|Journeys: Marianne Bachers|
|Date: April 4, 1999|
|I received Knowledge on November 26, 1972, from Mahatma Rajeshwaranand at the Grand Rapids, Michigan ashram. I
was 16 years old. My big brother Neil had received Knowledge a month earlier and told me that the premies were
the people we had been looking for in our spiritual search. I was given Knowledge three days after my first satsang
in Kalamazoo. I was living with my parents in a rural area just outside the city. I had been heavily involved in
drugs, had been arrested 3 times, and was attending alternative high school because I was not welcome at my public
Mahatma Rajeshwaranand was kind & gentle to me & seemed to recognize the depths of my emotional needs. I was blown away that he chose me for Knowledge when there were much older people who had been following him around for months trying to convince him that they were ready, and he was still saying no to them.
This was during the times when the mahatmas were asking, "Would you cut your arm off for GMJ? Would you cut your hair for GMJ? Would you leave your wife (& kids) for GMJ?" Hesitation in the face of these questions meant you would not be chosen. I remember aspirants saying that they had cut their hair, or fulfilled some other suggestion a mahatma had made in order to prove they were worthy, only to be met with another demand to prove their devotion. I remember thinking that the increasing demands seemed cruel and that the aspirants were sometimes humiliated. On the other hand, the fact that I had so quickly been identified as a "chosen one" gave me a feeling of specialness that I desperately needed at that point in my life.
I became involved with the premie community in Kalamazoo, then based at Summit Street ashram. The premies there were wonderful. George was the General Secretary and Carol was the housemother. I think that Brad lived there then too. It wasn't heavy or full of trips, just full of love. They taught me how to become a vegetarian. Satsang was inspriational, not judgmental.
The ashram closed and the premies there went to the cities -- Chicago and Detroit, for reasons I can't recall. A bunch of us moved in together at a house on Dutton Street, in Kalamazoo, in April, 1973. We decided to say we were a premie house, so that there was a place for satsang a few times a week for the growing premie community, which included alot of our friends. It was loose and not regimented. We got along well and were happy. We went to programs in Detroit and Chicago to see mahatmas and to do service.
I went to Guru Puja in London in the summer of 1973 with 3 others from the house. It was the first time I saw GMJ. The conditions at the campsite were pretty awful. I spent part of one day with my friend Nani and 2 Chicago premies travelling around London trying to find some public showers. Even though GMJ seemed so distant, I got darshan for the first time, a magical event.
When we came back from London, the whole focus of our existence became the Millenium festivites in Houston in November. We spent alot of time in Detroit doing service. I was at the event in Detroit when GMJ was given the key to the city. I was 3 rows from the front. I remember 3 people in the rows in front of me who had a huge bunch of flowers they were holding. They told some of the premies that they wanted to give them to GMJ.
After GMJ was given the key by the Mayor of Detroit, one of the guys threw the flowers on the floor, ran up to GMJ, and hit him smack in the face with a pie. Everyone in the room was stunned into silence and inaction. The pie thrower ran out with his friends. I thought it was kind of funny, but the WPC folks who were supposed to be GMJ's guards were mortified. They had allowed the Lord of the Universe to be hit with a pie. The head of WPC in Detroit at that time was a very close friend of mine (Dean). He was shattered that he had let GMJ down.
Elsewhere in the Journeys entries the repercussions of the pie incident are discussed. Mahatma Fakiranand took one of the ashram premies and beat the pie thrower with a hammer. He was a reporter for an underground Detroit paper and had been really critical of DLM. The pie thrower did not die as the other entry suggests, but he was at death's door. Fakiranand did go back to India. I don't think anything happened to the premie.
I can tell you that the Detroit premie community, and the other close premie communities, were devastated by this event. I was at the main ashram very soon after the assault and the premies were just reeling from what had happened. No one supported it and everyone wondered how a mahatma could commit such a violent act --- wasn't this precipitated by the "mind"? This incident was one that created doubt in lots of minds. It was suppressed in other premie communities.
With the intense push to go to and raise $ for Millineium, Richard Royal, the general secretary in Detroit, came to Kalamazoo and urged us to start an ashram. We decided to do it. A number of other premies wanted to join an ashram, so we found a derelict former frat house at 305 Stuart Street in Kalamazoo, renovated it and became the Kalamazoo ashram, in August or September 1973. We now followed ashram discipline --- arti and one hour meditation at 6 am, satsang from 7:30 til 9:30 pm, followed by arti, and one hour meditation. We went off to jobs during the day and donated all our money to the ashram.
I looked forward to Milleniun with anticipation. We were told that the Astrodome was going to take off from earth and that if you weren't there, you would die. I believed this and called friends to try to get them to come to the festival, and told them why. I am still teased by friends to this day about those phone calls.
