VOL. 3. NO. 4. 7-8/80.
True Religion is a Great and Creative Struggle
Renunciation and the Renunciate Order of the Free Daist Communion
Volume 3 , Number 4
DA FREE JOHN: For many years now I have assumed the formalities of submission and service in relationship to the people who have responded to the Way that I Teach. I abandoned years ago the relative informalities and concerns associated with me when I was called “Bubba,” or brother, when I met face to face with relatively small numbers of people to consider, and argue, and describe this Way of life. Now the name by which people refer to me is prefaced by the name “Da,” which is a kind of title traditionally used to refer to one who teaches, renounces himself, or gives of himself in the service of others. The same term or title, which literally means “to give” (and does not, in our usage, mean “father,” or “yes,” or any of the other meanings that may appear in European languagesis also used as one of the Names of God in the ancient traditions. It refers to the quality of radiance, self-giving, or self-renunciation and transcendence, and when applied to a human Teacher, as, in this case, it is applied to me, it is a kind of title, just as swami, avadhoot, bishop, pastor, and rabbi are titles.
“Da” is, in a certain application, a Name of God. The Spiritual Master, who speaks ecstatically about the Realization of God, may be referred to or related to via a word or name with the same general meaning, but simply signifying the service of giving the Teaching to others. Nothing negative or strange is intended, nor should the tendency toward a “cult of personality” be understood by use of the name Da in reference to me. The use of the name Da in reference to a Spiritual Master or Teacher acknowledges that in relating to the Spiritual Master, who has practiced ecstatic Communion with God, one is relating to a servant of the universal Divine, not to someone whom one might foolishly believe to be an independent and self-contained incarnation of the Creator. The relationship to the Spiritual Master, as ones relationship to everyone and everything, is a natural aspect of ones constant Communion with God. Therefore, use of the name Da as a title of reference to the Spiritual Teacher is actually a device that prevents cultic attachment to the human personality who Teaches within the church.
You must turn to God, not to me as a pseudo-God, an idol, an obsessive object of attention. The true relationship of anyone to me is described in our literature and in the esoteric traditions in general-and that relationship has nothing to do with mere cultic enthusiasm. If there is ever any tendency in our church to create a cult around me in which God is basically forgotten and in which the way I look or what can be believed about me is the only consolation, then that terrible and deluding tendency must be overcome. You must become focused in the Divine, Who is All-Pervading. Then you may also understand something about the nature of the Spiritual Master and accept the help of the Spiritual Master in the form of his transmitted instruction, the community of those who study his Teaching, and the holy places that he establishes for devotees.
The ecstatic speech of the Spiritual Master is not about himself. It is about the Condition of everyone – that is what makes it ecstatic . It is about unity with the Divine; therefore, it is about God, not about self. It is the assertion of a person speaking in ecstasy about unity with God, inherence in God, speaking from the point of view of self-transcendence, loss of self, ecstasy. Such speech is not “me”-it is God, it is God-Realization, ecstasy in God, loss of self, so that only God is perceived.
That is the only sense in which you must understand my ecstatic speech to you. It is not about me. It is the realization that comes with “me-transcendence,” self-transcendence. If people look at me and say “You are God” but really do not have any feeling for God otherwise, then they are falsely aligned to me and they make an idol out of me. They have not realized that I speak ecstatically, that I realize God through self-transcendence and that that Realization is the same Realization all may enjoy. There is a usefulness that I may serve in your life of God-Communion, but it is not at all the same as your making an idol out of me and basing your happiness on some sort of consoling objectification of me as Divine.
It is only in self-transcending God-Communion that you can have a right relationship to me. Any other kind of relationship to me is false. This is not the first time I have said it is false! The literature is filled with my criticism of the wrong interpretation of the ecstatic speech and presence of the Spiritual Master. It is filled with criticism of the wrong interpretation of the relationship to the Spiritual Master. I maintain a formal relationship to the membership of the church, so that they will not abuse me by trying to make me an idol, trying to contain God in this skin. I have not realized God by containing God in this skin! It is by transcending this skin and this mind that God has been realized to be absolute and all-pervading, my own Condition. It is not me with a small “m” that is God. This body-mind is not God. God is the Condition of the world. This is my Realization, which I can proclaim to you.
