Franklin Jones & Rudi, Part I & II
His core teachings incorporate many of the ideas he learned from studying the Kahmir Shaivite and Advaita Vedanta schools of Hinduism, but they also contain his own original insights and opinions about both spirituality and secular culture. Many observers note that the spiritual practices and experiences typically engaged in by Adi Da and his community tended to reflect the Occult tradition or possibly a degenerate version of Guru Bhakti Yoga (guru worship), more than the “nondualism” emphasized in much of his written material…. In 1983 he predicted that before he died all of humanity (whom he called “five billion slugs”) would acknowledge him, and said that if he had not come to Earth all of humanity would have been destroyed.
Adi Da was considered a controversial figure due to persistent accusations that he was having sex with large numbers of devotees, drinking obsessively, abusing drugs, engaging in incidents of violence against women, and financially exploiting his followers. Critics claim these activities were primarily a reflection of Adi Da’s own personal desires, preferences and character flaws, and were generally engaged in with little regard for their impact on others. Some claim that their consent to participate with Adi Da was gained through fraud, deception, or cognitive dissonance. Others state that they were harmed or traumatized by his abuses. Adi Da consistently claimed that all his activities were forms of selfless spiritual teaching or “crazy wisdom,” designed to reflect devotees’ own tendencies back to them and thereby accelerate their spiritual development…. In 1985, tensions escalated when a number of ex-devotees requested an audience with Adi Da to air grievances, and he refused to communicate with them. As a result, various lawsuits were filed against Adi Da, his organization, and former members. Adi Da himself refused to respond to any of the charges made against him at that time, preferring to withdraw into seclusion in Fiji during the controversy and allow devotees to defend him. He finally emerged from seclusion once the media attention faded and the lawsuits had been settled, only to fall into despair and feelings of failure that contributed to this suffering a major breakdown in 1986. This breakdown was later explained by Adi Da as an incident of death and resurrection that he called the “Divine Emergence.”
—Lake County News, December 7, 2008
When Knee of Listening: The Early Life and Radical Spiritual Teachings of Franklin Jones was published it carried on its back cover three strong endorsements. Said Alan Watts, one of the luminaries of the New Age:
“It is obvious, from all sorts of subtle details, that he knows what IT’s all about… a rare being. He is a perfect and authentic manifestation of eternal energy of the universe, and thus is no longer disposed to be in conflict with himself.”
Said the occult writer Israel Regardie:
“A great teacher with a dynamic ability to awaken in his listeners something of the Divine Reality in which he is grounded, with which he is identified and which in fact he is. He is a man of both the East and the West; perhaps in him they merge and are organized as the One that he is.”
Said the great yogi Swami Muktananda:
“Chiti Shakti, the Kundalini, which brings about Siddha Yoga, is activated in you. The Inner Self which is the secret of Vedanta, the basis of religion, the realization of which is the ultimate object of human life, is awakened in you.”
The book, published in 1972, could not have been launched at a more fortuitous time, for only two years before three spiritual teachers—Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Chögyam Trungpa and Swami Muktananda—had first come to America and ignited the spiritual craving and search among young and old alike. And here was an American master, only 33 years old, who had reached the pinnacle of spiritual realization. That his rise thereafter was meteoric was not surprising, but few if any could have foreseen his subsequent fall and withdrawal to an island sanctuary where he lived the life of a self-exiled king among his devotees.
Born November 3, 1939, and raised in Queens, New York, Franklin Albert Jones early on had a number of experiences with what he termed “the Bright.” It was an “Energy of Love-Bliss,” he says, which his parents were insensitive to and refused. Family life was not harmonious. He describes the situation as the interaction of “quiet, long-suffering, fathered mother. Emotional, violent, elaborate father-boy. Crazy, secluded, independent son.” A sister, Joanne, was born when he was eight years old but was too young to be included in his life. Jones was brought up in the Lutheran Church and became an acolyte. He might easily have had an academic career, for he received a degree in philosophy from Columbia University and then an M.A. in English literature from Stanford University in the fall of 1962. He, like Ken Kesey (who gave his own account in his One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest) and many others, volunteered as a subject for drug experiments at the nearby Veterans Administration Hospital. During a six- week period he was given LSD, mescalin and psilocybin. The Sufi saint Meher Baba said that “LSD is America’s Jesus Christ,” and so it was in terms of opening people up to higher dimensions of reality, but for many it simply enlarged their narcissism.
