The path through Encounter
One of the problems with the early ashram, that general commentators found – even those favourable to it, was around something that arguably had not so much to do with Osho.
From 1975 Osho certainly did encourage well known people like Paul Lowe, Michael Barnett and Lowen, to take sannyas, and then introduce their own Esalen style encounter groups to the ashram. (Paul Lowe had come back from California to the UK with his wife Patricia Lowe (Poonam) in 1972 and started up an Esalen style outfit in Kilburn.) Something we can say for sure Osho was only – and solely familiar with through his vociferous reading – and in no other way. A few like P.T. Mistleberger (his little mentioned book “The Three Dangerous Magi, Osho, Gurdjieff, Crowley is worthy of study) considered that the hybrid of encounter with eastern mysticism immediately put Osho’s work “on the cutting edge of transformational work”.
These groups could be pretty physical, though in the seventies all such groups, within Osho’s work or not, with the same presuppositions around ego, could also be pretty physical. For the record I do remember in Pune one, scuffed knees for many (in an encounter group I participated in but not much else) and seeing from time to time a few black eyes, and bruises around. An ex-Irish nun had unintentionally broken a leg in one group in 1978.
What struck me as paradoxical was that Richard Price, one of the founders of Esalen (the at the time famous Growth centre in California, where Lowe had studied and worked) was a participant in the 1978 group where the leg was broken. He cited this as his reason to leave the ashram and “drop” sannyas, though in fact he could not have been closer to understanding the Esalen presuppositions. Perhaps it was his excuse. Shortly afterwards however the “no limits” type of encouragement in groups was stopped.
I don’t know what happened to Esalen, or whether it still exists, some here may know? I also understand that the whole world of personal growth groups has become “benign” and non transformational, but I don’t speak from any personal experience, but would be interested to know.
Looking back, I agree with Mistlberger that such groups could be alchemical, BUT unlike him I don’t think they should have been used as a universal panacea for all psychological ills – or for everyone. There were indeed westerners (as many Indians were,) who should have been barred from such groups. Nonetheless many who passed through these groups did emerge lighter, more relaxed and clearly less neurotic, and with that vitality which can only be described as a “proper engagement” with life, and a love of that life. It was indeed for many a proper apprenticeship to being a “worker” in the ashram, and there was about the place at that time a lightness of touch and an alchemy that even “outsiders” were prepared to acknowledge.
Such “methods” of all the experiences that sannyas provided had in my view the least connection with Osho. Osho adopted the old Hindu trick, just absorb whatever comes, and make it part of what is your overall umbrella. For sure Osho would never have come near doing such a group in his own apprenticeship. He even said that he would have avoided the ashram like a plague during his own development!
How see you it, voracious sannyasnewsers?