The Life and Understanding of Franklin Jones
1971 By Franklin Jones
Chapter 1 – The “Bright”
I was born November 3, 1939 in Jamaica, Queens County, New York, at 11:21 a.m. The sign of Scorpio should indicate to you the kinds of forces that aliened to generate my birth. Whatever significance you may attribute to astrology, it is true that my personal life has often cycled high and low, marked by equal and opposing determinations to ascend and descend. The sign of Scorpio is marked by the images of Spirit and of Sex, the eagle and the crab. It is the sign of internal warfare, the problem and perfection. And the external adventure of my life has turned me in and out of every kind of spiritual and religious path, every kind of ascending means, and likewise every form of pleasure, ecstasy and self-indulgence.
So much is all I know about the signs of my birth. For whatever reasons, it has also been my lot to remain untouched by cosmic and human circumstance. This is perhaps the first key to what I must communicate. From the beginning I have also known a radical alternative to the revolutionary internal dilemma of my natural existence. I have played in the problem of my alternatives, but from my earliest experience of life I have enjoyed a condition that .I would call the “bright.”
I have always known desire, not merely for extreme pleasures of the senses and the mind, but for the highest enjoyment of spiritual power and mobility. But I have not been seated in desire, and desire has only been a play that I have grown to understand and enjoy without conflict. I have always been seated in the “bright.”
Even as a baby I remember only crawling around inquisitively with an incredible sense of joy, light and freedom in the middle of my head that was bathed in energies moving freely from above, up, around and down through my body and my heart. It was an expanding sphere of joy from the heart. And I was a radiant form, a source of energy, bliss an light in the midst of what is entirely energy, bliss and light. I was the power of Reality, a direct enjoyment and communication. I was the heart, who lightens the mind and all things. I was the same as every one and every thing, except it became clear that others were apparently unaware of the thing itself.
Even as a little child I recognized it and knew it, and it was really not a matter of anything else. That awareness, that conscious enjoyment and space centered in the midst of the heart is the “bright.” And it is the entire source of humor. It is reality. It is not separate from anything.
From my birth I have not been centered in Scorpio or the dilemma of alternatives, but in the “bright.” So it is with great humor that I describe how I existed all this time.
My father has always been a salesman, and my mother has always been at home. They are both still alive, and they could certainly use a little humor, but I have always loved them and love has always been the premise of our life together. That is why we have always been free to be so reckless, stupid, unfeeling, uncommunicative, unhappy and separate! None of that has ever amounted to anything less than an enjoyment of our separate spectacles. Quiet, long-suffering, fathered mother. Emotional, violent, elaborate father-boy. Crazy, secluded, independent son away.
I always grew up on Long Island, mostly in a town called Franklin Square, which wasn’t named after me, or Franklin, Senior. Mother is Dorothy. A sister, Joanne, was born when I was eight, whom we have also always loved, except she and I grew up at separate times and not together.
I was early brought to the Lutheran Church and was fascinated by Christ, a fascination which has continued quite dramatically throughout my life, as you will see. At this point I was beginning to see the “difference,” the unlikeness of myself and those with me, not perhaps in fact but often in practice. Thus, I tentatively accepted the ideas of God, my separate and unique self, and the world of differences.
An early memory is walking to the movies with my mother and father during one of their long life of arguments. My mother plays the “tar-baby,” which, if you remember Uncle Remus, was set down on a log by Br’er Bear and Br’er Fox in order to trap Br’er Rabbit. She is quiet and passive, and my father very quick, loud and threatening violence, until he gets stuck and fades away, pretending he will never be heard from again.
That scene has been one of their lifelong games, and it really makes no difference what aroused it in this case, as I am sure I didn’t know at the time. I remember there was a full bright moon, orange and shadowy, and I am not sure what movie we were on our way to see. I must have been about five or six years old.
What appeared to me was a kind of archetype of all conflict. There was separation, which was destroying the energy of enjoyment or love. And I was about to make one of my earliest attempts to communicate that there was only this love. I very clearly and directly experienced the effects of this conflict and separation. I could feel the embracive rays of energy that surrounded us and moved in a delicate network of points in and through our bodies being cut, and dark vacuums were being spotted out around us and between us.
I remember silently expanding this love and trying to distract them by pointing out the moon and asking questions about God and life so they would be calmed and feel the energy of the “bright” in them.
Their humor did return a little. My father seemed quieted and my mother was answering my questions. We went to the movie and all the while I felt a pressure in my solar plexus and my heart, where the love-energy was pushed back, But I think the argument was gone after that.
The conflict between my parents was a constant field of experience for me as a boy. By no means did they argue all the time, but those events were a persistent and arbitrary danger, and they formed an early ground of understanding in me.
