|Journeys: Edmund (Edi) Cramp|
|Date: December 13, 1998|
An Ex-WPC-Premie’s Story
I found this web site a few months ago and felt that I had to write this - as much for my own satisfaction as anything - and also perhaps to put a few things into the record that might otherwise be lost. The following is as accurate as I can remember. I think that the dates are pretty much correct and the events are all more or less in the right order. Writing this down now it seems a lot more intense and convoluted than I remember it at the time . . .
Oxford - November 1971 - Just before my 19th birthday I moved into lodgings in Oxford, to attend the Oxford Polytechnic, and was introduced to Gillian Rosenburg by Sue Day, the daughter of the landlady and who became a good friend over many years. Gill was 16, jewish, smart and very pretty with straight dark hair and a vivacious personality. Her father was a Physics lecturer at Oxford University and her parents lived in Summertown, a very nice area of Oxford.
Sue thought I might be interested in Gill as she had just returned from London after visiting a Guru and now talked about nothing else. Sue and I had become friends and talked - she knew that I had been fascinated by India since I was a young child and briefly “dated” an Indian girl before I moved to Oxford. So, with Sues encouragement, I started seeing Gillian, and her group of friends.
Gill did indeed talk about nothing else other than Guru Maharaj Ji and had received “Knowledge” a week or so prior to my meeting her. After a few weeks I visited the London ashram with Gill and attended satsang with her. We stayed with my cousin at his rooms at the London School of Economics and returned to Oxford the next day carrying copies of various pieces of literature on Maharaj Ji and the Family.
I was doing my first year at the Architecture School at the Polytechnic and Gillian was in her final year at the local High School with exams to sit the following summer. Neither of us could afford to do anything other than return to school although Satsang at the time was advocating that everyone should leave whatever they were doing and move into Ashrams.
However, one week later on a Saturday, Gill and I returned to the London ashram and attended Satsang again throughout most of the day. In the early evening I, and about ten other people, received Knowledge from Mahatma Guru Charananda in a small room in the ashram. I was just twenty years old.
To this day I remember that evening - the look in the Mahatmas eyes and the quiet way that he talked to us about the futility of performing tricks to demonstrate ones spirituality. He seemed very tired and old yet his eyes bit into me whenever he looked at me. I knew that we were supposed to have attended Satsang for at least six months before getting the “Knowledge” and yet here I was and I didn’t even know who Maharaj Ji was a month ago. I got the Knowledge partly out of my own curiosity, and partly because I wanted to see what it was that Gill found so fascinating about this.
1972 - Gill and I started dating seriously in January of the following year, consummating the relationship in February or March. She continued to live at home and I stayed in lodgings on the other side of the city. We both continued visiting the London ashram until the Oxford ashram started up. Neither one of us could become ashram premies. We both had exams in the early summer of that year, I was still in digs and she lived with her parents. We took our exams and both did pretty badly from what I can remember. It didn’t seem too important at the time.
After her school term ended Gill left home and we both moved into a room in a shared house that she had found - with Laura and Mary, two other premies that she had met. Oddly enough, the other occupants of the house were a couple of university hippies that I had known and been hanging around with at the Polytechnic.
That summer the trip to India was announced at the local ashram and both Gill and I decided that we would go so we started saving money for it. We spent most of the summer working, me on various construction sites while the three girls worked in a Health Food shop which didn’t pay too much but provided plenty of free food for the table. When we weren’t in bed or working, we were at the ashram and by November we had saved enough money to get two tickets to India to the Hans Jayanti Festival in November.
At the festival in Delhi, we were separated from each other - the men at one end of the campground and women at the other. I rarely saw Gill except occasionally when we were queuing for meals. It was my first trip outside England and I found the difference between the drab winter countryside that I had left in England and the Delhi campground overwhelming at first. Attending Satsang and meditation became a very real escape from the pressure of the change.
After the festival we were all put into buses, with all our belongings tied on top, and driven for about 24 hours to the ashram at Dera Dun which was out in the countryside and very beautiful. I think that we stayed out there with Maharaji Ji for 7 to 10 days.
During this time I got sick with severe diarrhea and was introduced to the local Indian herbal medicine which cured each attack very effectively. I met Stuart, another premie from Oxford who taught me a lot about herbal medicine and meditation. I discovered that meditation can either cure or eradicate almost all of the symptoms of a lot of minor diseases.
After two to three weeks in India we returned to England - Gill immediately announced that she was going to become an ashram premie and within two or three weeks left for London. I did not attempt to stop her. I figured that any attempt to dissuade here would alienate her. Anyone wanting to join an ashram had to first go to the London headquarters where they would be interviewed and then assigned to an ashram. They were never sent back to the city that they came from or anywhere where they had lived before.
