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Ron Geaves

Master with a Plan


1. Introduction

2. Chronological Errors

3. Unsupported Assertions

4. False Hypotheses

5. Conclusion

Academic study of belief and the sociological aspects of religion are frequently problematic and those researching the sociology of religion face many challenges. The dispassionate and disinterested ideals of science may not always be obtainable in sociological research and Qualitative Methodology provides a worthy alternate approach. However the role of the researcher working within the narrative of a given belief must be explicit if the research itself is not to become merely an adjunct to that narrative of belief or a mere addition to an existing hagiography. This article examines the writing of Prof. R. Geaves concerning Prem Pal Singh Rawat and the role that Geaves' work has had in the development of both the narrative of belief and the hagiography attached to Prem Rawat aka Maharaji.

1. Introduction

Ron Geaves is a Professor in the Study of Religion [*]. He is also a long time adherent of the teachings of Prem Pal Singh Rawat. Geaves has written a number of academic papers which focus on Prem Rawat although habitually Geaves does not declare his association with Rawat within his authorship references.

In 2004 Geaves published a statement [*] addressing what Geaves claimed to be defamation of his professional standing, which had appeared on the Internet. Geaves did not identify a specific web site but the contentious material seems to have been focussed on Geaves' 2004 article "From Divine Light Mission to Élan Vital and Beyond: An Exploration of Change and Adaptation" [*].

In his statement Geaves describes himself as an "experiential essentialist", how informative this self description is, is beyond the exploratory scope of this web site, however Salman Rushdie has described Essentialism as "the respectable child of old-fashioned exoticism. It demands that sources, forms, style, language and symbol all derive from a supposedly homogeneous and unbroken tradition ...........," ( Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981-1991 [1991] 67).[*]

Geaves' 2004 article was discussed in largely unfriendly terms on the Prem Rawat Talk forum .

In March 2006 Geaves published a further article on Prem Rawat titled:

Globalisation, charisma, innovation, and tradition: An exploration of the transformations in the organisational vehicles for the transmission of the teachings of Prem Rawat (Maharaji) [*]

In this latest work Geaves continues to develop a proposition that Rawat is a master planner, a strategist who stochastically responds to a changing media environment to more effectively ensure the delivery of a 'teaching'. In maintaining validity of this proposition, Geaves lays himself open to the very same criticism that has attached to his earlier writings about Rawat, that is: that Geaves is not producing a dispassionate analysis but rather is creating both hagiography and apologism. The failings of the most recent article certainly raise serious doubt about the quality of the analysis that Geaves has employed in the presentation of his hypothesis.

2. Chronological Errors

Geaves' proposition is that Rawat has pursued a purposeful and successful organisational strategy over time. Clearly any proof that such a strategy has been followed, and especially that such a strategy has been effective, requires the presentation of an accurate and referenced chronology. In May 2006 a criticism of Geaves' most recent article was published on the Prem Rawat Talk forum. [*]

This criticism challenged Geaves' chronology of Rawat's organisational initiatives, and in so doing further provided a challenge to the validity of Geaves' analysis of Rawat. The chronological errors can be summarised as:

  • Geaves erroneously claims that Élan Vital was created as a new organisation.  The various nationally registered Élan Vitals were in fact, with the sole exception of the UK organisation, simply the old Divine Light Missions under a new name. [*]

  • Geaves erroneously claims that the various national Divine Light Missions outside of India ceased to exist in 1982. The US name change was not completed until 1986, the Australian DLM did not change its name until 1993 and the UK DLM was not wound up until 1995. [*] &  [*]

  • Geaves erroneously gives the date for the creation of Divine United Organisation as 1974. The correct date is 1973, the year in which the creation of DUO was announced by Rawat and in which it was registered in India. [*]

  • Geaves erroneously claims that DUO became defunct and was replaced by Raj Vidya Bhavan (sic). DUO was in fact simply renamed Raj Vidya Kender.

  • Geaves erroneously gives the date of closure for the western ashrams as 1982. The closure was in fact not complete until 1983. [*]

3. Unsupported Assertions

The chronological inaccuracies in Geaves' 2006 article are compounded by a large number of unsupported and unjustified assertions.

