Elsa Dragemark's Story Goes On
Brief capsules or glimpses from the sequel to Elsa Dragemark's The Way to Maharishi's Himalayas (1972). [⇐]
Elsa lost her mother when she was eight - when Elsa was eight, that is. When she was eleven she got a good boy friend. They were of the same age and inseparable friends for about three years until he went to Gothenburg to go to school there.
The World War 2 came. In 1944 Elsa moved to Gothenburg to study there. "Sometimes I pretended that I had fun, but it was just a game." She could reflect, "What am I saying?"
All the same, she met a nice man. First they lived in Trollhättan for five years, and then moved to Stockholm, where sometimes she would sit for hours and just wait for a miracle after she had dragged herself to a place where she could glimpse the sea.
Sometimes when she met a priest she would ask him to tell her how to get in touch with God: "I would love to talk with him." And the priest would then become nervous, uncertain and speechless, with fluttering eyes as if scared. Other priests simply turned their back on her and left her standing in the middle of the aisle with her questions.
She took heart from her daddy's guiding words when she was a child:
Be yourself! Always! . . . Have you got nothing else to say then tell the truth! . . . Pentecostals. Beware of them! See to it that you never ever mingle with them. The strange and unnormal things they rattle off are just the devil speaking!" (p. 39)
One day her husband was gone. She started to read spiritual books. She visited so many special places. She was employed in the Swedish Armed Forces. She wanted a master to guide her. She learnt Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Transcendental Meditation, TM.
"I was a very diligent meditator and I gladly helped out with practical work too." (p. 58)
In 1964 in Norway, Elsa discovered that she was very attached to Maharishi. "Looked up to him almost as a god. Showed my devotion by giving him large bouquets of flowers that I picked in the mountain meadows."
"Maharishi was charmed by the Nordic light and midnight sun."
"Elsa," lisped Maharishi. "I want you to come to me in India, and I will make you an initiator." Elsa bent down and kissed the floor at his feet. (p. 58-60)
About Maharishi's newly built academy in Rishikesh in 1968: "For a place in the jungle, this was a place of luxury. Each participant got a furnished room, private toilet and a washroom. The food was well cooked and tasty." Maharishi saw to it that they had "everything" they needed, even tailors. (p. 63)
There were seventy-five participants from different parts of the world. (p. 64)
One morning, as they sat and waited for the chef to set the breakfast table for them, Beatle-John Lennon and Elsa were chatting. Suddenly, a monkey jumped up on the meter high wall that ran around the academy's food pavillion. At once John began to grimace and imitate the monkey. The monkey hissed and bared his teeth, then jumped onto the table, where there was a large bowl of powdered sugar. In an instant the monkey grasped the bowl and tossed the bowl and the sugar in the face of John. "We laughed heartily and long." (p. 67-68)
Elsa thought it was fun to meet holy men. (p. 75)
She wanted to get Self-realised, but instead of meditating, "I lay on the bed and devoted myself to self-pity and other destructive thinking." (p. 78)
The Beatles left the academy before the others. (p. 79)
Elsa returned to Sweden as a TM initiator. She was not completely satisfied with her inner life, though. (p. 82-83)
Once again, after two years, she came to India to attend another course at Maharishi's academi. She had high hopes. One evening she asked Maharishi: "How do I know what is the sign of unity?"
