Wild Wild Country: Love and Hate in the State of Oregon

“She is drugged,” the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh states emphatically, “she is on hard drugs. I have never made love to her, that much is certain. Perhaps that is the jealousy. She always wanted… (pauses) but I have made it a point never make love with a secretary.” (His large group of followers laugh loudly.) “Love affair never ends. It can turn into a hate affair. She did not prove to be a woman. She proved to be a perfect bitch.” (More laughter.) She is just going more and more insane before she goes to imprisonment. You just wait. Either she will kill herself—out of the very burden of all the crimes that she has done—or she will have to suffer her whole life in imprisonment.”

The enlightened guru is expressing vitriol about his recently departed ‘secretary,’ Ma Anand Sheela. The two are the leading actors in a years-long passion play which is covered by brothers Chapman and Maclain Way in their Wild Wild Country. One of the two wilds refers to the vast country side of Oregon, and the other refers to the small town—called ‘Rajneeshpuram’—Rajneesh and Sheela created in that country side after leaving India and a trail of allegations. Sheela was, of course, more than his secretary. Rajneesh was the King, and she, the Prime Minister. Sheela departed when she saw her power fading—and, perhaps, knew their community’s lifespan was limited.

Rajneeshpuram’s internal strife was matched by the external strife provided by the people of Antelope who became very unhappy with the propinquity of this ill-conceived attempt at a utopian community to their tiny town. That unhappiness spread to Wasco County, to the State of Oregon, and to the political leadership of the United States of America.

Abandoned by its 7,000 residents, Rajneeshpuram became a Christian retreat teaching abstinence to young people.

Wild Wild Country is utterly fascinating, jaw dropping—in contemporary parlance, we say the six-part Netflix film is ‘binge-worthy.’ It evokes thoughts and ruminations about ethics, morals, religion, law, cults, politics, psychology, social psychology, and human frailty.

Here is a link to a Vanity Fair article about the film.

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