Jones and his girlfriend, Nina, went to live in a cabin in the mountains above Santa Cruz where she supported them while after he meditated, did drugs and tried to make sense out of what he had experienced by immersing himself in books of hermetic wisdom. As a child he had seizures in which he would become delirious and feel “a mass of gigantic thumbs coming down from above and pressing into some form of myself that was much larger than my physical body.” During his drug experiments this “thumbs” experience recurred, and when he allowed it they “completely entered my form. They appeared like tongues or parts of a force coming from above. And when they had entered deep into my body the magnetic or energic [sic] balances of my being appeared to reverse. . . . [Then] I seemed to reside in a totally different body, which also contained the physical body.” He eventually came to the conclusion that what controlled him and everyone else was “a largely unconscious or preconscious logic or structure, a motivating drama or myth, [which] acted only as an arbitrary limitation, and it never appeared directly in the mind or in our works and actions… it needed to become conscious in each of us before any creative work or freedom was possible on its basis or beyond it.” He came to recognize his own myth as the ancient Greek myth of Narcissus, which he characterized as being about “the universally adored child of the gods, who rejected the loved-one and every form of love and relationship, who was finally condemned to the contemplation of his own image, until he suffered the fact of eternal separation and died in infinite solitude.”
Rudi & the “Force”
After two years in the mountains he realized that he needed a teacher. He had a vision that he would meet his teacher in New York in an Oriental art store. And so in June 1964 he and Nina left for New York. Searching the streets of Manhattan, that September he came upon Rudi Oriental Arts on Seventh Avenue just above the East Village. When Albert Rudolph, a short, heavyset moon-faced man known as Rudi and later Swami Rudrananda, approached, Jones weighed over 230 pounds, though he was not nearly as large as Rudi. A self-described “libertine, drinker, drug user, a useless and impractical dreamer, a passionate madman,” Jones felt uncomfortable and foolish but immediately felt the Rudi’s “Force,” or Shakti, as he would call it. Jones asked him what he taught and was told “Kundalini Yoga.”
“Are you an adept at this yoga,” Jones asked.
“You don’t teach it if you can’t do it,” he was told.
Rudi asked if he worked.
“No, I have just been writing, and I live with my girlfriend. She works,” Jones said.
Rudi told to him get a job and come back in six months or a year and walked away.
That night Jones wrote Rudi a long letter and had Nina deliver it to him the next day. Where Rudi’s behavior had been brusque with Jones, he was very warm and open with Nina and immediately accepted her as a student.
The next day Jones again went to see him and again was told to get a job. Within a few weeks, he was also accepted.
Rudi had been in the Gurdjieff Work some five years or so before leaving, and so much of what Jones was given early on was on observing and working with self-pity, negativity and self-imagery with an emphasis on making efforts.
Jones’ main interest was in Rudi’s ability to transmit Force (this capitalization of words would in time, as with his The Dawn Horse Testament, make much of his writing unreadable except for his most ardent devotees).
Class began about 7:30 in the evening. Rudi sat on a raised platform. His chair was a large mental trunk covered by a bearskin. Incense would be lit next to him and, with the devotees spread out before him, either sitting in yogic postures or on folding chairs, the class would begin. He would speak about some aspect of the Force.
I give a higher energy directly to you. The first or second time that I open to a new student, a spiritual energy flows from both of us and comes together as in a complete embrace. There is nothing sexual about it. The meeting occurs in another dimension. But it symbolizes the beginning of a real relationship between us. Once this connection is established, you have only to absorb the energy that comes from me like water from a faucet. This is much easier than having to extract energy out of the atmosphere through your own efforts. But it is still work.
