By now you’ve probably heard of the Wild Wild Country documentary series that premiered on Netflix on March 16th.
It tells the incredible story of the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his followers founding a commune, Rajneeshpuram, in rural Oregon in the early 1980s. Remarkably, the commune grew into a movement, attracting thousands of people from around the world inspired by the promise of a new kind of society.
The movement also drew controversy, with significant figures ending up being charged with terrorism and jailed for immigration fraud and attempted murder.
The documentary series is entertaining to watch. However, there is very little exploration of Osho’s philosophy that caused so many thousands of people to come together to create a new way of living in Oregon. It was a revolutionary project and the residents seemed to sincerely hope their ways of thinking would spread around the world.
We therefore decided to talk with two people who were attracted to Osho’s ideas and spent significant amounts of time living at the commune.
The full video is below along with a transcript. Our hope is that others will be able to take the discussion further by building upon the ideas discussion here.
Before turning to the video and transcript, we’ll first share the back story to creating the video.
Wild Wild Country’s failure to portray Osho’s key ideas
Wild Wild Country is truly stunning to watch. If you haven’t yet seen it, check out the trailer below.
Yet while watching the documentary series, I couldn’t help but think that it didn’t give justice to the many thousands of people who moved to Oregon to create a new way of living. They did this based on the philosophy Osho was articulating in his sermons and felt these ideas were more appropriate for modern day society.
I then came across the beautiful short video below by Suzanne Taylor from Sue Speaks. She was at the commune and expressed remorse at the lack of focus on Osho’s philosophy in the documentary series.
I reached out to Suzanne to discuss this issue, and she invited Pennell Rock into the discussion. Pennell was also living at the commune and is a lecturer in philosophy and comparative religions, so he was the perfect person to join us for this discussion.
The result is the video discussion below.
You can watch it in full or go through the transcript below it, which is separated into sections to help the reader move through it.
What did Wild Wild Country miss about Osho’s philosophy? (VIDEO)
Here are the sections covered. Click the link below to be taken to that section in the transcript, or go to the time stamp for that section in the video below.
- Introductions (00:00:20)
- You can’t transcend sex by being a good Christian (09:47.06)
- What if women ruled the world? (14:17.10)
- Why were so many people in thrall in Osho’s presence? (17:00.14)
- The Lord of the Night was not a paragon (21:47.05)
- A sermon on the word “fuck” (24:40.04)
- Spiritual groups have a tendency towards fascism (28:06.03)
- The paradox of a guru’s power: freedom vs submission (32:19.02)
- When fascism started to get out of control (38:08.17)
- Recognize the fascist within you (40:15.18)
- Will Osho become the next great religious figure? (46:19.27)
- Was Osho consciously provoking or did he lose control? (49:58.28)
Justin Brown: 00:00.20 Welcome to this Ideapod discussion on Wild Wild country and I am really lucky to be here with Suzanne and Pennell. The way this is happening is that Suzanne is an Ideapod prime member – she’s been around Ideapod for a while. I saw quite a random little video clip pop up on my Facebook page where Suzanne is talking about the Wild Wild country recent documentary series. It’s come out on Netflix which is a roaring success and the documentary series is about a gentleman named Osho or at least he renamed himself Osho since that time. He went to Oregon and created an ashram, moving across from India. It looks like it started something of a revolution in human thought and human action and the community of believers and supporters and very inspired people got together and created a town. There’s so much beauty and inspiration in that town and yet at the same time, as we learned in the documentary series, it looks like there were charges of terrorism, immigration fraud and attempted murder. There’s just so much drama in there and in the video by Suzanne, she was saying “well, you know, it’s fascinating to learn of all the events that happened but there really wasn’t much focus on the philosophy behind and on what people really believed” or what Osho helped people to learn about themselves, on each other, on the world and their connection to universe and everything going on. So Suzanne has organized this wonderful discussion here with herself – and I’ll introduce you in just a moment and Pennell, who were both there and very, you know, kept parts of this movement so this is the chance for us to go a little deep into these philosophies and ideas behind what was really going. So I will just introduce you both very briefly. Suzanne here produces stimulating events, projects and experiences for sophisticated audiences with a visionary voice that challenges the status quo and helps people feel inspired forward a collective vision. Her current project is a website to generate a conversation as if our lives depend on it www.SueSpeaks.org and
Suzanne Taylor: 02:23.21 sounds like you doesn’t it, Justin?
Justin Brown: 02:25.28 Yeah, well I think we’re all very aligned. When I read this bio of Pennell, I think that we’ve got a lot in common. Although I don’t claim to have the amazing experience that Pennell has with his academic institutions. Pennell began his professional career as a child actor appearing on television or in theaters on the East Coast and he was educated in Philosophy and Comparative Religions at Yale, Harvard, the Sorbonne, and King’s College. He has had academic appointments at the Jung Institute in Zurich but now he’s at the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara. Thank you both for joining us in this discussion.