"You just know it," Maharishi said. (p. 85)
On the last day of the course a hot wind was blowing. The three-months' course ended unceremonially. Else felt glad to leave for she had had doubts and gloomy thoughts. She had been there to "get God", and failed - again. She cried and hammered her fists against the railings of a bridge over the Ganges. (p. 86-87)
Back in Sweden again she had plenty to do. She initiated Swedes in Transcendental Meditation and arranged conferences. Maharishi took part in at least one of them, in Stockholm. Elsa had now got annoyed with something: He kept asking them send large sums to him so that the business would be even more successful. (p. 90-91)
After the Stockholm conference, Elsa thought he looked tired and wistful when he looked long and searchingly at her before handing her a rose with a "Thank you!" He walked slowly away. It was the last time they met. "Maharishi leaves your life now," an inner voice said. After thirteen years with TM the joy of it seemed to be blowing away. (p. 91-92)
A new movement
A new movement appeared. It was headed by an Indian boy called Guru Maharaj Ji. His organisation was termed DLM, for Divine Light Mission. DLM got a place in a former coal cellar in the north of Stockholm. She started to go there for satsangas rather often. One day she got to know that Guru Maharaj Ji would be coming Copenhagen. Generous gifts were asked for. And then he came, dressed like a Krishna boy with a flute in his hand, among devoted cries. Her attachment to Maharishi paled. "Here is a guru who says he is the Lord [Bhagavan], I'll go for him instead."
She went to London on a trip to get the (deep) Knowledge of Guru Maharaj Ji. She was warned time and again in DLM how dangerous it was to receive his spiritual gift and then leave the Knowledge (methods), and not be faithful to Guru Maharaj Ji all one's life.lived.
Elsa promised: "I dedicate my life to you, Guru Maharaj Ji, I surrender my life to you, Guru Maharaj Ji". . . and so on. (I consecrate and inaugurate my life to you, Guru Maharaj Ji, I surrender my life to you, Guru Maharaj Ji). She also had to promise never to reveal the techniques.
When she learnt the four yoga methods she "saw . . . light, heard . . . music and it felt like I was filled with a strong force."
"This happened in March 1974," two years after she had published her book The Way to Maharishi's Himalayas. (p. 94-114)
Elsa had got a set of meditation methods to practice. Did she manage to stay devoted to the end this time? No.
Elsa contacted the TM movement's chairman in Sweden and said she had leftMaharishi and now was Guru Maharaj Ji's disciple. Maharishi phoned her from Switzerland, where he was, and wanted to come there.. She did not, but thanked him for the years of help. After thirteen years. Now she was to serve Guru Maharaj Ji and practice his four yoga methods alone or in groups, and be completely obedient and devoted to Guru Maharaj Ji, as DLM required.
She went to DLM lectures for three or four hours every night; that was expected in DLM. These lectures were by unprepared speakers. Some of them were vivid and captivating too.
Elsa's first lecture in Guru Majaraj Ji's Divine Light Mission in Sweden was a challenge. After first touching the floor with her forehead she sat down in a lecturing chair. She thought others thought: "It will be fun to hear what an old TM teacher has to say about the Knowledge [four methods] and Guru Maharaj Ji." After she told about her experience the ice was broken. "I was sincere and enthusiastic". It was not long before other TM-ers also came and asked for knowledge in the cellar.
In the Swedish Armed Forces her boss was a general. In DLM, service meant to serve Guru Maharaj Ji unconditionally and without even questioning why.
"We believed in that Guru Maharaj Ji was the living God in our time. He had said it." Elsa thought it was wonderful to dare to show that she was on [that] God's side. New people came and listened to DLM lectures, and the small group grew quickly. Elsa had given her life to Guru Maharaj Ji. "Everything felt good, everything was in order. No effort or challenge was too great," se recalled. But did it last? No.
To be near Guru Maharaj Ji and kiss his "lotus foot" was what all disciples yearned and strove for. Grand festivals offered a chance for that, at least to some.
On one such festival Guru Maharaj Ji came out on stage, barefoot and shirtless. The yellow silk trousers, krishna crown of gold and sparkling gems and with a thick wreath of flowers around his neck and krishna flute with silver in his hand, he began to dance for them. Disciples cheered and shouted: "Guru Maharaj Ji, Guru Maharaj Ji, we love you." Two elderly American ladies, who sat next to Elsa, became hysterical and shouted: "Look, look, he takes steps."
"It was impossible not to love the little chubby 'god' who danced and smiled at us," writes Elsa.
During the night he danced tirelessly hour after hour, and disciples kept on dancing with the guru until the sun rose.
