Prem Rawat: A Conspiracy Theory That's Real

One thing that stands out very clearly in the early history of Prem Rawat's Divine Light Mission was the extraordinary facility for the members to change beliefs almost instantly and without debate. Members of Divine Light Mission in the 1970s were expected, wherever possible, to attend nightly meetings 7 nights a week. Satsang (as it was called) had a format. One person at a time would speak, facing the others who would listen and concentrate without comment. Th expectation was that the person would speak from the heart, without prior thought on the subject, about their life at this time and Guru Maharaj Ji and His Knowledge's effect on them. Upbeat would be good, anything up to a point would be acceptable. It was very unusual for a speaker to be interrupted and/or told to stop though this did sometimes happen. Every local community of a certain size had administrators who were living in an ashram. Appropriate announcenments would be made by these at the end of the meetings. Whether it was the format of the meetings, peer pressure or the fact that the major Divine Light Mission doctrine was that Guru Maharaj Ji was hailed as the Perfect Master, an Incarnation of God and the Lord of the Universe, there was little or no debate or dissent within the organisation. Basic beliefs could change in a moment. Please don't take my word for it. Probably the best examples of this is recorded in two books: Sacred Journeys by James Downton (too gullible by far) and All God's Children. Both writers believed they were being told the premies were now sensible and mature, how they had changed and evolved but this was just the latest "party line" which disappeared in an almost literal second when they were in a large group with the guru spouting a devotional line.

In November 1973 a meeting was held in the Houston Astrodome which Rawat publicly claimed was to be the "the most Holy and significant event in human history." It was not a success and it was never mentioned again. No excuses, no reasons, no debate, no dissent. Rawat's family members were considered a Holy Family, divine or semi-divine beings. Then one day they were not. They no longer had any spiritual credibility on the sayso of the youngest son. They no longer had any influence or power over the Western premies. There was no debate or dissent. The transmission of the Knowledge techniques required 'Mahatmas,' celibate, realized Indian monks and bais who were considered to be 'great souls' and then they weren't. They were summarily dismissed by Rawat and sent back to India. There was no debate or dissent. After almost 20 years as Guru Maharaj Ji, the God in a Bod who demanded worship and wealth, danced divinely dressed in skimpy costume jewellery with long hair and the most cossetted moustache on the planet changed his appearance and changed his name, kicked his ashram devotees into the street and demanded they destroy all evidence of his former life and never meet again publicly to talk about him. No dissent, no debate though there was a considerable number of defectors and deserters. For 50 years Rawat has claimed that he has been attracting more and more new people to be revealed his meditation techniques. All his long time followers know this is not true. No queries, no debate, no dissent. This was the fertile ground in which Rawat could sow any seeds.

It is difficult for hopeful people with a dream to actually startup a career as a successful spiritual group leader from scratch. How does a person gain any credibility? How long will it take to gather a congregation, one person at a time. That wasn't the case for the young Prem Rawat in his incarnation of Guru Maharaj Ji who had his cult leadership dropped into his lap and it could hardly have been a better place and time. A palatial ashram in Dehra Dun near Haridwar, in the heart of Indian pilgrimage territory. He inherited the substantial following and infrastructure of a successful religious Indian guru and led huge religious gatherings in 1969. He soon came to the notice of the vanguard of a large number of counter-culture youth looking for Indian spirituality and prepared to accept a shallow, flashy version without too many questions and without too much delay. However, he handled this so badly that his reputation in the larger community was beyond salvation.

Fifteen years later he wanted to start a new career as a successful, respected non-spiritual leader and a wealthy self-made man, a philanthropist and an internationally respected worker for Peace from scratch. All his wealth has come from donations from people who "knew," not believed, he was God incarnate or something very close to it. All the philanthropy and charitable activities made in his name came from donations from people who "knew," not believed, he was God incarnate or something very close to it. All the people who attended his speeches regularly and financed his activities were people who "knew," not believed, he was God incarnate or something very close to it but kept it secret. Could Prem Rawat be at the head of the world's largest, longest on-going, successful conspiracy?

When Rawat wanted the 1970s DLM materials destroyed, word had to be sent out and his name and agya (orders from God) mentioned otherwise no-one would have done it and no-one could just spontaneously realise during meditation what he wanted. We have records of his speeches (satsangs) from 1982 in which he is still Guru Maharaj Ji giving a Guru-Maharaj-Ji-type-spiel and others from 1982/83 where he isn't. I don't recall hearing that any agya was sent out detailing that there was going to be a change of name and that the 1970s Guru Maharaj Ji, Lord of the Universe, etc were never to be mentioned again. I've never heard of anything like that and it might have happened but it wasn't necessary. Premies were quite capable of sniffing the air, seeing which way the wind was blowing and changing direction instantly - we saw it with the Holy Family, with mahatmas, with the 1976 space-out and return to super-devotion and Bob Mishler. From one day to the next, his name was never mentioned again.

So suddenly Rawat, having supposedly jettisoned his Indian cultural religious concepts cannot ever say Guru Maharaj Ji publicly again. He doesn't and cannot just use Maharaji which is now just used as his name and as an honorific. As far as I can tell he no longer ever mentions the source of Knowledge or an underlying reason why he should be able to empower the meditation techniques. There is apparently no transcendant power driving premies' experience and lives though his evergrowing use of the importance of the Coming and Going of THE BREATH seems to be the modern version of his earlier claims that the Holy Name was the power kickstarting life and keeping it going until the last breath. Those premies who remain loyal to "Maharaji" enter into an unspoken conspiracy with him. They will continue to support him, they will continue to attend his speeches and act as if he is the fount of all wisdom without ever dicussing his history and his former actions and teachings and he will use the fact that he has these thousands of worshipful followers as the validation of the authority he has without requirement of explanation.

If there was agya or not doesn't matter, in the years following 1984 there has been an ongoing conspiracy in which Prem Rawat calling himself Maharaji and 10 to 15,000 premies agreed, openly or secretly, within inside, to never mention his former role as Guru Maharaj Ji and Lord of the Universe again nor their's as hopeful gopis and foot-kissing crazies and pretend that in the 1980s they spontaneously began to listen to and follow this person Maharaji, a conservative young Indian businessman, jet pilot and public speaker who taught 4 techniques of meditation that help people attain peace. They agreed to mention Maharaji to others as a source of peace but never to discuss anything specific about him. There were instructors (part-time) and audio tapes and videos of Maharaji for that.

Is this one of the most successful secret conspiracies of all time? They have bank-rolled his attempts at gaining new converts (mostly unsuccessfully) and later his attempts to become a respected public figure. They have provided him with validation. He can attract a crowd at any time in any place who enthusiastically support him without any apparent religious basis.

How few people there are who have broken this secret agreement? Even the great majority who become disillusioned with Maharaji/Pem Rawat maintain the secrecy.

The content of his speeches seem immaterial to his followers. His speeches became vaguer and vaguer and more anodyne despite his belief he was being controversial, harping on death and human beings being made of dirt.

As the years pass his speeches begin to contain sections in which his new buzzwords, heart, peace, joy, gift, dance, clarity and thirst are looped together into an ongoing repetitious word salad. As in the 1970s his premies who have become pwKs are enraptured by his allusions to anything divine, the Beloved, while he mostly maintained a policy of ridiculing other people making such claims openly.