John Mitchell is indicted. That pair of Teutonic Rasputins, Erlichman and Haldemann, are on their way back to Orange County, which so richly deserves them. And the carefully composed mask of the statesman-which Richard Nixon spent four long years trying to pull together-has slipped down, exposing the old and more familiar features of the small-time political hack. All this may not conclusively prove that there is justice in our political firmament, but it at least has the feel of justice, and will have to do until the real thing comes along. At bare minimum, Watergate is a sort of cosmic mockery of the huge vote Nixon won in November on the strength of his policy of detached murder in Vietnam and Babbittry at home. It is a blow to his predictable world where public reaction can be manipulated and where nothing is left to chance in capitalizing on people's worst instincts.
There is increasing talk of impeaching Nixon, some of it coming from such unlikely sources as the Congress itself. It would do the nation's soul good to have this most offensive of American politicians booted unceremoniously out of office. But if this does not come about, it will be almost as good to have him spend the next three and a half years just trying to keep his job. It will at least keep him and the executive branch out of trouble, which is more than we could have hoped for in January when his popularity stood at an all-time high. Some of the liberal pundits have reacted to talk of impeachment by portentously warning us that the only other serious impeachment proceeding in American history, against Andrew Johnson, so emasculated the office of the Presidency that it took nearly 100 years for its prestige and power to return. This observation, however, only serves to recommend swift Congressional action on the Nixon case, for the Presidency of the United States has clearly become the most dangerous office in the world and needs desperately to be put under wraps. Consider the fact that even now that his Administration has been revealed as a hotbed of petty and grand larcenies, Nixon continues to wage a devastating air war in Cambodia.
Given the confusion and alarms in high places it would seem to be a good time for the left to make significant inroads in America. After all, the revelations of Watergate substantiate many of the claims it has been making during the past decade-not only about Nixon, but about the FBI, the CIA and American government itself. Yet one of the greatest ironies in the current political situation is that at this critical juncture, many former stalwarts of the Movement have left the left and seem to be turning East, away from American and a unique opportunity here. On page 26 Andrew Kopkind discusses the politics of this new mysticism and the reasons why New Leftists are now "dropping out" and spending time forcing their recalcitrant joints into the lotus position. On page 32 journalist Ken Kelley examines the sudden appearance of the Guru Maharaj Ji, a 15-year-old youth from India who claims to be an Avatar of God and whose ministry is blissing out increasing numbers of young Americans.
Is it possible that Rennie Davis and some of his fellow travelers on the backroads and alleyways of the spirit have indeed seen the perfect light we've all been waiting for? Or is all this frenzied spiritual activity rather an indication of the contradictions and secret crises of a society whose "normal" operations have failed so completely that people find themselves turning for relief to peculiar gods and strange auguries? Take your choice. For our part, however, we aren't hurrying to turn our editorial offices into an ashram, and the only mantra we've taken up is comprised of these words: Nixon's-the-one, Nixon's-the-one.
MYSTIC POLITICS Refugees from the New Left
communicate with Mars, converse with spirits
-T. S. Eliot
in our house is here,
-Fragment of a conversation overheard
The topography of American political culture in this strangely suspended season is strewn with the skeletons of abandoned movements, lowered visions, dying dreams- No truces but tacit cease-fires have stilled the war on poverty, the war of the classes, the war of the worlds. In the white and middle-class field of action, at least, explicitly political energy and imagination are in short supply. Ideologies based on mechanistic analyses of power and history may not be wrong, but they are seen to be external to the lives of many whom they once moved, and irrelevant, too, to long-untended needs for peace of body, soul or mind.
But anyone who looks around can see the force behind the spiritual, religious and existential cults that have developed in the spaces where political organizations are usually found. Gurus, swamis, roshis, dervishes, gods and therapists are building impressive movements and extensive institutions while the traditional left sects contract in size and influence. Rennie Davis, once the New Leftist par excellence, has become a devoted organizer for the aggressive religion of the Satguru Maharaj Ji, the teenage Avatar (that is, God). Davis draws enormous crowds of both the curious and the faithful, at a time when it's hard to summon a minyan for a political demonstration. Although stars of Davis's magnitude have not, as yet, appeared in other cosmic constellations, it is apparent at once from a browse through any bookstore, a stroll through a college campus, or a glance through an underground newspaper that mystic chic has replaced radical fashions on the trend charts this year.
It is easy for an unreconstructed radical to dismiss the New Mysticism as bourgeois escapism, mass-psychological deviation, or an inevitable (and insignificant) historical retreat before the next revolutionary offensive. Perhaps it is all of that, the varying interpretations implying only the various perceptions and ideologies. But it is more, too: there is a spirit which connects the political movements of the last decade with the spiritual movements of this one, and a style as well. Although a community of yogis and a collective of radicals may see their lives and their work as vastly different in content and purpose, in the current American context they appear driven by many of the same incessant impulses, haunted by the familiar fears, baffled by the old perplexities. Class, race and sex; bureaucracy and authority; love and distance; alienation and integration; rationalism and spontaneity: the energies which create and destroy social movements act on the cosmic ones as well. It's more than coincidence (and even more than economics) that lures foreign mystics and masters to America in these last/first days of an imperial era. The spreading decay nurtures a full garden of revolutionary and mystical blooms, and they grow together from the same rich and rotting soil. And it is neither wise, nor useful, to call them flowers of evil or of good.
I've been trying to make sense of the phenomenon of politics-into-mysticism, which this spring seems to have exploded into some new level of social importance. I don't mean to exaggerate the prevalence of the syndrome, nor romanticize the starring personalities, nor mystify the mystique. After all, most of us have dabbled in this or that Eastern philosophy, tripped out on drugs, or encountered some transcendental psycho-cosmic therapy over the course of the last few years. Some people have been quietly doing "spiritual work" in a room, an ashram, a zendo or a mountainside. Moreover, there is an honorable tradition of Western intellectuals-Huxley, Isherwood and Eliot, for three examples-incorporating certain Oriental and mystical elements into their world-view.
for some reason that is all comprehensible, if sometimes
peculiar. Private head trips seemed to be adjuncts or
companions of social movements, rather than replacements or
alternatives. They were encouraged for a sense of
philosophical "balance," and tolerated as "experiments" in
self-understanding. But now, what was only a tendency has
reached a stage of critical mass, a spiritual movement with
a material and manpower base, concerned with cosmic
consciousness and personal enlightenment, whether divinely
or circumstantially inspired. And in some ways, in certain
areas, it supersedes the politics of the
[THE SPIRITUALISM OF THE NEW LEFT]
The Zeitgeist of the political generation of SNCC, SDS and Weatherman-the "student" radical movements-always had its existential and spiritual side beneath the hard edge of political action. I'm thinking of Bob Moses disappearing from SNCC when he felt his ego attaching itself to the organization and its policies; of SDS turning on with dope and rock in the "Sergeant Pepper" summer of 1967; of the Liberation News Service spinning off a magical mystery commune in the Massachusetts woods from its Manhattan Marxist center; of women and homosexuals leaving "anti-imperialist" politics for what was condemned then as "the politics of personal liberation." Seen from the radical perspective, there was an anti-political contradiction to every political style, a non-rationalist counterpoint to every reasoned position.
But from another vantage point-the apolitical, spiritual perspective of good vibrations-transcendent consciousness, not social upheaval, was the basis of the times that were changing. Politics was simply (or perhaps not so simply) an old-fashioned obstacle in the way of universal enlightenment. It surprised me to hear young communards in Vermont name "politics" as the source of their oppression, in conversations among older radicals who were discussing oppressive racism, sexism, corporatism, or whatever. Acid, yoga, touchy-feelie, flower-power and bucolic communalism were base substances of the generational revolt. For people in that frame of mind, Marxism, Marcuse and Mao got in the way of the development of a passionate, non-rational, transcendental sensibility.
Historically, those two perspectives existed in more or less the same space: that is, in the institutional, psychological and existential lives of young white people in America. Acid freaks in the East Village and Weatherpeople in Chicago were in most ways different-and yet they were in the same "space" in the culture. A balance was struck so that the political and the personal, the external and the internal, the organizational and the existential forces did not seriously encroach on each other, either in the population or in any one individual. For those two perspectives happened within each one of us as well as within the generational community. A political organizer, for example, could go off for a month tripping by the sea and it would be cool; or a student strike leader might join a lamasary in the mountains and the balance would not tip.
But the historical redefinition of the '60s generation and the student movement now has drastically altered the relationships within the culture, distorted the elements of that "space." Institutionally, there are few ongoing political organizations in the left, and those that remain keep limiting their appeal by hardening their lines and stiffening their demands. The Communist Party, the Trotskyist sects, the Revolutionary Union, the Labor Committees and Progressive Labor gave up long ago on white middle class youth. The temporary anti-war coalitions have no significant lives beyond this or that demonstration. As a matter of fact, it is impossible for most people to express their ideas politically in an organization that takes them seriously.
Psychologically, the political perspective has become alienating and unsettling as support drains and the circumstances of the "real world" seem to change only for the worse. My impression is that many people who once found the universe of political action and ideology meaningful and enlivening, now find it empty and boring-and on top of that, they feel guilty for being bored.
Finally, in existential terms, it is particularly difficult nowadays to lead an integrated, authentic, sense-making life in a political way; that is, to live out in everyday terms those social values which are inherent in the political perspective. The projects, collectives, newspapers, offices of the political movements are mostly gone or transformed, and there are few ways to find support-of any kind-for the good political life in the workaday world.
Young people who were "radicalized" in the '60s could (if they looked) find activities, homes, communities and work in which to express those radical values that had changed their lives, their sense of themselves. Now, mysticism, spiritualism and therapeutics provide the ready shelters for the politically lost or strayed-and also pick up naturally those who had no other home. There are new organizations, communities and institutions to join; a new way to make sense of the world and provide a meaningful and hopeful outlook; a new program for work and life in accord with a belief system amidst a structure of support.
