Casting some shadows on the movement of Divine Light

The fastest growing religious movement in the world must be the Divine Light Mission, which in England alone has grown from 10,000 to 60,000 converts in two years. What the Mission means to six million devotees around the world is the promise of universal peace through individual inner serenity given to "all-who ask for it".

As in traditional Hindu belief this peace will be provided by a saviour who according to Krishna's promise will reappear "whenever the knowledge of God is becoming lost". The new saviour will be strictly nonsectarian since Buddha, Christ and Moses "were all empowered to give knowledge".

At the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, the Messiah of our time (and we doubtless deserve him) is a gross 15-year-old Westernized Hindu with a penchant for Rolls-Royces and clumsy parables. Mahara Ji is probably the richest boy in India (his Mission holds £100,000 in England alone) but he advocates total self denial for his followers.

This does not seem to worry his devotees, or "premies " who have given everything they have to the Mission. As one premie explained: "When Jesus came people were expecting him to come as a king. Now the saviour comes as a king, and he is expected to come as a pauper. People never recognize the saviour."

Premies who have recognized the Messiah this time, receive both "Knowledge" and Satsang. When taking "Knowledge" novices concentrate for several hours on "the music of the vibes" and chant over and over again that Guru Mahara Ji is perfect and has been sent by God to reveal His presence.

Suddenly the novice is jabbed sharply in the eyes by the Mahatma and sees, so it is said, the Divine Light of God himself. This, as described by Dr William Sargant in Battle for the Mind, is the "breaking point" of brainwashing when after hours of repetition on a single theme, an emotional crisis is precipitated by an unexpected physical pain.

If the conversion is successful, and it usually is, the premie is then taught to meditate by repeating the True Name of God (known only to the Mission) over and over to himself.

This auto-suggestion is complemented by group-suggestion at Satsang, Divine Light services held every day, where each premie in turn is expected to repeat in every conceivable way that the world is a dark place desperately needing the Light which only the Guru can provide. After a few months of this, the Mission could probably get its converts to do almost anything.

Most of the premies I talked to had drifted through tedious clerical jobs or factory work, and were aware of being constantly bombarded with information which, before their conversion, they could not meaningfully assimilate. Divine Light digests everything for them and since it reduces all contradictions down to a simple Knowledge/ignorance polarity it does not posit any new system of good or evil but just reunites premies with the moral system of their parents: frugality, honesty, hard work and monogamy.

It must be an enormous emotional relief for these refugees from McLuhan's Global jungle to have all disagreement, nastiness and confusion firmly locked outside the spotless room dedicated to the Worship of the One Perfect Being empowered to take the whole world on His shoulders. After Vietnam or Watergate what a relief to know that: “For a stable politician you must find the Living Perfect Master of your time. He is the only one whom power cannot corrupt."

After taking "Knowledge" most premies join an ashram, one of the small Divine Light communes scattered across the country. As these premies will be expected to give everything they earn to the Mission, the next logical step is for the Mission to set up its own employment and cut out the middle-man.

Increasingly this is what is happening, as readers of Divine Sales International will know. The DSL is a newspaper which is distributed internally within the English Mission, but is certainly not distributed to the public, who might get the wrong impression.

This is a fair extract therefrom: "The objective of the import/export division is to stabilize the economy of the world. We are in a position to do this, brothers and sisters, because our aim is to serve humanity and by doing this we are not taking any wages for ourselves so there is no labour cost."

Altruistically or not, Divine Sales international is already serving humanity at 34 branches in 15 countries, with words for the converts like: "Winged Messengers of God: the true nature of Divine Jumble Service is to notify humanity that their Lord Shri Guru Mahara Ji has come. So spread your wings and come fly, with Divine Sales Rummage Collectors every night at six o clock."

On this sort of basis the Mission has set up in England alone: two clothing factories, a fashion department, a nursery, a new brand of "vegetarian, non pollutant" cosmetics (labelled Just Revelations) and an import/export business in India and Hongkong gee gaws (not to mention the old jumble sales which are still expanding).

Judging from the scale of work being done on the new Palace of Peace, a converted cinema in East Dulwich, the plans for the construction of a Divine City in Nevada, and the number and high quality of the Mission's publications, there is no shortage of ready money coming into the organization. The fact that the Mission is a registered charity (although its activities are under investigation by the Charity Commission) doubtless does not make the Light shine any less brightly.

The Divine Sales International proclaims that: "To forget is a crime. To be lazy is a greater crime. To neglect work and offer excuses is the greatest crime. Action without delay is the soul of efficiency." It is no accident, therefore, that Divine Sales are growing so rapidly ; those who are at present organizing - the Second Coming obviously do not lack a sound sense of business.

Bart Milner

®Times Newspapers Ltd, 1973.