Interview with Michael McDonald, 1975
Before Michael McDonald, founding editor of The Golden Age departed Sydney for Denver, the new editor, Penny Watson managed to corner him and record this interview.
You've been around Wentworth Avenue for quite some time. What services have you done here?
I started off doing service here when we first got the building at the beginning of 1973. It began as just the Sydney centre - National Headquarters didn't come into existence until about August 1973.
I was preparing for Knowledge then. We were renovating the building - spraypainting, pulling down walls and ceilings. Once that was finished, I looked after the Divine Sales shop for a while, drove the jumble truck and ran messages.
I received Knowledge when Padarthanand arrived in Australia. Through organising some of his programs around Sydney I got into public relations, and up till November, when we went to the Millenium festival in Texas, I was Public Relations Officer for New South Wales.
After the festival, there wasn't so much to do, so I got an outside job for three months. After that, The Golden Age really got going, and I became full-time editor.
How did The Golden Age come into being?
Because Australia has such large distances between all the capital cities, your lines of communication need to be very strong. We figured that a national newspaper would be something that would draw all the premies together.
Before Millenium, we bought this old second-hand offset press. We were going to come back after the festival and do first issue of The Golden as a Millenium souvenir edition, but we found we couldn't get the press working well enough. So we didn't really get the paper happening until around March 1974, when we did it on an outside press.
When we first started we hardly had any equipment ourselves - just a pen and a piece of paper, really. We wrote the copy and did the artwork, but the rest - making negatives of anything, stripping the artwork negatives in, making plates from the negatives, and printing - was done through an outside firm. Gradually as. We went along we learnt how to do all the processes involved in producing The Age ourselves.
The Golden Age nowadays is quite a bit different to what it was two years ago. How has it developed?
It's changed on a visual level. When we started off, various different people were doing the artwork. When one graphic designer, Tony, took over, we were able to stabilise the quality of the design at a pretty high level. When Guru Maharaj Ji came in 1974, we changed the layout and the colouring we used. The next time Guru Maharaj Ji came to Australia, we changed the design again, and made the format entirely different so that we could do more with the graphics.
The content has changed a lot, too. When we first started off, we were trying to do it both for premies and for the public; we had some rather grandiose ideas that we'd be able to get a nationwide distribution of The Golden Age through newsagents. It tended to be a very intellectual newspaper. Then Guru Maharaj Ji said to get our own communities together, to get ourselves together. So we began to concentrate on making it a premie newspaper.
But I guess the basic way that it's changed is that it's gone from just a strict relay of information to trying to get the real communication across between all the centres. The Golden Age brings all the premies together in the sense that they can find out what their brothers and sisters are doing and they can find out what Guru Maharaj Ji is doing with his Mission on a world-scale. It's just another way of sharing satsang with the whole community.
How has it felt to be editor of The Age?
Well, it's been a real education. Not so much because I've been an editor, but just because I've been serving Guru Maharaj Ji.
The main thing I learned from doing The Golden Age was to rely on Maharaj Ji's grace. Because it seemed to be a big step from just driving a truck or painting a wall, at first I was sort of daunted by the size of the responsibility. I used to wonder, "Will I meet the deadline?" or whatever. But I always found that no matter how much I fretted about it, if I was practising Knowledge and doing my service, Guru Maharaj Ji always looked after the end result.
I saw very clearly that if something beautiful came from what was happening it entirely Guru Maharaj Ji's grace that we managed to get it together at all.
It also broadened my perception in that I had to understand my role in putting a newspaper together. Because The Golden Age had to be a means of communication to premies, first of all I had learn who I was communicating to, and how to communicate to them. I had learn that the only way that you could communicate anything to anybody was from the point of satsang, from the point of the Knowledge.
As editor of The Golden Age, you've had a birdseye view of all the different communities around Australia. Have they changed over the time that you've been at National Headquarters?
