|Journeys: A. J. W.|
|Date: November 1, 1998|
God is Great but...
In the summer of 1972 my wife and I stumbled through Heathrow Airport, sick, penniless and owning only the faded cotton pyjamas we were wearing. Three weeks earlier, we'd been dropped, semi-conscious, on the steps of the United Christian hospital in Lahore, Pakistan. My wife looked like a skeleton. She was dying from dehydration. I was so ill with hepatitis I couldn't stand up. We'd been travelling around India 'looking for Truth', run out of money and become ill.
The hospital put us to bed, stuck a tube into my wife's arm to restore her body fluid, fed me on glucose and water, and called the British Embassy. Three weeks later, an English civil servant arrived, paid our hospital bill and handed us a couple of air tickets home. I was in hospital in England for another month, but when I arrived back to our house in the country I was a happy hippy, a year older, but much wiser.
I'd been to India, found a guru, given up drugs, and become a full time, seriously spiritual person. I'd read Herman Hesse, Ramakrishna, Alan Watts, Timothy Leary, Paul Brunton, 'M', and the Silver Surfer. From Zen Buddhism I understood that there was such a thing as 'Enlightenment', which would suddenly descend on me when the moment was right, and I was ready. From Ramakrishna I learned that the two great obstacles to enlightenment were 'women and gold'. From Timothy Leary I learned that I needed a guru, and from the Silver Surfer I learned that the inhabitants of Earth are not to be trusted. In India, I'd visited the ashram of Sai Baba, and decided he must be my guru.
Back in our terraced house in Staffordshire, I set about the serious business of realising God. I threw out all the books that weren't scriptures, quit 'worldly' activities, like watching TV, eating cake, playing music and having sex. I converted the downstairs front room into a temple, set up a massive shrine and meditated on my mantra every day.
I tried to spread the word, but my colleagues in the toilet factory were in darkness. My old hippy friends were deluded and ignorant, in love with their egos. Things weren't working out as I'd hoped. I was back from India, with a glowing aura, but it wasn't affecting people the way I'd hoped. It seemed to be acting more as a repellent. Realising God was a lonely path.
The initial excitement of having a new 'mission' in life soon wore off, and I felt more frustrated than enlightened. According to my understanding of the spiritual path, the lesser beings around me should become inspired in my presence, and bring me offerings so I didn't have to go to work. I organised a 'bhajan evening' in my temple, but only a couple of broke, lonely people showed up, and none of us could sing.
Maybe I wasn't surrendering enough. I needed to renounce more. Ramakrishna said worldly talk took you away from God. I'd start there. Next morning, sitting around the table, at tea break in the toilet factory, I told my work mates, that I no longer wished to discuss worldly topics. If they wanted to talk to me, I would only reply if the subject was spiritual.
Things were happening again. I'd taken a step closer to the Godhead. Enlightenment was imminent. Ramakrishna said, 'He who renounces women and gold is near to God realisation'. I'd not only given up women and gold, but a long list of other things too. In fact I'd given up everything I could think of. All that remained was to walk out the door, and God would take care of me forever. I'd never have to work, cook, pay rent, or participate in worldly activities again. My time in the world was over. I would return to India and gather disciples at my feet.
We lived in a Victorian terraced mining cottage, in Staffordshire, England. The door from the lane outside, opened directly into our temple. I meditated there, every morning, for half an hour. My mantra was based on the name of my guru, Sai Baba. My wife and I went to some of his conjuring shows, at an Ashram (monastery) near Bangalore, in South India.
One of my mantra's many magical effects was that it could change itself into the name of the England football manager, Alf Ramsey. It went, 'Sai Ram Sai Ram Say Ramsay, Ramsey. Ramsey.' One Saturday morning, shortly after my tea break declaration in 'Toiletworld', I finished meditating, put on a shoe, and the Universe turned on its axis. As predicted in 'The Way of Zen' by Alan Watts, the moment of Enlightenment was upon me. The world fell away like, a spent cocoon.Wings of devotion and renunciation would carry me to the Creator. Yeah, I would step out of my worldly prison and become a wandering monk.
The front door was open. It was raining. I looked down. I hadn't finished dressing. I was wearing one shoe. The second shoe was behind me. Raindrops splattered on the road. I wondered how far I'd get with only a sock on my left foot. Already I was doubting my divine destiny, and I hadn't even moved. I had renounced the world and was about to walk out of my home forever. But I was only wearing one shoe. The left shoe, which was behind me, was part of the world I'd just renounced. To retrieve it would be to walk back to the chains of materialism and delusion.
I leaned forward, but my feet wouldn't move. I leaned back. Nothing. I was trapped in the void between God consciousness and a wet sock. My wife walked into the room, stared at me for a couple of minutes, decided eventually I'd get hungry, and went back into the kitchen. Half an hour later I scrambled back from the brink of insanity by frantically stuffing my mouth with a cheese and pickle sandwich. Premies call this state of mind, 'Ready for Knowledge'.
The 60s had faded away. It was the morning after the Revolution and we'd lost, (except in Holland). We had scrambled brains for breakfast. Hippies were detoxing and finding other interests in life: the environment, whole foods, feminism, gay rights, drug trafficking, philately and God. Lots of folk who saw God on acid got into alternative religions, like the Hare Krishnas, Subud and Transcendental Meditation.
Several close friends had joined 'Divine Light Mission' and become followers of the fifteen year old, 'living Perfect Master', Guru Maharaj Ji. I'd seen Maharaji speak, a couple of years earlier at the 1971 Glastonbury festival. A group of us had moved down there for a month, to help build the stage for the first festival on Michael Eaves' farm. Maharaji, aged 13, had recently arrived in England, and appeared briefly at the festival.
We began to get wild letters and phone calls from friends who had become premies, telling us that the Lord of the Universe had incarnated into a human body, and was 'revealing God'. Although there was no charge for 'Knowledge', some were handing over their possessions, moving into 'Ashrams', getting jobs and giving up meat, drink and drugs.
We held a party. Walking through the house was a journey down the chakras. There were Bhajans in the front room, dope smokers in the middle room and a drunken woman, with her bare arse stuck in a plastic bucket, laying on kitchen floor.
Then the premies arrived. The brothers wore second-hand suits with large 3D badges of Maharaji, with flashing rainbows around his head. The sisters wore dresses and skirts down to the floor, cardigans and the same rainbow badges. Everyone carried a bundle of leaflets. They marched through the temple, where I was delivering a holy discourse to a drunken kiln-fireman from the toilet factory.
They stopped in the middle room, where they formed a circle, held hands, raised their eyes to heaven, and sang, 'Amazing Grace.' Before they reached, '...how sweet the sound,' the room was empty. Stoned hippies and incapacitated drunks from the factory, returned to consciousness, rose miraculously to their feet, and fled in terror, in every direction. The drunken bucket woman in the kitchen, who had finally managed to stand up, fell over again in the excitement. The audience to my discourse was chased into the street, by a premie clutching a leaflet.
My friend Tom, recently converted, explained everything. It went something like, 'There is always a Master on the Earth. Once it was Jesus, once it was Krishna, once it was Buddha, now its Guru Maharaj Ji. It's passed on, like the family silver. Maharaj Ji can show you God, face to face. When you meditate, you'll see this light, brighter than a thousand suns, better than acid. And you'll hear music, better than Pink Floyd. You'll taste the nectar of Heaven. And you'll know the unspeakable Word of God. Guru Maharaj Ji shows you all this. It's called Knowledge. He's fourteen years old and driving around in a Rolls Royce.'
It sounded exactly what I was looking for. So, after calling in sick at the toilet factory, and chasing a Mahatma (God realised soul, imported from India) around the country for a couple of weeks, in March 1973, I ended up in a room where Mahatma Umeshfee decided I was ready to be shown, what were then called, 'the four techniques of meditation ' and 'receive Knowledge'.
'Being ready' meant understanding that there was only one Master and only one method of attaining salvation, which was to 'practice Knowledge and dedicate your life to Maharaji.' I was shown the four meditation techniques. I didn't see light brighter than a thousand suns. Neither did I hear Ummagumma, but something was buzzing.
