It was just prior to this time of inner work that I encountered Da Free John, then known as Bubba Free John, now known undoubtedly by some other name. Indeed, thinking back to this time in my life, his development as a Western spiritual guru with devotees and the fame that came with all of that, in many ways, mimicked ours, but in considerably larger and more grandiose detail. Knowing now what I know about reality and our part in it, it does not surprise me that this individual appeared in my life at that time. He was a perfect externalization of my own efforts, fears, hopes, dreams, and accomplishments in the spiritual arena. I would imagine that there are many other western seekers who can say exactly the same about their own situation as well. We toyed with the idea very early on to joining up with his group, but am grateful again, to our caution and discrimination, for refraining from doing so. Years later, it became public knowledge that his group was not only about spiritual things, but more mundanely, about worldly pleasures and intrigues, all of which was to undermine his group later on, and to put much of his great wisdom in question just because the author -- and by extension, his devotees -- was so absurdly quixotic. Indeed, his group became a classic example of devotees making a mess of the teachings. This happens all too frequently, and I recall Ram Dass (remember him?), warning all seekers to stay away from devotees, and only approach the teacher directly, to the extent possible, presumably for similar reasons.
Nonetheless, he was instructive to me as a guide through all of his books and teachings, as well as an intimate ongoing relationship the two of us had in visions, meditations, and elaborate half-awake dreams. I doubt very much that he had any awareness of this relationship, because in the final analysis, what we see out there is what we ARE in here, and the outer only reflects the inner of the visionary herself. However, at the time, I did not know this either. And certainly our relationship was extraordinarily real and vital to me personally, however much it was generated by my own mind.
What he did do for me (or I did for myself!), was essentially create a symbol of an external God-figure, similar no doubt to those who use Jesus, or any other figure for a personal God-being in the same manner, which I could safely love in an ecstatic manner. Why I chose him as opposed to Jesus was probably primarily because of my childhood conditioning, which was high Episcopalian, and rife with puritanical clergy, and a morbid restrictive quality, that unfortunately managed to damage whatever magic and ecstasy remained of the relationship between the seeker and the incarnate God named Jesus. I needed a clean slate, and DFJ was there to step in. What he did NOT do for me, and what I was to eventually discover that I had to do, was to continue further than that, and turn backward, and look within to find God, or Reality. In other words, he failed to point me back to me and the heart, to direct me to the source. He instead carried “the heart” within himself, as did Jesus, and as do all concepts of an external God.
Curiously, at the inception of his teachings, when he had very few followers, that is precisely all he did, presumably before the seduction of fame and fortune. He was, in his early years, a playful and equal friend to his listeners, whereby he exhorted his friends to refrain from any hero-worship, but to look within, to find God within one’s own heart, where God always and eternally sits. However, in my own personal experience, I am not certain that everyone can reach that step of reflection back to oneself, without taking the first of finding it externally. In my own experience, I had to look away from my small petty self to something greater than that, outside, out there first. Then, that “greater than that something” had to point me back to where I came from. In other words, I needed that new understanding gained from the original submission of my own conceit to the will of another authority greater than myself – or perhaps better put, who I conceptualized to be greater than myself. It is a process made in steps, often two steps forward, one step backwards. Chipping away at the ego. Or grinding it down. The ideal teacher will do just that. It was to be Nisargadatta and Ramana Maharshi finally who pointed me back toward myself, but who I could not hear until later in my own personal search. And ultimately to U.G. Krishnamurti, the reading of which would enable me to cut the last remnants of the cord of attachment to my conceptual mind games. Or perhaps better said, would push my face in it! You can’t read U.G. without gasping for life, and if you hear him truly, you can’t come away from him without losing it.