[THE CONVERSION OF RENNIE DAVIS]
The spectrum of trips is so broad that it may not be possible to include the whole band in a single analysis-or even in one coherent description of the phenomenon (the same might have been said of the political range of the mid-'60s). These things change rapidly, but as of this week I have friends in a Zen community on the coast of Maine, an Arica house on the beach at Santa Monica, a Gestalt-Sufi retreat in Berkeley, an ashram in New Hampshire, a messianic religious organization's headquarters in Colorado, and several related non-geographical regions of the mind. All of these New Mystics were New Leftists, feminists, radicals and activists of one kind or another a few years ago. I've spent some time with two of them in recent weeks, and their conversions, conditions and activities have given me some illustrations of the larger phenomenon.
Rennie Davis became a devotee of the Satguru Maharaj Ji at the end of a course of events that included dreams and mystical experiences, the Indochina cease-fire, and a visit with Madame Binh in Paris. In the first of the dreams (as he related it to me), Davis was at the speaker's rostrum in an enormous auditorium. He felt some anxiety because he was not sure what he was supposed to say. Suddenly "every Vietnamese I ever knew" and a lot more came into the hall. They were "blissed out," brimming with joy and confidence and a sense of victory. Davis awoke similarly joyful, some of his anxieties allayed about his deeply-felt responsibility for carrying on the anti-war political struggle.
A few days later he awoke from a deep sleep at 4:30 in the morning (his tale continued) sensing the presence of a close woman-friend on his bed. He reached out to touch her but she was not there, at least on the level of "ordinary" reality. Just at that moment the phone rang. It was, by no mere coincidence, that woman. She asked him to come to her apartment, not far away. Davis dressed and went to her; when he arrived, she was in a yogic prayer position, her palms together in the "namaste" gesture, her head lowered and her eyes closed. Silence. Then, she spoke as in a trance: "All your sins are forgiven. You go for all of us."
The next day Davis was off to Paris to see Madame Binh, but at the airport he met an old friend-from the May Day organization that directed the demonstrations in Washington in 1971-who had become a devotee of the Guru Maharaj Ji. In the course of a transatlantic conversation with the friend and his companions, Davis was given an airplane ticket to India. He did stop in Paris, saw Madame Binh, found her-of course-"blissed out," and flew off to India. After several ambiguous encounters with the Guru Maharaj Ji and His entourage, Davis found himself holed up with the young God Himself in some Himalayan retreat, where one day he received "the Knowledge" in a blinding transcendent experience that seems to be the sum and substance of the Satguru's theology. The other several days were spent discussing the bureaucratic and organizational development of the Divine Light Mission and the now-in-formation Divine United Organization. Davis will probably direct the DUO; he has just been appointed vice president in charge of the Divine Light Mission.
"I was impressed by the fact that an organization like this could exist worldwide," Davis said in an interview not long ago, "and that I would have so little consciousness of it. The strength of the organization is just absolutely remarkable. It's not just a spiritual strength, either. The Guru Maharaj Ji has 5,000 mahatmas [disciples with direct experience of "the Knowledge"] . Most of them are based in India, but increasingly they're learning English and other languages and are traveling to other nations. He's in every continent now except for the Socialist countries, and He announced that next year He's going to Russia and the year after that He's going to China and by 1975 everyone on the planet will know that He's here.
"In the United States there are now 150 centers oriented around the Guru Maharaj Ji. They're all hooked up with Telex machines and WATS lines. Next year Guru Maharaj Ji is going to build, probably in California, a city that will use all the advance methods of technology to insure that the air is pollution-free, cars will be run on electricity instead of gasoline. It will be an architectural wonder, and it will be-according to Him-a concrete demonstration of what it means to have Heaven on Earth. When you see the organization that He's assembled in two and a half years and you see the forces that are coming together for this city, for a huge festival in the Houston Astrodome next fall, which is going to launch the Divine United Organization-you realize that there is an incredibly serious force here at work that really means to have people roll up their sleeves and get down to work with the problems of this material world. I think the combination of a politics and a spirit joined together in one form led by God Itself is a very far-out vision."
The social organization of the Divine Light Mission, the religion and the ashrams (the centers where people work, live and pray) has a lot in common with the administration of New Left offices, activities and project houses. There's a certain warmth and good feeling in the ashrams that has not been around the "straight male Left" for many years, although some feminist and gay projects have experienced similar relationships. In the Guru Maharaj Ji's ashrams there is a "house mother" who cooks, washes up, irons clothes and serves the food. The heavies are, of course, all men. According to Davis, consciousness of sex roles is still, regrettably, low among the Guru Maharaj Ji's devotees because of their own political backgrounds, the Indian influence, and such factors. But in any case it doesn't matter. "Are you oppressed as a woman in the ashram?" Davis asked the "house mother" of a Manhattan ashram as she was serving up our health-food lunch. "Oh no," she laughed gently. "We all serve the Guru Maharaj Ji."
The playful 15-year-old Satguru (Perfect Master, or Avatar) prophesizes global apocalypse, although how good or bad it turns out depends on the extension of His teaching and the universal acceptance of "the Knowledge." Politics as Rennie Davis knew it has no function; Davis's own decade-long involvement in the Movement was simply "preparation" for his organizational role as "Rajdut," or Messenger of God, or Divine Organizer (the Hindi word was the brand name on the Divine Motorcycle, which the Guru Maharaj Ji let Davis ride in India; he took it as a symbol of his new position vis-à-vis the Satguru).
[SALLY KEMPTON AND THE ARICANS]
A few days after I saw Rennie Davis in the ashram in New York City, I visited Sally Kempton in the Arica quarters on the ocean-front in Los Angeles. Kempton is a rather well-established writer who helped organize the Radical Feminists in New York and generally identified with radical, left and women's movements in the '60s. A nexus of personal and professional circumstances, some friendships with people enjoying enlightenment trips, and a traumatic death in her family prepared her for the Arica course, a systematic body of physical, psychological and meditative disciplines developed by a Bolivian intellectual named Oscar Ichazo (see also Ichazo's Psychocalisthenics).
For what it's worth in the world of professions and performance, Kempton is considered a remarkably intelligent and sensitive writer; perhaps, as an old SDS heavy told me recently, "the smartest one of us all." She was not herself a leader of the male left, but her articles (in the Village Voice and Esquire) and organizing activities in radical feminism were important to the development of the women's movement. I know her well; she spent a lot of time at the farm commune in Vermont where I once lived, and I was always aware of the ongoing struggle in her consciousness between contending values of intellectual performance and emotional integrity: in simpler (and perhaps too simplistic) terms, work against love. It was a kind of struggle I found replicated in myself, in many other radical men, and in a few women. I'm not surprised to see such women in such a place as Oscar Ichazo's Arica.
"Oscar," who is in his 40's, learned various mystical disciplines and Eastern martial techniques at an early age, and developed a more or less coherent body of eclectic mysticism and psychotherapy which he taught to a small number of students /patients/ followers in the city of Arica, in Chile where he settled. Claudio Naranjo, the Berkeley post-Beat, proto-Hip, trans-Esalen therapist, heard of Oscar's work with psychiatric patients, and in time sent several dozen Big Sur types and arty freaks to Chile to take the long course that Oscar had worked up. They returned to America a little less than a year later, and at Oscar's urging and direction set up an Arica Institute in New York City. Ads in the New York Times and elsewhere announced the $3,000, three-month course to be given in a big hotel on Central Park South. But the expected hordes of corporate executives and ruling-class representatives did not sign up to save themselves and America, and the scale of the operation was quickly reduced in price, length of training, and expectations for universal salvation. It did, however, attract a number of show-biz and literary types who underwent serious psycho-cosmic traumas and emerged somewhat more "awake" than they had been previously. Oscar's technique is sui generis, but generally employs elements of Gestalt, Sufi, Yoga, Zen, T'ai Chi and other disciplines to achieve high consciousness, self-awareness and joyful social relations.
The atmosphere in the Arica beach house was comradely and communal, as it had been in the Guru Maharaj Ji ashram. The Aricans were different in their hip sophistication and their trippy irony; the Divine Light devotees were single-minded and narrowly "blissed out," I thought. Arica, of course, is not a religion and Oscar is not God, nor a god, but a very high, awake and wise teacher with an apocalyptic vision of the world and a slightly less than obsessive proselytizing instinct. Sally Kempton claims that women's caucuses within the various semi-autonomous Arica schools around the country have promoted sexual egalitarianism in the once male-dominated outfit, and that interpersonal relations between members of an Arica community are "worked" more successfully by Oscar's techniques than with the methods of political and emotional struggle we all used in our late communes and collectives.
Both the Divine Light Mission and Arica involve communities of the faithful. After receiving "the Knowledge" or Waking Up, students or devotees of both systems tend to find work and pursue lives within the organizational structure. Aricans are busily finding students for the various courses ($600 for the popular 40-day "Open Path" session); Divine Missionaries are organizing the Houston rally, building the Divine City of Peace near Santa Barbara, running the slick magazine And It Is Divine, and operating the Divine Sales business that helps support the entire organization. (Both movements rely on the financial kindness of rich and super-rich devotees.)
There is not much agreement, trust or friendship between followers of the various disciplines and religions. Often exclusive claims of divinity prohibit the sharing of work; Rennie Davis says that all other cults, as well as political organizations, have "the blind leading the blind," because the Guru Maharaj Ji is God in human form. Aricans think that the strict belief system of the Guru Maharaj Ji is anti-enlightening. Then again, I've heard other unorganized students of yoga and Zen call Arica "spiritual fascism" under Oscar's authoritarian dictatorship and the tyranny of mental discipline, intellectual categories and cultish regulations. "We're not 'Arica robots,' " Sally Kempton insisted, "even though we all have the same haircut."
The organizations differ, too, in their relation to "social" work, to changing conditions in the world of war, racism, poverty, disease, oppression, revolution-"politics." The most cosmic cults seem to choose a reality in which all those elements are simply not at issue. Others see "problems" solved by the spread of one or another Good Word, a Divine Zap, or whatever brand of Enlightenment is being marketed. "There are many realities, but there is also reality," a still-political semi-yogi cautioned me once.
