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Rajneesh cult looks gain fresh following via Wild Wild Country
The Australian
April 6, 2018


Rajneesh cult looks gain fresh following via Wild Wild Country

When a film archivist approached Chapman and Maclain Way with more than 300 hours of vintage footage of the Rajneesh cult, the documentarian brothers weren't sure what to do with it.  Then they popped in the first Betamax tape.

"It was absolutely stunning visually," says Maclain Way.  The footage showed more than 10,000 Sannyasins (as the group's zealots were known) dancing and frolicking in rural Oregon during the cult's 1983 World Festival.
plotted horrible acts, from voter fraud to assassinations


Particularly remarkable? Each follower of guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh was clad from head to toe in shades of red, orange and violet.  The Ways were sold; during the next few years they turned the footage into Wild Wild Country, a six-part documentary series streaming on Netflix to rampant fandom.  The series lives up to its title, with fast-food poisonings, 90-plus Rolls-Royces and more than a few semi-automatic weapons.

Through it all, the group retains its allegiance to its vivid clothing palette.  "The colours were always supposed to be sunrise colours, which was supposed to reflect a new start, a new day," Way says.

In the cult's infancy in India its followers wore flowing robes, but after relocating in 1981 to their new headquarters in a small town in Oregon (soon to be named Rajneeshpuram), they switched to Pacific Northwest-appropriate fare: flannels, down vests and boots.

At one point, they even negotiated an exclusive contract with Levis for the orange jeans that were sold at Rajneeshpuram's local department store.

Watchers of the series have been hypnotised by the cult's consistent, infrared outfits.  The Rajneesh may have plotted horrible acts, from voter fraud to assassinations, but some viewers are talking about the clothes.  As one fan commented on Twitter, "There should be a documentary on where the Rajneesh got all their red and purple clothes."

Though it has been decades since the events of the series, the fashion zeitgeist, coincidentally, is reflecting the cult's nearly monochromatic head-to-toe aesthetic.

Months before anyone had even heard of Wild Wild Country, the 2018 northern autumn men's fashion shows delivered similarly cultish looks: British designer Craig Green's foreboding all-black pieces; Jil Sander's angelic total white outfits; and all-grey skirt-sets from Japan's Undercover.

The Rajneesh's clothes weren't driven by fashion; they're an idiosyncratic signifier of the cult's power.  Watching the documentary, it is eerie to see the red-clad members standing in such sharp contrast to the townspeople in their blue overalls.

"Generally, the issue of uniforms or identical dress within a destructive cult, eg the Rajneesh penchant for orange, is about losing individual identity," Rick Ross, a cult specialist and executive director of the non-profit Cult Education Institute, said.  "The group wants all its members to merge their identity with the group and lose their sense of independence and individual expression."

The Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult in Japan wore all-white.  Members of the Geneva-based Order of the Solar Temple draped themselves in crusader-style robes.

The Heaven's Gate cult in San Diego famously wore identical Nike Decade sneakers.  Nike discontinued the model after that cult's mass suicide.  Today, a vintage pair is available for $US1499 ($A1949) on eBay.

Though choosing a new sweater is light years away from succumbing to the destructive, brain-washing mentality of cult life, "to merge their identity with the group" also could describe a fashion-obsessed customer's motivation for buying into a trend.  And now, the fashion world is in a particularly cult-y moment.

Fashion critics, in all seriousness, use the terms "cult of Gucci" and "cult of Balenciaga" to describe the pull of these cherished brands.  More than simply buying clothes, today people are buying into a tribe.  Brands are certainly aware of this: logos, which help consumers pledge allegiance to brands, are becoming more conspicuous and design signatures like Gucci's embroidered cat faces shout, "I'm one of them!" from seven blocks away.

The Wall Street Journal



Disclaimer:This news page is about groups, organizations or movements, which may have been called "cults" and/or "cult-like" in some way, shape or form. But not all groups called either "cults" or "cult-like" are harmful. Instead, they may be benign and generally defined as simply people intensely devoted to a person, place or thing. Therefore, the discussion or mention of a group, organization or person on this page, is not necessarily meant pejoratively. Readers are encouraged to read widely on a topic before forming an opinion. Never accept information from a single source at face value. This website only holds a small amount of information and should not be relied on as a complete source. For example, if you find older information, this should be weighed up against newer information as circumstances can change.
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