By Carlos Barclay
Christian cults ran amuck in the 70’s. The Children of God, Jim Jones, and the multitude of others lead to countless deaths. People claiming to be healers got their own television shows, and people claiming to be God got book deals. It wasn’t just Christian cults though. Leaders operating under the guises of just about every religion were forming their communes, and perhaps none was quite as interesting as the pseudo-eastern spirituality commune, and subject of the latest Netflix hit Wild, Wild Country, of Rajneesh (aka Osho, aka Bhagwan, aka a real creep).
While I don’t identify myself with any eastern religion, I’ve always found a tremendous amount of validity in their practices and philosophies –which I think could greatly aid some of us here in the west. If you can get over “looking silly”, taking twenty minutes a few times a week to sit with your eyes closed can be a bountiful experience, and can lead you to be more focused and rational throughout your day to day routine. Unfortunately, people like Rajneesh exploited these quiet moments of humanity for….M O N E Y Y Y Y Y. CHA, CHING!
Rajneesh, The focal point of Wild, Wild Country, looked the part of a wise old yogi to a tee, donning a massive white beard, hypnotic dazing eyes, and a pack of people following him wherever he went. After being exiled from his native India, where Rajneesh went became a concern for some people in Oregon, as the already rich con man proceeded to buy up 64,229 acres and brought in over 7,000 people. With the tiny city of Antelope right next door, tensions rose almost immediately.
Unlike most cult leaders, who shy away from civilization, Rajneesh and his hierarchal team sought to integrate themselves into every facet of the outside world – it should be noted that this didn’t work both ways though, Rajneesh and his followers weren’t fans of media coming in. They took part, overwhelmingly, in local politics and even successfully had their cityhood recognized in Oregon under the name “Rajneeshpuram”. They had their own police force, their own transit and even a mayor. It became the cultish equivalent of a mafia group “going legit”.
Rajneesh’s personal secretary frequently stated their goal was to “intertwine capitalism and religion”. The false prophet began to really raise eyebrows when the FBI began speculating the massive amount of artillery that was being hoarded within the community, and the checkpoint like entrance that served to bar outsiders from coming in.
Wild, Wild Country, albeit a bit lengthy and demanding of your time, energy and focus, is truly a fascinating look into a phenomenon the likes of which America had never seen before and hopefully never will again.
There will always be organizations looking to monetize and lobotomize displaced people who are seeking camaraderie, or inherent value and meaning in life. Hell, organizations with lengthy documentations of rabid humanitarian crimes like Scientology are in every city. The local Hare Krishna’s ISKCON group, an international group which has been heavily accused of rape, demanding massive portions of their followers paychecks and child abductions, tries to lure in nearby UCF students who are interested in eastern theology every year with their Holi Fest. There’s a fine line between cult leader and religious leader, and the difference is guidance over dictation.
As a young man I found myself glued to the great debate programs, Crossfire being my favorite. Although I was too young to fully grasp the concepts being discussed, it was the people and their indelibly evident display of passion that left me enamored. I’ve always tried to exercise that same tenacity with every inch of my work.