  • "..... Élan Vital was to grow immensely in the last two decades of the twentieth century"

The assertion of 'growth' is wholly unsupported by evidence; certainly the number of followers/initiates/students attracted to Rawat between 1979 and 2001 was only a fraction of the numbers claimed as adherents in the 1970s. [*]

  • "In order to comprehend Prem Rawat’s success in the last four decades, first only in India and then on a global scale, it is necessary to explore the various organisations that have been created as vehicles for dissemination as an aspect of ‘resources’, here used to describe the spiritual and material dimensions of a changing situation wherein people were able to make new meaning of their inner lives and of their lives as a group, and to situate themselves in new locations in regard to the wider society."

Here Geaves begins by introducing a notion of 'success', yet nowhere does he propose how this claimed success is to be measured. Many former followers would suggest that Rawat's only success has been the acquisition of personal wealth, while even current followers would be hard pressed to identify any quantitative achievement that might equate to any common understanding of the term "success".

Geaves goes on to assert that 'people', by whom he appears to mean committed followers of Rawat, were enabled to "make new meaning of their inner lives and of their lives as a group". To have validity such an assertion requires not only definition - (What in this context does 'inner life' mean? What behaviourally and constructively was 'the group'?) but also some presentation of evidence that in fact 'new meaning' could actually be gained and to what extent was this actually realised by those involved.

  • "Prem Rawat has been successful since he left India in 1971, establishing his teachings in over eighty countries, and his original vehicle Divine Light Mission was described as the fastest growing new religious movement in the West."

Here Geaves does give a definition of success, yet the claim of "establishing his teachings" remains unqualified and unquantified. Without demonstration of what establishment of the teaching amounts to, the assertion is meaningless. Further if Geaves' test of success is the rate of growth of Rawat's 'vehicles' then this axiomatically undermines the claim that Geaves makes elsewhere for the success achieved by Rawat in the 1980s and 1990s when levels of activity and participation were static or in decline.

  • "Initially, the followers of Prem Rawat’s teachings in the UK established Divine Light Mission in 1971, shortly after his first arrival in the west at the age of 13. There had been a presence in the UK since 1969, located in a basement flat in West Kensington and then in a semi-detached house in Golders Green, North London. This had come about as a result of four young British members of the counter-culture, taking the ‘hippy trail’ to India in 1968 discovering the young Prem Rawat and his teachings and requesting that a ‘mahatma’ be sent to London who could promote the message and show interested individuals the four techniques known as ‘knowledge’."

    It seems incongruous, if not disingenuous for Geaves not to indicate at any point in the article that one of the "four young British members of the counter-culture" was Ron Geaves. The fact that the author of the article was actually one of those who instigated the introduction of the Rawat movement to the UK is a fundamental 'fact' in an article so heavily reliant on personal assertion. [*]

  • "Divine Light Mission was also established in the United States and by 1972 had its international office in Denver, Colorado."

    Geaves' contention that a single entity called Divine Light Mission had an "international office" appears fallacious, there is no evidence that such an office existed. Although the Officers of the US DLM, either at Rawat's instigation, or from their own initiative, may have operated as though they had international authority, the national Divine Light Missions in the UK, Australia, India etc. were entirely autonomous, whilst the US DLM had no brief to operate internationally.

  • "Although Divine Light Mission was established as an organisational vehicle for promoting Prem Rawat’s teachings, it rapidly developed into a vigorous new religious movement with its own distinctive appearance combining the typical characteristics of a contemporary North Indian Sant panth (sectarian institution) in which nirguna bhakti was combined with intense reverence for the living satguru ....."

    The original foundation documents for the US, UK and Australian DLMs make it quite clear that they were created as religious organisations from the outset. Had the intention simply to have been to create vehicles for the promotion of a teaching, then the organisations could have been created as having educational rather than religious purpose. [*] [*] [*]

  • "....but in fact, Prem Rawat’s charisma owed itself to a combination of factors that enabled individuals to perceive something far more dynamic than an established sampradaya lineage could provide."

    The Geaves' assertions about Rawat's charisma and the perceptions of individuals are unsupported by any evidence, it is difficult not to conclude that there is but one 'individual' in this context and that Geaves is simply reporting his personal experience as 'fact'.

