Saturday, November 29, 2008

Adi Da (1939-2008)

Yesterday evening I was informed by one of my correspondents/co-workers (some of whose email I have incorporated into this post, he is more an expert on Adi Da than I am) that the guru Adi Da (his official site) (my page on him) (previously Da Free John, Franklin Jones) died suddenly but apparently peacefully on Thursday 27 November (Thanksgiving Day in the US) in Fiji of a massive heart attack, just after his 69th birthday (he was born on 3 Nov 1939). Da was doing what he loved, working on his art, talking and laughing with his devotees.

His unexpected death (or "Mahasamadhi" as his devotees call it, after the Indian euphamism for the death of a Guru) was not surprising given his extreme hedonistic lifestyle and prior medical issues with severe arteriosclerosis. Followers had hoped he would come back to life as he had from other "death" experiences and kept a prayer vigil. But after a while they realised he really had left his physical body. (references: Devotee announcement and discussion, Fiji News)

Like all great Gurus, Da left no "realized" successor. As he died without warning, it remains to be seen what will happen with the group. My feeling is that it will continue like the following around other famous Gurus after their passing. The devotees continue, even after the death of the Master. It was a religion even when the Master was alive, and it remains a religion. It is the same with both Fully Enlightened and Intermediate Zone gurus.

An extraordinarily potent figure, of great intelligence, brilliance, and creativity, and (with Mahavira, St Francis, and Ramana) one of the few Gurus and Spiritual masters to go out of his way to consider the needs of the animal kingdom (as shown by his beautiful Fear No More Zoo project), Da Free John / Adi Da was someone who had impressed and even influenced me for more than a quater of a century. Originally and for many years I considered him a fully enlightened being. I wrote an initially very favourable web page on him, but was contacted by several ex-devotees who informed me of his abusive behaviour towards his devotees. When I changed the article accordingly I was contacted by current devotees who would present the other side of the coin. Thus I would swing in my understanding to and fro, not really understanding, until I came upon the thesis by an ex-devotee explaining Da's paradoxical qualities in terms of the Intermediate Zone. (this was the same ex-devotee incidentally, who yesterday notified me of Da's death ). This awakened me to the possibility of "intermediate zone" phenomenon as being a standard explanation for the paradoxical phenomenon of many "abusive" gurus. I used this thesis in a popular essay on Integral World to explain another, lesser guru, Andrew Cohen (his official site) (my page on him), an associate of Ken Wilber and a senior figure in the modern Wilber-Beck stream of the Integral Movement (which I have previously referred to as The Integral Movement sensu stricta, but am no longer happy with this title) itself is a subset of the larger Integral Paradigm (my brief page, wikipedia page I co-authored).

I have to say, news of Da Free John/Adi Da's death left me feeling really sad. Significantly, over the last couple of months I have come to feel that my earlier stance on the Intermediate Zone gurus is much too simplistic and polarised. While there is no doubt regarding those rare individuals who are fully and completely Enlightened, such as Ramana, Nityananda, Ramsuratkumar, and of course Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, I've been rethinking the whole problem of how to understand less than totally Realised Gurus, the nature of the Intermediate Zone, and so on. So for example I not longer consider Andrew Cohen even an Intermediate Zone guru (in contrast to my earlier essay).

As a result I have been feelinga lot more positively and respectfully about Adi Da. Sure he would seem to represent the classic case of the "Intermediate Zone" as described by Sri Aurobindo, but really he was very advanced, a whole class above all the others like Muktananda, Osho, etc. A really unique Teacher, although for me I prefer authentic fully Enlightened gurus. The Intermediate Zone can be a dangerous place, and by attuning to a Master coming from that space you can get sucked in too. Thus, like Ken Wilber, I prefer to respect Adi Da from afar, and really, the Da I resonate to and appreciate is not the dangerous, chaotic, inflationary Adi Dam of later years, where the Intermediate Zone shines in all its frightening terror, but the earlier, profound, nonduality realised Bubba Free John / Da Free John (I am sure Wilber feels the same).

The Wilber-Beck stream of the Integral Movement owes Da Free John / Adi Da much much more than it realises. It was Bubba/Da Free John (I use his old names because those where the names he used when he was teaching those ideas) who first fomulated a single physico-psycho-spiritual developmental spectrum (the "Seven Stages of Life" (official page, my page, another page, with useful diagrams); itself perhaps inspired by Theosophy or Rudolf Steiner); it was this same spectrum of seven stages that Wilber used as the basis of his entire philosophy and cosmology, causing him to reject his earlier Transpersonal-Jungian model, once he became a devotee. What would AQAL (All Quadrants and All Levels (my page, another page from old Wikipedia page, official Journal) be without the Levels? And it was Da Free John who formulated the levels. Wilber's contribution was simply to add a bunch of correspondences, and more recently, lines, quadrants, post-metaphysics and so on. It was Da Free John, the master of nonduality, who introduced Wilber - and hence almost the entire Wilber-Beck stream (the only exceptions I know of are Steve McIntosh and Chris Dierkes) - to an "Advaito-Buddhist" metaphysic and spirituality. And it was also Da Free John / Adi Da who formulated it first into a grand synthesis of all spirituality, in his profound (if limited, because he acknowledges nonduality) Basket of Tolerance (detailed contents of all editions; official page)

And finally, a trivial note regarding Wikipedia. As I sometimes contribute to Wikipedia, I found it amusing to discover that Da's date of death had been added to the page very soon after the event, then removed on the grounds that it wasn't from a reliable source, then added again, then removed again, then a general notice that "this article is about someone who has recently died" was added, while the byzantine bureaucracy that is Wikipedia's workings ground on, before details of his death were finally added. History page (if you are reading this blog later, scroll to 27th-29th November 2008)

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Friday, November 14, 2008

A new way of thinking is required

I've been upgrading my website, adding some new sections and going over earlier stuff; particularily my pages on gurus and on the integral movement. It's amazing how my understand of both these themes has changed; a lot of my earlier material now seems to be very dated, even though it was only written a couple of years ago.

