Wild Wild Country is a Microcosm of the World Stage. Which Side Are You On?

Have you see Wild Wild Country, the recent Netflix documentary about the period in the 80s when Osho was a regular feature on the nightly news across the entire USA, stirring up trouble with retired country folk, salad eaters, and notorious attorney generals alike? If you haven’t, press pause, set aside 6 hours/evenings, and when you are done, come back because, after that crazy ride, you’ll definitely want a place to compare notes, vent, rehabilitate… 

If you have watched WWC…what’s your take? Was it the story of a deranged ego maniac and his maroon army of gullible outcastes?  Or was it the story of a modern day Buddha, misunderstood, and betrayed by those closest to him? Was Ma Anand Sheela an example of a truly empowered woman in service to a vision? Or was she merely a corrupted lieutenant whose exalted status and frequent media appearances produced a curious mix of contrived viciousness and needlessly creative diabolical schemes? Was the Oregon settlement a modern day Garden of Eden, or just a flock of sheep, high on sex and two beers a day and rallied for the routine ego-stroke of their quirky overlords?

The questions could go on and on. Like politics we tend to pick sides and go all in. We like our truth clean and simple, well bordered, like a manicured garden: “Osho was just a con artist who employed well known oratory techniques to mass hypnotise his audience.” But real truth, like nature, is nuanced, layered with complexity and interdependency and appearing different from every facet and proximity. 

I’ve practiced a spiritual tradition for 15 years, in a movement originally formed by an Indian man in America at about same time as Osho was around. Some even have called it a cult. I’m not here to convince you of anything, of any “side” – quite the opposite. I hope that by sharing some perspectives garnished from years of continuous practice and study of my spiritual tradition and others, that it will soften any opinion entrenchments sparked by the documentary and provide a richer appreciation of all the characters, events and motivations. 

Because let’s face it – WWC is a microcosm of the modern world – conservative religions and neo-cultures warring away as a front for political power and intrigue – the media continually fuelling (and profiting from) the hatred and distrust. What do we have to learn from this situation? Let’s start by taking a closer look at some of the obvious eccentricities.

Just because Osho had expensive cars doesn’t mean he was a fraud. Osho was a “tantric”. Tantra works by embracing the worldly pleasures, not rejecting them. 

This is hard to imagine in our post-conservative Christian society where we are the extension of communities in which singing and dancing where considered too risqué for the pious man, let alone sex! Look around – the echos of these origins and our reactions to them are embedded in the fabric of our culture.

In the ancient East, Tantric’s “Non-Dualist” philosophy was just as radical as it was in Oregon. It was a confrontation to “Dualism” – an outlook that regarded the universe consisting of two worlds: the lofty one of the spirit, and the lowly physical reality. The lowly physical was to be heavily avoided. Degeneration over time led to extreme asceticism – total rejection of normal society, physical and social pleasure regarded as sin, and even self-inflicted pain supposedly designed to break the attachment to our senses. FYI, Christianity is essentially dualist (with some rare exceptions).

Tantra came along and said, whatever singular consciousness makes up the spiritual world, also must make up the physical world as well, including all it’s pleasures and pains. It is therefore just another facet of Ultimate Creation. In fact, some of those pleasures when combined with the proper psychological inner tuning (the key to it not becoming hedonism), could even elevate the practitioner into very lofty states of perception. Thus anything that exists is a tool for enlightenment.

So for someone in an elevated state of consciousness gems, jewels, cars, beauty, etc are just reflections of those qualities in the Ultimate. Of course, so are dirty rocks, crusty old pickups, and societal outcasts. It is said “To the Yogi, pain and pleasure, praise and shame, are one and the same”.  Where was Osho in this picture? Who knows? But can you see how it’s not as black and white as “He was corrupt, he had 10000 Rolls Royce’s!”?

Being enlightened doesn’t mean you are now a flawless human.

Enlightenment – what is it exactly?  I’m not sure I’m qualified to say. I don’t think it can be expressed “exactly,” otherwise you’ve created a box. You can’t put sunlight in a box… 

But let’s start with this. Enlightenment – or let’s call it “advanced spiritual development” – happens progressively, and all unresolved internal insecurities come with you to the very end. It’s possible therefore, to be a highly developed human but still hold the seeds for your later demise from that which you did not address along the way. “The bigger they are the harder they fall”. The point here is that because one discovers later that Osho had a few unfortunate character issues does not suddenly nullify his previous spiritual aptitude. 

