This is the concluding part of Bob Mishler's 1979 radio phone-in in
which he explains why he decided to resign as President of Divine Light
Mission in the US and Personal Secretary to Guru Maharaji.
(I haven't a clue what the PTL Club is. Is it a far-right Christian
Caller 11: Regarding the PTL Club, and several other similar clubs that
are devouring the nation right now, do you feel they are a threat? In
the overall view of this nation, do you think they might be too
powerful, too influential? For instance, the PTL Club now has its own
network. I understand they are going to start doing their own news
show. Do you think they might be able to influence everybody up to a
point where it might really hurt this country?
BM: I'm really not qualified to speak in terms of the capacity of the
PTL to influence people. Regarding what can hurt this country, I don't
feel that we have that much to fear from any group organising itself in
such a way that they are capable of having a voice in a mass society.
We have a diversity of opinion in this country; that's one of the
principles that we cherish the most. It is through the competition of
all these different ideas that the choice exists for each individual to
make his decision.
On the other hand, there are practices of certain groups where once they
have a person in their sway, they then systematically rob that person of
any capacity to be able to leave the group. In fact, they try to
deliberately hold that person and exploit them for economic gain.
DJ: How do they try to rob them of an ability to leave? What kind of
methods are you talking about?
BM: First of all, they strip them of their financial independence. The
way that this is done is to have them live in some kind of communal
situation. Ultimately, if possible, they try to get them into one of
their monastic type living situations where they are actually under vows
Anything that they produce doesn't really belong to them, it belongs to
the organisation. Therefore they really haven't got any financial
capacity on their own. All of their possessions have been turned over
to the organisation.
In addition to this, they also have the individual systematically sever
their ties with anyone who doesn't believe as they believe. This
includes family members, former friends and associates. An effort will
be made to convert family members and former friends. After a certain
point, they are just supposed to leave contact with these people
Over a period of time, what happens is that everything on a physical,
emotional and psychological level is really being controlled by the
group. That gives a tremendous kind of ability to manipulate the
DJ: What about spiritual blackmail, in terms of salvation?
BM: Well, that's part of it as well. When you have a person in this
position, you condition them with fear. The fear is that if they leave,
they will suffer some horrible fate. I think that, whether you're
talking about the Hare Krishnas, the Moonies or the Divine Light Mission
members, they believe that their belief is the truth. If they leave
that, they are subject to all kinds of eternal damnation.
I know that the Maharaji threatens his devotees at certain levels, once
he gets them to the point where they've sacrificed everything. At this
point they will have become initiators, which is the final degree of
surrender. He threatens them with eternal damnation if they ever leave.
Caller 12: What did you turn to? (after you left the Divine Light
Mission) What religion are you now?
BM: I think I've had enough of religion for a while. I didn't really
turn to anything.
C12: OK, but you don't believe in anything now, any person or whatever?
BM: No, I don't.
C12: OK, so you don't believe in Jesus Christ?
BM: I'm not a practising anything.
DJ: OK, we're going to talk about the whole religious phenomenon of the
believer. I'm a believer, there are other believers of various
religions... that whole thing is rather interesting.
Caller 13: I have a question for your guest. I recently read an
interview in 'Playboy' with Ted Patrick (He abducted and attempted to
de-program cult members on behalf of concerned parents. I think he was
successfully sued for kidnapping). I'm curious about these methods he
describes. Does your guest agree that there is a certain kind of mind
control involved in recruitment for the Divine Light Mission?
BM: I didn't read that article, and I'm not exactly sure what you mean
by 'mind control' in the recruitment. I definitely think that there is
a systematic process of thought reform that goes on. The ultimate
outcome of that thought reform process is that there is definitely a
mind control that exists with the members.
C13: In his interview, Mr Patrick seems to be of the opinion that the
Krishnas, the Divine Light Mission, the Scientologists and others like
them are using a great deal of mind control in order not only to
recruit, but after recruitment to place these people in a sort of
controlled state. This is so that they will not only turn over their
earnings, but will also continue to serve as robots. I was just curious
whether you felt that was happening.
BM: Oh yes, I definitely do.
C13: So doesn't that make this sort of a subversive activity?
BM: If you mean subverting the individual, yes. I don't think that
with the Divine Light Mission there are any larger goals other than to
subvert whatever individuals they can, and then hold them in this state
of servitude for the perpetuation of the group. As far as the
subversive nature of it is concerned, yes, it does subvert the
individual's ego. The individuals will say, yes, I appreciate that, I
like that; in fact I'm in bliss because of that.