I was meeting loads of new friends, and we all had a mission in life. 'Bhajan evening' eat your heart out. No more ranting at drunken sanitary workers. Every night there was an eager audience for words of 'satsang' flowing from my mouth. 'Satsang' meant, literally, 'company of truth. There were 'satsang meetings' which took place every evening, in a hall, or 'satsang room' in a house or ashram. We'd sit around an altar of Maharaji, take it in turns to 'give satsang', or tell each other how fantastic knowledge, Maharaji and life were.
We'd also sing devotional songs, 'I love you Maharaji, your grace is overflowing. I love you my Lord. You are all knowing. You have given me life, out of your mercy and compassion. I am so grateful..etc'.
My wife and I were qualified, but inexperienced schoolteachers. At the 1973 Guru Puja festival, we went to a meeting of premie teachers, and were invited to sell our house, put the money towards a 'Divine School' for premies' children, and join an 'Education Ashram' in London. Amazing things were afoot. The Lord of the Universe had incarnated, along with a Holy Family.
Milky Cole, close companion of the Lord, informed us that Maharaji's three elder brothers were, respectively, the Creator, Preserver and Destroyer of the Universe. I kept getting them muddled up. Was Bhole Ji the Creator or the Preserver? No matter. There was the Holy Mother Mataji. We sang, '...and when the seasons change for you the last time, say thank you for your life to Holy Mother Mata Ji'.
Just as the Christian Church of the Middle Ages, explained the pyramidical hierarchy of Heaven, God, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Angels, Apostles, Saints (all, over 'the other side') followed, down here on Earth by, Pope, Archbishops etc, down to the punters who funded it with 10% of their labour, so we had our own divine hierarchy. At the top was Balyogeshwar Shri Sant Ji Maharaj. Then there was God and the Holy family.
It may seem strange in these enlightened times, but the Mahatmas really did explain to us how Maharaji was 'greater than God'. The reasoning was summarised on a Divine Light Mission poster, which said, in English and Hindi, 'God is great, but greater is Guru, because Guru reveals God'. It was a difficult concept to deal with, so we usually settled for him being God.
Back on Earth, Maharaji's mother and three brothers, Bhal Bhagwan Ji, Bhole Ji and Raja Ji, were all divine beings, but not as divine as Maharaji. At the end of satsang, we all used to yell in unison, 'Bhole Shri Satgurudev Maharaj Ki Jai. Anandakanda Bhal Bhagwan Ki Jai. Jagat Janani Shri Mata Ki Jai. Satchitavar Ki Jai.' and a final, louder, 'Bhole Shri Satgurudev Maharaj Ki Jai'. We'd throw both hands in the air, in a kind of two armed 'Sieg Heil', on every 'Ki Jai'.
I assume, because Raja Ji and Bhole Ji didn't get a yell, they were a bit lower in the hierarchy. (This proved to be the case some years later, when Bhal Bhagwan Ji also became a 'Perfect Master, God himself walking around on Earth for our benefit', type of person. But that's another story.)
Below the Holy Family were special Mahatmas, like Gurucharanand, and premies who lived and perhaps travelled, with Maharaji. Below them were the ordinary Mahatmas. Then came the Ashram premies. Then the premies who were waiting to go into the ashram, followed by the 'community premies', (burdened by children, or ignorance), followed by the rest of the human race. They too had their levels in the divine hierarchy. At the top were the aspirants, people waiting to be initiated. Below them were people who had heard about Knowledge, and the more you heard, the higher you went. Even reading a leaflet would help.
In the ashram, you lived a life of satsang, service and meditation. We got up at six, sang a long hymn of praise to Maharaji, 'Creator, Preserver, Destroyer, bow their heads and pray to you.....', meditated, ate a magnificent breakfast, then went to work. At lunchtime I sold copies of 'Divine Times' on the street. In the evenings we went to satsang at the 'Palace of Peace' in London, where we organised childcare.
At weekends we planned our school and studied education. We discovered a 'spiritual' education system, devised by Rudolph Steiner and enthusiastically studied it. My wife and I were told to start satsang meetings for children. We opened a school in the ashram basement, in South London, and had a class of ten.
The population of the ashram increased and, as Unity School was going to take boarders, several children moved in. It became so crowded, we built a platform in the children's bedroom, and put children on top, and underneath. I moved into the garden and slept under an old table covered with polythene. Nine children and forty three adults lived in the house.
A government inspector came around to look at the school. We told him there were nine children and twelve adults in the house. His only comment was he thought it was overcrowded. He should have seen it at bedtime.
I remember when I visited friends and relatives, looking around their living rooms, thinking, 'What a waste of space. Ten people could sleep in here.' We raised about 360.000 and bought an old manor house in Cornwall. As well as the Waldorf (Steiner) curriculum, the children would work on the farm. Their education would include growing crops, grinding corn, milking cows, making butter and so on. My wife and I would look after the boarding children, out of classroom hours. This meant getting them up in the morning, putting them to bed at night and looking after them in the evening and at weekends.
In the Education Ashram we had a 'special mission', with agya (a direct instruction from the Lord) to start a school. Nobody argues with 'agya'. We were allowed to read books, paint, play music, discuss intellectual topics, activities forbidden in other ashrams. We went on courses at the Steiner college, made plans and knew we were part of something magnificent. Soon there would be so many premies in every town, Unity Schools would be needed all over the country. Why, by 1980, the ashram secretary will probably be the Minister of Education.
There was an understanding, that if you were serious about 'practising knowledge' you should live in an ashram. 'Non-ashram premies' were treated as second class citizens. Ashram premies went to special meetings with Maharaji, had special privileges at events and got free Herb tea and sugar free snacks at the Palace of Peace 'Sohungry Cafe'. On the other hand, they had no official sex, drugs or rock and roll, and had to hand over their wage packet to the ashram secretary every week.
If you were married and had children, you were stuck between a rock and a hard stone. You'd have to wait until your children grew up and left home before you could truly surrender to your Master. Unless of course you could dump them somewhere. And where better than Unity School, where they would be looked after by 'disciples of the Living Lord', who were ashram premies, in pure consciousness.
My wife and I went through the application forms. Sixty five children were expected to board. We checked their ages. Over forty were under seven, and most were four or five. You didn't need a third eye to see we were heading for disaster. It would have been insane to take children so young, away from their families, stick them in dormitories with over sixty other kids, and expect two old hippies in recovery to look after them night and day.
We expressed our misgivings at the next teachers' meeting. Everyone agreed with us. The dormitories were building sites, two of the classrooms hadn't been built. (We'd bought prefabricated buildings but there were no instructions and nobody knew how to put them together.)
This was around the time Maharaji married his secretary, Marilyn. It started a craze in Divine Light Mission. Our ashram secretary married the house mother and romances bloomed everywhere. My wife and I, having been married for four years already, took advantage of the new climate in the ashram, and slept together again.
While the ashram secretary and house mother were on their honeymoon, we had a revolution. They returned to discovered that Unity School would no longer be run by a headmaster, but a committee of teachers. Education policy would not be part of the 'chain of agya' but decided by the committee. The 'chain of agya' was the 'line of command' down from Maharaji, through his current close confidants, to 'National Coordinator, sometimes through a 'Regional Coordinator', down to ashram secretary. It trickled down the divine pyramid. We told him that we weren't taking any boarders until the dormitories were ready, which meant opening only as a day school. with about nine children, who were already living locally. At a later meeting, when we were preparing a classroom to start the new term.
A week before we were due to open, a parent, whose child had been sexually abused by Mahatma Jagdeo, on his visit to the ashram, told us, 'Even if the school opens next week, we're not sending our children.'
And that was the end of Unity School.
Word went back to Divine Light Mission headquarters in London that all the teachers had 'flipped out' in Cornwall. They sent someone down to repossess our Mercedes van, and later the Manor house, which became a retreat for ashram premies, vegetarian guest house, and was finally sold. We moved back to London and lived in 'the premie community'.
Divine Light Mission experienced periodic waves of fashionable activities, which were greeted with glee by the premies. There was always a lingering feeling that things weren't quite working out properly. Each 'leap forward' was greeted with the optimism 'things would finally get sorted out'. Then thousands of people would come pouring through the doors, receive Knowledge and establish 'Heaven on Earth'. And somewhere, a lion would surely lie down with a lamb.
