January 4, 1974 Ann Arbor SUN page 9
Dog; Or I Saw The Light
It's a 70 minute commercial and has some good Jordan Belson cartoon work, but it's strictly low rent compared to Billy Graham. We broke for dinner.
My favorite R. Crumb strip is the one where Mr. Natural and his followers march through the streets until they encounter Mr. Snoid and his followers, whereupon commences a little holy war. Saint Crumb the Prophet. For here in Houston, as light entertainment for dinner, 70 chanting crazys from Hare Krishna are bouncing up and down. lt was tense, but non-violent as the HKers tried to chant down the Gurunoids, who responded with their now-famous battle cry, "Boliya Shri Sat Guru Dev Maharaj Ki Jai". (Hip, Hip, Hooray For God).
At dinner, Jerry Rubin is sitting two tables away. He carne because Rennie asked him to check it out as a personal favor. At the next table DLM financial top dog Michael Bergman is laying it on a lady from Village Voice with some success. He's got his act together, while she still considers suicide as an alternative that requires a lot of guts. She's just about desperate enough for premiehood.
Word passes that the evening's show is about to get under way with Bole Ji, the Goo's overweight second oldest brother, leading the 60-80 piece Blue Aquarius band. It's Guy Lombardo meets the Beatles; old gold on the Muzak – but it gets the premies off. A snake dance winds through the crowd, picking up numbers as it weaves to a Stan Kenton sound (lots of brass, sax and drums). Then – ZAP – on the scoreboard over the massive 35-foot high stage it flashes: ATTENTION PLEASE DO NOT RUN & DANCE … THANK YOU SHRI BAL BHANGWAN Jl. Well that's it for me. I had figured out that ol' Bal Bhangwan Ji, the Goo's oldest brother, was the real brains of this outfit. And now this.
Well. brothers and sisters, if we can't run and dance in the ordered kingdom of Guru Maharaj Ji's Heaven FUCK HIM. Who needs him? We got enough Fascist assholes in this world without 44-short-portly horning in. I mean, the sappy efluvium of a recently desperate 20-year-old isn't love – I don't give a damn how much they try and tell me it's divine.
But. wait, the Goo has just appeared on his golden throne set at the base of a 20-foot high flame of white and blue plexiglass. Sock it to me, Goo Baby.
After the big speechdown at the KPFT live broadcast booth. Ken Kelley, John Sinclair, Jerry, Paul Krassner and the other old movement movers are hanging around swapping lies. Seems that Marjoe Gortner and a KPFT reporter were watching the boy god from the press box balcony when two premies approached with their customary giggle. Marjoe is the former 4-year-old boy evangelist who recently returned to the sawdust trail with a documentary film crew to show how the tent revival game works from the inside. Now Marjoe is reckoned a major catch in guru circles for obvious reasons, so this premie sister starts laying it on real good – telling Marjoe that the Goo will give him anything he wants if only he will take the Knowledge and join the club. Now, what is it he would like. Well, Marjoe, he knows the bliss business inside out, so he puts on this real peaceful smile and drawls, "What I'm really interested in is a little of that premie pussy."
Saturday, the third day, wasn't much of an improvement. The Goo's personal physician, Dr. John Horton, held a press conference to discuss his totally unsubstantiated theory that the pineal gland at the top of your head is light sensitive and begins secreting this special shit when you've received Knowledge. Most of the reporters wanted to talk about the Goo's ulcer. How is it that our Perfect Master with his perfect peace has a common old stomach ulcer from stress, overwork just like us psychosomatic regular people? It's a divine ulcer.
The highlight of the day comes late in the afternoon, when the DLMers have the press closed up in an inside room under the guise of having a special knowledge session for the press. We're in there, waiting for the Mahatma to lay hands on so we can see the light when a brother bursts into the room to say that while we've been lollygagging around after Knowledge, the WPC has just called the local cops on the Hare Krishna chanters and 35 of them were rounded up and hauled away. The Goo's chief pig said that he wasn't sorry, because he had told them yesterday, but that they had ignored his warning. lt was billed as a free, open event.
