8. Final Exam
- Matthew Pagano
- Midterm Grade: A
- No absences, no latenesses.
- I completed about half of the required readings
- I won Maya: The Game of Deception
6/7. For my answer to question #6, I chose to analyze the new religion Adidam, which is also referenced in the following question #7. As I alternated work on my responses to each, I noticed logical connections between the two and decided therefore to merge them into a single essay which responds to both.
It is vitally important that the sophisticated seeker of knowledge, spiritual or otherwise, be able to separate the medium through which a given message is transmitted from the message itself. If these two are conflated, the seeker is liable to discard potentially valuable insights from a dubious source, or, on the other hand, to assume that all claims by a source who has produced some valuable insights are necessarily of equal value. As Professor David Lane's essay The Paradox of Da Free John argues, it is inaccurate to assume that our notions about the medium through which given messages are transmitted can validate or invalidate the messages themselves, or that the value of the messages validate or invalidate certain conclusions about their source.
To distinguish medium and message is then a deeper expression of the same virtue of discernment that would allow one to distinguish valuable messages from useless ones in the first place. With regards to religious movements and belief systems such as Da Free John's Adidam, this virtue is perhaps best-implemented in Ken Wilber's Transcendental Sociological template.
This template can be used to analyze religious movements and belief systems according to two basic dimensions: (1) a vertical dimension of authenticity (transformative), which ranks religions on a hierarchy according to the level of consciousness they operate from, or the effectiveness of their practices in achieving such levels, and (2) a horizontal dimension of legitimacy (translative), which ranks them on the basis of their integration within a specific level, or their ability to cohere the consciousness of an individual or a community with stability at that level. The vertical dimension is delineated into a basic three-tier hierarchy of the following developmental stages (1) pre-personal, pre-rational, or sub-conscious (2) personal, rational, or self-conscious, and (3) trans-personal, trans-rational, or super-conscious.
In the example of the teachings of Adi Da (Da Free John), we see a system which is often very high on the scale of authenticity; Adi Da effectively describes various trans-rational states of consciousness and provides effective means of their attainment, and he does so with remarkable clarity. However, certain aspects of the belief system Da promotes (e.g, its exclusivity/narcissism; Adidam touts Da and his teachings as the sole means of achieving the states he describes), as well as many of his own flagrantly abusive, inappropriate, low-developmental-stage-based actions as the leader of the Adidam movement (e.g. sexually humiliating followers under the pretense of pushing them to transcend ego-attachment), clearly indicate a lack of horizontal development by the person of Adi Da and consequently the Adidam organization. In Jungian terms, Da has repressed and failed to integrate shadow aspects of his personality, and as a result, the super-conscious states he achieves are highly unstable and often give way to self-conscious and sub-conscious expressions under the false guise of super-conscious "crazy wisdom."
The following 2000 quote from the self-proclaimed historic avatar perhaps sheds some light on the nature of his accomplished-yet-fragmented psychospiritual condition:
So the force of My Work is pushed up in Me so profoundly it could be destructive, and so I have to have a way to function above and beyond the physical body. I am involved in the most immense struggle. I am at war with the most fierce forces that can be imagined. And this terrible descent comes into My Body unless My Descent is able to Flow. But this must not be allowed to continue. The forces I am dealing with must be allowed to flow and not come into this Body, and, for this to occur, I need to begin to relate to real contact people of wealth and influence…
I speculate that Adi Da here unintentionally reveals his own psychospiritual crisis, which he has framed in his mind as a struggle between a perfectly enlightened guru-self and a college of demons separate from that self. If he were functioning at a more horizontally-integrated trans-rational stage of spiritual development, he might recognize that this war he describes indicates an unintegrated shadow-self raging against its repression by the Adi Da Samraj Seventh Stage Enlightened Master persona he has propped up to excuse his personal failings by reference to his spiritual achievements (functioning in this case to justify his narcissistic personal desire for wealth and celebrity as serving a righteous role in a trans-personal war). His dissociation from and justification of his own lower-stage proclivities allows Da to remain comfortably in the exalted experience of super-conscious awareness while neglecting unfinished business on the lower levels. The glaring reality of this unfinished business means low integration on the horizontal scale of the functions of these lower stages of development with those of the higher stages, so that high-stage knowledge ends up being used for unfulfilled-low-stage purposes, i.e. mind control.
From a sociological perspective, Islam and Christianity are for the most part very similar. This is because both arose in the same geographic region, albeit at different historical periods. Both emphasize in their most common manifestations an authoritarian, pre-rational ideology of conquest manifesting in atrocious brutality by each, though Islam perhaps took a while to catch up to Christianity's level of inhumanity in terms of extreme torture and egregious violence. Despite this, both have made significant steps into rational territory, with, for example the invention of algebra and many other scientific innovations by the Islamic world while Christendom was stuck in the dark ages, as well as the more well-known scientific accomplishments of the Christian West. Both religions also have a high degree of legitimacy, which goes without saying when you're talking about the two largest religions in the history of the world.
Depending on the particular brand of Islam or Christianity, however, there are some differences, and there are differences between the two in general as well. Islam generally manifests a more extreme social conservatism than Christianity, which, while still socially conservative, has much more often functioned alongside a liberal democratic political philosophy. I would say that this perhaps indicates a generally greater penchant for rationalism in Christianity than in Islam. However, it would be inaccurate to claim that Christianity has left its overall pre-rational tendency behind; these firm roots are indicated not only by strains of extreme social conservatism persisting within the nations of the Christian West (in particular America), but more insidiously by the Christian West's ongoing crusade of global imperialism which commits atrocities in the name of a secularized synthesis of Christian crusader ideology and superficially coopted liberal-democratic values in greater number and degree than any Islamofascist organization in existence by far (Islamofascist spectacle notwithstanding), despite an apparently less authoritarian political agenda.
It seems likely that much of the more extreme social conservatism and brutality of Islam, though stemming from fundamental imperialist ideologies held in common with Christianity, results from its interaction with and historical dominance by Christianity. We see in the example of the growing Islamofascist crisis across the Middle East since the 1990s a phenomenon of increasing conservatism and brutality by these multiplying terrorist organizations in reaction to increasing Western imperialist brutality. The sociological origins of both religions as generally brutal, conserative, pre-rational, conquest-minded ideologies stems from the fact that each broke out under a pre-existing empire and therefore recapitulated imperialist ideology in more "spiritual" clothing, and the fact that each came into being before rationalism had really been formally developed and implemented anywhere in the world, much less in the brutal desertous conditions of the Middle East.