Article - July 1974
Arriving at the building's entrance, Halley found some of his cohorts already gathered outside, hoisting placards that demanded that the guru prove his divinity in a variety of creative ways: "No More Premature Orgasms!" "Free the Devil and All Political Prisoners!" "Make Mountains in Michigan!" and "No Pie in the Sky-We Want Pie Now!" Halley chuckled as he read this last sign, and strode purposefully to the elevator that would transport him to the thirteenth-floor council chambers. As he started his ascent, he checked the parcel he was holding one last time. A garland of neatly arranged though slightly wilting flowers he had scored the night before from a funeral parlor (appropriately, he would think later) rested on a pizza box, the bottom of which was cut out. Inside on a paper platter lay a snow-white gob of Gillette Foamy shaving cream, the kind of pie Soupy Sales would receive daily in his face on a local TV show when Halley was a kid and the guru was but a gleam in his father's accountant's eye.
Entering the semicircular auditorium, Halley saw that it was virtually packed with fastidiously attired members of the guru's Divine Light Mission (premies, as they call themselves), busily chatting away. Many had flowers of their own; all displayed wide-eyed grins as they fiddled with their ties or smoothed their granny dresses for the umpteenth time, eager that when their god finally appeared he would see a meticulous flock Halley walked to the front, near the private elevator through which the guru would shortly emerge, and smiled vacantly in an attempt to blend in. I can be just as blissful as they are, he thought, and he struck up a conversation with a couple of premies "OOH, I just can't wait, this is the first time I've ever seen him," cooed one. "There's so much energy here I can't stand it," clucked another. "Yeah, it's gonna be far out," offered Halley, glancing around to the upper tier of the chamber where a gaggle of his buddies had strategically grouped. Wow he thought, I might not be able to do this, I might feel like a real creep. These people are so happy maybe this guy has something. Maybe when he comes in he'll be so friendly and high-energy that I'll feel like a real asshole. Maybe....
Suddenly the door opened and a piercing yelp arose and Halley knew it was now or never. As he darted toward the rotund figure in a gray-checked Brooks Brothers suit and with a face like a half-baked hamburger bun, Halley knew-just knew-in the full flush of the adrenaline pumping through his arteries that he could do it. The guru looked at him askance, the disdainful glare from his bepuckered eyesockets commanding him to sit down and wait for the proper time, you stupid premie.... Halley stopped an arm's length away with a triumphant grin, and like an exhibitionist opening his trenchcoat he flipped off the flowers and SPLOTT!! whipped around, gave a violent jerk away from the horrified lurchings of one of the bodyguards and was halfway to freedom before most of the assemblage knew what had happened. Then shocked devotee tripped over shocked devotee in an attempt to ensnare the fleeing apostate, but like the precision clockwork of a well-timed defensive football maneuver, Halley's friends threw several crucial cross-body blocks, and he made it into the hallway. Halley flew double-step down thirteen flights, breathlessly pausing on the fourth floor for a ren charge in case he had to fight his way through the lobby. But when he reached the a ground floor, the normal, everyday civil-service clerks and parking-ticket-paying citizens were the only humans to greet him. Faaarrr-OUT! I made it! I threw a pie in God's face! thought Halley. He dashed across the street, laughing hysterically, and into the crowd of downtown shoppers, several of whom frowned suspiciously. But in a city with the highest yearly homicide rate in the world, the appearance of a goofy hippie is nothing to get too excited about.
Back at the Fifth Estate offices, an elated Halley recounted his exploits to the score of newsmen and well-wishers who swarmed in. A photographer friend who'd been alerted had captured the historic moment on film and sold it to the Associated Press, who teletyped it across the continent. All the local TV stations had shown up for the divine hoopla, and the scene was recreated that night in millions of homes. Not since Jesus drove the money changers from the temple had religious guerrilla theater worked so well. That night Pat Halley celebrated with some Colombian reefer and a bottle of Boone's Farm fine apple wine.
