Da: Forerunner of post-metaphysical spirituality

I’ve been re-reading through some of the early works of Adi Da (then Free John). Particularly The Enlightenment of the Whole Body (whole text here).

One of the main key arguments of the text is that enlightenment is bodily. Not simply awakening consciousness, but Conscious Light–body, breath, attention, and emotion released/surrendered to God. This notion of the body enlightened accords with Da’s assertion that the way of Sacrifice not inward realization nor outward habitual activity, is the true posture of the awakened heart-mind.

Now Da also does something very interesting in the text, which I believe points (half-way) to post-metaphysics. Da, as some readers know, employs a notion of 7 Stages of Life (from birth to Transcendental Sacrificial Love Bliss Awakening….the 7th stage having two phases, sahaj samadhi and bhava samadhi). This notion of the 7 Stages of Life was the prime influence on Wilbers 2-4 and the notion that the psychic, subtle, causal, and nondual states (incorrectly) are stages on top of the chain that runs from archaic, magic, mythic, rational, pluralistic, and integral. First thing then to do is recall that the four states are possible at any stage of development.

With that correction in mind, I’m still going to use Da’s language….

The 5th Stage of Life in Da is the Subtle-Illuminative path. The path of Ascended Light to the Matrix up and out of the head (seen in paintings of saints with halos of light encircling the skull). Now in the traditions, such visions associated with this tradition–visions of heaven, mystical union with a Deity Form, subtle sounds/colors, etc.–were considered to be intuitions/experiences of actually existing other realms. You actually, as it were, went to heaven and united with Jesus.

What Da shows, and what I think is really revolutionary, in this work, is that there is no other place. Those experiences are modifications of latent powers within the human body-mind. Now from the Absolute perspective what that means is such activity is just a very advanced form of seeking, motivated by suffering/unhappiness, looking for some final release or condition to end suffering outside of oneself.

He writes:

The phenomena of the fifth stage of life are traditionally de-scribed to worldly or exoteric devotees and even to initiates in the fourth stage of life in terms of a hierarchy of cosmological schemes,ascending toward the Absolute Deity. The ultimate goal is de-scribed as the union or Eternal Embrace of God and the soul (which remains intact, but in a highly ratified or purified state). However, the phenomena of the fifth stage must be re-cognized as they truly are. They are the phenomena displayed to the internalized sense-functions when attention is firmly directed into the Life-Current in the brain core.

But the key point I want to emphasize here is that these experiences are simply working the human body-mind in a certain fashion and these experiences are reflex mechanisms of latent powers within the brain and nervous system.

This bodily-mediation (and “naturalistic” turn) is half of the quadrants, half of the understanding on the way to post-metaphysical spirituality and spiritual practice. In the quadrants view, that is the right-side of the quadrants (more individual upper right than lower collective right), but bodily nonetheless.

Again in post-metaphysics it does not mean there are not other realms—heaven, hell, purgatory, reincarnation, whatever. It means that because all of our experiences, even so-called mystical ones, are bodily mediated and our bodies are earthly (though transcendentally possible, transcendent within this realm however), then we can’t make any determination one way or the other about such other realms. We can appeal to Revelations I suppose as long as one admits it has to be taken on faith. Alternatively, there are “suggestive” (though by no means conclusive) pieces of evidence from individuals claiming to have experiences of life after physical death (again those experiences mediated, if true, by a subtler form of body).

This realization of full bodily enlightenment, is why Touch is the sense most connected to enlightenment (not sight as is traditionally the case).

But this is only half-way to true post-metaphysics because it seems to me Da is unaware of a second step the understanding of the Lower Left (though elsewhere he basically outlines the quadrants and the phrase include and transcend is his, but he doesn’t seem to have it in relation to spiritual experiences).

In other words, he seems to assume not that the experiences (of light say) are universal constructs outside of the human. Bodily mediated no doubt, but not investigated as to the possible content of those experiences being shaped by the religious-social context of the individual. Christians have visions of Jesus. Jews do not have visions of Krishna. The common forms of the 5th Stage Ascended Light Mysticism Da describes are a product of his Siddha Yoga Indian Spiritual training. There are certainly similarities in other traditions, but the content is not the same.

Once we get that all experience, mystical or mundane, are consciously, socially and bodily conditioned/mediated, then we I think are really onto something profound. Does not mean there are not layers/gradations of mediated experience, just that all are. And transcendence must sacrificial awakened life within this world, in this body and in cultures of awakening (a point Da does make forcefully elsewhere).

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Published in: on October 29, 2007 at 8:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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