|Journeys: Nik Wright|
|Date: July 8, 2010|
|I first wrote an entry to this Journeys page in 2002, inevitably I included details of my life 'then', which have since changed and while it was those changes that prompted me to commence a rewrite, the passing of time has changed what I want to say, both about Rawat and the cultism that has supported him for the last forty years. I've left in the basic 'story' of my involvement, however I'm no longer so certain about the idea of a 'journey' at the personal level, although I think the cultural and social changes that affect the lenses by which we view cults and their leaders, do represent a movement from A to B. My interests now have more to do with what A and B might be, than about what I felt when I was at A or what shape I was in when I got to B, but for what it's worth here's that linear story, with a final A to B paragraph :
In 1972, I was 16, isolated in an English back of beyond village, trying to find a way into the exciting world of late period UK counter culture. Friends of friends were premies, they lived in London, I stayed with them, I met other premies, and after two weeks of satsang, got Knowledge. And that was it, meditation was an on tap intoxicant with no down time or (that I was willing to admit to) hangovers; I was out of my rural prison and the whole DLM trip stressed non materialism, non emotional involvement, non participation in the world, I had the perfect excuse to settle into my personal spiritual bunker.
Most of the premies I was around at that time were also escapees or survivors of one kind or another, people getting off heroine or dealing with the consequences of relationship breakdown, or academic failure. DLM gave a lot of us direction, something outside of ourselves to concentrate on. For a year or so I inhabited the outer reaches of the London premie scene, squalid shared houses, bum jobs or the dole and with satsang the only social highlight. I did stray outside those circles for a time but following a couple of uncomfortable 'relationship' experiences and I was desperate to go into an Ashram, so following a two minute end of satsang interview at the Palace of Peace (converted semi derelict cinema in Dulwich), was duly consigned to a renunciate life by a guy in an ill fitting suit.
As much as I disliked living in close proximity to other people I relished the Spartan life and my experiences with meditation were intense, I really did believe that it was an experience that all humans should share - so propagation was something to which I was committed. Ashram life was to a large extent what I wanted and any unhappiness that I had could be put down to the vanity of ego. I was far enough away from London to be outside of the 'super premie' circuit and we lived a rather quiet and happy life from which I began to look, if a little cautiously, outside of my psychological bunker. Of course should anything too stressful be encountered - someone getting a little too close for instance, I could just slip into the security blanket of meditation.
I had been in the Ashram for just on a year when the 1974 Copenhagen event was held, like India in '72 this was chaotic - and wet and muddy. By that time my lila tolerance (lila - meaning divine game, was used as an endless excuse for Rawat's incompetence and for general failure in the DLM) was significantly diminished and I didn't understand why everything around DLM had to be so crap; the failure of propagation was something that had really started to bother me. After Copenhagen there seemed to be a complete loss of direction within DLM, and in a rather unremarkable fashion I left the Ashram to live on my own. Despite this change, the ideal of the 'renunciate premie' was to shape my approach to the world for many years and I settled into a somewhat morbid spirituality, secure in the knowledge (sic) that I had received the techniques to realise all that there is, supported by the soft anaesthetic of meditation whenever life provided some challenge.
By the time I encountered ex-premie.org in 2000, a series of tough but very ordinary human experiences in the previous few years had given me a perspective that was both reflective and sceptical, and it was almost effortless, and ultimately a relief, to throw off the weight of the Rawat belief system. I've come to regard intense meditation as a predominantly debilitating practice, though I don't doubt some people find it to be genuinely beneficial. Rawat's contention that his 'Knowledge' confers 'peace' is however mere marketing schmooze. For all the mysticism, mystique and secrecy, the only actual effect of the Rawat prescription (Techniques 1-4) comes from changes in breathing habit, resulting in either anoxia or hyperventilation, certainly either of these can produce feelings of mild euphoria but what Rawat claims about 'Knowledge' is nothing but snakeoil spiritwash.
Rawat must not be excused for his continued exploitation of others, but I believe that the theft of Rawat's childhood which came about from his being made into a performing goon that was the 'child Satguru', explains much about the character of Rawat the man. My wish for Rawat is that he will eventually find release from his need for adulation and luxury and I'm sure his redemption as a human being lies in a life of contemplation and simple sufficiency.
As to the A(then) and the B (now). I regard the early joiners of Divine Light Mission as cultural pioneers. The terrain we sought to explore may have been unimpressive, but it was still difficult to navigate and losing one's way may well have been inevitable. Now at least we can help map that 'peculiar land' by writing about it and so make it partially familiar to those who are tempted to journey there. The world however has moved on, scientific and cultural debates that were once the preserve of intellectual elites are now widely available in print and in new media, and scepticism is now far more acceptable as a moral and philosophical position than it was forty years ago. Cultism is no longer challenged merely on the basis that it is 'heretical' to established religion, now it is criticised from a vast array of perspectives, and in language that is more than just dismissive of odd beliefs and practices. Cultism like religion (IMO) springs from evolutionary developments in human psychology and for me the defining question is whether in an advanced society cultism provides benefit or harm. I think that cultism must always offer more harm than good and that its occurrence should always be challenged. For those cultural pioneers who were the early western premies, our greatest failure was in not challenging the cultism that we helped foster. But at least modern developed societies now offer many opportunities for us to speak out, however belatedly.
Nik Wright July 2010.