There was the film, 'Who is Guru Maharaj Ji?'. After watching it people would know who 'He' was, and come rushing to receive Knowledge.
There was the World Welfare Organisation. We went around doing good works for the needy, hoping, through this, people would be attracted to Maharaji. For six months, at weekends, a group of us performed plays in children's homes and mental hospitals.
Then there was DUO, Divine United Organisation. This was an umbrella company, that would shelter new premie businesses, often staffed by premies 'doing service' and hence, receiving only heavenly rewards. We had a DUO factory, the Millennium Construction Company, Mother Nature Fashions, Rainbow Groceries, Divine Sales, Hansa Graphics and many more.
I sat in the Palace of Peace one evening, listening to someone who had been driving around London that day with Maharaji, tell us, 'Maharaji pointed to this big skyscraper, and said, 'That will be the DUO office one day.' The same person told us, 'In a few years, every other truck will carry the DUO logo. The pen in your pocket... it will be everywhere.' Most of the DUO businesses quietly fell apart when the next fashion hit the community, although some moved into private ownership and have lived on until this day.
In 1976 we had our own 'Great Leap Forward'. 'Workshops' instead of Satsang. We split into small groups with 'monitors', who'd already been to a workshop on running a workshop. We spoke not only of Truth, but also truth. We admitted we didn't blast off into God consciousness when we sat down to meditate. It wasn't just that we weren't surrendered, but maybe sometimes people did talk a lot of rubbish in satsang'. I certainly delivered more than my share.
Once again, it felt like things were finally moving forwards again. We were making progress, in preparation for the day when many more people would recognise that the Lord was on the planet. And, as the waves rippled down the pyramid, throughout the fads, there were festivals and darshan.
For a true devotee of the Master, there was nothing greater than His 'darshan'. Darshan means 'physical presence'. It is a true premie's greatest high. There is nothing better than being with the Lord in his physical form. As the Master is God, He is also within you, in the form of 'Knowledge'. So, 'darshan' is the physical presence of Maharaji, rather than the 'spiritual' presence'.
Throughout the years, Maharaji has travelled around the world, attending meetings which have been called, at different times, 'festivals', 'programs' and 'events'. Maharaji would speak to everyone, once or twice a day, and usually 'give darshan'. 'Giving darshan' involved Maharaji sitting on a chair, on a small stage, with his feet on a cushion at the edge of the stage. Premies filed past, kissing his feet.
On 'darshan day', we put on our best clothes, sat in the hall meditating until we 'felt right', then joined the back of the 'darshan line'. The back was in the hall, but at some point entered Maharaji's private area, often down a 'darshan tunnel', covered in blue fabric. 'Security premies' stood on both sides, vetting the line for 'bongo premies' (people considered crazy in world of crazies), and 'non-premies' (people without 'Knowledge'). Mahatmas and other premies gave out envelopes. You were offered an envelope about twenty times before you reached the 'darshan tunnel'. At the entrance to the tunnel was a table, with a big box. Standing behind the box were two or three high ranking instructors. They collected the envelopes, into which the premies had placed however much they could afford.
Of course, you didn't have to give money. In the early 70s, premies brought all sorts of gifts. But as the darshan line evolved, it became standard understanding that the most practical gift for Maharaji was cash. And what would Maharaji do with the mountain of stuff piled up after every program anyway?
Premies often gave things that had great emotional significance to them, but looked like junk to everyone else. 'Lord, I bring you this broken neck of a Fender Stratocaster guitar, which Pete Townshend smashed up on the stage of Nottingham Odeon in 1965. I carried it 3,000 miles around Asia, in my rucksack, and had it blessed by a Baba in Mysore. But now I offer it up to you. It still has a bit of Keith Moon's dried vomit on the corner. All I have left is the scar where it hit me on the head when Townshend threw it into the audience at the end of 'My Generation.' It's not surprising he preferred cash, preferably notes.
The darshan lasted several hours. At large international festivals, several thousand premies walked through. After entering the tunnel, you'd hear gentle music, emanating from the 'darshan room', where Maharaji sat, with a line of dipping premies passing before him. On either side of the cushion stood a bodyguard. One gently held your shoulders as you bowed your head. The other took your shoulders and motioned you away, after you had kissed 'the Lotus feet'. They were there to remove any premie who overstay their welcome, and to hand anybody who passed out, to the 'catchers'.
Passing out in darshan was quite common. I passed out several times over the years. Some people seem to drift into unconsciousness quite easily. It happens in many charismatic religious groups. If you passed out in darshan, you were taken to the 'darshan recovery room' where you were looked after until, you came round. At a festival in Wales, some premies even passed out when a darshan line filed past a life sized photo of Maharaji.
We had a programme in South Wales, in 1978. It was a national event, and the highest ranking premies in attendance were a few initiators. I'd been asked to organise the childcare. We borrowed equipment from a local nursery and set it up in a compound outside the hall. As the national dignitaries and officials entered the hall, they passed the nursery and noticed all the expensive, hired equipment.
They didn't see the hoards of rampaging eight year old ninja gangs, the lost crying children, peppered with metal ninja stars, premies doing 'childcare' running for cover or the gangs of distraught parents looking for their wounded children in the middle of the battlefield. They saw the expensive climbing frame, slide and toy house. 'Wow. This looks really together.' they said, glancing over their shoulders on the way into the hall. 'Who organised it?'
A couple of weeks later, I was asked to organise childcare at the large European programmes. Fashions changed, but the big events continued. I lost my teaching job because of the time I was taking off. Childcare, however was flourishing. After a couple of big programmes, I'd gathered a team of reliable people together and conditions improved.
As things got better, more premies brought their children to programmes, instead of leaving them with Grandma. The numbers steadily increased. By the time the Geneva event happened in 1983, we had a large area for mothers and babies, a toddlers area with sandpits, paints and toys, special activities for older children, a cinema, theatre with stage and lights, and a puppet theatre. We tapped into the vast amount of dramatic and artistic talent, and harnessed the bursting desire to 'do service'. The walls were all decorated by good artists and about 350 premies, were organised in shifts, with supervisors, manning everything. Over 800 children showed up, and most of them had a good time. I had built a formidable empire.
Maharaji visited the hall, the day, before the festival. The childcare area, was almost as big as the hall where the meeting with four thousand or so premies was taking place (children need more space). He asked what everything was for, and was told, 'Childcare'. Soon afterwards I was told, 'Maharaji said people shouldn't bring children to programs.'
Although my empire had been dismantled, my career wasn't over. I helped to organise the festival on Lingfield racecourse, where Maharaji told us, 'Every breath should be meditation, every word should be satsang and every action should be service,' (to Him).
My job at Lingfield was to co-ordinate 'Staff Support'. This meant arranging the food, transport and accommodation for everyone 'doing service' at the programme. This included builders, electricians, plumbers, office staff, transport staff, cooks, cleaners, carpenters, security, and administrators, or 'honchoes' as they were known. The 'head honcho' at the festival would get to talk to Maharaji occasionally, and receive his 'agya'.
There was nothing like 'agya' to get us moving. 'Agya' was very important to us. It was the direct command of the Master, one of the most powerful things on earth. To question 'agya' was to show a lack of spiritual understanding. When the Lord commands, it is your pleasure to obey.
Programs were put together very quickly. A large stage was always built, with rooms for Maharaji and his family. This area was always referred to as, 'backstage'. Backstage is a magical place in Premieworld. In festival heyday, the backstage area was built to a higher quality than most houses.
Premies from all over Europe worked night and day to build a complete apartment. Stud walls were erected, plastered and papered. Electricity and plumbing were installed, new carpets laid, TVs, hi-fi's, fridges, lights, doors. A luxury apartment was constructed, used for duration of the festival, then demolished.
As the festival approached, less and less people were allowed backstage. An elaborate 'Pass' system was set up, allowing different people into different areas. Access was always controlled by 'Security'. Security had their own special passes and hierarchies, but their primary role at festivals was to protect Maharaji and his family, from everybody, premies and non premies. Maharaji's closest companions were always exempt for the concentric circles of security around him. As backstage became ready, fewer people were allowed in. When 'the arrival' was imminent, the 'backstage co-ordinator' would make one or two, last minute, adjustments, then be told to leave, a few minutes before Maharaji arrived.