For example, my early views on "abusive gurus" I now feel are much too simplistic. Certainly there are some gurus who are genuinely abusive, and the situation regarding the paradoxical nature of the Intermediate Zone still holds. But for most I feel the situation is much more ambiguous. So I want to revise my pages in the light of this insight.

Regarding the "integral paradigm", my current insight is inspired by sentientism and Jainism as much as by the standard big names of the movement. At the same time it may not be possible to distinguish between Integral Movement, Global Mindshift, New Paradigm, New Age, etc, if one considers the phenomenon as a process of global spiritual renewal and restitution. So it would be better to talk of an emergent global phenomenon of spiritual awakening and renewal, triggered by the current planetary environmental crisis, and ultimately perhaps by the Supramental Descent of 1956 and later activity (this last theme of course would be rejected out of hand by mainstream conservative materialism and religionism; but such biases are little importance; what is required is creating a whole radically new way of thinking and doing.

By radical new way of thinking I mean new even beyond the the current external New Age/Mew Paradigm/Global Mindshift/Integral Movement. For example,

o there is still very little, if any, concept of Sentientism (the movement ranging from biocentric ("Green") to biocentric and anthropocentric).
o There is still the idea of a linear "map" of Reality, whether it be the Wilberians with their stages and quadrants, the Great Story process philosophers, or the Theosophically-inspired New Age movement
o there is still very little insight into the dynamics of Spiritual teachers and Realisation, with the old dichotomy (evident even in my previous writing) of good versus bad, or else the naive all good (New Age) or all bad (sceptical materiualism and fundamentalist religionism). Neither duality (good vs bad) nor all good, (no such thing as abusive guru) nor all bad (no such thing as genuine guru) is subtle enough
o Sri Aurobindo and the Mother's more radical Teachings are very slow to filter through to the rest of the movement, assuming they filter through at all. Instead, much of the New Age/New paradigm/Integral movement is still based on the outmoded "yoga of ascent" (world-negating). At the same time, within the Integral Yoga community itself there is a tendency among many (but not all) to descend into religionism and literalism.

So for those involved in the "frothy edge" (as the Wilberians would say) of planetary awakening, there is much to be challenged, and much to be done. Indeed, we live in interesting times!

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Going beyond external forms

Coming back to my book (Integral Metaphysics and Transformation) after a period of about three months, I was amazed at how heavy and intellectual it all is. The whole thing needs a lot of re-organising and trimming down. One thing especially I want to get away from is the idea that the Absolute can be described in a linear or mental-conceptual manner. So I've rewritten the chapter on the Absolute Reality, presenting it in a more non-linear way. The rest of it is probably okay as it is, although needs a lot of simplifying and getting rid of over-technical stuff. Hopefully the final version will now be a lot better, and also shorter and more readable.

More and more I am losing interest in systems that describe Reality in a purely linear-mental manner. The theoretical side of the mainstream Integral Movement for example, with its top-heavy wilberian intellectual schemata, is a good example of how not to do things. On the other hand, the more pragmatic side of that same Integral Movement certainly represents one among a number of currents in the present Planetary Revolution (Great Turning, Global Mindshift, Integral Society, or whatever you want to call it).

As I have mentioned in my Gaia (formerly Zaadz) blog, currently my interest lies much more in "Keeping the Company of Saints" (or Great Realisers or Enlightened Beings). The authentic Enlightened Being is transparent to the Light of the Supreme. So by connecting with them through photographs, books, stories, videos, or any other manner, one accesses the Light of the Divine that shines equally through all.

But where and how do Enlightened Ones fit in the current Planetary Transformation; a Transformation that is the culmination of History, and must succeed if Earth is to survive?

Well, Sri Aurobindo and the Mother - the two most Radical Evolutionary Realisers - were the ones who initiated the Integral Paradigm. Not just intellectually, but perhaps more radically occultly and esoterically as well. But the modern Integral Movement, and the Global Mindshift, and the public New Age - all are different facets of the same phenomenon - are all exoteric, lacking in transcendent gnosis. And despite the great sincerity and spiritual impulse in all of them, there is not a single authentic Enlightened Being to be found anywhere there.

Perhaps this is where the other Realisers fit in. Without the Light of such beings, who transparently reveal the Divine in their life and teachings, there is only a stumbling in ignorance when it comes to matters of metaphysical transcendence and yogic practice.

And by accessing the one Light that shines through the various Realisers, one is enabled to move beyond the limitations and religious fundamentalism of attachment to a single form, a single Teaching, no matter how sublime and profound that teaching may be.

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