Frank Visser, CLIMBING THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN: Reflections on Ken Wilber's “The Religion of Tomorrow”
INTEGRAL WORLD: EXPLORING THEORIES OF EVERYTHING
An independent forum for a critical discussion of the integral philosophy of Ken Wilber
Publication dates of essays (month/year) can be found under "Essays".
Brad 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) and Where's Wilber At?: Ken Wilber's Integral Vision in the New Millennium (Paragon House, 2006). He is currently working on a book titled Growing In God: Seven Stages of Life from Birth to Enlightenment: An Integral Interpretation (forthcoming from Paragon House) that reviews Adi Da Samraj's “Seven Stages of Life” with Ken Wilber integral psychology and “spectrum of consciousness.”
Standing Up for Adi Da
Devotees Have a Divine & Different View
It seems to me that you did not “grok” or comprehend my comments and thus condemn my point of view because it's different than yours.
Dear David Lane:
I hope you are having a wonderful day and the weather is good where you live. My Guru's primary Sanctuary on the Fijian island of Naitauba has recently been devastated (in February 2016) by tropical cyclone Winston (the largest in recorded history in the southern hemisphere) while last fall (2015) the surrounding lands of his principle Sanctuary in the United States (at Middletown, California) were ravaged by the horrific fires that destroyed over a hundred devotees' houses and homes. Learning how to handle disasters is part of Life's challenge, as is serving the ministry and reality of who Adi Da Samraj really is… or will be for people in the future. We will recover because we are a strong and sober community built on love and a spiritual relationship with God via the divine agency of Sat-Guru Adi Da Samraj. Of course, that's just my humble opinion, not a prophetic forecast nor a disciple's deluded dream.
In response, I must now address some of your “destructive” winds and fires, or “skeptical mind” as stated in your essay “Adi Da and the Devotee's Defense” that mischaracterize my essay “Defending Adi Da Samraj” and myself. Just because I have learned to love Adi Da, does not mean I have done so by “mind-numbing rationalizations,” as you characterize my views. I know I'm not going to change your mind, or you mine, but I must say something: For I believe many people may benefit from hearing a positive view of who Adi Da Samraj was and is, and what he can do for others in coming to realize Real God, in becoming more aware of our sacred Divine Condition. This is what Adi Da does for people, whether you believe it or not.
Basically, I do not appreciate your implication that because I love my chosen Guru (not a “chosen leader” as you say) that therefore I am incapable of thinking intelligently and thus “explain away” controversial evidence. The information you presented is not contrary to my belief system, as you claim. As I explained in my essay, I have looked at the “controversial” material about Adi Da, talked to some of the people present, and have found it inaccurate when placed in the proper context, no matter how many times it's claimed otherwise. Thus, for you to call me a “religious apologist” without showing you understood what I was trying to communicate makes me realize that perhaps it is you who are more like the apologist in defending your negative views about Adi Da, i.e., nothing will sway your opinion. Yet, you will have whatever views you want about him, so I can only take issue with the views you have about me for they are seriously mistaken… and are even full of what can be characterized as demeaning assessments. Thus, for the public record, I will point out how dismissive you have been by lumping me in with the worst of cultists. You claim I'm “no different than a Scientologist” and “Christian fundamentalists,” and even “street proselytizers,” and that I “falsely pontificate,” yet nothing could be farther from the truth. Your essay ridicules me by making me seem like a close-minded fool fine, that's your opinion, but I believe you are incorrect. Of course it's permissible for anyone to be wrong in his or her opinion (for we've all been wrong), but it's not justifiable to be wrong in the facts, especially when speaking to the public.
For one to counter your assessment I am not really a “bhakti mind,” as you claim. In fact, you use the word “bhakti,” or a spiritual person who is essentially characterized by emotion and devotion or love (over the intellect), in a derogatory manner. I consider myself an intellectual, more of a jnani since my insights into God, or using my mind and the breadth of human knowledge (from scientific to spiritual), is how I learned to open my heart to become a better human being… and a devotee. Yet, in the end, I believe true spirituality ultimately hinges on the heart, so even the jnani's mind and intelligence (or point of view) must dissolve or surrender into the Love-Bliss that is the Heart of God. This is not just philosophy, but true religion, in my opinion.