When Maharaji was in the building, security rose to red alert. There were extra guards and new commanders around. Extra rings were added. Everyone carefully briefed.
Back at Lingfield, Staff Support threw me into the thick of festival politics. During the years I'd been coordinating childcare, nobody ever showed any interest in what I was doing, even though sometimes I was responsible for several hundred children, from 10 in the morning until 10 at night. (It's not as daunting as it sounds, if you have three or four hundred willing servants, working in shifts, and a few half-sane organisers to help.)
When I organised Staff Support, however, everybody took great care to advise me how to do my job. This was because it was their food, their transport, and their bed that I was sorting out. It was a nightmare. As more people arrived, I arranged food, accommodation and transport for them.
A couple of 'honchos' told me that, as' their service was important', they couldn't be standing around in queues, eating the same garbage as the builders. They wanted their own dining room, special food, and people to serve them. I knew that all devotees are equal at the feet of the Lord, so I told them to join the queue with everybody else.
The next day they appointed their own, 'Coordinators Staff Support Coordinator'. She was given a generous budget, driver, and a list of 'honchos' to serve. This was much the same arrangement that was standard for 'mahatmas'. A couple of days later I was fired, then rehired, when the new 'Support Coordinator' couldn't find anyone to replace me.
I arrived home late one night from Lingfield, with Brian, a friendly giant from the Bronx. He was plumbing on the festival site. I'd offered to put him up for the night. There were always lots of people staying around festival times, as most premies couldn't afford to pay for accommodation. I opened the front door to our two bedroomed maisonette. It hit a pair of feet. Two people were asleep in the narrow hallway. We stepped over them and peered into the living room. People were on each sofa, and on the floor. I looked in the kitchen. Three people on the floor. I went upstairs. Two people on the landing. Somebody asleep on the bathroom floor, somebody asleep in the bath (I jest not). The front bedroom was full. I opened our bedroom door. My wife was asleep in our giant bed, with the two children. There was space for two. So we both got in. My wife awoke next morning and I introduced her to Brian. We've been good friends ever since.
After the Lingfield festival I did 'service' in the 'London Community'. As far as premies are concerned, the London Community only consisted of the premies who lived in London. The other 14,000,000 people or so don't count, unless they're interested in 'Knowledge' of course. We usually had a 'Community Coordinator', and sometimes a 'Community Council'. There was frequently a drive to get a 'Community Centre'. (In the early 70s, we'd converted the old East Dulwich Odeon to the 'Palace of Peace'). It was 1982, the Ashrams had survived the burst of breeding activity after Maharaji and Marilyn's marriage, and were still going strong.
In England we were getting a new National Coordinator every few weeks. The latest was David Smith. He passed through England briefly, leaving chaos and confusion in his wake. He told me to look for a building that would be suitable as a full time, premie community centre. I trekked around London, looking at empty cinemas and talking to local community representatives, stressing our secular side, 'whole food cafe, natural childbirth classes, meditation, yoga etc'. I didn't tell them we were about to transform an old cinema in Tooting into a magnet for crazy Guru worshippers.
But before David left town, and the project collapsed, my career took a dramatic turn. I was called to the 'residence', Maharaji's house in on the Sussex downs, near Reigate. I was directing a Christmas play, involving some 'community premies' and some of 'Maharaji's staff'. We arrived at one of the ashrams in Reigate for a rehearsal and I was told I had to go immediately to 'Beechurst', one of the 'support houses'. There were always at least a couple of 'support house', where premies doing service at the residence hung out. This included premies waiting to see Maharaji, premies 'doing service at the Residence', drivers on call and so on. When Maharaji was in town, the support houses were buzzing.
I was dropped off at Beechurst, only to be told I was wanted on top of the hill, in the Residence. Nobody knew why. It was as if I'd suddenly developed an aura. Premies were treating me, and looking at me differently. It is every premie's dream to be invited to the Residence when Maharaji is at home. Suddenly it was happening to me. I was taken into the Cottage, a support house inside the grounds of the Residence, where I was told Marilyn, Maharaji's wife, wanted to talk to me. I was led down the garden path to a small conservatory on the side of a large, Swiss style house overlooking the Sussex downs. I was left at the door. I knocked, Marilyn invited me in.
I took my shoes off, and kneeled on the carpet, carefully concealing my socks, which had holes. We had two small children of our own at that time. We were living in a maisonette in a council block in Brixton, South London. My wife wasn't working, I'd been spending time doing 'service' and we were broke. Maharaji and Marilyn had three children. The eldest, Premlata, or Wadi, was five and a half. Hansi was four. Daya two or three. None of them had been to school.
Marilyn told me that she thought Premlata was ready to start some sort of formal education. I was a qualified teacher, my name had been mentioned and she wanted to ask me what I thought. I said, 'She's five and a half, if you think she's ready to learn to read and write, she probably is'. Marilyn said she was thinking about getting the room we were in converted to a classroom, and hiring a tutor. What did I think about that? We talked about children and school for about half an hour. She didn't carry any 'airs and graces' and came across as a genuinely good hearted human being. I liked her.
She asked me what type of education I thought Premlata should have, over next couple of months or so. I said, she should perhaps concentrate on reading and writing and some maths in the morning, and do more active things in the afternoons. Finally she asked me if I would be prepared to come down, five days a week, and do the job we'd been talking about. It was my dream come true, so naturally I said, 'Yes'.
Less than a week later we had a classroom with desks and chairs. I'd ordered a pile of equipment, and been given money for clothes. I was asked how much a week I wanted to be paid. I said the same as if I was teaching in a regular school, and that is what I received.
On the first morning of school, the whole family arrived. I waited for Maharaji and Marilyn to leave, so I could get on with it, but they stayed. I assume they wanted to make sure they weren't leaving their children with a brain damaged British nutcase. Little did they know. And so began my career as the 'teacher of Maharaji's children', as I became known in 'Premieworld'.
For five days a week I went down to the classroom and spent the day with Wadi, and sometimes Hansi. She was a pleasure to teach, intelligent, creative and keen to learn. She roared through the 'Pirate' reading books and really enjoyed the art and crafts, cooking and so on, we did in the afternoons. Hansi drifted in and out. He was too young to start school, full time, so we agreed he could come and go as he wanted. He couldn't suss me out. I told him what to do, and even told him not to do things, which I suspect was different to most premies around the house.
He didn't really know much about 'school' and 'classrooms'. He had great toys to play with in his own room, and intelligent, patient adults to entertain him. Compared to life outside, there wasn't a lot to hold his attention in the classroom. They were in Reigate for about two and a half months, and I went down to the classroom every week day, and once or twice on a Saturday. I took the train to Redhill, and there was usually a car waiting to take me up to the 'residence'. I'd be dropped off at the gates, go into the cottage and wait until I was told it was okay to go down to the classroom.
I got to know the children and their parents. They both showed an interest in what we did at 'school' and visited the classroom from time to time, Marilyn more than Maharaji. I chatted with them from time to time, usually about the children and what they were doing, but sometimes on other topics. I was given a couple of Maharaji's old shirts, and sweaters. Maharaji's castoffs, aside from being extremely good quality clothes, were holy relics. Forget the Turin shroud, articles of clothing worn by the Lord himself, were endowed with great significance.
My new 'service' gave me increased status with premies. When I was teaching, I was hot property. Everyone wanted to know, 'Had I seen Maharaji?' that day. Everyone wanted 'fresh darshan stories'.
'Darshan stories' are accounts of personal encounters with Maharaji. For premies they are food for the soul. To find out about what Jesus and Buddha did, you have to read scriptures, often written long after the person died. How wonderful it is then, to hear a story about the Lord, from someone who was there. And if it was that very day!
Lawks a lawdy, you could feel the bliss, still emanating from that person's eyes. Any personal encounter with Maharaji, no matter how small, became a darshan story in the retelling. The most insignificant incidents become endowed with immense depth and importance, leading to great 'realisations'.
