David Lovejoy, ex-President Divine Light Mission, Australia and Great Britain
Date: Sat, Nov 10, 2001 at 23:20:12 (EST)
Subject: David Lovejoy's Statement
David asked me to post this…
My name is David Lovejoy, and I live in the same part of Australia as John Macgregor and Michael McDonald whose postings are, I understand, a prominent part of this website. In fact I am the managing editor of the newspaper for which Michael works and to which John contributes. You could say that I know them better than most people do.
I was in India in 1970 and the following year I brought news about Maharaji to Australia. I helped found Divine Light Mission here and acted as its general secretary until early 1975, after which I did the same job in the UK until the end of 1976. I left the organisation then, for reasons I will explain later, and returned to Australia.
Recently a friend gave me copies of what John and Michael have been writing here. They had already both told me that they considered themselves 'ex-premies' but had not indicated the degree to which they were disenchanted. I then wrote a letter to them because I did not want them to assume by my silence that I agreed in any way with their statements. Michael responded with his views, John did not.
As one who has lived through the history of Maharaji's mission in the west both for a longer period and at a higher level than either John or Michael, I would like to comment on what has been said here, particularly by John. In doing so I will use some of my original letter and expand on it.
Stripped down to the core, John's case seems to be that Maharaji is human and Elan Vital is not a democracy. Neither of these insights strikes me as revolutionary. But Michael agrees, and for good measure throws in his belief that 'brain science' may disprove mysticism.
Maharaji's organisation appears to be in a phase of change again. It has been doing that on and off for 30 years and I don't expect it to stop. It remains, and I am sure will remain, a profoundly undemocratic institution. Why should it be anything else?
Only structures into which we are coerced have to be democratic. Where we have no choice about belonging there we have a right to reform. At this stage of western history it is unthinkable that we should be born into or forced into an authoritarian political system, and we would resist it mightily.
But how does that have anything to do with an organisation which we freely choose to join? Are we all going to teach the techniques of Knowledge or is it Maharaji's gig? His organisation is de facto his organisation, and anything less democratic than a spiritual teacher's following is hard to imagine. Business isn't democratic, sport isn't democratic, religion isn't democratic. Democracy is about power and how to share it; it has absolutely nothing to do with Maharaji's work, which we recognise as his work not ours.
Consider why I have had little to do with the organisation since 1976. In that year I argued myself out of a job because of an ethical dilemma: I felt it was unfair to both my family and Maharaji's followers for me to be the arbiter of how much should be spent on the upkeep of my wife and two small children. I was part of the pyramid structure and near the top: nobody questioned what I spent. As it happened it was my family that suffered as I was over-scrupulous about my stewardship, but the argument would be the same if I had behaved self-indulgently like some others we know. The point is that I freely acknowledge Maharaji as the font and origin of the organisation, and in organisational terms that means I am not interested in taking part. I wish him well, and I wish the spread of Knowledge well, I will even help in small ways if they present themselves, but working in an undemocratic organisation is not for me: it throws up too many ethical problems. Unless, of course, I am the undemocratic head myself.
In other words, rather than railing against the fact that there is a pyramid structure necessarily associated with Maharaji I chose to withdraw from it. This seems to be an elementary political perception, but John and Michael have suddenly discovered the undemocratic nature of Elan Vital and wish to proclaim it to the world. In fact Michael tells me that he has known this for twenty years but didn't want to go publicly against 'the party line'. (Is there a 'party line' to proclaim that EV is democratic?)
But it's not just that the organisation is undemocratic. It is in itself an evil empire in John's view. Presumably he doesn't mean that EV goons come round and hang people upside down to collect their cash. Or that wavering premies are kidnapped and reprogrammed. Or that followers are encouraged to consider themselves better than other people or to conduct religious wars against them. There have in fact been two major bad incidents to my knowledge, about which any group should feel ashamed. One is the Jagdeo matter and the other is Fakiranand's violence in 1973. In the time span and magnitude of the organisation I would say that is not a bad batting average for behaviour. I thought Jagdeo was banished, I know Fakiranand was.
Yes, an evil cult sucking the life out of people demands exposure. But is it like that? How many suicides can we attribute to Maharaji? Is there great pressure brought to bear on new people who are interested? For at least the last 20 years anything less like a high pressure sales pitch would be hard to imagine. (When I go to introductory programs these days I feel like standing up and saying, 'Look, ignore these milquetoasts, this stuff is really important!') And are we all jumping out of our skins for fear of the EV thought police? Or is it sinister by virtue of its laidback non-sinister appearance, and manipulative because it eschews manipulation?
Michael takes me up on this and says it is manipulative at every stage because its sole purpose is to persuade people to accept Maharaji and Knowledge. Well yes, that is its sole purpose. It is a question of how it proceeds to that purpose, and if you have had experience of real cult pressure, as John has, it is hard to see much to criticise in EV programs.
I think the organisation is bad in John's eyes because Maharaji is bad. He says it bears rotten fruit and alleges a 'lack of progress - both internal and external - in the lives of most premies', and the failure of 99% of their marriages (these statements are presumably examples of his factual and unembellished research). All this personal failure is Maharaji's fault.
