The Significance of Franklin Jones

aka Bubba Free John, Da Free John, Da Avabhasa, and Adi Da Samraj

Franklin Jones, now known as Adi Da Samraj, is not really a vartma-pradarshaka guru but rather one of the figures I noticed when I had already found the path, and because I had found it. I came across his book The Enlightenment of the Whole Body in the late 1970s. By that time, he was known as Bubba Free John. This name was derived from the meaning of the name Franklin and the fact that Jones is derived from John; Bubba, which Jones said he was called from childhood, means, according to himself, “brother”.

He was already a controversial figure, partly because of his spectacular claims regarding his own status, and partly due to his early use of drugs and the sexual practices he had introduced at one stage as part of his “crazy wisdom” teaching, purportedly in order to shake his students out of their limiting, conventional ego-identities and patterns. Jones himself obviously came to realize how much opposition these hippie practices, similar to those of Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (subsequently Osho) at the same time, would provoke. He decided to withdraw the book in which he and his followers described an impersonalistic antinomianism which may have been reminiscent rather of the Esalen Institute and one strand of Western Gnosticism than of anything in the East.

The hippie generation to which his first followers belonged displayed an often truly bizarre (in view of their alleged anti-authoritarianism), uncritical belief in new authorities, which made them treat such authorities – even quite regardless of what the authorities themselves claimed – in an often “cultic” manner. They wanted their gurus to be divine beings and treated them and presented them accordingly. And some of the gurus complied. The most extreme and spectacular example of all of this is probably Prem Rawat’s (Guru Maharaj Ji’s) early years in America. But it was extreme also in the case of Rajneesh/Osho. Indeed, it probably affected to some extent all Eastern teachers who gained a substantial Western following in the 1960s and 70s.

It must also be kept in mind that the charges of abuse, deception, exploitation, and cultism of various kinds are almost always, and systematically, even professionally (i.e., as a profession) made, with motives quite different from that of the truth, against spiritual teachers in our age, particularly in the West, who challenge the statistical normality and the conventions of a social and individual life adapted to the standard functional patterns of a materialistic civilization. While there were clearly some hippie – and also Christian – cults that were more or less debased, that normality and those conventions are today themselves ever increasingly so.

At the same time, it must be noted that Jones was different from Prem Rawat and Rajneesh/Osho in that he was himself a Westerner (he placed much emphasis on his being the first to do what he did in the West) and indeed himself to some extent, as it seems, a hippie. And his own claims were certainly extravagant.

Through a young German woman, Ruth, whom I met in Heidelberg and whom I discovered was a follower of Jones (she had a huge portrait of him in her home and we immediately started talking almost exclusively about him), my study of his teachings was later renewed and deepened. By this time, Jones had published what was considered another of his major works, The Dawn Horse Testament, using the name Da Free John, and I learnt he was now known as Da Avabhasa. Later, Adi Da Samraj was to become his ultimate or definitive name.

As in the earlier work, there were in The Dawn Horse Testament some things, pertaining to the more technical aspects of yoga as expounded by Jones, which I did not fully understand. They are very complex in themselves, and even more so through the way they are coordinated with the stages of life and the stages of membership in his spiritual community. And they contain things which it is less than clear precisely from where in the tradition of yoga Jones has taken them. Jones also represented the onesided understanding of Vedanta (with the familiar, inevitably ensuing ambiguities and contradictions) and the adaptations to Western modernity characteristic of the Neo-Vedantist tradition to which he belonged – he expressly situated himself in the line from Ramakrishna and Vivekananda, and also in relation to Ramana Maharshi, Nityananda, and Muktananda, the latter being his immediate, personal teacher. He differed from the Neo-Vedantists, and indeed from the whole of the advaita tradition, in speaking consistently of the absolute (beyond the exoterically conceived God of Abrahamism as well as advaita‘s personal God as a product of maya) in personal terms, as the absolute person. But he denied any ultimate distinction of finite personal beings from that personal absolute within their spiritual unity, i.e. he denied the ultimate reality of finite beings.