It was at least that early in my life that I perceived perhaps the guiding purpose in my life: to restore humor. Throughout my life I have been moved to find and communicate the fundamental source of humor to others. It appeared in many forms, as enjoyment, laughter, faith, knowledge. But at last it has only one form, which is reality itself.
If my purpose has always been to restore humor and my motive has always been the “bright,” death and the fear of death have always been the counter to my presence, the source of contradiction, fear, mystery and despair.
I contacted all of the childhood diseases and at times became delirious with fever. This suffering grew a certain depth in me as a boy, because outwardly there were few of the possible overwhelming tragedies. In delirium I would experience tremendous fear and an awesome mortal separateness. Somehow or other death became very real to me during those incidents,, whereas I was mostly untouched by it in my external life.
During one of those episodes, I believe when I was about seven years old and ill with scarlet fever, I had a dream that impressed me very deeply. I saw a neat green grass field moving up and away from me, and there was a beautiful full oak tree at its highest point, on the horizon. It was a clear blue sky. I did not see myself in the dream but felt as if I were stationed at my point of view at the base of a rise. There were three women in black gowns, like nuns, walking away from me, up the hill. And I felt this tremendous loss and separation, as if I were being left behind.
I woke up crying, with an intense fear of death. And I asked my mother about death. She tried to console me with God and afterlife. But a fear was planted in me from that time, so that death has always been a fascinating mystery to me.
I have often thought of that dream. I think perhaps it was not a dream at all but a memory of past death. And the importance of the dream or of death itself has never been the fact itself. nor this reason I have never been particularly motivated to spiritualistic psychism, which pursues the link between us and those who are outside this life. For me, it has always been a matter of the present relationship between consciousness and death.
I have not truly been concerned with where we go after death. It always seemed clear to me that, no matter where we go or where we are, there is always the same fundamental problem of consciousness itself. Again I was seeing such events from the point of view of the “bright,” of living consciousness itself. I was being consciousness, which is untouched, and for me there was the problem: What is consciousness? What must occur within it for it to be what it is even while it already bears the knowledge of death?
It was this dilemma which caused me to indulge in a rather awesome adventure some years later, I believe when I was ten. My father and I shared a passion for animals, although my mother usually took care of them. I was given a black cocker spaniel named “Bootsie” as a present for Easter. The cellar of our house was my free space, and I spent lone hours secluded there or playing with friends, where I invented space ships and boats for us to ride in. I kept a large chest of small toys and would play quietly there with my hoard. I was not exclusively introverted, since I played outdoors and with friends in the woods all around us, but there was a strong interior activity in me that I also enjoyed without feeling the need for company.
One day I went into the cellar while my father was at work and my mother away shopping. As I walked into the room, I saw Bootsie lying in an old overstuffed chair in the corner of the cellar. I called her and rushed over to pet her. And she was dead. I don’t think I had ever touched a dead one before, and certainly not one that I had loved and known alive. She was stiff, lying as if in sleep, and her warmth was nearly gone.
I was immediately overcome by terrible grief. I ran upstairs and sat and rolled in my room, and wept for what seemed like hours. But there was not only grief. There was also fear and guilt. I was stuck with some kind of knowledge that I was afraid to tell. ply door was closed, and I heard my mother in the other rooms. She must have
heard me crying, but I don’t think she came in to me. She must have gone and found the dead animal and decided to leave me to my father. Then he too came home, and they opened the door to me.
My father asked me what was wrong, and I was trying not to show my grief. But then I told him,”Bootsie died.” And I fell in his arms and wept.
After several hours of consolation and quiet I had controlled my grief. Then I made a very strange decision. I could not bear estrangement from love. I prayed to God to receive Bootsie and care for her. And then I told Him that I wanted Him to take me also. I needed time to make the transition from my life and love in the world, and so I told Him it should be at 9 p.m. two days from then, I believe on a Sunday.
I didn’t tell my parents I was about to die. I decided to be with them and enjoy with them for two days and make an easy transition. On the last day we drove in the country. I watched in the clouds, seeing only heaven and Bootsie and God.
Then it was the evening of my death. We had dinner and sat in the living room watching television. I went and prayed to God, and I was certain he would take me at nine o’clock. But as the hour approached I began to realize the importance of this move. I was about to leave life: I was about to suffer the loss of the world, my parents, my future possibility. I felt a tremendous connection to the living world, and saw that the absence of one I loved did not amount to the destruction of love, of consciousness, of energy, of fulness or of joy. I saw that I was alive:
But I saw that much of this must be fear and regret. I knew that I had bargained with God, and I would not abandon His will. And so I only sat and waited. I watched the television and continually relaxed the awesome fear that kept rising in me. Nine o’clock came, and I did not die.
