Testimonial letters

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This page is the central ("master") page for an amazing collection of letters from people all over the world attesting to Osho's superlative qualities as a religious teacher. An impressive number of them were from non-sannyasins, writing in their professional capacities as academics or even officials of nominally "competing" religions, from Catholic priests to Zen teachers. The letters were used to help with Osho's attempt to get permanent resident status in the US at the time of the Oregon ranch.


the story

Osho arrived in the US Jun 1 1981 and stayed in "Kip's Castle", part of Chidvilas Rajneesh Meditation Center, Montclair, in New Jersey. The Ranch was purchased in early Jul but Osho did not move there until Aug 31. (Source for dates in this account is Roshani's Chronology of Events Relating to Rajneeshpuram, Oregon (source document), unless otherwise noted.)

He first arrived on a visitor's visa. On Oct 23 1981, he applied for an extension of that until Mar 1 1982, based on the need for medical treatment. On Nov 24 1981 he applied for permanent US resident status as a religious leader and teacher.

After Osho's visitor visa expired in Jun 1982, he was allowed to stay in the country while his religious leader status was being considered. The decision came on Dec 21 1982; the US Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) denied Osho's application for permanent resident status. He was given one month to launch an appeal, or else be deported.

Two days later, Osho's lawyers announced they would appeal the INS' decision within 15 days, contesting every aspect. They said that the INS was looking for reasons to reject Osho's applications, noting especially the rudeness and hostility of INS officials at their Dec 22 press conference.

On Jan 5 1983, sannyasins filed their appeal in the INS' regional office in Minneapolis, mentioning five specific grounds:
1. Osho met all requirements as a religious leader
2. the INS misinterpreted and misapplied relevant statutes
3. the INS overstepped their authority in defining a religious worker, eg in saying that Osho could not teach or lead if he was in public silence
4. the INS failed to provide Osho's attorneys with various findings, so they were unable to respond
5. the INS acted arbitrarily and out of prejudice, discriminating on the basis of their own religious beliefs and limited understanding.


the letters

That filing was followed by months of legal wrangling, jostling and jockeying for position. It is not clear when in this process the idea arose and was implemented to collect the testimonial letters but, judging from the letters' dates, it was likely in early Jul of 1983.

According to an email from Roshani, the process of soliciting letters went something like this: "People at the Ranch phoned people to ask them to write. Or they called centers to ask people to write". There were no instructions or fixed format. An immense outpouring came in response from all around the world.

An email from Niren, one of Osho's lawyers at the time, added that not all the letters were used: "The letters deemed most effective, most of which came from sannyasins and others who were accomplished in their chosen fields, were then submitted to the INS as exhibits to a Rebuttal to the INS denial of Osho's visa application.

"Because the INS withdrew the decisions, then later granted the visa petition, but not the application for adjustment of status, there was never a court context to attack the decisions. Hence, the Rebuttals are the most detailed response 'rebutting' the INS denials". He goes into much more detail in his book USA v. Osho.

Over 2700 letters were sent or forwarded to the INS from all over the world. The letters were kept by Osho's immigration lawyer, Jeffrey Noles of Portland, who eventually [when?] donated them to the Oregon Historical Society, based in Portland.

The letters are only a small part of Noles' collection, comprising one box plus most of a second box of documents out of seven boxes in all. A correspondent, Sw Anand Sharma, contacted the OHS and, as of Mar 2022, has obtained and shared pdfs of images of all of the letters with the wiki. We will index them here, and link them eventually to individual pages with images and a searchable text version. Later we will try to get the same for the other files in Noles' collection.

Information on the whole Noles collection can be found at this page. "Series A", also called "Exhibit A", of that collection, by far the largest section, contains "documents used in the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh immigration case that were organized into folders based on the subject. Documents were used as evidence in an attempt to argue his importance and fame all over the world as a religious figure. Includes photocopies of letters, examples of published works, materials from various Rajneesh organizations and information about his religious beliefs and activities both in India and the United States. Includes a few color brochures and an introductory pamphlet". The section dealing with the letters is:

Subseries 1: Letters "attesting to His exceptional ability and international acclaim"
Individual letters of support from all over the world for Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to gain citizenship in the United States.

The wiki is grateful to the OHS for making access available for these documents.

Uploading the letter images and creating searchable text versions will take some time but will be automated as much as possible after a smooth system is set up. Patience please ....

