Mike Donner was National Coordinator of Divine Light Mission in the USA in the mid 70s. He then became an initiator and after touring for a year was called into Rawat's inner circle to 'coordinate' his personal staff. At the same time he was the contact for the initiators worldwide until 1984 when he left and got married. After a later spell as a part-time married instructor he left Rawat for good in 1987.
He and Bob Mishler did their best to put "the Knowledge" into practice and make Divine Light mission a reality and continued to paint the best possible picture of Rawat despite their knowledge of his behaviour. Mishler lasted 6 years before his final disillusion and Mike Donner lasted 15 years as a close disciple and servant. Mike was the National Executive Director at the time of Prem Rawat's family"split-up" and was the person who tried to explain away the situation to the members of DLM.
On Mar 09, 2001, Mike posted an Open Letter to Prem Rawat. Donner confirmed Dettmers' testimony about Maharaji's drunkeness, drug taking and sexual abuse of his followers in many posts on the forum. One such exchange where Mike answers questions put to him on the ex-premie forum follows below. A fuller list of his postings is published here.
As a conscientious objector who was goaled for his anti-war activites Donner was something of a DLM "star" and a "biography" of his life before he became involved was published in "Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji?" He is also acknowledged with respect by David Lovejoy in his memoire "Between Dark And Dark" though the ambivalent Lovejoy neglects to mention Donner's mature disgust with Prem Rawat. Donner's honesty and idealism shines through in this letter to premies from prison published in Divine Light Mission magazines.
Date: Sat, Mar 17, 2001 at 20:11:27 (GMT)
To: la ex
Subject: Questions for 'Salty Mike'….(Donner)…
yes, some or most of what you have asked has been addressed by dettmers and myself to some extend earlier…preface to say that i concur completely with dettmers' accounts, their accuracy and the tone of his replies.
1. drinking? my personal experience is that m has been drinking since i began in denver in 1973…told then by bob mishler that he was drinking daily…that is daily…since he arrived in
i know that it was daily…that his daily routine was created around his evening drinking…usually always began about 5pm…minimum 4 or 5 very large shots (probably 2-3 oz per drink) each evening, before dinner…usually later in evening about 9pm
interesting by the way that he never or extremely rarely if ever eat with his children. they were feed earlier.
so he drank cognac every evening til dinner, sometimes after dinner.
often he would drink more, never less.
2. at the millenium program? yes, in houston at the residence he drank daily. i never saw him in all the years drink at any program until after he spoke…then always after. michael Dettmers
might know otherwise and i would believe him.
i never experienced m give 'satsang' while drunk or drinking.
dettmers talked about his personality change with more then the usual drink and i certainly witnessed that often enough.
the scene was comical/pathetic (in retrospect). alvaro or john miller would bring a crystal glass out to the dinning room, m at the end of the table, perhaps a couple people sitting against the walls of the dinning room…sometimes 5 or 6. the glass would be on a smallish tray with the glass covered (all the way from the kitchen to the dining room). the serving premie would have the other hand over the heart…the glass placed on the table in front of m and the server bowing with eyes closed….backing out of the room. i witnesed this ritual countless times.
2. drinking problem? you be the judge…my experience was that his whole schedule was set up…covertly around his drinking time.
3. drug use? i witnesed m smoking pot beginning 1973 (my witnessing began then). how often…not sure really, lots more then i saw i know for sure. most likely often weekly during most of the time i was around (1984…then i left and got married, returned as part time instructor til 87 and saw little during those years except it was the same when i was around sometimes as an x-rated premie til 1987).
i personally doubt that m ever tried acid or stronger then hash drugs. not his style to be that out of control. anyways, i have no personal knowledge of anything except pot and hashish nor did i ever hear of more between 1973-87.
hashish was added to a yogart drink at holi festivals, at all holi festivals, india, n. america, spain etc. part of the indian tradition as i was told. very strong. somethimes just pot was ground up with the drink…both were referred to as bong i think.
i never saw m give satsang while stoned.
most often my experience with m and pot was (always) at the residence, late in the evening, maybe 20 x-rated staff around the living room…m would start a large joint, maybe two…to his own lips making it of course more
special to us!) he would have as much as he wanted and then pass it to marolyn (usually) and from there to the rest of us til it was gone.
he would play music for awhile and go upstairs to bedroom after 30-60 minutes. we would mill araound and begin to clean up the house and kitchen til quite late on most of those occasions.
for me, this was maybe 2-3 times a month. i found it generally part of what was so boring. Dettmers expressed somewhere on epo that he enjoyed the music…more then me i guess…i prefer to engage with those around me when smoking, laugh and connect with others…none of that ever happened…silence, some whispering perhaps, fairly loud music, some folks sleeping from fatigue until m said goodnite.
( i really liked the community aspect of the k/service experience and that was not the vib around the residence…all single pointed focus of course…very boring)
4. did PAMs ever talk about how strange and hypocritical…?
never with me or to my knowledge. this was the last group of people that i nor anyone would speak with honestly, share any concerns with etc. i had my own network of others who i would speak with about my doubts and concerns…many still my friends and most who left around the same time …
this is interesting perhaps as it points to the fear or at minimum the lack of ease that existed around m. mostly everyone was 'happy to be there' and would do nothing if possible to risk losing tha place at his feet. everyone knew there was a mile long line of others wanting to be there in our place. so we were all individuals in our own closed systems walking round never really connecting with each other. reminds me of lots of painful feeling of how isolated i felt during…especially…1980-84…bored to.
god, what took me so long to make the break?
