I mentioned in my post from the other day that my current read has renewed my interest in cults. Specifically, the Rajneesh cult in central Oregon in the 1980s.
I was talking about the book, Influence, with a couple of coworkers who are also reading it. In the book’s chapter on Social Proof, the Jonestown Massacre came up as an example. Jonestown and Rasjneeshpuram became a topic of conversation (this being Oregon and all). My coworker mentioned that the daughter of Leo Ryan, the U.S. Representative that was murdered at Jonestown, was a member of Rajneeshpuram. Did you know that?!? I didn’t. It is hard to find information on this – I watched a documentary on Rajneesh the other night and she was interviewed. I also found an old article in the Spokesman Review (of all places) where she denies that she is in a cult.
I am getting ahead of myself here. As you can see, this conversation sparked some interest and I began to do some research. Later that afternoon I helped a patron find a book. Guess what the name of the book was. The Rajneesh Chronicles. How serendipitous can you get?!? I mentioned that I was talking about this topic that very afternoon and joked that I would have to read the book when she was done with it. She gave me a tip that there was an older edition for sale in the Friends of the Library Bookstore. So I bought it! I started reading it that night. I learned that this cult planned to poison the water system of The Dalles, and they actually managed to follow through with a bio-terror attack on The Dalles (I actually remember this and remember being terrified by it!). This really hit close to home for me, literally. The Dalles is only a couple of hours away from where I live.
So, long story short, Rajneesh = cult-leader-murderous-bastard. That was pretty much already established in my head in the 1980s but good reminder, nonetheless.
As I was doing my research and reading the Wikipedia entry on Leo Ryan I noticed the tiniest little blurb about his daughter’s involvement with the cult:
After his death, Ryan’s daughter Shannon Jo changed her name to Jasmine and joined Osho
It is interesting that it doesn’t mention the Rajneesh Cult. Instead it says that she joined Osho, and it doesn’t say anything about Osho being a cult. However, if you click on “Osho” you will be taken to the Wikipedia entry for “Rajneesh Movement.” Links to the person Osho go to Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.
I was familiar with Osho, but didn’t know Osho was related to Rajneesh. I am familiar with Osho because I downloaded a seemingly harmless iPhone app called “Osho Zen Tarot,” which is based on a tarot deck. I bought this app awhile ago and everyday it deals out a “tarot card of the day” in which I am notified. Sometimes I read it and sometimes I don’t. I don’t take readings very seriously but am amused by them on a certain level. Sometimes these cards help give me perspective on a situation. I liked that this deck came from a zen perspective, for obvious reasons. But in the back of my mind I always wondered who this “Osho” was.
I saw the connection in the Leo Ryan article and thought, “No. They can’t be connected.” But when I did the research I found out that they are! In fact, Osho = that Rajneesh murderous cult-leader bastard! I couldn’t (and still can’t) believe it! He went back to India and reinvented himself as a zen leader and even from the grave is duping people. The Osho website is surreptitious. If you surf around the site on the surface you will think you are at a legitimate zen center site. I had to click around to find a connection to Rajneesh. I finally found it when I clicked on the Osho.tv video page. There you will find videos from Rajneesh. But the only way that you know that it is Rajneesh, cult leader extraordinaire, is if you know what he looks like.
I was so afraid of this cult when I was younger. I was very aware of what he was, and still am (hence, my lifelong interest in this). And yet, I STILL got duped in to paying for an app that came from his organization. And I even read his teachings on these cards! Everyday for nearly a year!
I am still blown away by this and am not sure what to make of it. It makes me realize how important critical thinking skills are. I am so grateful that I have a brain and that I have the capacity to use it.