Pennell Rock: 03:11.28 We’re here.
Justin Brown: 03:14.13 We’re really happy so I guess if you could just start Suzanne, could you share a bit of the context for this discussion and why you feel it’s important.
Suzanne Taylor: 03:24.21 Well, all of my friends were Sannyasins with Osho. Now, you said he started the movement but he was kinda the end of the movement. That was the time when everybody had a guru and there were gurus from India, there were local gurus but it was a very big guru time. The biggest, best, most dramatic of all was Rajneesh and virtually all my friends were members. I was not and the little video you found was me speaking about the one weekend when I was flown out there because they were recruiting for movers and shakers and I’m a “mover and shaker”! So I got flown up on the private plane for a weekend at Rajneesh’s forum. Well, you would’ve thought I could’ve spoken about it that way. But the reason I made the video is because it was a quite a humorous-not-so-funny-at-the-time kind of a death sentence to a bit of hell because the situation was deteriorating at the time. I don’t know why they were still recruiting because they really were in a lot of difficulty at the time and I kind of arrived from my weekend in the middle of things.
Justin Brown: 05:01.14 Absolutely.
Suzanne Taylor: 05:01.29 Speak about it so I won’t repeat it here but when you then found that and you said “Oh, c’mon let’s talk about it!”, I said “No, I’m not the expert but I have the expert!” Now, I have a more expert person in terms of how long Pennell was with Osho Rajneesh where he started with them. He will tell you when he was in the living room with just a few people and he was very intense, high-minded and elevated and my friend Pennell likes that a lot. Rightly so. He’s very scholarly and smart and was with it all along. He’ll then speak about his opinions about how it changed and what happened to it but he’s gonna be your main person because he’s the one who really was watching it from the beginning intelligently — from the inside. I’m just a little minor observer so Pennell, over to you.
Justin Brown: 06:05.14 Yeah, maybe you could just give us some context. How did you find yourself there by Osho’s side within this community and what’s the background to that?
Pennell Rock: 06:19.16 Well, I already was very much involved in a mystery school which is Arika and I was very much involved in that. I was not interested at all in any other teachers. While I was making a trip to India, where I had once lived for quite a number of years, people kept pressing articles by this new master in India into my hands. A lot of it had to do with sex! Now, one of my basic criteria for dealing with a teacher is if they don’t talk turkey about sex, I don’t talk turkey to them. It is because sex is the great conundrum of the spiritual life. So, it’s like a doorway to me – if you can’t talk really intelligently about sex then I’m not interested. Well, I found him really amazing. Not only not shying from it but very, very clear and upfront about it and so I said “well, I have to go and see this.” And so I went to him and I fell in the thrall of his brilliant mind and his beautiful presentation. I was there early enough to have something of a personal relationship with him in which he really addressed every major existential issue in my life. I had a wonderful time with him. I did not fall in love with him like most people did, I have to say, but I truly was in love with this mind. I thought he was the most, I still think he was the most brilliant person I’ve ever had contact with.
Suzanne Taylor: 08:10.27 One more thing, I could not quite understand why all of my friends were just so drawn to this person who didn’t really draw me. I had respect for him. I thought he was quite intelligent but I didn’t feel that kind of “oh, I gotta be with this person!”. But one of my very successful, sophisticated, intelligent, rich friends said to me “Suzanne, you’re missing the best party in town!”. So people are really having a good time which you wouldn’t have known so much watching that documentary. I think that kinda picked up somewhat after those years.
Pennell Rock: 09:01.03 Wait a minute, those years were in India?
Suzanne Taylor: 09:03.18 Yeah
Pennell Rock: 09:04.06 The first six years that I was with him in India had nothing to do with what was going on in Oregon.
Justin Brown: 09:11.06 The question I’ve got Pennell, you mentioned that sex is one of the great mysteries or the great paradoxes of our spiritual development. Can you explain what you mean by that? So that the people viewing this video can start to understand the brilliance of Osho’s mind and his ability to tackle these existential issues and help people like yourself to really achieve some sort of enlightenment on these issues. How did Osho help you come to a new understanding of the role of sex in your own life or the human species?
You can’t transcend sex by being a good Christian
Pennell Rock: 09:47.06 I just want to broaden that a little bit because why did people love him so much and why were people so drawn to him? You see them jumping around but you don’t know why. So, now your organization called Ideapod and your mission is to find a new approach to life. We were all looking for that. In the 50’s and 60’s, we grew up in this sort of boring, organized reality that many of us felt like we were smothered in it. We were desperate to find a whole new way of doing things and sexuality was just a part of it. But certainly, our generation did everything differently. The “vanguard” went to India because we had the belief that the new approach have something to do with the ancient wisdom of India. So we all flocked over there and we were tired of the morality we were brought up with and we were tired of feeling repressed. We all were like that time and this was a place where the greatest things of life were really celebrated and loved and lived out. He helped everyone there to let go of their resistances to a very full life and vitality. The commune was luscious, it was fun and it was dangerous because he was on everybody to break down their resistance to bliss, basically. So sex is right in there in that whole thing because sex is the way our body expresses its bliss and he wanted to free us. He said that you can’t transcend sex by being a good Christian boy or by being any kind of good anything. You have to live out what your vitality is and if you really live it fully, gradually like a ripe fruit, it will fall from the tree and you have transcended it. But that’s very different from not doing it.
