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.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Adi Da and Narcissistic Personality Disorder

A reader has made a lengthy comment on the discussion from the previous post that I thought was deserving of a full reply. Here's the comment in full, followed by my reply:

Dear Conrad,

I am wondering whether you realized the seriousness of your accusation against Adi Da and Adidam. If Adidam is indeed a congregation consisting mostly of narcissists and co-narcissists, then it would be a living hell indeed. Anybody with any sense of normalcy will not be able to survive there for any length of time. If I take your accusations as being true then I have to infer that you must be a very bad case co-narcissist to be able to hang in there for so long.

Narcissism occurs at the rate of 1 in a hundred, so it is not as common as you made it. I am serious when I said that it is almost impossible to recover from narcissism; it amounts to a minor miracle. If you have any doubts, please consider the following references:
Narcissists are generally not candidates for conventional analytical treatment, since psychological analysis is a dialogue and narcissism is a soliloquy. Because of narcissists' incapacity for genuine relationship, their treatment tends to be of the "Band-Aid" variety that deals with specific acute difficulties, such as depression, which can be treated with drugs. Part of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the conviction is that "I'm okay, it's everybody else who's not okay," so narcissists rarely seek treatment voluntarily. Some wait until they are in such bad shape that they require hospitalization. Because narcissists' self-image is so scanty and fragile, they depend on the reflection of themselves in others' perception to be aware of themselves; sometimes it is really as if these people do not have bodies, have no real material existence. Therefore, social isolation, such as comes following the loss of a job, the failure of a marriage, or the alienation of friends and family, has swift and terrible effects on narcissists. Their thinking quickly deteriorates into chaotic incoherency and disorganization. For this reason, when they do receive treatment, the therapists' first order of business is to restore and fortify the narcissists' ego defenses -- i.e., the therapist must help the narcissist recover the habitual grandiose and self-obsessed self-image. When reasonably recovered, the narcissist usually leaves therapy before any work can be done on the underlying personality disorder.
If possible, long-term individual psychotherapy is the treatment of choice for those with narcissistic personality disorder because it helps to establish a strong therapeutic alliance between therapist and patient. Yet, even within this framework, expectations should focus on small changes in personality traits as opposed to expecting large changes as being possible…
… many individuals with NPD will come for treatment only under considerable duress... but once the pressure is removed or the pain of the event lessened, these individuals usually leave treatment without any desire to change essential characterological attributes. Sperry & Carlson (1993, p. 320) note that most individuals with NPD come into treatment with the goal of having their narcissistic wounds soothed rather than seeking change.

So have you changed your assessments that Adidam are not a bunch of narcissist after all, just a bunch of mediocre people with some dumb ideas? But how dumb do you have to be to take 30 years to let go of some silly ideas?

I am more inclined to believe that you are not that dumb, as in taking 30 years to let go of a bunch of silly ideas, that you are not a narcissist either but neither is Adi Da. It does look to me that there is something else going on that kept you there for so long. I find it impossible to get past your anger and inconsistencies to really know whether it is the case.

Spiritual practice/community is difficult – past, present and for the foreseeable future. Putting a bunch of people who otherwise would have nothing to do with each other together, heaps on the spiritual demand, stirs up the samskara (purifications) a bit, and you have a pressure cooker, a killing field. There is no comfort zone – either one moves forward on or drop out. Many dramas will get played out in the process.

The Sixth Patriarch having to run for his life after his master passed him the lineage in secret was a notable example from the past. I have also seen the worst of humanity displayed in a couple current day communities that I know quite intimately.

I would expect a level of bullshit and immaturity happening amongst the Adidam community. In fact I am almost seeing one happening right before my eyes in your exchanges with Victoria. Two ex-devotees tearing each other apart without mercy, one defending her ex-guru, one criticizing. I can imagine how the scenes were when both of you were devotees. Perhaps you have never considered that you could be a contributing factor to the ugliness?

The real question to me is whether there are any maturing devotees. And that is probably not so easy to ascertain from a distance.