It's too early to draw hard psycho-historical conclusions about the movement of personnel from politics to mysticism; and the art of psycho-history is underdeveloped at best. Surely a brief glimpse at Rennie Davis or Sally Kempton, for instance, provides only the roughest sketches for a psychological interpretation of the phenomenon.
Of course, there are other examples. Greg Calvert, a former SDS national secretary in the "participatory democracy" days, has been seriously into Sufism arid Gestalt Therapy. Jerry Rubin has been experimenting, as he says, "with anything that has claims in that direction," and is especially fond of Bioenergetics, EST and Gestalt Therapy. I encountered Rubin recently and found him fairly glowing with mellow vibes. He seemed both physically and interpersonally "looser" than I had ever remembered him. He said he was in a wonderful state of mind.
Another Movement man I knew well from the '60s, a radical filmmaker, theoretician and organizer, has been in and out of a Tibetan Buddhist center. His meditative phase came after the breakup of his political collective and his rural commune. He had been under intense criticism by women and other men in his group for chauvinism, authoritarianism, insensitivity to the emotional needs of others, blindess to the effects of his behavior on his comrades and companions.
The harsh criticism was painful, and although he tried to disregard some of the ways his friends' anger was expressed, he could not disregard it all. He felt imperatives for a "change of consciousness," which might be political, psychological or transcendental. He felt obliged to try on all three levels, but I always had the feeling that he found it most convenient to focus on the cosmic principle as the path to the others.
Finally, a former writer, now in his ; early '30s, spent the last year of the '60s shuttling back and forth between rather exotic radical adventures (we did a lot of spray painting that year) and Zen meditation sessions. I think he was genuinely open to proof of the validity of either way as the course ' that would give meaning to his life, rationalize what seemed like an anomolous nuclear family situation (wife and two children, house in a suburban district), and take him out of the world of cynical cycles of hope and emptiness. The political way, at last, offered him very little support. The Zen way was much more sure. When I last saw him, he was living in a Maine Zen community, building a house and workshop, and preparing to spend eight-hour-long sessions meditating during the winter, while his wife tended the kids at home.
[WHEN PROPHECY FAILS]
I'm not entirely sure what shades of a sensibility or patterns of consciousness all the cults share, and what they find antagonistic in each other. But there are some obvious springs which feed them all, and perhaps some common explanations for the overall phenomenon that can be found:
1. The "failure" of revolution, according to the hyperboles employed by the political movements of the late 'G0s, freaked out the people who had set their life-clocks according to the apocalyptic timetable. What happens "when prophecy fails?" In a study (under that title) of an end-of-the-world cult of the '50s, the sociologists Festinger, Riecken and Schachter saw that the moment of disconfirmation - the day that the world does not end creates extreme dissonance in the minds of those whose belief systems are based on the fulfillment of the prophecy. In other words, it becomes positively painful to experience reality rubbing against belief. To decrease the aching dissonance between reality and their understanding of it, people may change their belief systems, rationalize reality by twists in logic or facts, or organize more support for the erring belief system.
The un-success of rapid, radical political change in America; the reelection of Nixon; the "winding down" of the war in Indochina without the unconditional surrender of the Pentagon-all that created an amount of dissonance (not to mention despair) among those who had invested the most in the expectation of a quick victory. Everyone has a way of blunting that dissonance: and one of them is the acceptance of a new belief system that either confirms the success of the left in new terms, or invents drastically new terms. That is, you can say that the American radical anti-war movement and the Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam have won the war in Indochina-or you can say that radical politics is irrelevant and God is where it's at. Or, as in the example of Rennie Davis, you can say both.
2. The pressure many men feel, from external and internal sources, to "open up" emotionally, lower their intellectual defense, and relate to other men and women in a spontaneous, sensual, non-competitive way is widely experienced and largely unheeded. In organizations, communes and social groups, men have been unable to get it together themselves, while women have usually had the opposite experience. But the pressures are real and cannot be entirely disregarded. The political organizations and projects surviving into the '70s have all been traumatized by the crisis of sex roles, and the outcome of the resulting struggles is usually dissolution of the group-or male-dominated reaction. The Revolutionary Union, for example, has "dealt" with liberation efforts of women and homosexuals by retreating to a Stalinoid position that totally rejects the liberating developments in sexual politics of the last several years.
Some men (again, I have to concentrate on those in the young, white middle class) understand that they should find a way from their conscious behavior into their unconscious mind, to integrate action and feeling, detach their egos from matters and materials, break the barriers between intellect and emotion. By no means we know is that easy to do. "Consciousness raising" groups, on the joint model of Red Guard and radical feminist struggle sessions, are threatening, limited and long. Traditional psychotherapy is expensive, somewhat discredited or tainted in the political and youth culture, and perhaps a bit too German and Jewish to be exotic anymore. But mysticism and spiritualism provides several escapes from those pressures on and in men. It offers the alternative of an altered cosmic consciousness to a changed unconscious-a new reality of self rather than a new relationship with self. Some wise and with-it gurus, philosophers and therapists are trying to put the two ways together, to blend the Freudian and the Buddha nature. Claudio Naranjo-the Arica link between Berkeley and Chile-mixes existential and Gestalt therapy with Sufi and other Oriental mysticism. Oscar Ichazo's techniques, too, draw from the various psychiatric and spiritualist wells.
But most of the organized cults I've encountered remain strongly male-dominated. At least, the terms of the religion of therapy are set by men: precisely to deal, by evasion or attack, with those male problems of the mind/ emotion, conscious/unconscious split. My impression is that many of the women who are heavily involved in that kind of work-in Arica or Sufi, for example-also see their personal crisis in that "male-defined" way of a blockage between the conscious and the unconscious. It's not surprising that mysticism in America is a white and middle-class trip; and when one thinks about it, it is not surprising that it's essentially a male trip, too.
3. In an analogous way, mysticism is a kind of back door or side window to the non-rational side of humans. Western rationalism is undergoing another wave in the series of assaults that mark the intellectual history of this century. There is, after all, that tradition of Western intellectuals seeking philosophic counterweights to Reason and Science, materialism and logic. What's so paradoxical is that many of the new mystical cults outdo Western philosophies in their excessive categorization of psychic and cosmic states. Arica, for example, presents trainees with endless lists of ego states, levels of consciousness, physiognomic points for attention, and so on. Ultimately, an Arican assured me, the categories can be internalized by the trainee.
4. The quest for peace-of-mind encouraged the development of psychiatric schools and psychological sects throughout the 20th century, and there has been an increasing spill-over into peace-of-brain techniques and peace-of-soul ideologies. Moral Re-Armament, Positive Thinking and Dianetics/Scientology have their hip analogues in EST, Silva Mind Control, Biofeedbackery, and the various occult systems. A Gestalt theoretician writes, "Freud's famous statement, `Much has been accomplished if we can change neurotic misery into common unhappiness,' is no longer sufficient . . . Now we use words such as enhancement, intimacy, actualization, creativity, ecstasy, and transcendence to describe what we wish for ourselves and others. [These] theories .. . offer as the alternative to misery, not unhappiness, but joy."
For the middle class of Americans, the world offers the promise and the expectation of joy as it does the abundance of material goods, a job when needed, and interesting ways to fill up a day. The fact that most people somehow don't get the joy that's coming to them is a source of unending perplexity-and the impetus for the development of techniques, organizations and corporations to make good on the promises. The politics of joy having failed, perhaps the mystique of joy should be explored.
5. The half-true, half-mythic sense of "participation" and communitarianism that the New Left was supposed to achieve is still a relevant dream in much of the old new culture. It has been said that Rennie Davis found the Satguru in his never-ending search for the participatory democratic spirit that was supposed to infuse the ERAP organizing projects that he developed and directed. In fact, much of the nostalgia is both mistaken and misplaced: Davis and a few other early New Left men manipulated some fuzzy notions of participatory democracy and communalism for rather standard organizational and personally political ends. Still, the myth survives, and it is probably true that some people look for its realization in one or another mystery house or magical project.
6. At last, there is the gnawing notion some of us have that somewhere out there humanity is on the verge of an evolutionary leap forward, a quantum jump beyond what we now understand as "humanness" into some as yet un-understood mode of higher being. Both the Divine Light people and Aricans talk about biological changes that are occurring to raise and change the quality of being human. Rennie Davis says that homo sapiens is itself the "missing link" between what is now and what will be-soon. The message is that we do not have to wait out some Darwinian infinity for this next evolutionary stage. Aricans say that they have achieved a "one body" state among members of an Arica living and working unit.
Central to all these theories is that single, essential mystical experience, the famous insight into the "oneness" of the universe, the Acid test, the yogic perfection: the "knowledge" that all the energy and all matter in the universe are somehow infinite and undifferentiated except in our minds.
"Men's curiosity searches past and future
Eliot says near the end of that Dry Salvages passage;
"But to apprehend
"Leave off fine learning! End the nuisance
There being no easy way out of that trap of explaining direct mystical experience in intellectual symbols, perhaps a way around is to make the categorization brief. Herewith, then, a short selection of chart-busting cults, growth stocks and consciousness-raising techniques that fall somewhere on the continuum from getting-in-touch-with-body to awakening the soul.
Ananda Marga: Although they have only about 3,000 active disciples in the U.S., the Ananda Marga society has received press coverage recently because their founder and spiritual leader, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti, is on trial in India. Anandamurti, also called Baba, is accused of murdering seven former disciples, a charge which his followers say was trumped up by the Indian government. In April, an Ananda Marga monk immolated himself to protest his leader's imprisonment, and two CBS newsmen filming the event were arrested by Indian police. Ananda Marga's practice in America mixes meditation and "good works"-recycling, disaster relief, day care, visiting the old, the sick, the imprisoned. In India they are considered a militant antigovernment group, and they recently moved their world headquarters from India to Wichita, Kansas.