Pennell Rock: 12:26.06 I am still waiting for my fruit to drop.We’re having a good time.
Justin Brown: 12:35.06 Is that something that was really important for the commune? When people came together in India or in Oregon, were the people really committed to exploring themselves sexually and being very open and free about it?
Pennell Rock: 12:45.26 Yes and it was quite different in India and Oregon. It was very different. I really loved that one and I spent a lot of time in India and sexuality was very, very much explored. For instance, in my life, I had developed a connection with a man. In the course of my early years with Rajneesh, I came into a relationship with a woman who became Hasya. She was the person who took over from Sheela and Osho said when you come together, I will show you how to squeeze all the juice out of this fruit and he did! We had a full on relationship that was full of drama and stringmandrang. We lived it all out and he helped us to remain aware and many, many beautiful things came out of that but unfortunately, Hasya and the second phase in Oregon, Hasya became more enthralled with the power she was gaining. We moved apart because she became more involved in the power structure and I was kinda repelled by it. Anyway, that’s how it happened.
What if women ruled the world?
Justin Brown: 14:17.10 You’ve touched quite a number of things that I do really wanna flesh out. One of them is certainly the power structure and the breakdown of what happened there in helping people. There’s a lot to do with power and organizational power – with what Sheela has done with factions and everything like this.
Pennell Rock: 14:37.28 That was in Oregon, that was not in India. Before that was really very different. In Oregon, it did change tremendously. One of the things I wanted to point out is that there were several things about the series I felt that didn’t portray things accurately. One is what we’re basically addressing ‘why did people love him so much?’ The second one was this great experiment designed by Osho. He was called Rajneesh then. Rajneesh, by the way, is the name of a full moon. It’s the ruler of the night so I thought of him as the ruler of the night and his great experiment was, and it was a dream of mine, “what if women could run the world? wouldn’t the world be a better place?”. So, women ran Rajneesh Puram from the very beginning. The head were called the “Ma” like “Ma Sheela” and Ma Sheela was the head. I leave it to you to ask a question what happens with women running the world.
Suzanne Taylor: 15:44.18 No, it was just a cup of women.
Pennell Rock: 15:52.14 That was the experiment and the men were just sort of drones. So as I say, I really didn’t participate in Oregon very much about the new commune in the old. He said that it’s going to be full of artists who were creative and do their arts to express my teaching in the world. What happened in Oregon, we built a city in and everybody was turned into a drone! People loved being a drone, I didn’t. I have to say that Osho himself, at one point, was asked “What would you do if you were in this commune?” and he said “I ‘d run away as fast as I possibly could” and that’s basically what I did. So, I was truly following the master but I wasn’t doing what was happening.
Suzanne Taylor: 17:04.29 What was going on with this funny picture. You’re getting a funny picture of Pennell where he freezes?
Why were so many people in thrall in Osho’s presence?
Justin Brown: 17:00.14 Yeah, I’ve got a message sayingthat Pennell’s bandwidth is quite low but the voice is still coming through. It looks like it’s recovered. The technology here is pretty good so I think that it’s gonna keep on recording and come through. We’ll definitely push on. I guess, my question is I understand that Osho had an incredible mind. So much clarity and stability to give the most phenomenal sermons spontaneously without notes. That must have been so inspiring to be in his presence but when I looked at the documentary, I see people almost shaking with awe in his presence as though it’s this transcendent experience just to be around his aura. Pennell, can you, and maybe Suzanne as well, can you tell us about that? How is it that another human being, though human beings are very fallible as well just like all of us, why he would react that way around a human?