It seems to me that you did not “grok” or comprehend my comments and thus condemn my point of view because it's different than yours. I believe this is because I present counter evidence to views like yours. You simply dismiss my perspective by calling me an apologist for a cult. It was hardly 24 hours after posting my essay that you had written and posted yours claiming I was only involved in “the art of deflecting criticism” (as your subtitle states). Yes, I have a different view than yours, Professor Lane (and of Elliot Benjamin, whose essay prompted my defense or counter position about Adi Da). I would have hoped, out of mutual respect for differing subjective views that you would have been more considerate of my perspective. Nowhere did I claim my views were objective, as you suggest. Everyone only has his or her subjective views. Although your words mock my intelligence, I will accept them as a wound to my heart so I may continue loving you. My Heart-Master and Sat-Guru taught me how to do this. As Adi Da also teaches: “Cooperation + Tolerance = Peace.”
Your essay presents me as if I have been duped by Adi Da, whereas you, David Lane, know who Adi Da really is, thus you “think it is wise to call a spade and spade” because you and some others see things differently. Well, Adi Da is not a spade or “bullshit” (to use your words). You even deride the counter evidence I present showing there is great value to Adi Da, that is, the views of other people, for you simply will not alter your negative views and how you interpret some of the stories about this Adept. Fine, have your views, David, but try not to espouse them with a long essay insulting me in order to support your perspective. Maybe you think that's a way to persuade other people to avoid Adi Da, but I suggest people can read and see for themselves who Adi Da is and what he has to offer them. Not everyone will be attracted to him, but that does not make him inauthentic. Nonetheless, Adi Da is capable of serving anyone in seeing and experiencing his or her own Divine Condition; that the Kosmos swims and arises in a sea of “Conscious Light” or God Itself. That's what I've received from this Sat-Guru.
Initially I was not going to respond to your misguided rant, for I've heard it all before too… your arguments, in my mind, are exactly what you say “is a very common (and a bit tired) ploy used,” but in this case, to denigrate Adi Da by overlooking all of us who have gained great gifts from him. But, since the tropical storm has wrecked it's damage and it's a time of re-building, I too have decided to re-build my case, for your approach to my work I feel is inappropriate, and, dare I say, even quite mean-spirited. I would like to encourage tolerance for different views, if not appreciation.
As my essay clearly indicated, these are my well-reasoned opinions based on my examination of the evidence. I have known about and investigated this Sat-Guru's perceived “controversial” behavior for decades. Therefore, I feel it is you who have left out a HUGE portion of evidence by overlooking Adi Da Samraj's divine gifts of Spiritual Transmission and all of the incredible, loving service he has given to many other human beings outside of those who “hate” him and think he's a dangerous fake. You simply dismiss the evidence I provided, including the web sites I point people towards. Let alone the fact you continue to overlook the spiritual gifts and enlightened wisdom that I have chosen to focus on. In fact, my essay clearly states that I believe when assessing Adi Da it comes down to what any person, as an ego or separate self, decides or chooses to put one's attention on: either his divine gifts or the fact he was a human being, and hence not “perfect” in everyone's eyes. You have, apparently, not received his divine gifts, so no wonder you're biased in assessing who he is. That's your choice, but I've chosen to focus on what he does offer. Thus, I would've thought you'd be more tolerant of a different perspective, even if it clashed with yours.
Besides, as I also made clear, I discovered by meticulously investigating, intellectually assessing, and rationally realizing the “bad stories” about Adi Da have been twisted by other people's egoic and personal point of view. I soberly know who Adi Da is altogether, so that's where I take my stance. You're not saving anyone from a negative or abusive cult, for it isn't one, whereas I am pointing people to a route of enlightenment for any sincerely interested student. It's not that the Adidam community, being composed of individuals, doesn't have cultic tendencies, for we do, and Adi Da has always criticized this human fallibility. Thus we're always striving to correct this weakness that undermines a devotee's true practice and the genuine Teaching of Adi Da as Sat-Guru.
Consequently, you are INCORRECT, in my case, when you suggest, “bhakti-infused devotees tend to ideologically explain away any criticism that usurps the authority of their chosen leader.” Again, I am not “explaining away” anything. My essay and views clearly state that I know about the Sat-Guru's so-called “crazy wisdom,” but from my experience it cannot justifiably be characterized in the manner you have stated or would have others believe. Period. I just have not drawn the same conclusions you have made, so there's no reason to suggest I am just some happy-go-lucky devotee defending his Master. Even ending your essay on a “positive note” you imply it's nothing more than “a devotee's heartfelt testimonial” no different than the confession given for other certified cult leaders. That doesn't sound too positive to me.