In the midst of that Realization, this body-mind achieves an uncommon function, as is the case for anyone who matures in the higher aspects of spiritual life. An incomparable Radiance communicates through that person and is felt by others. That is the Radiance of God-no doubt!-and it does not have its position, its origin and its limiting identity, inside that person you see before you. If I alone am God, then whenever I leave the room, you are separated from God. How absurd! The confession “I am God” is ecstatic speech about the transcendence of “I,” the dissolution of identification with the limitations of the separate body-mind. It is a confession about the Condition of everyone and everything. It is foolishness, it is madness, it is Divine speech, and it should be understood as such and not used to suppress whoever speaks in those terms.
Throughout the history of religious traditions, ecstatics have suddenly started to speak in the mood of God-Communion, having transcended themselves. Such God-Realized men and women say foolish things such as “I am God,” and immediately they are punished for it. Jesus was persecuted for it, as were many saints and Adepts in all traditions. We have burned people at the stake for realizing God and for speaking ecstatically, because we took their ecstatic speech to be blasphemy! The many terrible deeds that have been done in the past in the name of righteous piety have done a sorrowful injustice to many great souls and, likewise, they have prevented the masses of humanity from acquiring the great gift of spiritual Wisdom.
The Truth is as I have just described it to you and as I have described it many times before: The Spiritual Master is not God in the sense that the individual body-mind before you is exclusively God. The Spiritual Master has Realized spiritual oneness with the Divine through self-transcendence. The Divine is operative through the Spiritual Master just as the Divine is operative through all beings in all kinds of ways. Perhaps God is shining in some unique way through the Spiritual Master, thus making him or her useful to instruct you and to be good company and to radiate initiatory force. But the Truth of Life for all beings is God-the eternal, all-pervading, absolute, infinite Being and Radiant Life.
Volume 3, Number 4
True Religion Is a Great and Creative Struggle
DA FREE JOHN: People really are sinners as they have been described in all the religious traditions. They are programmed by nature to contract and turn upon themselves programmed by the threat of death, programmed by difficulty, action, reaction, and mortality. All of these influences cause people to dissociate emotionally from the Living Divine and therefore to dissociate from one another, thus infecting the body-mind with all kinds of strategies, patterns, difficulties, phasing. This is the way it is – everybody is a sinner. Everybody is Narcissistic. Everybody is tending to turn away from God and one another.
Therefore, people cannot simply by hearing me give a talk or by sitting with me from time to time expect their unlove to vanish. There is no such salvation in this gathering or in any other religious gathering. Unlove does not merely vanish. To transcend this native tendency toward self-possession is a creative struggle. I can give people energy and insight into that struggle, but the struggle is theirs. It has never been given to me to replace anyones responsibility for that struggle.
Because you are sinful or tending to turn away, you have sometimes succeeded and sometimes failed in your struggle to transcend your loveless habits. You suffer in your intimate relations and your friendships, you suffer in relationship to other members of the church, you suffer in relationship to your past associations and to the world in general. Every human being and therefore every organization that has ever existed suffers from sin.
Sinners who accept the burden of accomplishing a great thing tend to disturb that great thing. They tend to mutilate it and fail to serve it altogether. Sometimes they may even succeed at it, but it is a very difficult affair. I have consistently tried to purify this religious organization, reorient it, reestablish it, confront it constantly with the sinfulness, the self-possession, the mediocrity, the ineffective patterns of its members.
And clearly there has been progress in a positive direction over these eight years. We are not a church that established itself eight years ago in allegiance to certain principles of behavior, belief, structure, and dogma. The members of this church were ordinary people, street people or dropouts from some aspect of conventional society. But they were interested in my consideration and in engaging that consideration in my company.
As a result of our continuing consideration, most of these same people have grown out of their self-indulgent and exploitive habits of life into a right emotional and psycho-physical understanding of all aspects of personal existence. That understanding, that process, that commitment, characterizes the Teaching and the practice and obligation of church members, and it has characterized that practice for several years. Our honest commitment to that practice should be obvious to anyone who will observe just exactly what has gone on in this church during its entire history. We have never had any intention not to do a good thing with this church, and we must remain strongly committed to doing that good thing if we are to make what is essential in this church survive.
