Chapter Ten:

EX-DEVOTEES SPEAK OUT

 

 

The vast discrepancy between what Da Free John claims and says, versus what he does and intends must be thoroughly examined and understood before one can make an informed response to the man.

What should be clear to everyone is that no one in JDC (now Adidam) is given the opportunity to "cast the light" directly on DFJ. Why is he so estranged and hidden from you, really? Apart from your child-like fantasies and subtle beliefs about "who he is" and "how he works", how much and how privately have you observed him and then tested your observations?

The fact is, apart from what you have read and are told, intermixed with a variety of contacts with DFJ years ago, most of you know very little about your teacher. You have therefore been called to relate to only the most superficial imagery about who DFJ is, and at the same time you have become steeped in an officially prescribed method for relating to him which permits only subservience and fawning devotion.

And those of you who have been close to him should ask yourselves to what degree you own hopes, needs, and self-generated projections and expectations, coupled with the mythology about how DFJ's "unconven- tional behavior" has been designed to teach you, has colored your perceptions of him.

Ex-members know from their own experience that many of you are paying a heavy price in terms of emotional suppression, confusion, and self-delusion in order to maintain the false conclusion that you have actually been served by this "crazy- wise" madness.

ex-devotee Mark Miller, from "And Open Letter to Those Involved with Da Free John".

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people . . . well, you get the idea. Not Surprisingly, Frank Jones has left a number of disgruntled ex-devotees in his wake. Here is what they have to say. Just so.

 


FROM Jo:

Dear Sri Bob,

I'm not nearly as funny or clever with words as you are. So I'm just going to give it to you straight. You said (edited): Please do speak your mind. What precise experiences/beliefs led you into Adidam? What led you to leave the cult? What did you learn about yourself? What would you tell a friend considering joining Adidam? Thanks -Sri Bob

Of course you have to keep in mind that he wasn't Adi Da when I was drawn in. He was Franklin Jones. He had a little store front Ashram on Melrose Drive in LA, he had a book or two, a small and happy following, and he made no demands.

I wanted to learn how to meditate. Someone gave me his book. It made some sense, but was largely over my head. But there was something happening at the heart that made a lot of sense and I found that irresistible.

I never did "like" the guru as a man. I admired his intelligence, his wit, his amazing spiritual prowess, and his message. It was a simpler more direct message in those days. There wasn't much between you and him to get in the way. Darshan was classic. You came and sat. You either got it or you didn't. If you got it, chances were you stayed. I stayed.

I didn't mind when they started asking for money. That was pretty obvious. If you partake, you pay. No big deal. I swallowed real hard and learned to bow to him when he asked that. And one by one, I took on the additional conditions as sadhana as they were introduced.

There were good times and bad. I learned a lot about myself. I learned more about the traditions. I learned about others. I grew. I changed. So did he.

He grew huge in girth and in demands. His demands grew cranky and belligerent. His teaching alternated between periods of profundity and periods of apparent depression, when things weren't working out according to his desires. When he was depressed (nobody called it that, of course) he tended to go on buying binges, drink heavily, and berate his devotees. His discourses were all dutifully transcribed by a crew of trusted faithfuls. Then they were edited by another crew of faithfuls, who used thick black magic markers to edit out the worst of his tirades, the most abusive of his language. In time, the big black blocks grew large on the pages, till there was less and less that could be read to the assembled aspirants. Because we weren't supposed to know how cranky he was.

The leaders of the community concocted a story about how people weren't ready for his criticism. It was too "fiery". Most people weren't spiritually "mature" enough to handle it. Many of the tapes never made it to our ears. I don't know -- maybe this came from him. It was never completely clear.

Then, sometime in '86 or thereabouts, we got word that he had died. Then come back to life. For our sake. So that the teaching could be realized. Or some such. I had experienced some doubts up to that point, but I was "dealing" with them. But for some reason, his purported death just opened my eyes.