Pennell Rock: 18:07.02 Okay, let’s see if I can hold on to all the thoughts that came up when you talked about this. First of all, it wasn’t. There was another element that you did not talk about. He was a PhD in Psychology and he was a master of all the great scriptures and all the great religious writings in the world. What he would do in his discourse is he would take one of those and for a month, go through line by line of the scripture and bring it right down home into your here now existence. That was his brilliance so that was certainly one of the elements of it. But, people project. There’s such a thing as a guru projection – it’s an archetype. A guru is the “knower” of the truth and we all have it as a potential inside of us. We project it on whoever we tend to project that on. Well, he was a fabulous projection. He was like a blind screen and you could project the whole thing on him and people did project on him. So, he became their inner teacher that’s called the sacguru. He became the embodiment of that and now you said, people were shaking. Well, there were two things. He gave these Darshans earlier on in India after he stopped speaking so much. He gave what he called “energy darshans” and people and women in his presence would be in ecstasy. He would touch the person’s forehead and you’d get this energy so that was like “shaktipot” or shakti energy. Many people responded to that in a very physical way and they’d go into this sort of ecstatic things. Now, that’s one form of the shaking. In Oregon, he used to do things called drive-bys and he would drive in one of his Rolls Royce’s through that little town. People would stand on the side and you would shake and jump up and down as Rajneesh went by. So that was a kind of an institutional thing that you did. I wasn’t really into all of that, I never did really get an energy darshan that much. It’s just not the way I responded to him. Many, many people did and they were completely into it and completely in the thrall of it. It’s just not the wavelength that I responded on.
Suzanne Taylor: 20:52.17 But do you know it was an earlier era? Really everyone was learning about this thing called spirituality or god within and we were naive. All those gurus were teaching us this. You know in some ways, it was a little bit crazy. Everybody was sublimating and following and worshipping. The demise of Rajneesh as the biggest and best of them all kind of ended that era. So, it was just so much to introduce it but he ended it by this thing falling apart. It just lost all kind of all its juice, all the energy kinda ran away from those people.
Pennell Rock: 21:45.10 In America.
Suzanne Taylor: 21:46.08 Oh yeah, I don’t know what’s going on.
The Lord of the Night was not a paragon
Pennell Rock: 21:47.05 Well, the rest of the world is different. Europe had its own way and Asia has had its own way that’s very, very big. Much bigger in Europe and even bigger in Asia, in fact. But that’s a whole another story. One of the things that’s really important to understand about Lord of the Night was that he was not a paragon. He was not the good, the ultimate good person who was a perfect being up there. That would be in the category of yoga – to have a perfect being. Now, most people when they think of a guru, it’s an ultimately good being. Osho was NOT that. He looked like that in his theater, when he sat up there and gave his discourses in India and wore his pure white robes. There was never a god theater that was better than his. I mean if you just wanted to see what God would look like, he would look just like Osho sitting up there in his white robe speaking in his slow motion way. It was brilliant so you could project on that but he was not a paragon. He was the other thing in India which is a tantric master. A tantric master is not a paragon but a provocateur so he was always provoking. In fact, that’s the way he worked with individuals – to provoke them, one way or another. And he didn’t just provoke individuals, he provoked cultures. For instance, his discourses lasted for an hour and a half in the early morning. You’d hear the birds singing, the beautiful sounds of the jungle in India and he’d be speaking in this wonderful thoughtless way, really. But what would happen was that he would push people into their tendencies and make them live out their tendencies with awareness. That was the way his teachings happened. So, he was a teacher in India. He was very controversial in India until he died. Once he died, he was safe – he wasn’t gonna do anything anymore surprising. But, one of the things that he did as a provocateur in India was to start sprinkling his glorious discourses with dirty jokes! Totally freaked the Indians out.
A sermon on the word “fuck”
Justin Brown: 24:40.04 There’s a great story about a sermon or a lecture he gave on the word “fuck”.
Pennell Rock: 24:47.26 I happen to have that quote and if you won’t censor me, I will read it to you.
Justin Brown: 24:53.18 Please, feel free to do that
Pennell Rock: 24:55.08 Alright, this is the kind of thing he did. One day, he would lecture on a passage in the scripture and the next day he would answer questions. One of his disciples, Sargamo, asked “how can you use the word fuck, it’s such a disgusting word?” So, he says Sargamo, “it is one of the most beautiful words – the English language should be proud of it. I don’t think any other language has such a beautiful word. One Tom from California has done some great research on it. I think he must be the famous Tom of Tom, Dick and Harry thing.” He said “One of the most interesting in the English language today is the word ‘fuck’. It is one magical word. Just like it sounds, it can describe pain, pleasure, hate and love. In language, it falls into many grammatical categories. It can be used as a verb, both transitive – “John fucked Mary” and intransitive “Mary was fucked by John.” As a noun – “Mary is a fine fuck.” It can be used as an adjective – “Mary is fucking beautiful!”. As you see, there’s not many words with the versatility of “fuck”. Besides its actual meaning, there’s also the following uses:
Fraud – I got fucked at the used car lot.
Ignorance – Fuck, if I know.
Trouble – I guess I’m fucked now.
Aggression – Fuck you!
Displeasure – What the fuck is going on here!
Difficulty – I can’t understand this fucking job.
Incompetence – He is a fuck off!
Suspicion – What the fuck are you doing?
Enjoyment – I had a fucking good time!
Request – Get the fuck out of here!
Hostility – I’m going to knock your fucking head off!
Greeting – How the fuck are you?
