In September of 1974, I was sent to Boston to do advance work in promotion of the film A Difficult Man. We chose Boston as the premiere spot, because I had a lot of contacts in the Boston area which the Dawn Horse Communion would be able to use in promoting the film. That story can be the subject for a future post.
Today I want to focus on one particular day during this promo work for A Difficult Man in Boston. One afternoon I went to visit the offices of the New Age Journal to see my old friends there. This included Robert Hargrove, the editor in chief. According to Robert my visit was on Columbus Day, which is the second Monday in October, and would have been on the 14th that year. Leslie Smith, who had been my girlfriend for several years, was the office manager of the Journal, and also prominent on the staff were Eric Utne (who later started the Utne Reader and Peggy Taylor, who I had also lived with at the Brookline East-West Journal house. The New Age Journal was begun by former staff members of the East-West Journal, who felt that the strict Macrobiotic policies of the East-West Journal were preventing them from covering a wider range of topics. I had lived with Robert Hargrove in the Macrobiotic house that he oversaw in Brookline in 1972 for a good part of a year, along with Eric Utne and Peggy Taylor—it was The East-West Journal house. I had gone to high school with his wife Cindy, although we were only acquainted. I had written a few articles for the Journal—book reviews and interviews, and had been the distribution manager for a time, dropping off hundreds of free copies of the Journal at local colleges out of my green Volkswagen bus. So that is some background. It was like a homecoming to visit my old friends at the New Age Journal, who I had not seen since I had left to become a devotee of Adi Da (Bubba Free John), and I was full of anticipation about how they might respond to Bubba.
I had the cassette tape “Garbage and the Goddess” with me. When I arrived at the Journal I first met with Robert in his office and we caught up for a while. And I told him about the tape and said that he “had” to listen to it. We walked out into the central office space, where the cassette player was. This central office space was a square and all of the side offices were attached to it. I popped the cassette into the player and turned up the volume. Bubba’s Siddhi descended into the room—His Laughter was infectious. Robert had not asked his staff to come and listen to the tape. But one by one the side office doors opened and people came out to where Robert and I were standing by the cassette tape. The energy and feeling was just too much–within a very few minutes, every single person in The New Age Journal office emptied out of their side offices and came into the central room to listen to the tape. I turned up the volume really loudly. People were laughing and smiling and being moved. We listened to a good portion of the tape before it was time to turn it off. It became an event, a happening! Everyone, the entire staff, was deeply affected by Bubba’s Communication, even though many of them knew very little or even nothing about who Bubba Free John was. After the tape ended I chatted with everyone for a while. Something profound had occurred, and everybody felt it, although we weren’t quite sure where to go from there. After a few minutes Robert ushered me back into his office and I gave him a copy of the Garbage and the Goddess book.
That day was October 14th, 1974. When the second issue of New Age Journal, Volume 1, Number 2, was published in December, 1974, the lead article in the books section was called “Poolside with Bubba Free John”. It was a two page spread just on the book, with a large picture of Bubba with Aniello Panico and Sal Lucania with their heads in his lap that took up half of the second page. (I lost the physical copy of the magazine in the Valley Fire, but there is one in the Adidam archives. I had, however, typed it out previously, and here is the text of the article.)
(beginning of article)
At Poolside with Bubba Free John
By ROBERT HARGROVE
GARGAGE AND THE GODDESS
by Bubba Free John
Dawn Horse Press, 1974
391 pages. $4.95
It is 6:30 AM as I write this. I have been up for hours reading Bubba Free John’s new book, Garbage and the Goddess. I am on page 86 and I can’t read another word. I am embarrassed to say that I feel like getting up, driving to the airport, and flying to Bubba’s Dawn Horse Communion.
Do I try to make intellectual sense out of this carefully written book? That would be inappropriate. Here are all these people talking about having their minds ripped out of them, and about the entrance of God into their psychophysical beings. And here I am trying to say something intelligent about spontaneous kriyas. Forget it. Start with something easy and then get into it.
The artwork in this book is the perfect complement to the teachings it includes. There are many pictures of Bubba and his disciples; a combination of photographs and line drawings to depict dramatic moments. Since much of the book is a running commentary on a particularly active period in Bubba’s work, the pictures make you feel that you are right there—at poolside with the community.
