Is Maharaji the leader of a cult? (Part 2)

Is Maharaji the leader of a cult (Part 1)

Joe Whalen responds to Mitch Ditkoff's attempt to argue that Maharaji is not the leader of a cult:-

Mitch Ditkoff is a Real Disappointment

In my earlier article about why Maharaji really is the leader of a cult, I mentioned Mitch Ditkoff's nonsensical article on his "Please Consider This" website (Is Maharaji the Leader of a Cult?, dated August 15, 2001). The article meanders all over the place, is amazingly self-contradictory, and the only conclusion I can come to is that Mitch thinks all those "innocent bystanders," whom he says he is attempting to address, are idiots. God knows he has no qualms about insulting their intelligence.

Mitch says that the "cult" issue is the "biggest complaint" of that "small percentage" of Maharaji's former followers who "dislike him intensely." Where Mitch gets those characterizations and statistics, except perhaps from a certain portion of his anatomy, he doesn't say.

First, Mitch gives us the "it's-all-relative" speech we have heard so many times from Maharaji apologists. That's the EST-like theory that you can't really judge what "cult" means because it's all just opinion and perspective. (Mitch revives this theory throughout his article.) Then, in literally the next sentence, Mitch does a complete about-face and compares his cult to an "objective definition" which he claims to have discovered while researching cult experts.

From Mitch's extensive "research" he quotes a definition of "cult" by Dr. Michael Langone, currently Executive Director of the American Family Foundation (AFF), and author of a number of books on cults. It will be no surprise to you that Mitch determines the Maharaji cult doesn't meet the definition. What Mitch seems to have missed in his "research" however, is that Dr. Langone's organization lists Elan Vital/Maharaji as a group many claim to be a cult, and Dr. Langone himself, in his book Recovery from Cults, (W.W. Norton, 1995), clearly concludes that what Maharaji is leading is most definitely a "cult" (page 41). Funny how Mitch missed those things in his "research."

Note to all "innocent bystanders": Whose conclusion are you likely to accept? The expert on cults who actually wrote the definition Mitch is trying to twist to his own purposes, or Mitch Ditkoff, an admitted member of the cult he is trying desperately to prove isn't one for entirely propaganda and damage control purposes? Since most people, bystanders or not, were not born yesterday, the answer should be obvious.

Another follower of Maharaji writing on another cult website joins Mitch's slide into this kind of disingenuous banter. Josie Winter quoted Marc Galanter's definition on the "It Ain't So" website, from Galanter's book, Cults: Faith and Coercion. Although Ms. Winter, like Mitch, engages in a lengthy argument about how the Maharaji cult doesn't meet the definition, she apparently was too busy to notice that Galanter, in that very book, also determined that the Maharaji cult is, indeed, a cult.

From that rather inauspicious start, it's downhill from there for Mitch, I am afraid. Next, he says that maybe Maharaji used to be the leader of a cult, but not anymore. Sure, in those bad old days it was weird due to the followers' "spiritual immaturity," but that was the fault of the followers not Maharaji (of course), and moreover, that "quirky" behavior has "gone the way of bell bottoms."

Mitch really ought to get out more, because bell bottoms (and hip-hugger jeans) are very much back in fashion these days (why, I have no idea). He also appears to have missed the last Amaroo event with Maharaji at which ARTI was sung and Maharaji's followers lined up for the very un-cult-like ritual of kissing Maharaji's feet. That was in April of this year, so maybe Mitch is implying that Maharaji stopped being the leader of a cult around Memorial Day, but I'm not sure.

Regarding ARTI, just for the benefit of those "innocent bystanders," here are just some of the words:

Creator, Preserver, Destroyer, bow their heads and pray to You [Maharaji]...

Give yourself to Satguru Sacrifice yourself to Satguru [Maharaji]...

Many past forms you have taken...

Now we have come in your control Again You have come to save the soul...

To lead Your devotees from darkness You have come as Hansa the pure soul

Mitch does admit that there has been a lot of excessive devotion expressed to Maharaji, including, "scrubbing the grout between bathroom tiles with a toothbrush for a house that Maharaji was going to stay in for a single night." But Mitch again retreats into cult-relativism because, he asks, what does excessive mean anyway?

Why, according to Mitch, this kind of mass-worship and bizarre hygiene requirements, are really no different than his son's fascination with Game Boy, and his wife's views of Mitch spending three hours watching a baseball game. Plus Henry Miller's prose is also excessive, so who can really say what the word means? Right, Mitch. It's all the same. Game Boy, baseball, and feet-kissing ceremonies are just equivalent levels of excessive dedication. See what I told you? Mitch surely thinks those poor "innocent bystanders" are beyond stupid.

Mitch continues on in this fashion for the rest of the article. Sure, he says, there is "group pressure" in the Maharaji cult, but (I am not kidding you here) it's really no different than the group pressure he felt at "summer camp "and in "Little League."

Later, Mitch says, yes, maybe premies did isolate from their families, like in the ashrams, but that was just normal "individuation" and quite "predictable." Sure, Mitch, everybody follows a "master" who says that he is your family and not your biological one. Quite normal, really. But maybe it's true that without the ashram, Mitch would still be living with his mother. I suppose it was part of Maharaji's divine plan to save Mitch from that, but it's all relative and what does that mean anyway?

Mitch just dismisses the allegations of "mind control" in the cult by saying that he doesn't recall Maharaji ever attempting to "manipulate, control or unethically persuade" him. I previously discussed eight different examples of the specific mind control techniques used in the Maharaji cult, all of which have been extensively researched by experts like Mitch's friend Dr. Langone, and I won't go into them here, but let me mention another one.

Surely Mitch recalls the tirades of Maharaji and his minions about how our "mind" shouldn't be listened to, that it is on a mission to make us miserable and kick us off the path of knowledge and devotion. Specifically, Maharaji said that your mind was a "fly" that must be "smashed," a "snake that must be killed," and that leaving the practice of knowledge was to jump from a ship into shark-infested waters. Why anyone would think those kinds of statements to people who were also engaging in excessive dedication would be seen as attempts at manipulation and persuasion appears to be beyond Mitch.

But I liked the following quote from Mitch the best, which is a kind of summation of what Maharaji is all about:

Maharaji's goal, from what I can tell, has always been to make the experience of knowledge available to as many people on the planet as possible. Plain and simple. That is his reason for being. He cares about people's lives flourishing, not being diminished.

I wonder if Mitch can point to any evidence that Maharaji ever cared about the fate of other human beings. Philanthropy appears to be something Maharaji lacks in its entirety.

As for spreading knowledge to the "people on the planet," that either isn't Maharaji's priority, or he has done a lousy job at carrying it out, at least so far. The problem is that spreading knowledge conflicts with Maharaji being able to live in the style to which he has become accustomed in the hills of Malibu. What with $7 million yachts, $40 million aircraft and all those Rolls and Ferraris, there doesn't seem to have been much left over to "make the experience knowledge available" like he said he planned.

The result is that Maharaji has thousands fewer followers today than he did 20 years ago and hardly anyone has even heard of him. He does not even advertise his existence, or that of knowledge. During that same period, he has become filthy rich. I wonder, Mitch. What do you think an "innocent bystander" would think Maharaji's priority is? Is it to "make the experience of knowledge available to as many people on the planet as possible," or is it to get, and stay, rich?'

I am so disappointed in Mitch. I had great hopes for what he might have to say because he is part of a company called "Idea Champions" that claims to promote "thinking outside the box." After reading his article, now I'm hoping he will just start thinking.

Joe Whalen
November 5, 2001

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