One of the more interesting, and probably mysterious aspects to this dream/vision/meditative relationship with Da Free John were the sexual overtones that went with it. Many of my dreams were dreams of pure and unalloyed ecstasy similar in kind undoubtedly to those of mystics in the past, but others were of a sexual nature, which disturbed me at the time, because they seemed not to fit in with the usual ecstatic encounters. Only many years later was I to find that in fact some of my dreams were almost identical to some of the reports by disgruntled devotees who had been used sexually by DFJ. It appeared to me that I had somehow been experiencing the actual experiences of some of his devotees when they were actually occurring, or so I have concluded, based on their subsequent reports and the coincidental timing. Although I was the devotee in the dreams or visions in which these explicit events occurred, the same events were actually happening in his ashram between a devotee and DFJ, or another devotee, apparently at the same time. I have tried to explain this to my rational mind but find it full of holes. I can only conclude that either DFJ actually had great magical powers, and somehow or another I came under the sway of those powers, because of my acceptance of his teachings, or, instead, as I am more inclined to conclude today, all of it was a projection, as of course, it, and everything, still is!
In other words, in that projection, I projected my own sexual yearnings, proclivities, and inclinations onto him and his disciples at the time. (Implied in this statement of course is the I that projected it could not be the small egocentric I who I call myself, obviously – just consider the power! And just think what the world would be were that so. Indeed, perhaps it is!!!!!?.) In any case, whoever, or whatever projected whatever was projected, I cannot definitively say. Knowing what I know today, that does not come as a surprise! Of course, energy and sexuality are tightly joined, and difficult to separate. Part of ecstasy is the sensual delight experienced in a physical body. It is easily misinterpreted, if, indeed, it is a misinterpretation in the final analysis. That said, this does not explain the coincidence of events in my own life and those at his ashram some 5,000 miles away.
At the same time, concurrently, as I was communing with DFJ, I was also communing with Jack Schwartz, Sri Chinmoy, and Jesus himself! I had somehow stumbled into three extremely different kinds of living gurus, while overshadowed by Jesus, all within a time frame of about 5 years, and somehow I managed to combine them peaceably within my consciousness all at the same time. This is certainly not the correct manner of devotee to teacher. The significance of this I have not determined -- if indeed there is any. Perhaps each individual embodied a different aspect of my own psyche with which I needed to grapple. Certainly, Chinmoy reflected simplicity of thought, and he advocated submission or surrender. Jesus, being archetypal, walked me literally through dreams and visions together through his own crucifixion, walking beside me, and allowing me to experience that struggle and sadness personally in my own crucifixion. Our communion culminated in a kind of initiation from him whereby he put me on a horse, tied up my hair in a top knot similar to samurai warriors, pronounced me a man, and proclaimed me a “warrior”. That was the last time I was to see his face in any of my dreams or meditations.
Jack Schwartz reflected an intellectual understanding of the body and its great capacities to heal, transmute, and project, which was unique and translatable. While I had never met DFJ face to face, and apparently, never needed to, I had met both Jack and Chinmoy personally, and face to face, a number of times. Jack was a healer of great repute, who could consciously heal wounds on his own body by mind alone. He could stop his heart, he could see auras, and he could diagnose and heal others from a distance. He was a teacher who was extremely accessible. He did not have airs, nor did he distance himself from his students. He was very egalitarian, self-deprecating yet confident, and very practical. He was pivotal to my understanding the power of mind over the body, its capacity to transform and create, and the necessity of controlling it. He died about 10 years ago from fibrosis of the lungs, unexpectedly and fairly quickly from the initiating but unknown cause presumably contracted in Brazil.