Still, The Dawn Horse Testament was a remarkable book. The important and interesting thing about Jones was his innovatively creative Western articulation of some of the Eastern spiritual teachings. Ken Wilber’s praise clearly seemed to most knowledgeable readers to go too far: “The event of Bubba Free John is an occasion for rejoicing, for, without any doubt whatsoever, he is destined to become the first Western Avatar to appear in the history of the world. His Teaching contains the most concentrated wealth of transcendent wisdom found anywhere, I believe, in the spiritual literature of the world, modern or ancient, Eastern or Western”; “The Dawn Horse Testament is the most ecstatic, most profound, most complete, most radical, and most comprehensive single spiritual text ever to be penned and confessed by the Human Transcendental Spirit.” But others’ positive assessments seemed reasonable.

I have problems with Jeffrey Kripal’s postmodernism and postcolonialism, and his somewhat predictable PC reinterpretation of Ramakrishna, but there is truth in his account of his darshan of Jones, in his suggestion that Jones was “a contemporary religious genius”, and in his account of Jones’s “spiritual effort of cultural translation and transformation” – all in Kripal’s foreword to Jones’s autobiography, The Knee of Listening. According to Kripal, Jones “succeeded in making the nondual spirituality cherished in the traditions of Asia relevant to the Western mind”. Presenting an important ”‘esoteric history’ of the siddha-guru in the present age”, Jones’s “penetrating questions about traditional Asian forms of spirituality and their teachers are animated by a spirit of deep concern, existential commitment, and profound love”. “No reader”, Kripal continues, “professionally or personally invested in Asian forms of spirituality and concerned about their effective (as opposed to dysfunctional) translation into Western culture can afford to ignore” Jones’s textual corpus, which “constitutes the most doctrinally thorough, the most philosophically sophisticated, the most culturally challenging, and the most creatively original literature currently available in the English language”.

It “stands in a long modern Western textual transmission” that “begins with Charles Wilkins’ translation of The Bhagvat-Geeta, or Dialogues of Kreeshna and Arjoon”, “develops and deepens through Max Mueller’s Sacred Books of the East series”, and “extends into the previous century primarily through such spiritual classics” as The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna, The Collected Works of Swami Vivekananda, the collected works of Sri Aurobindo, Talks with Sri Ramana Maharshi, Swami Muktananda’s Play of Consciousness (which, Kripal points out, “Adi Da (as Franklin Jones) helped to edit”), and the works of Krishnamurti, Yogananda, Alan Watts, and Chogyam Trungpa. More works could of course – and, in my view, should – be added to this list.

Kripal rightly stresses that the importance of Jones’s corpus lies not least in its use of the English language, that the “English idiom has been enriched by a kind of hybridized English-Sanskrit, and that a new type of mystical grammar has been created, embodied most dramatically (and, to the ego, jarringly) in Adi Da’s anti-ego capitalization practice, in which just about every grammatical move is nondualistically endowed with the status once imperially preserved in English for the non-existent ‘I'”. Jones’s autobiography, The Knee Of Listening, can, Kripal says, “be read…as an esoteric history of the embodiment, in the West, of a remarkable type of nondual consciousness that was first discovered and cultivated in different forms and tongues in Asia”.

This emphasis on the linguistic side of Jones’s work seems to me important. It is a central aspect of the significant new phenomenon, stressed not just by Jones himself but by Wilber and others, that he was a Western – Western-born – guru making claims similar to those of the Eastern ones. Indeed, his claims went beyond theirs, as Muktananda (himself not uncontroversial) pointed out. By now, there are many other Western gurus, who claim strict guru status in virtue of their Eastern gurus’ authentication or certification. But it is interesting to note that Jones did not claim authenticity only on such traditionalist ground, but – while acknowledging tradition  broadly and perennialistically conceived, including Tibetan, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhists, emphasizing its importance, and encouraging its study – partly disagreed with Muktananda and his other teachers, and pointed also to the further, original revelatory elements he claimed to have added himself.

The richness and precision of the traditional Sanskrit literary corpus seems to me to be only in the beginning stages of the necessary translation into adequate, corresponding Western terminologies. Not least, the problem caused by the fact that many of the Western terms inevitably used have connotations related to the specific Western historical, intellectual settings in which they emerged, still remains. The confusion produced by some of the specific Abrahamitic connotations of the term ”God” (and despite their impersonalism and radical monism, the Neo-Vedantist Indian transmitters were themselves guilty of this through their own adaptations to Abrahamism) is but one example of this; the less obvious cases of common Western philosophical terms need to be closely studied too. The subtle differences introduced by the factor of the specific Western meanings have to be more consciously and explicitly sorted out, and removed, in the continued process of translation in the future. Only in this way can the Western terminologies reach the same level of precision and nuance as the original ones.