The news of the Detroit incident was not long in reaching Boston. At the local ashram of the Divine Light Mission, a dismayed premie named Tina Sanderson showed a copy of the Boston Globe story to another premie named Juteswar Misra. Misra is no ordinary premie. He is in fact a mahatma, Fakiranand by name, one of the super-elite clan of several in the Western world empowered by Guru Maharaj Ji with dispensing his secretive meditation technique that premies call simply The Knowledge. It involves four ancient yogic methods from the Baghavad Gita, which when stripped of the sacrosanct hocus-pocus, entails pressing in the eyelids (Divine Light), fingering the outer canal of the ear (Divine Music), swallowing postnasal drip (Divine Nectar), and breathing deeply (Divine Word).
Mahatma Fakiranand is a very special mahatma, being one of the first premies elevated to that sacred state after the barely pubescent godhead (he's one day older than Donny Osmond) assumed the title of Perfect Master in 1969 upon the death of his father, the founder of the Divine Light Mission. Fakiranand is fondly referred to as Guru Maharaj Ji's "drunken puppy," because of his rather peculiar sense of devotion. The day after the Detroit incident Tina Sanderson was receiving The Knowledge from Fakiranand, and she was more than a little perturbed by his zeal. He made the twenty-odd premies-to-be clean their pockets of all their possessions, scooping the spare change into a paper bag which, along with many other paper bags he would collect from other Knowledge sessions, he would personally deliver to the feet of his master. Tina remembers being particularly disturbed by the fanatical display of adoration Fakiranand exhibited. "He made us bow twenty times to a picture of Guru Maharaj Ji, making us promise to renounce all other gurus and religious beliefs. There was a picture of Guru Maharaj Ji which had fallen to the floor. He got all agitated and scolded us for not rushing over to pick it up. Other premies later told me that he would berate them for even turning their backs on a picture of Maharaj Ji." Considering that in most ashrams the divine physiognomy is present on all walls, even Rose Mary Woods would have a hard time contorting her body in such a manner as to face all four sides simultaneously.
So the seriousness of the crime Pat Halley had committed was not lost upon Mahatma Fakiranand. Soliciting the help of Richard Fletcher, one of the corps of Divine Light Mission press agents, the two flew to Detroit and concocted a plan of revenge. Now Fletcher, too, is no ordinary premie. In the divine pecking order of reincarnated saints (every Divine Light Mission honcho is considered the living consciousness of either a Christian or Indian saint, depending on religious persuasion), he and his twin brother John are considered the reincarnation of St. Peter. "They have the most incredible experiences on meditation-they meditate four and five days nonstop, just twenty-four hours a day," says former political activist and premier premie Rennie Davis. "The whole house they're in just feels their vibration. Guru Maharaj Ji says they could really realize The Knowledge." No mere mortal has yet realized The Knowledge.
Landing in Detroit, the two went immediately to the local ashram, where they called the Fifth Estate office and asked for Halley. Fletcher, calling himself "Dave," first congratulated Halley on his "heroic act" and said that he was in town with a "Mr. Gamesh" who had been a follower of the guru's father for twenty years until he realized that the whole thing was a farce and had come to America to "expose" the guru as a fraud. Mr. Gamesh was anxious to reveal the secret Knowledge techniques, which were at the time still relatively unknown outside premie circles. And who better to byline such a scoop than the man who had just smeared the guru with shaving cream? Halley jumped at the bait. After several logistical mix-ups, the divine duo finally met up with Halley in an all-night Chinese restaurant down the street from the Fifth Estate offices. "They said the same things they had told me over the phone," Halley recalls. "They congratulated me and said what a great thing I had done, this guru was really evil, was really a bad person, and was really insincere. The Indian guy had an accent and he kept saying yes, yes, bad man, no good. They really conned me well."
August 7, 1973.
August 7, 1973.
But Halley was not especially worried. He'd had some karate training, and the two were slight of build. "I thought I could knock their heads together without too much problem," he says. "We went in my room and talked for about forty-five minutes. We kept talking about religion and culture and the fact that this guru was a fraud. They told me I was doing an important thing in exposing someone who was hustling in the name of the Lord." Finally Halley urged the two to get on with the revelation.