Empathy – Who gives a fuck?
Innovation – Get a bigger fucking hammer.
Surprise – Fuck, you scared the shit out of me!
Anxiety – Today is really fucked!
and it is very healthy too. That’s it! When he tells it in his way, by the end of it, the whole audience was just collapsing with laughter. That’s the provocateur he was.
Justin Brown: 27:42.09 I’ve seen the video before and it’s truly incredible. I’ll make sure that Ideapod viewers get access to links so they can actually go on and take a look and see him in robes and long beard and the way he speaks with such precision and power. He really enunciates every sentence, it’s truly quite phenomenal to watch.
Spiritual groups have a tendency towards fascism
Pennell Rock: 28:06.03 Actually, somebody else who was a provocateur was guru Jeff. You know, guru Jeff was tantric master and people who teach in that way were bad boys, they’re not good boys – they’re bad boys. They do. Since he wasn’t speaking, he couldn’t tell dirty jokes in America. What on earth would you do in a material culture like America? What could you do that was provocative enough to really draw attention to you and really push everyone’s buttons? What do you think you might do? What would you do if you wanted to really, so to speak, fuck over the American psyche? How about a hundred Rolls Royce’s? And I maintain in the end that the city itself was the provocation and it’s taken 30 years for it to mature. But, it finally has really exploded upon the American consciousness in a whole new way. I feel that in the grand design, which I know that he had a vision of, it somehow played a part in that. And I want to explain just a little bit about that. The tantric way is to take a tendency that you have and to live it out fully and try to remain aware the whole thing. Get the teaching underneath what that excess produces. So, one of the tendencies I have experienced as a spiritual seeker, having been associated with a number of groups including Arika, is that they all have a tendency towards fascism. All of those spiritual groups have a tendency to become devoted to their leader, to become very rigid, to become very authoritative and to have a new kind of compulsive conformity. That is the tendency in spiritual organizations. Well, basically, what happened there was Raj lived that out in space. That was not the end of him by any means. It was actually just the beginning of a bigger thing which is beginning perhaps to unfold now. Because for the first time, people in America after that 30 years and after that whole impression of what happened has died down, people have forgotten it. Now, a whole another enthralled around that event is arising and people are saying “who is this guy?” and “what did he teach?” It’s PR.
Suzanne Taylor: 31:16.01 And in India, I don’t know if the audience here knows this, but the Ashram is really going great guns. It’s beautiful. There’s no more contention or ugliness or whatever the difficulties were. So, it lives on.
Pennell Rock: 31:37.05 Yes, it did transcend its fascism for sure. It is a very exquisite place – it’s the same place I went to 50 years ago. But, it’s all a bit jungle now. All of the buildings have been painted black so they disappear in the jungle. People glide around in their red robes during the day and at night they glide around in their white robes. There’s thousands everywhere. The sound of water – it’s all a huge zen garden and nowhere to be seen is a picture of Osho. He’s kind of disappeared. So, it’s all theater.
The paradox of a guru’s power: freedom vs submission
Justin Brown: 32:19.02 I’d love to drill that a little bit into the notion of fascism and what happened out there. I find that fascinating. I said at this time I’m sort of an occasional observer of the writings of Osho. I’ve written articles about Osho and they’re extraordinarily powerful. I just love the clarity of his mind and what has been created. This body of work for us to sort of dive into but the thing that I do have trouble understanding when I look at the documentary series was the idea that Osho has helped to create almost a revolution of human thought. It’s all about an individual finding a connection with their own humanity, their own sense of inspiration they put in and yet at the same time there were fascist tendencies. It looked like an attempt to create some sort of organized religion, really. And people were in uniforms and he dressed differently to everyone around him. So, he was very conscious of his separation, I guess his superiority in some sense. I think it’s okay to understand that he did have superiority in terms of his ability to deliver the sermons, pull together ideas in such powerful ways, harness his energy and really help people break through their important psychological challenges. But I still wonder why all of this kind of notion of leadership being a guru. In that sense, can you help me understand a little bit more?
Pennell Rock: 33:54.20 Yes, the basic end of his teaching is truly wholeness. That means the worst together with the best. When I was growing up in college, there was a book that really struck me greatly. It was called “Escape from Freedom”. The basis of that book was that the human soul is ambivalent. It wants total freedom but it also wants total submission. So, if you’re gonna deal with wholeness, somehow, you’ve got to come to terms with that. So being a tantric, as I said, you’ll live out a tendency. While he himself was always talking about “listen to your sacguru (the guru that is within you) and do what that guru says”, I really took that to heart. That was my main message and I didn’t fall for the fascist thing. Frankly, I think in my last life, I must’ve been a fascist because I think I’d learned my lesson at that time. I’d never wanted anything to do with it. So, I was definitely always moving towards my own greater freedom. Actually, this became my crisis with Sheela because Sheela was growing into this rivalry with my partner, Hasya. She targeted me as being someone who was uncooperative and was on his own ego trip. She gave me a very hard time during Raj’s years because I wasn’t becoming a drone. I was listening to that other Rajneesh that said “get away from here as fast as you possibly can”. So in his way of presenting himself and his way of guiding us, he took us through both of those extremes. Both of the extremes have freedom. The extreme of submission – there were many people who really wanted to go into that submissive thing, and they did. They lived life like drones on the ranch.