Also realise that spiritual development is not a set of personality characteristics. Spiritual adepts aren’t guaranteed to be nice, quiet, well kept, well mannered generous or any other quality that we’d call a “good citizen”.  It also doesn’t mean that they care about global warming, use only organic nut milk, oppose gun ownership, support marijuana legalisation or vote Democrat. Even integrity isn’t guaranteed. Think Darth Vader vs Yoda. They were both “enlightened”. Yet Darth Vader held that seed of vengeance until his last breath…

If Osho is not what you’d expect a “spiritual master” to be, know this: It’s said among those who know, that the hallmark of a spiritual master is that they are “entirely unique”. Think of how much exquisite variety nature produces. Why would the highest state of natural consciousness produce identical clone people? It doesn’t. Each realised human is unique, and sameness and conformity, particularly in behaviour, is a sign of unenlightenment. Well if nothing else you can say that Osho was truly one-of-a-kind!

Finally, spiritual development of any kind is not a win-once-keep-forever kind of thing. Anyone can fall from their grace with enough negative stimulus. Spiritual loftiness needs to be maintained, mostly by self-discpline. For Osho, excess use of drugs, Hollywood celebs and their pretty-shiny-things probably didn’t help much in those later years.

Just because Osho had charisma doesn’t mean he was a hustler. Charisma is a natural by-product of self-realisation.

Yes I know you could say he does that thing where your words are timed hypnotically, and that he makes gratuitous use of that trailing “shhh”. For those who think he discovered these tricks in a book and started applying them to mass hypnotise his audience, I can’t deny the possibility. Though if you had something important to say, refining your delivery wouldn’t be a bad idea! Oratory is a lost art…

But from another angle, extraordinary charisma is a commonly reported feature of the highly spiritually developed. Why? In part, it’s a by-product of having dissolved the incessant inner dialog that bubbles and swirls just beneath your conscious mind and betrays itself continually through your subtle behaviours, facial expressions, words, tone. Without all the inner self-deprecating activity, you are much more free to express yourself and very pleasant to be around! 

Additionally, “space” opens up in the awareness in which you perceive more of what is being communicated in any moment. You begin to tune in to the subtle “sound current” of communication. As with anything you tune into, you begin naturally to work with it. In ancient yogic texts it even has a name – it’s called “Naad Yoga”.

Spiritually advanced people  are much more than their words.

There is also a presence. We see it sometimes in our degenerate modern day version of spiritual masters: celebrities. Goodness knows they can still carry some dark seeds, but at the same time very often they’ve developed a certain something, an aura, by the sheer force of being thrust into the public eye, sink or swim, and praised or scorned en masse for their accomplishments.

It is sometimes said that a spiritually evolved person is like the moon reflecting the light of the sun. The “sun” here represents a kind of light which we all share within. When we see its brilliance reflected in another we are awestruck, but even more, there is also a surprising familiarity, a remembrance. It can be deeply emotional and profound, and as the documentary demonstrates, can lead one to feel absolutely compelled to take action to remain near it, in a sense to rediscover what was lost. 

The Million-Faceted Diamond

In eastern mysticism, Maya, the illusion of reality, is sometimes described as a million-faceted diamond refracting the light of Truth. When we stand close enough, we don’t see the diamond or the source. The “reality” we see is just the portion of the million facets, each a coloured and contorted version of the true reality beneath. We generally fixate only on the facets we wish to see, concocting our story of the world from them and denouncing the rest, case closed. 

When we engage in “spiritual development” we work towards seeing all the facets at once. Even more, we look again very carefully until we also see our own subtle reflection in each of them, for what refracts also reflects. What did you see in WWC? Might this hint at some of the deeper issues that are personal to you as much as any of the characters?  There is a priceless opportunity here to get a deeper glimpse of ourselves…

In this diamond analogy “enlightenment” becomes when we are able to embrace all the facets at once and see the light of Truth behind them all. Can you be touched by the deep devotion in the lawyer’s voice, regardless of whether Osho “deserved” it? Can you understand why the Australian lady moving her family to India to be near a strange man might not be just because she was crazy or hypnotised? Can you sympathise with the people of Antelope while also seeing what incredibly pioneering work Sheela managed in permaculture - before it was even a word? 

Can we realise how this is all just a microcosm of the entire world stage today?  Can we be moved by it to drop our entrenchments and practice the paradoxical task of embracing all sides simultaneously? If we can’t do this, even in the luxury of our ultra-modern lives, what hope is there for a peaceful world? Thank you WWC for the opportunity to practice this vital skill.