Return of the Sannyasins

‘Wild Wild Country’, the documentary focusing on the cult of Bhaghwan Shree Rajneesh (Osho) and their little social experiment is an excellent example of a socially progressive ideology tested in real life, in a concrete place and time, with a concrete community.

Progressive Guru

You might be familiar with Osho’s ideas; he is the closest thing to an atheist, progressive guru. He believed in ‘the new man’, characterised by complete inner freedom, no longer trapped in institutions such as family, marriage, political ideologies and religions. Osho advocated the universal legalisation of contraception and abortion, declaring their religious prohibition as ‘criminal’, in light of the threat of overpopulation.

He also believed that one of the biggest threats of modernity is science; not because of its methods, but rather because he saw it as being used by unenlightened individuals whose worldview relies on enmity and competition.
“Hatred, not love…enmity with life, not friendship. Science has created the idea in humanity that they have been teaching survival of the fittest – as if life is just a struggle! The fact is otherwise, just the contrary. Life is a vast cooperation. So the first thing to be understood is: All ideals are perfectionist. Hence, ALL ideals are inhuman. And all ideals cripple and paralyse you. All ideals create a kind of subtle bondage around you, they imprison you. The really free man has no ideals.” – wiki.

Beyond these easily recognisable progressive bromides, Osho embraced the wisdom of more traditional Hindu or Buddhist beliefs, with an overtone of Western rationality, secularism and the exaltation of human rights and liberties. That’s probably why many of your edgy atheist friends love to cite him. That’s why 40 years ago, many young Americans and Europeans seeking Eastern spirituality were drawn to this charismatic fellow and eventually founded the town of Rajneeshpuram in Wasco County, Oregon.

Growth Tactics

Osho’s community grew mainly through donations and the successful promotion of his books and other merchandise. He managed to entice educated young intellectuals as his primary audience. Hollywood was also enamoured with his radiant personality and many film producers were drawn into the cult. In the initial stages of the community, they were experiencing so much economic growth that they managed to raise the buildings and the town’s infrastructure in record timing. The designers and builders were Osho’s own ‘sannyasins’, the members of his community who enjoyed shared ownership of everything and alternated their responsibilities with free sex and endless partying. A childhood state of bliss and wholeness. Ma Anand Sheela, a young friend of Osho, was nominated as his secretary and took care of all things social and administrative, while the guru slowly withdrew into his private life.

Bio-Leninism and Antifascism

Having been forced to flee India for fear of religious prosecution, the Rajneeshes bought the land in Oregon without impediments and enjoyed their luscious lifestyle in the land of the free, home of the brave, without a care in the world. One wonders what might have happened if they simply decided to live peacefully, without intruding on the lives of their middle american neighbours of the village of Antelope. Their strategy, however, was to purchase the entire village, one plot of land at a time. Those who did not wish to sell and move away, were constantly bullied, harassed and spied on, until they eventuall caved in. Others decided to conserve their lifestyle and fought back legally. This triggered Sheela’s maternal instincts. Convinced that fascist, racist America is out to get her children, she armed the Rajneeshes to the teeth and started gun practice daily. The bullying of neighbouring towns intensified. Litigations, legal disputes, arson, food poisoning, assasination plots, voting fraud – all of these were initiated by Sheela herself.

The hostilities against neighbouring settlements were doubled by Sheela’s apparitions in various TV shows, where she publicly shamed the Americans for being bigoted, religiously intolerant and unable to grasp the moral superiority of her cult. She repeatedly called them fascistic, compared them to Hitler and lamented the failure of the USA to deliver on her promises of liberty and equality. The Rajneeshes had a hit list of enemies of the commune, including mainly state officials, and plotted to kill them.

