In my sannyas darshan, Osho assigned two groups for me to do in the couple of weeks that I would be in Poona before heading to the States. The first was Tathata which was somewhat modeled on the EST trainings. The second was a group with Amitabh called Tao.
A scene from a group in Poona
The Tathata group was my first group experience. Until then I had never participated in groups so I really had no idea what to expect. Two experiences from the group have remained in my memory. The first memorable experience was one of the meditations we did, Osho’s Mandala Meditation. The first stage of the meditation is running in place for 15 minutes. You begin rather slowly and gradually increase the speed and bring your knees up as high as possible. In the group this was accompanied by the group leaders pushing you on like a couple of drill sergeants, shouting “faster, faster” and “higher, higher.” As you can easily imagine this brings up quite a bit of resistance. But the amazing thing was that there came a point when resistance just melted and the legs picked up speed and they were just running on their own. The contrast between the effort needed to fight the resistance and the resistance free running was stark.
Another exercise in the Tathata group that was quite instructive was one where we were lying on the floor with blindfolds on and the group leaders came by and laid a large snake on my naked chest. If one wants to witness fear — that is the way to do it. And you are also able to see the result of fear. The snake would react to fear, but when you let the fear go, the snake was just a cold smooth moving object in your senses. It wasn’t just the dropping of fear that was so instructional, but it was also the perceiving the fear as an object, a perception within my awareness but not my self, something separate from my self. The Tao group didn’t provide the same degree of insight. Although during one break I went out the front gate of the ashram and someone handed me a joint which I took a couple of tokes off of before heading back into the group. It was an interesting mix — the energy of the group and a couple of tokes. At one point, I suggested we sit together in a circle holding hands and just feel the love, which we did. That was the only time I was ever stoned on some substance anywhere near Osho’s presence.
When I arrived at the ashram, I had been outside of the States for three years, and very soon I realized the trip that I had been on up to that point had come to an end. Sannyas was truly the beginning of something new for me and I had no idea what that would entail, but I knew I had to return to the States and to Kansas City where I had left some friends with whom I would have to share what I had found.
In 2010 a sannyasin wrote “The Final Call” which was “a call to arms” trying to galvanize support for a movement that would counter the organization of the Osho International Meditation Resort in Pune.
Below is an excerpt of the response that I wrote. It seems even more relevant today.
My understanding is that Osho’s entire work was to wake us up out of the dream. When I heard that Osho had said to Jayesh “To you I leave you my dream”, initially I am sure that I also felt some tinge of jealousy. ‘You leave it to Jayesh!’ But then it became clear. His work was to bring us out of the dream. End the dream forever. He never suggested that we chase dreams, make goals, live with some intentions. In-tensions can only come out of the past. Dreams can only be an effort to improve upon the past and yet they are still tied to the past. My understanding is that Osho was pointing us to that unknown space where there is no past operating; where action is taken without intent but with complete awareness. So yes, Jayesh can have the dream, I’m opting for the End of all Dreams.
You speak about the “failure” of Rajneeshpuram. Failure means that the goal was not realized. Do you know what or even ‘if’ Osho had a goal? There were many after the Ranch who also felt that it had failed. Everyone who thought that we were creating some kind of ‘utopia’ felt that it had failed. They had grabbed onto the dream of future where things were going to be better than they were now. They were victims of “becoming”. Osho’s whole effort was to take us out of becoming and into “BEING”. All of the activities of the ranch were just an excuse to have us gathered together in some great mysterious energy. And you proclaim “Rajneeshpuram failed”. It certainly did not fail for Swami Anand Maitreya; It certainly did not fail for Ajit Saraswati; both of which reached their ultimate enlightenment within that Buddhafield and who knows how many more. Although I cannot testify to the degree that Maitreya and Saraswati could, I can and will say, for me, Rajneeshpuram was not a failure.
My understanding is that Osho’s work was not about a religious movement, or social movement; but rather a movement out of the collective and into individual BEINGNESS, consciousness without a second, the one true ground.
Now you want to harness sannyasins unhappiness with how things are in Pune. Now you want to be a true politician and create a movement, garnering the discontent for your cause. I hope, for your sake, that you do not proceed down that path. With every step taken it becomes increasingly difficult for you to return home. I have watched a few tread that path.
