Michael McDonald (McDuck)

Michael McDonald had been heavily involved in Divine Light Mission publications in the 1970's as journalist and editor and had been part of the Byron Bay pwick (People With Knowledge) community. He was quite active for a time on the internet after becoming disillusioned with Prem Rawat, circa 2001. He worked for many years for the Byron Bay Echo

He posted five statements which he believed deserve examination by anyone with "Knowledge" or aspiring to its acquisition:

1. Maharaji is not the 'superior power in person', at least no more or less than you and I. He is a charismatic figure whose charisma is reinforced by the devotion showered upon him, and an adherent of a teacher/student tradition.

2. Elan Vital is an organisation which, despite its PR image, acts as if Maharaji is the 'superior power in person'. That is, it is a cult.

3. The tools and experience of Knowledge are not unique to Maharaji. The experience is inherently within you and may be reached by a number of means (brain science is a big eye-opener in this regard).

4. Elan Vital is beset by a paralysis caused by its ambivalent/deceitful presentation of Maharaji and Knowledge. Publicly, Maharaji's just a guy with a few techniques; privately, people sing arti to him. The official PR explanations are expected to be followed by those 'in synch'. There is no room for a range of opinions to be expressed to the media, from 'He's an okay guy' to 'I think he's the lord of the universe!' Natural poetry has been suppressed in favour of blandness.

5. The difference between 'the mind' and 'the heart' is just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand. They are not different places to live, as Maharaji seems to insist, but simply facile definitions by which we categorise parts of our experience of being alive.

He wrote a public letter of rebuttal to David Lovejoy.

He discussed the "Trainings" (see Introducing the Possibility of Knowledge), of his life as a follower of prem Rawat and his thoughts on Rawat's strategy re this on-line criticism and some thoughts on the international organisation of Elan Vital.

Date: Wed, Jun 06, 2001 at 05:58:05 (GMT)
From: Michael McDonald
Email: samhardy2002@yahoo.com
To: Everyone
Subject: An Open Debate In Search Of Respondents
Message:
Dear all,

I was hoping not to be drawn publicly as yet into the current debate but the tone and content of the it-aint-so website beggars belief. If it is an official site, which I suspect it is, rather than an individual expression of devotion, it is a cop-out of immense proportions. I've pasted my response to the site below.

For those of you who don't know me, I've been involved on and off with DLM and EV since 1973 and up until last year was on the international PR team.

If the current crop of spammers on this site are premies intent on supporting their master, they'd do better to exhibit some integrity, wit and intelligence.

Dear Pia,

If your site is not open to debating with critics, it serves only to erect another closed shop in support of Maharaji's position. So far it is not off to a good start. Your correspondent WS, for example, is haphazard with the historical truth.

Leaving aside the vitriol sometimes exhibited on the ex sites, here are five statements which deserve examination by anyone with Knowledge or aspiring to its acquisition:

1. M is not the 'superior power in person', at least no more or less than you and I. He is a charismatic figure whose charisma is reinforced by the devotion showered upon him, and an adherent of a teacher/student tradition.

2. Elan Vital is an organisation which, despite its PR image, acts as if Maharaji is the 'superior power in person'. That is, it is a cult.

3. The tools and experience of Knowledge are not unique to Maharaji. The experience is inherently within you and may be reached by a number of means (brain science is a big eye-opener in this regard).

4. Elan Vital is beset by a paralysis caused by its ambivalent/deceitful presentation of Maharaji and Knowledge. Publicly, Maharaji's just a guy with a few techniques; privately, people sing arti to him. The official PR explanations are expected to be followed by those 'in synch'. There is no room for a range of opinions to be expressed to the media, from 'He's an okay guy' to 'I think he's the lord of the universe!' Natural poetry has been suppressed in favour of blandness.

5. The difference between 'the mind' and 'the heart' is just an arbitrary line drawn in the sand. They are not different places to live, as Maharaji seems to insist, but simply facile definitions by which we categorise parts of our experience of being alive.

