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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 16: Tale of Horror.

ONE DAY AS SAUL AND I WERE GOING DOWN TO GET SOME TEA
in the cafeteria, we found ourselves in the middle of a meeting which was being held there. Tiptoeing over to the hot water dispenser, we picked out some blends-Mellow Mint for me and Sleepy Time for Saul. While the tea was steeping, we perked up our ears, trying to eavesdrop inconspicuously. The subject of this meeting seemed to be some sort of big deal reorganization plan. This was nothing new in itself. From my observation, the main function of high level administrators seemed to be moving offices and changing titles. But there was something peculiar about the way these people were talking. It took a while to place it, but then it came to me. They were all speaking in the passive voice. The problems of the organization "were being analyzed, prioritized, and finalized," but by whom it wasn't clear. "Debts had been incurred," but nobody seemed to know who spent the money. "Time lines were going to be created," and then "they were going to be met," all by equally shadowy, unmentioned hands.

"Good Lord," Saul quipped. "There is nobody here."

Walking upstairs with my Mellow Mint, I wondered if at a certain point in a company's development some great deus ex machina suddenly grabs hold of the corporation, disembodies it, and starts to operate it independent of any person's talking, typing, or planning.

Over the next few weeks I continued thinking along these lines, believing that perhaps this point had arrived for DLM. One of the main things contributing to this impression was the arrival of Michael Dettmers, a former junior executive in one of the larger American multinationals. His ideas were all management-textbook stuff: organizational charts and management-by-objectives. He came to Denver to set up some systems for managing our money, but when he arrived he got to work on other areas. His first project was redoing the organizational chart. After the juggling of boxes and lines was done, Michael was a vice president and we, the artists' and writers' group, were called Research and Development.

Michael believed in "professional managers." He thought a person's experience and familiarity with an area of work were not as important as their proven abilities as a manager. The criteria of the manager's ability? "Why, how well he executes the objectives of the organization," Michael explained. And who sets the objectives? "The top management, of course." Undoubtedly, this hierarchical structure and its performance evaluation scheme comprise a perfectly fine battle plan for making money in a multinational. But as I considered Michael's ideas, I had a vague bad feeling. I didn't know exactly why, but I felt fairly sure his were not the best guidelines for running an organization whose goal is to raise consciousness.

But, for better or for worse, Michael was there and he was in charge. Because of his belief in "professional managers," R&D soon had one, in the person of Jeff Grossberg, who arrived in December. By January the word "executive" was popping up more often and more seriously. Although DLM had always had a certain corporate pretense-I think it is something Ma Bell installed with the first WATS line- it was not something the people in the DLM general membership paid much attention to. My impression was that most premies just assumed that a few business-like formalities were necessary for the legal and financial stability of our movement. In a leader, however, most DLM members were not looking for a guy in a three-piece suit, sitting behind a nine-foot teak desk and with an impressive resume. Instead they wanted someone with awareness and an ability to communicate his or her insights. For this reason a heavy-duty title did not command instant respect from the membership. In fact, a title often had the opposite effect. Since the people whom the title was supposed to impress were largely unmoved, it was difficult for the managers to get swelled heads about their positions.

But, believe me, they tried. In early 1973 the "executive group" rented a place to live which they named the "Executive House." This move caused such scorn and ridicule that the house was dissolved several months later. The things which enhance power in an ordinary hierarchy diminished it in ours. If a person seemed to be a real mover, an aggressive go-getter within DLM, this was often taken as a sign that this individual did not have what it took to be a leader. Premies were looking for inspirational examples of selflessness, not someone who would help them become rich.

The man who preceded Michael Dettmers as financial director was a good example of a popular DLM figure. A1though he handled DLM's three-and-a-half-million-dollar budget from 1972 to the middle of 1974, when he retired, he was most widely recognized for his lighthearted approach to the heavenly life. His philosophy was that there was no reason for guilt or fear; that God-realization was beautiful, profound, and even fun. His public talks, even at fundraising events, were sprinkled with such corny one-liners as, "My housemother has so little culture she can't even make yogurt." And, "Do you meditate on an empty stomach? No, I prefer a pillow myself."