So, I'd arrive back in London, fat on darshan. If I was with a bunch of premies, and started telling a 'darshan story' the room would become silent, all concentration would be on the cosmic tale of my latest encounter with the living Lord. A darshan story, if carried carefully between two friends, may even retain a faint, ghostlike, afterlife:
I taught Wadi, Hansi, and later Daya, and for a while their cousin Navi, when they were in Europe for about two and a half years. Amar was born and they spent less time in England and more time in America. Amar was born on Christmas day. Premies all over the world were called on the phone tree (the divine pyramid's communication system) and told that Maharaji wanted everyone to meditate while Marilyn was in labour. We had two children to look after. I had to disobey agya, watch a James Bond movie, eat chocolate and drink disgusting alcohol-free lager instead. Then about 3 hours later we got a call telling us Amar was born.
I visited America a few times to attend festivals and would usually get invited to the residence. There was a classroom in the house in Miami, and an American teacher, who I became friends with. I sat in on a few lessons. When I was teaching, I was on 'Maharaji's Personal Staff'. We sat in the best seats in the hall, in front of the initiators (previously 'mahatmas', later 'instructors'). Of course, we were all equal in the eyes of the Lord, so it didn't matter really.
If the programme went on all day, there was a private area for 'initiators'. Residence Staff were also allowed in. There were usually loads of nice vegetarian snacks and treats, laid out, fruit juice, mineral water, and a couple of premies to serve them all. The premies, of course were serving their Lord, not the initiators.
As the children spent more time in Miami, and shorter periods at Reigate, it made more sense for them to stick with their American teacher. Two years after I started teaching, if they came to Reigate for a week, it would take me that amount of time to find out what progress they'd made since I'd last seen them, then they'd be off. Although I stopped teaching at Reigate, I was often invited down to the residence when the family were around. The same thing sometimes happened if I went to America.
The last time I went to a programme in America was December 1996 at Longbeach. The day after the programme, I was invited to Maharaji's birthday party at Malibu. Earlier this year (1998), Daya invited me to her birthday party at Reigate. Although I've seen less of the children as the years have gone by, I have good memories of the time I spent with them, and get on well with them when I see them.
They've grown up in a very unusual environment. Lots of premies react to them, the way some people react when they see a movie star in the street. The children have had premies behaving strangely around them all their lives and seem to have survived remarkably well under the circumstances.
My career as a 'divine teacher' over, life went on in the community. The eighties was the period of yet more change. Divine Light Mission became Elan Vital. The ashrams were closed. People who had given up their possessions to live a life of poverty, chastity, obedience, vegetarianism, meditation, satsang, service, and being covered from neck to ankle (if I remember the Ashram manual) were told to sod off and look after themselves. Many saw this as a 'temporary test' and continued the ashram lifestyle for a while, not revealing their knees until some years later.
The Krishna crown was put away. We stopped singing Arti. Maharaji changed his title to Maharaji. 'Satsang' took place every evening, in premies homes. We continued going to festivals and doing service.
I was convinced that things were improving. There was a new climate and faith is a powerful force. We admitted things had been crazy. But Maharaji was maturing and sorting things out. Hinduism and public Guru worshipping were things of the past. People would yet start queuing up for 'knowledge'.
In the late 80s, at a meeting in Birmingham, Maharaji told us he no longer wanted premies to talk about knowledge to people. They should be brought along to videos, or better, to see Him personally, where they would get their explanation from the horses mouth.
Premies should no longer practice the first meditation technique throughout the day, but only do it sitting down, formally. This surprised me. Since I'd received knowledge, it had been drummed into me to, 'Constantly meditate and remember the Holy Name.' This was, in fact, one of Maharaji's five holy commandments of the 1970s. Thinking, and the 'mind' were what took you away from the Truth. The first technique of meditation stopped thought, because that was the root of all our problems. If we weren't supposed to meditate in the day, but we weren't supposed to think either, what the hell were we supposed to do with our minds? Sleep perhaps. Sing? Whistle into the wind?
My mind stumbled back into the daylight, dozy, hung over and curious. I'd continue to attend meetings and started to challenge accepted 'premie dogma'. If we really wanted to get Maharaji's message through, we had to stop looking and acting like a religious cult.
Along came the nineties. Maharaji has stopped instructors showing 'Knowledge' to people and now does it himself, in large meetings, with instructors to help. I was invited to fewer meetings. As I professional writer, I was frequently asked to contribute to premie magazines and publications. My pieces were rejected. Nobody risks publishing anything without Maharaji's personal authorisation. A single copy of a journal or magazine is prepared and shown to him for comments and approval. My articles usually fell at the final hurdle. I knew the type of, 'amazing, incredible, beautiful, now it's really happening' stuff they wanted, but could no longer write it.
I stopped attending videos and meditated less. (Premies heed this cautionary tale, of how the 'mighty' fall, when they neglect the 'inner experience' and become attracted back to the 'mind'.) I stopped accepting the dogma and religion. I still had knowledge and my Master, what more did I need?
I noticed the constant, unrelenting drive for more funds. Maharaji wanted a private jet. Then he wanted a better one. Then he wanted a bigger one. The family had moved to Malibu and a new mansion was built. There was an insatiable need for finance. I was invited to a 'fund raising conference' of specially selected premies, at a hotel at Slough, a I think we were being asked to donate towards some alterations to the house in Reigate. Maharaji came along to lend his support to the event.
I continued to attend events where Maharaji appeared, but my feeling of unease was growing. He gave a slide show at Brighton which was embarrassing. It was as if he'd got the idea that, to give a presentation, all you needed was a few Powerpoint slides and a few graphs. As long as nobody listened too carefully it didn't matter what was on the graphs, and what was said. 'And here's a graph of how many kilos of different vegetables were eaten at the last programme in Delhi.'
I thought, 'He should stick to talking about Knowledge.' When I expressed my thoughts, most premies felt sorry for me. They'd sat there and experienced bliss. I'd sat there and suffered my mind. I was the one who was missing out.
It was like the children's story, 'The Emperor's New Clothes.' Everybody was pretending. I came to the same conclusion about his poetry and music, 'Don't give up the day job Lord.' By the time the nineties had arrived, regular meetings for premies and the public, consisted of Maharaji or hearing him personally.
Premies and instructors were to keep their mouths shut. It was alright, however, for them to speak at private 'service' or 'fund raising' meetings. Instructors also met privately with 'aspirants' to 'prepare them for knowledge', but events for the public and premies, had become 'strictly video'.
I continued to see Maharaji when he was around, but went to fewer and fewer videos. After a break of a few months, in 1997, I went to a local 'video event' one Saturday evening. The next day I received a telephone call,
Although the public face of Maharaji's organisation has changed, no more darshan lines, Krishna crowns etc, at the centre it's still the same game going on. Premies in positions of authority, instructors, coordinators, residence staff, all treat Maharaji as their Lord and Master, which he is. Most premies believe this too. They get the chance to express it at 'premie only' events, by dancing in bliss while he sits on the stage, or sitting in bliss when he shows them graphs of lentil consumption.
A couple of years ago, my youngest son, a bright, broad minded 18 year old at the time, was down in Brighton for a party. He knew Maharaji was attending a premie programme. He was vaguely interested in receiving Knowledge and had attended a small 'aspirant event' with Maharaji the previous year. He decided to bring three of his mates along to the premie event. He told them, 'When you go in, if they ask if you've got' knowledge', say, 'Yes''.
They hated the videos and were horrified by the 'Maharaji worship'. When I asked him what he thought about it all, he lowered his voice, and said gently, so I wouldn't take it the wrong way, 'You know those old black and white films of Hitler.. and all those people in front of him. It sort of reminded me of that.'
I suppose his mind wasn't ready for such a high vibration. Without knowledge, he couldn't handle it. His ego reacted and rebelled against the proximity of the creator. As he was only eighteen, and knew little of 20th Century history, the association with the Nazis is of no significance.
For the past three or four years I'd been going to events wearing blinkers, only wanting to listen to what Maharaji had to say. I didn't like the videos, the elevator music, the rehashed 70's songs with all references to 'lotus feet' changed to 'sparkling personality'.
I didn't like the videos and slide shows, 'Not another bloody beautiful mountain stream, followed by quote from Maharaji, followed by a flower waving in the breeze, and another quote, then some waves, or a sunset or something.'
I hated the 'happy clappers', who burst into rapturous applause, every time Maharaji gives them a cue that could somehow point to his divinity. However, I wasn't there for all that stuff. I just wanted, very simply, to be with my Master and hear what he had to say, so I ignored it.