  • "By 1974, the movement had experienced a number of crises resulting from the marriage of Prem Rawat to Marolyn Johnson, a Californian follower; the financial crisis created by the failure to fill the Houston astrodome and the disillusionment of American followers, whose millennialism had always been stronger than in Europe or Britain, when their expectations of a messianic event were not fulfilled."

    Geaves' assertion of exceptional millennial belief within Rawat's US following begs the question of why such a belief arose. If indeed Geaves is correct regarding millennial belief, this sits unconformably with his apparent assertions elsewhere that Rawat did not promote religiosity.  Rawat's early orations, which included frequent reference to the Bhagavad Gita certainly contributed apocalyptic imagery to the melange of millenialistic expectations of Rawat's Western devotees.

  • "Elan Vital displayed none of the characteristics of a religion found in Divine Light Mission. For example, none of Smart’s dimensions of religion could be found in Elan Vital and Prem Rawat increasingly used its organisational neutrality as a vehicle to promote his message of inner peace and fulfilment with a marked decrease in the trappings of the Indian heritage."

    Here Geaves is heaping assertion on top of his erroneous claim that Elan Vital and Divine Light Mission were fundamentally different entities. Indeed of the dimensions commended by Smart - experiential, ethical, doctrinal, mythical, ritual, social and material - only 'ethical' can be said to be have been wholly absent from the operative belief systems of those following Prem Rawat both before and after the name change from Divine Light Mission to Elan Vital.

  • "However, the organisation was not responsible for this task, which was handed over to individuals around the world who felt personally committed to organise events and publicity, even down to inviting Prem Rawat to speak in their towns and cities."

    From 1972 onwards it was standard practice for Rawat only to attend meetings to which he had been 'invited'. Denial of a request was presented in terms of "Guru Maharaj Ji feels more strongly drawn to his followers elsewhere" to which organisational insiders and the mahatmas would respond by berating the community that had failed to have its invitation accepted as "being not loving, committed or devoted enough". Although 'beration' is not an explicit feature in the operation of Elan Vital, the acceptance or refusal by Rawat of an 'invitation', is still seen in terms of success or failure by many of his followers and is a key part of the dynamic which supports the garnering of donations to fund Rawat's travels. Further, Elan Vital is explicit about its role in the 'invitation process'. [* see page 2 Review of activities] & [*]

  • "A new organisation was created by Prem Rawat, and named The Prem Rawat Foundation (TPRF)."

    Given that creation of TPRF is a recent development it might be expected that Rawat's role in this 'creation' process would be identifiable, yet none of the publicly available documents relating to TPRF show any involvement by Prem Rawat at all. Geaves may be correct in his assertion but some evidence in what must have been a transparent process is required to validate the assertion.
  • "This new development [TPRF] provides an agency through which Prem Rawat can independently promote his message, but also offer the same independence to individuals who wish to assist him locally, organising their own events through supplying both print and electronic materials."

    The notion of Rawat's 'independence' is false. The funds supporting TPRF come from the same cadre of followers that provide funds to the national Elan Vitals which in turn are the source of revenue which supports the operation of a $45 million jet and an associated $4 million per annum travel budget. Further no individual followers can practically 'assist' locally without reference to the national Elan Vitals. [* see page 2 Review of activities]
  • "Prem Rawat ......... and he encourages would-be students to think for themselves, delaying formal teaching of the four techniques for at least five months during which time they should listen and resolve any questions."

    There is no process in which those who sign up for the Keys programme of DVDs (which are required viewing for anyone wishing to be taught the four meditation techniques), are in any way encouraged to think for themselves. Rawat has never commended critical examination of what he says, what his organisations do or what his recommended meditation actually involves. The only consistent command that Rawat has given to those aspiring to be taught the Rawatian Knowledge is that the aspirant should give up 'doubt'. [*]

  • "Although Prem Rawat’s followers, in both east and west, have asserted strongly that he is either an avatar of the supreme being or one of the avatars of Vishnu, especially Krishna, he has gone to great lengths to assert his humanity and deconstruct the hagiography that has developed around his life."