Please don’t get me wrong. I don’t have any personal agenda against you. I am only using you as a sounding board in my probe for the truth about Adidam. You were chosen because you are currently the loudest anti-Adi Da voice.

I am not sure whether you realized how intertwined you are with Adi Da with your 30 years involvements, being his court astrologer, and once the most outspoken defender etc. Whatever bad things you have to say about Adi Da reflects equally badly on yourself. Saniel Bonder and Ken Wilber are on the same boat as you, and that is probably why both choose to say very little about their ex-guru publicly. There may be some wisdom that you can learn from them.

Lastly – I am impressed with Adi Da not merely because of the philosophical depth. I am more impressed with the stillness and equanimity in which he sits and conducts himself. It portrays someone who has mastered of the body rather than someone who lead a life of gross indulgences. The most impressive of all is the amount of silence – I got a distinct impression that silence is the real communications and words are rather inconsequential interruptions. There is much to investigate, that all I can say now.

I think I have pretty much come to an end in my excursion in your forum. I wish you all the best in your future undertakings.


This is my reply to yzy:

Dear yzy,

There's a lot to respond to in your post. I'll try to be thorough. If you have further comments or questions, I'd be glad to respond as needed.

First let me say that I'm not interested in insulting you or Adi Da or anyone associated with Adidam, such as Victoria from the last post. I'm sorry you see me as someone out for blood, and I would ask you to reconsider that assessment of me, but if you can't, so be it. I'm interested in getting at the truth of the matter of Adidam, just as you are. If some people find the truth to be intolerable, that simply can't be helped. If I am wrong about Adidam, then God help me by pointing out where and how I am wrong. But if I am right, then God help you and others involved in Adidam face up to that truth. My basic assumption through all this is that truth is not insulting, and so if we try to stick to the truth, we will be incapable of insulting one another. I sense that you are cognizant of subtleties involved in this kind of exchange, and for what it's worth I don't mind being used as a sounding board if that is how you wish to proceed.

I've said this dozens of times before, but it bears repeating: I'm not interested in dissuading anyone from joining or staying in Adidam. To the contrary, to those who have a strong attraction to Adi Da, by all means go right ahead and join, and give it your best shot. But those who join Adidam should be aware of the realities of Adidam, its cultic limitations, and its peculiar, problematic aspects. Likewise, people should be aware of the positive aspects of Adidam, and place them in context. I certainly wouldn't be the first to point out what is positive in Adidam, but I wouldn't be the last either. As you mention, I was involved with Adidam for the better part of 30 years, and I wouldn't have done so if there hadn't been plenty of positives to have kept me around.

As for Adi Da being an impressive figure, I second the opinion. I have never met a more impressive person in my life – not that I've met a great many exceptional people. Unlike some critics of Adi Da, I don't try to make him out to be an ordinary fraud or psychotic. I think it's clear that he has exceptional yogic and spiritual qualities, as well as genius-level intelligence, and remarkable insight into people and events. What I would argue is that none of that is incompatible with my assessment of him as a narcissist.

Your description of narcissism lacks an appreciation of both the wide variance within clinical narcissism and the breadth of the phenomena on a personal and cultural level in our day and age. You mention that clinical narcissism (NPD) is rare, about 1 in 100. I've heard estimates of between 1-3 in 100, but even at the lower end, NPD is not really all that rare. However, I in no way am suggesting that Adi Da is a typical, 1 in 100 narcissist. Many narcissists, as you suggest, are rather pathetic people with tremendous difficulties in life and relationships. But there exist quite a number of what might be called “high-functioning” narcissists who have exceptional abilities, charisma, and talent, who often rise very high in the social order, and who do not appear to the casual observer to be clincial narcissists. They may be actors, politicians, artists, businessmen, doctors, lawyers or scientists of the highest caliber and achieve great success and recognition in their field. And yet they are often brought down by their own narcissistic character, negating so much of what they have achieved. Or not – many manage to get through life without their narcissism being revealed beyond the small sphere of their immediate associates. This, I would suggest, would be the case with Adi Da if not for those who have spoken out about the realities of his own life and character.

