From Slogans To Mantras


One night in 1974, I watched in disbelief as men and women of my generation paid homage to an unimpressive guru who equated levels of spiritual knowledge with increasingly large sizes of planes. I was somewhere in Philadelphia, packed so tightly into a church pew that I literally was sitting on top of myself - one leg had to be turned sideways in order to fit between the people on either side of me. As a twenty two year old hippie, I noticed that many others in the audience looked like "freaks" (as we called ourselves) and that there was little discernible difference between the "freak" women and the "earth mother" appearance of the guru's female devotees. In sharp contrast, the male devotees looked like business school aspirants but I realized that, not long before, they probably had been scruffy and long haired like me.

One by one, relatives and others in the so called Perfect Master's inner circle strode to the microphone and proclaimed the spiritual power of their guru's message. Every indication was that, at least in his devotees' eyes, he was no ordinary young man. Indeed, in the middle of the event, one of the organizers asked the audience for use of an available car, because he needed to go somewhere to pick up a pillow for the guru's lotus feet.

Aside from my own excruciating body cramps, I remember little else about the build up for the guru except for one grand proclamation, from a slightly older member of the guru's entourage. Confidently, clearly, this man announced: "Ladies and gentlemen, I have seen the Lord! He was in New York City last night, and he will be in this church this evening!" Only years later did I realize that this confident speaker had been none other than Rennie Davis, who had earned the respect and admiration of my generation by his strident opposition to the Vietnam War. In any case, all this hype proved irritating, because I had come not to hear praises from his entourage but rather to experience the Perfect Master himself.

I was profoundly disappointed. Indeed, I found his poorly delivered message to be banal. Drawing an analogy between airplanes and spiritual knowledge, he taught the audience something along the lines that, "If you are a native living in the jungles of Africa and a Piper Cub flies over your head, then you will say 'Oh, what a big airplane.' But ahhh, there are 747s!" I did not appreciate his characterization of African tribespeople, nor was I impressed with his clumsy analogy. Consequently, I could not fathom what so many of my peers found inspiring about this kid, and I was wholly unprepared for what happened after the presentation concluded.

Riding home with a friend that evening in the back seat of a car, I listened incredulously as my companions spoke glowingly about the message that they had just received. In fact, they were so moved by the guru's words that they made tentative plans to return the next day to pay homage to him by kissing his feet. I was flabbergasted, stunned. How could anyone have thought that this guy was a spiritual master? Unable to comprehend why anyone had been impressed by the amateurish performance through which I had suffered, I pondered this mystery for years.

For the past quarter of a century, I have remembered that disorienting night as I have tried to interpret crucial experiences of my generation. My first attempt at doing so (in scholarly form, at least) was an article entitled "Puritan Radicalism and the New Religious Organizations: Seventeenth Century England and Contemporary America" (Kent 1987). More to the point was an article that appeared the following year, "Slogan Chanters to Mantra Chanters: A Mertonian Deviance Analysis of Conversion to the Religious Organizations of the Early 1970s" (Kent 1988). An edited version of this article was subsequently published in book form as "Slogan Chanters to Mantra Chanters: A Deviance Analysis of Youth Religious Conversion in the Early 1970s" (Kent 1992). Finally, I developed additional ideas in "Radical Rhetoric and Mystical Religion in the Late Vietnam War Era" (Kent 1993), based on a paper presented at the Vietnam Anti-war Movement Conference: The Charles DeBenedetti Memorial Conference at the University of Toledo (Toledo, Ohio) in May, 1990. I express my gratitude to Sociological Analysis (now Sociology of Religion), Rutgers University Press, and Religion for granting me permission to include sections of these articles in this larger study.

Although my own professional training is in religious studies and now I teach in a sociology department, I realize that this book may have its greatest appeal to students of postwar American (and to some extent Canadian) popular culture. In my previous academic studies I have developed the theoretical frameworks and concepts that lay behind my interpretations, but in this book (for the most part) I have set theory aside and allowed very colorful material to speak for itself. The period upon which I concentrate - the early 1970s - remains relatively unexplored, shadowed as those years are by the intensity of the wild, wonderful, and tragic decade before it. The 1960s, however, were not my time not really. My friends and I entered young adulthood as one decade slid into another, and we only got to explore ourselves and our world as we watched the 1960s fade. Yet our own era around the end of the Vietnam War was filled with excitement and oddities, all of which require their own place as the record of our times.