Here Geaves misleads by diversion as well as false assertion. The treatment of Rawat by the movement that promotes him is profoundly hagiographic, everything from Rawat's abilities as a pilot to his registering a patent is presented as evidence of his great accomplishments. A Hindu centred narrative may no longer be stressed but the whole thrust of the Rawat movement is to promote a hagiography albeit one that has been revised to encompass a materialist and technological mythology.

Further, in spite of the public message that the Rawat movement has abandoned Hindu style religious guruism, which seems to be the basis of Geaves' assertion that Rawat has "gone to great lengths", adulatory practices continue at closed events as is made clear by the report of a recent event held in Delhi: [*]

"Last night the backdrop photo was of that moment. He is sitting, aged 8 years, with his Krishna crown on and is having a tilak put on his forehead.
This was repeated last night on the 40th anniversary. After 3 wondrous days with him giving us so much, of hearing ancient premies sharing their love and gratitude for Maharaji with such wonderful words, of hearing young premies sharing their love and enthusiasm for Knowledge and Maharaji, of hearing many bhajans, old traditional ones and new upbeat ones, of hearing his words and feeling his love and dancing once more with him......................he came on to the stage in his Krishna costume, Charanand put a tilak on his forehead, Raja Ji garlanded him and Daya crowned him. We then sang artii to our beautiful Lord."

  • "The audiences addressed by Prem Rawat through the activities of the Foundation will provide the opportunity to place the emphasis on the message rather than the personality as these new audiences will be independent of existing congregations made up of those with a strong allegiance to the person of Prem Rawat."

    In this statement Geaves abandons any attempt at observation and moves wholly to the prediction of outcomes. Even in this predictive mode, Geaves seems oblivious to the fact that audiences at many of the events sponsored by TPRF are largely made up of the "existing congregations".

4. False Hypotheses

Geaves, perhaps unintentionally, introduces two false hypotheses - the first is that the organisational 'transformations' that have occurred within Prem Rawat's movement have been intentional conscious responses designed to support philosophically significant outcomes, the second is that Rawat alone has been the 'genius' of change.

Intentional Change, Capricious Diktat or Expedient Reaction

The setting up of the Divine Light Missions in the UK, US and Australia provide no evidence of any clear planning, and the role of Prem Rawat, then aged only 13 and with little understanding of the world outside of his northern Indian guruship and Catholic schooling can have had little grasp of the legal aspects of Charitable status, tax exemption and Trustee responsibility. Indeed it is not even clear that those of Rawat's followers who initiated these organisations and who took on Trustee and Officer responsibilities had any collective experience of such initiatives. While all those concerned, including the young Rawat, no doubt had expectations of what the organisations were to deliver, far from suggesting 'intentionality' the historical evidence points toward an ad hoc and chaotic response to a collectivist notion of how things 'should be'. Further this explanation of the evidence sits far more logically with Geaves' claim of a 'counter culture' origin for Rawat's reception in the west.

The announcement of the creation of the Divine United Organisation in 1973 is the first point at which Rawat can be identified as the 'sole initiator' of an organisational project, however as Rawat was still a minor he could not have undertaken the legal responsibilities himself and the role of those who did accept Trusteeships can not be shown not to have contributed substantially to the shaping of the organisation. The role of the mahatma Sarupanand particularly bears examination.

Although DUO was trumpeted by Rawat as being a wholly new initiative, it merely copied the base formula of the Indian Divine Light Mission and in comparison to that organisation did not even advance as far as an equivalent development of the DLM World Peace Corps. For almost all its 33 years DUO/RVK has been little more than an ashram and compound operated under the aegis of an Association registered with the Indian Government.

Not until 1975 do events occur that, with later testimony, offer insights into how the Rawat movement operated and which give a demonstration of what the impetus for change actually was. The US DLM had originally been registered as having charitable purpose and as being a church, with Prem Rawat identified as the Chief Minister of that church. Michael Dettmers, Rawat's personal assistant from 1975 to 1988 has explained in detail how the US DLM was redefined to separate Rawat from having any legal or contractual responsibility to or for the US DLM, while at the same time transferring some $5 million worth of assets held by the church to the personal control of Rawat. [*] The overarching impetus for this change was a formal examination by the US Internal Revenue Service, and the effective outcome of the change was the personal enrichment of Rawat. Geaves' hypotheses about Rawat at no point describe observable events of organisational change that took place in 1975 and 1976 within the US Divine Light Mission.