The rich development of the Western languages throughout the centuries, and the potential for further development that it makes possible, should make this quite feasible. The only problem is that this development, or at least the modern part of it (which is not the least), has taken place in the context of the exploration of subject matter different from that of the traditional Eastern ones. This makes adjustment, redefinition, and creativity of a kind which calls for deep and historically new hermeneutic reflection necessary. The terms must be dislodged primarily from the modern rationalist references, but also to some extent the pre-modern ones, e.g. some Aristotelian ones, and transposed to and reconceived in terms of a proper, intra-traditional conceptual understanding of the Sanskrit (etc.) ones.

At a particular historical stage, Jones seems, as Kripal claims, to have made a contribution to this centrally and decisively important process of textual transmission which began in the late eighteenth century. Although he was not specifically occupied with the questions of translation in a narrow sense, he did to a considerable extent creatively develop a vocabulary and language of his own for the Western expression and communication of some of the truths of Vedanta and Yoga. In his writing after The Dawn Horse Testament, which has recently been collected – together with some older material – in The Gnosticon, The Aletheon, and the forthcoming The Pneumaton, whose Greek titles, like that of his 1982 book Eleutherios, emphasize the specifically Western aspect of his spiritual agency, this language can perhaps be said to be developed further still, although he there becomes preoccupied primarily with the meaning of his own avatarhood. A kind of heroic, kataphatic exuberance characterizes Jones’s work. Regardless of substantial doctrinal (and other) objections in light of a more complete and historically informed understanding of Vedanta, it is historically significant, and important on the formal level, as it were, that his Western followers now use or at least have access to his new synthesizing English-Sanskrit language which partly incorporates, partly modifies, and partly translates (mainly) Sanskrit terms and expressions in new and creative ways – and perhaps even that they consider themselves to have in him their own Western avatar.

This contribution should also, I think, be distinguished from the peculiarities of the early hippe context and reception (Jones was, significantly, endorsed by Alan Watts, for instance – in characteristic manner: “It is obvious, from all sorts of subtle details, that he knows what IT’s all about…One who knows that he is the Godhead from the beginning doesn’t have to use any kind of force to be that – whether spiritual, moral, or material…a rare being”; “It looks like we have an Avatar here. I can’t believe it, he is really here. I’ve been waiting for such a one all my life.”  Watts was of course among the most influential senior authorities in the counterculture.) George Feuerstein’s Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics and Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools, and Rascal Gurus (1991), and the collection of scholarly essays he edited, Humor Suddenly Returns – Essays on the Spiritual Teaching of Master Da Free John: A Scholarly Tribute (1984), seem to me important for the understanding and assessment of the Jones phenomenon. Quite a few scholars keep endorsing him.

But Jones’s largely standard radical monism also makes it necessary, it seems to me, to problematize and reject some of his concepts and terms. (This may sound like this is all about philosophy and metaphysics only. But it is certainly not so: There is also the whole dimension of actual spiritual realization beyond that, as is always understood in Vedanta, for instance, which is not, despite some parallels and overlappings, philosophy and metaphysics in the Western sense. And it is primarily there that we find the partial truths Jones conveyed. The concepts and terms can contribute to that too.)  The problem with the understanding and assessment of postmodernists and postcolonialists like Kripal, New Agers like Wilber, and general liberal, romantic counterculturalists like Watts and Feuerstein, however, is that they fail to see the extent to which, far beyond hippiedom, the textual transmission as a whole, not just Jones’s, has taken place in the context of the distinctly modern Western rationalist-romantic setting, that it is always more or less – and often more than less – shaped by it, and why, and in what respects, this is problematic. This often applies to Vivekananda and Aurobindo quite as much as to Jones. Specifically modern Western pantheism, as it emerged in the West in the course of the development of its distinct cultural dynamic and dialectic of rationalism and romanticism, and with its typical implications in various fields, is a constitutive element of their work. It is what draws them all to one specific strand of Vedanta (and sometimes to what they perceive as equivalents in Buddhism and Taoism), and makes them present that strand in a similar way. There are of course more strictly traditionalist representatives of Vedanta even in the West, but because of the dominant modernist dynamic they are not the ones who have become well known even here.