The attempt to sway local elections in their favour was done through the so-called ‘Share-a-Home’ program, in which they transported thousands of homeless people to Rajneeshpuram and attempted to register them to vote to inflate the constituency of voters for the group’s candidates. Sheela pompously bragged about her commune being non judgmental and profoundly interested in the marginalised and disenfranchised. ‘You fought in their wars’, she told the homeless. ‘You gave them everything and yet they don’t care about you. But we do and we will give you every opportunity to self realise!’ (paraphrase). The homeless were drugged constantly to avoid antisocial behaviour, and were later sent away in the same buses that brought them in. Drugged and asleep, they were abandoned on park benches in nearby towns.

Mass Surveillance and Cancel Culture

Sheela wiretapped and bugged the entire commune of Rajneeshpuram, spying on all interactions, including those of the guru himself. Her council had full administrative authority and could decide to expell any resident without justification. She also used the video recordings for her own petty grudges and power games. It turns out that the childhood state of wholeness enjoyed by the residents came at a high cost. They had hoped to instate ‘the new man’, free of all reactionary institutions such as family, marriage, political ideologies and religions; completely non-judgmental, non-egotistic, cooperational and self-realised, but had descended into complete chaos. When Sheela found out that Osho asked a doctor to give him a lethal drug, she attempted to assassinate the doctor and was forced to flee the commune. Osho couldn’t take the betrayal and finally broke his silence – only to insult Sheela and to accuse her of being sexually frustrated because he never agreed to sleep with her. A stunning manifestation of detachment and spiritual enlightenment!

Bitter Sweet Victory

We’re all familiar with the outcome of the experimental commune; fortunately for the 60 elderly residents of neighbouring Antelope, Rajneeshpuram is history. The legal battle could have easily ended differently were it not for the growing instability and infighting among the Rajneeshees. The young educated idealists left the garden of Eden and returned to their home countries; some could hardly adapt to the dreariness of real world interactions; become competitive, find a real job, learn to make choices on their own and accept the reality that Osho killed himself and is no more.

If we analyse the teachings of Osho, as well as the characteristics of his followers, we can conclude that we are dealing with a strictly secular, socially progressive, highly educated young demographics hailing mainly from Western countries. Jonathan Haidt’s WEIRD or today’s Sillicon Valley. People who rejected the limitations of their civilisation, in order to free their inner self and live in a truly enlightened international community. People with a purely negative definition of freedom as autonomy; whose only moral concerns are rooted in care/harm and fairness; whose only religious philosophy amounts to ego = bad; perceptiveness and acceptance = good. Who cannot even be bothered to make sacrifices for their god (“There is no God other than life itself” is Osho’s 2nd commandment), and try to reach spiritual ascension through compulsive sex, eating, drinking and partying. Glorified hedonism, very similar in all aspects to today’s Social Justice movement. That might be the closest thing modernity will ever achieve in terms of a purely post-enlightenment form of organised religion, with an iconoclastic, macchiavelian guru who treated the entire thing as a sick joke and experiment whose sole purpose was to prove that <<religion should be abolished once and for all!>>

Luckily for the middle Americans, the internationalists lost at that time. But fast forward 40 years and the situation has completely flipped on its head. There are no prospects for the aging populations of Middle America; the somewheres are slowly dying or slipping into poverty, while the spiteful mutants who compose the managerial elite are winning on every front. We have seen this a-religion descend into chaos if allowed enough time to fester. We therefore know it is only a matter of time until it reaches its end. Hopefully in the meantime the people of Antelope can hold onto the semblance of normalcy they have left until the red sannyasins exhaust themselves and leave their luxurious resorts up for grabs.

Joker (2019) – The End of Psychological Horror


  1. Another lesson from the documentary, which interviews Sheela quite extensively, allowing her to tell her side of the story – is that she hasn’t learned a single thing from her failure. She cannot see anything wrong with her leadership strategy, let alone her ideological commitments.

    This is useful in disabusing one of the myth that tyranny and violence are features of ‘toxic’ male leaders, and that women in leadership would help us get rid of this problem.

    The Longhouse (google the term) matriarch uses her care and fairness moral intuitions to justify actions that are sometimes far crueler and more gratuitous than those of a masculine leader.

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