When I was about 15, sat in a chemistry lesson and learned about coagulation. A beaker of clear liquid, containing some dissolved solid, like chalk, had another clear liquid, maybe acid, dripped into it. For a while, nothing seemed to happen. Then, one more 'drip' and the contents became white. The chalk had finally been coaxed out into the open. It had coagulated.
At the programme in Wembley, earlier this year (1998) I coagulated. It took three more drops.
After the first day of the programme, I went to dinner with a couple of friends from America, who had come over for the programme. During the meal, we were joined by some premies I didn't know. They all appeared to be regular visitors to the residence. We were having a pleasant conversation. They were bright, intelligent people.
Then one of them mentioned 'the Logo'. Maharaji had just finished designing a new logo. It had become a an item of great interest in Malibu. I think Maharaji mentioned it in the hall, that evening.
I thought, 'Are they talking about that cartoon swan I saw earlier?'
And on it went, talking about 'the Logo' as if it was a new cure for cancer. Why did these intelligent people suddenly sound like idiots? I felt uncomfortable.
On the Saturday afternoon after Maharaji finished speaking, I left the hall, not wanting to watch another sugary video. I walked across a large empty space, reached the door and looked out through the window.
It was raining incredibly heavily, more buckets than drops. If you went out you'd be soaked in seconds. A few yards away, looking out another window, was a young mother, with a pushchair containing a baby, who can't have been more than three months old. The three of us were inhabiting about 500 square metres of space, in the corner of Wembley Arena foyer. Everyone else was in the Arena, watching the video.
We were spotted by a premie 'usher' doing his service. He walked up to the young mother and said,
There was no canopy or shelter of any kind out there, just God and ten million hose pipes. I walked over to them.
My mouth opened, and from deep within (the rough housing estate where I grew up) poured a torrent of abusive insults, peppered liberally with the worst kind of swear words.
What a saint. He hung in there, strapped onto the holy name, dealing with this 'bongo' who was trying to stop him serving his Master. He opened his mouth, and from deep within his premie soul came the words,
I had two options. I could smack him in the mouth, freak everybody out, and be dragged, kicking and screaming from the hall. 'There goes another bongo premie. Hey, didn't he used to teach Maharaji's children?' 'Yeah. Put on a bit of weight hasn't he? It's taking six security guys to carry him out.'
The other option was to turn round and walk away. Which I did.
The programme finished around lunchtime on Sunday. The band were rocking. Maharaji was sitting on the stage. It was nearly time to go. Most of the premies were up dancing a dance where you never take your eyes of the person on the stage. I was sitting on a seat near the back, to the side.
An old friend appeared. He'd just arrived and had missed Maharaji's talk. He sat next to me in the bleachers, and told me what a nightmare he'd had getting to the hall. A sister, dancing in bliss to the music, three rows in front, swung around. My friend and I, sitting talking amidst a sea of dancing devotees, caught her eye. She climbed back over the empty rows, leaned forwards so I could hear her over the music, and said,
We exchanged a little light hearted banter, which ended, 'You've got a serious problem brother.' 'Yes. It's you. Piss off.'
When I talked about these incidents to premies, they all had the same reaction, 'It's the stupid premies. It's nothing to do with Maharaji or Knowledge.' But I smelled a rat. I got the feeling that there was one simple fact that would explain everything.
I asked some questions.
Things started to unravel. A weight lifted from my shoulders. It was time to rejoin the human race.
And how I feel about it all now? What about Maharaji and his family, and all those 'wasted' years?
I don't have any regrets. I wanted a guru, and I got one. I wanted to live in a monastery, and I did. Okay, so I ended up sleeping under a table in a garden in West Norwood. I would have preferred 12th Century palace in the Himalayas, but what the hell, this is the 20th Century. Times have changed. At least we had central heating. I enjoyed my time at Unity School. Working with dedicated, idealistic young people in London, then Cornwall, was a fulfilling and rich experience. It's better to try and fail, than just sit around talking about it. I enjoyed my time teaching Maharaji and Marilyn's children too. I've always liked Marilyn and the children, and I my feelings haven't changed.
Many of the best people I've met have been premies. Many still are.
And what about my ruined career? I could have knuckled under, got promoted, become a headmaster, played in a blues band at the weekends and had my soul ground down by the system. Instead I joined a cult and saw the world. I have no regrets.
And what about Maharaji? He was a mystery to me when I was a premie and he's a mystery to me now. He used to be a divine mystery, but now he's a human mystery. Is he simply conning everybody and raking in the cash? I don't think so.
Maharaji was not born into a 'normal home'. His dad, Shri Maharaj Ji was not a normal dad. He was the 'Perfect Master' of his time. Everybody worshipped him.
A book, 'Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj', published by Divine Light Mission, in 1970, tells us,
Like the rest of us, Maharaji is a product of his environment. Maharaji was six years old, when his father died. It must have been a terrible time for all the children. And who knows what went on in the few days between the death of Shri Maharaj Ji and the time six year old little Sant Ji, was stuck up on the stage, crowned Perfect Master, and told he had to continue his father's mission?
People have worshipped him ever since. Who knows the effect this has on somebody's personality? If, for example, you are worshipped and given everything you ask for, from the age of six, is it surprising that thirty odd years later you want private jets and houses the size of hotels. If the Lord wants something, you get it for him.
Maharaji never stood a chance.
Day after day, year after year, premies tell him, 'Thank you for this incredible Knowledge Lord. It is everything. Without it I was lost... and so on.' Why should he doubt all this sincere response? It's all he ever hears.
He was born into the 'Lord in human form' game and has never been allowed to get out of it. It echoes a scene in 'Life of Brian', by Monty Python, where Brian is chased into a pit by his devotees.
Maharaji is as much a cult victim as everybody else.
And the bottom line?
He really is the Lord walking around on Earth in a human body, just like the rest of us.
No More Mr Nice Guy
When I posted my story, I thought I'd left the cult, but two and a half years later my ideas and understanding are still changing. I've found out more about Mr Rawat's shenanigans when he's not sitting on the stage playing Perfect Master. I've discovered how the cult and its leader has protected, and supported a paedophile, Mahatma Jagdeo, for years. I've experienced first hand, the different tactics the cult have used to stop information about Jagdeo becoming public. I've also had lively discussions on the forum, which have shaken a few skeletons out of my cupboards.
The first "Journey" was easier to write. It was a series of chronological events. There are several themes woven through the second part of my story that I've separated to make it easier to tell my tale.
So, here's why I changed from a tolerant, peace-loving, ex-premie, to a raving, angry, anti-cult, activist.
In Summer 1998, I sat at my desk in a soulless office block in West London, hypnotised by the screen. My heart beat fast. There was a tiny tremble in my fingers. I had discovered Ex-Premie.org. The effect was dramatic. Within a couple of weeks of reading the site, I was ready quit the cult.. Information poured into my head like a rainstorm on a parched desert.
I read all the "Journeys" on EPO (Ex-Premie.Org) and decided to write my own. It flooded out. Every night after work, all I wanted to do was switch on the computer and clatter the keys. I finished after a week and sent my story to Brian, who tidied up the reformatting errors, changed £s to $s, and posted it on EPO. After 25 years in the cult, my life as an Ex-premie had begun.
Posting my story had consequences I never imagined. I receive emails from all around the world, saying things like, "A friend from work took me along to a video, and I was starting to get curious about what it was all about. Then I read your story and it answered all my questions. Thank you very much. You may have saved me from joining a religious cult."
Friends, Acquaintances and Latvians
One of the most disappointing effects of leaving the cult, has been to find old friends have broken contact- or are, "unable to visit our home", presumably it would be a disastrous cult career move. (Or maybe it's because I emit such a low vibration nowadays, they're worried I may suck the very soul from their being, and draw them into the darkness and suffering in which I now wallow). I live in the hope that one-day they'll come and join us, back in an imperfect world, full of imperfect people.
