That spring I deprogrammed a lot of young people around the country from the Divine Light Mission. This cult, headed by a fat little playboy calling himself Guru Maharaj Ji, depends on a form of mind control achieved through the practice of meditation. One of the girls I deprogrammed, Marcia Carroll, who had helped in the Eddie Shapiro case, explained how it all worked:
"Meditation is an important aspect of the whole orientation, or indoctrination. That's one of the problems of understanding the cults. Most people think of meditation as really deep thinking. Actually meditation is not thinking at all. That's how they get to you.
198 Let Our Children Go
The more meditation you do, the less able you are to reason. It becomes painful to think at all. So whatever they tell you, you do.
"They taught us four meditation techniques. The first is with light. He tells you to close your eyes and then he presses on your forehead and eyes with his fingers. He tells you that you will see light and after a while you do. He's reading from the Scriptures - Biblical Scriptures - the whole time, explaining that light is the spiritual experience, the way to see God. You concentrate on nothing but the light.
"A second technique was to close off your ears, to listen to the music in your head. You cut off all the sounds of the outside world and after a while you really hear, probably caused by sensory deprivation, sometimes a roaring of waves, sometimes a single note. I really heard a lot of stuff. Sometimes I heard nothing.
"Then you would meditate on the sound of your own breathing. When you meditated hard enough you would transcend that sound and you felt a vibration, a tingle. You felt in tune with yourself. The leaders of the cult compared it to the 'breath of life that God breathed into Alam and Eve.' When you do that you feel that you're really experiencing the thing God meant you to.
"The fourth technique is called 'living waters,' or nectar. You put your tongue back into your nasal cavities and taste the fluid. It takes a lot of practice but you can do it. That's how they claimed Jesus lived in the desert for forty days and nights. They quoted the Bible's Scripture where Jesus talks about drinking the 'living waters' and thirsting no more.
"With more and more meditation you experience a sort of hypnosis, a sort of self-hypnosis. It keeps you there."
Naturally the cult is a big business. I dealt with people who had given everything they owned to the Guru. Donations of fifty thousand dollars were not uncommon. One woman I was deprogramming had signed over an inheritance of half a million dollars to the cult.
The Guru's business enterprises are extensive. There is a film production company called Shr Hans Productions specializing in marketing films about the fat teen-aged Guru. There is Shri Hans Records that puts out LP albums about the Guru. There's Shri Hans Publications which publishes a monthly magazine And It Is Divine with a circulation of 150,000. Divine Sales International sells secondhand goods. Divine Services will paint your house, repair your roof, fix your plumbing, do your housekeeping, cut your grass, service your car. The mission is also into travel services; there's Shri Hans Aviation, an airline; Divine Travel Services; and Divine Travel International. They market electronics equipment under the name Divine Electronics, and spread the gospel through the efforts of Divine Light Dance Ensemble and Divine Light Players of the Living Arts. Divine Light Mission owns a sixty-story skyscraper in Denver, where it makes its headquarters, and a fancy townhouse in Manhattan's Murray Hill district.
The Guru doesn't like to call attention to the cult's finances, probably because he has his eye on its tax- free, non-profit status. He's been quoted as saying that he offers his services voluntarily, "To give people peace. We are not charging any money for it." But the con man in him slips out every once in a while, and he was also quoted as saying, "It doesn't make a hell of a difference where I am. It's all the same to me. It's just one big holiday, a lot of fun." His own mother, maybe worried about the playboy existence he leads jeopardizing the profits, finally denounced him for what she called "his despicable, nonspiritual way of life."
At any rate, I deprogrammed a lot of kids from that cult the spring after the Santini business, and from Tony and Susan Alamo's Christian Foundation, and Sam Fife's Body of Christ, and a lot of others almost too numerous to mention, right on through the summer into the fall.