The World’s Greatest Unpublished Spiritual Book
Nine years ago Adi Da Samraj wrote The Scapegoat Book, a brilliant free rendering of what may well be our planet’s greatest traditional spiritual text, the Ashtavakra Gita. In 2008, at the request of The Dawn Horse Press, I wrote this introduction to the book. It is time for the world to know what it has been missing.by William Stranger
Plato’s contention that poets do not make good philosophers has never rested well with the artists themselves. William Blake and W.B. Yeats, to name but two, always maintained that it is to the poets we should turn to gather our philosophic truth alive. In The Scapegoat Book Adi Da finally puts that controversy to its much deserved rest, along with a great many other confusions and disputes yet wandering the ever-shifting borderlands between literature and philosophy. For this concentrated, heart-breaking, but infinitely illuminating fable now stands as the single greatest literary dramatization ever written about both the nature of the non-dual wisdom of Consciousness and the precise anatomy of our tragic failure to Realize It.
In presenting ultimate, or, as he names it here, “perfect knowledge” (the Realization that we are not now, and never have been, a separate ego-self), in the dramatic circumstance of the incarceration and scapegoating of the one who reveals that truth, Adi Da is able to explore the most devastating problematique of human culture: our unconscionable, insane habit of destroying the very people whose help we most desperately need. In his The Scapegoat Book we are brought to confront, in a manner that freely alternates the excruciating and the sublime, the deluded, willful, narcissistic postures whereby we mock and betray those truly great individuals we otherwise pretend to venerate. The tragedy, of course, is that in so doing we nullify our own best means of freedom and liberation, as well.
Adi Da spontaneously composed The Scapegoat Book over a period of six weeks, in October and November, 2005, while in residence at his northern California Hermitage-Sanctuaries, Tat Sundaram and The Mountain Of Attention, in Humboldt and Lake counties, respectively. On January 14, 2006, in conjunction with the Da Orpheum Theatre Guild, he read the work at the Da Orpheum Theatre, which was at the time was located at the latter Sanctuary. Like most of those present for this extraordinary event, I found it to be both a transcendental spiritual initiation and the single most searing theatrical experience of my life. The Scapegoat Book is literary drama of the very highest order.
The Scapegoat Book is the second of Adi Da’s Da Orpheum trilogy, three astonishing masterworks that, taken together, chronicle the life story and spiritual teachings of the infant sage and destined Avatar Raymond Darling (etymologically, “the precious light of the world”). Although designed to be read in sequence as a single parable “Told by Means of a Self-Illuminated Illustration of the Totality of Mind”, each work also stands on its own. Through his trilogy, Adi Da brings together, reforms, and completes the three great streams of world culture: Oriental (Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist) spirituality’s ultimate wisdom of non-dual Self-Realization, Western civilization’s Orphic quest to rescue the beloved from death’s annihilation, and the existential and postmodern philosophers’ radical subversion of the bourgeois ego and its faux culture.
To carry the full weight of this epochal artistic/cultural intervention, Adi Da has had to invent out of whole cloth three new complex literary genres. If the first work in the trilogy, The Mummery Book, is at once a Bildungsroman, a quest romance, a paradox-ridden spiritual odyssey, a comedy, an opéra bouffe, a satyr’s play, a farce, a passion play, and, a colossally unevitable (or unnecessary) tragedy, and the third, The Happenine Book, is Raymond Darling’s own written, spoken, and illustrated chronicle of the trials, magic, humor, perfect wisdom, and both solemn and ecstatic doings of his early life and teaching work, then in The Scapegoat Book Adi Da allows himself the singular concentration of a fugue—a complex countrapuntal weaving together of the sublime and the absurd, written for two voices and a single Witness.
Adi Da adapts philosophy’s venerable dialogue form to create an extended dramatic conversation between the Avataric Sage Raymond Darling and his self-proclaimed disciple (and unconfessed captor), the grotesquely obese “Great Fool” Evelyn Disk. Through their discussion of the nature and requirements of ultimate Realization of the non-dual Divine Reality, Adi Da ventures nothing less than to initiate us—if only for the brief time of its performance—into the highest truths of Divine Self-Realization, while simultaneously confronting us with the hypocrisies, false views, delusions, and outright lies whereby we would falsify, make a scapegoat of, and ultimately destroy the means and bearer of that very Gift.