If Osho had wanted to create an organization, a collective movement, I doubt very much that he would have left his dream to Jayesh. I admit that I too was disappointed that Pune was left into his hands. But now, especially now, his wisdom becomes clear. I don’t know if Jayesh has a religious bone in his body; so, who better to ensure that Pune does not become the next Rome. Do you really believe that Osho wanted to create a new Christianity? But now we can see the jostling for position that the early Christians must have experienced. Osho said that he was dissolving into his sannyasins. Individually each is moving into their own light. We do not need a movement. We do not need to centralize the spontaneous happenings that are occurring around the globe. It is not a movement – it is life spontaneously erupting. In fact, a movement is only a distraction from the inner investigation that each of us needs to complete. It is a way to avoid, “If only Jayesh was not in power then I would be Enlightened”. Yeah, you bet. We do not need to ‘belong’ to some greater group than our own individual consciousness, because that individual consciousness Is the greater group, it is the Totality. We will not find our own fulfillment out in some movement but in our own Beingness.
So, let us not get distracted with politics or social movements or religious organization. Let us each complete the work that has been assigned. Come home to our own inner being, then whatever activities that we engage in will be right. But first we must end the tyranny of our own minds and then we will not be interested in how many people approve or how many people disapprove of our actions. Whatever psychic experiences we have experienced let them not distract us from finishing the task. Enlightenment is not a state that we come in and out of, Enlightenment is not an experience, it is not an object that we perceive. Enlightenment is Consciousness without an object.
Enlightenment is Love without an object. Enlightenment is who we BE. Our work is to become a light unto ourselves. Until we do, let our actions come out of the emerging Awareness that is awakening in each one of us individually. Whether photos of Osho are hanging in Pune or not, has nothing to do with our own BEINGNESS. Let us see that waking up out of the dream is the movement Osho left us.
Personally, I do not envy anyone who has the job of keeping the Osho Pune Resort sustainable.
We could not have kept the ashram of Poona One going and certainly not the experiment in Rajneeshpuram going without a tremendous amount of donations. It does not take a genius to realize that once Osho left the body the amount of donations coming in would have dropped precipitously. This simple fact is probably the biggest factor on the difficulty of the finances.
Not only was the management of the resort charged with the task of keeping the resort going, but also, at the same time, to keep as many of Osho’s books in publication as possible, no easy task.
I am sure that it was out of Osho’s wisdom that he made the choice of personnel that he did to see the commune into, and through, the transition.
The effort to monetize the playing of Osho’s videos would appear to be part of that effort. The sale of discourse downloads for $1.99 each seems to be an effort to find the right balance between accessibility and sustainability. To make matters even more difficult, Osho directed that the books be sold as cheaply as possible and still maintain the high quality. I might have used a different strategy to maximize the publication of Osho’s books, but then again, if I had been given the entire picture, I might have concluded that theirs was the best option available.
Another difficulty that management faces is that Osho’s books are being published by others and the income from those books is diverted to support other communes. In addition, there were sites created online in order to distribute audio and video recordings of Osho’s discourses at no cost. While I am sure that all of these efforts were made with good intentions, clearly, they undermine the sustainability project.
In addition, the sustained effort to delegitimize the resort and its management year after year, surely, has to eventually begin to take a toll financially.
And then along comes Covid-19 and suddenly the resort is forced to close its doors to any visitors for almost a year.
So now what do some of us in the sannyas community do? We complain when management tries to find ways to keep the dream alive. Rather than being supportive we are Monday morning quarterbacking. Do you think that Osho would have wanted for us to take a poll, to have a vote?
Personally, I do not have any inside information as to how they are planning to weather this financial storm, but I do truly hope that they are successful, and I am willing to say so publicly.
The management team at Osho International Mediation Resort has written this letter to clarify the current affairs. It was published on OshoNews.
And recently the following letter was posted by Rupa FitzGerald on Facebook.
FAREWELL OSHO BASHO
I have just been sent a petition to sign against the “Osho Ashram” being sold. So, I thought I would clarify what is going on from my vantage point in Pune.
The subdivision containing Basho lagoon, tennis courts etc is in the process of being sold.