1973 - About three or four weeks later I got a letter from Gill saying that she was living in the Brighton ashram and so I went down to see her. She seemed very happy but somehow whenever I talked to her it seemed that she was in a different world. After visiting her a couple of times I have lost contact with her although I wonder where she went. I heard that she remained in the ashram system though the closings and continued as a premie afterwards.
I remained in Oxford, working on various construction sites and then in March I hitchhiked down to London and volunteered to join an ashram. I was interviewed by Glen and then sent to the Exeter ashram were I worked helping gather stuff for garage sales while I looked for a job. Almost everyone at the ashram was required to work in one form or another. Those who did not hold regular jobs worked collecting and organizing jumble sales (garage sales). These sales had all the appearance of casual sales to benefit a small charity but they bought in a large amount of money on a weekly business.
After about a month we were visited by someone from the London ashram who announced the formation of the World Peace Corp by Raja Ji, Maharaji Ji’s brother some time earlier. I was getting fed up with the ashram premies who seemed to be a very complacent and sleepy bunch. I left the ashram and traveled back to London to join the WPC since they seemed to be a lot more interesting than the ashram premies.
Back in London, I moved into a house in East Dulwich in South London and was immediately sent to work at nearby Dolby Corporation where I worked testing Dolby noise reduction systems. It was pretty boring work but it bought in good money, although some questions were raised when someone in the personnel department noticed that they had about six unrelated people working for them who all lived at the same address!
In fact this was just the tip of the iceberg since we actually had more than fifty people sleeping in the house at one point. Food was provided by a couple of girls, Teresa and Delia, who more or less ran the house and provided cooking, sewing and laundry services to everyone. The girls ran the house very well, the sexes were segregated and everyone seemed pretty much together. There was never much room in the WPC for any small affairs or misbehavior. Everyone seemed to realize this and worked well together.
In addition to the house the WPC had a large workshop close by (The Factory) that later became the Transport offices. This provided free support services to the DLM for anything technical or mechanical. The trucks and vans that the DLM used were serviced here and recording and video support for the larger Satsangs in London was all organized from these offices.
In July we worked at Ally Pally and I spent most of the time in the control tower working the sound system for the event. Meditation and other tricks that I’d learnt over the years came in handy as most of the crew organizing the event got perhaps two hours of sleep each day for about a week. We topped off this with meditation in the van on the way to the event and on the return journey each day.
At the end of the circus at Alexander Palace we were exhausted but learnt that we’d worked well enough that almost the entire WPC members would be sent to Houston, Texas to provide support services for the November Hans Jayanti Festival (the Millennium Festival) which was to be held outside India for the first time ever.
So once more back to work outside the house to earn money for the trip. We never saw any of the money as we handed our pay packets (we were paid in cash) to the WPC each week.
Tickets were purchased and most of the people in the house flew out to Houston a few days before the festival started and were housed at a hurriedly constructed open air camp in an industrial area in South Houston. I was assigned to help a couple of American Premies who were trying to build a laser show to write Guru Maharaj Ji’s name in the sky with a laser. It was a neat project but the control system technology wasn’t quite up to handling the project and we were soon pulled off it and assigned to help the security on the Astrodome.
Most of the security services were being coordinated with CB radios and the local Houston red necks had figured out which bands they were using and were causing quite a bit of trouble. We started pulling in all the CB radios which had separate transmit and receive crystals so we swopped them out and moved most of the radios out of the CB bands so that the transmissions couldn’t be intercepted.
The Astrodome show was fun but everyone stayed very professional and on the watch for trouble. The only incident that I recall was some locals putting sugar in the fuel tanks of all the cars at the local ashram on night.
1974 - I returned to London after the Astrodome show. The East Dulwich house was reorganized and everyone with any electronics experience was put to work opening a hi-fi shop in South London. This was an old restaurant which the WPC purchased. Most of the technical services were moved into this shop which we renovated. The downstairs was a regular commercial operation with a hi-fi repair shop above and sleeping accommodations for the staff on the top floor.
Most of the money to set this up came from one Premie who had moved down from the North (Leeds I think) who had run a similar shop before becoming a Premie. It seemed to me that he was slowly stripped of every asset that he had to support the creation of the shop. He seemed happy with this and it didn’t seem my place to wave flags. I worked with the other technicians, on a number of products, including a digital clock and metal detectors.
Then, one day a request came in from Raja Ji for some miniature radio transmitters. We built a couple of prototypes but were never told what they were to be used for. Each transmitter and microphone fitted into a box of matches, so it was pretty clear that someone was being bugged.
At this point the split between the WPC and the DLM became more open. The WPC premies looked down on the ashram premies as lazy while the WPC premies usually worked very hard. The ashram premies looked down on the WPC as a bunch of gestapo types who never meditated. We didn’t make care what the ashram premies thought of us. The WPC was basically a tool for Raja Ji to use and direct as he saw fit, and we were generally closer to the Family than any of the ashram premies.