Likewise, you misunderstand what I mean when I describe Adidam as filled with co-dependent personalities. I do not mean that Adidam is filled to bursting with clinical cases of NPD. Not only would that be highly unlikely (and a hell on earth) it simply wouldn't last. People with true NPD simply can't tolerate being surrounded by too many other people with NPD – the competition for attention would be too vicious and intolerable. Instead, NPD people tend to surround themselves with willing co-dependent types who will support and serve their own narcissism. Such co-dependency is a form of narcissism, to be sure, but not of the classic variety. It is sometimes called “compensating narcissism.” Authoritarian organizations tend to be filled with compensating narcissists who sublimate their own will and identity to the leader's will and persona. They live for and through the leader. They may even seem to be selfless and altruistic individuals, self-sacrificing and devoted to a cause and a purpose outside themselves, but in reality they are simply playing out another aspect of the narcissistic fantasy.

Which brings up a larger point about narcissism, which is that while clinical NPD is relatively rare, narcissistic personality problems are virtually epidemic in our time and culture. Alexander Lowen, who was one of the earliest psychiatrists to recognize and treat common narcissistic personality disorders (read his “Narcissism: Denial of the True Self” for a great short introduction to his work on the subject), suggested that while in Freud's time and culture most people who came to psychiatrists for help were suffering from neurotic disorders, in our age the most common ailments people suffer from are related to narcissistic issues. So while most of Freud's theories and techniques were built on the observation of neuroses, psychiatry in our age and culture, according to Lowen, needs to develop theories and methods for treating narcissism – not just of the NPD variety, which remains rare, but of the more common variety.

When I describe Adidam as riddled with narcissism, I am speaking of it in all these respects: an exceptional, high-functioning NPD Guru, a loyal, bureaucratic following of compensating narcissists, and a horde of people struggling with ordinary issues of narcissism and co-dependency. Sprinkled through Adidam are an assortment of genuine NPD characters, in far higher proportions than you would find in the general population, but using the masks of religious authority to hide their disorder. Nonetheless, they remain the exception rather than the rule, and yet they function to manage and organize the commonplace narcissists and co-dependents who populate Adidam.

I would further suggest that all these varieties of narcissists are commonly attracted to religious and spiritual groups, especially those which foster authoritarian and absolutist beliefs. Adidam is far from unique in that respect. One could point to any number of both mainstream and “cult” religious movements as being similarly riddled with narcissists, though I hardly think that excuses Adidam in any way. The fact that Adidam is purportedly lead by an enlightened being, and that it teaches the way to become enlightened oneself, in no way guarantees that it is free of narcissistic exploitation and conflict. In fact, I would argue that movements that aspire to enlightenment or which make such claims are more likely to have narcissistic issues than groups with more mundane aspirations.

Now, you are right that accusing Adi Da of having NPD is a serious charge. I don't make it lightly. I don't even make it out of disrespect, the way one might accuse someone we don't like of being “psycho”. What I mean is that I don't see any other way of accurately describing Adi Da's personality issues, or of explaining the peculiar dynamics of his relationships, his organization, and his spiritual legacy. So let's get down to the basics of that charge, using the basic criteria for recognizing NPD, as described in Wikipedia (which seems to correspond well to every other source I've seen, including DSM-IV):

At least five of the following are necessary for a diagnosis [of Narcissistic Personality Disorder]:

1.has a grandiose sense of self-importance preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
3.believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by other special people
4.requires excessive admiration
5.strong sense of entitlement
6.takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends
7.lacks empathy often envious or believes others are envious of him or her.
9.arrogant affect

Now, I don't know how much you know about Adi Da, but it should be fairly obvious to anyone with just a bit of experience in Adidam, or knowledge thereof, to see that Adi Da fits not just five of these criteria, but all nine, and not just to some borderline degree, but in spades, in excess of virtually any possible way of looking at the matter. I've spoken to Daists about this, and the best defense they can come up with is that sure, the criteria seem to fit, but since Adi Da is without any ego, none of these personal characteristics of his can amount to narcissism. If you buy that argument, good luck to you in Adidam.

