14-the great speckled bird
Traveling Circus: Rennie the Apostate and Teen Angel
On Saturday, August 25, at 8 pm, God (in the person of Guru Maharaj Ji) was scheduled to perform in Chastain Amphitheatre. However, God was indisposed (chronic hepatitis, contracted as a child in India, accordirig to disciple Rennie Davis, once of the Movement, but since this spring, a follower of Teen Angel - Rennie’s own suggestion, a name he said had been used before by press people trying to be funny) and went instead to the Denver headquarters of the Divine Light Mission, the Guru’s organization. The crowd of 1500-2000, which was almost exclusively composed of whites between 18 and 35, with no teenyboppers and only a dozen or so middleagers and two or three blacks, had to be content with one of God’s three brothers and Rennie, whom 1 last saw at Piedmont Park in Atlanta during the People’s Fair 1971, organizing support for Mayday with fiery oratory. He was almost unrecognizable as he stood on a stage which could have come straight out of the trucking guru in Candy. He was dressed in a sedate suit complete with tie, the stage had nine large vases of glorious flowers and was bespangled with single flowers everywhere, a white throne decked with white silk and a blossom-hidden mike were reserved for God’s brother, a rock group played guru hymns at stage right, three chanting mahatmas crouched at stage left, a shiny glass crescent hung over all, and the total effect was about half between an Easter Sunrise Service and an Arabian Nights harem.
The farce began with Henry Ramsey, an aide to Alderperson Charles Driebie, presenting a formal welcome to the city of Atlanta signed by Mayor Massed to Teen Angel in recognition of his spiritual service to thousands of Americans. That is to say, of keeping them distracted from the issues that affect their lives and getting them to hippy revival meetings instead of to political demonstrations against the multiple evils of Kapital.
Rennie Davis then gave the first sermon, followed by each of the three mahatmas and God’s sibling. From all the mishmash of oratory, a really slick press kit, and the PR woman for the local ashram (cell, to us), I managed to piece together a brief history of the DLM the Traveling Circus, and its Perfect Ring Master.
Seems as if Teen Angel’s daddy, Shri Hans Ji Maharaj, became a rambling religious ripoff in India shortly after the end of WWII. He founded the Divine Light Mission, sort of a family company now headed up by the Guru, his three brothers, and mother (The Holy Family, as Rennie called them). When he kicked off in July 1966, his eight year old kid nominated himself the new Satguru (Perfect Master), at least to hear his followers tell it. Cynic that I am, I suspect a hurried family conference on how to keep the chips rolling in now that the breadwinner was one with Atman. Tire young Oriental Marjoe, riding the wave of opportunity provided by Western Youth Culture’s interest in all things mystical in the wake of the Beatles’ Transcendental Meditation episode, sent his first fakirs west to toe-test the insipid .waters of hippy superstition before leaving the rich pickin’s of the Land of the Holy Cow for the mysteries of the Occident, where such superstitions as the Tarot, I Ching, astrology, and all such bric-a-brac of the intellect were being dug from their musty graves or imported from the exotic shores of Kuomintang, China or the British Raj as the inhabitants of those lands were finally dumping them.
After a giant sendoff by a million starving victims at Delhi Nov. 8-10, 1970, Teen Angel launched his western offensive. Since then, his movement has grown; in fact, it claims 6,000,000 followers, likely an exaggeration. In the US, there are 60 ashrams or holy houses of the devotees, who are called premies;
September 3, 1973 - 15
also, the movement says there are 280 ‘centers of worship’ in the country. Rennie Davis announced that the third anniversary of the Delhi gathering will be celebrated in Houston at the Astrodome November 8 to 10 this fall, at an event called Millenium ’73, where the Satguru will usher in a 1000 years of peace by announcing his plans for the solution of all humanities’ little problems, such as pollution, war, hunger, disease, overpopulation, and jock itch. Presumably, Teen Angel will arrive for his ‘Palm Sunday’ at Judge Hofheniz’s New Jerusalem riding his shiny new white rolls royce.
