from the Christian Research Journal, Winter/Spring 1990, page 5. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller.
In the Soviet Union, a Growing Psychic-Occult Revival
A full-blown New Age occult revival is taking place in the Soviet Union. And, unlike the current Soviet practice of simply allowing citizens to more openly practice religion in the era of glasnost, this New Age-oriented revival is encouraged -- and at times sponsored -- by the Soviet government.
Although in recent months U.S. mission agencies have been allowed to ship as many Bibles as they want into Russia, and although Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev pledged support in allowing free practice of religion in the country during his recent meeting with the pope, there is much evidence to suggest that New Age occultism is fast becoming the religion -- or pseudoscience -- of choice for the Russian people.
It is certainly true that in recent months many Western evangelists have been in Russia proclaiming the gospel to overflowing churches and halls. But it is also true that many Western New Age gurus and "holy men" have been in the Soviet Union proclaiming their message, and they too have often been successful at attracting converts. Increasingly, Russians have been showing up at Western New Age and occult fairs -- sometimes under the sponsorship of the government.
Most observers say the revival is partly due to the spiritual suppression imposed on the people since the 1917 Russian Revolution; leaders now realize that they cannot extinguish the personal quest for spiritual meaning.
Others say interest in the occult has been fanned by economics; such New Age themes as ESP, reincarnation, psychic healing, and UFOs sell papers and find a ready market in the Soviet citizenry. As an August 1989 Associated Press dispatch noted, the Russians have historically been taken by the occult and fantastic stories: "Since the days of the wild-eyed monk Rasputin, hypnotist and confidant at the court of the last czar, Russians have been intrigued by the occult and fantastic, and stories about UFOs, vanished planets and ESP have always had an eager audience."
Whatever the reasons, here are some of the facts surrounding the Soviet psychic revival:
The most popular man in the Soviet Union is not Gorbachev, according to an October 12 front page story in the Philadelphia Inquirer. He is Anatoly Mikhailovich Kashpirovsky, 50, a "psychotherapist" who conducts healing sessions and seances for audiences numbering in the millions on live Soviet television. In the past 18 months, Kashpirovsky has become so well-known in Russia that the government's foreign ministry office recently held a press conference to tout his abilities before the world's media. On October 11, 1989, the NBC Nightly News picked up the story and featured the psychic healer on U.S. national television.
According to the Inquirer, "Kashpirovsky has the nation in thrall." When he appears on national TV, "Soviet citizens drop everything. People halt work and leave dinner tables. The next morning, his eerie talent is the talk of rush-hour subways." Under the dark-haired man's "steely gaze and hypnotic voice, they say, tumors shrink, scars disappear and surgery is performed [sometimes live on national television] without anesthetic."
During the press conference, government officials treated reporters to several film clippings of Kashpirovsky's sessions. (Presently he does two regularly scheduled TV "seances" a month; additional appearances, live or taped, are broadcast every week or two.) In some of the clippings, people offered testimonials to his power, saying their tumors shrank, scars and birthmarks faded, and pains disappeared. The Inquirer went on to say that Kashpirovsky is close to "becoming a personality cult," as he received 20 bags of mail -- about 40,000 letters and telegrams -- from Russians during the preceding two weeks.
Kashpirovsky is careful to say his abilities are nonreligious.
Russia's second-best-known psychic healer, Alan Chumak, is on state-run television six days a week on a show called "120 Minutes." On this program the grey-haired mystic waves his hands on camera to cure viewers of whatever ails them, according to the previously mentioned Associated Press dispatch. The story went on to say Soviets with heart disease "are requested to watch" his show on Tuesdays. "On Fridays, Chumak will help viewers get rid of allergies. People with stomach bugs should tune in on other days." And if these people can't watch a show on their designated day, they are instructed to just leave the set on, "and a jar of water, juice or massage cream placed by the TV screen supposedly will be 'charged' by Chumak's gestures and can be used later for treatment."
The state, which has sponsored psychic research by the military for decades, is more than willing to sponsor the occult in other parts of Soviet society as well. Frequent articles on occultic themes and UFO activity have even been appearing recently in state-run newspapers like Pravda, and also in the one-million circulation daily newspaper Socialist Industry, a vehicle of the Communist Party's Central Committee. And James Oberg, writing in the January 1990 Omni magazine, said that in Moscow's Cosmos Pavilion, the Soviet Union's "museum" of relics from the dawn of Soviet space flight, one of the main and best attended exhibits is concerned with psychic powers and aliens.
