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Soul Rush

The Odyssey of a Young Woman in the 70s'

(Excerpts)

by S. Collier. Published in 1978
 

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Chapter 15: Development of DUO.

I STOOD AT THE DOOR AND GAZED ACROSS THE POOL. HUMID
air was not common in Denver. Even humid air with a tinge of chlorine was a welcome change. "I'll take it," I said to the renting agent who was winding up my tour of the building. Now that I was going on vacation I planned to do it up right.

(..........)

After about a month of this decadent life, I felt satisfied, fully rested and refreshed from my year-and-a-half as a work-frenzied monk in a guru cult. Come September 1974, I felt it was time to take stock of my position and figure out where to go from here.

(..........)

No, none of these seemed quite right. How about a successful artist: There I am on the cover of Time proclaiming "The Joy of Art" and watching my work-in many media- acclaimed as opening new, startling frontiers in beauty and human imagination. In publications ranging from Art News to the SoHo paper my name is known. That sounds pretty good, I thought, but Time magazine?

Amid all this whimsy, I did manage some serious thinking. The conclusion I reached about my immediate future-leaving these other fantasies for a later time-was that I wanted to go back and give Divine Light Mission another go. One of the main things that made up my mind was a visit I had made to the headquarters a few weeks before. Walking around the offices, I found many of the same people were there as when I left, but the focus of their work had changed considerably.

Back in April 1973, before all the Mission's activities and plans were supplanted by the Millennium festival production, Guru Maharaj Ji had made a film about his vision for DLM. In it he proposed a new organization, to be called Divine United Organization, and outlined its humanitarian goals. DUO-the name is pronounced rather than the letters spelled out-would work in many areas: health care, education, food co-ops, the arts, as well as the traditional social service areas of emergency relief and visiting the sick and institutionalized. When the idea originally was put forth, premie enthusiasm rallied around it. A clip was attached to Maharaj Ji's original film wherein Bob Mishler suggested that DUO could also be a method by which premies could be employed. Businesses could be organized which were ecologically sound and spiritually elevating for both patron and employee.

Now, at headquarters, the energy of the one-hundred-person staff went into the development of the different branches of DUO. Mark Retzloff, a friend of mine from the Houston food service, was planning to link up the thirty-five DLM food co-ops and four retail food stores premies were running around the country and make them into one "Rainbow Grocery" chain. Natural food was Mark's main interest. Prior to working in DLM he had been the largest distributor of natural foods in Michigan. Now he was trying to "foster cooperation based on spiritual unity, rather than the profit motive."

Another person I knew from Houston was pulling together the premies in the performing arts to see if the many premie musical groups that already existed could help each other by sharing equipment, ideas, and contacts. DLM's dance troupe was planning a national tour. The Soul Rush theater group was at work on some new material.

Social service was an area of special importance in DUO. Rennie Davis, now recovered from the festival, was working on an idea called "Day of Thanks," a Thanksgiving Day effort to involve several thousand premies across the country in hospital visitation programs. "Then," Susan Gregory said, "once the premies realize what a joyful experience it is to do this kind of service for others, they'll want to sign up for many more DUO social service programs."

Looking around, I could see that DLM had thoroughly recovered from last year's festival bummer. Things were in bloom. For a change, DLM seemed going in the right direction. When I saw Saul, he told me that after the magazine went back in print he had been promoted to full editor. "You want a job?" he asked me. "I could use a writer. You could write children's stories, or better yet, do the 'There is a Knowledge . . .' series."

"There is a Knowledge . . ." was a part of the magazine Saul used to write before he was editor. It explained in practical terms the benefits of meditation through examples of premies' lives and experiences.

"They're into it now. What a change," he said, describing the new thrust in DLM's outreach programs: to talk about meditation, rather than resort to the "flashy witnessing" style I saw during Soul Rush.

At the time when Saul asked me to come back on the staff, I did not take the offer too seriously. I was still on vacation, I told him. But now, with the demand for flower gardeners on the wane, I was looking around for new employment.

When I spoke to the local director about moving back in, he was hesitant at first. He wasn't admitting anyone into the ashram at that time. So I called up my friend Michael Donner, who was now U.S. national director, and told him the situation. An old-style radical, Michael had no taste for bureaucracy. He phoned the local director and asked what was up. "No problem here," the local man said. I moved back into DLM and after a month I was once more working on the Mission's newspaper, Divine Times.

A few things had changed at the paper. My old boss, Matthew Austin, had retired, as editor and as premie. He had married a woman fifteen years older than he and become an instant father to an eighteen-year-old young woman. From time to time, Matthew invited me over for a glass of wine or I ran into him on the street. But he wasn't interested in the organization anymore. He didn't even want to talk about it.

Now another person was giving the Divine Times editor post a try. This was Dan Hinckley, who until this time had always lingered on the periphery of the publications circle sporting the catchall title of "Research Director." Dan was a very interesting young man, and as I worked with him, he as editor and I as assistant editor-not assistant to the editor, mind you-we became very close and loving in a platonic way, like brother and sister.