These are perfectly reasonable propositions which could be debated without rancour, but I doubt that they will appear on your site.

Michael McDonald

PS The metaphor of the lion and the dogs is fatuous in the extreme.

Date: Wed, Jun 06, 2001 at 23:53:45 (GMT)
From: Michael McDonald
Email: None
To: donner
Subject: Answers to most of the above
Message:

Firstly, Anth, I wasn't involved in a response to the Jagdeo issue; I thought that was mostly handled by Glen from your part of the world. I haven't had much contact with the PR team for over a year, so if any departures happened for that reason, I missed them.

My departure from that team was due to the question asked at the time of the so-called 'clean-up': was I prepared to put in the necessary dedication? I thought about it seriously and decided 'No', so I withdrew from the international and Australian PR teams.

If you're involved in a PR team for a so-called benevolent cause, you have to take as read the premises I have now rejected (unless you're a completely cynical bastard, of course).In my opinion most of the people on the teams were sincere and likeable, and in some cases interested in questioning the public image of Mr Rawat and his organisation. Any direct thrust to change the PR approach would get diluted in the rounds of national contacts, instructor comments and I assume by Mr Rawat's hand, as well. Looking back, it is a surprisingly unwieldy organisation for something relatively small.

My departure from Mr Rawat's world altogether has only come about in the last few months. It was precipitated by a training session with the man himself, subsequent conversations with good friends who had exited, and a good, hard look at the logic and credibility of it all.

Having had a life mostly separate from the organisation for the last 20 years, the break has not been as painful as it obviously has been for many here. No real dark nights of the soul, just a few restless hours of reflection. Nevertheless, it is a big step after 27 years of faithful acceptance.

My involvement in the 70s was a lot more committed. I was the editor of the Australian premie magazine, The Golden Age, and got called to Denver in 1976 and, when all the other writers left, ended up editing Divine Times and And It Is Divine simultaneously! Shortly after, there was a call for all fulltime staff to join the ashram. I decided I would fry in there, and returned to Australia instead. My other claim to early premie fame was writing the lyrics to 'Surdas The Gardener', which still has some currency. 'What will you give for the flower which grows untouched by death?' Quite a lot, until you discover the plant variety rights aren't exclusive.

Date: Tues, Nov 13, 2001 at 17:15:06 (EST)

From: Michael McDonald
Email: mcduck@echo.net.au
To: All
Subject: Response to David Lovejoy
Message:

It seems a little strange responding to David Lovejoy through the medium of the internet when he and John Macgregor and I could be sharing a bottle of red at a local hostelry, but I suppose it keeps the friction of this argument out of our working relationship. It was also unfortunate that David chose David Roupell, given his lack of credibility on this forum, to post his message.

However, David Lovejoy is a good man and I would ask you to bear some kindness for him if you find that possible. It should be noted he has at least attempted to post an argument rather than indulge in the usual flaming of the flaming Roupells of this world, although he does it without much knowledge of the context in which he posts, and I doubt that he would be persuaded to visit here.

David has been somewhat disingenuous in posting a message which fails to take into account all of my private responses to him. He wrote here: '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.'

I responded in private: 'John will probably answer on his own behalf but his case is more likely to be that even if EV is not a democracy, it is publicly accountable for its behaviour when it acts badly, as is Maharaji (or you or I) as a human being, as it engages in activities in the public domain. You misrepresent me as to my 'belief'. What I did say is, 'the whole history of mysticism and meditation may have no absolute basis, that for example, the experience of bliss may just be an evolutionary mechanism for a big brain to cope with the passage of time or to manufacture hope.' It's a big 'may' and I have no certainty on the topic, despite considerable experience with meditation and psychotropics. The discussion of democracy is irrelevant. The Echo [the paper we edit], of which you are the 'undemocratic head', is not a democracy but it treats those who choose to work there in a more rational and responsive way than does EV its own. This reflects on Maharaji and the value of his work if he is 'the font and origin of the organisation'.

David wrote here: '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?)'

