Wednesday, October 25, 2006

More on Adi Da and NPD

Yesterday's post on Adi Da and NPD got a good comment from Kang. It brings up some issues I've thought about in this area since yesterday, so I'll use it as an opportunity to expand ont he points I've made.

kang wrote:
Hi BY,

I'm wondering if the NPD diagnosis is really a meaningful criticism of the guy in this context. If you admit he's an advanced yogi and a genius, that automatically puts him in a category beyond conventional judgement, doesn't it? Not that I'm defending him. But what I really quesiton is these other assertions -- yogi, genius, guru.

If these are valid, then certainly there will always be some people who will overlook the behavioral depravities. We can grant that these are terrible and repulsive. All right, but that's not why anyone serious develops an interest in the whole Adidam thing. For those reasons I wouldn't go there nor recommend that anyone else should.

But if you admit there is some kind of extraordinary cream-filled core to this muffin, you leave open the door that some will be drawn in. Of course, we can find value in even negative experiences, but legitimately, is there really any kind of unique advantage to be found there?


My reply:

I'm trying my best not to be political about this (meaning goal-oriented). In other words, I'm just trying to present and explore the truth to the best of my ability, regardless of the political consequences. If some people interpret what I say as suggesting that there is a "cream-filled core" to Adidam, and then join up as a result, I can't help that. I simply find the thought of adjusting my assessment of Adi Da and his group to engineer some kind of result, such as people not joining, repulsive. It's just the flip side of what Adidam itself does in trying to lure people into Adidam by presenting a manufactured, packaged image of Da.

Personally, I wouldn't say that what is creamy and delicious about Adidam is at its core. There's probably a better argument to be made that it is just a sugar-frosty coating that hides a rotten core. I could be wrong, of course, but I would suggest that denying that there is anything creamy and delicious about Adi Da is absurd and contrary to the simple factual experience of so many who have passed through Adidam, including me. It reminds me of the anti-drug propagandists who get up in arms when someone talks about how fucking amazing and pleasurable so many illegal drugs are. Some TV personality in England recently raised a big ruckus in an interview when he admitted to having used ecstasy once years ago, and saying it was just fantastic. Many people lamblasted him for giving the wrong impression to our youth, who might try ecstasy based on his admission. This is a tacit proposition that lying is better for the public good than telling the truth. It's a proposition I reject, especially in regard to Adidam.

I've previously compared Adidam to heroin, in that it can feel incredibly good, but it can easily lead to addiction, degradation of one's faculties, and a general degeneration of the being. One doesn't lick heroin by pretending it doesn't feel great. One has to understand that part of its danger is that it really does feel great. And one also has to be honest about the facts of drugs. Heroin, for example, in its pure pharmaceutical form, is actually less dangerous and debillitating than alcohol, the commonly accepted and promoted legal drug of choice in our country. Medical doctors will admit, if pressed, that it's much healthier to be addicted to pharmaceutical heroin than it is to alcohol. Not that this makes heroin an overall positive, but it helps put criticism of it into perspective. There are many things in our society which are negative, and some of them get promoted while others get made into scapegoats.

I'm not interested in scapegoating Adi Da, in other words, by pretending that everything about him is terrible and pathetic. That would actually help his cause, in that people like yzy who encounter Adi Da and find some very positive spiritual aspects to him will see then that the critics of Da are lying, just as anti-drug propagandists are found out to be lying by those who actually try many illegal drugs, and both end up losing credibility. It's more important to understand the complexity of people like Da than it is to paint everything about him with a negative brush.

As for the NPD diagnosis, I think it is meaningful in understanding Adi Da's basic problems and why they are not only personal, but systemic throughout his teaching and community. I don't think that even if Adi Da is assessed to be a great yogi and a genius that it puts him beyond conventional categories of judgement. To use the most extreme example, isn't it obvious that Hitler was a genius, and perhaps even a yogi of a kind? He certainly displayed the most incredible political and diplomatic skills of the 20th century, and had an amazing power to inspire and motivate people in a manner than Adi Da can't even approach. I hardly think any sane person would argue that Hitler's genius puts him beyond conventional categories of judgement. Clearly, Hitler is one of the great poster boys for NPD, and despite his genius, his incredible narcissism essentially defined his character, his actions, and the uses he put his genius to.

The whole notion that genius and people of great ability, even great spiritual ability, can't be judged "conventionally", is a huge part of the delusion these exceptional NPD types not only create, but actively take advantage of. Understanding the dynamics of NPD goes a long way towards exploding this myth by seeing how the narcissistic personality creates this "special" category for himself, and thus feels justified in using other, lesser beings as objects in his great game of self-aggrandizing accomplishment.

