To Robert, a Sage in Arizona – Part One

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This is the story of a pilgrimage in 1996 to Robert Adams.   He died the following year.   Born in New York, he “woke” into the atoms at 14, during a school math class.  Then he met Yogananda.  In early 1950, still in his teens, he went to India, sat with Ramana Maharshi (December 1879-April 1950) and ran wild on Arunachala for a while.  Back home, he became a silent and reclusive wanderer, but people always found him again, so he taught them Self-enquiry.   The drawings and portraits in this memoire, are all posthumous – done shortly after his mahasamadhi.   People were very generous, and gave me  photos –  around Robert, these were rare.

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            A JOURNEY TO SEDONA IN ARIZONA, APRIL 1996

The elephant in his dream beholds

the lion that wakes him up from sleep.

Even so, the seeker in his dream-like

waking life of ignorance sees

the Guru, and wakes from slumber dark.

Garland of Guru’s Sayings 28, by Muruganar

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In Phoenix, we picked up our hired car without too much disorientation, and resisted Alamo’s businesslike attempts to persuade us to take a larger, more powerful model for the 4,000 foot climb to Sedona.  Our vehicle was the smallest car in all America;  we christened him “Mr Swiftie”.   We had no trouble, except in getting out of it;  for the doors were electronically calibrated to seat belt fastenings and the foot-brake, and often baffled us.  Presently, on a high mountain road of uncertain camber, Mr Swiftie met a Big Bad Guy, chewing gum, real mean.  Finally the confrontation allowed some passage..   The hummer jeep shot by with a scrunch of stones, splattering a spray of dust.   Mr Swiftie’s beautiful green skin was baptized powdery red all over.

In Sedona, vastly girt with red rock Gothic cathedrals, we pitched our tent on a hill behind Keren’s house.  The bright stars were our canopy.  One of them looked brilliantly fuzzy and strange.   Was it a comet?  A long misty tail followed a cloudy cluster of tiny stars at great speed;   thoughts of strange lands and sages.   Slept surprisingly well.

In the morning, Mr Swiftie took us to a millionaire’s paradise settlement called Enchantment, at the mouth of Boynton Canyon.   We walked far into the canyon, under the noble red and silver cliffs;  deep in its heart of peace, tall pine forests grew, like a marital garland of Arunachala with mid-Wales.   In the godlike majesty of the rocks overhead, the silent breath has carved everywhere the elephant Ganapati, seed of speech and poetry.  Every hiker and tourist we met on the path, lit up with total and untiring pleasure in greeting another human.   We decided Sedona is a truly ethical town, as no one locks their doors.   Is this red cavern of angels a spiritual antipodes to Arunachala?

We were too tired to find a Gaz canister for cooking, after all this.  We returned to the tent to rest, and then went to Satsang with Robert at Mountain Shadows Drive in the town – our first meeting with him.  His speech has become completely indistinct, but I could hear “be still”.   He wore smart white trainers, a US general’s baseball cap embossed with a golden quail bird, and shades.   His movements are slow, casual and careful, rather stooped.  As he enters, he turns and gives a direct, unreadable glance towards the visitors from England through the dark glasses.  He sits down, looks around the room quietly, and jokes with his intimates.   He mouths the Siva bhajans, and others join in and chant.  A gentle devotional fervour is engendered.

For a first time visitor who has traveled a long way, Robert’s fast slurred whisper is bewildering.  The mind wants words and forms.  It does its best, hearing “be still”, “no fear”, “be free” to open into the heart of this authority.  It feels shut out of understanding.    After fifteen or twenty minutes, Robert puts away the microphone and we all listen to a live three-piece traveling band;  a blend of Oriental and native-American instruments perform a couple of Sivaic bhajans

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Robert is father to a large family.  He keeps a sort of eye open, and came up and gave Aj and me a hug.  The Jnani comes gently towards, a bit at a time, comes through the people to meet and to whisper.  His tongue is stricken by Parkinsons disease.  This protects him.  There are other ways of speech.  Since he came to roost in Sedona, his curvy wife Nicole has turned into Queen Shakti, and makes his appointments.  “I do just love to hear an English voice,” she said, with warmth …

We went to recuperate in Red Rock State Park – silver white cottonwoods, red earth, wild blue sky, a serpentine vortex stroll to Gray Fox, and the stunning surrealism of it all.  Then we came back to Sedona and had a gigantic slice of cream pie and tea.  The “recalcitrant ego” is in a state of culture shock.  Finely tuned to the ancient gentle landscape of the Welsh hills, Devon and the Chilterns, it is disorientated by the deluge of red rock rivers in this millionaire’s Shangri-la of endless elemental grandeur.