Justin Brown: 36:06.27 I think that’s really fascinating way to explain it around the two competing desires for submission and freedom at the same time. That’s really a part of us and it sounds like Osho embraced that fully and helped to create a place where all of this could play out. My question is, as you mentioned in the documentary series with Sheela and after that with Hasya, there were power battles going on? Then you also said that Osho encouraged you and everyone to connect with the guru within and that if it was him, he would run away from that place. It wasn’t the right place for someone like Osho himself to find connection to his own human spirit and subsequently you’ve found that for yourself as well.
Pennell Rock: 36:58.02 Not subsequently, from the beginning I was outta there because I picked up on the power trips coming down and my beloved was the main ones involved in that
Justin Brown: 37:09.28 So, was Osho aware of all of this and was he encouraging it and seeing it as a useful tool or was it all just out of his control?
Pennell Rock: 37:22.14 I think he had a meta-awareness of it, yes. And he probably did, he was a provocateur! What is a provocateur? You see a tendency and you push it and you push that tendency to the point where there is a possibility of a profound lesson and transcendence. Because if you’ve lived out that fact, believe me, all those three people who went to prison – they’re not gonna have anymore fascist tendency. I tell you, they’re finished with it, they’ve transcended it. So, I mean the teaching did work but it was kinda of a bloody mess.
When fascism started to get out of control
Justin Brown: 38:08.17 Looked like it got completely out of control.
Pennell Rock: 38:12.08 Yes, what fascism does – look at what’s happening in our world now. There’s a whole tendency back towards strong leadership and that is a tendency towards fascism. We are moving in that direction and the liberated way of being [became] after the two World wars is losing ground, just watch around us. So, we’re dealing with something that is major and within all of us and unfortunately within our world civilization.
Justin Brown: 38:48.13 So, for the people like myself who watched this documentary series and learning about Osho for the first time, what message do you want to share with them as it relates to the world today? How can we better prepare ourselves to embrace our own humanity and come up with a different way of living – embrace fascism or reject it? Any general thoughts to share on that?
Pennell Rock: 39:12.26 Well, I think one of the things is to really get in touch with how these things exist inside of you. There’s definitely a fascist in me – I am so in touch with it. It’s just I don’t choose it among my many possibilities but I can get into it. I know it’s there and when I see it outside, I can recognize it. What I would say to your readers is, there’s so many things available by Osho. There are videotapes, there are audio tapes, you can find them all over YouTube and all of his books are available. Read what he says and don’t try to imagine what you think he’s saying. Read, go to the source and the source is prodigious. There’s many, many, many, many possibilities out there. So, that would be my response, maybe you want to ask me further about that.
Recognize the fascist within you
Justin Brown: 40:15.18 Yeah, I’m curious what it means to recognize the fascist within. So, tell me about that expression.
Pennell Rock: 00:40:25.25 As I told you, I’ve always had a tendency towards it. This is kind of deep and personal but actually, Hasya was a Holocaust survivor. One of the huge universe of relationship I had with her, one of them was I felt like I needed to make it up to her. And we went very deep into that and at a certain point, I discovered that maybe in my last life I was a Nazi. But I was a bad Nazi because I fell in love with a Jewish woman. So, I got bumped off by Hitler in 1933. When I went digging into the way, I felt I had to make it up to Hasya in our relationship, that’s what I came up with. But that’s not important, the thing is, I know in me that there’s oppression. There is oppression who sits very straight on a horse and rides it and is very militant and I’m just aware of that part and it comes out. But, I see it just as a part of a greater whole of who I am and I hope that it only comes out when I need it and not as a definite mode of being.
Justin Brown: 41:55.24 Absolutely, just to clarify for people watching, Hasya was the producer I believe of “The Godfather”.
Pennell Rock: 42:04.08 Her husband, before I was with her, was Al Ruddy. Al Ruddy produced “The Godfather” and she financed it.
Justin Brown: 42:15.17 Right, and then she end it up when Sheela was the main sort of chief secretary of this ashram and the whole organization built around them. It looked like basically a massive corporation – huge business units. There was just so much going on and then there was subsequently a power struggle. Hasya became the chief secretary to Osho. So that’s where we, I’m talking about these key figures. Suzanne, I’m wondering if you have any questions for Pennell that you’d think you would love to flesh out a little more that haven’t been discussed yet.
