Phyllis McCarthy was once a leader at an Oregon cult compound called “Rancho Rajneesh,” where she was known as “Ma Yoga Vidya.” Now “Ma” is a “psychotherapist” in South Africa.

But the former follower of deceased guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh had to face her past this week in an Oregon courtroom as part of a deal she struck with prosecutors, reports The Oregonian.

McCarthy will begin serving a one-year sentence next month for her role in a murder conspiracy to assassinate a government official. It seems she will be the last “Rajneeshie” to face justice, a notorious cult that terrorized Oregonians during the 80s.

Maybe this is a year for tying the loose ends of old cults?

Last month “Sybionese Liberation Army” (SLA) members were in court too. Fugitives from that 70s cult entered into plea bargains much like McCarthy in exchange for light sentences. One member of the SLA was also hiding in South Africa.

McCarthy, like former SLA members, appears to regret her past. She said, “My trust in people and my sense of loyalty was my weakness.” Referring to the trust she placed in her dead guru and his top lieutenant and enforcer “Ma Sheela.”

However, when cult members commit crimes that threaten the safety of others, misplaced trust is not a very viable legal defense. And in cases where innocent lives have been lost, hard time behind bars is frequently the outcome. Charles Manson’s followers found that out.

Fortunately for McCarthy she never completed the murder plot. But her intended victim wasn’t so forgiving. He said her sentence was “laughable.”

What’s not “laughable” is that Rajneesh or “Osho” as he is now often called, still has followers, who unlike McCarthy have never ceased in their devotion to the guru. Despite the revelations about his crimes the guru’s old ashram in India has become something of a shrine.

Apparently, to these die-hard devotees such loyalty is not a “weakness.”


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