I responded in private: 'Hardly a sudden discovery, and one that I've thought about for a couple of decades before publicly going against the 'party line'. 'Wishing to proclaim it to the world' is fatuous; the point is there is a serious discussion going on of how EV and by association Maharaji treat people.'

David wrote here: '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, not exactly, what I wrote in private was: 'Oh please. Manipulation is built in at every stage of the organisation, from the 'laidback' video presentations through to the aspirant program, knowledge session, and on to the trainings, the whole raison d'etre of which is to confirm that Maharaji is the sole basis of belief and action, without question. One could say the same of our genetic code, of course, but the question is, does the ends justify the means? If you believe knowledge to be the best thing since sliced bliss, perhaps yes, but one would expect the outcomes of its practice to be an organisation and master a tad more forthright in their intentions.'

David wrote here: '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.'

I responded in private: 'You could hardly call being brought up a non-practising Anglican as any thing worthy of conjuring ghosts, and it's a big assumption on your part that that's a chord being touched. Let's try hypocrisy instead; if you think Maharaji has demurred from the authority of godhead [sic] traditionally associated with the perfect master, try taking a training with him. It is just not solely the 'sort of nonsense? encouraged by Indians who didn't understand our conceptually unprotected minds'. Mind you, I freely admit I'm not beyond hypocrisy, but then again I don't allow myself to be feted as the 'superior power in person'.'

David wrote here: '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!'

This was not in our original correspondence and David tries too hard to take the moral high ground, as I'm sure he's not using 'every ounce of energy' to oppose the machinations of our ultra conservative government. John and I can stand quite happily on our track record in the field of 'serious' journalism.

David wrote here: 'Finally, the obsessive detail in which John reveals his own identity is like some kind of electronic striptease and sounds, frankly, like someone on the verge of a nervous breakdown.'

David has a tendency to suspect the worst when someone veers from a predictable path. I'll leave John to make his own response when he returns from mucking about in houseboats.

On the upside, one could take David's post as something of a breakthrough. It may be the first time a staunch defender of Mr Rawat has put up an articulate argument on this forum as opposed to the usual platitudes or sarcasm.

Cheers,

Date: Wed, Nov 21, 2001 at 14:30:17 (EST)
From: Joe
Email: None
To: Joe
Subject: Question to John/Michael/Lesley
Message:

I wondered about the composition of the people who were at that training. I think you said about 80-85 people were there. My question is, would you say that the majority of those people received knowledge in the 70s and had been around for a long time? Were there any people in the training who had received knowledge in just the past few years?

I have a strong hunch that the group largely consisted of people from Maharaji's 'Lord of the Universe' period, and were particularly indoctrinated to believe M was 'divine' and hence more likely to see whatever he did as either 'lila' or some kind of ordeal that he devised as some kind of perfect plan for the ultimate spiritual benefit of the premie.

I partly say this because I have heard premies rationalize it in that way; deflecting from M's behavior and talking about the things they "needed to learn" from it all.

What do you think?

Date: Wed, Nov 21, 2001 at 18:14:21 (EST)
From: Michael McDonald
Email: None
To: Joe
Subject: Re: Question to John/Michael/Lesley
Message:

Joe,

There were 80 people in the training, plus half a dozen facilitators or so. I would say most of the premies received K in the 70s or 80s, and many of them were staunch longtimers who'd been involved in core service much more regularly than me.

Joe, I would think your comment about 'lila' is appropriate, though it would be hard for me to judge the levels of cynicism or pragmatism - often the fallout of being involved in political power games of any kind - of some of the longtimers. I mean, 'Frend' in a post below talks about making omelettes when the broken eggs are in fact people's lives. My rationalisation for 28 years was that contradictory or confusing behaviour has an acceptable basis if it comes from the 'superior power in person', because obviously he knows what's really going on, right? Except for that reason, why would I (or anyone) put up with bullshit?

One of the exercises was, 'How are you going to change the attitude of the 79 arseholes in this room?' My conclusion was 'See them as part of the team, assess their proposals and objections on their merits, and respond appropriately in light of their value to the team goal', hardly rocket science but good Maospeak, and in the end the team goal was not a smoother running organisation or commonsense results but utter obedience to Mr Rawat.