The power struggle between Sheela and Hasya
Suzanne Taylor: 42:52.25 You spoke about there was a power struggle, was there a power struggle Pennell? Or Sheela went to jail and so Hasya took over when Sheela was no longer on the job?
Pennell Rock: 43:05.26 The Hollywood were the ones who have all the connections to people with money. So, when Osho came to this country, suddenly my little family Sannyasin family became very important. They began having a lot of power and Sheela called upon them to raise money, to establish this new city and so they became more and more powerful. I always thought that when I took Hasya to Baguan that he would end up taking her away from me, which he basically did. But what happened was that the Hollywoods and Hasya, in particular, were a counterfaction to Sheela who was in power. You call this the ‘war of the Ma’s. I think Osho played them off against each other or he played Hasya off against Sheela. It became very violent and as Hasya was becoming more and more powerful, Sheela was becoming more and more crazy. Finally, she split and absconded – that’s very well portrayed. And so immediately, Osho brought Hasya forward. I sort of fell away from it at that point and Hasya became the secretary – she did not have the kind of power that Sheela did. But, she’s the one who set the fire to Rajneeshi (the whole Rajneesh religion). They burned the religion up, they ended the religion. They kind of took apart the whole sort of simple structure of Rajneesh Puram. Of course it fell apart by itself after he was arrested and set out of the country. So ever since the beginning when Osho came to the country, there was this power struggle growing between Hasya and Sheela.
Suzanne Taylor: 45:32.04 One more piece of information, you said that Hasya financed it but how did this Holocaust survivor have enough money? Well, her first husband was very wealthy! That’s true.
Pennell Rock: 45:47.07 Yes, he was. He was really state managed.
Suzanne Taylor: 45:50.26 When she married Ruddy, she came to that marriage with enough money to finance the Godfather.
Pennell Rock: 45:59.05 It was a good investment.
Suzanne Taylor: 46:04.28 You asked if there was anything else I would ask Pennell, I don’t know, he’s as good a communicator about this as anybody you would find and I don’t know what else.
Will Osho become the next great religious figure?
Pennell Rock: 46:19.27 Well, I have something I wanted to talk about. That is, this question “Is it possible that Osho will become the next great religious figure that goes down in history as what Buddha has done, as Jesus has done?” There’s no way really to know about that except I can say this, you have to look at how history is what shapes that. You know, Jesus didn’t decide “I’m going to be the great Christ figure of the Western world”. He didn’t make that decision. That was bestowed upon him, if you’d like, by God through history. History decides that so I have no way of knowing. But I can say that I do know that Osho “pre-programmed” a kind of serial deployment of his teaching. A lot of it had to do with provocatively doing things that created a lot of attention and curiosity. He has many examples (I don’t have time to go into yet). Basically, it was important first to generate enough controversy in the world that everybody kind of knew about him even in a very negative way. But at the same time, he left this unbelievable record of his teaching. A thousand books! Each one is totally brilliant! Tapes, videos, but there’s no consistent teaching. There’s a lot of contradiction – you have to see through the contradictions and the paradoxes to see what his true teaching is. Pictures of him went everywhere and then there’s a mythology that he was slain by the American government. There’s a whole mythology that he was poisoned in those 5 days when he was moved back across the country, back to Oregon and put in a different prison every night. There was some mythology that they put radiation poison under his pillow or something because in 5 years, the whole of his left side of his body is decayed. The teeth fell out and they did analysis of this. Two different organizations did diagnose that he’d had radiation poisoning and so there’s that mythology. And steadily he’s growing, he wrote all these books. Actually he’s the best selling author of the world, worldwide. And so this is kind of happening. I don’t know how it’s gonna come out, I won’t be alive to answer the question of what he becomes. But the teaching is so substantial and so beautiful. It will exist in this writings that he’s done, in his various videos that he’s done so people will have a lot of access to him and his teaching for a very long time. I think he set it up, saw this would happen but it remains to be seen how it will play out.
Was Osho “consciously provoking” or did he lose control?
Suzanne Taylor: 49:58.28 Actually, I do have one thing to ask. I watched the whole television series and maybe I didn’t get it. But how come, it went from provocateur to really things that were very unattractive? I don’t think you’d call them “conscious provocations by the master” as much as he’s lost his control. Is there something more to say about how’d that happened, how it really became corrupt and not just provocative?
Pennell Rock: 50:53.02 I don’t really know. I felt that way too. I mean I was a bit mystified by some of the extremities that I saw and there was some I do know that he started taking some sorcery. He had a lot of problems with his back and he started taking pain medication. I think they started giving him whatever it is that they give (I don’t know what). Early Rajneesh always wore this white robe and he was very pure. Then my Hollywood group did something which I thought was horrible – they tidied him up. I remember one of them said “we want to put him on the diamond throne”. And so, they dressed him in costumes in this elaborate things I thought it was really diamond watches. It all was kind of gross. That to me sort of exceeded my capacity to cope with it. I did see things going in directions that I certainly didn’t wanna have any part of. At that point, I did sort of break with the organization. And so, I might say, it surpassed some of my limits as well and my limits have pretty broad-based.