Learn to turn the red rock angels inside out to percept the colour which floats them.  Turn points into cavities.  Crimson inner light, wings, wide landscapes, corn gold.

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Look at this elderly man in a grand restaurant, with a big family party around a table;  the vivacity of his brood of youngsters!   I see sometimes, in the interplay, the gleam of the eyes.  They shine, empty, rimmed dark with the night, bright and searching.  A young child comes impishly out of them, clean like a light..   This makes his close friends love him desperately.  They laugh and kiss and play with him.  He plays fool with the food and cocks his baseball hat to a rakish angle over his ear, but cannot speak;   yet he is their realized Master.   An alchemy shines from his eye to the opened soul which tries to hear beyond the words it cannot hear, the Unknown.  A secret personal alchemy works from this jnani to each of our openings.   It is love, our Self.   Beware of statements too often used, which enclose!   I am baffled, bewildered, rebuffed.  He takes his time to come through when we are ready, not when we think.

In the evening, we couldn’t get our act together to cook al fresco.  It was cold and windy, and I couldn’t understand the little stove – a new one since the old one got stolen last year at Chartres – and I was neurotically afraid of spilling Gaz.   It was not to be, and everything was rather overwhelming.  Desert of failed doership and tears, then early and exhausted retirement for the night.  Aj dined imperturbably on cornflakes.

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White limestone strata in the beds of sandstone, outcrop an uninterrupted line of faery castle battlements along the fluted flanks of the red peaks.   I cannot believe it is not built by man.   Walking on great tablelands of rock within the ravine, I found myself inside this painting, done about 10 years ago;   it is called Ravine … an adventure (I knew not what to paint next, it emerged as I traveled) of coloured rock forms, huge interior abysses of fallen sky, a green complementary horse-head mirror,  a “netzach” man I loved, flipped upside down, a white bird flying.  The range of rocky peaks are carnival mounts of a merry-go-round;  each tells a story.  The “hod” man with an eye floating away is called Adam Kops.  When he saw the painting he said, “Hey, look at the dancing rabbis!”   Another visitor to this painting at my home, called it a furnace of life.   Beyond the dancing rabbi peaks, is a wide, pure land, from whence blue-winged raven messengers fly.

No photograph or picture can encompass the Arizona landscape.  Kumar the eternal potter of the gods, fashioned this terracotta crucible on the wheel of Sanatana Dharma.   The all of it is an altar:   Jnana Advaita.   It is fitting that the jnani makes his home in such a landscape.

“Take down the flagpole before the gate, and fly awareness!”

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Robert spoke in sibilant streams like a river in flow, with pauses in between;  a murmuring on the water.  Very few words came out, but some people seemed able to follow, as they laughed and mmmm’d in the right places.

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The comet is at its closest now – as bright to see as the Moon, and 9.3 million miles away, transiting the pole star.  Aj said it is a ‘little engine’ 1 X 10 miles, whose 10 million mile trail sprays our solar system right now.   It moves unknown materials across the temporal arcs and orbs of solar systems.  What a thought.  The weather is getting cold.  We discovered on Friday night that nothing is open in the evening – no place to have a coffee.  A friendly and far-sighted (looking for business) hotel gave us some in the foyer for nothing, and told us there are no discos here either, and no crime.   Mad Cow Disease rampages in England.

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Reaching the Grand Canyon, we began in the widening of that crack, that smile in earth whose silence only a raven’s wing of night may cross, to take as usual our humble photographic record.   At first one thinks, No pictures, or maybe just one.   After a relatively short time, the film is finished and another one being put in.  It were better to in silence receive each breathtaking impact unrecorded.  But wouldn’t it be nice to show them at home!