Thus, The Scapegoat Book performs a function in relation to The Mummery Book and The Happenine Book much the same as the eighteenth chapter of the Bhagavad Gita (the “bible” of Hinduism)—in which Krishna has the Warrior-Prince Arjuna step aside from his epochal battle with the Kauravas for an extended moment to consider the essence of spiritual truth—does for that book. In both works, the central issue at hand is our willingness to renounce the entire patterned conceit that is our egoity in direct relationship to the Realizer, whose blessing guidance and grace we judge to be the sole and absolutely necessary means of our spiritual salvation. By itself, however, such renunciation is not sufficient for Realization. Without an awakening to perfect knowledge, it becomes mere self-denial. Thus, “the necessary circumstance of Truth—Self-Revealed, by Avatar” it is only found “as perfect re-coincidence, between the all of true renunciation and the What that is, alone, true liberation, in the Self-“Bright” singularity of perfect-knowledge-only here.” One glaring difference between the two epics, however, is that the Bhagavan Gita’s Arjuna is a magnificently disciplined nobleman who has spent his life in preparation for his moment of testing, while this work’s interlocutor, Evelyn Disk, is a supremely self-indulgent spiritual poseur who, were it not for the fact that we live in the “End-Time” of universal cultural dissolution, would have otherwise never even be given access to the true teaching.
In point of fact, Adi Da Samraj bases The Scapegoat Book on a classic text of early Advaita Vedanta, the Ashtavakra Gita. Although he has long viewed the Ashtavakra Gita as perhaps the foremost of but a handful of traditional spiritual texts that epitomize the truth of transcendent Consciousness Itself, the author had never been satisfied with any of its English translations, including the version published by The Dawn Horse Press, in 1982, to which he contributed an extensive preface. Rather than simply offer his own new translation of the text, however, Adi Da decided to absorb and freely render its first sixteen chapters into the corresponding chapters of The Scapegoat Book. In the process, the venerable scripture receives a complete, and rather surprising, makeover.
Adi Da is justly renowned for his free renderings of passages from traditional texts, which always seem to improve on the original while serenely divining and preserving their deepest sense. Again and again while preparing this introduction, I found myself highlighting one and yet another passage in The Scapegoat Book that seemed to me to exemplify this point. They became so many that I can make my case almost by choosing at random. Compare, for example, the Ashtavakra Gita, Chapter 10, verse 2:
Look upon friends, lands, wealth, houses, wives, presents, and other such marks of good fortune, as a dream or a juggler’s show, lasting only a few days.
with Adi Da’s rendition in Chapter 10, verse 3 of his book:
Whatever can be desired, or, by means of seeking, actively achieved, is an ephemera, a temporary appearance, that quickly and inevitably passes out of life and sight. As if by a cruel magician’s trick, the heart’s companions come and go. All things and others of delight or love—whether friend, or lover, or acquired wealth, or property, or valuables of any kind—all are the brief diversions of the daily days, and all are dreamed away in a single, sudden night of inadvertence in the while. This fleshly cutted insult, so harshly indented by the virulent molecule of known desire, must make the knower know itself—and instantly, and perfectly so.
Nevertheless, Adi Da’s remarkable appropriation of the Ashtavakara Gita goes much farther and deeper than these profound expansions. What in the Ashtavakra Gita is presented as a respectful colloquy between two Realized individuals, the Sage Ashtavakra and his nobly-born disciple, King Janaka, becomes in The Scapegoat Book a complex and highly charged dramatic dialogue between the Avataric Great Sage Raymond Darling and his tormentor, the decidedly ignoble (and unRealized) Evelyn Disk. When approaching a spiritual master for guidance and blessing, our manner of approach itself reveals everything about us. Throughout The Scapegoat Book, Adi Da laminates this critical, most central dimension of the actual occasion of spiritual teaching via strikingly original theatrical dialogue in which Evelyn’s transparently hypocritical pseudo-offerings are rewarded with the Great Sage’s excoriating retorts—in all of recorded literature surely the wittiest, most biting invective ever visited upon a purported spiritual aspirant. Here we are not only lifetimes away from the rarified amiability of the Ashtavakra Gita, but also from postmodernism’s infamous elevation of text over the author. As with its two companion texts, The Mummery Book and Happenine, in The Scapegoat Book the existential authenticity of the speaker is the final guarantor of the verity of his message. Thus, even the truest wisdom spoken by Evelyn Disk becomes false because he himself is false. Herein lies the key to understanding much of the action in the entire Da Orpheum trilogy. In The Mummery Book Adi Da summarized the matter this way.