Caller 14: I have a question for Bob. Earlier in the programme, you
said that you had received a lot of calls recently from people who have
had loved ones they were concerned about who were Premis. I just
wondered what you told them when they called.
BM: Well, it depended. A lot of the conversations were very
individually oriented around what they could do in their particular
situation. If I can generalise a bit about it, a lot of these parents
just really needed someone to talk to to help them understand what was
going on with their child or family member. In fact, in one case it was
a daughter worried about her father.
What I would usually try and tell them was to try and keep some respect
for the individual's experience and for their faith in their beliefs.
If the family member suddenly challenges that, and says: 'How could you
believe such a stupid thing?', it reflects on the individual as if to
deny their experience altogether.
These people really do have an experience. They may be mistaken in
attributing whatever inner spiritual peace they find within themselves
to the Guru. In fact, he really doesn't have anything to do with it,
but they are sincere in placing their faith in him.
We must try to help them see that the Guru really isn't responsible for
whatever positive benefits they are deriving from their belief, and that
therefore they shouldn't continue to allow their lives to be dominated
by subservience to the Guru.
Friends and relatives are going to have to try to understand the
experience enough to be able to really relate to the people by not
regarding them as mental defectives. A lot of the conversations have
centred around just how to make a much stronger contact. I know that a
lot of the people involved are getting a lot of psychological strokes
from the individuals that they associate with.
If the parents just treat them as naughty children and take a
disapproving attitude, they tend to take that personally as though the
parents were disapproving of them as a person. This not only further
alienates them, but actually severs those ties altogether. In that
sense, it actually aids and abets the cult.
C14: The person I have in mind happens to be an ex-wife. She is a very
intelligent person. I wonder if you thought a tape-recording of this
programme might help open her eyes.
BM: Well, it could possibly, particularly if she is not aware of some
of the hypocrisies that I have pointed out, maybe not completely in this
programme, but certainly in other statements I have given to the news
media. I think it helps, given that so many of the people that are
involved are very sincere. If they begin to see that what they are
being told and what is actually taking place are two different things,
then they begin to see that possibly they could have had the same
experiences without having had to attribute it to the Guru.
Look at all these hypocritical practices that the Guru engages in. There
was never any response from him. Of course, he couldn't really respond;
to respond, he would either have to admit it, and he is not likely to do
that, or he would have to deny it. If he denied it, we could get into a
whole protracted court battle.
I haven't said anything about him that I'm not capable of proving. So
consequently they tend to just try and ignore it, hoping that they
control the communication within the Premis' world strongly enough to be
able to weather it out.
To that extent, I think it is up to relatives and friends to actually
use that relationship to get the person to listen to the truth as it
gets exposed, and not to just let it get shoved aside as though I were
I mean, I was the President of the Mission for five and a half years.
Somebody who was essentially responsible for organising the Mission
throughout the United States, and was the personal secretary to the
Guru, is not just any crackpot who comes along! The things that I'm
saying are true. If they can't deal with that truth, if they tend to
just ignore it, well, I think that their need to believe is so strong
that there's really not a whole lot we can do.
Persistence on the part of people like yourself who have a relationship
with members is probably the most important thing.
Caller 14: Let me ask one more question. Approximately how many
members are there in the Mission at the present time?
BM: Well, it would be hard for me to say for sure, but from what I
understand, they get 10 or 15,000 people showing up at these meetings
where they invite essentially all of the Premis in the United States and
Canada, and even Europe as well. Maybe there's as many as 10 to 15,000
in the United States. That's down considerably from the amount that
there once was. Nonetheless, it's been holding pretty much steady for
the last couple of years.
Caller 15: I have some friends who are devotees of the Guru, and they've
been telling me to come to their meetings. I can't find out who the
Guru really is to them. Do you view him as a Christ or what? It's
really hard to get inside their heads.
BM: Well, I think a lot of that comes from a confusion that has served
them well in terms of an ambiguity about who he really is. If, in fact,
they say that he is their Lord, what do they mean by that? I know it's
hard to pin people down, particularly if they don't want to be pinned
down by somebody who they are trying to attract, because they might put
C15: Yes, but who do they think he is?
BM: Well, I can't speak for all of them, but I think at this point,
given the way that he has been running things since I left, they pretty
much have to believe that he is God. They think he is the incarnation
of whatever that power we call God is. They believe him to be the
living Lord of the Universe.
