How Franklin Jones Became the Master

The Mill Valley Record/April 3, 1985
By Gary Reilly

In his autobiography, "The Knee of Listening," Da Free John detailed a personal spiritual odyssey that involved visions, drugs and sessions with the late Indian guru, Baba Muktananda.

Da Free John was born Franklin Albert Jones on Long Island on November 3, 1939.

According to his book, he knew he was on a spiritual path even as a child.

"As a baby", he wrote, "I remember crawling around inquisitively...light and freedom in the middle of my head that was bathed in energies moving freely from above...And I was radiant from a source of energy, bliss and light. I was the power of Reality."

From his pre-school days up until college, however, he wrote in his book that there was a "gradual undermining" of this religious nature he possessed so that he did little to pursue it.

In 1957, Jones entered Columbia College in New York, studying philosophy. During this time, he wrote, he first began to experience the visions that would lead him to investigate the spiritual life he thought he possessed.

After his graduation in 1961, Jones enrolled in Stanford University in Palo Alto. He also began experimenting with drugs. He wrote that the drugs were "profoundly useful" in his search for all "that prevented the 'bright' of simple, direct and unqualified awareness."

Eventually Jones volunteered to be a subject for a drug-testing program.

The drugs he was given were mescaline, LSD, and psilocybin - all hallucinogens. At one point he was given a mixture of all three.

Jones wrote that during one of these sessions he imagined something inside of him that caused him sorrow.

"It rose from the heart," he wrote, "through the throat, up the back of the head and culminated in what appeared to be a massive dome in the crown of the skull...In the midst of this experience I had a thought that seemed to be the equivalent verbal and symbol for the whole event: 'Getting to cry is shaped like a seahorse.'"

To Jones this was the image of his birth.

"...I was not only experiencing the fully conscious body," he wrote, "...but I was also experiencing my own prenatal state."

After the experiments came to an end, Jones went into seclusion. By now he was living with Nina, his future wife. While Jones immersed himself in his spiritual writing and investigating, he wrote that she, besides providing financial support, would "perform all the usual chores within and without the household."

Jones wrote that it was in the spring of 1964 that he began having visions that would direct him to a spiritual teacher of Eastern Indian mysticism.

The vision portrayed a showroom filled with Oriental furniture and art objects. Jones determined that the showroom was in New York City. And so by June he and Nina were prepared to travel across country.

They moved to New York, and by September he had located this teacher - an Oriental art dealer named Rudi.

Eventually Rudi took Jones on as a student. The teacher's technique was highly disciplined and inspirational.

"When he would begin the exercise", wrote Jones, "or look at me during the exercise I would usually feel a sudden descent of tremendous and seemingly infinite force."

In time though, Jones felt a need to work. He and Nina moved to Philadelphia where he worked and studied at the local Lutheran seminary.

In the spring of 1967, while still at the seminary, Jones began feeling ill. Diagnosed by a doctor in the local hospital as suffering from an anxiety attack, Jones was given cold pills and told to rest. He wrote that the doctor had told him to seek psychiatric help if the symptoms continued.

Jones wrote that he decided to suffer through the illness and let whatever was going to happen, happen.

He found the result a culmination of sorts: "It was as if all my life I had been constantly brought to this point," he says in "The Knee of Listening". He added that what he had experienced was that "the body and the mind and the personality had died, but I remained as an essential and unqualified consciousness."

He and his wife returned to New York and Rudi. But instead of remaining a student of the art dealer, Jones instead wanted to learn from Rudi's teacher, the Baba Muktananda.

From April of 1968 to May of 1970, Jones made three pilgrimages to the Muktananda's ashram in India. Each trip, according to Jones' book, included intense meditation followed by some sort of spiritual realization, the most striking vision mentioned in the book is the appearance to Jones of the goddess Shakti.

The vision occurred while Jones was visiting a shrine down the road from Muktananda. Jones said that while he was sitting in the shrine, he felt his body being transformed into the major Indian god, Siva.

"Then I felt the Shakti appear against my own form. She embraced me," he wrote, "and we grasped one another in sexual union. We clasped one another in a fire of cosmic desire, as if to give birth to the universes."

Jones said that during this same period he also became involved in Scientology. In this organization, he met two people who would become long-term friends.

First, there was Patricia Morley, who accompanied Jones and Nina on a trek to India, after which they resettled in Los Angeles.

A second friendship developed with a former administrator of a drug-rehabilitation agency, Sal Lucania. Although Sal isn't mentioned in "The Knee of Listening", he told the Mill Valley Record that he met Jones in New York.

"We had been in Scientology together," Sal said recently. "That's where I met him. In 1968, we left Scientology together."

Lucania said that Jones was searching for something, but Scientology didn't have the answers for him.

"It turned out to be bullshit, so we left," Lucania said.

In 1970 Jones settled in L.A. And in 1972, they (Sal and Jones) opened a bookstore there. Jones began teaching in the bookstore.

"He started to make a course out of his book (his autobiography) to see if he could communicate that understanding in some form", said Lucania.

A year later Lucania, Jones and Nina formed the Free Primitive Church of Divine Communion, a non-profit, registered church.

The church has been associated with many names since 1972 -- Free Communion Church, Laughing Man Institute, Crazy Wisdom Fellowship, Way of Divine Ignorance, and finally the Johannine Daist Communion.

Jones' name also has changed. He went from Franklin Jones to Bubba Free John. (Bubba was a childhood nickname.) He then switched to Da Free John and later to just plain Da, still later to Master Da. He now uses the title Spiritual Master.

Jones moved the center of his church first to a 43-acre property in Clearlake, which the church bought in early 1974. He then moved the church to Hawaii and finally to a remote, 2,000-acre island in Fiji, which was bought in 1983.


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