"Mr. Gamesh said, 'This is a big moment in my life-you can't believe how great a moment this is.' He said to wait a few more minutes-he seemed really nervous." Finally, the moment was at hand. "Mr. Gamesh said, 'How're you feeling-pretty good?' I said yeah. He said, 'Okay, and turned off the light so there was only candlelight in my room to illuminate it. Then he told me that it was just a few simple techniques, but that you had to experience them to understand them." (Premies constantly emphasize that facet of Knowledge -- you have to experience it to understand it, no words can convey the power. Knowledge, they say, is like a banana or apple or grapefruit-you have to taste it to know it, there's no way to explain it.)
Halley then sat in the middle of the room in a lotus position, as instructed, with "Dave" in front of him. Mr. Gamesh walked behind him and told him to close his eyes tight. "Now what?" asked an eager Halley. "Just sit there and I'll show you something," replied Mr. Gamesh, a/k/a Juteswar Misra, a/k/a Mahatma Fakiranand. "I sat there and I heard Mr. Gamesh rummaging around his coat someplace, and he pulled out some kind of metal object: I heard a chain dragging across metal. I thought, 'Oh wow, this is some kind of trick, this is some kind of electronic device the Divine Light Mission uses to make their followers hear things.' I thought, 'What a gas. They'll show me this thing and I'm going to see these lights and we would laugh and say see, that's all it is.' I had my eyes closed and suddenly I saw stars and started blacking out.
had just received the first of six hard smashes to the head
with what was probably a blackjack. The first blow, directly
on the top of his skull, was of such impact that it numbed
him and put him in a state of shock. "After the first blow
they started moving real fast," he remembers "l was so
buzzed out even at that point I thought, 'Now they're going
to bring me out of it and I'll be all right.' That's the
divine light, you know-you get hit in the head and see
stars. But then I thought, 'What a weird dude-you don't have
to hit me to show me.' I kept seeing these big red stars.
Then Gamesh started hitting me again, three, four, five, six
times. He kept hitting me all over the head. I couldn't
really feel it, but I could hear it like boom! smash! then I
heard the blood splattering on the walls, and I could hear
them breathing close and heavy. I finally realized what was
going on and I screamed with all my might. I started
fighting, too, and kicked one guy in the face. Then the
other guy started running." Both assailants ran down to
their parked car and fled. Halley staggered to his
neighbors' door, his whole head a bloody ball of torn flesh,
and was whisked to a hospital. The doctors who sutured his
wounds with fifty five stitches told Halley that had he
arrived ten minutes later he would himself be another
statistic in Murder City's record string of violent deaths,
perhaps to be reincarnated as a squashed ant. Besides the
several garish scars now etched permanently on Halley's
head, he will carry a plastic plate for the rest of his days
on the top of his
The divine assault occurred exactly one week after Halley's sacrilegious aerosol meringue smear. The next day Halley's Fifth Estate friends traced the license plate to the local ashram of the Divine Light Mission. The Mission's national headquarters in Denver issued a press release that admitted that the pair were, in fact, premies, and that they were being held in "protective custody" at the Chicago ashram, where they had fled after the assault. The press release promised a "full investigation" that would culminate in the culprits being "brought to justice." Whereupon a curious inertia overtook both the Detroit police and the Divine Light Mission. The police said the cost of extraditing the assailants from Chicago to Detroit overruled that possibility. Considering Halley's political persuasion, that was not too surprising. Nor were the two about to surrender themselves voluntarily despite the Divine Light Mission promise. Employing a technique that has been used very effectively by many politicians, the Mission refused to divulge any further information about the assailants in the hope that the incident would sort of . . . well, become inoperative. At the time neither Halley nor any media were able to ascertain the identities of the assailants or the role they played in the divine scheme of things. The names and ages were revealed-Juteswar Misra, fifty five, and Richard Fletcher, twenty-five-but no more. Inquiring reporters were assured that the two were simply low-level devotees, "fanatics" who were in no way connected with Guru Maharaj Ji's message of peace and love, who had been immediately and forever kicked out of the Divine Light Mission. No mention was made of the fact that Misra was a mahatma. (Halley later discovered that Misra's alias "Gamesh" is the name of a prominent member of the Indian Communist Party. Red-baiting is evidently the thing when East meets West.)