On his art website, we learn that before he emerged as a spiritual teacher, Jones, in addition to his general hippiedom, wrote a master’s thesis at Stanford on “the core issues in modernism focusing on Gertrude Stein and the painters of the same period”. The art which he himself produced in his later years bears witness to lasting modernist sensibilities. Of course, he seized on the spiritual intentions of some of the early abstract artists – successfully, according to one critic cited on his art website: “[Adi Da’s] pursuit of the spiritual paths found in early abstraction, from Kandinsky to Mondrian, and [his] translation of that pursuit into the digital age, restore a transcendental spirituality to the materialism of the machine aesthetic”. Others would point out, however, that this aesthetic is congruent only with a certain onesided understanding of spirituality.

In some respects, it does seem Jones may well have remained to the end the modern liberal hippie he sometimes looked like and his antinomian practices signalled that he was, even as a spiritual teacher. But there is also a higher side to hippiedom. He may have appeared with his spiritual transmission in and for, and thus with the specific adaptations to, a particular generation. It remains to be seen how those adaptations will be perceived in the future, and whether or not the modalities of his spiritual agency will appeal to future generations. Right now, it is at least clear that gurus with positions and claims like his – not to mention avatars – are not as appealing as they were to the purportedly anti-authoritarian hippie generation.

Ruth, who was much too young to belong to that generation, now significantly rejects male gurus sitting around in rooms, and treated as absolute authorities by submissive followers. When I first met her, it was I who asked questions about the legitimacy of some of Jones’s claims, and she who defended it. Now, I became a little disappointed by her disavowal of him. Although I did have questions, and still do, I had become aware of the significance of Jones long before I met Ruth. At the very least, it is the case that the general things Jones talks about are not only the centrally important ones, but ultimately also the only truly interesting ones. And, after all, gurus are and always will be needed (and women can be gurus too). Real spiritual authorities are absolutely necessary.

It is impossible for outsiders to ascertain what is true and not in the various allegations against Jones. And it is wrong, I suggest, to simply dismiss all transmitters of his kind because of them, without investigating the really interesting thing, namely whether or not they convey some at least partial spiritual and philosophical truths. Abrahamists, for instance, do not in general hold any moral high ground in doing so, and atheists even less.

I would recommend that those who have doubts about Jones bracket and suspend judgment on everything else about him, and study exclusively his main books (in addition to the titles mentioned above, these include The Method of the Siddhas). One must sometimes be able to ignore the endless disputes among former followers, scholars, and others about real or alleged problematic aspects of figures like Jones and the peculiarities of their times, and to glean instead whatever is – quite independently of what is true in the various complaints – objectively of real and lasting value in their contributions. Although he too exaggerates, I think Kripal points to what that is in Jones’s case.

The Dawn Horse Press

Avatar Adi Da Samraj and the Reality-Way of Adidam

Adi Da and Adidam

The Adidam Revelation

About Adidam: The Way of Perfect Happiness

22 Responses to “The Significance of Franklin Jones”

  1. 1 Dharmashaiva December 28, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    Very astute observations.

  2. 3 Source of Sense April 13, 2011 at 8:06 am

    Great introduction to Da!
    I will link to it on my forum and website [still building].

    It is appropriate [a word Da appeared fond of] to survive 2012 even though the billions will die, suffocating in their ego-mired lives, just as true searchers of Truth have always been few and far between. And just as the science of spirituality is there for the astute reader to find in Da’s writings, there are researchers bringing forth the clear and undeniable arguments for the imminent destruction that’s upon us all.

    I invite you to save your knowledge and intelligence if your ego is up to it. The future generations you speak of would be served by it.

    It is generally humorous to me, though, to find that there are people who have delved into matters outside of the mainstream only to cling to other mainstream/western concepts as a matter of course, thereby clearly demonstrating an admiration of western authority that shows that egoic values have yet to be transcended to any notable degree. I would once have joined the Daist community but found that devotees are generally just as hopelessly lost as anyone else, albeit knowledgable of the spiritual freedoms they have failed to realize. I therefore got the same impression that i did at university: the community apparently offered no more than the books i could access already did in themselves.