Although I seem to have lost a few friends, I've made some new ones. One of the most enjoyable consequences of communicating with people on the Ex-Premie forum, has to meet them in person. I've made good friends, and had some great times, with lots of people
The first time I met anybody was in the Latvian Club, in London, where John (JHB) was once the manager. Charlie, Hamzen, Jethro, John and myself showed up. We learned to play Latvian pool, and around midnight, the barmaid gave us the keys and went home. The main business of the evening was sampling the different Latvian beers. I was awarded a cult T-shirt and John proudly displayed the two financial statements, linking Divine Light Mission with Elan Vital. Latvian nights became irregular events at the club, until it closed down earlier this year.
The Latvian Club was to be a centre for bizarre co-coincidences. About 3 oclock one morning, there was a knock on the door and an American lawyer walked in who knew Marianne, also an American lawyer. About a year ago, a friend was in prison in Burma, for taking part in a pro-democracy demonstration. She was making the national news in the UK. We had a Latvian night around this time, and who should show up in the club, but the Crown Prince of Burma. John asked me what I'd tell the prince about my friend, if I had the chance. He then walked over to the Prince and passed on my message. (I didn't know who he was at the time.) A few weeks later, after my friend was back in the UK, the prince told John he's helped get her out of jail.
In February, we had another Latvian night in London. This time about 25 people showed up. In a couple of years, we'll be able to fill Wembley Conference Centre. Well have two unpaid ushers per person, sell smart cards, and throw a couple of newborn babies out into the rain.
When Dot and I were at Unity School, in Cornwall, in the early 70s, we made friends with a family who had moved over to the UK from Spain, to be part of the school. After the school fell apart, in summer 75, the family stayed on in the area, Dot and I returned to London and Dot produced a couple of babies.
Many years later, I saw the father of the family again in London. He told me that Mahatma Jagdeo had sexually assaulted his eldest daughter. She was 8 years old at the time. Years later, when I read her account of what happened, it made me cry.
When her father told me, my reaction was different. It was as if I'd been given a very unpleasant, but completely useless, piece of information. I was angry. But the incident happened about twenty years ago. What was I supposed to do about it? Her father had reported it to Mahatma Gurucharanand, but nothing had been done. It was like I'd stepped on a piece of old bubblegum. Suddenly it was stuck to my shoe. I could ignore it most of the time, but it wouldn't go away. There was never a convenient time to tell anyone. There was never anyone to tell. It had happened 20 years ago. The turd under the settee had become covered in thick dust. Why disturb it now? Let's pretend it's not there and hope nobody looks too close.
Then, when I was battering the keys each night, writing my history as a cult zombie, I saw the opportunity to use the information. I included it in my story. I felt a mild relief. I had scraped the chewing gum from my sole. I didn't even give the matter a sentence to itself. Little did I realise what the repercussions would be.
The eight year old girl was now a University lecturer in Australia, and she had put her email address on one of the Ex-premie websites. I sent her a copy of my story and we began corresponding.
She was still burning for justice. She'd been carrying her anger and pain since she was eight years old, and nobody had even acknowledged that anything was wrong. The message had been consistent, "Nobody cares enough about Jagdeo to do anything about it."
I decided to give her my full support . It took about a thirtieth of a second.
The mention of Jagdeo's pedophilia prompted other responses. I received a letter from my friend Glen Whittaker, who has spent most of his adult life running the cult in the UK. It was a personal letter. He told me that he knew Mahatma Jagdeo well and Jagdeo was one of the oldest Mahatma's in the cult who had know Maharaji since he'd been a little boy. There was no way he would have done anything like what I'd suggested. Children liked him. Maybe he'd been telling a group of children a story, one of them had sat on his knee, Mahatama-ji's hand had rested on the child's knee for a moment, and it had been misinterpreted.
Another old friend from the cult establishment went out for a drink with me a few days later. He confronted me about the Jagdeo allegation, asking me how I could make accusations like that without any evidence. I remember sitting by the Thames with him, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, getting irritated by his insistence that Jagdeo could do no wrong. I ended up yelling, "The guy's a fucking paedophile. Don't ever let him near your six-year old daughter."
I received an email from another of Jagdeo's victims. He had assaulted her in the USA. Her friend had also been assaulted. She had reported it to two instructors, asking them to tell Maharaji. One of them reported back to her that Maharaji already knew about it. Nothing was done. Jagdeo continued touring, getting VIP treatment all round the world from cult members. She, like the other victim, was extremely angry and still wanted to do something about it.
The momentum to get justice for Jagdeo's victims was gathering
I received a letter from Glen, on cult notepaper, saying, if I suggested the cult or its leader were in any way aware, or condoned, any crime that may have been committed by Jagdeo, they would go to their lawyers. I published the letter on the Forum, along with my suggestion that indeed, the cult and its leader may have been well aware that Jagdeo was using his position to sexually abuse children. I didn't hear from the lawyers.
The next time I went to Cornwall, I walked into Torpoint Police Station and asked the Sergeant behind the desk if the Police were interested in investigating a crime that happened within their jurisdiction over twenty years ago.
He said, "What was the crime?"
I replied, "Child Abuse."
"Go and sit in that room, I'll fetch the Inspector."
In summer 1999 the Sunday Express, a newspaper in the UK with a circulation of a few million, picked up on the Jagdeo story. I think they wanted to do a piece along the lines of, "Internet Uncovers Cult Paedophile." The paper phoned and asked if I'd co-operate. I agreed. They then asked me to get in touch with the victims and see if they'd be willing to be interviewed.. They were more than willing.
The paper contacted the cult and they went into a panic. They sent a letter to the Express, saying they'd take legal action if the paper suggested Elan Vital was connected to Divine Light Mission. Any crimes committed by DLM officials were nothing to do with Elan Vital.
This letter precipitated one of my magical moments on the Internet. It was 5 o'clock on a sticky, Saturday afternoon in August. I was in a cabin on the cliffs in Cornwall, miles from civilisation. The phone rang. It was the reporter from the Express. The cult were trying to prevent the paper from publishing the story. They were threatening legal action if there was a suggestion that DLM had anything to do with Elan Vital. I posted this information on the Forum.
Five minutes later, John (JHB) posted from London, saying he had a letter from Divine Light Mission asking him to change the number of the account his standing order donation was paid into. He had another letter, showing that the new account number belonged to Elan Vital.
Ten minutes later, Joe from San Francisco posted a link the State of California legal archive, showing the official name change from Divine Light Mission to Elan Vital. I emailed the information to the Express.
The story was delayed a week. The cult were fighting hard to stop it altogether.
During that week, one of the paper's directors appeared in the editors office, excited with the news, "I've got Cainer." They were referring to another old friend of mine, Britain's best know astrologer, and reputedly, best paid journalist, Jonathon Cainer. Jonathon and I worked on the editorial team of the cult magazine, "Connect." He was also part of the team that set up one of the first cult websites, Enjoyinglife.org.
In England, there's a Sunday Express, Sunday Mail, Daily Express and Daily Mail. The newspapers are fierce rivals. They both aim at the Conservative middle class. The Mail had been steadily luring readers away from the Express for several months. The paper's owners had hired a trendy editor, Rosie Boycott, who became famous at the Independent for starting their "Legalise Cannabis" campaign. The word around Barnes pond was that she'd been lured from the big liberal broadsheet to the tacky, Tory tabloid by a salary fatter than Jabba the Hud and some good weed. The rumour was that Jonathon would bring a hundred thousand or so loyal astrology fans from their main rival. He'd obviously seen where the future lay.
Of course there was the matter of Jonathan's connection with a cult that that was involved in allegations of child abuse, and the fact that the paper was, coincidentally, about to run a story on the aforementioned cult. Jonathon resigned his cult positions, and membership, and ended up working for the Express, who dropped the Jagdeo story. Naturally, he couldn't be associated with an organisation that was the target of such serious allegations.
When I asked the reporter why the story had been spiked, he said, "For commercial reasons."
I asked him if these "commercial reasons" were the readers Jonathon Cainer was expected to bring from the Express. He wasn't at liberty to comment.
The Jagdeo campaign has its own momentum now. The cult has stopped denying he is a paedophile. They removed their initial response to the accusations from their website. They have conducted a recent enquiry into his activities, but refuse to release the results, or even admit there was an enquiry.
Earlier this year I was contacted by someone who I've known for many years, who has had many official positions in the cult. I was told that Jagdeo's sexual abuse of children had been discussed, by small groups of people, at cult conferences for several years. Eventually the solution to his child abuse was to limit his touring to the Indian communities in the Far East.