Geaves claims that "As early as 1975, the ashrams were disbanded ..... " seemingly suggesting that this was a purposeful move initiated by Rawat. In fact the closure of many ashrams was precipitated by numbers of ashramees physically moving out or otherwise, because the properties occupied as ashrams were leased in the name of the residents, many followers simply abandoning the strictures of ashram living and turning the properties into mere communally occupied houses.

The re-ashramisation that occurred under the aegis of the national Divine Light Missions between 1977 and 1983 certainly appears to have been an intended and strategic development, what is not clear is what the motivation behind the reversal of laissez fair acceptance of ashram decline was. Geaves seems to suggest that Rawat 'needed' to act because "loss of the Indian metanarrative was too soon for many committed followers of the teachings." Geaves' implication being that in reinstating the ashram system Rawat was acting in the interest of, or responding to the demands of his "committed followers".

Given that the organisational change of 1975 had been driven by an outside influence (the formal examination of the US DLM by IRS) and that that change had resulted in huge personal benefit accruing to Rawat, any hypothesis regarding subsequent organisational changes might reasonably be expected to address the issues of what the prevailing exterior influences may have been and whether further personal benefit accrued to Rawat. Geaves make no mention of either element and it is indeed the case that no single dominant exterior influence appears to have been behind the re-ashramisation that accompanied the heightened devotionalism demanded by Rawat at that time. However the further accruing of personal benefit to Rawat is evident from 1977 onwards, something which saw its fullest expression in the DECA project which some participants have described in terms akin to a labour camp. Surprisingly Geaves makes no mention of DECA despite the huge level of organisational and financial resources that the operation swallowed up.

Geaves' conflation of the 1982 [1982 - 1983] closure of the ashrams with his erroneous chronology of the Divine Light Mission/Elan Vital name change leaves his analysis of this period highly questionable and Geaves' presentation of the purpose behind the closure as being part of a strategic aim to 'de-Indianise' seems partial at best. For those within the ashrams in 82 and 83 the decision appeared arbitrary and capricious, most ashramees had no independent means of support and suddenly found themselves without home, employment, career or family. An entirely materialistic and selfish response by Rawat to external influence has been suggested by a number of former ashramees as being the only motivation behind the ashram closures. The perception being that a changing legal climate saw increasing liabilities accruing to the national Divine Light Missions for the health care, pension and other social costs of ashram residents. In this scenario the ashram closures are explicable as a simple fiscal response to a deteriorating fiscal environment.

A surprising omission from Geaves' chronology is the abortive attempt in 1985 to change the church/religious status of the US organisation - by that point renamed as Elan Vital. The process was begun by lodging papers with the IRS that changed the Elan Vital status to that of a public trust, and the IRS actually treated the US organisation as having that status until 1989. The IRS finally ruled the changed status invalid because of Elan Vital's failure to submit requested documentation. This sequence seems to be quite outside of the intentionality of purpose that Geaves claims for Rawat's organisational changes.

Other omissions from the organisational chronology could be claimed as justified because they were not "used to transmit his [Prem Rawat's] teachings", however such a distinction seems somewhat arbitrary. The Elan Vital Foundation for instance does not directly act to 'transmit teachings' but it is the essential hub for the international movement of the funds which support Rawat's travels. The SEVA Corporation of America, Myrine Investments and the Oanae Trust are all organisational entities which are, or have in the past been crucial to the movement of funds and to the beneficial holding of assets which have been claimed by Rawat's supporters as either being essential to support Rawat's travels, or to the operation of mechanisms by which Rawat's 'students' have been enabled to make gifts to their teacher. SEVA Corp. came into existence some time in the 1980s, its subsidiaries have owned most of Rawat's aircraft, plus the 106ft yacht Serenity. Oanae Trust and Myrine Investments are of less certain history, Oanae was a financial vehicle for the receipt of funds from wealthy donors, possibly including the Delaski family and the Delaski owned Deltek Corp. Myrine Investments was the ultimate owner of both Rawat's Australian residence at Fig Tree Pocket and the Amaroo Conference Centre, the latter having been purchased and built with donations and loans from Rawat's followers. The Oanae and Myrine operations are 'off shore' registrations, the board of EVF, which is registered in Switzerland is not publicly identified while SEVA Corp. and its subsidiaries have had a select group of Rawat's followers as Officers and Directors.