Suzanne Taylor: 52:27.24 How’d you think he let that happen?
Pennell Rock: 52:32.01 Well, I think he trusted that some process was happening and he just went with that. It involved that level of debasement. There’s some wonderful books that Sanyasins are writing about it. One of the books that I recently read was by somebody who was one of the people bugged all the rooms! My room was bugged when I was there! He had to come to terms with what he’d done and the last quotation is this very beautiful thing that the “whole includes the worst with the best”. Somehow, wholeness has to comprehend the whole. And there’s some point at which the Dao includes all of that. If one becomes the Dao, one becomes all of it. That is only by becoming the whole rather than the best is there real transcendence that was really the basic message of the tantra.
Suzanne Taylor: 53:59.11 Who bugged the rooms? So that wasn’t Rajneesh bugging them?
Pennell Rock: 54:04.14 No, it was Sheela.
Suzanne Taylor: 54:07.04 [inaudible] What an intrigue, it’s very hard to understand.
Pennell Rock: 54:11.24 Oh yeah, this is a whole big thing. I can tell you more about that. But yes, now they bugged our room because see, I was connected with Hasya so I was one of the targets. They spread lies about me. They told her I had AIDS for instance and that she probably had it too – there was unbelievably ugly kind. It was manipulation to the point of such ugliness that one could hardly conceive of it.
Suzanne Taylor: 54:44.03 So, this was a power struggle of Sheela and Hasya?
Pennell Rock: 54:48.09 Yes, so Sheela felt herself losing power and what happens in fascist governments when they wanna maintain control? They just broaden their control. It was 1984! It was literally 1984 and we’re the only place on the world that actually did 1984!
Suzanne Taylor: 55:16.27 So, what happened to Rajneesh? He just sort of seceded control? He was letting himself be controlled by the Ma’s?
Pennell Rock: 55:26.21 I don’t really believe that myself. Where in areas that I cannot speak with authority, all I have is my own instinct and intuition. And I believe that he saw this fascist teaching emerge out of it. I think he provoked it in some way. So, I think he pushed Sheela to her limits and she kind of went overboard and lost her mind. One of the beautiful things I felt about the series was what Sheela’s doing now! Sheela runs a place in Switzerland that takes care of people who have dementia to such a degree that they’re confined to their beds. She is nursing these people. This is what she is doing with her life now. I think that’s very interesting.
Suzanne Taylor: 56:30.28 When she’s spent several years in jail before that, right?
Pennell Rock: 56:33.20 Yeah but now, this is her work. I never particularly liked Sheela but I felt very endeared to her when at the very end of the series after she finished this long interview, she said “Now, let’s have a drink”. So that’s that. I can’t just justify everything that happened but I can look at the sort of big pattern and see that it might have been part of this deployment of the Osho brand, possibly.
Justin Brown: 57:13.21 Well, Pennell and Suzanne I think that we’re pretty much out of time. But I think this has been an incredible discussion that has covered so many of the key things that I know you all wanted to flesh out and talk about. I think one of the great questions is ‘”what will the legacy of Osho be?”
Pennell Rock: 57:32.25 Well, I’ll tell you something I wanted to say to you as a 36-year old. When Osho left his body, he turned to his doctor who was the last person he spoke to and he said “I leave you my dream” so I leave you his dream.
Justin Brown: 57:57.08 I think it sounds fantastic and Ideapod is a place for us to explore these ideas together and come up with different ways of thinking. For me, a lot of questions remain. To what extent was Osho the most incredible guru of the 20th century that’s helping us to create a new way of life and thinking 21st? Or to what extent was he another revolutionary, charismatic fascist, someone like Che Guevara? The meaning of this is that they inspire people to create these movements and ultimately, things may come tumbling down in some way. Who knows but I love the fact that we’re talking about this and exploring it like this. I think that it’s been a wonderful discussion. I thank you so much, Suzanne and Pennell, for sharing so much of your own personal experiences and thoughts and ideas. I just really appreciate it and I’m sure the Ideapod community will as well.
Pennell Rock: 58:51.25 Well, we appreciate you and it will be interesting to see what you’d do with the dream.
Suzanne Taylor: 58:56.27 Really, I appreciate you a lot Justin. You’re asking just the right questions. We only go some way now that we’re not following anybody to figure this all out to muster ourselves so you wanted to meet people just putting out that opportunity.
Justin Brown: 59:11.29 I really appreciate it, I appreciate you being part of the community so I guess we’ll end the recording here, thank you so much and see you all soon.
Pennell Rock: 59:20.02 Goodbye everybody.
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