The table below presents links to each of the letters plus something about each of the letter-writers. The table can be sorted by clicking on any of the column headers. The "notes" column is a bit of a catchall for several kinds of information for which separate columns seemed excessive: whether the letter was handwritten, written in a language other than English or featured an enclosure of some kind, the default empty cell indicating none of these. With each of the "noted" cases, a typed transcription or translation is included.

the letter-writers

Letters from those who identify clearly as sannyasins often cite their prior religious history in order to illustrate Osho's teaching and how it has profoundly improved their lives and understanding of religion. Links will lead to their letters, not their personal pages, which may not exist. The sorting criterion for the name column is the name they are most likely to have been known or be recognized by, usually their last name.

Sorting criterion for non-sannyasins is their surname, usually but not always their last name, depending on their culture of origin. Note that there are a few cases with only legal names but the writers have unambiguously declared themselves to be sannyasins. Like non-sannyasins, they are sorted according to surnames.

Almost all the non-sannyasin letter-writers have stated some position of "expertise" in the non-sannyas world which is the basis of their commenting on Osho's attempt to get official status in the States. Most sannyasins writing do not have a long-standing "outside" position, though their background may have included such a position at one time.

Note that there are many writers whose sannyas status is not clearly indicated one way or the other. A close reading of these unknowns' letters reveals more than a few referring to a long history of visits to Poona and the Ranch, close association with sannyasins, personal meetings with Osho and using a more devotional, flowery, "non-professional" or "sannyas-metaphysical" language, with most of the others having some of these features. The wiki will not speculate on individual letter-writers but we observe this pattern.

It seems likely that many or even most of these undeclared writers are in fact sannyasins, including a few whose legal names are known to wiki editors. Why would they decline to indicate that important fact while championing the superlative qualities of their beloved Master? One reason may have been a likely widespread belief that the INS would not accord their letters the same credibility as those from non-sannyasins; so, while not actively denying their disciplehood, some of their history and language might be toned down.

themes in the letters

We could say that there are as many themes in these letters as there are writers, and that would have a kind of truth, as the format and message were open to the writers to play with. Every letter was unique! But this would not be very satisfying to the categorizers and analysts among us, so ... There does seem to have been some general guidance to make the letters relate to the writer's field of study or expertise if applicable, to give the INS as many reasons as possible to approve Osho's residency application.

By far the largest contingent of that type -- and many writers did use that general approach -- were those practicing psychology and in related fields such as sociology, education and so on. Those writing on this aspect of Osho's contributions saw him as a master psychologist, whose innovations in understanding the human psyche left all others -- Freud, Jung, Adler, Maslow, Reich, Rogers and more are mentioned -- at the starting gate.

The preponderance of this theme was natural, given sannyasins' interest in going beyond the mind. Furthermore, many sannyasins were already in the field when they first came across him, looking for something more, and ... Wow! And even those who remained non-sannyasins wrote glowing tributes to his insight, wisdom and impact on their lives and on their clients. While some were careful to distance themselves from him, the vast majority endorsed him enthusiastically as a major force whose insights and methods would revolutionize psychology and whose presence would be of great benefit to the US.

Professionals in many other fields, including doctors (many specialists), nurses, teachers, lawyers, police, diplomats, etc, spoke of the impact he had had in their professional lives, and often their personal lives.

The environmental repair and restoration work at the Ranch was another big theme which elicited many comments, from urban planners, environmental managers, agriculturalists and laypeople. The angle here was that the planning and the work were superb, so that Osho, who was inspiring it, should be welcomed into the country, not spurned.

In fact, the work in general at the Ranch, twelve hours a day, seven days a week, was noteworthy for more than a few writers, as it showed clearly the dedication and love of those who had gathered around Osho. As only he (sometimes "He") could have inspired it, the logic was inescapable that he was a bona fide religious leader.

The INS' ridiculous claim that he could not be a religious leader because he was in silence was addressed in many ways by many writers. Leaders in nominally competing spiritual groups, even Catholics, pointed to silence as a long-revered tradition just about everywhere. And anyway, many pointed out, words conveying the conceptual aspect of his guidance were still available in hundreds of books. Parents of sannyasins saw their loved ones motivated, engaged and happy, and said, look, this is a religious leader.

America's self-image of freedom, especially religious freedom, came up often in the letters, both positively as celebrations of this great country's heritage and negatively as accusations of bigotry.

