Charles Cameron, editor: Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?

Charles Cameron Charles Cameron

Charles Cameron, an early English premie and graduate of Oxford, created a significant amount of publicity for the young Lord of the Universe, Prem Rawat (Maharaji) or Guru Maharaj Ji as he called himself in the 1970's. He was the person who first "gave satsang" to Rennie Davis in a plane on a flight to Paris. He also wrote execrable poetry and edited the book, Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji? He had left Rawat by the late 1970's and went on to make a career on the fringes of the New Age. His later biographical information make no mention of his time as a devotee of Rawat's either through embarrassment or because Rawat has no respect in New Age circles and admitting to following him would destroy Cameron's credibility.

Soul Rush by Sophia Collier

Charles Cameron, the DLM writer who edited Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?, a paperback put out by Bantam in 1973. Though Charles thought of himself as a poet first, I got the impression that he didn't really like to write at all. What he really loved was touring the country and speaking on college campuses about art and spirituality. He loved to read his poems to big audiences, tell stories, do impersonations. He was very good at this, too. Telling a sad story, he could make me cry. Charles was British. He had gone to Oxford and his poems had been published in the volume The Children of Albion. Another quality I distinctly remember about Charles was his insatiable admiration of women. Though when it came down to "Shall I or shan't I" have sex, he confessed that he almost always backed down and kept his monastic vows. But to hear him talk publicly you'd get quite the opposite impression.

When Charles arrived in town, he was discouraged with our new situation. He shook his head and said, "First fanatics and then bureaucrats. Our mission gets harder every year."

However, Charles had a plan. He came to one of the writers' meetings and said with his British accent, "An artist is like no other individual. He or she [at-the word "she" Charles gazed around the room at the young women present] must use this difference for the advantage of the world. We need divine subversion in this organization. You can see the trends. You know what they [he cast his eyes dramatically skyward toward the direction of the executive offices] want us to do. Boring things, without life, without art, without love." On the word love, Charles's eyes traveled around the room again to the females present at the meeting. "Only we, the artists of DLM, can revive their lifeless ways."

Blissing Out in Houston By Francine du Plessix Gray. New York Review Of Books, December 13 1973

Charles CameronI have come to see Charles Cameron, an Englishman who was instrumental in starting the Master's first European and American campaigns three years ago. That was when the ambitious, precocious, technology-adoring twelve-year-old Guru - frustrated by how little attention he was getting in his swami-swarming native country - decided to employ modern public relations methods to spread his message throughout the entire world. Cameron had been one of the first Westerners to help him out. He is a frail man in his thirties, an Oxford graduate in theology. We get into a car to go to the Astrodome. I ask him how long the Knowledge session will last.

'Once they're ready to receive it it goes just like that,' he says, snapping his fingers quickly four times, 'in just four seconds.' He looks at his watch. 'I figure they'll be out of there at around a quarter of three.'

Like an abortion. I ask him how he can compute the session so precisely and he suddenly turns on me quite viciously. 'Look,' he snaps, 'I am very bad at facts. If you want to stay in this car with me please let's not talk about facts, all right? I am only interested in talking about one thing in the world, and that is love, divine love.'

He leans back in the car, looking petulant.

'Until three years ago when I received Knowledge,' Cameron says in the course of his satsang on Maharaj Ji's love, 'I used to be able to discuss Gregorian chant, and John Donne, and Cocteau, and Andrè Breton, and Plotinus, and Saint Thomas, and the difference between Mahayana and Hinayana Buddhism, do you understand? I was an intellectual. But once you have received Knowledge you are incapable of having a so-called intellectual discussion. You can only have a discussion about Knowledge that happens to be intellectual.'

We talked at length about that 'incidence of coincidence,' or lila, or divine play, in which premies have enormous faith. 'You can see it in Jungian terms if you wish,' he says, 'It's what he called 'synchronicity,' bumping into what you need at the moment you need it. That's lila, and it is being brought about by the common consciousness which is creating the universe.'

Unfortunately for Cameron's thesis, consciousness is not nearly as common as he believed and only Prem Rawat continued to benefit from 'lila'.

