In Jay Cohen's interviews he speaks of his beliefs while a premie of Guru Maharaj Ji (now calling himself Prem Rawat) and the guru's teachings. It sometimes sounds insane and unbelievable. I was involved in Divine Light Mission for 10 years from 1973, I practiced meditation, went to satsang meetings, donated time and money but I did not believe those teachings, I did not cut off from my family, I did not think Rawat was God but nearly all of the premies did and that is what was taught by Maharaji and his minions. With hindsight, we can see that the apparent success of cults in the 1970s was not due to devilishly sophisticated techniques of mind-control and/or brainwashing but normal methods of persuasion and influence that attracted a minority of people from the so-called "hippie counter-culture" and its wannabes. Rawat's current followers are the leftover rump from that time, virtually all in their 70s.
Dr. Jay Cohen, DLM Indianapolis Community Co-ordinator 1979 - Deprogrammed
Dr Jay Cohen had just started at the Indiana University medical school, was going through a difficult time and was seeking deeper meaning when he met a beautiful, poised young woman who invited him to attend a Divine Light Mission satsang meeting and he "actually got 'hooked' the very first night." He believed he was put under a form of "mind control, brainwashed" by the cult that very first meeting. "… something was done to me that first night. It's difficult to explain, because I don't really understand it, but somehow they contacted a subconscious part of my mind and actually took a small bit of control over me. They brainwashed me in a very subtle sophisticated way."
This is obviously nonsense but it is his explanation for what, in hindsight, seems inexplicable to him. There is no doubt that Divine Light Mission satsang meetings in the 1970s were designed to convince attendees that Guru Maharaj Ji and His Knowledge were the cure for what ails you - peace and bliss though quick and easy meditation, a true family of like-minded, cool young dedicated devotees and the Lord of the Universe, GOD, is on the planet and available for worship in the pudgy, luxury-loving body of Guru Maharaj Ji, aka Prem Rawat. The meetings were often intense, very concentrated, with people speaking from the heart (often truly) and empathy could quickly undo one's skepticism … and then it was the times.
"Soon I was going every night at their coaxing and suggestion. Before I knew it I was one of them and I was inviting others to come too.
DLM claimed that premies had an "experience" through practising the Knowledge, not a faith or set of beliefs, and so could not be deprogrammed but this was also nonsense. Premies were constantly reminded to never delay in attending satsang, doing 2 hours of meditation a day and spending all their spare time working for free for the guru. Premies could be "deprogrammed" by walking down the street on a beautiful spring day, meeting a new girl or boy, seeing a movie, having a family dinner or any one of an infinite number of activities. Premies could be head down on the floor at the satsang altar or chair (reserved for Guru Maharaj Ji Himself) one night and never seen again once they stopped off for a soda on the way home. From 1974 through the 70s new conversions and "never seen agains" were pretty evenly matched.
"I was made to believe that this was the purpose of my life, what I've been looking for, that I was so fulfilled and happy and experiencing peace and love like never before - all those outrageous claims that I can look back at objectively now and see that none were true. But I was programmed to believe they were and I would tell anyone the same story I was told."
Cohen drank the undiluted KOOL-AID, he moved into the ashram, he became Community Co-ordinator, he never saw his family, he turned over every cent to DLM. He was one of the extreme premies, the ones the guru particularly favorured … then.
"They'd say your parents would only try and confuse you, that they wouldn't listen to you and when you told them about the Lord, so don't bother. Just let them die and maybe they'll be reborn in other body and have another chance. So I wouldn't go see them. Plus there was always the fear they'd deprogram me"
He stated that every DLM member was warned against deprogramming. They were told it was literally a fate wors than death."It was to the point I was afraid to even talk to my parents." They were told if they stopped meditating they would turn into rotten vegetables.
Cohen's family waited until he had graduated from the Indiana University School of Medicine and then his mother arranged the kidnapping and deprogramming. The kidnap was violent and his brother had to help "squish him into the car". Although Cohen awas held for a few days against his will, the deprogrammers were kind and considerate and included his family members. The deprogramming was helped by the example of a friend from the ashram who had been deprogrammed a couple of months earlier and was able to share Cohen's experience. Cohen became as vehement against Rawat as he formerly had been for Him. But Cohen's remaining normal did not require hours of daily meditation, meetings 7 nights a week, donating all his earnings to Ted Patrick or any of the other methods DLM used to keep "re-brainwashing" their converts.
- Deprogramming: Doctor glad he was Sagamore, 1979-11-12
- Divine Light Mission loses devotee to Patrick Sagamore, 1979-11-19
- Deprogramming: what is its ultimate fate? Sagamore, 1979-11-26
- Ex-Cultist Describes His 'Kidnapping,' Deprogramming The Indianapolis Star, April 6, 1980
- Deprogramming and Divine Light Mission