The era about which I write is sufficiently close to our own that I was able to have access to a wide range of sources upon which to build my argument. Along with several hundred books from or about the 1960s and early 1970s, I consulted extensively both academic and journalistic articles about the late Vietnam War period (although I cannot hope to have gathered and examined everything). Perhaps the most important methodological decision I made was to rely heavily upon commentaries that appeared in the underground and alternative press. I began this aspect of my research by doing systematic searches of youth religious groups through the Alternative Press Index at the Library of Congress. After tracking down and photocopying particular items, I browsed thousands of additional alternative press pages that the Library of Congress has on microfilm, in the compilation by University Microfilms International (1985) entitled Underground Press Collection 1963 - 1985. No doubt I missed many articles, but the number of pages that I examined from a wide array of alternative publications convinced me that I identified central arguments and key items.

Beyond these extensive media searches, I collected over twenty five file cabinet drawers of primary documents, photocopies, and related ephemera from many of the alternative religions that were active in the United States and Canada during the late 1960s and early 1970s. I supplemented my own collection on these new religions by examining files at the Graduate Theological Union at Berkeley, the Bancroft Library at the University of California, Berkeley especially the Bancroft's excellent Social Protest Collection and the Institute for the Study of American Religions at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Finally, I needed to hear accounts from people who actually had passed through the transition about which I was writing. Consequently, I used social networks of both current and former members of these religious groups to locate people whose sectarian involvement came after periods of political activism. I taped twenty interviews with people who followed the politics to religion pattern, and all of these tapes now are transcribed and have been checked for accuracy against the audio recordings Excerpts from these interviews appear throughout chapters 4 and 5.

Several institutions provided resources that allowed me to conduct research in various locations in the United States and Canada. Two grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) allowed me to gather documents and conduct interviews for research on Canadian "cults" and "new religions," and while doing so I frequently collected research for this project. The University of Alberta provided transcription assistance, release time from classroom responsibilities, teaching assistants, and various forms of support for my document collection efforts. Over the years, many graduate (and occasionally undergraduate) students have aided me by locating countless references in libraries. Among them were Rob Cartwright, Albert Chu, Deana Hall, Theresa Krebs, Jo Lambda, (now Dr.) David Long, (now Dr.) Jane Milliken, Ayse Oncu, and Michael Peckham. Research assistants who provided invaluable service included Lou Bell, Vanessa Cosco, Ken Hutton, Susan Hutton, Jennifer McMullen, Kyla Rae, Elaine Seier, Lori Shortreed, and Kara Thompson. My wife has edited and critiqued various drafts, and has tolerated a writing schedule that usually brought inspirations only after midnight. My long suffering parents financed various research escapades that contributed to this book, and at times even have driven hundreds of miles to assist me. Their love is never forgotten and always cherished.

Finally, special thanks, and indeed the dedication of this book, goes to a person whose direct influence over me had waned by the time I began serious research on this topic. While I was a graduate student, Dr. Robert Blumstock supported me through very difficult periods, and I often wonder whether I would have made it without his honorable and decent presence. My lifelong gratitude extends to him, and I deeply regret that he did not know about my book dedication plans when he died during the spring of 1995.