When I first encountered this extra-ordinary man, it was at a workshop which he led at a local church in Hawaii. At the conclusion of the talk, the audience was invited to join hands and create an unbroken circle, and some of the audience was asked to come on stage and join hands with him. For some reason, I managed to hold one of his extended hands (one of the benefits, incidentally, of sitting in the front row of any lecture!), and upon clasping his hand, found my knees buckling, and experienced a kind of swoon, though not literally falling to the floor, in part, because he held me up! This transfer of energy, literally felt, I attributed to his extra-ordinary surplus of energy. Of course, I also found the experience to confirm my own feelings that this was a man who spoke from authority, not just learning and I would be wise to listen to him. He was to subsequently heal S instantaneously of a sore throat, as well as to guide both of us for a number of years through small health issues, prescribing homeopathic remedies throughout. I later concluded this prescribing was primarily a reinforcement for his initial “clearing” of the issue, a kind of substitute mantra to keep the mind from returning to old patterns. Whether he would agree with this conclusion I do not know, and having become a homeopath myself much later, some of the success of his treatments can be attributed to homeopathy itself. Certainly in my subsequent dealing with homeopathy and its deeper processes, there is no doubt in my mind that homeopathy can work miracles, simply on its own, despite all its apparent irrationality. In any case, Jack was a blessing to all of those who were fortunate enough to encounter him, and his ability to reinforce and support the innate capacity of each body to heal itself, and to guide those who tentatively believed this, was unique and extremely helpful.Jack appeared in numerous dreams and meditations to me, but usually only when health issues were a concern. He would frequently meld his body with mine, in a kind of spiritual embrace, which was experienced by me to be a kind of transmutation of energy, sometimes actually palpable. He was not an incarnation of God to me, nor did he ever claim to be.
Whereas Chinmoy did claim to be, but never appeared to be to me either, an incarnation of God, though he did appear as a guide when my own spiritual progress bogged down. I struggled with his requirement of devotion and submission, never fully submitting to him, and finding, later on, that my reticence was justified. He too, in like manner to that of DFJ, was to fall prey to sexual appetites with some his disciples, claiming to save their own souls by virtue of their sexual submission to him. All of these falls were to be discovered by me and S much later in our own spiritual process, when it was time for us personally that they fall from grace and therefore, easy and timely that we let them go. Everything occurs in a timely manner, in the spiritual process, if we can only find the patience and have the vision to see what we are being shown in that timely manner.
Lest it appear that sexual indiscretion is the only reason I might find a teacher questionable, I would have been disappointed in any teacher who advocates celibacy, or restraint in any area of life, yet doesn’t practice it, to be hypocritical, and therefore, of dubious trustworthiness. Likewise, any self-indulgent behavior, not to mention exploitation of disciples, that they claim to be above, and yet actively seek, would strike me as reason to wonder about that teacher’s ability to discriminate, or detach, from his appetites. At the very least, despite all their rationalizations for this kind of behavior, calling themselves advahootas, or suggesting they are exempt from ethical behavior for spiritual reasons, they are certainly not superior beings worthy of devotion, but instead are perhaps brilliant interpreters for God realization, but are very, very human. Perhaps the best they can be is only that, a teacher. I believe it was Ramana Maharshi, or perhaps, Ramakrishna, that stated unequivocally, that a true realized teacher would never behave unethically nor request a devotee to act in similar manner, for any reason. And if so, then one must leave them.
From all three of these teachers I have moved on, but without exception, I am indebted to their instructions. They introduced me to a new way of approaching the external world, and a more expanded way of interacting with it. They introduced me to the apparently living concept that God, or Truth, is easily accessible and worthy of pursuit. They confirmed for me that worldly behavior and hankering is not conducive to happiness, and indeed, is both addictive and essentially insignificant, not lasting, and in some ways, ridiculous. They taught me that discipline and applied practice is the only way out of the maze of grasping and desire. It is not enough to know it, one must BE it ! However, none of them pointed me back to the source itself, and had I remained students of theirs, even if I escaped the exploitation and the inevitable followers’ all too frequent obsession with power, I do not think it would have served me at all. There comes a time in each individual’s progress through life, both spiritual and worldly, where opportunities are missed by attachment to the known and the comfortable. There is no loss, of course, to not moving on, unless, and only if, one’s purpose, or instinct, is to evolve into something else. Then a personal teacher, unless that teacher is the rare teacher who truly, is no longer a teacher, can become an impediment and in some cases, an actual obstruction to freedom. Add to that the inevitable codification of a group that surrounds a living teacher, the dogma that instantly evolves, and the dangers inherent within that kind of soup can be poisonous to the normal progression of the individual’s own growth. In other words, you need to be alert, strong, agile and ready to move on when it is time to move on. Curiously, or not so curiously, it was Idries Shah, the great writer of Sufism, that introduced us at this time to a mantra by which we still live: "If you don't stop there............!"
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