Again I benefited from the one advantage of the ashram's chastity vow: it allowed a person to develop strong relationships with persons of the opposite sex without a jumble of complications. I have heard that some people see every other person as a potential bedmate. I, however, have never felt this way. If I like someone I want to become more intimate, but this does not always mean sex. I remember several occasions at parties when I'd been talking with a man and suddenly the mood changed. "Let's go to bed," he would suggest, usually in a more subtle way. If I was not interested that was the end of the conversation. Period.

Since Dan and I had both made monastic vows we did not have to wonder whether or not our closeness suggested we should have sex. I appreciated many things about Dan. I liked how big he was. I am five foot ten, and he was several inches over six feet. Where I couldn't reach up on a high shelf, he had no trouble. He was quite strong and built big, like a bear. To add to this bear-like quality, Dan's mother lived in Hickory Corners, Michigan. From time to time Dan played the flute and wrote poetry, but neither as a virtuoso.

With ease, Dan could quote Maslow, Einstein, Toynbee, Kant, and other big names. But he was no effete intellectual. If something broke, he opened his files and in the back of the stacks, behind the folders full of weighty thoughts, was a full tool kit. The hammer in it was a clue to Dan's nature. It was a twenty-ounce-the heavy kind framers use to drive nails into two-by-fours when they are putting up houses. With no rough work like this to do, Dan used the hefty tool delicately, putting in a tack or giving something the tiniest tap to set it right in place.

As assistant editor, my responsibility was national news, reporting on the diverse activities of premies in the United States. All around the country people in DLM communities were very busy with new projects. Many of them had begun small businesses ranging from a pottery shop in Florida and a woodworking studio in Georgia to a theater coffee shop in San Francisco and a laundromat/dry cleaner's in Denver. People were beginning to come to introductory programs which had been restructured to present Knowledge in a more intelligible way.

Many premies were getting married, settling down, and buying homes. Maharaj Ji and Marilyn were expecting a baby. They even had gotten themselves a new nest in Malibu, California. While looking for news of the L.A. area, I heard several stories about Maharaj Ji from one of the people who lived in Malibu with him.

When Guru Maharaj Ji moved into his new house, he immediately began to improve his property through some rather extensive landscaping projects. Since he loves machines, Maharaj Ji decided to buy a tractor which he would sometimes drive around the canyons where he lived. One day as Maharaj Ji was rounding a bend, he came to a place where a large luxury car was hanging perilously over the edge of the road. The despondent driver was sitting on the ground in a well-tailored suit with his head in his hands.

Without saying a word, Maharaj Ji stopped and jumped off the tractor. He whipped out a set of chains, attached them to the bumper, and pulled the car back on the road. By the time the driver stood up to see what was going on, Maharaj Ji had already packed up his chains, jumped on the tractor, and was heading off, full throttle down the canyon.

"Oh, then he's in good spirits," I inquired of this correspondent. Maharaj Ji had seemed very happy when I had seen him during a business trip he had made to Denver a month before; but since I remembered how he had hidden his feelings about his family, it was hard for me to know his true mood.

"Sure, ever since Mata Ji left he's been very happy. I'd say he's back to his old merry pranksterish self again," my source said, and then related this story:

Maharaj Ji had bought a book at a novelty store which to all external appearances was a hardcover called Sex Handbook; but when you opened it, you received an electric shock. He spent several days "souping up" the wiring so that it would give a more powerful shock, and then one day when his brother, Raja Ji, came to visit him at his Malibu estate, he thought he'd try it out. In the car with him Raja Ji had brought several other people, including his wife, Claudia.

"Raja Ji! Raja Ji!" Maharaj Ji ran up to the car to greet him with the book in his hand. The others were still in the car as Maharaj Ji said to Raja Ji, with a tone of deep tenderness, "Look what Marilyn has just given me," pressing the book into Raja Ji's hands.

"Oh," said Raja Ji with much interest, and then, "Ahhhh!" when he opened the book. Just then Claudia came up. "Oh, Claudia! Look what Marilyn has just given me," he said to Claudia with the same tender tone.

"Oh," she said, and then, "Ahhhh!"

Each of the next three people arrived and they in turn fell for the trick. Then when there were no more, Maharaj Ji took the book back and walked into the house, satisfied that he had shocked enough people with his Sex Handbook.

My new office was still down the hall from the Harvard-Radcliffe Club, whose members continued to produce articles and ideas. I shared the office with Saul, who now wanted to move back into the ashram too.

Saul edited Guru Maharaj Ji's lectures for publication. When a particular transcript showed Guru Maharaj Ji's philosophical remarks "waxing incoherent," as Saul said, he would simply throw up his hands in the air and cheerfully, mischievously, declare, "Oh, he didn't mean that." Then, licking his fine editing pencil, he would squint his eyes and write in something that sounded a little better.

Saul's authority as an editor in DLM went back a long way. He had put out the first national DLM newsletter, writing it and then cranking it out himself on a mimeograph machine in Bob Mishler's basement in 1971. Now, as editor of a monthly four-color slick, Saul, more than almost anybody else in DLM, could testify to the organization's progress.

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