If you need some background on these criteria, let me fill in just a little bit of detail. One could go on and on about it, but I don't want to stand accused of piling on.

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance

If you've read The Dawn Horse Testament, you perhaps have some idea of just how grandiose Adi Da's sense of his own importance is. In short, he believes himself to be THE most important being ever to have been born, not just in our time and place, but in all times, in all places, in the entire universe, in all the billions of years it has existed. He doesn't just mean this figuratively, but literally. His “bodily human form” as he calls it, is the most perfect manifestation of the Divine that has ever appeared, and is the sole means for the complete liberation of all beings, in all times and places, forever. There will never be another being as important as him, no realizer more important, no Vehicle of the Divine as significant. If one has any doubt about how important Adi Da thinks he is, count the number of capitalized words in The Dawn Horse Testament. One wonders if it is even possible for anyone, anywhere, to fulfill this criteria for NPD more fully and perfectly than Adi Da. preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

Adi Da has spent years and years obsessing about the vast successes that he not only insists his “Work” will achieve, but which he demands on a daily and hourly basis. In every area of his life, he fantasizes about ridiculous levels of adulation, respect, power, wealth, sexual satisfaction, personal achievement, artistic creation, on and on. For years he fantasized about the rich and famous coming to him and working with him not only to advance Adidam's position in the world, but to work with him on creative projects of his own devising. For example, he has fantasized for years about making movies with the most famous and successful people in Hollywood, from Jim Carrey to Michael Jackson to Steven Spielberg. He compiled a set of “movie ideas” that he wanted brought to these people, and he expected them to not only embrace him as his Guru, but to embrace him as a creative genius and moviemaker. I worked with him on this “project” at one time, and he personally asked me to approach Steven Spielberg to work with him on these movie ideas of his. (I politely declined). These were not just idle fantasies, he spent years trying to get devotees to develop contacts in the movie industry, trying to work there way up through the network to these top guys.

Likewise, he has fantasized being recognized as the greatest artist of our time, and of any time, and the greatest photographer, the greatest painter, the greatest writer - and the greatest spiritual realizer, of course. You cannot imagine how obsessive he has been about this, how many hours and hours of notes he has given about how import it is that everyone in the world recognize and adore him, and you cannot imagine his rage and disappointment at the ongoing “failure” of his devotees and the whole world to properly recognize and support him.

3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by other special people

Adi Da argues that he is the most “special” person in the world, utterly unique in all of time and space, in all of human and cosmic history. He even uses the word 'Unique”, full capitalized, over and over and over again to describe himself, or should I say, “Himself”. How many people not living in insane asylums actually refer to themselves as “Myself” over and over again, or speak the way Adi Da does about himself?

4.requires excessive admiration

We've covered this a bit, but let's just repeat that Adi Da repeatedly says that without the ongoing devotion and gifts of his devotees, he will literally die. His demand for devotional recognition and praise is simply so over the top one just can't deny it. His anger and rage over the slightest lapse in devotion, his inability to accept even the mildest of criticism, and his total denial that he is even capable of error make this category easy to check off.

5.strong sense of entitlement

Adi Da clearly feels entitled to virtually anything he desires. The entire organization of Adidam essentially exists to fulfill Adi Da's personal wants and desires, and in his view this is not only justified, but is the way for all being to realize perfect enlightenment. Since his wants and desires are the wants and desires of the Divine Person, and since the Divine Person wants only the enlightenment of all beings, fulfilling Adi Da's wants and desires leads to the enlightenment of all beings. The logic is perfect, no? Specifically, this means that if Adi Da wants something badly, he gets it, or he throws a tantrum and threatens to leave, to go into isolation, to disrupt everyone's life until it is given him. A few years ago he went to Yosemite Park, and he liked it so much he said the federal government should just give it to him as his own personal sanctuary residence. He's said that the world should give him $50 billion dollars just to build a series of “pleasure domes” for him to live in, the most fantastic palaces every built, merely to compensate him for the great work he is doing for the sake of all beings. On a more practical level, Adi simply demands the finest in food, sex, art, clothing, personal possessions, furnishings, photographic equipment, cars, housing, hotel accommodations, vacation outings, you name it, he gets it.