Mr Rawat was particularly scathing of the 'happy family syndrome', where a family pretends to be together but really is constantly bitching about each other; it follows on from his earlier concern of not wanting DLM to be a 'Mickey Mouse Club'. I can see the value in that but it is also a tactical error if you set people thinking seriously about the nature of the organisation and hence Mr Rawat. Looking back on it as objectively as possible, I think the whole training thing was a grave tactical error for Mr Rawat because it introduced people, although awfully committed, to an R-rated (thanks, Pat) environment where it could not be guaranteed they would take a shine to all the facets of his personality, not just the loving satsang giver but the 'two sides of the coin', as he put it. On the other hand, he is ending up with the people who are totally committed to him no matter what, which is what he wanted.

Unlike several people on this forum, I do not regard Mr Rawat as stupid. I think he is very sharp, very quick-witted and good on logical thinking. The stuff of his satsangs is not the stuff of his corporate and captain mode. The man flies planes and helicopters, which are not the province of goofballs. In the end for me, after reflection on the training and other matters, the bad in Mr Rawat outweighed the good, especially as I could no longer believe his anger was part of a divine 'lila'.

Not all of the training tasks ended in failure, as John seems to recall. One which required us to cross on mats an imaginary river of acid (please don't laugh) ended in success, with Mr Rawat helping out several times. That carrot-and stick dichotomy. Most of the tasks lacked imaginative depth and were on a par with the IQ tests of high school days which only prove you're good at IQ tests. The greatest use of imagination came from individual participants trying to solve the problems.

As to Jim's question, 'What do the trainings have to do with Knowledge?', you might as well ask, what does selling knick-knacks in the sales tent have to do with Knowledge? Nothing, really. The connection you could make is that to serve Mr Rawat well in a team you need to have 'clarity'; in order to have clarity, you need to practise Knowledge. One man's clarity is another man's poison.

Cheers,

Michael

Michael McDonald

Date: Wed, Nov 21, 2001 at 00:24:42 (EST)
From: Michael McDonald
Email: mcduck@echo.net.au
To: Lesley
Subject: Subjective, indeed
Message:

Though I hate to disgree with my good friend, that training was not all grey wraiths and gloom. I spent many happy hours drinking red wine and sharing bad jokes with old friends (who possibly may not be old friends any more). Sure it was intense and my later deconstruction of the manipulative techniques John Macgregor has outlined was a principal reason for my 'exing', though it must be said there was light among the shade. I can confirm that John is dead right when he says people were set up for a fall.

The most depressed person was an instructor who spent days moping around the campfires. It was very sad, given his/her record for inspiring satsang. See you for coffee, Lesley.

Michael

Date: Wed, Nov 21, 2001 at 15:35:20 (EST)
From: Lesley
Email: None
To: Michael McDonald
Subject: Happy hours, bad jokes, and fall guys
Message:

Of course you're right, it wasn't all gloom, though I would guess that most of the good times happened in the evening after dinner, and I wouldn't have seen that, though I did see the cheerful way people would pick up a glass and head out of the dining hall for the campfire, or wherever they were headed.

In recording my observations about the mood, I was in no way characterising the people involved, or casting nasturtiums at their purpose or intent. I think this is an important point; we have been through some pretty seriously 'deconstructing' times, and in talking about it we gain a lot, it runs deep though.

When I read Marianne's post to me, for a while I just had to sit and absorb, let her understanding touch me. And in honour of that, with a little belch to get started:

I was criticised, I was criticised a lot, from the sound my shoes made, and with an unconscious cruelty, on up. For a couple of people nothing other than utterly servile behaviour was acceptable. I was criticised if I spoke to a friend when I served their food, I was criticised for being friendly for fucks sake. That was one hell of a head wind. Some people seem to go into a feudalistic trance at the sniff of a lotus toe.