The Basho subdivision was purchased and developed to Osho’s design after he had left the body and is easily separated from the rest of the resort, which functioned perfectly well without it, for years. Basho was purchased with money donated by a small number of people, none of whom have any objection to it now being sold.
My own experience of Basho is that it is now pretty much a white elephant, even in the highest point of the season it is used very little and must be extremely expensive to run. If selling it is a way to save the Trust from bankruptcy it is the way forward. IMHO.
It is clear to me that the petition is an excuse to cause ill feeling towards those currently running the Resort. I see it this way because it is factually inaccurate – only Basho is to be sold, no other area – and because a suggestion to crowdfund maintenance of the resort until a cash flow is re-established would be a much better way of keeping Basho, if that was the intention of the petition.
AS SOMEONE WHO HAS EXPERIENCED RUNNING AN OSHO MEDITATION CENTRE I AM FAMILIAR WITH THE SENSE OF OWNERSHIP THAT SOME SANNYASINS AND EX-SANNYASINS DEVELOP OVER ANY ORGANISATION THAT HAS OSHO’S NAME ON IT – HOW ENTITLED TO CRITICISE AND MAKE DEMANDS, WHILE GIVING NOTHING AT ALL THEMSELVES, EXCEPT OPINION AND RUNNING COMMENTARY.
A few weeks ago, Amido and I were camping on the bank of the New River in New River State Park, North Carolina, and in the early morning I stepped out of the tent for a sitting meditation and was surrounded by hundreds and hundreds of lightning bugs. In this show of twinkling light I realized the tremendous potential in these strange days of COVID-19.
In these times, unprecedented in our lives, we are faced with both a challenge and an opportunity for deepening our meditation.
It is a challenge for many reasons. The most obvious is that it has disrupted our routines. If we had ongoing gatherings for meditation, they have come to a standstill for the most part. And it is also a challenge because of all the distractions that this pandemic has created. We are bombarded with not just the news but also sharings from our friends giving advice and, in some cases, creating confusion as to what course of action we should take. As we get engulfed in the maelstrom of information overload, we may very well overlook the one sure way to bring some clarity and peace into our lives, which is meditation.
But this time has also presented some unique opportunities. First of all, the sheer magnitude of chaos helps remind us of the tools that we already have at hand. As sannyasins we are extremely fortunate to be more prepared than most for such a calamity. We remember the sweetness and joy of a good sit and are inspired to spend more time with our old friend, meditation.
So the suggestion that we stay at home, shelter in place, have minimal contact with others, gives us all the more opportunity to experiment, to explore our inner world. Perhaps in the past we had become accustomed to meditating with friends, in person, in groups. And now that door is not open. But even though we may not be able to go to our usual gatherings because of this pandemic, there are hundreds of opportunities that didn’t exist before but are now available. So many Zoom meditation meetings have sprung up. Many of the Osho meditation centers are offering weekly meditations online. Our local Osho Meditation Atlanta Meetup group is hosting daily meditations, and others are offering a variety of activities.
So, whatever your heart’s desire concerning meditation, music, Osho active meditation, silent sitting – all are available online. And I was surprised to discover how intimate these online meetings can be.
In our O-Meditation Sangha weekly meditation meetings on Saturdays, we have decided to focus on Osho’s The Book of Secrets (Vigyan Bhairav Tantra) and Osho’s meditation of witnessing. The meetings are approximately two hours in length with an Osho discourse and satsang meditation. It is sometimes astounding how profound the silence of here and now can reach. We have a group of regular attendees, but the meditation is open to everyone.
These are only a sampling of what is available for us to rekindle (if necessary) our lamp of meditation. It sometimes brings tears to my eyes when I hear or read our friends referring to “those good old days of Pune or Rajneeshpuram” as if the best days were behind us.
Osho has left us with the greatest gift possible, the gift of being able to come out of this chaos of the mind. And surely it is more important than ever to be able to slip out for some time every day and make contact with the heart, with the whole, with existence in its majesty. Osho has left us such a treasure trove of doors with which to enter into meditation. He created unique active meditations to jumpstart our inner journey. He gave us 80 discourses on Shiva’s 112 meditation techniques in The Book of Secrets, which contain approaches for every conceivable type of human being to enter meditation. And He simplified and made accessible the sometimes-mysterious subject of meditation into its very core, witnessing.