It was just such an old snake oil trick. It was so desperate and cheap. Now I looked back and saw the pattern as it had emerged. What a profound disappointment.

So eventually I left. And I sorted it all out. That took a really long time. Now I feel clear about it all. But no less angry. I think people need to know that all is not what is advertised in this group.

Okay, so what I would say to a friend who wanted to join the group. Oh my gawd. How much time do you have. Basically, its this. He may have been genuine when he started out and there is no doubt that he has genuine gifts. But that man has grown into one very paranoid person with big, big delusions about who and what he is.

Its easy to get drawn into the enthusiasm, the energies, the "love", the sense of being part of something, and to feel that all these things fill up the big hole in your heart, or in your head. Whatever. But anyone who thinks they are going to get "enlightened" here, should think again.

History is full of charismatics who inspired similar effects in people. And they were all just about as enlightened as this one is. Do I have to name them? Oh, not in this post. Time to go now.

Thanks for listening, Jo


Elias talks back to Pilgrim

Elias: My emotional (and intellectual) response to Frank goes well beyond the experiences I had as part of the group. I was talking about that with someone yesterday...and we agreed that our memories of that time had a rather "vanishing" quality...like the photo of Marty McFly's family in "Back to the Future".

Rather more significant has been a continued re-evaluation of Frank based on reports coming from ex-devotees and from following the literature and from debating Adidams here and on AOL. That, and whatever insights are going out on the "cosmic internet" -- I mean, you can pick up some damned interesting stuff in dreams and such. As you well know, "the Da event" is not confined to a handful of people waving oil lamps in Lake County!

I said earlier: "I remember sitting in on classes at the Daist children's school, in Lake County, and hearing the little tots being lectured about how they were all Narcissus."

Pilgrim said: This is an awfully low blow, and you should feel ashamed (and guilty) for trying this one out. Victimized children -- is that what your arguments degenerate into? Is this what you identify yourself with? Aren't you a little old for this? Your childhood would be Catholic, I would guess. Not very free of teachings that encourage guilt, most likely. I don't think Adidam is responsible for that 2000-year old tradition (5000, if you go back tot he Jewish Patriarchs). But what child is ever free of guilt? And what parent? ...As a parent of two children raised in the Adidam religion, I have to deeply resent your little pot-shots.

Elias: Well, I was raising children there too, you know. So I'm well within my rights in registering criticism. IMHO teaching five-year-olds that they are guilty of being "Narcissus" comes damn close to child abuse. Whatever happened to the "Bright"? I think you'll find a lot more "Bright" in a five-year-old that you will "Narcissus"! That's what should be nurtured and allowed to grow -- rather than sowing the seeds of self-loathing with this idiotic Narcissus myth!

(As if "Narcissus" is innate, rather than culturally absorbed. I know Frank believes it is innate -- and that is one area of dharma where we disagree. IMHO the Self is innate...and Narcissus is imposed (or acquired) from without. Frank's dharma, in a nutshell, is that Narcissus is innate and he has come to reveal the Self from without. If you feel that's not his position, I'd love to discuss this further.)

Pilgrim said: You slander them with your pity, even though you think you are being sympathetic to them. In any case, you don't even know these kids and haven't followed their growth over the years, so how you can picture yourself as "one" of them is beyond me.

Elias: I know my own children, who fortunately got free of it...they are amazingly strong, in body and Spirit. And they haven't more than a shred of Narcissism in them. They come straight at you like big brown bears.

I know something of the Adidam children from three sources: my personal knowledge, talking to ex-devotees, reading the Adidam literature, and hearing the 1985 testimonies of the testimonies of the children who said they were abused (the NBC Today Show tape).

Pilgrim said: I personally have no interest in laying a guilt trip on you. Nonetheless, I gotta point out that you are generating this guilt all by yourself. Which I guess just makes you feel more guilty. It's kind of endless, you see. Of course, finding out that you are generating your own guilt is the only way to be free of guilt, because if you see the absurdity of it you can just stop doing it.

