Wild Wild Country
Netflix’s documentary series Wild Wild Country is wild, wild indeed. It follows the path of Bhagwan Rajneesh and his red-clad religious group, the Rajneeshees, after they moved to Antelope, Oregon, in 1981 in an attempt to establish a utopian community. It’s a twisty story that goes to very shocking and unexpected places, so we’re going to try something a little different: Instead of typical recaps, we’ll highlight the most surprising discoveries unearthed by directors Chapman and Maclain Way after each installment of the six-part series. Here are the wildest, wildest things we learned in “Part 2.”
Bhagwan owns an absolutely massive plot of land
Ma Anand Sheela, Bhagwan’s personal secretary, arranged for the purchase of the 63,000-acre Big Muddy Ranch in Oregon. That is about the same size as both the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn combined, just to give you an idea of how much space (and privacy) Bhagwan wanted for his Rajneeshpuram commune.
The intense construction of Rajneeshpuram
To build their utopia, the Rajneeshees needed a whole lot of explosions, dams, an entire fleet of backhoes and bulldozers, and more A-frame houses than the cast of The Real Housewives of Atlanta has wigs. They built their own plumbing system, power grid, roads, and farms. They even built a shopping center, a pizza parlor, and a boutique that only sold clothing in the red family, sort of like a cult version of White House, Black Market.
Sheela might be nuts
First of all, Sheela thinks that she deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for reclaiming nature in Oregon. Secondly, when the people of Antelope start trying to get rid of the incorporated town of Rajneeshpuram, she says, “They will paint those bulldozers with my blood if it comes to bulldozers. If they doubt my determination they are stupid. They are unintelligent.” Uh, okay!
It’s (probably) a sex cult
Well, that is at least what the media led people to believe at the time — as well as an ad the Rajneeshees placed in a national magazine looking for sexually open people. While Bhagwan encourages them to practice open relationships and a radical form for free love, it ultimately looks a lot like they’re just having giant orgy parties in padded rooms. I’m not going to knock it until I’ve tried it.
Kelly McGreer is hot
One of Antelope’s leading opponents of the Rajneeshees, we often see McGreer as a handsome older gentleman talking about what happened. But then we see some archival footage of him testifying against the Rajneeshees and, damn, he was a hot piece back in the day! I’m shocked they didn’t try to get him to join the sex cult.
Margaret Hill is the anti-Sheela
No one ever wanted to be mayor of Antelope because it was too much work to lord over a town of 40 people. Unfortunately for Mayor Hill, she was stuck with the job when Bhagwan showed up. She became a staunch opponent of the Rajneeshees, educating the townspeople about what they intended to do and dealing with all of the media surrounding this very strange incident. She also has the most amazing glasses, possibly from the Sophia Loren Collection.
“Dynamic Meditation” is … a lot
Based on what we learned about “Dynamic Meditation” in episode one, it seemed more extra than a whole shelf of sugar-free gum. Based on the footage from the documentary Ashram in Poona, it basically features members of the group ripping their clothes off, beating the hell out of each other, and possibly engaging in unwanted and unsolicited sexual activities. No wonder those in Antelope didn’t want them there.
Yes, there is a Jonestown connection
When the Rajneeshees were moving to Oregon, a lot of townspeople were worried about another Jonestown incident, in which cult leader Jim Jones led the mass suicide of 918 people in South America in 1978. A U.S. senator, Leo Ryan, was also killed while visiting the Jonestown compound — and shockingly enough, his daughter Shannon Jo later spent her life-insurance money to become a Rajneeshee. “If Bhagwan asked them to kill someone else, they would do it,” she told the L.A. Times in 1981. “I don’t know if my trust in him is that total. I would like it to be, and I don’t believe he would ever do that.”
You’re going to tell us that the nation’s premier spiritual leader, Oprah Winfrey, was aware of this organization and she didn’t do more to warn us about them? That’s shocking. Shocking!
The Rajneeshees invade Antelope …
When the county decides that the Rajneeshees can’t have a city on their plot of land, they start to buy up the houses and business of Antelope, opening a Zorba the Buddha cafe downtown, among other efforts to alienate the townspeople. Soon enough, Antelopers turn even harder against their interlopers: They start carrying their guns around and touting the slogan “Better Dead Than Red” to intimidate their new neighbors. When Antelope tries to disincorporate so that the Bhagwan couldn’t take over the local government, the Rajneeshees flooded the town with their votes to keep it intact. The final tally? The Rajneeshees prevail, 52 to 44, and it’s covered on the national news that evening.
… and don’t hesitate to play dirty
They start videotaping all of the people of Antelope in an attempt to drive them out (a tactic that Scientologists have also deployed). They start shining flashlights into the houses of the people who won’t sell their land to them. Next thing you know, red-clad men with long beards are toting machine guns around the Rajneeshpuram compound. Sheela all but makes the threat clear: “Where Jesus says turn the other cheek, we take both cheeks.”
Still, it’s a surprisingly tricky conflict
On one hand, it’s easy to side with the townspeople. Who would want a group of outsiders coming and upsetting the way of life these people were used to and relied on to be there in the future. But on the other hand, the Rajneeshees aren’t doing anything explicitly illegal. At least initially, they’re exercising their right to buy property and vote in a representative democracy. Mostly, the townspeople of Antelope seem to hate that they’re different, like to have lots of sex, and practice a weird religion. But if we started kicking out everyone with different ideas and religions, would America even exist in the first place?