Elyria, O., Sat., Nov. 25, 1978 Chronicle-Telegram A-3

Cults – faith or foolhardiness?

Maharaj Ji has Jones-like traits

DENVER (UPI) - Two former top lieutenants of the Guru Maharaj Ji's Divine Light Mission have warned the estimated 15,000 American followers of the 19-year-old spiritual leader they risk a plight similar to that of devotees of the Rev. Jim Jones in Guyana.

Robert Mishler, who served as Maharaj Ji's personal secretary and president of the Mission for six years and John Hand Jr., former vice president of the organization, Friday said the guru had displayed behavior patterns similar to those of Jones.

"AFTER SEEING the similarities of behavior of Jones are so strikingly like Maharaj Ji's, it's possible something like what happened in Guyana could come about as a result of him being threatened," Hand said.

Authorities have found 615 bodies in the Guyana settlement of Jonestown, which was founded last year by Jones, leader of the People's Temple religious sect. Authorities estimate about 780 bodie (sic) will be found. The victims were either fatally shot or poisoned by grape Kool Aid laced with cyanide.

Mishler, who resigned from the mission last year, said he and Hand decided to denounce the guru because they were jarred by the deaths in Guyana and feared for the lives of mission members, who also include nearly 1 million in India.

IN AN EXCLUSIVE interview with UPI, the two men said Maharaj Ji had spoken frequently of building a city similar to Jonestown and was infatuated by weapons and gangsters.

Mishler and Hand, who were two of only about 15 members that saw the guru's private behavior, said Maharaj Ji was excited by the crime underworld and after viewing the movie "The Godfather," formed a security unit called the "World Peace Corps."

"HE IS INFATUATED with the mafia and even tried to arrange a meeting with a New York don," Hand said. "The mission now has secret stockpiles of weapons."

The two former Mission officials said Maharaj Ji's private behavior included physical and sexual assaults on followers by stripping them, pouring abrasive chemical on their bodies, administering psychotropic drugs and having them beaten with sticks or thrown into swimming pools.

'Cult leader' is libelous: Moonie

BOSTON (UPI) -- Identifying Korean evangelist Sun Myung Moon as a "cult leader" could be libelous and inflamatory (sic), especially in light of the suicide-killings in Guyana, according to a Moon spokesman.

Spokesman Ted Agres Friday strongly objected to news stories calling Moon a cult leader because "it has pejorative connotations, especially in light of the recent happenings in South America, much like the word 'nigger.' It is inflamatory (sic), libelous, and possibly malicious."

Moon, founder of the Unification Church, was in Boston Friday to speak before the International Conference for the Unity of the Scientists. His presence prompted anti-Moon news conferences earlier this week and a small protest outside the conference Friday.

Agres said he was afraid the word "cult" has a new, sinister meaning because of the mass suicides committed by the "People's Temple" in South America, where more than 600 followers of the Rev. Jim Jones apparently killed themselves by drinking cyanide-spiked Kool Aid.