Oberg also noted that in the era of glasnost, "a vigorous UFO culture [which often associates itself with the New Age movement] has blossomed across the USSR." According to an article in the December 1989 New Frontier magazine (which is one of the East Coast's leading New Age magazines), "for the first time in history, the Russian government authorized five scientists to attend a New Age conference in the West." In that gathering (called "Dialogue With the Universe"), which took place in October 1989 in Frankfort, Germany, the Soviets shared information on alleged recent UFO landings in Russia.
From the West, various New Age organizations have been making inroads into the Soviet Union for some time. One of the most involved -- since 1979 -- has been the Esalen Institute, a human potential group based in Big Sur, California. According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the Institute, which was founded in the 1960s, has moved beyond its earlier Soviet-American Exchange Program to become the sponsor of a number of political and scholarly programs that include scientific conferences and educational exchanges with the Soviet Union.
Politically, Esalen has clearly seized upon the opportunities created in the Soviet Union by Gorbachev's reforms to promote the transformation of both Russian society and the world -- a new era of unprecedented cooperation. "Gorbachev is clearly a transformative leader and his reforms are changing the very fabric of Soviet society," according to Esalen's 1988 "Director's Report to the Board." Another paper issued by the Esalen Institute states that the purpose of their Soviet program is to encourage "a broader understanding of human relations and human potential" that can eventually "improve international relations."
According to the 1990 Annual Directory Edition of the New Age Journal, other groups involved in New Age-oriented citizens diplomacy programs with the Soviets are the Citizens Exchange Council, the Earthstewards Network, the Institute of Noetic Sciences, the Promoting Enduring Peace group, US/USSR Bridges for Peace, and Youth Ambassadors of America. The Institute of Noetic Sciences, founded by Apollo 14 astronaut Edgar D. Mitchell, helps underwrite some of Esalen's expenses for the Soviet exchange program (according to the Institute's "sponsored projects program" flier). It has offered a "bonus gift" for new members -- a book titled The Mind Race, which describes psychic advances in the Soviet Union.
One prominent Western mystic who is a disciple of Transcendental Meditation and is intensely involved with the Soviets is Deepak Chopra. Author of three New Age books -- including the recent Bantam best seller, Quantum Healing -- Chopra has recently been given the go-ahead to start several Ayurvedic (ancient Indian) medicine centers in Russia.
In an interview published in the September/October Starlite Times (one of New York City's leading New Age magazines), Chopra said he gave a presentation on Ayurveda and TM to the USSR's Institute for Preventative Medicine, which led to another presentation partially sponsored by the Academy of Sciences. Later, Chopra said, the Russian health minister invited him to make still another presentation -- and that ended with his signing a contract to teach medicine in the Soviet Union.
"The most exciting thing for me is the idea of completely influencing millions of people through Ayurveda in the USSR and the Eastern block countries," Chopra stated in the article.
All of these developments create difficulties for the fragile but fast-growing church in Russia. The Russian Christian Radio (RCR) organization of Estes Park, Colorado, reports that as a result of the occultism in the Soviet Union, many Christians -- especially new converts -- are severely affected by New Age thought. To combat this influence, the organization is trying to translate Christian apologetic materials into the Russian language.
Weapons Arrests and "Doomsday Talk" Shrouds Church Universal and Triumphant
Since early July, three high-ranking Church Universal and Triumphant (CUT) members have been arrested on weapons offenses. In each case, the members were attempting to stockpile weapons in preparation for an anticipated nuclear holocaust.
One of those arrested was Edward Francis, the husband of sect leader Elizabeth Clare Prophet. Francis was sentenced on December 15, 1989 to one month in jail and three months' house detention for his role in a conspiracy to buy enough weapons and paramilitary supplies to arm a 200-member church army.