Radical Rhetoric and Eastern Religions

Divine Light Mission

Nowhere was the new prioritizing of religion or spirituality over politics more dramatic than among followers (called "premies") of the adolescent Guru Maharaj Ji, who was born December 10, 1957 (for a brief "official" biography, see "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?" 1973). Rennie Davis's conversion to the "Perfect Master" (as the guru's followers called him) sparked bewilderment and anger within the New Left, and during Davis's speaking tours on behalf of the Divine Light Mission (DlM), activists and radicals alternatively ridiculed him and sat in dazed wonderment as he propounded his message about the new path to peace ("Rennie Davis on Tour" 1973, 2; Rossman 1979, 17). Davis told a Berkeley crowd comprised of many former and current activists that "the Perfect Master teaches perfection, and will bring perfection on Earth not after the Millennium, but right now, in three years. A. revolutionary perfection, realizing all our ideals of peace and justice, brought about not by struggle and conflict but by the perfect working of a perfect organization" (Rossman 1979, 16). In essence, Davis offered his former comrades a career move into the ideal organization, from which they finally would achieve the heretofore elusive goals of the 1960s. After people received "the knowledge" that Maharaj Ji imparted to his followers, Davis insisted, "then we can do what the street people sought in the sixties abolish capitalism and other systems that oppress" (Davis, quoted in Lewis and Thomas 1973).

The primary political word that Maharaj Ji and his organization used to attract disaffected activists and radicals was "peace." As it stated in various ways, the DLM offered converts the road to achieving peace in a manner as universal and grand as they ever had dreamt of accomplishing in the 1960s. In typical fashion, the guru's posters advertising his September 9, 1972, appearance at the Oakland City Auditorium boldly proclaimed "IMAGINE WHAT IS PEACE / COME AND REALIZE THE PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE." On the application form for Millennium '73, the DLM's major media event of the early 1970s, the teenaged guru said, "I declare I will establish peace in this world." 6

During the event itself, held at the Houston Astrodome, a giant video screen behind the main stage showed a barrage of shots from the tumultuous 1960s assassinations, riots, peace protests, and Vietnam War footage (Levine 1974, 48; Gray 1973, 39; see also Kent 1987, 22 - 23). When the DLM's newspaper reflected upon the Houston event a few months after it was over, it again contrasted the contentious political events of the preceding decade the civil rights movement, VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America), the October 1969 Vietnam Moratorium, draft dodging, and the Vietnam War itself with the guru's message of peace: "Give me your love, I will give you peace. Come to me, I will relieve you of your suffering. I am the source of peace in this world" ("Story" 1973, 9).

Various accounts from the period suggest that many former protesters accepted the guru's promise for peace.7 Prior to his own conversion, Rennie Davis met numerous leftist veterans in the DLM, and their presence helped him to decide to explore further the guru's message. While visiting the group's ashram in India,

I kept getting more and more freaked - the whole thing stank of fraud. But there were about 60 western young people at Prem Nagar [near the Himalayan Mountains], 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 May Day." 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. (Davis, quoted in Kelley 1973b, 35) 8

In turn, Davis's conversion influenced other activists to explore Maharaj Ji's teachings (Kelley 1973a, 9). Former activist Sophia Collier read about Davis's new direction in a copy of the DLM's newspaper, Divine Times. From the article, she learned that Davis

now felt that the work of the peace movement, in which he had labored so long, would not bring about society wide changes. Instead, he "envisioned a spiritual movement with the aim of raising the collective consciousness of the nation as the first step toward any other meaningful change."
Although this idea was not really new to me, when I read it in [Divine Times] it seemed to click. Maybe Divine Light Mission could help me with both my personal spiritual aspirations and my hopes for the world. (Collier 1978,111)

Other prominent activists and radicals who converted to Maharaj Ji included Michael Donner, whose term as vice president of the DLM was interrupted in 1975 by a twelve month imprisonment (as a "Beaver 55" member) for destroying draft board files and erasing Dow Chemical's computer tapes.9

Followers of Guru Maharaj Ji march in downtown Houston in early November 1973, in anticipation of Millenium '73. (© Houston Chronicle)
Rennie Davis, former antiwar Protester turned Divine Light Mission premie, speaks at the Millennium '73 extravaganza in Houston (which he helped coordinate) on Nov. 11, 1973. During the event, Davis told the crowd of about 22,000 attenders: "All I can say is, honestly, very soon now, every single human being will know the one who was waited for by every religion of all times has actually come." (© Gerald Israel, Archive Photos)

Sandy Meadows, managing editor of the DLM's publication And It is Divine, had been a member of the Denver Weathermen Collective (Haines 1973-74, 8). Steve O'Neill, who in 1973 was a twenty five year old DLM organizer in Boston, was an ex GI and "a revolutionary of sorts" before his conversion (Kelley 1973b, 54). Finally, the DLM's director of public relations in 1973, Richard Profumo, had served a seven month prison sentence for draft evasion (Levine 1974, 42).