C15: OK. These people I know are super-nice people. I really like
them. But I'm not into their ideas at all; it doesn't tie up with
anything I was brought up to believe in. I have now become an agnostic,
and I find it hard to believe that he's going to be the Messiah
incarnate or anything like that. They've been urging me to go to these
meetings, and I just wandered what would I be getting into?
BM: You'd be getting into an idol-worship cult.
C15: I want to get in there and find out what is going on.
BM: It's really set up that way. Members are obtained through
association with other members. I know that so many of the Premis are
really nice people. I've often even thought that they are better than
most, because a lot of them seem to be really concerned about other
You'll find, as I did when I no longer believed as they believed, that
it is a completely different story. All of that love and brotherhood
that we had shared was suddenly gone. It's because the belief that they
have is all-encompassing.
Part of the way that this technique of thought reform works is to get
you to come to the meetings. When you come to the meetings, you are
subject to the influence of the group. I'm talking about the
psychological influence that takes place just when you're in a group of
people who all believe in a certain way, and you don't necessarily.
Nonetheless, just because they are your friends, and because they are
all looking to you, thinking: 'Isn't this wonderful, and now you're
going to get into it too', you're under a great deal of pressure to
conform, just out of your own social nature.
If you go to enough meetings, you'll probably then begin to get
interested in what they call 'knowledge' and that's the whole idea.
Once you get interested in receiving knowledge, they've got you on the
way to having this whole process take place.
In order to receive knowledge, you've got to be an aspirant. As an
aspirant, you're already subjected to so much social pressure. You are
under this incredible pressure to succeed. The way that you succeed is
to be selected to receive knowledge. When somebody says: 'You are
finally ready to receive knowledge' you just go along with it.
In the knowledge session, you come out afterwards and everybody says:
'Isn't it wonderful, it's your spiritual birthday. You're a new person.
Quite likely, by that point you are, because your ego has been reformed.
It has been reformed around a whole new belief system. You asked what
you were getting into; well, it's an idol-worship cult. The idol is
Guru Maharaji and the role of the Premi is to worship him.
C15: Are you familiar with a book on the career of the Guru Maharaji?
BM: Sure. I was President of the Divine Light Mission; it was my idea
to have that book published. Charles Cameron, a Premi originally from
England but now living here in Denver, was the one who edited it and put
C15: So you had quite a bit to do with it?
BM: Yes, it was part of a whole campaign. In 1973, we were still
trying to attract people out of curiosity. Maharaji was saying: 'I've
got something to reveal to you. It's free; there's no continuing
obligation. All you have to do is sincerely want to know the truth and
I'll have it shown to you. It's the truth within you; how can you pass
So we tried to get people to question themselves. Who is this Guru
Maharaji? What kind of a person can make these claims? The idea was
that he really was somebody special and he really was going to unfold a
plan for world peace. That's what he told us he was going to do, and we
were going along with him.
We set up a programme in the Houston Astrodome in the same year that the
book was published. That was in 1973. We had media from all over the
C15: Can you tell me some of the fallacies in the book?
BM: Try reading the whole chapter on the Holy Family. Then get the
Premis that you know to explain that to you. In that book, it talks
about his Holy Family. They have a story about how every one of his
brothers and his mother are divine incarnations. If they are, where are
C15: I don't know. Where are they?
BM: Well, they had a fight over who was going to control the Mission,
and they split up. The mother and the two eldest brothers are now
running their own Divine Light Mission in India. They don't have
anything to do with each other. There was a big fight; lots of court
battles and so on. My point is that this book isn't a Gospel of any
sort, believe me!
Caller 16: I'd like to ask your guest: What would you say is the
current average age of the followers of the Guru?
BM: The people in their teens and early twenties are now getting on,
because it's been seven or eight years now. They don't necessarily
drift away. Most do; most of the people who have been initiated have
left. But there is a real 'hard core' of people who have been involved
for a long time.
There have always been a number of older people. There has always been
a spread in the membership from the really young, I mean teenagers, to
elderly people. At one point, even children were being initiated in the
very early years, but that changed after the first couple of years.
It's not just that it appeals to young people, although young people,
especially those in their late teens or early twenties, are prime
targets. This is because they are going through a natural kind of ego
reformation at that point in their lives anyway. So they are very
C16: I just wondered if, with the particular insight that you have, you
have considered writing some kind of book.
BM: A number of people have suggested that to me. About a year and a
half ago, I worked up a proposal and circulated it to a number of book
publishers. I just received rejections; nobody was really interested in
publishing a story about a Guru cult.
