Date: Tues, Nov 13, 2001 at 17:15:06 (EST)
From: Michael McDonald
Subject: Response to David Lovejoy
It seems a little strange responding to David Lovejoy through the medium of the internet when he and John Macgregor and I could be sharing a bottle of red at a local hostelry, but I suppose it keeps the friction of this argument out of our working relationship. It was also unfortunate that David chose David Roupell, given his lack of credibility on this forum, to post his message.
However, David Lovejoy is a good man and I would ask you to bear some kindness for him if you find that possible. It should be noted he has at least attempted to post an argument rather than indulge in the usual flaming of the flaming Roupells of this world, although he does it without much knowledge of the context in which he posts, and I doubt that he would be persuaded to visit here.
David has been somewhat disingenuous in posting a message which fails to take into account all of my private responses to him. He wrote here: 'Stripped down to the core, John's case seems to be that Maharaji is human and Elan Vital is not a democracy. Neither of these insights strikes me as revolutionary. But Michael agrees, and for good measure throws in his belief that 'brain science' may disprove mysticism.'
I responded in private: 'John will probably answer on his own behalf but his case is more likely to be that even if EV is not a democracy, it is publicly accountable for its behaviour when it acts badly, as is Maharaji (or you or I) as a human being, as it engages in activities in the public domain. You misrepresent me as to my 'belief'. What I did say is, 'the whole history of mysticism and meditation may have no absolute basis, that for example, the experience of bliss may just be an evolutionary mechanism for a big brain to cope with the passage of time or to manufacture hope.' It's a big 'may' and I have no certainty on the topic, despite considerable experience with meditation and psychotropics. The discussion of democracy is irrelevant. The Echo [the paper we edit], of which you are the 'undemocratic head', is not a democracy but it treats those who choose to work there in a more rational and responsive way than does EV its own. This reflects on Maharaji and the value of his work if he is 'the font and origin of the organisation'.
David wrote here: 'In other words, rather than railing against the fact that there is a pyramid structure necessarily associated with Maharaji I chose to withdraw from it. This seems to be an elementary political perception, but John and Michael have suddenly discovered the undemocratic nature of Elan Vital and wish to proclaim it to the world. In fact Michael tells me that he has known this for twenty years but didn't want to go publicly against 'the party line'. (Is there a 'party line' to proclaim that EV is democratic?)'
I responded in private: 'Hardly a sudden discovery, and one that I've thought about for a couple of decades before publicly going against the 'party line'. 'Wishing to proclaim it to the world' is fatuous; the point is there is a serious discussion going on of how EV and by association Maharaji treat people.'
David wrote here: 'Or is it sinister by virtue of its laidback non-sinister appearance, and manipulative because it eschews manipulation? Michael takes me up on this and says it is manipulative at every stage because its sole purpose is to persuade people to accept Maharaji and Knowledge.'
Well, not exactly, what I wrote in private was: 'Oh please. Manipulation is built in at every stage of the organisation, from the 'laidback' video presentations through to the aspirant program, knowledge session, and on to the trainings, the whole raison d'etre of which is to confirm that Maharaji is the sole basis of belief and action, without question. One could say the same of our genetic code, of course, but the question is, does the ends justify the means? If you believe knowledge to be the best thing since sliced bliss, perhaps yes, but one would expect the outcomes of its practice to be an organisation and master a tad more forthright in their intentions.'
David wrote here: 'In the early days Maharaji allowed to be expressed, and in some ways expressed himself, the idea of his godhood. Comparative cultural studies don't seem to have had much impact on those who keep bringing this up. There they are, freaked out like any card-carrying Christian, Moslem or Jew about the blasphemy of a human declaring himself god. Funny how those thought structures remain long after the content has gone: I can't imagine either John or Michael admitting to being a Christian, but it's the ghost Christian in them that is offended.'
I responded in private: 'You could hardly call being brought up a non-practising Anglican as any thing worthy of conjuring ghosts, and it's a big assumption on your part that that's a chord being touched. Let's try hypocrisy instead; if you think Maharaji has demurred from the authority of godhead [sic] traditionally associated with the perfect master, try taking a training with him. It is just not solely the 'sort of nonsense encouraged by Indians who didn't understand our conceptually unprotected minds'. Mind you, I freely admit I'm not beyond hypocrisy, but then again I don't allow myself to be feted as the 'superior power in person'.'
David wrote here: 'In fact what is going on here in Australia is a federal election which has just been won by a government that gloats over scorning every civilised convention. It is sycophantically supporting the US bombing Afghani civilians out of their homes and then turning them away when they arrive on our borders as refugees. Every ounce of energy is needed to oppose this evil and my two best writers are pissing theirs away on this non-issue!'
This was not in our original correspondence and David tries too hard to take the moral high ground, as I'm sure he's not using 'every ounce of energy' to oppose the machinations of our ultra conservative government. John and I can stand quite happily on our track record in the field of 'serious' journalism.
David wrote here: 'Finally, the obsessive detail in which John reveals his own identity is like some kind of electronic striptease and sounds, frankly, like someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown.'
David has a tendency to suspect the worst when someone veers from a predictable path. I'll leave John to make his own response when he returns from mucking about in houseboats.
On the upside, one could take David's post as something of a breakthrough. It may be the first time a staunch defender of Mr Rawat has put up an articulate argument on this forum as opposed to the usual platitudes or sarcasm.