Criticism may be appropriate, and clearly self-criticism is best. Religious organizations must respond to criticism from without and they must deal compassionately with themselves and with others. But on the other hand, the wholesale damnation of non-establishment religion must be confronted, criticized, and undermined in honorable and intelligent ways.
Therefore, others must be given an opportunity to see what we are doing, to observe what we are all about, to see, as we do, what is positive. It is a natural fact that all good things remain essentially unobserved by the negative mind. Thus, the hostile critics of religion conclude from their analyses that all religious gatherings are paranoid and dangerous. The anti-cultists are committed to paranoia, destruction, and loveless visions. We must not submit to that paranoid vision and its destructive energy.
In the traditional sense, a “cult” is simply a group of people gathered together with a shared intention. There are cults of baseball players, of rock stars, flowers, and Persian cats, cults around TV news reporters-Walter Cronkite has a cult. Where more than one person have their attention on the same thing, there exists the structure of a cult. This is an ordinary structure of attention; it is not inherently negative. Life involves concentrating on matters of interest and often with many people at the same time. Cults become negative only when they develop on the basis of immaturity and childishness, of self-possession rather than self-transcendence, of fear rather than love, of illusion rather than understanding and wisdom. Thus, we must overcome the tendency toward negative cultism always. The Teaching of this church is full of such criticism of the cultic tendency, just as our process as a church has always been characterized by self-criticism.
It must be possible that someone who has fulfilled the esoteric approach to God can be available to other people. It must be possible! Such a possibility must not be the object of suppression and taboos. Religion is supposed to have been given freedom in this country. The sphere of religion and the relationships between people at the level of religion are supposed to be set apart and kept sacred. Yet in the wake of the paranoid reaction to Jonestown and the practices of certain cults in the public and the rise to prominence of the Ayatollah and all the rest of the threat to life at the present time, people think that religion must be destroyed unless it appears in the form of downtown Christianity-which is itself nothing more than the dominant cult in our society.
Religious freedom is at the foundation of this country, because the authors of our Constitution recognized rightly that religion should be permitted to function and not be subject to slanderous, suppressive, destructive, angry, and vengeful tactics. No religion deserves such treatment, no matter how unconventional the religious practice or community or institution. We should not oblige religion to be conventional. Religion must be allowed to be whatever it is, whatever its members agree that it is. Religion must be a sphere of freedom.
The truth is that people just have difficulty being associative. They tend toward dissociation, and therefore they have troubles in life. When they become involved in organizations or create organizations, they breed problems. To create a church requires compassion and the ability to transcend yourself, to criticize yourself, and to reestablish your humor and your right intention. It is a creative and difficult process. It is difficult to be a human being!
In this church we do not promise a gleeful salvation. Rather, we completely and totally and constantly acknowledge that this process requires maturity, that it is difficult, that it requires you constantly to encounter limitations in yourself. You are not invited just to come and believe in ol Free John and smile your days through-that is not what real life is about at all! And we never communicate that that is the way it is. Communion with God is not a matter of believing in any case, but it is a matter of transcending yourself, of surrendering, of cutting through it, of growing, of relating to the Living God instead of to concepts and arbitrary rules.
Such a practice is difficult because we are alive and our bodily mechanisms are immature and unevolved. For the same reason, it is very difficult to create an organization founded on true spiritual practice. Thus, we are working very hard to discover what kind of organization, what kind of organized participation with one another, can be made to work. No matter what that form of organization is, it will still sometimes cause difficulty for people and frustrate them. We will try to avoid that as much as possible and correct it when it happens.
The church is trying to establish itself as an organization of people who live this Teaching. The church makes available a Way of life within a community of people who are good company for that Way. The members of this church are not related to me as a cultic idol. Fundamentally they depend for their relations on one another, on the Teaching, and on the Divine directly.
Volume 3, Number 4
Renunciation and the Renunciate Order of the Free Communion Church
An Essay by Da Free John
The first three stages of human growth are ordinary stages of functional adaptation. They are stages of psycho-physical ego development. The ecstatic process developed in the fourth stage of life is the origin of true self-transcendence, and it provides the basis for the fifth, sixth, and seventh stages. Therefore, as maturity in the fourth stage develops, the quality of ones existence becomes more and more self-surrendered and ecstatic, and the process of ones existence becomes less and less oriented to the development or fulfillment of the self-based programs and lower or exclusively vital level conceptions of life. Just so, as one matures beyond the fourth stage of life, the conditions of existence as defined and limited by the vital or merely physical self and its possibilities and relations become more and more obviously unnecessary, trivial, even vulgar, burdensome, and fruitless. And the sense of unqualified Existence, fullness of inherent Being, and spiritual Reality or unconditional Radiance becomes more and more profound and transformative.
