Filtering thoughts about Maharaji

Joe Whalen responds to Erika Andersen's suggestion that ex-premies filter out positive information about Maharaji:-


Erika Andersen has a new article on her website entitled Filtering out the Good (November 11, 2001). It is very much in line with the themes of most of the other things she has written, namely, that those "critics" of Maharaji are focusing on "selected information," only presenting part of the story, or giving false information about Maharaji. Why do they do this? Well, Erika usually says it’s because there is something wrong with them. In earlier articles she said that they criticize Maharaji’s obscene wealth because they are filled with jealousy, in another, she says they criticize Maharaji’s ashrams because they were too spiritually immature and moved in for the wrong reasons. In this article, her theory is that it’s because they have a "filter" in their brains.

Erika says that critics of Maharaji have a "he’s-a-jerk-and-a-cult-leader filter" in their heads and hence can see Maharaji only negatively. Erika never addresses what might cause someone to get such an infirmity, but she says the "filter" causes these critics to come across as "rote, predictable and often self-righteous." But as is the pattern in her other articles, Erika never gets around to addressing, or responding to, any allegations that ex-followers have actually made about Maharaji, as opposed to those Erika fabricates herself. (See especially, her article Myth Buster dated August 8, 2001 and my response thereto for examples of Erika’s propensity to make things up). Because she will not deal with those specific allegations, predictably, she is left with only the route of attacking the people who make those "predictable and often self-righteous" criticisms. And this she does.

That one could turn her hypocritically "self-righteous" lecture on this subject back on Erika seems to have eluded her. It would be quite logical to suggest that followers of Maharaji are typical of other cult members and have extremely skewed views of Maharaji because they "filter" out all negative information about their cult leader. Further, they then engage in "rote" responses like Erika does, with self-righteous put-downs of critics as having some sort of mental defect, like she also does. Isn’t it ironic?

One also gets the impression after reading a number of Erika’s articles that she is talking to children and not teenagers either, but really young children, like seven-year-olds. She usually presents some simplistic metaphor or illustration, like comparing her marriage to the evolution of Maharaji, comparing the ashram to a tropical plant, comparing the critics’ one-sided views of Maharaji to views of her daughter as a truant and a thief, and so on.

In this article, the simplistic metaphor involves a fictional business executive named "John" whom Erika is distressed to note "thinks that most of the other senior people in his company are idiots." Because "John" steadfastly holds on to this viewpoint, Erika says he "filters" good things that those other people might do. Similarly, and I’m sure you can see this coming, Erika says that Maharaji’s critics do the same thing; they take all information about Maharaji and view it through their pre-conceived "filter," not only failing to see the positive, but also twisting it into the worst possible light.

What Erika never asks is why does "John" think those associates are "idiots?" Did " John" just make that up for no reason? Is "John" just mean, vindictive and wicked? Could it possibly be that John’s associates really are idiots? In any case, isn’t it very important to ask what interactions or experiences caused "John" to have that viewpoint, since it’s logically unlikely that he just pulled it out of thin air?

Maybe they walk into walls, or repeatedly stick their fingers into the electric pencil sharpeners, or are just very incompetent in their jobs. The point is, there are experiences "John" has had with these people that have made him have the opinions he does. Avoiding a close examination of their validity and getting to the bottom of whether they are indicative of the kind of co-workers "John" actually has, would not seem to help the situation. Just telling "John" that he has a "pre-conceived" viewpoint and to get rid of it, without analyzing whether the viewpoint is valid, would seem to be a major waste of time. Despite this obvious flaw, Erika uses this same intellectual fallacy when she talks about Maharaji’s critics. So, we get no analysis of why they think the way they do about Maharaji, just that the way they think about him is very messed up.

But regarding "John," one would also think that continued and repeated evidence of the competency of his co-workers would likely turn him around, either showing that he was wrong, or that his co-workers had changed. On the other hand, if such evidence does not arise, maybe "John" is right after all. A person does not just start out with a "pre-conceived" point of view. It takes a lot of evidence and experiences to "conceive" the viewpoint. Presumably, "John" has had a lot of experiences with his co-workers, just like ex-followers of Maharaji have had lots of experience interacting with, and observing, Maharaji, some for as many as 25 or more years.

In fact, the only situation in which overwhelming contrary information does not have this effect is, well, in cults. That’s because people in cults do what Erika Andersen does, they engage in mind control. They generalize, obfuscate, attack the person providing the contrary information, deflect, and to every extent possible, protect the cult leader from criticism, even if it means blaming themselves. Under no circumstances do they analyze the validity of the criticisms of the cult-leader that the ex-followers have.