It is the True religion! Yes! But, made to be un-True! It is the True religion—falsified by the ego-mind of nature’s “Everyman”.
The ego-“I” takes Truth in hand, and makes It die, there—as a Captive Thing! And, by that ever-tightening grasp of talking-mind’s own hand, the Truth becomes, not the Living Light of Is—but the Captive Slave! The Divine Slave—purchased by the mongering ego-“I”! The Imprisoned Slave—forever confined, to do all that is required by Everyman!
As with today’s crop of pseudo-gurus who endlessly repackage the teachings of genuine Adepts such as Ramana Maharshi and Adi Da (whose own writings on “self-contraction”, “no seeking”, “Ignorance”, and so much else are widely plagiarized), Evelyn Disk also betrays himself throughout The Scapegoat Book by issuing confessions of spiritual enlightenment that are riddled with tell-tale mistakes. While reading them, therefore, we need to remain alert, lest we fall for the same errors as Raymond Darling’s glib antagonist. Those mistakes, or false views, are not merely Evelyn’s idiosyncratic faults. He is the bearer of a now globally-extended array of personal, cultural, religious, and even esoteric spiritual conceits, creeds, dispositions, and practices that constitute and exemplify our species’ habitual modes of failed seeking. Thus, in the various chapters of The Scapegoat Book Adi Da addresses not only Evelyn Disk’s evident “talking-school” preference for personal indiscipline, along with his insincerity, malevolence, and “greed, gluttony, and lust”, but also Disk’s advocacy of misguided points of view that perennially gather legions of adherents into enduring schools of thought. In one chapter this might be Evelyn’s Nietzschean homage to a groundless “play” of meaningless appearances. In another it might be the delusions inspired by his yogic introversion upon the brain core. Everything short of truly perfect knowledge is, like history itself, the nightmare from which humanity is trying to awake. The problem is that we chronically remain the committed advocates of the very propositions we most need to transcend.
In the final four chapters of The Scapegoat Book (as well as in the “Early Word” and “Late Word” sections that frame the work), Adi Da takes leave of the Ashtavakra Gita to offer his own seminal writings on both the great transition beyond egoity (“the illusion of relatedness”) to Divine Enlightenment and, thereafter, the ultimate post-Enlightenment event that he calls “Divine Translation”. From this perspective, the author’s free rendering of the Ashtavakra Gita can be seen as the setting of kindling for a Divinely “Bright” dharma-fire never before seen in world literature. Thus, despite the ancient text’s premonitory fullness, that sovereign ultimacy (which, again, begins to unfold only after the event of Divine Enlightenment) could only have been revealed by the Avataric Sage Raymond Darling. Students of Adi Da’s oeuvre will suddenly realize that here he has chosen to appropriate—this time without amendment—his own canonical spiritual teachings, in mute confession that the creative artist and his creation are one and the same. Many people regard Adi Da as a uniquely great spiritual, philosophical, literary, and artistic genius. Perhaps now they will begin to more deeply ponder the curious fact that even today our vastly well-informed world yet remains almost completely unaware of his existence. The Scapegoat Book can also be read as a clear brief as to how and why this is so.
The action in The Scapegoat Book unfolds on a single day on the grounds of the State Mental Facility at God’s End to which Evelyn, in The Mummery Book, had Raymond committed after the latter refused to play the role of figurehead in Evelyn’s self-aggrandizing religious charade. Wandering in the forest at Dreamer Circle, Raymond had chanced upon Evelyn teaching disciples a tissue of consoling religious lies purportedly based upon Raymond’s early life story, but which were in fact an utter falsification of his actual life and teachings. Caught by Raymond in the act of selling his credulous acolytes promises of an impossible, vicarious salvation, Evelyn quickly tries to recover by programing the young sage into his act, but then goes on to alternately mimick and mock him. Raymond’s unwillingness to acquiesce to the Great Fool’s expropriation and gross revision of his own true teaching seals his fate. He is to be made the scapegoat for Evelyn’s and his followers’ refusal to accept Raymond’s gift of Realization by Divine Grace—which refusal is the inevitable consequence of their unwillingness to pay the spiritual renunciate’s coin of authentic devotion, self-discipline, and constant attendance upon perfect knowledge that is its necessary daily price.