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using the table

Clicking on any of the column headers in the table will sort the table according to the data in that column. Particular column info follows:

exhibit
indicates the unique ID given each letter by Noles and/or the OHS
name
click on the header-arrows to sort according to legal surname or sannyas name
date
date of the letter, also click-sortable


exhibit name position / background date notes
A-1 Douglas V Steere professor philosophy, Haverford College, Haverford PA 1983-07-16
A-2 Peter M Kuntz scholar law & theology, Princeton University 1983-07-21
A-3 Daniel Matt professor Judaic studies, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley CA 1983-07-20 Handwritten.
A-4 Douglas K Huneke pastor, Westminster United Presbyterian Church, Tiburon CA 1983-07-13
A-5 Mitsuo Aoki Dept of Religion, University of Hawaii 1983-07-12
A-6 Kazuyoshi Kino research and mission work in Buddhism, 1983-07-14
A-7 Frederick Partington Anglican priest, head of Counseling Courses, Middlesex Polytechnic, UK 1983-07-18
A-8 Joseph H Gelberman rabbi, Tree of Life Synagogue, NYC 1983-07-26
A-9 Michael Ziegler rabbi, Piedmont CA 1983-07-20
A-10 Ulrike Eichhoff protestant vicar (F), Nörten-Hardenberg, Germany undated Handwritten.
A-11 Gregorio Archimandrite of Turin (Russian Patriarchal Church), Italy 1983-07-18 Original in Italian.
A-12 Sw Deva Paritosh (J. Paul Campbell) Catholic monk --> psychotherapist 1983-07-14
A-13 illegible (Orthodox Church of Italy) National President of the Venerable Permanent Counsel, Orthodox Church of Italy in Florence 1983-07-10
A-14 Dr. Gabriel Looser Dr of Theology, Catholic hospital ministry, Bern, Switzerland 1983-07-15 Original in German.
A-15 Diane Mintz MA rabbinic literature and education, Kensington CA 1983-07-20
A-16 Reuho Yamada head priest of Choshoji Temple, Beppu Japan 1983-07-15
A-17 Sw Deva Siddhartha (Mattheus Josephus Maria van Langen) philosophy, theology, Catholic priest 1983-07-16
A-18 Klaus Bieger Protestant theologian, Kiel, Germany 1983-07-20
A-19 Revd. Dr. Chad Varah Prebendary of St Paul's Cathedral, London 1983-08-04
A-20 Ma Prem Samadhi (Matthews Selecki) theology and psychology 1983-07-20
A-21 RC Gordon-McCutchan, PhD professor American religious history, University of California, Santa Barbara 1983-07-23
A-22 Felicitas D Goodman, PhD professor (ret'd) anthropology and linguistics, Denison University, Granville OH 1983-07-27
A-23 Rabbi Elihu Kestenbaum Orthodox rabbi 1983-07-19
A-24 Ronald H D'Angelo Catholic priest + certified psychoanalyst 1983-07-26
A-25 Rev Frank Stribling minister of Sanctuary of Light Church, San Antonio TX 1983-07-15
A-26 Ma Prem Hamido (Gertrudis Maria Houben) Catholic nun, secular teacher 1983-07-19
A-27 Eva-Maria Debes religion teacher 1983-07-17 Original in German.
A-28 Rev JC Whight Anglican priest, Australia 1983-07-22
A-29 Ronald O Clarke professor religious studies, Oregon State University 1983-07-26
A-30 Sw Devananda (Roger Walton Day) stock trader --> metaphysics, religious studies 1983-07-28
A-31 Sw Prem Gayano (Rudolf Steenstra) psychology of religion 1983-07-19
A-32 Ted A Nordquist, Fil.dr. researcher history of religion, Uppsala University Sweden 1983-07-15
A-33 DJ Michalka psychologist, Perth, Australia 1983-07-18 Handwritten.
A-34 Sw Deva Ojas (Theo CC de Ronde) Catholic monk, priest --> adult education 1983-07-18
A-35 Ma Deva Pyari (Renate Mayas) teacher of German and religion 1983-07-18 Handwritten.
A-36 Robert Lazeres Carmelite monk, philosophy 1983-07-23
A-37 Robert John Egan Jesuit priest, teacher, philosophy, theology, Jesuit School of Theology, Berkeley CA 1983-07-18
A-38 Ülo Johannes Luuka protestant priest --> professor social work 1983-07-17
A-39 Sw Antar Dhiren (Friedemann Howorka) protestant minister, BA theology 1983-08-22