On the subject of setting up a fall guy, is that conscious or unconscious cruelty? With sympathy, I wonder what 'frend' thinks.

I might switch to a juice, oh who am I kidding, coffee it is, love Lesley

Date: Thurs, Dec 06, 2001 at 17:58:07 (EST)
From: McDuck
Email: None
To: Joe
Subject: Re: Hey, Michael
Message:

Thanks for your interest, Joe. I think most of it was posted back there on Forum V. Here's an abridged version, some of which seems dated now. I seem to be constantly revising my position in relation to life, the universe and everything:

I received Knowledge in 1973 from Padarthanand in Adelaide, Australia. That's 27 years of being more or less faithful to the cause before the knots began to unravel. I gave K a fair go, I kept in touch, and I never, ever revealed the techniques. In the days when aspirants got to do some interesting service, I spray-painted the insides of a three storey building in Sydney. After receiving K, I was instrumental in the production of The Golden Age, the Australian premie magazine. In 1975 I was called to Denver, Colorado, to join the writers' team. What a wonderful collection of eccentrics! I hope they're all still alive and well and having fun. It was the time of the demolition of the empire known as IHQ. Denver fell apart and I was the last writer left in town. Simultaneously I laid out and edited Divine Times and And It Is Divine - burnoutville. When I left to return to Australia - because Maharaji wanted all fulltime service dudes to be in the ashram, the ashram he shortly after dissolved - the publications were left in the hands of Cliff Bowden.

I returned to Australia and for a short while edited The Golden Age as a paid employee. It felt weird taking money so I quit and got a job in public relations, where money is the only meaningful currency. In 1980 my wife and I moved to Tasmania where I lived until my divorce in 1988. I then returned to New South Wales and became a journalist, which I have been ever since. Apart from donating money, my role in Elan Vital was minimal until 1999, when I was 'recruited' to the PR team because of my professional expertise. I spent a good deal of time contributing to press kits and website FAQs, which have always been diluted by political correctness, and some time writing historical pieces for a website - intended as an intelligent counter to ex-premie.org - which seems never to have materialised. I found the PR guys excellent to work with and I wish them all long and happy lives, but perhaps promoting a product which has fewer anomalies and moral dilemmas attached to it.

I was happily indifferent to the ashrams closing and believed you should learn to stand on your own two feet in the big world (that was partly the point of K, yeah?) I've enjoyed the practice of K and M's charisma (but not his bad poetry) and have only drawn away and joined the Cult of the Apostate in the last few months. [that's back in early 2001] My apostasy is a triumph of logic and common sense over instilled belief. It was triggered by the arguments of good friends who had drawn away from M and my own analysis of my own beliefs. Any allegations, true or otherwise, about M's or EV's bad behaviour had nothing to do with it, though the sincerity of those making allegations on this site has set me thinking. Following are some of the bases for my apostasy, which are not unique: 1. M is not the 'superior power in person', at least no more or less than you and I. He is a charismatic figure whose charisma is reinforced by the devotion showered upon him, and an adherent of a teacher/student tradition. 2. EV is an organisation which, despite its PR image, acts as if M is the 'superior power in person'. That is, it is a cult (an ISCL has admitted as much to me.) I do not wish to belong to a cult. 3. The tools and experience of K are not unique to M. The experience is inherently within you and may be reached by a number of means (brain science is a big eye-opener in this regard). This is my experience, not my belief, and the richness of my life has not diminished despite my apostasy. Being just a human being suits me fine. 4. EV is beset by a paralysis caused by its ambivalent/deceitful presentation of M and K. Publicly, M's just a guy with a few techniques; privately, people sing arti to him. The official PR explanations are expected to be followed by those 'in synch'. There is no room for a range of opinions to be expressed to the media, from 'He's an okay guy' to 'I think he's the lord of the universe!' Natural poetry has been suppressed in favour of blandness. 5. The difference between 'the mind' and 'the heart' is just an arbitrary 'line drawn in the sand', as a friend said recently. They are not different places to live, as M seems to insist, but simply facile definitions by which we categorise parts of our experience of being alive.

