A few days ago I watched the fantastically well-made new Netflix documentary series Wild, Wild Country about the Rajneesh story and how it ended, and it’s one of those ‘You couldn’t make this up’ tales that seems utterly unbelievable and yet it happened: a clash between Christian Conservative America and blissed-out nude-sunbathing meditators that ends in bombing and bio-terrorism. It’s a fascinating study in the extraordinary ability we seem to have to not see one another’s point of view, to justify our own behaviour however outlandish, and the incredible egotism and narcissistic pride that can exist amongst followers of a spirituality that seeks to transcend ego, and is sincerely trying to build a greener, more caring world.
Most of the crazy guru stuff happened amongst my generation – the baby-boomers, and what a marvellous time some of us had. I think it was the Rajneesh lawyer featured in the series, who was a guest at one of the most sensuous and delightful dinner parties I’ve ever attended – at the Prana Centre in the Coromandel, New Zealand, ten or so years ago. After chatting about many of the events that are depicted in the film, we swam in a palm-fringed heated ‘Watsui’ pool, as Pink Floyd played through underwater speakers and the southern stars sparkled high above us.
Now that was just sheer fun, but why was my fun-loving generation so stupid? Wasn’t the fact that Rajneesh had 20 Rolls Royces a clue that something was amiss? And that everyone was wearing uniform – the obligatory orange that became maroon?
It all seems so obviously wrong in hindsight, but I think there was a development, an evolution going on, and I don’t think people are so easily misled these days (do tell me if you think I’m wrong!) Just before watching the series I heard a great TED talk by a young woman trying to create solutions to the pandemic of loneliness. And when I look around at what is happening now – the cutting edge, what the younger generation are doing – I see such a passionate commitment to tackling social and environmental problems. There’s an acceptance of the need for self-care, of the value of meditation, yoga, wholesome food – a broad SBNR (Spiritual But Not Religious) approach – but it isn’t as obsessively focussed on the Self as was my generation at their age.
So there’s hope I reckon! I know this is a gross over-simplification, but I’d be interested to know if you agree, or if you think I’m kidding myself and have a different take on things.
Meanwhile here’s the trailer for the series I mentioned: