique critical role of truly enlightened beings. And it advocates, in a full-throated and whole-hearted manner, for my Root-Guru, Adi Da Samraj, in a way that stands in that larger universal great tradition. We're all social creatures, who have internalized these taboos, so some readers may have reactions, and it may be necessary to persist despite them. But if you do, with an open mind and heart, this book will help you to recognize something profoundly important.
—Terry Patten, A New Republic of the Heart, co-author, Integral Life Practice
"A Tour de Force" is the best way to describe the great work that Brad Reynolds has done with God's Great Tradition of Global Wisdom. It reminds me of the great classic The Passion of the Western Mind by Richard Tarnas, but Reynolds' opus is more thorough, deeper, and more inclusive. Of course, much of this depth and penetrating wisdom is achieved by drawing heavily on the Teachings he elucidates and illustrates, especially the Sage-Wisdom of Avatar Adi Da. Not only will the reader find a high-class education of a host of traditions, they will be treated to a panoply of fabulous, easy-to-grasp illustrations and images. A MUST for any student of the Great Tradition of humankind's spiritual inheritance.
—Frank Marrero, author of Recollections of Sokrates, The View from Delphi, and A Monkey's Tale for the Divine Person

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