In other words, I find your attitude to be tainted with your tarnished views about Adi Da. You cite a “particular gentleman” who brought you “a plethora of documents,” which I suspect was one of three main individuals behind the 1985 lawsuit that was dismissed due to lack of evidence. I knew one of the men back then, and saw he was a disgruntled devotee who had brought his Playboy centerfold girlfriend “Miss September” to see Adi Da and she ended up leaving him to be with the Guru. I might have felt burnt too, and gotten angry as he did, but that does not make his claims about the Sat-Guru true, as the legal courts recognized. This is where all of the newspaper interviews and TV shows came from that you mentioned (i.e., from a very few). And now you have decided to karmically carry on his fight as well? Too bad, in my opinion. You also claim there are a “slew of ex-devotees” backing that view up, which is not really accurate either. The number is actually quite small, even if Georg Feuerstein (who I knew personally) was one of them. In regard to Ken Wilber (who I've published two books about), I have disagreements (as well as praise) with some of his statements and theories as well. Ken is an ego too, from what I've found, and I love Ken Wilber.
But you simply dismiss the much larger body of evidence from all the devotees I mention who claim an opposing view from yours. You mock me for supporting their views, as if the only true view is what you have heard from dissatisfied people. Do you think we are all mindless zombies lost in a father-figure cult? That we're the playground for the Sat-Guru's desires? Or, as I contend, maybe we have just received enough divine gifts and wisdom from him that we easily love and want to serve him. Again, I believe you are being highly selective in your evidence, which is why my essay suggested such “haters” distort and misinform the public about Adi Da or rather, perhaps more accurately, have not developed the ability to appreciate Adi Da's divine gifts. This is my main point. For the radiant blessings of divine love that pour through Adi Da when someone sees and experiences his Divine State of Enlightenment is the only thing that is mind-numbing (and heart opening). I suggest everyone see for himself or herself.
So let me also counter another of your exaggerated claims: Adi Da did not “seduce other men's wives with drugs and alcohol” or used his “spiritual authority” to cause “irreparable harm.” If he did, he would have been arrested, or lawsuits would have been successful. But they were not. Yes, some people got emotionally upset at times, I acknowledge; but they had also approached him as Guru to challenge their egos (or behavioral patterns) it's part of the reason they were there. It is true that during some parties when alcohol was used (mostly in the '70s and early '80s), yes, some women wanted to have sex (or make love) with him and so he agreed. But that is not abusing his position as Sat-Guru. He was an extremely attractive and charismatic man, full of humor, so women wanted to be with him. Since he wasn't a celibate, but a tantric master, at times he chose to go that route. Most of the time, however, he did not engage, so let's be clear about that too. Yet, as consenting adults, that's their business, so maybe it's best to listen to the whole picture, and not just to some who got upset about it. Women are not owned by men (or even husbands), so they can do what they choose, is a better view, in my opinion. I have not been deluded about this situation, as you suggest; indeed, it's always been fairly open information for how could the Sat-Guru have had “nine wives” (in the early years) and it not be accessible if someone really wanted to know? In fact, his extended household circumstance was published in black and white (see the book The Promised God-Man Is Here by Carolyn Lee) and was known by the members in our community. Yet, he was also celibate at times too, and kept to himself (the vast majority of the time), thus I maintain it really matters how someone wants to process all of this “evidence” about the Sat-Guru and where they want to place their attention. Most important, let's not overlook his incredible capacity for Spiritual Transmission, the ability to open a person's heart to God, literally! This is the evidence I have witnessed.
The people closest to Adi Da, which was his inner circle and not open to everyone, were adults making adult decisions in a highly-charged scene. He also smoked cigarettes during celebratory occasions (especially in the early years); disgusting, I know. But if you have ever been to ecstatic parties with drinking and some drugs/pot (especially in the 1970s), weird things happen, yet it always comes down to a person's own personal involvement and perspective. Mostly, for almost everyone, these were extremely happy and blissful occasions full of love, but of course you do not concede that. Most were having the time of their life; he certainly was “the Laughing Man” (as his magazine claimed), and was/is a profound Siddha with incredible psychic-yogic powers. It wasn't simply bad boy behavior, but intense spiritual theater.