So, Erika tells us that for some unstated reason some former followers of Maharaji have developed this "filter." The more "antagonistic" these opponents of Maharaji are, Erika diagnoses, the more they have such a "filter" (an "impermeable set of negative assumptions" no less), and the less they are able to see Maharaji clearly. She provides two examples of this phenomenon.

Example Number One: Erika says that the critics with these filters" would view the fact that Maharaji hasn’t been involved with her website, as evidence that he is "a jerk and a cult leader" for being so "heartless." If he were involved with the site they would say he was "a jerk and a cult leader" for using the site to his own advantage. According to Erika, poor Maharaji is "damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t" by such filter-infested people.

Not to be as dramatic as Erika, but this is insane. I don’t think critics of Maharaji care whether Maharaji has commented on Erika’s website, and I haven’t seen any comments, even on the Forum, one way or the other. It’s kind of a non-issue. It certainly isn’t something that’s on the high priority list of criticisms of Maharaji. One thing I will say is that I would bet hard-earned money that if Maharaji didn’t want her website up, or wanted it changed, it would be gone or changed, no doubt about it. He wouldn’t need to make a public statement either. Just a communication over "first class" or through the proper communication channels and it would be done.

Similarly, if Maharaji wanted the CAC and the other websites that members of his cult have set up to criminally attack his "critics" to be gone, they would be as well. There have been seven separate websites so far; one website remains as of the date of this writing. That site accuses me and others of committing felonies, and it includes the names of our employers. We have heard nothing whatsoever from Maharaji about this. What are we to conclude?

I think there are three possibilities: 1) He doesn’t know about them; 2) He doesn’t care one way or the other about them; or 3) He approves of them. Since I find item "1" utterly implausible, that leaves the other two, either of which reflects very negatively on Maharaji. Is this just my filter working, making it impossible for me to see the positive side of Maharaji’s inaction or tacit approval of those attack websites, or is this a legitimate conclusion? What do you think Erika? More importanly, what would an "innocent bystander" think?

Erika’s Example Number Two: Maharaji has made some changes in how he presents himself since the 70s (like closing the ashrams, dropping "Guru," no longer wearing Krishna outfits and crowns, etc.). Erika thinks Maharaji made those changes for entirely positive and altruistic reasons -- so knowledge would be more available to people. But Erika laments that the "filter-critics" see those changes as "deception" and a way to "keep people under his control" and "to make money."

Okay, fair enough, there are always two sides to any story. But we are talking about motivations and because of Maharaji’s failure to explain any of this we don’t know for sure. I tell my students that when they don’t know the full story about something they should focus on what you do know -- focus on the evidence that is available. Anyone who does that will see that it’s Erika who is doing the filtering, not Maharaji’s critics.

For example, we have the testimony of at least two former high-level people who were assistants to Maharaji at the time he closed ashrams saying that he did so for financial reasons, because the ashram premies were getting older and were more a liability than an asset. Maybe they were also an obstacle to propagation, and that was a reason as well. But Erika doesn’t seem to grasp that by "filtering" out the evidence of the other motivations, it makes it impossible for her to see why in relation to the ashrams, people criticize Maharaji as being uncaring towards his followers. Obviously, people who do not think Maharaji is worthy of being their master do not think there should still be ashrams. No, the "critics" do not criticize Maharaji for closing the ashrams; it was his motivations for doing so, and the uncaring way he did it, especially in light of how he browbeat us for years prior into being terrified of ever leaving the ashram that is the criticism.

What about getting rid of the Hindu trappings, and how the "filter-critics" view that as "cynical?" I don’t consider those changes cynical as much as I consider them superficial, because I don’t think all that much has changed. Darshan and ARTI are still happening. I watched a video of Long Beach 1997 and watched Daya and the Pwks sing "please, please, please teach me devotion" to Maharaji as he sat on stage, and how Maharaji is "pure and his love is deeper than the ocean," etc. I saw the Pwks go ape-shit when he got up and danced just like in the bad old 70s. And I can see how some would find it cynical when Maharaji, Elan Vital and Erika make it sound like those changes were deep and profound. "Devotion" is now "gratitude." "Service" is now "participation," "Word Technique" is now "Technique Number 3." So what? The basic belief system of the cult is just as intact as it was in 1973, just with some new buzzwords. Yes, the ashrams are closed and that is a positive change, because it means fewer people can be exploited and abused in that forlorn institution.