It is further surprising that Geaves does not address the specific development of the Amaroo Conference Centre as this project was foreshadowed in earlier attempts to create westernised versions of the 'ashram compound'. In the 1970s Rawat had announced plans for a 'town sized' ashram in the US where everything would be run by Rawat's followers, this never materialised. In the 1980s, Rawat, apparently at his own initiative purchased land in Argentina which was planned to be developed as a global meeting place for his followers. Attempts were made to hold tented gatherings there but the land proved liable to flooding and the whole project was quietly forgotten. The Amaroo project commenced in the early 1990s and with its clear antecedence within the Rawat organisational chronology it is difficult to see how this continuation of an organisational theme supports Geaves' proposition of organisational innovation, indeed Amaroo has all the hallmarks of a project conceived as part of Rawat's 1973 DUO plan.

Throughout the 1990s numbers of national Elan Vital's were closed and by 2002 only the UK, US and Australian operations were evidently active, Geaves does not address this sequence of closures but again there is no evidence that the organisational change came about for any reason other than the financial imperative of shutting down moribund operations.

Geaves is certainly right to identify the use of the Internet by the Rawat organisations but whether this development is anything other than a pragmatic response to the development of a revenue generating opportunity and the rapid decrease in numbers of followers outside of India willing to spend time promoting Prem Rawat in a real world rather than virtual context, is a moot point.

A further omission by Geaves concerns what were called Trainings. Although the style and attitudes presented by Rawat in these events had been noted in the past by those attending 'management' meetings with Rawat, it was undoubtedly a new development to invite numbers of followers to pay for attendance at training conference type events where Rawat took the role of Management Trainer. The 'trainings' certainly provide explicit evidence of Rawat's world view and philosophical approach, however this evidence does not accord well with the Rawat philosophy as presented by Geaves. [*]

Lone Genius of Change

Geaves avoids any analysis of the internal dynamics of the organisations that have promoted Prem Rawat and instead presents Rawat as the sole agency of initiative within those organisations. As already noted above Rawat cannot, for both practical and legal reasons, have acted without the co-operation of those who held legal and constitutional positions in those organisations. An exploration of the relationship between Rawat and the functionaries, officers and trustees of the organisations is essential to any understanding of how change, if any, came about.

The only published accounts of Rawat's relationship with individuals who have had legal and functional responsibilities within the promoting organisations are statements from three individuals all of whom had separated from the organisations and who had rejected Rawat as a teacher. Covering a period from 1971 until 1988, the comments of Bob Mishler, Michael Donner and Michael Dettmers point to a confused and contradictory relationship between Rawat and those who run the promotional organisations. These testimonies also clearly identify numerous elements of organisational change that were the initiative of individuals other than Prem Rawat. . [*] & [*]

In addition to these 'apostate' statements, Geaves' 'lone genius' hypothesis can be tested against the known legal and functional demands of individual organisations:

  • The US Divine Light Mission was created as being legally Incorporated and as operating as a Church as defined within the Internal Revenue Service Code. Legally the US DLM was required to have named Board members, named Officers and, as chosen by the Board, a named Chief Minister of Religion. The changes in the US DLM in response to the IRS examination of 1975 saw the position of Chief Minister removed as a constitutional element, in all other respects however the US Elan Vital has the same characteristics in 2006 as it had under the DLM name in 1976. The question then arises: What has been the relationship between Prem Rawat and the legally responsible members of the Board and Officers of Elan Vital/DLM over the last 30 years? Geaves' hypothesis requires that the Board members and Officers would have been subject to instruction by Rawat as to how the organisation was run and managed. Such an arrangement would be highly problematic, not least because Rawat has been the recipient of large amounts of finance from the organisation in support of his International travels. The financing of Rawat's travels may be justified in terms of Elan Vital's 'brief' but the demands of good corporate governance require that there be a degree of independence in the awarding of commercial contracts, charitable grants and expenditure which may seem to be seen to disproportionately benefit an individual. If indeed, as implied by Geaves, Rawat has had a 'didactic' relationship with the Board and Officers of Elan Vital then the required level of independence must be in doubt.