Therefore, as one matures in the fourth stage and beyond, the quality of self-transcendence becomes effective and ultimately prevails. This manifests as a growing sense of inherent freedom and growth of the qualities of equanimity and inherent desirelessness. At some point, these qualities become manifest as a natural force of renunciation, or the presumption of transcendent freedom in relation to the functions of human existence and the experiential adventure of human bodily and psychic relations. Thus, the quality of love, expressing an inherently free character, gradually replaces all of the programs of self-based desire and the motivating hopes for physical and psychic fulfillment of the limited human character.
This process of truly spiritual growth is not negative. It is not due to mortal fears or the psychic illusions of inwardness. It is simply an expression of the Realization of the freedom inherent in ultimate God-Communion.
Somewhere between maturity in the fourth stage of life and the ultimate developments of the seventh stage of life, the liberated being becomes fully established in acknowledgment of Divine freedom relative to all aspects of human psycho-physical existence. When the acquired obligations of human birth are fully transcended, the continued existence of the individual becomes free of the force or implications of all mortal, experiential, and circumstantial limitations. Then the individual is present only as spiritual love, free of the self-defining and self-limiting power of all the positive and negative consequences of past, present, and future human activity.
All of this is to say that motiveless renunciation, or truly humorous and free transcendence of the human circumstance, is inevitable in the course of the Way that I Teach. Therefore, at some point in the process beyond maturity in the fourth stage of life, the individual necessarily acknowledges his Condition in God and becomes a true or motiveless renunciate. In my own case, acceptance of the broader conditions of outer renunciation could not occur until I had fulfilled the obligations of communicating the Teaching to devotees, through consideration of all ordinary and extraordinary (or evolutionary human activity. But this obligation has been fulfilled, and for several years I have been gradually moving out of the roles and motives related to the Teaching work that has occupied me since . As a result, I have become established as a renunciate within the community of our Church. Over time, some of the devotees who have long practiced in my company have also become awakened to the true quality of renunciation, and they will likewise establish a renunciate order within the Church.
In the face of the necessary burdens of human circumstance, the only freedom is in Divine Wisdom, spiritual ecstasy, practical self-transcendence, desirelessness, equanimity, and natural or motiveless renunciation. Only such a disposition is the ultimate, true, and mature fulfillment of the Way that I Teach. I now finally declare my renunciation of all worldly concerns and all necessity to be involved in active attention to the lives of devotees. The Church itself is, as always, the responsibility and concern of devotees themselves-as is their practice and all their relations with one another and the world. I have retired to a natural seclusion from such things, and I am not concerned with nor will I make extraordinary efforts relative to the mundane affairs of my existence. The Church should continue to be guided by the Teaching itself. All devotees are the bearers of a new and living tradition. My work is finished. I am at peace.
Some others will, now and in the future, gather in the same spirit of renunciation within the Church. They will, as a group, act as transmitters of my written and verbal instructions for the esoteric order and the general gathering of devotees of the Living God. Those who do not actually enter the renunciate order should, when appropriate, simply go on to practice in the esoteric order and become natural renunciates in due time. All members of the renunciate order itself should be sustained in their ordinary needs by the Church, which they have served and will continue to serve. (The membership of the renunciate order should be limited to a number representing the needs of the Church and the ability of the Church to sustain them. Others may enter the natural mode of renunciation at any stage, but they should sustain themselves, or else be sustained by some arrangement with their friends.The renunciates should cooperate with one another to do selfless and self-yielding service in natural ways within our Church, and they should also perform the priestly and educational tasks that are their rightful service at the level of the renunciate order. All renunciates and all devotees should serve one another in love, depending entirely on the Living God, in Whom we inhere, Who sustains and lives us all, and Who alone is the destiny of this world and all beings.
So be it. I trust devotees and the very Divine for the future course.