Michael Dettmers, on the other hand, never made a joke. I heard him say he felt it "unfitting to the corporate image." Instead, at a staff meeting, he did things like explain the new organizational chart while his secretary indicated the chain of command with a pointer. He never had to explain the first three rows. They were in large type, plain as day, and everybody could see they looked like this:

 

 Now that Michael Dettmers was affirming the importance of the executive, the people who had an interest in things like organizational titles and status found they had some support. I am not suggesting here that Michael Dettmers himself was a power-hungry status-seeker; I am just saying that Michael's emphasis on the importance of hierarchy, authority, and chain of command gave the small group of people with titles a chance to have the sense of authority they missed in their previous bids for status.

What all this boiled down to in terms of Research and Development's new "professional manager," Jeff Grossberg, was that immediately after arriving Jeff claimed the best desk for himself. He took the tape player we kept to listen to rough copies of the radio tapes DLM made. And Jeff eyed with desire the small office refrigerator which all of us had used to store our snacks. Pacing around our offices, Jeff appeared to be delighted. He was finally getting some status.

Aware of Jeff's lusting for the little fridge, we decided to steal it before he installed it in his own office. We knew, through our network of interorganizational contacts (primarily secretaries) that Mac, the supply clerk, was going to move it from its publicly accessible location to Jeff's private closet. In the middle of the day, Saul, Dan, and I picked up the fridge and carried it out into the hall. For a moment we considered where to put it.

"My office?" Dan suggested hopefully, to the disapproval of the rest of us. "Up in the false ceiling where Matthew used to stash dope?" That seemed more appropriate.

When the supply clerk came around, he smelled a rat. Summoning one of the security guards, he ran from office to office demanding, "Okay. Where did ya put it? Who's got it?"

"Got what?" we shrugged and went back to work. "Listen, Mac," I said, "can't you leave me alone? Can't you see I am trying to do something creative?"

After our escapade was over Saul commented to me, "Can you believe it? Status symbols among monks. This is some 'New Age.' These new-style renunciates aren't after the traditional holier-than-thou, I-threw-more-ashes-on-my-food-than-you type of leverage. They want things, and lots of them. They want what other executives have got-Pierre Cardin suits, big offices, and a sweet young lady typing up memos on an IBM Selectric. I hate men, they are all alike."

Shortly after Jeff arrived, our most itinerant comrade also came to town. This was Charles Cameron, the DLM writer who edited Who Is Guru Maharaj Ji, a paperback put out by Bantam in 1973. Though Charles thought of himself as a poet first, I got the impression that he didn't really like to write at all. What he really loved was touring the country and speaking on college campuses about art and spirituality. He loved to read his poems to big audiences, tell stories, do impersonations. He was very good at this, too. Telling a sad story, he could make me cry. Charles was British. He had gone to Oxford and his poems had been published in the volume The Children of Albion. Another quality I distinctly remember about Charles was his insatiable admiration of women. Though when it came down to "Shall I or shan't I" have sex, he confessed that he almost always backed down and kept his monastic vows. But to hear him talk publicly you'd get quite the opposite impression.

When Charles arrived in town, he was discouraged with our new situation. He shook his head and said, "First fanatics and then bureaucrats. Our mission gets harder every year."

However, Charles had a plan. He came to one of the writers' meetings and said with his British accent, "An artist is like no other individual. He or she [at-the word "she" Charles gazed around the room at the young women present] must use this difference for the advantage of the world. We need divine subversion in this organization. You can see the trends. You know what they [he cast his eyes dramatically skyward toward the direction of the executive offices] want us to do. Boring things, without life, without art, without love." On the word love, Charles's eyes traveled around the room again to the females present at the meeting. "Only we, the artists of DLM, can revive their lifeless ways."

None of us shared Charles's utter and incontrovertible high opinion of our own vocations. We did not fancy ourselves to be a group of latter-day Prometheuses. But a little divine subversion was just our speed. After this day the R&D department quietly became a cosmic version of "Spanky and Our Gang."