Although perfectly well aware that Evelyn would prefer him dead so that he can return to his business of teaching his “Raymondite” revision of the great sage’s uncompromising way of perfect knowledge and self-renunciation, in The Scapegoat Book the now incarcerated Raymond nonetheless accepts Evelyn’s “gift” of a poisoned apple and in return counters his captor’s every delusion and lie with the consummate teaching of Consciousness Itself and the consummate Way of devotional love and service to the one who embodies and transmits It—the adept’s Grace being the inner teaching of any religion worthy of the name. All this “mummery” is duly witnessed and recorded by Meridian Smith, the always delightfully attired divine angel who miraculously reappeared throughout The Mummery Book whenever the questing young Raymond Darling needed initiatory guidance and blessing. Here Meridian merely plays the role of fair Witness as Raymond expends his own final life’s-breath in a futile effort to move his “super-criminal” tormentor to abandon his wanton path.
The anthropologist Rene Girard has offered us a far-reaching and compelling explanation of the scapegoat phenomenon, placing it at the very center of human psychology, culture, and religion. Through his study of the novels of some of western literature’s greatest literary geniuses—the likes of Cervantes, Shakespeare, Stendhal, Dostoyevsky, Proust, and Joyce—he teased out the common theme that human desire is fundamentally imitative at its core, and that human passion is utterly bound up in jealous and envious rivalries between presumed peers. His argument here is akin to the master-slave dialectic expounded by Hegel in his Phenomenology of Mind, which, as relayed through the twentieth century philosopher Alexander Kojève, was to have enormous influence on postwar Continental thought, especially psychoanalysis. That human relations are mostly a dramatized struggle for prestige is now a settled fixture of contemporary letters. Jacques Lacan, the globally influential French psychoanalyst who absorbed Hegel’s dialectic into that discipline, argued that our self-image is forged in a circumstance of interpersonal imitation and rivalry, marking as aggressive at its core our quest for identity and our perpetual search for an impossible (because already lost) object. The psychoanalytic understanding of the human psyche was fleshed out by the work of the influential British child analyst Melanie Klein, who revealed that the infant’s phantasy life often becomes a tempest of devouring, despoiling, envious rage.
Girard’s analysis of the scapegoat game complements what both Kierkegaard and Nietzsche found to be the defining characteristic of egoity in the modern age: the dismissive envy, or ressentiment, that however unwittingly drives our collective determination to rid human culture of all superior men and women. Ressentiment is the “leveling” impulse whereby the common man attempts to assuage his mortal anxiety by assuring himself that there really is nothing great to Realize and no one made great by Realizing it. Mockery, slander, and the other tools of the hypocritical ego are its primary weapons. In the words of the German philosopher Constantin Brunner, “Every age knows so much about great men as to know that none of them is one. No age has had a prophet whom it wanted, whom it did not regard as a madman . . . , whom it did not regard as absurd, depraved, malign – as evil incarnate.” At least the people of past centuries paid their saviors the compliment of open opposition. Speaking of the Athenian rejection of Socrates, Kierkegaard pointed out that “the outstanding man was exiled, but everyone understood how dialectical the relationship was, ostracism being a mark of distinction.” He noted that in our more indolent era, in which people are “cowardly and vacillating,” the force of human abstraction permits us to treat the superior man as merely ridiculous and worthy only of being ignored.
Not that that the targets of human scapegoating are in any way confined to the great alone. To the contrary, as Adi Da makes clear in his final philosophical and spiritual masterwork, The Aletheon, scapegoating is the subtext of virtually every kind of egoic or conventional knowledge. Enlarging upon the famous dictum of one of the ur-texts of Vedantic Hinduism, the Brihadaranyka Upanishad, in which it is said that “Assuredly it is from a second that fear arises” , any and every thing that appears to be objective to us, whether interpersonal or otherwise, is inevitably subject to our fearful ego’s underlying imperative of control:
Ordinary human “knowing” seeks to control (or enclose) its “object”, because the human ego is fearful of being controlled by the “object”—no matter what the “object” is. Ordinary human “knowing” tries to “get the secrets” of the any “object”, so that the “object” can be brought under control (and, at last, destroyed).
