Saturday, April 18, 2009

Franklin Jones, aka Da Free John, Adi Da, etc., is dead

I just learned that the home-grown American guru, Franklin Jones died a few months ago at age 69. He disappointed his disciples by neither resurrecting nor ceasing to decay.

During my years researching and writing on the New Age movement, I read a book or two by Jones and looked through others. The Spiritual Counterfeits Project prepared an excellent white paper about him. I remember that the prolific nondualistic author Ken Wilber (whose books I have reviewed over the years) enthusiastically endorsed Jones. Rob Bell endorses Wilber in Velvet Elvis, so one might go from Bell to Wilber to Jones, God forbid.

Why write about this nondualistic guru, a man who claimed to be greater than Jesus or Buddha, who was accused of all manner of crimes and misdemeanors? I do so because of a strange experience I had and the lesson I learned through it.

In the early 1980s while researching a book on the New Age movement,[1] I read a passage from an American guru named Da Free John (his name at the time) who claimed that those reading the book would feel his mystical presence and be lead onto his spiritual path, which was, essentially, pantheistic monism. Having been a Christian for seven years and having build up my Christian worldview philosophically during that time, I felt no pull intellectually in John’s direction. In fact, I was writing a book against that perspective. However, much to my surprise, I began to feel and kind of warmth or inner glow I had previously associated with the presence of the Holy Spirit experienced during some times of worship and group prayer.

Given the conceptual stability of my Christian worldview along with my knowledge of the deceptive experiences associated with some forms of mysticism, I rejected this phenomenon as being what John claimed it was and instead prayed with a few friends about it soon after the episode. The feelings left quickly. I did not take this experience as possessing any significant evidence for the worldview that this guru was advocating (nondualism of pantheism) because (1) the worldview itself is unconvincing and (2) an alternative nonveridical explanation for the experience was much more likely. That explanation was that the experience was likely demonically induced. As Christian, I did not have to accept this, given my standing in Christ (see 1 John 4:4; Colossians 2:14-15; Hebrews 2:14-15),

So, the death of his deceiver brings back a memory of his attempt to deceive his readers. By the grace of God, I was not one of them.

[1] Douglas Groothuis, Unmasking the New Age (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986).

10 comments:

Tom said...

Thanks for recounting that experience, Doug. Some Mormon missionaries came to my door last week and talked with my wife. Later, she and I discussed how Mormons will often talk about "the burning in the bosom" they receive from God when they pray to know if something is true.

The missionaries said they would come back, though they never did, maybe because she told them I was a pastor and would look forward to talking about the Bible with them. I had been thinking about how I might respond to this idea of "the burning in the bosom" if they asked me to pray to know if Mormonism was true or if their current prophet is a true prophet of God.

Should I ever discuss the burning with Mormons, I look forward to bringing up this experience of yours and asking them whose burning we ought to trust (Da Free John's or Heavenly Father's). Hopefully it'll help them see the insufficiency (and foolishness) of elevating personal, subjective experience as the primary tool for discovering/discerning truth.

Doug Groothuis said...

Religious experience plays a role in the rationality of religious belief, but it cannot stand alone. One certainly cannot justify an entire worldview--especially Mormonism, which contradicts logic and history so blatently--by one or more experiences. Consider:

I experience X (which has nothing to do with history); therefore, the Book of Mormon is true. Never mind that there is no record outside of that book that Jesus came to America, and so on. And never mind that the Book of Mormon either plaigarizes the King James Bible or contradicts it.

The Holy Spirit does confirm Christian truth to us, but not against the intellect. Moreover, when our experience languishes, we can still know that the gospel is true in light of the evidence.

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Katie said...

Fascinating. I wish more Christians were aware of receiving demonically induced warm fuzzies that are allowed access to them through the plethora of mystical counterfeits embraced by the modern Church. Centering prayer, labyrinths, non-biblical meditation techniques and even yoga in my opinion. There is no discernment and if it feels good it must be God is what I am seeing.

grant said...

And so, Doug, you experienced a warm inner (bodily) glow and then decided to interpret it conceptually with the brain. The brain is an organ which believes things rather than feels. Surely feelings are where it is really at. Yes the brain is such a subjective apparatus. It is subject to its conceptual tendencies and concepts are most often well indoctrinated within the psyche. Maybe more weight should be leaned toward the dimensionality of the body where warmth is ultimately experienced but where the concept that is Christianity finds somehow gritty, dirty and earthy (Mother Earthy) and therefore conceptually distasteful to an indoctrinated organ such as a brain.

Doug Groothuis said...

Grant:

You are using your brain and mind to reject both. This is illogical and unliveable. If we do not test beliefs logically, what is left? It would be nihilism and very dangerous. But I have had profound experiences as a Christian. However, I have never had to deny my God-given rationality to have them or understand them.

grant said...

Hi Doug. The physical reality that "I live", with the particular thought patterns demonstrated in my previous post, is indisputable evidence that they are indeed not "unliveable". I think that maybe these same thought patterns are merely only "dangerous" to your current thought patterns. Not dangerous, necessarily, to you but certainly your ego ("ego", in this context, is really just a noise to describe a particular pattern of thought (belief) attributed to an individual thinker). What I was referring to previously was the phenomenal ability of that phenomenal organ (brain, as apposed to "mind") to freely interpret a physical feeling anyway it deems fit and conventionally conveniently so. An example of this belief phenomena are particular thought patterns following the physical sensation that maybe the emotion that is anger. In a debate between egos (individual thinkers, as apposed to what could potentially be physically/psychologically regarded as Mutual Exchange of Mind) anger may arise due to some personal offense taken. But such "offense" is more likely to be related to a past unresolved issue. Therefore the emotion (anger, in this case) is incorrectly attributed to the present debate merely, and only, due to a misinterpretation by the memory dependent brain. A conceptual interpretation. If the emotion was just merely felt, rather than interpreted at all (due to interpretation being highly speculative at best) resolution of such emotions would be achievable. The "God" within would have resolved the past purely from philosophical (and therefore also conceptual) attitude, or "path", taken. And so it seems that what has taken place with such resolution is an acceptance of sorts of the physical. Physical as of emotion and therefore body. Faith, in fact, IN the body (rather than faith in something outside of body). Concepts and body as one in union. A living concept (certainly not "unliveable" from "my" perspective).

Anonymous said...

You know God works in mysterious ways. One of these is giving the gift of the spirit within other Paths. Thus, do not fear the spirit wrapped in non-Christian clothing. It could be for some the most genuin path at this point in time, eventually one will find their way to the normal for them, which could be Christian. The dancing Sufi, the renunciate in a Himalayan cave, all rest Christ, whether they use that name or not.

Devils and demons, no, just manifestations of conflict. Even the Devil resides within God.

-- JB

Doug Groothuis said...

God will not contradict himself; that would be a defect, and nothing worthy of him, who is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory.

If God has the devil in him, he is no God, neither is he worthy of worship; nor could God be trusted.

No, God is revealed most clearly in Jesus Christ, who died for the sins of the world and who defeated the works of Satan and demons.

Anonymous said...

I respect your belief. For myself, I don't see a God of limitations or one who does not contain or even control his creation. For me God is now, not in the future and not thru intermediaries. But I understand that many must approach via dogma and scripture not through surrender into the Unknowingness of Him, where all I-ness dissolves into Love. So be it. May your Ishta Jesus continue to lead you toward your salvation. May my Ishta lead me beyond into emancipation, open-eyed in Wonder.

-- JB