Arica: A body of techniques for cosmic consciousness-raising and an ideology to relate to the world in an awakened way. Arica was named after the city in Chile where its developer, Oscar lchazo, lived and worked before emigrating to that global energy center, New York. Arica draws heavily on Gurdjieff's categories of consciousness and ego, as well as concepts and methods in Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism, Yoga, Zen and various esoteric psychologies. Ichazo does not purport to be divine, nor is Arica a religion. Students take courses of various lengths at Arica Institutes around the country in order to awake from their sleepy consciousnesses. It is sophisticated, intellectualized, expensive and chic.
Divine Light Mission: The religious organization of the Satguru (Perfect Master) Maharaj Ji, an Indian adolescent who says He is God but is adulated more like a Brahmin Donny Osmond. The religion comes on to Western hippies as a psychedelic Hinduism or electric Yoga. But it is well-heeled, well-organized and surprisingly slick.
EST: Officially, the name is meant to connote the Latin for "it is," as well as to form an acronym for a number of phrases, such as Electronic Social Transformation, Eco-Strategy-Tactics, Environment Systems Theory, Equilibrium of Sensory Threshholds, Earth Survival Techniques, Exploration of Simulsense Totality, Ego Self Transcendence, and so on. Unofficially, it sometimes stands for Erhard Seminary (or Sensitivity) Training, after its conceiver, Werner Erhard. After going through an EST course, students are supposed to acquire the intellectual and cosmic tools necessary to understand and master planetary problems. The course is a mixture of Buckminster Fuller and Moral Re-Armament-which may not be much of a mixture at all. It is popular on the West Coast, and Jerry Rubin is an enthusiast-although he claims it is merely one of many such courses he has taken recently.
The Foundation: Stephen Gaskin is one of the few home-grown American freak gurus who are not apostles of a particular Oriental religion. Americans prefer import-gurus the way they prefer Third World knicknacks in fancy boutiques to similar articles made in Hoboken. Gaskin was once called the Acid Guru; he lived in San Francisco and conducted a weekly hippie satsang called Monday Night Class; many of his lectures were collected into a book of that name. He then moved his commune to The Farm, in Tennessee, and started The Foundation, which is the corporate existence of his teachings. He has also dropped his patronym and calls himself "Stephen." His widely-read words systematize the more simple-minded aspects of flower-power, the Love Generation, and Getting It Together.
Gurdjieff: A system of cosmic and psychological enlightenment put together by the Caucasian philosopher G.I. Gurdjieff and expanded by his disciple, P. D. Ouspensky. Gurdjieff fled the Russian Revolution and founded the Institute for the Harmonious Development of Man, near Paris. Gurdjieff is one spring for many of the wells of teachings which attempt to mix Eastern and Western ways of dealing with self-identity, always a popular pastime in America and Europe (why isn't it so popular in the Orient?) There are Gurdjieff/ Ouspensky centers in several cities.
Jesus Freaks: Electric, eclectic Christianity for the Now Generation. There are several sub-sects, including the Children of God-a group that is causing tension in parts of Britain. Some of the sects tend to be strongly authoritarian. Basically, the religion proves that Jesus Christ was no more absurd than the Satguru Maharaj Ji.
Meher Baba: Unlike most contemporary Indian masters, Meher Baba claimed he was the Avatar (and as such is in conflict with the claims of Maharaj Ji, although the contradiction may be explicable in one or another theology). He was an Indian of Persian extraction, and attempted to "reorient" Sufism as His religion. He was silent for many years, but wrote His famous injunction: "Don't worry, Be happy." There are groups of Meher "Baba Lovers" around the country, and the British rock group The Who is into Him. (The rock opera Tommy is purported to be based on His life.)
Mind Control: There are various commercial and non-commercial operations that use machines or meditative techniques to teach clients how to regulate the electrical functions of their own brains so as to produce jects feel good. Biofeedback techniques may also allow subjects to control other functions of their body, including the autonomic nervous system. Silva Mind Control, a successful commercial version, uses no machines. Most mind control techniques do not fall into the category of cosmic cult but they share many of the methods-and expectations-of cosmic psychology.
Sufism: Originally a Persian and Islamic mystical tradition, Sufi teachings are now studied and practiced throughout the world. Sufism is nothing if not trendy this year; it has been called the "chic of Araby." The Sufi Dervishes used whirling and dancing to produce the state of ecstasy, and Sufi enthusiasts today similarly employ dancing, music and movement. The international Sufi heavy is ldries Shah, who lives and writes in England. Sufis like word games and practical jokes-so look out!
Tibetan Buddhism: A Himalayan form of Zen, currently an underground trend in some student and intellectual circles in America. The popularizer in America is Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, who is said to be the former head abbot of a Tibetan monastery before he left when his country was liberated by the Chinese in 1959. He came here by way of England, and established two centers, the Tail of the Tiger in Vermont and Karma Dzong in Colorado. One important (and appealing) feature of Tibetan Buddhism is its wry cynicism: masters tell their students to "doubt," rather than "have faith."
There are probably hundreds of Indians and others in America
who have become gurus in the Yogic tradition. Yoga is an
Indian form of Buddhist mysticism, which involves physical
exercise, breathing rituals and meditative processes to
lightenment. There are scores of Yogic schools, centers and
ashrams in the U.S., some of them well-established like the
Self-Realization Fellowship, in California, founded by
Paramahansa Yogananda ("The Autobiography of a Yogi"). There
are also various yogis, gurus, babas and swamis, either in
America or India, who maintain important followings
Zen: Japanese Buddhist mysticism, comprising sects and subsects. Teachings and meditative systems are designed to lead a student to enlightenment, or satori. Zen is an austere, ascetic and pure system that most Americans find difficult to penetrate, although those who do find it enormously meaningful. An entire Zen culture flourishes in Japan, and a small one is growing in the U.S. There are many Zen centers, including a Zen community in Maine directed by an American roshi who spent many years in Japan. There exists a rich Zen literature of stories, sayings, poems and parables. One of the great masters was Hakuin (18th century), who devised the koan, "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" He also wrote the frequently used chant:
"Sentient beings are intrinsically Buddha ....
He chose Pauley Ballroom on the U.C. campus to make his stand, a site which overlooks the famous Sproul Plaza. There, some eight years earlier, Mario Savio and his fellow students had marched to shut down the university, thereby unloosing a flood of campus protest which did not subside for five years. Rennie Davis had played a crucial role in that Movement. He had raised money, mapped strategy, given speeches, negotiated permits, written pamphlets-in short, he had done everything that the Movement had done and more. When others had grown tired and cynical, he had worked on and on, and it was only in recent months that he had begun to slacken his pace.
People had come to view Rennie Davis as better, more dedicated than the rest of us, and now, suddenly, he was telling us to surrender our hearts and minds to a barely pubescent self-proclaimed Perfect Master from India and waltz into Nirvana. It was as if Che Guevara had returned to recruit for the Campfire Girls: the anomaly was as profound as the amazement.
And so they packed the ballroom to hear Rennie Davis, and one sensed curiosity, a certain amount of hostility, and an undercurrent of fear. As he stood before the assemblage, the vultures descended. "Kiss my lotus ass." "All power to the Maharajah, huh?" He took it in with smiles and good humor. "I'm really blissed out with a capital `B,' " he proclaimed in the vernacular of his new calling. "I'm just here to make a report, and if you don't want to check out what I'm saying, that's cool. Sooner or later you'll find out that we are operating under a new leadership, and it is Divine, that it's literally going to transform the planet into what we've always hoped and dreamed for." This is what the Hindu mystics call satsang-literally, truthgiving. It plays the role in Eastern religion that street-corner rapping did back in the old days when Rennie Davis was the guiding light of the JOIN community organizing project in Chicago.
Now Davis, all cosmic dimples, ignored the slings and arrows and continued his mass satsang. The crowd's initial curiosity turned to hostility and derision. A local wino stood on a chair and harangued the multitude about God and jail and politics-much to their delight. Davis waited patiently for him to finish, then continued his report. It was late now, and people were beginning to drift off. Anxious to get on with the showing of the official film on Guru Maharaj Ji, he began to conclude his remarks and sought a way to rekindle interest. "The Guru Maharaj Ji," he said, "teaches us that Truth, Knowledge and Bliss are inherent in our human souls." He paused "And I say to you here that Richard Nixon is Truth, Knowledge, and Bliss."
The tomatoes flew; down came the linen-draped altar with the Perfect Master's Divine visage; and catcall city erupted. Mouths agape, blank stares and unbelieving faces, fury bleeding out of every wound. One had to admire the sheer nerve of this man to keep talking and not wilt in the face of such hysterical opposition. Instead, he raised his hands in a serene gesture of halcyon. "If I weren't absolutely convinced that this is the greatest event mankind has ever known, if I didn't believe with my entire soul that Guru Maharaj Ji is going to save the planet, then I wouldn't be placing myself so far out on a limb. I love all of you very much." And then, "Jai Satchitanan." "Hail Truth, Knowledge and Bliss," the ancient sanskrit definition for the three aspects of God. Whereupon his ashram apostles began a celestial chant, the lights went out and the movie projector started to roll.
[THE ROAD TO BLISS]
The next day I observed Rennie Davis in his own milieu in the Unitarian church where the "premies," or devotees (the word literally translates as "lovers") were holding their weekly satsang service. After some sluggish guitar work and blissed-out meditation, he rose to speak. "Last night was very far out. I only wish people have the space to listen now to what Guru Maharaj Ji is saying. But through His Divine Grace everyone will, in time. We're just so lucky to be here. Every morning I wake up and just can't believe that I'm alive and fortunate enough to have discovered His Knowledge."
He then went into a cosmic peptalk, culminating in a fund-raising pitch for Soul Rush '73, the divine exposition slated for November in the Astrodome, and for the perfect city which, according to plan, will be built by next year in California. Davis is a pitchman from way back, and he has in his day raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Movement. This time, however, there was an important difference in the appeal.
"When I think of what in two short years in America we've accomplished ..." He stopped and his eyebrows arched. "I mean, what Guru Maharaj Ji has accomplished; we've accomplished nothing, of course-it blows my mind."
