Francis Wheen on: Divine intervention at the Daily Mail
The Mail man, the Maharaji and the exploding love-bomb
The Daily Mail seems to have appointed itself as the official newspaper of the solar eclipse. Not content with chartering a ship and a plane from which a lucky few competition-winners can witness the event, the paper is also offering an Eclipse Horoscope by "Britain's foremost astrologer", Jonathan Cainer.
Mail executives must have forgotten what happened the last time a group of simpletons failed to notice the difference between astronomy and astrology, when the appearance of the Hale-Bopp comet in 1997 prompted members of the Heaven's Gate sect in San Diego to commit mass suicide. The Daily Mail denounced the dead cultists as "freaks" whose "bizarre gospel" - that salvation could be found in a comet - reflected an "obsession with the stars which was a throwback to thousands of years ago". Jonathan Cainer, however, described Hale-Bopp as "a herald... that undoubtedly signifies imminent worldwide change on an impressive scale". Two years on, he is making identical claims for the eclipse: "It heralds the start of change, on an unparalleled scale, for the whole world".
This Cainer is a man who needs watching. Although the Daily Mail is proud of its record in exposing sinister cults that brainwash converts and break up families, as proved by its epic 101-day libel battle against the Moonies in 1981, it seems unaware that its own astrologer is a devotee of just such a cult.
The object of Cainer's veneration is the Guru Maharaj Ji, who came to the west as a tubby 13-year-old in the early 1970s and persuaded thousands of ex-hippies to join his Divine Light Mission. Such was his appeal that by the end of the decade he owned 93 Rolls-Royces and had run up a $4m bill for back-taxes. In those days the guru described himself as the Lord of the Universe and the Exploding Love-Bomb. Since then, the Divine Light Mission has changed its name to Elan Vital, and its leader now prefers to be known as Maharaji, Perfect Master. But his methods and lifestyle remain the same: when not touring the world in his $25m Gulfstream private jet, exploding love-bombs all over the faithful, he retreats to a vast Malibu mansion, nursing his duodenal ulcer and counting his loot.
Rather coyly, Jonathan Cainer never mentions the guru in his Daily Mail column. In cyberspace, however, he is less discreet: he runs a website (www.enjoyinglife.org) devoted to the cult, and in April this year he travelled all the way to Malaysia merely to hear one of Maharaji's speeches. "There are so many newspapers and magazines," the Perfect Master told his audience. "Imagine if one of them just said: 'Everything is fine… go and enjoy yourself and don't waste your time.' Even if that newspaper sold just one copy it would be a worthwhile exercise to print it."
On his website, Cainer describes this idea as "magnificent". Maybe he should suggest it to the Daily Mail.