I went on SoulRush, the cross country bus trip from Boston to Houston, which was designed to publicize the festival. I met premies from all over the US. It was an inspiring, if exhausting, event. I remember that there were protest demonstrations against us in one city, where people carried signs saying we were the devil, and crosses saying that Jesus died for our sins. It was creepy.
Millenium was not as advertised. I also worked in a very low level assignment (selling And It Is Divine) and missed a good deal of the program. I remember the premies all being tired and sort of shell shocked. Where was the grand transformation we had been led to expect? It was a grand disappointment instead.
It really affected all of us in the Kalamazoo ashram. When we all got back home, we all felt misled and deceived. We dropped acid together. That seemed to be the only appropriate response to the events.
Denver assigned someone to come to Kalamazoo to be our general secretary. I bear substantial responsibility for this happening because I told them we wanted it. They sent Bill Patterson, who was completely ill suited to all of us. I have regretted my role in his arrival ever since. He came in late November or early December 1973.
Most of us had family in the area and we were accustomed to having contact with them on a regular basis. None of them were happy about our involvement in DLM, but we tried to maintain communication. Bill announced that anyone who went home to visit family on Christmas would have to leave the ashram. This included any sort of visit whatsoever.
I was 17 at the time. In March, my father had committed suicide. I had 4 brothers, all of whom lived far away and would not be in Michigan for Christmas. It would be my mother's first Christmas after my father's tragic death, and she would be alone. I did not want to leave the ashram. I begged, pleaded, cajoled, cried to Bill to let me visit my mother on Christmas, and he refused to budge in his position. I did not go home (a ten minute drive away from the ashram), and hated myself for it. I am still ashamed that I did not go to my mother when she really needed me. 4 of my closest friends did go home and left the ashram. They were thoroughly fed up with Bill's militaristic approach to ashram life.
I moved to the Columbus, Ohio ashram in February, 1974, after Mahatma Vijayanand came to visit in Kalamazoo. He felt I needed to move away and arranged for me to be sent to Columbus. I moved to the Dennison Street ashram just days before my 18th birthday. Dennison was wonderful and so were the premies. It was a loving community and a good family for me. There was Mathew, the house jester, who made faces at me while we ate (in slience), and made me erupt in laughter. No one minded or criticized it --- it was about love and appreciation of each other. I became very close to my roommates, Kris and Karen.
We decided to consoliate the two ashrams and moved into a big renovated house on Broad Street in Columbus. Naomi and Aime were our housemoms and Carl was the general secretary. Greg handled money.
Things started coming unglued in the late spring of '74 when GMJ got married out of the blue. Everyone in the ashram started falling in love with each other. It was very natural and grew out of knowing the best and worst about one another. We evolved into a premie house (with couples living in closets for privacy!) and started thinking about new directions in our lives.
I convinced my roommates, Kris and Karen, to move across the country with me to attend New College of California, an alternative humanities college, in Sausalito, CA. We drove across the country together that summer, staying at premie houses along the way, or camping. I remember being in Denver in August, and seeing the Rocky Mountain News with the headline "NIXON RESIGNS!", and being thrilled. I had my feet back in the world again.
We ended up in a 2 bedroom apartment in Mill Valley, CA, with a view of Mt. Tamalpais out our window. I moved into San Francisco to a premie house in the fall of '74. The San Francisco premie community was also quite wonderful, full of quirky people from all over the world.
In 1975, as part of college, I began working with inmates in the jails in San Francisco. I loved my job (with VISTA) because I felt that I might make a difference for someone. Working at the jail brought me to the realization that GMJ was not interested in bringing everyone to Knowledge. Being in prison among poor people also made me critical of all the money that was going to luxuries for GMJ that could be making a real difference in the lives of desperately poor people. When I lived in the ashram and gave up all my money, I remember having to fight to get some new underwear...
These contrasts made me decide to leave DLM. It was hard emotionally to separate myself at first, but I was evolving in my view of the world and my place in it. It was the right choice to leave at that time. DLM was a good thing for me while I was involved in it. The disciplne, spiritual practice and premie families helped me through difficult times in my life. When the time was right to move beyond, I did. I still have many friends from my ashram days, and I love them.
I went to law school in 1976. After I graduated, my first trial (as the junior co-counsel) was the defense of Larry Layton in federal court in San Francisco. He was the only person charged in the US for the events surrounding the murder of Congressman Leo Ryan and the mass suicide led by Jim Jones in Jonestown, Guyana. I was hired to work on the case because of my direct experience with cults. If anyone wants to hear more about this, e-mail me. It is too long a topic to attach to an already lengthy note.
Today, I defend people on death row in California. I hope all my old friends are well and happy.