Afterward, sitting up straight in a lotus posture, he would close his eyes. When his eyes opened Jones said “they appeared to be deep set and very wide. Rudi’s eyes would then move from person to person in the room, focusing on each one for a few seconds or a minute or two. The idea was to relax and surrender to Rudi so the energy could be passed or ignited. At the end of the class, he might give another talk, saying:
A teacher is really a servant—something many teachers would rather forget. In some Buddhist scripture it says, “The Buddha is a shit stick.” It can’t be put more graphically than that. Just because a higher force flows in a genuine teacher, does not mean he is to be worshipped. His function is to serve the student’s potential. Most teachers demand a great deal of respect, which is correct, if it is the cosmic force that is respected. But it too easily shifts into honoring the personality of the teacher. It requires a willingness on the teacher’s part to surrender the subtle advantages of his role, for the relationship to remain mutually productive. No situation, no matter how satisfactory, is an end in itself. It is all material for surrender. You build to give away. Otherwise, what starts as creation ends as a prison you have constructed for yourself.
Devotees would then line up, as Rudi passed from one to another giving each a big bear hug.
Rudi was 11 years older than Jones, born to a poor Jewish family in Brooklyn whose father abandoned the family when he was young. His mother was quite violent toward him.
Great Passions & Appetites
Jones came to see Rudi as “obviously a man of great passions and appetites, a figure of Gargantuan vitality and huge pleasures, and a very strong and masculine (but also demonstratively homosexual) character.” The stronger and more confident Jones became the more he came into conflict with his teacher. “Rudi’s tendency to command an exclusive and limiting right for himself [as a unique source],” said Jones, “became a source of conflict between us, although I never outwardly manifested that conflict until the day I left him.”
1. Quiet, long-suffering, fathered mother. Franklin Jones, 1992 edition of The Knee of Listening (Los Angeles: Dawn Horse Press, 1992 edition), p. 34.
2. Drug experiments. Jones, Knee of Listening, 1972 edition, pp. 17-18.
3. A mass of gigantic thumbs. Jones, pp. 20-21.
4. A largely unconscious or preconscious logic or structure. Jones, p. 16.
5. Universally adored child of the gods. Jones, p. 26.
6. Libertine, drinker. Jones, 1992 edition of The Knee of Listening, p. 140.
7. Are you an adept at this yoga? Jones, pp. 99–100.
8. A man of great passions and appetites. Jones, 1992 edition of The Knee of Listening, p. 158.
9. Rudi’s tendency. Jones, p. 52.
From Franklin Jones To Adi Da Samraj, Part II
In the late summer of 1966, Jones and Nina, now married at Rudi’s request, moved to Philadelphia so he could enroll at a Lutheran seminary. Jones doesn’t make clear in the first edition of The Knee of Listening why he left Rudi, but in a later edition he says that Rudi sent him to the seminary after speaking with his father. In his youth, Jones had been an acolyte in a Lutheran church, so that may have been a reason, but he had long since fallen away from Christianity. But also, spiritual teachers sometimes do send their students away when they can learn no more from them, but usually this is after many years of study. That it happened after only a year-and-a-half suggests that perhaps Rudi wanted to get rid of him. As Rudi said, “A teacher who is in personal conflict with a student should release the student for both their sakes. Teaching should be a harmony of learning between teacher and student.” Certainly Jones was a handful. Not only highly intelligent and well-educated, Jones claimed that since infancy “I have always been Seated in the ‘Bright.’… Even as a little child I recognized It and Knew It, and my life was not a matter of anything else.”
Jones, for his part, saw Rudi as “a kind of super-parent.” He says his family, which from his description sounds rather dysfunctional, rejected his experiencing of the “Bright.” Later on, he writes that “my own ordinary tendency was to seek a loving connection on which I could become dependent. Where love was not poured on me, I tended to become angry and resentful. But Rudi used, and even intentionally stimulated, these tendencies in me.”
