The exact circumstances of Magic Alex’s arrival in Rishikesh are unclear. According to Bob Spitz,

Some say John “missed his company” and sent for him. Others maintain Alex came on his own “because he didn’t approve of the Beatles’ meditating, and he wanted John back.”

But there is no question that Alex had it in for the Maharishi, especially once he learned that The Beatles planned to start donating a substantial portion of their income to the Maharishi’s organization. In Alex’s view, there was only room in the Beatles camp for one charismatic con man making vague, grandiose pronouncements while siphoning cash from the till, and it was him.

Alex began gathering intelligence on the Maharishi with a view toward discrediting him in John and George’s eyes. In the end this would be accomplished by accusing the Maharishi of what we would now call “sexual misconduct”; at the time they probably called it “hanky-panky.”

Was he guilty? Well, it’s not evident if Alex’s specific accusations were factual, or even what those accusations were, exactly. Tales are told of the Maharishi coming on to Mia Farrow, or being physically intimate with another — unnamed to history — female student.

Research on this topic is difficult because everyone who writes about it seems to have an axe to grind; they are either actively hostile to the Maharishi or bending over backward to defend him. What does seem clear is that, as with many of the great holy men from Gandhi to MLK to Al Green, the Maharishi liked the ladies and they liked him.

A few years ago a woman named Judith Bourque wrote a book called Robes of Silk, Feet of Clay that recounts in detail a lengthy affair with the Maharishi starting in 1968. In her telling, she was the first but there were others after her. She characterizes the relationship as consensual, though it is of course arguable if sex between a cult leader and a follower can ever be really consensual.

I find her account credible but what do I know? What I will say is that vows of chastity are inherently unnatural and unhealthy, and almost inevitably lead to bad behavior (memo to the Catholic Church).1 All that Kundalini energy backing up into the brain can make a person crazy, and so even if the Maharishi is guilty of misbehavior, perhaps one can see one’s way clear to forgive him his trespasses.

The Beatles certainly did. John is said to have called the Maharishi some years later to apologize, and George had this to say:

Now, historically, there’s the story that something went on that shouldn’t have – but nothing did… There were some flaky people around back then and we were four of them.

When the Maharishi died Paul’s statement called him “a great man who worked tirelessly for the people of the world and the cause of unity,” while Ringo said “One of the wisest men I met in my life was the Maharishi. I always was impressed by his joy and I truly believe he knows where he is going.”

Now having said all that let me add in conclusion that, however tainted his motives, I’m glad Alex did what he did. John and George had enjoyed a nice long rest among the monkeys and trees; it was time for them to get back to being Beatles.

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