Maharaji's Apostates and Atrocity Tales
According to the protagonists on the NRM side of the academic cult wars I am an apostate and so I should try to redeem myself by telling atrocity tales about the cult I claim I was hoodwinked into joining. Now that cult was Divine Light Mission and indeed it is invariably identified as one of the 4 or 5 major deviant religious cults of the 1970's. The others would usually be listed as the Unification Church ("moonies"), the Hare Krishnas, the Rajneeshees and the Children of God though there were many fringe groups jostling to enter the mainstream. There was an explosion of cults in this period but these were the most successful and achieved the most media exposure.
I do not think that many 'premies' who joined Divine Light Mission suffered any true atrocities. Many spent years in meaningless tasks and activities working for over 10 years for no wages, neither being educated nor amassing any capital or valuable employment skills while worshipping a person wholly unworthy of worship. Some suffered real hardship. One small group of attractive blonde female followers suffered, or enjoyed, sexual relations with the short, obese Perfect Master at his whim but only consensually.
The only atrocity I suffered was listening, watching and reading his atrocious speeches and trying to and failing to believe they were intelligent, valuable divine sermons. This has been of some value to me as nothing else in my life has ever been that boring. So-called "apostate atrocity stories" are any remembered negative event that occurred during the apostate's involvement in the cult and in the overwhelming majority of cases bear no resemblance whatsoever to an actual atrocity. The term was invented by Shupe and Bromley as a way of scorning and refuting recollections by apostates without investigating them and by extension scorning apostates themselves.
In fairness to Shupe and his ilk there weren't that many sources to investigate. This was true of public critics of Guru Maharaj Ji and Divine Light Mission. Maggie Shivers gave evidence in the court case of Emily Deitz against her parents and recounted a priceless story. During her deprogramming she was told "You know Maharaji has a half dozen expensive cars around the country", and she said, "Hell with you, I'm his accountant and he's got 32 of them, if you really want to know!" Another deprogrammed premie was Hilly Zeitlin who after his deprogramming became an exit counsellor and moved on to family therapy, complementary medicine and NLP. Some people who had been deprogrammed joined in anti-cult activities but there must have been far more who went back to their homes, thanked their parents, apologised to their parents and went on with their lives. The anti-cult movement was small and poorly organised. If apostates were ever questioned by academic investigators I'm sure they would have said they'd gained some wisdom thanks to their involvement in the cult but not the so-called wisdom their former guru was teaching but that they should never be conned by bullshit like that again. It's nearly always possible to find something positive out any experience and no-one wants to admit they were completely conned by something 999 out of 1,000 people dismiss as nonsense that requires no further investigation.
The conflict faded as did the public profile of the cults as their expansion ended but with the creation of the internet many of those who had been disillusioned and left the cults found a way to communicate with others and discuss their experiences. For some people this was a long term involvement fostered by their sense of righteousness or anger or any of a number of possible motives. In the case of Guru Maharaj Ji/Maharaji/Prem Rawat many of his former close associates and administrators told their 'atrocity tales' though these were mainly banal and unimaginative as is Rawat after all. That Rawat was a lazy, luxury-loving, ignorant, insecure fat boy who hadn't matured and treated his followers with disdain and desperately wanted respect from the greater society was hardly a revelation though some of his more naive former followers (ex-premies) were shocked.
To gain true information about a specific cult requires more than simply googling the appropriate title. This is because google does not decide what the most truthful sites on the web are and link to them first but uses a series of algorithms originally based on how many other sites link to that site. It was the Scientologists who first realised they could swamp the internet with sites linking to "official" pro-Scientology sites. Other well funded groups have done the same as their critics are usually individuals who create their sites as a hobby or a hobby-horse. In some cases they have taken over a site that was formerly a critical one. Wikipedia cannot be trusted as some cults even employ experienced Wikipedia editors to harass others and prevent true critical information being published by use of Wikipedia's arcane rules.
- Scientology places great stress on recruiting Hollywood actors and this strength has also been their Achilles Heel. Tom Cruise has been humiliated and become a laughing stock after video of him receiving the Intergalactic Saviour of the Millenium Award (or something like that at any rate) and the true extent of his nuttiness and ego were made apparent. Many high profile books have also been published in the last 10 years. For a good introduction to Scientology go to Operation Clambake.
- Transcendental meditation is one of the great cons of the 20th century. Mahesh was the book-keeper at an important monastery in Northern India and learnt enough to create a pathetic scam that convinced millions of people who didn't bother to do any research. TM is just another mantra meditation. Any mantra will do though people usually choose ones related to the Hindu religion. TM will produce no effect that meditation on a self chosen mantra won't do. It's a con. Everything else from yogic flying to World Peace through thousands of meditating pandits to the World Government is nonsense and all those "scientific proofs" are mainly crap. A good introductory website is Fraud, Philandering & Fascism in the TM Movement and a fun movie that shows the dark heart of TM is David Wants To Fly. Personally I think the best proof that TM is nonsense is David Lynch's face.