Take Napoleon for example. A lay term for NPD is the "Napoleonic complex", and we all know of crazy people who fantasize that they are Napoleon. Most are pathetic dysfunctional people who in no way had Napoleon's genius or talent. But what of Napoleon himself? Does the fact that Napoleon was a genius with tremendous talent, ability, and accomplishment make him any less an example of NPD? I think not. I think it's pretty obvious that Napoleon suffered immensely from NPD, and that he just happened to possess the genius and talent to actually accomplish an incredible amount. He wasn't fantasizing that he was the Emporer of France, but that achievement was a part of his NPD fantasy nonetheless, simply realized. And then, of course, tragically undone by his own NPD self-aggrandizement. This is a man who led 600,000 of his countrymen to their deaths in the invasion of Russia (and untold numbers of Russians) and yet who showed no remorse for their deaths at all, only for his own tragic fall. They were just props and bit players in his NPD drama.

And a similar pattern holds true for Adi Da. He's not capable of the kinds of achievements of Hitler or a Napoleon, but in the small pond of Adidam he is an even bigger fish, at least in his own mind, and in the minds of most of his followers. He has no conscience about using those followers as cannon-fodder in advancing his own personal star-power drama, and no remorse about any "collateral damage" suffered. His NPD is not excused by his genius and talent, it is merely the guiding principle behind its use.

That is the real answer to the "creamy core" issue, at least as far as I can see. Talent and genius are really peripheral to life's core matters. The tragedy of the NPD character is that he has made these peripheral matters of primary importance in his life, and ignored what really matters - love, truth, happiness, kindness. The NPD character epitomizes the hollowness of not only spiritual seeking, but spiritual attainment. They gain the whole world, at least in their own minds, but they have lost their soul in the process. And that is what I would criticize most about Adi Da and Adidam - they have lost their souls in the effort to become the "greatest of all time", or followers thereof.

I'm sure you can think of other examples of "great" figures with NPD. Artists like Gaugin or Picasso come to mind. One cannot deny their genius, their talent, and their acheivements, but as human beings, they suffered immensely from narcissistic problems. I don't know if they'd meet the full criteria for NPD, but clearly they were in the ballpark. Should we judge Gaugin any less of an asshole because he was such a talented painter? Likewise, should we judge him any less talented a painter because he was such an asshole? I think the notion that greatness or foulness in one category should affect our ability to judge in another category is a false idea. We can judge Gaugin as both a great painter and an asshole, and leave it at that.

Similarly, I think we can judge Adi Da's teachings and yogic ability on their own merits and demerits, and judge his character on its own merits and demerits as well. I see no problem judging him a yogic powerhouse and a flawed genius, and at the same time assessing him as afflicted with NPD. Neither tell the full story of the man, but both are true enough to be said. Now many judge even his yogic abilities and mental and artistic abilities on a rather low, even dark, scale. I can't necessarily argue with that. But even so, so many of us have experienced so much greatness and beauty in him that it's just not that simple for us to utterly condemn the man. In that sense, he really is a tragic figure. Like Napoleon, many had pinned their hopes on Adi Da as a potentially great and liberating figure. That he disappointed is not merely the result of chance and circumstance, or of the principle that "power corrupts", but of an underlying character problem that I think is well described in the NPD phenomena.

Most NPD geniuses end up as tragic figures, even when they accomplish a great deal. They often die sad and alone. I think it is an illusion that they cannot be judged as NPD simply because they were also geniuses of a kind. Great mental ability, even great spiritual insight and understanding, are simply not enough on their own. There must also be penetration of the core ego-illusion, or there is great danger of narcissistic inflation into the NPD dead end. Many people have a hard time seeing their charismatic genius heroes as suffering from something as basic as NPD, but they suffer from common colds and diarrhea and heart attacks like the rest of us, why not NPD?

One of the tragic problems in a group like Adidam is that people imagine that someone who seems as smart or accomplished as Adi Da couldn't possibly suffer from NPD. Similar problems arise around Ken Wilber, say, who some seem to think also suffers from NPD. Similarly with Andrew Cohen, Bonder, and others of that ilk. Spiritual seeking tends to attract people with latent or overt NPD, and the temptation to declare oneself enlightened, or the greatest of enlightened beings, is a powerful temptation to the NPD character. So spiritual groups tend to attract NPD types, and those with the most powerful NPD personaes tend to rise to the top and end up as Gurus.