Through Rudi’s insistence on work, diet and exercise, Jones’ weight fell from 230 lbs to 170 lbs. The habits of the old days weakened. “I would often exploit the possibilities of sex,” Jones says, “or become deeply drunk on wine, engage in orgies of eating, or smoke marijuana for long hours.” (Unfortunately, they would later reappear once he began to teach.)
In the spring of 1967, while at the seminary, Jones suffered what doctors diagnosed as an anxiety attack, but he believed it was a crisis in which he had died. Because of Rudi’s stress on the practice of self-observation (oddly, the fundamental practice of self-remembering, embodiment, is never mentioned either by Jones or Rudi in any of their books), Jones believed he had observed his own death. This experience validated his belief that the fundamental dilemma of all human seeking and suffering was that of a separative and narcissistic avoidance of relationship with “the unqualified state of reality.” Finding his superiors at the seminary didn’t agree with him, he then joined the Eastern Orthodox Church with the idea of becoming a priest, only to learn that an ancient canonical law prevented a man from becoming a priest if he is married to a divorced woman, as Nina was.
The Death of Narcissus Denied
The religious avenue blocked, he and Nina returned to New York in the fall of 1967. He spoke to Rudi about what he took to be the death in him of Narcissus, but he says Rudi also “tended to interpret my seminary experience negatively.” Thereafter, if not before, he increasingly became aware of what he considered Rudi’s limitations. He found Rudi’s conversation “a constant stream of strongly communicated moods, alternating between talk of Spiritual life, his experiences in India, his Spiritual experience and visions, and the perpetual absorption in business. His business was his principal Yoga. And if you did not know or accept this about him, you could become angry at what appeared to be his perpetual concern with business and the store.” Jones came to believe that “Rudi was not himself prepared (ultimately and perfectly) to liberate others, or to bring anyone to any truly high or otherwise ultimate Realization.”
One day at Rudi’s store Jones found some pamphlets of Rudi’s guru, Baba Muktananda. He was determined to get to India once he read that Baba maintained “Spiritual life is not a matter of egoic effort on the part of the disciple. It is a matter of the Guru’s grace, the Guru’s free gift. The disciple needs only to come to the Guru and enjoy the Guru’s grace. It is as easy as flowers in sunlight.” Learning that he and Nina could receive a 90% discount in airfare after he earned a two-day vacation, he got a job with Pan American Airways. He traded four days off with some fellow workers so that he would have six days in all to travel to India and back. In April 1968 he and Nina went to Baba’s ashram at Ganeshpuri, a few hours drive from Bombay. He meditated and chanted and listened to Baba’s dialogues (all translated, for Baba spoke only Hindi) and had many kundalini experiences, visions and the like. But Jones wasn’t satisfied. With typical intensity he said, “When the last day arrived, I was desperate. I had come for more than this. I had come for everything!”
Strangely, on his return to New York, though he and Baba had a number of warm exchanges of letters, Jones joined Scientology and became an auditor and trained to become a teacher. There he met a young woman, Patricia Morley, who would come to live with him and Nina and Sal Lucanias, with whom he became close friends. In taking upper level courses to become “clear” and become a teacher, Jones saw Scientology as the mind game that it was and left, taking Morley and Lucanias with him. The following year he again went to Muktananda’s ashram, this time for four weeks. They had a brief conversation upon his arrival. Near the end, Baba had told him he would become a spiritual teacher of Siddha Yoga. He gave him a handwritten letter to that effect, the first ever to a Westerner, and a Hindi name, “Dhyanananda,” meaning “one whose bliss is realized in meditation.” Jones rejected the name (later he named himself “Bubba Free John,” the word “Bubba” being what his father called him as a child) and spoke to Baba of how during meditation “a spot of light had often appeared before me, sometimes black or silver-gray, and sometimes blue.” Baba told him that “the spot only appears black because of impurities.” (Later, after their falling out, Baba would call him “a dark yogi.” And Jones would call Muktananda “a black magician.”)