We recalled the account of our brother Ganesan who was taken here, who walked to the rim with his dear friends absorbed in spiritual discourse, the river of his voice and eyes;   then all of a sudden they told him to look at his feet, and there was … nothing!

The vegetation along the rim of the Grand Canyon is uninterrupted pine forest.  But if you descend a little way into the akashic chamber – a golden geology speckled like thrush’s breast, in roseate strata  – and look up, those tall, gracious pines are now but a thin dark skin along the summits of the open cliffs of Mother Earth.   The same goes for the road, the bubbles of human destiny, the museums and hotels within that skin.  They are gone.

Climbed back to the rim, drove on to a Visitors centre, snacked on outsize fast food, and caught sight in the carpark of the friends who played music to God in Robert’s Friday Satsang.  They were on the road again, in an eye-catching rainbow-ecology wigwam on wheels.   They’d come in to use the phone.

Aj is as happy as a child in heaven.   Here he is at sunset, walking in an exquisite forest along a resin scented path, and there in mystic splendour, is revealed to him his Vedic City – the dwellings of the gods that gleam with fire – Brahma Temple, Buddha Temple, Zoroastria Temple, et al.   I looked down into the alluring cleft of the Bright Angel canyon trail and decided I must return, and stay longer, and go deeper.   (The next year, I did, twice I reached the deep green Colorado River to wash my feet, and back the same day – a round hike of 18 miles, a mountain a mile high, inside out: a climate spectrum from snow on the rim, to sub-tropical Africa in the cleft.)

As the sun sank to the rim, we watched the god Agni at work.  The gift of transformation subtly, softly rose-glowed the celestial strata of Earth’s open womb:  the fiery sacrifice.  Even His creatures, His radiant bulls, kine and cattle, became visible, illumined in worship.   Agni is the Lamb of God.  As the sun’s daytime colour dissolves, all turns misty grey.  Imperceptibly, another light kindles, warming to immensity.  When even this light fades, the subtle body of the Canyon dances.  Great angel dervishes whirl in gossamer twilight, powder-violet.

Then we got back into the warmth of Mr Swiftie and drove back to our tent, 130 miles of un-towned, unbending, desert darkness.  Glen Gould played Bach piano concertos with geological precision.   We stopped at Flagstaff to dine at Denny’s under Orion.

There is no time across the time.  It is unborn.  And yet it dines at table.

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The Self has access to all memory, and to all that is needed.  Robert plays with his food and when he laughs his face lights up and two long yellowish fangs appear, because nearly all his upper teeth have been pulled out… they are making him a set of new choppers.  He takes (in slow moments of opening or hearing)  your heart right out, tears it out and bathes it simply in innocence and beauty.

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After our trip to the Grand Canyon, we took him out to lunch … Robert’s white T shirt was emblazoned with the slogan VISUALIZE WHIRLED PEAS.  After greetings, we sat down at a round table semi-out of doors, and Robert took off his dark glasses, put his baseball cap on the table, and after some pondering, ordered soup of the day, veggie burger and a herbal tea, and then inquired, “How’re things in London?”

Aj wrote, “He gave me a piercing look with his eyes and held me in his gaze for some long seconds until I could bear it no longer, and looked down.  I felt an intangible gratitude to be in the presence of this holy man, sage or jnani.  He told me to Be still and know I am God.  If the mind wanders, ask Whose mind?  But as there is no mind anyway, the problem dissolves.  Any obstacle was an illusion.  I am free Now.  Who took away that freedom?”

Robert asked about the Ramana Foundation – Mitzi joined us, to interpret – and said our Self Enquiry is “a wunnerful magazine.”

