Garson became a devotee in May 1974 and took over as financial director in August, 1974. He resigned in February, 1975, "because I could not tolerate the contradictions." Using photocopied DLM documentation Garson revealed Rawat's rampant greed and spending of 60% of Mission funds in testimony in a court case in Vancouver over the estate of Darby McNeal, a premie who had been pressured by Bob Mishler and other Divine Light Mission administrators to donate her $400,000 inheritance to Rawat. In an affidavit presented in a British Columbia court he said, "My analysis of the accounts of the Divine Light Mission indicated that approximately 60 percent of the gross receipts are directed to maintain the lifestyle of the Maharaj Ji and those close to him."
In photostats of Mission financial records submitted with his testimony, Garson pointed out an entry of $139,925 marked "special projects." He said it was money "advanced directly to the Maharaj Ji for purposes related directly to his own maintenance." Even Mission spokesman, Joe Anctil admitted that Prem Rawat took 40% of the Mission's income
"Bob Mishler, the mission's executive director, talked Darby into signing over power of attorney shortly after she joined," said Garson, who says he was instructed to collect the money for the mission. According to Garson, the mission has been given several trust funds, and several families, including Miss McNeal's, were contesting the action. He said donations, averaged $100,000 a month at the height of the guru's 1973 recruitment, struggled to reach $40,000 by 1975. This deficit had resulted in a form of check kiting where checks are written on funds not necessarily available at the time.
Mr Garson said he decided to come to court and give testimony as "a matter of conscience." Miss McNeal's lawyer in the case, Irwin Nathanson, submitted that Mr. Garson had left the mission after being offered $200,000 by persons who wanted him to do an exposé of the Maharaj Ji. This was a totally ludicrous charge, who would pay $200,000 when many exposés of Rawat had already been written for free. This form of ad hominem attack became Rawat's organisations' method of attempting to counter any public revelations about him by former followers and is still being used 30 years later. While it is unlikely to be true in the long run, Garson believed at the time that he would continue to believe in Prem Rawat's "Knowledge".
In a typical Divine Light Mission bungle Joe Anctil claimed Garson had access to only part of DLM's finances thereby authenticating Garson's bona fides and revealing that there may be far more money going directly to the guru's lifestyle than Garson was aware of. His claims about the DLM debt situation were later confirmed in offical DLM publications.
National spokesman Joe Anctil said in Denver that the organization was paying off back bills and said Michael D. Garson, the former aide, was only a clerk and did not know the full extent of mission finances.
It does take a lot of money to keep a guru and he does live well but what he teaches I will believe in for the rest of my life," said Michael Garson, the gurus former financial analyst who left the Mission because of his disillusion with their unethical financing. Garson did not know how much money it should take to "keep a guru." Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of B.C. Joseph I. Richardson, who spent 13 years as a lecturer at a theological college in India and has numerous other academic credentials, gave evidence that there is "a radical difference" between the mission and traditional Hindu organizations.
"The mission is one of the many contemporary eclectic "religious" movements which depends for its existence and growth upon the exploitation of the confusion and disillusionment of largely middle class young people estranged from their families and disaffected with society in general," Mr. Richardson said. "The Guru Maharaj Ji apparently does not have a lifestyle which in any way corresponds to the ideals of the traditional Indian guru. His teaching is an eclectic melange of Hindu and Christian cliches. "His assertions about his perfection … disqualify him as a religious teacher, according to both Hindu and Christian traditions," the professor said.
The British Columbia Supreme Court order blocked Ms McNeal from handing over her wealth to Guru Maharaj Ji aka Prem Rawat aka Maharaji.
- Divine Light aide sees mission just for guru Associated Press, March 22 1975
- Growing Pile of Unpaid Bills Beneath Guru's Spiritual Bliss United Press International, March 23 1975
- Guru keeps "mission" deep in debt United Press International, March 23 1975
- Newsmakers Los Angeles Times Mar 23 1975
- Riches Called Goal of Divine Light Winnipeg Free Press March 24 1975
- The Nation Los Angeles Times Mar 25 1975
- Guru Tries to Take Control of Mission United Press International, April 9 1975
- Court Halts Heiress' Money Gift To Guru Associated Press, April 18 1975
- Guru Maharaj Ji: Pizza Sports Cars and Millions of Followers Deborah Frazier, Associated Press, July 14, 1975
Book: All God's Children: The Cult Experience by Stoner & Parke