1976 - Soul Rush excerpt
This excerpt from Chapter 17, A Placebo Called Knowledge of Soul Rush by Sophia Collier gives a fascinating insight into both the period of questioning in Divine Light Mission beginning in December 1975 which seriously impacted on the organisation as the majority of ashram residents left the ashram and DLM finances dropped alarmingly and the personal feelings of the author. Ms Collier was obviously extremely intelligent and had a successful business career in her post-DLM life but at the time, after 3 years complete involvement in Divine Light Mission, she wasn't sure if Prem Rawat who called himself Guru Maharaj Ji, (the Revealer of Light and Ultimate Ruler") and the Lord of the Universe believed he was God or not. Now, of course only Prem Rawat himself knows that but all the evidence shows that he claimed he was God Incarnate and if you can't trust what your guru says about himself, whay would you be invovled? She wrote: "Had he acquiesced mentally to all the adoration and begun to believe he was the Lord?" He had begun claiming to be God (except in certain public forums) and had continued to claim he was God so there was no need to think he had "aquiesced," to the adoration of others, he had demanded that adoration. To the "conservatives" and "reactionaries" there was an obvious explanation for Ms Collier's lack of "understanding." She was "in her mind" because she had not been "practising Knowledge" correctly. She had delayed in attending satsang, she had allowed room for doubts in her mind and she had broken the ashram rules. Ms Collier provides an obvious explanation for her lack of total belief in basic DLM concepts. "All of this heavy religious talk was surprisingly easy for me to translate into my secular idiom" and "To me this seemed like typical Hindu mumbo-jumbo." She ignored and explained away concepts with which she wasn't comfortable and created her own personal Rawatism religion.
It had all started the month before, when Maharaj Ji came to the Denver community meeting and said that all the people in DLM should have "understanding." He seemed very emphatic about this, although it was rather vague just exactly what he wanted people to understand. Each person, according to her/his nature, interpreted Maharaj Ji's statement differently. Michael Dettmers and some of the other executives assumed people on the HQ staff needed to understand the organization and their commitment to it more fully. To this end, in the middle of December, they set up a large conference for the entire staff at the Hilton Hotel. They secured the services of a premie who was a professional in group dynamics. Maharaj Ji came to the conference and told everybody that he was completely behind this effort and the premies should relax, cooperate, and "not be paranoid."
Predictably, half of the conference was taken up with addresses by the executive staff. A new organizational chart was revealed and explained at length. But the other half of the conference, put together on the suggestions of the group dynamics professional, was completely different. People split up into "task teams" to come up with ,answers to specific problems. The teams were then to write their solution on a large piece of paper and post it on the wall. Before beginning we were given a little talk about teamwork. Whatever solution we came to had to be a group conclusion; nobody was to be left out.
To make sure this happened, the idea was to work on both the "task," the specific problem in front of us, and the "maintenance," or feelings of involvement and openness in the group.
The first task was to complete this sentence: "Commitment to Divine Light Mission equals …" In the course of this it was impossible not to get into why each person had joined the Mission and what their experiences and frustrations had been; it even provided the opportunity to broach the very delicate issue of whether Guru Maharaj Ji had
powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men. Was Guru Maharaj Ji wiser than the rest of us, or was he just a sweet young man who was little more than a figurehead, a symbolic focus?
The reason this was such a delicate subject, I realized, was that many of the premies put up with the endless difficulties of DLM only because they believed Maharaj Ji had a plan; even if they could not see it, Maharaj Ji knew there was some meaning, reason, or ultimate justification for the scandal, difficulties, and grief they had seen over the several years of their involvement. Their reason for staying in DLM was based on him. They loved him, but they hardly knew him. If he was a fool, they were fools for staying with him for so long.
I and most of my close associates, on the other hand, did not feel our fates were so eternally bound with Maharaj Ji's. We had been attracted to the Mission for reasons other than him, and had decided to stay even after we saw his deficiencies.
When my group got around to this touchy issue, I found nobody wanted to be the little child who announced the emperor's nakedness. Even I didn't want to open the can of worms. Slowly, in the course of the team's functioning, I realized there was something I was not facing. Okay, I knew Maharaj Ji was not the hottest thing going, but I enjoyed being in the mission, personally and professionally. I still had hopes that things would get straightened out. But somewhere inside me, I knew that if I started getting deeply into questions about Maharaj Ji, I would reach a point where I would need to know with certainty what he thought about himself. Had he acquiesced mentally to all the adoration and begun to believe he was the Lord?
I knew that if I asked this question seriously I might just find out that Maharaj Ji did think he was God. And if that was indeed what he believed I would have to leave the Mission, leave my friends, leave my hopes, and start out anew.
There is no way I could stay around a mission led by a crazy man, no matter how clever, charming, and charismatic that man was.
Yet over the past year I had begun to suspect the worst. Inside I was straining to resolve my doubts. Today, in the Hilton, I knew I would begin. "I don't think he's God," I announced. "I don't think he's even got any special insight."
"But what are we doing here then?" someone else in my group asked me.
It was an obvious question. A debate ensued:
FIRST PERSON: There is something so marvelous I experience in meditation. Where did that come from? And when I see Maharaj Ji I feel a powerful energy. Remember that reporter from the Denver Post? Where did the golden light come from? Come on, you have to admit the kid's got some power.
ME: I don't know the answer. There are many things I don't know. The list grows longer every day.
THIRD PERSON: But I feel that too. I have doubts about Maharaj Ji. We give him a lot of money and don't seem to get much back.
FOURTH PERSON: HOW can you doubt? Maharaj Ji loves you so much. You people are so ungrateful for what he has done for you. He has taken us from unreality and shown us truth. Like Christ, he has delivered us. You know I was a junkie, before the Mission. The only thing that got me through was praying to Maharaj Ji. Now I'm off junk. Don't tell me he's not special.
We talked heatedly for several hours, the allotted time for the task, and came up with the sentence, "Commitment to DLM is commitment to Guru Maharaj Ji." It seemed true, but I felt both commitments slipping fast.
Elsewhere around the room, groups had found the same live wire. By the time the conference was over, many doubting Thomases had come out. Those who still harbored their
doubts deep inside, a secret for only themselves to know, began thinking.
It was not what Michael Dettmers had planned, but in the following weeks everyone was still talking about the issues which had come up in the conference. "Listen, man, we've got to get down to basics. I feel you are hedging. Maharaj Ji's either God or he's not … " I heard the mail clerk tell the office messenger in the mail room.
By January, on the snowy day when Dan and I sat eating chocolate square by square in the Hilton, burning down DLM did not seem particularly revolutionary. It was something already happening in Denver; now it only needed to spread far and wide.
This was the one big clearance sale - everything must go. Naturally, as during any insurrection, there was a conservative faction, and a reactionary faction, too. They like it just fine the way it is, thank you. And they don't see any reason why we have to ruin it with all of our questions.
My personal question was, does Maharaj Ji actually think he's a divine figure? This seemed like the crux of the whole matter.