It has taken me at least thirty-one years to produce this book. If I were an Avatar or one of the eternal Siddhas I would have made it for you as soon as my faculties were fit to write. But I had to learn it all instead according to the condition of our usual birth. This has also determined the symbol and subject matter through which I must interpret this learning to you. For every word I will speak has a peculiar history in my own life of understanding.
Thus, I will write you my autobiography, because my past cannot be separated from this truth. My living has revealed it to me, and the form of my life is the necessary bearer of what I would communicate. But my purpose is not to fascinate you with my own experience. And, since I am practically unknown, there is no public reason at all why you should want to hear the details of my birth and parent-age, my childhood, my psychological development, my education, and employment, loves and all the rest of my adventure here. Therefore, I must justify the writing of a book about myself. To put it exactly, I am possessed with certain truth. If it were not for truth itself, I would not form a single word. I have mostly been a private man. The anonymity with which the form of life provides us has made it possible for me to encounter and observe the very form of reality.
In the past, it has been traditional to live publicly but to keep great knowledge secret. Thus, all the alternatives to the ordinary experience and suffering which men have known before come down to us in guarded symbols, white and black, with seals all around, impenetrable by the common mind. Nothing could be more occult than even the most direct statements of truth made by churchmen, saints and saviors, East or West. If it were not so, then we should all long ago have attained the very thing that every last one of us is seeking. Instead, mankind is a drove of seeking, and our common history, high and low, is a single event that I would call the great search.
We are now in a mature phase of that great search, in spite of the signs of violence and ignorance that mark this time. What in the past was the private hoard of kings and saints is lately being grasped by many men, so that gold and knowledge are becoming more and more the stable communication of humanity. These are the signs of what has been called a new age. Therefore, the attitude of secrecy is no longer orthodox, and in the new age, a man must be generous not only with what he has but with what he knows. For this reason, I cannot contain the only thing that I have grasped in the heart of reality.
As I have said, the form of this book will be an autobiography, but its purpose is reality and conscious joy. And seen as an autobiography it must bear signs of an unusual purpose. The purpose of traditional autobiography or life-summation is the analysis and communication of character, the more or less intelligent force of personality. But I will affirm a radical presence that is prior to the machine of character.
Even the traditional religious or spiritual autobiography communicates little more than the force of a unique person, whose victory, albeit finally consigned to the graceful working of a higher power, is practically interpreted in the symbols of a forceful human character. Thus, the reading of such a work motivates us only to modifications in our own attitudes and behavior, the tentative sacrifice of the armor of character. But there is a form of life that radically transcends the limitations of intelligent personality. It does not begin from there in order to concentrate on what is above. It is altogether not a form of seeking, and therefore it can be the foundation for a new age of conscious life in this universe.
If I write an autobiography at all it is for the sake of this radical form of existence. Therefore, it cannot be a history of the development of my own character. Such could not possibly communicate the thing itself, and, at this stage the lessons necessary to an understanding of this truth, but I must assert from the beginning that the plane of these events is not the personality, for I have not truly lived as one.
The form of life emerging in the new age is not founded in personality and character, the armor and intelligence of the vital man, but in consciousness. Reality or truth is not the goal of conscious life but its foundation, its operating premise. its intelligence is not determined by the goals of its seeking but in its prior understanding. And its crucial experience is not a progressive discovery of the fragments of a whole that is forever approached but never grasped. Its crucial and constant experience is conscious joy, without dilemma, without problematic motivation.
I am talking about an actual form of life instantly available to any man. And that form of life to now has been hidden in symbols of unavailability, the goals of traditional seeking to which every human person has attended. My work is to communicate that reality through the forms of my living.
If, after reading this book, you are only moved to seek, if you are still motivated to find an answer to some conceived internal dilemma, then we shall have failed to listen in reality. The single purpose in all that I write must be to make true hearing possible. Therefore, I will be careful not to create a fascinating object for your attention. And the most fascinating object to the usual habit of mind is the symbol of the person, the image of total character. If I were to write an autobiography in the traditional manner, I would only recreate the barrier to consciousness. For like motivates like, and the me of my life’s adventure can only make a seeker like myself.
Thus, I will not be concerned to tell the details of my personal life. The psychological image of my life is not exemplary, nor does the analysis of it amount to the very thing my life has realized and demonstrated. Over the years I have kept many journals of my experience. But even these are almost totally absent of any kind of diary of personality. There are no remarks about how I felt, whom I met, what I did, where I was, when, or why. They provide almost no material at all for the traditional biographer or even autobiographer. Yet, those notes chart the evolution of a conscious life, and they are uniquely usable for my purposes here.
Of course, no one is visible as consciousness alone. I will write all the events of my life that surrounded this consciousness. Many of those events are unusual and remarkable, and they include years of experience with various paths, methods, teachers and miraculous phenomena. But it all will amount to an experience of consciousness, a conscious life that is at last not uniquely my own. Therefore, read for your own sake, for the end of suffering and of seeking. I promise that none of this will lead to me but always to reality, which is conscious and unqualified joy.
Franklin Jones (Adi Da Samraj), Preface to the original unpublished edition of ‘The Knee of Listening’, 1971.