An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural

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Maharaj Ji

(1957?- ) Leader of the Divine Light Mission, a cult that was brought with great success in 1971 to the United States. At one point, the mission boasted forty-five ashrams in the United States alone, peopled with disciples who worked long hours and unquestioningly gave all their earnings to the Maharaj Ji.

      The overweight teenage guru, addressed as "Lord of the Universe" by his devotees, was driven about in a Rolls-Royce whenever he was not roaring down the street on one of his collection of high-powered motorcycles. He promised followers that they would "receive the knowledge" after a period of study and work, during which they donated all their income to him.

      The mission had as its membership mostly middle-class young people, who were taught that rational thought is the supreme enemy and were urged to immediately commence meditation whenever the thinking process threatened to return.
      The Maharaj Ji announced that the "most significant event in the history of humanity" would take place, "Millennium '73," at the Houston Astrodome. The arena was rented at a frightening price and admission was free, but only twenty thousand of the expected sixty thousand persons showed up. It was a bust, especially financially.

      The Mission published a slick color magazine titled And It is Divine, and one issue featured psychic Uri Geller on the cover, during a time when the two superstars, it was rumored, were planning to join forces. It never happened.

      Plans for a Divine City peopled only by mission members came and went. "Receiving the knowledge" turned out to be a process of seeing "heavenly lights" when pressing on the eyeballs, hearing "blissful music" when the ears were stopped up, tasting "divine nectar" when the head was thrown back with the tongue turned inward, and receiving a mantra nonsense word. The sensory illusions were quite natural and easily understood physiological phenomena, the "nectar" being simply nasal secretions dripping into the throat. Only the very naive were convinced that they had been let in on some sort of celestial secret. The big promise fizzled.

      In 1974 Maharaj Ji married his secretary Marolyn Lois Johnson, who he had discovered was the reincarnation of the ten-armed, tiger riding goddess Durga. His mother revolted against this alliance and tried to regain her former position as female leader of the sect by announcing that her other son, Bal Bhagwan Ji, was thenceforth the divine head of the cult. Disillusionment set in, and in 1975 Maharaj Ji's mother and brother sued him for their share of the wealth that had been accumulated. Then everyone sued everyone else, and the Divine vanished when the Light went out.

      In 1981, Maharaj Ji showed up uninvited at a rock concert at Glastonbury, England, driven in a white Rolls-Royce. He preached a few moments for an uninterested audience, and motored away when someone switched off the microphone. The god business is often not as enthusiastically supported as a god might wish.

      Maharaj Ji has been variously reported as now living in Denver, Colorado, and in Australia. There has not been a concerted effort to locate him.