The Goo's final appearance is wild. The kid is babbling about Superman comic books and werewolves and how hard it is to hold a man down and put a dress on him, when the natural thing is to give him a suit. No shit. This is Christ Come Back – complete with an infantile fascination with automobiles and other mechanical toys. He has six Rolls Royces and Lincoln Continentals. The outfit grosses $150,000 a month.
At last it's over. The underground press gather near the KPFT booth for relief in the fellowship of kindred spirits. Ken Kelley walks by with a piece of silver gaffer's tape over his mouth, lettered in red "BLISS". Rubins final, off-the-record analysis: "Rennie Davis is a religious fanatic. You know what a religious fanatic is?" Kelley, "Rennie Davis." Rubin, "I see very little positive out of this. Meditation is good for you, but not if it leads to this."
This. I knew what he meant. I sat down to write my opening paragraph for this story. It went: From the Astrodome press gallery, 15,000 gurunoids – shouting their praise of the boy-god Groomraji with their arms high in the air – sound just like the Nuremburg rally flicks of the '30s that used to chilll my spine in college. How did they get here, these premies of the Lord of the Universe? How could they go for the same old line that's led to imperialist wars, crusades and jihads for centuries? What desperation, what personal tragedy could drive thousands of white, middle-class youth into this spiritual shell game?
Nearly every premie I talked to over these last eight months has told me how badly they were fucked up, unloved. unhappy and otherwise desperate before some friend or stranger turned them on to the saving grace of the Goo. I saw several dozen brothers and sisters who would be shooting smack or speed, or dozing out on sleeping pills if the Guru's call hadn't reached them. But when I extend a hand or give some space to a brother or sister in trouble, I don't expect them to worship or follow me, for Christ's sake. Only a sick or a stupid person would want anyone to kiss his feet. So you can take the point of view that anything that helps get people together and takes care of their basic needs while involving them in hard work isn't all bad. You can also take the view that these are the weaklings, mentally or morally, the ones who would trade the freedom and responsibility which is ours from birth for the slavery of security. Various times during this century, young people from the middle class copped out when the shit got heavy and discovered the "joys" of mystic retreat from reality. Or I can go back to my gut level emotional response to the whole production – an authoritarian attempt to impose a theocracy.
Will it succeed? I think not. While there are a lot of desperate people in the world, the Goo has a lot of competition. Billy Graham and the Children of God have an easier row to hoe because they use the familiar imagery of the Bible and Jesus. There must be 30 other organizations from Scientology to Arica to Sun Moon, all fighting for the same turf. Besides, anybody who has spent any amount of time in the movement knows how hard it is to build and sustain a viable alternative institution in this country country. and-out premies aren't any more together or capable than spaced-out hippies or radical ideologs. It still takes together people to have a together organization, even if you do have every ashram connected by Telex and WATS lines.
The Guru's offer to the world is, turn over the reins of your life to me and I will give you peace. But we won't have peace until everyone picks up the reins to his or her own life and finds peace in responsibility, self-determination and communal sharing. Nobody kisses feet in the kingdom of heaven.
Steve Haines is a free lance journalist who has reported for the Chicago Daily News, the Berkeley Barb, Rolling Stone, the Chicago Seed and was one of the founders of the Berkeley Tribe.
Marsha Haines is an artist/photographer who has worked for the Berkeley Barb and was one of the founders of the Berkeley Tribe. They are currently staying in Ann Arbor.
Part II. What really happens inside a secret Knowledge Session. What is the Knowledge Guru Maharaj Ji offers the world? Read Part 2 of Steve Haines' article on the Guru, "Six Mahatmas, No Waiting" in the next issue of the Ann Arbor SUN.
Guru Part II
Receiving the Knowledge: 6 Mahatmas, No Waiting
you can shine your shoes and wear a suit
you can comb your hair and look quite cute
you can hide your face behind a smile
one thing, you can't hide is when you're crippled inside
All genuine knowledge originates in direct experience
- Mao Tse-tung
Eight months among the premies of Guru Mahara Ji convinced me that the Knowledge so desperately sought by the Goo's millions of mindless minions leaves its seekers crippled inside. Despite the blissful smiles, premies are crippled by their addiction to the emotional security blanket they call Knowledge. It is no wonder they meditate under the protective cover of their little flannel blankets.