    If mere cerebral ability and insight were enough to realize intelligence/understanding, the above text would certainly suggest that you were capable of it. I commend the rare competence and sophistication it conveys.

  3. 4 Nordbo September 4, 2011 at 12:06 am

    En sak som slår mig när jag läser det här är att du skriver annorlunda på engelska. Eller också är det ämnet. När man skriver om politiska frågor är det nog extra viktigt att vara försiktig, särskilt när man inte är anonym. Den här texten är inte alls lika försiktig som de som handlar om politik, utan mer direkt och säker. Du är ju modig som tar upp kontroversiella saker under ditt eget namn på bloggen. När jag skriver försiktig menar jag bara att du eftersträvar att vara väldigt exakt , vilket jag antar beror på att du vill undvika missförstånd.

    Jag har läst flera böcker av herrarna du skriver om. Både Wilber och Feuerstein finns i min bokhylla. Adi Da har jag inte läst något av, men jag har läst om honom. Men då har det antingen varit folk som okritiskt höjer honom till skyarna, eller folk som sågar honom av personliga skäl eller av automatik för att alla andliga auktoriteter ska sågas i vår tid. Din kritik är intressant för att den kommer från en förståelse av vad Adi Da sysslar med, men samtidigt inte höjer honom till skyarna. Tanken att hans budskap kan ha varit riktat till just hippiegenerationen var ny för mig. Likaså observationen att de antiauktoritära hippierna ville ha auktoriteter, fast bara såna de fann själva.

    • 5 Jan Olof Bengtsson September 4, 2011 at 2:37 pm

      Tack för kommentar. Roligt att du uppskattade min artikel, och att du läst eller läst om dessa personer. Det kan nog ta lite tid att komma in i Jones’/Das språkvärld, men det är värt att ta en titt på något av de verk jag nämner.

      Vilka jämför du mig med när du, samtidigt som du tycker jag är modig, säger att jag är försiktig? Om försiktighet och exakthet präglar texterna tror jag bara det är så att mitt sätt att skriva i någon mån är naturligt påverkat av min akademiska verksamhet. Jag känner inte att jag medvetet eftersträvar det.

      Jag har visserligen publicerat annat än akademiska texter, såväl kulturartiklar som mer politiska, men inte heller de senare har kunnat hänföras till den reguljära politiska journalistikens, debattartikelns eller polemikens genrer. Här i bloggen tycker jag ändå att jag kommit i närheten av dessa, åtminstone några gånger, även om de är undantag och bloggen i dess helhet har en annan inriktning.

      En fråga som inställer sig är om mina svenska texter om annat än politik är och mina engelska texter om politik inte är försiktiga. Genom dem går det kanske att avgöra om skillanden beror på språket eller ämnet.

      Å andra sidan undrar jag om mina politiska ämnen verkligen är så kontroversiella. Hittills har bloggen, glädjande nog, fått mycket beröm och lite kritik, och nästan all den lilla kritiken har kommit från personer med långt mer kontroversiella åsikter.

  4. 6 Secular Emissary September 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    what R you guys talking about?

  5. 8 John February 21, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Hi, I am from Australia. I have been a devotee of Adi Da Samraj for 30 years now. I came across your site while browsing the title of one of Adi Da’s essays – The Body As Energy and the Universal Field of Consciousness.

    I obviously find you assessment of Adi Da’s Life and Teaching to be somewhat jaundiced. When it was published The Enlightenment of the Whole Body was easily the most extraordinary book ever published – it still is.

    I recommend three references.

    1. An essay titled The Rebirth of Sacred Art which is featured on a site by his devotees which gives a comprehensive appreciation of Adi Da as their freely chosen Spiritual Master. Plus appreciative essays by people who are not devotees.

    The essay provides a unique description of the origins and cultural consequences of the perceptual strait-jacket in which we are now all trapped, with no exceptions.

    2. This reference provides an introduction of Adi Da’s comprehensive life long consideration of The Great Tradition

    3. An essay on the Guru-devotee relationship as the only source of authentic Spiritual Practice

    Reference # 3 also provides a unique critique of conventional exoteric Christianity (plus much more too).