According to Michael's organizational charts we were to research and develop ideas which would inform and inspire the premies through the magazine and newspaper, and attract the general public to DLM through films, brochures, and leaflets. The arrow leading away from the R&D box on Michael's charts indicated the flow of our energy was to leave headquarters. Instead, we planned to reverse the flow: Send our energy up the ladder, and do a little CR (That's Consciousness-Raising, for those of you who slept through the sixties) work upstairs.

As Gandhi pointed out, nonviolent tactics only work in a country where the people in charge have certain, however slight, humanistic sympathies. That is why Martin Luther King's peaceful civil disobedience worked here in the United States. In the same way, yippie theater only works when played to an audience that is ready to laugh. That's why I was a serious threat to the principal of Friends Academy. The schoolkids who were my contemporaries were always ready to laugh at a good gag. In DLM, yippie strategy took on a new dimension. The thing to remember about our R&D chief, Jeff Grossberg, was that he wasn't really an ogre. He had joined DLM because he did not want to be an executive. Meditation had given him a satisfaction status had not.

Jeff was not an organization man at heart, and neither were the other "professional" managers. But somewhere along the line, between 1971 and now, 1975, they had lost their original motivation in joining DLM, traded it in for a fancy suit. If DLM was to realize its goals, then our leaders would have to go through some changes.

In March 1975, Bob Mishler-still DLM president through all the organizational shifts-came back from a long tour he had been on with Maharaj Ji. During the whole reorganization he had been out of the country. While he was away, he had done some thinking. It was time for another publicity campaign, he decided. The public and the press were ready for DLM and Maharaj Ji to come out of the closet again. He wanted something ecumenical, something light. No heavy-duty dogma, no "Lord has come" crap. Just our message: Knowledge can help you gain profound insight into life.

"The way you can come up with a campaign," Bob told us in a meeting to which none of the other "executives" were invited, "is to get into a creative space. Meditate and dream. Do it together. I may not seem like much of an artist, but I know that a group of creative people can experience powerful communication together. I want you to get into it completely. Do not tell anybody your group's thinking. Keep it a secret until it is done. Otherwise your energy and enthusiasm will leak away. Don't tell your roommates. Don't tell me. Don't tell the other directors. This is your show. Do something that you, yourself, would like to give out, as a gift, on the streets."

Giving us only these general instructions, Bob left town to travel with Maharaj Ji to a mini-festival in Florida, and then after Florida, to India, where Maharaj Ji was going to confront the Mata Mafia. What I did not know at this time was that a gap was growing between Bob and the other directors. They resented his single-handed style and his closeness to Maharaj Ji. If they had been giving us directions rather than Bob, we would have probably gotten quite different guidelines for the new campaign.

Here was our chance, we thought, to say what we really felt our organization should be like. Now, with Bob behind us, we could do it, come up with a well-reasoned solution to the bureaucratic spirit we found engulfing the Mission. Right away we went to work in hermit-like seclusion. Bob had told us that there was no deadline on our work; we had as long as we needed to do it right. But once Bob was out of town, the remaining members of the executive group started to put pressure on us to come up with a campaign right away. Curtailing our leisure, we started contemplating double-time. By April we had the basic theme for a national campaign.

The main idea of it was based on C. S. Lewis's concept that you could lead people into higher awareness ("God," in his words) through art and beauty, which he said were imitations of the supreme. We wanted everything DLM did -from mailings to local directors, to the public campaigns- to be light, beautiful art objects. We wanted them to be full of fun and not to take themselves too seriously. For each area of mission activities we had specific suggestions, but no finished mock-ups. After much debate, the brainstorming team decided that our head designer, an attractive woman named Joan Boykin, should present it to the almost exclusively male executive group. "After all," as our British poet, Charles, said, "Joanie is the one among us who looks most like a piece of art."

