93 Rolls-Royces

Sunday Star-Times - Sunday Magazine - - NEWS -

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.

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