C16: The reason that I brought this up was that I think there should be
a publisher somewhere who might have more interest in it. They might
urge you to consider re-drafting your proposal and circulating it again.
I think there are a lot of people who would like to have something like
this. I think it would be a great service to a lot of people.
I don't look upon what you have to say as necessarily just insight into
the DLM, as much as it is insight into any religion, whether it be
called 'cult' or 'mainstream religion'. To me, it's a real problem when
people just get so blind that common sense just wanders astray.
I'd like to add one more thing: I certainly would like to offer my
empathy to you. When you say that you are not a practising believer in
anything, I can very easily understand that. You had a few callers
enquiring about what your present belief is. After going through this,
I am sure that if you want to place your faith in something else again,
it is going to have to be earned. You've been 'burned'; anyone who
doesn't understand that is a little out of touch with how the human
DJ: Well, it would be something akin to Paul suddenly saying: 'I made
the whole thing up because I wanted to get a bunch of disciples or Moses
saying: 'Look, I'm really an Egyptian, and I was trying to get you to
follow the same guy that Akhnaten was talking about'. It would cause
C16: Right. I thank myself that I have been as well educated as I have.
I continue to reach for knowledge and hope I always will. But we're
always, always in need of more information about this kind of thing. In
my particular area, I deal with a lot of people. I just really feel
that nobody should ever get into a thing where any human being becomes
so almighty and important. It just seems counter-productive to me.
Thank you very much.
Caller 17: Bob, how old is the Maharaji now?
BM: Let's see...He'll be 22 this year (1979).
C17: And he started when he was 8?
BM: He became the Guru Maharaji aged 8.
DJ: He didn't really come over to this country until he was 13.
BM: That's right.
C17: As he was so young, do you believe that he was somewhat brainwashed
into this thing too?
BM: Oh yes. I feel that he is as much a victim as he is a victimiser.
I've tried to make this clear in other interviews that I have given. He
was set up for this. He certainly didn't have a very normal childhood,
having to play God on weekends!
C17: I can imagine that! Did you discuss this with him?
BM: Oh yes, we talked about this. I had to be very diplomatic with him.
I was a devotee after all, but I probably had as frank a relationship
with him as anyone.
C17: In other words you were his confidante.
BM: Yes. He literally used to cry on my shoulder.
C17: Did he ever let go of this facade at any point in time?
BM: His own doubts? Oh yes, on a number of occasions. He is a pathetic
person in this respect. Earlier in the show, I made reference to his
own psychological degeneration. The anxiety that is caused to him by
the role that he is in is tremendous.
Unlike what he advocates, he is not capable of dealing with it by means
of meditation. He ends up drinking excessively in order to cope with
the stress. It was very sad to see him drinking himself into a stupor
day after day.
DJ: It's really interesting that some of his followers can handle their
problems through meditation, through what they received from him. But
he is unable to do it himself.
BM: I don't think he ever really meditated. He talks about how, when he
was 8 years old, he meditated for a few minutes and realised the
knowledge. Presumably, that was all he needed. But he doesn't really
C17: That's really sad. I can't imagine being in that type of situation
myself. Would you communicate this to him now?
BM: No, we came to a final confrontation prior to when I left the
Divine Light Mission. He knew how I felt. We'd talked about it. At
the beginning of 1976, we had agreed that we would in fact change his
I had persuaded him to see that he was going to lose his popularity and
ability to do any good at all in this country, if he became a cult
leader. If he continued to allow his devotees to believe that he was
God, that was inevitable. He agreed, and we started de-programming our
own membership and telling them to see Maharaji as only a human being
who had a great concern for humanity.
In fact, he went along with this image change for about half a year.
Then, when he saw that he wouldn't have the same kind of ascribed status
that he had as the Guru being God, he suddenly realised he wouldn't have
the same kind of control over people. He started worrying about what
was going to happen to him in terms of his finances.
C17: He started having self-doubt?
BM: I think the self-doubt was there all along. At that point, he got
out the picture of his father and put it up on the wall. He started
worshipping it the way his devotees worshipped the pictures of him. That
really made me feel sorry for him.
Caller 18: I'd also like to congratulate you on your ability to break
away and seek some sanity and rationality in life. I'd also like to
congratulate you on your moral rectitude in wanting to let others know
the truth about the situation. I think it's extremely important that
people of all beliefs hear this sort of thing from the inside, as you're
Somebody brought up the name of Ted Patrick earlier, and I wanted to ask
if you have had any contact with him?