until I questioned Rennie Davis on the matter several months
later did any semblance of truth emerge. Davis admitted that
Misra was Mahatma Fakiranand, that Fletcher was St. Peter,
and that both were back in the guru's good graces. Fletcher
was in Denver and Fakiranand had not even been demoted from
mahatmadom. He was, in Davis's words, "shipped off to
Germany, where he's still giving Knowledge." When asked to
explain the incident, Davis giggled in the peculiar manner
common to most premies when in a state of divine bliss. "I
really feel Guru Maharaj Ji is doing everything," said
Davis. "He had the pie thrown in his face, and he had
Fakiranand do that -the whole thing is just one gigantic
lila that operates on so many levels. I saw it more
As "a test for the premies," the blood, ploy worked well indeed. Those premie who found out that Fakiranand was the culprit thought that Pat Halley was lucky to have had such a direct experience from such a holy man. "Think of how realized Pat will be once he finally receives Knowledge," a nineteen-year-old premie woman told me munching on an ice-cream cone. (A love of ice cream is the only vice premies will admit.) "If by slaughtering a whole block o people I could bring them to Knowledge l'd do it in an instant. I'd slit your throat right now if Guru Maharaj Ji told me to." I replied that I finally understood Knowledge in an accurate metaphorical context-it's like blood, you can't describe the sight of blood, you have to experience getting wasted with a blackjack to fathom it. She took another lick of her mocha mint and closed her eyes. "Well, it has to do with the karma of Detroit-what an awful place. Guru Maharaj Ji says the best thing that could happen to Detroit would be for an atom bomb to destroy it." The guru is obviously up on his Curtis LeMay.
If the Divine Light Mission's cover-up attempt seems slightly suggestive of a Watergate, the sense of awe-inspiring power Guru Maharaj Ji instills in his devotees suggests another historical parallel. Last summer a festival was held in London to celebrate Guru Maharaj Ji's arrival in Europe. Rennie Davis observed the calamitous effect it had on British reporters. "When he spoke to 20,000 people and the press came, I watched the changes that the individual reporters went through-they were just completely freaked out of their heads, saying, 'It's like Hitler, it reminds me of Hitler.' I mean, they saw this boy and they saw hands going up and the total WOW!-the total power. I mean, it's total power, I can't tell you what it's like. They realized that this kid had 20,000 people in the palms of his hands. And they would go out and ravage this town for him, or do anything he says. People who are in that whole England thing, they flash on Hitler."
journalists witnessed the same phenomenon last November when
the Divine Light Mission staged "Millennium 73," a sort of
God-in at the Houston Astrodome that Davis soberly billed as
"the most significant event in the history of the universe."
And while far fewer than 20,000 people attended, leaving the
other 99.99 percent of Americans doomed to eternal
perdition, the spectacle evoked an almost universal reaction
among the press-an image of the Nazi Nuremberg rallies.
Thousands of wild-eyed, weeping devotees raising their hands
in a double-fisted salute to their leader, shrieking the
premie battle cry that echoed eerily throughout the
cavernous grandstands, the moment of triumph for a cult of
total obedience. I myself found my morbid fascination with
this occult menagerie purged, exorcised, and finally
banished back into the realm of the living as I recrossed
Evidence of the American elect's identification with the Third Reich is ample. Last July's issue of the Mission's now-defunct slick magazine And It Is Divine, the scriptures according to Guru Maharaj Ji, displayed an eye-popping red-and-black swastika. The ensuing article explained its symbolism as "an expression of a deep pattern of some universal force, be it law, righteousness, or luck."
