Open letter to Dr. Ron Geaves regarding the 'Passages' video

In 2001, Visions International, the publications arm of Maharaji's organization, produced and marketed a video entitled "Passages, a Master's Journey," which purports to be a historical documentary on Maharaji and his mission in the West from 1971 to 2001. A number of ex-premies who have seen the video have noticed obvious inaccuracies and a revisionist slant in the story the video tells.

In an attempt to raise these concerns and get a response from one of the main speakers in the video, Joe Whalen sent the following letter to Dr. Ron Geaves, a senior lecturer in Religious Studies at Chester College, UK. The letter was originally sent to Dr. Geaves' published work email address, which Dr. Geaves admitted receiving, but replied that he would not respond to it at a work email account. Since Dr. Geaves would not, even after repeated requests, provide his home email address, (although he claims to have one), the letter was then sent by paper mail to his home address. In spite of repeated reminders, Dr. Geaves failed to respond to the issues raised in the letter.

The webmaster of this site then sent the letter again, inviting Dr. Geaves to respond before publishing. In spite of a reminder being sent, no responses have been received. We are publishing the letter here as the repeated attempts by Maharaji to rewrite history need to be exposed, and those who collude with Maharaji in this need to be called to account.

Dr. Geaves is welcome to respond to the
webmaster, and with his agreement, his response will be published here.

February 15th, 2002

Dear Dr. Geaves:

I hope you don’t mind this attempt to reach you by mail, but I have been unable to get your home e-mail address despite numerous attempts. I have had no luck in getting any response on this subject from Visions International or Maharaji, despite a number of emails to them. I have sent questions to Mr. Tim Gallwey who has also not responded.

I would like to correspond with you regarding your comments in a video put out in 2001 by Visions International, entitled "Passages, A Master's Journey." I was surprised to hear some of the points made in that video, and given that you appear in the video, I wondered if you might respond to my concerns. Can you tell me if you had any role in making this video other than being one of the speakers?

Just as background, I was a devotee of Guru Maharaj Ji from 1973 until 1983, and lived in his ashrams for nine of those 10 years. I held various positions in Elan Vital, including at International Headquarters in Miami Beach, Community and Ashram Coordinator in four cities in the USA and at the DECA Boeing 707 plane project.

Because of my history with Maharaji, I was interested to see this video when I heard about it. The video is currently for sale to the public on the Visions website, and is described thereon as an "historical documentary." Obviously, no opposing views are included in the video, and as you will note from my comments, I found the video to be highly revisionist and inaccurate. Other former followers of Maharaji, and even some current followers, who have seen the video, have told me they agree.

Specifically, early in the video, you state the following:

Ron Geaves: [Asking Maharaji after the luxurious residence in Chelsea was no longer available and Maharaji had to stay in an ashram in North London.] Should I get everyone to move, the 15 here [at the ashram], we can turn the whole house over to you and he said no, as long as he could have one room I'm fine. And I always think about that when people sort of make these accusations that Maharaji likes the high life and stays in, you know, always for me there was this high life on one side that we couldn't afford to keep up and then there was this house where a bunch of people who loved practicing knowledge, and love Maharaji and that's where he wanted to be, he was much happier there.

Dr. Geaves, isn't this comment highly misrepresentative of Maharaji's demonstrated love of the "high life" whenever it has been available to him? I am informed, for example, that Maharaji currently owns a $(US) 7,000,000 yacht, a number of residences around the world, fleets of luxury cars, and many other material possessions representative of the "high life," thus making comments about that much more than mere "accusations," and the overwhelming evidence of Maharaji's material interests would not appear to be diminished by this story about him at age 13. I have personally seen the way he lived 18 years ago, and it was a material "high life" that few people of my own means can even imagine. In that light, isn't this statement you make in this video bordering on intellectual dishonesty if it is used to fend off "accusations" about Maharaji's opulent lifestyle?

In addition, I doubt Maharaji ever stayed in an ashram after 1971, at least not for any length of time, and Maharaji not so much as ever set foot in any ashram I ever lived in and I never heard of him ever doing so during the time I was his devotee from 1973 until the ashrams were closed in 1983. It may be that in London in 1971 Maharaji really didn't have any other choice, but I note that a few weeks later when Maharaji was in Los Angeles, he did not request to live in an ashram, and instead remained in the upscale "residence" the premies obtained for him. Nevertheless, I have no reason to doubt that Maharaji was accepting of his living conditions at that time, but clearly when he had such choices, the record is clear that Maharaji has, indeed, invariably chosen the "high life," and there can be no rational doubt about that being the case, the evidence being overwhelming. Perhaps it was the way the video was edited that resulted in what appear to be highly deceptive comments, or "proof by absurd anecdote" on your part. Can you comment on this?

In addition, I hope you can comment on the following statements made in the same video, which I can only describe as curious if not absurd:

Narrator: By the end of the 1970s Maharaji had successfully introduced knowledge to a number of countries.... But he was becoming increasingly aware of the need to separate knowledge from its Indian cultural packaging. Too many things that are simply a part of Indian culture were considered, incorrectly, by Westerners to be an integral part of what Maharaji was offering.