The premies will tell you that they meditate under blankets to keep secret the techniques of Knowledge revealed in the Knowledge session. And since I was told hundreds of times that I could not comprehend what the Goo was all about until I had received Knowledge – Marsha and I hung around the Rainbow Inn in Houston for days after Millennium ‘73 was over at the Astrodome just to receive this knowledge.
For the uninitiated, Knowledge is a series of four experiences, taught through four meditation techniques, which are supposed to satisfy even the most skeptical person's criteria for proof of the existence of that basic life force or energy which Western minds have traditionally named the Soul. According to the theology of the Goo's Devine Light Mission, only a perfect master can reveal this Knowledge – although some premies will admit that occasional rare saints are capable of attaining it themselves.
When I first heard this rap (satsang), I thought that these premies were speaking either from great conviction or from very limited life experience. The answer came one night at the DLM ashram in San Francisco when I heard a fresh, new premie describe his great spiritual quest out of New York City in search of The Answer. He got as far as New Jersey, where he met some premies who turned him on to the Goo. Some premies have done even more shopping than that. Many profess to have been followers of one or more Gurus for the last four or five years. Most have been into some yoga or meditation discipline, but were unsatisfied with it.
The Knowledge session "failed" to convert me because I could not work myself up into the emotional state of the true believer. Something in my mind kept screaming "bullshit". So I was saved from premiehood. The bullshit came when I was given, both in satsang and the Knowledge session, the prior "correct" interpretation of the four experiences. This is because, as Mao says, all genuine knowledge originates in direct experience. You cannot draw a line between four of your experiences and all the rest of them. It just doesn't work.
Inside the Knowledge session, I found that most of the Goo's theory is traditional Hinduism, modernized with a potpourri of quotes from all other major world religions that tend to reinforce the basic party line of DLM. The tradition of the Perfect Master and the world-wide succession of Perfect Masters giving Knowledge to their followers in return for total devotion has been wholly manufactured to meet the needs of the Goo's organization. There is no outside evidence to support their fantasy. And there are several other claimants to the throne of Lord of the Universe.
The setting for the Knowledge session would be familiar to most people. At the Rainbow Inn, 400 to 500 people waiting to receive Knowledge gathered in a ballroom for the selection process. Selection involves a mahatma (high soul) asking questions such as how many satsang sessions one has attended, whether one has a Guru already and is ready to denounce him (where are the women Gurus?), whether one has had drugs or alcohol in the last two weeks and whether one is ready to dedicate his life to the Goo. About 30 of us were chosen for my Knowledge session. The idea was to process the whole waiting group in batches of 30 until everyone had received Knowledge. Even with 10 or 12 mahatmas and three or four Knowledge session rooms, this took four days; each beginning at 8 am and running until 10 or 11 pm. A typical knowledge session runs five to eight hours, mine ran nine.
The 30 of us were herded into a large room with blankets tacked over the Windows and four-inch foam pads placed in neat rows around the room. The main mahatma and his mahatma helper both sat in low chairs. It is unholy for a person to sit or stand higher than a mahatma. The room is dark except for the candles on the altar with some flowers and the ever-present picture of the Goo. Some incense is burning. We settle into our half-assed attempts at the lotus position and the mahatma begins his long, low monotone rap that lulls you into the receptive stupor. It's a lot like low level hypnosis, but no deep trance stuff.
After four or five hours of non-stop rapping, we have a small break to pee and eat, if we can. I snuck out on the sun roof and had a cigarette because I didn't have a joint. Then we gathered again for the heavy shit – we were finally going to receive Knowledge.
Just before the actual initiation began, some other heavy shit went down. Each of us was expected to fall on our knees and stretch out full length towards the altar, while dedicating our life to the Goo and swearing never to reveal the secrets of the Knowledge session. Then each of us approached the altar to make some small offering. Most of us gave fruit, some gave watches or other jewelry and a few gave money. Then the main attraction came on.