About this time a house was rented overlooking Reigate as a retreat for Maharaji Ji and the Family as the Highgate House in North London was becoming too well known and they were having problems with the neighbors and with security.
A few of us were moved from the shop to the basement in the Reigate House to set up a “Skunk Works” where we built more miniature transmitters and microphones that were used to bug of the DLM headquarters. The DLM had purchased an old Movie Theater (I think in Brixton) and the WPC was used to renovate it. One team worked during the day, and at night another team installed microphones throughout all the offices in the building - even putting microphones in the bedrooms.
For the most part the microphones were hidden in ceiling lights and electrical outlets. All the microphones were run back to a small secret room built into the back of the projection room at the theater where someone monitored them 24 hours a day with a bank of reel-to-reel tape recorders running. The tapes were bought back to Reigate each night and transcribed for Raja Ji who would show any interesting items to Maharaj Ji.
This went on for quite a while - in the end to the point where Glen and the other people running DLM started to get very jumpy because Raja Ji and the WPC always seemed to know exactly what was going on at the DLM.
It all came to an end one day when I was doing the usual run to deliver fresh tapes and collect the day’s take. I was up in the control room when the tape operator sat up and started pulling all the tapes off the machines and said that we had to get out now. We grabbed all the tapes, went down the fire-escape at the back of the theater and piled them into a car and took off.
As we passed the front of the Theater, we saw Glen and one of the Mahatmas outside looking at all the microphone wiring on the outside of the building and following it back to the projection room.
I stayed at the Reigate House for a few more months while the storm between the DLM and the WPC rolled over our heads, and then one day in late summer I packed everything that I owned into a rucksack and just walked away from the Reigate house and never returned.
I returned to Oxford and moved in with some old friends there and quickly found a job on the construction sites to pay the bills while I started to rebuild my life. I attended Hatha Yoga classes at the local further education centers in Oxford and started getting involved with human relationships again. I had always been friendly with Gills younger sister and the two of us formed a very solid platonic friendship based that lasted for several years. She had little interest in “dating” anyone and I was definitely not ready to get emotionally or sexually involved for a couple of years. Time and good friends heal a lot of things.
Since then I’ve moved to the USA and have lived here now for more than twenty years - working with computers and medical electronics for the most part. I am happy with my life. I have learned to accept the things I can not change and history is one of those. I still meditate but haven’t met a premie in about fifteen years. Until I found the ex-premies.org website I had no idea what had happened to the DLM or Maharaj Ji, although I had heard about the ashram closings shortly after it occurred.
One of the perpetual criticisms that was leveled at the WPC was that we were not real devotees because we did not meditate. I can’t talk for every WPC member, but everyone that I knew spent time meditating or trying to meditate. However, it was always an “as time and work permits” and everyone worked very hard. Anyone who didn’t want to work was welcome to return to an ashram. I don’t remember any of the WPC members being the regular ashram types, most of them were highly motivated individuals - although they may, like me, have been lacking a direction before they joined the WPC.
Whether a conscious decision or not, the WPC was a vehicle to keep people in the ashram system who would otherwise have left the organization. But, as far as Knowledge and Meditation went, I know that there were many nights when I did my meditation and fell asleep. Many of the people in the WPC house worked 16 to 18 hour days for long periods when there was something that needed to be done - whether for Raja Ji or Maharaj Ji. Meditation while you worked was encouraged. Meditation simply for show was not. With the exception of very occasional visits to Oxford to see friends (who I kept throughout the whole period) and my parents in Rugby, I worked full-time for the WPC for about three years.
It was always my feeling that Maharaj Ji lost control of the organization after the DLM took control in England and the whole thing started to resemble something out of Lord of the Rings. Some of the mahatmas and the organizers behind the DLM seemed to have totally lost touch with the premies in the streets and the ashrams and to have become gray people.
I was never personally worried about the differences between my life and that of the Family - even though, at times in Reigate, only a few feet separated us. It seemed irrelevant at the time and largely still does. I don’t have any message for anyone involved in the current incarnation of the DLM other than, if you remember me then you’re welcome to get in touch if you want too but I won’t be offended if you don’t.
I regret nothing and if I had my time over again I am not sure that I would change anything. But I have no desire, or need, to repeat the time again. I still meditate whenever I need to. I breathe, laugh, cry and joke as the situation suits.
My wife is a united Methodist and so we attend church on sundays and I am happy to join in. My daughter was baptized in church, and I was happy and proud to stand in front of the congregation. I don’t have a problem with any conflicts over what I believe, or disbelieve, in.
Nowadays I try to be an ordinary man, older and wiser (perhaps). I am no longer looking for the Truth. I think that I found it in an old mans eyes in a small room in London all those years ago. But I still can’t describe it.
Jai satchitananda - what a long strange trip it’s been.