Michael Rossman captured the logic of the attraction that Maharaj Ji held for former activists when he observed:

If Rennie was a heretic, his heresy was not one of ends, but of means; and it struck us where our faith is weakest. We have all been struggling for personal fulfillment and the social good in the same brutal climate. Few now can escape the inadequacy of the political metaphor to inspire and guide even our political actions, let alone to fulfill them. It is not just a matter of the correct line; the problem is with process. All is accomplished by organizing. But was there an activist present [in Davis's Berkeley audience] who had not felt despair, simple and terrifying, at the frustrations and impossibilities of working in the organizations we form: their outer impotence, their inner conflicts and ego games and wasted energy, the impoverishments of spirit which lead us to drop out of them again and again? Here Rennie was, proclaiming the perfect means to our various ends, the ideal, impossible Organization, working in perfect inner harmony, and outer accomplishment. Lay down your arms, your suffering, and the Master will give you bliss. And yet to work in the Left, to be of the Left, has meant to bear these arms, this suffering; we have known no other way. (Rossman 1979, 22)

For Davis and many other political activists and radicals, the rhetoric of the DLM provided hope that an ungraspable and ill defined "peace" still could be achieved, even as the organization's staunchest workers submitted themselves to the absolutist authority of a guru who retreated from confronting institutions that fostered war. As one of many DLM ironies, the tents and water tanks for its 1974 New England rummage sale and festival were provided by the National Guard (Boulanger 1974).

'Blissed out premies' attend Guru Maharaj Ji's Millennium '73 in the Houston Astrodome "Blissed out premies" attend Guru Maharaj Ji's Millennium '73 in the Houston Astrodome, Nor. 8-10, 1973. This photo is a still-shot from a one hour national broadcast by the Public Broadcasting Service entitled "The Lord of the Universe, "Feb. 24, 1974. (Photo courtesy of Urban Archives, Temple Univ., Philadelphia)


Page 170.

High upon the Movement's list of "spiritual con men" or in this case, boys was Guru Maharaj Ji. Caricatured in the Ann Arbor Sun as "Fifteen-year old Perfect Body, Satnudu Haharaz, Jr.," Maharaj Ji's ownership of two Lear jets and three Rolls Royces led Madison, Wisconsin's Free For All to label him "Guru Maha Ripoff" (see Haines 1973 174, 8; "Guru Maha Ripoff" 1973,18 ).14 An especially vitriolic attack against Maharaj Ji and premie Rennie Davis appeared in an anarchist magazine in Tucson, Arizona, which spoke about the "hocus pocus artists" who "are the direct descendants of the carnival rip off snake oil sellers and other mountebanks.... Some, like two ton butterball boy 'avatar' Guru Mararaji Gee whiz, even have the effrontery to state that since they are 'God' themselves, they deserve to ride in Rolls Royce automobiles and live like kings". . . . The "very vocal barker" for the guru was Davis himself, who "enjoys an extension of his time in the limelight and his role of apologist for the Gooroo and his various enterprises. Some people have an insatiable need for power trips and publicity and the more absurd the proposition, the more challenging their ability to rationalize their involvement and explain it. Anything so long as they are at or near the center of vast attention" (McNamara 1974, 6-7).

