The Great Comeback of 1977
Prem Rawat began 1976 with a letter to his premies in which he wrote: "In 1976, I think we can really use this potential in such a way that would make this year a very successful one." This was one of the more extraordinary miscalculations which he has made during his career as God Incarnate on Planet Earth. Admittedly they are big shoes to fill even if you do have Lotus Feet.
During 1976 Divine Light Mission nearly fell apart. This was brought on by his top administrators losing confidence (PIP p213) in him and beginning a wave of questioning amongst the premies which resulted in the ashrams emptying, the cash flow crashing and a major fall in support for Rawat. They decided to create a new image for DLM in which they were no longer the mission of raving loony crazy hippie foot kissers of the fat and pimply Lord of the Universe but sensible, mature citizens engaged in quiet acts of social service with a leader who just happened to be formerly forced to accept the title "Lord of the Universe" in a secret plot by his mother to become rich and famous and rule the world. The young Perfect Master was really just an everyday hard-working "humanitarian leader" of a low key social organisation. This was even harder to believe than their former campaign and while he travelled around giving sensible speeches his heart just wasn't in it and when he was told his income would halve and many of his expensive toys would have to be sold he acted. He fired Bob Mishler, the long time president of Divine Light Mission and any other administrators who hadn't already quit and who weren't prepared to kiss his arse (ass) as well as his feet and took stock.
He gathered his international flunkies in Frankfurt, Germany and in private he gave them a tongue-lashing which they thoroughly deserved. In public, he accentuated the positive. In the December 1976 Divine Times he was quoted: "It's great to be able to come and see the enthusiasm of premies. Everything is slowly starting to come to a higher consciousness. I just pray it keeps on developing to a higher and higher and higher consciousness, to where the true motives of this organization can be fulfilled. So premies, it's really beautiful."
Finally he fell back on his father's favourite method of impressing the yokels: dressing up in fancy costumes and partying. He sent out a last minute open invitation to a birthday party at his Malibu mansion in which he cried tears of joy when he received a surprise present, an Aston Martin. Truly fulfilling. He told the gathered faithful "we don't need these high-faluting changes, the only change that we ever need in our lives is to come back home. Come back home to Guru Maharaj Ji's world."
Then he accepted an invitation to a premie get together celebration at Atlantic City on December 18 in which he didn't bother with the shouting, berating and haranguing his followers for their imperfections and blaming the problems of Divine Light Mission and their lack of bliss and joy on them. Instead he told them "This is the Court of Love, this is where love happens. See, this is the point: that this is the issued order, not from just this time but of time immemorial, that in this court, whenever this court assembles, there's only one thing happens and that is love."
"You know I've only got so much to say and I can only say so much to the people of this world but I wish, I really wish, that we could all come together and beat the great drums of this satsang, so that unto all brothers and sisters in this world they could hear the voice of these drums beating. And then they would dance to it, just like you and me have. Every one of them, every soul in this universe would dance to it. And it would be beautiful experience and that is my wish. That is my greatest desire. That is - it's even beyond desire; that is my life."
"This is the difference between Guru Maharaj Ji and just an experience of Knowledge because the experience of Knowledge is just an experience of Knowledge but Guru Maharaj Ji even takes it further step away where he, he enables that experience to be constant with you, not just a one time shot but to be constant with you, to be there with you all the time. And like one of the saints in India, Brahmanand says and he describes Guru Maharaj Ji and he describes like how beautiful it is to, to experience that love, to experience that Grace of Guru Maharaj Ji and to go on and on and on and on and on and have that help, to have that guidance, to have that love of Guru Maharaj Ji in our lives and he says, "How can I then ever repay Guru Maharaj Ji?" and he and he and he answers, it's very beautiful, that if I gather everything in this world, everything that there is in this world and multiply it by 10,000,000 times it won't even be worth a grain, one piece of grain, one piece, one piece of penny to what I owe Guru Maharaj Ji."
"Together, we can do anything!"
"During the Atlantic City program, a spontaneous feeling of devotion and surrender to the guru occurred, reviving the millennial atmosphere reminiscent of 1971-72, and including the beliefs surrounding his widely acclaimed divinity. Against a background of increasing secularization and bureaucratization, premies were ready for a charismatic renewal. This is the classic struggle between the bureaucratic and charismatic forces in history, which Max Weber considered the dynamic of social change. As a type of authority, bureaucracy leans toward order and efficiency, while charisma introduces creative disorder through heroic leaders who demand the personal loyalty of their followers in order to expand their potential to change the world. It was this conflict between the tendencies of order and disorder which Weber saw as the source of fundamental change in society." Sacred Journeys p187
"Premies have responded enthusiastically to the call of Initiators (formerly "Mahatmas") for personal rededication to Guru Maharaj Ji. Affected by a growing sense of confusion and despair about the Mission's future by the end of 1976 and by increasingly secular interests, they were ready for a change in their commitment."
In All God's Children published in 1977, Stoner & Parke write "Leaders of the Divine Light Mission contend the movement is not a religion. They now say their work has been impeded by the Hindu trappings that many followers have invoked to "enrich the experience of meditation." But whether premies have promoted "Hindu trappings and their guru's divinity," in much the same way many Americans and Europeans have sought the life explanations in Eastern religion and writing, or whether the Guru Maharaj Ji himself claims that he is God is a question of some importance.