Joan took the idea upstairs, expecting an enthusiastic reception. "But after I explained it to them," she said, "they were all quiet. They just looked at me. After a minute Michael Dettmers said, 'Thank you, Joan, you can go.' "

That was the last time we heard about our campaign for almost six weeks. In the meantime, Guru Maharaj Ji was back in the headlines in newspapers around the world. While Maharaj Ji was in India, Mata had denounced him as a "playboy." She declared that it was really BB who was the Satguru, Lord of All. Now sure that God was on her side, she also started out trying to gain legal control of DLM and sole rights to the actual name, "Divine Light Mission." Let her have it, I thought.

Not knowing the fate of our campaign-reform effort, but suspecting the worst, most of the R&D staff went back to work on their ongoing concerns while waiting for the executive group's decision. Dan had a burst of enthusiasm about our next newspaper. A populist by nature, Dan had been inspired by then Harper's Magazine's contributing editor Tony Jones' revival of Harper's Weekly. What Tony Jones wanted to do was publish a paper which was written by the readers. Dan felt the Divine Times needed similar refurbishment; it was too headquarters-oriented. Even with all of my efforts in national news, I agreed with him.

Too often the executives would tell Jeff they wanted a certain editorial or a certain interview (often with themselves) to go into the Divine Times so that the premies would become aware of the executives' latest organizational ideas. Dan and I were not so sure "mission trends," as we tactfully called the exec-ordered articles, were what the readers wanted. In plans for the coming issue Dan included a survey, as part of a large section encouraging reader participation, which he called "It's Your Paper!"

One of my assignments for this issue was an interview with an old friend of mine, Ellen Saxl, who had escorted Maharaj Ji on his trip to India. Incidentally, Ellen was one of the first people from an Eastern-oriented spiritual group to be kidnapped by "de-programmer" Ted Patrick, whose usual quarry was Christian cults. However, Ellen was not "de-programmed," and later her court testimony helped to convict Patrick of kidnapping. While my interview with Ellen seemed, at first glance, to be a simple assignment, it brought up some disturbing questions.

Ellen and I had lunch together and then sat down with the Sony to talk. She described the trip in glowing terms: The scenery, the people she met, the beautiful premies, Maharaj Ji's one triumph after another over the Mata mafia. However, as she spoke, her looks and gestures and tone told another story. She fidgeted, seemed uncomfortable.

"Is there something wrong?" I asked her. "Don't you feel well?"

"Turn off the tape recorder," she said urgently, as if I was about to be let in on some of the state secrets. I obliged. "Sophia, the trip was awful. Premies were beaten. Maharaj Ji was in hiding for a week in this crummy hotel. And the lawsuit which Mata brought, I don't know if we won. Raja Ji may have to go to jail if he ever goes back . . ." Ellen continued unfolding a tale of horror.

"But why are you telling me this other story? Why were you giving me this baloney?"

"Because that's what Maharaj Ji wanted. I asked him, 'When I return, Maharaj Ji, what shall I tell people?' And he said, 'Just talk about the grace.' Sophia, there were good things that happened. The huge second wedding celebration Maharaj Ji held. About five thousand premies were there . . . good things and bad both."

"But why not give the whole story? Premies can handle it. It's no big deal."

"I'm honor-bound," Ellen said. "I promised Maharaj Ji.

Sometimes we don't always know the reasons for things he tells us to do, but from my experience, if I just do them, I get good results."

"All right then, I'll turn the tape recorder back on and you tell the story however you like. I can't compel you otherwise."

And so Ellen continued weaving a bright tale, rich with cultural references and local color. She remembered so many beautiful things-the filigree on a certain building, the oxcarts and peasants in a certain town-but this story did not move me, now that I knew the other side.

When Ellen left, I sat alone. I wondered why Maharaj Ji did not want the truth known. Already AP, the wire service, had carried parts of what he wished to suppress. Unlike Ellen, I did feel the need to understand the reasoning behind an action before I took it. I could not see any good reason for Maharaj Ji's request "only to talk about the grace."