In his statement there is a long litany of things of a petty or selfish nature Maharaji is alleged to have done, few or none of which (going by the context) were personally witnessed by John. Some of them, I don't know, may be true; I'd hate to have my life examined from the outside by a pitiless and hostile witness. Perfect teacher or angry tyrant, the real problem is the presumption of divinity.
In the early days Maharaji allowed to be expressed, and in some ways expressed himself, the idea of his godhood. Comparative cultural studies don't seem to have had much impact on those who keep bringing this up. There they are, freaked out like any card-carrying Christian, Moslem or Jew about the blasphemy of a human declaring himself god. Funny how those thought structures remain long after the content has gone: I can't imagine either John or Michael admitting to being a Christian, but it's the ghost Christian in them that is offended. If you make the claim of godhood in our culture you'd better be ready to follow it up with a miracle or two or else it's the inquisition and the stake. But in India things are very different. It's a commonplace concept and I've heard the most stoned-out and incoherent sadhus referred to as incarnations of Vishnu and nobody think twice about it.
It's an historical fact that Maharaji brought Indian trappings with him when he came to the west. It took a decade for us (and him) to realise that the Knowledge could stand on its own, without the Indian context. In the beginning, at the age of thirteen and fourteen, he said many things which were interpreted differently here than they would have been in his native land. He gradually learned to speak more appropriately to our culture and we learned not to take all that Hindu stuff literally. No, not all of us did; for some people those beliefs are central and they hang on to them as long as possible, even into the premie afterlife it seems. The obsession with what he said in 1973 is a hangover from the time when we projected omniscience on to him. This sort of nonsense was encouraged by Indians who didn't understand how our minds were conceptually unprotected. Like most people I figured that one out in the mid seventies, but John appears to be still dragging it around. Napoleon indeed!
It's also an historical fact that for the first half of the time Maharaji has been in the west it was very hard to hear him. There were printed satsangs, occasional audio tapes and films, but drowning that out night after night in halls all around the world were the most extraordinary things that were being said about him by people like John and Michael and me. Some of them were beautiful but some of them were distinctly insane. For the last decade or so Maharaji's talks have been videotaped and he is finally in control of his own message. And it doesn't include any stuff about his divinity.
Around him, I have no doubt, the traditional respect is paid by those who are consciously on the path of devotion, which by the way is not a weird need by the master, but a standard expression of Indian bhakti. There we go with the cultural relativity again.
Then there's his personal life. As far as I can understand, the criticism here is that he eats and smokes and screws. If he were a Jerry Falwell-style evangelist inveighing against the sins of the flesh we could dob him in for hypocrisy, but I've never heard him advising us to do anything but practise Knowledge. He doesn't actually talk about anything else in public. John says his personal life would be subject to scrutiny if he were a politician but that is true only in moronically religious societies like the US and Afghanistan; in civilised countries, and even still in Australia, those matters are not public business unless they render the politician incapable of doing his job.
What is the accusation? That he is human? That after 27 years his marriage is not going too well? Or simply that these matters are not broadcast via cable or discussed at length in EV newsletters as John apparently thinks they should be.
I have had my own interactions with Maharaji as a person, rather than a remote and revered teacher, and I have never experienced anything but good at his hands. What terrible thing did he do to either John or Michael? In fact, despite John's self-aggrandisement on the net posting, I don't really think he had much personal contact with him at all. I had precious little, but it is enough to keep me from indulging in superficial nitpicking about his character. Whoever Maharaji is, he is not a simple con artist.
To my eye neither Michael nor John has been damaged in any way by the time they chose to give this path. In fact, I am in a position to recall that they were both in desperate straits when they came to Maharaji, and that the quality of both their lives rose tremendously. I witnessed it, and it was no different in my own case.
I can understand a feeling of 'it's over, I'm moving on'. If a personal road comes to an end there's no sense denying it. But these are statements of people who have come to that impasse and believe that the end of their own chapter should be made the end of everyone else's. A personal turning point does not have to be conflated into a general crusade.
In fact what is going on here in Australia is a federal election which has just been won by a government that gloats over scorning every civilised convention. It is sycophantically supporting the US bombing Afghani civilians out of their homes and then turning them away when they arrive on our borders as refugees. Every ounce of energy is needed to oppose this evil and my two best writers are pissing theirs away on this non-issue!
We all like to be noticed, and basking in sudden approval ('a borderline spiritual experience') is a common enough human frailty. For the record, John as a freelance writer has indeed interviewed Australian prime ministers, but his political acumen is considered abysmal by those who do it for a living. The impressive list of FBI and American political contacts are all derived from one visit this year to Florida on a story about government mistreatment of an American refugee to Australia. It resulted in some articles in the national press here, but nothing substantial in America (not John's fault: both the press and politics in Florida are hopelessly corrupt). The refugee in question is still scheduled for deportation.
Writing stuff for the internet is (as I have found by writing this) a strange experience. You feel anonymous even if you are putting your own name to the message. There is a temptation to exaggerate, to make the story sound better. You can forget that although thousands of people may read your posting and believe you because they have no other avenue of information, dozens of them will know you, and know if you are bullshitting. Without listing all the important people I know I leave it to those few dozen to judge my bona fides.
David will not be participating in any forum debate on these issues.