Elias: You sound like Richard Nixon, Pilgrim--"I'm not saying so-and-so is a Communist sympathizer, but..."

Who said I feel guilty? It's you who say I am feeling guilt, not I. Never once in all my posts have I said that I felt guilt. Just the opposite -- all I ever testified to was that I feel happy!

Pilgrim said: So guilt breeds otherness and fear, which is projected onto others, and turns the "other" into a feared object, even a monster. It is the teleology of fear, including fear of groups of "others." It is even the mechanism of bigotry, anti-Semitism, and fear of "cults."

Elias: Aha! An all-purpose answer to your critics! They are "feeling guilty", that's why they subject your group to discriminative examination! You know, C, I think you'd make a damned good Scientologist.

Pilgrim said: And this, I would suggest, is how you have come to view us Adidams as such fearful monsters who are responsible for so many "crimes" against the Self. It sounds a lot to me like the litany of crimes Jews are historically accused of, including the murder of the "Christ." Are you rally aware of what you are doing when you make these kinds of accusations?

Elias: This isn't about religious persecution, my dear fellow, much as you might wish it was. My view is that there is much false dharma in Frank's teachings. That dharma includes a rather basic violation of the truth of the Self. I have been at pains to analyze the flaws in his views, as I see them.

Seriously, the whole tenor of your responses is to paint me as some kind of spiritual cripple, awash in Roman Catholic guilt. Maybe that makes it easier for you, to "know" me as another example of the "limited asshole" clan whom (you believe) make up 98% of humanity. (If you don't believe that, then it would be helpful if you would give us a concise Daist description of the human condition outside the boundaries of Adidam.)

That's enough for now...more than enough really.

;-) Cheers,
Elias


FROM JCB:

E-man said: What I'd like to ask ya, Jim, is at what point did you realize you had the right and the understanding to challenge the guru whom you had previously worshiped; and how did that come about? (In 25 words or less :-)

It was a gradual process but based in an "always already" intuition of prior empowerment. (15 words)

Sounds a lot like Da, I know, but no one said he didn't peg some stuff, especially verb-bully. Plus, obviously, it's always fun to use a riff like that.

To answer further: It really hit when I realized there was no way to deny the guy's obvious power, understanding, and influence on me. Anything else is just denial. At the same time there is no way to deny the OTHER stuff that Carlitos, my little b.s. detector guy, was yelling. I had tried and it almost worked, too, but thank God for my secretly stubborn nature.

Intellectually I grokked a long time ago that these two things, i.e. Da being sorta real and my objections being at least sorta valid, need not be mutually exclusive. But I would say the real sinking of this stuff into my bones (still transpiring) really kicked in when I went to India.

What happened in India was a number of things. Among them that I felt I made some sort of connection to Reality that was enough to stabilize me at a certain level, maybe not enough for the death process or to stably enter mini-sainthood, but at least enough to trust my inner voice really consistently, and to reconnect to Inspiration when I have to, at least under moderately controlled conditions here in waking-bardo (dreaming too). Honestly, my capacity to do these things has probably been in reasonable shape for some time, but I have a fairly poor self-image too (flip side of secret arrogance), and it's taken awhile to get anything like a balanced perspective.

(Re India, there was lots of other great contact there too, involving specific folks. Some of this I've posted before, and promise to post more soon.)

So, that answers you question about the understanding to challenge him. As for the right? I guess in some sense anyone has the right, assuming dignity on all sides is respected. Understanding is itself the right.

I really owe the Da experience a lot for being a good handle on that process of trusting my own connection to Whatever Is The Deal. The Da experience is so extreme that something akin to a "quantum leap" almost had to occur. In true quantum fashion it has involved a sort of being/not being at both levels simultaneously. If that makes any sense.

So how 'bout you E-man, what's your story here, i.e. how would you answer your own question.