    • 9 Jan Olof Bengtsson February 26, 2012 at 12:41 pm

      Hi John,

      Try to understand what extraordinary praise my article contains. No one I know among Vedantists, people in Hindu studies, traditionalists etc. even takes Jones/Da seriously, and some reject him and others like him in the strongest possible derogatory terms. I suggest you send your links to them instead of me.

      Since, contrary to them, I am particularly interested in in people who represent the Vedantic tradition in the West, not least Westerners who go to India and bring it back to the West, and in how they translate it into and express it in Western languages and in Western terms or at least with reference to Western terms, and since I am not as convinced as those opponents of figures like Jones/Da about the superior quality of the continuation of the tradition in modern India, I include Jones/Da among the figures who are interesting and relevant for my purposes. I take him seriously as a representative of the great spiritual tradition in the West, and I have not yet personally met anyone else who does.

      “Jaundiced” can mean different things. First of all, it can mean “affected by bitterness, resentment, or envy”. Do you mean to say that this is what characterizes my assessment of Jones’s/Da’s life and teaching? Why should I be bitter or resentful about this, when I have had no negative experiences whatsoever of them? I do have some questins, doubts and criticisms, but why do they amount to envy? I envy his receiving so much condemnation from his bitter and resentful former disciples and other opponents? I envy his use of the excessive antinomian methods described in Garbage and the Goddess, a book which, as far as I understand, he himself withdrew? I envy his formulation of other versions of Vedanta than the one I defend, and his expression of unusual, hard-to-trace elements of Yoga? I envy his devotion to the dubious Kandinskian conception of the spiritual in art? I envy his general, time-bound liberal leanings? I envy his occasional hippie adaptation in his appearance? I really cannot believe this is what you mean.

      But “jaundiced” can also mean rather “prejudiced”. You of course have every right to say that, with regard to my partial criticism, this is what I am. But I have the right to express my doubts, reservations, and objections. Indeed, the need for and value of such honest questioning of the person who claims to or is claimed to be a spiritual master is insisted on by the tradition itself. It is you who have to explain why I am prejudiced, or rather, if you can show that I am, that I am prejudiced in a problematic way that is tantamount to being wrong about the aspects of the life and work of Jones/Da that you have in mind.

      Finally, “jaundiced” can mean “bored” or “blasé”. It is true that I am unimpressed by and indifferent to many Western spiritual teachers because I have seen so many of them over the years with the typical weaknesses of the kind I mention in this article and have dealt with at greater length and in greater depth elsewhere.

      But this does not mean that I do not appreciate and recognize the spiritual truth they too transmit to some extent, mixed up with all of the radical romantic confusion. And I am certainly not bored by or indifferent towards a teacher like Jones/Da. If he had not been among the more important Westerners claiming to represent the tradition, I would never have written this article and continued to post (as you can see in the Spirituality category) videos with him. This is what I think you fail to understand.

      I continuously expose myself to harsh criticism for refering to figures like Da/Jones, Paul Brunton, Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, and others like them (see again the Spirituality category) and not keeping exclusively to Indian acharyas in the major sampradayas who have never left India and are almost totally unknown in the West outside narrow circles of scholars or practitioners. But such critics don’t understand why I do this. While being the strictest Vedantic traditionalists, they do not care much for the West, or rather, Europe, despite being themselves Westerners, whereas one part of my “mission” is to save and renew Europe and its culture and civilization (of which Australia is of course a part) by means of a spiritual reconnection with the Vedantic tradition. For this reason, comparative study and cultural, philosophical and spiritual bridgebuilding and to some extent mutual adaptation and modification is of decisive importance to me. And for such purposes, Western spiritual teachers who draw on Vedanta are more important than the Indian.

      Hence my interest in and respect for Jones/Da, despite what I find to be some typical shortcomings. If you want to maintain your criticism of my essay, you must specify why you think I am wrong about the latter. If you can do that, it could lead to a meaningful and valuable dialogue which could promote the needed spiritual enlightenment in the West.