In the September issue, sandwiched around a glowing compliment to Rennie Davis, were two letters that further elaborated. The first, from premie Jay R. Krough of Minneapolis, concluded with the observation that "Hitler was very much aware of this century being the inception of the Golden Age of man. In complete fairness to the man, but still maintaining objectivity, it is my opinion that there is a very strong possibility that 'for a period' Hitler sincerely felt he was building a political foundation for the Golden Era. During the war, dreams were shattered. In the documented movie, Hitler: The Last 10 Days, he clearly expressed his early failure in the war but continued out of duty." The reference to the Golden Age is significant. Premies constantly refer to Guru Maharaj Ji as the "Golden Boy" who is here to usher in a "Golden Age of Peace." No doubt they believe it as "sincerely" as the Hitler Youth; and as the incident in Detroit proves, some are willing to use the same tactics.
The second letter, from Kendall M. Black of Wildwood, N.J., talked about the swastika in even more glowing terms: "It symbolizes the eternal motion of creation. Four arms point to the four quarters of the heavens, and the four elements (earth, water, fire and air). Most of its meaning is said to be hidden, however, because its riddle is reserved only for the highest initiation." Perhaps Larry Canada observed one such initiation at a gathering of Divine Light Mission leaders in their New Delhi ashram in January 1973. Canada, an old friend of Rennie Davis, is the premie responsible for snookering Davis into the guru's camp. After Davis had received The Knowledge, he, Canada, and most of the U.S. and Indian Divine Light Mission leadership were gathered in a meeting room awaiting the arrival of Bal Bhagwan Ji, the guru's twenty-two-year-old brother who many believe is the éminence grise behind the movement (the guru has three brothers altogether, as well as a holy mother, all of whom are "some aspect of divinity" according to Davis).
really freaked me out," says Canada, "when in strode Bal
Bhagwan Ji and sat down at the foot of the table on a huge
purple swastika draped over the chair." Canada has since
dropped out of the Divine Light Mission, and he sees it as
The physical manifestations of violence among premies have as their psychological underpinnings guilt, repression, and shame. Guilt that they can't be good enough to satisfy the Perfect Master; repression of any deviant thought, such as sexual urges, or any outward emotion that disturbs the eerie atmosphere of ashram life; and shame that they are such sinful mortals, such tools of the human mind. Premies consider the mind "the devil," the device that will prevent one from truly attaining satori. Only when the mind has surrendered its will and the soul has become the perfect slave to the Perfect Master can a premie have a chance of salvation. And that salvation makes them one of the truly privileged people on earth, something the guru constantly underscores. "Sometimes I realize it's possible that may-be The Knowledge is getting harder now to receive," says Rennie Davis, "and it's going to get harder and harder and harder to get, until people are going to be standing 10,000 in a line outside these ashrams weeping for Knowledge and there's not going to be any Knowledge to be had. Guru Maharaj Ji often indicates that you should come and receive this Knowledge now, while it's available. There've been many indications to suggest that the grinding and gnashing of teeth may be an element of this time."
Premies are fond of recounting Guru Maharaj Ji's favorite dream, in which there's a whole group of premies gathered under his dome and a bomb falls and everyone dies except premies, who emerge into a lush green world-utopia. And since he is God and God controls such things as an apocalypse, his dreams are not to be taken lightly. Yet he is not entirely without mercy, according to Davis: "God can decide whether to fulfil prophecies or not. And Guru Maharaj Ji says that the prophecies are that the whole world will be destroyed, but that they don't have to be fulfilled. You know, 'Cooperate with me and I won't have to fulfil those prophecies.'"
is not difficult to understand the violent symbolism of Guru
Maharaj Ji considering that the entire theosophical basis of
the Divine Light Mission is imbedded in it. In the Mission
pamphlet Satgurudev Shri Hans Ji Maharaj (the name of the
Guru's father, the founder of the Mission), published in
Delhi in late 1970, C.L. Tandon, the president of the
Mission in India, writes: "Shri Maharaj Ji . . . used to
emphasize one important aspect
Commenting on the Detroit incident, Rajan Chadha, another top Mission official in India, drew from that passage in his explanation. "There are no hard and fast rules to being holy. In India there have been gurus who have led their followers into full-scale wars. The Perfect Master does whatever the best thing is for that time and space. When you realize what devotion is, you become a fanatic-you really want to please Guru Maharaj Ji."