Not that all spiritual Gurus are NPD types, by all means, but the problem seems to exist at virtually every level of spirituality and religion, just as it does in the arts and politics and business. Wherever there is the capacity to inflate the ego and create a potent self-image, narcissists will flock to the scene and try to rise up the ladder. And so we all need to be well-informed and aware of the phenmomena, both in ourselves and others, and not be fooled by it.

As for Adi Da, I think it's important to understand the precise nature of his depravities. They are not random and unfocused. In Adidam of course he is considered to be guided by "Crazy Wisdom", an inexplicable form of skillful means which defies all conventional categories - or so it is claimed. For a long time I accepted this and even argued this. But at a certain point I began to question just how wise and just how skillful his means were. Then I began to notice that there was a specific pattern to his "craziness", that it obeyed an internal logic that was not unconventional at all, but deadeningly conventional. In short, his "craziness" falls very precisely into the NPD pattern, not into some pattern of Divine God-intoxication. Why should that be? Is God-Realization a form of NPD? If one accepts Adi Da as the ultimate example of God-Realization, it would appear so. But I think it's far more likely that Da is just an example of someone with NPD who has tried to scale the heights of spiritual attainment, and even gotten quite far, but fallen tragically short, and destroyed himself in the process.

This is really a very old story, but it keeps repeating itself over and over again, in every time and place. And yet human beings such as ourselves are so surprised to see it happen each time that they try to come up with some mystical explanation that subverts common sense and human frailty. I think we have to understand that even genius and talent are not sufficient to protect us from the ravages of narcissism. We need to accept our vulnerability to narcissism, both form within and without, and be humbled by that.

The problem with the true NPD character, as yzy pointed out, is that they will never seek treatment. They will never even acknowledge their problem. Instead, they will always project their problem onto those around them. Hence, there really doesn't seem to be any hope for Adi Da. He cannot face up to his problems, but instead blames everything around him, even the whole world, for his own failure to communicate. Not everyone is curable. Many psychopathologies simply have no solution. We need to be aware of that also, and deal with such people without fantasizing that they will change or evolve into something better. For years I stayed on in Adidam in the hope that things would change, that Adi Da would change, that the community would change. It was a vain hope based on my own misunderstanding of the nature of the problem Recognizing the nature of NPD and recognizing it in Adi Da and his community helped me to see that my only real choice was to leave and start over on my own with a more serious understanding of narcissism than is taught within Adidam. Not easy, to be sure, but far preferable to the alternative.


kang said...

I think that's a pretty good answer, BY. Thanks.

Maybe it comes down to that old idea that the world is a mixture of sand and sugar (Ramakrishna). Even so-called yogis are also such a mixture. The implication is never to invest yourself completely in anything external to yourself. But Frank's propaganda requires just exactly that. Such a notion should be spit out.

One has the idealistic notion that a "guru" or a "yogi" is always benign, and given what you have described that doesn't seem to be the case. The approach to anything must be calibrated carefully in terms of integrity, clarity, ethics, character -- otherwise the whole thing goes off-center and down the tubes.

Anonymous said...

Conrad wrote:

"I would suggest that denying that there is anything creamy and delicious about Adi Da is absurd and contrary to the simple factual experience of so many who have passed through Adidam, including me."

Guys, there may be something to read that could offer a perspective large enough to encompass that some persons (reportedly Adi Da and also very likely Rajneesh) have genuine ability to trigger spiritual breakthroughs and even transfer subtle energy to devotees and at the same time, despite having these siddhis, also be capable of cruel or deceitful behavior.

This link discusses an article describing a phenomenon termed 'uncompleted gurus'. It discusses what Sri Aurobindo has termed the Intermediate Zone, in which an aspirant can access paranormal powers, partially attain realization, yet at the same time remain trapped in ego driven delusion. An 'uncompleted' guru who considers himself or herself fully enlightened but is merely partially enlightened and trapped in the Intermediate Zone will typically leave a messy legacy for devotees for that guru will simultaneously confer marvellous experiences, even assist in providing genuine spiritual breakthroughs yet at the same time, inflict a great dreal of harm on his or her discisples--especially those who are intimate with the guru.

If disciples are trained to believe an all or nothing model of enlightenment which fails to impart information that there is such a thing as intermediate, partial enlightenment, this leaves the disciples with an all or nothing viewpoint in which they are likely to find themselves trapped if they are in the hands of a guru who is trapped in partial, Intermediate Zone enlightenment.

For what usually happens is that disciples, even before they meet a guru, are socialized to believe in total perfect enlightenment and are never given information about the hazards of partial enlightenment. Nor are most seekers ever given information that merely being able to manipulate siddis is not itself proof that a guru is genuinely enlightened.

