Maharaji Orders Premies To Go Straight
Divine Light Mission finished it's early, rapid growth period by the end of 1973. Beginning in 1974 it had large debts following the Millenium 73 festival. While there were serious problems still to come the administrators, unaware of what the future held, settled down to try to organise and stabilise their large, unruly but dwindling band of ex-hippie premies (and themselves). They attempted to create "communities" of premies in major cities and organise a stable ongoing financial stream (AMP) and regularise ashram activities while paying off the Millenium debts, responding to questions about DLM's tax-exempt status and financially supporting Rawat and his entourage.
They also had to cope with Rawat's marriage, the Darby Mclean legal problems, the questions about it's tax-exempt status and the Indian Divine Light Mission denouncing him as a drug-taking, meat-eating playboy and replacing him as Perfect Master.
Lord of the Universe Now a "Humanitarian Leader"
A decision was made that the best way to present Maharaji was as a "humanitarian leader" who had matured along with his devotees who formerly had been hyping the Knowledge rather than actually experiencing it's joy and bliss. The reports to the press began in March 1976 though responses were frankly dubious in accepting this volte face. An article appeared in the May 1976 Divine Times called "Part of the Mainstream" explaining to premies their new ideology. Mishler later claimed Rawat had agreed to these changes. This was truly bizarre as Rawat had been promoted as the boy God, the Lord of the Universe and the Lord of Universal Peace, who proclaimed he had come to rule the world with more power than any Perfect Master before him. While premies were obedient and changed the way they spoke about Rawat publicly (most of those who didn't think he was God had left) the media were, understandably, not so obedient. As Bob Mackenzie had written "The 16 year-old guru Maharaj Ji has decided he is God, I understand. That is not a bad job for a 16 year-old kid, except that there's no chance for advancement." There also is no possibility of an acceptable and reasonable demotion.
Quite A Shock
This new realisation came as quite a shock to premies outside the Denver inner circle. David Lovejoy who was running the mission in Australia recalled:
Denver, and hence in due course the rest of the worldwide organisation, was in the throes of a cultural revolution. According to the new doctrine, the simple life-enhancing techniques of Knowledge had arrived in the West with too many Hindu trappings and the non-essentials had to go. How much of this came from Maharaji himself and how much from Bob Mishler and his lieutenants was hard to say. The only people at that stage entrusted with revealing Knowledge were Indian mahatmas: exotic, shaven-pated, saffron-robed individuals who could hardly disguise their Hindu origin. Each ashram in Denver, and elsewhere, had an altar with Maharaji's picture on it, to which morning and evening the Indian devotional prayer of arti was sung. Nevertheless, we were all to put away our Indian concepts and present Knowledge to the public as a simple path of meditation. - Between Dark and Dark
And so, from one day to the next, they started telling the new story with all the open-hearted honesty they had told the old one.
Prem's Personal Assistant Reveals Corruption
Michael Dettmers "met Maharaji in 1976 and had rapidly replaced Bob Mishler as Maharaji's personal assistant." - Peace Is Possible He became involved in the administration as he was one of the few premies with management experience in a large organisation. 25 years later he revealed things were far more corrupt than even DLM's worst critics had thought at the time.
Jos Lammers discussed life for the top DLM administrators:
Exactly there, right in the centre of the Divine Light Mission, other matters too were, to a growing extent, just like the rest of the world. Nobody except his security people, his personal aids and 'president' Bob Mishler ever got to see Maharaj ji himself. But his lifestyle did affect the people that had to arrange it all for him. The job of my ashram mate Joe Schwartz for instance, was to rent films for Maharaj ji whenever he exchanged his 'divine residence' in Malibu California for Denver to discuss business with Bob. As soon as he left for Malibu again, Joe dragged projector, screen and rented films into our ashram, where we in all secrecy and taunted by the strangling question of whether we had now definitely fallen of the path watched Little Big Man and the Godfather. Two favorites of Maharaj ji, Joe assured. And while watching a rented movie apparently was all right, then why not in a theater, Tom White, another house-mate of the ashram in Franklin Street wondered. He worked at the 'petty cash' on Finance and because of this could always get his hands on some money. So together we went to Denver's fifty cent theater … And because Maharaj ji had a motor home as huge as a public bus in order to see America, with a kitchen, bathroom, sleeping room and all, Tom figured we could take the Ford Capri of Finance to Aspen … More mistakes together were hardly possible.
Premie Personal Turmoil Ongoing
Downton received much of his information from Lucy Dupertuis and other DLM staff in Denver IHQ and so much of it was DLM propaganda. Even he could see that after the period of growth and excitement followed by the failure of their millenial expectations there was also a failure in the practice of Knowledge. It did not produce peace and bliss, even in the heart of the largest and presumably most dedicated group of Rawat's followers, the DLM administrators who were living in ashrams and obeying the most stringent regulations of the ashram code.
Generally, premie conversions were followed by a period of enthusiasm … Following the enthusiasm phase life began to return to normal, as premies were rudely awakened to the fact that their negative feelings and desires, the sources of personal turmoil before their initiation, remained to haunt and tease.
This appraisal of the changes in DLM in 1976 is based upon:
- "Sacred Journeys: The Conversion of Young Americans to Divine Light Mission" by James V. Downton
- "Soul Rush" by Sophia Collier
- "Mescaline, Maharaj Ji and the Mojave Desert: Abandoned Roads" by Jos Lammers
- "Peace Is Possible" by Andrea Cagan
- articles in The Golden Age and Divine Times magazines
- a radio interview with Bob Mishler
- internet postings by Michael Dettmers
- Between Dark and Dark by David Lovejoy
- Effort In The Right Direction 29th November, 1976 in Frankfurt published in The Golden Age
- The Frankfurt Conference 25th - 29th November, 1976
- Notes On People New York Times, December 21 1976
- Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting from New Religions Janet Liebman Jacob
- Spiritual group's claims, practices are changing EVENING CAPITAL Sat., March 6, 1976
- Teenage Guru to Change Style THE TIMES RECORDER FRI., MAR 5, 1976
- Maharaji group changing style to tone down Eastern ritualism Fri., Mar 6, 1976 GREELEY (Colo.) TRIBUNE
- Tour Postponed Due To Insufficient Funds THE GETTYSBURG TIMES, Saturday, March 27, 1976
- About People SYRACUSE HERALD-JOURNAL, March 27, 1976
- Guru Changes Touring Plans HIGH POINT ENTERPRISE, Saturday, March 27, 1976
- Lack of funds postpones Guru's N. American tour GREELEY (Colo.) TRIBUNE Sat., Mar 27, 1976
- Times have changed for Guru Mon., November 22, 1976 GREELEY (Colo.) TRIBUNE
- Declining Donations Dim Divine Light Mission The Lima News Monday, November 22, 1976
- Followers Fewer, Church Retrenching for Maharaj Ji The Charleston Gazette Friday, November 26, 1976
- Teenage Guru Having Tough Days FLORENCE MORNING NEWS Monday, November 22, 1976
- Guru Following Down, Tactics Changing Waterloo Courier, Thurs., Nov. 25, 1976
- Guru's following is falling away AP: EVENING CAPITAL Sat., Nov 27, 1976
- Guru's following is falling away AP: ALBERQUERQUE JOURNAL, Saturday Nov 27, 1976
- Ecstasy and agony Sunday, Dec. 12, 1976 THE LIMA NEWS
- BIZ BEFORE BLISS Columbus Telegram December 20, 1976
- Notes On People The New York Times December 21 1976
- Newsmakers The Los Angeles Times December 21 1976
and the newspaper articles listed above and personal memories.