Frorn what I've seen of the different communities, they all have their own distinctive flavour, but behind it is the common experience of premies practising Knowledge. The way that they've changed is the same way that every individual premie has changed - they've grown in the experience of Knowledge. It's gone from an emotional fervour to go out and spread the message, through to relaxing back and taking a casual approach to the experience into a deeper realisation that this Knowledge is the thing that's really motivating our lives. What Guru Maharaj Ji has set for us to do is to grow up in this knowledge, and the responsibility he's given to his Community Directors is to bring communities to a point of maturity where they can see that okay, this is the Knowledge, this is centre-point of our lives and we have to operate from that. And you can see it happening. When Guru Maharaj Ji gives a direction to do something, he automatically provides you with the grace to go out and do it.
It's been a really beautiful experience just watching the communities grow up alongside each other; seeing them all heading towards the same direction.
What do you see coming up ahead for the premie community?
Maharaji's asked all the premies who are doing service for him to be synchronised, to work together in that understanding. That's the thing we have to learn, and he's given us the community to learn, and he's given us the AMP program to put it into practice.
He's just showing us, through practical examples like his initiators, that the only premies that can really do anything for him are the ones who are prepared to surrender their own ideas. There's not much Maharaj Ji can do with a bunch of people who've got a lot a bright ideas and no understanding and no synchronisation. Because the world is full of people who have got incredible ideas, but still those ideas haven't brought happiness, they haven't brought harmony. And the only way that our communities can grow up in that happiness and that harmony is if we synchronise ourselves and work together. Just put our ideas aside, and just have patience until we come to the point where Guru Maharaj Ji can use us to our full extent.
Even if you think you're a grand administrator or a highly creative person or whatever, if you're not doing it in sync with all the other premies and in line with the general trend, you're just not any use. Because Divine Light Mission isn't out to establish a hierarchy of consciousness. We don't to keep brilliant people at the top and have everybody else understanding very little. DLM is just Guru Maharaj Ji's family coming together in that experience of love, and the experience of love is the same for everybody. Everybody can have an equal understanding of that experience.
So we don't have to have any ideas about different services or about how this place is going to develop faster than this place. We all have to help each other come to the same. understanding because that's the plan of the whole Mission, to bring about world peace, to bring about the same understanding of peace in everybody in the world.
As well as The Golden Age, you've been doing some work on Program Development. What has that involved?
Well, Program Development as a department didn't really come together until the beginning of this year. But before that, I looked after the design and publication of all our literature, and kept an eye on how our propagational programs were coming together. Gradually, it formed into Program Development.
We began to see that all we are doing at the moment, and all we've really been doing for the last three years in Austra. ha is just trying to provide a channel for people to come to .Knowledge, to prepare for Knowledge, to receive Knowledge, and to keep on practising it. The responsibility of the Program Development department is to provide the Community Directors and the premies propagating Knowledge with good tools to be able to do these things.
Once again, the first tool at our disposal is satsang. We saw from doing outreach programs that you could hold a program in the most exclusive hotel in town, with the most expensive microphones and the most beautiful band and marvelous bunch of speakers there, but no-one would come if the premies weren't really into practising Knowledge.
But if there was a core of stable premies in the community who were practising Knowledge you could hold that program in a telephone booth and you'd have hundreds of people flocking to hear about it. So we saw straight away that the basis for all our programs was premies practising Knowledge.
What are you going to be doing in Denver?
As far as I know, I'm going to be Assistant Director to Jeff Grossberg in the Program Development Department, so I presume it's going to be pretty much along the lines of what I've been doing here, except on an international level.
How does it feel to be going to Denver?
Well, having had the opportunity to travel around Australia a fair bit, I've seen that wherever you go with Knowledge, with premies it's the same. So, although I can't say how I'm going to feel when I arrive in Denver, it seems to me that I'm just stepping from the company of truth to the company of truth.
I'm not really excited about going overseas, but I'm excited about doing service for Guru Maharaj Ji. Doing service to Guru Maharaj Ji is an incredible thing. Guru Maharaj Ji said a few years ago that if you know the Lord of your time then it's the most far out thing that can happen to you. We've got that opportunity, and the way we learn to know and love him is through serving him. It's like putting our lives at his disposal to use them. The only thing going to Denver really means to me is that it's another opportunity to serve Guru Maharaj Ji