6.takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

Where does the money come from for all these things? Adi Da ran a series of fund-raisers to collect money to buy Disney Art and paperweights, raising about $5,000,000 over 2-3 years. People were encouraged to cash in their IRAs, their retirement accounts, borrow on their credit cards, etc., all to finance his fascination for useless collectibles. He deliberately told people to drink as much as it took during these fundraisers in order to facilitate their decision-making, telling people to keep drinking until it they had given enough for his latest purchases. And that's just one example of a pattern of using and abusing people over the decades. I can't tell you how many people have been used and abused and then discarded when they were no longer useful to Adi Da. When his original wife, Nina, was going through a very difficult time, after having supported him for years, both financially and emotionally, and after he just cut her off, she was invited to spend a bit of time with him, and asked if he would take her back into his inner circle. His response? He told her, “Nina, you don't understand. I don't need you anymore.” And that was that.

7.lacks empathy

Again, the examples are too numerous to choose from. My favorite is how he treated the devotees who lived on the island in Fiji. He was upset about the budget for the island eating into his swiss bank account, so he personally took control of the island's budget. He cut the food budget for the residents down to the bone, to about 60 cents per day per person. Things got so bad the residents began stealing food from the retreatants who came from the mainland. People developed malnutrition, serious health problems, dental problems, etc. Meanwhile, Adi Da had a personal chef and staff with a budget of thousands of dollars a month to prepare his own gourmet meals of lobster bisque and the fanciest foods they could get their hands on. At no time did Adi Da show any sign of empathy for those devotees who were literally starving right nearby.

Of course, I would not say that Adi Da lacks empathy entirely. He simply seems to exercise it only when it offers him some advantage. As a general personality characteristic, it seems absent. often envious or believes others are envious of him or her.

Adi Da's primary criticism of how devotees relate to him is that they all suffer from what he calls the “Oedipal complex”, which in his view means that they are all in competition with him, trying to outdo him, replace him, and “be his equal”. He has a compulsion to knock down any man around who shows too much competence, ability, intelligence or maturity. He seems not to care how much this costs Adidam, requires that no one represent anything that might remotely be seen as competition to his own authority and power. This is the report I get from those who have actually worked in and managed his personal sphere, and everything I've seen around him supports these reports.

9.arrogant affect

Well, what can I say? Judge for yourself. I'm a fairly arrogant guy myself, but to be honest, I've never met anyone who could match Adi Da in this category.

So, there you have. A perfect nine out of nine. I really have a hard time imagining how anyone could seriously contest the assessment of Adi Da as suffering from NPD based on these criteria. If you think differently, I'd like to hear about it.

I thought it interesting that you would comment:

“Part of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the conviction is that "I'm okay, it's everybody else who's not okay," so narcissists rarely seek treatment voluntarily. Some wait until they are in such bad shape that they require hospitalization.”

Of course, this fits Adi Da to a “T”. He insists that everything that has ever gone wrong in Adidam is the fault of others, of devotees, of the world, everyone but himself. He has never, ever, accepted responsibility for anything that has gone wrong. However, he has taken credit for anything and everything that has done right, regardless of whether he had anything directly to do with it. If things go right, it is his Grace. If things go wrong, it is the fault of devotees obstructing his Grace. So Adi Da's basic message when anythign goes remotely wrong is always “I'm okay, everyone else isn't.

“Because narcissists' self-image is so scanty and fragile, they depend on the reflection of themselves in others' perception to be aware of themselves; sometimes it is really as if these people do not have bodies, have no real material existence.”

