This led me to think of Adi Da, who was an extreme example. I remember first reading about Adi Da in a book by Greg Bogart (Astrology and Spiritual Awakening, Berkeley, CA: Dawn Mountain Press, 1994.). In that book, Bogart refered to him as Da Avabhasa (or Da Love Ananda). Given the accusations that had surfaced about Adi Da in 1985, I'm surprised that Greg included him in a survey of spiritual teachers in a book that was published in 1994. Adi Da's story is a classic case of money, sex, drugs, manipulation and--to top it all off--formation of a cult compound on a remote island in Fiji. This is what Greg wrote about him: "American spiritual teacher Da Avabhasa (also known as Da Love Ananda) has the Sun in Scorpio in the 10th house, and a Moon-Pluto conjunction in the 7th house (Chart 9). He is widely known for his spiritual power, his capacity to shake up and transform others and to bless his devotees with dynamic energetic transmissions. During his career he has dealt contnually with issues regarding power and sexuality, and his teachings describe in detail the transformative alchemy and intensity of the guru-disciple relationship." (p. 43) (This book, incidentally, was a gift from Greg, whom I had contacted in regard to an article he had posted online about Rudhyar. It arrived in the mail on the day that I took my "fateful" journey to Masjid Al-Farah with X, who had his legendary rage fit on the way down the Westside Drive, as I mentioned in a previous post.)
I'm not surprised that I had never heard of Adi Da, because he had been significantly disgraced by the time I consciously undertook my spiritual explorations. His name resurfaced when I was doing some reading about Ken Wilber, who had given Da's Dawn Horse Testament a glowing review, and then backpedalled from his enthusiasm about its author some years later. I also encountered his name again while browsing some websites on spiritual abuses.
Well, last night I looked at a couple of Adi Da videos on YouTube. (He passed away in 2008 from a heart attack. I read somewhere that the heart attack may have been Viagra-induced.) In his case, we're dealing potentially, allegedly, with the corrupt of the corrupt. Even though he is no longer alive, I have to admit that I was drawn into a "zone" by one video in particular:
I could sense his silent manipulation of the crowd, I could hear the arrogance in his words and in his tone of voice and see it in his facial expressions (nevermind the bizarre, Muppet-like appearance)--but I also felt something I had not felt since I gave up the "drugs" of hanging out with my "spiritual friends." There were moments when X or Y would slip into an apparently profound silence and it felt very much like what I was picking up on from that video. Either they are all sick and the ability to do that is just a part of their madness, or maybe it's a vibe that I just happen to be susceptible to. If it's not a part of madness, then maybe it's a "gift" that happens to settle on some people who may, in other areas of their lives, be insecure and resort to cruel manipulation in their efforts to maintain what may appear to them to be their own well-being.
The vibe around Amma is fuller than that: it seems to have more dimensions to it. It is, however, like an undertow, and I can see how it could be used manipulatively. Among the indicators that there may unhealthy elements to her organization are the relative opacity of the finances, the mythologization of nearly every detail of Amma's life, stories of broken marriages or relationships (and of "suggested" remarriages or repartnerings with devotees), and stories of overworked, undernourished, sleep-deprived, and sexually frustrated ashram residents. Also disturbing are the allegations of inflated reports of the charitable activities, with video coverage implying that full credit be given to the ashram, whereas people on the ground have observed that governmental, Christian, and far-right Hindu organizations have actually done the bulk of the work.
In reading about Adidam (Adi Da's organization), I found it interesting to note that, when members detected corruption, their responses were either to leave altogether or to reduce their involvement significantly. In such organizations, it seems that a pervasive ambition is to move closer to the inner circle (so as to have more direct access to the "vibes"), so to move voluntarily from a position closer to the inner circle to the periphery (or to leave completely) is signficant.
My partner has invited some friends to go to Amma's public program this summer. Assuming that we go ahead with those plans, it may be my last time. We'll see how that goes.
While I've been questioning my relationship to "unusual vibes" in spiritual organizations, I've done a little digging into the reuptation of David Hawkins, whose book Power vs. Force underlies the "spiritual" component of the natal astrology course I'm taking online. The astrologer does a personalized course that he calls the Hero's Journey process, and PvF is required reading for that. I've read the astrologer's review of PvF on Amazon, and it is completely uncritical. I believe that the astrology teacher is an accomplished astrologer, and his approach is helping me to clarify some things about my interest in astrology, but I take his spiritual prescriptions with a huge grain of salt. Hawkins is a problematic figure who, in addition to claiming some rather dubious credentials, is also a right-wing Republican who has taken up residence in Sedona, AZ.
I find it interesting that all three organizations (Adidam, M A Center, Hawkins's group) are reported to have aggressive teams of attorneys working to control their public images. There are also pressure tactics to remove uncomplimentary information from the internet, either through the attorneys or directly from members of the organizations themselves. I guess this is just how spiritual "business" is conducted at this time. It seems pretty worldly to me.
Let's just say that anyone who has been harmed in such organizations--or, as people like to say, patronizingly, has "perceived" that he or she has been harmed--and who seeks repentance and restitution from the organization, will evidently be waiting quite a long time. ;-)
Om Kreem Kalyai Namaha,