Plus, you overlook the reality that these rooms were saturated with shakti-siddhi, an intoxicating yogic power, so spiritual samadhis were at play too, not just “parties.” In addition, and importantly, most occasions, for most people in Adidam (or any of Adi Da's ashrams), were sober and meditative Darshans based on a very disciplined lifestyle, so let's not minimize that either. A person must understand and investigate the real depth of events surrounding this holy Adept to get a sense of what was actually happening in his company. You fail to do this; or fail to appreciate the whole picture. The evidence I have found is that Adi Da always acted graciously and with love, even if he was fiery at times (that's what most people say)… but you (and others) choose not to see it that way. That's your decision, Professor Lane, but I feel it suffers from not comprehending the spiritual process of ego transcendence going on with Adi Da now or back then. We came to him to be challenged, not stroked or coddled. Many of us found a beautiful outpouring of divine love that is very precious and rare, so we honor what we've discovered in his company and teaching. Everyone has an opinion, but yours is not “objective” reality either.
Just because I can see Adi Da and his spiritual community differently does not mean I am dumb or deluded, or just hyping up my Master as if I'm nothing but an adoring bhakti, as you imply. I feel that's mostly an insult, for you don't know me, you don't know my wisdom, my heart, my intelligence… so maybe you could show more respect and tolerance, would be my advice. Besides, your misunderstanding of “crazy wisdom” does not make your views true or based on reality either, but rather are just your perspective of so-called “reality.” But you act like you “know the truth.” I was only presenting my perspective, that's all I ever claimed or wrote. However, my information has also been based on a more direct access as to what was happening around Adi Da than even yourself, therefore, there's a good chance my claims are more accurate than yours. In any case, please tolerate my different view, for it's not based in ignorance or simple-minded adulation.
As another example, I am not (in your words) “clearly smitten with Adi Da Samraj and [have] been mesmerized by his teaching” this attitude towards me is basically degrading… as you intended it to be. Really? Do we have to go there? As my essay tried to explain, I thoroughly and critically approached Adi Da, for he had to earn my respect. And he did. Nonetheless, I still don't necessarily agree with everything he teaches, as my writings will show. I tried to explain how I already knew God (via a satori) before meeting Adi Da, and therefore his presence and teaching only confirmed to me what had already been graciously realized in my heart and mind and soul. So I knew I was not deluded about Adi Da, for God made that clear to me. I did not come to Adi Da seeking for the Truth. I base my conclusions on evidence too, just a more expanded sampling of evidence than yours. Simple as that; nothing more.
In fact, in my essay I acknowledged Dr. Benjamin by giving him the benefit of the doubt (i.e., that he's concerned for others), and certainly did not insult him, although I disagreed with him. I did suggest he was a “guru-hater” to use colloquial terms popular on the Internet, but that's because I did not read in his article any respect for gurus, as you suggest he has. Well, maybe he does, but I did not get that. He and you are certainly Adi Da “haters,” and that's your choice. Besides, I was actually trying to suggest we all should learn to transcend the cult (or general tendency) of guru-haters, especially being strong-minded Westerners. Please do not condemn me (or others) to unintelligence or mediocrity, or worse, cultic stupidity, just because my conclusions are very different than yours and we appreciate our Spiritual Master. We need to agree to disagree. People can decide for themselves.
You are an excellent writer and obviously intelligent, Professor Lane, but I find it's an intelligence laced with strong prejudices against Adi Da, as reading your book (Da: The Strange Case of Franklin Jones) shows. Yet intelligence alone is not how spiritual wisdom is decided. Not surprisingly, as you admit in your essay, you can't comprehend or appreciate the Sat-Guru's brilliant writings, so perhaps he's just not for you. I believe all of his writings are outstanding and saturated with Divine Intelligence as well as Divine Ignorance. So we see things differently, once again. But that's no reason to mock those of us who love Adi Da and what he's done for us. From reading your book it's also obvious you were not truly there back then either, for your approach seems more like a curiosity seeker who missed the spiritual depth that was actually occurring. It seems you don't appreciate what Radical Understanding is about, which explains that everyone is involved in an egoic contraction of self-reflection (like Narcissus), to one degree or another, thus preventing us from being a fully enlightened person until that egoic activity is transcended. It also appears that the Spiritual Transmission quality of Adi Da has gone right over your head, from what I've read. Therefore, I suggest you should let me have my views without insulting me nor acting as if they're not well-reasoned, well-thought out, in addition to being sincerely heartfelt and full of devotion.