The next morning, I visited him at the San Francisco Ashram. He greeted me at the door with a kiss. On the lips. (I have known Rennie Davis for almost five years, and we've embraced warmly many times, but never before had he initiated such communion.) Removing my shoes, an act prerequisite to entering the room where the Divine Presence is worshipped, I listened as Rennie told me of his conversion and what had led up to it.
For the previous year, he had been getting "more into myself," even as he worked on the Miami demonstrations last summer. He dropped acid, fasted, ate organic food, hiked in the mountains, and generally eased the pace which had earned him a reputation as one of the most intense activists in the anti-war movement. After the cease-fire accords were announced in January, he prepared a trip to Paris with veteran peace organizers Cora Weiss and Sidney Peck to represent the American Movement at the celebrations following the signing. He then planned to return and help form a "national party" of the left, a feat many have attempted without success since the demise of SDS.
But something funny happened on the way to Paris. Boarding the plane at the same time were a group of premies including, Rennie said, an old friend named Larry Canada.
Now it so happens that I shared a grand jury inquest with Larry Canada back in 1971. He and I and four others were being questioned in the course of what the Justice Department claimed was an investigation into the bombing of the Capitol building on March 1, 1971. All of us had worked in Mayday and had been in town the day the Weather underground blew the minds and walls of Congress apart. The Torquemadas of the Justice Department figured the explosion had to be related to Mayday, and they took particular interest in Canada and his ex-wife Kathy Noyes, an heiress to the Eli Lilly drug fortune. The two of them had contributed almost $75,000 to the Mayday project.
Canada was unique among the Mayday tribe, aside from his rather special financial status. He was our resident mystic. Recruited off his Indiana farm, he had moved into Rennie's Washington apartment, took lots of LSD and fantasized an incredible blueprint for the shutdown of D.C. He wanted to bring in the Beatles, feed 100,000 people for a week, and send a Rebel Navy up the Potomac to meet the troops closing the bridges. It was a fine dream, especially insofar as he would foot the bill. At one point, he had even gone to Ottawa to inform the Chinese legation of Mayday's plans. The legend of his lunacy was matched only by that of his generosity. In a tight spot, you could always count on Larry.
By the time the Grand Jury proceedings began, Canada had undergone a remarkable change. One day I came upon him reading a Bible in the hallway outside the Grand Jury room. I assumed he had picked it up from the hotel to pass the time as he waited to be called. In fact, he had brought it all the way from Indiana, where he and his wife had become full-fledged Jesus freaks. They approached Christianity with the same zeal they had shown in Mayday, and when called to testify, Larry did not shrink from quoting Ecclesiastes to the federal prosecutor.
But on the plane to Paris Larry Canada was preaching a new gospel, and Rennie was listening. "He talked with Canada and his crew for over three hours," recalls Cora Weiss. "And when he came back and told us about their scene he was-well, really smiling." Among Canada's "crew" was Charles Cameron, one of the first Western devotees of the Satguru. A gaunt-faced Englishman who fancies himself a poet, Cameron took on the task of giving satsang to the anti-war activist. "It really blew Rennie's mind," Cameron told me. "I could see right away that he was open to what I was saying though he wasn't taking it all in." Rennie discounts this, however-"I just thought `here are some down-to-earth folks,' considering how ridiculous their rap is-you know?"
In any event, he was interested enough to follow it up in Paris, and he slipped away at least once a day to visit his holy friends at the posh Georges V Hotel. After the peace festivities were concluded, he stayed behind and continued receiving satsang. "He told us he was just staying for a couple of more days," said Weiss. But Larry Canada was feeling particularly philanthropic- "he had about $20,000 to blow," according to Cameron. So Rennie was offered a free trip to India as part of the "Divine Scouting mission" to Prem Nagar-City of Love-where Maharaj Ji, his mother, and his three brothers hold forth. "We had originally gone to Paris to see if we could figure out a way of going to Vietnam and China to do some filming," relates Cameron. "Larry Canada had told us that's where Rennie would be, and that if anyone could arrange for us to go there, he could. So imagine the incredibly cosmic coincidence of actually meeting on the plane-it's perfect. But Rennie told us there was no way to visit Vietnam or China right now, so we settled on India. We could film Guru Maharaj Ji and Rennie could check out everything we had been telling him firsthand."
First stop was Delhi where the party proceeded to a relatively new ashram called Punjab Bagh. There they met Bal Bhagwan Ji, the Satguru's 21-year-old brother. He is known in the Divine Light Mission as Maharaj Ji's "most devoted follower" and one whose divinity and position is second only to the Satguru. Rennie talked for hours with Bal Bhagwan Ji, and their discussion turned to Vietnam. "He has an incredible love for the Vietnamese," says Rennie. "He is also the smartest person I've ever met."
It was a significant meeting. It was, in fact, unusually significant because, as Cameron says, "members of the holy family don't give away their smiles and tears as readily as we human beings, and Bal Bhagwan Ji was smiling and tears were welling in his eyes . . . And for Bal Bhagwan Ji to show those emotions so soon is extraordinary-usually he would wait. But it was the perfect moment, in Rennie's case."
he established immediate rapport with the "most devoted
follower," he did not take such instant liking to the Avatar
Himself. On the contrary, he now describes his first
impression of Guru Maharaj Ji as "terrible": "Here was this
fat little rich kid with this swarm of old
men-Mahatmas-blowing and kissing His feet. And instead of
acknowledging that respect, He jumped on this big motorcycle
and tore off, completely covering them with dust. Then He
screeched to a stop, turned around and headed back towards
them. At the last possible
Guru Maharaj Ji revs up his motorcycle
"Of course I couldn't relate to it, then," says Rennie. "But afterward I realized it was lila-God's game-playing that was reducing all of us to a child-like state, something Guru Maharaj Ji always seeks to do to us to remind us that we must always be simple like children.
"I kept getting more and more freaked-the whole thing stank of fraud. But there were about 60 western young people at Prem Nagar, and I kept having these great raps with them People would come up to me and say `Far out-I was with you in the streets of Chicago,' or `Good to see you again, last time I saw you was at Mayday.' Slowly my resistance began to break down as I saw that these great people were really into this kid. So I decided I would at least try and receive Knowledge."
Receiving Knowledge (with a capital K) is the experience that separates the mind from the soul and the premies from the zombies. It is-to use the Divine expression-the perfect experience, and it only comes after receiving a perfect pre-education from a Mahatma. This can,. in some cases, last years, but for Rennie Davis it took considerably less time. At five in the morning on a bright January day he began experiencing the four techniques of receiving Knowledge.
"I was first shown a technique called `light,' where I saw light in my head that was a hundred times lighter than the sun. And it was fantastic, but my mind, seeing this light, just went crazy. I said `no, no, no'-this is a fraud. Then the second thing I was taught was `music.' At the center of creation are sounds that support creation-I heard a bell that made me more blissed out than I've ever been in my life, and my mind started hearing really loud rock 'n' roll, and I just went crazy some more. Then the third technique was called `nectar'-when Jesus went into the desert for 40 days he was drinking Nectar. It's a mechanism inside your body that sustains you without food or water. -And the fourth is called the `word.' You know, `In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God'-the Last Gospel stuff, every scripture talks about the Word. It turns out there's a vibration in your body, and He teaches you what this vibration is.
"Then my mind just completely flipped out and said `Get out of India. He's the Anti-Christ, a fake.' And I went outside and was dragged off by this Mahatma to wash some clothes, my service for the day." Every premie is expected to perform diurnal service for the Perfect Master, whether it be envelope-licking in the ashram of dishwashing. "I was sitting there by this water trying to figure out how this could be a fraud, trying to figure out a theory of how this could not be real even though I'd just experienced it. I thought, `I've just been taken in, these are only techniques.' Then I noticed this crow sitting on a branch. Then another. Then a couple more.
Pretty soon there are like 50 crows sitting there cackling at me, flying around. Then they start flying closer and closer, 'til finally one dives for my head dead ringer and I managed to jump just in time. It was right out of Hitchcock-all these birds screaming at me and going crazy and swooping down on me. It was out of control.
"And at the point where I was literally terrified for my life, I pulled out of my laundry this pillowcase. Embroidered on it was this phrase, `Lord of the Universe.' It was just an amazing kind of coincidence in the midst of this freakout. I pulled out that pillowcase and instantly the crows just flew away in all directions-they left! And I just said, `I really don't know what's going on here, I just really don't know.' " That, it turned out, was the crucial point-to admit that you haven't the faintest idea what's happening; to literally lose your mind and the control it has over your soul and let the Word of the Perfect Master take over.
"For the first time," says Rennie, "I felt completely open. And the buzz I was feeling was just unbelievable. I just surrendered my mind completely to Guru Maharaj Ji and said `No more-from here on out you do the thinking and I'll do the listening.'
Boom Zap Thwang. At that instant Rennie Davis abandoned all pretensions to what we know as rational human behavior and donated his mind to the divine prodigy, where it reposes to this day and, Rennie knows, for the rest of his cosmic existence-in other words, for all eternity.
[BLISS WITH A CAPITAL B]
As though he himself has foresworn thinking, he does offer the rest of us a scientific explanation for all this Bliss and Knowledge. "Scientists are just discovering that the Pineal Gland is light-receptive, and that the Pineal Gland is sort of the thing that directs the flow of the brain. Guru Maharaj Ji shows us how to discover this gland, and how to use this light so that we can become a part of Him. And this light shows us the Word, and if we can experience the Word, we'll be saved, no matter what else happens to us." As it turns out, the Word has arrived not a moment too soon, for the Guru Maharaj Ji also predicts, in Rennie's words, "a great wash will sweep the planet. Those who have the Word will be saved, and those who don't will not pass through this time.
"That's why He's come at this point in history. He will provide the opportunity to make His Knowledge available to every human being on the planet. If people will just listen to what He is saying, and come to Him with an open mind, He will give them the divine Truth which will not only transform this planet to heaven on earth, but will bring eternal happiness and bliss to everyone on it. And I mean Bliss with a capital `B.' "
some might find this rather incredible, if not ridiculous.