Other articles were critical of him in a more ominous tone, as they spoke about the fascism or Nazism that reporters felt within his organization. After noting that the "Guru's pig [i.e., police] force" bore the Orwellian "newspeak" tide "World Peace Corps," Ann Arbor Sun reporter Steve Haines indicated that, at Millennium '73, "15,000 gurunoids shouting their praise of the boy god Groomraji with their arms high in the air sound just like the Nuremburg [sic] rally flicks of the '30s that used to chill my spine in college" (Haines 1973-74, 9).15  Similarly, an Augur reporter confessed that "his followers alarmed me. I was frightened by the total abdication of self direction, free will, and thought that they displayed. Like automatons they hook into a chant started by a leader and end with their arms shooting upwards in salute" (Massoglia 1974, 7). A few days after a reporter from Detroit's underground newspaper Fifth Estate took inspiration from the Yippies and "pie killed" Guru Maharaj Ji, two irate premies shattered the writer's skull with what probably was a blackjack (see Kelley 1973c, 1974b).

In early 1979, writer Peter Marin reproduced a long excerpt from "a good friend of mine, a poet who has always been torn between radical politics and mysticism," and who also was about to leave the Divine Light Mission organization. Marin let his unnamed friend reflect upon the nature of ashram life as a premie in service to "the Lord of the Universe":

The decision in me to hang it up is the one bright light within me for the time being. Because what is actually the case is that I've lived very much the lifestyle of 1984. Or of Mao's China - or of Hitler's Germany. Imagine for a moment a situation where every single moment of your day is programmed. You begin with exercise, then meditation, then a communal meal. Then the service (the work each member does).... You work six days a week, nine to six - then come home to dinner and then go to two hours of spiritual discourse, then meditate. There is no leisure. It is always a group consciousness. You discuss nothing that isn't directly related to "the knowledge." You are censured if you discuss any topics of the world. And, of course, there is always the constant focus on the spiritual leader.

Marin's friend continued by asking, rhetorically:

What is the payoff? Love. You are allowed access to a real experience of transcendence. There is a great emotional tie to your Guru your Guru, being the center stage of everything you do, becomes omnipresent. Everything is ascribed to him. He is positively supernatural after a while. Any normal form of causal thinking breaks down. The ordinary world with its laws and orders is proscribed. It is an "illusion." It is an absolutely foolproof system. Better than Mao, because it delivers a closer knit cohesiveness than collective criticism and the red book. (Marin 1979, 43-44) 16

By the end of the 1970s, Marin's friend realized that he had been living within the boundaries of extremist religious constraints, and he could do it no longer. 17

Earlier in the decade, several reporters also noted the fascist elements in the new religious groups. Writing in Toronto's Alternative to Alienation, Bill Holloway observed that "in spiritual groups, we can find the same forms of the authoritarian personality seen in Nazism: the ardent supporters who have found a solution to their ineffectiveness, the followers who would rather join than be alone, and the leaders and sub leaders who exert control and use invalidation" (Holloway 1976, 20). Louise Billotte, in a piece that initially appeared in the Berkeley Barb, realized that "absolute faith in the guru does lead to fascistic manipulation.

Page 178.

Antagonism between activists and former comrades turned converts was, at times, intense and bitter. The Berkeley Barb, for example, berated these converts, and then added a word of caution about them: "In the leftwing quest for spiritual rebirth, as in Left politics, we repeatedly find brothers who are driven to imitate the enemy, to become hard and tight, crewcut lifedeniers, weatherpriests, young authoritarians for freedom-ostensibly in the name of love and liberty... Such people bear watching. As defectors from our scene to The Other Side, they have inside understanding of us which allows them to cause trouble if they wish to do so" (Poland 1970, 12). Strident leftist and editor Paul Krassner certainly felt that Rennie Davis was causing trouble for the Movement, and at the DLM's Millennium '73 in Houston, he challenged Davis to debate the idea "that Guru Maharaj Ji diverts young people from social responsibility to personal escape." Krassner even accused Maharaj Ji of being "either a conscious or unconscious agent of the Government, which was only too glad to see tens of thousands of its critics Channeled into devotional activities" (Morgan 1973, 100). 23