Law officials say they broke up the plot on July 7 when Vernon Hamilton, the former chief of the church's Cosmic Honor Guard (i.e., its security), was arrested in Spokane, Washington after purchasing weapons under a false name. He was apparently planning to ship them to the sect's 33,000-acre encampment in Park County, Montana. According to the December 10, 1989 Sunday Oregonian, police found "about $28,000 in cash and gold Krugerrands, 15 military-style assault rifles, two pistols, and 120,000 rounds of tracer and armor-piercing ammunition in [Hamilton's] pickup and a storage garage. Seven of the rifles were .50-caliber semiautomatic Barretts, which fire 6-inch cartridges that can penetrate light armor." He was sentenced to three years' probation for using false identification and fined $1,000. His weapons and money were confiscated.
Later, on October 13, CUT staff member Frank Black was arrested transporting two more Barrett semiautomatic weapons to Montana. Authorities say the purchase was illegal because Black had given a false address. Charges were later dropped against him, but his weapons were confiscated.
Although Mrs. Prophet and CUT officials claim they didn't have anything to do with the attempted weapons purchases, published reports -- and statements by Francis -- make clear that it was Mrs. Prophet's "revelations" of a coming nuclear war with the Soviet Union that incited the attempted purchases. In recent months, many sect members have been moving to the sect's compound in Paradise Valley, Montana (which is near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park), where they have been busily engaged in building $300,000 bomb shelters and stockpiling large food supplies.
But in mid-November, the church succumbed to media pressure and gave reporters a tour of one of the underground shelters. Ten of them, capable of holding about 1,400 people, were nearing completion, according to the November 19, 1989 Seattle Times.
Mrs. Prophet, often referred to as "Guru Ma" by her estimated 150,000 followers, has had difficulty pinpointing the date of the supposed apocalypse. According to Mrs. Prophet's doomsday scenario, the U.S. will be victimized by an all-out Soviet nuclear attack, followed by an invasion. The two dates she is said to have associated with the event -- October 2, 1989 and December 31, 1989 -- have both failed.
According to published reports, Mrs. Prophet arrived at the October 2 doomsday date through "El Morya," one of many "ascended masters" (superhuman entities inhabiting a higher dimension) that are said to speak through her. When that date came and went, Mrs. Prophet said the prayers of sect members had postponed the event, and December 31 was the new date. But she added an immediate qualifier, according to the November 3 Billings Gazette: "Prophet emphasized she was not predicting war or any other catastrophe for that date -- it was just a deadline for preparedness."
All the talk of weapons and doomsday has further galvanized local residents against the sect; some have compared CUT's presence in the area to the building of Jonestown in Guyana, or Rajneeshpuram in Oregon. And recently the residents gained a new ally in their nearly decade-long battle with the sect: Moira Lewis, Prophet's 21-year-old daughter, who left CUT last year. Lewis has begun to publicly denounce her mother as a cult leader and has charged CUT with being a potentially dangerous organization that exercises mind control. On September 12, she appeared on the "Oprah Winfrey" show and debated her sister, Erin Prophet, 23, who has become a CUT spokeswoman.
CUT bought the 12,000-acre Forbes Ranch from recently deceased multimillionaire Malcolm Forbes in 1981, and in 1986 moved its headquarters there from Malibu, California. Meanwhile the church has purchased more land in Paradise Valley (see the Summer 1989 CHRISTIAN RESEARCH JOURNAL for more details).
Rajneesh Dies of Heart Failure
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, the self-proclaimed "rich man's guru" who once tried to take over a town in Oregon before being deported from the U.S. in 1985, died of a heart attack at age 58 in his native India on January 19.
Rajneesh came to the U.S. in 1981 and, the following year, established a commune and would-be city known as Rajneeshpurum near rural Antelope, Oregon. The commune grew rapidly and became home to about 4,000 of his followers. It was there that many scandalous stories emerged about the sect and its practices. To many, Rajneesh is best remembered for his collection of 93 personal Rolls Royces he kept at the commune.
After pleading guilty to two counts of immigration fraud, Rajneesh was deported and became an international pariah -- he was rejected from settling in Asia, Europe, South America, and the Caribbean. He resettled in Poona, India in 1986 with a smaller number of his disciples -- new bizarre stories soon surfaced. In 1988 he changed his name to Gautama the Buddha, and in late 1989 again to Osho, or "enlightened one."
End of document, CRJ0065A.TXT (original CRI file name),
release A, April 20, 1994
R. Poll, CRI
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