  6. 10 adnukum April 23, 2016 at 9:22 am

    I read most of Jones production, starting with The Knee of Listening in the beginning of the 1970’s when I was studying History of Religions at Uppsala university. I found him very humorous and light-hearted. I got most of the early tapes and listened in the car to and fro work. Hilarious ! I later subscribed to the magazine The Laughing Man, which gave me much joy. I also wrote a letter to that magazine about my appreciation of the early Jones, basically what he said and wrote before The Method of the Siddhas.

    Later on, with the Seven Stages of Life and all the BIG letters for every noun, the name-changing and cultic behaviour I certainly grew weary of his texts. He had a unique linguistic talent and probably was a funny man to hang around, at least if you were male and not dependent on him. He had a humorous approach that we all need. As a good writer and speaker he should have met with others, not isolate himself in Fiji. He was better than the guru theater of those years. Ram Dass, as an example, matured much better. And I always felt Jones talked about the Spirit in the larger Christian tradition, and talked very well as a “pneumatologist”.

    As a philosophy teacher I used some of his early texts but rewrote them and cleared them of rethorical baggage. Wow what wonderful responses I had from students ! But in the end Meister Eckhart works better and is more lasting, I feel.

    Thanks for a nice article !

    • 11 Jan Olof Bengtsson April 23, 2016 at 3:02 pm

      Thanks for your interesting comment. Your experience of using his texts in your philosophy classes seems important to me. “Guru theatre” is well put. My intuition is that he might have become a little puffed up when Alan Watts – who was, after all, a much greater writer and East-West spiritual bridgebuilder – said he could be an avatar. That seems to have set off an “avatar theatre” in addition to the guru theatre, and he apparently found it required his isolation etc.

    • 13 Daniel April 3, 2019 at 9:29 pm

      I was drawn into understanding with the Garbage and Goddess book in 1978, and began participating for a number of years. Previously I had been a Transcendental Meditaion teacher. I did “drift off” and away from the community in the mid eighties. In more recent years I have again been turning to ongoing and deepening understanding. Of the many identities beings claim these days ( sexual,gender, national,political…etc etc…the suggestion that one is Consciousness Itself ,and not separate is othe strangest thing to contemplate ( from perspective of separate ego). What the heck would that mean ? Or be like? How would I know what an Avatar is ! … but i feel it might well be the case. Like Einstein’s thought experiments , I consider it and think it indeed could be so. “IS SO”…I don’t debate, feels so…” priceless- for everything else there’s Master card !”

  7. 14 Fletcher Rahke April 3, 2019 at 8:39 am

    Total bs and you have zero understanding of Adi Da and His Radical enlightenment teachings. I doubt you even think enlightenment in the human form is possible, .because you are totally stuck in mind.

  8. 15 Hermes April 4, 2019 at 12:26 am

    “A lot of what the guru does, apparently as teacher, is an attempt to confuse or paradox you beyond any interest in the teaching, any interest in anything else, experiences or whatever so that you will become available in that raw form to the Guru-Siddhi. In the meantime, individuals confuse the Guru-Siddhi with the forms of Gnosis and the forms of process, and that is why the Guru must teach. His function is not obvious. He is like an invisible man who cannot communicate, who is not only invisible but who has no sensory way to communicate himself to you. There’s no way of knowing he’s there. There’s no way of knowing that the Guru function is present. Just because it’s present in the form of some human being doesn’t mean that it’s knowable. It is announced. It is pointed to. It is served in the forms of the teaching.”

    Adi Da, 1975

    Copyright 2019 ASA

  9. 16 Jan Olof Bengtsson April 5, 2019 at 4:20 am

    Again, I wrote this article as a defence of Jones/Bubba/Da. I perceived that he was not held in high regard in the spiritual and scholarly circles in which I moved, and tried to point to things I thought his critics should appreciate. I also posted two videos with him, and a recommendation of one of his books.