During the week, while Ellen's "interview" was being transcribed, we got the news about our campaign. Thumbs down. During their six weeks of silence the executive group had been creating their own campaign. But since they could not come up with a suitable slogan, they agreed to use a modified version of the worst of our many suggestions, on one or two posters. The slogan used was, "Discover the Sunny Kingdom of Heaven Inside Through Meditation." Trying to create a feeling of solidarity, we sent one of the executives a memo telling him we were behind him on the new campaign, but in my heart as I signed the note, I felt disappointed.

To make it worse for Dan and me, the "It's Your Paper" idea was also panned, along with the new campaign. Dan received a rather curt memo that said, basically, he had no business giving the paper to the premies. It was "Maharaj Ji's paper for his message." The executive group didn't want to print "any old thing" premies sent in. They wanted to "guide" the development of the communities nationwide.

A few days later, I caught a ride home with Dettmers and another executive.

"What was the matter with the R&D campaign?" I asked them. Like Joanie, I was greeted with silence.

Finally Michael Dettmers spoke. "It isn't quite what we had in mind."

The other executive continued, expressing the group's sentiment. "We needed something a little more mature, less fantasy."

"Right," Dettmers finished. "A little more like a bank."

"A bank?" My eyes filled with tears. Here were the "creative leaders" I put my faith in. Wanting to appeal to a higher authority, I wondered why Maharaj Ji didn't take a more active interest in the day-to-day affairs of DLM. Or maybe this is the way he wants things, I thought, feeling worse all the while. Seeing how upset I was, they tried to comfort me.

"Listen, we talked about hiring a PR firm to do the campaign but then we gave it to you guys. We're using your slogan.... It was just that the other parts were a little out of hand. You understand, don't you?"

I looked out the window. We were passing Humboldt Street, a few blocks down from the premie laundry. "Sure, I understand. Can you let me out here? I have to pick up my dry cleaning." I got out of the car. Walking across the park on my way home, I met Saul. "Why are you walking? Where's the bike?" I asked him, referring to the ten-speed we shared.

"Someone stole the seat, can't use it like that," he answered as I took his arm and we walked together.

Even if the executives did not think "It's Your Paper" was the right motto for a DLM publication, the readers loved it. They started writing in immediately, sending stories, poems, articles, newspaper clippings, jokes, cartoons, you name it. Buoyed with this response, Dan could not be daunted by any killjoy executives.

"We'll do a Divine Times aimed at the public which will incorporate the ideas we came up with in March," he announced to me one morning as I came into his office. I cheered up when I saw Dan in this good mood. The two of us ran off to get some kefir, a bottled yogurt drink, and wander around Scribner's bookstore, our favorite place to think up new ideas. I was always amazed how Dan kept his spirits up. Everyone else in the R&D department, including me, seemed to be rather deflated after the campaign was shot down.

While our "public" Divine Times project was still in the idea stage, Jeff recruited someone to act as his assistant and to be in charge of our writing staff. The person he found was Sharon Stokke, a young organization woman, similar in style to himself. As the writing progressed, Sharon wanted to see every bit of it for "approval." After Sharon had arrived, the number of things that needed approval had multiplied tenfold. Eventually it got so that we couldn't even send a memo to another department without it passing over her desk and getting her initials. Certain communications needed both Jeff's and her initials. I honestly believe that Sharon liked me and felt I had some creative abilities, but when it came to approval she was a changed woman. Blue pencil in hand, she went over everything line by line while I sat by and watched. Her comments, like Jeff's, were most often not in the area of art, taste, or style. A Harold Ross she was not. Instead, her criticism was largely of my ideas.

I was too irreverent with Maharaj Ji, she said. "He's not an ordinary man with ordinary motivations such as you describe. He's special, superhuman in a way. You have to portray that." I was too casual about Knowledge. "Our path is actually the only one that will lead people to truth, you know. We don't want to mislead anyone by making them think differently," Sharon told me in one of these "approval" sessions.