Jimbo


FROM Philip:

Late in '96 I saw a videotape at an area study group. Adi Da said that he wanted Adidam opened up to individuals who had the capability to practice, but were limited by finances, physical and mental disabilities, or a malady he termed "spiritual misfits". He also spoke of making Adidam available to third world countries, and of eventually building ashrams there.

My first thought, other than being excited about it , was that this isn't going to go over well with the Student Devotees. I imagined myself being a Student Devotee, and having had engaged the practices, disciplines, tithing etc. for many years. I was putting me in their shoes.... and I was picturing me not being OK with it all ... because the fictional "me" had been a good devotee for a long time, ate my vegetables, paid my tithes, and when I finally made it to a Darshan occasion, I was sitting next to some guy who was just off the street, and THAT pissed (the fictional) me off.

Meanwhile ... The Adidam website had a page on "Advocates" and a page detailing a level of practice called "The Lay Attendant Order". So I tried to sign up for one or the other levels of practice. Nobody knew what I was talking about. So I waited. I talked to some of the higher ups in Adidam about it and was told that the Lay Attendant level didn't exist, and the "Advocate" level was for artists, writers ... people with big time talent.

A few months later I heard from a friend who said that I had been misinformed. The Advocate level was indeed a revamped model of the Lay Attendant level, and that Adi Da wanted to expand his influence in this manner.

Great. So I applied to go on the retreat at MOA in early '97. The resistance in the community was great. I was held up to Student Novice standards ... was turned down for the retreat because I used caffeine.

My whole point here is that the devotees were doing the same number that I predicted. Probably a somewhat more pronounced version of the way I would have reacted if I had been a longtime Student Devotee.

I totally agree with Pilgrim on this matter. Adi Da appears to really want to expand his influence. The institution and infrastructure has impeded these wishes. That is how it appears to me.

Pilgrim said ..."My personal opinion is that a revolution needs to occur inside Adidam, and in fact is unavoidable, and should not be avoided in the least, but actively embraced. X's post is just a small example of what needs to be shaken up here. On the other hand, there is something completely lawful and right about having gates and very difficult requirements for those wishing to establish themselves in the intimacy of the Pleasure Dome with Adi Da. The "fourth congregation" is an awfully good step in that direction, but just the beginning of it. A lot of things are locked into place that have to "give" in a rather big way, in order to attract more people into Adidam. And unfortunately, most of the people who could be most helpful in effecting such changes are on the outside, not the inside, where they need to be."

Amen to that.


FROM Brad:

Response To Ken Wilber's "The Case of Adi Da": Reflections of a former Adi Da Devotee--Late in 1996, Ken Wilber wrote an essay, "The Case of Adi Da", in which Ken reevaluates his position on Adi Da, whom he had given glaring praise in the past. As a former devotee of Da's, I feel compelled to comment on Ken's statement, and offer a different point of view. After reading Da's books as a naive and impressionable young man, I eventually came to know him personally and for years was a very committed devotee of his.

I, like Ken, was impressed by the extraordinary claims and keen insights Da set forth in his books. However, I eventually discovered Da to be a very ordinary, disturbed, and abusive person in real life. It took me a long time to do this because once I had accepted that Da was "enlightened", I interpreted everything he did from that perspective, believing that everything he did was a "teaching demonstration" for the sake of his devotees. This was how he was able to justify behavior that was clearly contrary to what was recommended in his books, and which was also contrary to any reasonable standard for human decency.

Ken criticizes Da in a few areas -- his personal life and behavior, his "teaching style", and his isolation from society at large, yet he fails to examine certain fundamental assumptions which are key to the entire illusion and deception Da has managed to create in his life and the lives of his followers. Ken unfortunately appears to be stuck in some illusions about Da to this day. Ken appears to still be under the illusion that: (1) Da is in some sense spiritually developed or "enlightened", (2) Da's actions are a type of "spiritual teaching" or "Crazy Wisdom", rather than just a reflection of his own desires and tendencies, which are sometimes perverse or abusive.