A noteworthy feature of the Atlanta show was the seeming choice of a rock festival format for a model: counting the Mahatmas, the bands, some short hair security poons, technical people with some very expensive filming and TV monitoring equipment, Rennie, God and some hangers, the whole shebang (called significantly, Shri Hans Productions) amounts to thirty or more people. I must say, however, that the music is not up to Hare Krishna’s.
The doctrine of the perfect master can be summed up as a plea for social quietism, using as an excuse that world peace can only be achieved by everyone first achieving internal peace, preferably by giving all to the perfect master. Here are some quotes from his brother Shri Raja Ji:
"God is the boss of all bosses"
"He never says he’s a God, but we think he’s a God
People give us a lot of donations in this country—some for tax exemptions, some for other reasons-infinity cannot be defined by a computer."
"He (the Satgum) shares the spirit that animated the other great prophets, such such as Jesus, Buddha, Krishna, etc. He is the source of life in others; we are the rivers. He is the ocean."
"He’s the perfect master; if He makes a mess He makes a perfect mess."
I wish 1 had managed to record the parable of the two Volkswagons; I nearly rolled in the aisles.
Also a quote from Rennie Davis, which I agree with, except for the last clause, "The whole thing is really outrageous; a fifteen year old boy has rented the Houston Astrodome to announce a plan do bring peace to the world, and what’s more, he can do it."
Rennie announced that he would lead a candlelight procession around the white house to encourage Nixon to attend the Astrodome. 1 couldn’t help thinking of how much Nixon must prefer this to some of the other events that he has led to the white house, such as Mayday, the inauguration, besides being part of the Chicago 7 conspiracy. In this case, it is really transparently obvious how religion serves the interests of the mling class by diverting potential opposition into impotent directions.
About half a dozen Jesus Freaks- from the house of praise organization picketed the Event. Jim Karney, of the Emory New Times, and 1, interviewed them briefly. After I left, one of them reportedly threatened to bust Jim’s camera or his ass for taking photos; they later denied this to me, but claimed they were praying to God that the film would not develop. Here are a few things they said in my presence;
"The Guru Maharaj Ji is a false prophet like the bible predicted, and we are here to expose him."
"Them’s devils down there right out of the pits of hell."
My own opinion is that the two groups deserve one another. After the carney was over, Burt Siegal and 1 went to WRFG with Rennie Davis and three premies who never let him out of their sight for a moment, I suppose for fear he might say something out of line, though he never showed the least inclination to do so. You can hear the interview on tape Sunday September 2nd at 4pm on WRFG, 89.3 FM. What was amazing was that neither Linda Carlsen, Burt, nor I could discover any trace of an ulterior motive nor a powerful external influence such as drugs, brain washing, or lobotomy, to account for the Saul-on-the-road-to-Damascus of the seventies; if he is dissembling, he’s doing a damn thorough job of it.
It was hard for us to cope with Rennie Davis, Movement superstar, the kind of person you had always admired for being more right on and together than anyone in your own little circle, sitting there justifying the Gum’s rolls royce, saying "Marx was wrong, Hegel was right; the world is in the human mind." And claiming all the problems we have all stmggled with so long would simply disappear come November. He dismissed sexist practices inside the ashrams, such as housemothers to do all the shitwork while the men do the "important" things with hardly a thought, would not respond meaningfully to questions about the beating of Fifth Estate reporter, Pat Halley, by two premies of the Detroit Ashram the day after he threw a shaving cream pie in the face of God (I asked if this was an example of what we could expect from the Satgum’s followers in the new millenium.) Linda cried at his defection. We all wondered what the rest of the Chicago 7 will think when he appears with them on October 29 to face the long pending contempt charges, and also whether anyone could ever tmst him again if he should come to his senses and break with Teen Angel. He typifies the loss of capable and desperately needed people that the various progressive forces for social change suffer through the inroads of religion, superstitution, dmgs, and faddism. It hurt.