Here is a quote from the book:
“While he was speaking about his past lives, Bubba was sitting on the edge of the pool with one hand on Sal’s leg. Suddenly he made a few cryptic comments to Sal. A devotee sitting nearby overhead Bubba ask Sal, “Are you ready?” Sal replied that he was. Then Bubba said pointing to Sal, “You see this body? You see this self-sense?” Bubba’s eyes rolled up, and his lips pulled into a sneer. His hands formed mudras as he slumped against Sal, who also fell back against other devotees sitting behind him. Almost immediately, many of those present began to feel the effects of intensified Shakti, through the spontaneous internal movement of the life-force. Their bodies jerked or shook, their faces contorted, some began to cry, scream, and moan. The whole bathhouse seemed to have slipped into another world.
Later that week in a group discussion, Greg Purnell, who had been present at the pool described what he saw.
“. . . Bubba just suddenly came out of his own body. I didn’t see it but I absolutely knew it was happening. I saw Bubba just enter Sal, just go right into Sal. From there he went out over everybody else, and then everybody else just started going crazy. . .”
Sal describes his own experience:
“At that point he entered the body completely, down to the cells. I could feel the entry taking place. It was a form of possession. . . almost like anesthesia, or like a form of radiation. After the entry was complete, he put his head against mine, and I couldn’t feel my own head anymore. Then the body went into a yogic process, and we drifted out of the body together. . . moving through empty space. In this vision he said to me, ‘See Sal, what does it all amount to?’”
The Buddhists among you might say that there is a lot of spiritual materialism in this book. But that is not where this book or Bubba is at. There is much talk about the difference between one who has a deep inner experience of Shakti and a man or woman of radical understanding.
As Bubba says, “There have been many people who came to me. . . They had all kinds of experiences. But it didn’t change them one iota. They were just as stupid, just as committed to their asshole destiny in the midst of kriyas, blisses and visions as they were before they ever heard of kundalini.”
It should be mentioned that only a small part of Garbage and the Goddess is devoted to “the last miracles” of Bubba Free John. The rest is spiritual instruction; and since I haven’t read it yet I won’t comment upon it. I will say that I am also quite impressed by the clarity of thought in Bubba’s first two books The Method of the Siddhas, and The Knee of Listening. (All three books are published by the Dawn Horse Press, one of the businesses that the community operates.)
If I say anything else about this book, I am going to have to give everybody and his guru equal time. I would like to conclude by telling you how Garbage and the Goddess fell into my hands.
I was sitting in my office on Columbus Day. We were less than a week away from press time and there was a lot of scurrying around. In the midst of it all, in walked an old friend who had recently defected from the macrobiotic movement to join Bubba as a disciple.
Jim Steinberg had lived with my wife and I at the EWJ community house for about six months. He was a nice guy and everybody liked him, but he was completely hung up about food. He had seeds and nuts hidden in every pocket, drawer, suitcase and closet in his room; and he munched on them continually. We called him “squirrel,” because he looked like a squirrel when he ate.
But the person who stood in front of me yesterday afternoon was not the being that I had known. A group of people had gathered around him. He was talking about “the work” that was being done at Dawn Horse—drawing everyone into his considerable but centered enthusiasm. He had gone through a complete metamorphosis; and I was really glad to see him.
When he left the office, the whole place was buzzing with energy. As I returned to the scurry of my work I said to myself that I was going to write a letter to Bubba Free John and the folks at Dawn Horse—thanking them for all they had done for Jim. One way of evaluating a teacher is by the students that he sends into the world.
(end of article)
Andrew Johnson was the head of the “Public Education” promotion for the community, so he went in and showed Bubba the article at his house, when it came out in December. Andrew told me that Bubba was very pleased with the article. Bubba humorously said, “This isn’t an article about me. It is an article about James!”.
I have talked to devotees who have told me that they read this article back when it was published, and it was part of what interested them in Adi Da Samraj!
P.S. I never heard anyone call me “squirrel”. It must have been a private nickname. And I did keep nuts in my pockets sometimes. In fact even today you might find me with some food item squirreled away in my pockets or bags.
PPS. Robert Hargrove came to California to see Bubba Free John in 1976. Again a story to be told later.