And, for me, the greatest door to meditation is that of witnessing, watching whatever appears, witnessing that which is. First, by watching the body, watching the activities of the body, watching with a two-pointed awareness each and every act I take – walking on the road, drinking a cup of tea, making love, being angry at a customer service representative in a foreign country, taking a shower – all without judging myself, without analyzing.
Second, I have found that by witnessing the wild gyrations of thought, watching the thoughts pass by without judging, without analyzing, without rejecting, and without grasping, I see the difference between thinking and watching thought. I experience existentially how I feel differently with thinking and with watching, and it becomes my own experience.
As I move to witnessing the heart more deeply, I can sometimes allow every mood, every feeling, every repressed emotion to expose itself without judging, without analyzing, without choosing. Watching, without choosing the ones I like and rejecting the ones I don’t, I can allow all to appear, and remain the watcher. And it is in this “seeing” without acting that the identification with my impressions begins to lessen. I don’t know about you, but I find that I forget thousands of times and find myself drawn back into the fray, but with each return my meditativeness is enhanced, and the patterns or ruts of conditioning are filled in. The washboard surface begins to be smoothed out.
Slowly, slowly as my awareness begins to dis-identify with all that it is not – body, mind, and heart – it begins to become aware of being aware, simple Awarefulness.
Recently I came across Osho saying:
Unless something becomes a crystallized experience in your life, it is going to be lost – you will have to start from the very beginning. There will be a little difference, and that will be that in your unconscious a shadow of your past life, a faraway echo – as if you have seen something – will remain. (The Golden Future, Discourse #2)
I think this includes meditation. So, we are fortunate to have this time for a reboot, a time to reenergize, to deepen. Not only do we have more time at home in which to do this, but the world around us makes the invitation to meditation even more alluring. And for many of us, this opportunity couldn’t come too soon. Years are passing by, and one by one many of our loved ones, comrades in dance and celebration, are disappearing into the night.
So, yes, we are fortunate to have a reprieve, to have this reminder and the space in which to rekindle our own individual inner lights. There are many doors with which to enter meditation, but we need to walk through them.
As I was sitting along the river watching the fireflies dance, I imagined sannyasins with their inner flames alight dancing in the darkness of the night, each with their individual lights shining. And what at first appeared as chaos, revealed itself to be a symphony, a symphony of fireflies.
May our inner flame illuminate the way
from darkness to light,
from unconsciousness to consciousness,
from becoming to being.
And from the outer body to the inner body to no body,
If you would like to join in our online meditation meetings here is the information:
Osho Dhamma and the Art of Awarefulness
O-Meditation Sangha is hosting Osho discourse, meditation and dialog weekly online meditation meetings on Saturdays from (4-6 PM EDT, New York/1-3 PM PDT, San Francisco/9-11 PM, London GMT+1). These are offered free of charge.
Meditation is both the means and the goal. It is through meditation that we come to know that which we are Not, thus leaving us free to Be, that which we Are, Conscious Awareness.
Meditation is the goal because real meditation is awareness, our own pure consciousness. We have forgotten our own nature because this consciousness has gotten lost in the world of name and form. It has become identified with the body-mind and because of this identification the body-mind has become the master. The mind is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.
Meditation is also the means to right this wrong relationship—to re-establish awareness, consciousness, as the Master. It is through the witnessing consciousness that transformation is possible. It is through the awakening of intelligence that meditation brings the transformation. This intelligence is not of the mind. It is from beyond the mind. It is the light behind the mind. Once consciousness reclaims its rightful place as the Master then everything is naturally set right.
One of the issues that sannyasins have had against the management of the Osho Meditation Resort in Pune is concerning the editing of Osho’s discourses. As anyone who was around in Poona 1 knows there has always been a certain amount of editing, basically cleaning up of grammar and syntax (arrangement of words and phrases), etc.
And as I understand it before Osho left the body he asked that names and dates be removed from the discourses. Apparently wanting the discourses not to be held down by personalities or time.