A-40 Kathryn J Raban theology, "special needs" teacher, Loughborough UK 1983-07-16 Handwritten.
A-41 Sw Veet Sangharsh (James R Agee) Lutheran minister --> Quakers + Zen studies 1983-07-21
A-42 Dr Hermann Steinkamp Dean of theology, Münster University, Germany 1983-07-20
A-43 Dr Agnete Kutar PhD, lecturer Indology, Free University of Berlin, Germany 1983-07-25
A-44 Ma Sambodhi (Jill R Gerhard) radio + TV talk shows, screenwriter --> minister 1983-07-20
A-45 Zen Master Seung Sahn Korean Zen master, Providence RI 1983-07-20
A-46 Alfred Bloom professor religion University of Hawaii 1983-07-16
A-47 Ursel-Renata Krüsi theology --> psychotherapy 1983-07-19 Original in German.
A-48 Rev Terry Cole-Whittaker minister (live + TV), motivational speaker, author, San Diego CA 1983-07-15
A-49 Sabine Hindelang theology, history of Lutheranism 1983-07-20
A-50 Dr Jim Garrison writer, director, East-West Reach, London 1983-07-18
A-51 Rev Thomas D Cammack Community Caring Project, San Francisco 1983-07-19
A-52 Masanori Oe translator Tibetan Buddhism, Yamanashi-ken Japan 1983-07-21
A-53 Masaaki Monju temple master Jitokuin, Kyoto Japan 1983-07-14
A-54 Koku Nishimura Second Patriarch, Tani School, Fuke Zen Sect, Kumamoto-shi Japan 1983-07-19
A-55 Jorgen Thorndal Larsen philosophy - religion - science intersection, Copenhagen undated
A-56 MC Blackden teacher religion and theology 1983-07-21
A-59 K Staub theology, sociology, School for Social Work, Vienna 1983-07-15 Original in German.
A-57 Sw Bodhimitra (Dr. Henri Gerhard) teacher, minister, United Church of Religious Science undated
A-58 Sw Dhyan Herbert (Prof. Dr. Herbert Muck) professor, science of art and semiotics, Institute for Sacred Art, Vienna 1983-07-17 Original in German.
A-60 Sister Ann McNeil Tibetan Buddhist nun aka Ani Lobsang Dolma, Berkeley CA 1983-07-20
A-61 Rev James A Gattuso founder, Center of New Thought, Philosophy Church and Education Society, Akron OH 1983-07-17
A-62 Sw Anand Alok (John Kwang-han Hsu) immigrant from China to US, math, ethics, theology, counseling, minister 1983-07-19
A-63 A Durwood Foster professor Christian Theology, Pacific School of Religion, Berkeley CA 1983-07-15
A-64 Sw Anand Kamalesh Jesuit --> clinical psychologist 1983-07-18
A-65 Rev Richard Douglas Cain chaplain Churchill College, Cambridge UK 1983-07-20
A-66 Jean-Yves Leloup doctorates in theology, philosophy and psychology, professor École de théologie, Toulouse FR 1983-07-24 Original in French.
A-67 CPA van Esch studied theology and philosophy, Ubbergen NL 1983-07-17
A-68 Jörg Marxen church counselor --> clinical psychologist, Braunschweig DE 1983-07-23
A-69 Ma Deva Anurago (Cornelia Wilhelmina Farrow) minister Dutch Reformed Church --> journalist 1983-07-16
A-70 Christiane van der Spieren teacher of Catholic religion, Mechelen BE undated
A-71 Christopher F Mooney professor religious studies, Fairfield University, Fairfield CT 1983-08-11
A-72 Herbert Dale Long professor religious studies, San Francisco Theological Seminary, San Anselmo CA 1983-07-13
A-73 Robert Aitken Zen master, Diamond Sangha, Honolulu HI 1983-07-22
A-74 Drs Jan Bergers Catholic priest, educator, Baak NL 1983-07-16
A-75 Michael Leger Christian missionary --> ecology 1983-07-23
A-76 Lorraine Thomas lecturer psychology, religious studies, runs mental health clinic, Palmerston North NZ 1983-08-22
A-77 Margareta Skog researcher Stockholm Institute of the Sociology of Religion, Stockholm SE 1983-07-21
A-78 prof Vittorio Giavotto president, Centro Ghe-Pel-Ling, Milano IT 1983-07-18
A-79 Dr Hans-Jürgen Greschat professor history of religions University of Marburg, Marburg DE 1983-07-19
A-80 David Thomas Kyle PhD college teacher philosophy and religion, writer, counselor, Woodside CA 1983-08-01
A-81 Ma Deva Sadhana philosophy, comparative religion 1983-07-23 Handwritten.
A-82 Gianni Vanonni researcher, Interdisciplinary Research Center, University of Florence, IT 1983-07-23 Handwritten, in Italian.