Thus, ordinary human “knowing” is the “scapegoat-method”—of enclosing, controlling, and (at last) destroying the “other”. That universally evident “method” pervades the entire human “world”. Indeed, the “scapegoat-ritual” is the fundamental act of human beings—unless it is transcended in and by means of the process of Divine Self-Realization of Reality Itself.
This tendency becomes most extreme when we come before great spiritual Realizers. Instead of displaying the humility, vulnerability, and need that is our heart’s natural response to their presence, we struggle to assert ourselves. Human history amply bears out C.G. Jung’s observation that “the Self is always a defeat for the ego”. Or, to state the matter in Adi Da’s more pointed formulation, “The ego is at war with its own Help.” Our typical solution to this dilemma is to deprive the teacher and his or her teachings of their necessary bite. We would prefer a comforting, consoling pseudo-spirituality. Although the living spirit does indeed nurture us, we cannot truly receive its sustenance at any real depth without first undergoing a fiery ordeal of suffering and sacrifice. Any truly authentic spiritual teacher must be the instrument of a disillusionment no one gladly endures. Thus, while Buddhism has become something of a fashionable religion in recent years, how many of us engage his dharma with the respectful seriousness implied by Gautama Buddha’s famous simile of the lion?:
Now, monks, whatever animals hear the sound of the roaring of the lion, king of beasts, for the most part they are afraid: they fall to quaking and trembling. Those that dwell in holes seek them: water-dwellers make for the water: forest-dwellers enter the forest: birds mount into the air. (Anguttara-Nikaya)
Although it is rarely noted these days, from the above alone we should not be surprised that Gautama Buddha himself endured more than one assassination attempt. Likewise, after he confessed his own oneness with God and dared to offer common people his spiritual baptism, Jesus of Nazareth was duly crucified under color of law (“We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God.” John 19:7). Similarly, because he dares to openly proclaim and then, by offering his transcendental spiritual Grace to all who would avail themselves of It, to actually manifest his own Identity as the “First Room” of Conscious Light, the Avataric Sage Raymond Darling must also be put away—and, finally, done away with.
There is a reason why this pattern of abusing spiritual adepts seems to have become especially acute in our time. In the first edition of his autobiography, The Knee of Listening, Adi Da noted that creativity is “the idol of the West”—an observation amply born out by the past few decade’s worth of motivational speakers. In itself, creative activity is of course a natural, inherent, unproblematic feature of human existence. As with so many other true things, however, when creativity becomes a gospel unto itself we can be sure it has already been subverted to the ego’s agenda. In the edition of The Knee of Listening referenced above, Adi Da allows us to understand how and why we become so beguiled by a compelling but false image of truth:
Narcissus is an idol of creativity, of source.
He is the solar plexus.
He waits outside the heart.
The image he sees in the water is his own heart.
Thus, he sacrifices his heart to it.
The water is his own mind, the plane of all images.
He is the reduction of the world to the form of his own separate person.