The guru's rhetoric does little to discourage this fanaticism. At his revealing best, he refers to The Knowledge as a Peace Bomb, an explosion in the cerebrum that obliterates the mind's innate quest for rational thought. Or, as he bluntly states in an interview in his Bantam paperback Who Is Guru Maharaj Jj?, "If God created evil he also created a way to get rid of it. He created a pistol for it with four bullets and we have to shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and when we have shot all four bullets, we really have killed our ego, we really have killed it. Our pistol is meditation, and the bullets are the four noble truths which will kill the devil in us."
teach this game of mystic roulette, the guru employs a band
of modern-day brownshirts, the cutting edge, so to speak, of
the fanaticism in the form of a disciplined cadre of divine
shocktroops called, again in the irony of guruspeak, the
World Peace Corps. At the Divine Light Mission's Godathon in
the Houston Astrodome last November, members of the press
and premies alike were amazed at the brutal display of
ferocity by these avenging angels, who alternately cajoled,
coerced, and terrorized anyone who managed to stray within
their range. "These people were mad with a sense of divinity
authorized power," commented
Boston filmmaker James Kasper was the victim of a dose of this divine bullying at the hands of the World Peace Corps in July 1972, during the Guru's first big American celebration in the mountains of Colorado. Kasper was interested in filming the event, and had in fact been invited by the Divine Light Mission to observe and capture the proceedings. The first day everything was fine. On the second day, however, he was pulled aside by one mahatma and told in no uncertain terms that he was to cease his activities immediately. "I was outraged," Kasper remembers. "I'd spent an enormous amount of money to set this thing up and all of a sudden I was given the cold shoulder. They wouldn't even tell me why. So I told them that Maharaj Ji is a public figure and that this was a public event and that I was not going to be intimidated." Kasper loaded up his cameras and started shooting for about five minutes. "Then I was jumped," he says. "I couldn't believe it. I was actually jumped by half a dozen thugs in uniforms. They grabbed me and hauled me out of there, and tried to open the camera but they were just stupid, they didn't know how to do it. I resisted, but they just completely manhandled me. They were really horrendous and they scared the shit out of my crew."
To any student of Western civilization, the cutthroat approach to religious conversion comes as no surprise. From the Spanish conquistadores who lined up their Peruvian victims in a gauntlet with the priest's baptism at one end and the executioner's sword at the other to the contemporary transmutation of that fervor with its lurid tales of ritual animal sacrifice and Mansonesque blood rites, some of the greatest crimes in the history of mankind have been perpetrated in the name of salvation. And if the assorted Jesus freaks, Children of God, and premies still appear to be small fry compared with their historical predecessors, it is only because they are all still at an embryonic stage of their pursuit of the millennium. Some observers will dismiss these mysticults because of the relative paucity of clientele they have thus far attracted. I, however, feel that this is one of the most dangerous signs: as the innumerable projected prophecies fail again and again, the desperate surge of despair and rejection makes the True Believer more sullen than ever.
years ago, when a different kind of apocalypse seemed to
loom large on the horizon, Eldridge Cleaver predicted that
America was either to be consumed by class war or race war.
Now there appears a third distinct possibility: religious
war. As the God-thumpers rage forth into the Seventies with
their divine zeal, they are relentlessly intent on asserting
the conflicting infallibilities of their particular
messiahs, fighting fire with fire and faith with faith. And
if utopia seems in curious propinquity to the hell it
purports to replace, we would all do well to remember that
in divinity, as in politics, the thesis begets the