To be sure, Rennie Davis has been given to exaggeration
before. For example, he confidently predicted that Mayday
would shut down Washington, quite literally bring it to a
halt. But while such a statement might be excused as good
PR, it is quite something again to say that in two years'
time, Mao Tse-tung will bow down and worship a
"Of course it is," smiled Rennie. "And it is Divine. You see, we can't possibly know the Will of God-only He knows that and we are nothing but His humble servants. He tells us what to say and do, and I'm just repeating what He has told me. What He's saying is that this year He will give everyone the chance to find out who they really are. Of course that doesn't mean everyone will take Him up on it.
"You know," he went on, "I still can't believe it. That's the thing about this Knowledge-you just cannot believe it's happened to you. Guru Maharaj Ji is the culmination of every Perfect Master that preceded him-Buddha, Jesus, Krishna, all wrapped up in this fat little bundle of human flesh."
In fact, Rennie's admiration for the Perfect Master and His family knows no bounds. All members of the family, he says, are "some aspect of the Maharaj Ji's divinity." And as for Bal Bhagwan Ji, "personally, I think he's Jesus Christ returned to Earth and that this time he's brought his father with him." With such faith, he has no difficulty explaining what might appear as a blatant contradiction, if not an outright hypocrisy. The Guru Maharaj Ji, for example, has a marked weakness for expensive cars, motorcycles, and airplanes, and his mother rarely appears in public without diamonds. Who is this Perfect Master that He can pass himself off as a rich communist in a country where millions are starving?
"Last time," Rennie explains, "the Perfect Master came, He was dressed in rags and nobody believed him. This time, He's come back as a king and said, 'Pow-dig this, I'm here everybody and you can't miss me this time.' Besides, the material things He has are all just toys that He uses to make people realize how ludicrous money is. People are constantly laying all those gifts on Him-remember, even Christ let Mary Magdalene annoint Him with precious oils, it's the same kind of thing. And you just cannot look at Guru Maharaj Ji in the human form with any of His surroundings. He's challenging us to go beyond that that's why He looks so ridiculous and why He surrounds himself with materialism-it's lila. Like right now He's taking apart his Rolls engine and re-building it so He can understand it and then build an engine that will enable Him to beat the world's land speed record. After all, He's King of the Yippies.
"And it's the whole duality thing of our egos, fundamentally, rather than capitalism, fundamentally. Eliminate that duality and you eliminate capitalism, sexism, racism-everything. Guru Maharaj Ji is simply saying `accept me and let's get it on and start to rebuild this planet.' "
Looking into his clear brown eyes, I suddenly felt like a caveman trying to communicate with a gorilla: all the instincts were there, but there was a genetic time warp between my grunts and his. Perhaps sensing my incredulity, he reassured me with a pat on the knee. "It's good you're freaked out, Ken. That's the first step. All I'm saying is go check it out."
And so, in late April, I made my way to Denver where the Divine Light Mission of America was holding its second annual national gathering of ashram secretaries.
[CHECKING IT OUT]
Downtown Denver's 16th Street is a Disneyesque phantasmagoria of counterculture stereotypes, porn shops and exotic transplants melding into a surreal chimera of methedrine hustle. Sixteen-year-old longhairs panhandle the fat businessmen peeping at 60-second snatches of pubic fantasy for two bits. Hare Krishnas jangle their incessant tambourines alongside Jesus freaks preaching from invisible soapboxes. Women waddle by decorated as penguins with long rosaries swinging in synch to each step.
The neon red demon of Orange Julius marks the site of Denver's Kitteridge Building. Upstairs the North American headquarters of the Divine Light Mission occupies four floors. Well-scrubbed premies dash about their innocence a rude contrast to their environment. A few blocks away sits the national ashram, where I arrived having driven for 24 hours stuffed into a car with two ashram secretaries. My head was still zinging from the non-stop satsang and the whirl of slot machines, when who should walk up the steps but the perfect person to give us knowledge (small "k") about the national operation: Joan Apter, 26, National Promotions Director for the DLM.
Rennie Davis had told me in San Francisco that "starting now, we're going to make the revolution professionally." Joan Apter's very presence mirrors his prediction. She told the same life story that I would hear again and again that weekend with almost suspicious redundance.
"I quit school as a junior and travelled for three years. I'd been into acting and the arts, never much religion. I started school with lots of optimism which faded into boredom. And I was very unhappy. I left America knowing something was wrong, wanting to discover what it was and how to solve it. Then I found myself in India, as far north as I could go without entering China, which was impossible. I'd come to the point in my mind where I didn't know where else to turn. I'd tried everything I could come up with but each would finish up as a dead-end road. There are limits to the alternatives-even the human mind has a point where that limit is reached. I was emotionally drained and there was nothing to be optimistic about-I felt that whatever it was that gives happiness didn't exist. Life was all a joke and the joke was on me. Basically I wanted very simple things, like a child, and all the contradictions were making me more unnatural and unchildlike.
"It was at this point that I discovered Maharaj Ji, and the holy family took me in. It's said that when a person has been refused and rejected by the rest of the world, when everything else has left you behind, that's when you're ready for the Perfect Master. I received so much patience, love and revelation into a new type of life of which I knew nothing. Layer by layer my negativism started to disappear."
Returning to America, she joined two other premies and began the first U.S. ashram. "First I'd hooked up with this premie in West Virginia, and he and I began giving each other lots of satsang. Then there was this man in a mental institution in Maryland who wanted satsang, and I began giving it to him. But the staff told me, `Hey, we need this Knowledge as much as the patients do-we don't know if we're crazy or they are most of the time,' so I gave them satsang too. It was perfect -if anyone belonged in a mental institution before I met Guru Maharaj Ji I did, only there were none in India. So by His Grace I was saved, and now I was allowed to spread some of His Grace to others. Then I got a call from another incredible premie in L.A. who gave me a plane ticket and we started the first American ashram." That was but two years ago. Today the Divine Light Mission boasts 35 ashrams, with scores of attendant "premie houses" and related communities of devotees. Not only has the movement grown rapidly, but its adherents are convinced it won't peak and fizzle out.
"The difference," says Joan Apter, "is that we have a living master, a living example to relate to. Not a past theory or doctrine, but a living guide. Everything is now-there is no past or future. And from our practical experience we know we have nothing to worry about-we'll never go wrong because we have His Divine Grace to guide us. This is no wax banana."
Though her belief is strong, she was not so quick as Rennie to assert that Guru Maharaj Ji is God. "He says He's just a humble servant. But He gives you indications of who He is. He tells us that if a man is very clever, `I only have to beckon to him with my little finger and he will come. But if a man is not clever I must say put your eyes toward me, put your head toward me, put your left foot in front of your right foot and walk: In 1970 when He made his first public appearance He said `I have come with more power than ever before. Surrender your reins to me and I will give you salvation. I'm feeling power, so much power, but you must come to me to receive what I can give you.' So there are lots of indications but it's like Jesus wouldn't answer Pilate when asked if He were the Messiah- 'You say,' He said."
I inquired about Rennie's assertion that the Satguru was the reincarnation of all previous Perfect Masters. "Perfect Masters are not the reincarnation of each other. Buddha was not the reincarnation of Krishna. Perfect Masters are the reincarnation of perfection." Evidently, Rennie has not yet honed his zeal to the fine edge of a Joan Apter. Hers is a spit-'n'-polish ecumenicalism.
Rennie had told me that since America was the darkest place on the planet it would accept Maharaj Ji first. I inquired then whether Eastern Europe-as the second darkest place might be in line for a Soul Rush '74. No, said Joan Apter. "There is no great contradiction between their philosophy and that of Guru Maharaj Ji. The Russians don't deny God-they deny religion, and why shouldn't they? There is an incredible amount of activity in Czechoslovakia, for instance-our ashram there is doing amazing things. Basically, we have no philosophical differences with anybody. Everybody's just after happiness. But the Knowledge is universal. It's perfect communism. Also perfect democracy-perfect everything." Perfect fascism? I inquired. "Yes, perfect fascism, perfect totalitarianism-every system was created for a good reason."
The Knowledge, it seems, is all things to all people.
Most important, it is the key to immortality. "After you've received Knowledge, it's like you've roasted your seeds and can't re-plant them. After death there are two courses-liberation or devotion, if you've received Knowledge. Devotion means that you get another body to come back and help others receive Knowledge-people think that liberation is the most important thing, but it's not. The attachment to that energy which will bring the whole universe to liberation is most important. But if a person decides against devotion and simply wants liberation, then he'll simply merge without life and stay merged without life-no form, no human body. At death, whatever one wants is what the next life will be for him." This only applies, however, to those who have received Knowledge. The rest are consigned to a bestial future at best. "They take another, lower form than a human body: an animal form. If a mother at death is thinking of her children, if that's the single most important thing to her, she might come back as a pig and have lots of piglets. There are 8.6 million forms that energy can take, and the highest one is the human body. But the odds against actually getting one are immense. And it is only through that body that Knowledge can be received."
[THE HOLY FAMILY]
The Guru Maharaj Ji himself emerged in human form some 15 years ago. Like other Indians, he was given two names at birth: Pratap Singh Rawat, and Balyogeshwar.
he was born, his father, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, also a
Perfect Master and the actual founder of the Divine Light
Mission, exulted that the "Perfect Master has finally come
who will be able to do the fullness for which he has come.
He is so great I can but prostrate myself in front of him."
Shri Hans died when Balyogeshwar was eight years old. When
he was 13, he made his first public appearance to proclaim
his mission in front of a million people. He now claims five
million followers in India, and the Indian parliament
includes numerous supporters and detractors. Many of his
In 1971 he made his first Western appearance at a pop festival in Glastonbury, England. There he stunned the promoters and the crowd by driving up in a white Rolls Royce, and delivering satsang for a full 5 minutes before the power was cut on the microphone. In 1972, he ventured across the Atlantic to the United States and held his first American Guru Puja-Guru Worship-festival in the mountains of Colorado. More than 2,000 converts emerged from that event. This year, he plans to take the country by storm with a three-part media program ("Who is Guru Maharaj Ji"; "Guru Maharaj Ji is Here"; "The Messiah Has Come") culminating in a three-day celebration at the Houston Astrodome. The program-entitled Soul Rush '73-is set to begin on November 9, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj's birthday. The premies flatly predict they will fill the stadium with more than 60,000 disciples, and they plan to provide free food for the multitude. In addition, they will have exhibits which will portray cosmic consciousness through the centuries, from the most ancient mystic arts to the most recent para-psychological discoveries.