Adi Da also repeatedly goes through crises where he says that his connection to this world, and his own body, is so tenuous that he can drift away at any time. The only corrective for this is personal devotion and pleasuring of his body-mind. Let your imagination run wild as to what that comes down to. He has had numerous panic attacks brought on by feelings of failure and collapse. He was on numerous anti-depressants for years. He has had drug and alchohol addictions for decades. Make of that what you will, but it all fits in perfectly with the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder.

The big question which I grappled with for a long time, and which you will have to grapple with if you join Adidam, is how all these obvious signs of severe NPD could coincide with someone who is also clearly a brilliant spiritual savant of a kind. For that, I have no fully convincing explanation to offer you. Many people have their theories, and I could float a few myself, but in the end they are rather beside the point. The point is the fact that these NPD problems clearly exist, and have a huge effect on everyone in Adidam. They will have an effect on you also, so you should take that into account when joining. Be aware that if you criticize Adi Da for any of these things, or ask too many questions about these matters, you will be labeled a heretic, as I was. You will have to choose whether to ignore these matters or leave Adidam. That's basically the deal.

As for how negatively these matters reflect on me, I offer no excuses, and I accept complete responsibility for my own involvement in Adidam. One of the most insightful criticisms I ever came across came from Poonja Swami, whom I began to read after leaving Adidam. When asked about deceitful and fraudulent Gurus, he said that there were no bad Gurus, there were only bad devotees. This is the opposite, of course, of what most critics of Gurus think. Personally, I think it is exactly true, in that without bad devotees there can be no bad Gurus. By that, I mean that a bad devotee is one who is not interested in truth for its own sake, but only for what he can get for himself. And my involvement in Adidam, to the degree that it was a negative experience, is a comment on my own corrupt desiring for something other than Truth. If I had truly been interested in Truth, I wouldn't have become so distracted by the inanities of Adidam. If there were no bad devotees, there would be no Adidam, therefore. He would have no one to abuse. So it is bad devotees who make bad Gurus. This isn't a way of excusing bad Gurus, or exploitive people altogether, but it is the only sane way I can see to approach the matter of one's own bad spiritual experiences with Gurus, communities, etc.

The primal delusion we face is our own delusion, ultimately, and so it is a bit beside the point to dwell endlessly on the tragi-comedic faults of Gurus like Adi Da. You asked, and I'm willing to describe these things as honestly as I can, but I can't pretend I much care anymore. My advice to you isn't really about Adi Da himself, but about your own search for truth. What matters is not who your teacher is, or what practices you engage, but how earnest and true you are in the midst of it all. If you have a karma to be involved with Adi Da, or with some other cultic Guru, then maybe it's what you need to do, as I certainly felt being involved with Adidam all those years was what I needed to do. But ultimately it doesn't really matter whether you join or not. It just matters that you come to the point of being truly honest with yourself and dealing with yourself directly and truthfully. For me, it seems that I needed to be involved with Adidam for almost three decades to get the point. If that reflects badly on me, so be it. I'm not bitching. In fact, I'm happy just to get this far. I have had to wrestle with my own narcissism, my own demons, and I'm glad to have made as much progress as I have. What's important to me about Adidam is not that I've left it, but that I no longer feel the need for it, or for any similar involvement. Without that need, how can I be exploited? So a whole level of fear and uncertainty has left me. It wasn't really a question of my involvement in Adidam. That was just a symptom of a problem I had not been willing to face up to. The real questions were always about me. And so they will always be.
I hope this has been useful to you. If you have any further questions, I'm happy to answer them. Adi Da's status as an NPD may be controversial within Adidam, but it seems fairly uncontested outside of that sphere. But again, it isn't really the most important issue. You may want to ask yourself why you are attracted to a Guru who has such obvious NPD characteristics, as I finally had to. Better late than never, but better sooner than later, if you know what I mean.

Anyway, thanks for the civilized discussion.