Osho and Ma Anand Sheela

About the same time I was writing the chapters of this book I was watching a Netflix mini-series called Wild, Wild Country about the spiritual ashram established by Osho (formerly known as Bhagwan Rajneesh) in the state of Oregon in the United States. This documentary was revealing because it highlighted to a remarkable degree the very problems Bailey speaks about that emerge in regards to Little Chelas (Aspirants and Probationary Disciples). Here we find many powerful people (Integrated Personalities) dissatisfied with their lives in search of a new way of living. They meet a charismatic teacher who in many ways gives them a short cut to “enlightenment” that fortunately also allows them to still make lots of money, have lots of sex, get all the pleasure they want, and becoming powerful in a spiritual guise. Though this is viewed as a “crazy wisdom” tradition, in light of what we will find in our continued understanding of spiritual life in the Bailey teachings, this is not so much a crazy wisdom, or crazy, or wise, as It is an almost predictable developmental stage of spiritual life.

Here we see a group of idealistic Aspirants following a spiritual teacher who for the most part tells them what they want to hear, that they can “have it all” and still be spiritual. We also find Probationer Disciples who by being a little more disciplined help build an ashram (spiritual center), that will be a role model of a new kind of spirituality for the world. In the ashram many of the members go through transformational experiences, mostly in the way of spiritual highs (or state experiences) as they undergo certain spiritual pratices (that we will look at more in depth later in this chapter). They also tend to seek out spiritual “short-cuts” like drugs and sex orgies to help them go into ecstatic states quickly. At the same time they also learn deeper spiritual lessons as they experience a greater sense of community, a more elevated kind of love experience, feel less lonely and isolated, and even accepted for who they are maybe for the first time in their lives.

However, we also find the typical problems many Little Chelas (Aspirants and Probationers) face of approaching spirituality in a very superficial and often escapist way. Since so many of these people are very close to the Integrated Personality stage, they engage in the predictable struggles for power, pleasure, sex, and money that are encountered in any typical business or corporation in the world. And, we see Probationers who out of love put in hours of labor into helping build the ashram and organization, while at the same time seeing themselves as “special” causing them to set themselves apart from family members, former friends and especially those in the surrounding community who are not at all part of the ashram. Eventually, the very predictable difficulties of Little Chelas emerge and cause the entire experience to both implode and explode. Disillusionment sets in. Many people leave feeling hurt and spiritually betrayed. Some feel betrayed and confused even to this day. Others do as Bailey suggest they do. They go to counselors and slowly get better. Or, they become agnostic and give up on spiritual life for awhile. Some are greatly humbled. Some are still to this day being humbled. But, all at some level are forced to become more sober and reflective causing them to mature spiritually.

What I want you to recognize here is that all of this in light of the Bailey teachings the Osho ashram example reflects very accurately the stage of the Little Chela. And, despite the difficulties and turmoil that this one example of the Osho experiment reveals, it is a very typical example of what often happens at the Aspirant and especially Probationary Discipleship level. Be it the Osho ashram, or any other ashram, monastery, nunnery, or spiritual community of any spiritual/religious persuasion if the group is at the Little Chela, Group Seven, stage of development, they will experience certain predictable developmental problems at this level. The point is though I am highlighting the Osho ashram in this part of my book, the Osho ashram is not unique. Any Group Seven ashram is likely to face the same sort of problems. The only real difference with the Osho experiment is that the Osho ashram’s problems gained more noterity because it stood out like a sore thumb culturally. It was also located in a country dedicated to the value of a “free press” where the problems the Osho ashram faced were less likely to be dismissed, justified, or covered up. If the ashram had been back in India, or been part of the Catholic church, Greek Orthodox Church, part of a Buddhist monastery, or integrated into a Muslim mosque the larger orangization around them might have hidden all their similar problems through their public relations campaigns.

Keeping this mind, I want to turn towards a problem of Probationers that was especially highlighted in the Osho documentary, that of spiritual inflation. In many ways spiritual inflation is a lot like what we see with an Integrated Personality only the egomania that can emerge in the Integrated Personality has now taken on a “spiritual” bent. As a reminder the Integrated Personality has integrated the “cleavages” or “gaps” that prevent them from getting their thoughts, feelings and physical behaviors in alignment so that they can act in a more powerful and coordinated way to get their desires met. An Integrated Personality according to Bailey has also integrated into the surrounding environment, meaning they are often skilled at knowing how to network and influence people around them. With the Aspirant and Probationary Discipleship stages then being so close to the stage of the Integrated Personality, many of the problems of the Integrated Personality still exist. These problems can then give rise to both fanaticism and a kind of “God-complex” that can make the Probationary Disciple at times an especially dangerous individual.