Elsa attended conferences of varying lengths and in different locations in America and Europe. Twice she was received a personal invitation by Guru Maharaj Ji to his birthday celebration in Miami. "Thanks to these festivals, programs and conferences, I have seen many countries and places . . . and met a lot of wonderful people."
Once Guru Maharaj Ji made a tour of Scandinavia. In the hotel that was booked for him, Sheraton, he cut his foot on a piece of glass lying on the floor. The news quickly spread throughout the world of DLM disciples that his "Lotus foot" was hurt in Stockholm."
Despite all the festivals, Elsa felt a strong attraction to the Church and longing for the Eucharist, especially when she felt anxious or depressed. She had given up talking with the priests long ago.
She head about some kind of monastery farm where people could retreat to be in silence and stillness. Nuns and not brahmacharis took care of the practical and a priest taught from the Bible - as compared to Maharishi who taught Vedas. Elsa could not find any significant difference at the time.
She went into the chapel one the evening and sat down in a chair in front of the altar, hoping that Jesus would manifest himself as a figure of light in the chapel. He did not. But she heard someone shouted, "Elsa Elsa!" She looked around and saw no one.
Elsa visisted the farm several times, preferably in spring when the birches were leafing and the ground was covered with spring flowers. She made a little altar of pebbles in the wood, knelt before it and bored her face down into the moss bed and prayed, "Don't forget me . . . Come, Lord, come!"
She looked around hoping to see Jesus standing there, maybe half hidden by a bush or trunk. But no.
She also sensed that life as a nun probably would not suit her. She was too fond of being with men who were more penetrating than women. She had many male friends and trusted them more men than women like herself.
She had in mind what Guru Maharaj Ji said bout himself, that he was the living master of the earth, "it's me you should worship and celebrate. I am the living Lord today. Surrender to me!"
Suddenly Elsa felt like a traitor where she was sitting. Her life seemed difficult and complicated, but it was "probably best that I stick to the living master of our time . . . and I can get to dance with him."
But once she thought she saw the face of Jesus reflected in her altar wine.
Unexpectedly, Elsa became seriously ill with severe heart problems. During her convalescence she returned to the sea-side where she felt at home - and was torn between Guru Majaraj Ji and Jesus, and attachments fit for a human life.
One morning Elsa was informed, "Now you get to take over the whole DLM ruljangsen [the enterprise, movement, "all of it"] in Sweden and the ashram. You have Guru Maharaj Ji's blessing."
It was a big surprise. "If Guru Maharaj Ji said it, so be it. Surrender, surrender!"
After some time she started to get strange rumors about Guru Maharaj Ji, though, about his life and times. Disciples no longer attended the DLM lectures. It was just as if the joy disappeared. There as a feeling of uneasiness in the DLM ashram, which Elsa headed. Then at the end of March 1984 someone called her from London and announced that Guru Maharaj Ji had decided that all ashrams in the world would at once be shut down.
Elsa had stayed in the ashram for ten years. She went to Copenhagen for a course there. Guru Majaraj Ji came there - in a suit and with a briefcase under his arm, and with plans for a project to get more money for himself. "He looked and spoke like any businessman."
Scales fell from Elsa's eyes. Back home from Copenhagen, one day in mid-April, as Elsa was talking with someone on the DLM board in the phone, she heard herself say with a very firm voice: "Now I distance myself from Guru Maharaj Ji, the Knowledge [four methods] and everything DLM. I'll never return."
"It was as if a strong band burst within me, a band that went from the top of the head, through the heart and all the way down into your feet . . . now it was broken. . . . I was suddenly free from him."
Elsa hung up the phone. For twenty-five years she had served Maharishi and Guru Maharaj Ji. And sure, there had been many days filled with joy.
Now she had given up. "I stayed in bed. Was there, after all, anyone who heard and saw me? Who cared about me?"
The next day she heard about a certain Salvation Army "soldier". She went to the meeting and heard "Alleluia".
"I will certainly not raise my hands or shout Hallelujah", she thought. A few behind her started talking loudly in a strange language. They looked like ordinary Swedes to her.
