John Hand Jr, vice-President, Divine Light Mission

John Hand, Jr became a follower of Denver's self-styled Indian guru, Maharaj Ji, who headed the Divine Light Mission in the 1970s after college and served as a vice president for two years until his disenchantment and resignation.

"John was always such a seeker," said his sister. "He was looking for a spiritual connection, and he was young and impressionable." But Hand and others became disenchanted with the guru and left the mission.

The Jonestown massacre concerned Hand and Bob Mishler so much they went public and warned of similarities between Guru Maharaj Ji and Jim Jones. They claimed the Guru had 'a sadistic streak' and in addition to his ulcer, the Perfect Master who claimed to hold the secret to peace and spiritual happiness 'had tremendous problems of anxiety which he combatted with alcohol.'

References: see Cults - faith or foolhardiness? and Two ex-cult officers see possible Guyana repeat

Suddenly there were new reports from people who'd actually managed the Divine Light Mission--Robert Mishler, the man who organized the business side of the mission and served for 5 ½ years as its president, and John Hand Jr., who served as a vice president for two years. In the aftermath of Jonestown, Mishler and Hand felt compelled to warn of similarities between Guru Maharaj Ji and Jim Jones. They claimed the potential for another Jonestown existed in the Divine Light Mission because the most fanatic followers of Maharaj Ji would not question even the craziest commands. As Jim Jones convincingly demonstrated, the health of a cult group can depend on the stability of the leader.

Hand became a community activist and businessman. He died in 2004. His eulogy revealed him as something of a rennaissance man and visionary.