Most critics of Maharaji don’t really care that he made those changes. The criticism is that Maharaji has never taken the responsibility that one would think a "master" should, to explain, counsel, admit errors and address the real human damage he caused. Instead, he ignores, covers-up, blames others, and lies. For example, for years Maharaji claimed to be the incarnation of God, as can be substantiated in numerous quotes, and now he lies and claims he never did it.

Maharaji and Elan Vital must have the world’s worst PR people, because on the Elan Vital website there is an actual video clip of Maharaji in which he outright lies about this. The text on the Elan Vital website is also a lie. This isn’t about changing Hindu trappings. It’s very basic. It’s that Maharaji seems to have a real problem with telling the truth. A lie is a lie and no "filters" can change that one way or the other. This, in addition to his incapability of admitting he has ever committed errors, much less taking responsibility for such errors, or doing anything to correct the damage they caused, is dispositive in my view of his ever being my master. Of course, this would be important information for any "innocent bystander" also to know, and they are unlikely to get it from either Maharaji or Erika. Thank God for the critics.

To be fair, maybe partly because of our criticism, Erika courageously tries in her article to make a lunge towards a very tiny criticism of Maharaji. One can almost see Erika’s teeth clench as she says the following:

Has he made mistakes along the way? From my point of view, yes. There have been dead ends, changes that were confusing, swings of the pendulum that went too far in one direction or another. From what I can see, he has had a tendency to shift gears without acknowledging how his "shifting" might affect those trying to keep up with him.

Close, but you just can’t quite do it, can you Erika? As is typical of Erika and other cult members, if anything even slightly verges on the teeniest criticism of Maharaji, out comes the passive voice. While Erika says Maharaji "made mistakes," one waits in vain to hear what they are. Rather, she says, "there have been dead ends," and also "changes that were confusing" and there were "swings of the pendulum". These things, mild and forgivable though they may be, just sort of "happened" and weren’t really Maharaji’s fault. Hence, Maharaji should never have to talk about them, or take responsibility for them, even if, as is the case, real people were damaged in the process.

But wait. As we read on, it appears we might get an actual criticism of Maharaji out of Erika. Can it be? Erika says that Maharaji has a tendency to "shift gears" (One’s heart begins to beat faster. Will Erika actually criticize Maharaji? Oh my God. A real live cult member, criticizing the cult leader? That hasn’t happened yet!). But our hopes are dashed. Erika concludes that the problem wasn’t really Maharaji, it was that his followers couldn’t "keep up with him." Oy Vey. I give up. Oh, and Erika, for your convenience, the above is about the best example of a "rote and predictable" statement as I have ever seen.

What is the point of all this? Erika says she is concerned about all those filter-impaired critics of Maharaji, not really for herself, or for Maharaji, but because it gives those "innocent bystanders" an unbalanced view:

If someone is interested in Maharaji and Knowledge, listening only to people who see through such negative filters isn't going to give a balanced view. I would suggest listening to what Maharaji has to say about Knowledge and the Master, and to people who have been benefiting from what he's shown them. Most important, I'd suggest applying one's own filters not those that filter out the good, but those that let it …

A balanced view? Give me a break. If it weren’t for those "critics" all those innocent bystanders could find out about Maharaji is the propaganda he, his websites, and Erika’s website puts out. One of the main reasons the "critics" are speaking out on the Internet is because there is nothing approaching a "balanced view’" of Maharaji on the cult websites, in his videos, or in the Visions publications.

While admittedly not "balanced," the critics’ websites serve the function of giving the other side of the story, because, let’s face it, Please Consider This, Visions, Elan Vital and Enjoyinglife are completely censored websites, that do not even admit contrary views. I have submitted a number of dissenting views to Erika herself and she is batting 1000 in censoring every one of them from her supposedly "balanced" website. The same is true of Enjoyinglife (see the great "Nigel caper" on EPO for a description of the massive censorship that goes on at that particular cult site).

On the other hand, the ex-premie sites allow anyone, including Erika herself and her brother, both of whom have done so, to come forward and present opposing views, and counteract those awful filters. So, for Erika to self-righteously lecture us on our supposed "rote" and "predictable" explanations, when she, on her own website censors off anything she doesn’t agree with, gives new meaning to the word "jutzpah."

Joe Whalen
November 13, 2001

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