Sandy Collier: We brought a lot of Indian attachments with us, you know, we thought that because knowledge came from India, that somehow we had to adapt some of the Indian things, that somehow our Western way wasn't good enough.

Bobby Hendry: The mahatmas came to give knowledge and it was a way of spreading knowledge. The ashrams then, I found, were a way of disciplining yourself, your life, to practice knowledge. Unfortunately, we held on to the Indianness (sic) of it instead of the real practice of knowledge, you know, and incorporating that properly into our lives

Glen Whittaker: [After telling a story about giving satsang at a Young Conservatives meeting.] ..and they asked how they could go further and I told them where the nearest ashram was and how there would be a meeting the next Friday. They went there but very few people turned up after that. The week after about three went and the week after none went, because they came across the white sari brigade.

Linda Pascotto: I wasn't fascinated with the whole Indian culture. That's why when I first went to hear him speak and I saw these women wearing saris, I though oh, I don't want to wear a sari. Do I have to do that to listen to him and to be in this company and receive knowledge? Because I didn't want to do that.

Ron Geaves: But Maharaji always said from the very beginning he had no intention of creating a religion and it seems to me right from day one he's resisted attempts to try and make a religion around him. It seems to me that throughout his life whenever we have attempted to build any box around him, he's always broken out of it and when he does there are those who prefer to be in the box.

Narrator: For some people the changes that needed to take place were confronting. They had become attached to a lifestyle they associated with Maharaji and knowledge that was based on Indian tradition.

Linda Pascotto: I had friends who lived in the ashram who stopped practicing when the ashrams closed, they felt betrayed, abandoned....(hard edit, cut off mid-sentence)

Joan Apter: And it was difficult and challenging for Maharaji. I'm sure it was difficult for everyone...

Tim Gallwey: He undertook the challenge to get rid of the fluff, the conceptions that might have attracted people, that in fact some people loved, more than they loved the real thing and that left people with a choice. Do I love my quote "religion," my "Maharaji religion," or do I love my actual recognition, my actual understanding of what I am seeing and experiencing. And some people said "no, I'll take my religion, thank you very much (laughs), and some said this is real enough for me that I'm gonna stay with it.

Dr. Geaves, don't you agree that the "sari" discussion is absurd on its face, especially when the discussion refers to "the end of the 1970s?" Clearly, by the end of the 1970s, Western premies were not wearing saris, and, in fact, I don't believe I ever saw a Westerner wear a sari (except for Durga Ji (Marolyn Johnson) at a couple of programs and presumably this was with Maharaji's approval), in my entire time as a premie from 1973-1983. Isn't that just a bit ridiculous as an example of "Indian culture" to which, according to this video, so many Westerners loved and were attached such that they had a difficult time parting with them as part of their "lifestyle?"

Also, taken in the context of the historical fact that Maharaji was dancing around on stages wearing Krishna garb and crowns well into the 80s, the strange theory that it was Maharaji's devotees who were "attached" to Indian and Hindu traditions, and that Maharaji himself didn't promote them extensively, that he had to work hard to eliminate them, and that people stopped practicing knowledge because he did so, all seems a bit incomprehensible, and quite frankly, a lie. Can you comment on this as well?

Your comments in the video are also used with those of Linda Pascotto, and especially Tim Gallwey, to support the proposition that when the ashrams were closed in 1983 some people so loved the ashram lifestyle that they left Maharaji as a result. Do you agree with this? Do you know of even one person for whom that was true? I have never even heard of such a person and I know quite a number of former followers of Maharaji. Do you know on what factual basis these statements were made?

Moreover, this section of the video also presents an even more generalized proposition, espoused by you and more specifically by Tim Gallwey, that some people were more interested in "the Maharaji religion" than in Maharaji or the practice of knowledge, and as a result, when Maharaji got rid of the "religion" element, or the "box," as you describe it, they found they preferred the "religion" (apparently ashrams, saris and other Indian traditions), and they stopped practicing knowledge as a result.

Speaking as someone who left Maharaji around the time the ashrams were closed, and who was by no means "attached" to that lifestyle (nor do I know anyone else who was), this simplistic generalization is not only false for the vast majority of people, it also could be seen as insulting to those people. Can you see that point of view?

And one other point: given that Maharaji has never eliminated some of the most glaring "Indian traditions" in his organization, darshan and Arti for example, isn't it a bit disingenuous to suggest that Maharaji got rid of all the Hindu trappings in the first place? As a reminder of this, I noted with amazement that an instrumental version of Arti is ironically played at the end of the Passages video.

I understand that you are a lecturer in religion, and I hope coming from that perspective that you will see the problems I am having with the historical inaccuracy in this video in which you appear. Without some other explanation provided, it appears that Maharaji and his organizations, as well as a number of followers such as yourself, have engaged in revisionism in order to explain away actual historical events, and to deflect criticisms people have of him. I hope that is not the case.

I look forward to your comments. Please feel free to respond to the above address or email me at [Email address provided].

Thank you,

Joe Whalen
San Francisco, CA, USA

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