Charles Cameron is one of the two men whom Rennie Davis met on a plane flying to Paris, on his way to meet Madame Binh, North Vietnamese negotiator. They convinced him to fly to India to meet the Perfect Master instead.

But on the plane to Paris Larry Canada was preaching a new gospel, and Rennie was listening. "He talked with Canada and his crew for over three hours," recalls Cora Weiss. "And when he came back and told us about their scene he was-well, really smiling." Among Canada's "crew" was Charles Cameron, one of the first Western devotees of the Satguru. A gaunt-faced Englishman who fancies himself a poet, Cameron took on the task of giving satsang to the anti-war activist. "It really blew Rennie's mind," Cameron told me. "I could see right away that he was open to what I was saying though he wasn't taking it all in." Rennie discounts this, however-"I just thought 'here are some down-to-earth folks,' considering how ridiculous their rap is-you know?"

In any event, he was interested enough to follow it up in Paris, and he slipped away at least once a day to visit his holy friends at the posh Georges V Hotel. After the peace festivities were concluded, he stayed behind and continued receiving satsang. "He told us he was just staying for a couple of more days," said Weiss. But Larry Canada was feeling particularly philanthropic- "he had about $20,000 to blow," according to Cameron. So Rennie was offered a free trip to India as part of the "Divine Scouting mission" to Prem Nagar-City of Love-where Maharaj Ji, his mother, and his three brothers hold forth. "We had originally gone to Paris to see if we could figure out a way of going to Vietnam and China to do some filming," relates Cameron. "Larry Canada had told us that's where Rennie would be, and that if anyone could arrange for us to go there, he could. So imagine the incredibly cosmic coincidence of actually meeting on the plane-it's perfect. But Rennie told us there was no way to visit Vietnam or China right now, so we settled on India. We could film Guru Maharaj Ji and Rennie could check out everything we had been telling him firsthand."

First stop was Delhi where the party proceeded to a relatively new ashram called Punjab Bagh. There they met Bal Bhagwan Ji, the Satguru's 21-year-old brother. He is known in the Divine Light Mission as Maharaj Ji's "most devoted follower" and one whose divinity and position is second only to the Satguru. Rennie talked for hours with Bal Bhagwan Ji, and their discussion turned to Vietnam. "He has an incredible love for the Vietnamese," says Rennie. "He is also the smartest person I've ever met."

It was a significant meeting. It was, in fact, unusually significant because, as Cameron says, "members of the holy family don't give away their smiles and tears as readily as we human beings, and Bal Bhagwan Ji was smiling and tears were welling in his eyes … And for Bal Bhagwan Ji to show those emotions so soon is extraordinary - usually he would wait. But it was the perfect moment, in Rennie's case."

Despite Cameron's pontifications and prognostications neither Rennie Davis, Bal Bhagwan Ji nor Cameron remained followers of Prem Rawat's much longer. It is unlikely that Bal Bhagwan Ji - or Satpal Maharaj as he soon titled himself - was the smartest person in the room, let alone on the planet, but he is undoubtedly smarter than both Rennie and his fat, little brother, Prem.

Cameron has the dubious distinction of being an emcee at Millenium '73, "the most holy and significant event in human history" according to Prem Rawat. At least, it was meant to be but it does hold the distinction of being the place where Prem Rawat, the Guru Maharaj Ji, the Lord of the Universe, the Saviour of Mankind revealed he could find a Superman comic where no-one else could.

Charles Cameron, one of the first Western premies, begins his introductory speech by announcing "This is going to be the most incredible event on the face of the planet." Programmed pictures of Guru Maharaj Ji and the other members of the Holy Family flash on the Astrodome scoreboard. "I am standing on the biggest indoor stage ever built, in the biggest auditorium in the world." This is the language in which condominiums are sold, curious talk for someone whose autobiographical statement in the Millennium press kit begins: "After graduating from Oxford, I set out in search of the Kingdom of Heaven." And it does not get much better when he goes on to give a history of the festival (actually, the anniversary of Shri Hans' birthday) in jumbo jets, saying that "in 1971 one jumbo jet carried Western devotees to India for Hans Jayanti; in 1972 there were seven jumbo jets full of Western devotees; and this year, 30 jumbo jets brought premies from around the world to Houston, the largest air charter in the peacetime history of the world."