But this editing reached a new level when the beautiful U.S. edition of The Book of Wisdom (both volumes combined into one) came out with three questions from chapter six missing. Personally, I did not have any issues with the editing that preceeded this but I have to admit I was dumbfounded by this one. I could see that the questions were all concerned with sannyas but there were hundreds of questions in other discourses that did as well. So why these?
And this instance also got wrapped up into the outrage over people’s inability of sharing Osho because of copyright and then there was all of the kerfuffle concerning the Centers and the OSHO trademark. These issues I cannot speak to but I did manage to get to the bottom of The Book of Wisdom.
Yesterday for some reason out of the blue I decided to reach out to Sarito who I knew was intimately involved with the editing of Osho’s books in Pune 2 to ask her if she knew what the story was.
Actually, she was surprised to hear that there were three questions missing and at first assumed that it must have been an error, but she decided to investigate further.
What she found out was that it indeed was a mistake. Someone took the instructions about making the discourse timeless too enthusiastically. This person thought that they should remove the reference to orange and preferred seating in order to make it “contemporary” but Sarito remembers that the criteria was to be more “timeless.”
Anyway this book ended up getting published with the questions missing. But Sarito told me that after that “there was a special meeting called to clarify that there was no need to edit Osho in this way, and that henceforth if things seemed too puzzling or ‘dated’ they could be addressed with an introductory editorial note.”
And she went on to say “that the mistake was identified and resolved and that it won’t happen again.” But she also told me that “they were struggling with a surplus of inventory of the book.”
I explained that probably one of the reasons they are struggling with surplus inventory is the word had gone out that the book had been edited in this way and sannyasins were not happy about it. I also suggested that this story should be told just to clear the air on at least this issue. So here we are.
Everyone agrees that the questions should remain and will be put back into any reprints. In the meantime, how do we use up the surplus inventory? Perhaps gifts to libraries or prisons.
Through the years I have followed many discussions concerning Osho and the copyrights of his discourses. Many of these discussions have been filled with venom. And recently these discussions seemed to have reached a new level of ugliness. And a lot of this ill feeling is being stoked by those who should know better.
From 1981 to 1986 I worked with the books both on the road selling to bookstores and distributors all across the United States and Canada and also when back at the ranch in Buddhaghosha which was the department that took care of selling and warehousing all of Osho’s books. Many friends worked in this office including Swami Chaitanya Keerti, Ma Dharma Jyoti, and two of Osho’s brothers; Amit and Shailendra.
One of the jobs that was done from that office was the sending of copies of Osho’s books to the United States Copyright Office, the Library of Congress and for receiving ISBN numbers. Every one of Osho’s books was sent to be registered for copyright protection.
Interestingly enough, by law in the United States, it is not even necessary to send copies of works for copyright because they are automatically protected once they have been produced but it does add a layer of protection in case there is ever any question as to who is the holder of such copyright.
In these discussions that can be seen on the internet, there are those who claim that Osho never wanted his works to be copyright protected. But they do so only by ignoring the obvious. You can look inside every book that was produced in Poona and see Copyright, Rajneesh Foundation. Every one of the booklets that I have seen from the days before the Poona Ashram said, Copyright Jeevan Jagruti Kendra. The copyrights moved from one organization to another always following Osho. When Osho left the United States, a new organization was formed Osho International Foundation and it then became the holder of Osho’s copyrights.
One of our legal friends has argued that when the Ranch ended and the new organization O. I. F. was formed, that because it was such a chaotic time, there was a lapse in making the transfer from one entity to the other and so argues that because of this there is some doubt as to whether it was done properly. Now this may be a clever legal argument but it only highlights the fact that Osho’s works have always been copyrighted. And though, it is possible that there may have been some oversight it is clear that the intent was to transfer the copyrights. I suspect that this is the reason that someone came up with the creative idea to create a will in order to correct this lapse of filing. Now anyone can argue that this was not the most ingenious idea but personally I cannot fault anyone for trying to ensure that the copyright protection continues.
Osho never took the stand that he didn’t want any copyright as did U.G. Krishnamurti. U. G. says clearly that his words are not subject to copyright but Osho has had every one of his works printed with the words Copyright. And personally, I am grateful that he had the foresight to make sure that his words were protected. It would have been much less of an issue while he was in the body, because he could have spoken out, but once gone the only protection against any Tom, Dick or Harry writing nonsense in Osho’s name is the copyright protection.