Earlier in 1973, when Krassner rocked the New Left with his suspicions that Davis himself was a CIA operative, he also repeated William Burroughs's (inaccurate) claim that Scientology had been infiltrated by the CIA and raised the possibility that the federal spy agency was behind Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's trip with the Beach Boys (Krassner 1973, 5).24 (Suspicions about the connection between Maharishi's "implicit support of authoritarianism" and the CIA had been raised five years earlier by Allen Ginsberg [1968]). Yipster Stew Albert was kinder to Davis when he wrote him an open letter in September 1973, but he, too, was profoundly disturbed by the latter's conversion:

Right now many Americans are feeling low, down, and impotent. They feel the politics of the 60's have failed, and that all politics must fail. So a lot of young people are looking for Christs, Babas, Swamis, and gurus to pull them out of a never ending bummer. Rennie, I wish these people would realize how much we accomplished in the 60's. It's all a matter of self confidence, of believing ourselves, the regular flesh and bones of humanity and not the abracadabra of charlatans who want us to feel weak so they can hustle our bread and create a jet set of Divine Millionaires.
So, Rennie, I have to figure out how an old buddy of mine with whom I have smoked many joints got caught up in something so silly and inevitably dangerous. (Albert 1973, 8)

It is doubtful that Albert ever fully succeeded in understanding why Davis chose this new direction.

Davis's unswerving devotion to his guru drove an irreparable wedge between he and other masterminds of the Movement, including another friend and fellow radical Tom Hayden:

Listening to Rennie [recount his conversion story], I thought I was going to be ill. Here was my best friend in front of me, present in form only, his mind gone somewhere else. I believed in mystical experiences and a religious dimension of life, but not prostration in front of a fifteen year old with a taste for Rolls Royces....
We said good bye that night and didn't see each other again until the Chicago contempt retrial that October [1973], when there was a last, wild and tumultuous meeting of the Conspiracy defendants. We tried political ar gument, hard denunciation, and emotional pleading to stop Rennie's new direction. We failed. For several years after that I couldn't spend time with him because I was too upset. (Hayden 1988, 462-63)

Apparently, Davis convinced another friend and Conspiracy defendant, Jerry Rubin, to visit the Millennium '73 affair, but Rubin's reaction was almost as strong as Hayden's As he left the Astrodome, Rubin muttered, "I see very littie positive out of this. Meditation is good for you, but not if it leads to this" (Haines 1973 74,9).

Already plagued by ideological divisions, the Movement now had religious factions tearing it apart. The hostility among various new religious groups was so intense that one participant observer lamented: "I could see a time when we would have religious wars. These people were at each other's throats. All their energies were being dissipated in battles between sects. A waste" (Gortner 1974, 133). After leaving Davis at Millennium '73 and heading for the parking lot, Rubin probably had to run the gauntlet of either Jesus freaks by the dozen or Hare Krishnas by the score (McRae 1974, 4; Haines 1973 74, 9). Both groups outside were protesting against the guru inside, with Christians calling him the "antichrist" and Krishna devotees offering premies a different path to peace. A few weeks earlier, in late October, the Krishnas had begun their campaign against the Divine Light Mission by distributing leaflets that "denounced 15 year old Guru Maharaj Ji as a fraud, a rascal and a small pudgy boy of questionable character" (Cunningham 1973, 8). Eventually, Maharaj Ji's World Peace Corps security force got thirty five Krishnas arrested, an act that colorfully illustrates how divisive religious ideology was among various groups that had drawn upon the New Left both for personnel and for rhetoric. Not surprisingly, many leftists shared the religious sects' negative judgements of the adolescent guru and his message, albeit for different reasons. In a rare moment of uncoordinated mutual hostility, "an unlikely coalition of disgruntled Hare Krishnas, Jesus freaks, and assorted leftists" heckled Davis during an October 1973 talk at Portland State University (Isserman 1973).25 

Similar confrontations took place between diehard leftists and new religionists in other parts of the country. In autumn 1970, for example, "a band of Jesus people made up of members of the CWLF, the Jesus Mobilization Committee of Marin and other [San Francisco] Bay communes, started such a row at the West Coast SDS conference that they were bodily removed from the gathering" (Nolan 1971, 25). During the two hours of protest speeches outside the July 1972 Democratic National Convention in Miami, the constant Krishna din from chanting was sufficiently loud that "one demonstrator remarked, 'Those dudes are enough to stifle a revolution' " (Delaney 1972). Similarly, members of the COG disrupted a speech by Jerry Rubin at the University of California, Santa Barbara, by pounding their wooden rods on the ground and chanting "Woe, woe, woe" (Enroth, Ericson, and Peters 1972, 34; see Wangerin 1993, 22-23). Perhaps the chant was an appropriate epithet for the dying Movement.