IN CONCLUSION Once you've got beyond the idea that M is the 'superior power in person', his less endearing character traits are not tolerable because he is not acting out some divine purpose in expressing them. Your guiding star shifts from being a person outside you to simply your own inner strength. Isn't this what M wants you to know? As Terence McKenna once said, 'Pay attention, and keep breathing.'

Date: Tues, Dec 11, 2001 at 23:21:33 (EST)
From: McDuck
Email: None
To: Joe
Subject: Re: More on McDuck's Response re 'PR'
Message:

Joe,

You asked 'Do you have any idea why EPO became 'more critical?''

I'd say because it was seen not to be going away. The proposal was to create a strong cyber-presence which would present an alternative source of information for premies and the media.

You asked, 'Compliant -- meaning you didn't want to disagree because of fear of some reprisal, like being kicked off the team? Is that what you mean? Did anyone else mention this discrepancy?'

No, I was compliant by allowing my critical faculties to be dimmed by my devotion. There was no fear of reprisal. Critical issues were raised but obviously not strongly enough.

You asked: 'Does this just mean the draft kept being circulated, and anyone on the team could modify it?'

Various people were asked to be editorial consultants, and I was one of them, giving input to the UK editors. Stuff didn't to do the international rounds like the FAQ and press kit. Who made the final decisions I don't know, because I was out of PR half way through the process.

You asked: 'Can you explain a little about what 'First Class' is? How does it work, who is on it, how does one get on it, etc.?'

First Class is a type of business software which provides an intranet via the internet. I don't know if it has any premie connection. EV bought a software package and tailored it, or had it tailored, to its own needs. Basically, you log on via password, using an FC setting for your business, or in this case EV. The graphic interface is a desktop containing folders relevant to your areas of service. You can send messages and join in real time chat, a bit like ICQ. In EV's case, individuals would be provided with a username and password by the local EV webmaster instructed by the national contact. The FC community is quite diverse, ranging from PAMs to local contacts. I would hazard that thousands of messages are sent worldwide each day.

You asked: 'Was the late Pia Grunbaum part of the International PR team?'

No, I don't think so.

You asked: 'Have you ever heard anyone discuss with M, the possibility of him 'coming clean' in some kind of public way to try to get the controversies behind him? Is that just considered beyond the pale?'

No, I haven't, and I wouldn't like to be the one to try it on.

Regards,

McDuck

Date: Sun, Dec 09, 2001 at 17:14:30 (EST)
From: McDuck
Email: mcduck@echo.net.au
To: Joe
Subject: Re: Response to EPO -- McDuck's Comments
Message:

Joe,

Sorry it's taken a while to get back to you but I have a heavy workload at the moment and I had to find some time on the weekend to look at your questions and formulate responses. Let me say from the outset that I'm not comfortable naming some individuals in a public forum when many of them have been friends of mine for years and we've not yet had (or made) the opportunity to discuss my exing. The folks at F7 have a pretty good idea who the main figures are in international PR. Funnily enough I'm more familiar with who's resigned from NAM and UK PR than I am with the Australian mob. The fact that no-one from that team has attempted to contact me might argue that it's still intact.

Also please excuse me if I seem a little vague on detail at times. When I exed I trashed all the EV files from my computer. My life is deluged with hundreds of pieces of information each day, except maybe on Sundays, and I have enough trouble keeping what's currently relevant in order. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof, as Mr Nazareth was supposed to have said.

You asked: 'Who recruited you? Were you given any indication that M was aware of, or approved of this? Who are the PR guys you were working with? Was the goal to write a history of M's involvement in the West and 'explain' things like the ashrams, the Lord of the Universe, darshan, etc.? Was it stated that it was being done specifically as a response, or alternative to EPO? What kind of things were you contributing to Press Kits and FAQs?'