I plucked up courage to tell him about my father’s path to the silence, through his chest of drawers:  Zen, Krishnamurti, Gurdjieff, planting potatoes, and playing the violin.  Robert took in every word, wide open, to know my parent’s age and state of health, and said firmly, “Give him my warmest best regards.”   He held me in his radiant look, wide open, absurd, unborn, unending, a  mirror to no thing, his mouth a big dark cave.  This made me so happy, I  needed to talk about it to him, out of the sea, and couldn’t.   He is a bent, elderly fair skinned man with delicate features, white beard, small lean hands with little fingernails, a childish gentle nose, and a hearty appetite for his food.  He kindles my heart, like a match.   “If you go inside,”  he hissed, wide open –  “there is no end!   No end!   It never ends!   Be still, be still, be still.”    At the end of the lunch he announced “so there’s nothing more to be said.”  We could now humbly request a photo – to put in the album at home, next to the Grand Canyon?   Robert obligingly sat down again outside, took off his cap and glasses, then stood up, put his arms around us both for Mitzi to take one, and said “Give Nicole a ring tomorrow at 9.30 – and have a wonderful afternoon!”   He came to inspect the diminutively green and somewhat dusty Mr Swiftie, laughed and was driven off in John’s red station wagon.

Aj and Ja got into Mr Swiftie and pointed his snub nose up Oak Creek Canyon, for Aj required a nice picnic table near some water and trees, for Virgo-Sagittarius to sit down and write up the notes.  Capricorn-Cancer went for a paddle in the crystal clear cottonwood river, in the red rock ampitheatre, to potter on the stones and goatishly digest the input.  Sweet music, nut-brown water.  Robert is NO THING!   My mind opens wide with delight, then shuts like a snapdragon. But it doesn’t matter:  be still.

Aj and I think his speech is a divine affliction.  He said years ago, “to continue speaking is a waste of time.”   Contrast his cavernous mischievous laugh, with the glossy and eloquent Gurus of this world.    I can hardly bear it when his light shines in.  Saint.

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The next morning, Nicole on the phone arranged a time for tea on Saturday at their house – “I’ll draw you a map, we’re near Safeway darling, just around behind Macdonalds, but it’s rather hard to find” – and said again she couldn’t sleep for the thought of us in our tent in the freezing night, and we might like to stay with them next time, if their daughter isn’t using the spare room?   This felt very encouraging:  her southern voice is a comfort and an “earthing” here.   We struggled through the giant supermarkets.   But the cashiers are as cosy as a Holsworthy grocer back home.  Mr Swiftie has a strong personality, and is always easy to spot in the car park, among his large and glittering companions.

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I wrote:  “At this stage in our adventure, I feel the small-town of my psyche, its aridity.  This makes sense for the moment, I guess.  With the jnani at the end of the road, I feel in various ways my emptiness.  Sometimes it is  awareness and beauty, full of light and love and song.  But sometimes it is just dense and tired, non-relating, the hard metalled road waits for the sun to break through again, like it does with his unearthly smile.  I feel shy, with nothing to say or ask, and not knowing how to negotiate this end and birth of all relationship.  The beggars in the basement are scared perhaps.  Tears somewhere.  Funny – I just noticed the word ‘sacred’ is also ‘scared’.   I envy the other people, their intimacy with him.”

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Give the gift to Him.  As soon as I fall to silence, love comes.

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END OF PART ONE

Drawings, text & pictures copyright (c) Jane Adams 1996-2012

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My adventure invites fellow travellers.  I am a poet, an artist and a seer.  I welcome conversation among the PHILO SOFIA, the lovers of wisdom.

This blog is  a vehicle to promote my published work – The Sacred India Tarot (with Rohit Arya, Yogi Impressions Books) and The Dreamer in the Dream – a collection of short stories (0 Books) – along with many other creations in house.  

I write, illustrate, design and print my books.   Watch this space.

 

5 thoughts on “To Robert, a Sage in Arizona – Part One

  1. Dear Jane,
    I have seen your wonderful drawings and paintings and I LOVE them. I want to know more. I have just come upon the teachings of Robert Adams and all I can say is WOW. There was a gentleman that use to have a dedicated page for Robert Adams on Facebook (which unfortunately no longer exist) I am an artist and draw as well so this is extra special. 🙂

    In Peace!
    Mario Lemos

    • Hello Mario, thanks! As an artist yourself, have you tried drawing Robert? However the drawing comes out, it is a wonderful way to make a contact with him. There is a facebook page for Robert, because I see that people are posting to it. Sometimes they have to take it down for a few days, but it always comes up again.

      Peace.

  2. Pingback: Robert Adams | A.H. Nonprofit

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