The lights were dimmed, we were asked to close our eyes, then there was a scurrying, rustling sound. I peeked and saw seven or eight mahatmas come in and wait while our main mahatma gave us the rap about the first of these experiences and techniques – the Divine Light. To make you see the Divine Light, a mahatma takes his thumb and middle finger and places them gently on the outsides of your eyeballs while touching the first finger to the middle of your forehead, the traditional location of your "third eye". He then pushes inward and slightly upward until your retina stretches and you see diamond shaped checkerboards of white or yellow and black or blue light. Some people reported seeing balls of light, flashes of lightning and, finally, a merging into a spot of pure, white light of intense brilliance. We all practice the light for 20 minutes, while the main mahatma raps on about its significance and quotes from various scriptures. The floating gang of mahatmas leaves to assist in another Knowledge session.
Next came the Divine Music – the choirs of angels and harmony of the spheres. To hear the divine music, we are instructed to insert our thumbs into our ears, press slightly, and wait. I wait and I wait and finally I hear a waterfall. Then I realize that I am hearing the air trapped between my ear drum and my thumb as it vibrates to the air conditioner. I am also hearing the blood as it pumps through the veins and arteries near my ear drum and I hear something I call the "60 cycle hum," which some people call a ringing in their ears. We practice the music.
Then comes the Nector – the mana of the Bible, the food of prophets meditating in the desert. To experience the nector, we are told to reach our tongues back down our throats as far as possible. The main mahatma quickly adds that few, if any, of us will experience anything because this technique takes a long time to master. I tasted what polite people call "post -nasal drip". Some mahatmas advocate using the first two fingers to assist in pushing the tongue back to the soft palate.
The last of the four techniques is the Word. This is the unspeakable name of God, "In the beginning was the Word," etc. The word is the most important of the four techniques because you can do it all day long – and should, we are told. To do the word, we quiet our minds and breathe deeply. The rush of air in and out of the body is the word. This is the same mantra that Allen Ginsburg has been using for years. It's centuries old and contained in most yoga books. Sure, it works. I've been using it for a year in my meditation. Try it yourself – but don't join anybody's anything because of it.
The Knowledge session is over. That's it. The fruit has been cut up and put on a plate by a premie who has been attending to the needs of the mahatmas throughout the session. The watches and jewelry are returned to their owners. The main mahatma pockets the money. We get up and depart quietly, alone, as if we were ashamed to look one another in the eye and admit that we had been had by a second-rate magic show, taken in by this spiritual shell game. Marsha reported the same phenomena in her session. Is this the way one behaves when he or she has just experienced their soul? Is this the joy of the kingdom of heaven? Nobody wanted to share their love and enthusiasm because there wasn't any to share. We were tired and hungry and let down.
That's it. That's the Knowledge that motivated Rennie Davis and 30,000 other young Americans to receive Knowledge. At least 1,200 to 1,500 bought the line and moved into an ashram or premie house. A finger in the eye, a thumb in the ear, a taste of snot and a deep breath - not much to build a heaven out of, unless you really want to believe or need to believe.
Later, in checking it out, I found that the Light was well known to eye doctors. It is a condition resulting from the shutting off of the blood flow to the main artery of the eye. It's fun to play with once or twice, but it can and does lead to permanent eye damage – which is why my mother stopped me from doing it when I first discovered it at two or three years of age.
I don't know how to end this story, because in a real sense it has no end. As I read history, there have always been spiritual leaders, bogus and otherwise, who have appeared to head a mass movement. The Falani wars, the Crusades in the Holy Land, the jihads of the Turkish Moslems, the Middle East today, the Russian Jews, the pogroms, the Inquisition. the Salem witch hunts – all are manifestations of this urge to escape personal responsibility for one's own life by finding a savior who will "die for your sins" or "take all your bad karma". If you've got bad karma, it's yours. If you sin, you sin. No power in the universe can remove personal responsibility. The devil can't make you do anything. Only you can destroy yourself. And the one thing you can't hide is when you're crippled inside.
Steve Haines is a freelance journalist who has reported for the Chicago Daily News, the Berkeley Barb, Rolling Stone, the Chicago Seed and was one of the founders of the Berkeley Tribe. Marsha Haines is an artist/photographer who has worked for the Berkeley Barb and was one of the founders of the Berkeley Tribe.
A finger in the eye, a thumb in the ear, a taste of snot and a deep breath - not much to build a heaven out of, unless you really want to believe or need to believe.