At once she remembered what her dad had said one Sunday morning when she was a child. He had strictly forbidden his children to be with people who taked in tongues and yelled, "Det är de där pingstvännerna. Akta er för dem! Se till att ni aldrig, aldrig beblandar er med dem. Det konstiga de rabblar är bara djävulen som talar!" Such "gibberish" belonged to the devil, he was sure of.
The words had been deeply rooted in Elsa throughout her life. Now they popped to the surface when people started to fall on the floor after being touched on the forehead. "Can't they stand on their legs?" Elsa thought before she became one of them - falling to the floor and lying there until some boys pulled her up. She felt dizzy, but when the meeting was over, she went home. But she returned with friends.
In time she stood up with lifted hands and moved her feet to some music and dared af few small hallelujahs too.
The preacher said, "I will pray for you."
Some days later an inward voice said: "You will be saved on 8 August."
In a church at that date she felt as if God took large bags of sin and guilt andlifted them from her shoulders and threw them on the floor - not the shoulders, that is. A young woman came up and took her by the arm and said, "I'm your advisor."
She took Else with her to a basement room.
"I want the Holy Spirit too," said Elsa.
"Yes, yes," said the adviser.
Tears burned beneath Elsa's eyelids, but she managed to control herself, and ran quickly across the street to the subway. A home she reflected how New Age movements, purporting to be God's servants, captured people by their longings, to get honour, power and property.
In a book by Anita Barker and Marie Hallberg (2000) is the same story, in essence:
Dragemark had tried to get to God through Transcendental Meditation, including a period of fifteen days of fasting and meditation, and felt so disappointed. Three years later she tried in vain again to get God at Maharishi's meditation academy. She was by then one of the leaders in the Transcendental Meditation movement in Sweden.
However, after twelve years of Transcendental Meditation she switched technique and guru: Guru Maharaj Ji [now: Prem Rawat, born in 1957] had appeared and was presented as one God on earth. Dragemark thought she reached a higher level and for a time even was a leader in the guru's Divine Light Mission, DLM.
Then leader skirmishes - mother against son - made DML split in the 1980s. In the west it was replaced by Elan Vital, active from 1971 to 2010. [Cf. WP, "Divine Light Mission"; "Elan Vital (organization)"]. After 12 years with Divine Light Mission Dragemark began to question it all, and in the summer of 1987 reverted to Christianity, reborn, as they say, 61 years old. She passed away in 2011.
Arjuna said, "A man who has faith, but not steadfastness, and whose mind has wandered away from yoga - what end does he gain, having failed to gain perfection in yoga?"
The Lord said,
"There is no destruction for him . . . Having reached the worlds of those whose acts were virtuous and stayed there very many years, the man fallen from yoga is reborn in the house of pure and prosperous people. Or, he is born into a family of yogis who are endowed with wisdom.
"A birth like that is more difficult to get in this world. There he regains that level of Union reached by the intellect in his former body, and by virtue of this he strives yet more for perfection. . . .
"He is sustained precisely by this former practice, even involuntarily . . . Arjuna, be a yogi."
[Gist from Bhagavad Gita, 6:37-47, in Maharishi's, Lars Fosses, and Nikhilananda's translations]
Barker, Anita, and Marie Hallberg. Det finns FRIHET. Uddevalla: Omegaskrift, 2000:33-37.
Dragemark, Elsa. Ljusbubblan: Ur minnenas arkiv. (The Light Bubble: From the Archives of Memories.) Rörvik: Pison Förlag, 1998.
Dragemark, Elsa. The Way to Maharishi's Himalayas. Stockholm: E. Dragemark, 1972.
Fosse, Lars Martin. The Bhagavad Gita: The Original Sanskrit and an English Translation. Woodstock, NY: YogaVidya.com, 2007.
Nikhilananda, Swami, tr. The Bhagavad Gita. New York: Ramakrishna-Vivekananda Center, 1952.
Yogi, Maharishi Mahesh. Maharishi Mahesh Yogi on the Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation and Commentary with Sanskrit Text. Chapters 1 to 6. Reprint ed. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972.
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