I don’t remember if I was alone in my room or with my parents at that hour, but when it passed I went and prayed to God. I thanked him for my life and asked forgiveness for my wavering. But something in me had died or become hidden at that hour. I remember that for several years afterward I would end my prayers with the request, “And please, dear Lord, allow me to live until I am eighty-nine years old or older.”
For some time after this incident I suffered a constriction in my chest, and I felt as if I could not breathe deeply enough. I even had my father take me to a doctor. The doctor and my father watched me breathing behind a fluoroscope. And it was determined that I was in good health. After that I gradually took some relief, for I had not been certain that my promise to die hadn’t crippled my heart in some way. I remember that even in the days prior to our visit to the doctor, and then for weeks afterwards, I experienced a sublime enjoyment of the air and light, the fact of my life, in spite of the feeling of weakness in my heart.
So I experienced in myself the meaning of death, conflict and separation, which I knew to be the primary fact in all suffering. I saw how the sentiment of separation from love can draw us out of the “bright” of consciousness, until we no longer perceive the form that is always here.
These early experiences in my life and all our lives are not merely clinical, nor do they alone create the later personal form of our existence. I was as conscious in those early episodes as I am now. Even then and prior to them I was what I am now. It is clear to me that I have always operated on the basis of a few fundamental perceptions, and these same ones have structured all of my life. They are structures in reality, not in character.
Character is built through experience, through the accumulations of our use of certain given options in consciousness. Disturbances of the personality, which form so much of the data of our clinical observations, are not the results of a given disorder in our real nature but are the results of a misuse and unconsciousness of these options. It has thus become more and more clear to me over the period of my life that true healing is not a matter of concentration on memory, the past, and the functional personality, good or bad, but it is a matter of understanding the present form of consciousness and the conscious use of our living options.
Whenever I have turned from the center of present consciousness to one or another kind of seeking motivated in the desires of my complex life,I have been brought to the same recognition: the search is our suffering. When, for example, I felt the loss of the little animal I loved, I was moved to find him, to be where that love continued as is. So I was motivated to a drastic ascent from life, to what seemed to be Clod because of my separated mentality. But at last I saw that very motivation to be the source of separation, and it was a forceful cutting away of consciousness and life and love.
In the hours of waiting for death I was not conscious as the “bright,” the full presence of my being. I was separate from it, and saw all consciousness and love and light as radically above, apart from me and this world. Only too late, it seemed to me then, did the shock of what I awaited draw me into that fulness again. And I saw that reality was already, presently full and did not stand out in the symbolic state I was awaiting.
I learned this lesson at that time. It is not the product of reflection years hence. As a small boy I operated with that awareness and enjoyed the knowledge of real consciousness. The search itself has never been my vocation. It has only been a curious excursion and a source of reaffirmation of the real, which has always been the plane of my existence.
Thus, my earliest childhood was the period of my first knowledge and unfoldment of the “bright,” which I knew to be the form of reality. And what is that exactly? This book is determined to communicate it again and again in so many ways. But on the level of my earliest recognition of it, it was simply consciousness. It was consciousness-itself, prior to any experience. It was not mysterious or awesome. There was no shadow, nothing hidden in it. It was not motivated. It knew: no beyond. It had no sense of time. Nor had it yet begun to feel any kind of confusion or identity with existence as personality and experience. It as an operating center, without dilemma or unconsciousness. It knew no divisions in itself. May energies were communicated within it. There was joy in the body, its light cell life, its respiration and circulation of force and pleasure. There was a current of energy in the heart that rose into the head through the throat. And there was an energy below the heart that rose up into it from below. There was a surrounding energy that was spaceless but which had a locus above the head. And all of these energies were a single current of light and life in the heart that was reflected at a center deep within the head. There was a constant raditation of this entire form. It was joy in the heart reflected as enjoyment in the head. And that form of consciousness was bright, silent, spaceless, full, knowing only and entirely this thing itself, and seeing no problem, no separation in the fact of life.
This “bright,” this consciousness is the form and it is never undone. It is now, and it is you. Now and always we are communicated within this form, which is the very form of life. It is only that life is not lived as consciousness. It is confused with some experience, some fragment of energy in the event of the personality, the functions that operate by laws subconscious and unconscious to us, or some wave of force that fascinates us in the superconscious form above. When such confusions of identity overwhelm and distract us into some division of the form of reality we are moved to great seeking in the alternatives of life. Every course that is not simply consciousness, direct and present, is a schism in our form. The excursions of my life beyond childhood showed this all the more to me.
1. The Bright
2. Amrita Nadi
4. The Life of Understanding – Chapter 1 – Adi Da’s 1973 Course on The Knee of Listening
– Important adjunct to reading of chapter – Adi Da discussing chapter