A-83 Robert S Ellwood professor Oriental studies, University of Southern California, Los Angeles 1983-07-19 Has enclosure.
A-84 Prof Dr theol Gerhard Marcel Martin professor practical theology, University of Marburg, Marburg DE 1983-07-22
A-85 Leonard A Voegtle, AMS Provincial Superior, Marist Brothers (a Catholic order), Wheeling WV 1983-07-15
A-86 Dr Warren J Stagg, ND, DD, PhD assoc. with HELP Unlimited (non-profit religious, scientific and educational foundation) Hollywood CA 1983-07-14
A-87 illegible (Istituto Lama Tzong Khapa) three officials of the Lama Tzong Khapa Institute, Pomaia IT 1983-07-27
A-88 Roger Abelson executive director, National Jewish Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco CA 1983-07-10
A-89 Diane Choquette head of New Religious Movements research, Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley CA 1983-07-19
A-90 Rev Ken H Hills priest, Church of England, Birmingham UK 1983-07-29
A-91 Carol Voisin president, Berkeley Area Interfaith Council, Berkeley CA 1983-07-20
A-92 Shinkai Tanaka Zen temple master, Kameoka-shi Japan 1983-07-12
A-93 Sun Bear Medicine Chief, Bear Tribe Medicine Society, Spokane WA 1983-08-02
A-94 Kou Sugawara head priest Goseiji Temple Foundation, Japan undated
A-95 Paul F Knitter professor theology Xavier University, Cincinnati OH 1983-08-10
A-96 Edvard D Vogt assoc professor sociology of religion, Norwegian School of Economics and Business Administration, Bergen 1983-08-22
A-97 Sw Prem Amitabh, PhD professor psychology --> Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-25
A-98 Ma Prem Arup Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-26
A-99 Ma Prem Divya primal therapist --> director Rajneesh Institute of Alchemy 1983-07-26
A-100 Ma Prem Isabel Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-26
A-101 Ma Prem Karuna Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-26
A-102 Sw Anand Maitreya (Mathura Prasad Mishra) Member of Parliament in India --> Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-27
A-103 Sw Anand Niketana (Hubertus Gerardus Gertrudis Beckers) chairman De Stad Rajneesh Foundation, Heerde NL; Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-20
A-104 Ma Dhyan Rosalie ass’t director Rajneesh Institute of Nature Living 1983-07-26
A-105 Sw Anand Santosh dean, Rajneesh International Meditation University; director, Rajneesh Institute for Dehypnotherapy 1983-07-26
A-106 Sw Prem Siddha, MD psychiatrist; Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-26
A-107 Ma Prem Sunshine Arihanta (Minister of Rajneeshism) 1983-07-26
A-108 Sw Ananda Teertha Acharya; director, Rajneesh Institute for Meditation and Self-Transformation 1983-07-13
A-109 Sw Santosh Toby Arihanta (Minister of Rajneeshism); director, Rajneesh Insitute of Music and Dance 1983-07-26
A-110 Sw Satya Vedant, PhD Asian studies --> Chancelllor, Rajneesh International Meditation University; Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-26
A-111 Ma Deva Waduda Siddha (Minister of Rajneeshism) 1983-07-26
A-112 Ma Latifa (Gertrud Cordes) Acharya, Academy of Rajneeshism 1983-07-20


footnotes

enclosures

Uc5.jpg Brief descriptions of each enclosure -- there do not appear at this point to have been many -- follow below. Images of all enclosures will appear with their letters on the individual letter pages, as well as searchable text versions if applicable.

Robert Ellwood's letter (exhibit # A-83) encloses two pages from a bio of Ramana Maharshi to illustrate the concept of teaching in silence.

editors' picks

Since there are so many letters, how is a reader to know which ones might be the most worthy of their attention? This section will attempt to address that with a few recommendations. Our list is of course not going to please everyone, so good luck ....

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