The End of the Dance

By November 1973 Divine Light Mission had been through 2½ years of spectacular growth - from 6 members to as many as 50,000 despite or because of the paradoxical and magical thinking of the standard premie "belief system." The passion, the outrageous expectations and the times had come together to create a "soul rush." However the climax of this process - the Millenium 73 festival - had been a public and private failure. The Mission received nealy as much publicity as desired but all of it negative, and only the most committed (deluded) premies weren't disappointed. None of the expectations had been met. Nearly every premie went home feeling let down.

Sophia Collier was open about her feeings in Soul Rush:

In the morning I went to the Dome for the beginning of the festival. As I expected, there were not 400,000 people there. There were plenty of premies, about 20,000, but even this number, impressive in an open field, seemed small in the vastness of the Astrodome. In general the festival was a bore. I enjoyed seeing all of the friends I had met in other parts of the DLM community, but from a theatrical point of view, I was disappointed. Maharaj Ji's remarks were undistinguished, and I noticed his words were slurred. … The high point of the event for me was some beers I had with Lola and the Village Voice reporter, Marilyn Webb. As I sat and sipped, the two of them ranted about what a disappointment the Millennium event had turned out to be. (As I discovered later, we were not the only ones for whom some alcohol was the festival's high point. Bob Mishler told me Maharaj Ji got "sloshed." p174-5

WHAT A BOMB, WAS THE FIRST THING I THOUGHT ON THE morning after the program was over, as I woke up in the dilapidated old Coca-Cola plant. "What the hell am I doing here?" I rubbed my tired face and took a deep breath. Even though I understood the complex circumstances which had made the festival into such a failure, I couldn't help but feel disappointed. It was not only a failure because few people enjoyed the three-day program. That would be tolerable, an unfortunate occurrence on par with a play bombing in the bush leagues - the theater company can always practice more and make a comeback with a better script. But Millennium was a media event. We had promoted it actively. Journalists from all over the country were in attendance to hear what Rennie had promised would be a "practical plan for world peace." Instead of any new thoughts on a workable plan for a better world, these visiting media people found a confused jumble of inarticulately expressed ideas. p176-7

Foss & Larkin highlighted the paradoxical and magical thinking of premies in their discussion of Millenium 73:

A Mission fiasco to which Guru Maharaj Ji lent his name could be susceptible to post-facto classification as lila: after the Millennium festival, at which Mission officials predicted an attendance upwards of 100,000 plus extra-terrestrial beings, was in fact attended by a maximum of 35,000 and incurred a debt of over $1 million, some premies professed to believe that the prophecies had indeed been fulfilled and that l,000 years of peace had in fact been inaugurated. Others, however, contended that the festival had in fact been lila, a stupendous trick played by Guru Maharaj Ji to teach the premies to avoid having "expectations" even if they derived from Guru Maharaj Ji's own pronouncement; to eschew "attachments" to grandiose organizational manifestations and colossal objects in the material world such as the Astrodome; and to remain exclusively centered upon the only Truth, which lies within.

An anonymous premie told James Downton:

"When I received the Knowledge in 1971, the general feeling was that soon the whole world would have peace, so to hold onto anything, like money, job, education, or family, was a sign of a weak level of devotion. After Millennium, there was a lot of disappoint-ment and change. People couldn't believe that we would have to go on living in the same old world. I had to really examine what I wanted to do, since the excitement was over.

Promises of Divine Light attracted new followers Prem Rawat's Pool of Available Recruits Dries Up

In the early 1970's there was a large group of disaffected "hippies" who were losing faith in the small but heavily publicised 60's political and social counter-culture and were looking for spiritual paths to follow. DLM proclaimed they had a Divine Incarnation of God who was at least able to generate publicity due to his age, appearance and non-spiritual proclivities. It had a millenial message and claimed to have the power to initiate interested people in meditation techniques that would reveal God through Divine Light, Music, the Holy Name or primordial vibration of the universe and Nectar of the Gods. It also had a relatively large and organised body of Indian members. The excitement and faith of the early believers, their dedication and certainty provided the inspiration that attracted others and their youth and lack of family ties allowed them to move into communal housing (ashrams) and dedicate all their time, talents, skills, inheritance or income to the organisation and the "practice of Knowledge". The number of "hippies" was far less than their media presence suggested. The influx of Eastern wannabe gurus in the West in the early 1970s soon emptied this pool of interested young people available to commit their lives to the methods taught by these gurus.

Prem Rawat Stops Attracting New Disciples After Failure Of Millenium '73

Prem Rawat's wife and mahatmas kiss his feet The rapid expansion soon ground to a halt and when Rawat's mother disowned, disinherited and deposed him there was a significant disaffection and defection. This occurred again when the Divine Light Mission administrators (who had grown disillusioned with the Knowledge) began a series of conferences in which premies were encouraged to re-examine their beliefs and leave the the ashrams. Of course there was the normal disillusion that occurs in cults whose recruitment promises of perfect bliss and liberation and enlightenment cannot be attained in real lives. It appears that the number of Western premies peaked under 20,000 by 1980 and has never returned to that number after the final closing of the ashrams in the early 1980's and the ending of nightly satsang meetings in which ordinary premies "gave satsang" extemperanusly. The enthusiasm of the youthful followers waned away and the credibility the obese, luxury loving fatboy guru gained from his exotic renunciate Indian "mahatmas" disappeared when they virtually all returned to India and worked for Rawat's eldest brother who was now declared to be the real Satguru.

Learning More:

The Keys: Golden Age

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