My appreciation and love for Adi Da Samraj, and how he artfully teaches me about Divine Communion with Real God and about my ego (and shadow), is so full and beautiful that naturally I love him and respect him. This is not mindless devotion, as you suggest, but a clear response and appreciation of the spiritual nature involved in this relationship of Satsang with a Sat-Guru. Therefore, I stand by my claim that most people would benefit tremendously by studying the Teaching of Adi Da Samraj, and then, if so moved, establish a spiritual relationship to him.
I believe I am a critically keen and intelligent man, as I think my writings and two published books on Ken Wilber's work will testify (see Embracing Reality and Where's Wilber At?). Besides, Adidam does not operate on a belief system of faith or blindly accepting his teachings, but is based on a direct experience of our Divine Condition. Adi Da addresses that Divine Condition more clearly than anyone else I have read or studied, and I'm not alone in that assessment. He is not, as you claim, “my chosen leader” (which is a derogatory statement), but he is my Spiritual Master, a Sat-Guru that I have chosen to engage in a spiritual process of psycho-physical divine physics with big difference from what I see! I would not have even written anything like this defense, but Elliot Benjamin had to condemn my view for using Adi Da as a reference source by claiming I was only appreciating him from an “ivory tower.” My “Defending Adi Da Samraj” essay tried to explain that is not accurate. Your essay is simply your way to lump smart people like me, with a heart leaning towards Adi Da, into a category that you can demean as being a cultist or a deluded devotee and “bhakti mind.” I suggest a more tolerant approach would be more beneficial.
This is why I lumped this type of hyper-critical attitude into a category I labeled “the cult of guru-haters,” whereas I think you've made it clear I should have just said “cult-haters,” or more accurately, “Adi Da haters,” right? I was trying, in response, to point out how modern Westerners tend to dismiss or reject Gurus or anyone with more developed spiritual abilities, let alone appreciate the subtle psycho-physics of Satsang. You say you do not “hate gurus,” which I'm glad to hear that some gurus have met your requirements. I am only suggesting that you and Benjamin have based your views about Adi Da on too little evidence, and that, frankly, you're not open to any other consideration. Nonetheless, I concede that's your choice and you have a right to your opinion. Yet, still, I feel it's my duty to say that many of the things you said about me are also not true.
As a result I affirm Adi Da has enlightening power, now and when he was alive, and that any accurate assessment of him must take that into account as well. But you do not do that, Mr. Lane, which is your choice, but it does, in my view, make you very wrong about Adi Da. I will, however, continue to stand by my work as being intelligent (full of mind) and sincere (full of heart). Thus, I hope it will serve people's enlightenment and appreciation of all Enlightened Teachers (as my essays already claim), including Adi Da Samraj, who deserves to be in that category of spiritual heroes. The human race, in my opinion, still needs to have access to these special people, male or female, capable of serving our spiritual evolution and Divine Enlightenment.
I'm sorry you think Adi Da is a bad man and does not deserve that degree of respect nor the praise many people feel he does in fact warrant. You have been fixated in this view, even writing a book (with Scott Lowe) about it over twenty years ago, so how open are you to the full spectrum of evidence? Maybe you will write another essay trying to “prove” how wrong and deluded I am… or that my Guru is a “fuck-up” (to use your unkind quoted words)… whatever. I will not return the volley, for I need to move beyond this ill-will and ad hominem attacks. I suggest you get to know me before you condemn me. We all have our karma that we are creating. I will generate my karma in loving devotion to the Sat-Guru I believe can help many, many people into the future and who are alive now. So let my works and words stand on their own. Please don't drag me down to this level of engagement by calling me a cultic devotee or fundamentalist without a clear mind.
Frankly, I'm somewhat shocked that Integral World is a place where Adi Da “haters” reside and post. I published some of my essays here because I think a lot of people are interested in the connection between Ken Wilber, the pandit, and Adi Da, the Sat-Guru. Maybe a person likes one of them more than the other (or neither of them), but I think their relationship is very important now and into the future. Your essay even makes fun of the fact that I admire these two men for I believe they will serve humanity's future evolution of consciousness. Once more, that's your opinion, not mine. Many have already expressed their deep appreciation for what I have written, and I hope to continue to engage in that constructive conversation. David Lane, I would like to encourage you to read me in the future too with an open mind and an open heart, and cease to react just because my views are different than yours and that I love my Guru, Sri Adi Da Love-Ananda. Always already, we still (and always will) love you.