'Recruit' is me being a tad facetious. I was asked by the Pacific Contact in 98/99 to attend a PR strategy meeting with a professional Brisbane PR company. I'd say that meeting was in response to the bad press generated in the Brisbane Courier-Mail in 97(?). A crisis management team was formed and a procedural manual written. The team included members who could provide input from other areas, eg security, administration etc. It was the team's job to deal with PR crises for Amaroo and EV Australia. A couple of hypothetical scenarios: the sewerage system at Amaroo breaks down and floods the local creek; a PWK commits suicide. It was pretty quiet while I was on board and, apart from offering opinions, I drafted a couple of press releases and worked on an FAQ for the EV Oz website until it was decided to operate from an international template for those sorts of things.

From there I was asked to join the international PR team, probably on the Pacific Contact's recommendation. Whether M was aware of my membership I don't know, though you would assume J M Bonthous would give M a brief rundown on the team. I wrote a variety of things, including a paper on the pros and cons of satellite broadcasts for a Swiss member of the team, and an unsolicited comment to Visions on the use of indigenous images without permission. As well as the work of the PR specialists, there was input from regional and national contacts. At some stage in 99 we were asked to evaluate the impact of EPO. Initially one of the comments I offered was, 'The dogs bark but the caravan moves on.' Later the impact of EPO was judged to be more critical - I would say in a conversation between M and JMB - and proposals for two websites were contemplated - a site specifically for the news media, and the 'intelligent' site to counter the information on EPO, though not necessarily hitting it head on by answering specific allegations. Locally, I wrote the first draft of a new EV press kit; internationally I worked on the FAQs by giving input to questions like 'Did M ever say he was God?' and 'Who owns the plane M flies?' At the time I was disturbed by the direction in which the FAQs were going but I was too compliant to want to overly rock the boat. No journalist, presented with the evidence, is going to conclude that M never said he was God or a close facsimile thereof, or that the plane was not for his exclusive use, so it might as well be his. I made the second point at one stage and someone brought up the former. These 'insights' were inevitably diluted in the general porridge of write and re-write, but in the end (and this is an assumption on my part) it would boil down to JMB presenting a draft FAQ to M and him saying yay or nay.

You asked: 'Who were writing the 'Rawat phenomenon?' Do you mean there were 'critical judgments' of things Maharaji had said/done? In what way? Obviously, those never made it to the light of day, as one would expect. How 'critical' were they and what 'judgments' were made?

It was the usual suspects, including Glen W and Mark W. I think I tried to involve John Macgregor at one stage, but he was too busy with other service. The project was treated like an e-zine, and an editorial team operated out of England for the initial collation. There may have been another team in the US. I can't give you chapter and verse on the critical judgements, Joe, because I don't remember. They were relatively mild but included hints that M was in some ways naive about dealing with the West (he's said that himself), and some of his decisions were in hindsight not the best. It was approached as a sociological phenomenon, as if 'impartial' scholars were putting M's work in a larger context. Some of the contributions did break down into devotional twaddle and had to be abandoned.

You said: 'I gather that the work product got sent to so many people and so many changes were made that they lost all the 'intelligent' and 'critical' elements. Is that what you mean?

In relation to the FAQ, yes. But as I said above, the final decision would be with M or left to JMB.

You said: 'I was actually quite surprised that there was any attempt to respond to EPO. I thought M would just try to ignore us, as he usually did to all his critics. I remember thinking, when I saw those FAQs, that the Rock of Gibraltar had just cracked, and I thought it was a great sign, because it would cause more discussion, which I believed was to everyones' benefit, except maybe for M himself.'

I think you're right. In a sense it added legitimacy to EPO, seeing that EV regarded its opponents as meriting a response, and the analysis of the FAQs by people like you and Jim would lead people thinking of exing to consider the matter more deeply, as would disinterested onlookers.

You asked: 'Do you have any idea who eventually wrote those things -- the 'FAQS'and the 'Press Kit' -- and whether M was involved? Do you think that those same 'PR' people were involved in 'It Ain't So' and 'Please Consider This?''

