Q8 Newport (RI) Daily News, Saturday, Nov. 25, 1978
Two ex-cult officers see possible Guyana repeat
DENVER (UPI) - Two former top lieutenants of the Guru Maharaj Ji's Divine Light Mission have warned the estimated 15,000 American followers of the 19-year-old spiritual leader they risk a plight similar to that of devotees of the Rev. Jim Jones in Guyana.
Robert Mishler, who served as Maharaj Ji's personal secretary and president of the Mission for six years and John Hand Jr., former vice president of the organization, Friday said the guru had displayed behavior patterns similar to those of Jones.
"AFTER SEEING the similarities of behavior of Jones are so strikingly like Maharaj Ji's, it's possible something like what happened in Guyana could come about as a result of him being threatened," Hand said.
Authorities have found 615 bodies in the Guyana settlement of Jonestown, which was founded last year by Jones, leader of the People's Temple religious sect. Authorities estimate about 780 bodie (sic) will be found. The victims were either fatally shot or poisoned by grape Kool Aid laced with cyanide.
Mishler, who resigned from the mission last year, said he and Hand decided to denounce the guru because they were jarred by the deaths in Guyana and feared for the lives of mission members, who also include nearly 1 million in India.
IN AN EXCLUSIVE interview with UPI, the two men said Maharaj Ji had spoken frequently of building a city similar to Jonestown and was infatuated by weapons and gangsters.
Mishler and Hand, who were two of only about 15 members that saw the guru's private behavior, said Maharaj Ji was excited by the crime underworld and after viewing the movie "The Godfather," formed a security unit called the "World Peace Corps."
"HE IS INFATUATED with the mafia and even tried to arrange a meeting with a New York don," Hand said. "The mission now has secret stockpiles of weapons."
The two former Mission officials said Maharaj Ji's private behavior included physical and sexual assaults on followers by stripping them, pouring abrasive chemical on their bodies, administering psychotropic drugs and having them beaten with sticks or thrown into swimming pools.
"I've been punched and kicked in the groin by Maharaj Ji, and I've seen toxic chemicals poured in the mouths of followers," Hand said. "He does this laughingly."
Mishler said he resigned as Maharaji Ji's top aide following a "power struggle" in which he attempted to redirect the followers' faith from the "pretender to the throne of God." He said Hand was forced to resign in 1973 for making similar attempts to deprogram Mission members.