I retained very little information from my high school years. I can recite the periodic table of elements OK, some of it. I can say: “Ich bin dreizehn jahre alt.” In economics, I learned let the buyer beware and in history class, power corrupts. That last one has resonated most in my adult life.
The teacher had been explaining the difference between a democracy and a dictatorship. A democracy was best, he said. Even if the government was often voted out before they could get anything done. I raised my hand and he looked absolutely stunned to see that I was a) present and b) listening. I asked if democracies were such admin-heavy hassles, wouldn’t the best system be a benign dictatorship? (Oh youthful innocence, I could actually imagine someone nice getting to the top of a totalitarian state.)
The teacher lit up and yelled out his fundamental truth. “No because... power corrupts!”
And it does. Look at any cult. One minute they’re braiding each other’s hair in the sunshine, the next rolling around naked in padded rooms whilst screaming and plotting to poison an entire town of innocent Midwesterners. I’ve seen Wild Wild Country.
The gripping Netflix documentary looks into the Rajneesh cult and how in the 1980s it turned, quite literally, septic. What transpired was evil but if you look into the teachings of its leader, Osho, many of them make perfect sense. He said: “If you love a flower, don’t pick it up. Because if you pick it up it dies and it ceases to be what you love. So if you love a flower, let it be. Love is not about possession. Love is about appreciation.”
Pure and true. But the guy ended up possessing 93 Rolls-Royces. Power corrupts.
Today we have a feature by Christchurch journalist Anke Richter, who has delved into the flaky and fascinating several times for Sunday. Anke went to Pune, where Osho’s Rajneesh movement began, to find it still thriving (financially, anyway) despite its charismatic guru being long dead.
“I want to explore the legacy of this controversial mystic at its origin, at the former ashram that attracted thousands, including a few New Zealanders,” says Anke. “One of them was self-acclaimed therapist Bert Potter, who was inspired by his months in Pune with the master to gather his own following – the beginning of Centrepoint community.”
Oh right... Bert. Enough said.