If one wants to argue about the enforcement of copyright that is another story but to argue that Osho didn’t want his works to be under copyright protection is absurd. Clearly there is a lot of room as to how stringently to enforce. I recently saw that the producers of Wild, Wild Country and Osho International Foundation reached an agreement and that now the documentary states by permission of OIF.
As far as the trademark OSHO, there seems to be a lot of confusion. First of all, there was no trademark granted in the United States but it was upheld in Europe. And it is only the use of all caps OSHO that is trademarked. I am pretty sure that at the time of the ranch the two birds symbol was trademarked.
Now where I have objections is how the trademark law is being applied. There were trademarks while Osho was in the body but I am not aware of them ever being used to control the activities of his meditation centers. But that is a question of management style and there has always been objections to management style. In Poona people objected to the way that Deeksha operated, at the Ranch it was Sheela that was objectionable and these days of course it is the way that Jayesh operates that people find objectionable.
So, I would encourage anyone who wants to object to the workings of the Pune organization, to object honestly. It is a question of agreeing or not agreeing with management decisions and it has nothing to do with such high falutin sounding principles of “Osho never wanted any copyrights.”
Osho could not be clearer than this discourse on the need for copyright protection:
“Now there are many countries…. Just yesterday, a Korean woman was here, and she informed us that more than thirty of my books are translated into Korean, and thousands of copies are available in all the bookstalls all over the country. We have to take care of things. There are countries which are not members of the Bern Convention: they do not believe in copyright. Korea is one of those that do not believe in copyright, so they can translate any book, publish any book.
But we can at least keep an eye that the translation is done rightly, that the person who is doing the translation understands me. It is not only a question of copyright, it is a question that I should not be presented in a wrong way — which is possible. Because if they are just earning money, who cares whether the translation is right or wrong?
I informed the woman, “You send…” Because we don’t even know: it may be happening in other countries. There are many countries which are not under the copyright convention. But we can help them, we can suggest to them, ‘We don’t want any money from you, any royalty from you, but we would like you to represent every book exactly, without any distortion.‘ And in many countries we will have to take publication into our own hands.”
This offering has been pondered over, allowed to slosh around in my mind, in my interiority, and even spilled over onto a white page to be fiddled with, adjusted, and examined for tone. (Light but not pedantic!) No fight picking here, simple exploration, seeking understanding, and then deeper understanding.
When I sit of a morning, Japanese style since my knees protest the least in such a pose, fragments of thought cruise, gallop, creep seemingly through my skull! Little strips of data from last night’s TV viewing, an old memory of something that jars and gnaws and has to be forgiven and laid to rest (again and again), self-reminders to watch my breath, closely followed by some genuine breath watching, until off I go again climbing onto that endlessly spinning merry-go-round.
At a certain point, my legs suggest we have all been sitting for quite long enough. Now my legs respond very gracefully to a little wiggle, a little twitch, and we all settle down again. But then, the mind with some considerable force declares, “Let’s stand up.” At that point, I have to be really alert and not automatically follow its dictates! For, I have recently read Osho saying that we always stop “meditating” before something happens. So, I ignore my mind. Rude of course, but when someone doesn’t have your best interests at heart, is one obliged to listen carefully to their point of view and respond as your upbringing dictates?! Sorry mind. If I engage with you, I am lost, and so I turn away!
So then, I settle and yummy is the best word to describe it.
I experienced so clearly the sense of being imprisoned and constricted when I casually accepted the offer from my job some years ago to do a master’s degree. My employer would, so to speak, pay for it. I would work for them for three years after completing it. I had always wanted to do a master’s degree!
I so enjoyed the studying. I love integrating ideas, choosing just the right word, incorporating the learning and understanding into my daily work. I always knew that having to pay the piper would cause problems and, boy, did it. I found it excruciating to be locked into a work position for a specified amount of time. I may well have worked there, unconcerned, for three years, but the fact that it was written in stone, threw my mind into turmoil.
I struggled and wriggled and created much misery for myself (hopefully not others). There would be moments of seeing clearly, all misery somehow magically vanishing, but then, I would start the whole storm up again.