The Holy Family includes Maharaj Ji, his three brothers-Bal Bhagwa Ji, 21; Bhole Ji, 19; and Raja Ji, 17-and his Divine Mother Shri Mata Ji. Merely to be in their presence is considered a sacred event called darshan. Mata Ji has made several appearances in the U.S., though mostly she remains at the home ashram in Prem Nagar, where she welcomes thousands of visitors every month. Bhole Ji and Raja Ji are presently students in London. Bhole Ji is reportedly planning to launch a 42-piece band, replete with an entire horn, string and choir section.
Diana Stone, 26, is a very special premie who has experienced much darshan. Her father was in the diplomatic corps, and she has been all over the world and majored in psychology in college. While her father was acting ambassador to India, she first discovered the Holy Family and received Knowledge. She reflects an innate warmth and intelligence that attracts immediate attention. She describes her leader as "the true dispeller of darkness and revealer of light." Rennie and many other premies had assured me that the Satguru was God Himself. Diana Stone went beyond them, saying that Maharaj Ji is "greater than God-He is the Guru. Without the Guru, you cannot receive God . . . God is energy, infinite and omnipotent. Guru Maharaj Ji enables us to realize that energy and take full advantage of it. It's like there is the knowledge which is the water, and the Guru is the cup with which to drink the water and ingest the knowledge." Why not drink from the faucet? "Impossible. The mind, the ego, has stopped us from even realizing we're thirsty."
As was talking to Diana, an undercurrent of low-key hysteria swept the ashram: Bal Bhagwan Ji himself was going to put in an appearance at the conference. Premies had been hinting at it all weekend, but divine impulse is unpredictable. Diana Stone promised she would ask that I be allowed to interview him, as did Joan Apter. As the moment drew closer when he would actually walk through the door (without, by the way, removing his shoes-divine privilege has its compensations), the frenzy approached delirium. Premies clutched moist handkerchiefs in one hand to dry their eyes while, with the other, they madly sprayed air-freshener on everything and everyone in sight. Garlands of flowers appeared magically, people jockeyed for position around the foyer to get a little hit of darshan as Bal Bhagwan Ji walked up to this third floor sanctum sanctorum, reserved exclusively for visiting members of the Holy Family. I was allowed a ringside seat, and I must admit I was more than a little blissed out amidst the heavenly hoopla; who knows but that just the sight of such splendor might give me some of the fabled white light of Knowledge that heretofore I had only approached with nitrous oxide in my dentist's chair. Fully primed, I watched the door fly open, and a slight figure resembling a young Thomas Dewey dashed upstairs faster than a rat fleeing a cat. Halfway up he paused, glanced over his shoulder, and was off like a shot again.
it turned out, that fleeting glimpse of divinity was all I
was to be allowed. Bal Bhagwan Ji would not see me. When I
found out that he spent three hours the next day playing
with a ouija board, I was furious. My protests got me
nowhere, however, and when I telephoned Rennie Davis for
some divine intercession on my behalf, he only laughed at my
frustration. "This is a test, a little lila, Ken, so don't
worry. Besides it may have nothing to do with who you are
now, but who you were in a past lifetime-Bal Bhagwan Ji sees
those things, you know." You cannot know true frustration
until you have been penalized for being a frog in a previous
incarnation. I continued to protest, and only felt more
foolish at the inevitable response: "Everyone gets what's
perfect for him," said Rennie. "Have
I sulked in a corner and contemplated nefarious schemes to sneak up on Bal Bhagwan Ji. It was hopeless, I realized: as Diana Stone had pointed out, "Even the crummiest little Swami can read minds," and the most devoted follower was undoubtedly following my every move. As I stood on the steps, a mustached young man, fastidious in his premie mod attire, sat down at my side.
Steve O'Neill, 25, has been a DLM organizer in Boston for two years. Beantown has been especially receptive to the guru's grace: it ranks second only to Denver in the volume of activity and number of devotees-four ashrams and five of the less formal premie houses. O'Neill is currently a top officer in the World Peace Corps, the DLM front-group which raises money by any means necessary-from babysitting to installing car mufflers. It also provides security troops for any DLM event, such as a visit by a member of the Holy Family. For the moment, Steve O'Neill is on temporary reassignment in Denver, as general secretary of the local WPC ashram. "Everything within the Divine Light Mission is temporary these days," he says. "You just move around wherever needed, as the flow goes." Job assignment is not based on ability, just sincerity-"Guru Maharaj Ji's Grace gives us all the ability we need," according to Joan Apter. As a case in point, Michael Donner, the 24-year-old Executive Director of Personnel-one of the top three positions in the entire DLM-has been an active premie for only four months. "I was in jail for a year for draft resistance," Donner told me. A member of the "Beaver 55" (eight people charged with destroying draft records and destruction of Dow Chemical Company property), Donner received Knowledge almost two years ago, "but I did nothing with it until the aimlessness of my life caught up with me."
Like Donner, Steve O'Neill was a revolutionary of sorts before his transmogrification, and in fact many top-echelon premies share a political background. O'Neill's story is a particularly interesting one.
"I joined the army to learn how to kill. I was really into weapons and the whole John Wayne syndrome. I was stoned out on acid when I enlisted, and I wanted to use the knowledge I gained to just, you know, blow up the whole government. I was a topnotch soldier, and got my classification as a weapons expert. They sent me to Korea, where I hung out with some black cats and we'd do things like set the library on fire, steal a bunch of weapons, stuff like that. It was a whole joke to us, but we were serious at the same time. Then I got myself thrown out on a drug charge-I was stoned all the time-and I went back to Long Island and got in with a bunch of old buddies who were ex-Gls too. We were just waiting for the shit to hit so we could go into the streets and tear down the system.
"We were pulling lots of robberies on the side. Finally everyone got busted-everyone but me. I slid. We'd been operating out of my family's basement, and one night we went out to sell this guy $1000 worth of dope, though we planned to rip him off. I stayed home. When the other guys told him to hand over the bread, he pulled out a badge and said, `I'm a detective and you're all under arrest.' All of a sudden a helicopter searchlight flashed on them and five sharpshooters opened up. The guys dove into a nearby lake, where they were picked up on the other side. Then some other cops came to my house and were halfway down the basement stairs-the basement was full of bullets on the tables and barbiturates on the floors-when my father said `Hey, wait a minute.' They stopped, walked back outside, and showed me the pictures of my buddies. `Do you know these guys,' they asked. `Yeah, they're my friends,' I answered. They said okay, and split. I never heard anything about it again. Even then I felt Guru Maharaj Ji's Grace-there was no reason I shouldn't have landed in the can. So I split for Ireland and got into a lot of acid and mountains. I met a premie who was so peaceful and beautiful that I instantly picked up on the vibe. I heard satsang for a couple of days in Dublin in the fall of 1971, received Knowledge, and totally blossomed .out. I then organized some satsang programs in Ireland and started the first premie house there. It was so beautiful so . . . perfect."
[SHOCK TROOPS FOR THE GURU]
Premies, like Steve O'Neill, Joan Apter, Diana Stone and indeed, Rennie Davis are the Avatar's front line, and they use meditation as a kind of cosmic Gatorade. "We meditate 24 hours a day on a subconscious level, and at least two hours a day on a conscious level," says Joan Apter. Mass meditation on the "conscious level" is a sight to behold. During my visit to Denver, I would walk into the large room of the ashram at night to sleep and have to wend my way through an obstacle course of frozen figurines with sheets draped about them, eyes immovably tuned into the fourth dimension. It was like one of those horror movies where you need the tinted goggles to see the ghosts, and I'd left mine home. Then about 5:00 a.m. all the devotees would jump up from slumber with a Hindu war-whoop and chant for an hour before going back into meditation. By seven o'clock they had shared a communal breakfast and were off to do their work. Premies rarely have more than five hours sleep a night, yet they sustain an incredibly energetic schedule.
The premies have but five commandments to follow: 1. Never put off 'til tomorrow what you can do today. 2. Never delay in attending satsang. 3. Always have faith in God. 4. Constantly meditate and remember the Name. (The Name is something revealed in the Knowledge session.) 5. Never keep any doubt in the mind.
These are the written rules; there is another set of unwritten ones which premies must follow religiously so long as they reside in an ashram. They stay away from movies and general "entertainment." They never swear. They must surrender all worldly possessions to the DLM. And they must be celibate.
"There is something much higher, much more pleasureable than sex," says Steve O'Neill. "We just don't need it." Never? "Well, once me and my old lady got to making out in a closet and we just couldn't restrain ourselves, so we balled. But we had to leave the ashram, of course."
Carol Greenberg heads up the Divine Organization of Women, a recently formed adjunct to the DLM. "Celibacy is actually very liberating," she says. "It removes the sexual objectification of women a great deal." DOW is charged with responsibility for recruiting women into the organization. Though she uses the terminology of women's liberation, Carol Greenberg does not view her organization as part of the women's movement. And indeed, the Divine position on women is not likely to have a broad appeal to feminists.
The majority of housemothers, premies responsible for maintaining domestic tranquility in the ashram, are women, as are the cooks and kitchen-workers. "The woman has naturally taken her place as housemother, and the man has naturally taken his place as coordinator, organizer and breadwinner," says O'Neill. Joan Apter told me she believes there are fundamentally different qualities in men and women-"but it's not a problem within the organization, only to people on the outside looking in. I have never met a woman working in an ashram kitchen that wasn't happy, and that's what matters. Everybody wants to be liberated, free from limitations. But when you identify yourself with a limitation-whether woman, man, black or white, you automatically create a frustration. When Guru Maharaj Ji was four years old he was asked what the difference between girls and boys was. He replied that `girls have much softer hearts than boys.' " Does a soft heart a better dishwasher make? I asked. "No, but service is service, whether designing plans for the perfect city or cooking a meal. You get the same satisfaction because of Guru Maharaj Ji's Grace."