The whole business struck me as psychic brutality. I defended what I had written on the basis of my experience. Sharon was ready to put aside everything I felt if it did not fit into her version of the Divine Light Mission theology. Sometimes leaving Sharon's office I felt so confused I broke down and cried. I stopped in to Dan's office to be comforted. Resting my head against his big chest, I wondered why things were going like this.

"Do you think this is what Maharaj Ji wants?" I asked Dan one day in frustration after some of his and my collaborative articles were "edited" by Jeff Grossberg in not only a gross but also apparently propagandistic way.

"I don't know, Sophia. My general feeling is that Maharaj Ji doesn't pay much attention to what's going on here in Denver. His 'hands off' policy about our day-to-day work says to me, 'Okay, kids, you have the Knowledge. You know how to tune into the wisdom inside yourself, now try and do it!' "

"I hope that's right, Dan, but after what happened with Ellen I've been wondering if 'hands off' is just a way of avoiding the problems he doesn't want to deal with. Maybe Maharaj Ji is behind these people-Sharon, Jeff, and the others-but he doesn't come out and say it. He lets them do the dirty work."

"Hmmm." Dan looked down at his desk. I could see the thought had crossed his mind also.

In September 1975, it was a year since I had decided to come back to DLM and give it a second try. In spite of the intense conflicts, I was glad I had rejoined the mission. I had formed six or seven friendships which were deeper than any I had known before. Professionally, I had been exposed to a wider range of experiences than a nineteen-year-old working in any other company might have. From my work on the newspaper I had learned what it takes to get an idea out of your head and onto the printed page. I knew how a graphics studio should be set up. In a pinch I could operate a typesetting machine or a copy camera. A printing press was no mystery to me. I felt at home casually chatting in printing jargon, conversing about color overlays versus color separations, explaining the difference between signatures and flats, or determining what percentage a screen was.

From my work on DLM films I had learned the basics about that medium also. I understood how a recording studio was set up. I could scramble after a microphone and plug it into a sixteen-track mixing console with the best of them. I had seen film edited and knew how a KEM table, the Rolls-Royce of editing boards, worked.

If nothing else, in DLM I'd gotten a good education and made some good friends. To top this off, it had cost very little beyond the value of my labor and time. None of these personal and professional benefits was why I joined DLM, but they seemed like a good enough reason to stick around. Looking on the bright side, I could hope, like any employee who wants to keep a job, that things would improve; that the corporate closed-mindedness would pass, as the Millennium Fever had. It did not occur to me until later that what afflicted Sharon/Jeff/Michael Dettmers et al might be the Millennium Fever in a new form.

Toward the end of the autumn our main project was the publication of materials for a large festival we were planning for Orlando, Florida. We worked very hard and enjoyed a good relationship with Sharon. Schedules were so tight, we didn't have time for the same "approvals" process we had during the production of the public Divine Times. Most of our lighthearted copy was okayed without a question.

The festival was completely different from Millennium; BB wasn't there. It was held in a big field in Orlando, and about twelve thousand people attended. There was no hype. It was not billed as anything other than a nice time to get together, see Maharaj Ji, see your friends, take a vacation in Florida. Saul and I went to Disneyworld and spent a day, playing on the rides. It was lovely to be in the sun, relax, swim, and see old friends. Maharaj Ji gave beautiful addresses on three successive evenings. The third night I felt so moved, I cried. I forgave him for his lack of ability to manage DLM more effectively. He was trying, I could see that.

On the last day in November, I got a package in the mail from my friend who sends me The New York Times. Among other clippings was something that caught my attention. It was from William James:

When a religion has become an orthodoxy, its day of inwardness is over; the spring is dry, the faithful live at second hand exclusively and stone the prophets in their turn. The new church, in spite of whatever human goodness it may foster, can be henceforth counted on as a staunch ally in every attempt to stifle the spontaneous religious spirit, and to stop all later bubblings of the fountain from which in purer days it drew its own supply of inspiration....