Now we can understand the deepest fear that possesses Evelyn Disk, drives the action of The Scapegoat Book, and seals Raymond Darling’s fate; that is to say, the reason why we yet continue to make even the Heart of Consciousness a hollow eidolon. The entire motive and thrust of our egoic self-enactment is animated by a single fear. The passage where this is identified begs to be quoted in full:
This knowledge of heart-craft grants responsibility to humankind—but perfect knowledge is a final draft of what was written by the heart. That final, perfect knowledge is a vanishment of heart itself—and all it wrote is flashed to ashes in the Lighted fire of What Stands free where heart once was. One in whom the Conscious Light of perfect knowledge has Awakened where it Stands, is seeming-nullified to an indifference to all what mummery so talented the life before. One who once acted every part of “keenest sharp” of thinking mind, or exemplified all “right behavior” of the socializing kind, or vigored “healthy living” to an excess of success—becomes as if a muted, barkless dog of thinklessness, inert, “desocialized”, immovable from home, and, altogether, worriless about absurd intents, and will not move to buy an any famous wanted-“thing”, or even entertain a foolish guest. Because of fears about the threat to “creativity”—all egos shun and mock and scandalize the wise. Even perfect knowledge is defamed of all its Truth, by those who move by seeking and desire—and would yet find their perfect ending in utopia, imagined in advance, to be forever waiting there, for them, at end of life’s great chain of right consumptions, for which breadless goods and “quality-time” all egos queue forever, in a line. [emphasis supplied]
The Scapegoat Book is, in the author’s words, a “Hard! Parable” of the ego’s self-divided struggle with its own Benefactor and with the open secret and great Law of both life and spirit—sacrifice, self-relinquishment, renunciation. Insofar as we fail to recognize Adi Da’s outré caricature of the human ego, Evelyn Disk, as a metaphor for our own spiritual indolence, excess, and bad faith, we will find it more than a little difficult to grasp our present likeness to him. Given that Gautama Buddha occasionally called his first disciples “fools” for their failures of discipline, how can we cavil about being addressed as a “Great Fool” for not only blithely ignoring the unalloyed peril and futility of our natural life, but also for denying our absolute need for the graceful Help of the one who has fulfilled the necessary course we have yet to begin? In a summary discourse given in 1981, Adi Da put the matter this way:
People read the Teaching and they want to be the Gurus of others. They think about the Teaching a little bit and they want to be famous as Adepts. They manage to keep their physical life somewhat straight for six months and they want to be regarded as Avatars! Life is foolishness. This is no time, in any case, to be tolerant of foolishness. The world is mad, and these are dreadful times. Things are not going to be easier in the years ahead. The spiritual process tolerates no fool. The spiritual process itself will spit you out. It is not an easy attainment, but a profoundly difficult affair. Even what you have listened to today has been heard by only a fraction of the human race in all of history. The opportunity to practice is extremely rare, and the fulfillment of practice is practically unknown.
It is important to keep in mind that although the venue of this drama is Raymond Darling’s “First Room”, the domain of the blissful truth of Consciousness Light Itself, the parable encompasses the totality of egoic mind. If The Scapegoat Book is to fulfill its cathartic and edifying function, then, we must allow ourselves the artistic freedom to completely identify with any and every character put before us while also being carried by That which transcends one and all.
There was a moment in the the Da Orpheum Theatre Guild’s inaugural performance of The Scapegoat Book when the full emotional impact of its core truth overwhelmed both author and audience. Known for most of his life as a legendarily life-positive Tantric Spiritual Master, while Adi Da was in the body few, if any, ever fully appreciated the unremitting disconsolation and sorrow that he was obliged to endure in his epochal, Orphic love-embrace of all beings. We were given an extremely rare glimpse of the price of authorship when the playwright came to read verse seven in chapter ten of his book. As Adi Da confessed the unavoidable, heartbreaking truth “of this heartless plane of unrequited inclinations”, his speech suddenly faltered and broke into a near gasp:
It never made a difference, how attached we were—by desire’s hold or seeking’s gain—to all the seeming world of life, and children for the heart, and lovers at the side, and embodiment itself, and pleasures for a little while of here. Intensity of feeling never kept a moment for a time—and all was lost, before another breath could tide our objects back, with the helpless, grasping home of all our cruelly, meanly separated hearts.
In The Scapegoat Book each of us is called, in language that rivals Shakespeare but at a depth of wisdom that knows no peer, to participate in a fictional dialogue between fictional characters that is entirely purposed to explore our real relationship to the author himself. Mysteriously imbued with Adi Da’s own awakened Consciousness, this great fiction not only breeches the established boundaries between literature and philosophy, but the larger barriers we have erected between these and life itself. It perfectly confronts us with the most essential lessons of life and spirit that we must grasp during our brief passage here on Earth. Like most great art, it is both a caustic and a balm. Granted, such instruction is difficult to endure. Nevertheless, it is one that is absolutely necessary and utterly healing and liberating. And now that we have this book, I confess that I do not now know how I could have hoped to fulfill my spiritual practice without it. Truly, it is a master guide for the perplexed for this and for all future time.