"During the visit and on previous occasions when we visited ashrams as undeclared aspirants, there was no persuasion or cajoling for us to become part of this group. We did feel a sense of calm and peace in the ashrams. Most of the premies seemed sincere and rational. They appeared to be in control of their own lives and seemed to be achieving some measure of peace as a by-product of a lifestyle they feel is constructive and healthy. Yet one week later the Guru Maharaj Ji came to Atlantic City, New Jersey, and the same young people were there too. In their guru's presence they lost control, sobbed, swayed, and knelt to kiss his feet. They say he is their guru, not their God. The program for the celebration said, "Guru Maharaj Ji, my life is within you. From you I was born and to you now I go. Forever I'm yours. My longing is endless." The chubby little man, whose corpulence suggests he hasn't nearly the self-discipline he inspires in his followers, came to Atlantic City to minister to his devotees and to receive their adulation. (There is always a hubbub of anxiety when the guru is scheduled to appear, since he has often failed to show up at celebrations and festivals in his honor) The guru entered the ballroom of the Atlantic City Convention Hall - where the annual Miss America pageant is held - and mounted a satin throne his premies had set there for him. The assembled deotees welcomed their master with frenzied screams, sobs, and outstretched arms. The young, Indian's followers came one by one to bow before him and to kiss his feet. They heard the little guru tell them, "You cannot battle the mind. It is too complex, too sophisticated. You'll lose. To beat the mind you must ignore it." Our newfound friends were ecstatic, entranced - as though they were not the same people we'd visited a week earlier."
Following on from this success Rawat called a series of festivals beginning on 30th January in Portland Oregon and continuing with 3 week intervals. Lucy Dupertuis recalls those days in her UC Berkeley thesis about 1970's DLM:
GMJ answered by staging a series of impromptu "festivals" during the spring of 1977, calling his whole nationful of followers first to Portland in January, then three weeks later to Denver, then to Miami, then Montreal, and on and on over the next couple of years until most premies' projects, ambitions, careers dropped by the wayside. … Only when thousands of premies gather for GMJ's "darshan" and "satsang" and the most spectacular, whimsical, memorable, and intoxicated moments of premie life. Inspired by these frequent festivals and distracted from Utopian and worldly pursuits, the premies entered another introversionist phase. Ashram ranks swelled, communities turned inward once again. - The Company of Truth pp197/8
Rawat was soon as confident and ebullient in his speeches as he had been restrained in 1976:
And a lot of premies have, you know, come out of rat holes, and that's what I call it - when people are set back into their mind, there's the only proper definition: rat hole. - Munich, Germany on April 10, 1977
Soon even the spaciest premies, including Mitchell Ditkoff, the editor of Light Reading, were coming out of their intellectual rat holes and metaphorically scourging themselves for their sins:
Guided by our collective intuition, our past experiences, and our desire for an "open" channel that would be both enjoyable and inspirational we brainstormed (and sometimes mindstormed) ourselves right up into our 8th issue. Then a funny thing happened. Almost simultaneously the entire of staff of Light Reading experienced a realignment of priorities. … Guru Maharaj Ji has given us everything. He has shown us the Light of God and how to live within that Light. He has manifested a world family of love. And most of all, he has given us himself. What need is there to look elsewhere? Sure, rebirthing, EST, and pyramids are "interesting," but our hearts and souls crave something a little more substantial. Why subtly deny our Lord? So, with our hearts and minds further opened, our pride swallowed, and our desire to serve deepened, the staff of Light Reading makes still another dedication to surrender.
Now began the most intense and frenetic phase of Divine Light Mission activities which lasted from 1977 to 1983 and is known amongst apostates as the Super Devotional period.
This appraisal of the changes in DLM in 1976/77 is based upon:
- "Soul Rush" by Sophia Collier
- "Sacred Journeys" by James V. Downton Jr
- All God's Children by Carrol Stoner and Jo Anne Parke
- "Peace Is Possible" by Andrea Cagan
- articles in The Golden Age and Divine Times magazines
- Effort In The Right Direction 29th November, 1976 in Frankfurt published in The Golden Age
- The Frankfurt Conference 25th - 29th November, 1976
- Guru Maharaj Ji's World - Prem Rawat (Maharaji) speaks at His birthday celebrations, Malibu, California, December 10, 1976
- Guru Maharaj Ji's World - Prem Rawat (Maharaji) speaks at His Birthday Party, Malibu, California, December 10, 1976
- The Court of Love - Prem Rawat (Maharaji) speaks in Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 18, 1976
- Birthday Film 1976 - Prem Rawat (Maharaji) speaks in Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 18 & 19, 1976
- Drums Of Satsang - Prem Rawat (Maharaji) speaks in Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 19, 1976
- Atlantic City Conference - Prem Rawat (Maharaji) speaks on December 20, 1976
- Now We Can Progress - Prem Rawat (Maharaji) Excerpts from satsang Atlantic City, New Jersey, December 20, 1976
- Divine Disenchantment: Deconverting from New Religions Janet Liebman Jacob
and newspaper articles and personal memories.