Congratulations to alumnus Russell King (BA 2002) on the publication of his new book, Rajneeshpuram: Inside the Cult of Bhagwan and Its Failed American Utopia, out this month from the Chicago Review Press.
“In 1981, ambitious young Ma Anand Sheela transported the Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh to the United States to fulfill his dream of creating a utopia for his thousands of disciples. Four years later, the incendiary Rajneeshpuram commune in Oregon collapsed under the weight of audacious criminal conspiracies hatched in its inner sanctum, including the largest bioterrorism attack in US history, an unprecedented election fraud scheme, and multiple attempted murders. Rajneeshpuram explores how this extraordinary spiritual community, featured in the Netflix docuseries Wild Wild Country, went so wrong. Drawing from extensive interviews with former disciples and an exhaustive review of commune records, government and police files, and archival materials, author Russell King probes the charismatic power that Bhagwan (later known as Osho) and Sheela exercised over the community and the turbulent legal and political environment that left commune leaders ready to deceive, poison, and even murder to preserve their home and their master. Rajneeshpuram is a fresh examination of the Rajneesh story, using newly available information and interviews with high-ranking disciples who have never before shared their stories.”
After graduating from UW-Madison with a Bachelor of Arts in History, Russell King went on to attend University of Pennsylvania Law School (JD 2009) and worked for ten years as a commercial litigator at Kirkland & Ellis. He took a break from practicing law for nearly two years to research and write the book, and now manages commercial litigation as in-house counsel for a large corporation in Chicago. In 2018 he created the podcast Building Utopia: Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, which explores the history of Bhagwan and his disciples using an immersive narrative nonfiction approach. As a former partner at an international law firm who specialized in complex litigation, King draws on his experience piecing together factual narratives based on contradictory evidence to tackle this rich and complicated history.