During this time, Jones had numerous subtle and powerful experiences which he began to see as:
A seemingly endless revelation of the forms of spiritual reality…. I was already becoming aware of the inconclusiveness of all such experiences. Once the problem of the mind had ceased to endear me, I began to intuit spiritual forms. Then I acquired a new problem. The problem of spirituality. The matter of freedom and real consciousness seemed somehow to depend on the attainment of spiritual experience. Spiritual experiences of an ultimate kind seemed identical to freedom and reality itself. Thus, I was driven to acquire them…. I began to feel: ‘This is not the point. This is not it. Reality is prior to all of this. Reality is my own nature.” But the more this feeling arose in me the more aggressively these experiences arose so that I again began to feel trapped. I felt as if my true path was not Baba’s Siddha Yoga.
The Hell With It All
At the end of August Jones and the women returned to New York. During meditation he sometimes experienced Bhagavan Nityananda, Baba’s guru, taking over his subtle form. He had a number of experiences with the chakras and kundalini which further increased his belief that all of this was the play of Shakti, and so he simply sat, using no techniques, no special breathing or mantras or visualizations but simply inquired of himself whenever anything arose—”Avoiding relationship.” (This, of course, seems very much like Ramana Maharshi’s approach of asking “Who am I?” but Jones is speaking of relationship not only with others but with the Divine.)
He rarely went out, but would occasionally go for walks with Lucanias. “One day he called me and told me he was going to leave for India for good,” Lucanias says. ” He and Pat and Nina. That was it, he was just leaving the country. I remember him saying, ‘What the hell am I going to do in this place? The hell with it all. I’ve had it.'” And so at the end of May 1970 he and Nina and Pat left to return to the ashram and, as he says, “I intended to place myself at Baba’s feet, to give him my household and my life.”
The Virgin Mary Appears
At the ashram he was given the work of editing and refining the English translation of Baba’s new book, while Nina typed the edited manuscript and Patricia cleaned rooms. For Jones, there was a noticeable change at the ashram, which had become very public and busy. It was crowded with Americans and Europeans. People had Shakti experiences, but didn’t seem radically changed by it. Baba seemed to ignore him and, as he says, “never said a personal word to me.” Besides the editing, Jones also worked in the garden, where one day the Virgin Mary appeared to him. During the next two weeks she made many appearances. Finally, she told him to leave and to go on a pilgrimage to the Christian holy places in Jerusalem and Europe. Swami Nityananda, Baba’s long deceased guru, also appeared to him and blessed him and told him that he belonged to the Virgin now and should do as she said. After a stay of little more than three weeks, Jones and the women left the ashram to take a pilgrimage to the holy shrines of the West.
That August, returning to the United States, they settled in Los Angeles. “I no longer practiced in relationship to any of my human teachers,” Jones says. “Their teachings had been exhausted in me, until there was no more seeking…. I was simply and directly devoted to the perfect Enjoyment of unqualified Reality, the Very (and unmoving) Self.” In late August he began to visit the Vedanta Society temple in Hollywood. There the Divine Shakti appeared in person, he said, and they combined “with One Another in Divine (and Motionless and spontaneously Yogic) ‘Sexual Union.'” One day in early September, awaiting her appearance at the temple, he says he suddenly “realized that I had Realized. The ‘Thing’ about the ‘Bright’ became Obvious. I am Complete. I am the One Who Is Complete.”
Baba Does Not Approve
A month later, in early October, Baba had come to California. He was in the midst of his first world tour, which was largely underwritten by Rudi. Jones reconciled with Rudi and, in the company of a small group, told Baba about what he had realized at the temple. A discussion of Consciousness followed. Jones, who had apparently not seen the blue pearl that was the keystone of Baba’s experience and teaching, maintained that pure consciousness “was not settled in the sahasrar (top of the head), or in any other extended or functional level of the body-mind itself, but in the True Heart Itself#151;not the heart chakra or the physical heart, but the Heart of Real Consciousness.” By this he seemed to mean that it was not located in some part of the body, but the body-mind when consciously realized appeared in the Heart which was the fullness of life itself, but what he said wasn’t as clear. From Jones’ report of the meeting, Baba didn’t recognize this distinction and so continued to speak about the stabilization of attention being in the heart or the sahasrar, with Jones continuing to maintain that he had not been referring to where attention was centered but to that perfect Realization that transcended attention itself, with the implication that he had realized it. In Baba’s reply Jones felt that there “was even an underlying suggestion that those who professed attainment must be regarded with suspicion.”