6. For another statement of this claim, see the interviewer's question to Maharaj Ji in J. Wood 1973, 48.

7. See e.g. Downton 1979, 31-32; Kent 1988, 104, 104n. 2; Rossman 1979, 22; Snell 1974, 21. It seems likely that most of the conversions of former activists and radicals took place before 1975, at which time a major upheaval occurred in the DLM that led to the recruitment of a new type of convert. After 1975, "one had to accept Guru Maharaj Ji as a personal savior in order to become a member," and the people who were able to do so tended to have "been very religious in their pre adolescent years" (Derks and van der Lans 1983, 305).

8. For Davis's mention of meeting another former activist turned DLM convert prior to his own conversion, see also "Serendipity of Peace" 1973, 3. Elsewhere Davis said about his Indian ashram trip that "I was expecting a secluded mon[a]stery. When I got there, to my shock, there were 50 or 60 westerners there. I found people who had been arrested at May Day, Chicago, one woman from a Women's collective in New York, another guy from a Marxist Leninist study group in Buffalo. I never felt so comfortable with a group of people in my life. I thought it was like an early SDS convention in the Himalayas" (T. Wood 1973b). According to Allen Ginsberg, Davis had been doing Haven meditation (learned from friends of Gary Snyder) for several months prior to his conversion ("Rennie Davis" 1973).

9. On Donner's activities with the Beaver 55, see Cameron 1973, 146-53; Kelley 1973b, 54; Collier 1978, 179; "Michael Donner" 1976, 1. His first prison term of fourteen months for a related conviction appears to have taken place mostly during 1969, prior to his conversion. On the Beaver 55 in general, see Zaroulis and Sullivan 1984, 288. An undated, unattributed statement about the Beaver 55's actions against draft board records in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Indianapolis and against Dow Chemical Company (because of its manufacture of the chemical agent napalm, a jelly that burned off skin) appears in Bloom and Breines 1995, 252.

14. Also worth mentioning is that customs agents detained Maharaj Ji at the New Delhi airport in 1972, and they discovered that he was carrying "approximately $100,000 in money, watches and jewels, including diamond rings and a pearl necklace" (Morris 1972).

15. As another example of the guru's "newspeak," I also should note that a 1970 discourse that the twelve year old Maharaj Ji allegedly gave about his bringing peace to the world came to be known among his followers as the "Peace Bomb" ("History" 1973, 12). For other examples of critics equating the crowd behavior of premies with Nazism, see Van Ness 1973.

16. The "red book" is a reference to the red covered Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, which was distributed widely in China and elsewhere during the Cultural Revolution. For an additional criticism of ashram life, see Schafer 1973.

17. For another example of a former premie who had become scared by group members' growing social isolation and blind devotion, see Manoff 1973.

23. Apparently the debate did take place, given that a picture of Davis and Krassner sitting beside a moderator (reporter Ken Kelley of the Berkeley Barb) appears in the photo section of Krassner's Confesdons. Always irreverent, Krassner played with Maharaj Ji's title as "The Perfect Master" and told Davis that his guru was "the Perfect Masturbator." Davis did not respond to the provocation.

24. The Maharishi's 1968 tour with the Beach Boys was disastrous, with the fans "completely uninterested in hearing the Maharishi." Ticket sales were so low that "the tour was cancelled halfway through, at a loss approaching half a million dollars" (Gaines 1986, 197).

25. For an additional example of Davis (this time in either New Jersey or New York) being hassled by leftists who turned his talk into "a three ring circus of verbal confrontation," see Jorgensen 1973, 6.

References  203