It may be that Westerners who are influenced by Christianity naively assume that anyone who works signs and wonders is therefore like Jesus and can be trusted 100%. They forget that Saul of Tarsus warned that all paranormal events must be tested to determine whether they originate from a benevolent source--or do not.

All too often disciples who cross paths with an intermediate zone guru find themselves stuck.

To face that they were harmed or that they witnessed others being harmed often makes them fear they must repudiate the wonderful experiences this same guru gave them. When you know these experiences were real, to question their worth may mean to question any hope of ever having a spiriutal practice.

Those who try to stay loyal to 'the good stuff' often find it it necessary to deny that that person who gave them such marvellous experiences could ever be capable of harming them or anyone else.

Anonymous said...

Forgot to include the link to the article. Here it is:

Conrad is right. Gurus in the intermediate zone do make us feel good and some of them have actually assisted devotees to achieve actual spiritual breakthroughs.

But the source of the intermediate zone guru's 'juice' that enables the guru to do all this good---it comes from a dirty source that generates a legacy of harm, along with the good stuff.

The error comes when people insist on denying the harm, or thought-crime themselves into believing that the harm itself is some kind of blessing that can only be appreciated as a blessing by those who are part of the spiritual elite.

My hunch is that there are some parts of the enllightenment industry in which there's a cottage industry of rationalizing guru cruelty as being something wonderful and necessary.

The last thing troubled gurus need are enablers who peddle this kind of cruelty-is-grace propaganda.

seer said...

Intermediate zone gurus are far more common than fully enlightened ones. The truth is (somewhat paraphrasing Ramana Maharshi) that one does not so much become realized as eliminate all those aspects that make one unrealized. The ability to manifest various siddhis, the ability to influence others, and the ability to communicate in an inspired, ecstatic manner can and often does come long before the would be guru is fully realized, and does not even reflect purity--a good example of that is the shamanic tradition. Often the would be guru's ego has merely been intensified, and the guru convinces themselves they are fully enlightened and naive followers impressed by the effects take them at their word. But the ability to access or impart the higher aspects of one's being is not the same thing as the pure, ego-less transmission of the fully enlightened jnani. Sadly, most people looking for gurus are looking or signs and have an investment in their preferred guru being fully enlightened, and are fascinated by the paradox of the intermediate zone guru which resonates with their own internal conflicts, desires, and paradoxes.

There are contemporary examples which can of those who consiously use intermediate zone gurus being adept in the subtle. For example, since many reading here are familiar with Adi Da, Swami Rudrananda (Rudi) provides some interesting insight, He, as you can see from his later talks published at the internetyoga site, considered Swami Muktananda an example of what is meant by an intermediate zone guru, and he describes how he personally dealt with it and used it to his benefit, being adept on the subtle himself. In the same talk, he points out that it became less and less useful and he did not wish his students to be subjected to it because of the risks, so he formally broke with Swami Muktananda. The problem is that unless one is fairly adept in subtle work, it is risky to do this for very long and what is the point when pure sources like Ramana Maharshi and his lineage are available?

John said...

"Mana-personality and Invasion
Mana = Melanesian word meaning magical power and wisdom
The anima and the animus disturb the conscious control of the personality. The goal of development is making the unconscious elements conscious. This would bring an end to the processes of the anima and the animus, and consciousness becomes supreme. The person starts believing that he has mana and becomes a mana-personality. Such possession by these archetypes is called invasion.
Invasion by the ‘old wise man archetype’ in a man makes him a megalomaniac and hero; the lesser people become hero-worshippers. In a woman, the invasion by the great mother archetype leads to her becoming an all loving and protective personality. She tends to destroy the personalities of others by seeing others as helpless and dependent. Both these cases occur due to oversimplified concretization of archetypal images. This feeling of omnipotence is an illusion. Priests, politicians and cult leaders are products of invasion. Genuine development of personality would make the person understand that he is only a medium through which the unconscious power is working."~

The quote above outlines Jung's theory of the origin of megalomania. I thought this might help explain Da's behavior from a Jungian perspective.

mdpc said...

I haven't looked at the daism forum or at your blog for several months, but it's great to be reading you and everyone else's writings once again. I was never involved with the community or anything like that, but I've learned so much from you folks concerning areas of life that greatly interest me. Thanks to all of you for sharing your life experiences and thoughts in these forums!

Anonymous said...

Adi Da died from a massive heart attack at approximately 5p.m. (Nov. 27th) Fiji time, on his island Naitauba, Fiji.