    The problematic nature of Rawat's relationship with the US Elan Vital is well demonstrated by the testimony of a former volunteer employee. [*] Further evidence of a confused organisational dynamic comes in the form of legal representation provided to Rawat in his personal capacity by Linda Gross who has served as President of the US Elan Vital. [* Trouble around the Heliport]
    However, as the US Elan Vital has been subject to examination by the IRS for 35 years, it must be assumed that Elan Vital has been operating with an acceptable degree of effective corporate governance and that therefore the Directors and Officers have consistently acted independently of Prem Rawat and that therefore Geaves' hypothesis regarding Rawat's 'leadership' role is wrong.
  • The UK Divine Light Mission was created as Trust with religious purpose under UK Charity Law, the Trustees and Officers of the Trust being required to act entirely independently and in the interest only of the Trust as defined by its objectives. As with the US 'church' good governance would have required a clear separation between personal adherence to Rawat as a teacher, and any decision to use the Charity's resources to support activities directly involving Rawat or which could be seen as benefiting Rawat personally. Successive General Secretaries of the UK DLM were involved in the requesting of funds to support the leasing of a property known as Swiss House which was to serve as a private residence for Prem Rawat in the UK. Were Geave's hypothesis to be correct, the initiative to acquire the Swiss House must surely have come from Rawat himself, thus the Trustees and Officers of DLM would be open to the charge that they failed to meet the independence required of them.
  • The Australian Divine Light Mission was created as an Association, its original Constitution specifically provided for Prem Rawat to have the right of appointment of members and officers; in this respect the Australian organisation more than any other provides support for Geaves' hypothesis of Rawat as a 'lone genius of change'. The scope of the Australian organisation however has always been limited, in comparison the US Elan Vital has subsidiaries that are involved in the production of materials for world wide distribution and licensing and for the production of television programming. Only in respect of the Amaroo project has the Australian organisation had a more global role, here again the question of good governance arises because the Association has created corporate subsidiaries. The Directors and Officers of the subsidiaries must necessarily act independently of anyone likely to benefit at the expense of the legal corporate beneficiaries. As Rawat was involved at a personal level in the ownership of land on which the Amaroo development has taken place, Geaves' hypothesis if correct would seem to imply that an improper relationship must have existed between the Directors and Officers of the Australian EV subsidiaries and Prem Rawat. As the Australian authorities have reported no such untoward relationship the Directors and Officers of the subsidiaries and the Officers of the Association must be considered to have acted independently and as such must be considered as agents of change within the Rawat movement, both in Australia and upon a wider global scale.

5. Conclusion

Geaves' erroneous chronology of the Rawat movement fatally undermines both the article in which it appears but also requires that his previous writing on Rawat be re-examined. In addition Geaves own role as an agent within the history of the Rawat movement demands to be addressed before any of Geaves' propositions about the movement can be treated as disinterested analysis. Geaves numerous unsupported assertions about the Rawat movement and about Rawat as an individual are frequently contradictory and seem far more about justification of a perspective than about providing a description of actual phenomena or historical context.
Furthermore the hypotheses presented by Geaves do not explain the observable data. For practical and legal reasons Rawat can not occupy the exclusive 'leadership' position that Geaves ascribes to him. Others, either as individuals or collectively as corporate bodies necessarily shape the movement that supports Prem Rawat. Additionally that movement is subject to external influences which must to some degree be in conflict with the expressed views of Prem Rawat. Geaves makes no attempt to explore how the corporate bodies that comprise the corps of the Rawat movement respond to, or mitigate the effects of conflict between external and internal influences. In so doing Geaves neglects whole rafts of data which deserve assessment, and which are essential to achieving any understanding of the dynamics of the relationship between Prem Rawat and the movement that has formed around him.

Nik Wright

Article created July 2006, revised August 2006.
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