Slowly, slowly, I saw the relationship between the hook of my desire feeding into a whole host of consequences which I found confining. The more I wriggled and resisted, the more painful the situation proved. But, it was not really the situation causing the pain. It was the way I was choosing to experience it.
And, I, and only I, was the one who had initiated the whole conundrum. It was such a strong lesson in how to be more conscious in my choices. How an apparently simple desire can lead one on the road to great distress. This small writing emerged from that experience.
I construct With great precision Domes That imprison. Thought, concepts The ruts of repetition Form crisscrossing beams Diminishing space Compressing my spirit. I see my work I abhor it I struggle Within its confines And find I only create Further Confining structures. I seek freedom But find myself Flailing In a barrage Of constant Assembly. All effort to escape Compounds The imprisonment. In despair I stop!
On New Year’s Eve 1971 I realized that it was time for a major change in my life. For the previous 2 ½ years I had been living communally. But now it was time to leave my hippy family and venture out into the world.
Soon after the first of the year I picked up a newspaper and looked in the want ads. The only job I found that sounded interesting and possible for me to get ended up being a job selling Encyclopedias door to door. The job wasn’t described as “selling encyclopedias” it had a much more flowery description.
I went through the training, learning how to look for customers by driving around neighborhoods and finding houses with lots of toys in the back yard, easy “marks”. The only neighborhoods that we searched were less than middle class. Working people who had young families.
Of course, we were not “selling” encyclopedias we were looking for “the right” families to accept into our education program. The families had to be ones that wanted a good education for their kids, who were willing to sacrifice the cost of a pack of cigarettes a day in order to provide their children with the resources needed to succeed in life.
In order to be able to find “a lucky” family it would require many doors being slammed in my face. And so, required an inner fortitude to face continuous rejection. At the time, I was reading Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” which was one of the earliest self-help books. He described 13 principles to be mastered: desire, faith, auto-suggestion, specialized knowledge, imagination, organized planning, decision, persistence, the power of the master mind, the mystery of sex transmutation, the subconscious mind, the brain and the sixth sense. And I used to carry around a piece of paper folded in my wallet to be pulled out in those dark moments of rejection. On the paper I had drawn a picture of a boot and I would look at the boot and recite, “This is the boot my subconscious wears, this is the boot that conquers my fears. When I get my mind in a negative rut, this is the boot that gives me a swift kick in the butt.” It always managed to lighten my mood.
I did this work in Kansas City, MO; Omaha, NE; Tulsa, OK, and finally in Atlanta, GA. After some time of accepting innocent families, I could no longer continue in good conscience. After revealing my misgivings to my supervisor, he suggested that I go and pay a visit to one of the families after they had received their set of books, which I did. The husband and wife were so happy to see me and very proud of their bookshelf with the full set of encyclopedias on display. They thanked me again for “accepting” them into the program.
After that I began to train others to do the work. One step removed and the conscience was not so burdened.
On my last stop, Atlanta, I walked into the first waterbed store I had ever seen and decided in that moment I would return to Kansas City and open my own. I thought if I am going to sell, I liked the waterbed moto better, “There are two things that are better on a waterbed. And one of them is sleep.”
A couple of things that I learned from this experience:
The first and most obvious is how easy it is to manipulate people. You just have to find their “hook.” In this case it was the family wanting their children to have a better life than they had.
The second was even if someone is manipulated, because they are ignorant of the fact, for them their experience is not a bad thing.
And thirdly I learned a lot about how my mind works, and by watching its workings it lost some of its power over me.
You may wonder why I am writing this now.
Because it is so easy to see how people, and even some of my friends, are being manipulated by their own predilections, their own “hooks.” It is always based in some truth for example for the encyclopedia families, it was wanting the best for their children, for others it may be, liberty, freedom, or anti-establishment, “anti-corporatism,” socialism, or fear of the unknown.
This is how “fake news” and false information were spread in the 2016 election, the Brexit debate and again today leading up to the 2020 U.S. election. It is also at the heart of conspiracy theories being circulated. People see their hook and share without even checking the sources or information.
And the thing is, if you visit those people who have been manipulated, they will proudly display their full set of encyclopedias that they have been struggling to pay for each month.