Unperturbed, Jones pressed forward, speaking of Reality as prior to and transcending all phenomenal experience. Baba cut him off, saying that such a way does not lead to the highest Truth. “You are present as form. Why do you seek a way without form?” demanded Baba. Jones felt Baba did not understand him. As Jones expressed it later, “There was (from my point of view) no ‘personal’ disagreement between Baba and me. It was only that Siddha Yoga (and even every kind of Yoga) had been truly Completed in me, and I was drawn into the Absolute Knowledge that is the true, most ultimate, and inherently most perfect Fulfillment of every way and every kind of Yoga proposed in the ‘great (and always seeking) tradition’ of mankind.”
Jones opened an ashram-bookstore in Hollywood, California, with the financial help of Sal Lucanias. He adopted the style of Indian gurus, speaking from an elevated chair, the room laden with colorful carpets, and flowers and incense in abundance. He taught in the Indian tradition, his talk formal and somewhat stilted, and the kundalini power ever emanating from him. Quickly gathering devotees, he created his church, which he called The Dawn Horse Communion, later known as The Free Daist Communion and today as Adidam. He began writing his spiritual memoir, The Knee of Listening: The Early Life and Radical Spiritual Teachings of Franklin Jones.
Alan Watts was among those to whom the completed manuscript was sent for a testimonial. Though Watts, a former minister and a leading light of the New Age who had been instrumental in helping to introduce Zen Buddhism to America, had never met Jones, he was enthusiastic. “It is obvious,” he wrote, “from all sorts of subtle details, that Franklin Jones knows what IT’s all about… a rare being.” The book was published in July 1973, just before Jones was to travel to India to see Muktananda.
Earlier that April, Jones had told his devotees he would soon take another pilgrimage to India. “Just as there is a vast spiritual process behind this work and all true spiritual work,” he explained, “there are also certain individuals, Siddhas and others, who are very directly involved with our work. Muktananda is the only one alive in the body, and it is very important that I purify my connection with him for the sake of the work itself.”
Strangely, given the lack of agreement in their 1970 interchange, Jones’ idea of purifying their connection was to ask Muktananda to give him formal recognition of his realization of Maha Siddha, which, in effect, would make his realization equal to that of Muktananda’s. To structure the conversation, Jones wrote four questions that were a continuation of their previous dialogue, which in a yogic way was reminiscent of medieval theologians debating how many angels could stand on the head of a pin. The questions were translated into Hindi and given to Muktananda before they spoke. A tape recording was made that was later published as “A Confrontation of Dharmas” in Jones’ magazine The Dawn Horse. The image of the dawn horse had appeared to him on a deep, subtle level that he felt was archetypal and he made it his own ever after.
Jones’ first two questions dealt with whether the experiencing of consciousness by the jnanis, the sages, was the same as what yogis call Maha-Shakti, and whether consciousness is stabilized in the sahasrar, as Muktananda held, or on the right side of the heart as Ramana Maharshi had said. Muktananda prefaced his answer by warning Jones that he had the habit of talking candidly, so he hoped that Jones wouldn’t think he was trying to hurt his feelings, but “if you wish to know the secrets of the scriptures, then your attitude must be appropriate.”
With that as the context, Muktananda then introduced the question of the duality between the seer and the seen. Are they the same or different? The two, Jones answered, conventionally speaking, are simply modifications of one Reality. Muktananda, pressing the point, asked are they the same Reality, or two different forms? The latter, Jones said. They are the same, Muktananda declared, and told him “I will explain it to you.” Saying that while the means are different the experience of a jnani and a yogi are identical. “Only a kindergarten student of Vedanta,” Muktananda replied, “holds the notion that the mind is form. One who thoroughly understands Vedanta realizes the mind is not only mind; the mind is nothing but the Lord.”