Bailey says, “One of the first things which happens when a man has succeeded (alone or with academic psychological aid) in healing or bridging certain cleavages is the recognition of an immediate sense of well-being and of demand for expression. This in its turn, brings its own problems among which are these: A sense of power, which makes the man, temporarily at least, selfish, dominant, sure of himself and full of arrogance. He is aware of himself as facing a larger world, a wider horizon, and greater opportunities. This larger sense can bring, therefore, serious troubles and difficulties. This type of person, under the influence of this extension of consciousness, is often beautifully motivated and actuated by the highest intentions, but only succeeds in producing inharmony in his surroundings.  These tendencies, when allowed to rule unchecked, can lead eventually to a serious state of egomania, for egomania is outstandingly a problem of integration.  All these difficulties can be obviated and offset if the man can be brought to realise himself as an integral part of a much greater whole.  His sense of values will then be adjusted and his sense of power rightly oriented” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, pp. 437—438).

In time the spiritual life will give the Probationer a better sense of values and rightly “orient” that person’s sense of power. But, until then another problem can emerge with Bailey describes as follows, “A tendency to over-emphasis may also show itself, turning the man (as a result of integration and a sense of well-being or power and capacity) into a fanatic, at any rate for a time. Again with the best motives in the world, he seeks to drive everyone the way that he has come, failing to recognise the differences in background, ray type, point in evolution, and tradition and heredity. He becomes a source of distress to himself and to his friends. A little learning can be a dangerous thing, and the cure for many ills, particularly of a psychological nature, is the recognition of this” (Esoteric Psychology, Vol. II, pp. 437—438). Before I go back to the Osho documentary I want to stress that there is a difference between Group Three, Four and Five fanaticism which is more tribal in nature and that which emerges at the level of the Group Seven. Those in Group Seven have already gone through the stage of Integrated Personality. They are likely to use their intelligence, charism and skills to head up spiritual and religious organizations. They tend to be leaders and not followers.

When we examine the Osho ashram we see then the same kind of fanatical and often blind devotion to ideals and a cause that we see in other groups. We also see the reckless way some Probationers may act, especially in regards to the main person Osho left in charge of the ashram Ma Anand Sheela. For those not familiar with what happened, the Osho Ashram got into a lot of trouble, primarily due to Osho’s neglect, but also because he put a woman named Sheela in charge who quickly became a “well-intentioned” ego-maniac.  Sheela felt increasingly threatened by the local people who lived in the small town next to the ashram. Instead of attempting to befriend them or integrate with them in a peaceful way, she and other members of the ashram resorted to power tactics in order to intimidate the locals and take over the town. Eventually this even resulted in some ashram members attempting to mass murder local people in an effort “to protect the ashram and the people in it.” Later, when Sheela felt others were becoming a threat to her connection with Osho, she even used these power and intimidation tactics on other members of the ashram even asking one ashram member to murder another ashram member. What was most interesting to me was how at the end of the documentary when they interviewed Sheela, now a much older woman living in Europe, she still firmly believed in how her attempts at mass murder were spiritually motivated and correct. Again, the Osho ashram example here is not so much a cautionary tale, as it is more of an example of what we can expect at the Probationary (and Little Chelaship) stage when it is not managed well. The power plays, the spiritual inflation, the lack of humility, the well-intentioned fanaticism, the attempt to make it seem like all of one’s actions are spiritually motivated are all problems especially beginning Probationary Disciples face. At some point, however, fortunately the inevitable disillusionment sets in followed by what often amounts to a long period of recovery. (Note: For further insights into the difficulties that happened in the Osho Ashram in Oregon watch the Wild, Wild Documentary yourself or read, What that Rajneesh Documentary Leaves Out by Matthew Remski if it is still available on the Internet. http://matthewremski.com/wordpress/what-that-rajneesh-documentary-leaves-out/).

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