The FAQs and the Press Kit would have had input from dozens of people world-wide on the First Class network. In the end, either M would have had to approve it directly or entrusted it to JMB. As to It Ain't So - and this is a big assumption for which I can offer no direct proof - I think that website was the bastard child of the originally proposed website I worked on, but stripped of intellectual vitality and rigour. As to Please Consider This, I don't know.

You said: 'The Elan Vital FAQs and Press Kit, as well as the Press Releases, ended up giving us lots of grist for discussion, as did those other two websites, but they are all gone now, including the FAQs and Press Kit on EV, and removed in a very abrupt fashion, ESPECIALLY Please Consider This. Any idea about the change in strategy, particularly the EV sites?'

Well, it didn't work, did it? It strengthened the resolve of those on the forum rather than demolished their position. If EV continues to exist, it will need a press kit and a PR policy at some stage. In the meantime, ignoring EPO and its attendant issues may prove to be the most effective strategy, especially when your leader is not prepared to face his critics or the media head-on. He knows what will happen if he gets angry with the sleeping tiger. He does not have the kind of rhinoceros hide (lot of animal metaphors here) which politicians develop to deal with journalists, nor will he give an inch of ground publicly on his status or lifestyle. He's unlikely to publicly renounce the idea of master like Krishnamurti, or say, 'I fucked up and am going to make some changes', or 'Fuck you, money and morality have got nothing to do with spirituality, and I'll live my life how I please' (which would be an honest opinion to present to the media), so his PR team has no room to move. Consume, be silent, and die.

You said: 'Also, anything more on this general subject is interesting to me, including how anything gets decided about how M or anything about him is presented. It appears to be a very constipated process. I know John has touched on this some, but how do things get decided in the Maharaji world?'

Yes, it is constipated, if not paralysed, as I've posited before. I think I've touched on how decisions are made, to the best of my knowledge. I've not answered all your questions but that's a reasonable first shot at it. Let me know if there's more and I'll strap on the protective rubber writing gear again.

All this is interesting in terms of historical analysis of PR procedure within a cult, but it doesn't add a great deal to what is already known.

Regards,

McDuck

Date: Wed, Dec 12, 2001 at 19:45:29 (EST)
From: McDuck
Email: None
To: Joe
Subject: Re: Thank You McDuck -- and another question
Message:

I've heard from US sources that JMB is difficult to work with. Most of my communication with him was via FC and there was no problem, though he could be abrupt at times.

Various EV managers I have known have been very pleasant, so I don't think there's an institutionalised pattern. I think it's like any organisation, especially the bigger ones - you're bound to have your share of arseholes

McDuck

Subject: Re: Oy, this guru is not a mensch. Discuss
From: McDuck
To: Pullaver
Date Posted: Thurs, Mar 07, 2002 at 20:06:29 (EST)
Email Address: Not Provided
Message:

In my opinion, the corporate training model fits in better with Mr Rawat's worldview than the earlier Hindu devotional model, though hanging on to 'the perfection of the master' helps keep his position as CEO inviolate and unquestioned. He has been influenced by the models of 'success' of corporate America, and the pathological perfectionism has been reinforced by the rigorous demands of flying a plane. He even writes a list of the toiletries to take with him, fer christ's sake. He has expressed his admiration for the efficiency of the Coca-Cola corporate model, and Japanese workers laying cable at breakneck speed. There is obviously something to be said for the 'synchronisation' achieved by Japanese gangs and Coca-Cola, but examination of the philosophy behind the effort doesn't seem to come into play in Mr Rawat's model. Having allegedly dispensed with the Hindu training, which doesn't fit the corporate model, the Hippies which first adopted it in the West had to go, too. He has described the Hippies as 'incredibly irresponsible', no matter it was they who arose from their psychotropic stupor to spread the good word and organise the first infrastructure. So it's a training model, in which everyone is dispensable (you give your individuality to the team, after all), fuelled by generalisations. Actually, it's probably an ad hoc scat jazz training model, informed by the law of the jungle. When Dr Pascotto has outlived his usefulness, some strange new flower will rise from the undergrowth to replace him. Whatever gets you through the night?