Thanks Roger. I can completely relate to your story. Mine is very similar. I think many of us got involved with Maharaji out of a combination of being unhappy/scared in our lives at the time -- looking for something in our youth which is a very confusing time to many people -- and a sense of idealism to perfect ourselves and the world. I thought that following Maharaji was a chance to help change the paradigm of violence and competition in the world full of war and suffering and change it to a world of love and sharing. That's what Maharaji claimed to offer, at least for the first couple of years.
But the way he set it up, required that you never doubt it. It also required that you sit in brainwashing satsang, day after day, year after year. In the quote Hilltop has from Maharaji in 1978 above, Maharaji said you shouldn't even break away from satsang as a program to go get some fresh air because that is letting "mind" in. Invidious, cult it certainly was, based on shutting down critical thinking and being afraid of your own thoughts and desires. So, the harder you tried to do what Maharaji said you were supposed to do, the less likely you could get out of it.
So, years past, and all the little decisions you make to follow Maharaji's agya accumulate such that you don't really have any life left outside the cult. You give up your education, all your money, all your friends, even your family. You invest so much into it thatthe thought that it could all be a pile of crap is just unthinkable and so it's easier just to follow Maharaji's commandment never to doubt. You have given so much, you don't want to admit that you have wasted so much of yourself, and hurt other people you love by doing what you thought at the time was right.
But, in the end, I was one of those people Elan Vital talks about who just walked away. After years of total dedication of absolutely everything to Maharaji, I just walked away because I couldn't stand it anymore. I was so miserable as a premie and so exhausted from trying to rationalize, practice harder, and keep the truth from entering my thoughts, that I just had to get away from it. It was scary because Maharaji had said I would go to hell if I did. But I did anyway.
Of course, when I did, it all began to become clear that I had been in the cult, and had, for years, engaged in cult mind control, repressing what I knew to be the truth. It was really hard, just like you said, but was sure necessary and worth it. I had to work hard to deprogram because the culthink gets hardwired after so many years. You lose your capability as a person to stand up for yourself-- you are so used to trying to surrender and doubting your own rationality and, like Livia says, your "shit detector." That continues to work, it's just that Maharaji says not to listen to it and if you believe him, you turn away from it.
So, years go by. I forget about Maharaji and the cult. I have some friends who also used to be premies and we hardly even talk about it anymore. I never hear anything about Maharaji and the whole thing seems to have fallen apart. About 7 years later I go to see Maharaji, and he is not only incoherent and banal, the fawning rapture on the faces of the premies completely weirds me out. I am sure my cult experience is truly over.
Then, years later, I discover EPO and to my amazement, I find out that Maharaji is still out there pretending that he has something to do with giving people the happiness they want. He has ditched all the "save the world" preaching he used to do, but the premies, I find out, pretty much still believe he is God, still kiss his feet, and although nothing much has happened, Maharaji has gotten even richer than he was. Plus, the public isn't told about his claims to be God, his demands for total devotion and surrender, his Krishna-drag, and the rest. They are lied to.
So, ex-premies connect up, share information, and in the course of that we also discover that Maharaji himself, while I was his devotee, was living a life that was nothing like how he portrayed himself, with drugs, sex, alcohol and abuse. So, I find out I was deceived by him personally, on top of everything else. Other ex-premies feel the same. Of course, I don't think anybody ever realized that ex-premies would have the profound effect on Rawat that they have had.
I guess the truth is very powerful. It frees people, and as we know, many, many premies have left Maharaji with the help of EPO and the ex-premies. No wonder Elan Vital is so freaked out. The extreme viciousness of the way Elan Vital is reacting to the ex-premies is just proof of the effect they are having.