One might wonder, then, why the Perfect Master even bothers with a Divine Organization of Women. Rennie Davis sees it as a potentially important instrument for spreading the Knowledge. "The first realization is that you're not your body and you're not your mind. Premies say 'I'm not a woman, I'm not black,' whatever. But now that people know the greatest service of the Knowledge is to reach people where they're at with Guru Maharaj Ji's message, then we begin to move beyond that phase. Although we are actually the light inside ourselves, to reach women we need a national women's organization that will go out and say `we have the ultimate in consciousness-raising.' And we need black groups and Indian groups and all kinds of ways to propagate the Knowledge." (The lone black premie I met in Denver still hadn't reached that particular stage: "I'm not black-I'm a manifestation of my soul, not my pigmentation," he told me.)
"A lot of the people who came into the organization went through no women's consciousness at all," continues Rennie, "and that's a problem. Women are still called chicks and lots of the old weird things still exist. Our language needs to fit our new consciousness and it doesn't always do that. But it's getting worked out."
To the DLM's credit, many of the key administrators in the national organization are women, as are some of the most intelligent and impressive premies I met. Yet no women serve as ashram general secretaries in the United States, though three of the four Canadian ashrams have female general secretaries. In any event, sexism is hardly a major concern in the Divine Order of Things.
The Divine Light Mission is growing like a mushroom on a spring day," says Rennie Davis, and figures supplied by the organization tend to bear him out-even allowing for a tendency to exaggerate its own momentum. From Joan Apter and her two friends in 1971, the North American branch has grown to some 35,000 devotees. Only two Mahatmas-instillers of Knowledge-work the States, and each conducts one or two daily sessions with at least 15 initiates. They are followed wherever they go by scores of disciples seeking to prepare themselves for receiving Knowledge.
Coast to coast, the DLM has some 35 ashrams, and 30 premie houses will soon become ashrams. In additions there are at least 300 other premie houses, and they too will one day blossom. The Satguru's burgeoning empire of services and projects falls under the aegis of the Divine Light Mission, Inc., a non-profit organization. The new Divine United Organization, however, will soon take over the material end of the Mission's work, leaving the DLM free to concentrate on "spiritual propagation." In addition, the World Peace Organization repairs cars, runs print shops, supervises thrift shops, builds sound systems, provides babysitters and carpentry work to anyone who needs them, all profits going back into the parent organization.
A prison program gives satsang in six states, and a drug program operates in eight states. Shri Hans Productions publishes a slick magazine, And It Is Divine, whose circulation has risen from 20,000 to 130,000 in four issues. It also puts out a weekly tabloid, Divine Times, which claims a nationwide circulation of 30,000. Thirty radio stations around the country carry a regular half-hour show about Guru Maharaj Ji, and the programming is adjusted to mesh with the station format. Recently, the Mission has sponsored a syndicated television show which originates in Minneapolis.
Then there's Shri Hans Humanitarian, which operates a New York health clinic-staffed by 20 doctors and seven nurses-to provide free health care to anyone needing it. Starting this fall, the Mission will launch an elementary school in Denver for 100 premie children who have received Knowledge. Eventually, this operation will be expanded to include kindergarten through high school.
Equally impressive are what Guru Maharaj Ji describes as his technological toys: a Cesna Cardinal single-engine plane worth $30,000 and a Cesna twin engine worth $190,000; a Mercedes Benz in New York worth $12,000 and a Rolls Royce Silver Cloud in Los Angeles worth $26,000; a $12,000 mobile home in Montrose, California, which will soon be sold to buy a mobile van for the medical clinic; a movie camera worth $12,000 and numerous related sound devices. DLM's property holdings do not yet rival those of the Catholic Church, but they are numerous and growing. They include a Divine residence in Los Angeles worth $76,000; an ashram in Denver worth $41,000 and one in Hyattsville, Md. valued at $55,000; and several hundred acres of property in New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Maine, donated by premies and their friends.
[THE GURU'S BENEFACTORS]
Michael Bergman, 26, keeps track of all this wealth in his capacity as executive accountant for the Divine Light Mission. He defies the stereotype of the hard-nosed, close-mouthed bookkeeper, and he allowed me to inspect the organization's records and interview its donors. Most, he says, are premies who have inherited money and have been inspired to support the word of Guru Maharaj Ji with their own worldly goods. Last year, five premies together gave over $110,000. So far this year three more have given $60,000 and in all likelihood two financial angels will contribute close to $200,000 each by the time this article appears. Also, he says that "dozens and dozens" of cherubs have donated gifts of $1,000 to $10,000.
A Houston premie, whom we will call Cliff, has made the largest contribution to date: $40,000. "I couldn't see how I was ever going to use that money," he told me, "It was a real weight on me. I never really considered it mine. And the dividends and interest were so high that I had to pay income tax even though I was unemployed." After receiving Knowledge, Cliff traveled to India last November as part of an excursion of 3,500 premies to hang out in Prem Nagar and witness the antics of Guru Maharaj Ji. "After experiencing His Divine Love, there was no doubt in my mind what to do with the money. He has converted the medium of exchange from dollars to love." His father disowned him, but Cliff says, "We communicate now. We just don't talk about the money." The parents of a Wisconsin premie reacted less benevolently on learning that their daughter had given the DLM her $20,000-plus inheritance. They hired the notorious Frecog-"Free Our Children from the Children of God"-to kidnap her. (These thugs have become infamous for the heavy-handed tactics they use to convince Jesus freaks to renounce their fervor.)
The total bill for last November's trip to India was $638,000, as while the spiritual aspects of the sojourn may have been perfect, the logistics were something less. In Delhi, Indian customs officials confiscated Joan Apter's suitcase containing some $28,000 in cash, traveler's checks and jewelry, creating a minor international incident. (She did not declare it properly.) It has yet to be returned.
But such figures pale alongside the most ambitious project yet undertaken by the Mission: the Divine City which, according the Guru Maharaj Ji, will rise from nothing in one year's time somewhere in California. It will be the physical manifestation of the heaven-on-earth one receives through knowledge, with design, technology and environment to boggle the mind of man. A tract near Santa Barbara seems the likely location, subject of course to Maharaj Ji's final approval. The purchase price is reportedly $11 million, including $1 million down payment.
It may well take a miracle to accomplish this ultimate vision. In this instance, the miracle worker appears to be an unlikely character named Joe Gould, a 58-year-old Denver businessman who owns the Kitteridge Building housing the DLM national headquarters. Leaders of the Mission discount Gould's reputation as a robber baron. "Guru Maharaj Ji tells us that no matter how evil a man has become in his society, when he encounters satsang his humanness can come out," explains Bob Mishler, 28, the tall, soft-spoken and very elusive National Director of the DLM. "Gould has been very kind to us, and has expressed a willingness to work with us on the Divine City in the same way he has worked with us on renting us office space." As a landlord, he has been very kind indeed; while charging a nominal rent, he has given them $18,000 to fix up their offices to their exact needs.
"He has told us he'd be willing to arrange the land purchase to enable us to have the best terms and lowest payment schedule," says accountant Bergman. "As for actually giving us some of the money, that's very vague right now. But anything can happen-at one point when we were negotiating the office deal, he said he might give us the entire building."
Gould himself says that while he has not really thought about it, "I wouldn't dismiss the possibility of giving them some of the money." He owns oil wells in Texas, office buildings, theatres and luxury housing in the Denver area, and real estate in Las Vegas. His manufacturing concern ranks as the largest producer of charcoal lighter fluid in the world. By his own admission he has never felt compelled to help any other group of people. He is drawn to the Divine Disciples, however, "because this is a different breed of young people. Irrespective of their philosophy, which I don't know much about, I think it's wonderful what they're doing. I admire their spirit-they're always full of smiles, and they dress very neat and clean. I consider it a pleasure and privilege to be of help to them."
["IF YOU NEED ME. . ."I
As Kris Kristoffersen says, "Freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose." You night just as well say the obverse-that slavery's just another word for everything to gain, and obeisance to Guru Maharaj Ji has its attractions. For one thing, it offers a living, loving teacher who serves as a shield from all worry and an umbilical cord to eternity.
In one last bit of satsang I received in Denver, a premie compared mankind to "a fish going downstream with a hook caught in his mouth and a line of string attached to the pole." Thinking that this was actually special satsang for outdoorsmen, I mused aloud that the string must be the Satguru. "No," he said. "It's free will."
So just "let go" like Rennie: the string will snap; the crows will fly away. You will discover heaven on earth and death itself will become a delicious experience, offering reincarnation, not as a zombie condemned to walk about with doubt, uncertainty and despair, but as one of the enlightened elect blessed with the Knowledge of Truth. Or you may prefer to swim around in the cosmos, and you can then-if you choose-know the pleasures of eternal life as a formless spirit.
The Guru Maharaj Ji will solve your problems, whatever they may be. There are no sexual hangups in the Divine Light Mission because there is no sex, and Bal Bhagwan Ji told Rennie Davis that "we'll just eliminate distinctions between men and women eventually." Who needs it anyway? No sex, no movies, no rock festivals, no all-night poker games. I asked Steve O'Neill if the premies have any vices at all. "Yes," he replied. "A couple of times a week we go out and get a Baskin-Robbins ice cream cone."
is the ultimate irony of the Movement's search for answers
that there are none-only more questions, more struggle which
grows ever more difficult as the questions become ever
harder to ask. Maharaj Ji tells us to knock our heads on the
four corners of the earth, "and if you like any of them,
stay there. But if you don't, keep me in mind." There are
plenty of bruised noggins drifting around right now. And it
seems altogether likely that, in coming months, many of them
will be donated to the Divine Light