  10. 18 Brian Rogers April 10, 2019 at 9:39 am

    Upon reading your assessment of “Jones” you write with a certain naivety about spiritual life. You’re writing from the perspective of someone who seems to have very little if any actual depth of experience in spirituality as a real process. You write as a conscientious objector without the knowledge or information to really understand not only Adi Da’s writing’s but to garner the real depth and meaning that real spirituality represents. You write with very little understanding of spiritual traditions that have been around for literally thousands of years. For instance one of the fundamental aspects of spirituality is that of the guru and the devotee relationship, one of the core tenant,(if not the core tenant) to real spiritual practice. If you study the traditions beyond merely academic analysis then you may find this out. Philosophical insights derived from a serious study of the various religious traditions are obviously valuable but not if your study rests in mental objectivity without exploring your own process subjectively as an actual participant. Spirituality has never worked that way, it simply cannot be objectified as if scientific analysis is the only way to know what is real…it certainly is not. If you’re not an actual participant within a ‘real’ spiritual process then your ability to truly understand or criticize such a being as Adi Da Samraj (formerly known as Franklin Jones or any of the truly great spiritual masters such as: Swami Nityananda, Swami Muktananda, Rang Avadhoot, Ramana Maharshi to name a few) will be deeply flawed. How can you criticize something when your own knowledge of the subject in question fails to embrace the full scope of what you’re criticzing? It will inevitably be fruitless. As for trying to defend or paint Adi Da in some greater light within a scholarly circle, such a limited understanding of the spiritual process in your own case being so deeply flawed will not lead to much except more scholarly blah blah within that circle. Trying to achieve some scholarly understanding of a process which is way beyond scholarly and academic understanding is like trying to understand the music and musicality of Mozart without knowing what a piano is, you would need to learn his music. Adi Da’s literature is like music but you need to find out what key he’s playing in to begin to fully grasp the true depth of his meaning. it’s impossible to grasp mentally, virtually impossible.

  11. 19 Bas June 24, 2019 at 12:31 am

    my partial criticism, this is what I am. But I have the right to express my doubts, reservations, and objections. I am quoting you here.And yes it is all mind and a search. You are none of that. You are not even the one causing the arising of that. You are as Adi Da says the mere witness of such arising. Most significant of all he has said I find to be the Five Reality teachings The implication or meaning of thoose words is that is not any thought , or philosophy or idea , or action or relationship that will provide permanent happiness. Haha simply impossible because of that is all conditional. Happiness itself is prior to any of that. Realisation therefore also is not dependent on any thought , idea ,experience etc.

  12. 20 Bas June 24, 2019 at 12:56 am

    In addition : Ultimately it makes little difference what he said or did about anything. But do we persist in identifying with what we are not, the body-mind complex, and the arising of conditions or do we receive the gift of standing free from all that and the realisation that we never were identical to what we conventionally and erroneously assume to be identical to.. That Gift is inherent in his Teaching and His Being and is not in any way different from our own.

  13. 21 AS July 8, 2019 at 11:51 am

    Dear Jan Olof,
    I appreciate your taking the time to write a scholarly and balanced article on a being who is both paradoxical and perhaps even incomprehensible and has been both lauded and is now much vilified. I am neither a westerner nor an easterner, straddling both worlds by circumstance of birth and karma. There is so much that could be said about this altogether, but it is best said in person. I will say just a little about it. I spent many years in his company and now quite a few years away, having left a community that seemed unequal to the task of truly fostering human growth with any degree of compassion. My experience of Him however, was that His insight and compassion were immense and His every word served me profoundly well and was never ill-placed. He has been the very mirror of my self and everyone else who placed themselves in front of Him. (I served Him personally as well as at a distance.) Throughout the entirety of my active participation as well as in the years of my (sometimes raging) questioning, for I resist both cultism and lazy unquestioning conformity, the actual, physical transmission event, which altered me, most tangibly and physically, and indeed continues to do so, has never been absent. It is really this unseen dimension of the process and it unfolds imperceptibly like a flower, that is so hard to communicate and can never be a subject of discussion as it is utterly subjective (although its signs are not). Much of what is “known about Him” is not really quite so, but through the filter of perceptions and the actions and communications of a group of people around Him, who would rather save face and paint the King as Mad, rather than accept the responsibility for the gifts they were given and embody His calling for Renunciation (whilst all the while extolling their fealty and devotion, thus creating a latter day church, replete with Bishops and a new orthodoxy of mercantile, consumer religion). For me, and this is the nature of revelation, I regard His appearance as nothing less than a turning of the wheel of Dharma. An Ashvamedha no less and That unspeakable force and presence continues to transmit itself even now. With kind regards and respect. X

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"A Self-realized being cannot help benefiting the world. His very existence is the highest good."
Ramana Maharshi