5. was it hard to keep the x-rated secrets? yes and no. there were those who i did speak with about it, close friends (which i remember m trying to break me from). i guess having a few that i
could speak to was enough to 'take the edge off' the potential conflicts.
plus, clearly m used the x-rated status as a means of coopting us into increased loyalty….playing on that part of us (me) that liked to be special…probably power related also….at least i noticed how others felt more powerful once inside the circle, so it must have been something in me too.
6. was m having affairs since 1977 as mark a. suggested? i really don't know, but it seems like if he were i might have known about it and did not. monica lewis came on the scene in what? 1982? and seemed to be the first to me…or whatever that was about. honestly not even sure personally about that affair and what it was really about.
7/ did i procure women for m? i arranged to have a premie woman at decca to be standing in the 'right place at the right time' at m's request…to 'check he out'. he had me arrange on follow up to that 'darshan' with a meeting at the residence with her, daytime and in the dining room, meeting lasted 15 minutes, not sexual then…and i 'saw' m with her twice after that ..and not sure what or how far that went.
the only other situation was speaking with one resident premie who had sex with m and was devastated afterwards when m would not communicate with her, avoided her etc. the sexual experience was not very satisfying for her…and worse was the avoidence afterwards.
the other names that mark mentioned i do not know about nor have i heard about…grace m i personally doubt, but…
one point here to understand clearly…there were lots of women who would have loved to have sex with m. who shared their fantasies with him via letters, conversations, actions, innuendo etc. he had no shortage of willing companions…but when the power is so imbalanced, even willing takes on significance. of course, all the hindu stories of masters and mistresses go way back and told and retold.
8. have any of those women spoken up? i guess not really.
re: claudia…no, i never spoke with claudia after her break up with raja ji…never heard of the book…i know she was very angry and blamed both m and raja ji for fooling around etc. surely there were threats (felt or implied)during the settlement. i know of no other 'settlements'
9. hit and run i was not aware of that story but believe dettmers about it. sounds like the m that i knew, sounds like the willingness of prouty and others around m that i remember.
10. jagdeo…strangely i never heard of this trip. since reading this forum i have been told of another situation on the east coast in the 70's. i do not feel at liberty to discuss this but will
continue to encourage those involved to speak out. i very reliable story to add to the mix.
as i have mentioned elsewhere, m always had the back door channels that he would use…usually the residence staff or those few like randy prouty who were in and out and conduits of info and tasks..leaving those of us on the more 'official side' in the dark. his style of secrecy and divide and conquer.
11/ challenging m? calling him on his immorality? no, i never did except once to wonder (cautiously) about his responsibility towards the instructors he was letting go of so callously. there was
a presumption that he was above any standards of course…doubts of that = mind= disloyalty=grounds to be put outside the circle etc.
his general response to the gentle questioning of his dismissal of the instructors , most of whom thought it was for life literally as was the agreement…was (paraphase) 'i made them instructors i can unmake them, that is what their surrender is all about'.
12. did i witness any mircles? no, never. i did see lots of wonderful, talented people working hard together…often inspite of m's disorganization and secrcy and blaming, do great things
together. lots of that seemed miraculous to me then and now.
re; the miller story of driving off a cliff, i do vaguly remember that story and never believed it…miller was quite the story teller.
13. my personal relationship with m? cannot really say that i had a personal relationship with him…certainly not the kind that was warm, friendly, conversational, sharing mutual stories,
questions, doubts. in retrospect, the feelings that he care about me were based upon the cosmology at the time…all that he did for me…like keep me hanging around endless in a waiting mode because i was the active
type…he did for my own good out of his love for me. that he had some special, personal plan for my life to help me become a 'better person' (read better devotee). this is the mantra i chanted most of the time that both
provided a context to explain all the uncomfotable feeling i was having as well as provide a foundational understanding of some personal relationship.
did i ever feel i could speak openly with him? no never.
did i ever see anyon else speak openly or honestly with him, no never. i believe michael dettmers (small question about what happened after that one time with michael and m left the room without saying anything…how long before michael left his service and bow did m change towards michael after that??)
14. what about the future…what is the best thing that could happen now? something between the ex s and m?
at this point i have zero interest in trying to arrange anything with m and us or others. i have no reason to believe that he will or could change and become a serious world leader using his charisma or something to affect change. his credibility is completely shot, and unsalvageable in my small opinion. i have too many things in my life that i enjoy and am doing to on a smaller local scale to be at all interested. my co housing community here, raising my daughter, on the board of the local waldorf school, learning about myself via my close relationships etc.
ironically and in some very strange way apparently there are those still working thru that part of themselves that is a devotee and it often takes a guru to have that. so long as there are devotees, there will be those willing to be gurus.
our most important work is to grow that devotee up within ourselves into more wholeness and personal power and self love.
i can't imagine what m will do. certainly he could leave it all and retire as he has often threatened to do…unless he is stillhooked on the 'love' and adoration of others…probably.
honestly, i care very little what will happen, except to be willing to reach out and spend some time with those who might benefit from someone on the outside who has been there.
bye for now…what do you think la ex.?