The plain fact is that men's minds have many other things in them besides their religion, and unholy entanglements and associations inevitably obtain. The basenesses so commonly charged to religion's account are thus, almost all of them, not chargeable at all to religion proper, but rather to religion's wicked practical partner, the spirit of corporate dominion. And the bigotries are most of them in their turn chargeable to religion's wicked intellectual partner, the spirit of dogmatic dominion, the passion for laying down the law in the form of an absolutely closed-in theoretic system. The ecclesiastical spirit in general is the sum of these two spirits of dominion; and I beseech you never to confound the phenomena of mere tribal or corporate psychology which it presents with those manifestations of the purely interior life. .

Thinking about our situation from this angle, I went down to one of the nightly programs DLM held. At these programs almost anybody could arrange to speak for a few minutes if they made an appointment weeks in advance. Usually I did not attend. Instead, I liked to spend my nights at home reading or talking with Barbara-Casey, my roommate and co-worker in R&D. When I arrived at the program I listened intently, trying to hear if there was an ecclesiastical spirit working on the general membership. I wanted to know if they suffered in subtle ways under a system of "approvals" such as I had found working under Sharon.

The first speaker was a young woman. She described her day at work and "all the little ways Guru Maharaj Ji had been teaching her things" while she washed dishes at a restaurant for two dollars an hour. She said she had received Knowledge four months before and had never seen Guru Maharaj Ji in person, but after attending satsang she had been able to "feel his presence.... There have been so many coincidences I just know Guru Maharaj Ji is with me all the time."

The next speaker was an older woman, a premie and the mother of two DLM members. She told about a dream she had where she met one of the mahatmas on a path and he looked at her and smiled. "You know, I've had Knowledge a long time, but I didn't experience what the other premies seemed to feel in meditation. This dream reassures me I'm on the path too."

Another person, a young man: "I hope one day my mom will take Knowledge, too. I've spoken to both my folks about it, and I don't know how they can resist truth. Knowledge is working so powerfully in the world, I don't know how anybody can miss it."

After three or four more testimonies the program was over. One of the later speakers echoed something that sounded Sharon-esque. "I've been going down to the Ananda Marga spiritual group and they say that sometimes a master guru comes to earth with a great spiritual mission. I feel like I'm infiltrating that group so I can tell them the good news. The Master is here and his name is Guru Maharaj Ji."

Walking home alone, I thought over these things. Somehow it reminded me of Pop art. A few years before, when I was at The Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan, I sat on a bench and watched people drift past one of Andy Warhol's compositions. Each group had its own interpretation. Each found some way to see a pattern, some order or meaning in this ordinary-appearing canvas. The reason they bothered to do this, I felt, was because of the weight and authority of The Museum of Modern Art. Equally fine patterns could be seen in the supermarket.

Somehow, in the same way that the curators of MOMA had induced the public to find order in the work of Andy Warhol, DLM was giving authority to Guru Maharaj Ji. The first premie who spoke had seen how Maharaj Ji was moving the forces in her life. I felt this was true only in the most symbolic sense-all Maharaj Ji was doing, as far as I could see, was sitting back in Malibu and getting fat. When the older woman could not see the order her children found, she assumed the deficiency was in her, just as the yokels who wander into The Museum of Modern Art assume they don't understand art.

The next two speakers were so confident in their perception of Knowledge and Maharaj Ji, they didn't feel the need to examine other people's lives and views for any true value. The young man who complained that his parents were resisting truth was the son of two Ph.D.'s, one in Greek classics and the other in political science. Perhaps they were equally smug in their correctness as their son was in his, but I would imagine they'd still have some insight to share. Ananda Marga is a group much like DLM, except it lacks a corporate style. From them, too, I imagine we could learn a lot, if we listened for their wisdom, rather than for the right moment to hit them with the truth: "The Master is here . . ."

"Damn," I thought. "Every group on the street thinks they've got the truth. The Krishna people say, 'I don't think Krishna is Lord, I know.' The Children of God say the same thing. Everybody knows. Everybody knows. There must be a hundred thousand gods that people are worshipping, and a lot of good it has done us, ever, in this world."

When I got home I went right to bed. Sleeping, I had bad dreams.

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