Somebody who had been at Unity School in Denver also contacted me. They told me that reading some of the stuff about Jagdeo had reminded her that he used to have sessions with some of the schoolchildren there in darkened rooms. This was now worrying her, and she'd decided to investigate further.
More recently, someone told me they had witnessed very disturbing scenes in an ashram in India, where a young girl was crying, pleading not to be forced to go to Jagdeo's room again.
The Jagdeo business, more than anything else, has hardened my attitude against the cult and its leader.
Just when you think you finally understand the Master of our age, he surprises you with another face of his divine being.
I've seen Maharaji on the stage, wearing his papiermache Krishna crown, emblazoned with glass jewels. I've heard him reciting his embarrassingly bad poetry to audiences who would have wept and grinned if he'd been reading the label from a box of pile ointment. I've seen him stand before a graph, pointing to the big column and saying, "They ate so much dahl, I had to shorten this column or it would have gone off the top of the slide. (CLICK) And here's a pie chart of everybody's favorite musician. That big green slice is Peter Frampton."
But I have never seen his favorite incarnation- "Captain Rawat".
He wears a pilot's suit, with golden spaghetti on the hat. He flies a private jet. The staff who travel with him are all instructed to refer to him only as "Captain Rawat". His life as Lord of the Universe in person is a big secret. Calling him, "Maharaji", or "Teacher", or "Balyogeshwar Param Hans Shri Guru Maharaji dot com," is a crime punishable by banishment from the Divine Kingdom.
When Michael Dettmers began posting on the forum, our understanding of Captain Rawat increased remarkably.
The Captain isn't as holy and perfect as we'd been led to believe. There are eye-witness accounts of his excessive drinking, abusive drunken behavior, sexual abuse of his female followers, leaving the scene of a road accident after a cyclist had been killed by a car he was driving, and getting one of his followers to take the blame. These all paint a picture of an unhappy, greedy, screwed up, abusive person with few redeeming qualities.
When I left the cult, Captain Rawat was still a mystery. I'd been conditioned for so many years to worship and adore him. It's taken a while for the picture to fade, and find out what kind of person he really is. It's ironic, that I followed him for twenty five years, but didn't find out what kind of person he really is until I quit. When you're a premie he can do no wrong. Any perception of fault is a reflection of the observers own imperfection. In Cultworld, the Captain and the Creator are the same thing.
After I'd posted my "Journey", I began posting on the Ex-Premie Forum, under the handle AJW. I enjoy the forum. Some witty and intelligent people post there. It's entertaining to watch premies dodge difficult questions, like the bull-runners in Pampolona. The forum is also a great platform for people who have become disillusioned with the cult.
Within a few obvious guidelines, people are free to express their feelings, enter into discussion, publish information, and, therapeutically, take the piss. Occasionally, however, an internal feud flares up, usually in Cowboy land over the Atlantic, where they all come out shooting. When I began reading the forum, in 1998, these shootouts consumed lots of time and energy, and often involved the Forum Webmaster. It was the Wild West of cyberspace.
In Summer 1999, during a particularly nasty gunfight, the Webmaster had been fatally wounded. His last act was to throw his Sheriff Star to Marianne. She sent me a hasty email from the Saloon.. She was Webmistress. She didn't want to do it. Did I? Being British, I was instantly attracted by the job title. I asked if there was a uniform? She wrote back saying, "You can do it dressed as Princess Anne and sit in a tub of custard if you like. Here are the passwords. You are the Forum Webmistress." I rushed out and bought a tiara.
I did the job for over a year. My achievements were small and few. I did the job anonymously. I changed the title from Webmaster to Forum Administrator. I got other people to help. We developed a shift system, so the role wasn't associated with a particular individual all the time. It was reassuring to see that all the people administering the forum pretty much agreed on what should be removed and who should be blocked.
There were a few difficult periods when all the assistants went offline, around summer 2000. I made it my duty to check the forum at least once a day. This involved travelling around Paris on the metro looking for an Internet café that wasn't full, and stumbling red-eyed across the road from the Baakerei to the Laser Game Centre in Eindhoven, to log on, drink black coffee and cleanse the forum of nutcases.
It was tough in the Cult-cyber wars, but I made it through without getting Repetitive Strain Injury.
I've spent lots of time in my life doing lots of stupid things. Most of them were for money, to support my family. However, when I've had free time and energy, I've often donated it to movements, causes, or forces that I wanted to help and support. I sometimes go on political demonstrations. We donate regularly to Greenpeace and Amnesty International. I helped organise a rock concert for famine aid a few years ago. But by far the cause that has taken the bulk of my freely donated time and energy over the past 25 years, has been the stuff I've done for Captain Rawat and his cult.
When I first quit, I felt OK about this. I'd had lots of positive experiences and made some good friends. I now feel differently. I resent all that time, money and energy I wasted keeping someone who turned out to be a confused, abusive human being, living in outrageous luxury.
At first it is impossible even to imagine that you are in a cult. Sure, Moonies, Scientologists, Children of God, Krishna chanters are in cults, but Premies have a true Master, and practice the True Knowledge. The others only have beliefs. Premies have a direct experience, which of course, is beyond belief.
"Knowledge" is another name for the divine consciousness within you, which you experience through the grace of Captain Rawat. There's no doubt. This is the "Knowledge of the Soul." Of course, if you don't quite experience infinite glory when you meditate, it's your own fault. You're too impure for the Grace to land. But it will keep circling until you clean up your act. It never seems to run out of petrol. Maybe it's a glider, and that's why we can't hear the engine. And maybe the clouds will clear one day and we'll be able to see it. Meanwhile, shut up and keep sending the money.
"Meditation, Yoga, Reality, Harmony, Peace", surely all this is good, worthwhile stuff. So how can you be in a cult? You are watering your soul. You've become a natural, cool, modern yogi with a modern master. How could you be brainwashed? That was the "company of truth", not brainwashing.
But you are in a cult, and there's a cupboard you're afraid to open. It contains nothing more than a different perspective, but as a cult member, this view is one you are forbidden to even consider. You dare not try it on, because if it fits, you may never take it off again. For the simple truth is, "You have a better quality of life outside a cult, than in one." And once you realise this you leave.
At some point, like a germinating seed searching out the light, you find information about the cult and its activities from outside. Normally you would discount this sort of thing without a second thought, but maybe the information comes from people who spent plenty of time around the Captain. Maybe you know and trust them. You soak it all up. The house shakes and cupboards fly open. You are initially in turmoil, as you begin to change one of your core understandings about what life is all about. It's the part of the story where you escape from prison. But getting a handle on it all takes time. You can't dump 25 years worth of stupid beliefs like an old suit, and replace them with a new outfit. I needed time, discussion, and information to sort everything out, and allow the natural process of unraveling to take place.
Mr Nice Guy
I think Mr Nice Guy is a product of the Love and Peace culture of the 60s. He found fertile ground to develop his persona in the Captain's cult. He wants to be nice to everybody in the world, all the time. Anything less is failure on one level or another. Theoretically, if I devoted my time and energy to worshiping the Captain, and practising and believing in his yoga techniques, then my effort would bear fruit. I'd become like one of those enlightened monks in a Kung-Fu movie. My aura of peace and wisdom would affect those around me, and I'd be well on my way to sainthood, surely a worthy vocation. The way to progress in a spiritual career is to be holier, more peaceful, wise and God realised than the next devotee. Anger is extremely uncool, unless displayed by a person in lower consciousness in a frustrated response to a disarming insight from an in the flow dude such as myself.
Oh how the mighty fall
Feeling my personality return has been an immense joy, even if it has blown my chances of stepping off the eternal cycle of birth and death, beyond the bonds of karma, and signing up for eternal liberation, or a go at being a Buddha on Earth. I think I'll go for the beer, football and sandwiches instead.
Somebody once posted the different stages you go through when you leave a cult. Understanding the theory doesn't make any difference when you're going through it. I'm at the "angry" stage right now. And I have a worthwhile use for the emotion. I've shed my threadbare, faded, rainbow monks habit, and put on a leather studded jacket. I've got an appointment to get 666 tattooed across my forehead. It's time Captain Rawat and his cult answered for the crap they've dumped in our lives.