BM: I haven't had any first hand dealings with Ted Patrick, although
when I was President of the Mission, I remember that I had to deal with
situations in which members of the Ashrams were abducted and
deprogrammed by Ted Patrick.
In the early years, he didn't have a very good success rate with Divine
Light Mission people. In fact, he couldn't de-programme them. He
didn't really know enough about the group at that time to be able to do
it. Recently, however, that has changed, and he has a few former Premis
working with him. He is having a very good success rate with the Divine
Light Mission Premis.
Recently, three individuals who were de-programmed by Ted Patrick within
the last three months, called me. All three of those people told me
that they felt he was not at all like the images that exist of him in
the Press. They felt that he was a very sensitive person who treated
them with a great deal of respect.
During the whole period, what he did was keep them questioning and
talking and talking, until they were finally able to use their own
reasoning to recognise what had happened to them. This would enable
them to recognise what had happened to them, and to work their way out
of the belief structure that they were trapped in.
C18: They started to listen to what they were actually saying, in other
BM: Right. By talking it out, they began to listen to what they were
saying. It helped having some former members there to point out the
things that they didn't really know, things that they had just learned
to accept by rote.
C18: That's fascinating. I was really interested in hearing whether or
not his methods were as bad as people had been portraying them.
BM: Evidently not. I guess you hear about that when he fails. When he
fails, obviously when somebody escapes or something like that, they are
going to portray it as a terrible thing, because they say they are being
In all the cases I am familiar with, the person is usually being
detained in their family's home. Some family member has arranged to get
the person there, and then they do detain them. They have to keep at it
until the person has managed to go through the whole thing and gets to
the point when they can start reasoning again.
C18: That's very interesting. In that case, I hope he has more success.
In the same vein, there is a recent book out by a man and woman who have
researched a variety of cults. It's called 'Snapping'. I was wondering
if you were familiar with that.
BM: A number of people have recommended it to me, but I haven't seen
C18: Apparently they were on the Carson show the other night. From what
I gather from their conversation, they refer to the mental process that
goes on when a person is subjected to high pressure indoctrination or
propaganda that some groups give out to new members. They say that
something actually 'snaps', that they actually do 'turn' and become
BM: I think that this is something that social philosophers and social
psychologists have talked about for a long time. In a crowd, the person
loses his individuality. In fact, their intellectual capacity is
debilitated in that situation.
If there is a systematic attempt to transform that person's thinking,
you could hypothetically say that there could be a point at which they
would 'snap' and start seeing things differently.
C18: It's good to know that the situation can at least in some cases be
reversed, as shown by the experiences of Ted Patrick.
BM: Human beings are such complex creatures. We have all kinds of
possibilities in our lives. I'm not willing to write anybody off.
C18: I was wondering if you'd mind stating your age.
BM: I'm 34. I was 26 when I got into it.
C18: That's interesting. I feel that some of these groups are appealing
to a specific kind of immaturity in people.
BM: I don't think it's just necessarily an immaturity. A lot of
grown people are immature at times. I think that everyone is
susceptible at certain times under certain circumstances. I know there
are a lot of people getting involved after the death of a loved one or
maybe a divorce.
There are all kinds of circumstances that can even affect mature
individuals, rendering them psychologically vulnerable.
DJ: Most people who will suddenly embrace religion at any point do it
because of some deep need.
BM: Maybe it's some disillusionment with what they find going on around
them. Let's face it, during the early 1970s there were a lot of people
who were disillusioned with what was going on in the predominant culture
here in the United States, as a result of the Vietnam War, Watergate and
so on. So you look for something better, and somebody offers you
something that's supposedly perfect. It's a good ploy.
C18: It's powerful. It seems like there is a tendency to revert to
something simpler. That happened to the young people in the Sixties. I
thought it was fascinating to hear your comment about the Maharaji
putting up the picture of his father and worshipping it.
BM: When he had doubts, he looked to the way it had been taught to him
C18: He looked to the situation he was in when he was young, when he had
guidance from someone stronger.
The tape ends somewhat abruptly here. I don't know whether there's
anything else after this point (Rick?).
What a great pity Mishler never got to write his book! Although this
interview is now nearly 20 years old, it provides a unique insight into
how a cult is created and its members indoctrinated. Has anyone got
anything more recent which casts further light on the personalities
behind the saintly masks?
And what's the current situation? Are his children being groomed to take
over the golden throne, just like Maharaji did following his father's
death? And what of his mother and three brothers?
Any information would be gratefully received.