Ken Wilber comes up with a kind of twisted mentality which allows Da to be both spiritually developed and involved in "teaching" on one hand, yet dangerously abusive on the other. When one's point of view becomes as complicated as Ken's is in order to preserve conflicting assumptions, it is time to reexamine the assumptions. Why should we believe that Da has anything to do with some sort of "spiritual process" or transformation of consciousness ("enlightenment") that differentiates him from any ordinary man on the street, especially when he behaves the way he does? And even if he has experienced some sorts of unusual internal processes, how useful or important are these, and what is their relationship to authentic spirituality, human maturity, or "enlightenment"?

Is there something wrong with Ken's view of spiritual development? Certainly, only the most naive would accept Da's writings as any kind of reliable evidence of spiritual development on his part. In his books and talks, Da presents a clever and insightful analysis and presentation of the processes and practices described elsewhere in the spiritual traditions, and makes claims about certain subjective events and realizations which are purported to have occurred in his own life (but which are inherently unverifiable). These claims and analysis could be duplicated by anyone sufficiently intelligent, educated, and bold.

Are they reasonable grounds for accepting that someone has actually realized anything? I think not. Why shouldn't Da be scrutinized in the same way as any salesman or politician? Certainly, he has had a HUGE amount to gain by claiming his own enlightenment, and continues to have ample motivation to perpetuate his deceptions and delusions.

Ken's position allows him to avoid admitting that he was altogether taken for a ride and fooled by an outright charlatan, just like the rest of us. It also leaves intact and unchallenged some very fundamental assumptions about who Da is and what he has done, and about the reality of the "spiritual" processes and traditions which Ken has spent most of his life studying. Ken appears to have lived a good deal of his life in books and in his head, which leaves him vulnerable to believing that intellectual or subjective "mystical" understanding somehow equates to or evidences realization or enlightenment. It also insulates him from experiences and influences which would change the context in which he views the world and might lead him to question the assumptions he now takes for granted.

If the kind of spirituality and spiritual writings Ken values are altogether bereft of any connection to the human, moral dimension, than of what value and substance are they? I find it absurd that Wilber seems to attach more importance to criticizing Da's failure to appear in public forums than he does to examining the very serious abuses of trust and misuse of power that have been perpetrated by Da under the guise of spiritual teaching. In light of the well-documented problems that Da has created in his own life and his follower's lives, it is completely irrelevant to any evaluation of Da whether or not he accepts Ken's challenge to go out into the world at large. Who cares! Why would anyone want to see Da broaden his influence by speaking to a larger audience? How would this change the reality of who he is and what he has done?

Da has already proven himself to be a destructive, self-deluded menace to society and no change of lifestyle can change what has happened or prove his legitimacy. In a way, the whole subject of Da is almost hilarious to me at this point in my life, until I remember that he took away years of my life, broke up the marriages and families of my friends, and created immense harm in the lives of many. The mind set and world view that are required to take Da seriously at all, or to see him as anything but a very sick person, are now quite foreign to me.

I think that if people were aware of the specific demented and self-glorifying things that Da has done, only those who are most seriously trapped in a convoluted belief system where Da is a priori presumed to be "enlightened" or "spiritually developed" would have the slightest question about whether this guy was "teaching" people, or just exploiting them for his own personal gain, entertainment, and enjoyment. That's why Da learned to keep his personal, private indulgences (e.g. his use of amyl nitrate during sex, when he claims to have transcended orgasm) and perversions which couldn't possibly be interpreted as "teaching" hidden from all but those of us who were most deeply under his spell. Yours,

Brad.


FROM Free:

In my experience with ADFJ's religion, happiness was not permitted. Anyone who exhibited signs of happiness would be told that it was merely conditional happiness. And conditional happiness was not true happiness.

Bah! Bunk! How could any form of happiness exist if it were not divine?

Cheers! Free

 


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